After gaining some unwanted pounds, Rita Wilson knew it was time for a change. Here, she chronicles her weight-loss journey.
By Rita Wilson Have you ever thrown open your closet doors in anticipation of picking out a fabulous outfit only to find yourself reaching for elastic-waistband pants? Or when someone says, "You're hot," he isn't talking about sex but referring to the beads of perspiration that have taken over your entire body since you turned 50? For some of you, this piece may be irrelevant--right now. But soon enough, your day of waterfalls cascading down your chest will come and you will remember me. Due to my middle-aged, menopausal "hotness," I had put on the freshman 15 at 53. My class of 54 was going to have me graduating to a permanent wardrobe of sweats if I didn't do something about it. But my head felt weighted down. I felt mentally heavy. I didn't have the energy to add one more thing to my already full plate ... of nachos, guacamole, chips. I had been experiencing some stress. The year 2010 was full of many transitions. So I comforted myself with comfort food. I found comfort in everything that passed in front of me. At the Emmys last year, I got trashed for wearing a dress that I loved but that had people in cyberspace querying if I was pregnant. Okay, really? If a 54-year-old woman were pregnant, wouldn't that be news you would hear about? Instead, Time magazine named my Emmy dress one of its Top 10 Fashion Statements for 2010 along with Lady Gaga's meat dress. This was not a compliment. Life changes affect each of us differently. My comfort food had now become ... uncomfortable. A change had to be made. Now, how you look is less important than how you feel, but I had lost my spunk and my energy. I remembered reading that if you don't take care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else? It was time to get into shape, because how many times could I put one more photo of myself into my scrapbook, angling my body behind my husband's (or an unsuspecting person or a piece of furniture) so I would appear half my size? This was officially a pattern. Enter Jillian Michaels of The Biggest Loser fame. I knew she was a killer trainer, but when I met Jillian at a women's conference last year, I was immediately taken by her openness and warmth. The first day Jillian came over to my house, I thought we would just discuss process, diet, physiology--you know, two girlfriends shooting the breeze. (And boy, can I talk. I am sure I burn more calories talking than I do eating celery sticks.) So when Jillian told me to get up and start running my interior stairs, I thought she was joking. After numerous sprints up and down, she made me do lunges down my hallway, push-ups, tricep bends off an antique bench, and hardcore versions of downward dog that made me pant like a puppy. She told me I would get nauseous, and I did. This is a very good way not to eat. Every day for a week, we worked out. I was so impressed by how quickly Jillian was able to "empower" me into shape. She put me on a 1,200-calorie-a-day diet that was primarily grilled fish or chicken, steamed veggies, and big salads for lunch. You know the drill: no sugar. Very little dairy. No alcohol. A lot of exercise. Now, this is where Jillian's real magic lies. She could see the toll that the year of transitions had taken on me without my telling her. In conversation one day while I was stretching, she asked me what I would consider an indulgence. As a person who likes to give, I had to admit that I'd put myself on the back burner. I had felt that taking care of myself was more of an indulgence than a necessity. I had things to do. Responsibilities. A facial (which I hadn't had in years) or a massage was not a priority. Jillian smiled and set up an appointment for me with a dermatologist. I went and had all my questionable moles removed, followed by a formerly guilt-inducing facial in his office. Next, Jillian introduced me to a chiropractor who took care of an annoying shoulder injury I'd been living with for far too long. Doing these two things gave me comfort. The worrisome moles and shoulder pain I'd been neglecting were now dealt with, easing a mental burden of sorts and leaving me with two fewer things to worry about. I am keenly aware that I am blessed with health care and that I have the funds to get a facial, but anyone can steam her own face over a pot of chamomile tea, as I used to do as a teenager. Yet do we take the time? My next hurdle came with the vacation we had planned. We were taking my mom and our family to Greece for two weeks. When I returned, Jillian would be away for two weeks. Once I get started on a diet, I am pretty disciplined, but being on vacation with no wine, no dessert, no sugar, and twice-daily workouts seemed more like house arrest. Still, I was starting to notice the benefits of my intended goal: feeling healthy and being lighter, physically and, most important, mentally. Jillian assigned me her workout DVDs, and each day she would e-mail me my exercise routine. I would do one of her DVDs in the morning and cardio in the afternoon, and whatever other exercise I did was icing on my weight-loss cake. But what was great was that I was still able to do very vigorous workouts. My excuses went up in smoke like the Tareyton cigarettes my dad used to smoke when I was a kid. In one month, I had lost eight pounds. As we were now well into fall, Jillian and I continued to work out and talk (my favorite thing to do). I would much rather work my chops and chop my workout, if you catch my drift. But in these talks, she seemed to be able to draw from me a deeper understanding of myself and my thought processes. Through all the physicality, I learned that we tell ourselves so many things that keep us from being our best. It's so easy to buy into a false belief about who we are. One day Jillian asked me to do this push-up using just one arm to lift my entire body. I tried three times but couldn't do it. She calmly told me that I could do it and to try again. She gently held my hips as I raised my body using one arm, the so-called weak arm. Even though she was barely touching me, it proved to me that I had the ability within me yet I wasn't allowing myself to believe it. We all have a story we tell ourselves: "I'm weak." "I've never been able to lose weight." "I'm big boned." "I'm menopausal and my metabolism has changed." "I can't take time for myself." I read somewhere once that if your fantasies are your own, why not make them great ones? Why not "I will look like Gisele in a thong"? Now I'm thrilled to say that I'm 14 pounds lighter than when I started. I feel strong. I want to live life fully and healthfully. Now my weight is more about my health than about what I look like, although looking good in clothes is a nice by-product. I love life, and I love this imperfect body. I am learning to take care of myself, my body, and my spirit. I feel hotter than ever. But ... the good kind of hot.