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Vennie Rae Anderson

Vennie Rae Anderson
Lost 93 Pounds!

Before: 238 lbs.
After: 145 lbs.
Lost: 93 lbs.

I was born and raised in a small town in southern Illinois. Aside from going through a "pudgy baby stage", I was pretty much "normal" sized during most of my childhood. I had loving parents, an intact home, and I did well in school. In fact, I was a "straight A" student, which probably accounts for some of my later compulsive behaviors. My parents were proud of me, and when I brought home all those good report cards, I was often rewarded with my favorite foods.


"If you don`t quit, you can`t fail!"

After a high school summer job in our local hospital, I decided I wanted to be a nurse. I eventually went to nursing school and became a registered nurse. I later went on to get my bachelor`s degree in nursing and a master`s degree in health education, so I had a lot of solid knowledge about nutrition and the negative effects of being overweight, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and so on. Knowledge deficit was never my problem, but just knowing what to do and what not to do isn`t good enough, as I found out for myself.

My battle to control my weight began after my daughter was born in 1968. I had trouble getting rid of the "baby weight," and for years I yo-yoed, trying various diets, liquid meals, prescription diet pills, etc. My weight went up and down, but mostly it went UP!

Being stuck in a bad marriage sure didn`t help. My first husband, who had been my high school sweetheart, had become an alcoholic. When he was drinking (which was a lot of the time), life was scary. There was a period when he propped a shotgun up in a corner of our bedroom, told me it was loaded, and said if I ever tried to leave him, he`d kill all three of us, meaning me, our daughter and himself. I didn`t know whether or not to believe him, but I was terrified to touch the gun and too frightened to take a chance. So I kept quiet, told no one... and kept eating!

The time came when I realized I had to end this toxic relationship. I went for counseling and gathered up my courage to tell my husband he had to be the one to leave. He did, and we divorced in 1976. There I was with an 8-year-old to raise and on my own for the first time in my life! I worked two jobs and went back to school. Lots of nights, my daughter and I would study side by side at our kitchen table. I was busy, but I did manage to get my weight under control, mostly by walking and jogging, along with yet another round of prescription diet pills.

After ten years of being a single mom, I met and married my second husband in 1986. He was a great guy, and we were married for almost twelve years. I was very happy with my marriage, but I found myself in an extremely stressful job. I began to eat to deal with the stress, and my weight started to creep back up. I did the yo-yo thing again, and I began to have trouble with osteoarthritis, especially in my knees. By early 1997, I finally got my weight back down by using yet another round of prescription diet pills. While diet pills curbed my appetite, they did nothing to teach me how to eat properly for the long term, so I was not prepared to deal with really serious stress.

In early December of 1997, my husband missed his first day of work because he felt too ill to go. He had been complaining for a while of feeling tired, which didn`t strike me as unusual since he had been working long hours. But within a few days, we were in Barnes Hospital in St. Louis getting the devastating news that he had metastatic melanoma and had a very short time to live. That time was even shorter than the doctors first thought, and he was gone on December 23rd.

My world dropped out from under me, and I had no idea how to cope. I found myself turning to food for comfort. All the foods from my childhood, such as ice cream, spaghetti, pizza - anything that was warm and filling and fast and easy or sweet and creamy. I ate myself from 135 pounds to 238 pounds! Chances are it was over 240 pounds, but I sped weighing because I couldn`t stand to face the scales.

It took several years for me to get that big, and in the process, I did some really bad things to my body. My knees deteriorated to the point where I had to have both knee joints replaced, one in 1999 and the second one in 2002. I had developed osteoarthritis in my spine as well, and a crumbling vertebrae began pressing against my spinal cord, a condition known as "spinal stenosis." By the spring of 2000, I couldn`t sit, stand, or walk without pain, and the pain was steadily getting worse. I tried a pain clinic with no relief, and eventually had to have back surgery, which left me with six metal screws in my back. I was taking a lot of pain medicine along with medication for depression, which had been diagnosed several months after my husband died.

The back surgery signaled the end of my nursing career. I was so ill and depressed and in so much pain, that when the occupational health nurse suggested I consider disability retirement, I took it! In September of 2000 at the age of 55, I got my blue and white handicapped parking placard in the mail. When I opened it up and looked at it, I felt so depressed, I just sat there and cried. I felt as if I was just marking time, waiting to die, and in many ways, I was! I remember my daughter, Kim, telling me, "Mom, you`re too young to be like this," but I didn`t listen to her then. My mom, who was in her late 80`s and in relatively good health, tried to encourage me to lose weight, but I didn`t listen to her, either.

A few years later in August of 2004, my friend Rachel, who is my son-in-law`s mother, and I drove to Florida to visit our kids. Kim and Ron had lots of activities planned for Rachel and me to have a good time during our visit. But of course, Florida in August is hot and humid, and I was fat, hot, and absolutely miserable! I could barely breathe, and I had no stamina at all to do any of the things that were planned. I sat on the beach and watched while the others went scuba diving and snorkeling. I stayed at home and read a book when they went for a canoe trip, because I was afraid I`d tip the canoe over and humiliate myself even further. I was so embarrassed and sick of myself that something inside me just snapped!

After returning to Illinois, I did a lot of soul searching and realized that I had to make a decision. I could choose to live or choose to die. If I didn`t make changes in my life, I was headed for an early death. I decided I wasn`t ready to die just yet, so I chose to live! I knew that in order to lose weight, I would need to combine eating less food with moving my body more. A tough order, but I was determined to try!

I went shopping and bought dozens of frozen diet meals so I would have food on hand that was easy to fix and limited in fat and calories. Buried on a bookshelf in the back room were two Richard Simmons Videos, "Sweatin` to the Oldies" and "Sweatin` to the Oldies, II." I dug them out and started using them. The first time I put in a video, I couldn`t even finish the warm up without sitting down to rest, but I kept at it. I did just a little more each day and just kept going. By the holidays, I had dropped 30 pounds and was able to get through either video without sping!

I yo-yoed a little during the winter, but fortunately, I had done something earlier in the fall that proved to be a literal lifesaver. After working out with the two videos for a few weeks, I began to get a little bored with them. I decided to look on the internet to see if Richard Simmons might have a website where I could order additional videos to add to my workouts. I logged onto and found the clubhouse. I didn`t join right away, because I was still too depressed to reach out. However, I saw the ad for the 2005 Cruise to Lose. I figured by spring I would probably need a boost to my weight loss plan, so right then, without even thinking more about it, I signed up for the cruise! What a major decision that turned out to be!

The 2005 Cruise to Lose was the real turning point for me! I bought a FoodMover and listened carefully as Richard taught us how to use it. I bought even more workout programs to add to the dozen or so I had at home by this time. I soaked up every word Richard said about exercise, toning, menu planning, and positive motivation. When I met Richard and learned that he would personally review my food sheets, I signed on for that as well. I think if Richard had suggested I stand in the corner on my head and whistle "Dixie" every day, I`d have done that, too! Richard Simmons had thrown me a lifeline, and I grabbed it and hung on for dear life!

I started planning my menus and using my FoodMover program at the 1400 calorie level. I got enough measuring cups and spoons that I could never use "they`re in the dishwasher" as an excuse not to measure out the proper portions. I added toning to my exercise regimen and told myself that skipping a day of exercise simply was not an option unless I was truly sick.

I joined the Clubhouse, using the nickname "catvennie," and I quickly found many friends who were struggling right along with me. I read lots of posts and posted almost every day. I learned so much from my fellow "Webbies"! Their love and support, along with Richard`s absolutely unconditional love and support, made all the difference in my life.

I mailed in my food sheets to Richard every week, even when they were less than stellar. I knew I`d get comments from Richard, but he was unfailingly supportive and encouraging, even when I messed up. (And oh, yes, I definitely did - and do - mess up!)

I went through my kitchen with a huge trash bag and pitched a lot of partially used packaged foods, such as pancake mix and other processed items. Those processed food items that hadn`t been opened went to a local food pantry, along with salty canned soups and vegetables. I even bought a new set of pretty dishes and bowls to enhance my enjoyment of meals. I started using low fat cookbooks, including Richard`s Farewell to Fat, and discovered that cooking could be fun as well as healthy! I love to eat out, and that poses tough challenges. However, I learned that I could still enjoy dining out as long as I was careful to order an appropriate meal and get a "take home" box as well. I kicked a long standing diet soda habit and made water with lemon my drink of choice. I learned to shop the periphery of the store, buying fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and fish and poultry, and avoiding processed items and the dreaded "snack food aisle"! I plan my meals ahead of time and shop now with a list, instead of "seeing what looks good" at the store.

To maintain my positive attitude and motivation, I made "mini posters" to hang all over my house. Nothing fancy, just magic marker on 8 x 11 sheets of paper, but they lift up my spirits and keep me going. Some of them say, "Nothing Can Get in My Way!", "Nothing Worthwhile Comes Fast," "I Am On My Road," "Focus," and "If you don`t quit, you can`t fail!"

That last one has become my mantra... if I don`t quit, I can`t fail. I have not been perfect in my weight loss journey. I stumble and fall, I eat things that don`t belong in my food plan, I occasionally convince myself I can skip a day of exercise, but the important thing is, I DON`T QUIT! I keep going. If I don`t do well one day, as the Project Me Passport says, I do better the next day. I have learned that I don`t have to be perfect to succeed. As one of my dear friends says, "Good enough is good enough."

After the 2005 cruise, the weight started coming off consistently, and I developed increased muscle strength and stamina. Of course, I had signed up for the 2006 Cruise to Lose - no way was I going to miss that! By the time the cruise rolled around, I was only a few pounds from my goal weight! When I saw the genuine pride and joy on Richard`s face when he saw me, I felt on of the world! Through this past summer, I kept at it, and three days before September 10, which was my 61st birthday, I reached my goal weight of 145 pounds! I had lost at least 93 pounds! I was so happy to be able to be in Los Angeles that week to celebrate my birthday - and reaching my goal weight - at Slimmons with Richard and the staff and many of the dear friends I have met through the Clubhouse and the cruises!

My life has changed so much, I hardly recognize myself, and friends who haven`t seen me for a while don`t recognize me at first, either! Not only have I lost weight and gone from a size 3x to a 10 (and an occasional size 8!), I have changed my makeup, my style of dressing, and probably most important, my attitude. I`ve been off antidepressant medicine for over a year now, and I take very little pain medicine for my back and knees. I still have arthritis, of course, and always will, but at least I`m not making it worse than it has to be by adding extra weight to my joints. This past August, Rachel and I went to Florida again. This time I did it all! I went scuba diving and snorkeling and shopping and had energy left over. Plus I took my lap computer along and did my exercise video every morning of the trip! I love to travel, and I bought the lap primarily so I would have no excuse not to exercise when I travel. This past year, I`ve exercised in hotel rooms all over the world! There just isn`t any excuse for me not to exercise!

After returning home from Los Angeles in September, I realized that reaching my goal was not the end of anything. I would need to be careful with my food and continue to exercise the rest of my life, or the weight would creep back - something I am determined not to allow to happen! I made a new poster, and this one says, "Goal is not the end. Goal is only the beginning of the rest of your life. You choose." I know it will always be my choice to eat and exercise in ways that allow me to remain as healthy as I can for as long as I can. My only regret is that I didn`t discover Richard, the cruises, and the Clubhouse long ago! However, I am living proof that it is never too late to get rid of old habits and develop new, healthier habits of eating, exercising, and being positive about life!

1. Plan, plan, plan! Know what you are going to fix to eat, and don`t get caught without healthy food and snacks on hand.
2. Vary your exercise routine! Keep it interesting and you`ll be more likely to stick with it. Do videos, walk, dance around the room to music. Just MOVE!
3. Don`t quit! If you make a mistake - and you probably will, since you are human - just try to learn from it and start again. Start again every day if you have to. Just DON`T QUIT! If you don`t quit, you can`t fail!