First Person Singular: Jenny Craig consultant Heather Nielsen

Name: Heather Nielsen<br>Occupation: Jenny Craig, Leesburg, assistant director<br> Home: Winchester  |  Age: 30
Name: Heather Nielsen
Occupation: Jenny Craig, Leesburg, assistant director
Home: Winchester | Age: 30 (Benjamin C. Tankersley)
Sunday, February 21, 2010

I gained 80 pounds during my second pregnancy and could not get the weight off. I felt completely separated from my body; it just didn't even seem like mine. I'd never had to worry about weight. Even after my first child, I could still eat men under the table. My husband would watch me eat -- and eat -- and just be shocked at how small I stayed. But that small woman didn't leave the hospital.

Jenny Craig was my last resort. I tried every single diet in the entire world. I hated them. I don't do deprivation well. So when people come here convinced they're failures, I know exactly how that feels. I failed and failed and failed. People walk in with a lot of shame. They make fun of themselves and put themselves down -- they want to beat you to the punch. They think they should have been able to do this on their own. But you know what? I couldn't, and I tell them that right off the bat.

My manager recently found my "before" picture. I don't recognize that person, not just the size of her, but the kind of woman who hides behind her kids in photos. The one who makes her family eat their veggies and drink water all day and then sneaks off to Sonic. I actually don't like to look at it, but before and after pictures are powerful, so I keep it up for clients. It makes me realize how much of a fog I was in, just going through the motions. In my mind, I was a fat stay-at-home mom, not Heather. I didn't want to go anywhere or do anything -- I mean anything.

I go on hikes with my husband -- that's a date now. Before, he'd be gone all day hiking, and I couldn't schlep along if I wanted to. I'm no longer a hypocrite to my kids. I eat the healthy stuff I make them eat. I teach step aerobics! Me!

Being a client and working here can be a tricky balance. It's not like I stay up at night biting my fingernails worried that they'll see I slipped. I like that kind of positive pressure. What's harder is not getting pulled back into the emotions and the mind-set of being out of control. When you're hearing that someone binged that day and you're having a bad day, too, you have to step back and say: "Okay, that does not give me permission to go home and eat a can of Spaghettios." I've come too far to let their triggers be my triggers. I'm not going back.

Interview by Amanda Long

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