Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My moment of truth

It's so easy to post someone else's before photo! So hard to post your own. But here goes.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a "triggering event" that made me realize I had to do something about my weight. It was this photo. My husband took it of Evan and me heading down the sidewalk on his first day of kindergarten.

I thought that I would cherish this photo forever. That it would go into a photo album that we would leaf through with pleasure. That through the years it would call up memories of sweet times with our son.

NOT! When I saw this, this is what I thought: How can this possibly be me? The shock of it is so great, I don't even see my beautiful son, can't remember my thoughts on that walk. It's a moment that is forever lost to me. It makes me sad.

But, ultimately, this photo does document a turning point. Not the one I was expecting--a rite of passage for my son--but one that changed the direction of my own life. It took me another year to act, but eventually this photo provided the punch in the gut (or really, the butt) I needed to take charge of my health and weight.

Maybe one day, I'll be able to look at this photo with pride, both for myself and my son. It's been almost six years, though, and I still can't bear to look at it. I haven't really taken an after photo yet--certainly not one from behind! But I've lost 30 pounds so far and have just 5 to go. I'll post a true after shot soon. Maybe I'll actually be able to look at that one!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chips: How to eat just one (or two)

I read a fascinating article on Salon this morning about why food is so addictive. For the article, Why We Can't Eat Just One, Katherine Mieszkowski interviewed Dr. David Kessler, a San Francisco Bay Area pediatricion who has written a book titled The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite

Dr. Kessler says that that it's not a simple lack of willpower that causes us to overeat. The brain, he says, creates strong neural pathways that make it nearly impossible to resist our cravings. Every time we face an addictive food -- mostly loaded with fat, sugar and salt -- we have an internal dialog that strengthens the pathways. Something like: "Yow. That would taste good. But, no, I shouldn't. But I really want it. Maybe just a little."

Add to that the stimulus that is created by alluring food packaging and advertising, restaurant decor, lighting and music, easy access on every corner, the linking of food and entertainment and you're battling an entire environment, not just a food. And most food, he says, is "adult baby food." It goes down so easy we chew only two or three times, gulp it down, and reach for the next chip.

Chips! Why did he have to mention them?? My one weakness. After reading Brian Wansink's book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think, I've adopted his suggestion that you set "food rules" and "food prohibitions" for yourself. Rules mean you regulate the addictive food in some way, prohibitions mean you can't eat it at all.

When it comes to chips, here are my rules. I can have chips, but I can't buy them. If I have chips, I can't have dip. (That makes me eat more, plus dip has mucho calories.) If I have dip, I have to dip with veggies. When I have chips, I can't drink anything. (Thirst makes me stop sooner.)

How about you? What rules or prohibitions help you curb your cravings?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Karen Freberg: An athlete in transition

My Freberg Fest continues!

Mom Laura and Dad Roger had their say in my last two posts. Together, this family has lost about 275 pounds. Daughter Karen got the ball rolling.

Karen is a powerful athlete. In college, she was a four-time All-American shot-putter, earned four national power lifting records, and was a finalist in the 2004 Olympic Trials.

On graduating from the University of Southern California, six-foot tall Karen weighed 285 pounds and wore a size 26 pants. This is not an unusual weight for a woman of her sport. But after her track and field career ended, she wanted to lose her "thrower's weight."

"Since I was retired, I knew that I had to lose the weight," Karen says. "The habits I had after 10 years of eating with the football players just weren’t working."

In October 2006, Karen and her mom signed up at their local Jenny Craig office. Karen likes the simplicity of the system, one that she believes is great for athletes in transition.

“I would recommend Jenny Craig to any athlete who has finished their athletic career,” she says.

Lately, Karen has added exercise classes into her day, including spin and kickboxing, and last year she competed in her first 5k -- a feat she finds amazing because for a thrower, she says, a lap around the track is a long-distance run.

To date, Karen has lost 85 pounds and she wears a size 8/10. She wants to lose another few pounds while she pursues her doctorate in communications and public relations at the University of Tennessee. She'll celebrate her three-year anniversary on Jenny Craig in November.

"I am extremely thankful to Jenny Craig for helping me with my weight loss. I feel healthier, more active, and I get to wear fashionable clothes in sizes that I always dreamed about!" Karen says. "It’s been one of the best decisions that I have ever made for my health – and it's been great having my family on it as well."

You can follow Karen's adventures at Congratulations, Karen!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Roger Freberg: The chef slims down

In my last post, Laura Freberg shared her weight loss success story. She lost 80 pounds using Jenny Craig.

But Laura isn't the only person in her household with a story to tell. Look at this photo... left to right, that's Roger (Laura's husband), their daughter Karen and Laura in 2006, before their weight loss. Look back in my last post at Roger and Laura's after photo. Amazing!

Roger is a former pro-football player. He was an athlete at UCLA and drafted in 1974 by the Los Angeles Ram as a defensive lineman. After his playing days were over, Roger admits to carrying over his eating habits. "I estimate I consumed about 10,000 calories a day," he says. In this photo, the 6’4” tall Roger is about 325 pounds.

Roger’s career as a product manager for Nestle and Mars, and then his retirement hobby as the family chef, furthered his predicament. At one time, he weighed over 400 pounds and was diagnosed with diabetes. He managed to bring his weight down to 325 pounds on an exchange plan.

One day in December 2006, he happened past the kitchen table, where Laura and Karen were having Jenny Craig cupcakes.

“I said, ‘What’s that?’ I didn’t realize I could have something like a cupcake and still lose weight,” Roger says. He became the third family member to sign up.

It’s ironic that one of the Frebergs’ most passionate shared hobbies is cooking. About once a week, they take a Jenny Craig break, and the Freberg kitchen turns out the likes of seafood gumbo, lasagna, crab quiche, prime rib dinners, stuffed bell peppers, raisin-blueberry cinnamon rolls, raspberry chocolate truffle cake and strawberry-amarula cheesecake.

To counterbalance the damage their hobby could inflict, the family freezes leftovers in appropriate meal-size portions. “We have about a thousand freezer containers,” Laura says.

For exercise, Roger and Laura walk about two miles a day. With this routine, Roger maintains a loss of about 80 pounds. You can follow Roger at

Stay tuned for more stories from the Freberg family!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Laura Freberg: Celebrating an anniversary

Weddings, graduations, the Fourth of July... this is the time of year we enjoy celebrations of all sorts.

Laura Freberg has her own reason to celebrate. This summer marks her first anniversary on the National Weight Control Registry.

The registry tracks people who have lost weight and kept it off over time. ( To qualify, you must be at least 18 years old, have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for one year or more. People have reported losing up to 300 pounds and keeping it off for up to 66 years.

To date, more than 6,000 people have logged their weight loss stories. Laura is one of them. A psychology professor at California Polytechnic State University, she and her daughter Karen signed up at their local Jenny Craig office in San Luis Obispo. While her daughter wanted to lose the weight she had needed as an All-American shot-putter, Laura wanted to gain control over her 5’9”, 210-pound, size 16 frame.

Once Laura and Karen received their first shipment of meals, they discovered that portion control would be a challenge for them, even with healthy food on their table.

“California is all about fresh fruit; bananas, grapes, you name it. We ate good food, just way too much of it. We’d sit down to eat a bowl of cherries that was about four times what we should be having,” Laura says.

Controlling portions and calories, the women’s weight loss was almost immediate. Karen lost 11 pounds the first week, Laura lost six. From then on, one to two pounds a week was standard.

For Laura, the decision to use a delivered meal program made weight loss almost automatic. She recalls reading Brian Wansink’s book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, and being struck by his finding that people make more than 200 decisions a day about food. To her, that meant 200-plus opportunities to make the wrong choice.

“What I like most about the Jenny Craig system is that no decisions have to be made,” Laura says. “I prefer to use my time, energy, and neural activity on my work and hobbies, not thinking about food.”

Today, Laura maintains a goal weight of about 130 pounds (an 80-pound loss) and wears size 4 “Barbie-doll suits.” Congratulations, Laura! (That's Laura and her husband Roger in a 2007 photo.) To read more about Laura, check out her website at

In another post, I'll tell you about the rest of Laura's family. Jenny Craig quickly became a way of life for the Freberg family. Together, they've lost about 275 pounds. Now, that's reason to celebrate!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Starting with a splash

A few days ago, I talked about "triggering events," those moments that slap you in the face with the reality of your weight problem. I had one -- a photograph of me from behind -- that struck me with cruel force.

If you take your triggering event to heart, you're more likely to begin your weight loss journey with conviction. So, did I do that? Use my momentary glimpse as a stepping stone?

After seeing that shocking photo, I did... absolutely nothing. Even with this heartache, I let another year go by. My son was in a half-day kindergarten that year. Those three hours a day don't allow you the freedom to do much of anything for anyone, let alone yourself.

But with the coming of first grade—full days of school!—a friend offered me a two-week pass to her gym. Instinctively, I begged off. I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to maintain a long-term interest in fitness. I was eager just to get back to work; it had been five long years with Elmo and Little Critter.

But my friend persisted. And, miraculously, a niggling idea wormed its way to the fore. I thought: What if I just go? Just go, with no expectations. Ignore the scale. Nix the daily progress check. Just go. See what happens. Commit myself to the ragged, uneven—but possibly upward—path. Could it all add up? I wondered.

And, besides I had an inkling of how I could exercise without sweating. I HATE to sweat. It makes me miserable. And, no matter how many times I heard people say you could walk, jog, or run your way to fitness, I knew I wouldn't. I was well into my 40s and hadn't walked my way to weight loss yet.

My solution? The pool! I took my friend up on her offer and dove in. I had begun!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Heidi Bylsma: Her Goal Was a Harley

One of the first people I talked with about weight loss was Heidi Bylsma. Heidi lives in Cool, Calif. She's a mom, a writer and a horse enthusiast, among many other things.

At her heaviest, Heidi weighed 250 pounds. Over the years, she had lost as much as 100 pounds on several programs, including Weight Watchers and Weigh Down. But the stresses of her life -- including homeschooling two children and parenting an autistic child -- brought back the pounds. In 2002, the family moved to the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, but soon the move seemed senseless.

“We had moved to the country so we could have horses, and now I was afraid to ride them for fear of hurting them,” Heidi says.

As a writer, Heidi had once worked with Judy Halliday, the author of Thin Within, a faith-based weight loss program. Although her weight struggles continued, she loved the Thin Within concept of listening to your body's cues of hunger and satisfaction -- eating when you're hungry, and stopping before you're full.

When her scale read 250 pounds, Heidi went back to this simple concept and she started losing weight again.

“No obsessions! No gimmicks! God freed me of 100 pounds by the simple method of listening to hunger and satisfaction and running to him for everything else I need,” she says.

Heidi did reach a low weight of 150, but in time realized she couldn't maintain that weight without indulging an obsession with diet soda. Today, she maintains a weight of about 167 pounds, which you can see from her after-photo is a good weight for her as a 5-foot, 7-inch woman.

For Heidi, the high point of her weight loss journey came one day when she was able to once again hop on her horse.

“In May of 2007, I rode my horse Harley for the first time in three years! He was the horse I always dreamed of having,” Heidi says. “Riding him bareback with a halter—gosh, riding him at all—was a lifelong dream come true. I was free! Free from all the extra weight, free from fear of my horses, free from the fear of dying young.”

To read more about Heidi's life and her weight loss journey, read her blog at

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sympathy: wanted or not?

I just got back from BookExpo at the Javits Center in New York. Two days of hiking the aisles, adding book after book to my shoulder bag until I was probably once again lugging those 30 pounds I've lost and more. I was exhausted!

At one point, I stopped for a cup of soup and sat down on a high round stool at a counter overlooking the convention. Next to me sat a woman much younger than me, but far heavier. We began talking and within minutes, I could see that she could not keep her balance on the stool. Not being able to put her feet on the floor, and unable to bend her knees enough to plant her feet on the rungs of the stool, she teetered and had to grasp the edge of the table to remain seated.

My heart went out to this woman. I wondered why she chose to sit at this counter rather than at a table where her feet would touch the floor. I wish I had known what to say or do. Could I have said anything to put her at ease? Or would saying something have only increased her embarrassment? I don't know. I just wish she knew I sympathized. What would you have done?