Saturday, August 14, 2010

Smart and Strong


Age 40, Height 5'6", Was 187 lbs, Lost 50 lbs* , Weight 137 lbs As of 2/13/2010

People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week.

I needed to learn not to get angry with myself if I went off-plan for a week, to simply pick right up where I left off. Katharine is stronger, happier and more energetic, and she's sure that she is on her way to her best decade yet. I wasn’t overweight before graduate school, but I gained weight while pursuing my PhD.

I lived my life “above the neck," focusing on others and my intellectual work, first as a graduate student and then as a psychologist working with people affected by HIV. I was proud of my accomplishments and loved my work, but I was deeply unhappy with my body. I ate to cope with the occasional challenges of being a young faculty member, to participate in family rituals (I’m a Southerner, after all), and to cope with the grief of losing clients who died from their HIV disease.

Food is not the answer
I got in shape, including training for and participating in an Avon three-day 60-mile walk for breast cancer in 2002, and walking the Honolulu Marathon in 2004. But I didn’t change my diet, and so I remained heavy, with a BMI in the “obese" range and with mildly elevated cholesterol. Then in January 2007, my dad, who was a huge part of helping me become a smart and independent woman, was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. The anger and stress I felt were overwhelming. One day while he was in hospice care and I knew we were going to lose him, I was so upset I went out for pizza. As I sat eating the pizza in a daze, I realized that I couldn’t make this go away with food. My dad was going to die whether I ate pizza or not. Dad fought courageously, but died in July 2007. I tried to keep my head up, thanks to the support of many wonderful friends, but the next few months were extremely hard, and I ate to cope with my grief.

Then, I had an important realization. I knew that I could best honor dad by making the right choices for my own health, so I recommitted to Weight Watchers Online and started following the POINTS® Weight-Loss System (I had been a subscriber before but hadn’t stuck with it). I also started a running program, began lifting weights and doing crunches and pushups, and most importantly stayed with the plan. I kept track of everything I ate using the onlinePOINTS Tracker, and ate as many fruits and vegetables as possible during the day. I spent a lot of time on the Message Boards and made new friends who were invaluable encouragers along the way.

Perfectionist no more
I had difficulties along the way. The hardest part was learning to let go of my perfectionist nature. I needed to learn not to get angry with myself if I went off-plan for a week, to simply pick right up where I left off. I had to learn to set limits and stick to them and find balance. I further learned to be grateful for the food I ate. Taking time to appreciate all of the effort that goes into making a meal made me able to slow down when I was eating it.

Today, my BMI is normal, my blood work is normal, and my resting heart rate and blood pressure put me in an "athletic" classification. Now, in my role as an associate dean in a graduate college of public health, I feel I am a much better example of good health for everyone with whom I work and live. I am studying to become certified as a personal trainer, and plan to use my training as a psychologist, my experience with Weight Watchers, and my knowledge about fitness training to become a fitness and life coach for others who are wanting to improve their fitness and must work through body image and emotional issues along the way. I am stronger, happier, more energetic, and am sure that I am on my way to my best decade so far.

Katherine’s Tips
  • Track everything and remember you can’t accurately eyeball food portions.
  • If I bring a microwaveable lunch to work, I like to drink a big glass of water while I'm waiting for it to cool off right out of the oven. Sometimes I forget to keep up with my water during the day and this gets me back on track.
  • Don’t “write off" a form of exercise until you have really given it a chance. I never thought I would enjoy running, but the Couch to 5K program changed me into a runner and no one was more surprised at that than me!
  • If you are an emotional eater, like I was, try exercising first when you feel a strong emotion.
  • Practice gratitude during the journey. When I was heavy I had awful thoughts about my body, until I started practicing small “gratitudes" daily. I found myself on the treadmill simply being grateful I had toes to help me balance as I walked. It changed my entire perspective on my body.
  • Don’t treat POINTS values like coins to be hoarded, but like energy to burn to help fuel my busy life and my workouts.
  • I found that writing in my blog on Weight called “Gratitude Every Day" could help me overcome eating challenges.
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