by Nancy Ballard as told to Elise Ballard 

“If we don’t love ourselves, it makes it very difficult to love someone else.”—Nancy Ballard

I lived a life of obesity—of weight gain, weight loss, weight gain, over and over again. Anyone who has battled with obesity understands that. I also have diabetes, which is common with obesity. I understand how they are related because of my nursing background, but in spite of my knowledge and awareness of the great danger to my health, I could not control my weight. I would have periods when I’d lose some weight and be okay, but I never conquered it. It was always a monster waiting for me to weaken. I would lose fifty pounds and then gain sixty; lose one hundred pounds, then gain 150. I have been on every diet you can imagine, starting in middle school.

In winter 2006 when I went to the doctor, I weighed over three hundred pounds, which was completely shocking and unacceptable to me. I went on a diet, and over several months, I lost a grand total of ten pounds.

One day around this time, I was sitting in the living room, and I just began to pray and tell the Lord that I knew that I had to lose weight, but that I couldn’t do it. I said, “You know, I have been trying to do this all of my life and I just simply cannot do it. So if You want it to happen, You’re going to have to do it.”

I said that prayer for a few days, and then I changed my prayer to one for healing, “Just heal me. I don’t want to be sick and die, or be chronically ill and unable to be the person I want to be, so just heal me.” And then a few days later I changed that prayer to a prayer of thanksgiving and said, “Thank you, Lord, for healing me.” And that was a prayer of faith, because it hadn’t happened. I was not yet healed, but I knew that it was going to happen.

It was June 19, 2006, a few days after this final prayer, and I was sitting in front of the TV. I did a lot of sitting in those days. Oprah came on, and the show was on weight management, which caught my attention. I watched that program from beginning to end. Most of the way, all I could do was sit and shake my head. Because I knew—I knew it all. I knew that I had to cut down what I ate; that I had to eat the right things; that I had to be active. I knew that my problem was causing high blood pressure, and that it had certainly created a bad case of diabetes. It was a must that I lose weight. But I also knew that I couldn’t do it.

Then during the last part of the program, the very end, there was a guest on—a lady in her fifties, and I was in my fifties at the time. This woman had lost 160 pounds, and Oprah asked her, “How did you do it?”

She said, “Well, I got up one day, and I tied my shoes. I went outside and walked. I did it for an hour. And I did that every day.” And she lost 160 pounds.

I sat up straight in my chair, and I said, “I can do that.” That was the first time I’d ever said “I can.” I always said, “I want to…I wish I would…I’m going to try…maybe this time…what else can I do?” But never “I can.”

One thing I had decided was that I would never again lose large amounts of weight until I found a way that would be permanent. I said that after the second time I lost one hundred pounds on Weight Watchers and then just gained it all back. I didn’t want to do that again. I didn’t want to do any of the well-advertised programs because I knew that their results wouldn’t last for me. But this woman’s testimony on Oprah’s show gave me incredible hope.

As soon as the show was over, I got up, tied my shoes, and walked out my front door. And I kept walking—not an easy thing to do, because I weighed almost three hundred pounds, and it was a typical humid Texas summer day of 105 degrees. I walked for thirty minutes, checked my watch, then turned around and walked the thirty-minute return trip home. When I walked in the front door pouring sweat, I knew that I had changed, and I would never go back to living the lifestyle I’d been living for the past fifty-nine years.

It was dinnertime. I went into the kitchen and found something healthy to eat. I never told anyone about it, but I just simply started living my life differently. Within a year, I had lost 140 pounds. That was three years and three and a half months ago that I started changing my lifestyle, and it has been two years and three and a half months that I’ve kept off that weight.

I was also on large doses of diabetes medication, including insulin. I had been told that I needed to increase my injections from twice a day to five times a day, including a lot of blood testing and meal planning. All this was more than I could manage with my teaching and my lifestyle, so I faced a choice: get sicker or get well. Gradually, six months after my Oprah epiphany, after starting to walk and to eat differently, I was off the insulin. Before the end of the year, I was also off one of the other medications, which was very expensive. And just in the last three months, I’ve gone off the last medication I’d been on for diabetes. I’ll always have diabetes, but now I know how to control it with diet and exercise alone.

My life has changed. I’m healthy and I continue to heal. This journey has been miraculous for me, and the trigger was the Oprah show that day. I believe God used that, because I didn’t sit down and turn on the TV to watch Oprah. I was sitting there and the show came on, and obesity was the topic, so He used that. It was a gift. It was the answer that God was giving me to my prayer, and He continues to answer that prayer as I learn new ways to promote wellness and good health.

I live a life now of excitement and happiness. I can look in the mirror and not be ashamed. I’m more energetic. I’m much more active with my children and grandchildren, and they’re very excited about that! I can do more around the home in addition to working full-time.

It also has affected my relationship with my husband in a deep and positive way. Do you know, my husband, Herb, never said one word to me about losing weight during our entire thirty-six-year marriage? I knew deep in my heart that it must be hard for him to have an obese woman next to him. But he never gave me any clue that that was the case. He knew that I did not need to be told. I knew what my problem was. And when I did lose the weight, I didn’t lose it for him. I lost it for myself. I have learned to love myself. If you don’t love yourself, it makes it very difficult to love someone else. Through this transformation, I came to a much deeper appreciation for Herb and his support and love. We have definitely grown closer, and our love seems to get stronger and more perfect each day.

Nancy Ballard is a registered nurse with a master’s degree in nursing and education and has been a clinical instructor in community health at the University of Texas at Tyler’s College of Nursing since 2007. Her previous teaching positions included Tarrant County Junior College, Cooke County College in Gainesville, Texas, and Tyler Junior College. She is the mother of three and a grandmother of five and has been married to Herb Ballard for over half her life. She and her family reside in Tyler, Texas.

About the Epiphany Series:

This is an excerpt from the HEALINGS section of my book, Epiphany: True Stories of Sudden Insight to Inspire, Encourage, and Transform, a heartfelt journey full of amazing stories of fascinating people, from world-renowned figures, thought leaders, and performers—such as Maya Angelou, Dr. Oz, Desmond Tutu, Deepak Chopra and Barry Manilow—to former inmates, leading psychologists, teachers, homemakers, and many more. We’ve found these stories contain wisdom and insight that will inspire—or cause you to remember—your own epiphanies so we wanted to share pieces of them every week with you here on Positively Positive. You can also visit my website, EpiphanyChannel.comto learn more about the project and we invite you to share your epiphanies, too. To buy the book or read more, please CLICK HERE.