Sherri Waggoner Franklin reached a weight of 425 pounds because fat was safe. By being that overweight all she had to deal with was the fat, how it made her unhappy, and how it was ruining her health. The fat consumed her mind, so what was really eating her could stay buried.
People may wonder how anyone can get to a weight of 425. It could happen to any of us if we substitute food and fat for a way of dealing with things that have happened in life to cause scars in our feelings of self-worth. This article is a journey of how Sherri reached that weight. It is also a story of how she has taken back control of her body and is finally dealing with the scars of her soul; one scar at a time.
The 1970’s: Her teen years
When Sherri entered Jr. High School, she was 5’2” and 160 pounds. She wore a size 14. It was the era of Twiggy. Twiggy was a super thin model at the time with large eyes and the figure of a 12 year old boy. The fashion world and magazine covers were filled with Twiggy or Twiggy look alike models. So being a young girl wearing a size 14 was like being a big fat giant.
Sherri also had a thick head of flaming curly red hair. At the time, straight sleek and shiny hair was what all the girls wanted. Besides being picked on for her chubby physique, she was also made fun of for her hair. To make matters worse, she wore braces, she was smart, and her clothes were homemade. She would have to hear boys and girls shouting, “There goes Gertrude,” or, “There goes Guzzle Gut,” or the one that hurt her the most, and “There goes Bertha Buffalo Butt.”
Sherri was bullied by today’s standards. She was left out of groups, and held her head down as she heard the snickers of boys and girls as she walked by them. In that era, it seemed the schools did not understand the harm inflicted on the child that was teased. Sherri’s teachers were oblivious to the pain she was in. Because she was good student and always well behaved in school, she was one of their favorites. In those days, kids just took whatever was dished out, be it at school or at home. No one talked about abuse. You were expected to deal with life. After all, no matter what was happening to you, there were those starving children in Africa who would love to have what you thought was not good enough.
At age 16 her mother sent her to a diet doctor. In Sherri’s head that confirmed what she already thought about herself. That she was too fat to be loved.
By age 16 Sherri developed a mistrust of people. She learned those that were sweetie sweet to her face were the ones that would stab her in the back. She learned to hate phony people. She also developed the skill of being able to figure out who was phony and who was real. Because of that she did not have very many friends but the few she did have were loyal and real. This is something Sherri still deals with today. She will not let anyone in her life she feels may do what the sweetie sweet girls did to her as a teenager, but she has opened her heart to friends she has learned to trust.
Then she discovered pot and the party lifestyle. It was her answer to everything. It took her away from her pain. It grouped her with some friends who accepted her for who she was. It gave her a place to belong. It made her “cool”. Pot was her answer. She also discovered sex. Since she was raped, she was not really a virgin. All of her friends were doing it. Her mother accused her of doing it. So why not? With the party lifestyle and the boys finding her attractive, she finally had a place to belong, a way to fit in.
Eventually pot let her down. The high was harder to achieve. Because she had a brain in her head, she didn’t move on to harder drugs. Sherri got into college. She continued to party, but not as much. She came to school to learn, to make something of herself, to get a new start. Things seemed to be going her way. She could use her brains and not be ridiculed for being smart. She got a degree in business administration. Her weight was holding around 160. She found a place called the Diet Center. She got down to 125. She was feeling good about her body but still had not dealt with the issues that caused her to overeat. The weight came back on rapidly.
Marriage, job, and more weight gain
Sherri met her husband while at college and got married her junior year. Little did she know he did not want her to be thin. He had his own issues and his biggest was fear of abandonment. He was afraid if she was thin he would lose her. She felt like he force fed her….every diet she went on he would sabotage. He would bring her home candy and make high calorie snacks for the two of them. Food was his love language. With her tendency to overeat and her issues with insecurity and his fears of losing her if she looked too good, disaster was brewing. Her weight reached 200 pounds.
After she graduated from college she got a job at the Oakwood Mall in Enid, Ok. At that time the mall had a plus size store and she was manager. When she first started to work there, everything was just a little too big, but within six months, the things in the store were just her size. Between her husband sabotaging her diet efforts at home and working in a store where the norm was to be plus size,
Sherri started to eat more because big was now the norm for her.
Her husband’s job ended up moving them out of Oklahoma. Sherri had two children. Being pregnant did not help her weight loss efforts. The weight started piling on. Even her husband who did not want her thin began hurling cruel remarks her way. The one she remembers hurting the most was when he looked at her and said, “You look like a sack of potatoes.”
That brought back the cruel memories of her junior high years. So she comforted herself the only way she knew how, by eating.
Her husband ended up quitting his job and announced they were going to move back to Oklahoma. Panic snapped in Sherri. He quit a good paying job, they were moving back with no house, no job, nothing. When she questioned him he said, “I am going back, you can come or stay.”
Sherri had crossed the 250 pound mark at this stage. Her knees hurt, her back hurt, she did not feel like anyone would hire her, she had no respect left, so she came back to Enid, Oklahoma with him and their two children. The next year was hell. Her son almost died from liver failure. Her husband told her everything was her fault including the illness. The 10 years that followed were a constant battle. Happy face at Church and scouting events, happy face for the kids, trying desperately to please a man who could not be pleased, and tears at night, staining her pillow. Sherri’s only friend was food.
Divorce and 425 pounds
Her marriage ended. After 23 years, he just packed up and left. Sherri could barely walk from a chair to her bed. She mostly slept in the chair.
She went to the doctor and he weighed her. His scale stopped at 400 pounds. He guessed her to be 425. With sadness in her eyes, Sherri said, “You can’t imagine the humiliation of weighing more than the scale would register.”
She sunk into a depression. Her children went from the role of being children to being caretakers for mom.
Sherri would not leave the house except to go to Wal-Mart, and then only when she had to. It was too much effort to go. Besides she had no decent clothes. The only thing she could wear was a tent like dress. She was only 45 years old and needed a scooter to get around in the store. People would look at her with disgust. The hurt lasted inside of her long after they forgot the look they had given her. If only someone would have smiled and said hello like she was normal, it would have lifted her.
When Sherri gets the Wal-Mart emails showing people others are making fun of….it hurts….she could have been one of those people if she had been there when someone had a camera. This should be a lesson to all of us not to support a laugh at the expense of another. We have not walked in their shoes.
The depression deepened in Sherri’s world. She described it this way. When you are fat and depressed and the doorbell rings, instead of just getting up to answer it you go through a thought process. The thought process goes something like this:
- Oh God, there is someone at my door
- It is going to hurt if I get up to answer the door
- Is it worth the pain to see who it is?
- When I finally make it to the door will they still be there
- Do I even care?
She said most of the time she decided she did not care and would not make the effort to answer the door.
Her depression and fat came in the form of both mental and physical pain. Every joint hurt, all she felt was fatigue, many days she just wanted to end it. Not by suicide but by checking herself into a nursing home and calling it quits. She hated that her children had to take care of her. She wanted them to have an easier life. Despite it all, she was a loving mother and her children were then and still are today devoted to her.
Car wreck and the road to healing
While teaching her son to drive, they had a car wreck. She had to go to the doctor. The doctor’s office she was at was Smith Chiropractic in Enid, Ok. She had worked there many years ago. Her old boss, Arlene Shore, came to her with a proposition. She asked her if she would consider coming back to work for one or two afternoons a week. It would just be computer work, not patient care so it wouldn’t take walking around. Sherri could not believe it. There she was, straight from a car wreck, weighing in at over 425 pounds and someone wanted her. Sherri desperately needed some income. Child support and disability just barely covered the bills.
The job gave Sherri a reason to get dressed and have a purpose. She said her boss, Arlene Shore, was and continues to be an amazing source of support and motivation for her. Arlene suggested that Sherri get on a plan of vitamin therapy. Sherri said vitamin D made the biggest impact on her. She feels the vitamin helped her wake up, she felt like the lights were on again inside of her body and brain. She wanted to live again. She wanted to get healthy. She pulled deep down into the Sherri she once was, the one that got a college degree despite all odds and found that part of her that was not a quitter. The part of her that would watch a bad movie till the end because once she started something she had to see it through to the end. Sitting in that office she decided she would regain her health, she would not quit and she would not let the fat rule her life. She would work on her demons that she had stuffed deep down inside of her and throw them out one at a time just as she would get rid of the weight one pound at a time. At first she did not say anything to Arlene or anyone. She did not want to jinx herself. Her life had felt like a snowball rolling down hill in the wrong direction, suddenly it felt like a snowball rolling up hill in the right direction.
Obese individuals have lower levels of vitamin D which results in all sorts of problems plus leading to more weight gain. To read more about vitamin D and obesity go to www.ask.com/wiki/Hypovitaminosis_D?
Sherri also submerses herself in Christian music. She gets positive tweets from Joyce Meyers, Nancy Pankcratz and Jeanne Mayo. They come to her phone so that during the day, she gets short positive boosts. A very serious look crossed Sherri’s face and she looked me in the eye and said, “I cannot emphasize enough how often I talk to God. I don't attend church on a regular basis but I have immersed myself in positive spiritual messages.”
To date Sherri has lost 155 pounds. The first 50 just dropped off….the next sixty she lost on Weight Watchers and the rest she has lost by making up her own plan based on Weight Watchers. The 155 pound weight loss has allowed her to wear real clothes again and walk with a cane. When she looked at a picture of herself at 425 and a picture of herself now the difference is amazing.
The Gabriel Method
Sherri has also used the book called The Gabriel Method on dieting to lose weight and stay motivated. This book is not about dieting but gets into what makes a person fat. It is where Sherri learned that fat is safe. The book deals with 10 traumas in a person’s life that would cause them to seek eating and to gain weight. Of the 10 listed, Sherri lived 8 of them. She learned she has not had a normal life. This book gave her affirmation not to beat herself up about the weight but to work on the things that happened to her and to deal with them one by one. The following is a list of the burdens Sherri has had to face in her life and one by one she is facing them and putting them to rest so she no longer has to hold on to them in the form of fat.
- Teased in school
- Her father died when she was 8
- She was raped at 12
- She had an abortion at 18
- Her son was very ill and almost died
- She had a controlling mother
- She had a domineering husband
- Financial issues
At 425 pounds and dealing with depression Sherri neither had the motivation nor the energy to clean her house. She let it go for 4 years. She said it looked like a hoarder lived there. During that time she had to tell her brother not to come over. She was ashamed at how dirty it was. She took it room by room and cleaned it up. She is no longer ashamed of her home. She is not proud yet because it has holes in the walls that need repaired, painting that needs done, and many other minor repairs. She just has to figure out how to pull her finances together and work on one little repair at a time as money will allow. But she says she is figuring it out. She is not a quitter and she will work until she has a home she is proud of again.
Sherri knew to keep motivated in her weight loss journey and to continue to get more emotionally healthy she had to learn to reach out and trust people. Arlene had proved to her that there are people in this world you can trust. Arlene encouraged her to join the Enid Toastmasters group, Enid Speaker of the Plains. Arlene was even going to pay her dues.
Sherri had never joined a club in her life. She thought clubs were full of snotty people who would not accept her. She thought all they would see would still be an overweight redhead walking with a cane. They would not know how far she came or would care. She stepped out of her comfort zone anyway, tossed her fear aside, and walked into her first Toastmasters meeting in Enid, Ok. one year ago.
She sat in that first meeting not saying a word. But to her surprise, everyone seemed nice and sincere. They invited her back. She decided she would give it a shot and returned the next week.
Sherri has come so far in one year. She made great friends with the Toastmasters. Every Thursday night after the meeting she goes with a group to a restaurant called Panavinos in Enid. There she laughs and cries with her friends. People that she knows are her friends rain or shine. The kind of friends she used to always wonder if she was worthy of. She has earned her Competent Communicator certification. That is earned by giving 10 speeches with specific goals in each speech. All these accomplishments are quite a feat from a lady who was afraid to stand in front of a group of people a year ago. She has also been elected President for 2013. Quite an accomplishment for anyone, and Sherri did it one meeting at a time, one speech at a time, one confidence building victory at a time.
Sherri has also reached out on Facebook. It has allowed her the chance to test the waters with making new friends and flirting a little too. She also plays games to keep from eating. Sherri said, “People on Facebook have encouraged me and at times been my life saver when I needed to reach out. Someone was always there in the cyber world to help me feel like I was ok.”
The past, the present, the future
Sherri is working on taking the negative events of her past, facing them head on, and then considering them garbage and putting them in the trash so they will haunt her no more.
Sherri is working on living in the present. She strives to make each day better than the one before. She prays. She continues to lose weight. She focuses on it one pound at a time rather the 100 still ahead of her. She goes to Toastmasters, she hangs with her friends, she loves her children, but most of all she has learned to love herself.
For the future Sherri is setting goals. She is ready for a relationship again. She is figuring out how to help others with her story.
Sherri wants anyone who is going through what she has to know that there is hope. She wants people to know life is not about bad luck, or bad karma, or about other people blaming you for all the wrong in their life…that no one can take the hope away from you and with hope you can succeed one step at a time.