4 Year Healthiversary

4 years ago today, I decided I had enough. I was tired of hiding myself from the world, tired of punishing myself for being overweight, tired of being embarrassed to go to buy clothing merely because I had outgrown the clothes I had.  I was even more tired of being embarrassed to go out to eat because I’d always have to question if I’d be able to fit into the booth, or if the table could be pushed out so I could fit comfortably, or if people would watch my every move.. I was mortified to hear people whisper about my size or little kids look at me with wide eyes because I was so vastly overweight.
I knew I was overweight, I knew the world knew I as overweight. My family would try to gently approach the subject hoping it might push me in the right direction to put my health on the front burner instead of leaving it on the back one. But until you yourself want to make a change, it won’t happen.
I personally decided that I had to do something about my health and possibly impending health problems, so I found a local Weight Watchers meeting and walked in around 5:10pm on Thursday, February 25, 2010 and signed up. I knew I could lose weight (I was a WW member in the past) and I certainly knew I could try new things … but did I know I would lose 180+ pounds after 4 years? I didn’t. And that certainly amazes me every single day.
I’m proof that if you want something for YOURSELF bad enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to get there. Is my journey done? Am I at my goal weight? No, it’s not and I’m not … but I do know I will get there in time. This isn’t a race, there is no finish line, and there are only milestones and goals to achieve. It certainly isn’t always easy, and there are times that things get real rough … but it is undoubtedly worth it in the end.

Never say never … but not in this case

“I’m not losing weight. I’m getting rid of it. I have no intention of finding it again.”

This quote is one that I’ve grown to love over the years. Why? Because I don’t have any intention of finding the 194+ pounds I have shed over the past 3 1/2 years ever again. I’m in it to win it and I’m doing it all for myself.
I’ve always struggled with my weight. In the past, I have lost weight for other people (primarily for family). My weight was unhealthy for a person my age (from 5-years old and on) and approaching someone to tell them you believe they need to lose weight is a hard and sensitive subject. I’ve heard it being said from a lot of people all throughout my life. But the thing is if the person you’re approaching isn’t in the right mindset it can do one of two things 1) go in one ear and out the other or 2) it can backfire and cause a confrontation OR send the person you’re confronting into a proverbial tailspin. In some cases that intervention may be the talk that sets the lightbulb off in a persons head, but for me it never was because I knew I was fat, I knew the world knew I was fat so you weren’t laying a big secret on me, your concern was only making me uncomfortable. My family would try to approach the topic but I didn’t want to hear it and I’d eventually turn to food for comfort, which only ballooned my waistline even further. Then after a while I’d give in, lose some weight and eventually gain it back because I wasn’t doing it for me, I was doing it for others. Back then, these attempts at health were done with a diet mentality. I personally didn’t want to change, but I was going to do it just because … and when times got tough I threw my hands in the air and ate myself silly.
There was a time where I joined Weight Watchers with my mother. My mom was joining and she asked if I’d like to join, so I hopped on board. I enjoyed seeing the scale move. I was following the program and it was working. But since the choice to join wasn’t ultimately one that I came up with when my mother stopped attending meetings, I stopped attending meetings. I left the program and the tools I learned at the wayside and ultimately gained all the weight I had lost back.
The difference between the journey I’m currently on and any attempt at weight loss in the past is that I’m doing it for me this time around. I joined Weight Watchers on my own. No one suggested I join, no one hinted I should join, I made the choice and kept that choice to myself because I didn’t want anybody to try and suggest it to me because that would’ve made me quit before I had the chance to try. What can I say? I have a very hard head at times. I’m stubborn. I don’t like being told what to do whether it’s for the best or not.
After joining Weight Watchers and shedding pounds week by week, I started to feel better about myself. My dad came to me and told me he was proud of me for taking the initiative to get healthy for myself. It was a very touching moment for me and it’s one I’ll always remember because it solidified the fact that yes, I was doing this for myself and those closest to me saw that.
Three and a half years later I am the healthiest and smallest I have been since grade school. I don’t ever recall a time when I was the weight I currently am (I can’t say size because I was not 5’6 in 4th or 5th grade when I was more than likely the weight I currently am now – which back then was obese for someone my age). Physical changes aside, my life is so vastly different compared to how it used to be. Four years ago, I was a human hermit crab. I never left my shell (home or my humble abode AKA my bedroom) and if I did it was briefly and only to do whatever I had to do (work, school, picking up food, etc.). I lived behind my computer playing games and RPG’s to pass the time and to take the focus off my life.

These days life is vastly different – life is enjoyable. I’m not ashamed of myself and do not mind going out. I still am a bit shy, but I’m working on coming out of my shell more and more. I don’t live behind a computer playing games to mask my miserable life. These days I use my computer as a tool to connect with others, to share my journey and to keep in touch with friends and family. But it’s merely a tool — it’s not my one and only. I enjoy life now and I most importantly know what happiness is. I know that I deserve the best and I will get it as long as I put my best foot forward. I have a bright outlook on life and feel I am utterly unstoppable. I can do anything I want as long as I set my mind to it. Positivity fuels me instead of negativity clouding my judgment.
I know the saying goes “never say never” BUT I refuse to allow any shadow of doubt regarding my weight loss and my eventual maintenance. I realize life happens and there will always inevitably be minor bumps in the road but I need to learn to cope with those instances, learn from them and as always keep it moving. It’s my life after all and I’m going to make the best of it.

Fat my whole life…

My weight has been a constant battle since the age of 4 or 5. In the above picture, I want to say I was anywhere between the age of 11-13 and in the 6th or 7th grade – of course the photograph on the right is me a few weeks ago. Considering I have been overweight practically my entire life, I know the emotional torment. I know how it feels to be teased and made fun of. I know how it feels to feel hopeless and helpless.
Early on in life, I learned how to cope with food. I would eat when I was happy, sad, angry, hurt, etc.  I also learned that if someone made food for me, it was a way of them expressing their love for me – so I had to eat it.  My grandmother watched me for my parents while they were at work and she would ask me what I would like to eat that day. Regardless of what I told her, the food was delivered – and in abundance. If I wanted French toast, magically pile upon pile of French toast would be delivered to the kitchen table.  The same followed suit with any other foods my grandmother would cook – potato pancakes, fried eggplant, grilled cheese, etc., etc.
I learned that food was a means of celebration. Food (whether made for someone or being consumed) made people happy! As I got older, I then learned how to suppress my feelings with food. If someone said something to me that I didn’t like, I turned to food for comfort, to put a band-aid on my “boo-boo”. Food was and had become, essentially my best friend. Food never judged me. Food never told me “you shouldn’t eat that”, food never snickered behind my back, and food never did anything to “hurt” me.
I was also (and still kind of am) a picky eater. I did not and don’t eat certain foods. My parents always cooked – they’d only order out on Friday or Saturday.  It was never really a matter of what they were cooking; it was merely a matter of portion size.  I had my first peanut butter and jelly sandwich at 17 simply because I wanted to try it.  I admit, I was rather spoiled because if I refused to eat dinner I’d whine and whine and whine until, my mother (my father wouldn’t give in) would take me out to get my favorite food as a child – a hamburger from a fast food restaurant.
The cycle continued and into my teenage years, I developed a habit of having dinner before dinner. By this I mean eating something “quick” at a fast food establishment (usually hamburgers, tacos, etc.) before going home to eat the dinner that my parents prepared.
Fast forward into my adult life and I simply continued doing what I knew: emotional eating, eating dinner before dinner, eating in abundance, and merely eating just to eat because I’m also a boredom eater.  I don’t look back at my life and wonder how I ever got to nearly 400 pounds.  Sometimes I wonder how I wasn’t more than that.  For decades, I had a pair of blinders perfectly cemented over my eyes, which didn’t allow me to see what I didn’t want to see.  Me.
Before joining Weight Watchers in February 2010, I was able to remove the blinders and see myself for the first time. I, the emotional and boredom eater, was able to grasp hold of her life and decide that I needed to be healthy and happy. So far, it’s been the best decision I have ever made.  I needed to do a lot of work – physically and emotionally, and I am still working on myself today. Old habits die hard and sometimes those old habits or feelings can creep back up – but it’s up to me to decide how I am going to deal with them.  This isn’t an overnight revelation; it takes work – days and even years.  I found it takes a little digging deep down inside to find out why I do certain things.  Talking about them, getting things off my chest to an unbiased individual made it so much easier.  It’s not always fun diving headfirst into the deep stuff – but once you do, it gets easier and a weight begins to get lifted.
The difference in me today versus me years ago (and truthfully my whole life pre-weight loss journey), is that I have control and I know what I need to do to make my lifestyle livable. I’m still a work in progress. I’m not perfect; there isn’t a single person on the planet that is (well … aside from my beloved fictional Mary Poppins). I’m still learning every day – things about myself, about life and just things in general.  As I always say it may not always be easy … but it’s worth it.
190+ pounds gonebut not forgotten because I neverwant to become that girl again … and I won’t because I have control of my life now.

Why I don’t believe in cheat meals

“Cheat meals” is one of those phrases thrown around amongst folks who follow regimented plans (counting calories and only allowing X-amount of calories a day) and even folks who are on Weight Watchers.  I’ve never understood the concept of a cheat meal.  I’ve learned with Weight Watchers food is food and I can have ANYTHING I want as long as it’s in moderation and I correctly (or in the case of not being sure – guestimate [and I usually try to aim higher than lower just to be on the safe side] the points for it) the points plus values for it. I personally know the damage I could do in a day and I know that one day or even one meal of unaccountability would allow me to have multiple days of “ohhh I’ll be 100% good tomorrow.”  It’s just the way my mind works.  I’ll tell myself I’ll do better tomorrow and tomorrow comes, something out of the ordinary will happen and it’ll end up the next day.  The natural born procrastinator and stubborn teenager in me comes out, sticks her and extended fingers in the air and says “neener, neener, neener.”
Why don’t I believe in cheat meals?  Well, I believe in accountability and I know that life happens.  I wouldn’t be able to have a day where I don’t count points all day OR for a single meal and have a good week thereafter.  Life happens, unexpected plans arise and I would hate to be sent into panic mode if my pre-planned dinner of BBQ steak turned into Chinese food with the family.  I could see myself say “but I just ate this, that and the other on Sunday … I just, I can’t go.” Doing that a few times over would essentially make me throw in the towel because it would make portions of life unmanageable and I’d have to face the scale as it crept up and up and up.  I realize that there isn’t a solid meal on the planet that I cannot have.  I can have anything I want, anytime I want it, wherever I want it.  If I can’t find what I want at a restaurant, I can go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients and make it (or as closely to it) at home.
Am I completely 100% strict with my Weight Watchers meals? Of course not. Why? Because this is a lifestyle and there are things that I enjoy and without them I’d be miserable and would simply stomp my feet on the ground and give up (again, stubborn child coming out again).  I am a natural born snacker, always have been and probably always will be but I’m okay with that.  Why? Because I’ve learned that I can eat my favorite snacks, but I’m aware of portion sizes, points plus values and I know what is worth it for me.  It may not be worth it to everyone, but if it’s worth it for me, that makes me happy and makes the plan work for me – as it should for everyone.  For parties and events where I know point values for foods are higher than I’d normally consume, I am allowed 49 weekly points to allow myself to engage and enjoy myself without having any feelings of remorse or guilt.  The points are there and they are built into the plan to be used – but it’s up to each member to have their own system on how to use them, or if they are even going to.
Another reason I don’t believe in cheat meals is because I’ve calculated that in my pre-Weight Watchers life I could very easily eat 114 (more or a little less) points plus values IN A SINGLE DAY.  That 114 only includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and does not include any snacks, or extra goodies I may have consumed while at work or at a family event.  My coffee alone, pre-Weight Watchers was 8 points plus (to be honest, it’s more than 8 but I can’t figure out the exact points because I always ordered a large ice coffee with extra, EXTRA cream and sugar).  A day filled of “cheat” would send me into a literal free-for-all.  Nothing would be off limits. I’d eat things purely just to eat them. Not to enjoy them, but just because “I haven’t had that in a long time.”  That one day would cause me to pay for the rest of my week – needless to say I’d feel sick as a dog for 3-days afterwards.
I do go out to eat and when I know ahead of time I check the company’s website for nutritional information.  If I can’t find any, I look at their menu and try to decide what I want before we even get there.  Once I’ve decided I look up similar meals online, compare them and get the points plus values for that similar meal from a company that does offer nutritional information.  Granted, the ingredients may not always be the same so I do add a few extra points towards it to be on the safe side.  I rather estimate over than estimate under.
Eating out is a treat because I don’t do it very often. I’ve never been a big restaurant person – even pre-WW, so when I do eat at a restaurant it’s nice and it’s different  My “eating out” has typically always been fast food establishments and ordering pizza and sandwiches because it was quick, easy and generally on my way to whatever destination I was heading to.  I admit, being so far into my journey I do sometimes become a points plus value snob.  I look at something and think “I could make that at home for so many less points and I’d have so much more on my plate.”  I love to cook (which is completely a new thing to me because 3+ years ago I could make a pack of Ramen noodles and a frozen pizza and thought I was Chef Shannon).  I love to experiment with new dishes and new flavors, but what I love the most is taking some of my favorite dishes and cutting back on them, making them healthier and making them point friendlier.  All of these allowing me to be accountable and allow me to know exactly what I am putting in my mouth.  I’m not saying in order to be successful you need to cook your own meals, etc., I’m just saying that in order for me to be successful I need to be accountable to myself.  I need to find what works for me and what doesn’t and always keep those in mind because old bad habits die hard and they can creep back up on me at any given moment.  I was overweight for 25+ years of my life and that mentality can creep back up on me and I just know the damage I could cause in one single un-tracked meal.  But I also know that once I’m “off plan” it takes about a week to get back on plan.
Needless to say cheat meals aren’t my thing. They never will be because they’ll only get me going in one direction… back peddling.

Why I can eat what I want and still lose weight

I frequently get asked “how can you eat that and still lose weight?”  Sometimes, the question boggles my mind.  The first few times I was asked that, I was honestly, flabbergasted and didn’t quite know what to say because I was taken back.
The word “diet” gets thrown around so much when someone is trying to better their health/lifestyle. I don’t like the word diet because diets are a temporary solution to a permanent problem.  You can change your habits, you can be as strict as you want – but in my case I have to ask myself “will I be willing do to this the rest of my life?” and when it comes to diets the answer is no.  I could not live off drinking a shake for 2 meals a day.  I could not live off eating canned beans and a boiled egg.  I could not deal with giving up foods that I enjoy simply because it’s what my diet says I need to do. And I would probably hurt somebody if I had to eat a plain piece of cooked chicken with broccoli for dinner day-in and day-out.  Actually, put me on a diet like that for a week and I think everyone who walked in front of me might get the evil eye.  I’d be miserable and at the first whiff of whatever “unhealthy” food I smelled, I’d dive in and eat until my stomach was about to explode … or I passed out.
I’ve never considered my weight loss journey with the help of Weight Watchers a diet because it’s not. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a plan I can follow for the rest of my life without feeling deprived. I love Weight Watchers because nothing is off limits.  I’ll be completely honest, if the day I walked into my Weight Watchers meeting to sign up and was told “you can never eat cake, chips, or bread again” I’d have froze, looked around the room – said screw this and walked back out.  I’m the type of person that if you tell me I can’t do something, the stubbornness in me is going to come out and I’ll do it JUST to show you I can.  I love Weight Watchers because it allows me to live in an every day world without feeling as though I don’t “fit in” because I’m not eating the way others are eating.
Everything boils down to moderation, not starvation, or deprivation.  I’m a big snacker.  Always have been, always will be – it’s a part of my lifestyle and it’s something I enjoy.  There are snacks I’ve enjoyed in the past that I simply choose not to have anymore because 1) I can’t control myself with them (known as a trigger food) and 2) they’re just not worth the points associated with them. It doesn’t mean they’re off limits the rest of my life – but they’re foods I don’t keep around, at least until I can feel comfortable with them in the house.
So, back to how do I eat what I eat and still lose weight?  Well, these days I know what a portion size is. I hold myself accountable by eating what is recommended as a serving.  If I want a little extra, I have a little extra, but I hold myself accountable to those extra points plus values associated with that “extra”.  Secondly, I don’t eat out every day. I for the most part cook (or have a pre-packaged meal I weigh-out a serving of) every single meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I can have pizza, cupcakes, French fries, steak and cheese sandwiches, and chips when I want them (granted, not all at the same time!), but I track what I eat, I track what I want and I don’t feel guilty about it.  One thing to keep in mind is I’m not eating these foods day-in and day-out.  Lastly, I don’t even remotely eat like I used to.
I keep myself accountable for whatever I put in my mouth.  I eat my cravings – because I’ve quickly learned that if I try to not have something I want, I eat around it when all is said and done, I should have just eaten what I originally wanted. I enjoy my food. I’ve learned what is and what isn’t worth it. I enjoy preparing meals and shaking things up because the possibilities are endless.  I get in activity when I can.  And I’m not on a diet … this journey isn’t temporary, its a lifestyle.  That is why I can eat whatever I want and still lose weight.

Meetings make a difference

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While sitting in my Weight Watcher meeting I was struck with inspiration and decided on a few topics to blog about – this being one of them.
Being a Weight Watcher I’ve quickly learned that meetings undoubtedly make a difference!  I understand there’s a price differential between online vs. weekly vs. a monthly pass.  Many people find success solely using the online program – whereas others find success with meetings.  I’m in the success with meetings category.
When I joined Weight Watchers three years ago, it never crossed my mind to be solely an online member. I know me. I would end up winging it because at the end of the day I’d be weighing myself and nobody but myself would know my successes/failures.
With meetings I find they give me a sense of accountability.  I know every Thursday I am going to have to step on the scale and I am going to be faced with whatever number is on that scale.  Up, down, or the same – it’s going to be presented to me and I am going to have to take that and keep moving. I’m also going to have to swallow the fact that someone else (a Weight Watchers employee who isn’t going to judge me) is providing this information to me.  Once again – I get that sense of accountability.
The meetings themselves are extremely helpful. With being a monthly pass member, I can go to a meeting every day if I wished, but I typically stick to my Thursday night meeting only.  Each week I learn new tips and tricks.  Yes, I’ve been doing this 3 years and I still learn new things. Listening to what fellow members have to say can truly change your way of thinking and it can completely lift your morale.  Considering we’re all different, we all think differently and we all do things differently.  There’s a lot of understanding, relating and even finding humor in the topics being discussed – at least in my experience.
I know every week on Thursday I cannot schedule to be anywhere or do anything between 5:30-6:45. If someone wants to go to dinner, we’ve got to schedule that for after 7pm – if not, then we’ll need to pick another day.  I am a stickler with my meetings.  I’m quite positive everyone I work with and everyone that’s around me knows about my Thursday meeting.  One time at lunch at work I mentioned how traffic was annoying because it almost made me late to my meeting and my coworker said “Meeting? What, like, AA?”.  Close … but no cigar!
After being a member 3 years, I have only skipped out on probably 4 meetings because of prescheduled travel plans.  When this happens I make sure I find another nearby location to at least weigh-in to have that accountability for the week and to pick up a Weight Watchers Weekly.  One time my boyfriend and I were considering going to South Carolina and I found a Weight Watchers location nearby where we were considering staying in South Carolina so I wouldn’t have to miss a meeting.
I love meetings and even once I hit goal and then lifetime (because that will happen!) I’ll still be attending meetings. Why? Because meetings work.
Do you like attending Weight Watchers meetings or are you considering joining meetings?

It’s not a DIET it’s a LIFESTYLE!

I follow the Weight Watchers plan but no I am NOT on a diet.
Diets set people up for failure because it limits what you can and cannot have … and I do not like being told what to do. I can become the queen of self sabotage so by following a program that works for me in and molds to everyday life is the best thing.  Sure, I pay a monthly subscription but knowing I am spending money is only one reason I want to succeed.  It’s kind of like when I went to college – I knew at the end of it all, the loan was in MY name and I wanted to be happy with myself and not just “ride it out”.  I feel as though when you pay for something, with your own money, and you work for it, it’s far more rewarding.  Plus the great thing with Weight Watchers is once you hit goal and then lifetime, you no longer have to pay – as long as you maintain that status.
Following Weight Watchers, I have lost 185.6 pounds thus far – all that weight lost while eating real foods.  Some of my favorite foods and snacks like pizza, potato chips, French fries, onion rings, ice cream, cupcakes and my all-time favorite thing: bread! The difference is I have those things in moderation and I do not beat myself up for having them. I simply track the item and move on. There are some foods that I love that I’ve decided to make at home to bring down the calories/points – but cooking is therapeutic to me and I love that while cooking I know exactly what I put into a dish without having to guess.
This is a lifestyle change that I will maneuver through the rest of my life.  I’ll always be faced with having to make healthy choices; I’ll always have to be aware of what I am putting in my mouth.  For me, that’s not a lot of work, because this is something that I am passionate about.  I love myself and I want myself in the healthiest state possible. I know, that if I was to follow a diet that would limit things is not something I would follow the rest of my life.  I would end up back at square one, mad, angry and extremely broken hearted because I’d go overboard on the “no-go” foods.
Think about the fad diets that start: the grapefruit diet, the cookie diet and even Atkins. These diets do provide short term results not longstanding results. That’s a huge difference!
Over the course of 3 years, I’ve continuously lost weight eating some of my favorite foods. I’m living an everyday life in an everyday world. No limitations. No exclusions. A healthy lifestyle is about being aware, portion control and getting in activity.  If I can do it – anybody can!

Image courtesy of http://www.notonadiet.com/

Let me take a moment to introduce myself …

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I decided to make this blog because this is something that’s very near and dear to my heart. I enjoy blogging about health & beauty, but I’m VERY passionate about my path to a healthy lifestyle.  My name is Shannon, I’m a 27 year old young woman from New England who has struggled with her weight since as far back as I can remember.  Taking control of my own destiny I decided that I NEEDED to get healthy for myself.  My mind was in the game and my decision was made and I went full force towards that goal, no looking back.  It was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself.  As I’ve become more comfortable (public speaking isn’t nearly as daunting as it used to be – but I still do get a little shy), I find I enjoy helping those around me work towards finding their courage and obtaining their goal.  I’m very open to speaking with anyone about their weight loss or how to help switch things up in their journeys.