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weighing in

Before and After… with or without Boy George!

Normally this would probably be a combination of embarrassing and humiliating with a touch of pride and, wow – go me!  But, some of these have already been seen on national television this summer so much of my visceral reaction has been permanently eliminated. I’ll include that crazy life story here because it too has been part of the journey.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, DO take a before picture – total body.  I didn’t really let myself be photographed from head to toe when I was at my biggest.  So doing a true juxtaposition of before and after was a challenge.  I don’t really have a photo of myself at my largest, but these are pretty close.

Another motivator for me was taking photos of my scale when I stepped on it and saw progress.  I still have many of them – and used the first below 200 pound shot for the party invites.  I don’t have them all, but here are some that kept me going.  Each goal attained within the larger one made it easier to keep moving forward.

Believe me each and every time I watched Biggest Loser or Extreme Weight Loss Makeover after the weight loss I’d kick myself and say…that could’ve been me. It never dawned on me to try to get on one of those shows – though I watched them for inspiration.  So karma caught up with me this summer on our vacation. I was raised in New York and miss home each and every day.  So as often as I can go back I do. This trip was particularly special because we took our nephews who had never been to New York before, and have grown up in Wichita Falls, TX (population: 104,898) There were three must do’s on their list (BTW they are 14 and 9):

  • Eat a hot dog from a vendor cart
  • See the Statue of Liberty
  • Be on television on the TODAY show

Now none of these things for a native New Yorker are unattainable, however I simply had no interest whatsoever in waking up around 4 AM to be at Rockefeller Plaza before daybreak to ensure a spot at the front for the TODAY show.  I don’t even watch the TODAY show, LOL – I am a GMA girl.  But, being the good aunt that I am – I made sure to work our TODAY show appearance into the itinerary.

During vacation preparations it came to my attention that a surprise concert was being held one of our mornings in New York – at the TODAY show – by Boy George.  Well, this changed my entire outlook on our 4 AM wake up.  As a child of the 80’s (and a member of the GLBT community) I LOVE Boy George.  Now I was equally determined to get there on time to be front and center so that I could see my teenage idol.  I pre-registered with the TODAY show to get the “special passes” to be closer to the front, the boys colored their home made sign, we rose bright and early and arrived at the crack of dawn that morning.

We were ushered right into the front pit where the stage was and had a spot up against the railings where the boys could rest their poster.  I was an AMAZING aunt.  After a long time waiting for things to get started the warm up band came out and began playing some of Boy George’s oldest hits.  The whole audience was singing and my nephews were like: “Who’s Boy George?”

Various NBC employees and affiliates were working the crowds – asking them if they knew the lyrics, etc. (I know all of them!)  There were two particular individuals who approached us with an entirely different question.  They asked me if I had heard of their Thursday Ambush Makeovers.  Not being a TODAY show watcher (which I certainly did NOT mention), I had not.  I was quickly informed that Thursday’s in the summer they come out into the public and choose two women for a head-to-toe makeover, and would I be interested?  Well, hell yeah I was interested in having a makeover.  I had just lost all this weight and it was going to be my 5 minutes of fame.  They told me to wait a few minutes and they would come back to me to let me know if I had been chosen. Well about 5-7 minutes later I was being rushed back stage to be interviewed and then completely made over.  Here is the link to my makeover for those of you who have not seen it.



Needless to say it was an amazing experience.  Here is the reaction shot edited by friends:

Jans reaction

This was all well and good – and I was thrilled with the results, BUT… I never heard or saw Boy George (the one reason I actually woke up at 4 AM).  But guess who DID get to not only hear him, but meet him and get photos?  You got it, my family…none of whom are the big fan that I am.  So if you are out there anywhere @BoyGeorge – I cannot believe that I missed you.  Maybe I’ll have another opportunity before I die.

Let me tell you how hard it was being in New York around all my most favorite trigger foods and having to stay focused on the comfort and pleasure I was getting from being with my loved ones and in the city I love versus the comfort and pleasure of a real bagel.

In New York it is MUCH easier however to eat a gluten free diet, but I had to forgo the vendor hot dog in Central Park, the pretzel, real pizza… the list goes on.  I have learned to make the company and the environment my focus and not the food.  It is not an easy transformation – it takes time and will power, but it is achievable.  It is more easily achieved when you have the support and encouragement of those around you.  Make it a point to surround yourself with people who will lift you up and help you move forward, not those that bring you down and/or sabotage your efforts.

In my next post I will include my thought process when making choices off of menus.  Just remember do not let one bad day, or one bad choice define you or break your will.  No one is perfect… even those whose bodies look like they are.

How I Lost 135+ Pounds…

No Biggest Loser, no Extreme Weight Loss Makeover and no gastric surgery….

People ask tattoome this question almost every day since December of 2014. How did you lose all that weight?  How did you stay motivated? How are you keeping it off? Did you have gastric surgery?

I am going to try and answer everyone’s questions here, and by starting this blog I hope to motivate and continue to help people.


This was actually the hardest part of the process, and continues to be.   I cannot put my finger on the exact moment I basically cracked, but I do remember this – stepping on the scale sometime towards the end of April of 2014 and seeing the number 287.  I freaked out. I thought OMG I am closing in on 300 pounds, the prior month at my yearly physical my doctor told me I was prediabetic, I am going to be one of those people who can’t get out of bed without the assistance of a hydraulic hoist!  Something snapped.  I can’t tell you what, I can’t tell you why… all I can say is that I realized at that moment that I was going to be 45 years old in just under a year and I felt like I was 85.  I needed to act quickly because it was only going to get worse and only get harder to do something about it.  So that’s basically how the journey began. I vowed to reach my goal weight by my 45th birthday.

I had lost weight after babies in the past with the help of Weight Watchers and to this day still believe it is the ONLY healthy way to lose weight as it is truly a life style change and not a diet.  Not having time for the meetings, and not wanting the initial humiliation of that first weigh in, I joined online, and began immediately counting points and getting rid of all the trigger foods in the house.

Going into a public gym feeling as self-conscious as I did was not remotely an option. So I began slowly moving at home.  I walked the dogs every day. Then (being the crazy off kilter person I am) I started doing Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ to the Oldies II (I still love that workout – just the music makes it fun). I couldn’t do it with all the gusto of my youth or even make it through the whole work out at the beginning – but I was determined to not give up. Still too embarrassed to enter a gym I purchased an inexpensive exercise bike/elliptical machine.  I began alternating my friend Richard with my new friend Elliptical every day.  At that point I was only exercising once a day, but I tracked how many steps I took with a pedometer and roughly how many calories I thought I might be burning during a workout.  Believe me accuracy was not critical to me, just approximates to stay motivated.

When you ask people about weight loss they tell you don’t weigh yourself every day, do it once a week.  I firmly believe that that needs to be a personal choice for your individual psyche.  I weighed every day.  It never discouraged me, it kept me on track and kept my eye on the prize so to speak.

The first few weeks if you are doing it right, you always see some impressive results – its sticking with it afterward that’s so hard for so many.  The first two weeks I dropped roughly 8 lbs.  This was encouraging enough for me to keep going. I stuck with Weight Watchers for about three months – till my body learned portion size and healthy eating.

Having suffered with IBS since my early teens I believed that managing it was going to be a lifelong commitment.  During my weight loss journey I had come across a few different articles online which indicated that individuals with IBS may actually benefit from a gluten free diet. I had been checked for celiac disease in the past and was told that my blood work did not indicate such an allergy. I figured at this point I had nothing to lose and everything to gain if it worked.  So another round of removing food from the house began.  (I did keep a stash of real bread, etc. for Jan as this gluten free thing was not something she could get on board with.)

I also read that sugar calories were much harder to burn off than fat calories. So I began eliminating almost all refined sugar from my diet and increasing my protein intake to help build muscle and burn calories.

After three months on Weight Watchers, and exercising on my own, I had lost roughly 46 lbs.  I could now face a gym with pride – I had come this far – certainly I could do even better with real equipment and some guidance.

Eating was now more or less simple for me.  I drank ONLY water and a ton of it all day. I ate the same basic things daily:

  • Breakfast:

Steel cut oatmeal, with blueberries and toasted flax seed – [Occasionally I changed up the fruit and/or added some nuts])

  • Mid-morning snack:

A very low sugar cup of Greek yogurt (I recommend Siggi’s if you can get it) and a cup of Naked Juice’s Green Machine

  • Lunch:

Gluten free protein bar, some low-fat cheese cubes and an apple

  • Mid-afternoon snack:

A handful of cashews and/or a protein shake

  • Dinner:

A normal dinner like a medium sized steak, some rice or potatoes, a salad with sugar free dressing or some cooked green vegetables (asparagus, green beans…)

I’d try to eat dinner by 6:30 the latest so I wasn’t going to sleep on a full stomach when burning calories is more difficult. I also tried very hard not to eat after dinner.  This was hard, but when I did succumb to temptation I chose something healthy or in the very least refined sugar free (a fruit, some sugar free pudding, popcorn etc.). Being a chocoholic I stuck with dark chocolate during my weight loss, and still try to reach for it when given the option.

It’s all about movement, portion control and healthy choices.  It’s NOT easy.  Becoming gluten free has been really difficult, but also the best choice I have ever made.  I miss real pizza, real bread and real CUPCAKES!  The gluten free alternatives are not bad, but it’s still not the same. Before I fully understood what the family of gluten was comprised of, one night I made a huge vat of mushroom barley soup for my family and after having two large servings wound up in the hospital with an intestinal infection.  Needless to say – I’m staying gluten free.

So – over the next 7 months I stuck with all the above.  I went to the gym every morning for an hour (half hour of cardio and a half hour of strength/resistance training), and then again at lunch for 30 minutes of cardio (walking, elliptical, bike…).  In those seven months I lost roughly 90 pounds.

I set smaller goals throughout the journey and had a karaoke party when I dropped below 200 lbs. making sure there were healthy choices on the table along with regular “party” foods for all our guests.  We had a blast and it helped me stay motivated.

At the gym I found a trainer who would occasionally take some of her personal time to help me learn to use the machines properly, and rotate through my muscle groups: using muscle confusion and interval training.

In just under a year and right on time for my goal I had lost 135+ pounds, and weighed in at 150 lbs. I fluctuate within a healthy range of 5-6 lbs now.  Between 147 and 153.  I don’t weigh in everyday, but I do keep constant tabs to be sure I am staying on track, as my eating behaviors are not as stringent anymore.

One day while I was on the elliptical machine at the gym, I continued to stare intently at the décor on the wall to my right.  Skinny, muscular people in a variety of workout phases and activities.  There were words superimposed on these figures.  One word stuck in my head – resonated, and has never left: PERSEVERE. When I reached my goal I had this word tattooed on my body in both English and Hebrew in a design I created. It’s on my calf where I can see it at all times.  It reminds me what I went through to get here, and reminds me to keep moving forward.

Everyone says I am an entirely different person now –and honestly they are right. I do feel like an entirely different person… I feel like the person I was meant to be.

I hope this has been helpful to those of you who have asked how I got where I am.  I will answer anyone’s questions, and I will support anyone who needs help finding their motivation.  Just ask….(it’s a good place to start!)

Oh, and for those of you who have no idea why my blog is named theassofdeath, read my next post and it will become clear!


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