Transformation of the Month: Susie Bowles

This month's transformation is dedicated to Susie who has had an amazing transformation and isn't even done yet.

This is Susie before...299.6 pounds

and this is Susie now...186 pounds

And here is Susie's story...

I feel like I should give a little bit of background on my story to put this into context. I’m in my last year at UVic, taking the Elementary Education Program. When Bri asked if I’d be willing to share my story on her blog I was so honored. My best friend sent me a link to her blog in the summer and within two weeks of reading it, I had signed up for the Biggest Winner's program. It’s changed my life in so many wonderful ways and I was giddy thinking that I would be on the blog that inspired me to join the program. After I started actually writing however, the feeling of awe was replaced by dread when I started debating how much I should or shouldn't reveal about myself. I thought for a long time about it, but eventually decided that I would be up front and honest. I’m not ashamed of my past anymore, and maybe telling my story will help another person. My story is that I am a binge eater that hides food, which got me to 300 pounds. I was sexually abused as a child and I unintentionally let that control my life up until a year ago. I say unintentionally because I buried the memories long ago. It wasn't until I started asking myself why I regained all the weight I had previously lost that the memories came back and I’ve been able to start the healing process. I’m not entirely comfortable with the world knowing about my abuse because while it is a part of me, it doesn’t define me or my weight loss journey, it is merely a part of it. But at the same time, not talking about my abuse led me to where I was 15 months ago. Added to that, it bothers me to no end that child sexual abuse seems to be a taboo subject when it happens so scarily often. Opening up about it now will, I hope, have the triple benefit of furthering my own healing, perhaps helping someone else with their own, and bringing the issue of child abuse up from under the table.

When did you start your weight loss journey?
My desire to finally do something with my weight started towards the end of high school because I didn’t want to be the “Fat Girl” during university. My best friend and I joined Curves and were pretty faithful for a month or so. It didn’t stick though and by the end of my first year at UVic I was over 300 pounds. My highest recorded weight on a scale is 299.6 but I had already been eating healthy for a few weeks when I weighed in. That’s when I started Weight Watchers and Curves as a combo the first time, and lost 60 pounds. I say “first time” because like many others, I didn’t put in a lot of emotional work and eventually regained it all, plus 10 pounds. I could count my points and exercise all I wanted, but it couldn’t be the “lifestyle change” I preached until I dealt with what was going on in my head. I decided to take back control of my health again in May 2011 and haven’t looked back since.

How long have you struggled with weight?
I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. I always had a little bit of chub as a kid, but I was fairly active. It wasn’t until grade 2 that I really started packing on the pounds. By the time I was in grade 8, I remember coming up with excuses to get out of shopping with friends because I didn’t want anyone to know that I had to shop in plus size stores. It’s taken me the better part of this past year to really dive into why I struggled with my weight. When my best friend put two and two together and saw that my major weight gain corresponded with when my abuse started, that’s when things got really serious for me. I’ve come to realize that I first started using food as a way to escape and deal with my emotions. At some point, my weight became my safety blanket.

What was the deciding factor to get you started?
I’ve always felt that I was missing out on a part of life because I was fat, and that I wasn’t really being the person I was meant to be. That’s usually what would get me started... finally getting sick and tired of feeling like crap. This past year, however, I had different reasons for starting up again and I feel like those have defined how “this time” is different from any other time. I was diagnosed with arthritis in my knee days before leaving Victoria to do a three week practicum in a grade one class. I felt horrible during that practicum. I’d get out of breath just getting on and off the carpet. I realized that if I couldn’t be the teacher I wanted to be at my current weight. What type of role model was I? So obese that at 22, I had arthritis in my knee. Turning to food anytime I felt stressed, upset, angry, sad or happy. I also know I want a family eventually and I wanted to be a better role model for my children.

When you are having a tough time finding motivation to continue what do you do?
Funny you should ask - I’m coming out of a motivational funk right now! The last few months my weight hasn’t changed much because I’ve been dealing with more emotional work. I’ve finally started reaching out to my support network more this month and the difference has been amazing. I have some of the best people in my life, and the further I get in my journey, the more wonderful people I meet. Between my friends at school, roommates, family, and now the Biggest Winner program, I’ve got a solid support system that offer advice, suggestions or just a shoulder to lean on. The other thing I rely on quite a bit is my blog. I post every entry to facebook and I pride myself on being honest. That means admitting when I’ve over indulged or am feeling down and struggling. Knowing that anyone on my facebook page will know if I decided to skip out on the gym usually gets my butt in gear. I’ve also had many people thank me for my honesty and say that it is inspiring, so that definitely helps with motivation.

What are some of the most meaningful feats you have accomplished on
your journey? Why?

I think the top two things I’ve accomplished have been dealing with my emotional relationship with food and seeing how much I can do physically!

I’ve used food as a way to deal with my emotions (the good and the bad) for so long, it was very hard to admit to myself that I needed to find a better way. It was even harder to actually change. It’s been a tough back and forth battle for the past 4 years, but I’m happy to say that while I’m nowhere near perfect, I am proud of where I am. One I realized the connection between food and my abuse, I got really angry. I felt like up until that point, food had all the control over me and I refused to let it continue that way. I wanted to be in control of my life and my choices. I had a really tough practicum in April and May and for the first time in my life I didn’t turn to food when I felt like I was nearing rock bottom. Instead I joined BDHQ – which definitely worked out better for me. 

Fitness wise, I’ve been pushing myself physically and am amazed at what I’ve been able to do. This past August I did the Warrior Dash, a 5km obstacle run up and down Mt Seymour (and up and down, up and down). Then, this October I ran the GoodLife Fitness Half Marathon in 2 hours 39 minutes. As someone who at the beginning of the summer got winded from running to the mailbox, I am so proud of what I accomplished! I had always wanted to do stuff like this but I had labeled it as something “skinny people” do. Now I know that my weight does not need to hold me back and I can do anything I set my mind to.

If you could tell your old self one thing before you started what would that be?
Be kind to yourself. You are about to embark on a journey that will challenge everything you think you know about yourself and it will change your life forever. This is not an easy task, but it is so worth it. There will be times during this journey that you will be overwhelmed, both physically and emotionally, but just remember to take it one day at a time. Also, put these two quotes up on your wall because they become your mantra:
“Success if the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

What is the biggest, non physical, difference you notice in yourself?
Hands down, my confidence level. This surprises some of the people who know me because apparently to the outside world I always seemed happy and confident. I was really good at hiding what was going on inside my head. Inside, I was second guessing everything and always afraid to share my opinion. Heck, half the time I was afraid of forming my own opinion. I wanted people to like me and I never wanted to rock the boat. Joining the Biggest Winner program has been one of the biggest reasons for this change. I can’t really explain why, but just knowing what I can do physically has a huge impact on my confidence. I’ve also noticed a huge shift in how I talk to myself, which I know plays into confidence level. I was my own worst enemy, full of negative self-talk. It quite literally destroyed most of my self esteem. This is still something I’m working on, but I’ve come leaps and bounds from where I used to be. When I am exercising and feel like I need to stop or give up, I just give myself a quick pep talk and all the sudden I’ve got the energy to keep going. It’s great.

What is next for you?
Man, wouldn’t I like to know the answer to this question. I’m at an interesting time in my life. In 5 months I will be a UVic grad with a fresh B.Ed. I know that as soon as possible I’ll be going overseas, for either travel or teaching or probably both. But I’m right now wondering what I want to do with my life. Do I want to be a teacher? Do I want to use my experiences with weight loss somehow? What about abuse, should I try to do something to help that? All these questions are floating around inside my head right now and every day I remind myself to take a breath and stop worrying. What is meant to be will happen. No matter how much I’d like to think otherwise, I can’t plan out every step of my life. The more I remind myself of this, the more I realize I like living this way. I can’t control or predict what will happen to me. What I can do is make healthy choices every day. So what’s next for me is surviving these last few months of school. It will be an incredibly busy time with school, practicum, and life, but I am determined to keep being healthy. I feel so much stronger when I’m eating clean and exercising so I will continue to make it a priority in my life.

Anything else you'd like to share...
I want to say a huge thank you to Bri for allowing me to share my story. It’s hard to talk about such personal things, especially on the internet, but so far I’ve always been glad I have. I’m also so thankful for my support system, especially at BDHQ. Having people that understand what you’re going through, and all your ups and down is incredibly important.

Very proud of everything you have accomplished Susie, you are an inspiration and will do amazing things in this world regardless of where your life takes you.


Susie said…
I too am struggling with the emotional aspect of my eating. I was bootcamping etc 3-5 times a week for 2 yrs and got myself down 40lbs, but without the emotional work to go along with it I keep sliding backwards.
Im wondering if Susie could share what therapies, work, etc she has used to deal with the "eating disorders" (for lack of a better term), or what worked to deal with that part of the journey.
Susie M

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