The Power Within Oneself
Alyshiadavies has lost 129 pounds thanks largely to a mindset change, new eating habits and incorporating daily exercise. The biggest change for her was her mental attitude which involved major lifestyle changes that she managed to stick with.
She contacted us through our Share Your Story feature, and provided the following answers to our questionnaire.
1. What made you decide to lose weight this time?
I used to watch The Biggest Loser while eating pizza and drinking beer. In Winter of 2008 I had moved nearer to the family seated in northern California, and begun spending a lot of time with my grandmother. While watching The Biggest Loser with my beer and pizza, I had always celebrated the fact that I was not wasting my time making futile efforts at losing weight that I would never keep off anyway. I believed that I could be thin for brief periods between huge weight gains. Then one day my grandmother and I were talking, and she told me the story of her mother who had been a terrible, angry tyrant. I remarked that it was amazing that she herself had never become either the doormat or the tyrant that one would expect from someone raised by such a terrible person. "I chose not to be that way" Grandma explained. "I just didn't want to be like her." And that was when I realized that I was not merely a victim of circumstance, but had a choice.
The next week I watched The Biggest Loser while bouncing on a trampoline (on which I exceeded the weight limit). I started to take cooking lessons from Grandma, and limited my portions to the size of one medium sized dinner plate. I lost 6 pounds the first week, and that motivated me to keep going.
2. What other "diets" (programs, products, plans, or services) had you tried in the past?
I was great in inventing my own programs. In college other girls gained their freshmen 15, and I lost my freshmen 50. I was broke and lived off watermelon, black beans, cheddar cheese and ice berg lettuce. I plateaued after about 40 pounds and switched to an even stricter diet of coffee and snickers bars!
A few years later I was back up at around 200 lbs and started an all-juice all-the-time diet. That was when I took up smoking as a helpful weight control tool. Then there was The 24 Hour Pineapple Diet, The Atkins Diet, The 3 Squares Taco Bell Diet, the Frozen Fruit and Light Cool Whip Diet, The Take-It-Easy Diet (I joined Curves and fasted 1 day a week)... you get the picture. All that took me from my starting weight of around 200 pounds as a freshmen in college to a whopping 277 by August of 2006.
3. What changes did you make to your usual diet, activity, lifestyle, and attitude?
The main changes were and remain in my head. Yes, my diet has changed dramatically. I decided back in Winter of 2008 that I would just aim for healthy and hope for skinny, so I decided to shoot for the food pyramid: a protein or two a day, 5-7 veggies, 3-5 fruits, a couple of whole grains, and one or two things I enjoyed. I also let up on the calorie control a little on weekends at first; I found a 5 day a week diet plan less intimidating. After I had adjusted my habits for about a year though, I discovered that the 5 day a week calorie reduction plan was only slowing my weight loss, so I decided to just hold fast at between 1500 and 1800 calories per day every day. I've been doing that for about 6 months and have lost 30 pounds in addition to the 98 I had lost by February.
Miraculously, I corrected yet another earlier diet blunder and quit smoking in March. It was the hardest thing I've ever done beyond doubt, especially since the nicotine cravings channeled themselves into food cravings and very nearly drove me to distraction. However, it has now been 5 months since my last nicotine fix and I've not only lost weight, I feel like some kind of unstoppable Wonder Woman.
4. How did Calorie Count help you to lose weight?
One of the things I'm in the habit of now is checking the calories of everything before I buy, order or eat it. When I first started the diet it was OK for me to just say, "I'll have my foot-long sub on whole wheat and skip the mayo. Yeah, that's low calorie." I would still lose weight pretty much no matter what I did. Now that my weight is at normal for my height, though, I have to be a little more exacting. It helps that I can go to Calorie Count Mobile on my Blackberry and type in "6 inch meatball sub" and come up with a calorie count. Often times I'm put off completely by the calorie count of something, and just opt for something different entirely. Other times I'm surprised that the sweets and treats I love still fit within my calorie budget for the day. Also, I get the Calorie Count newsletter and read it religiously every day. Sometimes I just glance through for good tips, other times I am fascinated by some new development or other things.
5. What was most challenging about losing weight?
Changing what was going on in my brain was the hardest. My mindset in the beginning was that I'd rather be fat and happy than thin and hungry, but that really is so sad. What I was really saying to myself was that I'd rather have whatever food I could get myself than enjoy my food for what it is and get my real joy and pleasure from living a full, rich, healthy life. I've had a lot of work to do on my self-esteem, impulse control, body image, and emotional eating issues to really turn that around. But all that work is what I think will lead to me being able to keep it off though - this time I faced the really hard things about weight loss, the fact that I eat for reasons other than hunger, and I am working like a slave to fix these life-long behavior patterns.
6. How long did it take you to see results?
I started seeing results immediately. The first 6 pounds came off in one week. The real trial was seeing results over the long term, especially when I wanted to give up in anguish and eat my way through to next Tuesday. It was so easy until the first time I went 2 weeks in a row without losing weight and realized I was going to have to go from my 3 hour a week walking regimen to a 4 hour a week slow jog in order to keep losing weight. "For crying out loud!" I would say to myself every time I plateaued, "How much exercise does a person have to do?" Then I realized that every time I pushed my exercise and diet up a notch, the previous step seamed so easy I could hardly believe I'd had any success with it at all.
As a final note, I am currently on a 2000 calorie a day diet, training for a half marathon. The training has me running about 8 to 10 hours a week. When I started running a year ago I could make it for about 15 minutes at a time going about 4 miles per hour. Now I'm up to 8 miles at about 6 miles per hour. By the end of August my goal is to be able to run the 13+ miles of the half marathon at around 6.5 miles per hour. I can hardly believe I once thought walking 30 minutes a day seemed like a lot. Now that seems not merely too easy, but unsatisfactorily brief. I think that little exercise and going that slow would hardly get my blood pumping, let alone make me feel like Wonder Woman the way a good 5 mile run does.
7. When did you realize that you were a success?
After the first 6 pounds I started making a concerted effort. When they didn't come back I thought it was a miracle. When even more started coming off, one to three pounds at a time, I knew something major was happening. Of course back then I did not have enough faith in myself to believe it was me doing it. It had to be the weather, or my guardian angel, or maybe Mercury was in retrograde; I'd heard weird things always happened when Mercury was doing something odd. But now I realize that for all the support from my Grandma, friends, co-workers, and of course God who lent help and encouragement, I really did do it. It's been a huge boost to my self-esteem to be able to do this. I really am a whole different person inside and out.
8. How do you prevent relapse?
I am working hard on changing my mind. I am reading a lot on what causes people to eat when they're not hungry or when they're already full. I always thought I was just a glutton, that there was something wrong with me, I had no self-control, just blame. Recently a strange thought came to me. My boss left on a business trip leaving me alone in the office. "I wonder what there is to eat" I thought to myself. A thought I can't remember having had in years. Back when I was little, my parents both worked. My sister was much older and out with her friends a lot. I was alone. I was lonely. I felt abandoned. I decided to raid the fridge and cupboards for all the things I wasn't allowed to eat when anybody was looking. That was how I coped with my situation. I realize now I didn't have the coping skills I needed, so thank God I found food or I don't know what would have come of me. Now as an adult of 35, I have to relearn coping strategies. I have to find a way to self soothe when I am lonely or sad, angry or anxious. I have to break up with my first real, passionate love: food. From now on food has to be something I delight in when I am hungry, and hardly spare a thought for when I am not. It has been hard but not impossible, and every day it gets a little easier.
9. How has your life changed now that you've lost weight?
I can do anything I want. The sense of formidable power I once derived from being big can now be derived from being very likely the fittest person in any given room. I look at my body for all its loose skin and stretch marks and I realize that it has always done exactly what I needed it to do. It has kept me isolated when I felt like pushing everyone out of my life, and now that I want to draw them near, it attracts friends, family and lovers just as I desire. It's also a lot more comfortable - it's an all weather body - less fat covering means less unbearable heat in summer. Better circulation means I can better adjust to cold in winter. It's not just attractive to others, it serves my own purpose too.
10. What five tips do you have for other dieters?
- Deal with what's going on in your head and the rest will come almost automatically.
- Add things to your diet instead of slashing them. In all my
reading I've learned that trying to banish foods you love only leads
to binging and regain afterwards.
- Be good to yourself. You have value whatever your weight is. You
treat others with kindness and respect, so treat yourself that way too.
Being hard on yourself - perfectionism, all or nothing thinking - it
only leads to shame, which leads to more weight.
- Find things out. Read the Calorie Count newsletters, google
things you're struggling with, read a book a month.
- Give your full attention to the food you do eat. Don't disrespect
yourself and your food by mindlessly sticking stuff in your mouth
while on the go, reading a book, or standing at the fridge. Sit down and
enjoy your 1500 - 2000 calories a day, and you'll get just as much
enjoyment out of them as you would from the 3000 calories you might eat while watching The Biggest Loser with beer and pizza. Choose wisely what you really want, and don't feel obliged to eat the crust from your
bread or the grisly part of your meat just because way back when your
mother told you the universe would end if you didn't. Everything you
pick off that you don't like, or throw away because it was too salty,
or leave on your plate because it just wasn't as good as it sounded on
the menu, is one less thing you put in your mouth.
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