By Sheila Arkee
Shannon Hammer is a woman whose weight loss story is something so many of us can relate to, especially those of us who have issues with portion control.
Having lost over 100 pounds on her own accord, Shannon recently published a book called The Positive Portions Food & Fitness Journal that details her journey and encourages the use of a food journal as a weight loss technique.
Completely inspired by her story, I asked Shannon if she would share some advice with us Painted Ladies who are now on our own weight loss journey. To learn more, visit www.positiveportions.com.
Thank you, Shannon!
Painted Ladies: As I was reading your story, I realized it is a very familiar one to me, and I’m sure to many other women as well. For anyone who is in the very beginning stages of wanting to lose weight and make a lifestyle change, what steps do you recommend?
Shannon Hammer: The first thing I would recommend is to make a commitment to wellness and not weight loss. What I mean by that is that focusing on just reaching a certain number on the scale or specific dress size is not enough to sustain us for the long-term.
When I started my journey in 2003, even though I was very overweight, I focused primarily on becoming healthy on all levels, not just thin. After a lifetime of dieting, I knew I had to avoid the trap of setting a goal to lose a specific number of pounds. When I had done that in the past, once I reached or came near my goal, I would lose my motivation to continue eating healthy.
I also knew that if I was really going to become truly well, I needed to work on my insides as well as my outsides. So along with adopting a healthy food and exercise plan, I also worked on becoming a balanced person—finding healthy ways to handle stress, creating a support network, and discovering a fulfilling career.
Another bonus I discovered from focusing on being healthy—with being thin as just one part of that—was that I was able to tolerate the ups-and-downs of weight loss. In the past, when I had been exclusively focused on the numbers, every time I jumped on the bathroom scale and didn’t see the numbers I wanted, I would become discouraged and think, “What’s the use anyhow?” This frustration often led me to abandon my healthy food plan and revert back to my old ways of eating.
But when I changed my focus, when I did my monthly weigh-in and didn’t see the numbers I wanted to see—which happened a lot since my weight loss was slow—even though I was disappointed, it wouldn’t derail me. I would remind myself that I was aiming for a larger goal of total optimal health and that if I kept doing what I was doing, the weight would come off in its own time. And it did.
And that’s what I recommend for people—to rethink weight loss as being one component in a larger goal of total wellness.
PL: How did you come about the idea of using a journal in the first place?
SH: What’s funny is that I didn’t start using a journal until I started using my own journal! As a way to keep track of my portions, I had been writing down my food in notebooks, on pieces of paper and on Post-It Notes. One day I went looking for a book that would not only allow me to write down my food but would also provide inspirations, much like a daily meditation book. Although I found food journals and meditation books, I didn’t find one that combined the two— I figured I’d write it! And that idea became The Positive Portions Food & Fitness Journal and the rest is history!
What are some tips you can offer to people who are feeling challenged by the idea of losing a lot of weight in the first place.
I think one of the problems people run into is that they look at all the weight they have to lose…whether it’s 10, 20 or 100 pounds…and they get overwhelmed. They think, “I can never do this! It’s going to take forever.” This causes them to either not try or give up too easily because it seems so impossible.
I encourage people to stay focused on today and celebrating all the small victories. Did you have a salad for lunch instead of a cheeseburger and fries? Good for you! Did you take a walk after work instead of sitting on the couch? Wonderful! Success builds upon success and the more positive reinforcement we give ourselves, the more positive actions we’ll take.
PL: For people who might be having issues with plateaus, what are the best ways to push through those difficult times?
SH: Probably the most important tip I can offer for anyone either starting or already on the journey toward wellness is to get support. There is strength in numbers. It’s the support of a group, friend, personal trainer, or other network that will inspire and motivate us when the going gets tough – and there will be tough patches along the way. Feelings will come up that were formerly masked by food, stressful times will hit, and we’ll encounter disappointments. Being able to reach for the phone instead of the food will give us the encouragement and strength we need to keep going.