That Saturday morning last April I had butterflies, waiting for some special guests to arrive.
A month earlier I’d found out that I won the New Year, New You contest. Even though the people at Guideposts said I’d been chosen because I showed the most promise of all the entrants, I couldn’t quite believe it.
My self-esteem was at an all-time low, my weight was at an all-time high and I certainly didn’t feel like a winner.
Any minute now the Guideposts Dream Team of lifestyle change coaches would be knocking at my door.
I’d seen their photos in my January 2009 issue, and I could picture the four of them charging into my house, ready for their mission, which, as the contest announcement put it, was “to develop a personalized healthy living plan” for me. Lord knows, I prayed for it and needed it!
It wasn’t that I wasn’t grateful for the many blessings in my life. My marriage to my high school sweetheart, Greg, still going strong after 25 years; our two wonderful sons, K.C. and Chris; the dream house we were building; my hard-earned college degree (I’d gone back to school at 36 and graduated at 40); my job as a sixth-grade teacher; my extended family, numerous friends and a terrific church family.
But I had plenty of problems too. My weight had been an issue since childhood, and it was a major factor in my health problems—foot and back pain (exacerbated by being on my feet all day teaching), pre-hypertension and pre-diabetes.
I was only 42, much too young to be having so many physical issues. I knew I needed to get healthier, but where would I even start? After all, I’d tried nearly every diet out there.
Physical fitness—or lack thereof—was another issue. Before the contest, I’d tried once again to get into shape by walking. I could barely walk a mile at first.
I’d reared two athletic sons, soccer players who ran up and down the field, and I yearned to be able to run with them.
But after a long day at school and helping out with activities like the children’s group at church, I was done. I had to decline when my coworker Dianne invited me to work out with her after school.
Yet the problem I struggled with most was my negative thinking. It was at the root of all my other issues. Even with so many blessings in my life, I often felt like the world was crashing down on me.
It was as if all the insults that had been leveled at me about my weight over the years had eaten away at my soul. I doubted my willpower, even doubted my faith was strong enough to make the changes in my life I knew I had to make.
At last a car pulled into the drive. I flung open the door. The Dream Team was here! There was a flurry of hugs and introductions.
I recognized them all—Theresa Rowe, fitness expert; Kevin Carroll, motivational speaker; Rebecca Katz, chef and nutritionist; Julie Hadden, my favorite contestant from The Biggest Loser.
Someone—I think it was Kevin—said, “Tammie, are you ready to change your life?”
“I’m ready!” Time for the Dream Team to get to work.
Rebecca took on a huge challenge: teaching me how to buy and cook healthy food. She almost fainted when she looked in my pantry. I don’t think she’d ever seen so many boxes of Hamburger Helper outside of a grocery store.
She showed me how to read food labels, so I’d know the nutritional content and the stuff to stay away from, like high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils.
Cut out processed and fried foods, she said, and ramp up the fruits and vegetables. But what would I feed Greg and the boys? They weren’t big on vegetables.
“I’m just trying to cook what they like,” I explained. Rebecca wasn’t having it.
“If you want to change, you can’t fall back on what you’ve always done. You need to make conscious choices,” she said. “It won’t kill your family to get off the fried stuff. Eating healthier will help all of you live longer. That’s what you want for those you love, right?”
Of course! I just hadn’t thought of it like that.
Kevin’s known as Mr. Positivity, and I could see why. He exudes positive energy.
“It’s great that you want to make lifestyle changes. You’ve gotta aim high,” Kevin said. “The way to reach a big goal is to set smaller goals leading up to it. Achieve one goal, then go for the next. When you reach a goal, reward yourself. But not with food.”
He suggested going to a movie with Greg or taking a break from housework and spending some quiet time with God. What really got me was that Kevin said when I reach a goal. Not if, when.
I was intimidated by Theresa at first. She’s in fantastic shape and serious about fitness. I thought she would be like those scary, in-your-face trainers I’d seen on TV, but she turned out to be deeply spiritual—a soul trainer.
When I admitted I hated to exercise, Theresa wasn’t fazed. “Don’t think of it as a chore. Think of it as a time to be with the Lord and to praise him,” she said. “Say you’re power walking. Look around at all the Lord has created and give thanks.” Exercise as a form of prayer? Now that I could relate to!
I felt like I knew Julie already from watching The Biggest Loser and reading her cover story in Guideposts last January. In person, she’s even more inspiring.
She gave me lots of tips, like keeping a journal to record every calorie I put in my mouth as well as every calorie I burned. And asking myself why I’m reaching for food: “Am I really hungry? Or am I bored? Upset? Stressed?”
The most important lesson Julie taught me had nothing to do with eating or exercise, and everything to do with my emotional and spiritual well-being.
That afternoon a photographer came to take pictures of me in front of our azaleas. “I hope you have your wide-angle lens,” I joked.
Julie pounced on me like a dog on a June bug. “Do you realize what you do to your mindset when you say things like that, Tammie? You’ve got to cut that out. Now I want you to say, ‘I am worthy of this opportunity.’”
I opened my mouth but I couldn’t get the words out. Tears sprang to my eyes. I hadn’t felt worthy of anything for so long. In fact, I’d lived my life feeling just the opposite. “Say it, Tammie.”
It took me a few tries but I finally got it out: “I am worthy.” Whoa. I could feel myself standing taller, facing the world with more confidence. Who knew three simple words could be so powerful?
It was an intense weekend. Sunday evening my Dream Team coaches went home. They’d be in touch regularly, but now it was up to me to put all the good information they’d given me into practice.
First, I found a workout partner. Like Theresa advised, I chose someone who liked to exercise every day, so her commitment would strengthen mine: Dianne.
I joined the gym and met her there every day after school. I set my first small goal: running a mile. Dianne cheered me on from the next treadmill, “Just one more minute, Tammie. You can do anything for a minute!” The day I ran my first mile, I don’t know who cried harder, Dianne or me.
Next challenge: eating healthy. It certainly took a lot longer to shop when I read the labels. But choosing fruits, vegetables and lean protein was worth it. I’m worth it, I reminded myself.
My men were taken aback when I declared our kitchen a no-fry zone, but they got into it once they realized food that’s good for them could still taste good.
Regular exercise worked wonders. I had the energy to keep up with the kids at church even after a long day at school. I increased the distance I ran to three miles. Then I set another goal: running a 5K.
Chris decided he’d do the race with me, so we trained together over the summer. He ran figure eights around me, that smart aleck, but what a joy it was to be working out with my son!
Of course, obstacles cropped up—the pizza party for my mom’s birthday, trips out of town, those five weeks when I hit a plateau and didn’t lose an ounce. But I drew on the support of the Dream Team, my family and friends, and powered through.
Most of all, I drew on my faith. It struck me that all those excuses I used to make—I’m just meant to be big, I’m too tired to exercise, my guys won’t go for vegetables—were a form of negative thinking. A way of telling myself “I can’t” when God was trying to show me I can.
As Dianne pointed out when I got down on myself, “You graduated college with a 4.0 GPA while working full-time. You accomplished that; you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.”
Like that 5K. I ran all the way to the finish line. When I told my class, one of the kids, bless his heart, said, “Awesome! Mrs. Temple, you should try out to be a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader!” That’s not my next goal, but I sure like that line of thinking.
It reminds me of one of my favorite Scriptures, from Hebrews: “Let us lay aside every weight…and let us run with endurance the race set before us looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
A year ago I never would’ve dreamed I’d be able to get healthy, lose more than 60 pounds or run five miles (that’s what I’m up to now). Just goes to show what’s possible when you set aside the weight of your negative thinking and see the potential God sees in you!