Stranger in the Mirror

After discovering “plus-sized” clothing was all she could wear, The Herald’s Managing Editor decided to make some drastic changes.

I’ve never really had a weight problem, though I’ve certainly suffered from a very messed up body image for part of my life.

I was born ‘big boned’ as the old timers say, and inherited my solid shape from my mother’s side of the family (thanks gran’mudder Butler). But while I grew up hearing how ‘hearty’ or ‘healthy’ and ‘handsome’ I looked,  I was also blessed with curves and a tiny waist, so it was all good. Still, I worked hard to stay a size five/six from the time I was 14 through to becoming pregnant in 1997, often flirting with unhealthy choices like bulimia and near starvation when my pants felt a wee bit too tight.

Baby Weight

When I became pregnant at 27, I went from 130 pounds to 202. While my son was a big boy at birth, weighing in at 11 pounds, I had put on way too much weight. Being young and quite active – I worked out daily at a gym and walked the baby and our dog frequently – the weight came off relatively quickly, and for the next 11 years I stayed around 135-140 pounds, which for me was around a size seven.

And then, while nearing 40, I became pregnant again. This time, I ballooned to 230 pounds and my daughter weighed only nine pounds at birth. I managed to lose some of the weight, getting down to a size 12, but it was hard work and it took me three years and hours of walking my outport home to shed 60 pounds.

And then our family moved into the city and I started working nine-five. Gone were my two-hour long afternoon walks and my quick, spontaneous jaunts  up mountainous cliffs with the dogs.

The weight came on so slowly that I honestly never noticed. Never one to weigh myself – mostly out of fear of obsessing and falling back to my previous unhealthy ways – I never owed a scale. While I obviously had some idea I was overweight, I never saw the truth when I looked in the mirror. I saw a stranger, and never connected with the reality that that obese stranger was actually me. 

Then, my family travelled to Montreal to see my son graduate from military training. The outfit I brought to wear wouldn’t cover my stomach. It must have shrunk, I told myself, before heading off to a nearby shopping plaza to get something new.

‘Nothing fit.’

I tried on about ten outfits at stores I usually shopped in. Nothing fit. I had an hour to get to the grad ceremonies. Feeling quite desperate, I noticed a plus-sized store. I entered and looked around. I managed to find a beautiful outfit, but while it fit, it felt ‘too big.’ Used to wearing more snug clothing, this skirt hung lose. The tops I had purchased also swung below my waist. I commented to the sales lady that the items, 1X, were a little too big. 

“You’re at that odd stage we all get to at one point,” she said, adjusting the fabric with a smile. “You don’t fit into a regular xtra-large, and you just manage to pull off a 1X. If you want to look fabulous in our clothing, commit and put on a few more pounds. Here, let me add you to our email list,” she said with a grin.

I shuddered, but gave in and shared my email address. But I decided right then and there I was going to commit to something alright, but it wouldn’t be to getting bigger. 

I tried making changes  on my own. I cut my lunch container size by half and started snacking on fruits and vegetables. I made very little progress.

Then, I discovered a diet/lifestyle program called Ideal Protein (IP)  Weight Loss. Well, I didn’t actually find it, what happened was I started to run into women I knew who looked about half the size they had been the last time we had run into one another. Every one of them had lost weight with IP.

‘I had to try.’

I joined myself at the end of Sept. When I stepped on the scale that first day, I almost lost my nerve. While I thought I may have tipped the scales at around 190, my true weight was 232. This was impossible.  “Where will you be in three months if you don’t start?” my IP coach asked me.  I had to try.

Ten weeks later, I’m 45 pounds lighter and there’s 33 inches less of me than there was when I walked into the clinic that late September day. My weight loss journey isn’t over, not yet, but I’m half way there and that’s way further than I would have been had I let fear win and not started at all. 

It hasn’t been an easy process, but it hasn’t been overly hard either. While I have weekly check-ins with my coach, and the plan includes eating some of IP’s foods, it’s me who has to do all the hard work. I’ve had to totally change my eating habits – all protein and certain veggies – and I’ve had to swear off alcohol. And unlike other ‘points’ style diets, there’s no cheat days allowed, so the commitment required is intense. 

The idea behind this program is that your body goes into something called ketosis– a state at which the body has an extremely high fat-burning rate – and it’s your job to keep it there. And I’ve taken that very seriously, saying farewell for now to some of my fav foods. There’s no fruit, no carrots (too much sugars) and no dairy. Carbs are a no-no naturally, and eating out has become quite a challenge. But it’s been worth the sacrifice because I now know I’m worth the effort.  

And in spite of what I can’t have, it’s been working for me, and I’ve been averaging about a 4 pound loss each week. 

Huge benefits

But now that I’ve made it to my half-way point, I understand that weight loss is really more about what you gain. I stopped snoring and started sleeping more soundly after my first 13 pound loss. I also stopped having allergy symptoms and canceled my planned allergy shots. My chronic cough disappeared, my neck pain vanished, and I suddenly have more energy. 

But there’s more to weight loss than physical health. My husband, on his first turnaround home after I started my diet, hugged me and said I was much more ‘engaged’ in the family. That was a huge compliment. 

But even better than any compliment he can give me is one I’m able to give myself; I’m finally looking at myself in the mirror again – really looking – and I’m seeing who’s really there. It’s not a stranger, it’s just me.

2 thoughts on “Stranger in the Mirror

  1. Deanne Suhai
    January 12, 2017

    Congratulations, on your commitment to getting healthy , what a wonderful gift to yourself. Kudo`s also for digging in and getting it done! Love how you reference major health points, your weekly coaching visits, and husband noticing how you achieving health was healthy for the whole family! You are a positive inspiration to many!

  2. M
    January 15, 2017


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