What It’s Like
What It’s Like … to Lose Half Your Body Weight
Jennette Fulda shares her amazing journey
When Jennette Fulda (meet Jennette on BettyTalk! Her ID is PastaQueen) was 24 years old, she weighed 372 pounds. And then she had a now-or-never moment. She started a popular blog, pastaqueen.com, where she chronicled her experience and found a very supportive audience, and she wrote a book, Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir (of which we will be giving away a signed copy here!) Four years later, with half her body weight gone, Jennette talks to Betty about how she made it to her goal and what she discovered along the way.
What’s it like to lose half your body weight?
It’s like gaining twice of me, but in reverse In all seriousness though, it’s affected almost every aspect of my life. I’m healthier. It’s easier to find clothes. I’m more confident. I’m more social. I don’t have to ask for a seat belt extender on the airplane. I can carry groceries up the stairs without being exhausted. I may be smaller, but the world seems bigger.
When, and at what age, did you start your journey to lose the weight for good, and when did you officially say that half of you was gone?
I was 24 years old when I finally started to lose the weight for good. At the time, I weighed 372 pounds. It took a little over two years to get to the point where I’d lost half my weight, 186 pounds.
Was there a particular motivating aha moment in your life when you said, “This is it, I’ve got to do something more than serious”? Did you feel it was a matter of survival for you to lose the weight?
When I was 23, I woke up with a horrible pain on the right side of my abdomen. I was having a gall bladder attack. I’ve talked to women who’ve given birth and who’ve had a gall bladder attack, and they’ve both said the gall bladder attack was more painful. After that, I knew more health problems would be inevitable. I swore I would lose the weight … but I didn’t. In the next year, my younger brother lost about 70 pounds, which inspired me to finally get my act together in January.
You wrote a public blog, pastaqueen.com, during your weight-loss journey, and it is still hugely popular today. Obviously, this kept you very much on track with your weight-loss strategy, knowing so many people were keeping tabs on you. Was it distracting? Did you ever want to NOT tell your audience some of the more personal things that were going on while you were losing the weight?
Well, who said I did tell my audience everything? I keep some things private, like my work life and my love life. Some weeks, when I gained weight, I wasn’t particularly happy to tell people, but I couldn’t bring myself to lie. It’s important to know that the road to success is paved with mini-failures. Most everyone was supportive and understanding no matter what happened, so it wasn’t too hard to spill my guts.
I’ve read your book, Half-Assed, a Weight-Loss Memoir (and I loved it!). As a woman who has lived her life dieting and always worrying about what I am going to eat next, what is your best piece of advice for staying sane while trying to lose weight, no matter how many pounds are at stake (and that’s STAKE, not STEAK!)?
Accept that you are not perfect, and that’s OK! There are still some weekends when I eat more cookies than I should, but I try not to beat myself up over it. Just try to make the next right choice. You don’t live in the past or the future. You only exist in the here and now. Try to make more good choices than bad and hopefully it will balance out for you.
Also, make sure you are measuring your success not just by the scale. Use measurements and the fit of your clothes. Set fitness goals, like being able to run a mile or a 5K. Having victories that are not tied to the scale is good for your spirit and gives you a more holistic sense of success.
Was there a point in your journey where you wanted to just say “EFF it!” and start eating like you used to?
Ha, ha, yes! After I was mostly done with the publicity for my book, I went a little crazy and ate lots of cookies and Tasti-D-Lite and Jamba Juice and fried foods at the state fair. I’d been good for soooooo long, and I felt a lot of pressure to stay thin during publicity, so I felt like being bad for a while. After that, I went back to what worked before – I recorded my weight every day, went to the gym regularly and set up methods of accountability and support.
Looking back to when you were twice the size you are now, would you say you were happier, the same or not as happy?
I’m definitely happier now. This isn’t just because of my size but because I feel confident and more comfortable in my body. But I still have problems. I’ve been battling a chronic headache this year, and my job has been in danger because of the economy. Life is not perfect even if you are the perfect size.
I believe weight management can affect how you feel physically. When I’m eating well and working out, I feel healthier and have more energy than when I’m eating junk and sitting around. I know body image is a big issue for many women’s self-esteem. But I think many women would be surprised to find that even if they had the body they always imagined, it wouldn’t magically make them happy. I have a friend who told me when she was at her thinnest, she was also at her most miserable. Your health and your size do affect how you feel about yourself, but they aren’t the only things. You have to be happy with other areas of your life to be happy in general.
What’s the biggest challenge about being Pasta Queen – and I have a feeling you might say weight maintenance?
You’re right! Weight maintenance is difficult because you have to do everything you did when you were losing weight, but you don’t get the reward of seeing a lower number on the scale every week. It’s easy to get too comfortable and think you can get away with eating more or exercising less. Also, the world essentially wants to make me fat. Friends and family will always want to go out for pizza or buy donuts for breakfast or go out drinking. Restraining my urge to pig out is hard. I always have to be on guard, and it gets exhausting.
Biggest benefit of this experience?
The best benefit is the self-confidence I feel. I lost 200 pounds. I bet I can do anything if I try hard enough and want it badly enough.
What’s up next? What are your plans? Are you writing another book? Maybe a book with recipes?
I’ve got a couple of projects brewing but nothing I’m ready to talk about yet. I’m still blogging regularly at pastaqueen.com – not just about weight, but about my life after the “after” photo.
And speaking of books, any chance you’ve got an extra copy of Half-Assed that you’d want to sign and give away to a Betty reader?
Sure! Let the competition begin.
1. When you were 10 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I wanted to be a teacher. When I was 10 years old, my profession (Web designer and blogger) didn’t even exist, so I could have never answered that question accurately at the time.
2. What type of kids did you hang out with in high school?
I went to a magnet high school, so most of my peers were nerds and geeks. I hung out with the “good” geeks, as apposed to the “bad” geeks who were out drinking and smoking pot. I’m a total goody two-shoes.
3. What women from the past do you most identify with?
I identify with other female writers, like Emily Dickinson, the Bronte Sisters, Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen. I think Emily Dickinson would have really benefited from having a blog. She was evidently reclusive, but I bet if she had had an Internet connection she would have had lots of online friends. I relate to Virginia Woolf because she had migraines, and I myself have been fighting a chronic headache, so I admire her for writing through the pain.
4. What’s your workout?
I like to do 25 to 30 minutes of cardio at least three times a week, either by running or doing the elliptical. I also like to strength train and do Pilates to build strength and flexibility. I have a gym membership, so sometimes I’ll also do the Stairmaster or the weight machines. If someone would show me how to do the rowing machine, I might attempt that. In the summer, I run or bike on the trail near my apartment.
5. Cat or dog?
Cat. Two, actually.
6. What do you do when you want to completely tune out?
I’ll watch TV or a streaming movie from Netflix on my laptop.
7. What book is sitting on your shelf waiting to be read?
Just one? I have this horrible habit of starting books and never finishing them. Right now I’m reading about four books and will probably only finish one of them, if I’m lucky. I’m currently reading All in My Head by Paula Kamen, which is a headache memoir. I’m also reading Cat vs. Cat because my cats hate each other, and I need tips for keeping the peace.
8. If you could have dinner with any two people, who would you choose?
Alive or dead? If I could dine with dead people, I’d want to talk to Jesus and see what he thinks about everything people have done in his name over the past 2,000 years. I’d also invite Oscar Wilde because I hear he’s a real wit and would keep the party lively. If I had to dine with living people, I’d probably have dinner with two of my friends, Jenny and Dana.
9. What is the one thing you want or do not want the next generation of girls to encounter?
The mullet. It needs to be eliminated.
10. If there were one thing you could change in your life, what would it be?
I’d get rid of this damn headache I’ve had for 10 months!