The National Weight Control Registry
At age 11, I went to summer camp and gained 10 pounds in 2 weeks because of unlimited access to the food canteen. While the other girls at camp talked about the upcoming camp dance, I obsessed over the candy bars I hid under my pillow. I have struggled with my weight for most of my life and tried every diet known to man, read every weight loss book, went to OA and WW meetings, saw many professionals, and finally had lap band surgery. 5 years passed and I failed to lose weight and had the lap band removed because it didn't change my brain and I constantly threw up. I was a bystander in my own life and felt like a victim because I couldn’t control my own mind that always sabotaged me despite my desires. I cried because I couldn't even do much with my sons as I was so heavy and I struggled to walk. I wore a solid foot/leg brace so I could walk, and I realized I was going to die if I didn't lose weight because of my multiple obesity related health issues. Food was my only coping skill and I was in a very abusive marriage with 3 sons to take care of and no career to fall back on. After serious soul searching, I decided I was going to fight for my life and I slowly figured out ways to change all of my defeating habits, thoughts, and behaviors and I created a plan that I could live with that was on MY terms. It took me about 3 years to lose 110 pounds through exercise and eating less. Losing weight was by far the most difficult and painful thing I've ever done. Every single day I still have internal “battles” with my food demons but now I know how to slay those demons. I have kept 110 pounds off for 10 years! If I can lose and keep off 110 pounds so can other people.
In 2009 I had a revelation; my obesity was taking over my thoughts, my health, and my life. I decided at the age of 15 that I had to take responsibility for the extra 85 pounds I had gained shortly after being medicated for a thyroid condition. My journey started small and simple. I began to eliminate the obvious “bad foods” from my diet; I gave up fried foods and soda pop completely. I slowly started to realize that eating fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains could actually be appetizing, and they became my preferred dishes. I also began to do a lot of research about nutrition and the science of human digestion. For exercise, I woke up every morning before school and walked in my neighborhood, and in the evenings I would walk the community track. Over the course of 4 years, I was able to lose the weight and I have been able to maintain my weight loss for 4 years now.
Today, I like to participate in exercise that I find to be enjoyable such as yoga and hiking. Daily practices that have become habitual for me include eating breakfast (typically a green smoothie) with oatmeal, always having a bottle of water on hand for hydration, and almonds for snacking. Practicing self-control for me is key, and I do treat myself in moderation. I do tend to avoid dairy and as I find plant based foods to be digested more easily, and make me feel my best.
I never went on a “crash diet”, used diet pills, or bought exercise programs/ gym memberships. I simply lost weight in the most natural of ways; through nourishing my body correctly, as well as staying active in fun ways.
I am 63 years old and have been a yo-yo dieter all of my life. I have tried every type of diet and support group there is. Finally 3 years ago I had a poor lab test indicating pre-diabetes. I went to a Diabetes Boot Camp where I learned to count carbohydrates and to stay away from sugar. I also had a daily trainer for exercise. In one year I lost 114 pounds. I have maintained that loss for one year and 4 months. My key to success is to exercise 6-7 times a week, to eat very low sugar and no refined carbohydrate foods, to use an online support group, and to find new foods that are healthy that I love to eat. I do not feel deprived or like I am on a diet. Instead I love my new way of life!
In November 2009 my wife shared with me her fear that my weight was leading me to an early grave. I weighed 344 pounds, was diabetic, dealing with high blood pressure issues, and, in general, unhappy with my life. My wife suggested that I look into bariatric surgery. My doctor agreed and so I started the requisite health education classes. These classes were eye-opening! I discovered that I was eating between 5,000-7,000 calories on a daily basis. This was a major reason why my previous weight-loss efforts failed. Even though I would walk for 30 minutes on a daily basis, the calories I was burning were not even close to the amount of calories I was consuming! Armed with the knowledge that these classes provided, i.e., eat more vegetables/fruits, drink more water, log my calories, get up and move, etc., I was able to lose over 78 pounds in the first six months alone! Having discovered the “secret” to weight loss I decided to forego my bariatric surgery and instead continue with my healthy lifestyle. By the end of 2010 I had lost over 140 pounds! I was eating healthy, exercising on a regular basis, drinking more water, and logging all of my calories. Today I have lost over 150 pounds. I continue to count my calories, exercise on a regular basis, and truly enjoy my life now. I joined the NWCR in hopes of sharing my story with others who have undergone a successful life transformation and learning from these same individuals how to continue to successfully maintain my healthy lifestyle.
In 2008, I decided to change my life. I was turning 50 in 2009 and decided that I wanted to get healthy. I began by cutting out all sugary drinks and fast food. I was thrilled to see that the weight began to slowly go down day by day. I also started walking every morning. Each day I went a little farther and faster until I was walking about three miles each time. It felt good to be outside and my mental health was benefitting too. I also added a 30-minute exercise DVD to my workouts three times a week. These workouts included yoga, strength, toning and flexibility. I really started to see my body change. I reached my 50th birthday 40 pounds lighter. I was thrilled that I had accomplished my goal. I am now an ACE certified group fitness instructor and health coach. I teach Zumba fitness classes 3-5 times a week. I have even been given the opportunity to teach Zumba on a cruise line to Europe and the Caribbean! I would’ve have never known that a whole new world would open up for me by making that decision to get healthy back in 2008. I now hope that my fitness journey will inspire other people to take back their health.
Pamela Smith Finkelman
I have been overweight most of my life—pleasantly pump as a child, chunky as a bride and obese in my 50s. Two events motivated me to finally learn how to become healthier and lose weight for good: the realization that I was forced to buy my clothes in the “Plus” size section of department stores, and the engagement of my oldest son. Pictures are forever, and the thought of hiding in the back in all those wedding photos caused some serious soul searching. In January of 2007 I walked into a Weight Watchers meeting and began an important education process, focusing on how to eat right, exercise and pay attention to my emotional appetite. I reached Lifetime membership in 2008 and worked for the WW Company for four years. Now a grandma, I am delighted to have the energy and strength to care for my granddaughters and the satisfaction of slipping into size 10 jeans. Although I do not have the proverbial athletic bone in my body, I can walk. Hiking has proven to be one of life’s great joys and achievements. We have taken many baby-boomer hiking vacations and hope to have many more miles left in our legs. An added bonus: you can hike all day and then enjoy a big meal with wine and arrive home in the same jeans size!
I spent 30 years weighing over 300 pounds, from the time I was 29 years old, until I was almost 60. Then my doctor told me that my EKG seemed to show I'd already had a heart attack. That was Dec. 14, 2009, and I weighed 328 lbs. On that day I started my new life! Subsequent tests with a cardiologist proved my doctor was wrong, that my heart was still okay, but I knew with my poor maternal heart history, it was only a matter of time. I started my journey with no goal weight. I just wanted to get healthier. I was on five different blood pressure medications, and none of them were controlling it very well. Today, maintaining my weight of 150 pounds since April 15, 2011, my blood pressure is normal, I only take one diuretic pill for blood pressure. I can walk for miles and my life is no longer limited by my size. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and try to limit my carbohydrate and sugar intake. Losing 178 pounds made it possible for me to enjoy my grandchildren more now that I have retired, and opened the world up for me. I am substitute teaching in my retirement and I was always afraid to pursue my dream of teaching, for fear the students would tease me about my weight. It is a wonderful sense of freedom to be able to go anywhere and do anything today!
At 36 years old I weighed 268lbs. Staring at divorce and myself in the mirror, I knew something had to give. In this uncertain time, I asked myself 'what do I really have control over?' The answer was to take control of my thoughts, actions, and take control of my health. I realized that my trigger to overeating was stress. To become lean and healthy for life I knew I would need to address this. I began to take action to reduce the amount of stress in my life, but when stress did come knocking, I developed healthy responses. Before I would respond to stress by comfort eating; but now I go for a walk, or head to the gym to burn off the stress and some extra calories. I lost 88 pounds and have maintained it for over 11 years.
I lost 52 pounds in 52 weeks when I was 52, and I've kept off every pound for five years. After a lifetime of struggling with sugar addiction, I was able to put in place the steps necessary to permanently remove the cravings from my life. I no longer eat any sweet food that contains sugar (specifically fructose, believed to be the addictive component of sugar), except for fresh fruit. That means no sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar or high fructose corn syrup. I also walk an hour a day, listening to music or audio books to keep myself motivated. I have become a certified Health Coach, and now share my passion for healthy eating and living with others.
I did not originally intend to lose 60 lbs, but I've kept most of it off for 3-4 years now. I basically began working out and walking my dogs 4 miles per day to keep my mind at ease and my body exhausted in the wake of an illness and some personal issues. I went from 210 lbs to 150 lbs. I hover these days between 165 and 170. I exercise nearly every day, up to an hour on the stair stepper. I've found that walking is extremely effective... the more you walk, the better you feel and I still will shed a few additional pounds when I am walking from place to place (tough in Alaska in the winter).
After losing so much weight my body requires significantly less food, and that's been a really important part of this to continuously be aware of. Generally if I eat more than what's normal for me now, and I exercise more than usual to compensate or lower my caloric intake for a few days afterward. I also almost never eat until I am full or finish all of my food when I feel I've had enough. In America we are programmed to feel like we have to finish these huge portions... it's not worth it (feeling bloated or gaining weight).
All in all I think the most difficult part is grappling with the efficiency of a body less 50 pounds. It's hard to keep up with this sort of thing, but it ultimately pays off. Some of the things I've learned: enjoying and savoring my food, listening to my body, the cost saving of simply eating less, and the amazing feeling of being exhausted after an hour on the stepper. It's been a great experience. It's a challenge, but it's worth it.
In 2001, after graduating college 100 pounds heavier than when I entered, I travelled across the country to a job at a California college. The plane ride was almost unbearable, and once I realized I was on a very hilly campus, I decided to quit after barely a week. I constantly struggled to breathe walking from one place to another, at twenty-two years old. At that point, I weighed 317 pounds. Spending the next two years living with my parents, I only focused on losing weight. I worked out for two-three hours per day and strictly limited my calorie intake.
When I began graduate school in 2003, I had lost more than 120 pounds. Though I had a major gain during that year, back to 245 pounds, I have now been on Weight Watchers since 2008, having lost more than seventy-five pounds. My second major weight loss and on-going maintenance has come through an interest in running which developed in 2010. Running 10ks and half-marathons at least four times per year, I am always "in training," to keep myself motivated. Though I always come in almost last, I am grateful each time to be able to complete the race, especially given where I was only 12 years ago.
Do you have a success story? If so, we invite you to join the National Weight Control Registry--the largest study ever of individuals who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off.
details about joining the registry.