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Salute to Success ~ October 2012


         Boo!  Oops! Did I scare you?  Well, it's a scary month!  Welcome to October.  This month, I want to introduce you to Carrie.  Carrie is one of my clubhouse members and she has been very busy scaring away the pounds.  Here is her story in her own words...

         "Back when I was 18, I came across Richard Simmons' book Never Give Up, and read it cover to cover. For those who haven't read it, it's a book full of stories from his "Cinderellas"--people who transformed their bodies and their lives by getting healthy. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would become one of his Cinderellas, almost 17 years later.

     I grew up being pretty active--back in those days parents made you go outside and schools had recess. So I climbed a lot of trees, swung on monkey bars and swam at the beach. So as a kid I stayed skinny except for the usual baby fat. But even back then, I had a little problem with pigging out on food. Donuts at church, cookies at Grandma's, crawfish boils (we lived in Louisiana during part of my childhood).

     Then...I started gaining weight in my teens. 15 pounds one year, 10 the next. My parents got worried and took me to the doctor to have my thyroid tested. It was normal. So I'm not sure what happened--if teenage hormones kicked in, or genetics, or what. I don't know. We went to the gym, and ate pretty healthy at home. Still I spent quite a few years stuck in a deep depression. At 16, I chickened out of a suicide attempt--and at 17, I chickened out of another. Without school and without God, I'd probably be dead right now.

     During the Christmas holidays in 1995, I was in a funk. I'm not sure what compelled me to write Richard, but I remember being depressed with my body. This even showed in photos--I did not look happy. So I poured out my heart to him in a letter. At the same time, I ordered a kit from him. He wrote me back the sweetest letter--I still have it to this day! He encouraged me, and I was off to a good start. I followed Deal-A-Meal and worked out to Disco Sweat. Mom would watch me exercise because I did it with such "gusto". She'd never seen me that enthusiastic during a workout. For awhile, my weight came down, and I shared this with Richard. He sent me an autograph with a handwritten note on it--he was so excited for me.

     After a few months, I lost my enthusiasm and shortly after that, I went away to college. The cafeteria--oh my goodness! There were so many different foods, and I forgot all about eating healthy at that point. I used the gym, but my weight crept back up and I had stopped writing Richard. I became addicted to Coca-Cola for awhile. My depression came back and I lost focus in school. I dropped out twice and never finished. I left home and got a job working in assisted living. For a few years I worked the night shift, and my weight slowly ballooned to 227 pounds. At that point, I could barely do anything. At 5 feet tall, that's a lot of extra weight. Then in 2005, I moved to day shift, and was suddenly much more active. I also moved to a house with a steep set of stairs! Over the next few years, the weight slid down.

     In 2008, something big happened--my sister had found our birth father. We hadn't seen or heard from him since we were kids. (I have four siblings--three from Mom's second marriage). We reconnected with him, and it was bittersweet because he was in poor health by that time. He'd had a stroke, as well as other medical problems. But we had 18 months with him. During this time I kept losing weight, this time with help from the Blood Type Diet (I ate largely vegetarian), and I started dating again after a long dry spell. I felt more energetic than I had in ages. Then......our birth dad had a massive stroke and died a few weeks later. The day my aunt called to give me the news, she told me this: "You and your sister have to watch for high blood pressure and diabetes now." I didn't forget those words, but I stopped caring for awhile. Every day for months I ate cereal and TV dinners, and threw myself into my work.

     Even after the sadness began to lift, I had stopped caring about my weight. I took home a lot fried chicken from the store, and went through gallons of milk. The weight crept up, and I wasn't thrilled about it. My energy levels went down, to the point where I wondered if I would someday have to work a less active job. I work on my feet all day, so I can't afford to be tired. But I felt more and more sluggish at work and at home.

     Last winter, I was pretty content with my weight. I figured that people could take me for who I am, or not at all. I had made peace with my weight--or so I thought. One day at work, I was sitting with a coworker eating lunch, and she made some comments about my weight. I was shocked by how much she thought I weighed--did I really look like I was pushing 300 pounds?! That got me thinking, and when I got home, I remembered Richard's letter. I pulled it out and read it. He had asked me to keep in touch with him, and my heart sank. I had not done this--for 16 years. At this point I figured he'd probably forgotten me, but I wrote him a long-overdue update anyway. I found out he had a Clubhouse, and joined on a whim--I wanted to be in closer touch with him. The minute I entered the Clubhouse, I could tell this was going to be a fun bunch of people--there was a cruise picture! My great-grandmother used to love cruises. I decided to give the CH three months, and started trying to eat healthy again.     

     Well....I ended up staying and making some really nice friends there. They have helped me any time I need encouragement, support, or a good push. I also write Richard once a week, at least. After learning that he worries when people don't write him, I felt terrible for abandoning him all those years. (Sorry, Richard!) I promised him, and myself, to never give up--so no turning back now! There were times in the beginning when I wondered, "What have I gotten myself into?" as I changed my eating habits and started working out. But nearly 50 pounds later, it is finally paying off. I have gone from 210 pounds down to almost 163. I am down nearly three dress sizes. My energy levels at work have gone up, and I'm zipping around now! Everyone has noticed me getting smaller, and some of my coworkers are also trying to get healthier. And after 5 years of avoiding check-ups, I went to the doctor for a physical. The results were excellent!

     This time around, I'm doing things differently. For one, I have much more support, so if I start to slip, others are there to help me get back up on the horse. (It's very hard to stay the course if others around you don't care about your goals.) If I get bored with exercise or food, it's time to change things up. If I'm stumped by a problem, Richard or the other members in the Clubhouse have ideas. My apartment now has a nice dining room set up so I can train myself to eat with a knife and fork. After many trips to Goodwill, I now have more room to exercise, and the kitchen's easier to use. As I shed weight, I found myself shedding apartment clutter too. Richard told me I was body cleaning and housecleaning at the same time! One major thing I have learned this year is to respect my body--it's been a slow lesson, and I am still learning.

     I'm not at my goal weight yet--my eye is on 125 pounds. So, 38 pounds to go. But I know by this time next year it will be gone. Not sure what to expect then! LOL  Maybe I'll take up Irish dancing, go back to school, date, who knows. I do know that one day soon, I want to go to Slimmons. Every time I hear about what it's like over there, I want to hop on a plane so bad I can taste it!!

     What would I tell someone starting out? Be kind to yourself. This is a lot of change you're introducing to your life. Don't expect to exercise daily and plan your meals perfectly, from the starting gate. I've been at this for 7 months now....and I still struggle! I try to plan a day ahead, rather than a week--and I've used a dry erase board for this, like a sports coach drawing their strategy! I have food ruts, but they're healthy ones--and I keep the pantry and fridge stocked for those. Journaling is important. I'm not great at this, either, but I've found that it's much easier to know how you're really doing if you don't try to keep it all between your ears.

     The important thing is that you're trying, and you're making progress. And find support!!! For me, Richard and my friends in the Clubhouse have been crucial to helping me stay focused. Another group might work better for you, but you do need support. Author and career/life coach Barbara Sher often states, "Isolation is a dream killer." This is true! She emphasizes the need for accountability, structure and support in reaching your goals. Those things are true for ANY dream. There will come a time when you don't feel like doing it anymore--that's when you really need to reach out! (If you write Richard or post in the Clubhouse, don't stop writing just because your motivation's gone. Don't worry, Richard doesn't bite! At least, I don't think he does.....)

     One more thing....don't be afraid to shine. If there's one thing Richard has done for's that he makes me feel beautiful. And he won't let me hide in a corner, either! When you're losing weight, you can only hide for so long before people notice. Often. That's something I'm learning to get used to. Richard asked me what's wrong with being the center of attention. LOL So you may as well come out and take your place in the world. Thanks to Richard, I'm learning to find mine."

Carrie, thank you so much for sharing your story.   Keep going strong and you'll have that last 38 pounds off in no time!