Decades after ‘Jumbo Janet,’ 63-year-old drops 170 pounds article in The Daily Herald by Burt Constable

That childhood moment when Jan Wilke realized she was a fat girl remains painful enough to rekindle the 63-year-old Grayslake grandmother’s tears. Just a kid having fun, she and her friend, Cece, a little blond waif, were playing in front of a vanity when the young girls glimpsed their reflections in the mirror.

“It was kind of like looking at a Chihuahua and a St. Bernard,” Wilke remembers. “I didn’t know I was fat until then.”

Having lost 170 pounds since 2013, an energetic Wilke no longer fits the nickname hung on her after another memorable humiliation in second grade.

“I broke the stupid desk,” Wilke says, recalling her classmates’ laughter when she snapped the back off the attached chair. “It was the funniest thing you’d think they ever saw. They called me Jumbo Janet. I have been a big girl all my life.”

The daughter of former Lake County radio host Verne Buland and his wife, Dorothy, she remembers wanting to join all the other girls in ballet class, only to have her mother gently explain, “I don’t think we could find a leotard to fit you.”

Her mom made most of her clothes. The few pants she bought in stores carried the “Chubby Girl” label.

“My dad used to say, ‘We’re big pants people,'” says Wilke, whose closets used to be home to an assortment of extra-large pants boasting sizes up to 34 and 5X.

An endless string of diets produced fleeting moments of success.

“I lost 90 pounds one year in high school,” remembers Wilke, who graduated from Grayslake High School in 1969. A talented artist who studied fashion design, she probably weighed only 140 pounds when she met her future husband, Gary Wilke. Still struggling with her fitness before and after pregnancies that produced daughters Jenny, Mandy and Becky, Wilke gained more weight after Mandy was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 5.

“A lot of it had to do with Mandy,” Gary Wilke says, remembering how his wife quit her three-pack-a-day cigarette habit cold turkey on May 1, 1983, the day the cancer was diagnosed. Living at the hospital, the stressed mom ate poorly and often, and her weight shot above 300 pounds. It was an effort just to get out of her chair.

“When she could get up, she couldn’t walk,” says her husband, a 62-year-old Vietnam War veteran who has weighed about 175 pounds for decades. “She’d get big and then she lose it. Then she’d get big again.”

Mandy recovered and now lives in Elgin. Jenny is married with kids and lives in New Jersey. Becky and her husband, Jonathan Polit, and their young son, Bradley, live with the Wilkes in Grayslake.

When she turned 40 and weighed about 320 pounds, Jan Wilke tried another new weight-loss program. “Here we go again,” her husband admits to thinking, as his wife soon gained back the weight she lost. Her food issues became worse eight years ago when the couple moved from their house in Wisconsin to the old family home in Grayslake to take care of her widowed mother, who had developed Alzheimer’s.

“Food became my best friend,” says Jan Wilke, adding that she became distant from friends and reluctant to be with people. She’d eat four huge peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a day, as well as processed snacks. Joining a few weight-loss programs, she remembers she and other overweight people seeing a fit woman and thinking, “We would give anything — except what we were eating — to be that size.”

An excellent seamstress, she was taking in some pants in 2013 for a female friend who had lost weight and heard the woman credit Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating. On May 14, 2013, Wilke recorded her weight at 299.8 pounds and ate her first Seattle Sutton meal. She still cooked for her husband, mother and Becky’s family, but she ate the prepared meals from Seattle Sutton and nothing else.

“The first week I lost 10 pounds,” Wilke says, adding that she paid $150 for 21 meals a week. More importantly, she says she learned how to eat healthy foods. By the time her mother died in June, Wilke was zeroing in on her goal of losing half her body weight. When she reached that target, she made a commercial video for Seattle Sutton. By her 63rd birthday in October, she had dropped 170 pounds and her weight has remained around 130 pounds since.

“I could never do this before,” Wilke says as she dances in the family living room with 2-year-old Bradley to “The Gummy Bear Song” on TV. “You do this several times a day, and you don’t need to exercise. I have never ever felt as good as I feel right now.”

For most people, losing 170 pounds of unneeded fat is slang for getting a divorce. The Wilkes have been together through four decades. “He has been with me through thick and through thin,” Jan Wilke says. “Mostly thick.”

In her parents’ old bedroom, converted to the “Jan Cave” with all her sewing equipment and food diaries, Jan Wilke still has files filled with decades of healthy recipes she promised to make someday and stylish clothes she promised to wear. Now she can.

“Being thin and healthy was a place I always dreamed of going, but I couldn’t get to it,” Wilke says. “Finally, I am in the place I always dreamed to be. Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.”

Having lost 170 pounds since 2013, an energetic Wilke no longer fits the nickname hung on her after another memorable humiliation in second grade.

“I broke the stupid desk,” Wilke says, recalling her classmates’ laughter when she snapped the back off the attached chair. “It was the funniest thing you’d think they ever saw. They called me Jumbo Janet. I have been a big girl all my life.”

The daughter of former Lake County radio host Verne Buland and his wife, Dorothy, she remembers wanting to join all the other girls in ballet class, only to have her mother gently explain, “I don’t think we could find a leotard to fit you.”

Her mom made most of her clothes. The few pants she bought in stores carried the “Chubby Girl” label.

“My dad used to say, ‘We’re big pants people,'” says Wilke, whose closets used to be home to an assortment of extra-large pants boasting sizes up to 34 and 5X.

An endless string of diets produced fleeting moments of success.

“I lost 90 pounds one year in high school,” remembers Wilke, who graduated from Grayslake High School in 1969. A talented artist who studied fashion design, she probably weighed only 140 pounds when she met her future husband, Gary Wilke. Still struggling with her fitness before and after pregnancies that produced daughters Jenny, Mandy and Becky, Wilke gained more weight after Mandy was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 5.

“A lot of it had to do with Mandy,” Gary Wilke says, remembering how his wife quit her three-pack-a-day cigarette habit cold turkey on May 1, 1983, the day the cancer was diagnosed. Living at the hospital, the stressed mom ate poorly and often, and her weight shot above 300 pounds. It was an effort just to get out of her chair.

“When she could get up, she couldn’t walk,” says her husband, a 62-year-old Vietnam War veteran who has weighed about 175 pounds for decades. “She’d get big and then she lose it. Then she’d get big again.”

Mandy recovered and now lives in Elgin. Jenny is married with kids and lives in New Jersey. Becky and her husband, Jonathan Polit, and their young son, Bradley, live with the Wilkes in Grayslake.

When she turned 40 and weighed about 320 pounds, Jan Wilke tried another new weight-loss program. “Here we go again,” her husband admits to thinking, as his wife soon gained back the weight she lost. Her food issues became worse eight years ago when the couple moved from their house in Wisconsin to the old family home in Grayslake to take care of her widowed mother, who had developed Alzheimer’s.

“Food became my best friend,” says Jan Wilke, adding that she became distant from friends and reluctant to be with people. She’d eat four huge peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a day, as well as processed snacks. Joining a few weight-loss programs, she remembers she and other overweight people seeing a fit woman and thinking, “We would give anything — except what we were eating — to be that size.”

An excellent seamstress, she was taking in some pants in 2013 for a female friend who had lost weight and heard the woman credit Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating. On May 14, 2013, Wilke recorded her weight at 299.8 pounds and ate her first Seattle Sutton meal. She still cooked for her husband, mother and Becky’s family, but she ate the prepared meals from Seattle Sutton and nothing else.

“The first week I lost 10 pounds,” Wilke says, adding that she paid $150 for 21 meals a week. More importantly, she says she learned how to eat healthy foods. By the time her mother died in June, Wilke was zeroing in on her goal of losing half her body weight. When she reached that target, she made a commercial video for Seattle Sutton. By her 63rd birthday in October, she had dropped 170 pounds and her weight has remained around 130 pounds since.

“I could never do this before,” Wilke says as she dances in the family living room with 2-year-old Bradley to “The Gummy Bear Song” on TV. “You do this several times a day, and you don’t need to exercise. I have never ever felt as good as I feel right now.”

For most people, losing 170 pounds of unneeded fat is slang for getting a divorce. The Wilkes have been together through four decades. “He has been with me through thick and through thin,” Jan Wilke says. “Mostly thick.”

In her parents’ old bedroom, converted to the “Jan Cave” with all her sewing equipment and food diaries, Jan Wilke still has files filled with decades of healthy recipes she promised to make someday and stylish clothes she promised to wear. Now she can.

“Being thin and healthy was a place I always dreamed of going, but I couldn’t get to it,” Wilke says. “Finally, I am in the place I always dreamed to be. Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.”

Feelin’ Groovy :)

Second day…

I had my shower last night at 9pm

and I started the laundry.

I did my face and brushed my teeth.

This morning, Becky and Bradley came upstairs at 5am

which is when my first alarm goes off.

I got up and turned on the coffee maker and put the clothes in the dryer

WOOT!!!

and I thought to myself….

no biggie,

I have had my shower, I am dressed…

all I really need to do is wash my face and put on my makeup.

Which I did =P

I folded my clean clothes at 630 am and put them away .

I am ready for the day….

I feel really good about that.

I almost bailed on my shower last night, but I kept remembering

how good I felt in the morning and so I followed through.

I hope and pray that I can continue on…..

It’s hard because if I get mad. sad. angry. frustrated. pouty, etc, etc…..

I dig in my heels and do a big old silent scream and

DOH

guess who gets punished ???

me

hmmmm…

I am definitely a work in progress LOL

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EUREKA !!!

Last night I decided I would try the ” take a shower after everyone has gone to bed ” idea. It worked wonderfully !!! I even started my laundry and popped it in the dryer this morning at 5:30 am when I got up :) YAY !!! I brushed my teeth last night and slept like a champ !!! I would have said ” slept like a baby ” but baby Bradley doesn’t sleep so well at night !!! Anyway, I penciled out a schedule of what I had done and I am looking forward to tonight . I washed my hair in the bathroom sink, which I really like doing. It seems quicker and I feel like I have more control since I am just gliding the hose over my scalp. I washed my face and even put on makeup !!! I am still in my pj’s which I know I need to fix, but I really think that I am onto something !!! :) Yes, I do realize what an anal dork I am :) Bradley and Papa and Gramma Gramma are all napping right now and it is ever so lovely. I feel as though I was available for Becky and Bradley and everyone else and yet, I was still feeling good about taking care of me too. I know that I should learn to be more flexible and less “all or nothing”. I will work on that too but first things first !!! I had an tasty lunch:

VEGETARIAN SOUP AND TUNA SALAD SANDWICH

– A well seasoned vegetarian soup

simmered to perfection

and served with

tuna salad

on delicious flatbread.

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I am starting to enjoy my meals a little more.

XOXOXOX

I Lost One Pound …..

This makes 63 pounds all together. I am a little disappointed but I know it is because of the “fractions” that I never count. I always just look at the whole number. It’s fine and I am still hanging in there :) Honestly, I feel so much better than I did before, that , that alone will make me think long and hard if I should be REALLY tempted to bail. For me, it’s like smoking. I know that if I were to have just one cigarette, I would start smoking again. I am certain the same would hold true if I were to “cheat” on my “diet”. Therefore, I will continue on because I know that I will be successful in getting to my goal if I do .

I am also having issues with my perpetual dilemma of not bathing. Oh if I could only put myself first, the way everyone else in this household does. I am thinking that the very best time for me is going to be after everyone else goes to bed. I have considered this before, but honestly by then, I am so happy to be able to be able to watch what I want on tv, that I forget about my shower….. which leaves me in a constant state of pu. What to do…. what to do . I had planned on showering this morning when Sandra got here but Gary left to “visit the boys” and Becky is asleep on the couch. She needs her sleep or she is not as patient as she needs to be with baby. Bradley and I are hanging out and watching Sprout. He had some oatmeal and is playing in his high chair now. I am sitting here itching because I had a hair trim yesterday and I am wearing my same clothes. blah blah…. anyway, Bradley dropped his stuff…..again so I will close now. Have a great day !!! XOXOXOX

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