A healthy lifestyle starts by changing behavior
Many weight loss stories out there closely resemble fairy tales. The star reaches their weight loss goal and then the credits roll. Sure, the “happily ever after” is fun to read about. It may even motivate us for a few weeks.
But for many, the weight loss fairy tale can turn into a recurring nightmare.
Cathy Landin’s story began like most. She struggled with her weight all her life, tried multiple diets without long-term success, then found something that worked. But Cathy’s story was not all rainbows and butterflies.
Cathy was overweight as a child and struggled with obesity as an adult. Her diet consisted of junk food, sodas and sweets, and she went out for almost every meal. She rarely exercised and was constantly sleep deprived. Year after year her weight crept up.
At the age of 25, Cathy joined Weight Watchers and lost 100 pounds. But she went back to her old habits, and the weight returned. Cathy rejoined Weight Watchers and shed weight again. But the old habits resurfaced again.
At 35, she weighed 230 pounds.
Just five years later, Cathy was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
“After I was diagnosed, I stopped going to the doctor altogether. I’m terrified of needles, so I refused to take insulin. I knew I was in poor health but I didn’t want to hear what the doctors had to tell me,” Cathy said. Instead, Cathy enrolled in Weight Watchers for the third time. Again, the struggle continued.
By her late fifties, Cathy noticed her vision was declining. She wandered into an optometrist office at a local shopping center to get a professional opinion. The optometrist examined Cathy’s eyes and immediately advised she see her primary care doctor. It was evident there was serious damage occurring.
“I’m usually laid back, but this was important to me. I advocated for myself for the first time in my life,” Cathy said.
Cathy went to her doctor for the first time in four years. She concluded her uncontrolled diabetes was damaging her eyesight. She put Cathy on insulin, scheduled appointments with everyone from an eye specialist to a dentist, and arranged for Cathy to attend diabetes education over the next several weeks.
“She took good care of me and made sure I had everything I needed to get better. She said I wasn’t allowed to leave until all my appointments were made. I had a lot of catching up to do,” Cathy said.
Cathy’s eye damage was a wake-up call. She wanted to take better care of herself, and she was willing to make the effort. She injected herself with insulin once a day, took her diabetes and cholesterol medications, attended diabetes education, followed the meal plan to the letter and added several Jazzercise classes each week.
Cathy lost weight consistently and was feeling better and better. But her weight had plateaued, and she wanted to get off insulin. She asked her doctor if she could take the diabetes class again, even if she had to pay for it herself.
“I’m usually laid back, but this was important to me,” Cathy said. “I advocated for myself for the first time in my life.”
The doctor knew just what she needed — a dietitian.
Cathy met with Julie Smith, RD, an outpatient dietitian on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, and explained her situation. She told Julie about her two jobs, her extreme dislike for cooking, and anything else that stood between her and her goals. Julie and Cathy worked together to come up with a plan.
“I learned that I didn’t have to give up my favorite Mexican restaurant in order to reach my goals. I could keep going multiple times a week and still see results. I just needed to make smart choices,” Cathy said.
Cathy started keeping a food diary and recorded what she ate each day. It helped her cut back on mindless snacking and huge portions, and it taught her the value of mindful eating.
In addition, better sleep played a big part in Cathy’s health journey.
She used to stay up until midnight or later, rarely getting more than five hours of sleep at night. She forced herself to stay awake in the evenings when she had things to do. She relied on a steady stream of coffee at work to make it through the day. Her fatigue meant it took longer to accomplish tasks, which created a perpetuating cycle of poor sleep, inefficiency, long hours and more coffee.
“Now I honor my tiredness,” Cathy said. “If I have a lot to do but I’m sleepy at 10 p.m., I go to bed and just set my alarm a little earlier the next day. When I feel rested the following morning, I can get everything done more efficiently.”
“I used to dread working out, but I found exercises that I really enjoy, such as Jazzercise and spin,” Cathy said. “The music and lights and instructors make spin class fun — now I look forward to my workouts!”
It’s evident that Cathy made many changes, and those little changes added up to a lot of success. Cathy got down to a healthy weight, got off insulin, and learned to appreciate a healthier lifestyle. But she didn’t make all of those changes overnight.
“Don’t set deadlines — weight loss for a wedding, a birthday, a trip,” Cathy said. “Setting goals are good but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Take it one little challenge at a time and build upon each success.”
While Cathy has had many victories, it wasn’t a smooth race.
“Your weight fluctuates. Life fluctuates. Don’t beat yourself up about it — it happens to all of us! Learn to enjoy every step along the way,” Cathy said.
Cathy hopes her hard work and enthusiasm overflows into the lives around her. She doesn’t want her story to end on herself.
“We should all want to inspire each other. We should share our struggles and obstacles and share advice to overcome them,” Cathy said.
Cathy’s lifestyle changes have not brought the fairy tale ending promised by fad diets. Even better. Her story is a series of little victories and new experiences, of hope and excitement.
The very best part? Her story isn’t over.
Information in this blog post was contributed by Taylor Stolt, Morgan Pettyjohn and Jordan Michaud, dietetic interns at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.
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