CWA Client Coordinator Suzanne Campling has always been a great cook, but her love affair with food has caused a lifelong tug-of-war between pleasure and pain.
Suzanne readily admits that her love of food is an addiction. One that she’s had as long as she can remember.
“My parents were always overweight,” she recalls. “And being from the Midwest, we ate. We ate meat and potatoes.” Adding, “I got going for seconds from my dad and snacking from my mom.”
But she says the overeating seemed to only have a negative impact on her parents’ weight and her own.
One of four children, Suzanne was the only one of her siblings whose overeating led to weight problems – the kind that don’t go unnoticed.
The jeers and taunting started as early as 6th grade and lasted well into adulthood. Suzanne’s size drew the attention of bullies in school, as well as mean-spirited adults as she got older. She describes the “looks” she would get hanging out with her friends. She knew what they meant – judgement, disgust. Through tears, she says the pain can still be felt today. And ironically, it would always spark motivation to lose weight.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, Suzanne was always up for a challenge. When she ballooned to 160 pounds as a child, her mom offered her a shopping spree if she lost the weight. She put her 12-year-old mind to the task and dropped 15 pounds on her own. But the weight slowly crept back. It always did.
Suzanne describes food almost as one might talk about a lover. Because for her, food was just that. Food provided comfort and solace during life’s most stressful times. Food didn’t judge her, and most importantly, food was always around. And when her body outwardly reflected her inner struggle with it, and she’d start to see those “looks” all over again, the food was always there to ease the pain.
As a result, at 40, she found herself heavier than she’d ever been. Suzanne has never had weight loss surgery, but she says she’s followed every diet fad and managed to shed 70 pounds. Over the next six years, however, she’d gained most of it back. The cycle was exhausting. She was winning battles, but losing the war. Until one day, December 28, 2013, (she remembers the precise moment) she was simply, “fed up with being fat.”
That day she devised her own “50 by 50” weight loss campaign. She resolved to lose 50 pounds by her 50th birthday, which at the time was a little over a year away. But Suzanne’s biggest challenge was not losing weight, the hard part was breaking off her relationship with food – her “feel good” place. Her go-to for reward and emotional comfort. This time, her motivation had to come from somewhere else. What she found was that in order to truly change her relationship with food, she needed to change from within. Changing her behavior wouldn’t be enough to keep off the weight for good.
She began to evaluate what she really wanted out of her life. She knew she wanted to live well into her nineties. She knew she wanted to be able to be self-sufficient – take care of herself without needing aid because of poor health and physical limitation. Most importantly, Suzanne knew she wanted to be her best self and her food addiction would certainly prevent that from happening if she didn’t break it.
Breaking the addiction hasn’t been easy. She does cardio every day of the week. In spite of the fact that she hates exercising, she does it. For her, exercising is not negotiable. She has to do it, to keep the weight off. She also has had to discipline herself in her food choices. Because she’s a great cook, delicious recipes are easy for her – healthy, delicious recipes is where she puts in the work, opting for lean meats, egg whites, fruits and salads. She even has healthy versions of the foods that use to get her in trouble.
On January 21, 2015, Suzanne turned 50-years-old. Did she hit her “50 by 50” goal in the year she’d given herself to accomplish it? No, she didn’t – she blew it out of the water by losing a total of 86 pounds by September 30, 2014, beating her weight loss goal by a whopping 36 pounds, and with three months to spare.
Today, she’ll tell you she feels amazing. She celebrates life and her new way of thinking about herself and food. When people ask her how her diet is going, she tells them that it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. For Suzanne it is, but she firmly offers, “If I can do it, anyone can do it.”