Weight Loss

How she did it: No more emotional eating

How she did it: No more emotional eating

Photography courtesy of Northern Pixel Photography Image by: Photography courtesy of Northern Pixel Photography Author: Canadian Living

Weight Loss

How she did it: No more emotional eating

Tracey Montgomery
Age: 47
Lost: 161 pounds
Occupation: Office administrator in Prince George, B.C.
Time period: September 2010 to February 2012
Height: 5'10"
Weight loss: 335 to 174 pounds
Pant size: From size 28 to 8/10

Where she started
"I have always been an emotional eater," says Tracey. As a child, she turned to food to cope with her feelings, be they happy or sad. As a teen, playing sports kept her weight in a healthy range, but that outlet was gone after high school. "Within a couple of years I was over 300 pounds."

Being heavy only added to Tracey's emotional stress. "Whether people are judging or not," she says, "if you think they're judging, that's all that matters. It just crushes you." Buying clothes, squeezing into a public bathroom stall – daily events sent her stress levels skyrocketing.

Physically, Tracey suffered severe heartburn and poor quality sleep; she took blood pressure and asthma medication. Her doctor told her that cholesterol medication would be next, and that she was on track to develop type 2 diabetes like her grandmother.

It was all adding up. "Honest to God, I was just so tired of being overweight," says Tracey.

How she did it
With two friends, Tracey joined Weight Watchers. It was her third try at the program, but this time she embraced it. She specifically embraced the points system, which allowed her to keep eating her beloved carbs, peanut butter and chocolate. Tracey started weighing portions and setting small  five-pound goals. "The support was incredible and there was no judging," she says.

After getting her nutrition in order, it was time to tackle exercise. She started getting up at 5 a.m. "I would flop onto the floor and do five sit-ups and five pushups. And then the next week I would do a little bit more." A family member bought her a recumbent bike and her daughter contributed free weights. "I'm not a morning person," she says. "But I have way too many excuses after work not to do it."

Where she is now
Tracey walks 45 minutes to an hour each day, or does a 45-minute home workout. And she continues to go to Weight Watchers meetings each week. "The energy and excitement of the new members just helps keep me motivated." She sleeps much better, is almost free of heartburn and is no longer on any medications. Her blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal.

Learning not to respond to emotions by eating is still a struggle – it was a habit of 25 years, after all – but Tracey continues to work on it. "I don't think I ever could forget eating emotionally, but for the most part, I feel at peace. I'm definitely a lot happier."

Lessons she learned
Tracey always packs Weight Watchers snacks, trail mix or granola bars in her purse. "If I'm really hungry, I'm going to buy the bad food," she laughs.

Patience is key. "Some weeks I lost half a pound, other weeks two pounds," says Tracey. "It went slowly. The body fluctuates, but I just kept working at it.

"You can't be looking for a quick fix," says Tracey. "This isn't a diet. To be healthy and to keep the weight off long-term, it has to be a life change. After every meeting, we say: ‘Is it going to be easy? No. Is it going to be worth it?' Oh my God, it's so worth it."

Pro tips from Cara Rosenbloom
While personal motivation is key, taking her weight-loss journey with friends and a support group means Tracey is accountable to herself and to others; this provides further drive to succeed.

Another well-proven strategy Tracey could try is food journalling: writing down everything she eats and noting her mood at the time. It's a great way to identify negative patterns, and to ensure that she eats when she is hungry, not when she feels depressed, stressed, angry or bored.

Tracey understands that quick fixes won't work, but that being physically active, eating smaller portions, planning ahead and not having "off limits" foods is a winning combination.

Cara Rosenbloom is a Toronto-based registered dietitian.

For more inspiring weight-loss stories, read about how one woman lost 85 pounds by eliminating processed foods.

This story was originally titled "Goal Getter" in the December 2013 issue.
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Weight Loss

How she did it: No more emotional eating