Recently, I met Kathy Harwood (pictured far left) a lovely happy athlete who works at Kingma’s. We bonded over native plants and in the course of our far-ranging discussion, talk moved to food. After an intense discussion about smoothies and juices, Kathy shared with me that she lost over a 100 pounds. I was so impressed with her story that I asked her to write it for this blog, knowing there are a lot of folks who struggle with their weight. Kathy is an excellent writer. Thank you, Kathy. There is so much wisdom and enouragement in here. Everyone should read it!
I was raised in a blue collar family, dad worked in a furniture factory and mom was a housekeeper at the Holland Home on Fulton Street. They had six girls. Keeping us all fed was more a matter of what was affordable than what was nutritious. I recall a fair amount of Hamburger Helper, casseroles with white rice and hamburger, etc. When things were really tight, my mom would whip up a pan full of rice with butter, brown sugar and raisins. I didn’t learn a lot about nutrition as a youngster. To top it off, my mom and my aunt, who lived just down the road, were both awesome bakers! I learned at an early age to love cookies and cakes and breads.
Our oldest son was born in 1986 when I was 24 years old. The youngest was born in July, 1991. We had four kids (Morty, Carolyn, Steve and Rob) all under five years old. Life was busy, busy, busy. I was a stay-at-home mom until Rob was about 8 years old. During those years, I did daycare for a friend, sold Mary Kay and Tupperware. Our kids all played hockey and we homeschooled. In short, I was busy caring for a busy family and NOT caring for myself. When Rob was five or six, I realized that the “baby weight” excuse was no longer working. I knew I had to do something. I weighed 250 pounds and I felt awful.
I tried Weight Watchers and I tried Atkins. I tried other “plans” as well. They all worked for a while. But I would always fall back to my old habits and gain the wt. back.
We went on our first family vacation out west in 2000. I recall not being able to do some of the hikes that my hubby and kids wanted to do because I was just too out of shape.
The following spring, my little nephew wanted to use my camera to take a photo of my kids and me when we went for a hike in the woods at Muskegon State Park. I had the photos printed and was appalled at what I saw. For years, we had no full length mirrors in our home. I was used to seeing just my face. THAT was my “moment of truth”. I taped that photo to my fridge and from that day on, there was no turning back. I began educating myself on nutrition. I swore off any fancy “programs” and decided to just eat better and move more.
For a while my husband, Mort and I, went for a walk every morning and every evening. When walking became too easy, I added a backpack with weights in it. When that was no longer enough of a workout, I started jogging. I couldn’t even jog half a city block without being out of breath. I gradually worked up to two miles twice a day. I also lifted weights two or three times a week. We have a weight bench and dumbbells in our basement, nothing fancy. I gave up baked goods and added more fresh fruits and veggies. I lost the first 90 pounds over the course of a year and a half or so.
I have spent the last 6 or 7 years just kind of treading water. Feeling much better but knowing that I should still lose another 10-15 to really be at a healthy weight for my height. A few months ago, I watched “Food, Inc.”. I don’t recall now why I watched it or who recommended it to me. That was the beginning of the rest of the story. I watched “Forks Over Knives”, read “The Omnivores Dilemma” among other books. Something led me to “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”. After seeing that, I bought my juicer (Omega 8006). I gave it to me for my 50th birthday.
I started adding a juice a day while cutting out all cheese, bread and most meat. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I felt MUCH better with this new way of eating. The last 10 pounds that I’d been thinking about losing just melted away without a thought. I had more energy. I swear that even my eyesight improved although I cannot prove that 🙂 My skin looked and felt better.
I’ve never had any intention of giving up animal products. I thought I’d just add more fruits and veggies. But I feel so much better now that I rarely eat meat or eggs. I taste the cheese samples at Kingma’s now and then, but don’t bring them home. I still have a weakness for cheese if it’s in my house. I don’t drink cow’s milk. I prefer almond milk. Mort and I eat meat about once a week or so. We get that beef from his sister’s farm in Greenville. Grass fed beef from happy cows. If it weren’t for Mort, I’d be perfectly happy with beans, grains, veggies and fruit. But if he cooks, I’ll eat 🙂
My “diet” these days usually goes something like this: a fruit smoothie or a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. If it’s an oatmeal day, I add walnuts, cinnamon, chia or ground flax, frozen fruit and almond milk. Lunch is easy: a wrap with lots of veggies and some hummus or leftovers from the fridge. I like to keep a dish of steamed or sautéed veggies in the fridge that I can add to couscous or quinoa or brown rice and beans (black are my favorite!). If I close at Kingma’s and get home at 8:30 or so, that is a good time for a juice because it’s light and I don’t go to bed too full. I can also make a meal of just a large tossed salad with various greens and lots of veggies.
I can sum it all up by saying that the turning point really came for me when I gave up on all the trendy diets and realized that I needed a LIFESTYLE change. I had to commit to making better choices for the rest of my life. Diets do NOT work in the long run. When I made the “eat better, move more” commitment, the weight just came off. I remember when I lost the first 50 pounds. Mort went to the basement and came up with two 25 pound dumbbells and set them on the kitchen counter. Lifting those two was HARD. And to think that I was carrying that around with me 24/7/365. No wonder I felt so awful and tired all the time. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even be able to lift the two 50 pound dumbbells we have down there.
Today, I am within five pounds of where I was when I got married at 20. I could be more “fit” and I’m working on that 🙂 But, I feel better than I have in years. I used to have an inhaler for asthma. Not anymore. I used to have sore knees and a back ache. Gone. At my last doctor’s visit in the spring, my blood pressure and cholesterol were perfect.
I still jog most days. I don’t really like to jog, but I know I need the aerobic exercise and walking doesn’t get my heart rate up enough.
I truly believe that many of the chronically overweight people in this society are that way because they cannot metabolize or properly digest the traditional American diet. I know many people who don’t eat a lot of food, but are still overweight. Our bodies don’t recognize the processed junk we feed them as FOOD. I spent years trying to eat less and still not losing weight. Only when I ate BETTER did things change for me. I can eat a lot of low fat plant based food now, more than I ever would have dreamed of eating on the old meat and potatoes plan.
One thing I should add, as cliché as it sounds, is that if I can do it anyone can. I love to eat. Food tastes really good to me. I don’t really like to exercise. There is always something better to do – play in the yard, read a book, get on facebook!
Back to Sue for a postscript:
I’m so glad I met Kathy! She inspired me to watch Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, too. I love that documentary! You can stream it on Netflix. That inspired me to try a ten-day juice fast of my own. I’m on day 7. When it’s completed, I’ll tell you all about it!