July 2014 headTo tell you my story, I must first tell you that I am a regular person just like you.  I don’t have a magic formula or a quick solution.  What I can offer you is hope.  I lost 85 pounds in 15 months and kept it off (mostly) for over 4 years.  I’m still pursuing my goal of losing 100 pounds total!  If I can overcome or even just manage my food issues, you can too!!!  It’s never too late to start!

So much changed for me in 15 months.  I started my journey in September 2009.  By December 2010, I had completely turned my life around.  My name is Tanya.  I am married and work full time in accounting. I am fortunate to have a very supportive husband named Jimi. Thank God he has loved me at all my weights because I think I was overweight the majority of our first 8 years of marriage.  We were unable to have children of our own, but we have twin nieces and an awesome nephew that we spoil any chance we get!

My struggles with my weight have been going on for years.  To help explain where I’m coming from, I need to tell you my history. I tried and failed to lose weight too many times to count. I even lost weight before my wedding, but I didn’t keep it off!  Here’s me at my wedding in March of 2001.  I felt like I was on top of the world. I had lost weight and only had about 10-15 pounds to go.  I was able to wear a size 12 wedding dress, instead of a size 18!!  I had been a size 14 all through college, so a size 12 felt AMAZING!  I had every intention of continuing with Weight Watchers after the wedding.

Tanya Wedding

I believe my poor coping skills were a huge reason I started gaining weight back.  Things started getting tough in May of 2001 when my Mom had a stroke only two months after my wedding.  How could I not feel like the stress of my wedding was her breaking point?  That was a nice healthy dose of self-inflicted guilt for me.  Have you ever heard anyone use the expression eating your feelings?  Yep, that was me!  I felt guilt, sadness, anger, frustration, fear, and happiness all at the same time.  I didn’t really know how to handle it all.

Along with that, we were spending a great deal of time in the hospital and rehab center, so fast food became too easy again.  I didn’t have healthy habits in place when this happened, so I reverted back to my old behaviors that were easy and comfortable.  I guess I turned to food for comfort or reward or something.  One thing I know with absolute certainty is that I did not get to be morbidly obese because I was just hungry. Clearly I was eating way too much food for all the wrong reasons.

When the stroke first happened, my mom couldn’t even talk or hold her head up.  She had to be fed through a tube and had to re-learn how to swallow and walk and talk.  Her left arm was permanently paralyzed, and her left leg was partially paralyzed.  She improved dramatically over the next 4 or 5 months, but it was clear that things would never be the same.

While preparing for my Mom to come home in a wheelchair, we had a lot of work to do at my parent’s house.  Most importantly, we had to build a ramp for the wheelchair.  Thankfully my new husband’s family is handy because my family isn’t…at least not to that extent!  We then decided that my husband and I should move into my parent’s basement so we could be there to help. None of us knew what to expect.  This also allowed my husband to go to school full time, so it was a win win situation.  In order for us to have a place to live, we had to re-organize the entire house.  We moved furniture, cleaned out the basement, put up new walls in the basement, etc.  It was a LOT of work!


We were thrilled when my mom came home.  She had survived and we felt so lucky, but nothing was the same.  As much as I wanted to be there to help, it was also very hard.  I was worried about her a lot. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things that had changed.  Being there was a constant reminder.  I didn’t feel right grieving about losing my old mom when my new mom was right there.  I felt like I should be nothing but grateful and felt guilty ALL the time for feeling sad about the situation too.

By December 2001, you can tell that I was starting to gain.  I wish I would have caught it right here.  I could have stopped it before it got completely out of control, but I just couldn’t do it.

Dec 2001

It was also hard that I was working while my husband wasn’t.  He was in school and had the freedom of a full time student.  I was working in a SUPER stressful job that I grew to hate.  We were newlyweds living with my parents.  No matter how you look at it, that is a tough situation.

This is me on Memorial Day 2002.  This is just one year after my mom’s stroke.  I don’t know how much I weigh because I didn’t want to know.  It is clear that I weigh more than I did last year at this time!


By September of 2002, it was even worse!!  I just kept gaining.  What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I get it under control??


Here I am in July of 2003 in our “apartment” that we set up in my parent’s basement.  Just two years after my wedding, I was completely unhappy with myself.

July 2003 in basement

In the fall of 2003, I was a bridesmaid for one of my closest friends from college.  I was mortified when we went dress shopping and found out that they didn’t have plus sizes.  So I sat and watched the other girls try on dresses that I was too big to fit into.  I hated to be the big girl in the wedding, especially since I had been so much smaller in my own wedding, just 2 1/2 years earlier.  I really felt like I ruined her wedding photos by being so huge.  Instead of motivating me to lose weight, it just made me feel worse, which caused me to turn to food again.

In 2004, I was battling some pretty major depression and started intense therapy to try to work through some things.  While I definitely learned that I needed to open up about my feelings more, I was still not really ready or able to deal with my weight issues.  My hubby had finished school and was working, and I started a new job in February 2005.  Things were starting to look up, and I had hope that I would be happy again.  Then my husband hurt his back.  We had hoped it wasn’t serious, so we tried physical therapy for months.

We moved out of my parent’s basement and into our own place.  We were still pretty close to my parents, just in case they needed us.  Jim’s condition didn’t improve even with all the physical therapy, so he had to have surgery for a herniated disc in his low back in November of 2005. He was out of work (understandably) for a long time.  Bring on the financial stress.  Of course he and I were both also just stressed in general about him being in pain all the time and both of us being powerless to fix it.  He did improve quite a bit over the next year and started a new job in early 2007.  I also changed jobs in early 2007 for what I thought was going to be a better opportunity, but it didn’t work out that way.  I was travelling a lot and didn’t have a routine that I now know I really need.

Then we found out that my father had some type of mass on his colon. He had surgery in June of 2007.  The surgery was supposed to be a small incision to remove the mass, but they ended up having to cut him from his chest to his waist to get it all.  Of course he stayed in the hospital overnight and I stayed with my Mom.  He is a quick healer and was looking pretty good by my brother’s wedding two weeks later.

Tanya and Jeff 6-17-07At my brother’s wedding, I was the chunky bridesmaid again!!!  After being so upset about my friend’s wedding (4 years earlier), I was full intending to lose weight before my brother’s wedding so I didn’t feel that way again.  Well, it didn’t happen.  I didn’t lose the weight.  My dress barely fit.  I was sucking in the entire time just to wear it, and I changed out of it the second the photos were done at the reception.  You can tell in the photo (below) that I was just SO uncomfortable!  I feel like I didn’t enjoy the day like I could have, all because of my weight.  I just felt gross.

In early July 2007, my Dad found out that he did in fact have cancer.  While they had successfully removed the mass from his colon, they also found 3 or 4 lesions on his liver, one of them the size of a quarter.  Just days after finding this out, I was in another wedding, this time for my brother-in-law.  I didn’t know his fiance very well at that time, and I just thought she was so perfect.  She was (and still is) beautiful and thin and I felt SO self conscious about being the big girl in the wedding party – AGAIN – FOR THE THIRD TIME.  Why couldn’t I just get it together and lose the weight??  Like I said, I was planning to lose weight for my brother’s wedding and for this wedding.

Lauren and Tanya 7-6-07I discovered a couple weeks before the wedding that my dress didn’t fit.  Yes, you read that right. My dress didn’t fit.  I was so humiliated and worried about ruining their wedding.  I didn’t tell them it didn’t fit.  I called the store to try to find a bigger size, and the saleswoman made me feel even worse when I had to explain that I needed a new dress for a wedding that was less than 2 weeks away.  Of course the store we bought the dresses from didn’t have any in stock.  She searched the entire country and found ONE dress in a size 20 for me.  It was in California, so I had to pay for rush shipping as well as paying for a SECOND dress!  They wouldn’t let me return the first dress I bought, so I was stuck with both of them.  Thank God I was able to get a dress and be in the wedding without adding any stress to their day, but I still felt so humiliated and embarrassed about the whole thing.  We also walked a few blocks to get some pretty outdoor wedding photos.  I should have enjoyed that for them, but all I could think about was being the fat girl having a hard time walking and worrying about being sweaty and getting heat rash from the friction of my thighs rubbing together.  It was awful!

With the weddings behind us and my dad going through chemo but stable, we were hoping to be able to find some new type of normal life.  Apparently that was not in the cards for us just yet.  After being at his new job for just 6 months, Jimi herniated another disc and had to have a 2nd surgery in November of 2007.  Really?  What else could go wrong??  I was so unhappy and stressed all the time that my health was totally at the bottom of my priority list. I had my mom, my dad, and my husband to take care of.  I had bills to pay and chores to do that my husband could no longer help with.  There was no time for me.

After Jimi healed from his surgery, we realized that something still wasn’t right.  He was still in pain all the time.  We had test after test, but we couldn’t find anything fixable.  He had permanent nerve damage and still had 5 or 6 other discs that were bulging. I lived in constant fear that another one would herniate at any time.  Thankfully his last job had great disability insurance, so at least he had some money coming in.  That helped with the financial stress.  I also decided that at a minimum, I needed to find a job where I could be happier.  I started a new job in April 2008, and I have been there ever since.  My stress level was greatly reduced by having a job that I didn’t dread going to every day.

6-11-2008 In June of 2008, I participated in the Relay for Life to celebrate that my father was a cancer survivor.  It was SO hard just to walk around the track a couple times.  My feet and back were killing me.  This photo is me with my sister-in-law.  She kept encouraging me to walk more, and I was embarrassed to admit how worn out I was so easily!!  Of course I also felt gross. I didn’t feel comfortable wearing shorts but the capris I wore made me hot, which added to my discomfort.  While I was there, I kept thinking that if so many people can beat cancer, why couldn’t I beat my weight and depression?

We had felt so trapped by all the medical issues, that it seemed as though our lives were on hold indefinitely.  We decided to start house shopping so that we could stop wasting money on rent.  In October 2008, we were VERY fortunate to be able to get our house through a sheriff’s sale, but there were major headaches along the way with that too.  The realtor who was listing the house prior to the sheriff’s sale thought she had a contract on the house and that the sale was going to be cancelled.  We had to pay the old homeowner’s water bill in order to get our water turned on just long enough for an inspection.  We had to put down a deposit the day of the sale and come up with the balance within 30 days or be held in contempt of court!  We didn’t think this would be a problem until the loan fell through at the last minute.  The lender suddenly said they wouldn’t finance us because they would not consider Jim’s disability income as “income” since it wasn’t permanent social security disability.  We had disclosed this up front but they must have missed it.  Thankfully, we found a lender willing to allow a non-occupant co-borrower and thankfully my father-in-law was willing to do it!!!  We finally closed on the loan in January 2009, and we had to move in the snow.  Of course with Jim’s back, he couldn’t do much, and that was terrible for him.

Jan 2009We had to do a lot of work on the house that thankfully family and friends helped us with.  All of the packing and moving and house projects just made me exhausted and cranky.  Everything is so much harder when you are overweight!!!!!!  Of course we wanted to document the progress with photos, but I dreaded being in them.  Every time a camera came out, I was silently shooting daggers out of my eyes at the photographer.  I didn’t want to remember looking like that!!  Even though I knew that I had been heavy for years, I could live in denial more easily if there wasn’t photographic evidence!!

We finally got settled and started enjoying our new home. I was closer to work and also closer to shopping, restaurants, etc.  Jimi wasn’t getting any better, but at least he wasn’t getting any worse.  I found out very quickly how much I hated yard work.  I never had to do that when we were renting, and he’s not really able to do it.  Sigh.  Every weekend that he would try to motivate me to go outside, I hated it. I would actually get angry….angry at his back, angry at my weight, angry about our finances….angry about everything.

Going to the grocery store was also a dreaded chore.  He couldn’t go and walk around the store without being miserable, so I always went alone.  By the time I would walk around the store, unload the car, and put the groceries away, I was spent.  I had no energy left to do anything else.  I’m not sure why I didn’t notice the grocery store issue before except that maybe we were eating a lot more fast food and carry out when we lived close to my parents.  Maybe once we had a house, I felt like I had to be more budget conscious.  I’m not sure exactly, but I just remember grocery shopping making me angry too!

July 2009And then there was another wedding.  OH YES, I was a bridesmaid AGAIN.  Wedding # 4 with me being huge.

At this point, I think I had just accepted that I was never going to feel attractive.  I hate that on my friend’s most special day, I couldn’t stop thinking about how bad I thought I looked.  I wondered if people were whispering and laughing about the big girl. I felt like my fingers were little sausages.  I was embarrassed during the wedding party dance because I thought I looked so ridiculous.

How long was I going to be satisfied with just existing?  How many more activities did I have to just survive when I should have been enjoying them?  One day I decided I was sick of feeling bad and getting angry all the time.  I knew that I would feel better if I lost weight, but I hadn’t committed to it.  I had “tried” to lose weight many times over the course of 8 years with no success.  So why would now be any different?  It was so frustrating.

As much as I wanted things to be different, I hadn’t actually taken the first step.  I finally started thanks to a weight loss contest at work. (Thanks Laurie!!) I agreed to join and didn’t want to be embarrassed by not losing weight.  I was not about to take diet pills or (gasp!) exercise, so I joined Weight Watchers – AGAIN.  I knew the program worked and was healthy.  It’s not a quick fix or fad diet.  It was the turning point for me, even though I didn’t know it at the time!

So why was this time different?  They say that change occurs when the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change.  I guess it had just become too painful to stay the same.  I had to do SOMETHING.  This time I really made the commitment to myself.  My mindset was different.  I recognized that I truly had a problem.  I decided what I wanted AND what I was willing to do to get it.  And there’s the rub. You can want something all day long.  If you aren’t willing to take the steps to get there, then you are just setting yourself up for disappointment!  I made the decision that this time would be different.  It all starts with a simple decision.  It is not EASY, but it is simple.

I joined Weight Watchers in September of 2009, and I had lost 86.4 pounds by December 2010.  I was committed.  There were plenty of rough patches, but I stuck with it.  It turned out that the hardest part was getting started.  Once I started, I wanted to keep going.  I was excited to see how much I would lose each week.  It was great hearing compliments about my success.  That success pushed me to want to keep having more success.  I also believe the meetings helped me a lot.  It is nice to know I’m not alone in my struggles.  It is inspiring to hear how others overcame their adversity.  It is motivating to see other members hit their weight loss milestones!

Friends and family have told me that I have inspired them.  I never imagined that I could inspire someone else when I couldn’t get my own butt off the couch for years!  I am not done with my journey, but I have come a long way.  If sharing my story can help even one person believe in themselves, this blog will be worth it.  I would never wish for anyone to feel the way I felt for so long.  As I shed physical weight, I shed emotional weight too.  I can’t hide behind food anymore.  When I have a problem, I have to face it.  I won’t eat my feelings anymore.

I hope that by sharing my journey with you, with all the ups and downs, you will realize that you can do it too.  I hope that you will see that you don’t have to be perfect or even above average to succeed.  You just have to believe and commit.  I hope you enjoy my blog and that you get some benefit from it.

Please spread the word to anyone you think may find it helpful.  Thanks for stopping by.  Good luck on YOUR journey!

To contact me, please visit my About Me page.

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  1. Awesome story. So proud of you. Brought tears to my eyes. You have come along ways. Keep up the good work. Love you!!

  2. Author

    THANKS! It makes me cry to re-read it too because I just remember how miserable I was! I am so glad that I will never be in that place again. Thanks for the support. Love you too!

  3. I love you and am extremely proud of you! Yes, it brought tears to my eyes also. I hurt when you hurt! You are a beautiful person inside and out. I am so glad you are proud of yourself, but mostly, I am grateful you are back in my life. You were “my” special little girl; and now you are “my” special girl all grown up. Thank you for bringing so much joy in my life!

  4. Author

    Thanks Aunt Peggy. I am grateful you are back in my life, too! I was really down for many years, and I avoided a lot of people and activities. I’m glad that is over now!

  5. What a beautiful testimony of God’s grace….a daughter’s love… a devoted wife…. and just simply a woman using her journey to impact te lives of others. Beautiful.

  6. Author

    Thank you so much for your kind words, Jackie! I truly hope I can impact others by sharing my story!!

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