1. What brought you to SparkPeople?
I was looking for a simpler way to track my exercise and calories. SparkPeople was just what I was looking for.
2. What is one thing that makes you happy?
I love to hike and photography. Both of those make me happy.
3. What is one accomplishment that makes you proud?
I backpacked to the Enchantments Lakes in Washington State. It's a very hard and scary hike.
4. When life gets in the way, how do you stay focused on your goals?
I'm still working on this. I always come back to wanting to be healthy so I can hike for several more decades.
5. What is one piece of advice you’d give a new member on their first day at SparkPeople?
Believe the messages SparkPeople is trying to get across. Diets don't work. Lifestyle changes are difficult but are much more likely to produce results.
6. What is your story?
I've been overweight to obese my entire life. I don't think I've ever been in my "ideal" body weight, even as a child. My parents had nicknames for their three kids when we were growing up. They were all vegetable names and mine was “tomato.” In fifth grade I made the mistake of asking for a red ski jacket. My brother and his friends laughed at me nearly every day that winter. All of them were calling me “Tammy Tomato.” Years later my brother finally told me the jacket made me look like a tomato since I was wider than I was tall. I tried my first diet in sixth grade after seeing the movie “Grease.” I wanted to be Olivia Newton John’s size. I had a growth spurt at the end of sixth grade and thinned down. I stayed overweight, versus obese, through high school by trying several diets and skipping meals.
When I was seventeen I started having dizzy spells. My doctor blamed it on me skipping meals and ordered me to start eating lunches and to eat a “healthier” breakfast (I had been drinking Carnation Instant Breakfast shakes for breakfast for years). I had no idea what “healthy” meant and neither did my parents. By the time I turned eighteen I had gained around ten pounds (it sounds like so little now).
I really started gaining weight in college and by the time I finished in 1994, I weighed nearly 200 pounds. That's a BMI of 34.4 for me, almost "severe obesity" (which is 35+). I started a diet. I had a better idea of how to go about losing weight and I was ready. I was able to get down to 150 pounds. I started getting sick. Not once in a while, but month after month of colds and the flu. I lost my motivation and gained the weight back.
I made a New Year’s Resolution for the year 2000 to lose weight. I weighed 220 pounds. I figured the last diet I had just eaten too little and exercised too hard. I'd been healthy for a while and I was sure I knew what to do this time. I ate more and exercised less. I got down to 165 pounds. Then I started getting sick, month after month of colds and the flu. I gained the weight back intentionally. I would rather be fat than sick. I decided I wasn't meant to be thin. This time I didn't get better.
I spent the next several years sick all the time. I noticed I became ill every month at the beginning of my period. I went to doctors and was told my periods had nothing to do with it. I was tested for asthma, which was RIDICULOUS and for sinus infections. Even though the doctors found nothing wrong, they would give me antibiotics and pain meds. I never took the pain meds. When the antibiotics didn’t work, they gave me stronger ones which made me extremely ill. I asked to go on Depo-Provera to stop my periods for a while and see if it helped. I was told I was too fat and Depo-Provera would increase my stroke risk too much. I would go to the doctor and cry and ask them "what's wrong with me?" I was told if I lost weight I'd feel better. I would tell them I was fat because I was sick all the time and they would just roll their eyes at me. I became severely depressed and suicidal.
Everyone kept asking me what I cut from my diet that was causing me to get sick. I couldn't figure it out because the only thing I cut out was fast food. Even after I gained the weight back, I didn't go back to fast food like I had when I was younger. It was the only "nutrition" I was missing.
I was working the Fourth of July holiday in 2005. I weighed 250 pounds. I was REALLY sick. One of my co-workers noticed and made a comment about how awful summer colds can be. I simply said "I'm always sick." She seemed interested and I told her my story. She immediately said I was anemic. I said I couldn't be because I had been tested for that. She asked if I was ever tested during my period. I didn’t think I had been. I was skeptical but had nothing to lose. I started taking multi-vitamins daily and an iron supplement once a week. IT WORKED!!
When I sat down and thought about it, I realized I had cut red meat out of my diet. I got most of my red meat from fast food cheeseburgers. Since red meat sometimes upsets my stomach, I didn’t eat it (I realize now I was just eating too much beef at once. Eating a single serving doesn’t bother my stomach). It all made sense. The woman who suggested I take iron supplements saved my life! She doesn't know it, but she did.
My friend’s husband took a picture of her and me in October and I was mortified! I saw it and said "I need to lose weight!" My friend said "We BOTH do!" I had been feeling good for 3 months at that point and it felt like a lifetime since I’d been sick. I quietly started a "diet". I was getting closer to the lifestyle change strategy versus diet. When I dropped a size my friend joined me in the journey.
Me in October of 2005
By July of 2007 my friend had gone from 360 pounds to 210 pounds, a 150 pound loss. I was down to 175 pounds, a 75 pound loss. My BMI was 30, which is still obese. I wish this was the end of my story but it's not.
Three things happened and I’m not sure which injured my knee. It was probably a combination of them. First, I hit my knee hard against a wheelchair brake extension at work in February 2008. It hurt for a few weeks. Second, I jogged .75 mile without stopping. My knee hurt afterward, not during but after. Lastly, I started kneeling to take flower pictures with my new camera lens.
My knee ballooned up one day. I asked a co-worker about it. Since I worked in physical therapy I had experts right there. My co-worker manipulated my knee and "popped" it into place. It was better but not the same. He gave me stretches to do and I iced it for 2 months. I put on a little weight. My friend started losing her motivation. I feel bad about that.
By the time I got "better", my friend wasn't into losing weight anymore. I remember her telling me she was sick of the food. We were primarily eating TV Dinners during our diet and we were both sick of them. She was also going through a divorce and getting ready to move across the country. I let my own plans slide. She left in December of 2008. In January of 2009 my knee ballooned up again after a hike. I started the icing and stretching routine again. I gained a bit more. I didn't go to the doctor because I knew I was quitting my job soon and didn't want a "pre-existing condition", and because healthcare workers are notoriously bad about going to the doctor. My knee still feels weak, eight years later.
I started college in April 2009 and finished in August 2010. I gained a bit more weight. I started my new job and gained a bit more. In November 0f 2010 I was ready to get back to “dieting”. I celebrated my first Friday off (my new schedule) with a hike. My left foot slipped on a rock and my right toes caught in a root. I sprained my right ankle 2 miles from my car. I hiked out slowly. The doctor made it sound like 4 weeks max and I would be as good as new. As the months passed without me being able to exercise or walk, I slumped into a deep depression. My ankle still feels weak and sometimes painful, over five years later.
May 2011 I was finally able to start walking again. I was back up to 230 pounds. I was disgusted with myself but was ready to make some changes. A co-worker had a GPS style step tracker. I asked her where she got it and she informed me it only worked with a smart phone. I wasn’t willing to shell out the money for both a fancy step tracker AND a smart phone but thought there must be something online I can use to make tracking my exercise and calories easier. I immediately found SparkPeople and knew it was exactly what I wanted.
I started losing weight immediately. I lost 3 pounds in May. I learned more from SparkPeople than I thought was possible. I switched from eating mostly TV Dinners to cooking most of my meals. I don’t like to cook but learned batch cooking makes it bearable. I learned that losing weight doesn’t always make sense and plateaus are real. I was able to get down to 170 pounds in just over a year but personal issues got in the way, primarily worsening depression.
Me in January 2013
I gained 30 pounds back. I was brought up to use food as comfort and it’s an everyday fight for me. If I have a good day, I deserve a treat. If I have a bad day or I’m stressed out, I deserve a treat. I kept telling myself I was strong enough to deal with my depression without medication. I hate taking medication and my brother had tried antidepressants without a good outcome. Tired of crying at night and struggling to go to work, I finally asked my doctor about antidepressants.
I started crying while talking to the doctor. I was embarrassed to ask for help and admit defeat. It was hard to tell someone else about my issues. She put me on Prozac after giving me a test to determine my level of depression.
I now wish I had started Prozac when I was in my teens. I have a few side effects but they’re minor and my mood is much improved. I was hoping it would magically help me find my motivation to lose weight but there’s no magic when it comes to weight loss. I feel better. I sleep better. I’ve completed numerous projects I’ve wanted to do for years. I still hate my job and love to eat. I still have cravings for unhealthy food, especially chocolate and pastries. My weight will always be an issue for me.
Me in summer 2015
It’s been three years since I was 170 pounds and I finally feel ready to start losing weight again. I’ve started with tracking my calories again. It’s the only thing that keeps my eating in check. I plan to start ramping up my exercise. I’m taking baby steps.