The Me I Knew I Could Be: One Woman's Journey from 292 Pounds, to Peace, Happiness, and Healthy Living

The Me I Knew I Could Be: One Woman's Journey from 292 Pounds, to Peace, Happiness, and Healthy Living

by Crystal Phillips

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Six years ago, Crystal Phillips was miserable, unhappily married, and suicidal. At 292 pounds, it seemed as though her life was over and that there was no way to climb out of the hopelessness. Through food, she was slowly killing herself. But the death of Crystal's beloved brother made her realize several powerful things: life is too precious to waste, and our purpose here is to live as fully and as we can. Through this realization, Crystal found within herself the strength to make a change.

In The Me I Knew I Could Be, you will discover:
*The power of journaling
*How to be prepared for emotional setbacks
*How to eat well and take care of yourself without deprivation
*Delicious recipes for favorite comfort foods and how to make them light and healthy
*Two weeks of sample menus
*Empowering stories of other women who lost weight in Crystal's Through Thick and Thin Workshop.
*How to form your own fitness workshop

The Me I Knew I Could Be is both the inspiring personal story of Crystal's weight loss and a practical, helpful, usable guide for anyone who wants to lose weight, get healthy, and embrace life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429979320
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/01/2010
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Crystal Phillips, a pharmaceutical representative, weight loss counselor, and certified personal trainer, lives in Maryland. She has been on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and her story has been featured in Essence, Ebony, Fitness, and Living Fit magazines. The Me I Knew I Could Be is her first book.

Crystal Phillips, a pharmaceutical representative, weight loss counselor, and certified personal trainer, lives in Maryland. She has been on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and her story has been featured in Woman's Own, Essence, Ebony, Fitness, Upscale, and Living Fit magazines. The Me I Knew I Could Be is her first book.

Read an Excerpt

The Me I Knew I Could Be

By Crystal Phillips

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2001 Crystal Phillips
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-7932-0



It's December 31, 1994. My brother is dead, my Aunt Delores is dead, and my parents have lost their house in a hurricane. I, Crystal, have had major surgery and have left my husband. All I want to do now is pick up the pieces of my life and put them back together. But how can I, when there is nothing? I am thirty-four years old, and despite weighing 245 pounds, I am totally empty inside. I have starved off fifty pounds, but it is just a matter of time before the scale reaches three hundred pounds again. I feel old, fat, and miserable. I simply want to die.

A girlfriend has invited me to go to church with her for a New Year's Eve service. The part of me hanging on to one last thread of hope agrees to go. I struggle into a too-tight skirt and take my place. I am afraid my waistband will open if I walk forward to the altar and kneel to pray, so I stay in my seat and wait. I don't remember much about the sermon or the service or the ride home. I just know that something is different. I take a long hard look at myself in the mirror and then get down on my knees. I surrender to God's power and to his love and make a commitment — to me.

I'm not tired or angry or even hungry. I move to the TV and pick up a tape of an old Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah is talking about her second dramatic weight loss and challenging her viewing audience to embark on a journey of self-discovery by feeling the feelings and letting them go. I wasn't ready for this message the first time I heard it and I'm not sure I am ready this time. I'm terrified. But what about the commitment I just made? Aren't I worth it?



I can remember when food was not an issue for me. I was about four years old and spent most of my time running just to keep up with my older brothers. I didn't have a weight problem as a child. Back then, Mama had to call me more than once to come in to eat lunch or dinner. I was always in a hurry to get back outside to play. I loved being a tomboy — climbing trees, running relay races, and wrestling with the boys. I didn't play with the girls in my neighborhood much because they never wanted to roughhouse around and were afraid to get their dresses dirty. But not me. At birthday parties I was the one who was always out on the dance floor, the first ready to get the party started. I was known as the roadrunner baby. I ate quickly and had to be bribed to finish my meals 'cause I could hear I was missing out on all the fun outside. Sometimes Mom would bribe me with the promise of a Good Humor ice cream bar if I would just finish my dinner.

Our family was really pretty average. I had two older brothers, Mom was a housewife, and Dad was a high school math/science teacher. But Dad also had great ambitions — every spare minute and every summer were spent in pursuit of more education. He would eventually get both his Master's and Ph.D. degrees.

Mom was my best friend. Whenever she had the car keys, I knew we were going shopping at Hudson's or the secondhand store. I loved these trips, when Mom was all mine, not distracted by Roy, Junior, or Kevin.

We could get away with murder when Mom wasn't around because Dad was always preoccupied with studying for school. The three of us would sneak away and watch "The Little Rascals" and "The Three Stooges" on TV — shows forbidden because of the negative racial stereotypes and violence. As long as we didn't disturb him too much, Dad was a real pushover. I think sometimes he felt guilty for not spending a lot of his free time with us, so he would give us the loose change in his pocket and we would run to the corner store for penny candy.

Some Saturdays when Dad picked me up from ballet class, he would get so caught up talking business with one of the other fathers that when it was time to leave I'd feel faint from hunger. All I had to do was keep pulling his coat jacket, telling him I was hungry, and he'd absentmindedly pat me on the head and give me money to fetch a hot dog and a bag of potato chips for us to share. I loved it when Dad picked me up because I could never get junk food out of Mom. With Mom, we always left on time and I'd usually have something like leftovers waiting for me to eat at home.

The summer I was five, Dad was away working on his graduate degree, and my Aunt Delores came to live with us. My brothers and I were all just eleven months apart and a real handful for Mom.

I loved to dance and would spend rainy summer days with Detroit's number-one radio station, WCHB, listening to Martha Jean the Queen playing all the Motown hits. I would dance for hours in front of a floor-length mirror. I'd lose track of time and all my surroundings when I danced. I felt safe and secure in my own little world — and then Mom decided to enroll me in my first ballet class.

Lordy, I was so excited I couldn't sleep the night before. I kept getting out of bed to look at my leotards, tights, tap shoes, and pink ballet slippers. That Saturday morning, before class started, Mom told me to pay close attention to the instructor. No need to worry about me. I always made sure I was the first one on the dance floor so I could look at my reflection in the enormous wall-length mirror and practice my dance steps. There were lots of distractions, especially when some of the little girls left crying because it was too hard. I was happy when they didn't come back because the overcrowded class grew smaller and smaller and I finally had room to express myself and move to my heart's content. Without fail, after every class, one of the mothers would ask Mom where I had taken dance lessons before coming to that studio. Mom, with pride and enthusiasm, would say that this was my first time taking lessons and the other mothers would look at her in disbelief. I was so happy!

It wasn't until a few weeks later that the instructor's attitude toward me began to change. She suddenly insisted that I move to the back. I thought maybe she was having everyone take turns being in the front row, but no one else was ever asked to move to the back. Whenever I asked to be in the front row or went to the front on my own, the instructor would give me an irritated look and then impatiently pull me to the back. Some of the class depended on me to remember the routines, so they continued to look to the back to see what I was doing. The instructor would get angry and yell for them to look to the front and to her for cues. The class followed suit and began treating me badly. The girls stopped sharing their snacks and started calling me ugly while they tossed their long wavy hair from side to side. The longer I stood in the back of the room, the more I noticed how different I looked from everyone else. It only took a few more weeks for me to give up.

The dance studio was owned by an African-American woman and all the instructors and students were African-American, but I was the only one with dark skin and two teaspoons of kinky hair. I began to feel unattractive and like I didn't belong, especially when I was teased about not having long Shirley Temple curls. When I looked in the mirror I was beginning NOT to like what was staring back at me. I wanted to look like the girls in my dance class who looked "good enough" to dance in the front row. I wanted long flowing hair and light skin.

As time went on, my joy in dance began to fade. It became a chore for Mom to get me excited and ready for my Saturday ballet class. Mom noticed the change in my behavior and stayed behind to watch rehearsal. She noticed my location in the back row and how mean the instructor was toward me, and pulled me out of that dance studio that very day. As she drove home, with fury in her eyes, she vowed to find another dance studio where they would appreciate a talented dancer. She also said that the studio had lost out on a great student who had a lot to offer. I'll never forget how at the next light Mom looked me straight in the eye, took my hand and told me I was beautiful, smart, and talented, and then kissed my forehead. As we drove off I looked at my reflection in the window and studied my dark skin and short kinky hair. But I had begun to doubt all those things my mother was so sure of.

In the summer of 1968, Mom asked Dad to take my brothers and me to California to visit his parents. She had never been away from us and needed a break from the daily rigors of three active children. I remember my brothers jumping up and down for joy.

I, on the other hand, was not with the program. Going to California was like going to prison. My grandfather's second wife never had any children of her own and was overly protective, never wanting to let us out of her sight. Since the Watts riots had occurred three years previous, and the recent assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, we probably wouldn't even be allowed to look out the window. I knew I would be stuck in the house with Grandma. And all summer long Grandma would try to interest me in learning to crochet.

But I also envisioned myself having fun riding around in my cousin's Mustang convertible looking at the famous big white Hollywood sign that I saw in all the movies and magazines. I wanted to take a tour of the stars' homes, and go to the ocean to play in the salt water. Instead I was going to be stuck learning to crochet and getting sick watching Grandmother chew on her tobacco and spit into her old tin coffee can. Daytime soap operas were my grandmother's other passion. Knowing Dad, he would take off to visit old friends and my brothers and I would have to sit and watch those miserable old "soaps" with Grandma. Like always, I'd daydream to make the time pass, and imagine what we were going to have for dinner. But Grandma wasn't a very good cook so that daydream had some holes in it. The only things she did cook really well were Seven-Up cake, homemade rolls, and roast beef.

Before leaving for California, I asked Mom if I could stay home with her for the summer. "No" she soothed me, "you'll have a good time." Dad reminded me that we would go to Disneyland and spend the whole day enjoying rides and games. I was still not thrilled about our journey west. Everyone else but me started counting down the days until our cross-country trip.

A few days before we left, Mom sat me down and taught me to style my hair on my own. I was wearing a ponytail hairpiece that matched my own coarse hair. For years, people thought it was my hair. Although Mom always wore her hair in a short natural cut, she couldn't convince me to do the same. I wore my hair natural at the time, but I no longer wanted short hair. Mom decided to buy this hairpiece for me, realizing the politics of hair in our society and hoping to raise my self-esteem after the incident at the dance studio. Each time Mom bought a new ponytail for me, she'd secure it into my hair with a rubber band and leave the ponytail loose. Then she'd tell me to go play. I'd ask her to put on Ike and Tina Turner's "Proud Mary" and I'd dance around shaking my hair like Tina Turner until I was dripping with sweat and my ponytail piece was as kinky as my own hair. The shower was the next stop, to wash my dusty hair. Afterward Mom would towel dry my hair, put Brylcreem on it, and I'd have a fresh, fluffy braid or twisted pigtails dangling to my shoulders.

Mom spent hours with me showing me what took only minutes for her to do. While she helped me with my lopsided ponytail, she casually but carefully instructed me to lock all bathroom and bedroom doors while dressing or undressing in California. Mom also instructed me to lock the bathroom door while I bathed and always to wear my robe with my pajamas. She said, very gently and in a voice designed not to scare me, "Grandpa has a tendency to walk in on women without warning." She said he had done this to her the last time we visited, so I was to be careful and follow her instructions. She reassured me, "He probably won't ever walk in on you, but if he does, you scream and tell somebody right away."

I agreed and didn't think anything more about it. It just all sounded silly to me.

That first evening in California, after my brothers had showered, I remembered what Mom told me and tried to lock the bathroom door, but the lock was not working. I thought since Grandpa saw me going into the bathroom, he would not come in, especially after he warned me the water might be a little cool since Roy, Jr., and Kevin had taken long showers. I hadn't developed yet and thought to myself, "There's nothing here for Grandpa to see." My final thought put my mind at ease and I slipped into a tub filled with Mr. Bubbles.

Just as I started washing my face, the bathroom door opened. Grandpa stood there, quickly trying to scan my body. He had a look of fascination in his eyes that I'll never forget. I screamed at the top of my lungs as Grandpa calmly left. I jumped out of the tub, covering myself, then quickly put on my pajamas. I was shocked, afraid, embarrassed, angry, and sorry all at once. I was shocked he would do this to his own granddaughter. I felt sorry for Dad for having this man as a father. Dad adored his father and talked about him as if he were a saint. I was afraid to tell because I didn't think Dad would believe me, and I didn't want a big confrontation between the two of them if he did believe me. I was angry with Mom for not letting me stay home with her and because nobody came to my rescue when I screamed. But then I realized I had placed the facecloth tightly over my mouth when I screamed.

I lay awake for hours that night, fearful Grandpa would try to sneak into my room while I slept. I got up and pushed my heavy suitcase against the door. I prayed to God for most of the night never to let my breasts develop or let me have a menstrual cycle so I could never have babies or develop pubic hair. In the wee hours of the morning, I finally drifted off.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard a loud knock on my bedroom door. Roy, Jr., and Kevin were yelling for me to hurry and get dressed because Dad was taking us to Disneyland.

The lines were too long, the day too hot, and I was too tired and hungry to enjoy anything. By the time noon came, my little body was drained and I was feeling sick. Dad bought us snowballs to cool us down and to quench our thirst. He gave me pineapple instead of lemon, which made me even sicker. I put my head on the picnic table, waiting for Dad to bring back our hamburgers and fries. He was standing in another long line for the food. I was fast asleep before he ever came back.

The smell of roast beef, mashed potatoes, string beans, and homemade rolls brought me back to life. We were back at Grandpa's house and my stomach started to knot up again. After I washed up, I went out to the table feeling like I could eat the whole meal myself. Everyone catered to my every need, even Roy, Jr., and Kevin. I loved it and played it for all it was worth. When it was time for us to take our evening bath, I claimed that maybe I shouldn't take a bath at night. I lied and said the night air after bathing was making me sick. Grandma told me to take my baths in the morning from here on out. I smiled faintly, trying to look as pitiful as I could. I was happy that I could now bathe after Grandpa left for work.

That night Grandma piled so many quilts on me that I thought I would suffocate from the heat. I took all the quilts off after she closed my bedroom door. I could overhear Grandpa and Grandma talking while watching TV. They were talking about some movie star that had recently put on a lot of weight. The last thing I remember hearing Grandpa say was something about how unattractive fat made a woman. That night I dreamed that Grandpa had managed to open my bedroom door. He was reaching to take the heavy quilts off me to look at my body. By the time he reached the last quilt, I woke up and proudly revealed my three-hundred-pound naked body. I watched his mouth drop open and his face turn to horror as he ran out of the room screaming at the top of his lungs.

Dad rescued us the next afternoon by taking us to our aunt's house for a barbecue. I was starting to get hooked on the daytime soap operas and asked Grandma to brief me on what happened when we returned. She happily agreed.

Before the car reached my auntie's house, we could hear the sounds of Motown and smell the barbecued ribs in the air. Her carefully manicured backyard held rows of picnic tables full of strangers. I wished that Mom was here, or better yet, I was back home with her. Dad started introducing us around, telling us how we were related to each man, woman, and child. Kevin was sharing a story with one of our uncles on how he and Roy, Jr., had met Gladys Knight when they were handing out campaign flyers at a polling place. I got bored and decided to wander around to see what we were going to eat.

I walked over to check out the meat table. There were at least six cases of smoked ribs, plates of catfish, grilled porterhouse steaks, grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and red-hot sausage links. The vegetable table had fried okra, corn on the cob, cole slaw, potato salad, pickles, collard-and-turnip greens with ham hocks, tossed salads, and macaroni and cheese. On the bread table there were homemade rolls, hot-water corn bread, corn muffins, and regular white bread. Finally, my favorite, the dessert table — peach cobbler, apple cobbler, banana pudding, rum cake, pineapple upside-down cake, deep-dish apple pie, sweet potato pie, rice pudding, and a Jell-O fruit ring, with homemade ice cream on the way.


Excerpted from The Me I Knew I Could Be by Crystal Phillips. Copyright © 2001 Crystal Phillips. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Page,

Customer Reviews

Me I Knew I Could Be 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
scrumptiousgemini More than 1 year ago
Ms. Phillips was very inspiring. Now I have attempted to read multiple weight loss books and was - UNSUCCESSFUL... but her incorporation of personal experiences made the book very relatable. Even more, it was great the tips about the WAR bag, exercise tips, and even her bragging about how good she felt at the end... overall a good read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could totally relate to Christal's story as I too have dealt with some of the same issues she has. This book is very well written and wonderfully inspirational.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't believe someone finally wrote a book about weightloss that I can relate to. This book puts everything on the table. There is are no special tricks to do or things to buy. She points out the mind games we play. She made me realize that I have the power and key to change my life, but I have to get to the root of my eating problem in order to make that change!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book that inspires those of us who have just begun our weightloss journey. She puts everything on the table and provides detailed instructions on how to be successful in your lifestyle change.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been there, too! And Crystal tells it like it is and helps people to realize that yes, you can do it! You can be healthy and happy - but you have to find the strength within yourself. YOU CAN DO IT!!