The National Weight Control Registry
I started life as an obese son of an obese mom. I’m now 78 -- the last 30 years spent rewiring to recover from countless yo-yo episodes, and finally emerge 70 pounds lighter. My hero? The itsy-bitsy spider, who climbed the waterspout, got washed back down, then bravely climbed again.
I relearned what to eat and avoid. I choose likeable foods that are both nutrient-dense and filling, such as vegetable soup (Dr. Fuhrman’s ‘Eat to Live’ diet). I kept my calories in gradual weight-loss range and exercise on and off. High fiber and filtered water are assets. I also minimize sweet foods and most breads (except for sourdough bread, a godsend for diabetics who need to keep their Glycemic Index in check).
Learning the right way to eat has felt like brain surgery. I worked with nutritionists and therapists to clear up some weighty issues, and find enough motivation to ultimately succeed, along with sufficient resilience to recover after weight gain.
I’ve spent countless hours researching health aspects, including behavior modification. I weigh myself every Monday morning and remind myself about it all weekend, when my snacking used to spiral out of control. Meditation and baths help me offset stressful food grabs. And brutally honest journaling keeps me from feeding my face behind my back.
I’ve maintained my loss for 5 years, triumphing after decades of yo-yo brain breakers. Imagine my surprise to hear someone recently tell me I’ve lost too much weight! Or the joy of hearing my body looks normal or average - after so many years of shame.
My weight loss has been a gift to my body and probably my longevity. It’s astonishing how much easier it is to simply rise from a seated position. My blood pressure has normalized. I’ve also been able put off a knee replacement; each lost pound avoids 4 pounds of pressure – for me that was about 280 pounds!
Emotionally, I’m no longer ashamed of how I look. What a phenomenal relief!
When I was seven, a routine doctor visit resulted in the doctor saying I needed to lose weight, giving my mother a diet that I was to follow. I wasn’t very overweight and had no problems with food other than having to clean my plate. I just ate what my mother gave me. After that doctor visit, I had to follow the diet which was comprised of nothing I liked. It was a soft-boiled egg in the morning and cottage cheese for lunch, no bread, or potatoes at dinner, etc. If I ate what I was supposed to, I got to have ice cream (not on the diet). That was the beginning of my lifelong weight problem as well as my out-of-control food addiction. Fast forward to 33-years-old at 330 pounds with a 25-year history of failing at diets and exercise programs. Fortunately, in my 30’s, I changed professions and became trained in mental health counseling, including addiction counseling. I had an ah-ha experience learning about addiction and behavior therapy and began to formulate an approach to my problem that centered on psychotherapeutic methods to change habitual and addictive behavior. I lost 140 pounds in 18 months and have maintained my ideal weight without great difficulty for over 35 years. Now, as a psychotherapist, I help others with weight and eating problems. I became familiar with the research of the scientists who became the NWCR in doing the research to develop my approach, modeling the behavior of successful weight losses, and in 2004, I became a member of the registry. I am proud to be one of the successes they studied, and thankful they studied what successful people did. I encourage everyone reading this to know that success is possible, no matter how long you’ve tried and failed and how many diets you’ve failed at. I am alive today, survived to retirement age, because after failing and giving up thousands of times, each time I would eventually come to a point of wanting to try again. The NWCR clinicians taught me what behaviors I needed to acquire, and my training in psychotherapy taught me how to change behavior. Change is possible, and it’s worth it. No matter how old you are and how many times you’ve failed, if you are still breathing, you have the potential to change.
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.
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.
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.