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Monday, October 29, 2012

October 27, 2012

Renae's Journey to be "Free From Fat".

My story starts in Jr. High when my alcoholic step-father left the home leaving my mom struggling to raise three girls on her own, again. The year before, we were well enough off that my mom did not have to work and she spent a lot of time volunteering. At Thanksgiving, we gathered up boxes of food and a turkey and volunteered to deliver to families in need. the year my step-father left, we were the ones in need. We ended up on food stamps and free lunches at school but with three girls, there never seemed to be enough food. That's when I began binging.

That's me standing far left
 I binged in private every time mom brought new groceries home. We qualified for free bread, butter, milk, cheese and peanut butter so we lived on grilled cheese sandwiches and cereal. I can remember grabbing spoonfuls of Ovaltine or peanut butter. I was very active in Jr. High, playing volleyball, basketball, track and cheerleading which kept the weight off. My mom and I were often on weird diets like only grapefruit and tuna for a weeks or fasting for three days at a time. But I still found myself eating large quantities when the food was available.

In high school, the relationship with my mother deteriorated to the point that she kicked me out at the age seventeen. I moved in with an elderly woman my guidance counselor set up. I did the yard and house work in exchange for a place to live. My weight didn't start to become an issue until I started dating the man that would be my first husband. We ate out often and both of us began gaining weight. We married after I graduated high school and six months later I was pregnant and I gained another twenty pounds within the first trimester. By the time my son was born, I was over two hundred pounds.

I joined Jazzercise and started going to the "Diet Center" which looking back had some strange ideas like if you cheat, eat grapefruit and hard boiled eggs the following day. I was successful at losing the weight, several times. I was the yo-yo queen losing 20 pounds at a time and always gaining it back.

My marriage turned abusive and didn't last. I was worried about my safety if I decided to leave with my son since he had already put a gun to my head and told me that if he couldn't have me, know one would. I looked for places that I could take my son and hide but with my husband's access to money and resources I would be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life so I made the decision to move out and away and leave my son with his father. I left with and old jeep and the clothes that I could pack in the jeep and moved to a town about an hour away. I saw my son whenever possible. I only had a high school diploma and no real skills so I started work as a waitress. This was a good choice because I could eat at work for little or nothing and had cash in my pocket daily. For me, food was always on my mind.

It wasn't long after that my sister introduced me to the idea of purging through the use of laxatives. It seemed the perfect solution; I could eat what I wanted and just use the laxatives to get rid of it before it had a chance to absorb. I had tried to make myself throw up but could never get the hang of it so laxatives were the next best thing. I moved often for the next two years and grew tired of relying on the generosity of others to pay my rent and decided that I needed to learn a trade so I joined the Navy. I was over the body-fat at 33% and needed a waiver from the Navy to enter. Like everyone else, I worked most of my weight off at boot camp. While there, I had been promoted to Recruit Command Petty Officer (RCPO) which gave me more access to the Company Commander's office. I had mentioned that I and some of the girls were constipated with the change in diet and they brought in several boxes of Carter's Little Pills and my purging began again. At the end of my training, I had only lost 3% body fat though I had gained a lot of muscle. Before leaving boot camp, I remember stealing several foil packets of those pills and the purging continued through "A" school and "C"school.

Once I checked on board the ship I was assigned to, I worked out regularly but continued the laxative use. As it turned out, the Sr. Chief in charge of my department happened to like women to be thin and made comments to me and two other girls about our weight. He went so far as to follow us to the mess hall and watch our food choice. The more pressure I felt from him. the worse the binging and purging became. I worked out constantly and began recording the workouts in a notebook along with my measurements, heart rate and recovery rate. I stayed around 170 pounds throughout my time in the military but the depression and purging caused me to seek help. I started seeing a therapist who taught me bio-feedback and prescribed Prozac. I had to report the prescription to the medical officer on board and he documented why I felt it necessary to take it. Without my knowledge, he sent the information to the medical board who interviewed me and determined that my binging and purging was a "prior existing" condition and processed my honorable discharge; even though I never failed a Physical Readiness Test (PRT) we were required to pass every six months and my evaluations were high. I was heart-broken, embarrassed and dejected.

In the last year of my enlistment I met man who was also enlisted and I moved in with him. We married the day after I got out of the Navy but this marriage was also doomed to fail since he was a functioning alcoholic. During the time we were married, the diets, binging and purging continued. I bought a life-time membership to Jenny Craig, joined Weight-Watchers, worked out, documented everything. I was constantly either dieting, binging, purging, exercising or documenting but it was all centered around one thing - my body and what I was doing to it. I even went to a metabolic specialist who monitored how my body utilized calories and he told me that my metabolism was slow and there it was - my crutch. It wasn't my fault that I was gaining an average of 5-8 pounds per year, it was in my genes. Every diet thereafter was sabotaged; how could I lose weight effectively if my metabolism was slow. That didn't stop me from trying...and failing. The yo-yo pattern continued and my weight crept up to199 when I decided to stop using laxatives.

I remember the day I got on the scale and I moved from the one hundreds to the two hundreds and this time I didn't have a pregnancy to blame it on.  Once the scale tipped over 200, it got harder and harder get it under control.  I got creative with my diets, like the cabbage soup diet, daily dose of apple cider vinegar, Cayenne pepper and honey water, Slimfast, vegetarian, the Blood Type diet, Protein Power diet, Atkins, South Beach diet and any other diet-of-the-day. 

The more I dieted, more weight I gained.  The interesting thing I learned by documenting my exercise habits and weight is that every spring, I lost weight and every fall/winter I gained it back, year after year.  I had plenty of justifications and excuses like I hated sweating, or if I lost all of the weight I would look worse because of all of the loose skin.

I did fall in love and get married again (for the last time) and my weight fluctuations never seemed to bother him.  What was amazing to me was that when I met his family, they were all plus size and "loved" themselves.  The concept was so foreign to me.  Plus size and happy?  WTH?  But it was true; they considered themselves sexy, even.

At my heaviest, I weighed 255 lbs!  Here is what I looked like:

Three weeks before this picture was taken, I had a job that that I absolutely loved but was laid off towards the end of 2008.  I had transferred from a Virginia office to the Arizona location and indulged in every pot-luck, candy dish, break room donuts, etc in the 2 years that I worked there which contributed to my weight ballooning out of control.  It wasn't until I had time on my hands to think, contemplate and consider that I decided to start making a change and lose weight once and for all. 

The first step was to start listening to a free podcast I found on iTunes called  Inside Out Weight Loss with Renee Stevens.  She talked about more than eat this not that.  She talked about visualizing the change you want to make, learning to love yourself, finding your souls' gift, meditation and doing re-do's in your head after you screw up (which everyone does so stop beating yourself up).  I realized that negative self-talk was defeating me time and time again.

I took me about six months to lose 30 pounds.  I gained 10 of that back and that is where I stayed for two more years.  I was looking for a fibromyalgia (FMS) doctor in the area where I work in the summer of 2011 when I happened upon a website of a doctor who specializes in FMS and weight loss!  Is that even possible?  Well, bought his book, read it cover to cover and then booked an appointment with Dr. Scott Ridgen who is often called the "Last Chance Doctor".  The people who see him him have usually resigned to surgery but decide to give it one last try. I, too, had consulted a doctor about the bariatric band.

I don't know why this time was different, but it was.  These are all tricks that I had tried before on my own.  But it seemed that the stars were finally aligned.  Shortly before I started seeing him I had a colonoscopy and a small polyp was removed; I had a food allergy test to see if that's why my gut was constantly in turmoil and I almost always had a canker sore in my gums.  I had a lot of inflammation due to my recently diagnosed FMS, eating foods that I had extreme sensitivity to which I thought were healthy and genetically predispositioned to Celiac Disease.

So in the summer of 2011 while I was diligently following Dr. Rigden's program of no grains, fast food, high-fructose syrup or starchy vegetables, I also stopped eating foods on the high and moderate sensitivity list like celery, black pepper, broccoli, iceberg lettuce (seriously?) and apples.  That also meant, no birthday cake, ice cream, candy from the desk next to mine, free left overs in the break room etc.  I began eating every 3 to 3 1/2 hours and walking.  My starting weight was 235 pounds.

Consistently, every two weeks, I lost 2 to 3 pounds and within six weeks, my gut felt better and the canker sores were gone.  By Christmas, I had lost 45 pounds!  My stepmom left me some money when she passed away in September and we decided to go on a once-in-a-lifetime Christmas cruise to Belize, Roatan, Cozumel and Progresso which was good timing because Christmas was the 1 year anniversary of my mother's death and the last year was extremely hard.  I was not looking forward to being festive and the cruise was a perfect way to get my mind off of the significance.  I did take her ashes with me and we sprinkled them in the ocean on Christmas Day.

I did relax on my diet some while on the cruise but I tried not to beat myself up. We walked on the fitness track while we were at sea, rode bikes in port and tried to take the stairs whenever possible.  After the new year, I got right back on the program and the weight continued to come off. 

In March, we drove to San Diego to support my girlfriend who was running a 1/2 marathon.  I joined her on the last 3 miles which surprised me.  I was more fit than I gave myself credit for and began jogging/walking in 5Ks either publicly or on my treadmill.  I was finally down to a size 16 and loving it.

I was starting to buy cute clothes and feel better about myself.  I did decide to shop at Goodwill though because I was changing sizes every couple of months.  At this point, I cleaned out my closet of all my prior sizes, 22 - 18.  We had a yard sale and what didn't sell, when back to Goodwill.  I also got rid of all of my diet books. 

This is what I ended up with after cleaning out my closet:
I only kept one pair of pants - the biggest ones I had that were tight when I wore them last but not anymore:
At the beginning of October, 2012 I had lost 80 lbs since last summer and 100 lbs since my heaviest in 2008.  Here I am at a size 12:
Herein lies the reason for my blog:
I have collar bones again.  It is a really weird sensation to be living in your skin for 40 years and to reach up and touch your own neck and not recognize it.  When I do my laundry and fold or iron my pants and shirts, I am still in awe.  In the morning, when I grab my slacks, and hold them up, in the back of my brain, I know they will not fit; they look too small and I am continually amazed when they do.  I went from a 2X to a Medium in tops and a 22/24 down to a 12 in pants and my brain still can't comprehend it.
Is this why people end up gaining it all back?  I've been slowly losing the last 6 lbs and really stepped up my exercise and maintaining the size 12 for the last 4 months.  However I still don't know what I look like; I mean, yes, I look in the mirror and I see changes but I don't have any frame of reference.  Am I normal sized yet?  When others see me do they think I'm still pudgy, curvy or thick? 
I cannot pick someone out at the mall that is even close to my size.  How do I finally burn this into my brain?  I feel I need this final adjustment to make this a reality and permanent. 
"Free from fat" is not only to be free of the fat on my body, but the "fat talk" in my head; free from my obsession with food and free from self-loathing.