An inspirational story–as she put it an exceptional story about an ordinary person


Today, January 16, 2011, I reached a GOAL, and that in itself is exhilarating and worthy of recognition !  But it was a “weight” loss goal; one I never thought I would be able to achieve, so how did I arrive at this amazing day???
I remember 30 years ago when I was so skinny, tan, long blonde hair and attracting the looks of many people, but especially men… I liked it at first, but then the looks became “leering” and disgusting and I started to hate the attention…
            After 13 years of struggle in a marriage with so much “conditional performance” and then a terrible divorce, I began a journey of faith that resulted in the finding of true love in my new husband, David….a man, who although he loved the way I looked, never saw me as anything but beautiful even after I put on over 50 pounds… he always made me feel loved for who I was and am…inside….an unconditional love that helped me understand the love God has for me too…
So, my weight was just something I accepted because:
 my hysterectomy changed my metabolism;
 my genetic predisposition for overweight-ness;
 no diet ever worked for me for long;
examples of close friends obsessed with thinness and hurting their  health because of it;
I didn’t have time to think about it or work on it…everything I did was for others….
I didn’t want the “looks” again…
The list goes on and on…………. 
Then, one day, I saw a picture of me…. And I cried…
            I didn’t know I looked that bad…
            I was the “largest” sister and I never realized it or felt like that…
            I was….embarrassed and ashamed…
Then, I hurt my arm, badly…and went to a physical therapist, and saw:                     
                                    THE CARD OF HOPE ! 
If I hadn’t known about Jan Tillotson, I may not have picked up the card, and although I had never met her, I already had respect and trust in her and therefore, I could trust TAKE SHAPE FOR LIFE… it sounded so good! 
            I went to my Mayo doctor and asked her if I could start that diet, and she said she didn’t want me to do it… I was fine, that even though I should take cholesterol medication and was overweight by  50 pounds (at least), I was okay for now…. I ALMOST DIDN’T DO THE DIET…. But then I remembered what my oldest sister had shared when she was struggling with cancer… 
 “There are 3 doctors in you life:          
            1.  GOD, THE GREAT PHYSCIAN,
            3.  AND YOU”
so, I decided to take hold of my life and do what I knew was best for me, and allow the “Nudge” to move me in the right direction !
            And, Jan was incredible… the first thing she advised me to do was write how I felt about myself before I started the journey of optimal health…and it clarified my thoughts as well as my sadness of where I was…and therefore, I had all the “motivation” and incentive and inducement and stimulus  and “kick” to stay focused on a plan that lasted 231 days, and counting ! 
            It WAS all about ME.. because I am worth it…
            Jan said I would feel  “EMPOWERED”, and I started strutting around the town 2 days after I started my new life, and I had only lost 2 pounds !!  Now, over 50 pounds lost forever, I am almost impossible to be around !  Fortunately, I am learning to control my enthusiasm and surprise and amazement…my poor David was asked almost everyday:  “Does this make me look fat?”,  Do you think this new outfit shows off my new figure okay?   Poor guy… but I think he liked every minute of it… I’m better about that now, but I still smile and catch myself staring in the mirror and asking:  Is that really me?  I still love shopping for “petites” and walking past the “Women” and Alfred Dunner aisles!
            Now, I have reached the Pinnacle of an upward climb; it hasn’t been easy, but it hasn’t really been hard either…It took me a lot longer and so much slower than most people on the plan…but it wasn’t about how fast…it was about the goal…whenever it happened… I did this in the middle of LIFE, and all of the reasons I thought were good excuses to not lose weight before—challenges of time, temptations of delicious food, parties, vacations, illness, emotional stresses, selling a house, and moving…the stuff LIFE is made of..
            AND I … WON! 
And it feels incredible… a kind of redemption of Karen…the person I want to be…and now I can win at anything !
            Thank you Jan and Take Shape for Life…
            And Thank you God, (and David) for loving me as I am…. Always…
Now what’s next?

SELF magazine article/Jan's life coaching

My Life Fell Apart and It Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

I got laid off on Friday. My boyfriend dumped me on Sunday. That hellacious weekend was the best thing that ever happened to me.
When I was on the brink of 40, my life imploded. One spring day, I had a full-time job and a serious—or so I thought—boyfriend. The next day, a Friday, the magazine I worked for shut its doors. Two days after that, my year-long relationship came to a screeching halt. On Monday, I woke up to brilliant sunshine and thought, Now what?
I’d never lost a job, but I’d had my share of breakups. This time, my boyfriend and I were discussing our plans for the week over brunch. I suggested bringing him dessert after one of his business dinners. He was unenthusiastic. “You know the thing about this relationship?” he said. “You think about us. I think about me.” By the end of the meal, we were done, in every sense of the word, and I was back to square one in the love department.
I doubt the breakup itself would have been enough to shake me out of my rut, but combined with the job loss and my upcoming milestone birthday, it made me realize that I needed to change my life. “We’re programmed to get on track and stay on track, as in ‘I’ve been dating him for five years, so I’ve got to marry him.’ We forget that it’s OK to redirect ourselves,” says Deborah Carr, Ph.D., a sociologist at Rutgers University at New Brunswick, New Jersey. “Often, though, we need something to push us into action.” For me, that weekend when everything fell apart was it.
There was a silver lining to my sudden state of flux: “After a major setback, you may feel vulnerable, but a crisis can also generate energy. What’s key is to channel that energy into exploring new opportunities and creating positive change,” says Gary Buffone, Ph.D., a psychologist in Jacksonville, Florida. That doesn’t mean jumping at the first opportunity that comes along, knee-jerk style. “You need to make peace with the idea that you’re entering a new chapter and honor that with a pause—a break from the past,” says Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles. Another reason to give yourself the space to reflect on your situation: “If you act too fast, you’re liable to fall mindlessly into what you think you should be doing or what others think you should do,” Dr. Siegel warns.
I was certainly doing my share of pausing. I’d always been tethered to a schedule; now I was free to do what I wanted. So I booked a midweek vacation to visit friends on the West Coast. I watched movies in the daytime and ate cupcakes for dinner. But after three weeks, my pause began to feel more like paralysis. (There’s only so much daytime movie watching and late-night cupcake eating a girl can do.) When I thought about all the things in my life that needed fixing, I moped and felt sorry for myself. Once, when my mother asked me why I was so grumpy, I broke down in front of Dunkin Donuts. “Because I have no job!” I wailed. “And I’ll never find anyone because I’m old!”
That I was ready to move on to the next phase was a good thing, say experts. If you wait too long to act, “your energy will subside, you’ll fall back into old ways and the window of opportunity closes,” Buffone warns. Living in limbo was fine for a while, but I needed to figure out what my new course would be.
Luckily, I have a circle of friends who not only helped me find my way, but who also responded with fresh outrage each and every time I relayed my saga. One dropped everything to have impromptu cocktails and “strategize” my next move. Another invited me to sit with her in her home office so I had company while composing my online dating profile. “This ‘friend capital’ gives you various angles from which to view the issue, so you can reframe it positively,” says Crystal Park, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.
The only thing more effective than having friends tell you that you deserve better is believing it yourself. That inner confidence comes from understanding what your best talents and skills are, then making the most of them. “Try asking yourself, Who am I when I’m my best self?” suggests Karen Reivich, Ph.D., codirector of the University of Pennsylvania Resiliency Project. As I thought back on my various job experiences, I realized that as a magazine editor, I’d felt constantly harried, but I was also one of the few people I knew who loved my job. Banker and lawyer friends dreamed of early retirement; I felt lucky to be paid to work with talented writers. Yet I couldn’t help wonder about my current career path. Where was I headed? Was this all there was? I wanted more, but I wasn’t sure what “more” was.
Normally, I’m proudly self-reliant, but this time I called Jan Tillotson, a therapist and life and health coach in St. Augustine, Florida. Like Reivich, Tillotson recommended that I zero in on my strengths as a starting point. After taking two tests to assess my abilities and values, I learned that I’m a voracious information gatherer, meticulous, results-oriented and a planner. I’m eager to please, but I need my efforts to be recognized and reciprocated more than most. I’m not particularly extroverted or community-minded. These traits suggested that I should make a career move I’d always fantasized about: becoming a freelance writer. As an editor, I’d always been secretly jealous of writers, but I never thought I could give up the comfort of a steady paycheck and the health benefits. Now I had neither of these things. I was free to move forward without taking a risk. The proverbial window of opportunity was open.
At first, I felt strange working on my own. But Tillotson cheered me on, giving me hints to nix my self-defeating tendencies, such as being too eager to please. “You don’t always have to give yes for an answer. If a deadline seems unreasonable, say so,” she instructed. With practice, I grew more self-assured, landed assignments and relished my freedom.
Tillotson encouraged me to shift my thinking when it came to love, too, though I already had a hunch that I needed to be more open-minded about finding a mate. I’m an introvert and a workaholic. Because I rarely go out, I typically met men through fixups. The candidates were usually work-obsessed, bookish types. (I assumed I’d do well with someone like me, so that’s who friends fixed me up with.) If the elusive chemistry thing was there, I’d think, “Yes, this is it. I will make this work”—even if we had few interests in common. “If the guy looks good on paper but doesn’t share your curiosity and your need to be constantly learning, the relationship isn’t going to fly,” Tillotson told me.
Instead of passively waiting for a setup, I played offense: I went online and opened multiple dating accounts. I tried to be very specific about what I liked in a guy (beyond superficial traits such as hair color and height). I also made a point of accepting every invitation to get out and socialize, despite my natural shyness and general dislike of noise. Because I no longer had a strict “school night” bedtime, I found it easier to make the effort.
Exactly three weeks after my awful weekend, a friend invited me out to dinner with a group of people I didn’t know. I said yes, even though we were meeting at an especially noisy restaurant. I didn’t pay much attention to W at first—I was too busy regaling my friend with my tale of woe. But I did notice that he helped me collect my bags at the end of the night. The next day, he emailed with an invitation to dinner followed by a group karaoke outing. Instead of cringing (too embarrassing!), I thought, Why not?
On our first date, I discovered that W wasn’t at all my usual type: He liked going out, for one thing. He also worked in the television business and loved TV; I barely know how to work my remote. But blessed with my new state of open-mindedness, I actually enjoyed our first date. Over the next two months, we went on a second, third and fourth. Slowly, I realized that despite our surface differences, we had a lot to talk about. I also liked that he was close to his family and that he cared about how my day went. Most important, I could tell he had a big heart.
By summer, I had gotten an offer at another magazine. As always, I craved the safety and stability of a corporate gig, so, in a weak moment, I accepted. Apparently, there are solid reasons I went back to what felt familiar: “Human beings have evolved to continue behaviors that are rewarded with praise from other people, even if these behaviors don’t make us particularly happy,” Dr. Siegel says. “As a result, we conform to expectations—our own and those of others. That means we’re apt to say yes to things we don’t truly desire, letting our core strengths and values go by the wayside.” Sure enough, once I had started my new job, I realized, more clearly than I ever had, how much I enjoyed working on my own. My greatest satisfaction comes from filing a story and closing my laptop at the end of a productive day rather than attending endless meetings. I’m an introvert, after all. In a matter of months, I quit that position and have since created the cozy home office of my dreams.
There were also ups and downs on the love front. When my 40th birthday rolled around, W couldn’t have been sweeter. We went away for the weekend, ate, strolled and ate some more. I forgot about feeling old. Yet I continued to worry about our differences. W has tons of friends and a big family. Every weekend, he had another plan. As we got to know each other, he invited me along, but sometimes I preferred to be alone. Tillotson assured me that it was OK to turn down these invites occasionally. “You have to say no when you mean no,” she told me. “That way, he can trust your yeses.” Tillotson also encouraged me to discuss my concerns with W. “You don’t have to figure out everything by yourself,” she said. When I did, I was pleasantly surprised. W understood. I marveled at how much more relaxed I felt with him once I’d spoken my mind.
A year after we met, W proposed, at the same crowded, raucous restaurant where we’d been introduced for the first time. Without hesitation, I said yes, relishing the moment, the noise, him and the thought that this would never have happened if it weren’t for my worst weekend ever.

The power of take shape for life

Finding My Fountain of Youth
By Jan Tillotson

My first visit to the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine was in 1980 with my husband, Tim. We drank the water and had fun pretending like it was going to make a difference. It didn’t, of course. Thirty years later, at the age of 67 and right here in my hometown of St. Augustine, I have finally found what is proving to be my real Fountain of Youth.
In December 2009, Tim and I attended a Christmas party and caught up with a colleague we hadn’t seen in a couple years. She looked fabulous, as if her body was aging in reverse. She had lost some weight, but she always appeared slender to us anyway. Something was different about her, though: she radiated health. I asked her what she was doing, and she said she was involved in a program called Take Shape For Life. She offered to explain it to us, so we made a one hour appointment at her office. Her enthusiasm was contagious.
At first the program seemed expensive. After 102 years of joint effort to get rid of weight and keep it off, Tim and I decided that if this worked, it would be worth every nickel. Eventually, we understood that since the program is based on meal replacements, it’s actually quite reasonable. We figured we could do anything for 35 days, so we jumped in with all four feet. At first, I wasn’t crazy about the meals. As the weeks went by and I weaned myself off sugar, salt and fat, my taste buds changed, and I found the food more and more tasty. 
In that first month, I lost 15 pounds and Tim lost over 20. Neither of us had ever experienced such dramatic results. Even more impressive than the weight loss was our developing sense of health and empowerment. I felt like I was in the middle of a miracle. Within two months, Tim’s weight loss was at 30 pounds and mine was at 23, which put me within 4 pounds of what I weighed at high school graduation.
While living and working in Minnesota for the next 6 months, we maintained our weight loss.  That was a first. During this annual excursion, Tim typically gains 1-2 pounds a week and I gain about 1 pound a week. In other words, this year I was about 47 pounds lighter at the end of my Minnesota visit than I was at the same time last year.
Another odd thing happened: we got smaller. When I went shopping for the first time in months, I found that even a size 6 was baggy. The first time I tried on a size 4, I had to leave the store without making a purchase. It didn’t compute. I’ve weighed less than this at times, but I’ve never worn a size 4, and now even those clothes are big. Tim went from a size 38 to a 32. He had trouble comprehending his new size, too. He bought a pair of size 34 jean shorts, and they fall off if he doesn’t wear a belt. We believe that our tremendously improved nutrition has played a significant part in changing the composition of our bodies. We have maintained the same exercise routines, and yet our bodies are making more muscle mass, so we are wearing smaller clothes. 
The best part of my experience is that I am healthier than I have been in at least 20 years, and so is Tim. After 3 months on the program, his blood work was better than it has been in his adult life. In fact, he no longer needs blood pressure medication.  
Tim and I haven’t made any significant lifestyle changes other than the Take Shape For Life program, which convinces me that this program works. It has changed our lives for the better in so many ways. When I ran in a 5k race this summer, my time was over 2 minutes faster than it was the past few years. It’s pretty amazing to get faster and stronger as I grow older. I really have found my Fountain of Youth, and my body is proving that this time it isn’t pretend.