I like food.
Everything about it. The way it looks. The way it tastes (obviously). The way it makes me feel. I love cooking, especially for others. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people enjoy my cooking. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving for goodness sakes, simply because the whole point is to gather with loved ones and be thankful for the piles of food that we can stuff in our faces.
I come from a very big Catholic family. My mom is one of nine living children, I am one of 30 bajillion grandchildren. Sunday evenings, holidays, any reason for family gatherings really, were centered around food. Grandma ArLee was an amazing cook and I’m so thankful to have learned from her; she spent the majority of her life cooking three meals a day for her brood. My favorite spot was sitting on her counter, watching her prepare meals. I also had the innate way of being in the serving line right behind her – by the time I was around, she was given the honor of first to dish up. That’s also where I learned the art of inhaling my food; if you want seconds in the Killion household, you learn to eat fast.
The Killion family does everything big. Big meals, big voices, huge amounts of love. My grandpa Leonard was a big man with big opinions and big vision. Well over six feet tall, he was also obese for my entire life, likely many years before. In his later years, he needed a pacemaker. After the surgery, the heart surgeon would tell the family he had a “VERY BIG (insert hand gestures here) heart.”
Having developed early in life – I’m blessed with the female Killion gene, more commonly referred to as “big boobs” – I’ve always been very body conscious. Growing up, I wasn’t particularly active and I obviously had a big appetite. In high school my lunches regularly consisted of a Snickers bar and a Mountain Dew, with an Otis Spunkmeyer cookie if I had spare change. As a shift supervisor at Subway I munched my way through every shift; my favorite meal was a footlong plus a 6-inch BLT with double bacon, extra mayo and onion. My Taco Bell order was five chicken soft tacos with sour cream. Yeah. Thankfully, being in marching band burned off enough calories to ensure I wasn’t as big as a house. I shudder to think what I was doing to my intestines though. When I moved away to college, I got a job as the nighttime security monitor at McCollum Hall. My shift was 11p-3a, prime time for late night munchies. Jimmy Johns delivers fast and late, my nightly order was a #9 Italian Night Club and chips. Compound that with my other poor meal choices, subtract the marching band and Sarah’s booty ballooned fast. When Bill and I started dating and later got married, our food choices didn’t improve. There were days of no breakfast, Sonic for lunch and Chipotle for dinner. Some days we’d add McDonald’s for breakfast. My booty size did not improve either.
For perspective, I will use actual, honest numbers. I am 5’5 and when Bill and I got married I was at my non-pregnancy heaviest of 163. My wedding dress was a size 16. A few years into our marriage I became unhappy. Unhappy with Bill, unhappy with our life, and most of all, unhappy with myself. My beautiful friend Heather (whose thin frame and long blonde hair I envied because, duh, who wouldn’t) started going to Body Boutique and was taking a nutrition class they were offering at the Merc. I tagged along for something to do and my eyes were opened. Wide. They showed how many teaspoons of sugar are in a can of soda, with real sugar in an empty glass. They demonstrated how many grams of fat are in fast foods with building blocks. They had a gross yellow lump of rubber that indicates what a pound of fat looks like. They cooked healthy, delicious, low fat meals loaded with vegetables and whole grains for us to try. After the class, Heather and I went to Body Boutique to work out. From that day forward I was motivated to make serious changes. If you know me, you know once I set my mind to a task I do it all the way. I started buying fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. I started reading labels like a mad woman. I stopped buying junk food. We stopped going through the drive-through. I started going to the gym every morning before work. The pounds started melting away. When Bill noticed how I was starting to look but realized I was still unhappy, he started going on long walks every morning. Lifting weights. His pounds started melting away too. Overall, Bill lost 90 lbs (if you didn’t know, he’s 6’7 and still a pretty big guy) and I lost 54. Which meant at my lowest I weighed 109 lbs. At the time in my body-dysmorphic-disordered mind, I still thought I could lose weight. Thankfully, as our relationship strengthened, my weight increased to a more healthy 127.
And then came Madeleine.
Pregnancy is when you’re eating for two, right? I don’t know why but in my first trimester all I wanted to eat was junk. McDonald’s french fries were a siren’s song. One night I bought a can of Grands buttery biscuits and ate them all with grape jelly. All of them. By myself. Having never liked mexican or spicy food before, Salty Iguana became (and still is) my favorite restaurant. On the day the doctor decided to induce me, I made Bill take me there for lunch because I knew it would be a while before we could have it again. I blame Maddie, that girl is a chips and salsa FREAK. Anyway, the day I delivered Madeleine I weighed 171.
Breastfeeding helped shed the majority of my baby weight but I never got all the way back down. Workouts stopped completely. Lack of sleep and adjusting to parenthood led to drive-through dinners. The sale of Sunflower Broadband and the subsequent loss of my job led to some serious stress eating. Over the past three years my weight has bounced around between 140-150.
And here we are. Remember up there when I talked about my Grandpa Leonard’s pacemaker? He passed away from congestive heart failure. My Grandma ArLee? While never obese, she fell victim to the same disease. I’ve seen the movie Food, Inc. and read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules. I’ve learned about the obesity epidemic in the United States and watched it skyrocket over my lifetime. I’ve learned it isn’t just about my weight, it’s about being active, healthy and making the right food choices. It’s about shopping on the outer edges of the grocery store and avoiding the processed junk. My favorite places to be are the Community Mercantile, Lawrence farmer’s market, Pendleton’s Farm and Steve’s Meat Market. Thanks to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, my daughter will be the kid in school with a non-Lunchable packed lunch. She’s a fruit and vegetable freak as well.
I now work at a Health Care IT company who is proactively concerned with the health and well-being of their associates and the community. Thanks to my teammate Luke Schnoebelen, I joined the ranks of the standing desk crowd and I walk on a makeshift walking desk every day for at least an hour. I am actively participating in the KC Slimdown Challenge and with 7.57% of my body weight lost I’m currently ranked third among Cerner associates in the Employer Challenge. My official weigh-in weight was 146.7 and according to my trusty bathroom scale I’m down to 133.5. I can see that pre-pregnancy 127 right around the corner and I know it’s just a matter of time before I get there.
I know it shouldn’t be about the numbers. But for me, that number signifies a goal I can and will accomplish. Accomplishing goals feels good. Having my clothes fit better feels good. Having my husband look at me with hungry eyes feels good. For the first time in my life, I’m starting to feel good in my own skin. And isn’t that what it’s all about?