The Still PREP’n Experience is LIVE!
I had the privilege of interviewing my sister, Jennifer Kirk, this week about her 65 pound weight loss. Facts I knew: My sister is a phenomenal wife and mother. My sister used a gastric balloon to alter her life (and weight). My sister is bold in sharing her story.
What I didn’t know however, was how her weight played a much bigger role in the woman she is. I didn’t know that she used her weight to hide in crowds, afraid to be noticed while she struggled with her husband’s addiction. I didn’t know that her insecurities grew larger as her waist line grew smaller. I didn’t know that she still struggles some days to get out of bed.
I believe this is one of those interviews that all women need to read/listen to. This is much more than an interview about losing weight; this is a testament to a woman who found herself and how we can all find freedom in letting go.
For access to the podcast interview, click below.
Madi: Tell me a little about yourself:
Jennifer: I always find this a tough question to answer. I am forever changing and learning. I feel like I am one person one day, and someone different on another. The basics though – I am a 43 years old woman, a Christian, the wife of a wonderful man and a PROUD mother of 4 children.
I am a daughter, a sister, a feminist and I value emotional health just as much as physical health. I value experiences & feelings far more than any material belonging. I love movies, yoga, cooking, and makeup.
Madi: What was your relationship to food as a child?
Jennifer: I grew up with a love/hate and complete denial of relationship with food. On one hand, food took center stage. Whenever there was a family gathering, there was always a huge food spread. Christmas, my grandmother made many varieties of cookies. Holidays were for special Hispanic foods that were reserved for only certain occasions. We didn’t grow up with money, and lived very meager lives financially, which played a huge role in how I viewed food.
On the other hand, the women in my family were constantly on diets. Each has gained and lost the same 30 pounds too many times to count. Each one greatly overweight, while insisting that they barely ate anything at all.
Food became both comfort and something to hate.
Madi: How did your parents educate you about nutrition growing up?
Jennifer: They didn’t. Living near poverty doesn’t allow for decisions such as nutrition; instead they chose to simply feed the family. I grew up on staples like pork-n-beans with hot dog pieces, pork chops, rice and corn, Kool-Aid, and other cheap options to make in quantity foods. As a child, my weekly highlight was getting a happy meal after church with my family. This set the tone for food being what families do, but taught me nothing about how proper nutrition fuels the body. Food became the center of family gatherings, but we were never taught food.
Madi: How did you initially gain the weight?
Jennifer: A few reasons. First, my family was going through an incredibly hard time. I was unhappy and unhealthy mentally. As a result of severe stress, and not caring enough about myself to pay attention, I was treated for migraines with medication. I gained my first 40 pounds in one year. It was very rapid.
Now that I am able to look back, it really came back to a combination of lack of self-worth and self-love and not being mindful of anything related to myself. When we are going through a rough time, it is easier to focus on everyone else, isn’t it? My husband at the time was facing addiction with alcohol and I was struggling with my own inadequacy. I never felt good about myself. Not as a wife, a mother, or a woman. I struggled with the idea that I was in a second failed marriage and showing my daughters to stay in hostile situations. I was not mindful in my life at all; I was not mindful of food, daily activities, rest, or anything related to myself. I waited for chaos to erupt everyday, so I never paid attention to myself.
I can say it was the medication, but the reality was I had long ago neglected to care for myself because I was in a co-dependent relationship. But to be completely honest – it is EASIER to be heavy. Heavy people can hide behind the scenes. It’s now, when I am thin that I have to be the most uncomfortable and vulnerable. I am shy by nature, and there is a lot of insecurity I still carry that is harder to deal with. I’m more fragile now, especially in receiving compliments daily. I’m still learning and growing!
Madi: If it’s easier to hide behind the weight, what was your “why” for losing the weight?
Jennifer: I have three daughters. I want them to be comfortable with who they are and never hide from their truth. I was never really happy or comfortable. Summers were hot, so I was physically uncomfortable, and I just decided I was finally desperate enough to change, especially once my own mother had her gastric bypass surgery and she came into her own. Selfishly, seeing our two weights get closer together prompted me into action. I wasn’t willing to be as heavy as she had been. Shallow, but that was my reason.
I decided to get an Intragastric Balloon, which not only helped me eat less, but also helped my body to correct hormones that can inhibit weight loss. I think everything works for someone. All my programs did have success initially, but boredom and self-sabotage always stopped me. It was a major decision and a humbling one at that. I had to ask my frugal husband for thousands of dollars, so I had to give it my all.
The balloon fills up 2/3 of your stomach, so it allows for 1 cup of volume at a time. The side effects are extremely difficult; your body in the first few weeks is trying to reject this foreign object. For me however, it motivated me to continue. I didn’t want to go through the bouts of nausea, diarrhea, and plentiful doctor appointments for nothing. I had six months with this balloon, so to me I had six months to change my life.
Madi: What did you learn on your journey to losing the weight? About yourself and about others?
Jennifer: Weight gain and weight loss is not about weight. It never was. It is a symptom of other emotional baggage, both old and new, in your life. It is a lifetime journey. I have learned the importance of macros, movement (I say that instead of exercise). I have learned the journey is mostly mental. We give ourselves many reasons and excuses to fail. Even people with a gastric balloon claim that it does nothing, that they are not limited and can eat just as much as they could before – just let that sink in. Physically and scientifically that is impossible. But it is another form of self-sabotage. I have also learned every scientific thing I could about how our body uses food and what foods fuel our bodies. I am a scientific/facts person by nature. It helps me make sense of it all. I taught myself to make “eating out” about the people and not the food. I used to go out to dinner and plan what I would eat. Now I eat what fuels my body. If I’m sad, I don’t feed that sadness with comfort food. Feelings are fleeting; I want to starve the sadness and fuel moving on.
Madi: What is one piece of advice you’d give to women on a journey to their weight loss and self-discovery?
Jennifer: Take time to decide. Really decide if you are ready to make all of the changes necessary to become a new you. You cannot heal others if you are broken inside. Be honest with yourself. Journal. Name all of those ugly, scary, inadequate feelings, names, thoughts, all of it. Acknowledge it all. Address it all. And begin to heal from it.
I want to tell women, just give yourself a break. You are learning and getting new tools every single day. You are doing great. You got out of bed and braved the world. You chose to love yourself. You chose no for others, and yes for yourself. Honestly, what else is there?
The Still PREP’n Experience
Welcome to The Still PREP’n Experience, hosted by Madi Still – author, blogger, marketing professional, and self-certified MomPreneur. This is a show where one mom has bold conversations about life, leadership, and business, while providing tangible take-aways to listeners of all backgrounds while PREP’n (Positively Restoring and Empowering People).