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Before and after weight loss — it’s always inspiring, isn’t it? Even if you’ve never needed to lose a lot of weight yourself, the success stories of those we see in magazines and on TV demonstrate how what seems impossible can actually be accomplished.
Losing weight is a goal so many people have. But what if you needed to lose 250 pounds? What then? Would you feel like there was no point in even getting started?
Kate McPhail didn’t feel that way. Thankfully, she decided she was going to do something about being overweight — without any quick fixes, surgeries or gimmicks.
Kate is 6’1 and as a nurse, she knew she was obese. She also knew she had unhealthy eating habits and no exercise in her life. That also meant, she knew exactly where to start on her weight loss journey. It wasn’t excessively fast or glamorous but it was realistic, common sense and majorly inspiring.
I met Kate at the Blend Retreat this year and she agreed to do an interview about her story. I hope you can learn and be inspired by her strength.
Q: Were you heavy growing up?
A: Yes, I was always the the tallest and the heaviest throughout my childhood. I would justify my weight as being ‘big boned.’ No one else in my family was overweight, I was the only one.
Q: What contributed most to being heavy through your life?
A: My food choices and the portions I was eating. I would eat a lot of processed foods and my portions were very excessive. I was a huge diet soda and diet/sugar free juice drinker. I usually never ate breakfast and then would snack constantly throughout the day. I constantly grazed on unhealthy food at work, then come home late at night and eat leftovers, junk food, or stop for fast food. I would have a large salad for lunch but then have tons of croutons, nuts, and dressing for example.
Q: What inspired you to lose weight and get healthy?
A: I consider myself very lucky to not have had any medical issues (heart, blood pressure, diabetes, etc) as a result of my weight. To be honest, I don’t remember exactly what sparked me to make a change. I would always just buy larger clothes when they got tight and no longer fit. It was early 2010 and I just remember thinking I would try and make some changes to my diet and see what happened. I had nothing to lose…except a lot of weight!
Q: Had you tried to lose weight before?
A: Though I was active as a child — our family spent time skiing, hiking, camping, etc. — I had never really seriously tried to lose weight before. I would decide to cut back on dessert for a week or so, but then would resume eating it. At my heaviest, I didn’t do those activities any longer but was working full time as an Registered Nurse (a very physical job)
Q: Can you explain what it was like when you first started losing? What changes did you make to your lifestyle?
- I eliminated all boxed, junk, sweets, etc. If that package of cookies was in the pantry I knew the temptation would be too great.
- I started to eat breakfast every single morning.
- I became more conscious of what true portion sizes were for pasta, cereal, etc.
- I really focused on eating whole foods.
- I read Food Rules by Michael Pollen and found it was a great resource.
- After a couple of months, I joined a gym and started to slowly start working out.
- Signing up for running races every few months helped keep me on track.
Q: How quickly did the weight come off?
A. The weight started to come off quickly at first — which was very motivating. I had times when I would slip back to my old habits, but seeing the results of the weight loss kept me going. I remember being surprised that this was working. I didn’t tell anyone I was making changes but it didn’t take long for people to comment on how they were noticing changes in my appearance.
Q: What did you learn about yourself throughout the journey?
A. The biggest thing I learned about myself was that I have the ability to make changes and stick to them. There have been many times though out this journey where I have been so proud for what I have done and how far I have come.
Q: How long did it take to lose the weight?
A. I was losing about 30lbs/mth at the beginning and had lost 100lbs by Jan 2011. It obviously slowed down and by January 2012, I had lost 200lbs. The remaining weight came off slower until it seemed to stabilize at my current weight in the fall of 2013.
Q: What kind of personal changes were you seeing from the inside as you were losing weight?
A. My self confidence was growing as I lost more weight. As I lost more, I just felt like I was ‘fitting in.’ It was a feeling that I had not experienced before, as I was always used to being the heaviest person in the room.
Q: What was your goal?
A: My ultimate goal was to have a weight that began with a ‘1′ on the scale.
Q: When you reached your goal weight, how did it feel?
A: I remember the day that I stood on the scale and it said 199. I was almost in shock and with a smile on my face, I started crying. It had nothing to do with the actual weight — but the realization that I had accomplished this goal.
Q: It must have been a hugely emotional experience as well — can you explain some of that?
A: It has been an emotional journey. It affected me in ways I had never thought it would. Completing the first half marathon was a huge, emotional experience. I vividly remember how proud I was of myself while completing the last mile of the race. I had tears in my eyes as I crossed the finish line. Throughout this experience, I have seen how people treat overweight and obese people. It isn’t something I focus on, as it makes me sad to when I acknowledge the differences.
I am treated a lot differently by strangers now than I was at my heaviest and at times throughout the transformation. I am offered help in stores and people interact with me…something which was a rare occurrence before.
I realize that part of it may be due to me being more outgoing but it is definitely something I have noticed.
Q: How did you get through times of frustration? Did you ever want to quit?
A: I had periods of frustration which were mostly around weight loss plateaus. During those times I never wanted to quit but I remember thinking that I would never reach the goal.
Q: How have you been able to maintain your weight loss?
A: I approached this journey from the perspective of making changes to my lifestyle, not a diet. Those changes have just become ‘how I eat.’ I continue to eat whole foods and avoid heavily processed foods. I am now learning to enjoy treats selectively. My cravings and tastes for foods have changed. Many of the foods that I ate previously no longer appeal to me. I haven’t eaten fast food since early on and people often comment about how ‘healthy’ I eat. After focusing on losing weight for such a long time, learning how to eat to maintain my weight (and no longer lose weight) is something I am now working on.
Q: Can you discuss your decision to have excess skin removed? What was that experience like?
A: After being as heavy as I was and after losing the large amount weight, I had a lot of excess skin. I felt like I was trapped in a deflated fat suit. I felt self conscious and although I had worked hard to achieve these results, the skin was preventing me from feeling comfortable to wear the clothes I dreamed to wear. It may seem silly to some but I have always wanted to wear a tank top and cute ladies’s style t shirts with the short sleeves. I always wore men’s t-shirts or long sleeved tops, as I was embarrassed and self conscious by the skin on my upper arms. I would look at people on magazines and tv shows who had lost weight and wondered where their skin was (I learned through my consultations with doctors that many have the skin removed prior to the publicity tours.)
The two areas I chose to have the skin removed were my arms and my stomach. I spent a year researching and consulting with surgeons throughout the US. Not all plastic surgeons specialize in excess skin removal due to weight loss. Since it was a long and technical surgery, I wanted to know that the best skilled surgeon was operating on me.
It has been almost 4 months since the surgery and the swelling is going away and my post surgery body is emerging. I am thrilled so far with the results. It makes me feel proud of all my hard work when I look in the mirror and see how I look now.
Q: What advice or encouragement would you give to someone who feels like they could never do what you did?
A: Start with small changes and only a few (or one) at a time. It sounds simple and a total cliche, but for me, it worked. Take it one day at a time and avoid getting discouraged if it feels impossible. I had a huge amount of weight to lose but instead of being discouraged if I only lost 1or 2 pound,s I celebrated that loss.
Q: How has your life changed now? Are you able to do things you couldn’t before? Have your goals or dreams changed?
A: My life is so different compared to when I was heavier. I live such an active life now. I don’t think twice about walking or taking the stairs instead of driving somewhere. I have so much more energy both physically and mentally than I did before. My self confidence has grown tremendously. Many day to day things were so difficult when I was heavier compared to know. I remember wondering and worrying if I would fit in chairs or airplane seats or if seat belts would fit (the never did on planes). Now, every time I fly and just sit with ease and buckle up with many inches to spare on the belt it is a reminder of how far I have come. Sitting in stadiums or theaters comfortably may seems insignificant but having these reminders of the progress I made.
As for goals I hope to return to running this fall and plan to sign up for some half marathons next year. I am hoping to sign up for a short triathlon in the future as well.
This whole journey has not been easy but I can’t imagine returning to the old lifestyle that I used to live. I am excited to see what the future has in store.
Does losing weight ever feel impossible to you? If you have lot weight, what changes did you make to inspire others? Share if you’d like in the comments.