A widely cited statistic says that 95 percent of people who lose their excess weight will gain it back fairly quickly — and often add to it. Whether that figure is accurate is debatable, but every yo-yo dieter knows that temptation lies around every corner — under a giant yellow M, wafting across the movie-theater lobby or in your childhood home at Thanksgiving. It’s forever lurking.
Twenty-three-year-old Brittany Shope has beaten the odds — whatever they are. She lost 65 pounds and has stayed within a pound or two of her fighting weight for well over a year.
She lost weight the old-fashioned way, the way doctors who aren’t trying to sell a book or a product say you should. She didn’t “go on a diet,” she changed her diet. And she started exercising.
Shope, a writer and recent East Tennessee State University journalism graduate, took 18 months to shed the excess weight from her 5-foot-5-inch frame.
Her essay about her physical and emotional journey from 190 pounds to her 125-pound ideal will be published this fall in ETSU’s literary magazine the Mockingbird. She also was a Shape magazine weight-loss success story in April.
“I had steadily gained weight since the age of 13 when my mother died,” Shope said. “By the age of 21, I had reached 190 pounds. I began dating my boyfriend in early 2008 and I found that at my heavy weight, I couldn’t do things with him that I wanted to do ... I couldn’t go hiking or running with him. I realized during those first few months of dating him that I was missing out on so much because of my weight ... Halfway through my weight loss I really started to focus on changing my eating habits.”
Shope has done the right things physically, balancing calories in with energy out. But her success may have as much to do with the emotional catharsis she’s gone through.
“When I look back and think about my life, I try to pinpoint the exact moment that my weight went from being the youthful chubbiness that was natural for a girl that age, to the gradual gain that would lead me to obesity,” Shope wrote in her Mockingbird essay. “Whoever I was supposed to be, whatever path my life was on, it was taken from me completely the moment I touched my mother’s cheek and realized that she was gone.”
After years of denial about her weight and her appearance, Shope developed an unhealthy body image during her weight-loss journey. Recognizing that and working through it is a large part of her success story.
“The day I reached 125 pounds should have been the end of my journey,” she wrote. “It wasn’t. Everything that I thought 125 pounds would fix was still broken ... at my lowest weight, I felt like every inch of my body was under inspection by everyone I came in contact with.”
That changed last summer when a six-day bout of food poisoning in Scotland left her thinner than ever. Her momentary euphoria gave way to “a wave of disgust” over being happy that she had lost weight at the expense of her health.
“I know I still have a lifetime of battling weight gain and weight loss ahead of me,” Shope said. “All I can hope for is that I’ll never forget what it felt like standing in front of that mirror in Scotland, wasted away, insignificant, not hungry for anything. I’m hungry now. I’m hungry for life, love and happiness.”
You can read more from Brittany on her website, www.brittanywrites.com.