Sunday, May 16, 2010

From a size 24 to a size 4: Geneva woman shares weight loss strategies

By Rachel Baruch Yackley | Daily Herald Correspondent
Published: 5/10/2010

"How'd she do that?" is a question Maureen Bliss hears, now and then, especially when people recognize her, which might not be easy.

Bliss is less than half the woman she used to be. Currently weighing in at 127 lbs., Bliss has lost 156 lbs. since June 2007.

"I'm so proud of myself," said Bliss, after going from a size 24 to a size 4. "I never thought this was possible."

It has taken a lifetime for Bliss to look her best. At 60 years old, this 5 ft. 4 in. woman, can look back and wonder at all that's behind her.

"As a young child, I was thin. We ate healthy, but we always loved our bread," said Bliss, who grew up in the western suburbs and has lived in Geneva for the past 10 years, with her husband Lee and their two dogs.

"In high school, I started gaining weight. I remember being teased about being fat, but it didn't keep me down."

Over the years, Bliss has tried diet pills, which helped for a while, but then she put the weight back on. She even looked into gastric bypass surgery as well as the lap band, but decided neither was for her. Both she and her husband tried Atkins, but she "never found a diet I could live with."

Then one day a neighbor invited her to come along to a Weight Watchers meeting, at the center at 2041 Lincoln Hwy. (Rt. 38), in St. Charles.

"I guess I never learned the tools to be thin. I owe it all to Weight Watchers," she said.

"Anybody who's overweight - the last thing you want to do is step on a scale in front of other people. Once I did that, I went home, cleaned out the pantry, and started (the program) the next day."

Bliss took it week-by-week, pound by pound. Her husband was so supportive. "We've been married 32 years, and he never ever said you need to lose weight." He also dieted alongside her, and lost 65 lbs., himself.

"Since I've done the Weight Watchers, he's gotten so involved in the kitchen. We eat so healthy and enjoy what we eat," Bliss said.

Offering tips for others, Bliss said one of the most important things to do is to always be prepared for anything. Her suggestions include: carry healthy snacks, don't keep "junk food" around the house, and keep a daily record of all you eat.

She and her husband also don't eat out as much as they used to, but when they do, Bliss brings her own bread, spray butter, fat free coffee creamer, and sugar substitute.

"How successful you are is really about choices," she explained. "We never aimlessly eat. It's a great program, and it really taught me how to eat.

"I equate how it works for me like a budget. You have so much to spend each day. When you eat more than allocated, you have to pay the interest, and that's added weight."

Attending the weekly Weight Watchers meetings provided Bliss with an enormous amount of support, with the combination of information shared at each meeting, as well as through the exchanges and friendships formed with other members. Now a lifetime member, Bliss still attends regular meetings, with the same group she's been with throughout her journey.

For the 21 months it took to lose the weight, Bliss said, "the (Weight Watchers) meetings were a priority. I didn't want to go in and weigh myself and see a weight gain; that was a big motivator. The first week I only lost 1.2 lbs., and I was really disappointed. But I talked to myself about how losing that once a week is a lot, in one year. All the women at Weight Watchers helped me too, from the people who weigh you in, to Terra Ayers, the leader who runs the meetings, they're all very, very good. And all the (members) are helpful, sharing stories and tips."

Not only has Bliss taken off all that weight, she's kept it off for over a year.

Although she didn't initially exercise, she now works out 30 minutes to an hour each day with her Wii Fit, or takes walks with her active husband, who has a third degree black belt in Hapkido.

One of the things people do wonder about is, after all that weight loss, what happens to your skin?

Not to worry, says Bliss, as "for the most part, it shrinks with you. I don't have sacks of skin hanging. It hasn't shrunk 100 percent; I do have bat wings under my arms.

"And whatever issues you had when you were fat, like if you were pear shaped before, you'll still be pear shaped after."

Now she can look at the one pair of capri pants, one pair of jeans, and one shirt she kept: "I hold them up and just can't believe how big I was."

Not surprisingly, the weight loss has brought some big changes to Bliss's life, besides multiple wardrobe changes.

"Before, when I was heavy, I never wanted to be in pictures, I didn't want to see old, old friends, and I didn't want to meet new people," she shared. "Now, bring it on!"

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