"I didn't recognize you with your new hairstyle."
Folks often don't know what to say about my 80-pound weight loss. Even though my hair hasn't changed that much, just about everything else about the way I look and feel has. The attention feels a little misplaced, however, because what I found was even better than the perfect diet.
Before I had children, it was quick and painless to lose a few pounds here and there. It wasn't until I lost the structure of a workday and enjoyed the freedom of pregnancy weight gain that my weight really became a problem. For years I went back and forth - losing 40 pounds on a shake diet or another rigorous plan, and then gaining back even more.
When I finally decided to see a weight loss counselor, two years ago, I told her that my most successful attempt at dieting had been with a combination of drugs known as fen-phen. (I didn't experience any adverse side effects, but one of the drugs, fenfluramine, was taken off the market in 1997.)
What I remembered more clearly than the seemingly effortless weight loss - I kept 64 pounds off for two years - was the dramatic difference in how I felt. It wasn't so much the appetite suppression, but the motivation it gave me.
At one point, while taking fen-phen, I remarked to my husband, "This must be what it feels like to be normal." The counselor researched fen-phen's composition: The fact that one of the components was a stimulant might mean something, but what?
I learned the reason later that year when my oldest son was diagnosed with ADHD. After perusing his diagnostic report, I sat in bewilderment. I had just read my story.
I made a doctor's appointment, got diagnosed, and began taking a stimulant. My "Aha! moment" came three days later at the pet store. I was wandering aimlessly around, even though I had already found the bones and new dog collar I needed. All of a sudden, I realized I was just wasting my time. I paid for my purchases and left the store. In my car, I actually said out loud, "Wow, the medicine is working! I really do have ADHD."
In an earlier attempt at losing weight, I had read The South Beach Diet. As with so many "great discoveries" in my life, I bought all the stuff, made lists, followed it perfectly... and lost interest. Now that I could plan and focus, I decided to apply the basics of what I had learned: I cut sugar, white flour, potatoes, white rice, and almost all alcohol out of my diet. I began eating more nuts, whole grains, and vegetables, and drinking more water.
I also committed to walking every day for 30 days. That was it - all I had to do was start. I carry water in a backpack and listen to my favorite tunes, and I make the six-mile loop around my neighborhood in no time.
Friends often ask me to call them the next time I go for a walk, but I seldom do. I like the time by myself - that's what makes it work. I do what I want, when I want. More than a year later, I'm still walking - not every day, but several times a week.
Eating well and exercising are pretty dramatic changes for me, but I find I don't have to work at them. They're just part of me now. People see and talk about my weight loss, but what they can't see is how I feel. Do I still procrastinate? Is my office still a mess two days after I clean it up? Am I still me? Of course! The difference is that I'm a happier, more controlled me, from the inside out.