Given that obesity is a major risk factor for atrial fibrillation, heart failure and coronary artery disease, I’m always searching for effective and sustainable methods for my patients to lose weight. By age sixty I find most of my patients are very set in their lifestyle and weight changes are rare but my sister has been successful relatively late in life and I asked her to share her experience.
During a visit to my home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, my brother The Skeptical Cardiologist and I were talking about cooking healthy food and losing weight. As we talked, I began to explain to him about my weight loss journey and the change that had happened in my life lately. Being the good journalist that he is, he asked me if I would consider writing a guest blog for him. So this blog is me saying yes to my little brother.
Here is a little background on me. I will be 70 years old in approximately two months; I am almost 5’ tall and weigh 156 lbs. This puts me in the almost overweight or obese category according to a BMI calculator. However, a year and a half ago, I weighed 180 lbs. ( I weighed 110 pounds when I got married back in 1974.)
So, how did this happen?
Slow and Insidious Weight Gain
It was a slow, insidious process that started in my 40s after 4 C-sections and menopause. I exercised on and off and thought I ate fairly healthy food, but I was not very serious about it until I reached 172 pounds. At that time, I began doing Weight Watchers. I lost 25 pounds and then quit because I let unexpected stress take over. Needless to say, I gained all of the weight back! Then I tried it again about 5 years later and quit again because “I didn’t think it worked.”
In the beginning of 2017, thinking Keto would surely work, I jumped in with great commitment and discipline for seven months. During that time I lost 30-35 pounds, two dress sizes, and had eaten no added sugar. I loved it and truly believed I would make that my lifestyle from now on.
Surprise! September of that year, at my niece’s rehearsal dinner, I saw a whole table of delicious desserts and thought to myself, “I’m doing so well, one piece of cheesecake won’t hurt.” Well, what really happened was I ended up eating desserts all weekend.
You see I have always been a sugarholic. Leave me alone with a pan of brownies, and I could easily eat half the pan. If I leave one piece of pumpkin pie for my husband, I am watching it and bugging him to eat it until he finally tells me to just eat it. Obviously, I am not married to a sugarholic.
Once I returned home from the wedding, I told myself I’m going right back on Keto, but it just was not the same. I kept going back on and then falling off again. Don’t misunderstand me, there are many people who stay on the Keto plan and do well, but not me. So ultimately, by February of 2018, I had quit again. By the end of 2018, I had gained back all my weight.
Keto was not sustainable for me. At this point, I realized my weight was 180 pounds!
(Editor’s note: Although I’m a keto-friendly cardiologist and am delighted when it works long-term for patients, I have found Vickie’s experience with the keto diet to be common in my patients.)
The New Year came around and I was so desperate for a healthier body, I was always praying about it, reading about it and beating myself up for it. I decided I had to do something, so I joined Weight Watchers (now rebranded as WW) again. When I told my youngest daughter this, she said the most life changing statement to me, “Mom, what is going to be different this time?” You’ve got to love adult children and their parents. However, I thought about this for a minute, and I said to her, “I am not going to quit.”
This was the turning point in my journey! I am so happy to tell you that I have stayed with the Blue WW program for a year and a half with no excuses accepted. It has taken me that much time to lose 24 pounds! Eighteen months is a long time to stick with something like this.
I kept on doing everything WW provided such as tracking and now often pre-tracking my food, using my daily and weekly points, focusing on my 200 zero-point foods and going to my workshops where I had accountability. Obviously I was not perfect, I went over my points, I forgot to drink water, and I didn’t always exercise, but I didn’t quit!
The weight was very slow to come off and in July of 2019, when I received my charm for losing 10 pounds, I rolled my eyes, and my wonderful coach looked at me and said, “Why did you roll your eyes, Vickie?” I said, “Well because it’s only 10 pounds in seven months!” She said in front of every one, “Do you want it back?” Of course we all laughed, but it has stuck with me so much that now I am thankful for every little bit of weight I lose.
I needed a coach like Shawnte’. As I have continued this journey of health, I am learning how much my mindset, just as much as the food and exercise, has to do with weight loss. I no longer beat myself up, I just start over at the next meal. Little by little, I am exercising more, and even during this pandemic, where I have been sheltering in place with my husband and 94-year-old father, I have focused even more on health and weight loss. A few weeks ago, I joined an online healthy cooking class and I am growing herbs with my black thumb!
As I was telling The Skeptical Cardiologist this story and how small an amount I had lost, he said that he tells his patients if they could just lose 20 pounds in a year, it would be tremendous for their health. He actually told me, “For you at your age to lose 24 pounds in a year and a half is amazing.” This encouraged his good ole sis a lot! That was when he asked me to write this guest blog.
Sustaining my slow and sure weight loss is not going to stop this time because I am not quitting. I still have goals that I haven’t reached and I will not quit!!
PS. Here is a balanced, evidence-based review about WW as a whole. The only part of their plan that I have never used is their processed foods that they sell at the meeting place. Also, they have not incorporated the new research about whole fat and how satiating it is for a person.
(Editor’s note: And you can read the comments of Obesity researcher Ignatius Brady on WW’s evolution here.)