Ann Conway used to dream about German chocolate frosting. Whenever she got stressed out, she’d open the top, get a spoon and dig in.
“I’m not sure why it was so comforting, but it always was,” said the 42-year-old history teacher at Shenendehowa High School, who lives in Schenectady.
Conway, who said she’d rather eat sweets than food, began to pack on the pounds about 10 years ago, when some prescription medication caused her appetite to increase.
“Then it grew progressively worse, to the point that I just became unmanageable,” she recalled. “My nutrition when I lived at home with my mother was excellent. On my own, over time it became non-existent.”
At 5-foot-7, Conway weighed 360 pounds at her highest and wore a size 26/28 dress.
“I’m a clothes horse, and in that size there is nothing,” she said. “They sell one kind of dress — black with sunflowers in inappropriate places. It got to a point where I’d have to catalog shop, and that’s not me. I like to go to the mall if I have some spare time. Shoes were even worse. My feet hurt all the time because of the extra weight, and I was unable to wear the shoes I loved.”
Previously, Conway had tried several diets — some successfully, only to put the weight back on. Then she decided to join Weight Watchers on July 9, 2000. Her story is one of several listed in a book called “Weight Watchers Start Living, Start Losing: Inspirational Stories that Will Motivate You Now.”
“What happened was my favorite uncle passed away when he was only in his 50s, and I took a good look in the mirror,” Conway recalled. “He wasn’t a smoker or a drinker, but he ate too much of all the wrong things. I didn’t want to end up like him.”
The first thing Conway did was get rid of all the high-fat foods that she had no control over. Then she drastically changed her eating habits.
Instead of eating pastries for breakfast, for example, she began to eat oatmeal and fruit. Instead of eating pizza or pasta for lunch, she ate a salad or sandwich. Dinner was lean meat or fish and a vegetable with no dessert.
For an occasional treat, she would make fat-free, sugar-free chocolate pudding.
Accountable to others
Conway said she believes Weight Watchers worked for her because she had to weigh in every week and be accountable to other people.
“For other people, it’s sharing with others who have had similar experiences and getting ideas from them,” she said.
A self-described organized person, Conway said she also began keeping a food journal of everything she ate so she knew exactly what she was eating.
Because she was so large, it took a while before people began noticing that Conway was losing weight.
“It took about a year, but that was all right with me because I didn’t need the encouragement of other people,” she said. “I needed to be successful for me, but I was proud of myself.”
Besides watching her diet, Conway also joined a fitness center and began a walking program to get exercise.
Today when tempted, she talks to herself saying, “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels,” and “I don’t want to undo my progress.”
“You have to decide what you want more, the food or the success,” said Conway. “It’s what I call the ‘want’ power.”
It took Conway almost two years — June 23, 2002 — to be exact, to reach her goal weight of 167.
Today she maintains her weight at 160 and wears a size 12 or 14 dress.
“It’s wonderful to shop for clothes now,” she said. “I spend way too much money, but it’s nice to have choices again. I’m also buying shoes again.”
As a Weight Watchers leader, Conway encourages others to stick with their diets, and she tries to come up with ways to help them.
“It’s a little bit of sharing, a little bit of accountability and a lot of caring,” she said.
Her advice for others trying to lose weight: “Set realistic goals and celebrate small achievements.”
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