Work in Progress, Sally Vol 1: I feel like my body is a complete stranger

Welcome to the second installment of the Works in Progress series.  This series is about people who are just starting off on their weight loss journey.  Meet Sally.  After gaining some weight over the years she began to feel as though her body turned into a stranger.  Now she’s ready to get reacquainted and already 10 pounds towards that goal.  If you relate to her story, make a comment.  And let’s cheer her on!

Name:  Sally

Age:  49

How much do you weigh now?  182 pounds

How tall are you?  5’5″

How much weight do you want to lose? I started my weight loss program wanting to lose approximately 40 pounds.

WHY do you want to lose this much weight? I feel my best, physically and mentally, when I weigh about 150-155 pounds. I’m able to do the activities that I want to do, I suffer from few aches and pains, and I have little to no chronic health issues when I’m there. This tells me that my body prefers that place.

How would you feel if you lost half this amount but kept it off forever? I’d feel better than I do now, but still be concerned about the extra weight I’m carrying and the effects that has on my blood pressure, joints, etc.

WHY do you want to lose weight at all?  Over the past couple of years, I’ve watched my weight slowly creep up despite maintaining a regular exercise schedule. The past nine months, I suffered some health issues that sidelined me almost completely. During those months, I gained almost 20 pounds – a pretty shocking thing to watch. I’d never been ill before, and that, combined with closing in on 50 and the effects of that on metabolism and exercise, left me really feeling like my body was a complete stranger to me. This was really disconcerting, not to mention depressing. I want to feel like myself again and being in a body that feels more familiar is a start. Losing weight to be back to my “normal” weight is the goal.

On a scale from 0 (no confidence at all) to 10 (extremely confident), how confident are you that you can lose the weight?  7

On a scale from 0 (not at all difficult) to 10 (extremely difficult), how difficult will it be to lose this weight? 7

What motivates you the most? I rely most upon my past experience and knowledge of what it feels like when I’m healthy, but I’m finding a lot of help (and fun) in using tools like, twitter, Nike+, to track my progress and connect with others.

How long do you think it will take you to lose this much weight?  6-9 months

If you have already started your journey, tell us a little about how things have been going so far. I decided about a month ago to get serious about the weight I’d gained, i.e. do something about it. I went for an annual doctor’s appointment and both my weight and blood pressure were registering numbers I’d never seen. Never imagined seeing. I left there feeling really disappointed in myself, really upset, and really frustrated. I went home, changed clothes, and went for an hour-long walk where I gave myself a good, mostly positive, talking to. I recognized that I’d slipped into some patterns that brought me to this place and I also accepted that at this time in my life, at age 49, it’s likely going to take a lot more effort to be in the shape that I want to be.

How much weight, if any, have you lost so far?  10 pounds

If you have tried to lose weight before and you either didn’t lose much or you gained it back, what went wrong?  In the past, whenever I’ve put on a few pounds, all I’ve ever had to do was up my exercise effort and/or time and it would come right off. I’ve never been skinny, but I maintained a healthy weight for most of my life – until the past couple of years.

What is the hardest part about losing weight for you?  Before I faced some health issues this past summer, I’d been taking note of how hard it had become for me to gain any stamina with exercise. I worry about this now, that it’s going to remain hard and that I know I’ll never be successful in getting to my goals if I can’t burn calories via working out.

Tell us about your diet.  What is the toughest part about dieting?  Portion control and desserts. Hands down. I’m lucky that I’m married to a health-conscious cook who does 90% or more of the cooking for us at home. If not, I’d be eating cereal and processed crap way too often. I can be very lazy in this department.

Tell us about your exercise.  I’m back to walking regularly and doing some exercises with body weight and resistance tubes. Light and easy to begin with. I tried running and spinning at the beginning of the year when I finally got the okay from my surgeon, but it took more effort than I had at the time. I had to face the fact that I was in a pretty unconditioned state and accept that walking will be just fine for me for now, or at least until I lose some weight and get some endurance and strength back.

Tell me about your relationship with exercise? Love it, hate it, on again/off again?  I have always loved exercise. I was an athlete in high school and into college, before the discipline of it all gave way for me. Still, I’ve always loved sports – participating and following them. My interest peaked when I decided to return to school as an adult, earn a second undergraduate and then another graduate degree in exercise physiology. I’m fascinated by how the body reacts and adapts to exercise. That said, too much knowledge can sometimes prove hard for me, for example when I can’t figure out why some things don’t work like they used to. I’m having trouble with the aging process, particularly middle age and women and the affects it has on our bodies.

Who has been helpful to you on your weight loss journey?  I have a very supportive spouse who helps in any way I need when it comes to eating healthy and exercising. I’m also finding a great online community – not large (because I don’t like large), but enough people to offer support and encouragement via tweets or comments.

What part of the whole process do you need the most help with most? Sticking with it. Not getting discouraged because it’s not as easy as it once was.

What questions would you like to ask to people who have lost the weight and kept it off? I’m always curious to hear the stories of how people make permanent, per se, behavioral changes in their lives. I did it myself in terms of alcohol, i.e. I quit drinking almost 20 years ago now, yet even I sit and wonder sometimes why and/or how I was able to make that change, but not others in my life. It’s interesting.

I posed this question to Mike Bauman @mbfgmike Real Life Biggest Loser, who said:   “Time… you have to force yourself to stick with it in the beginning, but in time you will see the results, and you start to feel better. This will drive you to stay with it and then it seems like a switch is turned on and you are doing it because you want to and it becomes a part of who you are.  Personally it seemed like I started to become addicted to the things that were making me look and feel better, it took a while but the switch was flipped.”

What questions would you like to ask me?  Why do you think changes stick sometimes and other times don’t? In all of your experience with patients and/or clients, what do you see in terms of temperament, characteristics, personalities, etc. that make things click for people? I’m really curious about what makes that shift happen in people, from knowledge to action.

The one common denominator I see in people who are successful in weight loss (and this is certainly true of the Real Life Biggest Losers as well) is that living a healthy lifestyle becomes a part of their identity–who they are. They spend a great deal of time and focus on it, and if you spent time with them or even walked through their home you would notice this about them.  Think of it like this.  Have you ever met someone who loved playing a musical instrument?  Not for their work necessarily but as a favorite past time.  They talk about it.  If you go into their home, you see instruments and other objects having to do with music around their house.  They might even have a room devoted to music.  Pictures of instruments or of them in a band (like your pic!) are around. Music is playing.  You can just tell that music is a big part of who they are.  People who lose a lot of weight embrace health and fitness in the same way. It becomes part of who they are, not just an annoying thing they are dragging themselves through.  I think what it comes down to is passion.  Are you passionate about being healthy?  Or just lukewarm?  Passion isn’t a “you have it or you don’t” kind of thing though.  The musician wasn’t passionate at her first lesson.  Maybe not even in her first year of lessons.  It takes some time, practice, and a lot of swearing (!).  If you feel like you are lacking the passion right now, fake it until you make it.  Lead with your feet.  Act with passion and you will start a fire. You must keep going.

If we want to follow your journey, how do we find you? You can reach me on Twitter at @mandosally, Facebook, (mandosally), and via email – either or

Be sure to follow Sally’s journey (and love of music!) on Twitter. 

Sally lives in Worcester, Massachusetts and works as a librarian at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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  1. Sheila says:

    Sally! We are the same height and same weight and very very close to the same age. You look so much thinner than I do in your pictures! This helped motivate me. Perhaps we’ll both be thinner when we meet again in Seattle. Sending good karma and strength and health during your process!

  2. Susan Bakke says:

    Go Sally..You can do it…I have all the confidence in you!!!

  3. mbfgmike says:

    Awesome interview Sally! I’m Grateful we are Myfitnesspal buddies to help keep one another on track!

  4. mandosally says:

    I stepped on the scale this morning and saw a number in the 170s for the first time in a really long time. It felt great! Thanks to everyone for the support.

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