“I Learned to Stop Turning to Food for Comfort”
*People following the WW program can expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week.
As told to Alice Oglethorpe
I have had a complicated history with food ever since I can remember. My parents divorced when I was young and eating junk food was my way to cope. Then, in high school, I developed disordered eating patterns and became too thin—it might have been a way for me to feel like I had control over something. When I went away to college, I turned back to food as a way to deal with stress and depression—a trend that continued through my 20s. It seemed like the stress never stopped—my mom was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and then COVID hit—and food was a huge source of comfort. Last summer I hit 308 pounds and I remember looking at myself in the mirror and not seeing a single thing I liked. I thought of who I once was and who I wanted to become and decided in that moment that I owed it to myself to be the best version of me I could be. I signed up right away for WW—I’d tried it a few times before and knew it would work if I stuck with it. The next month I went to the doctor for a physical and was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It was devastating to hear that diagnosis—I cried, my family cried—but that became my motivator to change. I switched to the WW Diabetes-Tailored Plan and never looked back.
Mind over Matter
For me, it really was about my mindset. I was already pretty active—I walk my dog every day and my job as a leasing specialist in property management has me on my feet a lot—but I was so used to coping with my emotions by eating. I’d feel bad and immediately reach for a sweet coffee drink or a packaged pastry. That was going to have to change if I was going to get healthy.
Right after signing up for WW, I joined one of the virtual Black women’s Workshops. I didn’t know the other women in it at all, but I started telling them when I didn’t feel my best and they would lift me up when I fell short. I’d already had a few meetings when I got my type 2 diabetes diagnosis, and when I told my group, the other women and my coach cried with me. With their support, I lost 10 pounds in the first few weeks and by Christmas, four months after signing up, I’d lost 25 pounds. That month I went to the doctor and they told me I was almost out of the type 2 diabetes range. That was the best Christmas gift I could have given myself and when I told the women in my support group, they cheered for me.
What Cheria Ate Then vs. Now
Sausage, Egg, & Cheese McGriddle with hash browns and a caramel frappe from McDonald’s
Veggie or turkey sausage with 1 teaspoon of jelly on a whole-grain English muffin; coffee with oat milk and sugar-free creamer
Shrimp Alfredo with garlic bread and soda
Salad made with grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers, mushrooms, low-fat cheese, and fat-free salad dressing
Baked chicken with broccoli and macaroni and cheese with a slice of New York-style cheesecake
Shrimp stir-fry with veggie cauliflower rice and half a slice of cheesecake
Banana, yogurt, and a bag of chips
Celery with peanut butter and low-fat Greek yogurt
Eating with Intention
When I went to the doctor this spring, my A1c had dropped, I was down 51 pounds, and I was out of the type 2 diabetes range altogether. I’d put my diabetes into remission! A big reason is that I had an entirely different approach to food. I now add veggies to every meal and try to eat a more plant-based diet. And when I go out to eat, I check the PersonalPoints™ of different foods before I order. So instead of a fried chicken sandwich, I get the grilled version and downsize the large fry to a small. Could I skip the fries altogether? Sure, but I don’t want to deny myself anything or else I’d think about that forbidden food all day long. This is a way for me to have the foods I want but not overindulge.
Treating My Whole Person
There is a stigma in the Black community about mental health—it’s just not something my family and I ever discussed. But since my goal was to be the best version of myself I could be, I knew I needed to make time to work on my mindset. It was the only way I would be able to avoid eating my feelings. I had to learn that if I had a bad day and craved a specific food, to stop and ask myself what emotion I’m trying to cover up. Journaling and meditation helped me get there—I love the Headspace app and the audio Coaching in the WW app—and sometimes I let myself have a good cry or call a friend. In addition to therapy, which I’ve been doing since my depression diagnosis, I began to give myself pep talks. I’d say out loud: This is going to be a challenge, but we’re going to get through this. I even made my screensaver say: I can. I will. Watch me!
No Stopping Me Now
Since last August, I’ve lost 53 pounds and I feel like I’ve gotten my life back. WW has done so much more than changed the number on the scale. I’m now gearing up to get a doctorate in public policy or communication—I’m still deciding—and I feel like I can do anything, all because I put myself first and was willing to do the work.