Roberta Messner shares how she lost almost 100 pounds--and kept the weight off!
How did it ever come to this? I wondered aloud. I’m 55 years old and shopping for a scooter to help me get around! I was distraught by how I’d let my joints get so bad, carrying all of this extra weight, but I knew I needed that scooter, so I swallowed my despair and ordered a red one. Might as well have one that matches my nails and purse, I decided.
That’s when my doctor remarked that if I lost some weight I might be able to avoid that scooter. But I needed to lose nearly a hundred pounds. I’d tried every crash diet and none of them seemed to work—not for long, anyway. And I really never lost that much weight on any of them.
I mentioned this to my sister-in-law Ellen and she insisted that if I was really serious about this weight loss thing, she would be my cheerleader. Ellen has incredible energy and passion so, embarrassed as I was, I decided to take her up on it. My progress was slow-I only lost 45 pounds in the first year-but I lost an amazing 94 pounds by the end of the second year. Here are some of Ellen’s favorite tips that helped me keep the weight off for good:
1) When starting out, change only one habit at a time. After reviewing my habits, Ellen remarked that it was when I was eating that was more of a problem than the amount of food I consumed. So the first habit I changed was not eating anything after 6 p.m. Three weeks later, I had lost three whole pounds! I couldn’t believe it.
2) Be patient and appreciate small changes. Starting small was the answer for me. I've seen people who go on radical diets and might lose 5 pounds in one week, not three pounds in 3 weeks. Don't let slow weight loss discourage you. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, changing your habits for the long haul makes a difference. So be patient and stick to your plan. (It’s amazing to contemplate, but eliminating only one can of pop a day can result in a 25 pound weight loss in a year.)
3) When weight loss stops, change another habit. When I hit a standstill, Ellen had me replace my two daily soda pops (260 calories each or 520 calories) with bottles of water and cut down on bread. (I’d eat my evening grilled cheese sandwich with only one slice.) In a week, I’d lost another pound. Then another and another. My blood pressure dropped 20 points and I was down a dress size by the end of a month, my joints weren’t so sore, and I was moving more. This was incredible for me. I followed these habit changes again until I stopped losing. Then I added a new habit change. I didn't give up on the old change, I just added another one. This time I swapped yogurt for a candy bar until once more I didn’t see the numbers change on the scales. Ellen promised that sooner or later, the weight would come off because I was consuming fewer calories, eating the right things, and walking more. It was simple science.
4) Toss out your fat clothes for good. As I saw those numbers change, I got rid of elastic-waist slacks and too-loose skirts and replaced them with chic clothes from the consignment store in town. As I lost, I kept trading up, or should I say down. I discovered another fabulous life strategy: Shop the bargains at consignment stores to put your wallet on a diet too. Many of their offerings are new or nearly new.
5) Eat what you want--in small amounts. I didn’t deprive myself of anything while on Ellen’s plan. If I was at a birthday party, I allowed myself a few bites of cake. That kept me from feeling different from the people around me, which had plagued me on other crash diet plans.
6) Journal your intake. This made me more accountable and helped me to understand food and drink issues that were interfering with my success at weight loss.
7) Find an exercise you love. I couldn’t exercise in the beginning because of mobility issues, but after I’d lost 20 pounds, I discovered my back pain was less of an issue. So I phased in walking, an activity I enjoy that also sparks my creativity, as a writer.
8) Engage a weight loss buddy. At work, Rita was trying to shed a few pounds too. Whenever I’d hit a plateau, the two of us kept each other encouraged in the heat of the workday. We also shared healthy food choices when eating out.
9) Substitute fruit for fruit juice and stock up on low-calorie favorites Apples and oranges have more fiber than their juice counterparts and increase your feeling of fullness too. If you've got low-calorie snacks you like at home, this will keep you from going out to eat for snacks which contained more sugar and fat. By doing this, I also decreased my bread consumption by 75%.
10) Use a smaller plate. I love antique red transferware so I used a red transferware dessert plate for meals instead of a standard plate. I found I ate much less and enjoyed the experience of eating much more.
Eight years later, I’m down more than 90 pounds. And that scooter? Mysteriously, it never arrived. The medical equipment store says my order somehow got canceled. I say God intervened so I would experience Ellen’s painless, life-changing plan.