Heather Martinez found herself at a place in her life, some seven years ago, in serious need of change.
“I had pretty much given up hope of ever changing. I mean, when you weigh 250 pounds, what’s another 25 pounds? And another. And another. I knew I was out of control, but I had tried diets. I lost and gained it back. And gained some more — over and over and over,” Heather recalled. What prompted her weight issues? “I just liked food. Food was my friend. Food was my love. Food was all I thought about. Every morning, I woke up eager to plan what I would eat that day, all day.”
And yes, there was a precipitating factor that brought Heather to a place of desperation. The desperation hadn’t come when she could no longer go to the movies, because she didn’t fit in the seat. Nor was it the fact that if she wanted to fly anywhere she had to purchase two seats. Nor was it the fact she had very high blood pressure and diabetes. “People who love food or use food as a coping mechanism need something to jar them. Until they ‘bottom out,’ they will continue to eat and eat and eat. Most overweight and obese people cycle through weight loss and weight gain just like I did — until something they see as unbearable occurs, and they finally decide things need to change,” Heather paused, reminiscing. “I cannot believe how long I tolerated living so out of control,” she said, shaking her head. “I weighed 326 pounds. I was so big, I pretty much didn’t go out much — except to eat. And work, I still worked, but walking and stairs and breathing had all become way too much work. I was really miserable. What tipped the scale for me was when I went shopping at Lane Bryant, and I could no longer even fit in their largest size,” she recalled. Heather left the store in tears, knowing she needed to change her life. Since Heather had been the dieting route before, she decided to make some serious lifestyle changes. “My first decision was not to eat fast food anymore. I had been eating fast food for breakfast, lunch, dinner (a whole pizza and an entire two-liter bottle of soda) and snacks. Oh yes, lots of snacks, lots of ice cream. But now I was determined to only eat real food,” Heather explained.
Heather likes to study and learn things, so she began to research healthy ways to eat, studying which foods went together to best provide what her body would need to maintain nutritional wholeness while losing weight, lots of weight. “The first week I cut out fast food, I lost about 10 pounds. And I kept losing. My next decision was portion control. I felt so much better just by eating real food that I found I didn’t need as much. My body adapted to needing less food. And I began to feel up to including some exercise,” Heather remarked. At first, Heather thought she would try swimming.
Her parents had a pool, but the weather was still too cool. She figured she would walk around the small backyard pool. “I didn’t even have enough breath to walk around it once,” Heather admitted. But instead of getting discouraged, she upped her determination. Weight had always been an issue for Heather. “I was never naturally thin, and I was pretty sedentary by nature. Sitting in front of the TV was the perfect opportunity for a snack. My family is Hispanic, so we were pretty loud, pretty opinionated, and we ate. No one was home when I got home from school, so I ate. No one ever monitored what or how much I ate. As I got older and heavier, I became more reclusive, depressed, and although I am naturally an extrovert, I became more and more introverted,” she shared. All through high school in Arlington, Heather dieted, trying Slim-
Fast, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem. “They all worked. I lost weight, but I gained it all back, because my lifestyle hadn’t changed. I hadn’t changed my lifestyle,” Heather amended herself. “The more I gained, the more I hated myself, the more insecure and depressed I got.”
By college, she was definitely maintaining 200-plus pounds. Heather graduated from The University of Texas at Arlington in 1997 with a degree in public relations. “I really liked people,” she said. For 12 years, she worked in PR for Budweiser. “The job was amazing. It’s only downside (which I did not recognize at the time) was we went out to eat all the time. I considered that a perk.” With continual weight gain, walking up stairs became an impossibility, and Heather began to fall — a lot.
She could no longer wear seatbelts. They weren’t big enough. “Needless to say, I was thrilled when I actually began losing weight and keeping it off,” Heather shared. “But when I reached the 100-pound weight-loss mark, I plateaued at about 225 pounds. I still wanted to lose another 100 pounds! I decided to join a gym and begin to work out.” For six months she worked with a personal trainer, who taught her how to exercise and do strength training, taught her to food journal, how to be accountable, how to listen to her body and balance out her life, so that exercise didn’t become her new out-of-balance lifestyle. “As I gained confidence in my exercise classes and became less jelly-like, I moved closer to the front,” Heather shared, eyes beaming.
“The really cool thing was I found myself, for the first time in my life, surrounded by people who were noticing my weight-loss, encouraging me — people with the same goals as I now had: health and fitness as a lifestyle. I really want people to know that it’s not about a number on the scale or reaching a certain size. It’s about changing your mind — your mindset is the most important thing. Losing weight, living healthy, staying fit — is about 80 percent mind and 20 percent working out. “I had to give myself permission to be healthy, to be amazing, to be beautiful, to love myself — to be the absolute best me. And when I found my own value, I found I could also help others, so now I am a fitness coach, too. I no longer see myself as the overweight person I once was. I am strong and fit and valuable to others.”
Written by Beverly Shay