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Originally hosted on The Bloq
“I became heavy or ‘pleasingly plump’ as we called back in the early ’60s, when I was about 10 or 11.” Maureen McCarthy tells me over the phone. She’s on the east coast and her thick New York accent makes me instantly like her. The moment our conversation began I knew this wasn’t going to be a typical transformation story. First off, Maureen is 65 years old. If you peruse the Quest archives, you’ll notice it’s populated by people in their 20’s-40’s. It’s a very common misconception that once your metabolism slows with age there’s no point in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This is a transformation story for anyone who believes themselves too “anything” to take control and change their life.
Maureen agrees, “I could never keep the weight off. When my grandson was four or five I said to myself ‘the heck with it, I’m not going to try anymore.’ I ended up getting both my knees replaced, twice. And the last time I was in surgery for nine hours because they couldn’t get to the knee because there was so much other stuff going on in there. Afterward I came home and thought I’m going lose weight. But I didn’t. It stayed that way until two years ago when my grandson, Aiden, who is my life, looked at me one day and said ‘Nanny I love you so much, are you going to be here to take care of me forever?’”
She pauses, even now it’s difficult for her to talk about. “I looked at him and I said, of course I am! And he said ‘oh good!’ and like your typical six year old he believed me and toddled off back to play.”
Maureen spent her life lying to herself about her weight issues, but the moment that lie was directed at the person she loved the most in the world, she could no longer hide from her overpowering guilt. “I went to bed that night and cried my eyes out. I cried like I haven’t cried in I don’t know how many years. I couldn’t believe I just lied to Aiden’s face. At the rate I was going, I thought I’d be lucky to make it to his next birthday. At that time I was 332 pounds.”
Maureen’s tone changes, you can tell she’s given this spiel to her friends and supporters dozens of times, but it still strikes a personal chord. “I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both my knees had been replaced and I had a pulmonary embolism. So I thought to myself, I’m not going to be alive. The next day I called my son, Thomas, who is my champion and said, ‘Tom, you want to give mom a really good Christmas present this year? Pay for me to go to Weight Watchers. And he said, ‘Sure mom, whatever you need, for however long you need it. Just go.’”
This wasn’t the first time Maureen attempted to regain control of her weight issues. “I struggled with weight my entire life and when I had Thomas I was close to 200 pounds. And every time I thought I was going to start losing weight again, I’d have another baby. I had three children in four years. I tried so many things. I tried starving. I tried just drinking, back when they had liquid diets, that was the big thing at one point. I did that. My daughter had just lost 175 pounds, but she had gastric bypass and I know I didn’t want to go that route. I couldn’t put myself through another surgery on purpose. So I started in November 2014, I walked into Weight Watchers, having already lost 15 pounds and was feeling really good about myself. I thought I was hot stuff.”
Maureen laughs at her accomplishment now, in hindsight, but she’s quick to point out that there are constant ups and downs when it comes to weight loss.
“By January of 2015 I had already gained back the 15 pounds that I lost. I was playing games with myself. We were supposed to write all of our food down and keep a food journal. So I’d lie to myself after eating something I wasn’t supposed to by saying ‘if I don’t write it down, it didn’t happen.’ And that mindset is scary! At the end of the day I was only hurting myself. Months after I vowed to lose weight I wasn’t even able to walk to the corner to pick up my grandson from the bus stop.”
Maureen realized that cheating on her diet wasn’t going to get her any closer to achieving her weight loss goals. Even after having multiple surgeries on her knees she decided the only place to start was to walk everywhere she went. And walk she did, “I started by going to the corner, and then a week later I would go around the block, and then I went out and got a Fitbit, and before I knew it I was walking a mile a day. Then I was walking two miles a day. And this past weekend, I was in Manhattan with my son and I walked seven and a half miles.”
Something most people take for granted, walking, infused Maureen’s life with a more promising outlook on the future. Exercise opened the door to go further down the healthy lifestyle rabbit hole, “After walking and Weight Watchers I started investigating other things that I could start eating that would be healthier for me and also be a treat.” That’s when her son bought her a box of Quest Bars – which is now her go-to snack over her old nutrition crutch, ice cream.
“Strawberry Cheesecake and White Chocolate Raspberry Quest Bars are my favorite. And just so you know, they’re only four points on the program.” She tells me with a hint of pride in her voice, like she’s discovered some secret only she knows about.
After months of healthier eating, tracking her intake and exercising, Maureen has completely reshaped her outlook on life and is eager to share her stories with everyone. She’s especially interested in lending words of kindness to people undertaking the same struggles that once plagued her. “Take your time, be kind, be gentle. You didn’t put that weight on overnight and it’s not going to come off overnight. It’s taken me a year and a half to lose 118 pounds. I still want to lose another 40 pounds, and if it takes me another year, then I’m happy with that. I’m worth it, my family is worth it and anyone willing to make the change is worth it. If I can lose 118 pounds at age 65, anyone can do it at any age, don’t worry about it.”
After my talk with Maureen I had to ask her for one last parting word to hopefully inspire you to continue, begin or think about your personal journey. Her words apply to her story, but they’re words that the rest of us should take to heart, “If you don’t take care of you, how are you going to have the time to take care of the people you love? If you don’t love yourself, you need to start. That’s my message and that’s what I keep telling everybody I talk to. Love yourself and take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of you, who’s going to?”
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