By Madeleine Ortiz
Sitting down with Henriette Dumont feels like sitting down with an old friend even when you’ve just met her! She’s so genuine and warm that before you realize it your “quick chat” has turned into an hours-long conversation about everything from NFL football to the healthcare system. “I love people,” she says, “I was raised by extremely generous parents and they’ve passed that on to me.” Which is lucky for us, because it means she was happy to share her personal story of weight loss trials and success. “If anything I’ve been through can help someone else, then I’m glad to share my experiences and tips.”
Focus on healthy lifestyle over weight loss.
In hindsight, Henriette admits that she wasn’t really an overweight teen… but that didn’t stop her from seeing herself as such when she was young. That misperception as a teenager started her on a journey of yo-yo dieting. Over the years she’s lost and regained between 20 to 60 pounds at a time. “I’ve tried every single diet,” she says, “but in the end, none of them were sustainable.” And now, in her late 50s, she realizes that all those ups and downs with her weight did more harm than good. If she could go back in time, she’d tell herself not to start all the dieting. She’d focus more on eating healthy foods most of the time and less nutritious foods in moderation. “If society is going to accept obesity as an illness,” she notes, “we also have to teach how to prevent it.” And a big part of preventing obesity is helping people recognize that the cycle of yo-yo dieting ultimately results in weight gain over time “My metabolism, my hormones and I are paying for all the fad diets I’ve tried,” she laments. In the end, it’s better to create lifelong habits than it is to try and stick to an impossible regimen that’ll likely backfire.
Have a personal motivating reason (or a few!)
Henriette has a zest for life that is hard to deny. She loves to take road trips – especially when they involve her getting to visit with her two sons, daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. “I don’t want to grow old sick,” she says, “I love seeing new places and talking to people and all that is easier in a healthy, mobile body.” Being in good health as she ages is a huge motivator when it comes to staying on track, but it’s not her only reason. Some days, it’s just that she wants to feel more confident in her clothes. “I love shopping,” says Henriette and the thought of being able to try on clothes without leaving the store discouraged is a great motivator for her as well. It’s important to be clear about why losing weight and getting healthier is important to you. Your reasons can be big, small or even seemingly vain… but make sure they’re yours! Remember them when things get tough and let them help you stay on your path.
Take it one day at a time.
“If I dwell on the fact that I’ll be thinking about my weight and food choices for the rest of my life, I get overwhelmed,” Henriette tells us. It can feel even more frustrating at the grocery store – where the healthier, lower sugar and more nutrient dense options also always seem to be the more pricey ones. Sometimes it can feel like society is against us… and that coupled with losing weight and keeping it off being a “forever” process can make even the strongest folks feel like giving up. Henriette, however, takes her healthy lifestyle one choice at a time. Thinking too much about the long road ahead can be discouraging, she warns. It’s easier to stay focused and make good choices when you’re taking it step by step. And she adds, even easier still if you allow room for the occasional, guilt-free indulgence.
Make self-care a priority.
Henriette is a giver. When her sons were young, she volunteered at their school as often as she could. When she wasn’t helping out at school, she was reaching out to friends and family in between spending time with her husband of forty years. Now her sons are adults and she happily dedicates most of her time to her full-time job. And when she does get a chance to visit her sons, she can’t help but slip back into mother mode and cook them all their favorite foods. “I love taking care of others,” she beams. But that doesn’t mean she still doesn’t need to schedule some time for her own self-care- and you should too. Scheduling time for yourself isn’t selfish, it’s essential. Whether it’s reading like Henriette enjoys, taking part in daily movement or even making sure that you’re keeping up with your doctors appointments, the better you care for yourself the healthier you’ll be. And the better you will be able to care for others.
Never stop learning.
“I could write a book on calories,” says Henriette. She’s read about and tried so many kinds of diets and programs that she knows it’s not a lack of knowledge about nutrition that’s preventing her from losing weight. She’s even a lifelong member of WW, formerly Weight Watchers, and though she still attends the occasional meeting, it’s just not enough for her anymore. “I’m not dissing WW, it’s a great program,” she says, “but I’m at this point where I just need to know more, need knowledge … need to know why I lose focus when I think I’m hungry and I can’t think about anything else anymore.” She likes reading, researching and watching My Weight What to Know videos and live shows because she knows she’s learning about weight and health at a level that’s more than just “diet deep.” She admits that she’s emotional, and she’ll probably always have an emotional attachment to food (that’s human!), but the more she learns, the easier it is for her to approach her nutrition and her body in a scientific way. Really understanding the mechanisms in your body that regulate body weight gives you perspective and can make a big difference when it comes to making sustainable change.
Get help from a professional.
It doesn’t make Henriette happy that obesity is a chronic medical condition, but she knows it’s true. “I don’t like thinking about obesity like a disease because sometimes it feels like I’m taking away care or attention from more serious things like cancer or something like that, but I know it IS a disease.” And the more she started learning and watching videos on My Weight What to Know, the more she started realizing that it is something she deserves to receive help for. Obesity and excess weight are not simple problems that can be solved with DIY solutions, and that realization, though difficult, is what really drove her to seek help from a healthcare professional. The first person that really helped her, she says, was a nutritionist. And it wasn’t really because she lost a significant amount of weight when working with her – it was because she listened to Henriette and offered practical information and advice. “I got so many great takeaways from working with her,” she recalls, “and I finally realized the value in seeking help from a professional.” It can really make all the difference when it comes to support and success.
Advocate for yourself, even when it feels impossible.
Unfortunately, an encouraging and supportive healthcare team didn’t fall into Henriette’s lap. Finding a doctor where she lives in Canada isn’t easy – after her family physician passed away, she was forced to go to the emergency room for a basic prescription refill. The options are limited and when new clinics open, patient spots can fill up fast. And finding a doctor that feels comfortable offering research-backed treatments for obesity? Even harder. Once, when Henriette asked a doctor about getting help with weight, he responded by telling her “he saw a healthy young lady who simply ate too much.” It sounds like a bad sitcom, but Henriette admits that three of her health care providers actually died from old age before she was able to find someone who she felt really understood her and her weight. And after that, she still battled with affording her prescriptions. It was not easy, “I don’t know how many people will go through what I did to find the doctor,” she tells us. It’s a battle. It’s not easy. But the right professionals are out there– you just have to keep fighting.
Henriette is like so many of us. A smart, friendly, family-oriented woman hoping to live a long and healthy life for herself and those that she loves. She’s learned a lot on her journey to good health, but that doesn’t mean every day is easy now. She gets constant support from her family and schedules regular visits with her healthcare team. It’s a lifelong process that she is taking one day at a time. And you can too… it all starts with taking the first step, finding your team and believing in yourself.
To read more personal stories from people with obesity, click here.
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