That was hard to believe. Over the years, I'd tried every diet on the bookshelves -- from the grapefruit diet, to Weight Watchers, to the lemon juice and cayenne pepper fast -- and all of them had worked as long as I stayed on them. But once I stopped, the weight came right back, and, unfortunately with a little extra. While I hate to admit it, I was on the verge of giving up and accepting that I was never going to look the way I wanted to -- or feel the way I wanted to either.
I used to say half-jokingly that I was going to give up, move to the mountains, and be the quirky old fat lady down the street with 40-some-odd cats.
I'm glad I didn't. Instead I ended up outing myself on the cover of the April 4, 2007, issue of People magazine by declaring, "I know what you're thinking -- I'm fat." Publicly, it was the start of a diet where the stakes were total humiliation and embarrassment if I failed to reach my goal. Privately, it was, as my fellow Jenny Craiger Kirstie Alley promised, not just a diet but really the start of a journey. She was right.
By any standard, I've enjoyed a charmed life. Even though I gained notoriety by working on TV, I shunned the spotlight in favor of a normal life, driving carpools, volunteering in my son's classroom, making dinner, and trying never to miss my monthly book club get-togethers. Of all the roles I've undertaken, none has been more satisfying than motherhood. I'm as much of a regular gal as people seem to expect -- and I like it that way.
If you walked into my house right now, you'd find my cat Dexter lounging on the sunny floor in the kitchen, a large bowl of fruit on the counter, delicious-smelling vegetable soup simmering in a tall pot on the stove, the recycling trash can ready to be emptied, and paperwork and schoolbooks spread across the dining room table. You'd also see my boyfriend Tom on the phone in the backroom, and me working the crossword puzzle, as is my daily routine.
Creating this happy picture was a puzzle that took my entire adult life till now to solve. By the time I went public as a size 14, I'd already done the hard work: confronting the fears, insecurities, disappointments, and frustrations that accounted for the three different sizes of dresses and pants I needed in my closet for my constantly changing weight. After that, it was just a matter of portion control, exercise, and self-discipline.
Since going on Jenny Craig in March 2007, I've surpassed my original goal of 30 pounds and set new targets for myself. But the weight I've lost doesn't compare to what I've gained -- or regained -- in my life. The weight loss and renewed zest for life go hand in hand. Kirstie had promised as much when she said, "Valerie, it's not about the weight. What's going to happen is you're going to quit hiding and discover the real you."
She was right. My relationships have never been healthier, including the one I have with myself, and I've finally found a joy that seemed beyond my grasp when I was reaching for those jalapeño-and-cheese poppers. Physically and emotionally, I'm a different person. It's like I'm hitting my stride. These days I really do bring home the fun.