My Story

Have you ever faced an impossible goal? Have you ever looked at your face in the mirror and been disheartened and weary? I weighed 310 pounds in the spring of 2010. I was a busy working mother of three children. I was happily married and, by most accounts, successful in my chosen profession, but I was depressed. I was uncomfortable in my body and I was tired. I felt like losing weight was impossible and had therefore given up. I knew I had a problem, but it was easier to ignore it than confront and deal with it. I am a food addict. This is my story.

A tactless co-worker had the audacity to tell me that obese people should not be allowed to have health insurance because “their health problems are what make it so expensive.” Before the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act, this was a very provocative statement, one which did not sit so well with me because of my enlarged waistline. On the surface she proposed a simple solution to a divisive political question at the time, but the meaning behind her words was clear, “You are fat. You are the problem.”

I walked away from that conversation deeply disturbed in my spirit. I was confounded by her attitude, but mainly, I was hurt. Why would someone who appeared to have never struggled with her weight, so blatantly attack someone who had no means of defense? I festered over that conversation for a long time before I heard about the competition. My co-worker, the same one who had insulted me, had initiated a Biggest Loser competition in the workplace. Sadly, she did not invite me to participate.

I’m not certain if this was simply another instance of tactlessness or something more blatant, but regardless, it made me very angry. Anger is a powerful motivator. In fact, my exact thoughts on the matter were something along the lines of, “I’ll lose the weight without that stupid competition and I’ll show her!”

After the theme song from Rocky stopped playing in my head, I realized I had to confront some serious behaviors if I were to find success. I wanted to lose the weight forever, not just temporarily. I began to look at my compulsive eating, not as the comforting crutch it had always been, but as the killer of all diets I had tried before. Panic set in as I began contemplating the removal of all sugar from my diet. A friend of mine had seen success with this approach so I knew it was possible. I rationalized that if I could make it 30 days without sugar and not die, maybe I could change my life. It was a revolutionary thought and somewhat horrible. It meant emptying my stores of candy, giving up all soda (I didn’t like diet soda), and eliminating fast food from my diet. I decided I would eat when I was hungry, eat smaller portions, and walk every day. It was a fairly simple plan and I needed something simple. I didn’t want to sign up for a gym membership. Been there. Done that. I didn’t want to buy weight loss supplements. They had never worked before. I also rationalized that I hadn’t spent a lot of money to gain the weight so why should I spend a lot of money to lose it? I figured I would probably fail, but I should try anyway. My initial investment composed of buying a scale (I hadn’t owned one in years) and fresh fruits and vegetables. But the biggest investment I made—the one that really changed my life—was prayer.

I specifically remember asking God to teach me discipline. Looking back, I really didn’t know what I was asking. I just knew I wanted to not be fat anymore. I also wanted to honor Him with my life. I had been in a relationship with Jesus since I was a child and I had read many verses about overcoming sin, but I had yet to conquer my food lust. I had read I Corinthians 10:13 many times but couldn’t figure out how to apply it to my life. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” I was about to learn exactly what that verse was talking about in the most excruciating way possible.

My first walk lasted about 15 minutes and involved one gradual incline. I took my children with me. I distinctly remember my second born son hopping and running while I panted and groaned. My goal to lose 100 pounds seemed about as possible as achieving flight by flapping my arms. I refused to let my children see me cry, but I freely admit the hills of Ferguson, Missouri are littered with my tears.

I won’t lie; the first few weeks were torturous. Sugar addiction and withdrawal symptoms are real. I didn’t realize it at the time, but one of the things that contributes to compulsive behaviors is anxiety, and I had it in spades. I was also struggling with undiagnosed depression. But regardless of those hurdles, I had my eye on the prize; lose 10 pounds the first month. So I declined the chocolate chip cookies my co-workers presented and skipped my daily trip to White Castle. I replaced Swiss Cake roles with strawberries, and chocolate shakes with water. Every time I had the urge to eat, I picked up my newly purchased water container and took a sip. I quickly became very well acquainted with the ladies restroom, a place I had previously only visited once a day.

My newly purchased scale didn’t go over 300 pounds so I had to wait a bit to see any progress. As anyone who has ever begun a diet will attest to, I had a love/hate relationship with that particular technological masterpiece, but in the beginning that digital contraption was my new best friend. For every tear shed climbing a hill, there were two more tears of joy flung at my bathroom walls. I lost 25 pounds the first month. 40 were gone by the end of month three. The journey that began on May 10th of 2010 resulted in a net loss of 80 pounds by Christmas. 8 months and 80 pounds seemed like a tremendous success, one that did not go unnoticed by my co-worker. I would like to say “and she lived happily ever after,” but the truth is, my struggle with food addiction had only just begun.

We rarely hear about the lives of contestants from the show “The Biggest Loser” as their lives progress post fame. With good reason. Our fast paced culture flies from one success story to the next with little thought to the person behind the persona. I can attest to the fact that the daily grind of making healthy choices takes a toll both physically and psychologically. At first the comments from my co-workers on my success were empowering. I was, after all, thrilled that my hard work was paying off. However, I didn’t quite understand why people seemed to like me so much better now that I no longer identified with the morbidly obese. I felt like the same person on the inside, even if my exterior was more aesthetically pleasing. As my career improved, my self-doubt increased. I felt my work was the same quality as before so why did I receive more recognition? I waffled between pride over my accomplishments and disdain for the people who praised me. Were they fat bigots? Was it only my increased level of confidence that contributed to better career opportunities or was I really more likeable just because I weighed less? The daily fight against my impulse to eat uncontrollably didn’t diminish, especially as I dealt with my emotions and the difficult personalities in my life. But the one constant was my commitment to God to keep trying to make healthy choices and live a disciplined life. Losing weight didn’t solve my problems, but I also came to learn that neither did eating a big batch of chocolate chip cookie dough.

That is why I write this blog. I continue to fight the temptation to eat compulsively and I continue to lean on Jesus to help me overcome each temptation. I fail a lot but I succeed a lot too. I am learning that’s just how life is. I’ve lost 140 pounds since I began my journey to learn discipline and I haven’t mastered it yet.