Thursday, May 25, 2006

A year ago today...

...I found a lump on my left breast. It felt firm and slightly flat, like a lima bean under my skin. I poked it and prodded it, because it wasn't there the month before, and I'd never felt it before, so I thought it would go away. Poking and prodding did nothing but make my skin red; the lump did not change.

Ryan came in just as I was laying in bed, poking and prodding, and I didn't say anything about it to him, convinced that when I woke up the lump would be gone. He asked me to go lay in the hammock with him, and so we went out and looked at the stars in the clear sky. (Perhaps todays rain showers and cloudy skies are a sign that the next year will be very different from the last year!)

I didn't understand then how much my life would change because of that little lump.



Today at my Weight Watchers meeting I was awarded Lifetime status, meaning that I've hit my goal weight and maintained it for six weeks. Now, it's my job to keep the pounds off, and to continue my healthy habits for the rest of my life. I am encouraged to continue going to WW meetings to stay on track, and to continue journaling my food, which I will do. I hope that one day I won't have to write every morsel down, but I will use the scale as my guide: if I gain, I'll jump back on WW immediately.

Part of the standard protocol at meetings is that members receiving Lifetime get to get up in front of the group and discuss their success. I can not believe how emotional it was for me to do that! I was trying to tell people that they COULD lose weight, no matter what the obstacles in front of them, and I started to point out that I'd had third degree radiation burns, as well as two major surgeries, during my weight loss phase...and I really choked up. Sometimes, I can't allow myself to feel the enormity of things until I'm through them, and this was one of those times. Standing in front of that crowd, I told them: it was hard. It really, really hurt. I didn't think I could keep going...but I did. And now look at me! I can hardly believe the difference - I look like an entirely different person. I'm thin! I really am! I'm at an "ideal" weight, and nobody (except myself) can take it away from me. I intend to remain thin for all of my days. I've been heavy, and I didn't like it: I'm NOT going back.

For any here who are trying to lose weight, here are the two things I think it boils down to. Really, there are only two things that I think make a person successful at weight loss. Only two. You can do it!

1. Decide that it's really very, very important to you to lose weight, and that are absolutely committed to losing weight NOW. This is different than wanting to lose weight - wishes do not get results. If you decide that losing weight is an absolute top priority for you, then you will remake your life to make weight loss possible. You will tell the girlfriend who invites you out to lunch, "You know, I can't resist the cheesecake at that resturant, and I'm trying to cut back. Can we go somewhere else instead?" You will bring snacks with you so that you have healthy choices when you're going to be busy all day. You will refuse to use cookbooks whose main ingredient lists include lots of butter and cream. You will weigh your food. All because of one thing: you decided that it was important. We all know how to lose weight, and it's not rocket science (eat less, exercise more), but I think that the thing is the level of commitment. Don't think that you can't because of your husband's sweet tooth, or your office's policy of having donut Fridays, or the fact that your kids like too many carbs and so it's hard for you to avoid those things. Just decide that it's the most important thing to you to be thin, and make your decisions based on that. The cliche'd expression "nothing tastes as good as being thin feels" is oh-so-true. I still love fettucine alfredo...but not nearly as much as I love being thin. Never before in my life have I really committed to losing weight. It's not easy, but it can be done....if you commit to it.

2. Write down every bite, and be honest about it. I've never food journaled before this, and I see why it's such a successful technique: it forces honesty in black and white; and it makes you think, "do I want to have to write this down?" It also helps with math. If you're adding up in your head, it's easy to miss things, to "forget," or to miscalculate portions. It's harder to lie on paper, right there before you. Write it down! If you're dieting now, and it's not working, start writing it down, and you'll discover one of two things: either that you're eating more than you thought (or more of the wrong things than you thought); or that you weren't really dieting at all because of all of the "hidden" foods that you weren't really counting in your head. In a recent Oprah magazine there was a great article about weight loss that discussed food journaling, and it said that people who do not food journal tended to underestimate their caloric intake by 1,050 calories a day. WHOA! That's a lot of calories! I believe that journaling is the magic bullet for dieters. You bite it, you write it; you nibble, you scribble. Try it! It really works!

I don't profess to have all of the answers, but I've become the biggest believer in Weight Watchers. They know their stuff. They've seen it all. The meetings are a big motivator...and I can't tell you how many times I thought "well I want to eat ___ but I'm being weighed in a couple of days and I don't want them to write down a higher number than last week," so the nature of weighing in weekly is very effective. I've met lovely, wonderful people there, and everyone is very encouraging. My leader, Shelly, is an amazing, amazing, woman, and I credit a good deal of my success to her lessons, kindness, and support.

But in the end, it was ME who did the hard work, and I'm very, very, very proud of myself. Officially, I lost 39 pounds. I hope to never see them again....and you'll see me working at keeping them off for the rest of my life.