From A Second Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul

Low-Fat and Happy

They can conquer who believe they can.


When you’re a kid, it’s tough being different. By the time I was ten, I was taller than most kids and overweight. It was then that I began to hide my eating. I felt bad enough about my size, but when the others laughed at me, it only made me feel worse, and I turned to food for comfort.

For a time I tried slumping, so that I’d be closer to my friends’ sizes, but my mother wouldn’t allow it. Mom always said to me, “Be proud of your height. You’ve never seen a short model, have you?” That got my attention. To me, the word “model” stood for beauty, which certainly wasn’t included in the vocabulary I would have used to describe myself.

One day, I was crying about how some of my friends got attention from boys that I didn’t. Mom sat me down again. I remember the soft, comforting look in her beautiful baby-blue eyes as she told me the story of The Ugly Duckling—how the little bird’s beauty was revealed when its time arrived. Mom told me that we all have our time on earth to shine. “This is their time,” she said. “Your time will come when you become a woman.” I listened to Mama’s story over and over throughout my growing-up years, but my time never really seemed to come.

Grown and married, I started to have my babies. After the birth of each of my three sons, I always hung on to twenty pounds. When I got pregnant with my last son, I went into the pregnancy weighing 209. After that, for a period of eight years, I gave up on ever being a normal weight again. I was the first to crack jokes about my size, laughing with the others on the outside but crying intensely on the inside. I hid my eating binges from my family, hating myself for what I was doing, but unable to control myself.

At the age of thirty-four, I weighed 300 pounds. I was in pain twenty-four hours a day, with degenerative disc problems. My body felt stretched and crushed all at the same time. Stepping on the scales at 300 pounds was a turning point in my life. The scale registered that enormous number, but I felt like a zero. And I realized with startling clarity that if I didn’t gain control of my life, I wouldn’t be aroundmuch longer. I thought ofmy precious sons—I wouldn’t be there to watch themgrow up. I’dmiss their first crushes, first heartaches, proms, driver’s licenses, graduations, weddings—I’d never hold my grandbabies. At that moment, I knew I had two choices: live or die. Something inside me broke free and I heard myself screaming, “I’m going to live! I deserve to live, live, live!

I screamed loud enough to awaken a new me. How I wanted to live that day! I had a drive inside I’d never felt before. I knew then that I was going to do everything in my power to win this battle. I wasn’t going to give up on me ever again.

This powerful force inside me for life was a force of love as well. I felt a spark of love for myself—as I was—that had been gone for a long time. I decided, for the first time ever, that I was going to lose weight the healthy way. In the past, I had abused diets as much as I’d abused food. I had starved the weight off to the point of losing my hair and developing blurred vision.

This time, I would set small goals, so that when I reached them it would give me the confidence to continue. I learned to prepare and enjoy low-fat, healthy foods. I also developed a new way to talk to myself about food. When food “called out to me,” instead of saying, Go ahead, girl, eat. Who’s going to know? the new Teresa was firm. No! I will not eat in private and guilty silence anymore. I will eat when I choose, not when food dictates. How wonderful it felt when I made it through another day without cheating.

Toughest of all, I had to concentrate on the positives in my life. I had always been so good at encouraging others; now I realized the person who needed me most was me. I made myself wear make-up because it made me feel prouder of myself. Somedays that was just the little push I needed to get me through. As the weight came off and I got smaller, my confidence in myself grew and grew.

I remember the first time I went to the regular, not plus size, section of the local department store. I cried as I looked around at all the racks of clothes I knew I could wear. I grabbed twenty outfits and went to the dressing room. The attendant raised her eyebrows in surprise, saying, “All of these?”

I smiled broadly. “All of these,” I answered proudly.

Zipping up a pair of jeans, I felt a wonderful sense of freedom. I’m going to make it, I thought.

In nine months, I lost 108 pounds, but then I hit a plateau. For years I had blamed my weight on a slow metabolism, and had always fought exercise like I fought losing weight. Now I knew I couldn’t go any further without getting my body moving. I remember telling myself, Girl, you weren’t blessed with a great metabolism, but you were blessed with two legs, so get out there and do something about that slow metabolism. So I did.

Parkingmy car near a wheat field bymy home, I walked along the fence till I reached the end of the one-mile long field. If I wanted to get home, I had to get back to my car, so I had no choice but to walk the return mile. It was hard at first, but it got easier and easier as the weeks and months went by.

Within another eight months, I was at my target weight of 170 pounds. I had lost 130 pounds! At five feet, eleven inches, I am a size twelve. Best of all, I am alive not only in body but in spirit as well.

Now, my husband flirts with me, and our kids think we act weird because we’re so happy together. Plus, I’m able to be the active mom with my sons the way I’d always dreamed. We fish, play ball or just hang out together, and amazingly, I have the energy to keep up.

Today, at age thirty-six, I’m blessed with a new career. Writing and publishing my low-fat cookbook has been one of the most exciting adventures I have ever been on. Because of the book and the motivational speaking I do to promote it, I’ve been given the opportunity to reach out to others who, like I once had, have all but given up hope of losing weight and gaining control of their lives.

For me, losing weight was about choosing life over and over and over again. I remember a day on one of my walks by the wheat field, when I reached over the fence and grabbed a stem of wheat to hold in my hand as I walked. I remembered from school that, to the ancient Greeks, wheat represented life. Whenever I felt like giving up that day, I looked at the wheat in my hand and it spurred me on to finish my two-mile hike.

I still have that piece of wheat. When I have a tough day, I look at it and it reminds me of a girl, and later a woman, who for years thought there was no hope, but through faith, courage and love, found her hope—and her life—again. It is, finally, my time to shine.

Teresa Collins

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