Reconnecting with life after extreme weight loss
Rock-bottom looks different for everyone. But one thing everyone experiences when they find it is the pain and desperation that comes from hitting the solid depths at full speed. For Wilsonville resident Katie Patterson, 47, the moment of reckoning came while sitting in her parents' living room.
Tipping the scale at 409 pounds, Patterson's trials with her weight began innocently after she got married and put on the infamous newlywed pounds that she refers to as "I love you weight."
After having her two children back-to-back, it wasn't until 2008, when Patterson's daughter was diagnosed with autism, that her weight got out of control. Over the next six years, Patterson says that she put her own needs on the backburner to focus on her children. But this dogged focus on helping her children succeed and navigate the world led to her eating to comfort herself, eventually putting on more than 250 pounds.
As her weight gain continued to spiral out of control, Patterson began to slip into depression and isolation, becoming emotionally detached from her husband, children and friends.
"I was determined to help them be the best people that they possibly could be, and I just ate to comfort myself," Patterson says. "But when you're almost 300 pounds overweight, I couldn't do anything."
Things got worse for Patterson when her husband was injured at work. While traveling up to Portland from La Grande for a workmen's compensation meeting, the family stayed with Patterson's parents. Despite the circumstances for the visit, Patterson says that the visit triggered an intervention that saved her life.
Three months prior to the visit, Patterson's mother had joined the diet and lifestyle program Take Shape For Life. Consisting of prepackaged "fuelings" and directions to make one protein-packed meal with a side of green vegetables per day, a program-provided health coach and a large community of support within the program, Patterson's mother had lost more than 30 pounds.
Fast forward to Patterson's parents' living room.
"You are going to do this program," Patterson recalls her mother saying. "You have no choice. Otherwise, you're going to die."
Wracked with guilt and a constant fear of failure, Patterson says that she knew that her mother was right. It was do or die.
"I thought that it was going to be really hard, but it wasn't since the structure of the program is so easy," Patterson says. "All you have to do is fuel your body every two, two and a half hours and drink a gallon of water, and that's it. And I think that's the reason why it's worked so well for me, because it's that easy."
That simplicity is what Patterson credits with her long-term commitment to the plan, and she is quick to sing the program's praises in terms of the positive health repercussions felt by her family. Patterson says that her husband has lost more than 80 pounds and that her children are choosing healthier options of their own free will after watching her eat a healthy variety.
Patterson said that she lost 15 pounds in the first week — which she admits is unusual and that those kind of results aren't typical. But she says that by going from 10,000 calories a day to 1,100 calories showed her the fast results that made her feel successful and like she could keep going.
"When I first met Katie, she lived in fear of everything; but now, we're constantly celebrating all of the things that she's accomplishing because she's stepping into her fears and is not letting those fears hold her back," says Leslie Hering, Patterson's friend.
"Watching her transform over these last two years has really been an inspiration for me. It's incredible watching my amazing friend grow, change and really become the best version of herself so that she can help other people become the best version of herself."
At just about 40 pounds away from her goal weight of 135 pounds, Patterson says that she's not rushing herself, giving into the "negative chatter" in her head or intending to stop sharing her weight-loss journey with others.
"Every month, I do a 'before' and 'now' (photo) and I think it was six or seven months before I actually posted one because I saw a difference in my body and I was like, 'Oh, man. OK. I can share this or be so fearful of what people are going to say about me,'" Patterson says, tearing up. "But I did my side-by-side photos and shared it and I was so scared, but not one person said something negative. But I was still so scared and had so much fear, but no one rejected me. Everyone had something positive and uplifting to say... The more that I became honest with myself and lived out loud, the more successful that I was and the better I felt, because I had been hiding and felt so bad about myself for so long."
"Watching her transform over this last two years has been incredible — not just physically, but emotionally and mentally," Hering says.
In the wake of her own success and positive experience with her health coach Pam Carter, Patterson has decided to take on the role of health coach for others entering into the program. Now as a full-time health coach, Patterson says that she gets to spend more time with her children, now 11 and 12 years old, and spend time reconnecting with her husband.
"My dreams are coming true, every week," Patterson says. "I never, never, never would have thought that almost 28 months ago — two years ago — that my life would be like this. And this is the reason why I share. If I can help somebody get healthy, just like somebody helped me, it's all worth it."