Wellness over weight

Wellness over weight


Christine Min Wotipka, PhD, associate professor of Education and (by courtesy) Sociology at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, describes for BeWell the challenges and rewards of her journey toward weight loss. Her story reminds us that when wellness, not weight per se, is the overall goal, shedding the pounds follows more successfully and consistently.


As a faculty member with two young children, a spouse, a dog, and an endless “To Do List,” I am often stressed out —  but who isn’t on this campus? This stress, combined with a sedentary job and access to dorm food in the undergraduate residence where my husband and I serve as resident fellows, made it difficult for me to return to my pre-children weight. Although still within the range of Normal weight — but moving closer to the Overweight category, worrying about my health only added to my anxiety levels. Something had to change.


Tempted by the monetary incentives and hopes of losing a few pounds, I began participating in BeWell@Stanford to give me an understanding of my baseline level of health, set some goals, and enroll in a meditation and weight management class. This was happening at a time of tremendous personal self-reflection and transformation; I was up for a promotion, turning 40, and letting go of the religion into which I was born and raised. I look back now and call this, only half-jokingly, my “first” mid-life crisis!


Given what I was going through in my life, it is no wonder that adding the pressure of losing a few pounds not only made me more stressed out, but also wrecked my weight-loss plans: I not only failed to lose any weight, I ended up adding a few more pounds! This disheartening experience made me realize that the path to wellness is a process involving a number of stages. Change cannot happen all at once. I knew I had to get to the “root of the problem” that was adding to my daily stress levels before I could achieve my weight-loss goals. Once I did this, I had a much better level of self-awareness, which nurtured my desire for true self-care and wellness in the deepest sense. I no longer needed to turn to food for nourishment.


Over the past year, I have lost close to 10 pounds by eating smaller portions of healthy foods. In addition, I have made small steps to increase my daily activity levels. Getting a dog that enjoys twice-daily walks has helped, as has giving my students the option to “walk-and-talk” rather than simply sitting when we meet for office hours. I also make it a point to walk the Dish at least once a week, either alone with my own thoughts or to catch up with a friend or two. Fortunately, my family supports me in my efforts. My husband takes our children out on their bicycles and walks the dog when I need time to myself.


BeWell@Stanford has helped me focus on my overall wellness rather than just on weight loss/management. This holistic approach connects well with my approach to life. I feel fortunate to be supported in this way at Stanford.