Margaret Strong, 52, Kirkland, Washington, Elementary School Teacher
How much weight have you lost? 90 pounds
Tell us what the “old you” used to be like. The old me didn’t have a voice. For whatever reason, I always felt more comfortable sitting in the back row, observing and taking it all in. I lived in denial and didn’t realize how large I was getting. I have always been a happy person, but I did live with a level of depression that I didn’t acknowledge until I started to lose weight. Health-wise, I was rather inactive and noticed that I became a bit out of breath climbing the stairs in my home.
What prompted your weight loss? When I turned 49 years old, I began to think about our family tradition of celebrating my siblings 50th birthday at exotic destinations complete with extended family members and photographs that would be plastered online for everyone to see. I became nervous and decided then and there that I wasn’t going to be overweight on my next birthday. During this time a family member was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. This news made me become more determined, because my father had diabetes and ultimately died of chronic heart disease, something that worries me today.
How did you lose the weight? A friend from work shared with me a program that she and another friend of ours were doing and I joined them. While following this program I learned a lot about proper nutrition and a new way of eating that limits your intake of starchy carbohydrates. I stopped the other way of eating and focused on eating just real whole foods, nothing that was processed or came from a box. I learned to try new vegetables and to prepare my favorites with different seasonings and sauces to mix things up.
During this time, I walked back into my local gym and reinstated my membership. I began working out in the mornings before work, so I wouldn’t talk myself out of what I needed to do – burn calories and build muscles. I got back into lifting weights, something I loved to do in the past and divided my cardio time between the treadmill and the elliptical. I changed the way I saw myself and began exercising to replace the needs that weren’t being met in my life. I now act and live in the present. I don’t dwell on the past and only take it one day at a time. I weigh myself each morning and watch carefully to see if I go above a two pound gain. It’s the best way for me to keep honest with myself. Some people use how they feel in their clothes as their guidance system, but this has never worked for me.
How long did it take? I’m still a work in progress but I lost 70 pounds in the first year and another 20 pounds in the following six months. I didn’t set out to lose this much and really didn’t start with a number in my head. I did incorporate periods of maintenance throughout my weight loss in order for my body and my mind to get use to where I was. This was a complete change from what I had done numerous times in the past and the best decision I ever made.
What was the hardest part? One of the hardest things is to realize what size I really am and pick clothes out to wear in the department stores. Not all designers are created equally so I continue to get confused. I’m working on not letting the number dictate how I feel about myself, but this is an old mental tape that has been with me for a very long time. I have to erase it every time I go shopping. To support me in this endeavor I have found fashion designers and online clothing stores that I stick to because I know how they size their clothes. A size 4 for one designer might be a size 6 for another and I don’t need the confusion in my head.
Most fun part of your weight loss? The best part of losing weight is the confidence it has brought me. It’s interesting to see how society treats people who are over weight: as invisible objects and those who are height weight proportionate with kindness and courtesy especially from the opposite sex. Men acknowledge me now and open doors for me when in the past they would never even make eye contact. I’ve found my voice through this process and speak my truth. It’s changed the way I see the world and how I live my life. I won’t lie. Trying on clothes straight off the rack that are single digits is also very fun!
Most rewarding experience? Knowing that I am improving my health is probably the most rewarding thing that has come from this experience. The thought that I’m going to be active and healthy in my senior years makes me smile. I love being able to run a 5k with my niece or spend a summer day at the water park with one of my nephews running up the stairs and not gasping for air. Having friends and coworkers tell me that I am their role model and see them start on their own journey to better health is very flattering, but the best part is being able to share my experience with my students. By sharing my story I am able to show them that all they have to do to accomplish any goal in their life is to put one foot in front of the other and don’t ever look back.
Who/what inspires you when you feel like quitting? I have a very large support system, which includes my family and friends. When I’m feeling discouraged they are just a text away for instant help. Seeing the 80-year-old man on the treadmill at the gym running along side of me is inspiring and lastly, seeing the joy on my students faces as I participate in PE with them each week inspires me to continue living my life in a healthy way.
How has this weight loss changed your life? This process has taught me to live in the now and to focus on the things in my life that make me happy. I believe in the person that I am today. I value myself more today than I have in the past. I know that I can do whatever I want when I set my mind to it.
Have any advice for others who’d like to lose weight? Begin the process slowly with small changes with your food intake and choices. Don’t have any set expectations as to how long it will take you to lose weight or a set number in your head. Instead, focus on being consistent in making the small changes a part of your life. Seek medical advice before starting. Read a book, and watch a video or two to educate yourself in the areas of physical fitness and injury prevention along with nutrition. Knowledge is power. Half the battle of losing weight really starts in your head and will continue there once you reach your goal. Maintenance is for a lifetime and it’s a lot harder than dieting, since people will not encourage you along the way to keep going. You have to do that yourself ahead of time by loving who you are and making yourself priority number one in your life.
Your must-have fitness equipment. That’s simple…the outdoors! I live in a wonderful place. The Pacific Northwest has water and mountains just minutes away from each other with many glorious parks in between. I love going for hikes now and getting out in nature. I learned how to do Stand Up Paddle Boarding last summer and I’m addicted. Running is becoming a favorite activity of mine since friends ask me to join them now in the different 5k races they have signed up for. The Electric Run is my favorite so far. I love running a course in the dark and listening to music. It’s a lot of fun!
Favorite training song: I enjoy getting lost in a song while I’m exercising, but I don’t have a favorite song. Songs that have a fast tempo help me a lot when I’m running to keep going and not to give up. I enjoy listening to anything by Maroon 5, Clean Bandit and Alesso.
Favorite healthy food: I’m a girl who rarely ate a vegetable before starting this journey into better health. Now I crave salads and enjoy ordering them at restaurants to see how different chefs get creative with lettuce.
Favorite not-so-healthy food: I’m sure I was really born into an Italian family in my previous life. I love manicotti, lasagna, rigatoni, spaghetti and deep dish pizza! Chocolate and peanut butter ice cream come in as a close second.
Funniest /weirdest/most awkward experience during your weight loss journey. Since becoming more active, I have been trying different floor exercises and challenges. Last month I did the month-long plank challenge. The awkwardness wasn’t in doing the plank but was in seeing all my skin just hanging from me for the first time. Not a pretty sight. I’m happy that I completed the challenge in the privacy of my home. It’s something that I have to deal with since my skin won’t bounce back to what it looked like when I was 20 years old.
Future goals: I recently enrolled in a running group and I’m excited to get started. My physical fitness level is increasing and I’m not letting my age get in the way of this. Currently, my goal is to participate in at least one 5k race per month this year. I’m signed up for three during the month of May. After I build up my stamina I want to complete both a 10k and a half marathon with my niece, Morgan.
Congratulations Margaret! Both your success in weight loss and your success in the mental fitness game is incredible. You’ve come so far and we know you’ll never slide back, because you’ve really embraced both a healthy lifestyle and a healthy mindset. So happy for you! Fitz and the entire team at Fitzness.com