Karen, 61 “100, Naturally”

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ContributorKaren, 61Read Full Bio


Karen is a 61 year-old married woman with two sons. Today she does part-time work teaching at the university level. She’s only 5’3 but weighed 248 pounds at her heaviest. Karen talks about how weight loss programs sometimes worked for her but that the weight always came back plus some. She chose to lose weight naturally by reaching out to a registered dietician that caused her relationship to food to change dramatically. In attending support groups, she found a place where she was held accountable. She’s 100 pounds lighter today!

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ContributorDr. Adrienne YoudimRead Full Bio


Dr. Youdim specializes in medical weight loss, medical nutritional therapy and nutritional and metabolic support of bariatric surgery patients. Dr. Youdim received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles and her medical degree from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center as a well as a fellowship specializing in nutrition and bariatric medicine. She is currently Associate Professor of Medicine at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Dr. Youdim is very open about the issues associated with trendy diet medications of the past like Phen Phen, but is optimistic about new developments in this area in the near future. She does not shy away from discussing bariatric surgery with her patients and warns that obesity is second only to tobacco for cancer diagnoses today.

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Karen is a 61 year-old married woman with 2 sons. Today she does part-time work teaching at the university level. She’s only 5’3 but her largest weight was 248 pounds. Karen talks about how weight-loss programs sometimes worked for her but that the weight always came back plus some. She chose to lose weight naturally by reaching out to a registered dietician that caused her relationship to food to change dramatically. In attending support groups, she found a place where she was accountable. She’s 100 pounds lighter today!

My name is Karen. I'm 61 years old. I'm married and have two sons. Both are adults, and I have a daughter-in-law.

I worked for 35 years for a school district and retired and now do part-time work teaching at the university level and doing presentations and workshops and training.

Obesity means overweight and a significantly overweight, not just 5, 10 pounds. I think obesity is manageable, not curable.

Weight was always a problem for me. From my childhood memories I can remember being overweight. I can remember going on diets. I can remember my mother taking me to Weight Watchers as a child, as a teenager, so it's always been a concern.

It wasn't pleasant to have a weight problem. I didn't feel that I was like the other children. My mother was overweight for most of her life and I watched that so it was always present in my mind. I was very aware of weight because of that.

I never used the word obese to describe myself. I saw it on medical charts, and I didn't like it when I saw it, but I never used that term to describe myself, ever.

I still struggle with. I went up and down throughout my life. In my teens I was at a normal weight. In my mid- to late 20's I gained significant weight and then lost it and kept that off until I had children. Lost it again, and then it started to creep up. I would say in my late 30's or early 40's the weight started to creep up and it would go up and then maybe I'd lose a little and then it kept going up and I'd lose a little, but I never got down to where I was before.

Food was a comfort to me, I think, for a lot of my life, and it still is.

My self-image was that I was fat. I don't use the word obese. I would use the word fat. Maybe that's my generation, that's the word we used, and I always saw myself as fat. I was not thrilled when were invited to go to weddings or other events because I didn't like how I looked in clothes. But it didn't motivate me through all those years enough to take a significant action.

Yes, there were certain diets that worked. Weight Watchers worked for a certain amount of time. I did Jenny Craig at one time. I did Nutrisystem at one time. Those are three that come to mind. And they did work at the time, yes.

What I've learned now is that I used those as a quick fix and I thought that at a certain point, even though I never got to the weight I wanted to be, I stopped doing it, whether it was Jenny Craig or Nutrisystem, and I stopped buying the food that they sell you, or whether it was Weight Watchers, I'd stop going to the meetings. I didn't log in my things. They didn't work because I didn't follow through. It wasn't the fault of the program. It was the fault of me not following through.

I didn't change my lifestyle, which is what I needed to do I could tell you everything you need to do on Weight Watchers. I've been so many times but I didn't internalize it.

My largest weight was 248 pounds.

It was probably about 10 years ago that I was at that weight.

The first time I ever made an appointment to see a weight-loss doctor ever in my life was in January of 2014. The nurse said to me, so you're going to have surgery, right? And I said, no. And then when the doctor came in, you're going to have surgery, right? And I said, no. And she said, well, keep an open mind.

I'm thinking oh my god, surgery. I was really scared. I had just had a major surgery a few years because of the breast cancer gene, to have a hysterectomy to reduce the chance of breast cancer developing. I thought I don't want a surgery. I really don't want it, and I think that's maybe what motivated me to do it without the surgery.

Not that surgery is bad. My sister has had surgery.

I don't know exactly how my sister got to the point of having surgery. She lives back East. I didn't know she had it. She didn't tell me but she had lap band probably about 10 or 12 years ago. She's younger than I am. And when I saw her about a year after she had the surgery, I didn't recognize her.

Even at that point I never thought of having the surgery. It never crossed my mind. Even though I saw how much weight she had lost, she didn't get down to an ideal weight; she still had more to go; and over the years unfortunately the weight has crept back up. So I didn't see surgery for me because of that.

The ah-hah moment was when I went to the doctor about 22 months ago and I saw on the chart the word obesity, and even though I had seen it before, for some reason that word hit me at that time. Why I don't know. Being BRCA positive I was told many times: if you lose weight, it's better; less chance of getting breast cancer; because of my back; because of my knees; my high blood pressure; my cholesterol. I think it just all came together and I was tired. I was uncomfortable and I was tired and I just said that's it!

Eighteen months ago I committed to weight loss and I have lost 96 pounds so far. I've lost it non-surgically.

The biggest weight loss I had before this one was possibly 30 or 40 pounds, maybe about 10 years ago?

I went to a dietician and she hooked me up with an app called My Fitness Pal, which I have on my phone, my computer and my iPad. I went to several individual meetings with her and we talked about calorie intake. Things that I knew about but she said them in a different way. How to get more protein in my diet.

I began attending support groups and I found those very helpful. I was accountable. I had to weigh in each week when I went there. We talked. People shared strategies. They shared products they bought. They shared ideas. It was a small group. The maximum was maybe 10 at any given session. And I found that very helpful. I relied on that. I looked forward to going every week to that support group.

We spent a lot of time in these support groups talking about actual hunger, real hunger, and I truly have a hard time realizing when I'm hungry and when I'm not.

Even though we've talked about it and I've tried to figure out is it physical hunger or emotional hunger. I'm really hungry, I can feel my stomach grumbling--but many times I think I'm hungry and I'm not and I just have that desire for food and not usually it's a healthy food.

I'm a big snack person. Chips, pretzels, crackers, breads. I didn't buy them just for me usually, but they were in the house for the rest of my family, and that has been one of my largest battles in losing weight was that food has to still be in the home for other people in the family.

I try hiding it. I've tried putting it out of sight. It's not hidden but it's out of sight. When it's out of sight, it's better. Even though I know where they are, I will tend to not go for them most of the time.

I have to be honest. My husband was not the most cooperative when I started a year-and-a-half ago. And when I asked him not to bring certain foods into the home, he was not cooperative in that regard. I would put them away and he would take them out.

It's very difficult when the environment around you is not in concert with you, but I was so determined at that point that I didn't let that get in the way. At the support groups we would talk about that. I wasn't the only patient, who had similar issues, and it was a lot of willpower, I have to tell you, it was a lot of willpower. My husband has since become much more cooperative. Our house is not free of many of these items, which I wish it was, but he's become a lot more cooperative.

I lost 96 pounds. I lost it in 18 months.

I eat three meals a day. I am now more aware of things like protein, vegetables. I have found things to substitute for those crunchy things that I like, like the chips and the pretzels. I like to eat a lot of cabbage and lettuce because I get that crunchy feel and that semi-satisfies that need for a chip or a pretzel.

My husband is a fabulous cook; he loves to cook. So if he makes something like chicken, fish, beef, I will eat that. I always have a salad or some cole slaw without the sauce on it for myself, and if he's not home I will eat some prepared packaged meals. HMR is one brand that I've been hooked onto. Weight Watchers, the Smart Ones. Various ones like that.

I think I've accomplished losing this much weight because I was motivated. I ask myself why didn't I do this 20 years ago; why didn't I do this 30 years ago. There are very few pictures of me because I didn't want to take pictures. I hated being in a picture. I'm in some but it's very few, mostly when we did family things there of my sons and my husband because I didn't like to look at myself in pictures.

I don't know what all of a sudden made me say I am going to do it. Once a few pounds started to come off I was in a momentum and something I felt I could do. I am addicted to this app now. I don't see it as a burden; I don't see it as a job I have to do; I now see it as part of my life.

Even now I still look at myself and I still see someone who is fat there. That part I haven't conquered yet. I've watched my thin friends, or average weight friends, eat in a restaurant. They eat a fraction of what I eat and I think to myself, aren't they hungry? I've asked them, and they're not, so I know I have to start living like a person who is of average weight and not a person who is fat.

Actually I find it easy to go out with people to certain types of restaurants. I have done over the years most of my eating privately or in the home so I didn't tend to gorge in front of people, even when we were out except for Mexican because the chips can be really addictive and they still are. There are certain types of restaurants I may not choose to go to, like Italian restaurants where it's heavy with the pastas, but if I can get a salad or I can get chicken, I'm fine with it. And most of my friends who are thin, they eat very healthy. Those that aren't thin I watch them, and now I'm saying to myself, why did she order that? I don't say it out loud but I'm saying that it in my mind. Wow, do you know how many calories there must be in that? And I'm proud of myself when I order the salad or the fish or the chicken breast.

Mentally and emotionally I'm very proud of myself. I'm a little embarrassed especially when people say how much have you lost. I don't want to admit all the time because then I'm admitting how heavy I was before. You can't force someone to lose weight if they aren't emotionally ready to do that.

I would encourage people to see a dietician or a nutritionist and to start with an individual appointment and then to do some support group and to do tracking; track what they eat and not to be so hard on themselves.

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