Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo Health series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Sally Dziadulewicz is 47, 5’1”, and weighs 190 pounds. But at the beginning of last year, she weighed 235 pounds. This is the story of her weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
At the beginning of 2014, I weighed 235 pounds. I knew I was overweight, but I really had no clue how big I’d gotten. My joints, feet, and especially my ankles were always aching due to my edema. I could no longer wear regular shoes because of the swelling. My lower back was constantly throbbing. My legs had started getting numb as I walked home from work and my feet would become so swollen that I was forced to wear gym shoes all the time — even to church. My legs started giving out on me more and more, and eventually I had to stop working because I could no longer take care of my residents in a timely manner. I worked as a certified nursing assistant for 28 years, and to give that up was just so devastating. My health was deteriorating slowly, and I knew I had to change. I was tired of my gym shoes, only being able to buy orthotic footwear, and wearing body garments (like girdles) to keep things from jiggling as I walked.
One night as I was taking down my braids, I went to stand up and I couldn’t. My legs and feet were completely numb. My feet were so cold and had lost all color. In shock, I yelled for my husband. When we made it to the doctor, all he told me was what he’d said for years: I needed to lose weight. I was too big for my height. I felt so helpless.
Not long after that, after leaving the salon where I got all of my hair cut off — a necessity after it had started falling out — I was walking past this restaurant window and caught a glimpse of my reflection. There I was, practically bald, and so big. I was finally seeing the real me. I promised myself that day that I wouldn’t look that way ever again. I was so sad to lose my hair, but I knew I had to own my baldness. What I didn’t have to own was my size. I could choose to be bald and sexy, but not bald and fat. The very next morning, my weight-loss journey began.
To start, I got online and spent time learning about nutrition, portion sizes, and balancing food groups. SparkPeople.com and Livestrong.com were my favorite websites because they offered so much information and encouragement. I knew that if I was going to change my life, I had to figure out how to count calories. I began paying attention to nutrition labels. Each day, I focused on taking in no more than 1,200 to 1,400 calories of healthy foods. I ate more fruits and vegetables, drank more water, started taking vitamins regularly, and allowed myself to eat half of the desserts I loved.
Sally lost 45 pounds over the course of a year. (Photos courtesy of Sally Dziadulewicz)
Soon, I stumbled upon the YouTube channel of Alisa Keeton and discovered Revelation Wellness, a faith-based fitness program. I loved that this program combined a desire to get fit with a love of Jesus. I started committing to just 10 minutes a day of exercise. Then, as movement got easier, I added 30 minutes of walking to my routine. Some days, if I was busy, I would do 15 minutes in the morning and 15 in the evening. Before long, I was working on weightlifting and doing push-ups.
There were times when the journey felt hard, but when I thought of how my body used to ache, or the slow loss of my ability to walk easily, I found reserves of strength.
As the weight started coming off, I felt better and better. Here I was, able to do something I hadn’t been able to do in years: move. When a good amount of weight was gone, I was able to ditch the uncomfortable body garments because I was less self-conscious. The numbness and aching in my legs and feet had decreased significantly, and I could finally stop wearing gym shoes all the time.
My proudest moment came one night when my husband, friend, and I went to a concert. I had said to my husband before the show, “I know I am not going to be able to dance much because of my legs and feet, so let’s just dance to the slow songs.” But once Paul Cebar took the stage and started playing, I made my way to the dance floor. I danced and danced. I couldn’t believe how much I danced. The next day, I wasn’t sore or tired like I assumed I’d be. Instead, I found myself with more energy than normal. I felt incredible — not just physically, but mentally, too.
Months ago, I saw this elegant dress at the Goodwill store and I bought it even though it didn’t fit me. It was too beautiful not to. At that time, I could barely pull it all the way up, so I just put it away in my closet. Recently, after losing more weight, my husband told me I should pull that dress out and try it on. I looked at him like he was crazy. I told him, “Look, getting that dress on the first time was like a workout and I really don’t want to work out right now.” He laughed. “Just try it,” he said. I took it out. To my surprise, it fit. I could slip it on and take it off so easily. Never in my life had I worn a dress like this. In that moment, I felt beautiful.
Today, I weigh 190 pounds and I’m so proud. I went from a size 22 or 24 to a size 10. Now when I walk past restaurant windows or mirrors and see my reflection, I love it. I dance as I walk by.
What I realize now is that I have to practice what I preach. I can’t tell others to eat healthy and exercise if I’m not willing to do it myself. That keeps me focused and dedicated to better health. Other things I practice to feel my best are: drinking two glasses of water before each meal, praying and asking the good Lord to help guide me as I eat my meal, and breaking up my exercise into smaller blocks of time (like 10 minutes) to make sure I get it in each day.
I still struggle with my love of sweets and always wanting more than just one piece of pie or feeling like I need to sample every dessert. Today, I plan out my treats and adjust the rest of the day to fit them in. I find that planning keeps me on track. When I feel overwhelming cravings for sweets coming on, though, I stop and ask myself, “Why do you want more than one serving?” Or, “Why are you craving sweets at this time of night?” Just stopping to check in usually helps. I think about how far I’ve come, how much dedication it’s taken to get to this point, and I realize that dessert isn’t worth throwing that work away. Whenever I feel like I’m slipping back into my old habits — like eating more than I know I should, giving in to cravings, and skipping exercise — I remind myself, “These practices are how you got up to 235 pounds. They don’t serve you or the life you want to live.” Sometimes a little positive self-talk is the key to making good decisions.
While I was losing weight, I found it so comforting to read the stories of others who had changed their lives. It gave me strength knowing that other people had been where I was, had felt what I felt, and still pushed through their greatest struggles. Even now, when I need a boost, I read motivational stories because they encourage me.
My best advice to anyone who is working to lose weight is: You’ll have good days and bad days, but keep going no matter what. Every day is a new chance to do your best. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.