Janis in 2010, and in 2015
Two years ago we featured the story of Janis Kemper, our co-owner and physical therapist here at Northern. For many personal reasons Janis began a weight loss journey that left her 80 pounds lighter and feeling better than ever. No one knows better than Janis that weight loss is hard. The post we did two years ago remains one of our top visited pages every month so we wanted to do a follow-up with Janis to share the joys and struggles she’s had in maintaining her weight.
November 7, 2011 was the day my life changed. I vowed to say goodbye to bad habits, goodbye to overindulgence, and goodbye to part of myself. While none of it has been easy, it has been worth it, and for the most part I feel I’ve done a pretty good job in making and following through with certain lifestyle changes. I’ve continued to exercise six days a week and I make sure this gets done by scheduling my workouts into my calendar because as everyone knows, if it’s not in the calendar it’s not getting done! It is very rare for me to cancel or change an appointment with someone else, so I treat my exercise as an appointment with myself. Sure, life happens and sometimes my daily schedule gets messed up so in order to keep excuses at bay I keep a change of clothes and my bathing suit in my car so if there is a change of plans I can accommodate accordingly and still make it to the gym or pool.
So has it been easy?
The answer to that one’s easy…absolutely not! So often I get tired of journaling my food, preparing healthy meals, and reading labels. You’d think after all this time it would be second nature, and sometimes it is, but I still tire of it. Then I think, “I’m sure a person with MS or Diabetes gets tired of doing the things they need to do in order to control their disease,” and that helps me to realize that even though it does suck that I have to focus and work at keeping at a healthy weight, it really isn’t much different than the millions who have to manage their chronic diseases as well. *In 2013, the AMA recognized obesity as a disease.
In many ways 2015 was a really rough year for me. In a span of just a few months I had several stressful life events occur. My husband and I became empty nesters, our parents had medical issues that required a lot of our time, two of our beloved dogs died, etc…you get the idea. The way I chose to cope with this stress was with food. I resorted to some of my old bad habits and in the moment, the food did soothe me, as it always had. But then the vicious cycle began – guilt, shame, etc. I’m sure it feels the same as if a smoker gave up cigarettes and then caved and began smoking again. I was left feeling very out of control. I knew deep down I didn’t want to regain weight, but I was in denial for a while and chose to not weigh myself. When I finally got the courage to step on the scale I found that I had gained 25 pounds. This was weight that I had kept off for the past 2+ years! To say I felt devastated would be an understatement. I knew I had to get back to square one or all my hard work would have been for nothing.
Staying on track when it’s easier not to
I started out by writing down all the reasons I want to maintain a healthy weight. I got back to my support group. Then I decided to journal my food (which is the number one tool to successfully keep a healthy weight). As a result I cut my calories and have learned that because I want to cope with life’s stresses in healthy ways, food is not the best option for me. I’m sure I will occasionally turn to food in times of good and bad, but I don’t like the feeling of being out of control with my eating, so if I slip up one day, the next day I’m going to get back on track.
I also recently began putting time in my calendar for meal preparation, grocery shopping (while reading labels), and food journaling. These are tools that work for me – but they only work if I use them. Weight loss is a very personal struggle. The message I hope others get from my story is that it’s important to remember not to compare yourself to others. Just because someone else is thinner than I am, doesn’t mean they had an easier road. Everyone is coping with their own struggles. It can also be incredibly intimidating to go to a gym or fitness center when you’re overweight. But you have to remember that no matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.
Looking back on my successes and setbacks over the last two years I can see that part of the reason I was called to change my life was so that I could educate and share my experiences with others. When I first started to lose weight I used to dread going to the gym. Fast forward to today and I’m now in the position where I can, and have, led a few fitness classes here at Northern. It’s an exhilarating feeling, knowing where I started. I also never waste an opportunity to work with patients on the physical therapy side who struggle with weight themselves. Oftentimes they find exercise to be painful but what I want them to know is that there is an appropriate and pain free way to work out, no matter your weight, and a physical therapist can show you how. The more people I can share that message with, the better. Through learning the appropriate way to exercise, learning what’s right for your body, overcoming pain and injury, and potentially working with our personal trainers, anyone can be on the road to a healthier lifestyle.
The next chapter
I’ve come to the conclusion that my weight is something that will be in the back of my mind for the rest of my life, but it doesn’t have to control me. I’ve set myself up with the tools that work best for me and I understand the rewards that come with using them. I encourage everyone who is struggling to take the first step, literally. It’s a long road, but the destination is wonderful.
Janis will be a featured guest on WZZM’s My West Michigan with Catherine Behrendt on March 21. Tune in at 9am.
Janis will also be the guest speaker at the next Weight Loss Support Group at our Grant clinic on March 29.