I had to at least try…
Jessica Pithie regularly blogs as Porky Dickens. Her interests include gold hoop earrings, complex carbohydrates and doing splits in stretch pants. When she’s not quizzing you on what you ordered for dinner or pressing recipes and the benefits of yoga on complete strangers, she can be found running a law firm, questioning her boyfriend on how lightning works or listening to smooth R&B.
249.5 was the number, handwritten in old lady cursive, on my very first Weight Watchers booklet. Up until that day I had spent many years in blissful ignorance knowing that yeah, I was fat, but not knowing the exact, mind-boggling number until that day. So there it is, I thought, as I looked upon the curly “2”, the slant of the “.5” I mean let’s just call it what it was, yeah? I weighed 250 pounds. The size of a collegiate linebacker, although scholarship money and rock hard calf muscles I did not have.
I had always been heavy. Always. Always a little thicker in the middle and chubby cheeked than my willowy older sister or any of my petite little friends. I loathed exercise and loved chips and I thought that there wasn’t all that much wrong with that.
What was moderately overweight in high school ballooned during my years at college where beer and pizza reigned supreme. Following college, I waitresses my way through grad school and after-work drinks and discounted Fisherman’s platters served to increase my bulge. Pants sizes creeped up and I continued to allow them to.
The summer of 2006 one of my closest and oldest friends told me that her mother and her were planning on joining Weight Watchers. I joined with them. It was July. I would be 26 in August. I had a feeling if I didn’t give Weight Watchers a fair shake, I would never really know whether or not I was capable of getting control of the way I ate.
I approached the Points system intellectually, pouring over my guides. I tracked, I measured and weighed, I knew the points value of absolutely everything under the sun. I was finally honest with myself about food. For the first time ever. Consciously or not, I had made the decision to at least try. Pounds came off. My face got thinner. People chirped approval. Results motivated me and I felt, for the first time ever, lighter. When you spend your whole life heavy, to even glance at feeling lighter is an incredible feeling. I kept at it. I started cooking for myself and planning out what I would eat at restaurants before I even set foot through the door. I cut down on alcohol and eliminated what I knew to be my “kryptonite” foods (i.e. pizza, French fries and any varietal of fried chicken).
When I was down 30 pounds, it was December. My brother, who also has consistently struggled with losing and gaining weight for most of his adult life, asked me “how much more are you planning on losing?” I didn’t know. I wasn’t thinking in terms of a number. Naturally, I wanted to get into the healthy weight range for my height, but my whole approach was much more of a lifestyle change. I wanted to look good and feel good. I told him at the very least, I would be losing another 30 pounds. He proposed some friendly competition with the New Year approaching. He wanted to lose as well and he wanted to put a little money on the line. We bet $500.00. The terms were that by May he would have to lose 60 pounds and I would have to lose 30. Whoever got there first, or by the first of May, would be the winner.
Up until this point I had been shedding my weight with very little exercise. I would go for walks by the beach or eek out 45 minutes at the fitness center in my mom’s condo complex, but my early successes were almost 100% accomplished by controlling portion size and making healthier food choices.
Now let it be completely clear that inactivity was the name of my game for most of my life. My favorite gym class activity was taking a zero for the day. I would come up with mystery illnesses that would send me to lie down in the nurse’s office on the day that we had to run the mile. When I was little my parents let me try every sport from soccer (in which I would get the wind knocked out of me once and be done with it), to basketball (bloody nose) to softball (pop fly to the face). I was, to put it gently, unskilled as an athlete.
But now that I found myself with $500.00 on the line and more weight to lose, I would have to find some sort of activity that I liked. I decided to try yoga. I found a hot power yoga class that was for beginners down the street from my apartment. I was completely terrified. Group fitness was not my thing. But I decided to give it a try, so I went. And I actually enjoyed myself. I started going at least one or two times a week, and incorporating more activity elsewhere; walking, running at the gym, I shocked even myself by doing pushups in my room. Who did I think I was? I got muscle tone and the pounds kept dropping off.
That May with great satisfaction, I cashed my $500.00 check. I used the money on new clothes; of course, since by the time my weight loss was complete I would have bought a new wardrobe, twice over. As time progressed on I kept committed to Weight Watchers. I needed the structure for its accountability. Every Tuesday night, without fail, I would go get on the scale for my moment of truth and depending on that week’s results I would either celebrate another success or stay for the meeting and recommit myself to staying on track. The Tuesday night weigh in was the only time I would step on a scale for the week. I liked the stability of only knowing what I weighed once a week and Tuesday nights would be the point in my week where I would hit the reset button if I had fallen off track at all. Pounds and sizes kept creeping down.
My total weight loss took me just over two years to accomplish. I lost 89.2 pounds as of the day I hit my goal weight. I started out in July of 2006 as a size 18 and I now wear a size 8 or 10, depending on where the clothes are from. I continued with the yoga even going so far as to complete my 200-hour certification this past June. I am a certified power yoga instructor and I actually wear yoga pants now for their intended purpose, not solely for the flexible waistband. How ‘bout that?
I find myself all the time recommitting to maintaining the lifestyle changes I have made. I love me some food, and I am not a naturally thin person by any stretch of the imagination, so I know that this struggle will last the rest of my life. I will always have to think about what I am putting in my mouth, what I am choosing to drink, whether or not I am getting myself out there and exercising. Recently, I felt myself sliding down a slippery slope, eating junk in the middle of the week, drinking too much wine, fisting cookies into my mouth blindly. Hi, it’s called the holidays and even those of us who have never struggled with weight slog through this indulgent time of year with jaws unhinged like snakes, sweets and eggnog sliding in. In January, at one of the yoga studios where I teach, I will be leading a 5 week workshop called Yoga for Weight Loss. I’m hoping that by connecting with other,s that I can continue to commit to myself. I love food and I always will, but I love myself too, so I’m finally showing both of us the respect we deserve.
Ah yes, the evidence…shall we? This before photo is seriously the rudest picture of me possibly ever taken. But I could not stop laughing when I opened it. Rest assured, I still meet a pizza buffet with the same zest and enthusiasm you see here, I just don’t put it out of business like I used to.
And after! Sorry the only full body shot I could find is me celebrating an intense Jenga victory. That’s why I’m leaping like a 7 year old.