Getting the Picture

Getting the Picture

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Hello to a Better Body!

Getting the Picture

My entire adult life I’ve thought, “Once this project is complete I will have some rest. When this event is over things will calm down. As soon as this holiday passes, I’ll lose weight.” Guess what I finally learned? There are always new projects. Things never calm down. And the holidays keep coming.

I opened the mailbox and found a card from my sister-in-law with a picture of my mom, my sister and me taken at our family’s Christmas get-together. She included a small note that said, “I hope you like the picture.” Well… I didn’t. It wasn’t a conscious decision then, but that picture started me on my weight loss journey.

I am 4’10” with a small frame. At my heaviest, I wore a size 1X and topped the scale at a whopping 206 pounds with a body mass index of 43. It was definitely time to quit waiting and make some important changes. After a couple of months of thoughtful research, I signed up for a medically supervised weight loss program, determined to succeed with a healthy plan I could learn from, live with, and incorporate into a permanent lifestyle.

The first week of the plan was challenging but not unbearable. The second week seemed easier and I moved smoothly but a bit tentatively into the third week. Fortunately at this strategic point, a series of events happened that increased my momentum and confirmed I was in the right program at the right time.

As I walked on the treadmill listening to my radio, I heard a San Diego pastor discussing his own challenge with being overweight and living an unhealthy lifestyle. Pastor Jim talked about his motivation and described the medically supervised program that helped him lose ninety pounds. He addressed each step, the classes and the phases he went through. Though he didn’t identify the program, it sounded incredibly familiar. The following Monday when I checked in for my weight appointment there was an article hanging next to the reception window — Pastor Jim’s personal testimony on his success in our weight management program.

A week later I listened to nutritionist and speaker David Meinz. His healthy approach to eating was peppered with humor and a common sense attitude toward healthy lifestyle choices. I was so impressed that I bought his book and the CD of the program. However, it was a third incident that confirmed how my weight gain had undermined my health, and why I had no choice but to succeed.

An irritating, itchy red blotch, the size of a nickel, appeared directly above my right cheekbone. As the itching worsened, it grew larger. I went to my doctor, who prescribed an anti-fungal cream. I battled the spot for a couple of weeks until one morning I woke up with new spots on my face. By the time I left for work I had welts on one of my hands. I pulled up to the office ten minutes later, and my lips were covered, inside and out, with welts. No doubt I was having an allergic reaction. My doctor took one look at me, glanced quickly through my chart and said, “This definitely isn’t a fungus. It’s an allergic reaction to your blood pressure medication.”

This was not the first time I had encountered a challenge with my medications. Or even the second. Here I was again, trying to find a new medication that I wasn’t allergic to and that my insurance would cover.

I stomped out of the doctor’s office muttering under my breath and headed towards the pharmacy with a new prescription… again. I got into my car, slammed the door, and buckled my seatbelt. As I sat there fuming I had an epiphany. I had been angry with the doctor, the pharmacy, and the insurance company. I blamed them all — for choosing wrong medications, for constantly changing the drugs they covered, and for the high cost of the prescriptions. Suddenly that blame traveled full circle and rested squarely where it belonged. All those times I was angry, it wasn’t their fault… it was mine. The truth is that it’s possible that if my weight hadn’t spiraled out of control, I wouldn’t have needed those medications. I was the problem, not the drugs.

I surprised myself throughout the weight loss portion of the program by sticking to it. I stayed within the allowed food choices, diligently did everything that was expected and successfully transitioned into maintaining my weight. For me, that was the scary part. My fears centered on the maintenance phase when my choices would broaden.

One of the most interesting phenomena I observed in my journey is how many people are unhappy with their weight and their health, yet unwilling to change their attitudes and behaviors. I’ve seen many people struggle with their weight loss while I have been on my program. They face some of the same issues of control and emotional challenges that I have. They consistently eat food not on their plan. Each week, as they step on the scale, they make another excuse for not losing weight. They become frustrated because they aren’t moving toward their goal. Why? Because they haven’t learned that if we want our lives to change, we must change.

No one can nag, embarrass, bully, trick or manipulate you into losing weight. For me it took that nudge from my prescription medicine allergy, the deciding moment when I finally understood and accepted the responsibility to live a healthier life. Most of us know that we need to make that decision but we aren’t ready. The first step to a healthier life is to recognize the need for change. The next is to weigh the options and choose a reasonable, reliable, and workable health plan and goal for weight loss and maintenance that will work for us. Then we have to make a commitment to do what is necessary to accomplish that goal.

Nine months into the program I weighed 104 pounds with a BMI of 22 and wore a size two. Six years later I still firmly believe that when we want something to change in our lives permanently, we must make permanent changes. It took me quite a while to see things clearly and figure that out, but with a little nudge and a lot of determination, I’ve finally got the picture.

~ Valerie J. Frost ~

More stories from our partners