Dr. Bollie's Weight Loss Journey
My unhealthy relationship with food or more specifically refined sugar and sweets started in college. After being restricted from overindulging in sugary treats by my health conscious parents as a child this became my go to treat in college. Fortunately throughout college and medical school I had the metabolism to support the excess energy (“calories”) I was consuming.
This all changed after I had my first child. Like many of the women in my family I gained 50lbs in pregnancy. Initially I lost 20lbs while breastfeeding on maternity leave. However after returning to work as a third year medical resident I quickly regained 10lbs as I used cheap pizza, candy and cake to soothe my stress of being a new mom with a hectic schedule. I didn’t make time for exercise or any form of self care. I continued this unhealthy pattern into my first job as Chief Medical Resident and then as primary care doctor in Richmond, VA.
Left 6 months post partum, first child
Right: 3 months pregnant second child
12 months post partum
4th 10K race (2 years into weight journey)
"Be Nice to Sylvia. I like her" : Overcoming Perfectionism
When I arrived in Richmond, I was 40lbs overweight and had been for 18 months, since the birth of my son. I was officially in the obesity category. One day while attempting to counsel a patient on lifestyle changes I struggled to get the words out. I felt like a hypocrite advising others to optimize their health through weight loss and healthy living when I was not even attempting to do so. I realized that my excess weight was not only affecting my mood and well-being. It was also affecting my practice of medicine. Being a type A, perfectionist I tried to lose all the weight all at once by completely overhauling my eating and creating an unrealistic exercise plan for a full time, working toddler mom with a husband who was commuting 3 hours a day. Within 2 weeks I was already overwhelmed and feeling defeated. I was very negative about whenever I wasn’t “perfect” on my exercise or healthy eating. This would set up self-defeating pattern. The more negative I was, the worse I would do on my weight loss journey.
I confided in my good friend Kriss said to me “Be nice to Sylvia. I like her.”
Small Changes Lead to Lasting Results
That simple advice unlocked the key to success in my weight journey. Once I started being kind to myself I was able to find solutions to the obstacles in my weight loss journey rather than berating myself for “making excuses.” Those “excuses” were actually my life and I just needed to navigate around them. Since the enormity of the amount of weight was daunting to me so I focused on 1lb at a time or rather one change at a time. I began to make small changes towards losing weight. I made healthier food substitutions. I started out with 10mins of exercise most days and gradually increased. By 2016 I had run a full marathon. The most important lesson I learned was what my “triggers” are for weight gain.
2 years into weight journey
Left: 8 months pregnant
Right: Seven months postpartum (40lbs down)
Know Your Weight Triggers
I jokingly say my weight gain triggers are: pregnancy, stress, sleep deprivation and cheap pizza. However it’s true. By identifying my obesity triggers I am able to modify the controllable factors. While stress is unavoidable, I’ve learned positive ways to recognize and respond to it. The most important lesson I’ve learned on my weight journey is to love and prioritize myself and my needs. This helps to reduce my stress levels so I crave unhealthy foods less. I’m excited to say that understanding my triggers and how to healthily respond to them helped me lose the 40lbs I gained with my second child in less than 12 months.
Focus on Progress Not Perfection
My weight journey isn’t perfect but I’ve learned it doesn’t have to be. It just needs to be consistent. Also I’ve learned to value more than just the numbers on the scale. I’m grateful to have the energy and stamina I need to play with my two energetic children. Plus I’m showing them how to have a well balance healthy lifestyle that isn’t overly restrictive.
I hope my weight loss story helps to inspire others to: be kind to themselves on their weight journey, transform their obstacles to opportunities and focus on small sustainable changes.