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Name: Michelle Howard
Before Weight: 297 pounds
How I Gained It: I gained weight through lack of exercise and an extremely poor diet with tons of soda and fast food. I would eat Little Debbies or mini candy bars every night. If dinner was not from a fast-food or pizza place, it was highly processed. Before my first child was born in 1996, I weighed 144 pounds. After delivery, I weighed 220 pounds. I chalked it up to "part of having a kid." Life went on, and I started the ups and downs of weight loss. I got back down to 180 and was fairly happy with myself. In 2004, Baby No. 2 came along, and I went right back to 220 pounds. By that time, I was involved with a very controlling spouse who feared that if I lost weight I would leave him, so I stayed very heavy through our whole relationship. In 2010, that relationship ended, and I toyed with the weight-loss idea. I joined Curves and started watching my calories. I even tried the Atkins Diet. Then, on Thanksgiving 2010, I had a gallbladder attack and wound up needing surgery. My pre-op weight was 297 pounds! I was in shock.
I felt miserable. I always felt as if I were less of a person because I was so large. In crowded areas, I always felt that someone was looking at me or making fun of me. That kept me from trying new things. Looking at my vacation pictures from the beach and Dollywood in 2011, I couldn't believe that it was really me. The photos were horrible, but I just hid them instead of doing anything about my weight. When my XXL scrubs didn't fit comfortably anymore and I had to buy a size XXXL, I felt horrible. But after a week or so, I just put it in the back of my head.
Breaking Point: My biggest "ah-ha moment" was Thanksgiving 2011 while hiking in the mountains. I got so short-winded, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to make it back up the mountain that I just came down. It was very scary. As a registered nurse, I see how poor lifestyles affect people every day, and I did not want to wind up like most of my patients. And as a mother of children who were heading in the same direction, I felt I owed it to them to get healthy and teach them to be healthy as well.
How I Lost It: After the hiking incident, I joined a gym that is owned by the hospital that I work for. They offer a huge discount on personal training to employees as well as membership reimbursement as long as you attend the gym 10 times per month for 12 months. I figured I had nothing to lose. I met with my trainer two weeks after joining and started working out with her twice a week. She led me in the right direction as to what to eat and how to incorporate exercise into my life. After two months, I finally got up enough courage to try an aerobic weight-training class. I liked it, and began incorporating that into my routine. Then, I tried Zumba and loved it. I gradually kept trying new classes and new exercises with my trainer.
My trainer told me about SparkPeople.com, and from that day on, I have been very active on the site. My favorite thing is the nutrition tracker. I was so shocked at first by how truly bad my diet was, and how some of the so-called "good for you" foods weren't really that healthy after all. I just recently added running to my routine, thanks to the SparkPeople Trick or Treat Trot Virtual 5K training program.
Out of curiosity I plugged a sample of what I used to eat into SparkPeople's nutrition tracker. I was sometimes eating 3,500 calories per day! When I first began my journey, I cut out the fast food and sodas. I drank nothing but water. A month or so later I switched from regular white breads and pastas to whole wheat and started adding more fresh veggies into my diet. I started adding more lean proteins into my diet and got some really delicious recipes from Spark Recipes so that I could change it up often. I also made sure I was eating every four to five hours. About three months ago I read a book by Dr. William Davis called "Wheat Belly," and since then have cut out all wheat from my diet. I make my own breads from flaxseed and eat cauliflower in place of potatoes. I still eat three main meals each day and snack once or twice through out the day.
I feel so much better now, and I have a lot more self-confidence. I can take the stairs without practically dying! I don't get short of breath anymore! My low back pain is gone. My newfound healthy lifestyle has also paid off for my children. My oldest has lost 64 pounds and my "baby" has maintained without gaining. They both love being active with me!
After Weight: 177 pounds
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