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Gail Simons

Lost 80 Pounds!     
Before: 266 lbs.
After: 186 lbs.
Lost: 80 lbs.

I`m Gail Simons. In the Clubhouse, you know me as "Insect." I`m 41, but I`ll turn 42 on August 13. I`m single, and I`ve always been single. I live with and take care of my mother, and I have 4 brothers. I`m a visual artist, and I work part time as staff artist at a public library. When I`m not doing artwork, I work as Children`s Reference Librarian.



"I`m working my way up to butterfly!"

I was a normal sized child until kindergarten, and then it got ugly from there! I grew up in a pretty dysfunctional family, where alcohol was a strong influence. I personally dealt with physical and verbal abuse, so I just escaped to food. By the time I was 11 years old, I was 169 pounds, and by 15, I was 255 pounds. That`s when my best friend in the world died; that was my Dad. In many ways, I became sort of like a hermit.

When my father died, part of me died, and his death affected the whole family. I could go into pages and pages of things that made me want to eat more, including religious confusions, cults, nervous breakdowns, and depressions, but I will keep this basic and give you a simple outline of a not so simple life.

Around my senior year in high school, "The Richard Simmons Show" was on, and Richard became that little voice in my head telling me to lose weight! That`s also when all those "After School Specials" were on, and there was a show about bulimia. There was a point at which I liked this guy, and I thought I could lose weight for him, but instead of taking a healthy route like Richard`s program, I went towards bulimia. Within 2 months, I lost over 80 pounds, and I got down to about 155. That maybe lasted a whole month, but I did get the guy!

I thought I was in love with this guy, and I didn`t get along with my mother at that time, so I ended up living with him. After a while, I had a very traumatic incident with this man, and because of that, I really became a recluse. It was a very hard thing for me to get over, and I was still mourning my Dad. I actually attempted suicide 4 different times.

Ten years after high school, I decided to go back to college, but I told myself I needed to lose weight first. I got down to about 200, and then I had another terrifying incident on a blind date, so life with guys was never good for me. That`s why I don`t date and why I never married. It`s also why I have kept the weight on.

I got involved in theater and choral groups in college, and I was involved in the choir at church and even sang solos, so a lot of people saw me and thought I was okay in the world, but it was like "The Tears of a Clown." That wasn`t me. Nobody knew the real me. I`d never really let people get close to me.

I always put my lack of trust in people on things that happened in my childhood. My three older brothers were very good looking and had access to illegal drugs and, of course, alcohol. I learned not to trust most people because they only wanted to get close to me to get close to my brothers. Oh, I had a few friends, but I was always a third party and never a best friend.

Because I couldn`t trust people, I was very lonely. I`ve always been lonely. I purposely tried to be by myself, which was wrong, because it caused my loneliness. My escape was old classic movies, my paintings and drawings, poetry, and gardening, and food. I also found an escape in alcohol and drugs.

The problems from my weight were getting worse and worse. I also came to a point where I had become a caregiver to my mother, and that added to my personal and emotional stress, which added even more to my cravings. I came to a point where I was getting tired of huffing and puffing when I tried to climb stairs. My back was continuously out. I was always visiting the chiropractor. My feet hurt when I walked long distances. I basically lived off decongestants because of allergies, and every night found me relying on sleep aids to sleep. None of this was helping to care for my mother or for myself.

I had been bulimic since I was 17, and that was keeping me at a "safe" weight of about 240. I`d binge and binge and binge, and that was my life! It had become a habit for me! I had been physically ill for a long time, and I knew it was the bulimia. I had gone to counseling for it, but counseling didn`t help the habit! I would almost win over it. I wouldn`t do it for months at a time, and then something would happen, and I`d go right back to it.

I had only one other family member that had a weight problem and that I could relate to. That was my niece, and she used to weigh nearly 400 pounds, but then she had the gastric bypass surgery. She almost died from it, but before you knew it, she got down to about 210 pounds and found herself a husband! On New Year`s Eve before 2002, she got married. When I went to the wedding, I felt like an outcast. I`ve never really felt like I belonged in my family, but when she got married, I thought, "I don`t belong here at all," and that was because of my weight.

Over the course of 2002, I kept thinking, "I have to lose weight, so I`ve got to battle the bulimia." That`s when I really started fighting the bulimia. I sped the purging, but the binging continued, and I gained even more weight! In December of 2002, I stood on the scale, and it was even higher than 266. I saw "275," but it wasn`t level, so I was not going to stand there and see it go higher. It may have only been 276, but I will never know. I didn`t want it to go higher, so I didn`t eat that whole last week of December. It was like, "I`m going to do something about this!" I didn`t know if I really had the power to do it, but that New Year`s Eve`s resolution was to do it!

In January of 2003, I sort of evaluated what foods I thought I couldn`t live without, which turned out to be Pepsi and chocolate. I was drinking about 2 2-liter bottles of Pepsi a day, and the chocolate, well, I still deal with that! I sped drinking soda over the course of January and just started drinking water.

At the end of January, I heard about Richard`s Cruise to Lose to Alaska, and I thought, "Okay!" I`d always wanted to go to Alaska, and I thought going with Richard`s group would be a safe way to travel alone, because I didn`t think I`d be able to do it any other way. Mind ya`, the only reason I booked the cruise was because it was going to Alaska!

Once the cruise was booked, I realized I had made sort of a commitment, but it wasn`t until April that I stood on the scale and I thought, "Well I`m going on a cruise in a month, so I`d better know what I weigh." Because I had sped drinking the soda and started drinking the water, I had gotten down to 266! I also made the effort not to eat after dinner in the evening. I knew there would be exercising on the cruise, so I pulled out some of the tapes and started exercising regularly, but I left my FoodMover on the shelf. I wasn`t touching that yet!

Once I got on that cruise, I definitely had second thoughts! I had social anxiety, and I walked onto that ship, and there was a room full of people who wanted to know me and be my friends! I had a real hard time with that. I even had panic attacks! It`s just not something I`m used to. Then every time I saw Richard, I was bawling. Why? I don`t know. I kept thinking, "This is not why I`m on this cruise! This is not supposed to be emotional!" I didn`t open up to people. I didn`t tell people about myself, but every time I saw Richard, it was like he was seeing right through me!

The only thing that kept me from jumping off my balcony was the fact that I had to go home and take care of my mom. I did not belong on this cruise! This was not where I wanted to be! It was terrifying to me to have to face the fact that I had to lose weight. Before it had been, "Yeah, I need to lose it. I should lose it." But somehow when I came off that boat, something clicked

I immediately joined the Clubhouse online, and even though I didn`t really post or do chat regularly until January because I was afraid to, I know right now that I wouldn`t be where I am today without the support that I get from the site! I also started doing food sheets with Richard, and I pulled out my FoodMover, but I didn`t want to approach it emotionally, so I approached it like a class assignment. I was a good student in school, so I thought, "I can be a good student for Richard!"

But what started out as a class assignment, over the course of the last year, has been one of the most emotional journeys! I can`t believe how much stuff I was hiding under my fat! I discovered that my weight loss journey is more than losing weight. I had to face so many fears that I`ve been avoiding, and I know I have more fears to come. I had a very hard time getting below 200 pounds. That was a real hard boundary. I had to learn to believe that I could weigh less than 200 pounds and still feel safe. My emotional fears tried to keep me from getting there, but I did it! I just have to conquer one fear at a time! When I am in real emotional turmoil, I definitely find myself battling bulimic tendencies, but those battles are far and few between. Each day can be a struggle or a blessing. I just take one day at a time.

I do want to lose more weight, though I`ve really never set a weight goal. I guess I could lose at least 40 more pounds, but I can only take it 1 pound at a time. I guess something I`ve always tried to do is to just fit in. I never felt like I fit in anywhere, but I do feel that I fit in now! Not completely, but I do! I was on the cruise this year, and I have a posse of friends now, and we support each other. I do fit in with them! I know I do!

Physically, I feel much better. Ninety-nine percent of the time, my back doesn`t hurt anymore! I don`t live off decongestants! I don`t get sore feet after walking for miles! My hair looks and feels healthier, and my skin has more color! My knees used to crack when I walked up the stairs, but they don`t anymore! I can sleep at night! The only thing I can attribute these things to is Richard`s program of exercise and healthy food.

I`d say for 30 years, I`ve been in a hermit shell, but on this year`s cruise, I realized I`m not really in that shell anymore. I`m probably not as open as I should be, but I think probably someday I will be! Maybe someday I`ll have enough confidence to put on a bathing suit and go swimming in a public pool or wear a pair of shorts. I haven`t worn shorts in 20 years! Someday maybe I`ll find the confidence just to approach a group of people and join in the conversation, which is something I`ve never been able to do. I`ve always felt like an intruder, but maybe someday I won`t feel that!

If you want to lose weight, here are some things that helped me that might help you! Analyze what you want and what things are sping you. If there`s a food you think you can`t live without, try to live without it! Wean yourself off of it, and then you`ll feel the difference. You can only do it one step at a time. It won`t fall off overnight! This is a lifestyle change that will only get better if you let it!

I used to sit in my own little world, and I still do, but not as much. I was a pack rat, and I collected things because I`ve always thought, "This is all I have in life." I`ve always felt a failure as an artist, and then I always ate, and I`ve come to the point where the collections aren`t as important anymore, and the food isn`t as hard to deal with anymore. Exercise has become a necessity, and Richard`s Website has become a need. The friendships and camaraderie I feel from my posse of friends has meant the world to me, and maybe someday I`ll be able to find more confidence in my dreams and myself and close that hermit window and shatter it!

People often ask me why I chose the nickname "Insect." Insects have a very unique structure, and as a visual artist, I find they`re very cool to paint and draw. When I was a student in college, I related to those insects. I always felt like the ugly bug, the one who was stepped on or swatted. Insect fits, because I started out as the ugly bug not fitting in anywhere, and I`m working my way up to butterfly!


   1. You have to face your fears! With sword in hand, try to move forward even when things try to s you. The sword is the exercise, the FoodMover, and the support of your friends.
   2. Know that this weight loss journey is not easy! There are no road signs guiding you in which direction you should go, but in your heart, you know which way to go. Why wait for the bus when you can walk in the sunshine?
   3. In order to live, you must have hope! You may not feel it, but you can't give up. You may not have reached your goal yet, but the journey will be nourishing and enriching, because somehow, somewhere you know there will be hope!