Losing nearly 100 pounds was about health, not vanity

For Debbie Stirling, the first breakthrough in losing nearly 100 pounds was a 15-minute conversation with a box of Timbits.

Stirling said she came home from a bad day at work and there, on the kitchen counter, was an open box of Timbits, 10 donut holes, still fresh, purchased only a few hours earlier.

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It was in the spring of 2011 and the first Health Club Challenge was nearing its end. It also includes the At Home Challenge in which readers can follow on their own the fitness and diet tips in the pages of the newspaper and qualify for prizes,

Stirling had signed on as an At-Home Challenge participant, fell off the wagon several times and ended up three pounds heavier.

But that talk with the Timbits was a pivotal moment.

"Why do I want to eat you?" she asked. "I want to eat you because I've had a really bad day and you're going to taste good for a moment."

Stirling told the Timbits the sugar they contained was not good for her, and the pleasure would be fleeting. "But I really want to eat you," she said.

"If anybody had walked by my window, they would have collapsed laughing or they would have had me committed," said the 37-year-old Saanich woman.

Finally, she swept the Timbits off the counter and into the garbage. "That moment, I knew things were going to change."

That was when Stirling switched from being a simple "emotional eater" to eating in a way that would best fuel her body.

Stirling continued with the healthy eating and exercise tips outlined in the At-Home Challenge in the months to come, developing a new relationship with physical activity and food.

A year ago, when she was talking with the Timbits, she weighed 290 pounds.

Earlier this week, she was down to 194.5.

It didn't take a strict diet and exercise dogma, either - Stirling describes it as a greater consciousness about how she lives and what she eats.

Now and then, she even allows herself a thin slice of dessert. But it comes with an extra bit of physical exercise before, and it's only a small piece to enjoy the flavour. It's not about filling up.

She said she now eats more slowly, savouring the food and giving her body a chance to feel full. She also tries to choose real fruit and whole-grain products over processed foods.

Stirling hopes her three kids, ages nine to 17, will start to eat the way she does now, as a pleasure to be enjoyed responsibly.

One challenge, however, has been the never-ending flow of compliments.

"I'm taking the compliments as they come and I'm being proud of what I'm doing," said Stirling.

"But it's sometimes hard because I don't want it to be confused with vanity. It's not that. It's about being healthy."

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