How One Woman Found the Motivation to Overcome a Lifelong Struggle With Food Addiction
Her son would beg her to play his favorite game — but she couldn’t say yes.
It was when she realized she couldn’t play tickle monster with her two-year-old son that Susan Chaney decided to turn her life around.
At her peak weight, she weighed 270 pounds.
“I hated myself. I felt worthless and pathetic,” said Chaney. “When I would look in the mirror, I would cry for hours at the reflection of this person who I wanted more than anything not to be.”
She struggled with depression, anxiety and a binge eating disorder for most of her life.
Self-deprecating humor hiding pain
As a child, Chaney was overweight, and she grew up developing negative coping mechanisms to deal with her pain.
“I made my weight a joke, but secretly cringed at my appearance,” she said.
“I developed the negative mindset of ‘I’ll say the punch line so they can’t’ after years of harassment because of my weight,” she continued.
“I avoided pools, sleeveless shirts, and going outside when it was hot, because I was so uncomfortable in my own skin.”
Rock bottom turns into motivation
The pain followed her into adulthood and she found herself in an unhappy marriage with a man who constantly cheated on her. The marriage ended. “Divorced with two kids and broken, I hated everything about myself,” she recalls.
She desperately wanted to be the parent who could play anything with her kids, but when her youngest child learned to walk and pleaded with her to chase him around the house to play, she just couldn’t keep up.
“This is what made me decide to lose weight. I felt that I could never give them the life they deserved without learning to love myself, getting healthy, and changing my life.”
It was a scary moment for Chaney, but she was determined to heal and become stronger.
For Chaney, this meant coming to understand and nurture her mental state first. “My mind craves food the way smokers crave cigarettes. These are all things I had to figure out in the beginning,” she said.
“I surfaced my emotions one by one and forced myself to cry and feel and accept what they were — I eventually allowed myself to feel enough to learn my triggers.”
Investing in herself
Once she learned to accept and love herself, she began to invest in her quality of life.
“I found strength in knowing I was in control. I used this mindset to develop a healthy relationship with food, understand how weight loss works, and lift weights,” she said. “I was consistent, because I reminded myself of who I had overcome.”
This was far from easy for the mother of two, and it took some trial and error. In fact, in the beginning of her weight loss journey, Chaney developed anorexia, because she initially equated happiness with being thin. “Instead of being proud of my accomplishment and focusing on being healthy, I had to be skinnier — this was one of the many mistakes that I made,” she said.
At her worst, she weighed 110 pounds, was weak and developed an addiction to weight loss pills. “My depression was at an all time high,” she recalled. “I made a home on my couch in my dark living room and would not leave.”
Attracting the right people into her life
Several months later, she met up with her now husband for a hike up Pinnacle Mountain and she remembers feeling like something finally clicked. She credits him for helping save her life.
“My whole life changed,” she said, ”He taught me how to physically and mentally have a healthy relationship with food, and introduced me to weightlifting.”
Today, Chaney is happily remarried, and has resolved to accept and celebrate who she is and what she has accomplished. She works as a personal trainer to help others achieve their weight loss goals and avoid the same mistakes she made.
Her advice to people wanting to lose weight and take charge of their lives? “I urge everyone to understand that there is a ‘right’ way to lose weight and how important your mental health is —you have to love yourself to ever celebrate your victories,” she said.
“Consistency is key.”