Redesign Your Life: My weight-loss story

In the beginning…

Moving to Costa Rica was not the first time I took drastic steps to redesign my life.  Five years ago, I went on a journey to lose 40 pounds.  The struggle taught me a lot about living healthy in general, but also about myself and the human spirit.

Don’t hate me…

I had been skinny my whole life including the sensitive years during high school, college, and medical school.  I rarely exercised in my teens and twenties.  Like many students, I subsisted on pizza, burgers (before I became a vegetarian), and french fries.  I considered potato chips a vegetable.  Yet I could still wear a bikini and frolick on the beach without a care in the world.  I remember watching weight-loss commercials that promised the user of their miracle product would lose weight and inches, and I would think, “From where do these people want to lose inches?”  I did not understand the concept of losing inches from the waist.  I did not know what a muffin top was until I hit thirty.

Things change…

Then several changes happened over the course of the years that landed me in a predicament familiar to many Americans.  First, I hit 30 and my metabolism slowed down while my appetite increased.  Pow!  Then, I entered the work force after finishing residency.  Pow!  At that point, most of our meals consisted of going out to eat at nice restaurants whose portions could feed a whole village in Latin America.  And finally, I gave birth to my second 9 lb. baby.  Pow!  Ironically, pregnancy and childbearing only added a few pounds to my weight.  My problem occurred later.  During the first few months of Tristan’s life, I nursed him exclusively.  I was so hungry while I was nursing that I was eating over 3,000 calories daily.  I would eat a bowl of ice cream with Oreo cookies every day.  Ok, twice a day.  Don’t judge me!  The beauty of nursing was that I was packing the calories but all of it was going to Tristan.  The little guy was wearing 18-month size clothing when he was 6 months!  It was wonderful!  I could eat what I wanted and Tristan was the one who grew.  The problem occurred when I stopped nursing Tristan when he was about 9 months old.  My brain failed to send my stomach the memo that I did not need that many calories anymore.  I continued to eat a crazy amount of calories without exercising.

Who are you?…

One day, a little after Tristan’s 1st birthday, I looked in the mirror and realized I was overweight.  I timidly dusted off our scale and stepped on it.  Yowza!  I had gained 30 lbs since I had given birth to Tristan. And I was pretty sure that I had gained most of it in the last few months when I had stopped nursing him.  I felt awful about myself.  I felt devoid of energy.  I also felt like there was nothing I could do to change the situation. 

Two things happened that made me hit rock bottom.  One day, I was at home playing with Kara and Tristan.  Somehow I ended up lying on the floor as part of whatever game they were playing.  When I tried to get up, I could not.  I felt a sharp pain on my back every time I moved.  I was shocked.  I was in my early thirties and I could not get up from lying on the floor.  I had to call Chris to help me get up.  I felt humiliated and angry with myself.

You don’t have to tell a fat person they are fat.  They know.  Trust me.  This did not stop my brutally honest sisters from pointing it out to me.  Once, when visiting my sister Norma in the Rio Grande Valley that October, she took a look at me and said, “Who are you?  You look like you ate Noemi!”  The following month, when my whole side of the family got together for Thanksgiving like we do every year, my sister Sally staged an intervention.  Even though Sally is the second one with regards to birth order, she is often the voice of reason in the family.  She told me I needed to lose weight, which I vehemently pointed out I knew.  I told her my lunches consisted of hummus and carrots.  She said I was not being honest with myself because if I truly just ate hummus and carrots I would not be in that situation.  She encouraged me to be accountable to myself and to treat calories like a budget.  She encouraged me to redesign my life.

My Christmas present…

That year, I asked for only one Christmas present:  A personal trainer.  Chris got me RJ, a spunky young musician who worked as a personal trainer by day to pay the bills.  He had met RJ earlier that summer during his short-lived membership at the now defunct Spectrum Athletic Club in our ritzy neighborhood.  RJ met with me in early January of 2008 and asked me questions about my goals, schedule, time availability, and health status.  I told her I wanted to lose 30 lbs.  I told her I wanted to be able to get up from the floor without screaming for help.  I told her I worked an insane schedule but I was totally committed and wanted to make this work.

Let the inspirational 80’s movie montage begin..

This is what my training with RJ was like.

Well, maybe not quite that dramatic but it was still intense.  RJ would meet with me every week on Tuesdays when I was “off-service” to train on weight-bearing exercises and stretching. She had me calorie counting using  I did not have an iPhone at that time, so I was calorie counting the old-fashioned way using an actual journal.  I was shocked when I realized my breakfast alone (coffee with lots of creamer and a PB+J sandwich) was costing me about 800 calories per day.  I made small changes.  I would only eat 2 hummus tacos at lunch instead of 3. I would put half a slice of cheese in each taco instead of 2 full slices.  I stopped drinking my very sweet coffee every day, instead only had it as a weekend treat.  I renewed my relationship with the treadmill that had been collecting dust for a few years.  I power-walked 5 times per week for 20 minutes, and then eventually worked up to 60 minutes.  I was waking up at 4:30 am on my weeks “on-service” to be able to complete my work outs.  I started cooking healthy albeit simple meals at home.  I limited our meals out to just a few times per week.  Instead of eating my whole meal, I would take half of it home to eat at a later time.

After 9 agonizing months, RJ helped me lose the 30 lbs. I wanted to shed. I was so happy and felt so much better about myself.  I also needed a new goal, because I felt I started slipping into old habits now that I had reached my weight loss goal.  So I ditched the power-walking and RJ started training me for my first 5K.  When I crossed the finish line that Spring at the SGK San Antonio race, I became addicted to running.  I ran my first half marathon that fall.  While RJ was training me for the half marathon, I lost 10 more lbs.  All in all, I had taken me a little over 1 year to lose 40 lbs.

Moral of the story… 

The key to weight-loss is to redesign your lifestyle to make simple changes that allow you to be compliant.  This is not time for cleanses or crazy juice diets.  It is the time to start an exercise program that you enjoy.  It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you look forward to it, whether its walking, boxing, swimming, or Zumba.  In later blog posts, I will go into more detail about weight-loss and living healthy.  I will also feature others’ stories about redesigning their life to a healthier one.  Stay tuned! 

Pura Vida!

About Noemi Gamel

Noemi Gamel is a physician who prefers writing diverse children's fantasy stories instead of medical charts. She is a geeky nomad, too.
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7 Responses to Redesign Your Life: My weight-loss story

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