This is my family? Really?
Where I'm accepted.... amused.... embraced.... loved.... no matter what?
Ok then, they are mine. No one else can have them. I sure hope they know what they have gotten themselves into!
So, I gave a speech at my weight loss center last night. It's the 2nd time they have asked me and although I was nervous about speaking in public, I felt proud. Proud of my accomplishments, proud of the center, and proud of my family. Below is the speech along with my before and after pictures. Be warned... it's very long!
23 April 2009 Metabolic Research Center, CO
Hi! My name is Denise and I walked through the doors of Metabolic Research Center (MRC) on October 27, 2007 weighing 355lbs. Today I weigh 170lbs and have lost 185lbs. I am completing my final week of stabilization and am heading into maintenance. Thank you all for being here today, and celebrating this journey with me! I have my life back and I look forward to seeing you all achieve your goals as well.
The thoughts and experiences I’m about to share with you today are very close to my heart. Although I have shared them publicly before, they are still very raw. They aren’t my exercise routine, or my food choices, or how much water I drink. These are the issues at my core. They are the issues that I have had with food my entire life and the reasons that I am standing before you here today. I don’t have all of the answers but I hope to be able to give you some insight on what has helped me along the way.
I had a normal childhood. I was born and raised in California so I spent a lot of time outdoors. I was on the swim team. I played soccer. I spent a lot of time at the beach and we did a lot of outdoor activities…. My parents fed us healthy foods. We had fresh homemade whole grain breads, fresh veggies from our garden, natural peanut butter, all of it….
So, one of the questions I have often asked myself through all of this is how did I get to be obese? I realize now, that there have been several contributors and I’ve been lucky enough to work through many of them. Today, I’ll share just a few… I had horrible self esteem; I had negative self talk. I was extremely shy and I was often scared. When I say scared, I can’t say I was necessarily scared of my parents (I believe we all have moments of being scared of our parents)… but I was scared of a lot of things. I was scared of fitting in, of not fitting in, scared of talking, and when I did venture out of my comfort zone to talk, I was scared of saying the wrong thing. I was terrified of dying….. Basically, I was scared of everything. Oh….and, I stuck out… I was tall. I was the tallest girl in school. So, I took being the tallest as being the biggest which was very scary to me. I was the “biggest”. I just remember feeling really, really BIG. This kind of negative self talk just snowballed through my childhood; into adolescence, and accompanied me into adulthood. And in time, I became what I put out…. I became a person with low self worth, a drug addict, a controlled partner in an abusive relationship and finally…. I became Obese. Obese then became Morbidly Obese.
When my son was born in 2000, I decided it was time for a change. I started a program and did well. I lost quite a bit of weight on the program but I never changed my perception of food. I didn’t attempt to understand my issues around food. My week was spent contemplating what I was going to eat for my “cheat meal” after weigh in. As important as I believed this weight loss was too me, food took priority over it all. I gained it all back within a year (plus some). I’m sure several of you can relate to this. I wanted to be smaller, and “less” obese but not as much as I wanted to eat. My priorities weren’t clear at that point. I hadn’t hit my “rock bottom”.
I tried other “diets” along the way, but none with any true success. Then… something amazing happened. I gave up. I threw in the towel. And in doing so, it started me on the journey into discovering the most amazing person I've ever met.... that person, was me. This journey wasn’t for the weak at heart. It was a dark, cold, lonely, and sad place for a very long time…. but on the other side was my life. The life I was destined to lead. The life we all can have if we decide it’s worth the effort.
When I gave up, I saw someone I have never met. I have never been the type of person who shuts down and makes a conscious decision to give up; to quit. However, this time…. I was done; completely over it. I needed to accept my role in the world and embrace it. I was now morbidly obese and that's just the way it was. This was me; all of me. “Love it and leave it”! I would eat what I want, hide out in my room, and publicly put a smile on my face. It would be the new me. I would not continue to compete with food; it could win…. I was too weak. I was just a victim to food. This would be my new outlook.
Unfortunately, the person who couldn't accept this new outlook was me. How was I going to look in the mirror everyday, and see the real me trapped inside and not do everything humanly possible to save her. But for an entire year, that's exactly what I did. And, as I got bigger… my world got smaller. My knees hurt, my migraines became unbearable, my blood pressure was higher than ever. I couldn’t walk more than a block without being completely winded and asthmatic. But even worse than the physical pain, there was the emotional pain. My heart ached. I would lie on my couch or in my bed for hours at a time. I cried constantly. I made excuses when friends would want to meet up (because honestly, who would want me around?) and I refused to be out in public anymore than necessary. I repeatedly asked my husband how he could be with someone that looked like me; I gave him permission to leave me to find someone else, someone that wasn’t so miserable. At times I begged him to go and take my son away to a more “normal life” (by the way I am married to the kindest, most supportive man in the entire world. He would just hug me, and comfort me, wipe my tears and tell me that he wasn’t going anywhere). Finally, I secretly wept and apologized to my son for not being the Mom he deserved to have. The kind of Mom that rode bikes with him, went to the park, took long walks, and played outside with him; the Mom that was ALL HIS. I felt weak, depressed, anxious, lonely, and powerless. This was not the person I used to know. I didn't recognize her and she was not me.
Then, one day it happened. I can’t truly explain to you what did it; it could have been the sadness or the depression. It could have been the support of my family. I think it was everything combined; you know, the whole “being tired or being tired.” It was something big. Something very strong…. And powerful; it was the real me; deep down in my core…. Forcing its way out; fighting. I was finally stepping up and saying “enough is enough”. I was taking my life back. This was not the life I was meant to lead. This was not my destiny. I was not living my authentic life, or being my authentic self. I had allowed those feelings to have power over me for quite some time, but no longer. I felt empowered to take my life back. Above all else, I wanted to reclaim the person inside the body. In that moment, I held her close, and made sure she knew that she was loved. She would always be cared for, and that I would never abuse or neglect her again. I also agreed to forgive myself. I was moving forward; without baggage, or anger. And I would not hold any resentment over the past; only forgiveness and understanding. I would allow myself to learn; to love, to embrace every moment leading up to today and going forward. I would not go through life, not living, anymore. And I had not been living at all. I had merely been existing. And in doing so, I had been doing a disservice to myself and to my family and friends by not being the person I knew I was… inside. That day my world opened up and I began my journey. There was a quote that means so much to me.... it says "I took a vow of non violence and that includes my body". First and foremost, I refuse to do any harm to myself. I am not at war with my body; we are together in this and it can work wonderfully when I treat it with respect.
That same day, I started a list of things I wanted back. Things that I could not have from being the weight I was. My first entry…..
My wedding ring.
This wedding ring is actually the ring my Dad gave my Mom when they got married. This ring is very special. To me, it holds a lot of symbolism. My parents were young; their love was innocent and new. My father was going off to Vietnam, and my Mom was entering womanhood. It was the beginning of everything. It was the beginning of their journey which resulted in the start my journey and my Sister’s journey and in turn, the beginning of our children’s journey. My parents are no longer together, but their path has linked us forever and that ring still holds all of that symbolism for me. So when I was married, it became my wedding band. My husband added a band in the middle to complete our circle; to begin our journey together. This ring, that obviously meant so much to me, didn’t fit. It hadn’t fit in years. This first entry began my list and it was and is still pertinent to my journey. I truly hope that you all have an opportunity to sit down and write your own list. I can’t tell you how much I’ve used this list. It keeps me focused and helps me to keep my priorities straight. When values are clear, decisions are made easy.
I had been looking at a couple of different programs, and had heard great things about a center nearby. Metabolic research center sounded appealing based on the information I had discovered and through feedback I had found from clients posted online. I had also located this great “external” forum for people that attended various MRC center’s that seemed to be a good fit for me. I was ready to go in and see what kind of connection we had. I knew that I would need a connection with the people I would be working with. I really felt strongly that this would be the place for me. I just knew that this center was going to assist me in my journey. When I called, they had an appointment available that evening and by the end of my consultation, I was ready. I weighed in at the center at 355lbs (I didn’t even know my current weight because my scale at home wouldn’t go that high). This was my all time highest weight. There was no question; this was my place. This was the missing link. For me, it was exactly what I needed; one on one consulting, classes, food instruction, weigh-ins, exercise, and so much more. I am an amazing student; just ask any of the consultants ;) I am able to have someone tell me what to eat, how much to eat and I will follow that instruction..... My issue has always been the heart issues and the head issues. I needed to understand why I do what I do and what I can do to change my perception about food. One of the main reasons I chose this program was because of the classes. PLEASE!!! If you haven’t attended the classes, do so. You’ll be so glad you did. It’s hard work but so totally worth it. Sometimes it’s just about sitting quietly and listening, allowing the information to absorb and then processing it later. Other times, you might want to be more interactive. It’s up to you. There’s no pressure. Please, the classes are for you. They are for your success. Use them. I love the classes if you can’t tell. I love this center. I love these people. These “people” are “my” people. They have shared in my highs and lows, in my joys and my sorrows, they are patient and understanding… and they are just as committed to my success as I am. When I walk through those doors, I feel like I’m with family. I know I’m with family.
I began MRC on October 27th. Before Halloween and more importantly, before Halloween candy! For me, this was a great time to start; what’s the point in delaying something that is so very important especially when you have taken a vow to no longer harm yourself! And come on, there can always be a reason to hold off…. But let’s remember, when values are clear, decisions are easy. By the way I should add, Halloween is my FAVORITE holiday.... and it went off without a hitch. I was on plan, and moving forward gracefully. Several holidays, and events followed..... For me, the most powerful and emotional issue that occurred was that my Father in Law (and I don’t even like to call him my Father in Law… he was my Dad. I am lucky enough to have had two Dads) was diagnosed and then passed away from Lung Cancer. He suffered immensely, and we miss him more than I can put into words here today. When he died, we didn’t know how we would continue on without him. Fortunately, we had no regrets. We spent some amazing times together, laughing; lots of laughing. We still hear him and his advice all the time. He was always the best person at kicking us in our butts and getting us back on track. There was no time for pity parties. This man knew of great loss, and sadness, and could have been quite bitter. But he wasn’t. He was strong. He was a fighter. He found out he had cancer one year to the date after he had been given a kidney transplant that he waited 7 years on dialysis for. When we asked him how he felt about his latest hurdle? His response was quick found. It was a classic. “It is what it is” Now remember, this is from my Dad of few (but powerful) words…. Ask my husband and he’ll tell you; I am the complete opposite. I have to dissect everything. So, “it is what it is….” As bad as things are or can be, you move forward. You don’t waste time on things you can’t change. You do what needs to be done, and you fight. It is what it is. You can’t change it. Life happens, death happens, we have to continue. And in relation to our situation here; there can always be an excuse or a reason to take a side road (to misstep); to eat off plan, to feel like giving up…. But what’s the point? Life is constantly happening, no matter how much we try to stop it. It is what it is. So we move forward, and move on. I could have used any or all of those life events as a reason to misstep, but I had a choice and my choice was clear. "I took a vow of non violence, and that includes my body". I also had my list.... and let’s never forget the "list". I had now named it my "freedom list" and it was growing by the day. Growing my the minute! Sometimes even by the second. It was full of all of the wonderful things I would get back (my freedoms) as I lost weight. So, when someone would say "Would you like a piece of cake"?
I would think of my list..... Here's how it went....
“Hey Denise, we’re having cake over here…. Come grab a piece”
Cake? or Riding a bike with my son?
That decision was so easy to make..... It was almost ridiculous to even think about.
Cake or my son? Seriously, that was a no-brainer.
Sometimes there wasn’t any physical temptation in front of me…. Sometimes it was just me and my thoughts….. wondering if I could continue? Could I handle it? So, then out came the list. And, then I would realize that I absolutely could do it. I was strong and powerful. There was no question.
Now I don’t want you to think I am just the almighty woman; hear me roar… I also have a great team behind me. I have the most amazing support system. My husband and son are just beautiful. They have always been my foundation. I can have a bad day or feel weak, and they hold me up. They tell me how strong I am and motivate me in the most wonderful ways. I hope to return that gift to them. Someday, I know I will.
This is my husband. He is amazing. He’s my best friend. He is my heart and soul and the one person that knows me better than anyone else. I have been blessed to have this man with me on my journey. I’d like to spend a little more time telling you about my husband…. and his heart. It’s his most attractive quality. Within that lovely heart of his; He is kind and gentle, sincere and caring, non judgmental and sweet; SO, SO sweet. He wakes up at 1am to take the dogs and my son to the bathroom. He goes out on snow mornings and cleans off my car (and warms it up) so I can drive in comfort. He cooks my meat for me, just because it grosses me out and that way I don't have to deal with it. He's the best snuggler ever and he rubs my back when I can't sleep. He listens to me ramble with a kind face and gives a gentle laugh when I catch myself. He has driven over 60 miles to pick me up from work because I didn't feel well; this man and his heart. He buys me flowers for no special occasion... just because. He laughs at my jokes, even when I can't get them right (and most of the time can't remember them). He completes my sentences and knows exactly what I'm thinking. He adores me and is my very best friend. He is the closest I've met to perfect, and I can't breathe quite right when I think that we are together in this experience of life; this man and his big, full, wonderful heart. He has a way of talking to me that just calms me. He helps me rationalize things (and for me, that can sometimes be a struggle). After our Dad passed away, we were coming home from Ohio and I was tired, emotionally and physically; and when I get tired I lose a lot of my fight. While we were there, I had made it through every kind of temptation possible. I had been strong, and made it through all 9 days. We were home free, driving back to Colorado but I couldn’t do it anymore. Each time we stopped on the way home, I would want something… one time it was French Fries, then Mozzarella Sticks…. It went on and on. I wanted to feed my sadness. Each time, my loving husband would say the most supportive thing. He would say… “When we get home, if you REALLY want “it”, you can have it”. And so, when we got home, something magical happened. I didn’t want any of that “stuff” anymore. I was back in my own routine and I was just fine. He is my best friend, and as I said before the person who knows me better than anyone; often times, better than I know myself. I came away from that experience realizing that if you truly want something (food, clothes, etc) badly enough, you are willing to wait for it.
This is my Son. If you’ve been in on Saturday or come to the cooking classes, you’ve probably seen him. My son is the love of my life….. I can’t even begin to tell you all of the things he does that make me smile. He drives me crazy sometimes too, but that’s just par for the course. I never knew just how much I could love someone until I held him in my arms. Our bond is unbreakable; it’s a forever connection. He is kind and gentle, like his Dad; determined and strong willed like me, and just amazing. He is sincere and supportive, generous and compassionate, captivating and hysterical, adorable and delightful, talented and confident, thoughtful and sweet. Most of all he is lovable and loved. I am so proud to be this little mans mom and I can’t wait to see what an amazing man he becomes. He is already so much more than I could have ever asked for. When I would get home from the center, he would always ask how much weight I lost and give me high fives and sometimes he would even add a special success dance in there for me. That’s just part of it though…. He is Eight now and although he understands pounds lost, that was always irrelevant to him(except of course, when I lost 60 lbs then 120 lbs, then 180lbs because then I could say I had lost 1 of him, then 2, now 3). But really, what matters to him the most are hugs….. big bear hugs. And before we started this whole process, my son would of course hug me but his hands didn’t touch…. So, he started measuring my loss by how close his fingers were when he hugged me. After each hug he would say “Momma, you are losing a lot”! Now, his hands overlap and it’s very exciting. I love getting those measurements.
I've gone through every emotion there is. There is a finding the connections class surrounding grief and it really held true for me. This experience has been loaded with self discovery, and where I normally would take these emotions and feed them… I consciously decided that this time, when each emotion came up, I would really take a look at it. I would take the steps (the really powerful steps) needed to overcome my issues with food. These emotions changed at different levels of weight loss. Sometimes the emotions would pop up and seem to overwhelm me.... Other times, they just would flow in and out like the tide. In the beginning, I was really inquisitive. I needed to know so desperately why? What shaped my behaviors as a child? What created my control issues with food? When did my self image change? Was I born with a negative self image or was it learned? Was it influenced by my parents? Or was it society? Could it have been influenced by my peers? Maybe it had all been in my head? I’m sure my parents loved the random phone calls with the even more “random” questions (or so they thought) that would come up. But, even they were ready to share and it was good. Later I became very angry with myself. I didn’t understand how I could let myself get to this point. How could anyone have gotten so out of control? Why didn’t I stop myself at 200lbs? or at 250lbs? Why not 300lbs? or 350lbs? Why had I just kept going when I knew it was such an issue? The anger (or guilt) didn’t last long because I realized it didn’t serve any purpose. It is what it is. It was time to move forward and jump out of the circle of blame. It didn’t matter. I remember when I came to the hope and acceptance phase. It was so much calmer; so much easier. I just felt like I had arrived. There are so many classes that just worked so well for me; I was relieved and thankful to have them here at all of these different moments because it really helped me to understand my feelings, and put a name to it all. It also helped when it came to understanding my old, self destructive behavior. I was able to really evaluate these feelings in a safe, friendly environment. And when I felt like I needed to talk about things, the consultants were there. They were a neutral party, and could provide a sounding board when I needed it. I could and still can talk to them about anything. I’m still discovering things about myself and what got me here. It’s such an amazing process. One of my latest discoveries has played a large part in my success. I’m still very excited about it! I had seen a special on addiction and they were talking about the pyramid of addiction. The explanation was that if you don’t deal with your initial addiction (and in turn what drove you to that addiction originally) then you will ascend the pyramid. You’ll just swap one addiction for another. So, I had this realization and of course then, had to talk about it in Behavior Mod because hello; that’s what I do! Anyway, when I was 20, I left home and moved away because I was a drug addict. I had (and still have) this wonderful best friend who had come home with her Air Force husband to visit and invited me to move to Ohio with them. I was in an abusive relationship, likely heading for jail or the morgue, and heavily addicted so, I went. It worked or so I thought. I quit cold turkey. I decided to stay in Ohio, and start my new life. I smoke and drank a lot. I went out nightly. I met my husband and eventually, I ate a lot. Guess what? I traded one addiction for another. The difference with me was that I started in the middle of the pyramid and yet, managed to touch on all three corners. In my eyes, all addiction is equal. It’s all self destructive and non productive. So, here I am. I’m an addict. I’m dealing with issues from a lifetime ago in order to not trade one addiction for another.
I will always be an addict and that will never change. But what I realized is how much I’ve learned from all of these things…and when you’re perfect, you don’t learn a thing. It’s ok to slip, or make a wrong turn. It’s what you do with it that matters. Did you learn from it? I’d like to share an analogy with you. Picture yourself driving down the freeway heading home to the ones you love. You can’t wait to get there. You miss the exit. What do you do? Do you continue to drive on, screaming and yelling at yourself, never to arrive at your destination…? Never again to see the ones you love? Or, do you acknowledge the error, get off on the next exit and make the correction? I choose to make the U turn. If I never made mistakes, I would not be the person standing before you. From the negative self talk of my childhood, to the addiction, to meeting the most amazing man ever, to having my son…. Not one of these things could have happened without the other. And you know what? I don’t have my mind figured out quite yet. I am a work in progress and always will be. But isn't that the most amazing part of being a human being? We are always learning, and growing.
As of today, I have lost 185lbs and look forward to living. I have lost over ½ of the weight I started at. My freedom list is still growing day by day. I had my wedding re-sized from a 9 ½ to a 6 a few months ago so that I could wear it without it falling off. Through this journey, I have met many beautiful new friends. I have grown in ways I could never have imagined. And I have had the pleasure of meeting the most incredible person. She is loving, kind, and caring. She is strong, determined, and intelligent.... She is amazing and I am that woman.
I'm so sorry I've been missing in action for so long. I have been extremely busy at work (there are many layoffs and more pending), and then we (my son and I) went to California for Spring Break. It was a wonderful trip. I was so happy to be back home and visit my family and friends. It was just great. I'm ready to go home. It may be a while, but we'll see if we can't figure out a way to get there.
Below are pictures of me, my Son, my Nieces and my Dad.... great time!