As if casting a stone in a pond, Liz Murphy has seen the ripple effect of saying "enough."
"I was not feeling good. It was not that something was particularly wrong, but I was tired. I had no energy," said Liz, 43, a junior-high grammar and literature teacher at Signal Hill School in west Belleville. "And I was having horrible problems with my feet. Everything was a struggle."
Liz's weight was weighing her down.
"You add it up one day and say, 'How did I get here?'"
Early last year, she decided she'd had enough.
By December, she'd lost 95 pounds. At 5-foot-1, she now wears a size 12, down four to five clothing sizes.
On a recent cold, blustery day, she sat in her kitchen and talked about walking the track at school with co-workers, eventually finding the stamina to run five local 5K's. Parked nearby was her bike. She bought it in June and it was the impetus to get up and go. She took to the trails with a group of friends once or twice a week.
"We'd do 15 to 20 miles. The first one, I thought I would die. I was light-headed," she recalled. "But that bike group made a huge difference. They were a huge support. That got me active. ... I was confident physically that I could do it."
She paused to make herself a breakfast of cottage cheese and sugar-free applesauce.
"Who knew diet and exercise could make a difference?" said Liz, who is single. "I'm sleeping better, off all my meds, no acid reflux, no Tums. It's amazing."
She refrains from using the word "diet."
"It's a better lifestyle choice."
Taking her dog Olive for a walk is no longer a chore. She can stand in the classroom all day and her feet and legs don't ache. "I'm singing and dancing (in class)," she said. "I tell them, 'You're my captive audience!"
Her students have been supportive about her weight loss. It's been an opportunity to talk about body image and not using the word "fat" to describe a friend or classmate.
It's a hard fight in the face of a bustling schedule and pressures to celebrate with food and drink.
"Everything we do centers around food," Liz said. "Everything social. I'm busy. I like to be busy and social, so what I was doing was eating what was quick and easy, not what is good for you."
She had been on plenty of diets, but the most she had lost was 30 pounds.
She called herself an emotional eater. When anything good or bad happened in her life, it was time to eat.
That has changed.
"It's all about weighing and measuring now. And portion control."
Liz, who has sung at the Muny, Powell Hall and Jazz at the Bistro, belongs to the St. Louis Community Gospel Choir, performs as a cabaret singer and does community theater. She watched Shauna Smith Sconce, who she has known for four years from her cabaret troupe, drop 20 pounds.
"After a show, we'd go out and I'd see the (food) choices she'd make," Liz recalled. "I started asking questions."
The St. Louis woman, who grew up in Lebanon, eventually dropped 100 pounds by last July, eating three carefully weighed-out meals with no snacks, no flour products and no sugar.
Liz chose March 30, her late father Dr. Michael Murphy's birthday, to begin her journey.
"That was the first day in earnest at making the right choices. I kept thinking of my dad and that kept me on track."
Shauna became part of her support system.
"I know there is someone out there I can help, and that helps me with my moments," said Shauna, 49, of having Liz's back. "Food is my thing. I had to really face that. So, I get that. It's good to know you're not alone."
Liz lost 22 pounds in the first month.
"It's a lot and scary," she said. "Anything is extreme in the beginning because it's a huge change."
She went from popping anything she desired into her mouth to three small meals a day that included fruit, vegetables, protein and a small amount of fat. No sugar, no rice, potatoes, pasta or bread products.
"Someone said it's no white food and that's true."
She began reading nutritional labels and was careful not to sample when cooking.
Bread is hard to avoid, she admitted.
"Not being able to eat it makes life difficult!" Liz said. "Bread, tortilla chips, pita. Bread is a container. Maybe that's the problem. We're just filling ourselves."
Being single is an advantage, she said. She can prepare her own meals and focus on what she needs to do for herself.
"I can eat proteins and fruit. Lots of vegetables. I cook chicken, pork tenderloin -- it's not like I'm not eating normal food," she said. Eating out recently, she had steak, salad and broccoli.
"If I get a craving for pasta, I make spaghetti squash."
Her mom, Rena, has been a cheerleader as well.
"I was so concerned for her. She'd had problems with her blood pressure and her feet," before she began losing weight, Rena said. "She's feeling so well now and can do so many things. ... I do know what she's eating is very healthy. Hopefully, it will be a pattern of a lifetime."
Family is behind her as well. When Liz and Rena made their annual summer trip to Michigan, her family made sure her aunt's house was stocked with healthy food.
When they visited again for Christmas, "It was hard. People were doing a lot of snacking and eating," Liz said. "But you know what I did? I put on my shoes and went running. Then, I came back and took a long shower. By that time, I felt better. That's the good news."
"I won't lie, this isn't easy. I get hungry. I chew a lot of sugarless gum. I made a lot of sacrifices."
Liz still stands in front of her closet, stymied.
"I will pick out a pair of pants (that are too big for her now) and think, 'I will never get myself into these!' My head hasn't caught up with it yet."
She still loves food.
"The cravings will always be there," she said. "Will I make mistakes? Probably. But I have a good support system."
Her initial goal was simple: "I just wanted to make it through a day."
She knew she turned a corner when "this wasn't about losing weight but about eating right."
Into her head popped the lyrics to a song.
"It's weird: You don't know what you've got till it's gone!" she said. "You know what I mean? I didn't know really how affected I was by my weight until I lost it."