Updated: Oct 24
The day was forever etched in Joanie's memory. Put into a taxi by her parents for her first Weight Watchers meeting at just ten years old. After years of reinforcing unhealthy relationships with food and self, Joanie discovered something different with The Livy Method. Beyond the numbers, having now shed 50 pounds, Joanie's journey signifies a profound odyssey of self-discovery—one that teaches us that age and history shouldn't constrain our aspirations to truly love who we are. Through her story, we're reminded that embracing our past paves the way for a healthier and happier future, regardless of where the journey begins.
Your parents put you in a taxi at the age of 10 to go to your first Weight Watchers weigh-in. Tell us about that experience.
Yeah, unbelievable. It started to teach me at a very young age, Joanie, you're only beautiful when you're thinner because I got so much of that feedback. And one thing that came up during those times is when they would weigh, they'd have like an introduction thing, and then they go through roll call.
“Okay, who's lost less than a pound? Who's lost one to two? two to three?” Oh my God, and you'd stand up and then “Who stayed the same?” Well, if you stayed the same, you still got a clap.
So we had been on a holiday, my family and I, and I had gained two pounds. I was away for a week at a cottage, gained two pounds, and they called me up to the front. And a pig nose was put on me at ten years old. A pig nose! And, “Everybody,” they'd say, “Okay, now what do we say to Joanie?” “Oink, oink, oink!” And I think at that moment a deep shame set into my soul that it took me a long time to release that pain from that.
I'll never forget that moment. And I think that was honestly the start of my whole “I'm ashamed.” Like any time my weight was up then I was so ashamed of myself.
The neighbours all called me Porkchop. It was actually a neighbour that had suggested to my parents, ‘She's too big. She's too big for her age. You've got to do something about her.’ But then I got all the accolades and all this wonderful attention, like, Oh, look at, you've lost so much weight. I knew you had a pretty face under there. Oh, this is wonderful. And now I look back and think, Oh my goodness, what, like that was so detrimental to my heart.
Did you even see that you had an issue with your weight? Were you just okay with the way that you were? Let's talk about that. And how do you wish it would have been approached?
I absolutely hated myself as a child, as a teenager, and I'm going to say, right up until around the age of 50 when I started to have a big revelation: 'You don't love yourself, girl!' I had a very deep self-loathing. My biggest regret as a parent was always being behind the camera taking the picture. I was like, "Oh, I'm not going in the photo - I'll take it of you guys because I'm too fat."
"WEIGHT WATCHERS STARTED TO TEACH ME AT A VERY YOUNG AGE, 'JOANIE, YOU'RE ONLY BEAUTIFUL WHEN YOU'RE THINNER.'"
How do you think parents should approach the topic of healthy eating with their children?
I changed my parenting. I always had healthy food available for my children and you know, tried to lead by example, because growing up, we did not eat healthy. My mom struggled to make a meal sometimes. Grilled cheese and tomato soup was something that I remember eating all the time. Celery and carrots were when we had company. It wasn't a staple in our home; it wasn't something that we kept.
I made it my mission as a parent and now as a grandparent. You've got to have that stuff readily available. Don’t make chips and sweets and stuff like that ‘Red Light’ foods. That's so evil. They're just there, and you can have them on a special occasion.
It can be your birthday, and you have a piece of cake, and it's delicious. But you know, you don't need it every day.
What's your relationship with food? How was your relationship in the past and what's the difference now after going through the weight loss program?
So as a child, food was my absolute best friend, my comfort. My mom had a manic depressive disorder. They now call it bipolar and she just really struggled with life. So I was the youngest of four, and that was hard for her. And often she would just be like, you know what? You just need to get out of here.
And she would hand me the jar of peanut butter and a spoon. And, like, to this day, that's my trigger. If something goes wrong, it's like, Oh my God, I need the peanut butter now. It just became my comfort, my everything. And, since the program, it's like, I love food, it's great, but I no longer use it with my emotions.
I used to eat when I was happy, eat when I was sad, all over the map. And now it's like, no, I'm nourishing my body. We have to eat, and we may as well enjoy what we're eating. I don't feel deprived on this program. It's just incredible.
"I ABSOLUTELY HATED MYSELF FOR MOST OF MY LIFE. AS A CHILD, AS A TEENAGER, AND UP UNTIL AROUND THE AGE OF 50 I HAD A BIG REVELATION. I HAD A VERY DEEP SELF-LOATHING. "
You've moved from food meaning love to using it as nourishment. But what has the journey been with your relationship with food?
I had not had a healthy relationship for most of my life, to be very honest. I started seeing a counsellor at about age 16, and we touched on it a little bit, it didn't go deep enough, and I wasn't ready to go deep enough. As an adult now it's like, wow, didn't somebody see that? I went to a psychiatrist at one point, and he said, you know what, honey, you worry too much about your weight. He gave me a ten-dollar bill and told me to go to the Dairy Queen around the corner. I'm like, what just happened? Now it's like I look back and go, what?!
I used it to cope with some very traumatic things as a teenager, as a new mom, and for anything that came up, food was still my go-to. And honestly, the worse it was for me, the more I ate, it was almost like I was sabotaging myself that whole time. Like, oh yeah, chips. They're terrible for me. Okay. I think I'll eat a bag.
What would you say to people who view food as the enemy, afraid to eat fruit, afraid to eat nuts, afraid to eat fat? Like, how did you get to a good place with that?
For me, I look at my body like a temple. Like we are given this vessel, and in order for this vessel to work properly and to do what we want it to do, we have to have food, and we have to have water, and we need variety too. So you know, you don't look at fruit like the enemy. Fruit is natural, it's you know, it comes from a plant.
It's like, oh, okay, well that's going to nourish this vessel of mine. I am going to be healthier because I'm eating this. And the same with fats, one of the happiest moments for me was when I read your book for the first time. I'm like, we can have nuts? Are you kidding me? A nut snack? Those are like 5,000 calories!
You know, that's all you know with Weight Watchers. I would have never eaten a nut because it would have been all my points for the day, likely. And so, you know, now it's like, you do not ever see me without my little nut snack in my purse.
It's such a complicated relationship when you use food to cope, to soothe, or whatever you use it for. Then, when you're trying to lose weight, you're trying to eat less of it. Can you summarize how you got yourself to a place where you're feeling more reconciled with your relationship with food?
Yeah so, I had a really bad car accident in 2006, and I was in a hospital bed for months, and my chiropractor said to me, ‘Joanie I don't know how to say this, but your weight is going up, and I see your emotions going down’. I met someone who's willing to come to your home cause I had a broken pelvis. I couldn't get out of my bed. And I think that you need to talk to her. And I thought, well okay what have I got to lose? I'm in a hospital bed, right? Sure. So she opened an entire new world for me.
She was different than anyone I had ever met or that I'd ever worked with. She taught me so much about self-care, meditation, energy work, and all these tools. I have this huge toolbox now, tools that, you know, when something goes wrong, I can go, well, you know what, I could use my tools. So we worked together for a few years, and it was absolutely life-changing, incredible. And I started to go, wow, I am worthy. I am worthy of the time to take care of myself. And that was so powerful because up until then I didn't feel like I was.
You gotta love the skin you're in, no matter what you weigh. If you're out there and you're weighing 350 pounds, so what? You're beautiful. You're so worthy. If you're 120, woohoo. Love yourself there too. I finally realized that I deserve to fulfill my dreams to be joyful.
You need a healthy relationship with yourself. And then it, I think it comes naturally then to have that healthy relationship with the food and the scale. And it's taken a lot of work. I'm not going to lie.
So you're down 50 pounds. Are you getting close to your goal? Or, have you reached your goal and are in maintenance?
Where are you at in your weight loss journey?
I would like to lose about 40 more pounds. I'm totally in it to win it. Whenever it happens! I've already signed up for the next group.
In the past, I did a really fast weight loss. I lost 160 pounds in about a year, and my body shut down. It was way too fast, and I ended up having a hysterectomy because of it. It affected my mental health, and it's really when I started having a very unhealthy relationship with the scale, and I was on that scale, honestly, at least 100 times a day.
I would have a drink of water, and then I better weigh myself. I'm going to eat my lunch. I better weigh myself. Oh, I went for a walk. Now. I bet you I'm down. Oh, I better weigh myself, and it wasn't until I started your program. I just thought this has to change Joanie. And you did a talk about how it's just a tool. And I decided to put my trust in you and in me.
And I started stepping on that scale every day. And honestly, when I was first doing it, I was shaking like a leaf. I'd be like, oh, I can't look! Okay. I'm on it, but I'm not going to look. I'm not gonna look at the number. Because I was so afraid of going back there. I have not. It's been so healthy.
It is one of my most favourite non-scale victories. I love that little piece of metal. It tells me, okay, Joanie, you know what? You had some salty stuff yesterday, and you're up a bit. I'm so, so grateful to have that relationship with the scale.
"I WENT TO A PSYCHIATRIST AT ONE POINT AND HE SAID, 'YOU KNOW WHAT, HONEY? YOU WORRY TOO MUCH ABOUT YOUR WEIGHT.' HE GAVE ME A $10 BILL AND TOLD ME TO GO THE DAIRY QUEEN AROUND THE CORNER. I'M LIKE, WAIT, WHAT JUST HAPPENED?"
People are terrified, and they don't want to get on the scale. It's like they feel it is defining their worth. They’re thinking they’re going to get on it and are going to be bummed and that it's going to ruin the whole day. We deal with this at the beginning of each new group. What's your advice for people who are nervous about getting on the scale?
Honestly, first of all, trust yourself and trust the program. You have been doing this for so long. You have helped so many people.
I think they just have to have the faith and just step on it. And, you know, it’s not the enemy. When I first started stepping on it, I was actually doing affirmations. As I was doing it “I am strong. I am, I am healthy.” The number on the scale does not define my worth. And I just kept repeating those over and over. As I was stepping on that scale, I looked at it as a friend, not the enemy. It's like, okay, this is such an incredible tool that we have. And honestly, now I visualize it. It’s just in my toolbox with all my other coping skills now. Oh, pull out the scale. Oh yeah. Okay. Well, here I am today. I'm down two, or I'm up one, and it’s okay. And I don't freak.
Just believe in yourself and know that you're worthy and that number means nothing to do with your efforts.
What do you think the secret sauce to the Livy Method is?
Honestly, it blows my mind that I paid 75 bucks and you are willing to go live like how many times a week. It's accessible, all the time on the podcast. You have these incredible guests. And then to share within the community and then you make new communities like now on Instagram. I have Instagram friends, and Facebook friends and I have Livy Loser friends. It’s incredible and all for 75 bucks.
When I think back, I swear I could buy a house with all the money I spent over the years. And when my chosen sister told me about this program, I thought, oh, here we go again. I'm going to have to ask Brad for a thousand bucks again. And she's like, it's 75, Joanie. I'm like, what? Are you kidding me? It just is a testament to your heart, and I think because you are so real, and we know you care and I love your F-bombs. It's like, oh my gosh, I could be friends with this woman. Like, oh my God, if you need an F-bomb, you say it! There are times when they're really warranted.
The other favourite thing about it is, I love the app, I love the intentions, and I love sharing in the group. I love reading other people's shares, and I love sharing in the group because there's such power in words.
"YOU NEED A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH YOURSELF. THEN IT COMES NATURALLY TO HAVE THAT HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD AND THE SCALE. IT'S TAKEN A LOT OF WORK FOR ME TO GET HERE."
I am so happy that you found us and I'm so grateful that you took the time to share your story with us. For our other Livy Losers who are working their way through the Program and at times, no doubt, will find the struggle bus sitting outside their house, what are your words of wisdom for them?
I use a little technique that I call Change The Story. So when you're struggling, and you're thinking, Oh, God, I'm up again.
Change the story, change the narrative, go, you know, instead of doing that, switch it around and go, wow, this is week nine. And I am still here, and I am kicking, but like, you know, so often we go to the negative, but just take that negative thought you're aware of it. Okay. Yeah, there it is. Yep. And then change it, change it to something that is positive. That is going to be for your highest good. I do that all the time. It's like, oh, no, that was a nasty thought. Okay, girl. Well, how about this? And for me, that's journaling, that's affirmations, that's, you know, and I've done a lot of mirror work.
That is one of the hardest things that you can do is look in that mirror and have a little chat with yourself. It is so healing. So when you're ready to hop on that struggle bus, talk to yourself, journal, and reach out. Cause you know what if you're feeling that, so is someone else. I just think sometimes we just feel so alone in our struggle and oh my God, you are not alone and you have so much support in this community with you, with your team, with each other, we're all here. We all have each other's backs.
And, Just for Fun...
What do you enjoy most about being a Livy Loser?
I love the Support and guidance we receive from Gina & the Team as well as our Community. The lives, special guests, and Spill the Tea segments are also top-notch!
If you could give advice to your younger self, what would that be?
I would tell my younger self to be so proud of my strength, kind heart, and perseverance. I would tell her that she is truly beautiful inside and out.
What's your favourite music to listen to?
My favourite artists are Bob Seger and The Eagles! I really like every and all types of music though! I am always dancing whether it be to my Grandson's favourite songs or to Mama Mia!! I also love Owen Rieigling, an up-and-coming singer and songwriter from my hometown!!