In 2003, my husband and I opened a restaurant. We served burgers, fries, and buffalo wings. The next year, we opened a 30-flavor ice cream parlor right next door. Being a restaurant owner is a stressful and demanding way of life—and when you’re working up to 15 hours per day, it’s easy to live on the fries and ice cream you serve. I can’t think of many nights when I wouldn’t walk out the door without a peanut butter cup ice cream cone in hand. And exercise wasn’t happening. I gained 30 pounds during those first three years we had the restaurants, and in the last two, I gained an additional 60.
Meanwhile, food was a social binder for me. It was the reason friends and family got together. My husband and I have three sons, and together, we’d eat chicken and waffles for breakfast, enchiladas for lunch, and prime rib for dinner. I love to bake, so pound cake, peach cobbler, and bread pudding were part of my normal repertoire. Together, we all gained weight.
After we sold the restaurants in 2008, I tried multiple ways to lose weight, including fad diets and weight-loss pills. I’d lose a few pounds here or there, only to gain them back, and then some. And while I had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes back in 1998, I had long been able to control it with medication. In 2014, however, with my weight at 285 pounds, I was put on insulin. The daily injections should have been my wake-up call, but it still wasn’t enough for me to make the changes needed. I started going to the gym, but basically I would walk a mile or two and then go home and binge eat.
In 2016, I considered gastric bypass surgery. Then, my youngest son, who was 10 at the time, said to me, “Mommy, what’s going to happen when you lose weight and we are still fat?”
I could not believe I let myself and my kids get so out of control. I realized at that moment that losing weight was not just about how I looked, but the health and future of both myself and my entire family. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I didn’t even know if I could do it, but I knew that I had to try for and with my family.
Together, my husband, sons, and I applied to appear on a Lifetime show called This Time Next Year that chronicles people as they make life-altering changes over the course of 12 months. We were selected! Host Cat Deeley met our family as we made a personal pledge for change in front of a live audience. The docu-series would follow us for a year, but would not provide any assistance; it really was up to us to lose the weight.
In December 2016, when the show started filming, we went and saw a nutritionist as a family, and realized that our cooking and eating habits were completely unaligned with our goals. We cleared out the pantry together, switched to small plates, and got rid of our southern sweetened tea—but we knew we needed to do more.
We looked at several different food programs that would help…
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