Before she embarked on an amazing weight-loss journey in which she dropped roughly 150 pounds, Dee Rubina wrote herself a letter.
The letter, a three-pager that would prove crucial in her battle of the bulge, detailed the many compelling reasons why she wanted to lose weight.
"Every little reason and all the big reasons — I wrote them all down," the 5-foot-2 resident of Charlotte, N.C., recalls in a phone interview.
The reasons ranged from wanting to have children and wanting to feel good about herself to wanting to shop in regular clothing stores and wanting to wear regular shoes.
"And then I reminded myself continuously why I was doing this," she explains. "I read that letter so many times over the next seven years to refocus myself because every day was not perfect. I did gain some weight back and then lose some. It wasn’t all smooth sailing."
The day Rubina penned that letter, circa 2002, she was 23 years old and weighed in at 293 pounds.
Back then, she felt like a total failure when it came to her weight.
"That was the one thing in my life I couldn’t conquer," she adds. "I truly believed that I could not do it, that it was just my plight, that I would always be big."
But with the miserable milestone of 300 pounds waiting for her "just around the corner," Rubina vowed to change her ways — one small step at a time.
She modified her diet and got more physical. Gradually.
During her nearly decade-long weight-loss phase, Rubina’s workouts progressed from walking a short distance — from one street light to the next in the beginning — to doing as much as four hours a day of a variety of intense activity, including martial-arts-style exercise, running, dancing and group cardio classes.
For the last 16 months, Rubina has also been employing a relatively new weight-loss weapon in her workplace: a TrekDesk — a combination treadmill and adjustable workstation featured in this column in November 2009.
The marketing manager at water-filtration company Filters Fast logs an average of 10 miles (16 km) per workday at a leisurely pace of 1-2 mph.
"Walking at work on the TrekDesk is as natural as anything," she says, estimating she burns 1,000 calories per shift. "At 10 miles a day, you can do that every day. You’re not sore. You don’t sweat. It’s just like any other day in the office."
Rubina discovered the TrekDesk while searching online for a way to overcome the eight or more daily hours she spent sitting at her new desk job.
At the time, circa January 2011, the former stay-at-home mom was still about 40 pounds shy of her goal weight. She was concerned she no longer had enough time for her lengthy workouts and her progress would unravel.
But those worries faded away once she convinced her health-conscious boss to set her up with a $1,000 TrekDesk.
Rubina soon reached her target. She has maintained her weight at around 143 pounds ever since.
"I call the TrekDesk my No. 1 maintenance tool," she says, noting she has inspired six co-workers to get TrekDesks, too. "You’re doing it and you’re not even thinking about it. You don’t have to motivate yourself to go do anything besides get to work, which is something people do every day anyway."
These days, the 33-year-old is seven months’ pregnant with her third child. Already a healthy role model to her two sons — 7 and 4 years old — Rubina is due to give birth to a girl July 2.
Tackling her post-pregnancy weight this summer will be her next challenge in what is now a lifelong commitment to health and fitness.
Besides the roughly 40 hours a week Rubina spends on her TrekDesk, she burns calories in a variety of other ways, including swimming and running around with her boys.
She hints that her next personal conquest might be weight training.
"I try to change it up," she explains. "If something gets stale or I don’t like it anymore, I don’t pressure myself to stick with it. I just go to the next thing, something else that’s fun."
That old letter, meanwhile, is tucked away in a box of keepsakes.
"I don’t read it regularly now because I have closed the door on that chapter of my life," she adds. "Having said that, I pretty much have it memorized so the memory of that time in my life will be there forever."
Excerpt from the letter:
I feel so miserable right now because I don’t believe in myself at all. I seriously don’t think I can do this. I know they say I have to love myself first and put myself first but I’m just not up to it.
I hope I can get there somehow. It isn’t even like I hate myself now! I’m just fat and I don’t want to be. I mean, I can still believe that I am a good person and funny and smart and all that but this is the one thing I just cannot do right. It seems so easy for other people and that pisses me all the way off.
I am going to lose this weight because I am so sick of thinking about it. I just want to be free from this. And I also want to wear cute outfits and have the option of super short hair without my head looking like a bowling ball.
I didn’t even go to the friggin’ wedding party because I grew out of the shirt between the time I bought it and the party. How does that happen? I just feel like a failure.
So, skinny me, when you read this, know that you don’t ever want to be here again. Enjoy wearing whatever you want.
Oh, and go rock climbing and running. Go right into any store you want and buy something right off the rack.
I have to do this because I want to have kids and be happy. I want to look at a picture of myself and think, "Yep, that’s me," instead of "Who is that girl?" and then realize it’s me and I actually look like that.
I am going to do this because I already tried the eat-whatever-I-want route and it made me feel like this, so I know eating isn’t worth it.