Former Fat Girl of the Week

Former Fat Girl of the Week is a place for us to come to celebrate and learn from the success and achievements of one another. Former Fat Girls of the Week are regular women like you and me, living normal lives, but are extraordinarily inspirational. This is their time to shine, and I hope you are as inspired by them as I am.

Name: Sharon
Age: 25
Blog URL: Shrinking Sharon
Occupation: Writer - currently in marketing but looking to move into publishing/editing or possibly non-profit work!

How often do you exercise?

About 4 days a week or so. If by "exercise" you mean "official working out that entails donning a sports bra," then my answer is 3-4 days a week - my friend and I run Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and usually on Saturday we either run in the morning or I go by myself at night. Sometimes I take walks on non-running days, and sometimes I randomly burst into fits of dancing around the house when a great song comes on the radio.

Sharon says, this is the picture that when I saw it,
I thought, "whoa. time to make changes."
Taken end of June, 2009.

What is your favorite workout?

Right now it's running! I never ever ever in a million years thought I'd be a runner. Past fits of semi-dedicated running were suffered through, never enjoyed, and never leading to any long-term results or even short-term improvement. But that's how it goes when you're home from college for the summer, and you run with your friends for 15 minutes before going out to ice cream!

This time around, having embraced the experience of working out as a way to get in touch with my body's natural operations, to notice the benefits of fueling it correctly and to enjoy the process of challenging and strengthening it, running has turned into more than a gritted-teeth means to an end. I've learned that my mind is stronger than my body, and that if my goals are reasonable, I don't have to give up as soon as my legs or lungs start to complain at me. I'm getting addicted to the fresh energy, good mood, and feeling my tough, tired legs on the days that I run, and I love setting running goals that would've been laughable two months ago, and I love meeting them soon than I ever would have believed feasible...Even when I'm hating the moment of running (like during the last lap of a mile when I'm seeing spots!) I love knowing that it's hard, but I can do it. My very very modest running success has had a revolutionary effect about how I feel about myself and my other life goals, too, which I never expected.

Other work-out things - I try to do some crunches and push-ups in the evenings while I watch TV. And I have some Striptease Aerobics and Bellydance DVDs that are so much fun!

Sharon today, 25 lbs lighter!

What 5 food items are "must haves" in your kitchen?

So hard to pick just five! Somethings like garlic, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, go in to nearly everything I make, from stirfry to salads, and some things like milk and eggs and bananas are always in the kitchen - I'll stick to the newer things I've gotten addicted to.

  • Nonfat yogurt - I use it as a substitute for EVERYTHING from sour cream to mayo.

  • Quinoa - oddly named power grain that I had never heard of - but it's versatile and yummy. I also love Bulgar.

  • Eggplant

  • Zucchini - I've always loved it, but now I'm learning so many ways to make it yummy without smothering it in cheese.

  • Ground turkey
Please tell us what your nutrition program is like ... what would a typical day's meal plan look like?

At the very beginning, my plan was to eat healthier foods and avoid crappy ones, but I didn't ban anything. Instead I focused on each individual choice - "Do you really want McDonald's right now? Sure, you can have it, but do you want it badly enough to choose it right now?" It was really, really difficult to break my emotional reliance on food, especially if work was stressful, or I was lonely or bored, or felt I deserved a reward. But once I toughed through a few of those moments, they built up behind me - "Do you really want McDonald's right now, after you've been making good choices all day?" And then the days built up - "you've worked so hard to stay on track all week - are you sure you want to detour yourself with fat and grease?" And I learned how enjoyable real, fresh, healthy food is and how much nicer it makes your body feel, and the "fake" food cravings diminished,. The emotional side of eating is something I'm still learning to deal with, but the cumulative effect of so many discplined choices and happy scale numbers is quite a wall of support.

Once I got a handle on the mental side of my destructive eating impulses, I was ready to move on from just avoiding bad things to actively seeking good ones. My general plan:

  • 1200-1500 calories a day (I've recently upped this to 1500-1800, now that I'm running more)

  • Power carbs: find alternatives to white foods - choose brown rice, whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes

  • Make sure carbs and protein are in balance throughout the day. Lots of beans, lean pork chops and chicken breasts. If one meal is very carby, the next should be high protein

  • Tons of fruit and veggies - 5 a day!

  • Small portions - be aware

  • Eat slowly, pay attention to when you're satisfied, enjoy each bite as it comes.
I'm not a slave to my calorie count or my food rules, having a rough structure of what I am and am not "allowed" to have helps me evaluate each choice or temptation - "What impact will this have on my eating day? is it worth it?"

Typical weekday menu:

Breakfast: oatmeal with fruit mixed in. Sometimes just oatmeal and applesauce. Sometimes with banana and peanut butter. Often with berries and a dollop of lowfat yogurt.

Morning snack: Banana

Lunch: Leftovers from last night's dinner

Afternoon snack: Fruit with protein - apple and cheddar cheese, grapes and almonds, or sometimes a bit more lunch if I didn't eat the whole thing

Dinner: I really enjoy cooking! I usually divide what I make into two or three servings so I have a couple of lunches. Some favorite meals: pork chop with brown rice and zucchini, big green spinach salad with lots of veggies and boiled egg, lean chicken breast and sweet potato, zucchini "pasta" with olive oil and tomato, whole wheat pasta with chick peas and parmesan.

Evening snack: Sometimes a bit of ice cream, sometimes yogurt with nuts and berries...depends on when I'm hungry, how hungry I am, what I've already had.

Weekends vary a little - I usually make an omelette with veggies and a piece of whole wheat toast or whole wheat english muffin for breakfast, and eat at less structured mealtimes than I do during the work week. Usually end up having at least one dinner out, often Fridays because that's my weigh-in day and I let it be a bit of a "cheat" day, so I might get pizza with a friend or something. In that case, I usually try to stick to reasonable portions.

I do not stick to ANY of this religiously, at all! These are more the guidelines I try to bear in mind and the habits I've fallen into that allow for success. Above all , I'm working on remaking myself into a healthy lifestyle, so it has to be flexible for real life. I have to work hard, also, at not dwelling on mistakes or weak moments - having leftover pizza first thing after work instead of the healthy meal I planned to cook is not the best choice, but it's not a sin. Eating a handful more of pretzels than I really needed is not a federal offense. It's ok. Move on to the next time to make a choice.

What is your favorite motivational/inspirational quote?

One of my favorites is a comment from the classic Christmas movie, 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' - "There are more important things than comfort: self respect!"

Ok, so it's a little taken out of context - I think the movie is sending us the message that we should accept who we are, and Rudolph's dad says that to him unkindly. But it's a funny little reminder to me that what's important is not always fast or easy. Accepting myself is not an excuse for failure. For a long time, I lied to myself that "this is just the way I am, it's ok to be heavy" because I was scared of making uncomfortable changes. But I'm learning now that it's actually so much more comfortable to be living a way that I can be proud of, and constantly improving myself, not because I think I'm so awful that I must change, but because I deserve to be stronger and faster and smarter and happier. Comfort through food is really so much more miserable than comfort through building self-respect. Food comfort is really not very comfortable at all.

How do you find balance in your life?

I wouldn't say that I've found it yet - but I'm learning how to work for it. I think it comes down to setting effective priorities and developing the self-restraint to follow them. I need to identify the big things that I want for myself and my world, then figure out what's in the way, then have the self-discipline to say no to the moment for the sake of the hour. My liberal arts professors always talked about the danger of "choosing the good over the great" and I'm learning to understand how that relates to reality. Balancing what I want now with what is really important to me. That's the hard part.

Last 5 songs listened to on your iPod/mp3 player

C'mon C'mon - Von Bondies
I'm On A Roll - Over the Rhine
I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas
Orange Wave - Deastro
Shattered Glass - Britney Spears

What is your greatest accomplishment?

I hope my greatest accomplishment is always ahead of me! Right now, though, I think I'm most proud of doing so many things that I thought were impossible - I get up before dawn to run! I can run two miles without walking! And I'm proud of facing up to my emotional reliance on food, and sticking with it when it got chaotic and overwhelming and scary. I'm proud of learning to assume I can do things, rather than assuming I can't. I'm proud of setting new ambitions for my life that are scary. I'm proud of learning to be proud of myself. And I'm proud of each day that I stuck to the choices that I want to be making when I didn't want them in the moment - I'm not done with anything, and even when I hit my goal, I have to keep my commitment to this lifestyle so that i can stay healthy and happy and strong.

What do you love most about your body?

Oh this is a tricky one! Hmmm let's see. I like my legs - they're very long, and they've always been the last thing to get fat and flabby when I've put on weight, and they slim and tone up very quickly.

Sharon, an incredible inspiration!

Are you working towards a particular goal we can support you in (upcoming races, etc)?

I'm running my first 5K on Sunday, September 20! It's a dawn run through a historic Detroit cemetery, and I'm both excited and terrified.

This summer, when I decided it was time to stop accepting less for myself and make a change, I set the goal of New Year's Eve for goal weight, which would be a rate of about 2 pounds a week. I chose that goal because the timeline seemed reasonable, but strict enough to keep me on track. And for New Year's I will be in New York City with several of my dear friends from around the country, so it's the perfect occasion to buy the kind of dress I've never been able to wear and celebrate a new year with the new me.

I'm still on track for that, at about the halfway point for weight and timeline. At first I just wanted to lose 60 pounds, not realizing the myriad of other benefits that would come along with healthy, intentional eating and regular exercise! Now I know that even if I haven't quite hit the magic number by that point (I'm moving from Detroit to NYC in about a month, so that might throw a bit of a halt on things while I'm in transition), if I remain on track as well as I have so far, I will be in the best shape of my life, physically and emotionally, and I will be full of energy and excitement for the future!

Any words of advice you'd like to share with someone sitting at home, reading your interview, wishing/hoping/wanting to change?

I think a weight issue or unhealthy lifestyle is something that you won't change until you're truly ready. It's like potty-training or a drug problem - no matter what other people are doing to prod you towards it, or how much you like the idea of change. you have to be ready, really really ready. When that lever clicks in your mind and it's more upsetting to stay the way you are than to change, you'll be unstoppable.

That being said, I do have some advice for the moment when you're ready -

Don't set any limits, good or bad. Don't make grand statements of never eating such-and-such again, and don't assume that certain habits or accomplishments are just not possible for you. Focus on the making the good choice that's in the moment in front of you, whether it's a big one or a small one. Let the little choices escalate, and soon you'll be doing things that you never would have considered. Focus on what you're adding, not what you're missing. Don't be afraid of failing - failure isn't permanent. It's just this moment. You made a bad choice - oh well! Don't dwell on it; just note why this time was rough and move on. Don't obsess. And don't be afraid to do it your way. It's your body and your life. And be flexible - life is unpredictable. If you find an approach to fitness and health that's working, commit to it - but don't be so dependent on it that you fall apart if something gets in the way of it one day or the next. Commit to your goal, not to your method. And celebrate your successes! Set lots of tiny goals and feel proud of yourself for accomplishing them! It's hard and scary to change your life - and you're doing it! You're brave!

Sharon, I am so blessed to count on you as one of my inspirations! I met Sharon through my weight loss social network, Operation Fat Blaster, and she's been motivating my socks off ever since :) Please be sure to visit Sharon's blog, Shrinking Sharon!



Diane, Fit to the Finish said...

Wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to everyone!

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