From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

My Weight-Loss Journey

When we move out of the familiar here and now, we set in motion a series of events that, taken together, bring about changes at the very root of our being.

Joseph Dispenza

There was a time in my life when everything was completely out of control. I was considered “morbidly obese” at 290 pounds, my marriage was horrible and I was a diet junkie but still gaining weight on every fad that I tried. Looking back, it is still difficult for me to pinpoint how I got myself into such a rut, but it is quite easy for me to explain how I broke the cycle that kept me in the downward spiral that had become my life.

At thirty years old, I felt way too young to be my mother, yet there I was, weighing 290 pounds, unhappy all the time, in debt, lonely and eating for comfort. I so desperately wanted my life to improve and laid my hopes on the belief that once I lost weight, everything would! In an attempt to solve all of my problems, I went on every popular diet that I heard about—from the cabbage soup diet to the lesser-known “cantaloupe, tuna and Diet Pepsi diet.” Each diet left me overweight and disillusioned —certainly not the outcome I desired. I resigned myself to the fact that I was destined to be fat, lacked any willpower and would likely fail at any diet that I ever tried.

One day in 1994, while opening the mail, I came upon an envelope without a return address. I opened it, read it and discovered that my husband was having an affair. It was like being punched in the stomach, but the pain didn’t go away. An argument ensued and I rushed out the door, needing to get away—you know, to get something to eat.

I headed to the closest gas station to buy a candy bar and there he was—the man who would facilitate my change in destiny! As I got out of my car, I gave my sweatshirt the obligatory tug, pulling it down so that it covered my butt and thus hid my fat from the world—or so I thought. As I walked toward the attendant’s window to get my food fix, this man leaning on the side of the building, drinking something out of a tattered brown paper bag and wearing clothing stained with soot and grime, loudly observed, “Girl, you got too much food in you!” Not just a quiet observation, mind you, but very loud and heckling. Repeatedly and more loudly my tormentor kept up his chanting. Everyone, even the attendant behind the bulletproof glass window, was laughing—laughing at my fat and me. I took my candy bar and quickly retreated to my car as he got one last comment in: “Damn, girl!” I was beyond humiliated.

Enough was enough. “Too much food in me!” I’ll show him, I thought as I sped off; giving him a parting gesture as I spun my wheels like a bat out of hell. I quickly opened up my Mounds bar and sought solace. Strangely, comfort wasn’t to be found that night—not in the coconut and chocolate, not in the ice cream that I ate when I got home, and least of all, not when I took a good look in the mirror.

He was right—and it hit me hard. He hadn’t meant to be cruel, but he was being honest and called it as he saw it. Sure, other people’s comments could be construed as mean-spirited, but not this man’s. He didn’t make fun of me, he didn’t call me “fat”; no, he simply stated the obvious: I had too much food in me.

I took a long look at myself and at my life that night, and I realized what the problems really were. It wasn’t my husband’s fault that I had gotten overweight; it wasn’t my parent’s fault; it wasn’t the teasing; it wasn’t anything that anyone else did to me—it was every bite of food that went into my mouth that didn’t belong there.

From that day on, I quit thinking that simply losing weight would change me and improve my life; I realized that if I changed my actions, in time my life had no choice but to change! From that day on, I quit putting “too much food in me.” It was very easy for me to identify a few foods that I had way “too much of in me”; after all, I was eating at least a half gallon of ice cream a night. That seemed like a good place to start.

My weight loss did not happen overnight and my life didn’t improve overnight; but, rather, over a series of many nights, days, weeks and months I made consistent small steps in the direction of a healthier life—a well-balanced life! I literally started by changing one habit, which led to changing one more habit, and so on, which wasn’t overwhelming and was very doable. I gave up my ice cream vice, “busted” fast food, started cooking and eating with my children, stopped eating in the car or in front of the TV, and started to read labels and learn about the contents of what I was consuming.

I also started getting some exercise. After I lost fifteen or twenty pounds, I joined an aerobics class. After I lost about fifty pounds, I became comfortable and more confident in myself and I started to work out more often. I began taking step classes and performing muscle-strengthening exercises. I started walking around the park with my children and playing with them in the playground.

Over the course of the next fifteen months I lost over 130 pounds—almost exactly two pounds per week—a healthy pace by all standards. My productivity at work improved, my attitude was vastly more positive and my life was finally pulling out of the downward spiral. Sadly, my marriage did not improve despite the fact that my body did. For so many years I thought that losing weight would change everything in my life and my marriage. My husband was a very nice person, but together we didn’t work. Each of us had different interests and desires for our lives, and it became clear that my weight loss wasn’t going to change us—only how I looked.

Each day is a new page in my journey, which began with a homeless man, my guardian angel, who opened my eyes, gave me a dose of reality and shocked me into changing my life. It worked!

Julia Havey

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