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.