I would like to share the story of my good friend, Janice Skaggs. She is a co-worker and someone who inspires me daily with her positive attitude and sheer grit. By grit I mean that she is fighting the good fight to keep off the weight that she lost in spite of our corporate culture of all-you-can-eat sweets. When I am really struggling, Janice is my go to gal. She listens when I need to complain, and brings me cherry tomatoes when she knows I need a little pick-me-up. I love Janice, and not just because she lost the weight and is keeping it off, but because her heart is even more beautiful than her face. In short, I adore her! After you read her story, I bet you will too.
I understand you first began your journey to improve your health in 2012. What was your initial motivation to do so?
In the summer of July 2011, I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer and the cure was to have a hysterectomy. After 12 years of on and off fertility treatments, my husband and I made the decision to go ahead with the hysterectomy in August 2011. My husband said, “What good would a baby do for us, if you are not here to be our babies mom?” In order to live my life cancer free that is what I had to do. So from August 2011 to February 21, 2012, I ate my sadness, and my life was a mess. I was tired of how I looked and how I felt. I decided that I was lucky to survive cancer, and even though there is no guarantee that I will never have cancer again, I have promised myself that I will never have cancer because of my obesity.
What was your starting weight?
384. REALLY 384!
What did you find most challenging both mentally and physically at the beginning of your journey?
Getting my mindset straight that I am worth the time it takes to food prep, exercise, and generally take care of myself. Physically the exercise was VERY hard. I weighed 384 pounds and so when I first started walking it was only 10-20 minutes a day. Then I started water walking, aqua Zumba, and Zumba. But I will admit I was so self-conscious of how I looked. I still am! When you lose almost 200 pounds, you do not automatically look like the models on magazines or like movie stars. There is extra skin and flab. My brain still sees a 384 pound person in the mirror at times. That is something I am constantly working on for myself to OWN my weight loss, and be proud of myself!
I know you’ve had periods of re-gain(as we all have). Why do you keep trying?
I keep trying because I realize I am worth it. I love being healthy, having more energy, and feeling good about myself. Exercise is time consuming and, just like everyone, I get busy. It is challenging to squeeze in the time to take care of myself but I make the time because I want to be healthy.
What do you struggle with most food-wise/exercise-wise?
Food can be challenging. When you lose weight and realize you can eat a few things that are treats and get by without gaining weight, then you want to eat a bit more. Then I will see it on the scale and realize that’s not working for me. I say, “OH NO…stop it Janice!!!” I LOVE food, and I can get creative with cutting calories and cooking lighter and healthier, but it does take time!
The statistics are not good for people who lose vast quantities of weight. They usually gain it back plus some. Why do you feel you have not fallen into this category/statistic?
I was miserable when I was heavy. I did NOT like myself, I didn’t like my laziness or my giving up attitude. I promised myself as I was losing the weight that I would NOT ever do that to myself again because I never want to self-cause cancer in my body again! I have to put myself first; before my husband, my family, even my friends. If I don’t put myself first, I get lazy. I LOVE to take care of people, but if I don’t take care of myself I can’t do anything for anyone else.
How do you handle temptation to eat foods you know will trigger overeating episodes? What do you do after you’ve “failed” in this regard?
I try to stay away from foods that send me over the top. Like ice cream, cookies, chocolate, and breads. But every now and then I will allow myself to eat something like that but within reason so I don’t get carried away. It’s happened. I’ve caved in and went through the drive-thru at McDonald’s or Chick-Fil-A and then went on to eat ice cream, or cookies and candy. But when I fail and start to gain some weight, I remind myself how much I enjoy being able to walk into Kohls or Macy’s and find clothing in my size, or how I feel when I exercise. For example, when I was heavy just walking from the parking lot into work hurt my feet, knees, and ankles. Now I can walk up the steps or walk many miles without hurting. I have to remind myself often and stay accountable to myself by weighing daily. I know some folks say that is not wise because and our weight fluctuates but I need to see the numbers on the scale to help me stay in line!
What activities do you enjoy that contribute to the motivation to stay healthy as opposed to falling back into binging/couch-potato-ing?
I love to walk outside, hike, swim, and shop. I do not allow myself to sit and couch-potato until after I have prepped my food for the following day, gotten my clothes together for the gym the next morning, and work for the following day. I typically only allow myself to sit on the couch and do NOTHING for 60 minutes per day!
How do you feel about yourself in correlation to the perception the media and society in general project via the image of the “ideal woman”?
It has taken me some time to realize I will NEVER be a size 2 and I am okay with that! I feel great, have lots of energy, and LOVE motivating other people. That is truly what I live for. It is annoying to me that the media and society in general expect women to have PERFECT bodies! Really, what is a perfect body? I feel like I am average some days, and then others I feel like Wonder Woman because losing almost 200 pounds and keeping it off is something to be truly proud of. I AM really proud of myself.
Tell me about how you deal with the mental part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is tough. It can be annoying to others that I need to constantly prepare for upcoming events. On Sunday evenings I get my husband’s and my breakfast, lunches, and some dinners prepped the best I can. Unfortunately, fresh food doesn’t last as long as processed food. I portion out our foods and get them ready for the week. This way we can easily grab what we need instead of being tired after a long day at work and make a hasty decision to run through a fast food restaurant. This lifestyle is NOT easy and I would NEVER tell anyone it is. It takes determination, but the way I feel when I have our meals organized and know what I will be eating throughout the day, is the only way I can make this healthy lifestyle work for me. I force myself to input what I eat into my log, no matter if I go over my allotted calories for the day or not. This is what keeps me motivated. I also use the log to learn about myself. It enables me to see why I get off course because of what was going on with me at the time.
So there you have it. Now you understand a little bit why Janice is my hero! Be encouraged and inspired. If Janice can do it, you can too!