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Losing Weight with Friends

Through support, exercise, motivation, and nutrition, one woman makes a positive change in her life.

By Traci Tate, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

As appeared in

I sat on the couch at my parents’ house next to my younger sister, Jamie, my eyes fixed on a photo of me with my brother-in-law, David, taken earlier that day. Triple chin. Rolls on my stomach. I knew I was overweight, but did I really look like that? “Is this what you see when you look at me?” I asked Jamie incredulously.

“Um…yes, T, it is,” she said, measuring her words.

Jamie and I are both nurses. I knew obesity led to serious health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes—I’d seen it in patients. But I was in denial about how overweight I was. I hadn’t stepped on a scale in six years. Diets? They never lasted. Exercise? As if I had energy after working the late shift at the hospital. I didn’t have energy for much of anything now. I’d stopped going out with friends or to church. I didn’t want people staring at me, judging me. But now that I was staring at my photo, I couldn’t blame them. I didn’t want to live like this anymore. “Help me, Jamie,” I said, fighting back tears.

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“Well, T…I never told you this, but after you helped me beat cancer, I prayed that when you were ready God would let me help you lose weight.”

If anyone could help me it was Jamie. She was strong, disciplined, motivated. Everything I wasn’t. At just 26 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. David and I took turns driving her to doctor’s appointments, running errands, watching their two kids. Not that Jamie dialed back any. She kept working full-time, volunteering at church. She even took up running and often jogged after chemo treatments. I’d tell her not to do so much. “I’m going to keep living my life,” she’d say. When Jamie went into remission it felt like the three of us—she, David and I—had beat cancer together, as a team. To celebrate, she ran the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Two years ago, the cancer came back. After six weeks of grueling radiation, Jamie went into remission again.

“Jamie, you beat a life-threatening disease,” I said now. “This isn’t the same.”

Hello, T! Obesity is life-threatening!

We’re going to tackle it one step at a time. Each Sunday I’ll give you a new goal for the week. Sound good?”

I had all kinds of doubts but I knew better than to argue with Jamie. “I’m in,” I said, almost as if I were surrendering.

Sunday evening Jamie called me at work. “Here we go! Goal one: Weigh yourself every Monday,” she said. “It’ll keep you accountable. No more denial.”

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The next day one of my coworkers put me on the scale. She pushed the metal bar to the 350-pound limit. It didn’t balance. My mouth fell open. She took me to the bariatric scale, wide enough to roll a wheelchair onto. The digital readout showed 399. Almost 400 pounds! I called Jamie in tears. “I’ll never lose this weight!” I cried.

“That number will go down,” Jamie said firmly. “Give yourself a chance.”

Then David got on the line. “We believe in you, T. Take down your walls and let God back in. He wants to help you.”

I’d expected my sister to stand by me, but David’s support gave me a boost. And truth was, I missed having God in my life. I started with a prayer before bed each night: Lord, give me strength to get healthy so I can live my best life for you.

The second week, Jamie gave me a new goal: “Don’t eat after dinner and avoid drinks with calories.”

“But I usually drink a soda and…”

“No, T,” Jamie said, cutting me off.

Later in the hospital cafeteria, I looked longingly at a can of Coke. But I bought a diet cola instead. Before I clocked out, Jamie called again. I told her what I’d done. “Awesome!” she said. “Now go home and go right to bed.”