I’m going to Costa Rica next month. I have done very little planning for this trip, but it has been a long time in the works. A long time ago, I entered a contest to win a trip to Costa Rica. I didn’t in that particular contest, but it started a chain of events that indirectly brought me down a new career path, a new life, and ultimately, winning a different contest to Costa Rica.
The details are a bit hazy. I vaguely remember downing pints of beer and very cheesy pizza at the Charlotte Room with Amy one Wednesday evening in December 2010. We were both working at a travel company that we have both since departed.
“I think I’m going to join Weight Watchers in January,” Amy said, sliding off a bar stool to go to the bathroom. Pizza and beer, remember? When she returned, she dropped the bomb that would set things in motion. “And I think I’ll launch it as a company wide challenge. A biggest loser type of contest. With prizes and everything!”
I filed this conversation in the foggy recesses of my pickled mind, and ate everything in sight over the next few weeks. It was Christmas, and holy hell, I still hate Christmas more than almost everything.
Amy’s email popped into my inbox one cold January day. Delete. I put it out of my mind.
A week went by, and I had resumed my place in the Charlotte Room, inhaling vast quantities of beer and pizza. Amy sipped something small and diet. Rum and diet coke, perhaps? “Well?” she inquired. I was cornered. Denial couldn’t protect me anymore.
The cold, hard reality of my closet sank in. I wore a size 14, but in reality, I would have been a lot more comfortable wearing a size 16. I was fat, and it wasn’t going to get any better.
I bit the bullet. At the very least, the company was going to reimburse our Weight Watchers joining fees if we hit our personal goals. I would either be out $60 with no results, or I’d have something to show for it after 12 weeks.
12 of us met over lunch one day, huddled in semi-secrecy in a boardroom. We needed to discuss a prize. We debated technology toys versus travel. Travel won – we were a travel company, after all. The prize? That same Costa Rica tour from the initial contest, two years ago – land only. Fine.
I gave up cheese for 4 months. I love cheese. I have cheese dreams, a monthly cheese budget, and I would happily be celibate for the rest of my life as long as I could eat lots of smoked gouda and aged cheddar for the rest of my days. I gave up beer, opting for a vodka soda water with a hint of lime when I would go out. I traded my morning toast and peanut butter with a banana for a cup of high protein, low carb cereal with berries and almond milk. I ate pasta sauce on tofu noodles instead of regular noodles. I measured everything. I ate carrots. Oh for the love of flying spaghetti, I ate carrots. I walked. I bought an exercise ball. When the snow melted, I cycled. I religiously recorded every morsel of food that entered my mouth on the Weight Watchers food diary.
The first week, I lost 4 pounds. The second week I lost 3. I was well on track to my short term goal of 15 pounds in 12 weeks.
It continued. I tapered to a healthier rate of 1-2 pounds a week. It became quickly clear from the weekly weight-ins that I was in the lead in terms of number of pounds and in terms of percentage lost.
I didn’t just hit my short term goal of 15 pounds. By the time the contest ended, 12 weeks later, I was down 22 pounds and floating in my clothing. I bought new clothes. I bought new clothes again. I was victorious. I was heading to Costa Rica.
After the contest, some of the participants went back to their old habits. It’s hard to change an entire lifestyle. I renewed my membership to Weight Watchers. I watched my life fall apart before my eyes a few weeks later. I caught myself eating chocolate ice cream out of the container, and disgusted with myself, I threw out the ice cream. I didn’t buy a subway pass all summer, opting to cycle to work every day instead.
I stepped on the scale on my last day at that job. I had lost 38 pounds in 8 months, and I owned single digit pants sizes for the first time in my life.
Things have stabilized now. I understand how to better cook for myself, to make smarter food choices and wiser portion choices. I try to schedule exercise into my life, the same way I make time to do laundry, buy groceries, or paint my nails. Cheese has made a glorious, triumphant return to my life, as has beer. A friend invaded my closet, armed with garbage bags. We purged. She carted off 6 garbage bags worth of “fat” clothes that day, forcing me to commit to myself.
And next month, I will get on a plane to San José, take a little break from my every day life, and go SCUBA diving. It’s all worth it to me, now I don’t have to wear nearly as much lead weight to be neutrally buoyant when I dive. I breathe better, I move better, and I look better.
I went home to Montreal to visit my family over the Christmas holidays. Talk about changing lives – my mother has jumped on the new life bandwagon, and she’s down 30+ pounds too. We went out shopping together, something we never used to do when I lived in Montreal. She rejoiced in her ability to walk around the mall without having to stop and catch her breath. I rejoiced too. I bought jeans that fit. In a size 6.
Vamos à la playa! Thank you, Amy. You changed my life in 2011.
I’m very proud of you! (I’d like to think I had some influence, too!)
Awesome job. 38lbs is amazing. Definitely know the pleasure of throwing out bag after bag of fat clothes (and vowing to never buy larger clothes again, no matter what).
Amazing! I know the feeling well. Just keep at it as I also know what it feels like to fall off the wagon and start all over again. I wish you all the happiness you deserve, and regardless of your size you are an incredible woman!
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