During the Christmas season, my mind wanders to my mom, Patti. In 1996, she got the worst news of her life. She had cancer, and there was nothing anyone could do for her. She was given three to six months, but she told the doctors she would survive longer because she wanted to make it to Christmas. Seven months later, at 7 a.m. on Christmas morning, she passed away. My mom struggled with obesity her whole adult life, and on her death bed she called me to her and made me promise I would start doing something about my weight and not wait until it was too late like she had. Of course, I made my promise to her, and I meant it.
But that was twenty years ago, and recently on the Weight Watchers scale, the number staring back at me was the largest number I had ever seen. Before this, the most I had ever weighed was 306 pounds. This day, the number staring back at me was 330. I was devastated. I went in my car and cried, actually sobbed. It was time to do something—but what? How? It was all overwhelming. As I was thinking about writing this, I was thinking about what led me to where I am today and what am I going to do about getting out of this trench.
When I was seven years old, I was delivered a blow no child should ever have to endure. I first found out I was going to be a big sister, and then five days after my sister was born, she passed away. I didn’t understand at all what was happening. I didn’t understand why my sister was in the coffin and why she had to go to heaven. I wanted her here. I didn’t like seeing my parents upset, my mom crying. I grieved alone because I didn’t want to make her more sad. Don’t get me wrong—my parents talked to me about it, we cried together, and they did everything they could to help me. But there were three of us kids, and I just didn’t want to bother my parents on those days I was sad. These are the first moments in my life I learned to hold my feelings in or deal with them alone.
Fast forward to age ten. There was an event in my life that confused, scared, and devastated me. I didn’t know how to process it, and I lived in a house where we didn’t really talk about things as a family. There was no talking, praying together, helping, or getting counseling. It was just, "Please don’t tell anyone. You didn’t tell anyone, did you?" So I didn’t. When I asked questions or wanted to talk about it, I was told, “We don’t talk about it.” This was a turning point in my family’s life, too. Before, when my sister died, they tried to help me through it. This time, I was left on my own. Not because my parents didn’t care but because they were trying to navigate this current situation in their own way. This was when I started holding everything in and not talking about anything to anybody.
In high school, I was bullied a lot. I tried to get help for it from my teachers and the school, but I was told, “Kids will be kids. Don’t be so sensitive.” This is something I have been told my whole life. My self-esteem took a turn for the worse, and I continued to keep my hurt to myself. Instead, I turned to the one thing that didn’t hurt me, didn't tell me not to talk about things, didn't bully me. I became good friends with food, and that is when my bad habits started to creep up on me—and with it, my weight.
I got married at age twenty and was on my own with my own family. I was going back to school and working and not making time for a healthy lifestyle—my weight continued to go up. And then I got the devastating news of my mom having cancer and passing away. I don’t remember much about that time, but what I do remember is that a month after she died, I got pregnant with my daughter. I don’t remember much about my pregnancy, either, because I was still in shock from my mom’s passing. I was trying to grieve and take care of my baby. Again, I shoved my feelings down, focused on the baby, and tried the “fake it until you make it” approach.
But "making it" was not going to happen soon. My daughter was born, and I kept her near me as I didn’t want anything to happen to her. I was very depressed, but still pushing down and not dealing with my mom’s death because my daughter needed a happy mommy, right? I gained a ton of weight during her pregnancy, and it kept going up after she was born. Right before her first birthday, in 1998, I found out I was pregnant with my son. Now I had my second baby to take care of and a toddler. My weight really crept up during his pregnancy, and after he was born, I hit my then-highest weight, 306 pounds.
It took until 2008, twelve years after I promised my mom I would take care of myself, to actually realize I had a huge problem—and to realize I needed help to overcome it. I found a personal trainer, a counselor, and continued going to Weight Watchers, the program I found worked the best for me. I knew how to eat right. I knew how to exercise, yet I was still not seeing results. This time I added the mental aspect, and with the help of my counselor I started talking about all the things I had held in for years. From 2008 until 2010, I started seeing changes—physically, mentally and spiritually—and by October 2010, I had lost 106 pounds. I was ecstatic, but just as I was excited about becoming a big sister, this too would be snatched from me. That same month, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and found out I would be moving across the country after living in the same area for more than twenty years.
I was put on medicine that quickly made me gain forty pounds, and I was forced into a diet where I couldn’t eat anything with a fiber content of more than two grams—so as quickly as I lost the weight, I started gaining it back. On top of that, we moved to New England early the next year, and I was alone, with no support system or friends. I had to do something.
Reaching Up for Help
In 2012, I went for a walk and saw a sign for personal training. I found a Weight Watchers group and continued sessions with my counselor from Illinois, but a lot has happened since then. I have had success with weight loss, followed by injuries where I couldn’t work out. I had to stop counseling because I couldn’t afford it anymore. I had family situations that took precedence over my own care, and this past year, 2016, was one of the hardest years of my life.
Food was again what I turned to—my old standby when I get stressed. The one friend that never questions me, judges me, or hurts my feelings. A few weeks ago I stood on that scale at Weight Watchers and realized I am at a new "heaviest ever," 330 pounds.
I am back in the trench, reaching up for help. I have a personal trainer, Justin, who has never given up on me. My Weight Watcher leader, Heidi, is wonderful and is there for me, and I will be starting sessions again with the same counselor I’ve had for years, James. One thing that I love about James is that he always points me back to God and emphasizes that God wants to help me, so I don’t hurt anymore. God wants to fill that void in my life. Even though, in the moment, food feels like it fills a need, it only makes things worse the more I gain.
This year I am going to be concentrating, first and foremost, on my relationship with God and with the people He has put in my path. I know I will be lifted out of this trench once and for all. My mom was only 53 when she passed away, and when I turned 43 this year, I realized this is it. I cannot keep trying to do this alone. I need to trust God and know that He will see me through these hard times. I will not allow another year to go by where I stay stuck. Isaiah 43:18-19 are my Bible verses for 2017. I cannot live in the past anymore. I’m ready to have God do a new thing in my life, and I wish that for you in this new year.