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Lino Lakes, Minnesota
Married, 3 kids, social worker for the deaf and hard of hearing in St. Paul public schools
Wear a bikini
Run a marathon
Write an inspirational book
My bikini days were over by the time I turned 24. A couple of pregnancies and the routine of a 9-to-5 job did me in -- by age 30 my weight had ballooned to well over 200 pounds and I wasn't even comfortable in a one-piece anymore. I hated trying on clothes in general, especially bathing suits. I could only shop in plus-size stores so it wasn't any fun shopping with friends and watching them try on shorts, jeans, and sundresses -- all the things I wanted to wear but couldn't. I hid myself in a lot of black: stretch pants and loose tops with three-quarter sleeves, even on sticky summer days.
Well-meaning relatives gave me the such-a-pretty-face line and my husband was always a big support, but I didn't look very good, and I certainly didn't feel very good. I kept trying to lose weight with no luck until I joined Weight Watchers in March 2006, when I tipped the scales at 222 pounds. I started exercising and set small, reachable goals. Soon I began to feel stronger and to actually enjoy working out.
Sixteen months later I reached my goal: 140 pounds and a size 6. I went straight out and tried on bikinis. It was surreal. When I found one I liked I bought it. I didn't even look at the price.What I Learned
Being happy with your weight really changes you, and not just in the obvious ways. I have more confidence and think I experience life more because I actually feel my emotions instead of tamping them down with food. I'm in great shape, too -- I'm even training for a marathon . And since I know my kids' genes predispose them to being overweight, I feel good about being a healthy, active role model for them.
I'm not the kind of woman who needs a man's approval to feel good about herself, but it's fun to feel attractive, to have men pay attention. It's nice when a man holds the door, or when a really good-looking guy smiles and says hello. That never happened when I was heavy. Now it happens a lot.
I recently took my son to his swimming lesson at the Y, and while he was taking his class I swam with my 4-year-old (while wearing my bikini, of course) along with a lot of other parents and kids. When we got home, my husband asked my son how the lesson had gone. "Good," he said, and then added, "but all the dads were staring at Mom."
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Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, May 2009.