So here it is! The start of an incredible journey. Wow. *Deep Breath*
My name is Jen. I’ll tell you where I am at the moment. I’m currently 92 lbs. overweight. That’s 92 lbs. from being, what’s for an adult female of my height, considered healthy. I have a long road ahead.
I’ve basically been overweight for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I only had a little chub, and was pretty active. In 5th grade when I had a physical, the doctor told me I was just outside the healthy range. I was 110 lbs. At the age of 10, this was the first time I really thought about my weight. Then something happened when I reached middle school. I gained a lot of weight, and fast. My awkward years were sufficiently awkward. The summer before I entered high school, I figured I would try to lose weight. I was 14 and didn’t have a clue about healthy weight loss, so I exercised a lot with a workout videotape, and started to run at the nearby park. Not bad, but I coupled this with not eating very much, or the right things when I did eat. I lost a good deal of weight that summer into the fall, but it didn’t last, and I continued to gain as each year passed. By the time I graduated high school, I was about 210 lbs.
White robes are always flattering.
Then college happened. Being a theatre major meant late night rehearsals and shows, and a packed class schedule. My eating habits went even further down the toilet. It was carb city up in there. I can’t even count how many times in college I resolved to lose weight, but nothing stuck and I kept gaining weight. By my senior year, I had completely stopped trying. A low point was walking across campus late one night to the theatre building with a fistful of dollars, with which I purchased at least 12 different candy bars from the vending machine. I hurried back to my dorm room and proceeded to eat every single one of those suckers. I wish that night had been an anomaly but there were a few others like it. So it’s not surprising that when I graduated college, I was over 240 lbs.
Last photo with both grandmothers. So grateful they made it to my college graduation.
I moved to NYC with my Broadway dreams, and took my weight problem with me. The very first show I was cast in was a play about women with eating disorders. I was the chronic over-eater. This was not the most flattering start to my career.
After 2 years of not really getting to where I wanted to be in my work (struggle struggle and all that), I finally landed my first legit professional job — at a summer stock theatre in Virginia. And with it, began some real changes. It was so, so physically active. We rehearsed during the day and performed at night, 6 shows total, non-stop for an entire summer. I was in heaven, artistically. Plus I was in the Blue Ridge Mountains, such a lovely change of scenery from the NY city streets. So I walked everywhere, on top of being so physically active during the day. By the end of the summer, I had lost about 15 lbs, and it didn’t even seem like I had tried. My eating habits were still terrible, but damn if I wasn’t busting my butt every day.
Working it in rehearsal.
Immediately after that gig, I was off on a national tour of Stuart Little. Again, my eating habits remained terrible, plus my cast was a party cast so I’m sure the constant social drinking didn’t help. However, that show and the tour itself was very physical, and by the end of the run I was down another 20 lbs.
Parting cast shot (I’m on the right).
I came back to the city for the summer before embarking on 3 back-to-back national tours. This time, I knew I wanted a real change. I was resolved to lose the weight, and be healthy about it. I’d heard rave reviews over Weight Watchers, so I decided to check out a meeting. This was the summer of 2007. I walked into that meeting out of curiosity and a desire to get healthy, and walked out a member.
Everything somehow clicked for me at Weight Watchers. It wasn’t a “diet”. It was a place I could go to learn how to eat healthier, a place that encouraged me to get out and move myself, and the support was incredible. I mean, just sharing a milestone, no matter how big or small, would garner applause from my fellow members and a sticker (or other swag) from my leader. And my leader, Carmine, was amazing. She really cared about us, and I was inspired after every meeting to keep it up. And most importantly, it was working for me. By the end of summer, I had lost 20 lbs.
Looking pretty good at age 25!
Unfortunately, my WW meetings were put on hold for the duration of my national tours, as it was impossible to find meetings in random cities that worked around my schedule (not a lot of meetings going on at 11pm). But I was still counting points. Unfortunately, I stopped losing weight and even gained a few pounds back, but it wasn’t a tragedy. It made me realize how much I needed the support of meetings and a leader who could help guide me and give me focus.
Immediately after my last tour, I went straight to Ohio to work at a summer theatre. It was there that I decided to continue with my meetings. I largely had my days free as we only performed at night, so finding time for meetings were never a problem. A dear friend I had made there lent me her car on my meeting days so I could drive into town for them. I also re-discovered my love for running. My cabin-mate (and to this day, very good friend) Maureen and I created a 2.5 mile running loop that we would do together every single morning. Our theatre was on top of a mountain, and towards to home stretch of the run was a beastly hill incline. At the beginning of the summer I couldn’t run up it without stopping to walk part of it. By the end of summer, I was running up that sucker with gusto. Maybe not gusto, but I could do it consistently, and it felt amazing. By the end of summer, I had lost another 15 lbs.
My beautiful friend and running partner, Maureen.
After that summer, I had embarked on another national tour. Again, I had to do without my precious WW meetings and tried as best I could to do it on my own. It was a struggle. I didn’t do very well. I tried to keep up with my running, but I hated the hotel treadmills, if I was lucky enough to stay at a hotel with a gym. And it was sort of disorienting to run on town streets you’re not familiar with or that didn’t even have a lane to separate you from the cars. So it all sort of fell apart for a bit.
That is, until what I fondly look back on as my most amazing summer ever. The summer of 2009. I was back in the city, back on WW, and back to running. And MAN was I running! I was lucky enough to live right next to Riverside Park, which was practically built for long distance running. I ran every day. So much that I decided I wanted to challenge myself, so I joined the New York Road Runners and signed up for every 5k and 10k I could. I was running races in Central Park literally every single weekend. It was amazing. And the weight was just melting off me. At my peak weight loss, I was down to 170 lbs. I couldn’t believe it. That meant, from my absolute heaviest weight, I had lost 72 lbs. It felt so good.
At my fittest (on left), night of my 27th birthday party.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last. At the end of summer, I went to work at a theatre in Michigan for the year. My days were incredibly chaotic, and I couldn’t find any meetings that jibed with my schedule. I did go to the gym whenever I could squeeze it in, but it wasn’t very consistent. The good news is, while I did gain weight that year, it was only a few pounds. Nearly 10 months without any support, and I was doing pretty okay on my own.
After my time in Michigan, for what was the most spontaneous decision of my life, I moved to Portland, Oregon. When people ask me why I moved, I give them the most honest answer I have: curiosity. Plus I was tired of the starving artist schtick in NYC. Not that I was really there much anyway with all the out-of-town gigs I was booking anyway. And my dreams evolved from Broadway to wanting to find an artistic home… anywhere. And Portland seemed very intriguing from afar. So off I went.
I moved here two years ago and almost immediately went into vacation mode. There are so many amazing restaurants to try, happy hours to socialize at, and delicious foods at your fingertips here that it’s easy to lose control. And control, I lost. Big time. Slowly at first, then very, very rapidly. I have now gained back literally every single pound I had lost. And then some. My previous heaviest was 242 lbs, at the end of my college years. It is now 247 lbs.
When I first came to Portland I went to a WW meeting and was immediately unhappy. The leader was incredibly uninspiring. She was nothing like my previous leaders. As if having already checked out, she went through the topic of the week with the flip pad, then had us break off into groups to work on an assignment. When I went to introduce myself to her afterwards, it seemed she was in a hurry to do something else. That whole meeting was a big slice of WTF. I didn’t even go back for a second meeting. Then a year later I figured I’d try again, but with a new leader. I found her nice, but also rather uninspiring. This was around the holidays and she had all these cutesy catchphrases that didn’t do anything for me. Plus I found the group to be rather individualistic. Everyone sort of kept to themselves. I loved the community feeling of my previous groups. No one seemed interested in really connecting. I gave it a go for a few more weeks but, totally uninspired and phoning in the program, I quit.
So now here I am. 247 lbs. I know myself well enough to know I can not lose weight on my own. I’m a very social creature who needs (needs) encouragement and support. I need to be able to share milestones and swap ideas with others. I need a leader who can help keep me focused, and a group of people I’m rooting for and whom are rooting for me. So I decided to give WW here in Portland a third shot. I decided on a Saturday morning meeting, as it’s one of the two mornings I have free in my crazy two-job schedule (and rehearsals/shows rarely happen in the morning). I was nervous I’d be let down again, but I bit the bullet.
I went in yesterday. As soon as I met my new leader, Sylvia, my head was screaming “YES! YES! YES! I’ve been looking for you for 2 years!!!” She is so, so warm. But she is also a very real, no BS kind of lady. She was interested in getting to know me a little when she weighed me in, and after she handed me my materials, she said, “Welcome home.” Those two words felt amazing to hear. It did feel like coming back home. The rest of the meeting was incredible and inspiring and everything else I crave. Sylvia definitely cares about her members. She knew everyone by name and started off the meeting wanting to know if anyone was struggling with anything in the past week. I loved that. She addressed the meeting topic, but tailored it to us. At the end of the meeting, she celebrated individual members’ milestones for the week. I loved that, because it’s the best feeling to be recognized for your hard work. My favorite leaders did that, and it’s the best way to end a meeting.
I am truly excited this go around. I’m back in WW, I have a great leader, and I’m going to put in the time to make the right choices. I’m ready for this.
Here we go 😀