My Story

Note: Be sure to click on the tab: About Karen

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Here we are. Mom and son, Sean.

Like many, I’ve had a life-long journey of weight loss, and I’ve lost and gained that same 10 pounds a hundred times. After my son’s birth, nearly 27 years ago, I was at my highest weight, 198 pounds. I was absolutely mortified and so discouraged. When I became pregnant, at nearly 170 pounds, I was already overweight so with the doctor’s help, I tried keeping my weight gain to about 20 lbs. I was fairly successful; but as I crept closer and closer to 200 pounds, my self-esteem spiraled downward.

Over the next several years, I lost some weight, and tried my share of diet ideas; but nothing too strange. I always tried to eat healthily and exercise, but because of the stress in my life, I gave up. There was a long period when the lack of money was a huge factor and thus meal planning focused on what I “thought” I could afford.  So foods like boxed macaroni and cheese with hot dogs became a family staple.

photo Karen

My daughter, Kirsten, and I at lunch for the very first Take Your Daughter To Work Day.

In 2002, my weight started creeping up again, and I was right at 189 pounds. Once again I had lost myself, so in early 2003, I started making simple changes in my life. My children and I moved into a new environment and we got our own place in town. We began enjoying life again, eating healthy, exercising regularly, and I began nurturing myself by, after nearly 20 years, returning to my life-long love of acting on stage. I’m not saying things were always perfect; I had my ups and downs with my emotions, but I felt I was gaining control over my life again.

Somewhere along my journey, I discovered Dr. Oz. I bought a copy of his book You: On a Diet and started learning more about food and how the body and brain react and/or responds to food. His book came with an exercise DVD by Joel Harper. Along with my 2 to 3-day walking regime, the 3 level DVD was (and still is) a perfect fit for me.

In 2007, I started suffering from some very painful, low back issues. In fact, I could barely lift my left leg to walk. It was horribly painful, and my exercise plan came to a screeching halt. After visiting with a back surgeon, I knew I didn’t want to walk down that road. … so I made the decision to get help with some physical therapy, AND lose 50 pounds which I knew would help my back issue tremendously.

For nearly eight years, I hadn’t kept a scale in my home and only weighed once a year at my annual exam. I started with a small goal: to weigh less at each annual visit. I kept this promise and the weight came off slowly, but it came off, and my doctor noticed.

In 2010, I started evaluating my eating again. I felt that I had my emotional eating under control and that I was eating very healthy foods which included low-fat meats and dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, along with eating more whole grains and a lot less sugar. I started to become a dedicated nutrition information label reader. My goal, at the time, was to only purchase products that contained 5 or fewer grams of sugar per serving. And the foods had to have at least 5 or more grams of fiber per serving. I was diligent to eat only one serving at a meal. For instance, if the whole wheat bread label said that one slice of bread equaled one serving, and contained 2 grams of sugar and 4 grams of fiber, then I brought it home; and when I used it, I only had one slice of bread for my sandwich.

I also moved away from non-fat milk to plant-based kinds of milk like soy and almond because the non-fat milk I used contained 10 grams of sugar per 8 oz serving. That works out to 2.5 teaspoons of sugar per glass. (Calculating sugar grams to teaspoons is a real eye-opener.) I stopped eating red meat altogether, and only ate skinless chicken breasts and some occasional canned tuna and salmon. I was feeling better and losing weight.

I continued reading up on nutrition and sometime around the end of 2010, I began to explore a vegetarian diet. Since I was only eating chicken, I felt it wouldn’t be that hard to give up. I focused on protein “alternatives;” such as protein whey shakes, soy milk, low-fat cheese, Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, and of course, I had learned that beans and lentils were packed with protein. I felt pretty good, my weight was continuing to go down.

Around my birthday in 2012, I hit a real plateau. By then, I had lost about 35 pounds. And of course, many of my friends and family noticed the dramatic weight loss I had achieved and was maintaining. Most people thought that I looked great and of course, encouraged me to “not lose anymore.” And if I had stayed at that weight, yes, I was feeling and looking better, but I still had 20 pounds to go to reach my 50-pound weight loss goal and about 4 points to reach my healthy BMI goal of 22. (BMI: Body Mass Index. Normal BMI for my height/weight goal – 18.5 to 24.9) but I just couldn’t seem to move the scale. I didn’t know what else I could do and began to think that my body had found its happy set point.

In April of 2012, I was visiting my younger sister who asked me if I had seen the documentary Forks Over Knives. I hadn’t so we watched it together. The documentary was a HUGE eye-opener for me. It presents information about nutrition from the perspective of two doctors (now in their early 70s) who have spent their careers studying, examining, and discovering that most, if not all of the degenerative diseases that afflict us, can be controlled, or even reversed, by not consuming animal-based and/or processed foods.

After seeing the documentary, I stopped eating eggs and all dairy products. For me, that meant no longer purchasing cheese, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt. Giving up cheese was probably the hardest. My kids still tease me about how I kept hanging onto Feta cheese in my salads and the little wedges of Laughing Cow “processed” cheese (definitely a bit of a vice for me). For years, for whatever reason, cheese and bread have always been my comfort foods. It probably stems back to my childhood and time spent with my favorite grandmother who I adored and was my emotional support during my childhood and during my first years of marriage. When I was a little girl, I sometimes got to spend the weekend with her, and I remember our special Saturday nights playing Canasta and making toasted cheese sandwiches on Big Loaf white bread that we broiled in the oven. Then we’d “stay up late” to watch Gunsmoke! I still miss her.

After seeing Forks Over Knives, I was anxious to learn how to eat a healthy, plant-strong diet. Soon after visiting my sister, I was lucky enough to see a rerun of a Dr. Oz show that featured Dr. Joel Fuhrman. He shared his book, Eat to Live, which explains how to eat a healthy, plant-based diet! It was exactly what I was looking for. A simple book, with simple recipes, that showed me the right plant-based foods to eat to be healthy with a side-benefit of losing weight.

I downloaded his book on my tablet and dove in reading and following the easy and delicious meal plans and recipes. In what seemed like a matter of a few weeks, I dropped those last 20 pounds! I’m not kidding you. It literally melted away. My digestion, which sometimes caused me to eat my share of antacids, never felt better. And I was eating, from my perspective, a LOT of food.

I no longer take any pain medication for my back, because it doesn’t hurt anymore. I have the most energy I have ever had so I’m able to hold down a full-time job and perform regularly on stage at my local community theater. In July, I became a grandmother to a beautiful little girl, Charlette Aya, and I can’t wait to watch her grow up and spend time playing with her and keeping up with her.

So, the best part of my story: I’m keeping the weight off pretty effortlessly. I weigh in the range of about 135 to 137 pounds, which is less than what is listed on my driver’s license!! My BMI is at 21.8. I don’t worry about “an actual single number” on the scale. I like living with my weight range. I’m also increasing my exercise. Along with the walking and stretching DVD, I’ve since added a I’m also increasing my exercise. Along with my walking and stretching DVD, I’ve since added a yoga class through my employer’s wellness program.

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Kirsten’s Wedding, August 10, 2013.

So, as you can see, I’m not one of those success stories who lost 50 pounds in only six months. But that was never my goal. My lifestyle change has been a journey, and I’m enjoying the distance.

Now I want to help others with their journey to reach their goals — whatever they may be.

Cheers, Karen

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