Location: Lake, Michigan
Before: 428 lbs.
After: 153 lbs.
What was the “turning point” that prompted you to lose weight?
I had several incidents that led up to the beginning of my weight loss journey. My beloved grandmother died in late January, 2011.
At the funeral, a cousin asked me, “What are you going to do now, Miss Borawski. Who’s going to pray for you now that grandma is gone?” I blurted out, “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to WALK again.” Sounded good, but how? I weighed 428 pounds and was in a wheelchair or wheeled walker. They were just words I blurted out in grief, or so I thought.
A few weeks later, I broke two teeth while sleeping. The dentist told me that I was consuming too much sugar. In my case, it was in the form of a soda addiction. Her words fell on deaf ears, but apparently the seed was planted. The following week, my rheumatologist told me that there wasn’t anything else he could suggest to help with my rheumatoid arthritis. When I told him that “I couldn’t live like this much longer,” he said frankly, “Theresa, I’d be more concerned about just living period.”
I decided if he couldn’t do anything for me, I had better do something for myself, but wasn’t sure what. I hadn’t been on a diet in years. I was more than 200 pounds overweight, and couldn’t even walk to my mailbox. What was I going to do? Three days later, a conversation with my sister was the final catalyst needed to start me on a journey that would change my life completely. I decided that I no longer wanted to live a life of pain, sadness, and immobility.
When did you start trying to lose weight?
On March 1, 2011, I weighed 428 pounds. That evening, I had a phone conversation with my sister. She called that evening to tell me that she had scheduled a date to have bariatric weight loss surgery. I expressed my fears and concerns about the surgery and begged her not to go through with her plan. I told her that there must be another way, but she had already made up her mind to proceed with the surgery.
Unable to convince her, I hung up the phone and immediately said out loud, “I’m going to show you! There is another way!” At that moment, something clicked in my mind, and I never looked back. By Labor Day I had already lost 100 pounds, and another 58 by Christmas. By March 1, 2013, I had lost a total of 275 pounds and I have not looked back!
How did you get started?
After hanging up the phone with my sister, I opened the refrigerator and noticed that I had six 2-liter bottles of soda in there. A quick calculation told me that I was consuming close to 1,000 empty calories per DAY with my soda addiction. I began by emptying the bottles down the drain. Next came the sugar bowl. The next day I went to the store and purchased low calorie bread, fruits and vegetables and I purchased a calorie counting book. I began to count calories and completely cut out junk food, sugar, and sweets. For the first couple of weeks, I switched to diet soda, but a few weeks later, I was drinking only water with sugar-free flavored packets. I was unable to do any exercise because I was immobile and could not walk or stand for more than a few minutes at a time. After losing the first 100 pounds or so, I began to take a few steps at a time, increasing my distance each day, until I was able to walk a mile. November 1, 2012, I walked into a gym for the first time in my life and learned to use the treadmill. It was quite an experience! Now I can walk 2-3 miles without difficulty.
What was your biggest challenge?
It sounds a bit strange, but one of the biggest challenges for me was the high cost of purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables and nutritious food. I was consuming only about 1000-1200 calories a day and eating a whole lot LESS food, but my grocery bill increased dramatically. I used to eat junk food, processed food, boxed mac and cheese, Little Debbie snack cakes, etc. and was surprised at the cost of good, wholesome food. Another challenge was keeping myself in clothes that fit! I was losing weight so rapidly that I was continually out growing (in a good way) my clothes. Every month or so, I was in a smaller size, dropping a total of 14 (size 40W to a misses 10/12) sizes. Thank goodness for thrift stores like Salvation Army and Goodwill! Learning to realize that I am worth it and making my physical wellness a priority took time.
Were there any times when you wanted to quit or give up? How did you stay motivated?
As unusual as it sounds, giving up was never an option for me. My main motivation was to WALK again without a walker or cane, and to get out of that wheelchair once and for all. That, along with the determination to show my sister that I could do it, kept me going on days when I wanted to eat a bag of chips or a candy bar. I was fortunate in the sense that I was losing weight at a rapid pace and was seeing great progress on the scale each week so it was easier to stick with it. The more I lost, however, the slower the pounds began to come off and it was harder to stay focused, but by then I was becoming more physical and walking on my own so I was determined to get stronger and do more things.
If you reached a weight loss plateau, how did you break out of the rut?
There were only a couple of times when I actually reached a plateau. One time was for three weeks. That was really tough. It was so hard to keep doing the right thing and not see any results on the scale. I knew that as long as I was doing what I needed to do, that the results would eventually materialize, so I just kept doing it, and sure enough, a few weeks later, I began to lose weight again. Now that I am trying to maintain my current weight, I’m thrilled with a plateau! I don’t want to see the scale going the other way! And don’t weigh yourself every day. I can gain 6 pounds overnight and stay completely on plan. Weight can fluctuate for a number of reasons; don’t become a slave to the numbers.
What’s your current exercise routine?
Exercise was never been a part of my life, before or during my weight loss. I don’t like it and I absolutely hate to sweat! Dieting without exercise goes against all the weight loss theories, but I just don’t like it. But, I knew increasing physical activity was critical to good health, so I began to make an effort to add some physical activity to my routine. I just don’t call it exercise. I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and at the beginning of my journey, I was confined to a chair and couldn’t even walk to my mailbox. Traditional exercise was out of the question, but I began to lift some light weights while sitting in my La-Z-Boy. After I lost about 100 pounds, I was able to gradually move from the wheelchair to the walker. I would use the wheeled walker to walk a few steps in the driveway, stopping to rest every few steps. I would try to go a little farther each week. Eventually I was able to use just the cane and then to walk freely. Last winter I walked on a treadmill at the gym a few times a week. Now I do squats, lift heavier weights, ride a bike, walk a few miles several times a week, and garden. I just plain live life. Someday I hope to learn to dance. My physical activity, although not necessarily called ‘formal’ exercise, comes from doing what I love to do and doing things I never thought I could.
What’s your daily diet look like?
I eat oatmeal for breakfast every day. For lunch, I have either a can of low-calorie soup or Greek yogurt and fruit. Sometimes I’ll eat a protein bar or Fiber One bar if I am still hungry. Snacks include an assortment of yogurt, fruit, rice cakes, or protein bars. I absolutely love watermelon! For dinner, I eat chicken, turkey burger, pork, and a lot of vegetables and salads. I really like stir-fry. I eat very little bread or pasta, but will use the low-calorie whole grain bread once in a while to have a turkey burger or sandwich. With apples in season now, I’ve been enjoying baked apples with a bit of sweetener and cinnamon.
What’s your favorite healthy snack/meal?
I enjoy Greek yogurt, fruit, rice cakes, and protein/fiber bars for snacks. I like to make a turkey burger and bean mix for a high-protein/high fiber meal that is very filling. On occasion, I’ll buy a bag of those popped rice-cake snacks if I get the munchies and others are enjoying chips or pretzels.
Do you have specific suggestions for avoiding temptations?
One can’t be tempted by things that are not readily available so just don’t buy it. If you don’t have junk food, sweets, or high-calorie snacks in the house, you can’t eat them. Stock your refrigerator with good, wholesome food and carry nutritious snacks with you everywhere so when you get really hungry, you have no excuse to eat things that are not on your plan. And, always be prepared. Don’t go out to dinner if you haven’t already made a plan as to what you are going to order. Check the menus online or speak to the chef about a low calorie substitution. Bring your own salad dressing with you in a small bottle and plan ahead for parties and other social gatherings. Don’t let, “I didn’t have to choice – I had to eat something be an excuse.
What’s your life like after weight loss?
I am a completely new person. I have never been an average sizeed person and at age 50, I feel like I am living life for the first time. My health has improved dramatically and I no longer need so much medication to get through the day. My blood pressure has normalized, my cholesterol has dropped, and my dependence on high potency pain medication for the RA has decreased. I will always suffer from the arthritis, but being active and mobile has helped a lot. This summer I purchased a bicycle and climbed a dune. I am doing things I never dreamed possible and I am happier and healthier than I have ever been in my life. And clothes – well, I love being able to wear fashionable, form-fitting clothes and heels! Three years ago I was considering selling my home to move into an assisted living facility because I could barely take care of myself. Last week I went fly-fishing for the first time! Life is very, very good and I am incredibly blessed!
If you have any suggestions to others what would they be?
My main suggestion is: Don’t go on a diet, but rather make choices that you are willing to do EVERY DAY for the rest of your life. People go on and off diets all the time. Think of your new life as a journey, one that you will never go off. I knew on day one that I did not want to go the rest of my life drinking black coffee, so I switched to sugar-free French vanilla coffee creamer and Splenda. Don’t give up something that you are not willing to give up for life. Instead, incorporate the calories into your allowance and make cuts elsewhere. If you know that you could never give up chocolate for the rest of your life, replace that daily candy bar or hot fudge sundae with a snack size bar or three Hershey kisses before bed. Don’t go on a crazy fad diet or use diet pills because as soon as you go off of it, the weight will return. Instead, make choices that you are willing to make for Life.
The most important thing is to BELIEVE that it is possible. Trust that God (or whatever your belief system allows) will help you and that YOU CAN – and YOU WILL – change your life. If a 428-pound, wheelchair bound woman can do it, you can too! Don’t give up!