Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

July 24, 2013

HEALTH: FitCounty Success: Confessions of a {Recovering} couch potato

Lauren LaFleur
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Hi. My name is Lauren, and I am a couch potato. I always have been. I am also a food addict – a serious food addict. But I am working to recover from both of these.

I have always been overweight. When I say always, I mean it, too. I started putting on weight when I was 6 or so and soon became obese. For my entire life, I’ve always been the biggest one in the room. I have been on every diet known to man, almost, and I even had gastric bypass surgery in 2002.

The surgery was considered successful at first. I lost about 195 pounds in roughly 18 months. I’m the cautionary tale about weight loss surgery, though: If you do not change your behavior, patterns and relationship with food, you will not keep the weight off. Simple as that. I’ve gained back most of the weight I lost after the surgery, because I never changed my eating habits.

What it comes down to, weight loss surgery or not, is in order to be fit and healthy, everyone has to eat healthy foods in moderation, drink lots of water, exercise and get a decent amount of sleep. I’ve always been a failure at all of these – possibly the only thing I’ve ever tried and failed at in life, but definitely a very visible failure.

This past year, one of my resolutions for Jan. 1, was to start studying what the Bible has to say about how we treat our bodies. Without turning this into a religion column, I will briefly say that it took a while for my studies to work on me, but they did. The Bible says our bodies are a temple. I wasn’t treating mine like one, though. I was treating it more like a trash dump. It also says we’re to have self-discipline, and I had none.

In late May, it was time for me to make changes. I was extremely depressed, out of shape, tired all the time and generally felt bad. I had already broken my Coke-drinking habit (I went from about 6 cans a day to none in February), so I decided to start making other small changes.

Starting on June 3, I made small daily goals. They were very small, too. My first daily goal was to wake up early and go for a short walk, just to the end of my block and home. My second day’s goal was to repeat that walk and drink a minimum of 60 ounces of water. Each day, I worked to maintain the goals I had set and add to them.

I also slowly increased the distance I walked in the mornings. I walked to the end of the block and back for a few days, and then I walked to a driveway on the next block and back for a few days. I continued this pattern, adding just a little more distance every few days. It is a work in progress. I still want to add to my distance, but I also do not want to do what I have done in the past: Jump in with both feet, burn myself out and stop. With slow, small increments of increased distance, I’m building this new habit into my life.

I now walk every morning before I go to work (with the occasional day off because of rain or something), and just this past week I re-joined a gym so I can go walk on the treadmill three evenings a week. I drink about 80 ounces of water a day, also. There are days I do not want to walk. In fact, I keep waiting for that day I don’t have to convince myself that I need to go walk in the morning, and instead I will just wake up and hit the street as if it was some other daily task, like brushing my teeth. (They’ll be able to hear me shout for joy all the way in Bullard when I wake up and WANT to go for my morning walk! That day is coming.)

I’ve transformed my eating habits, too. Again, I started small. Before I started these changes, I ate fast food all the time. Every meal and even my snacks came only from places with drive-thru windows. I downed enough sweet tea (again, from fast food joints) to float a battleship. I had a long way to go.

I started by cooking all my food at home. Some of it was convenience foods, like ready-made breakfast sandwiches or frozen dinners. It was a big change for me, though, because fast food had been my mainstay for a couple of years. I started cutting junk foods like cookies and other sweets out, and I added a ton of produce. Little by little, I modified the things I cooked to fit a “clean eating”diet. (Essentially, this style of eating means you eat whole, fresh foods; avoid processed foods; and eat 5-6 small meals a day. You can research more about it on the internet.)

I’ve worked to find new and tasty ways to keep food interesting. I know there are some people happy with a steamed zucchini, half a skinless chicken breast and a half-cup of brown rice as a meal, but sometimes, I just want something different. I even recently started a Facebook page dedicated to the weird and wonderful food concoctions I come up with.

You may not believe me when I say this, but once I got past the first week of no sugar and other junk in my diet, I really enjoyed eating whole, natural foods. I've even cut out sugar and creamer in my morning coffee and drink it black now. I still am tempted by some of the yummy, though junky, things I used to eat. Some days, it is a struggle for me to pass on eating a cookie and instead eat a banana. I do allow myself one treat a week, though. Usually it is one of the yummy, calorie-laden coffee drinks from Starbucks, but I have also had one "junk food" meal a week, instead, as a treat.

This has all paid off, too. I lost more than 25 pounds in my first six weeks of my new habits. I know, however, that even though I still have a very long way to go in terms of being considered fit and losing the excess body weight I carry, I am doing what is best for me. And let me tell you, I haven’t felt this good in years. I have more energy. I’m stronger and more confident. I have more endurance to do the things I need to do on a daily basis. I’m happier and feel in control of what is going on in my life, rather than feeling like it is controlling me. Even my mom has commented on how different I am: "Who are you, and what have you done with my daughter?" made me laugh.

All of these changes have made me a better person. I can now serve others better with a happy heart. I am a better employee because my mind is clearer, and I have the physical endurance to do what I need to at work. But most importantly, I know I am treating my body the way it’s meant to be treated: as a temple, not a trash heap.