My 235-pound Journey
By Anne Vandervort
“Mommy, you can go wait in the car if you will be more comfortable,” was the sentence that first opened my eyes to the challenging journey I had ahead of me.
My sweet child didn’t make this suggestion to be hurtful, but simply knew that waiting in the car had become my escape. I was always hot, sweaty, out of breath and in pain. Even the shortest walk – from the car to the office, would leave me exhausted.
This May will mark two years since it hit me – my children were embarrassed of me. And not in the typical “please don’t hug me in front of my friends way”, but on a deeper level that became apparent when one of my children gave me permission to go wait in the car at a school function.
Admittedly, it was not enough to push me to get started.
After that day, it took me 11 months to summon the strength and determination needed to officially begin my weight loss journey. During those 11 months, I looked into numerous programs, thought about how to get my weight under control, but still did nothing.
As 2016 came to a close, and we started thinking about resolutions, again weight loss and getting healthy were at the top of my list. But, January 2017 came and went, and I still hadn’t made an actual commitment to ‘get healthy’.
During the first couple months of 2017, I kept hearing the same commercial over and over in the car - an advertisement for the HMR - rapid weight loss program. After hearing it for weeks, something clicked, and I finally made the call to get more information. I scheduled an information session the Monday evening prior to my children’s spring break.
This first session covered the program and plans - Decision Free or Healthy Solutions. We sampled the shakes and meals that are part of the plans, and to my surprise, everything was actually pretty tasty. That evening, I selected the Medically Supervised Decision-Free plan as the initial diet I would follow.
The decision free diet allowed me to have as much HMR food as I wanted every day, and actually enforced a daily “minimum” number of meal replacements. My specific plan was to have at least 3 shakes and 2 entrées each day to make sure I was not falling below a certain number of calories. This low calorie plan is why they offered medical supervision – where most diets encourage eating less, HMR was concerned that I could be eating too little.
I still had a week or two before I would official start the program, so I enjoyed spring break vacation with my family and friends, and I began to realize how much this program could change my life. When I returned from Spring Break, I attended my nurse triage visit and scheduled my doctor appointment and quick start class. After visiting with the doctor I was approved to attend the quick-start class on Wednesday, April 12, 2017.
This day would forever change my life.
April 12 began like any other morning for us – wake up at 5 a.m., prepare breakfast and get the kids ready for their day and out the door. I headed to work, but stopped at Walmart on the way to get some snacks and a final “good” lunch before my scheduled official start day – April 13.
That afternoon, I left work to head to my quick-start class, feeling eager and ready to begin what would become my life-changing journey. But midway through the class, I heard my phone buzz. It was a coworker, who I decided to call back once class is over. She called back immediately – the sign of an urgent matter – so I texted her to check in, and learned that there had been a death at one of our residential programs. I was able to quickly pay for my first set of meals and shakes, but had to run out of class to get to our program site right away.
I arrived home around 1:30 a.m., and headed to bed, unaware that my family had brought home my favorite dinner from Chuy’s to surprise me with one last “tasty” meal. To this day, I know I would have eaten it before going to bed if I knew it was waiting for me. Instead, I started my new diet the next day with an HMR shake and no guilt from a calorie-filled final meal.
And I didn’t let the craziness of the day before deter me. I made this commitment for myself and my family and was determined to stick to my plan. After making that first shake, I packed an HMR meal and supplies for two more shakes, and I haven’t looked back since.
I made it through that first weekend and dropped weight rapidly during those first months. I went from eating at least 2200-2800 calories a day to eating fewer than 1000. At my first weekly weigh in, I had lost 20 pounds and I continued to lose between five and seven pounds during each week following. As part of my medical visits each week, I had labs drawn periodically to make sure that everything was still running properly while taking in much fewer calories than I was accustomed to doing.
This type of rapid weight loss is hard on the body. To ensure that I was losing weight safely, my medical team decided I needed more calories, so we developed a plan to bring fruits and vegetables back into my life. The first vegetable I ate when we began the transition was celery – never before had a vegetable tasted so delicious.
Shannon, my wife of 20 years has been an absolute saint in this process, always cheering me on and helping me in any way she can, grocery shopping for crazy things like s’more flavored sugar-free syrup and colorful tomatoes. Zucchini and bananas have become staples in our house, and Shannon makes certain that we are always fully stocked, which often times means going to the grocery store three times a week. She encourages me each day to take it one step at a time and to stay focused on each mini-victory and not on the number on the scale.
The measures by which my children judge my progress may be the most impactful part of this journey – they note how much farther their arms reach around me when we hug, and they celebrate the fact that I can safely wear a seat belt, and no longer have to move the seat so far back that they are scrunched in the back.
The staff and fellow program participants at HMR have also been a constant support for me during this last year. They listen and encourage, but never judge. The clinic employees are there to guide me each step of the way on this challenging road. My fellow classmates have also been a wonderful source of encouragement – we stay connected between classes by sending group texts and calling each other.
My work family – they have been truly amazing. I told very few people when I began this journey, but felt it was important my immediate staff knew. In all honesty, I was concerned I would be on edge and grumpy around the office.
During the last 16 months, co-workers for numerous all of departments have joined in supporting me on this journey. Some staff outside of the Lexington area have started looking at their local grocery store for random specialty items, like no salt added tomato sauce or Mrs. Dash Jalapeño seasoning. The support I receive every day from my work family has made this journey so much easier.
The HMR plan was what jumpstarted and helped me stay committed to my diet, but exercise also played a crucial role in my weight loss journey. I have absolutely hated physical activity since I was about 10 years old. Since starting this journey, physical activity has become part of daily schedule.
Because of my physical size when I started this journey, I was unable to do much more than about 10 minutes at a time of any exercise. When I first began losing weight and incorporating physical activity into my daily routine, I purchased a set of stationary pedals for $35.00. This allowed me to sit in a regular chair and pedal. I started small, 10 minutes at a time, and it was exhausting.
As time went on and those 10 minutes got easier I added two minutes a day, until I was eventually pedaling 30 minutes at a time. I also added an 11-minute chair cardio video eventually that got too easy, so I searched YouTube for more chair cardio routines.
With three children, I literally do not have the time to go to the gym, plus I don’t like to work out in front of other people. So, I get up at 5:00 a.m. every day and either do a 20-30 minute exercise video through YouTube or Amazon Prime. Then, after I complete a workout video, I wrap up my routine with some strength training. Recently, I have found that I do enjoy POUND class and Boxing. I am also more comfortable with going to the gym to try new classes to see what else I might enjoy. My family has become more physically active as well, we enjoy hiking and doing 5ks together. We have a goal to participate in five 5K runs this year.
As of August 2018, I have lost a total of 235 pounds and still would like to lose about 50 more. I will remain with the HMR program in Phase 2 of the program, which added lean proteins and grains back into my diet. I have an amazing family and I want to be here for them as long as possible. What an amazing journey this has been and will continue to be.