My name is Michelle Rollins and I am a 22-year-old recent college graduate (December, ’08!) and newlywed (November, ’09) living in small town west Texas!
I grew up in Fort Worth but moved to Plainview in 2006 to pursue my B.A. in Art at Wayland Baptist University. It was there that I met my husband, Edgar, some of the best friends I’ve ever had, and 40 excess pounds. I tried throughout my years in school to reverse the damage of the college weight gain to no avail. School cafeteria meal plans were mandatory, and I never had money for my own groceries.
Somewhere along the lines I learned to love cooking. I was not a stranger to the kitchen growing up, but it wasn’t until my second year at Wayland, after a friend introduced me to the Food Network, that I found that I could channel my creative energy into cooking, and my love for it grew enormously.
Upon my graduation in December of 2008, I took it upon myself to make better choices in the food I would prepare and eat in order to lose the weight that 2.5 years of college food and college habits had left me. I had never been lean in my life, but at that time, I was the heaviest I’d ever been–180 lbs, which was noticeably overweight for my 5’6″ frame.
The changes I made did not have immediate or quick results. In four months I’d only lost two lbs, which in hindsight isn’t terrible if I’d kept it up. However, I grew up with ridiculous eating habits, such as naturally gravitating toward bread over vegetables, eating an entire pan of cookies or brownies in two days (if they lasted that long!), or drinking all the Dr Pepper I could possibly fill my stomach with any time I had the opportunity. These habits prevented me from obtaining or sustaining any real progress in my health.
In April, 2009, I was assigned to perform a “self-improvement” challenge on myself for a graduate class in which I was enrolled. I decided that my challenge would be living a healthy lifestyle, and one of my goals for the assignment was weight loss, with Weight Watchers being my method. I was not able to afford a membership at the time, but I gathered enough information in my own personal research over the internet to implement the plan on my own.
Within three weeks of the challenge I dropped from my starting weight of 178 to 170 lbs. After the three week challenge was over, however, I lost the accountability to keep counting points, and I stopped losing. But that summer Zumba classes started being offered at the university, and I officially fell in love. I grew up being sporadically involved in various dances classes, and if I had my way I’d dance every day. This new activity in my life combined with some of the habits I learned in my short few weeks following Weight Watchers enabled me to keep off the pounds I’d lost.
Unfortunately, the summer ended and so did the Zumba classes. Fall began and I discovered Spice Cake and Zucchini Bread. I have a real big problem with fresh baked goods, and the world’s biggest sweet tooth to boot. In one month I gained back 6 of the 10 lbs I’d lost since graduation.
Just a month and a half before my wedding, my employer began sponsoring a Weight Watchers at Work program. For 17 weeks, I could join this program for free, as long as I attended 14 out of 17 of the meetings. It was a godsend, and I soaked up the opportunity like a sponge. I officially began Weight Watchers on October 9, 2009 at 176.8 lbs, and I haven’t been the same since.
In the months following my enrollment in the Weight Watchers program, I learned moderation. I was not deprived of the food that I loved, and nothing was off-limits. Over time I learned to incorporate more whole foods instead of diet foods, and to not eat something if it wasn’t really worth the calories it contained. I learned to stay active and how much better I feel I’ve worked out several times during the week. I learned to keep my portions in check and not eat so mindlessly. I directed my creative and adventurous energy into trying new foods and new recipes. Keeping a food journal wasn’t hard, and weighing myself every day kept me honest and helped me disconnect from the number, so I wouldn’t beat myself up for a “bad” week when I really just had a lot of salty food the day before. But I think what I learned the most was to look at the big picture. Every week, every day, every meal, every bite is a choice I make and no Large Reese’s Sonic Blast is going to “blow my diet” because I’m not on a diet! I haven’t ruined anything! My diet is what I eat, not what I don’t, and I try my very hardest to live by that. I want to nourish my body and give it what it needs. I want to live in such a way that if for some reason I don’t live long enough to see my grandchildren, it’s not because I made poor choices in my eating and activity habits. And conversely, I’m not going to waste my life away missing out on all the good food God created for us to eat, and certainly not depriving myself of the opportunities to break bread with others and develop real memories and relationship.
Now, as I write this on August 24, 2010, I am approximately 140 lbs, 40 lbs down from my highest. I’ve changed from a tight size 14 to a comfortable size 8. I am leaner than I have ever been in relation to my height. I’m more active than I have ever been, and am physically capable of doing more things than I ever imagined. I recently overcame my self-consciousness of my legs and no longer afraid of wearing shorts.
Two weeks ago I realized that my circumstances had changed. I’d more or less maintained my weight all summer long and was stressing over the fact that I was less than 2 lbs from my “goal weight” and couldn’t seem to reach it. I was tired of eating so little of even healthy foods and still seeing no progress. I was tired of stressing out over water weight gains when I stepped on the scale, or losing control and overeating because I felt so deprived (I’ll insert a note here that as one loses weight in Weight Watchers, their daily calorie allowance reduces as well, and it had gotten too low for me to handle). So I decided something had to change. I needed to stop stressing over two pounds and realize that I needed to focus on my behaviors and not a number, whether on the scale or the tag of my jeans. I needed to stop making myself feel like I failed if I didn’t lose those last two pounds before “entering maintenance.” As a planner, people pleaser, and first-born by nature, it took a great deal of courage for me to stop counting calories, but I’m glad I did. Ever since I’ve not felt the great urge to overindulge, and I don’t get disappointed in myself if I do. I eat real portions of real food and I don’t worry when I get hungry in the middle of the day and hadn’t planned for that extra snack. I’ve learned more about what it means to eat intuitively, trusting and listening to my body. I know it’s only been two weeks, but already I feel more alive. I’ve been checking myself occasionally on the scale, and all I’ve gained is a greater sense of freedom and self-awareness. I feel like I’m turning yet another leaf in my life, and it feels so good.