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Published:September 9th, 2005 12:38 EST
Being the Biggest Loser

Being the Biggest Loser

By Sarah Huffman

Piles of oversized sweaters and t-shirts and mounds of once-too-tight jeans fill two closets in the entryway of our house. Garbage bags filled to the brim with our fat clothes line the perimeter of our garage.

Eleven months ago, my mom and I were a statistic. We were two of the thousands of Iowans who were obese. 24% of Iowans are obese according to a Des Moines Register November 2004 article written by Tony Leys. In 2003, $783 million was spent on health care related to overweight and obesity in Iowa according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. And this year, in 2005, obesity will overtake smoking as the leading cause of death according to USA Today. So why were we doing this to ourselves?

In March 2004, my mom, Bridgette, took the first step to changing to the way she lived. In April, I said to myself, if she can do it, so can I.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been overweight. I didn’t start gaining a lot of weight until I was 8 years old. My mom didn’t start gaining weight until she was 21. In high school she weighed 110 pounds. In March, she was up to 230. Her 20-year-reunion was coming up and she felt the pressure.

“Everyone expects you to weigh the same you did in high school,” she said. She also had chronic back pain from being on her feet all day and being overweight. In 2001, she developed a kidney stone and was told by the doctor if she didn’t change the way she ate she would continue to get them. She hasn’t had one since. Then there was the threat of diabetes and heart disease along the road. And possibly death. Thank God she decided to join Weight Watchers.

With her best friend from high school, Lynette, in tow, she signed up and changed her life. The next month, after seeing how well she was doing, I started changing the way I ate.

When I started, my mom said she was happy I chose to do Weight Watchers also, instead of choosing to take diet pills or do a low-carb diet. “I think those are so unrealistic,” she said. She also said she was glad because I started to worry about my health and knew I would feel better by doing it.

Food has always been a big part of our lives. We go out to eat a lot and McDonald’s was always a substitute for dinner in our house. I was an emotional eater. I ate because I was happy, sad and every other emotion in between. We ate to celebrate. We ate because we had nothing better to do.  That had to stop. One thing I have learned is to eat when you’re hungry. Don’t let boredom dictate when you eat. That’s something we had to help each other

“The hardest part of starting is knowing you can’t eat the way you used to. Before, you had the freedom to eat whatever you wanted,” she said.

The Weight Watcher program is based on a points system. When you join, you receive two books that have point values for just about anything you can eat. You eat and keep track of how many points you’ve used up. Your weight depends on how many points you get. When you’ve used up all your points for the day, you stop eating. It’s convenient because you don’t just have to stick to Weight Watchers food.

“Once you start, you find it’s not that hard to be on Weight Watchers then you wonder why you didn’t do it before,” she said. She thinks that’s where a lot of other programs go wrong. You rely on their packaged foods then you don’t know how to choose the right foods when you go off the program.

It’s a blessing to have my mom in the same boat as I am, going through the same changes and going through the same struggles that I am. We both have our weak moments. French fries and candy still tempt us, and sometimes we give in. But that’s ok,
because you can’t deprive yourself. You have to splurge every once in awhile.

We had to learn together what was good and what was bad. Recently, there’s been a boost on healthy products available for those doing the points system. In June 2004, Applebee’s debuted their Weight Watchers menu. There are 10 items which list their points value. There’s everything from French onion soup (3 points), to a tortilla chicken melt (10 points), to chocolate raspberry cake (4 points) and lemon cheesecake (5 points). I’ve tried almost all of the items and all are delicious. The first time I had the chocolate cake, I asked myself if I should be eating it. It felt like I was cheating. Things like this make it much easier to go out to eat without feeling guilty.

Weight Watchers also makes frozen meals and desserts called Smart Ones. My favorite dessert is the giant sundae cone which only has two points. They also make fudge bars, ice cream sandwiches, cookie dough desserts, and the list goes on. They’re a
lifesaver when you’re craving something sweet.

A product I’ve only seen at Wal-Mart is Weight Watchers chocolate cake, carrot cake, and muffins. The chocolate cake is a perfect snack and only has one point.

Nabisco makes 100 calorie packs of Oreo cookies (minus the filling), Chips Ahoy cookies, Wheat Thins, Cheez-its, and gummy fruit snacks. Snacking isn’t so bad when the cookies only have 100 calories.

We’ve also had to find a way to incorporate exercise into our lives. We were both very sedentary. The only exercise we got is when we went to work. She does hair and I am a waitress. She decided to join Curves. Thank God for Curves. Curves opened in Johnston in 2000. There are 8,000 Curves in the world with more than 1 million members. Curves is a woman’s only facility (sorry guys) that uses a station approach to working out. For me, and my mom, it was a fast and convenient way to get our workout in. My mom said, “When you’re there it doesn’t even feel like you’re working out.” It goes by very quickly and when you have someone to work out with, it goes by even faster. I joined when I came home for summer break and we made a point to go together at least two times a week.

Megan el Haoud, an employee at Curves, says it’s essential to have a support group when you begin a diet and exercise regimen. “Having a support group almost ensures your success. Whether it be your friends or your family, or just the rest of the women at Curves, having someone on your side helps you stick to your plan,” she said. She also said she signs up a lot of mothers and daughters at the same time. “Exercising is more fun when you have someone to do it with.”

My dad, Rick, who is 6’2 and weighs 150 pounds, also played a big part in helping us both, by being there for us emotionally. He said he wasn’t afraid that she would change if she lost weight, but he knew she would feel a lot better about herself and that’s what he wanted. Last summer, as I was getting ready to go out, my dad told me how good I looked. It made me feel good to know that he cared and that he was there to support me.

My mom and I both think it’s very important to have support from everyone when you’re trying to lose weight. “People try to sabotage you sometimes,” she said. “They are comfortable with the way you were and they don’t want you to change.
You don’t stay the same person.”

We’ve both definitely changed. My mom weighed 230 pounds and is 5’0. Today, she weighs 170 pounds. She went from wearing a size 22 pant to a size 14. I weighed 235 pounds and am 5’6. Today, I weigh 177. I went from a size 20 pant to a size 14. Together, we’ve lost an entire person! We’re still working on it though. She still wants to lose 40 more pounds and I want to lose 37 more. We’ve still got a way to go, but we’ve already come so far.

I know I couldn’t have done this without her. She has been there for me when I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. She was there to tell me to stick to it. And the same goes for her. I am always there to give her an encouraging word and to remind her of how far she’s come.

This is something we can both stick with. We’ve learned so much. Even at 37, my mom learned how to change her life. It’s never too late. That’s what she’s taught me. And that’s what everyone should know. It’s never too late to learn how to live a healthy life.

One of the most important things I’ve learned is to do it for yourself. If you do it for someone else, you won’t stick to it. You have to want it badly enough. And we were sick of our expanding waists. My mom said something to me that I will never forget. She said, “Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.” Remember that.