Sue's Weight Loss Story


My Journey:

The following is the saga of 50 Plus years of dieting. I was born fat (9 lbs but only 19 inches long!). Obesity doesn't RUN in my family... it gallops! And I am genetically challenged since my body temperature is 1.5 degrees below normal which REALLY takes down my metabolism! I suspect I probably sustained damage to the pituitary and/or the hypothalamus gland after my tonsillectomy in the 1950's and old fashioned anesthesia!  Because right after my tonsillectomy, I started gaining weight despite being very active (was a tomboy).  60% of those having tonsillectomies in the 1950's and 1960's sustained pituitary damage which negatively affects the metabolism.  I went on my first diet when I was 15 years old.  After slimming down (never below a size 14 which is now a size 10), my bodyfat level was so low, my periods stopped for a year.  By the end of each school year I had re-gained the weight. It went downhill from there. I also found out lately, that my inability to swallow well was from a hereditary condition called "eosinophilic esophagitis" - I learned this from TV.  *sigh* Esinophils are immune cells which get into the esophagus and cause narrowing and difficulty swallowing.  The Medical solution, blowing up a balloon in the esophagus makes things worse as it causes scarring. Be that as it may, I've kept off 65 lbs or so since 2007, but it's been a long journey.  Details are below...

Low Calorie 1961

Started in High School.  900 calories a day.  Lost down to a somewhat socially acceptable weight but was so hungry, I gained it back and then some.  (in the photo to the left, I weighed about 135 lbs, was very sick, constantly and regained fast.)

No one knew anything about anything back then. You dieted, got off the diet and all was OK.  NOT.  Aerobic exercise?  Wasn't even a word back then.  Although my walk home from school every day for 3 miles with carrying a violin and books, would have counted.  So would have my frequent bicycle rides - taken much to the chagrin of my mother who told me that she didn't want the neighbors seeing her older daughter ride a bicycle because bicycles were for kids and when I said "well they ride them in Europe", my Dad, a lifetime smoker and an occasional exerciser who died of a heart attack at the age of 63, chimed in, "But in Europe they don't have CARS!"

I always loved moving my body, sneaked out to Intramurals (no girls sports back in those days - not that my mother would have allowed me to play anyway) and walked everywhere or took a bicycle. Who needed a car, I thought...  But even WITH moving my body on a daily basis in what I now know to be cardio, the minute I stopped eating 900 calories a day, I gained all my weight back. 

One Meal a day 1962 - Senior year in HS. This is what Dr Eades lost her weight on, by the way, something she and her husband later sold in a modified approach (allowed low carb snacks) as "The Carbohydrate Addicts diet".  Starved all day, ate moderately at dinner. Still exercising daily just as in my lifestyle, walking etc. Lost down to 138.  But still, I gained it all back by summer.  Weight after regain: 167

What I learned: Other kids could eat pizza and pop and not gain while my sitting and even WATCHING them consume these goodies could add a pound to my weight!  And each time I dieted I lost LESS weight and gained it back sooner.  What was up with this?  This is NOT what all the books I read, told me!

Milk and exercise diet:  In the convent in 1964, in summer, it was very hot (no air conditioning in those days!).  Also the food was different so I ate smaller portions but drank gallons of milk and it was whole milk.  I also moved a lot more than I did before I entered - walked to school etc. To my surprise I lost 30 lbs without trying.  Then I got worried about the calories of drinking all that milk.  I cut down on milk and ate more food.  Gained back the weight.

What I learned:  The claim that milk may have an enzyme to aid with weight loss might be true.

After the convent: Low calorie again. 

This time I allowed myself 1200 calories a day and when I went on maintenance, I still counted my calories religiously. I was determined to not gain back. I was at 123, a weight I decided I liked.  I limited myself to 1200 - 1500 calories a day when I was probably burning over 2000. Then I saw photos and I didn't look very good. Was too slim and out of proportion. I also had no energy and was constantly hungry. And my bones in my butt stuck out which made sitting no comfy.  This is when I would dream of eating big meals and wake up in a cold sweat worried that the mere dreaming about eating food would cause a weight gain!  When I met my husband, he felt I was too slim and took me out to eat. I ate.  I immediately felt better. I also gained 20 lbs the first month I knew him.   I thought I was fat in the picture to the left!)

As I later found out, the fatigue was not starvation fatigue but rather, a hereditary Vitamin B12 shortage (my paternal Grandmother died of pernicious anemia) which got to extreme level when I cut out the milk (at 1200 calories a day, I didn't want to "waste" 300  calories on 3 glasses of  milk, right? *LOL*).  When did I find out this... RECENTLY!  Years later like in 2008!  From a medical provider?  Nope.  From the fact that gastric bypass patients, many on the verge of pernicious anemia because they cannot digest B12, had similar symptoms so I started taking sub lingual  B12 in 2008 and bingo... symptoms gone!

Smoking 1966-1981 with a break for pregnancy and nursing:  Yes, tried that to control weight. Helped a bit but not much.  And it made me sick a lot with asthmatic bronchitis and even pneumonia one year. Decided to kick the habit. Being fat was preferable to being ill.  With smoking I got down to 148 before pregnancy. Then I wanted to get pregnant so quit smoking.  Ate according to FDA charts adding Dairy Queen every night.  Delivered an Apgar 10 baby (who now, at 53, and a PhD - in a career job, married to a wonderful lady and they have four incredibly wonderful, talented, beautiful progeny and we also have a lovely great granddaughter - I'm not biased or anything... lol). Gained 50 lbs with pregnancy "BAAAALOOONING" up to 198 lbs.  Didn't lose any weight when I had the baby.  Hospital food was good and I got double portions (nursing, needed food for two, right? NOT) so I left the hospital 5 lbs heavier than before I had my baby! In the years I smoked I maintained a svelte (not) 170 - 203 lbs.

What I learned: Dairy Queen has medicinal value! :)  Also breast feeding only burns more calories if you are nursing an 18th month old who eats a lot! And bottom line, smoking is a really bad idea - hurts your health all over your body!

Stillman Cottage cheese diet 1969  I loved Cottage cheese so decided I would do Stillman, a diet wherein you could have all the cottage cheese you wanted .... and nothing else besides water!. A friend of mine did it with me.  I did it once a month to 'crash off' 10 lbs.  Needless to say, I soon felt poorly after this "diet" so gave it up and gained everything back that I'd lost.

Neil Solomon remarked that crash dieting was like trying to run your car on French perfume.  "It might run for a while but the perfume would totally gum up the works!"  (REF: Solomon, Neil: THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHT CONTROL)

Exercise 1970  I was pretty much exercising all along as my bicycle was my car but one summer, in addition, I tried swimming daily. It shaped me up but I lost absolutely no weight!   Exercise makes you feel great. But for many of us, it doesn't "work" to make us slim.

Weight Watchers 1 - 1972-74

This was something new - an organized weight loss program with meetings. I had picked up a book by Jean Nidetch and really related.  Intrigued I attended meetings and found it very effective.  I lost down to almost High School weight close enough to goal to be able to work as a clerk/weigher.. The program in 1973 was satisfying but restrictive.  The list of stuff you couldn't have was far longer than what you could have.  I never made lifetime membership. As long as I continued to go to meetings and drank gallons of diet pop with caffeine in it, I kept my weight down but in Jan 1973, I developed an allergy to saccharine, the artificial sweetener in diet soda back then.  Got SICK - optic neuritis, conjunctivitis, the whole ten yards. Gave it up and without the caffeine, the fatigue I now know to be a deficiency of Vitamin B12, HIT... hard.  I started to get sick of feeling fatigued, cold all the time, and being sick constantly with every bug that came along. And of course there was the problem of living in a society which is centered on food, most of which was not allowed on my program.  Went off the program and gained it all back to 195 or so. 

What I learned: If you say a certain food is forbidden, guess what you get wild cravings for?  I learned about "diet related bingeing". Like the time I made a chocolate cake from scratch and it was GOOD and hubby and I sat down and ate the WHOLE thing at one sitting!

Low Carb, 1974 

Next was low carbing - sounded great and good food, too.  However, my experience with this program was cut very short!  For a day and a half, I enjoyed whipped cream, quiche and steak, eggs etc.  Then, I got a gall bladder attack which brought low carbing to an end for me.

The science of low carbing has never been proven and yet, low carbing is far from off the diet network.  Experts feel that if you lose weight on it, it's probably because you are eating less of the good tasting foods.

Robert Atkins who had heart disease himself (actually died of a heart attack) did admit in his last revision of "Diet Revolution" (which I find few low carbers have read!) that it was calories which counted, NOT carbs and that you could get just as fat on tons of chicken as you could on tons of bread.  Also, the so called scientific underpinnings in his science chapter were all based on studies from the 1950's and 1960's and many not specifically limiting carbs to 30-70 a day either...

What I learned: Sounding good and scientific doesn't MAKE it good and scientific.  Also, from what I have read since, about the kidney and cardiac risks from this diet, I guess I'm lucky I couldn't stay on it.

Swimming 1975

By this time we'd moved out West.  I decided to just exercise.  So I rode my bicycle everywhere and swam several laps every day.  Got "down" a few lbs. But lost no more. Felt great though.

What I learned: Exercise feels great but doesn't cause much of a weight loss unless you do it for 3 hours a day.

I stopped weighing myself.  Rule #1.  If you don't look at the scale, then you are not gaining, right?


Couldn't Exercise - 1977 to 1984: During these years, I had an illness where I lost my mobility to a great extent.  For most of this time, I was totally sedentary and could not exercise. So I gained up to the mid 200's or so. 

What I learned: If you have the wrong genes, being sedentary is a killer on your weight. Even watching what I ate, I gained a lot!

Exercising 1985

Rehabbing after my illness, I started walking nightly and pushed the distance up to 1.8 miles every night. So I figured now that I was mobile, the weight would drop off.  WRONG.  Lost a few lbs and then, slowly started to re-gain. I blamed myself of course..

Basically, I had found out that diets didn't work.  But what DID work?  Some people were able to keep reasonably slim.  How did they do it?  Most of them could not tell me.  I interviewed people and read a lot of books over the years looking for "the way".  I knew there has to be a way. I just had to find it. Meanwhile I sort of half dieted and stayed "somewhere" in the mid 200's.

As I got older, if I tried to do a 1000 calorie diet, first thing that happened was I got very ill. Although I blamed this on dieting, I found out later, it was the congenital B12 shortage at blame.

Square Dancing 1990

I started playing violin for square dance bands in the 1970's and was intrigued with square dancing, something I really enjoyed in school!.  So in 1990's, we took square dancing lessons - went 3-4 times a week. Also son moved out and I had problems with IBS and lack of appetite and depression. Started losing weight. Lost down to 189, lowest I'd been in years.  Unfortunately, hubby's ankle swelled up with gout and that was the end of square dancing but I had seen that A LOT of exercise DID have an affect on weight loss.  Gained back to ?.  (I didn't stay down at 189 longer than a day or so, unfortunately).

What I learned: having an exercise partner who is a couch potato can be hard on your program!  Also bulimia works a bit but not for long without causing a lot of damage. :)

Eosinophilic esophagitis, IBS and gall bladder issues: 1991-1992

Hubby and I were making enough bucks that we could have fast food nightly. Tasted yummy but often caused me to get sick with gall bladder issues and/or eosinophilic esophagitis and/or Irritable bowel syndrome.  I got to know where ALL the bathrooms were in stores etc and lost a few lbs but the fast food, wasn't worth getting sick over, hurling etc.

Daily exercise program. 1993-

From March 1993 on, I had a job where I could not ride my bicycle to work and it was full time so I was tired when I got home.  So the small amount of exercise I was doing, went... out the window.  By June 1993, I found I felt great except if I walked a block, I felt like I swallowed a can of drano. Also when I walked up the stairs daily (one flight) my secretary kept saying she was afraid she'd have to call an ambulance because I would be so out of breath and coughing etc. In other words, I was fine if I didn't MOVE! :)

Around that time, a friend of mine only a couple of years older who was like me, a part-time exerciser, had quadruple coronary bypass surgery.  This really scared me. I SO did NOT want to go there. 

I went to the doctor and had blood pressure of 170/100 and I asked him if exercise would help lower it.  "Did your parents have hypertension?" he asked.  "Yes, my mother," I replied.  "Then, no, nothing will help it - it's hereditary!" he said.

A defining moment in my life!

Our son, a medical provider, took me on a tour of the cardiac ICU unit and I saw people with tubes sticking out of every aperture.  That scared me a lot because I didn't want to go there.  I started to read books on health and fitness... one of the best was "REVERSING HEART DISEASE" by Dean Ornish, MD and Susan Powter's "STOP THE INSANITY".  Not only did the low fat nutritional program make a lot of sense (and stopped a lot of my GERD problem) but so did daily cardio exercise.

Although I was too fat to exercise everyone said, I figured DAILY cardio would help prevent heart disease anyway - HAD TO.  I started walking on my lunch period, 5 days a week and found after DOING it for a couple of months, I felt very well. I also discovered endorphins - Nature's own high.  In August 1994, I decided to make a commitment to exercise every day of my life for the rest of my life.  I also gave up fast food and fatty foods and went on a low fat (under 20%) nutritional program.  I lost all of 19 lbs because I had not discovered portion control but I felt great and decided to continue this for the rest of my life particularly because the books I'd read, suggested this was the best way to avoid or postpone heart disease.

Dreams of being slim like all the fitness magazines promised were slowly dashed into pieces... bummer - major bummer. How come all the fitness stars had washboard abs?  I later read that most fitness stars have had "tummy tucks" or abdominoplasty!

(I didn't know about lipo suction and airbrushing then - I actually thought they DID that on a reasonable program with exercise!)

What I learned: The information we are fed about losing weight or the weight "falling off" like TV tells us, is a crock for some of us... maybe for MANY of us.  Even the models are AIRBRUSHED!

Vegetarianism Jan - Jan 2001: I gained weight restricting my meat intake. This did not surprise my pharmacist who told me she'd known several people who gained eating only vegetables.  Needless to say this phase of my life didn't last long.

I kept going back to Weight Watchers and rejoined in 2002, when they had launched a new program. I learned "points" as they were then, but didn't follow program so although I lost a bit of weight, I, predictably, regained and of course blamed program for it. :/

What I learned:  Weight Watchers works, if you work it right. (which I guess I didn't do, in 2002.

Giving up dieting!

In reading various articles on "Health at Every Size", I was intrigued. Maybe my weight would level out at some figure and I could enjoy eating...after all, I was still exercising so was healthy, cardio-vascular-wise.  My weight didn't level out, but kept going up.  Thank you, pituitary damage.

Well, it's not a diet - it's a LIFESTYLE! :)

In January 2007, I found myself at 267 lbs and began to have some issues with fitting into places, my bicycle pants no longer fit me and my butt didn't fit well even on my wide recumbent bicycle seats. 

I tried more things - Dr Oz - slightly limiting calories and kept exercising.  You guessed right - it didn't work.

In Feb 2008, my hubby had a hemorrhagic stroke and was in the ICU for 13 days. I totally lost my appetite but discovered, on the first night of his hospitalization that the horrendous case of Gastro-esophageal Reflux (GERD) which had plagued me since the 1980's and required me to sleep sitting up, didn't happen.  For the first time in 20 years, I slept lying down!

I knew I couldn't survive without eating so, since I had been a member of the Weight Watchers website for years, I decided to follow the program which then, was "Momentum" just to sustain myself during those difficult days when my hubby lay between life and death.

I felt great and the best part was my nightly reflux, back flushing into the lungs (and that hurts!) went totally away!  Amazing that with all the medical providers I had gone to, in the preceding years (who had told me I was too fat), not a one of them suggested a program like Weight Watchers to solve the problem or mild calorie restriction.

 It was such a relief to get rid of the nightly reflux that I decided to stay on that program when hubby came home from the hospital. I didn't expect to lose any weight since I'd been so unsuccessful in losing weight for many years so was surprised when almost a year later, my pants actually fell off me! (I thought that was an apocryphal story we often heard on TV!).  I decided to join and go to meetings so I could obtain lifetime membership, which had been a dream of mine for 50 years, and became a lifetime member in 2009, with a loss of 84 lbs and got my 100 lbs off award in March 2010.  I continued to lose to 112 lbs by 2011.  In 2010, my hubby had his second stroke (this time, an ischemic stroke).  And in 2014, hubby had his third ischemic stroke which left him a bit confused etc so I got into care giving for the first time in my life - the increased activity caused a 14 lb weight loss so now I was 20 some lbs under goal.

The combination of my busy-ness and the fact that my appetite never really returned, made it easier to keep on program and I went regularly to meetings which I found enlightening and more.  When they launched the "Points Plus" program a couple of years later, I gained a couple of pounds from 155 to 160 by adding a banana each day (fruit was "free" on that program) however, I felt a lot better, eating the additional fruit and since my doctor-set goal was 180, I was ok with the additional weight.

Being in a situation of having a complete wardrobe which no longer fit me, was interesting.  Friends contributed clothing and I told the family, I needed clothing in a new size (I went from size 20-22 to size 10-12) so when my birthday and Christmas came around, I asked friends and family to please think in that vein.  This time I put my large clothing away just in case I regained (we were told to give away our large clothing but since I'd gained back several times and thus needed to buy new clothing, I kept the larger clothing)

WW launched a new program called "Smart Points" a couple of years later but that didn't work well for me because it heavily penalized people for eating sweets and I don't have a "sweet tooth" but rather a whole mouth of "sweet teeth"! My adult grandkids were using a site called "My Fitness Pal" to count calories and I did something I never thought I'd do again - I switched to counting calories!  MFP is a great website - it makes it very painless to count calories - so different from the arduous job of writing everything down, manually!

I still attended monthly WW meetings to keep up my lifetime membership and kept my weight below my goal weight of 180 but seemed to be slowly gaining and their newest program "Freestyle" (FS) is very similar to the program they had in the 1970's where many foods are essentially not allowed because they are too many points and anything with sugar or fat in it, is very expensive, points-wise.  Weight Watchers changed their name to WW (Way to wellness) but I stopped going to meetings years ago.  Counting calories worked the best for me.

In Jan 2018, I weighed 171 - I am cool with the weight, but except for getting a "talking to" from my doctor who would like me to be back to 159.  I'd like to be back there also but several factors make that difficult.

I still work out 6 days a week, mostly bicycle, cyclometer or healthrider, 40 minutes a day and as I aged and issues of the aging process like arthritis got worse, I had to cut down my daily workout time.  Now, I do 20-28 minutes a day.

I have other issues which I have finally figured out - like my inability to swallow well and things getting stuck going down my esophagus, is due to a hereditary condition called "echinophilic esophagitis".  Echinophils are immune cells which get into the esophagus and cause narrowing and difficulty in swallowing.  (I DXed this from learning about it from one of the medical shows on TV.  What medical providers had told me that my difficulty in swallowing was from GERD, never made sense and their "fix" for it, blowing up a balloon in the esophagus only made it worse.  I have met two folks with this condition... one gent who had had 7 esophagoplasties and had difficulty swallowing water and one lady who had had 4 esphophagoplasties and was on a feeding tube.  I had one and decided to not have further ones.  I am on baby food (2nd foods) which work well and really are pretty tasty and so easy to swallow!

I'm so over stressing about my weight. I spent a lifetime doing that. :) I have the best of all worlds.  Counting calories takes minutes a day - I can do it in my iPhone etc, so it's no big deal and I enjoy being this size! :)  I am around 194 and seem to stay there but fit my 14's etc so I'm OK with it.  I still count my calories daily and am on a low fat nutritional program.  Have had no fast food since 1994.

I also learned that taking a lot of vitamin supplements especially the sub lingual B12's may be a really good idea to boost healthy food choices.

I did lose a bunch of overweight friends when I lost weight and stayed below goal  My hubby who never really complied to a diabetic friendly diet and stayed around 40 lbs overweight - eating the typical American diet of fast food etc, ended up having 9 surgeries in 2016-2018 - including a quadruple coronary bypass, 2 femoral to popliteal bypasses in the groin and toes amputated from both feet.  The fact that he, at least, did minimal cardio most days, saved his life, the doctors tell me.  However after all the surgeries, he not only refused to go on the healthy low fat nutitional program I am on but also refused to exercise. He said that he could not survive on the "grass" I eat. :)  He spent his last couple of years in skilled nursing and passed away in 2020 at the age of 75.  He never was able to turn down the high fat foods we all love. I am 76 now and healthy except for the MS I've had since 1981 which limits my mobility. Have not had GERD for years and so far, no surgeries other than to fix my ankle when I got hit by a car on my bicycle in 1998.

(Photo left is Me in 2016 at a WW meeting!)

Weight neither determines health or even obesity.  A recent study found that among 2000 people of "normal weight", 61 percent of them were obese by body fat measurement.  That being said, people who follow a healthy lifestyle of a low fat nutritional program and stay under BMI 30, live a bit longer than overweight people and more importantly, they may be able to avoid the surgeries from clogged arteries and veins, that which eventually was the cause of hubby's demise - he had several strokes caused by clogged veins and arteries.

Another study by the CDC!,  found that people in the BMI "overweight" range, BMI 26-29 live longer than those in any other range and people who are underweight (BMI below 20) have the shortest lifespans.  My BMI is around 31.

 Dieting has its own dangers - not well publicized of course, but it may make you unhealthy if not done properly, making healthy food choices and exercising cardio at least 6 days a week.

The following books have up to date information on Obesity research

Bacon, Linda: HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE, CA, 2008 ** well researched and informative.  See
Kolata, Gina: RE-THINKING THIN, (NY, 2007)
Campos, Paul: THE OBESITY MYTH, (NY, 2003) or THE DIET MYTH (NY,2005)
Fraser, L., Losing It: America's Obsession with Weight and the Industry that Feeds on it, 1997, Dutton (New York)
Gaesser, Glenn, PhD:Big Fat Lies, Fawcett (NY, 1996, CA, 2002)
Colles, Lisa: Fat, Exploding the Myths, Carlton (London, 1998)
Pool, Robert: FAT - exploring the obesity epidemic (NY, 2001)

Exercise which I do 6 days a week, never took weight off me but I do it because it's healthy. 

I know from history, if I give up sweets completely, I get really bad cravings and end up going off program, something I don't want to do because frankly, I love being this size.  I have a weight loss blog so you can go there if you want to know the latest!  I also made a weight loss video.

Websites:  Council on size and fitness
My weight loss video

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