LEE ANNE GRACE: Include friends, family on your weight-loss journey

By Lee Anne Grace

Legend has it that King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table spent most of their lives on a quest in search of the Holy Grail.
I, too, have spent much of my life on a quest for my own personal Holy Grail. I dreamed of finding the magic key that would end a lifetime of obesity. Each new diet would bring hope of almost instantaneous weight loss. After years pursuing this Holy Grail, I came to a conclusion that I already knew in my heart: There is no secret formula for losing weight. It’s a matter of simple mathematics. To lose weight, I had to consume fewer calories than I burned.
Although I didn’t find the Holy Grail of rapid and easy weight loss, I did discover two treasures that were crucial to my success: becoming physically active and the importance of a good support system.
Exercise and nutrition are intricately woven together. Exercise releases endorphins, known as the “feel good hormones,” into the body. My exercise of choice, running, makes me feel good. Feeling good compels me to make healthy food choices. When I make healthy food choices, I have a lot more energy and feel better about myself, which motivates me to run more.
In the past, I was caught in the grip of a negative cycle of low self-esteem, self-medicating with food, which led to even lower self-esteem and more overeating. In addition to overeating, exercise was non-existent in my daily routine, so I did not have the built-in motivation that comes from the release of endorphins.

Building up
If you are new to being physically active, remember to pace yourself. Don’t try to do too much too soon. Several years ago I set a goal of walking to the mailbox and back one day, then the neighbor’s mailbox and back the next day. By the end of the week, I walked a block. I felt rejuvenated after I finished each walk. Yes, I was drenched in perspiration and exhausted, but I had set a goal and reached it.
Another treasure I uncovered was the importance having a good support system. Many people have gone the extra mile to encourage me to reach my goals. The journey is much more meaningful having like-minded people as traveling companions.
There are many groups, clubs, teams and individuals in the Tupelo area that provide support in helping individuals reach their fitness goals. If there isn’t a group for your sport or physical activity of choice, then take the initiative and start one yourself. Every group was started by someone, and you may be just the person to start a group based on something you are passionate about.

Support all around
Two groups of people who have traveled beside me and cheered me on are the members of the Tupelo Running Club and the staff of the North Mississippi Wellness Center. The members of TRC are a very dedicated and enthusiastic group of runners of all ages and ability levels. They are quick to offer encouragement, provide accountability, and they are a joy to be around.
The North Mississippi Medical Center Wellness Center is another place that will help individuals develop healthy habits to last a lifetime. I admit I was very hesitant about joining the Wellness Center. I had misconceptions about the gym being filled with buff bodies and me feeling out of place. After joining, I found out that, yes, there are some very well-conditioned people who work out at the Wellness Center, but there are also people of many different ages, shapes and sizes who are truly inspirational because of their dedication to achieving good health. The Wellness Center staff is very knowledgeable and has gone the extra mile to assist me and every other person who comes through their doors.
Finally, there are a few very special people that have traveled by my side on this journey. I am immensely blessed to have a great group of mentors and friends who have made a difference in my life, providing support and accountability. It is my hope I can reach out to others through the power of the written word, just as others have given of themselves to inspire me.
Don’t travel alone on the road to a healthier you. Invite someone along on the trip. Both of your lives can be transformed by something as simple as a walk to the mailbox.

Lee Anne Grace is an elementary music teacher for Tupelo Public Schools. After reaching a weight of almost 300 pounds and failing at numerous diets for over 25 years, she has been successful at losing weight and maintaining her weight loss for two years. She continues overhauling her eating, fitness, mental and spiritual well-being, and still considers herself a “work in progress.” She is passionate about helping others who struggle with the same issues she does. She is the proud mother of two teenage daughters and enjoys running in her spare time.