For most of my life, I have been considered overweight. I was happy during my growing up years, and was never really picked on school. I came from a home where both my parents worked full time jobs and participated in sporting events weekly. I now see that we missed the memo on “healthy eating.” We mainly bought into the idea that as long as we were eating, that’s where the importance was.
When I hit my high school years, it was more difficult to eat healthfully — there were vending machines and lots of food choices, not to mention there was always a campus club selling candy bars. I realize now that I was an emotional/stress eater. My son was born my sophomore year of high school and the stress of making sure I completed high school on time and raising a child at fifteen years old was hard enough, but add on trying to fit in a normal high school life of clubs, dances and field trips — it was overwhelming.
For the past twelve years, I have tried and failed every diet on the market. I failed because those hard ten pounds I lost always came back plus five more within a few weeks. With every diet I tried, I was miserable, irritated, cranky and starving! So it wasn’t until 2009 when I was diagnosed with borderline diabetes that something really changed.
The word diabetes made me cry. There were so many rules and no-nos. I was scared straight when my doctor told me, “Don’t eat cake, because that may be the piece to bring you into the emergency room” and “Your son needs a healthy mother to help him, you don’t want him to miss out on his high school functions because he has to visit you in the hospital.” The next four months he put me on a strict diet — no carbs, no sweets, and only water. I was miserable. But I believed this was the only way to stay alive. On the other hand, I looked great. I dropped thirty pounds quickly. Not too long after that, though, I gained it back, because when the doctor was happy with my results I was told “Okay, you can enjoy food but now count your sugar intake and carbs.” All I really heard was “You can eat cake!”
In 2010, I went back to being an emotional eater when I was fired from my job. I have a wonderful family support system, but with this company came great benefits like health insurance, and I had spent 7 years with them. Not the best 7 years, but the paychecks were nice. After a year and a half of unemployment, I fainted. Eight long hours in the emergency room revealed my ailment: “Stress.” Ten thousand dollars in tests and that’s the only problem? I could have told them that! My mother had became ill, a good friend passed away, and I also had a very sick uncle, on top of being unemployed and raising a teenager.
In September 2011, my beloved uncle passed away. There were days I ate like crazy because sleeping wasn’t possible. By November 2011 I hit my heaviest point — 267 pounds and a size 20 in pants. It was time to put down the cake and learn how to change my lifestyle. I didn’t want to attempt another diet and fail. Considering the holidays were approaching and I was heart broken over the death of my uncle, I felt like he was helping me see I needed to change.
The hardest part of losing weight for me was learning that I wasn’t on a “diet.” I had to start using the word “lifestyle” because “diet” always made me fail. I never really learned how to eat properly. I wasn’t given that many options when it came to food. Liquid diets weren’t sensible at all to me and I wasn’t a fan of a lot of veggies or salads. So step one was changing my routine. If I had that craving for chocolate or something sweet after dinner, I snacked on sugar free pudding or chocolate covered almonds. I wouldn’t make myself miserable and say “NO,” I would satisfy my craving but in a different way than before, like eating cake or pie.
I found myself at times eating junk food simply because I was bored while watching TV. So I switched to eating an orange or grapefruit. I wasn’t eating because I was hungry anyway, I was eating because I needed to do something. So peeling and discarding the peel kept me busy and I was still eating, but something healthy. I didn’t have a set meal plan weekly or even daily. I simply learned to cut back on bread, potatoes and soda mainly. So pizza twice a week was out. But pizza once every two weeks was okay.
I looked at food as an experiment in trying new things. Learning to eat more veggies came in when I discovered wrapping a burger in lettuce isn’t that bad. Of course there are times I want the super yummy bun. Maybe every third burger I eat now is with a bun, compared to every burger with a bun. It was the small changes that have helped me be okay with my lifestyle change.
Once I discovered the secrets to eating better, I started to move better. From workout videos to Zumba classes — all fun. But where do I find the time every week to do it? I have a household to run as well so it’s a struggle. Working out doesn’t need to be done in a gym daily, though, I’ve learned. I was able to download a calorie tracker on my phone and I use it daily. If I can Facebook daily, I can surely select the items I eat and activities I do that burn calories. One example, house cleaning, depending on if I’m cleaning the bathroom or sweeping/mopping the kitchen, for 30 minutes I burn up to 100 calories! That may not be a lot to some, but for me that’s something I never considered. So on top of an evening walk (another 200 calories), that’s an activity burn of 300 calories in a day. Those may be the days I don’t go to the gym. When I do go to the gym, my time there consists of just one hour. I look back at my lifestyle changed even just six months ago when I wasn’t faithful to the gym or walking — some days I would push myself way too hard at the gym and need a day or two off. I’ve learned it’s okay — I do everything in baby steps now, less chance of failing. Slow and steady wins!
After two months of consistent changes to my lifestyle, I went down to a size 16 in pants. I was feeling great and my diabetes was under control. I felt for once my lifestyle change working and could only get better. I have a few friends who’ve helped me through some tough times and they help me not go back to emotional/stress eating. Support is very important.
Every day is different for me, between driving my teenager around to still looking for a job. It feels good to know that my diabetes doesn’t control me nor will it cost me my life. My biggest accomplishment so far was when my friend donated her size 12 jeans to me. I was excited to be sharing clothes with my good friends. It was a great feeling of not looking for 2XL tops either! I’m now in a medium/large. It has been five total months of change as of now, and proud to say, I have been a size 10 in jeans for two weeks and weigh 210 pounds. My high school prom dress was a size 14. I feel amazing and am looking forward to dropping another sixty pounds over the next few months.
Sandra Ramirez lives in Fresno, CA. Her parents and two brothers provide her with unending and unparalleled support in all of her goals. She looks forward to seeing her son graduate from high school and pursue his dreams of going into pro football.
[featured image via clevercolleen]