Saturday, January 7, 2012

HOW I LOST 150 POUNDS IN 30 YEARS: The First Dieting Decade

I have always felt fat. I was a chubby kid. Out-of-control premature hormones made me “develop” faster than any of the other girls. At 12 I was taller than everyone else, including the boys. I had bucked teeth that didn’t meet in the middle. Then came the pimples. Geez. I was ugly. More than that, I was uncomfortable in my skin. I felt like a freak.

Mother started working on “fixes” when I was in 7th grade. She was able to fix most things except for my eating habits. She regrettably explained, “Janet’s built like her dad.” That would be short and stocky…chubby in my language.

Six years of cheerleading, playing tennis, swimming, softball, and PE class kept me physically active and healthy. I felt good about myself but was a victim of marketing and what a teenage girl should look like. American Bandstand and Teen magazine didn’t help.

After going to college and being on my own I leveled out. No more “Foxie” 5-course dinners, no fattening sandwiches and fries at the local drugstore for lunch, no trips to the Dairy Queen or “dime store” for some chocolate covered malt balls after school. I felt good about myself and no longer felt weird looking.

At Stephens College we were well fed. We had three meals per day of delicious, nutritious food served in a formal setting (tables of eight) in a very attractive dining room. We had to “dress” for dinner, which meant we must wear dresses, hose and heels. Those were the rebellious ‘60s. Some very brave girls actually would wear hose with “runs” in them. Oh, dear.

The stuffed pork chops were my favorite. With lots of walking everywhere and regular meals that were included in the tuition, I was on a diet of sorts during those years. Extra money for snacking was hard to come by. We saved whatever extra change we might have for the newly invented item called “pizza”. What a treat!

In my early 20s I decided to be a vegetarian. That didn’t last long and I didn’t lose weight. I maintained a healthy weight, I think.

Then I started to learn to cook and I had three babies. With each baby, I gained some weight but it was the 9-pound baby boy that made me eat with reckless abandon.


On a check-up to the baby doctor a year after having him, the doctor said that I should think about losing weight. I asked him how he would recommend I do that. He replied, quite emphatically, “Stop eating!”

“Me, the lover of all food ever created, the child of a nutritionist who preached how important all food groups were, a lover of all carbs in abundance…quit eating???? I would die. I need to be healthy. How can I be healthy if I quit eating?”

He did not waiver in his position. He looked at me straight on and said, “Jan, you have enough fat accumulated on your body that you could live for years without eating.”

He was right.

30 years of mashed potatoes and gravy, hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, donuts, homemade bread, pies, cookies, tacos, beans, tortillas, stuffed pork chops, etc. were all still attached to my inner body.

I had an inkling that this was true before the doctor set me straight.

In our family Christmas picture taken a few months earlier it was very obvious that the big pink blimp was dominating the picture. I had big permed hair to boot.

Time for a change.

I would be going “home” in the summer for a high school reunion. Huge motivation. Also, my beautiful tall skinny mother, who cooked with butter, would be very proud of me if I were skinny when I came for my summer visit. I’m not saying that she would love me any more because I was skinny…well, yes, I am saying that. I knew she would.

OK Janet, let’s get with it!

I don’t remember where I got the idea about Dr. Atkins and his “no carb” diet. I probably read about it in a magazine.

I bought the book and read it. It made sense to me. The food sounded good. It even pointed out that it could be healthy. One of my buzzwords.

I could eat steak, eggs, hamburgers, salad, more steak, fish, celery, onions, garlic, more hamburgers, etc. in every possible combination. And, I could overeat. My forté.

The greatest challenge was fixing regular meals for my husband and three children. Such temptation to eat the forbidden foods: Mexican food, bread, pasta, all desserts, potatoes, rice, anything white except egg whites, and on and on.

In my research, it said that if you can make it through two weeks, your body will change…ketosis…and the weight will drop off. So, I set two weeks as a short-term goal to see if what was advertised was true.

What happened was unbelievable.

During that first two weeks, I thought I was going to die; I was weak, had headaches, I couldn’t sleep, I had leg cramps and was agitated. It was very difficult. But, I kept on with it.

I had gotten the routine down and had been able to adapt the meals I fixed to what the children liked. At the same time I was feeling like I was getting good food to eat. We ate lots of eggs, bacon, Caesar Salad, hamburgers (no bun for me), steak, tuna salad, Egg Flower soup, green beans, broccoli, chicken grilled, fried (no flour) and baked.

I saw no drop in weight during that first two weeks but I started to feel thinner. My clothes were getting big. My stomach felt flatter and my pants were baggy in the derrière. The protrusions in my upper torso were the first to flatten. I was told my face looked thinner. I could tell something was going on. I just kept up with living my life and forged ahead.

At the end of those first two weeks I had my doubts about this diet. I couldn’t give up yet. I figured I had put so much energy into it I should just keep going.

Then…Voila! My weight started to go down.

To speed things up for the sake of this post, I went from 185 to 118 in four months.

I went from a size “mega” to a size 4.

This is the before picture. Just kidding. You will see no before pictures.

I felt fantastic! I had more energy than I had ever had in my life.

I knew that there was something wrong with the way I had always been eating. My body did not like carbohydrates.

I sent the good doctor a thank you note for insulting me.

I was skinny and confident at my high school reunion. So much so that my best friend Suzanne (who was always thin) and I acted stupid and sat on the front row for the class picture with our skirts hiked up. Weren’t we somethin’? Dumb!!

My mother took more pictures of me than she ever had and offered to give me her hand-me-downs. These were endorsements that I met with her approval.

My beautiful and elegant mother

Usually, on my trips “home” she would pull out some of her beautiful clothes that she was tired of and ask if I thought some of my friends in Arizona would like them. I had three tall, thin friends who previously received all of my mother’s discarded designer clothes. I was thrilled!

My three tall skinny friends. I'm the short one. 

I slowly started to add some of my favorite foods to my dining repertoire. I didn’t see any change in my weight but there was a change going on. There was a quiet monster lurking inside me that crept into my physique and made me gain weight and go from a size 4 to a size 10.

The culprit was, no doubt, Mexican food, my complete and total weakness.

It took 10 years for me to realize that I had betrayed myself. Fat cells have memories. I was now weighing 170. I was still 15 pounds less than I was when I started Atkins ten years earlier.

Get back on the Atkins diet right now!

Disclaimer: This diet works for me. It is drastic! Don’t try it without consulting your doctor first. Then, if you get the “go ahead”, read the book…all of it. We are all different and different things work for different people. Don’t hurt yourself.


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