- Posted July 31, 2014 by
Lake Zurich, Illinois
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Your 'Aha' weight-loss moments
Losing to Win: One Teacher's Journey from Fat to Fit
- Jareen, CNN iReport producer
At that point in my life, I was living a pretty sedentary lifestyle. I felt pain in my back and joints daily. I could hardly bend over to tie my own shoes. I couldn't pick up something off of the floor if I had dropped it, and I'd have to ask my students to help me out if I was at school. And I definitely couldn't sit down on the floor without the fear of not being able to get back up. I was in a size XXL shirt and 48 pant at this point so shopping was always a challenge for me as I found certain styles and stores limiting. Besides a lack of exercise, I was eating a very unhealthy diet that consisted heavily of fast food, and my main liquid of choice was soda. Every day, I would order something from a fast food restaurant at least once, if not twice, and drink several cans of soda. I was thinking about eating all the time. Once, some called me "Big Mac Attack" because I ate a Big Mac in four bites just to prove I could. Most importantly, my personal relationships were suffering because I wasn't putting myself out there to get to know people or to let them get to know me. I knew lots of people who liked me, but I never let anyone get too close to me because I had no confidence in my own self worth. And because I continued to hide from people, I ate more and continued the downward into spiral into isolation. Honestly, food had become my best friend.
To try and put myself out there a little bit more, in the summer of 2012 I accepted a part in a community college theatre production of Sweeney Todd where I was cast as Beadle Bamford. Right away, I found it very difficult to keep up with the physical demands of rehearsals as well as some of the social activities the cast would engage in on the side. At one cast party after the conclusion of the show, I joined in a group volleyball game and found myself exhausted within minutes. I thought to myself at that moment, I'm 27 and I feel like I'm 60! What will I feel like when I am 60?!
The day after that volleyball game, I decided to take myself for a walk around my neighborhood to get a little more exercise. Within minutes, yet again, I was sweating and exhausted and I said to myself, this is horrible and it has to stop. I realized then, that my summer was over, and I would soon be going back to my unhealthy lifestyle while everyone I had become close with during the show had exciting things going on in their lives. I couldn't go back to being lonely and hiding behind my addiction to food. This day, July 30th, 2012, is the day that would become for me, my second birthday. The day I decided to change my life.
In talking with a co-worker a few months prior, he suggested I try the elliptical machine for starters because it would be easier on my joints than other machines and said that even though I might hate it at first, to try it and push through the pain because I would eventually break through the threshold and feel the benefits. So I committed to doing just that. The week before school was to start again, I went in to set up my classroom and then went to the fitness center and got on the elliptical. Within 30 seconds of pedaling, I was sweating and thinking this sucks and I hate this but I continued to pedal and sweat and hate the experience. After I left that first day, I thought, that took a lot of work, but I think I'm gonna come back tomorrow and do it again.
After that, I went back to the fitness center at school and just used the elliptical machine for an hour each day for a week. The other thing I did was immediately stopped drinking soda and eating fast food. In fact, I started going to the grocery store and bought food that made up a high protein, low carb diet and started cooking for myself. Specifically, I began eating big breakfasts, medium-sized lunches, and lighter dinners early in the evening. I also stopped snacking late at night and replaced soda with carbonated water so I could still have that fizzy taste I loved. When I stepped onto the scale the next week, I saw I had lost a few pounds. I instantly felt great and like I was moving in the right direction. So, I made a goal to keep going like that and lose a few more pounds. I knew it would be hard work and take a long time, but I made the commitment then and there to keep going because I knew I had to change my lifestyle.
Over the next few months, as I gained more stamina and lost more weight, I was able to upgrade to the treadmill where I added a little bit of running to my routine. I also continued to eat food in its most natural form being careful to read ingredient lists and not put anything in my mouth that I couldn't pronounce. I found I had more energy and people were noticing that I was becoming a different person. As I continued to lose weight, I continued to make reasonable goals for myself to lose even more. By December of 2012, I had dropped to 200 pounds. A number I hadn't seen since I was in high school.
In January of 2013, I was down to 180 pounds and feeling far less anxious and stressed, and just better about myself in general. People from work even felt so inspired by me that they would join me during my workouts at school to get in shape themselves. My students were more responsive to me, and I began reaching out to new and old friends to try to get involved in more social activities. I really was enjoying life so much more. At this point, I joined a gym near my house so I could begin working with a personal trainer. I had done most of the hard work myself, but wanted to learn how to maintain my weight in a healthy way and build up some muscle mass. I met my trainer, Dan, and we have been working together ever since.
It's now been two years since I first decided to take my life into my own hands and make a change for the better. I can honestly say I'm in the best shape of my life. I'm now down to a 32 waist! I'm also so much happier and confident in myself, and I finally feel good about me. My significant weight loss and realization of my self worth has definitely set me on a new path in my life. This past June, I left my teaching job of seven years to follow my passion for music and enrolled in a graduate program at Illinois State University where I will work toward a master's degree in Choral Conducting beginning this fall. I finally feel like my life is heading in the direction it's meant to.
Today, I'm able to look in the mirror and finally see the changes that everyone else sees. To those who want to change themselves too, I would say, when you can look in the mirror and say, I like what I see, you will have appealed to your number one critic. And that's yourself.