Maybe I Need Losing Weight For Dummies

Weight has been an issue for me as long as I can remember. Growing up I was always the biggest kid in my class. Being called out of my name was a regular occurrence and sadly, I kinda got used to it. By the time I got to high school I had ballooned to about 170 pounds. I tried everything under the sun to try to lose weight, including diet pills and they worked – well, thy worked for a little while anyway. After a couple of weeks my body became immune to them and whatever weight I lost, I quickly gained back.

Once I got into my 20’s things changed. I lost about 75 pounds and fell in love with exercising at home. Now hold on. I was by no means skinny ( I never wanted to be) but was at a healthy weight for me.  My doctor once told me, “Desiree, there are people that say that they have big bones but you – you really had big bones.  I had tons of exercise tapes and DVDs and every day without fail, I would come home after work without fail and  do one of my work out videos. One my favorites at that time was “The Firm”. Talk about a workout! My butt was getting firmer by the minute!

All was good until I got into my 40’s. Sigh.. What can I say? I now understood all those stories that I had read about “middle-age spread”. No matter what I did I could not seem to lose weight. Okay, I’d lose three pounds one week, only to gain two pounds the next. It was a vicious cycle of losing and regaining the same five pounds. The good news was that I was still exercising at home anddddd I was still able to handle the more advanced workouts. There was hope!

Fast forward to now. Another sigh.. After having my Achilles tendon surgery a few months ago, I was out from work for eight weeks – four of those weeks were non-weight bearing. What that meant was, I could not walk or have a toe touch the ground for the first four weeks after surgery. Now, what I didn’t mention was that within the past three years I had gained more weight and weighed more than I ever have in my life. It pains me to even write about it let alone say it out loud but the truth is, I had tipped the scale at 307. OMG! I didn’t recognize myself and my body was shutting down. Let’s see, last year it was sciatica, I tore my Achilles tendon (the first time) and this year it was my Achilles again (re-tore). I know it all stemmed from all the weight I had gained.  If only there was a “Losing Weight for Dummies” book out there….

On an appointment for my third epidural shot for my sciatica, my doctor suggested that I look into Aqua Aerobics.  He said that it would be great for me because 1) it was low impact, 2) it burned lots of calories and 3) it took the pressure off your joints. As I laid on the steel table inside the operating room (that’s where they took me to give me the shot) with my hospital gown open and my butt exposed to the GAWDS, I thought about what he said.  As soon as I get off this table, I am going to look into this.

I discovered a wonderful Water Aerobics class at the Y. I started going to class twice a week and like a miracle (I know that was cliche) the weight started to come off. Praise the Lord!  I couldn’t believe it! In the beginning I wasn’t sure how this was going to work as I couldn’t swim (was traumatized as a kid but we’ll talk about that later) and couldn’t grasp how this would be enjoyable for me. Let me tell you, I loveeeee this class! I can feel my cheeks stretching from ear to ear from smiling so much during class. It’s so much fun! By the time I went in for my surgery I had lost 17 pounds. My surgeon was elated because he had told me that the more weight I lost before surgery the better because going under anesthesia while overweight makes things more difficult. I was so happy but my happiness did not last.   I started worrying about the surgery and how I would have to be off my feet for such a long period of time. My mom (God bless her) was coming up from Virginia to take care of me and I knew that those southern comfort meals from my childhood would wreak havoc on my now 52 year old body.

Fast forward to after the surgery (I lived!) – by week seven I was able to walk – albeit slow but I was walking.  It had finally become the time where I was able to step on the scale to assess the damage of my being off my feet for four weeks. I really did not want to do it but knew that I would have to in order to move forward. My worst fears had come true. I gained 11 out of the 17 pounds that I lost. Also, since I had stitches from the surgery I wasn’t cleared to go back to the pool just yet. There was a huge risk of me getting an infection, not to mention the weather had changed and was now cold.  Ughh, another setback.

Physical therapy was like a Godsend.  My therapist (Melissa) and the rest of the staff helped me so much. The folks at One on One Therapy were great and just last Wednesday I completed twelve weeks.  Now what? It’s too cold to go be in the pool and although I am 80% better, I won’t be running any marathons anytime soon. My challenge now is to find an exercise routine that would burn as much calories as I would be burning at the Y in the pool.

I am on Weight Watchers (I have had a long on again, off again relationship with them) and in addition to them I also look into other free weight loss sites, one being SparkPeople. I discovered Coach Nicole on there when I was unable to walk on my foot from the first Achilles tear that I had.  Nicole has several “seated” exercise videos on their website for folks like me who can’t stand due to injury, disability or from being severely overweight. Yesterday, I did the “11 Minute Seated Cardio Video Workout and her “9-Minute Arm and Shoulder Video Workout”. Although you are sitting down you are still getting a really good workout.  My goal is to build up enough endurance and strength so that I can get back into my regular standing exercise routine and also so that I can walk without having to stop every couple of blocks because my back is killing me. Since the surgery I have been driving my car to the train station and then get on the train from there but I don’t want to have to depend on my car to get around.

So this is my life and where I am right now.  To start my new physical therapy free week right, I made a nice, healthy dinner – baked salmon with lemon, brown rice and steamed broccoli.  Pray for me!




My College Experience – 30 Years and Counting

My college journey has not been easy. I graduated from high school back in 1982 with flying colors. My college experience however, was the total opposite. Not because I couldn’t keep up academically but because I simply didn’t have the tools needed to attend college. Let me explain.

Growing up, I was never taught the importance of going to college. My parents, who were both raised and never finished high school. To them, graduating from high school was the equivalent of graduating from college so there were no talks about going off to college to further my education. Instead, it was always ingrained in me the importance of having a job so, that’s what I concentrated on.

Just as the excitement of graduating high school was over, my friends had started hearing back from some of the colleges they had applied for. All this talk about going to college and reading about all the different programs they offered peeked my interest and made me think about the future. Hey, I want to go to college too! Unlike my friends, who started school in Fall of 1982, I applied to start in the Spring of 1983.  Low and behold, I got accepted into to a Community College!  What I didn’t realize was that without financial aid, there was no way that I would be able to afford to buy the textbooks I was going to need for my classes, nor would I be able to afford the tuition. At the time that I got accepted, I was working part time in a fast food restaurant. What am I gonna do?

I didn’t qualify to get financial aid but I was a candidate to be a Work Study student, which meant that I could work at the school (with pay) while taking classes. Sounds good, right? Well, I barely made enough to afford the carfare I needed to get to school, let alone buy books. Needless to say I was only able to complete one semester. I was devastated.

In 1990, I was working as a secretary for the government full-time and felt like this was a good time in my life to finish what I started years before. I got accepted into New York City College of Technology (now known as City Tech) and was majoring in Hospitality/Culinary Arts. I started the semester with a vengeance and determined to make up for my failed attempt back in 1983. I was about 3 semesters in when I started having health problems. I have asthma and back then my asthma was not controlled so every other month I was in the emergency room. College doesn’t take kindly to excessive absences and I was put on academic probation because of it. This can’t be happening I thought. My college dreams were being pushed further behind.
In the mid 90’s, a close friend of mine and I tried going to TCI (Technical Career Institute) to try our hand at technology. We both got accepted and were in the same classes. It didn’t take us long to realize that technology school wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. We stopped going after one semester.

I still yearned to go to culinary school so my sister and I enrolled in a Pastry Arts program at a well known Culinary school in New York City in 1998.  I was elated! It was an extensive 18 month program, and guess what? We finished the program! I had finally finished something I started!

Having completed from the Pastry Arts program was great but we only received a certificate for the program.  I knew if I wanted to get further in my career I would need to get a Bachelors Degree. I started working for a well known university back in 2002. Part of the perks of working for the school was paid tuition for employees so I took full advantage of it. Yes! Things were looking up. I am going to get my degree and for free no less!

I loved my classes and was doing great in school even after my niece and nephew came to live with me…. until I got laid off in 2009. I thought, this can’t be happening. My hopes of getting a Bachelors degree were slipping through my fingers.
The following year I got a job at another well known university and they also had a free tuition program for their employees.  I couldn’t wait to finish what I had started so many years before. The curriculum was not easy and there were times that I wanted to give up but friends and family encouraged me to keep going. I was just too close to the finish line to give up now. I am proud to say that I FINALLY graduated on May 21, 2016 with a BA degree in Psychology!

I am now 52 years old (my birthday was a little less than month after graduation) and my college journey has taken 33 years. It has come with many challenges but it was totally worth it. I try to live my life like that old saying that goes, “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.”