Reunion Ready

With her high school 20th looming, Carrie Nelson got her weight loss in gear.

Name: Carrie Nelson


Height: 5’5″

Starting Weight: 200

Current Weight: 155

Weight Lost: 45


Occupation: Teacher

The moment I knew I was a success:”When another mom glanced at me, and, for the first time in years, I felt proud of the face looking back at her.”

I started gaining weight after marriage. I had never been tiny, but as I grew more comfortable with my husband and our life together, my eating habits became less inhibited. For example, I wouldn’t feel embarrassed to dive into a half-gallon of ice cream before bed, and through the years, I became increasingly reckless with my diet–downing cake, potato chips, doughnuts, or whatever struck my fancy at the moment.

Once I reached 200 pounds, I hired a personal trainer at a gym. She helped me take off a good 25 pounds through weight lifting and aerobic exercise, but my success was short-lived. The 3-month session I bought expired, and without her breathing down my neck each week, I gained it all back.

My Wake-up Call

I distinctly remember feeling the pain of my weight throughout 2003. I’d always wanted to be a sexy mom, but here I was in big, unstylish clothes, too ashamed to make eye contact. When Miranda, my oldest child of two, asked me to push her on the swing, I’d claim I had to do laundry and then go watch television instead. In the back of my mind, I knew that being this heavy was harming my kids and endangering my health. Despite my concerns, I still lacked the incentive to take action.

I’d been planning my 20-year high school reunion for a year and a half, but as I sent out the invitations in January, I realized I had only 6 months to lose the weight. I felt humiliated at the prospect of greeting old classmates in my condition. I was at least 80 pounds heavier–and eight sizes larger–than they remembered me. I knew I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t at least try to drop the weight.

My Routine

Lucky for me, several fellow teachers at the elementary school where I taught started a weight loss club around that time. I leaped at the chance to join and even volunteered to be in charge of the weekly weight charts. We kept a scale in one classroom, and every Thursday morning before school started, we’d toss a dollar in the pot and do our weigh-ins. At the end of each month, the biggest loser won that month’s earnings.

I hate to admit it, but for the previous 3 years, I’d been dependent on McDonald’s and other fast-food chains for at least four meals a week. I began counting my calories and quickly realized that the large fries, medium soda, and Quarter Pounder with cheese (1,290 calories) wouldn’t fit into the 1,500-calories-per-day picture.

Giving up fast food was tough, but it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d imagined once I started stocking the fridge with healthy alternatives such as grapes, apples, yogurt, lean turkey, and whole wheat bread. The hardest part was going without some sort of afternoon treat. To satisfy my sweet tooth, I added lemon and sugar substitute to a large iced tea that I picked up on the way to school each morning and savored throughout the day.

Fitting workouts into my new healthy life was my biggest challenge. Like most working moms, I don’t have oodles of spare time to devote to classes at the gym, and I wasn’t about to give up my nightly dose of TV. Instead, I did step aerobics with hand weights or walked on the treadmill in my living room while watching the evening news.

By the time I’d lost about 20 pounds, other moms in my neighborhood began joking about how jealous they were. I suggested we start our own weekly neighborhood weigh-ins. To speed our progress, we also began after-dinner group walks of about 5 miles, two or three times a week.

The Results

By my reunion in June 6 months later, I’d lost 32 pounds. I felt surprisingly confident and charming mingling with people I hadn’t seen in decades. Plus, the high school friends I had seen all wanted to know what secret weight loss plan I was on. But I wasn’t ready to stop there.

My next goal: my prewedding weight of 138 pounds. I haven’t quite reached it yet, but I’ve started attending Weight Watchers meetings and aerobics classes with friends to shake the last 20 stubborn pounds. Now instead of my kids bugging me to go out and play, I plead with them to join me on walks or bike rides around our subdivision.

Why It Worked

I came close but never actually won the weight loss kitty. For me the competition paid off in more important ways, though: It meant someone was always there to suggest a new healthy recipe–like for tortilla soup.

And instead of allowing one another to seek salvation at the bottom of a bag of chips after a particularly rowdy class, we’d walk off our steam during lunch. I also fanned my passion for fiction, using books as both a diversion from cravings and a reward for each successful week of dieting.

My Tips

Keep support on speed dial Recruit a weight loss partner who you can call whenever you’re tempted to eat. Take turns picking out aerobics classes, healthy cooking classes, or other outings you can do together.

Have your “usual” Order the same entrĂ©e with vegetables each time you’re at a restaurant so it’s easier to keep track of calories on the go.

Develop a healthy habit Turn a craving for sweets into a feel-good ritual by slowly savoring one treat–iced tea with lemon, for example–all day long.

Lose Weight Like Carrie

Start a weight loss club in your neighborhood by hosting weekly weigh-ins and collecting $1 per person at each meeting. Record weights and keep them secret, except for the month’s winner. To stay motivated, start a blog on a Web site like where the group can upload photos, recipes, articles, and inspiring stories.


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