I have had weight issues my entire life. I have lost a LOT of weight before (many times) and I’ve gained it back (many times). For some of you who have known me for a long time (before Alligator Alliance), you all know that I’ve been on The Oprah Show three times. For those of you who only know me through Alligator Alliance, I’ll give you a brief history. I lost weight in 1994 and I was on The Oprah Show in January of 1995 and May of 1995. My third appearance on The Oprah Show was in May of 2010.
Weight has always been a struggle for me and I imagine it will always BE a struggle for me. When I saw my first alligator in July of 2010 and decided I was going to start cleaning their habitats, I didn’t realize how hard it would be for me to do at my size. But, I still did it. As the years rolled by and I got older, it became even more difficult for me.
Two things helped me to make the decision to do something about it. Our friend Chad Griffin (owner of CCSB Reptile Rescue and Rehab Center in Kernersville, NC) teaches an alligator handling certification class. I have wanted to take that class for YEARS, but I knew I couldn’t physically do it. There was no way at my size that I could jump on and off of an alligator’s back. Chad has been such a good friend to us over the years and he understood my dilemma. He even offered to do a private class just for me and my husband, but even with that offer, I knew I couldn’t physically do it.
I told my cousin Karen how much I wanted to be certified in alligator handling and how I was just too big to do it. She encouraged me to take control of my weight. I remember her exact words. “We’ll see how badly you want the Gator Life.” That statement stuck with me. Karen made that statement a while ago, but I didn’t start my diet until last June. It took me a while to get started, but on Friday, June 20th of last year, I woke up and thought THIS IS THE DAY!
My husband had lost 100+ pounds over the past few years by eating low carb and high protein. He made it look so easy, so I decided that would be the plan for me. The first three weeks were hard. I’ve never been much of a meat eater, so I struggled with eating a lot of protein. I love potatoes, bread, pasta, desserts and sweet tea (all the bad stuff). The biggest challenge I had was giving up sweet tea. But, after the first week, it got a little easier. The weight started to fall off. I lost 8 pounds the first week and that motivated me to keep at it.
Eating low carb and high protein for me is so easy now that I don’t consider it a diet. I consider it a way of life. I set small goals for myself and kept moving forward. Not many people knew that I was trying to lose weight. I didn’t want the added pressure of people asking me how much I’d lost and what I was doing. It took a few months before anyone really noticed my weight loss. One thing that helped was that I kept wearing my baggy clothes (size 3XL Capri pants) all summer long, up until October when I bought my first pair of jeans in 11 years. The first time I wore them, people were shocked.
My goal was to lose 120 pounds and I met it on February 1st! Below you will see some “before” and “after” pictures of me. The “before” picture was taken on March 28th 2018 when we did our photo shoot for the North Brunswick Magazine article. The “after” picture was taken last week (February 5th).
We spent several days last week at Oak Island and we were able to clean some alligator habitats. It is so much easier for me now that I’ve lost weight. I can walk further and do things that I couldn’t do before. At my age losing weight isn’t just about looking better. It’s about feeling better and being healthy. I want to be able to look after my Dad as he ages. A neighbor of ours (Lynn) told me shortly after my Mom died in 2014 that I have to look after myself before I can look after anyone else. How right she was.
Now I can take the alligator handling certification class this spring, which has been a dream of mine for so many years! I want to thank Chad Griffin for being so patient with me! I can’t tell you how many times we scheduled the class and then I’d cancel it, because I knew I couldn’t fully participate.
I want to give a BIG thank you to my cousin Karen for challenging me to lose weight so I can live the “Gator Life.” Her statement “We’ll see how badly you want the Gator Life” really lit a fire under me. Karen also did a lot of research and helped me figure out different sources of protein besides meat.
Very few of my friends and relatives even knew that I was attempting to lose weight. My husband made sure not to post any photos of me on our website after June of last year, so I could keep the “secret.” I want to thank the following people for their constant support and encouragement … Karen, Sandra, Kelly, Kim, Shelly, Terri, Taylor, Susan and Angela. Your texts and e-mails kept me motivated! Many, many thanks to my Dad (Gary) and my husband (John) who have had to deal with me on a daily basis. My Dad is an amazing cook and it has been extremely hard not to eat his home cooked meals since last June!
My size may have changed, but some things NEVER change. My love for alligators and my commitment to conserving them will always be my top priority. Alligator Alliance is my fulltime job! Now I am able to work harder than ever at protecting them and keeping their habitats clean. I am looking forward to what 2019 has in store for me as I fully live the GATOR LIFE!