My Weight Loss Journey
By: Crystal Christie
"I was 34 years old and hadn’t been able to don my socks independently in over three years. I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes at a time without experiencing significant back pain and severe leg cramps. I was exhausted every minute of the day, but was never able to sleep for more than a few hours at a time. My daily meals were devoid of any nutrition, and more often than not included cheeseburgers, pizza, sugar in bulk, and a mélange of anything fried. At 34 I had reached a point in my life where I was successful and loved my job and my family; however, I was unable to enjoy achievements, events, and day-to-day activities due to my weight and poor health.
My consistent weight expansion wasn’t for a lack of trying to lose the pounds that had begun to burden me. For years I had counted calories, eliminated carbs, restricted fat grams, and attempted just about every structured and/or fad diet that was invented. I couldn’t seem to lose weight. Or worse, I would lose 30 pounds only to come off the crash diet and quickly regain 50. I sought out surgical weight loss solutions, but they were costly, risky, and, ultimately, uncovered by my medical insurance plans. When it came to weight loss, I was beginning to feel hopeless.
On April 21, 2014, I weighed in at 369 pounds. Although I have been overweight since childhood, 369 pounds was the apex of my abundance. In a last ditch effort to make a change, I enrolled in a medically supervised weight loss program, Health Management Resources (HMR). I officially started the program on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. It has become a day that has forever changed my life!
As I write this sentence (Friday, March 13, 2015), just over ten months later, I weigh 199 pounds. A whopping 170 pound loss to date, and I’m still going. I have gone from barely fitting into a 5XL size shirt and squeezing into a 64 inch waist pant, to comfortably wearing a large sized shirt (no Xs) and a 40 inch waist pant.
The single biggest change, however, is in how I feel. I walk nearly a mile daily; sleep over six, consecutive hours nightly; and, have more energy than I’ve had in years. A year ago, I was on six prescription medications and spent $130 a month in medication co-pays. I now take three, and spend $240 annually. I have been able to completely eliminate the high blood pressure medication that I took for over ten years!
I have learned to eat in a completely different way. I am never hungry because I eat all of the time (about every three hours or so). I eat so frequently I often wonder how it is that I am actually managing to lose weight. The type of sustenance that I now consume is also very different. The foods that I choose are nutritionally dense (high in nutrients, and often volume, but very low in calories).
I have an average of seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily. That is SEVEN full cups of fruits and vegetables every single day. In the last ten months I have eaten everything from spinach and squash to cherries and blackberries and everything in between. I dine on filling, yet healthy, low calorie, lean proteins. Sea bass, tuna, tilapia, salmon, shrimp, scallops, chicken/turkey breast, and egg whites are some that I choose most frequently.
I prepare these foods by baking, grilling, steaming, or sautéing them in the absence of oil, butter, salt, cheese, cream, or anything else sodium enriched and/or calorie packed. Instead I use lemon/lime juice, balsamic vinegar, homemade salsa, garlic, fresh herbs, and salt-free seasonings to enhance the flavor of the food, not mask it.
Everything that I eat (whether it be fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, or condiments) is weighed and properly portioned. Additionally, I keep a record of all foods, drinks, and condiments that I consume and all physical activity that I complete throughout the day. This record keeping helps me to maintain accountability and provides me with a tool for determining what contributes to or detracts from my weight loss success. I also work to always be prepared. I carry fruit, raw veggies, low calorie salad dressing, and water with me everywhere I go. In the event that something doesn’t go as planned, I always have some healthy food options readily available so that I’m not tempted to eat fast food or fill up on high calorie, high sodium restaurant menu items.
Food is still a focal point in my life! Only now instead of spending my time in search of the best restaurant pasta dish or the most marbled cut of steak, I focus on making healthy foods taste great. I find that I now enjoy the mystery of shopping for unique fruits and vegetables. I have an appreciation for the challenge of planning and preparing a weekly menu. Balancing daily nutrition and calorie intake is almost like working a puzzle with a tasty, rewarding finish!
I used to hate to cook (mostly because I was a miserable cook). I once made $50 brownies because I had to go to the store three times to buy new ingredients. Even though I’m embarrassed to admit it, it was a boxed brownie kit! Now, I find food preparation relaxing and fun. I’ve even been told, by people other than my family, that I am pretty good at it.
Without doubt, the biggest contributor to my success has been the support that I have received from my family, my friends, my HMR Health Educator, and my RFX work family. The people at RFX have gone above and beyond what is expected of any employer or set of colleagues. When I first started the HMR program I was having a difficult time remembering to eat every three hours. I set alarms on my cell phone to remind me to eat. Sometimes I would be in a meeting in the conference room or working on something in the lab and the alarm on my phone, which I had left at my desk, would sound. One of my co-workers would bring me my phone, tell me it was time to eat, and not allow me to continue working until I had stopped and prepared a snack.
The RFX management staff often (several times a week) caters in breakfast and lunch for employees, and they work to keep a full supply of snacks and meals in the company kitchen. After I started the HMR program, they began to include healthier breakfast and lunch options and stocked the kitchen with fresh fruits and vegetables. During our company barbeques, in addition to the hamburgers and brats that everyone else enjoys, they would grill zucchini and squash especially for me so that I could partake in the fun.
My co-workers go out of their way to help me celebrate my weight loss milestones. When I reached my 100 pound weight loss mark, I came into work and found that my office had been decorated with streamers and balloons. I received a card (signed by the entire company), a beautiful plant, a basket full of a variety of the salt-free seasonings that I love, and a generous gift from the owners. This past year RFX instituted a health benefit for all employees that pays for gym membership, health club participation, and my HMR dues. All of this is in addition to the encouragement and recognition of my weight loss victories that occur daily in interactions with each and every one of my colleagues. I owe a large part of my successes to my RFX work family. I’m fairly certain that, without their support, my weight loss journey would have included a great deal more hurdles.
People often measure weight loss in terms of pounds, calories, and/or inches. I’ve often heard people ask, “Is one cookie worth having to do 600 jumping jacks to burn it off?” I determine my successes in a very different way. There is no slice of pizza (and, believe me when I say, “I LOVE pizza!”) or no brownie that is worth the ability to put on your socks without assistance. There is no cheeseburger or no chocolate truffle worth being able to see yourself living for another ten years.
I certainly don’t know what the future holds, but I know that I now have the tools to stay healthy. And, I’ve proven to myself that it’s possible. Whatever victories or challenges that I encounter, I know that I will be able to enjoy them or bear their burden. For the first time in my life the future is full of excitement and mystery, and that’s a gift for which I would have never wished; solely because, I didn’t even know it was a possibility."