Meet the Characters: Carla Hurd
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Carla Hurd describes herself as "a typical Type A personality, just a real go-getter, and very ambitious." She lives in Seattle with her husband David and their dogs. Carla is a dedicated Microsoft employee, an active outdoorswoman, and enjoys time in the mountains and dog parks. She shares her fitness journey, including her recent participation in a workplace-based program that emphasizes health improvement over weight loss. Carla and David will welcome their first child in 2007.
Can you remember the first time that you felt you were overweight?
Even people that are "skinny" think that they're overweight or fat, so even when I wasn't overweight, I still had issues of being overweight. I don't think I've ever been skinny. I'm pretty big. I've a very stocky stature, wide shoulders and hips and things like that. I've always been self-conscious about that, and always felt bigger.
You were really active in college, weren't you?
High school and college, yeah, both. The biggest change was after college, when you're active, you're going to all these classes, you're playing all these sports. I graduated and went to work for Microsoft. I was actually a tester, and what you do as a tester is you actually try to break the software. So it was very mentally challenging, which I really liked a lot. But I sat on my butt! There was always pop available, and there was always food around. That change in my lifestyle from very active to very sedentary was huge. Definitely in the first three or four years I gained a significant amount of weight with that.
What kinds of weight loss methods did you try?
Oh, you name it. I've done all the Weight Watchers, the Jenny Craig, The Zone, all that stuff. I've done the cabbage soup diet, and all the trendy ones. There's one (program) called The Solution that's more of a mental approach. I actually learned a lot but it wasn't enough. It wasn't a whole holistic approach; it was just a mental piece of it. I kind of got gung-ho, and was dedicated on each of those diets or the program that I was on. Lost some weight here and there but always gained more back
Now I'm in a place where the basis is sound health, and understanding that (weight loss) is a holistic thing. I have to take from all of those (diets) I've done in the last ten years and pull the pieces together that work for me in to sustain my weight in the long term, and lose slowly. Right now I'm kind of in this limbo stage because I'm pregnant. But I've lost five pounds since I've been pregnant, because like the doctor says, you're eating better and you're taking better care of your body because you are pregnant.
You talk about combining the wisdom from different weight loss approaches to create your own system. What were some of the most important things you learned?
I think the biggest thing is the state of mind. Doing it for me and the way that I want to live and feel. I think that a lot of the messaging out there is look good, feel good. That's not really all true. You can be skinny and beautiful and look good and still not feel good about yourself, right? We all know that.
So, I think I need to be in this mental place that says I want to live the healthiest that I can so I can be around for my children, so that I can have longevity and so that I can feel good from a physical aspect. Another thing that I've learned is (to eliminate) that whole "all or nothing: mentality: you have to eat just what's on this list and not what's on this other list, that kind of thing. Instead, it's about proportions. I can still go out to dinner, but I can make better choices knowing what I know now. I just don't eat the whole thing. I very rarely finish what's on my plate now.
Were there any funny methods or fads you've tried for weight loss?
I did this thing with my mom when I was in college. They were called wraps. At this place, they soaked these gauzes in some kind of juice then they wrapped you up in it like a mummy, literally. So you got down to your undergarments, and they wrapped you up and you put this like rubber suit on and you sat there for an hour. They measured you before and they measured you after and yeah, you lost inches, but I don't even know what the hell that was! (Laughs.) I was like, "Oh God, isn't this great? We're just sitting here with this stuff on and it's working." It's totally weird now that I look back, and we spent lots of money. It was like a hundred bucks a session or something. It was just stupid, and we did that for, like, three months!
What is your biggest food weakness?
Normally it's sweets and Mexican food. If I have Mexican food it's really hard for me to order something without cheese. And of course, ice cream is the number one sweet thing. It's really hard for me.
The workplace-based health program you participated in included a lot of information about food and changing the way you eat. How much of that was news to you?
I'd say 95% of it was not new to me. But I had forgotten about it, and (the program) was kind of a refresher/reminder a lot of it. Did it change the way I eat? Yeah, because it brought that stuff that already knew about back to the forefront.
What were the biggest changes they were asking you to make?
The food thing is very tightly paired to the mental thing. You have to want to eat the apple instead of the ice cream. You can have the ice cream, and there's nothing that says that you can't eat the ice cream. But it's like (achieving) a state where you realize the benefits of the ice cream verses the apple. It's really hard to be in that place all the time and it's okay that you're not there all the time, but if you're there most of the time then you're going to be healthier.
What were the easiest things to change?
The easiest things to change for me were the portion sizes, and to slow down. Marilyn, our dietician, had said this new thing for me: the twenty minute rule. Eat a normal portion--what you know as a healthy normal portion--wait twenty minutes, and if you're still hungry, go ahead and get more. So I ate that healthy portion and waited twenty minutes, and often I was full, I didn't need anymore. It takes time for the messages from your tummy to get to your brain. These are things that I've heard before but I didn't really have it soak in or something.
What were the most difficult things to change?
At first I was very uncomfortable (with) the exercise. Then the more I did it the easier it got, and I actually started to enjoy it. But it's still really, really hard to fit in my schedule.
Food choice is still hard. We eat out a lot, and when you're sitting there looking at the list of food that you can pick from, picking something that's not as normally appealing was hard. I think that if I went to a restaurant and all the choices were healthy, I'd go, "Oh, I want this and this, and this one sounds great!" But if you go to a restaurant that has unhealthy choices and healthy choices, I'm always drawn to the unhealthy ones. Just because it's there and it's available to order, that was really hard--still is.
Why do you think that you have a problem with weight and there are other people around you doing the same kind of things, eating the same way, that don't struggle with a weight problem?
I do think that I have some hormonal issues. My massage therapist, for example said, "You know, the way you're built and the way you were really exercising, you should have lost a lot more weight. I bet that after your pregnancy, your hormones are going to reset and then you're going to lose weight like crazy." So that's one theory.
Another is--I don't even know what this is called--you have this kind of normal level of weight in your brain that needs to be reset. So if you're normally like 250 pounds, and you lose weight to 200, your body's still trying to get to that normal weight, up to the 250 pounds until that measurement in your brain is reset to have your "normal" weight be a lower number.
I'm older now so my age is definitely affecting it being harder for me to lose weight, I think. I just turned 37, so I'm not the 25 year-old chick that I used to be, right? And it's hard for me because I still think of myself as a kid sometimes. I think that my age definitely has something to do with that, and the resetting of the normal weight in my brain takes longer and it's harder to do. That's just my personal kind of deep, deep mental thing. I really believe that.
Can you talk a little bit about the Southern cooking you grew up eating?
(Laughs.) You know, those people can cook back there, I'll tell ya. Fried fritters and desserts and things like that. There's lots of grease. I went over (to my mother's) for dinner and watched her cook the green beans. She pulled out her little coffee can full of bacon grease, and she put a big old dollop into it and I said, "Mom, that's too much!" And she said, "Well that's what makes it taste good." (Laughs).
I don't think my mom is educated as to nutrition and food. Food, to her, is something you eat because it tastes good! And you know, that's fine. That's her thing, but now it's a little concerning because she's going to be our daycare when I go back to work after the baby. We've had talks already about, you know, we don't want to have ice cream for dinner and we don't want to do the fried stuff. We're not doing that all the time.
Do you miss those types of foods?
No, no. You know why? Because I allow myself to have them every once in a while. I don't eat them like I used to, but I do eat them in moderation, which is another reason that I'm slowly losing the weight. I'm not taking it off like crazy, but you know what? That's what's going to work for me.
Can you describe the kinds of psychological challenges or obstacles you faced while trying to change the way you ate and exercised?
That's a hard one. I felt like I had the cartoon angel on one shoulder and the little devil on the other shoulder saying, "It's okay. Just eat it. Eat it, it'll taste really good." Then the little angel's over here going, "No! You know that's not the best for you." I just felt this constant pull and push and pull and push just to get through a damned meal!
To fight with yourself about (food) it isn't the place where you want to be. You want to be a step above that... (It's) just realizing that you're going to struggle. I'm always going to struggle with this the rest of my life in terms of making the choices, making the effort. It's not easy to eat in a good way and to always exercise. I'm not always going to be there. And that's okay. The point is to get back on it and to keep with it.
You are so successful in so many aspects of your life. What is it like to have this one very difficult challenge?
I'm really good at taking care of everything else and everybody else. But when it comes to me, I've not always put myself first. That's a really hard thing for me.
I'm a program manager. I can make projects out of things, figure out a plan, finish it, and I'm successful. Why can't I take myself on as a project? Why can't I do this, this thing for me, as a project? I don't know why. It's different. I think that if I didn't love myself, I wouldn't even be trying (to lose weight). But it's really hard.
I'm not used to failing. Not winning isn't really part of my vocabulary. I've always been 4.0 student, top of the class, first chair in band, you know, I've always, first string, captain in sports, all that kind of stuff. I'm not saying I never failed at anything, of course I did, but something that's this big, that's this important. It's like a big shot to your ego. There're all kinds of emotions around it that make it more complex and harder to deal with.
You talked (in the film) about hoping to improve your health to become pregnant! You achieved that. How much do you feel the program actually helped you become pregnant?
I believe that the percent body fat lost was what allowed me to become pregnant. I just watched a video on obesity and fertility. And it said if you are an overweight woman, your chances of conceiving are significantly lower. But a doctor (in the video) said you don't have to lose a ton of weight; all you have to do is decrease your body fat percentage. I know that 10 percent of body fat I lost really did it.
Can you talk a little bit about what all of this means now that you're going to be a mom? How are you going raise a child, and what you are hoping to hand down to him or her?
I'm already looking at like the nutrition labels on baby foods and different things. I'm just more conscientious I think. I've already had discussions with my mother and mother-in-law about how important it is going to be for us to instill health and nutrition and the foods that we allow our children to eat growing up. We really need them to be part of the team and on board because they're going to play a big role.
My brother has an eleven-year-old son, and I still bring this example up to my mom. About a year ago we all went out to Chinese food. (My nephew) didn't want Chinese food, he wanted Jack-in-the-Box. So on the way to the Chinese restaurant my mom, his grandma, stopped and got him Jack-in-the-box and brought it to the Chinese place. And he sat with his little bag of Jack-in-the-box and ate it while we all ate Chinese. And that's not okay for me. So I bring that example up quite a bit and say, "You can't be doing that with my children." Number one, for discipline reasons, they're going to eat what they're provided. If we're going out for a nice family dinner, we're going to order what's on the menu and make better choices, stuff like that. And instead of giving them a cookie or an ice cream cone, have that fresh fruit around. Stuff like that.
When you see someone that's overweight, what goes through your mind as a person who might know how they feel?
That's kind of an embarrassing thing to answer, but I will be honest. The first thing I think when I see someone that's overweight is, "Am I as fat as them?" I compare. And that's a low confidence thing, which isn't something that I'm familiar with, because usually I'm pretty confident and stuff.
The other thing is just kind of wondering how they got there. Is their story the same as mine? Are they as embarrassed as me? I wonder if they have health problems or if they're still struggling. Are they doing anything about it? Sometimes I think, "They could have lost a hundred pounds. I mean, maybe they were a lot heavier before."
It's kind of weird, but it's like we look at each other, like if we make eye contact we're like "Oh yeah, you're part of the club, too." It kind of sucks, but it's like we have this yeah, you're there too, you get it kind of thing.
What advice would you share with others going through a similar weight loss processs?
Make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. First of all, you need to take action for your health. Get in the right state of mind. I mean to me, again, the mental aspect is most important that I found that's missing a lot of times from (weight loss) programs.
It's not easy. It's a life commitment, and that's not to be taken with a grain of salt. You're going to fail, and you're going to get back on. I think that a lot of programs are like, "Oh! Just do this and then you're good and you go back to your life." You don't go back to your life. I mean this is your life.
Fit Pregnancy: www.fitpregnancy.com
Exercising with dogs on the Paw Rescue site: www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/ DogTip_JogDog.php