Kripalu Guest Stories: Janine Dowling
Seven years ago, when I hit my mid-30s, the weight really started to pile on. Last spring, in addition to being overweight, I was stressed from a hectic work schedule and dealing with the loss of two grandparents and my mom’s failing health. It all snowballed and brought me to the lowest point of my whole life. So when I saw that Kripalu’s Integrative Weight Loss program started on my birthday, I decided it was the perfect present I could give myself.
I’d dabbled in yoga and tried all kinds of diets, with varying amounts of success. But I’d never been to a retreat center, and I was nervous: Would I be the biggest woman in the room? Would I feel like the last kid chosen on the playground? But I said to myself, “Relax. Just go and see what it’s like.” After that, my heart was really open to it, and when I got there it was so easy. Everybody was so welcoming and exuded a sense of peace. It had been so long since I had felt anything like that, and I immediately felt safe. With great relief, I found that the program wasn’t all serious, but filled with lighthearted moments and truly compassionate people. I wound up sharing things with the group I never thought I would.
The teachers’ approach resonated with me from the start. They never told me what I wasn’t supposed to eat, but told me all the things I could eat. They were gentle and straightforward—with no gimmicks—and that felt very respectful. Being there for five days let me practice eating in this new way, while trying yoga classes and learning how to take care of my body. With a nutritionist, I created an eating and exercise plan that I’ve followed ever since.
Ten months later, I’ve lost 58 pounds and it feels wonderful. A few months ago, I hit a plateau in my weight loss, so I returned to Kripalu for Integrative Weight Loss: The Next Step to learn more about nutrition and more about myself. This let me go deeper and figure out areas where I still had difficulty eating well and how to be gentler with myself. It worked: I returned home six pounds lighter.
Now I have about 15 pounds left to lose, and I keep at it. I don’t count calories, but cut out processed food, eat 8–10 servings of vegetables a day, and watch my portions. I stopped dabbling in yoga and delved into it. I meditate. My body, and my whole being, took to this lifestyle change so readily, and the weight has come off so easily, I know I need to treat myself this way for the rest of my life. It feels so natural to change to a Kripalu way of eating and living that on days when I don’t get to eat well and exercise, my body longs for it. The biggest change is one I never saw coming: I don’t crave chocolate anymore; I crave yoga.
—Janine Dowling, Boston, Massachusetts