Local woman winning 'healthy' fight against weight
The past year took its toll on everyone in some way, shape or form.
But while a lot of Americans have struggled to stay healthy — not just avoiding COVID-19, but keeping in shape and avoiding significant weight gain during what has been a remarkably sedentary year and a half for many — one Hillsboro woman has used this time to address a longstanding health challenge.
"I have battled my weight my entire life," Virginia Tackett admitted. "Ever since I was 7 years old, I was the fat kid, and I grew up in a food culture. We ate breakfast, mid-morning snacks, lunch, dinner, and if we had guests or visited others in the evening, we ate. But I just knew I had to get healthy, and I had to do it right."
Tackett, 77, has lost 238 pounds — not overnight, but over the past handful of years. In 2019, she was named the TOPS Oregon Queen.
TOPS, an acronym for Taking Off Pounds Sensibly, is the program that Tackett attributes much of her dietary success to. She says that after years of trying seemingly every program, supplement and meal plan on the market in an effort to drop pounds, it was TOPS that afforded her the strategy and support she needed to succeed.
"I did other weight loss groups, and they mostly shamed you if you didn't lose weight," Tackett said. "With this one, everyone was so encouraging, and they just supported you. Having that support and encouragement to be healthy, along with an understanding, made such a difference."
As anyone who has battled with their physique knows, losing weight is not easy. Tackett talks extensively about the days, weeks and years of struggle she endured to tackle what was ultimately a beatable foe. She knows it's difficult to stay the course in the face of what sometimes feels like an unwinnable battle.
"It's very difficult — and I have never heard anyone who has been classified as morbidly obese say it was easy to lose weight, no matter how hard you try," Tackett said. "There are going to be times when your body rebuilds and says, 'I don't want to lose any more weight,' and you're stuck there for a while, and you have to reset your metabolism — and it's very difficult.
"But if you have the support of the people around you and you know that you have resources, it's so much easier to keep going."
Many of those resources were limited amid the coronavirus pandemic, and as the delta variant fuels a rebound in case counts and hospitalizations, some of those restrictions remain. During the worst of the pandemic to date, before vaccines were widely available, people — especially those in Tackett's age bracket — were encouraged not to gather, and gyms were closed or extremely limited in how many people they could serve. Many Americans reported struggling with their mental health, not just their physical health, amid social distancing and isolation.
But amid those health and safety shutdowns, Tackett knew that now more than ever, her peers would play their greatest role in keeping her moving forward.
"It wasn't harder, because even though we weren't meeting because of the pandemic, we kept in touch," Tackett said. "We texted, sent cards, made telephone calls, video chatted and still supported one another. We knew it could be hard, but we made sure it wasn't."
Tackett is quick to point out that while losing weight will always be tied to some level of vanity, for her, it's really about her health. In the past, she developed or followed plans that, while successful in shedding pounds, weren't a healthy means of doing so. Over the past few years, and with the help of TOPS, she grew to accept and acknowledge that healthy aspect, and in the end, she feels she has reaped the rewards that come with doing things "the right way."
"I'm not skinny, and I never will be, but that wasn't the goal," Tackett said. "The ultimate goal was good health, and my doctor is delighted with me in that respect.
"Physically, even though I'm an old lady, I feel great. I can do anything I need to do."
And her advice for others seeking that same satisfaction and feeling she's developed over time? Consult your physician, set reasonable goals, and join a support group — because it's not easy, but it does pay off.
"Know and understand the benefits of being healthy, because the scale doesn't always show it," Tackett said. "You have to realize it's a marathon and a long, hard journey, but you can do it."
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