January of 2014 will be two years since my daughter Alyssa started losing weight. At the age of 13 she weighed 255 pounds in 8th grade. She had struggled with her weight since 2nd grade, but it got out of control by 5th grade. Genetics played an unfortunate part, but also lack of activity and poor food choices created the perfect storm. It was a constant battle, and one I had a hard time facing. My husband and I also were focused on the daily challenge of having a special needs son in our home, and many times that took priority, as well as caring for an elderly mother.
Before I knew it Alyssa was obese. As a young pre-teen and teen, it was devastating. Going shopping for clothes that fit and were age appropriate was very difficult, bathing suits impossible, even being able to zip up boots past her calves was almost impossible. She was miserable, but as close as we were she NEVER wanted to talk about it. One day we both came to our breaking points. I bought a scale, which we didn’t own on purpose because we didn’t really want to know how much she weighed. I practically had to force her to get on it. She hated me in that moment, but she got on and saw the number. 255.8. Ouch. How did my baby weigh as much as a grown man? She totally broke down and looked at me thru her tears and said “momma please help me”.
I was ALL IN at that moment. We talked for a long time and that night we never looked back. Neither of us knew what we were doing. While I had gained some weight myself, I had always been thin and never had to lose weight, so I didn’t know what to do. I knew we needed help. I had just started that year working at my daughter’s school and I knew we needed people to help hold US accountable. I knew I had to help my daughter and teach her skills so eventually she wouldn’t need my help but be able to manage this on her own. I enlisted the help of her dean at school. He is the varsity wrestling coach, in great shape and he was a little on the crazy side. Exactly what we needed! Someone with passion!! I was terrified to tell him, like he didn’t already know Alyssa was overweight??? Yea he knew…but telling someone else made it real. It also meant we HAD to succeed and to be honest. I was not sure we could not do what it would take to lose weight. While Alyssa has many great qualities, sticking thru something when it gets hard wasn’t one of her strong points. Boy did I under estimate my daughter!
Her school (shout out to Christian Life School in Kenosha Wisconsin) became one of her greatest supporters. Crazy Mr. Pinter enlisted the help of a senior girl who was out of soccer with a knee injury (equally crazy and athletic). She worked out with my daughter every day after school for months. When she couldn’t some of the varsity wrestlers would make sure she was doing what she was supposed to in the weight room. We started counting calories. No fried food, no junk, no pop, treats in moderation. Months went by and she SLOWLY started losing weight. The first 30 pounds were the hardest because she put a LOT of work in and saw little results. NO ONE NOTICED. But she knew. For the first time in her life the scale was going in the opposite direction. My husband and I made her join Jr High soccer, the first time she had been in an organized sport. She wasn’t thrilled, and felt very intimidated, but she really liked it and ended up getting the trophy for most improved player that year. Her team mates were so proud of her. She was still quite heavy but she was moving, active and eating better.
The summer before her freshman year she had a huge push to look and feel better by the time high school started. Her first day of school she was down 60 pounds, and people noticed. In fact many people didn’t even recognize her she had changed so much. That summer we hired a personal trainer for 2 months because that was all we could afford. We finished up with her trainer at the same time school started and then she challenged her to join the high school cross country team. I agreed, and Alyssa was NOT happy. The one thing she hated more than not eating fries anymore was running! I talked with the coach at school and he was willing to work with her to meet and even exceed her weight loss goals, and maybe even instill a love for running. When I dropped her off at practice she would not even speak to me. When I picked her up she hugged me and said she loved it! Well maybe not so much the running, but the family like atmosphere that XC provided. Her first high school meet she ran in 40 minutes. Dead last. Two months later she was running the same distance in 25 to 26 minutes. She received the team trophy for most inspirational runner of the year. She even inspired her old mom who had NEVER run a day in her life to buy a pair of shoes and see what I could do. I now run in about 8 5K’s a year and usually finish in the top 4 of my age division. I also dropped 40 pounds in the process. Inspiration is contagious.
Alyssa started her sophomore year this August 102 pounds lighter. She is a varsity cheerleader. She has inspired her teachers, and students at school and Mr. Pinter uses her as a student mentor for anyone who thinks they are unable to lose weight, or just needs encouragement. She believes God has called her to be a personal trainer so she can work with overweight children and adults. She has accomplished far more than I had ever dreamed she could do. It’s amazing what your body can do when you don’t give up and when you have the right support system in place. She never said she was on a diet, but was just changing the way she thought about her life. Diet seems so temporary. Lifestyle change is just that. She changed her lifestyle, so now it’s not even a thought, but second nature.
Well coming up is a new year of challenge and encouragement. I am thankful to all who have encouraged us along the way. Alyssa needs continued prayers as she gets older and faces the challenges of navigating thru her high school years. So here is to looking ahead without forgetting where we WERE, AND knowing that God’s grace is always sufficient no matter how much you weigh.