“If not now, when?”
Weight Gain Background and Contributing Factors
Gillian says she was always bigger growing up, but she actually “didn’t realize how average” her size was at the time. After giving birth to her first child Gillian was a size 16, and at that time she couldn’t ever envision the fact that size 16 could be an average size. Then she gained weight from there on. Looking back, Gillian thinks that part of the reason she overate and gained weight was to seek out attention from her family.
How Being Overweight Impacted Gillian’s Life
“I just sold myself short.”
While Gillian didn’t have to deal with bullying growing up, she says she just cut herself off from experiences, such as quitting softball even though she enjoyed it.
“I would always use being bigger as an excuse.”
Then she internalized that excuse until it became her self-identity. Thinking back on seeing herself, Gillian says: “I was always the fat friend.” She tended to make fun of herself to forestall others doing so.
“I allowed my weight to define me at a very early age.”
Gillian feels like we are always our own worst critics. Gillian says she was probably about age 13 when she tried her first diet, and tried many programs to lose weight, such as the Atkins diet and Weight Watchers.
The Turning Point
Gillian emphasizes that she has been dealing with her weight for a lot of years, including getting lap band surgery many years back. However, she says her “light bulb moment” was just over a year ago when she was watching an extreme weight loss show and got fired up about the idea of really committing to a lifestyle change for one year.
“In the long scheme of everything, what’s one year to dedicate to doing something healthier, no matter what that looks like, for myself?”
Gillian says that before this decision she was addicted to sugar, caffeine, McDonalds, and nicotine. She was tired of letting chemicals run her life and finally told herself:
“I’m done feeling like crap.”
Starting The Weight Loss Journey
The day after her birthday Gillian started tackling her addictions one by one. First she cut out McDonalds, then she began to track her food, and then quit smoking. Gillian felt a very strong determination that she was not going to let her body be controlled by chemicals any longer. She shares her belief that chemicals in processed food serve to tamp down the emotions we are feeling, and eliminating those foods from our bodies might be rough at first as we learn to process those emotions without eating. However, Gillian shares that making these changes weren’t too difficult for her, but that others should not find that discouraging, as it’s mostly a matter of mindset.
“Once the light bulb goes off, it goes off.”
Gillian tracked all her calories, but didn’t limit food at first. Early on she would let herself have one meal each week when she would eat a meal of whatever food she had been craving. All these changes were initiated in the first month of her journey, and Gillian lost 30 pounds. (13.6 kg) In the next 4 months, Gillian’s doctor told her she had to lose more weight—15 pounds—to get ready for gastric bypass surgery and the removal of her old lap band. Gillian acknowledges she had a classic stress response to that discovery:
“My first reaction was…to go eat.”
But as she shares, part of this journey is growth, and Gillian didn’t go eat at that time, instead she took the additional weight she needed to lose as a challenge, and decided she would just go lose the weight. Gillian thinks that healthy living is just choice by choice, every day. She finally did a drastic calorie reduction, supervised by her doctor, to prepare for surgery. Gillian also worked to add purposeful movement every day, and emphasizes that for a 380 pound person, even small amounts of extra movement each day are helpful. Gillian wants people to keep in mind that with both exercise and nutrition:
“It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.”
Gillian lost 57 pounds (26 kg) before her surgery, and 6 weeks after her surgery when her mandatory recovery period was over, Gillian started going to the gym. She had the realization that everybody goes to the gym for the same reason—to get healthier. Gillian’s attitude towards the gym is especially empowering:
“If you don’t like to watch my fat jiggle, then look at somebody else. I’m going to jiggle, and I’m going to do what I need to do.”
She started with walking on the treadmill and riding on the recumbent bike. Riding the recumbent was a new challenge for Gillian, since she used to think they were for “old people,” but has since discovered that with enough resistance she can get quite a workout. Gillian has discovered that belonging to a gym and going there right after she gets off work is key. Once she gets home, even with the best of intentions, she knows that it’s almost impossible to make herself exercise. Gillian acknowledges that willpower won’t always sustain us, and says:
“Sometimes you just have to kick yourself in the butt and do it.”
Gillian doesn’t like before and after photos, because she thinks that on this journey there is no end point, there’s only the during part.
“A lot of people want get from point A to point B, and they don’t want to do the middle.”
Challenges Gillian Faced Along The Way
For Gillian, the biggest challenge in her journey is the knowledge that the only person standing in her way is herself. Gillian discusses that evolving past the feeling that there are others to blame for her current health has been a huge positive impact for her psychologically. Gillian and Sam discuss the strange etiquette in which it’s OK to compliment someone for losing weight, but if you were to mention to someone that they look like they gained weight it would hurt their feelings. But Gillian feels like it might be the case that the weight gain itself could potentially be a symptom of a problem in their life.
What Gillian Learned About Food, Exercise, and Herself
Everything doesn’t have to happen all at once. If you tackle too many health issues in your life at once, Gillian feels that you are setting yourself up for failure. She thinks that it is more important to make choices that you can sustain, and not to be unrealistic with your plans. For example, if you miss some days at the gym, you just stop your backslide and return to the good habits you’ve been cultivating. Gillian has discovered that not eating out much at restaurants not only saves calories, but also helps budget money to purchase healthy fruits and vegetables at the grocery. She gives herself a treat about once per month, and enjoys buying things for her house like new flavors of greek yogurt. Gillian is currently enrolled in a beginner crossfit-style exercise class, and loves making discoveries about things she can accomplish with her body. She shares that ignoring everyone else’s opinions about her, especially when it comes to exercise, is one of the best things that she has learned to do. These days Gillian typically goes to the gym 4-5 times per week, and makes sure to eat something every 3 hours. String cheese, 100 calorie packs of almonds, and greek yogurt are go-to snacks for her. In the past, Gillian says she would have thought that eating the way she eats now would feel felt like deprivation, and in reality it is very satisfying. Gillian is still on her weight loss journey, and she shares her insights on Facebook and her blog. Gillian’s peak weight was 413 pounds (187.7 kg), and she has lost 155 pounds thusfar. (70.5 kg) She and Sam agree wholeheartedly that the BMI chart is not a helpful measure for goal weights. Gillian wants to lose a further 95 pounds (43 kg), and also has the goal of walking into a Crossit class and be able to hold her own.
Gillian’s Advice For Your Journey
- Take one unhealthy thing, and remove that from your life.
- Make peace with trying new things that make you uncomfortable at first.
“If you expect to stay in your comfort zone, you’re not going to get the results you want to have. You’re just not.”
Resources Discussed In This Podcast
- MyFitnessPal – online calorie tracker and fitness community
- Fitness Blender channel on Youtube
- My Fitspiration channel on Youtube
- Facebook support groups
On Gillian’s Workout Playlist
- 80’s rock bands!
- Shake It Off by Taylor Swift [ Amazon / iTunes ]
- Music by Katy Perry [ Amazon / iTunes ]
- Women and power “kick ass” songs