Before I start, I would like to apologize in advance for the length of this post. This brings me straight back to my "Computer Diary" days, when the 10-year-old version of myself would sit in front of the monitor and type multi-page dissertations on the ups and downs of childhood. I am extremely quiet and sometimes painfully shy in real life, but I have always felt like a different person when I express myself through words. I could probably type here for hours without taking a break, and I appreciate every single person who reads this through to the end.
What kind of little sister would I be if I didn't copy my older siblings at least once in a while? Yeah, yeah, I'm 26, which feels a bit old for the whole "copycat" thing to still be an issue, but when my sister Katie opened a health and fitness blog about a week ago, I suddenly started wondering if I should finally start one of my own. After all, there are quite a few blogs from friends and family members that I follow daily. My favorites are from (in no particular order) Brandy, Bonnie, Mia, Mary Beth, and Jamie. Oh yeah, and Katie. How could I forget you, sis? Didn't I just say that you were the one whose blog was the "final straw" that inspired me to begin writing this? I'm just kidding; you know I love ya :) Unfortunately, my jokes are sometimes lame and not very funny, so I'm just going to move right on ahead here.
My name is Rose Krajewski, and in just under three years, I have lost exactly 140 pounds on the Weight Watchers program. Just now, I have spent a few minutes staring at my computer screen, wondering what I can say next, because although I love words, I don't always know what to say. I am asked all the time how I did this, and what finally drove me to do it after years (and I do mean years) of not having the willpower to make that change. This always catches me off guard, mostly because my words don't come as easily face-to-face, but simply put, I think it's because over the past few years, I have had a rare opportunity to adopt weight loss as my full-time job. I graduated from Elmhurst College in February 2009 with a degree in Early Childhood/Special Education, and while I am currently working for the Elmhurst Park District, I am still searching for a full-time teaching position. To make a long story short (not that this posting is going to be short by any means, but you get my drift), I realized that as long as my part-time work hours gave me about six hours of free time in the middle of the day, I might as well take advantage of it by going to the gym every day. Okay, okay, I didn't quite come to this realization on my own--it was actually my mom (my best friend and one of my greatest cheerleaders through all this) who played the "tough love" card and reminded me that I wasn't exactly working during the day, so why not put that time to good use?
It made sense, and after years of not being able to make Weight Watchers work for me, I hauled my butt to the gym from about 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM each weekday (and a few hours on the weekends). I bonded with the elliptical machine from the start, and that alone helped me start dropping pounds at my Weight Watchers meeting each week. Sometimes it would be four pounds, or one, or four tenths of a pound, but I was finally losing steadily, and that's what mattered. I lived at home with my parents (still do), and my mom, who attended the meetings with me, was extremely helpful in stocking the kitchen with fruits, veggies, healthy cereals, power bars, etc... I will tell you something, though. I have lost all this weight, but my old favorite foods--you know, the ones that aren't exactly healthy for you--are still very much a part of my life, and they always will be. That simply is not going to change, no matter what happens, but the trick is learning how to deal with it the right way. It's about figuring out when you can treat yourself, how much you can have, and what you will do to keep yourself in line after those indulgences. I will be talking about that a lot on this blog, because it's how I keep myself sane, and I think it's crucial for everyone to know that they can still be healthy and eat the foods they love (in moderation, of course). More about that later...moving on...
For a person who loves food as much as I do, it's one thing when you're a little kid, but it's another issue entirely when you're all grown up, living your own life. All of a sudden, Mom doesn't have control of what's going inside your lunch box and on your dinner plate each night. You have the ability (and the money) to get whatever junk or fast food you want, and if you don't drive (again, I'm raising my hand here), you put on your walking shoes and hike over to McDonalds...just because you can. As an adult, how do you find the will to discipline yourself and keep your own life in balance?
I've come a long way from the little girl who used to inhale rows of raw cookie dough from the freezer and pretend it never happened; the teenager who literally tucked cookies inside her socks to get them past her mother; and the college student who polished off entire boxes of pizza without really considering (or caring about) the consequences. It's always been hard for me to come clean with those obsessive eating patterns that characterized my younger years, because I was too embarrassed to ever admit them out loud, even to myself. Little by little, it has been easier to acknowledge these things, because I have come so far and changed so much as a person since then. The humiliation gradually lessens as you realize that you've taken control and made some solid, positive changes in your life. That said, 140 pounds later, I am still not above enjoying a meal at Taco Bell, or having the occasional stuffed pizza with the family on a Saturday night. So many people who lose significant amounts of weight say that they completely lose interest in fast food. They argue that they feel too good to ever go back to that, and I admire this, but I'm also living proof that this isn't the case for everyone.
Looking back, I don't think I was ever the kind of kid who ate because she was seriously depressed, angry, or pushed to a certain emotional edge. Oh, sure, we all have those "blue" moments where a pint of ice cream or a burger and fries perk us right up, but overall, I eat (and have eaten) for one simple reason: because it tastes good. I love to eat. I feel happy when I'm eating...and when you start a weight loss journey, there is never a guarantee that you're just going to "get over" that. I know that I am every bit as capable of finishing a whole pizza in one night as I was back in college, and that scares me a little, but not when I remember that I have the power to control the outcome. I can tell myself that I want that whole pizza, and that's okay. I can have a rough night once in a while, chowing down more than normal, and even that's not the end of the world. What makes it all right is knowing that you're not always going to be perfect, but you're going to move forward and make an effort that maybe you didn't in years past.
If you know me, and you live in the Chicago area, chances are you're going to see me in line at Portillo's sometimes, and I'm not always going to be ordering a healthy salad. When I go to Hollywood Boulevard on a Friday night with my buddy Evan, I will have my all-time favorite cheese sticks and not feel guilty about it (or maybe just a little guilty, but I will get back on the wagon the next day, and that will be that). I'm going to have my favorite Coke-flavored Slurpee from 7-Eleven, even when there's snow and ice on the ground, and if a sweet-faced Girl Scout approaches me with her cookie list in the spring, it's basically a given that I'll be buying a few boxes of Thin Mints (and enjoying every last bite). To make a long story short, I plan on living my life, and nobody should ever feel ashamed of that. It's important to eat well and pursue different, healthy choices throughout the week, but it's also important to admit that you're human.
This journey is far from over for me. Just tonight, I have made the decision to make 200 lost pounds my ultimate goal, which is about 60 pounds lighter than I am now. My mom is the only person I have actually said that to out loud, and now, with this blog post, I commit to it even more. I have no idea how the heck I am going to do this, but I am currently training for the Chicago Half Marathon in September, and the Chicago Marathon in October, so that will help a lot. Also, really, how do any of us push ourselves to do what we need to in life? Whether it's chasing a job, raising a family, or dropping those extra pounds, we start because we just plain have to. What else can we do? It's amazing how much we can accomplish when there is basically no other choice in the matter, and it's what makes our lives interesting enough to talk about with one another. Over time, what keeps us going is knowing that we have friends and loved ones on our side, and as we celebrate victories of all sizes, we are somehow motivated to keep at it. I am so blessed to have people in my life--some of whom I barely know personally--who offer a kind word, a supportive pat on the back, and an enthusiastic "Keep it up!" on those days when I would rather just take the easy route.
Well, I truly could write forever here, but it is getting late, and if I cram every last thought into this first posting, then I don't know how I'm going to sustain this blog for the long term! I am so grateful to you for reading this, and I know I'll be talking a lot about my personal experiences, but blogs are successful because of the readers, and I want to hear from you. I really, truly do. Please feel free to comment anytime with your own stories, struggles, and goals for the future. Individual health applies to all of us, and we can get there by supporting each other. I am still learning, and I hope that my story can help someone else, but honestly, I need your help just as much. We never know for sure what's coming next, or how we will feel tomorrow, but one little word of encouragement can change everything for anyone. I joked earlier about starting this blog as a way to imitate my big sister, but in all seriousness, I am doing this because I want to continue holding myself accountable to a bigger dream. (Okay, did I really just say that? So cheesy, yes, but it's also true, so I guess I'll keep it in there.)
I sometimes wonder what people think of the fact that I lost this weight mostly because I am only working part-time right now, and I've had the luxury to regard healthy eating/exercise as a full-time job. Very soon, I am going to start teaching and working much longer hours, and I need to know that it's possible to keep succeeding at this while navigating the real world. I need to know in my heart that I can keep this weight off for the rest of my life, and not just gain it all back. It is too easy to lose focus, and none of us want that in life, so to prevent it, we turn to others for support.
I look forward to talking with different people through this blog, and I hope you will follow me on this journey. It's going to be a long road, but I have a feeling that so many amazing things are going to come out of it! Thanks for being here!