Today more than 78 million Americans are obese. Billions of dollars are being spent trying to educate the public and tackle the problem, but the question remains: are we really winning this war or not?

“In It to Win It”

Who better to answer this question than someone deep in the trenches of this battle? Wellocracy spoke with Sarah who declared her own personal war against obesity in 2011. Since that time, Sarah lost more than 100 pounds. Recently she gained back 30 of those hard fought pounds; a story all too familiar to many of us. Sarah concedes that losing weight is a lifelong battle, but she is in it to win it, recognizing that life happens and stress is always around the corner.Sarah's Story_Wellocracy_1

Sarah lives in Waterbury, Vermont and leads a very full life. As a supervisor with Cabot Cheese, studying for her Bachelor’s degree, and very active with friends and family, Sarah says she has learned to make time to take care of herself. “It may sound selfish, but I am now a much happier person to be around, so it benefits my family, friends and coworkers!” Sarah wanted to share her story with Wellocracy to send a message of hope. While it may seem impossible at first, Sarah says anyone can lose weight; you just have to chip away at it. “It may seem impossible to lose a large amount of weight; it doesn’t happen overnight, but I want your readers to know – YES you can!”

“A Picture is worth a” …100 pounds?

Sarah always struggled with her weight, yet it never held her back. She is an avid swimmer and kayaker and even at her maximum weight of 280 pounds she would get in a bathing suit and continued to enjoy the activities she loved. But it did undermine her self-confidence and self esteem. “It’s a very emotional journey, one that is painful but necessary to recall because it reminds you of where you have been and where you are now.” It wasn’t until the summer of 2011, after having had a visit with longtime friends Sarah's Story_Wellocracy_Before and Afterand family, that Sarah had her awakening. Her friend sent her pictures of that visit and she was devastated. “I just couldn’t believe how I looked.” Sarah knew she had gained weight, but there was something about the power of that picture that really made her take notice. She thought, how did this happen? At the same time, Sarah’s coworker and friend was having success with Weight Watchers and encouraged her to join. Sarah says it was very scary to take that first step, but having a friend made it easier. “I had little goals. I went into it not expecting to lose 100 pounds, but I just wanted to do something.”

Sarah did well in the first year and a half, losing about 1 to 2 pounds a week. She maintained that for almost a year, but then life stresses occurred and Sarah stopped watching her calorie intake, eating healthy and doing the things that were working. Like a lot of us, Sarah turned to food for comfort, and slowly the weight came back. “Part of the battle is this never-ending cycle of depression, binging, self- loathing and poor self-esteem. When I’m feeling like this, I tend to shut people out.”

“Another picture, a business trip and a hug…”

So how did Sarah break the cycle and get back on track? Once again, it was a picture she saw of herself with the new weight gain, plus the thought of an upcoming business trip, requiring more professional attire. Since she recently regained weight, she would have to go shopping again to buy a larger pair of pants. It was in that moment that Sarah decided, “No More New Pants!”

With the help of friends and family, Sarah went back into battle mode, attending Weight Watchers Sarah's Story_Wellocracy_2meetings, adding an activity tracker to monitor her daily activity, utilizing the Weight Watchers online health forum and tracking her food intake online. Sarah uses the Fitbit Charge activity tracker and it is among her favorite tools. “It buzzes me to let me know that I have met a goal, and sends messages of encouragement. It is like getting a Fitbit hug!” As a result, Sarah has increased her step count and overall activity. She also attends Jazzercise classes which has been a fun way to increase steps while getting a great workout.

It’s also helped that her employer, Cabot Creamery Cooperative, provides an environment where fitness is valued. They have a walking group, 5k challenges, and lunchtime activities like Ultimate Frisbee and Volleyball. And having a personal fitness tracker is the norm among her co-workers making a healthy lifestyle easy and fun.

The key is Me!!

When asked if there is one thing she considers key to her success, Sarah doesn’t hesitate. “ME! It all has to come from inside. All the tools in the world will help but I have to access them! And…it isn’t always easy to ask for or accept the support of friends and family. But you must. You must reach out to your support system of family, friends, co-workers, because you can’t do it alone.” When asked what she learned about herself during this journey, Sarah says she realizes how happy she is now, how self confident and capable she is. She has more energy and is more outgoing. “It has opened up a whole new world for me. I am willing to try new activities and meet new people. I feel beautiful.”

“Be the change you wish to see……”!

Sarah urges us “If you are not happy, make that change and know that you can do it. There is so much support out there, just find the one that fits you.” Sarah suggests you also take one day at a time and be kind to yourself. And like Sarah: be in it to win it!