HOLLYWOOD — A lot of you may know me by name; some may know me as Wanda’s daughter. If you didn’t know who I was by these two things, you sure did remember me for one thing: I was big. I had let my relationship with food become dangerous. McDonald’s Dollar Menu was my favorite thing to go eat and I could never get enough. If a birthday or special holiday was coming up, I would get excited with the thoughts of all the food I would get to eat.
Many believe that people are addicted to food the same way people can become addicted to alcohol or drugs. I did not have an addiction to food though. So why was I eating so much of it? Because it was there. My family has gone through a lot of hard times through the past couple years, and food always made me happy. The taste of chocolate instantly triggered happy memories, but I never realized that my weight was hurting me. I knew I was not the healthiest person, but I could not possibly be the unhealthiest person, could I?
After a roller derby injury left me in so much pain that I had to go to the emergency room, the hard, painful reality of my weight met me face on. Doctors told me I had elevated blood pressure. I had high blood pressure at 24 years old. It was in that moment that for the first time I was scared. I knew my eating habits and my denial had caused my high blood pressure. I was slowly killing myself.
I knew I needed to do something about my weight, but I did not know where to begin. After failed attempt after failed attempt, I thought the only way to be healthy and to lose weight was to give up all the things I loved to eat. Then I discovered the miracle: Weight Watchers. After seeing singer Jennifer Hudson lose weight with the program I thought, “Why not?” On Dec. 30, 2010, I decided I wanted to become a healthy person.
After all the holidays and visiting home in Hollywood, I went back to Las Vegas, Nev. to go back to school for photography. Jan. 16, 2011. I will always remember this day as the day I finally took control of my life. I signed up for Weight Watchers and never looked back. At 324 pounds I had a long way to go, but I knew I could do it if I kept reminding myself why I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to live. I started counting my “points” for everything I ate. I started going grocery shopping on a weekly basis. Reading nutritional value became routine. Slowly, the healthy habits started forming.
I think the hardest thing about weight loss is changing the way you think about food. Instead of living to eat, I started eating to live. Slowly the weight came off, pound by pound. In the beginning, it was tough. Everyone around me could eat whatever they wanted, but I had to moderate what I ate. I had to keep reminding myself that it would get easier. And it did.
This month, I weighed in for my 48th week on Weight Watchers, and I am officially down 125.4 pounds. Many people still tell me they can’t believe I lost that much weight because they didn’t even realize I was that big. I was that big though. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a purpose. I want to inspire all Native and non-Native people that weight loss is NOT impossible. That you can do it if you just believe you can. I had accepted I was going to be fat my entire life, but then I realized that if I was strong enough to carry around 324 pounds, then I was strong enough to lose it.
I know a lot of people are reading this and thinking there’s no way I could have done it on my own. “She had to have gastric bypass.” I did consider weight loss surgery, but after hearing all the scary stories associated with it, I knew I wanted to control what I ate. I did this 100 percent with watching what I ate with the help of Weight Watchers, being active and having the never-ending support from my family and friends.
I hope with my story I am able to encourage more people in our Tribe to change their lives. Weight loss is possible. Changing your life is possible. Coming from a person who never knew what she looked like smaller is now smiling instead and out came my new cheek bones that I never knew existed under my chubby cheeks. I am the happiest I have ever been and can’t wait to see what the future holds.