Hi, let me introduce myself…my name is Charlene, I'm a wife and mother of six children and I used to be obese.
I had six children that I couldn't play with, because I was so heavy that my asthma made running around with my kids hard and unpleasant. I spent most of my time sitting on a bench at playgrounds or swinging on the swings, because chasing my children around was difficult.
I also had a severe fear of those tunnel slides…I always thought that I would get stuck half way down because of my size. Looking back my fear may have been a bit irrational, but when you are overweight and already feeling self conscious…well, you know how it goes.
I know my children really just wanted to be with me, whether I could play with them or not, but I also know they really wanted me to play, too. I would sit and watch them giggling and running and having fun and I would get depressed because I wanted to get up and have fun, too. But it wasn't worth the asthma attack I would get.
Taking them to the Dairy Queen afterwards, left me feeling guilty. Guilty because I couldn't just take them and watch them eat ice cream, I had to have some, too. Then, there were times that they would also beg me to take them for ice cream after playing in the hot sun and I would tell them no…because I didn't want to be tempted by ice cream while I was somewhat trying to lose weight.
My children are older now, but I think it is just as important now to have lost the weight as it was then. The older they get, the more I think about the fact that I want to be around to see them get married, have children of their own and to be able to play with those grandchildren when they do eventually come along. The healthier I am, the longer I get to enjoy my family and my family means the world to me.
The Wasted Years
Looking back, it wasn't that I didn't try to lose weight, because I did. I would lose weight and then gain it back, lose it again and gain it back again. Nothing was permanent. I was a mess. I have so many mixed feelings about all those wasted years. I can't believe I spent so many of them unhealthy and overweight. Not only did it have a physical impact on my life, but an emotional one as well.
I had ballooned up to 205 pounds (at 5'2"…that's a scary number to see). It was embarrassing. I hated to leave the house. I managed to lose 40 pounds on my own. Then I hit a wall. The wall was called hyperthyroidism. My doctor prescribed medicine, which I didn't take, because I was afraid the pills would make me fat (hahaha, the joke was on me)….I ended up with a goiter the size of a softball. I could barely swallow. The specialist recommended that I have radiation therapy. Soon after the therapy, I gained 20 pounds of the 40 that I lost back. I felt like I was fighting a losing battle…
…and then Nutrisystem fell in my lap.
I write a blog and Nutrisystem had a new program for bloggers. They were asking bloggers to try their program, by providing them food and access to their website for their honest review of their program. I just knew I had to try it.
Happy Birthday to Me
(photo: me on my 40th birthday – before I started Nutrisystem)
Right before I turned 40 (last year), I made a promise to myself that this was the year I was going to lose the weight once and for all, one way or another. Then on my 40th birthday, I got word that I would get to be one of the Nutrisystem bloggers. Praise God, my prayers were about to be answered.
When I first started Nutrisystem I weighed 180 pounds. I was depressed, had severe asthma, was afraid I would end up with Type II diabetes (both types of diabetes run rampant in my family) and all I wanted was to feel normal.
I wanted to play with my kids and not feel tired. I wanted to walk up stairs and not be out of breath. I wanted to feel like if my kids wanted me to go down a slide or fit in some ridiculously small tunnel at the playground, that I could do it without fear of getting stuck.
When those first few boxes of Nutrisystem arrived on my doorstep it felt like Christmas. I had such an overwhelming feeling of hope. I read all the information and booklets that they sent. I went to the store and bought all the extra groceries that they recommended, like fresh fruits and veggies and whole grain breads. I became a label reader. Everything I put in my mouth I wrote down in the daily planner that they provided.
I started exercising again. Nutrisystem lets you break exercise down into ten-minute increments, three times a day. Since my asthma was so horrible it was hard at first. I honestly had to set a kitchen timer for ten minutes and just walk in place. I did that three times a day. At first I felt a little silly, but then I thought, who cares, no one can see me and if I can feel my heart pumping fast for those ten minutes than it must be working. I gradually increased the time and eventually added walking outdoors to my program. My children did it with me. They kept me company while I walked and encouraged me on those days where I just didn't feel like going.
It Really Did Work
When I first started telling people that I was using Nutrisystem, I heard a lot of negative comments….things like:
"I tried that once and it didn't work."
or "All their food tastes like cardboard."
or "You know once you stop using it, you will gain all the weight back."
It was hard to stay positive with all that negativity floating around me, but I remained positive and I started losing weight. In the first month, I lost 10 pounds. After that, things did slow down to a pound or so a week (which is totally normal). It took me almost a year to lose 35 pounds, but I learned that slow and steady does win the race. Weight loss is not a sprint, it's more like a marathon…where you just need to find the pace that works for you and go with it.
Sure, I would have liked to lose it faster (who wouldn't), but I learned a lot while I was losing the weight. I learned about proper portion control, how to eat the right combinations of food and so much more.
Everyone at Nutrisystem is so friendly and willing to help. The website community was a huge support system as well. I learned that I had an amazing amount of will power. The funny thing was I love to bake and cook and I was able to not only still do those things for my family, but I wasn't tempted to cheat on my diet in any way.
I felt completely satisfied on the Nutrisystem food that I didn't feel hungry. I was able to cook meals that I could coincide with my Nutrisystem meal foods like pizza, hamburgers, spaghetti, etc. I ate basically the same thing my family did.
I do have to say that, while I loved the convenience of having my meals already prepared, it did start to become a chore of sorts after a while when it came to cooking other meals. That is probably my only complaint. At first it didn't bother me, but after being on the diet for as long as I was, it became almost a distraction of sorts when it was time to cook dinner for my family. I could make them food and still not be tempted to eat it, but it was sort of a pain to make dinner and then make my meal as well…it almost felt like I was cooking twice, even though it was only in the microwave. That is probably my only complaint.
It Takes the Thinking Out of Dieting
The best thing about the diet is the convenience. I didn't have to think about calorie counting or what my next meal would be or how long it would take to prep for the meal. I didn't have to worry about the proper portion size either.
At first it was weird opening food and finding one cookie, or seeing a pizza the size of a postage stamp…I kept thinking is that all I get? I would have eaten twice or three times that amount before Nutrisystem. I thought how is that little bit of food going to fill me up. But it did.
The extra food that you add on really helps to bulk up your meals. There are certain veggies that you can eat as many of as you want (like celery, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, etc.). You just have to be careful because some vegetables are starchy like white potatoes, legumes and corn. Those starchy vegetables are count as "smart carbs" and you can only eat two of those a day…you need to watch because fruit and whole grain breads and crackers also count as smart carbs.
The diet can be tricky when you first start, meaning it's a little hard to figure out what combination of foods you want to eat, but once you get the hang of it, you will love the convenience of it.
It's such a smart diet, I loved it.
Even now when I'm not really using the Nutrisystem food, I still follow the guidelines and follow a loose version of the diet. It keeps me on track. I still write down every thing I eat as well. So many of the tricks and tips that I learned while doing the diet, I still use.
I could still eat my favorite foods
In the past I have tried several methods of losing weight…a lot of them were diets that excluded certain foods, foods that I loved and craved and when I quit the diet, I promptly ate (and of course gained the weight back).
But, with Nutrisystem, I could still eat the foods that I loved. I love pasta, pizza and ice cream. Nutrisystem has those foods…just served in the correct portion size. For instance, they have two different types of pizza, one served on a flatbread crust and another on a thick pizza crust. I just added veggies and turkey pepperoni (which counts as a protein) and I was happy as a lark.
They also have frozen pizzas, which were also delicious. Another favorite of mine is pasta, and Nutrisystem doesn't disappoint there either…foods like chicken alfredo, spaghetti, rotini and meatballs, even lasagna. So yummy!
And don't get me started on the desserts….You seriously can not say that there isn't a thing you don't like on the Nutrisystem diet. There are so many different choices to choose from.
At the playground with my children
Life changing? Indeed!
To say that Nutrisystem saved my life is a huge understatement. My health has improved by leaps and bounds. I no longer fear the playground equipment. I can not only walk up stairs but run up them and not get out of breath. I can play with my kids on a playground and not worry about getting stuck in the tunnel or breaking a swing. I can play games with my family and enjoy every minute of it.
I love this whole new life and I feel like I owe it all to Nutrisystem. I tried so many other diets in the past and nothing seemed to work as well as Nutrisystem did. Nutrisystem broke every thing down for me and made it fail proof.
I followed all the 'rules', but there were days that I didn't and I still lost weight. I didn't always exercise, but I did most days. I can count the times I 'cheated' on the diet on one hand. It didn't hurt me, I still lost weight.
I went from a depressed obese, embarrassed to be seen woman to a happy go lucky one who no longer cowers when a camera shows up. My family is what kept me going, they totally believed I could do it and their support is what kept me going.
I went from a size 18/20 in pants to a size 6….that's half my body!!! A size 2X shirt to a size small/medium. I love clothes shopping again and the time that I spend shopping with my daughters is priceless.
Nutrisystem Before – After
Before Nutrisystem: 180 lb – size 18/20 in pants and 2X in shirts.
After Nutrisystem: 146 lb – size 6/8 in pants and small/medium in shirts). I am wearing the same jacket in both pics.
I would recommend Nutrisystem over and over again. Sure it's pricey, but it's totally worth it. And they give you so many tools and tips while you are on it, that when you go into maintenance mode, it's still pretty simple. Trust me, if I can do it…you can too!
A Life Worth Living
It's always been one of my goals to run again. Before I had children, I was a runner. Since losing weight I wouldn't say that I see a marathon in my future, but I have enjoyed a renewed interest in running and also being outdoors. My children and I love hiking on trails. We enjoy the challenge and each other's company.
This summer I was able to cross another thing off my bucket list….participating in a Color Run.
Ok, so our confession is that we didn't actually run the race….because we were totally into getting sprayed with color more than the act of running itself. But we did have an awesome time (including running up the "Rocky steps", since the run was held in Philadelphia PA). And it encouraged me to take more chances in life and to stop sitting on the sidelines.
Since then, I have hiked in caves (something I never would have done before – that old fear of small, tight places kept me far away from them, now not so much)…hiked more trails and added some more mileage to those old running sneakers. Exercise doesn't seem like such a chore anymore. It's all about the adventure that life itself has become.
I also enrolled in college and I'm taking more chances and just enjoying the second chance at life.
I feel like Nutrisystem has given me a second lease on life….I not only plan on living for a long, long time to come, but I also plan to enjoy and love every single second. Would I choose to do Nutrisystem again? In a heartbeat!
Maintaining my Weight after Nutrisystem
At 145 pounds, I still have some weight that I would like to lose, but I have been able to maintain what I've lost so far.
It hasn't always been easy and I have given in to some temptations now and then. But salad and veggies still rule my life and I still watch my portions. I don't eat a lot of starchy carbs but if I do, I try to limit them to once a day. While I may never be a total health food nut, I'm no longer hiding in my closet eating those stress hormones away…I'm much more likely to walk or run those feelings off instead.
Another bonus is that my family is not only getting a much healthier, happier mom, but they are getting healthy themselves as well. Before Nutrisystem, I added butter to almost everything. Now they eat veggies without the extra fat of butter. And the funny thing is, they love veggies way more in the "naked" way than the buttery, fattening way. They also love to exercise more.
We enjoy our family hikes and play a lot more games like four square and kickball. We aren't tied to the television as much as we used to be.
When I say that Nutrisystem saved my life…I'm not exaggerating. It really did.
Editor's note: You can read more about Charlene's Nutrisystem success journey at her blog Adventures-in-Mommy-Land
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