Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Johannah Mullenix is 34, 5’7”, and currently weighs 134 pounds. In 2013, after struggling with being overweight since she was a teenager, she finally decided she needed to live a healthier life for herself and her son. This is her weight-loss story.
The Turning Point
My first vivid memory was of going to a doctor’s appointment when I was 13. I had a doctor who spoke with my mother in front me, explaining that I needed to go on a diet because I was too big. As I got older, I realized that my weight problem had started years before that when I was about 7 — and started to grow out rather than up.
Flash-forward to December 2012: I was out to dinner with my husband and 5-month old son. While my husband was gone from the table, I took a picture with my son. When I saw the photo I almost cried. My cheeks looked like a chipmunk’s, stuffed to capacity and about to pop. On top of that, I knew that in general my energy level was really low; so low that I had to do something about it. If I wanted my son to learn how to live a healthy life, I knew it needed to start with me. Diabetes runs in my family, and I had gestational diabetes while pregnant. I controlled the gestational diabetes without medication, which was my goal for that time, so I knew that if I could do it then, I could do it again to prevent diabetes from affecting me in the future.
In January 2013, I decided to do Weight Watchers. I had previously lost 50 pounds on a different plan that I knew wasn’t sustainable, but that fact convinced me to try Weight Watchers for the second time. As for exercise, I didn’t really do anything. I was a new mom, simply trying to juggle a baby, work, and all the other responsibilities that were on my shoulders. I focused on food instead of exercise, and was very deliberate about grocery shopping, food prepping, and tracking my calories.
I felt completely determined. I always had this magical goal weight number in my head and although I never really thought I could reach it, I was too stubborn to give in to those thoughts any longer. I focused on each week as its own independent timeframe — taking things one pound at a time, rather than the 100 pounds I needed to lose in total. Having my young son in front of me every day kept me focused on what I needed to do. When I had lost 13 pounds, I went to the doctor and her unsolicited comment about my weight loss helped encourage me. I asked her if she thought my goal weight was achievable and sustainable, and her encouragement kept my mind set on that goal.
My husband was also a big cheerleader, which helped. He doesn’t need to lose weight, but I knew that if I asked him not to bring something in the house, to keep an item out of sight, or to help by picking up a certain item at the grocery store, he would do it. Seeing the pounds continue to drop and buying new clothes continued to keep me from giving up as well.
Once I lost the weight, I felt so much better physically and emotionally. Doctors visits no longer involved concerning results. Nowadays, I am always eager to walk in a 5K when there’s one taking place on a day that I’m off. I also make sure to take the five flights of stairs up to my job every day, and I park at the farthest spot at the grocery store to help me get my steps in. Emotionally, I have more self-esteem and confidence. I go out with friends more than I used to and I can finally wear the types of clothes I always wanted to in my teens and twenties.
During my weight loss, I was surprised by how long it took for people to notice. I almost quit because no one noticed until I was 50 pounds down! I don’t think I actually would have quit, but that felt frustrating.
Today I still follow Weight Watchers — I am even a Meetings Leader. I eat lots of lean protein, fruit, and vegetables. I also still include the things I love (in moderation), like bread and chocolate, into each day.
I track my food on the Weight Watchers app. My biggest recommendation, for other Weight Watchers members especially, is to pre-track (or plan what you’re going to eat ahead of time). This has kept me from making poor choices spur of the moment. Since I don’t always get a chance to meal prep, I make sure to buy food that is handy or easy to portion out, cooking up large quantities early in the week so I have those better choices to grab at a moment’s notice. I work in my favorite foods, even when that means a milkshake, because it really is about a healthy balance.
I also make sure to remember my “whys” — why I started, why I keep doing this. I remember so many times leaving department stores depressed and in tears because nothing fit. I never, ever want to feel that way again, so this is how I take control.
Structured exercise is still a challenge for me. As I am getting older though, this is where my focus will start to shift, and I know I will need to set goals for this soon to keep me accountable. In the meantime, I focus on the “little” things: walking 5Ks when I can, going for walks with my family, getting steps in at the grocery store, avoiding elevators by taking the stairs … all of these things still add up to big changes. I’m focusing on those until I can get a more routine structure in place.
Even after four years of maintaining, there are still days when I feel like the “before” person. When I go to doctor’s visits, I still wait for the bad news even though there isn’t any (they now tell me I’m in perfect health). When I pass by a glass building, if I glance too fast I wonder who’s walking behind me — no one, it’s my reflection. Pictures still floor me and I still sometimes cannot believe the person I’m looking at is me.
So much of this journey is about your mindset. If you are focused on your “why” and you are in the right mindset, nothing can stop you. Part of that mindset is also focusing on what you can do each week rather than what feels like a large looming number you need to hit. Break up your total weight loss into small goals.
One of the biggest lessons I learned as well is that the time is going to pass anyway, so it’s better to lose it slowly and maintain, rather than lose the weight fast and gain it back. I also encourage Weight Watchers members by letting them know that my average weight loss was 1.3 pounds per week. That doesn’t mean every week was a loss, but over the year and a half it took me to lose 100 pounds, that was my average.
I think one of the biggest lessons someone can learn is how to deal with a gain during their weight-loss journey. This prepares your mind for what you will see on the scale during the maintenance portion. Maintenance is not one number forever — that’s statistically impossible — so you need to be ready to see minuses and pluses and not let them derail you.
Finally, celebrate every loss. “Every penny counts,” right? Well, so does every .02 and .04. Celebrate it. The words “only” and “just” should only be used for gains. Each of those losses will get you where you want to go, so make sure you focus on the trending line rather than a weekly number.
Need more inspiration? Read about our other weight-loss winners!
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