Growing up, food didn’t command my thoughts. But in my late 20s, I couldn’t finish one meal before I began to think about the next one. At age 42, I found myself with an obese BMI (31), high cholesterol (255), tight and uncomfortable jeans (size 14–16), and my highest weight ever (188 pounds).
As a U.S. Public Health Service officer working for a community health representative program, I knew I wasn’t living a life that reflected my title or the program I served. I felt like a Public Health Hypocrite!
In February 2008, I saw a picture of myself and was disgusted at how I looked. I knew losing weight was hard, but so was being overweight. In addition to being obese, I have severe knee problems. One ligament is torn on my left side, and another is torn on my right side; both will need surgeries in the future. I knew a lighter me could possibly give me healthier knees.
I have struggled with losing weight since 1998. I consider myself a diet expert. I feel like I have tried every diet out there, but I have not failed. I just have found 240 ways that did not work—until I found Weight Watchers. I had lost some weight on all the diets I tried, but I could never sustain the rigid guidelines of eliminating certain foods. A friend at church was having success with Weight Watchers, so I researched it online. I knew my work and travel schedule would not allow me to attend meetings on a regular basis, but, when I learned I could do it all online, I was thrilled and joined on July 1, 2008.
After only 7 months, my BMI was normal (24). I lowered my cholesterol to 212, I wore size 8–10 jeans, and I weighed 142 pounds. I officially joined the ranks of the asterisk holders that state “results not typical.”
I truthfully can say being overweight was hard, but this has been the easiest “diet” I have ever tried. Now, it is a way of life for me. When I was growing up, I didn’t even know food products had labels. Because of Weight Watchers, my children are learning about reading labels, and they often ask, “How many points is that?” We all are eating healthier as a result of my changes and mostly without grumbling (birds of a feather eat together). My kids now look forward to eating out; they don’t expect it. Now, we only eat out once a month. They have seen the change in their mom, not just the physical change but also activity-wise. They love all the energy I have now to do things with them.
Through my success, my husband and parents have started the program. My husband started about 3 months ago and has lost 25 pounds. My mom, dad, co-worker, and friend are just starting. My new motto is: “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” I feel energy. I feel alive. I feel hope.
Commander Dione Harjo, M.P.H., is assistant director of the National Community Health Representative Program, Indian Health Service.