I was overweight all of my life. I started gaining weight at age 5 or 6 and didn’t stop there. I weighed over 200 pounds in high school and, at my heaviest, weighed 376 pounds. The stereotypes that people like to use for overweight children and adults did not quite fit me. In fact is I was a very active child. I loved riding bikes, hiking, jump rope, swimming, basketball, and endlessly wandering the hills of my West Virginia home. I was hardly ever inside or sitting still. In the winter, I would spend hours out in the snow. I loved nature. I loved playing. When I was young, I didn’t eat much. When I started school, I ate lunch and dinner. I did not eat breakfast and very little snacking in between. I do have to confess that what I ate wasn’t healthy. I grew up in the country where everything was fried. I also have a bit of a sweet tooth. However, we did not have the money to afford much so sometimes my dinners consisted of bologna sandwiches. School lunches were as bad as they are today. Mystery meat, pizza, fries, etc. were all on the menu. When I hit my teenage years, my energy took a nose dive. However, as with any teen, my appetite increased. I tried eating what I had been taught was healthy but I still gained weight so I gave up and ate what I wanted instead. I tried the three meals a day, which was what we were taught. Still, I gained weight. School was torture for me. I was made fun of endlessly by students and even a teacher or two. All of the comments made, the laughter, the hurt, all of it stayed with me. But this was not the reason why I gained weight. I did not eat for comfort. I did not eat to cover up any other psychological issues. I want to make that clear. As an adult, I tried many things to lose weight. I tried “diet” and exercise. I did not try the crash diets or the fad diets because I knew they would not work. I stayed with the plans for months at a time. The longest I tried was about 7 months before realizing that I had only lost around 10 pounds. I got discouraged and went back to my old habits. My appetite did decrease after my teen years. I ate less than a lot of “skinny” people I knew. However, I was still gaining weight. No matter what I tried, I could not get it off. I did not want to go anywhere, do anything because I was afraid I wouldn’t fit. I wouldn’t fit in the chairs, in the cars, in the aisles, or even just the space around me. The most embarrassing moment for me was when I tried to ride a rollercoaster at a theme park and couldn’t fit in the seat. They had to shove me in like trying to close a suitcase with too many clothes inside. I wanted to lie down and cry. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I would lay awake at night crying. My aunt went through the gastric bypass surgery. Some thought that I should too. I refused. I wanted to do it on my own. I did not want that kind of help. I was ashamed to go to the doctor because I wanted to do it myself. I finally woke up though. On one June morning of 2009, I decided enough was enough. I wanted to get the weight off and I knew I needed help. I found a doctor close to me. I hadn’t weighed myself in years. One reason was because I did not really want to know, and two, because I didn’t have a scale that went up that high. When I found out the number was 376, I honestly thought it was going to be higher. The doctor, told me about a plan she had worked on and followed for years. It was simple and she said that if I wanted to try it, we could give it a go and see what happened. Not once did she recommend medicine, surgery or any other “quick fix.” I haven’t told her how much I appreciated and respected that. She asked me what my weaknesses were. I told her I could stick to anything as long as it worked. I’m not sure she fully believed me, but I knew I would show her. Within a couple of days I was headed full force into the plan. I had made my peace with the fact that I did not get to be the way I was overnight and it wasn’t going to come off overnight. I knew this was a life time choice I was making. I was fine with that. I stuck to the plan and lost 224 pounds in about 22 months. I have kept it off for two years now. I have learned several things on this journey. I have learned that there is not a cheeseburger in the world that can give me the joy that knowing I am the smallest I have ever been in my adult life gives me. I have learned what my body hates and what it likes. I have learned that no matter how tired I am, exercise makes me feel better. I have learned that I am beautiful. And I have learned that my problem was not the stereotypical ones. My problem was that I did not know how to eat. Every body is different. There is no one diet to rule them all. There is no one plan that will work for everyone. But I do know this: quick fixes will not work. Instant gratification got us where we are. It will not fix us. If you want to lose weight and keep it off then you have to make the decision for life. Only you have the power to change you. There is no book, no plan, no surgery that substitutes for willpower and determination. In learning these lessons, I have not only lost weight, I have gained my life.
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