Woman packs on happiness as she sheds pounds

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter



Chrisetta Mosley’s top tips for successful weight loss

Not all or nothing, but 90/10. “I eat healthy 90 percent of the time and I give myself 10 percent wiggle room. I eat to fuel my body, but sometimes I eat certain foods for mere pleasure. Not too often — just sometimes. Most of the time, I say no.” Be disciplined — but be reasonable, too.

Don’t despair, don’t stop. “Never ever give up. You’ll have obstacles, but don’t get discouraged. Find a different way and keep going.”

Enlist help (and peer pressure). “Be open and share your story with people. They’ll help you. Don’t try to do it in silence. Don’t hide. You have to be accountable to people. Say it out loud. Tell your mom, your boyfriend, your husband. Support systems are huge — that’s why Weight Watchers works.”

If you’re full but still craving, remember the official Washington State fruit. “Go grab an apple. Apples are wonderful. They’re about 70 calories and full of fiber and they really fill you up. Wait a few minutes and eat an apple. You probably won’t even finish it.”

Are you overweight — or obese?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a government agency, uses a formula called Body Mass Index — based on a person’s weight and height — to determine the amount of body fat and whether one is overweight or obese. It’s considered quite reliable for most people. Access the CDCP’s handy BMI calculator at http://www.cdc.go...

A body mass index of 25 and up is considered overweight; a BMI of 30 and up is considered obese.

When her loving stepfather gave Chrisetta Mosley a new Pink Panther bike for her birthday, the young but not-so-little girl couldn’t wait to hop aboard her prize and go.

The training wheels collapsed under her weight. She never rode the bike.

“I was never what you’d call a normal size,” she said.

In college, Mosley was overwhelmed by the “skinny white kids running circles around me.” She couldn’t speak up in class, begged off social invitations, stayed in her room and gorged herself. She frequently promised to take her little daughter to the Seattle Zoo but never made good on the promise — because she couldn’t walk, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t face being outdoors in public. The whole world was an obstacle course.

When Mosley topped out at 388 pounds, she knew she had to do something. “I was such a wreck. I was under a dark cloud. I was a miserable, fat, gross person,” she said.

Six years later, Mosley, 38, is down to 225 pounds; her goal is to get under 200 by age 40. She has put her writing talent and considerable personal magnetism to work in a blog called “Farewell, Fatso,” where she’s shared her journey from horribly huge to happy — all the workouts, all the healthy recipes, all the personal reprogramming that led her to a new life.

Part of her motivation is her 18-year-old daughter, who just graduated from Union High School. Mosley grew up on junk food; it’s crucial, she knows, that 18-year-old Jasmyn learn a different way of life.

“I am a product, and now a survivor, of childhood obesity,” Mosley said. “I don’t want to see that continuing. I’ve got to talk the talk and walk the walk.”

Well-fed kids

America is fat. And, despite all the publicity the problem has gotten in recent years, it’s only getting fatter.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, approximately two-thirds of adult Americans and nearly one-third of children are overweight or obese. And a brand-new report (released July 7) by the Trust for America’s Health found even starker news: obesity rates in 16 states climbed over the past year, and no state reported a decline. Colorado is the only state with an obesity rate under 20 percent.

The report upped the Surgeon General’s previous statistic on youth — saying that more than one-third of children and adolescents are now overweight or obese.

Carrying too much weight is associated with numerous health problems, including heart disease, adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure, various forms of cancer, strokes, osteoarthritis, poor sleep, respiratory and even gynecological problems.

According to Clark County’s public health department, 64 percent of adults here were overweight or obese in 2008 (the last year numbers are available). In 2008, 23 percent of high school sophomores were overweight or obese. That just about mirrors the Washington State rate for 10th graders that year: 25 percent.

Leading indicators for weight problems are education and income. The least educated and poorest have the highest obesity rates; college graduates have the lowest.

“The problem is social economics,” Mosley said. “The problem is class. If you are in a lower class, if you have less education, you don’t get the information you need.”

Mosley fits the trend. She grew up in a big, struggling family in north Portland where her mother and grandmother stretched a meager family budget to feed eight children. Cheap convenience and traditional comfort foods were family staples. Breakfast was a fried hot dog; lunch was white bread or a Twinkie; dinner was white rice and heavy gravy and buttered greens. Kool Aid was the beverage of choice. The destination of regular shopping trips was the Hostess store.

“There were a lot of fat kids,” Mosley remembered — but adults on the scene either ignored the obvious or thought “baby fat” was cute. A well-fed kid was a happy kid, they figured.

But the negatives added up: the broken bicycle, the inability to walk or climb stairs, the tendency to avoid people. Mosley said there were “intriguing conversations going on in my ethics class” at Seattle University, and everybody was eager to hear from her — but she couldn’t speak up.

“I became a hermit. I’d get invitations to a party and I’d say yes but I’d find myself in bed with a plate of tacos,” she said. “I missed out on so much.”

Her ultimate (but secret) humiliation: She used to check what rooms her college classes were scheduled for, and if they included attached desk-chair units, she’d quietly appeal to the administration to move the class to a different room — with furniture that fit her.

Taking control

She did have friends who offered helpful suggestions about exercise and diet — but they couldn’t help her until she was ready to help herself. Like an alcoholic or drug addict, Mosley said, she had to hit absolute bottom before taking control of her weight problem.

That was in July 2004, when Mosley weighed herself at 388 pounds.

“I felt miserable. I looked like a blow-up doll. It was ridiculous,” she said. “I just thought, enough’s enough. I took control.”

First came gastric bypass surgery. It was a start, but today Mosley views the surgery as a failure — because the radical change was to her body, not her mind and her habits.

“It was a ‘gimme,’ but nobody taught me the right things to eat,” she said. “I was never retrained. They took my money and took my stomach, but that’s not enough. I was still eating the wrong things.”

She was hovering around 300 pounds — and figuring it was the best she could ever hope for — when a “trifecta” of disasters struck in November 2009, she said. She lost her boyfriend and her job, and her car was stolen.

By then she was living in East Vancouver, which she’d chosen so her daughter could attend Union High School. And she’d been working as a marketing assistant — which seems a good fit for the confidence and charm Mosley exudes.

“I am stubborn to a fault,” she said. “If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it.” Faced with a new set of life problems, she decided to view them as opportunities.

“It’s dark, it’s cold, I’m lonely and I don’t have a car. I could lie around and watch TV and be miserable and gain weight. But that ain’t who I want to be,” she said. “Quit complaining and put your tennies on. You’ve been given all this time. This is your chance.”

She started walking, rain or no rain. “I really enjoyed those walks. They were very mind-clearing,” she said. “When you’re walking, you see things and think things you don’t when you’re driving. I was losing weight and losing emotional weight.”

A major discovery: Exercise was easy because “it makes you feel good,” she said. Reprogramming her diet was a different matter. Unlike a drug or alcohol addiction, she pointed out, you can’t beat a food addiction by going cold turkey.

“You need food to live,” she said. “I love food and there’s nothing wrong with that. I just don’t want to abuse it.”

Recent setback

Mosley signed up at 24-Hour Fitness and took every class she could — Zumba and yoga and weight lifting. “I shook and gyrated for months. I had the time of my life,” she said.

Then, another serious setback: On Feb. 17 of this year, she was hit by a car while walking in a parking lot. Her tibia (shinbone) was broken. Surgery in March inserted a metal plate that’s held in place by 14 screws. The scar on her leg is most impressive; she walks with a limp today.

She didn’t allow it to slow her down. She steered around her gym in a motorized wheelchair and shifted her exercise efforts to upper body fitness. If she wanted to keep slimming down, a trainer told her, it was time to “button up” her diet even more than she already had.

Sugary drinks? Gone. Drive-through fast-food? Done. Mosley said she cooks at home 99 percent of the time and has become “a little Martha Stewart.”

“I still struggle,” she said. “I still use butter and cream. I’m just going to say no most of the time.” Treats are still allowed, she said — they’re just rare.

Learning to say no to pumpkin loaf and chocolate chip cookies hasn’t been easy. But that trainer’s wisdom rings in her ears: An hour a day at the gym is fine, but what matters most is her behavior — what she puts in her mouth — those other 23 hours.

“I’ve had plenty of cookies and I know what that’s like,” she said. “What I’ve never had is thin.”

A need to share

At age 38, Mosley is busy sharing her journey with others through her blog, http://foronceandforallfarewellfatso.blogspot.com.

“I need to share. I need people. I can’t do this alone,” she said. “Talking to other people really makes it positive for me.”

Some very large people hate exercising in front of others. But Mosley likes celebrating her progress in public.

“People are just astonished at what I’ve done,” she said. “I want people to see me out there, doing it.”

She wants to get down below 200 pounds — ideally all the way down to 170 — before she turns 40. That big day will be Aug. 20, 2012. So she’s got about 13 months to go.

Meanwhile, Mosley’s 18-year-old daughter, who topped out near 200, is down below 160 now.

“I am determined to turn childhood obesity upside-down,” Mosley said.

Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525 or scott.hewitt@columbian.com.