Thursday, May 28, 2009

The moment of reckoning

The moment when you realize you can't go on living the way you have been -- when you realize you have to do something about your weight -- is so universal an experience that it has a name. It's called a "triggering event."

For some people, it happens when they catch sight of themselves in a shop window, or, as I did, in a photograph. For others, it's a health scare -- the doctor says the dreaded word diabetes, or you have a struggle for breath so fierce it feels like a heart attack. One person told me she was struck by the outrageous numbers her doctor reported when he checked her blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Many people told me that it was the comment of another person -- whether well meaning or not -- that moved them to action. One person told me he was startled into action when a woman said to him, "You have such a handsome face, if you could only lose that weight." Another woman was cut to the quick when her publicist told her bluntly that she was losing business because of her weight.

I felt horrible asking people about these experiences, these moments that humiliated them, or terrified them, or left them in despair. I know how these moments feel, because I've had my own. But these defining moments, although painful, give you the courage to make the move you've long wanted to make, and provide you with the motivation you need to succeed.

What I learned from asking this question is that the people who succeed are the ones who don't ignore their triggering event. The ones who take it to heart and spring into action. So that's the advice I would give to you. Have you had a triggering event? When your moment of reckoning comes, don't ignore it. It's the start of something good.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Beginning at 16

Five years ago, I had a closet full of size 16s. Although I didn’t have a scale then, I suspect I was about 160 pounds. Standing only 5-foot, 2-inches, I was more than chunky. Sometimes, I had to buy 1X. At that size, I needed a little extra fabric when I sat down.

Funny. I never really saw myself as that big. But, unfortunately, photographs don't lie. In fact, I suspect that family photographers secretly work for the diet industry.

My husband took a photo of our son Evan and me the day he entered kindergarten. That morning, we walked hand-in-hand down the sidewalk to the school, the crisp September light virtually igniting Evan’s blond head as he shouldered his Thomas-the-Tank-Engine backpack. Needless to say, it was I and not Evan who wept like a baby when he pushed his way into the swarm of milling children on the playground that day without so much as a wave or a backward glance.

When we got our photos back (still using film!), I impatiently tore open the pack, eager to relive that poignant mother-and-son moment on the sidewalk.

But when I got to the photo, I felt sick. The warm feelings I had anticipated turned sour. In the photo, my backside blotted out everything - almost literally it seemed to me. It was all I could see. How can that possibly be me? I thought in disbelief. I tore up the photo, as if it were that easy to destroy a memory.

Although the photo is gone, I'm going to go looking for that negative. If I find it, I'll post the picture here. Weight loss success stories always start in humiliation, but - thankfully! - end in elation. That's the story I want to tell to you.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Make a new plan

The reason I'm here? I've lost 30 pounds.

To celebrate, I thought I'd ask 30 people who have lost weight how they did it. And, do you know what? There ARE 30 ways to lose the blubber! (Sorry about that, Mr. S.)

In fact, here's a statistic to cheer up all of us who are keeping stats on our weight. In 2004, a group of researchers placed 160 people on four different weight loss plans—the Zone, the Ornish Diet, Atkins and Weight Watchers—and asked them to stay on it for a year.

Do you know what? Everyone who completed the study lost weight. It didn't matter which plan they followed. At the one-year mark, 25 percent of participants who stuck to their plan lost more than 5 percent of their body weight; ten percent lost more than 10 percent. It wasn't the diet, but sticking with the diet that worked. The researchers went on to suggest that choosing a plan that matches your food preferences, lifestyle and medical requirements may dramatically increase the likelihood of success.*

So, take heart. Something can work for you. I'm going to post stories and photos here of 30 people who have lost anywhere from 20 to 220 pounds and have kept it off. I want to show you how many ways there are to reach your goal weight and make it yours for life. Along the way, I'll share my story, and I hope you'll share yours in response to my posts.

Thirty ways? It's just the beginning!

* Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets for Weight Loss and Heart Disease Risk Reduction.” By Michael L. Dansiger, M.D., et al. Journal of the American Medical Association,Vol. 293 (Jan. 5, 2005): pp. 43-53.)