The words people use when they talk about change tell us a lot about how likely it is that change will happen. When we say things like, “I’ll try” “I think so” “I’m going to do my best” or “We’ll see what happens,” we entertain the possibility of failure. These statements reflect ambivalence. Uncertainty. Fence-sitting. If you want to change your life, you will never do it on a fence. Dive in or don’t. Meet Jen. Jen says “I know that I can live like this.” For that reason, my money is on Jen, the next Real Life Biggest Loser.
Name: Jen McElroy
Occupation: Self employed IT consultant
All time high weight: 382.4
Current weight and height: 5’5 (and 3/4″) / 220.6
Total weight loss: 161.8 so far!
How did you gain the weight? I’ve been overweight since I was a teenager. My mom took me to see a nutritionist when I was a freshman in high school – that’s the earliest I remember knowing I had a problem. I have a family history with weight problems so I just thought that was going to be my life and didn’t pay much attention to it. I tried to diet on my own but something would stop me and I never really got it together.
When did you begin your weight loss journey? July 2010
How long have you kept the weight off? Still working on it!!
What motivated you to lose weight? Did you have an A-HA moment? We were in the car on the way back from a weekend away and I’m sure we spent the weekend eating like we’ve never had a meal before. On the drive home my friend called me and told me that she and her daughter were joining Weight Watchers and wanted to know if I wanted to join. We’d make a little club and go to meetings and stuff together. I immediately said yes.
What I love about this Ah-Ha Moment is that it is a quiet one. Nothing slammed you over the head, nothing major happened. I think we are often waiting for an earthquake to tell us to change our lives, but while we are waiting for the earthquake we might miss the small signs that say it’s time.
To what extent had your weight affected your physical health? Always being overweight has been an issue – first with asthma, then I had two abdominal surgeries (not related to weight) which were difficult because of the weight. Other than that I wasn’t able to really move around that much. About two months before I joined Weight Watchers we took a road trip to Michigan to see an outdoor art exhibit and I had to stop and sit down to rest while we were viewing it. I was so embarrassed.
How did you lose the weight? Tell us about your diet and exercise regimen. When I started Weight Watchers I was just following the food tracking part of the program and for the first 6 months or so I didn’t even add activity in – just watched what I ate and lost a lot of weight. Then one day my sister called me and told me about this 5K and asked me if I wanted to do it together. While still on the phone with her I went to the website and signed up for the race so I couldn’t back out. Then I started slowly on the treadmill and worked my way up to an hour at 2.5-3mph. I did my first race in May 2010 and finished in 57:41. I was exhausted but so proud of myself and I couldn’t wait to find another race to do! In 2010 I did 4 more 5Ks, a 9K and a 10K!
Who was the most influential person/people to you during the process of losing weight? Obviously, my friend for asking me to start this journey. I also give a lot of credit to my husband because he is so supportive of me doing this and has even lost weight himself and started playing ice hockey! Finally my sister because she really motivated me to add activity in which has really helped me lose more weight.
Have you ever lost weight and then gained it back? If so, how was this time different? Oh yes, many times! This time I’ve come so much farther than any of the other times. I’ve lost more weight than any other time. I finally know that I can do this and it won’t require surgery or a magical pill for me to lose weight. I know that I can live like this. I also really just want this (being healthy) so much more than ever before.
It’s easy to let your diet drift or slowly stop exercising. What do you find to be the key to STICKING TO IT? I keep finding new races and since I’ve spent money on them I want to be ready for them. Over the winter I heard about virtual races (you do the race wherever you are, even on a treadmill, during a given time period so it’s like you’re still racing even if the weather is bad. This also kept me motivated to keep going so I’d be “race ready”!
Just starting off, losing weight is hard. Tell us, did it get easier or harder for you over time? It varied really. There are weeks where it seemed really easy and the scale was generous and there were weeks where it was hard and the scale was still generous. Then there are weeks where the scale was vindictive and registered a gain. That’s why I love the meetings so much because people there know how you feel and they are able to give you the encouragement to keep pushing through. Plus I’ve met some really great friends through this so we rely on each other between meetings for encouragement and advice.
What is the hardest part for you now? I sometimes lose the desire for exercise even though I know it’s so good for me. I really like to walk/run outside so when the weather is bad or the paths are icy I tend to “take a rest day”. I am looking forward to spring/summer when I won’t have that temptation.
If you could tell your former self anything, knowing what you know now, what would you say? You can do this. You can be the person that you want to be you just have to commit to make yourself healthy and it is worth it no matter how much it sucks in the beginning.
Do you worry about gaining weight back? How do you prevent yourself from gaining it back? I do, doesn’t everyone? I’m hoping that being active and continuing to watch what I eat will prevent any major weight fluctuations. However, I do think that this plan is very livable. I generally don’t crave anything because I can eat anything. Maybe not the portion size that I want but I can taste it to know how it was and then count the points. It really is just that easy.
Can you tell us how your participation in social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs (reading them and writing your own) has impacted your weight loss journey? It’s definitely kept me motivated. Reading about how active other people are and how well they eat reminds me that you can eat well and be healthy. Writing my own blog and putting that out on Facebook and Twitter keeps me engaged in it. You can’t slack much because people are waiting to hear about the next weigh-in. Plus the weeks when I have had a gain there was so much extra support to push through it. That is an incredible feeling to know that all those people are there to celebrate your successes as well as encourage you through failure.
What is different (if anything) about your life (and/or health) now that you have lost the weight? I can and want to be active! Plus being able to shop in retail stores instead of ordering clothes online (which I’ve done for 15+ years) is an amazing feeling.
Jen is an IT consultant and lives in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, IL with her husband and two dogs.
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