by Janine Pynn
I was always overweight as a kid, was never athletic, and I dreaded gym class. Especially track and field, because I was always the last to be picked for any team, and always came in last place. I remember going to the doctor as a child to talk about my weight, and he made me feel terrible about it without giving me solutions to address the problem.
I was about 180 pounds by the time I got to high school. Friends and other students never really made me feel bad about my weight. However, my family was a different story; my mother and I didn’t always have the best relationship and I remember a time when I was about 15, and she said I was too big to fit into her clothes. I also remember overhearing her with a friend, making jokes that I was bigger than she was. I started eating for comfort because I did not have the support and guidance I needed from my parents. They were young and going through issues of their own. This was devastating and heartbreaking for me as well. My own mother, the person who was supposed to nurture me, and teach me to become an independent grown woman, was the first person to knock me down. In the back of my head I knew that overeating was not a great decision, but I began to think, why even bother to care?
On and off through the years I tried working out and losing weight.
In my late teens and early twenties I tried everything — like diets from the doctor where I’d starve myself for days only to end up binge eating in the middle of the night, and even diet pills. As I got a bit older I started joining gyms, and getting a personal trainer for a few months. I would see a bit of progress, but would never stick to it when it got tough. Then I’d assume I was lazy, beat myself up, and fall out of my routine. I’d end up gaining more weight than before. When I was 30 I had my daughter Nia and I gained even more weight. After I had her I really started to notice how my weight affected me, and how unhappy I really was, but I didn’t know how fractured my relationship with food was, or how to fix it.
In February 2016 I went to visit my family doctor for an unrelated issue. She brought up my weight, and suggested I try a weight loss program that was offered through Humber River Hospital.
She motivated me (through scare tactics) and explained that I was lucky to be in good health — for now. I reluctantly agreed to go along with what she had to say, and we filled out the application together. A few weeks later, I sat in the information session (more like a dose-of-reality-session, as I looked around at the people there with me) and listened to my options. Because I personally don’t have any health issues related to my weight, I decided right then and there that Bariatric surgery was not for me. I decided I needed to do something NOW, and it felt like this program was an opportunity to get started. Looking back, I still felt like I had to do it all by myself, because I had “done it to myself”. I decided to join a program which involved a twelve week liquid diet, weekly weigh-ins, and a class about lifestyle modification.
My experience with the doctor during the assessment was a little disheartening.
He read my file and criticized my decision for choosing the the program over the surgery. He looked at me, and told me there’s no way I could lose the weight without having the surgery. I was shocked and hurt; wasn’t he supposed to help me by encouraging me? I explained my decision, and he looked me straight in the eye, and told me that he’d follow up with me in a year when I was eligible again for the surgery. He did not think I would last, or complete my program.
I went home discouraged, but found my inspiration again through my daughter Nia – she needs a Mommy who is healthy and a strong role model in her life.
I began my program in February 2016, and it was the biggest challenge of my life -– twelve weeks of no real solid food. My first class I walked into the bariatric clinic at the hospital and it was a real eye opener for me. The doors are bigger, the scales are bigger, the toilets are bigger…it was all so overwhelming, and I said to myself, “This will not be me anymore. I refuse to let this continue”. The most I lost in one week was eight pounds. Each week we would weigh-in, and then receive a class on behaviour and diet modification, eating healthy, exercise and social work. It was surprising to me how much they focused on my emotional and mental health. Who knew that understanding why you do the things you do would have such an impact on losing weight?
The experience was difficult, but the staff was very supportive. In the program I learned that while I was completing a twelve week diet, it was more important to find lifestyle habits that worked for me long term. It was very difficult — we started with over 25 people in my cohort and by the end there was only 12 left. I was extremely proud of completing the program and making it to the end. This was the first time I was successful at completing any health-related program in my life. In the beginning it was very difficult for me because there were a lot of people doubting my determination, and doubting whether this was a viable way to lose weight.
As the weeks went by there was more and more encouragement from the people around me, especially at work. They could see the progress as I was making and were so happy for me. That’s not to say everyone was supportive. There are always the negative ones who made unkind comments, or were not sincerely complimentary about the progress I made (editor’s note: watch out for those crabs in the bucket! Some people don’t like to see others do well!) . I had to push past it and not let it bother me, because what I did was not easy!
When I completed the twelve week liquid diet I was down close to 60 pounds, and that was the most weight I had ever lost in my life! As scary as it was to not eat solids for twelve weeks, it was even scarier to think about going back to eating real food again. I didn’t get the kind of support around those feelings that I needed through the program, but soon after I would meet someone to help me with that.
Toward the end of the twelve weeks we were encouraged to join a gym to do light exercise in order to build the habit of movement.
It wasn’t an easy habit for me, but one day I forced myself to go to the gym and saw a trainer in the change room speaking to a client. Against my nature, I asked her about her services. As it turns out it was one of the best decisions I ever made! We met for our first appointment within a few days and have continued to work together now for well over a year. She convinced me to leave the big commercial gym I was at, and join a friendly community gym (Iron Lion Training) where we’ve had plenty of one-on-one sessions. Now I am even working out alongside her in fitness and boxing classes. It was super scary for me at first but now I just love it!!! Who me?? Love working out??
It seems crazy but it is true. It does so much for me physically and mentally and I love being a part of the group. I was supported through my fears of the unknown, and after pushing through that, I am suddenly doing things with my body that I never thought possible. Things like squatting to 90 degrees with 50 pounds, pushing 120 pounds on the sled, using the heaviest dumbbell in the gym to do hip thrusts (100 lbs!!). Now I’m working out 4-5 times a week!
I was even runner up in a health and wellness competition!
After eight to nine months, I lost a bunch of weight, started eating right, found a personal trainer/coach that I enjoy working with, found a community of people at my gym that I look forward to seeing, and inspired my daughter to try lots of new active things like gymnastics, capoeira, and boxing. My coach also encouraged me to start digging a little deeper, and start examining the reasons why I seek food for comfort. She offered a habit-based daily coaching program to help with just that. (ed. note: contact Iron Lion Training for details regarding the Iron Lion Training Better YOU Challenge!)
In February 2017, I joined my coach’s daily online nutrition coaching program. Before I started I wasn’t sleeping enough, I wasn’t eating properly, and I was also tackling too much and not looking after myself.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. I was really tired at this point, and had my ups and downs.
Sometimes I thought I was doing things right, but I actually wasn’t, and it affected my mood and energy levels. It’s frustrating to feel like you’re doing all the right things, without feeling any better.
Five months later, I’m enjoying the daily lessons. They are helping me make the sustainable changes I want.
People often want to know how much weight I’ve lost. Around 80 pounds in a year! My coach estimates that I’ve gained about ten pounds of muscle too! But what I’m most compelled to tell people who ask is this: With hard work it can be done. There will be ups and downs and lots of frustration, maybe even some tears, but it is worth it. Remember that the most important thing is to keep the changes small, and practice being just a little bit better. That works way better than trying to make huge and unrealistic changes all at once. The best part is that if you make a less than optimal decision, you can wipe the slate clean and start fresh again the next day. The phrase “going on a diet” is misleading, as it implies a journey, with a defined beginning and an end. But when you approach diet and exercise as a lifestyle, there is no defined end point. Exercising regularly has helped my health and my mood immensely. What’s more, this process has forced me to dig a bit deeper and see the mental issues and behaviours causing me to make the choices that I do.
I now have the knowledge and ability to do things that I have never done before.
I have new friends and coaches who encourage me, and know me in a different way than anyone else. No one has ever made me feel as good as I do when I am running down the hall pushing a sled and hearing people yell “Go Janine, you can do it!” One thing for sure is that I never thought I could do it, but now I know I can.
Editor’s Note: Iron Lion Training loves having Janine on our team! We find her kind nature and strong work ethic very inspiring. Her story clearly illustrates that making changes takes bravery. Janine knew that she’d need help along the way, and asking for that help takes a lot of courage too! If you’d like to learn more about the bravery it takes to make significant life changes, please join us October 1, 2017 for our first ever Bravery Workshop, lead by master storyteller Cam DePutter and Iron Lion’s very own Steph Iron Lioness!
You can register here.
You can also contact us to reserve your spot — spaces are limited!
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