Today, we're featuring a special Sound Medical Weight Loss patient, Racheal, who has inspired many of us - inside and outside the office. As of this writing, Racheal has lost over 80 pounds with SMWL since December 8th - and considering her 60+ hour weekly work schedule, her 2+ hour commute per day and so many other obstacles the worl has thrown at her lately (hello, pandemic!), we couldn't be more in awe of what she's accomplished.
Read ahead for our interview with Racheal for a supercharged dose of inspiration and admiration for this incredible human being.
Q: Tell us a bit about your daily schedule – what is life like for you?
A: I work as a practice manager, and also do tech shifts, for two large 24-hour veterinary hospitals – one in Gig Harbor, and one in Seattle. I’ve been working there all of my adult life. I live in West Seattle, so either hospital is about an hour drive for me. The two hospitals are split an hour apart, and I sometimes get called from one to the other during the day. All in all, I end up driving about 450+ miles a week. Also, since the hospitals are 24 hours, they never close, so my work is always “on,” even when I leave for the day. I start at 7am and am not home until 10pm, so I have very long days. I do get three days off per week, though.
Q: Wow, that’s intense! How has working this kind of schedule informed your relationship with food?
The 15 hour shifts made my eating schedule REALLY weird. That’s something Dr. James helped me with especially.
When I first came to SMWL, Dr. James asked me about this, and I realized that because I was too busy to eat during the day, I would just keep myself running on coffee and caffeine – I was essentially “fasting.” Then, when I got home at night, I’d eat anything there was in my fridge and more. I was not only starved but I was also dehydrated. I was so hungry I was eating plates the size of my abdomen! I was eating more than my 6’3” fiancé -- and I’m only 5’3”. The next morning, because I had eaten such a big meal the night before, I wasn’t very hungry, so I’d just have coffee and no food all day again. Then I’d eat everything in sight that night. The big meals at night were overcompensating for my fasts during the day. My portions were absolutely out of control. Even when I was trying to eat something healthy like a salad at night, I am a sauce gal, so I’d cover that salad in all sorts of dressings and gravies that had lots of hidden fat and calories.
Q: Had you noticed or tried to address this relationship with food in the past?
I didn’t realize that my relationship with food was affecting me so much. It was hard for me to understand why I was the size I was since I was essentially fasting all day every day. I was in denial that I had a problem with food. After my initial session with Dr. James, talking things through with her and mentioning my eating habits, it became more apparent that I do maybe struggle with food.
Q: What made you come to Sound Medical Weight Loss? How has it helped you?
I had a friend who was part of the program and lost a substantial amount of weight. I was about to turn 30 and was feeling crappy about myself so I came to SMWL. Also, last year my best friend got bariatric surgery. I was terrified I would have to do it as well and I didn’t want to.
SMWL’s approach is flexible. With Dr. James’ help, I customized it to suit my schedule and habits. Also, I’m on [the weight loss medication] Qsymia which has really helped me calm down that urge I would have at night to keep going and keep eating once I started. It was a conscious effort to start correcting those behaviors that weren’t working for me. I was hyper focused on first getting the late night meal under control in terms of portion size. Then I started noticing I was getting hungrier the next morning and was wanting a yogurt for breakfast or cut veggies for lunch. It really started to click that this was all correlated. It’s been about just portions and timing.
Dr. James helped me curate small snacks that work for me for throughout the day and then big dinner salads throughout the week. I typically prep protein and chopped vegetables at the beginning of the week, and then throw everything in with lettuce each night. I found a dressing I absolutely love – Simply 60 (especially the Balsamic, Caesar and Ranch flavors, found in the refrigerated section).
It is so helpful having someone who understands that I’ve dealt with this since being a child, so it’s not surface level -- it’s absolutely ingrained. It’s not just fat – it’s an ingrained relationship with food, with dieting, with exercising, with your body image, with your lack of ability to go to the gym. It’s a 360 degree cycle that affects all aspects of your health that requires the help of a professional. Sometimes dieting alone no longer does it. You need the right tools.
Q: In what ways have you had to adjust since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Finding fresh produce was difficult for some time, especially when you don’t live in Seattle proper. We adjusted by moving to frozen veggies, and other frozen items – but I made sure I wasn’t surrendering to poor quality canned items like premade chilis, etc. We also tried to go to the store as infrequently as possible in the beginning of the pandemic, so for someone who eats salad ~four days a week, my meal prep was thrown off and sometimes things would go bad. Finally, the stress of everything has affected things a bit. With my fiancé laid off, he’s been bringing a few more things into the house that we normally wouldn’t buy. I’m not a stress eater, but it’s harder to be motivated to prep things when you’re exhausted. I do know I have control over things, though, so it made me want to focus on my weight loss even more.
Q: What advice do you have for others who are at the beginning of, or want to start, their own transformational journey?
I just started helping my friend who just started SMWL’s program. My advice is this -- you really have to be in the right headspace and have motivation to get started. It’s easy to get the booklet and lists and not do the work. It’s all about what you’re willing to do with the program. You have to be ready for the change and ready for some hard periods of time where you’re going to be shifting your lifestyle. It’s not just the diet – we’ve all been there and done that. This is truly a long term lifestyle rather than a short term fix. You’re not going in to SMWL to lose a couple of pounds -- you’re going in to have a better relationship with food. And in order to do that, it’s a lot of hard work. It’s not just changing the way you grocery shop. You may have to give some things up, but for everything you give up, you’re going to gain a whole lot of things you didn’t even know you love. Like something new I discovered that I’m obsessed with – chaffles!
Q: Final question – how is life different for you now, 80 pounds lighter and with a new relationship with food?
Lots of firsts for me! For the first time in my adult life I weigh in the 130s -- I weigh 139! I’m not actively trying to lose weight, I’m letting my body do what it wants, but I am still losing. This is also the first time in my adult life I’m in a normal BMI range. I had to take shorts back last week because they were a size 8 and I needed a size 6! I was shopping and freaked out because I bought everything in a size small.
My body doesn’t yet look to me in the mirror what it’s sizing like at stores. I don’t yet see a size 6 or a size small – part of that is there’s a lot of skin, and it’s not yet shaped/toned. I don’t get hung up on that though because I am very proud of myself. I’d rather have skin and lumps and bumps I can be proud of rather than an excess of 80 pounds on my body (which is 2 of my dogs!) I can walk upstairs and up a hill with 80 pounds less on my body without huffing and puffing. I feel lighter, I’m not as tired, my knees don’t hurt when I wear high heels for more than an hour. I don’t have weird scabs on my stretch marks – things that I didn’t ever feel comfortable sharing in the past because I was embarrassed!
Racheal, we couldn't be more in awe of you. Thank you for sharing your story!