Sherri Puzey

Sherri Puzey

Zibby knew she had to talk to Sherri when she saw Sherri on the treadmill during a virtual book event. “I was like, that is someone who needs to come on ‘Moms Don’t Have Time to Lose Weight’ because this mom has figured out some secret sauce to the whole thing.” The two talk about the process of figuring out what exercise or diet works for your life, the roles trauma and grief can play in your weight loss journey, and, most importantly, chocolate chip cookie March Madness.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Sherri. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Lose Weight.”

Sherri Puzey: Thank you for having me, Zibby. This is fun.

Zibby: This is a little bit random, as we were joking around about, because I was in the middle of doing a book event with Book Movement, and there you were on the Zoom on the treadmill. I was like, that is someone who needs to come on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Lose Weight” because this mom has figured out some secret sauce to the whole thing. Welcome. Tell me a little bit about yourself. Then we’ll talk about how you’re fitting in health and fitness and wellness and all that stuff into your busy mom life.

Sherri: Thank you for having me. I am a mom. I stay home full time with my kids, and so it is constantly just trying to juggle it all, trying to do homeschool and take care of them in a pandemic and try to stay sane. For me, that has been exercise. If I can have a few minutes to myself to move my body, then I am a much better mom. I feel more balanced. I’m not yelling at my kids. I can have a minute to listen to a podcast or do a virtual book event or whatever it is that I want to do. If I can pair that with exercising, that is what I’ve found to be really helpful me. It is hard to squeeze it all in. I feel like as moms, we have a million things to do anyway. When it comes to our health, it’s like, okay, make a healthy dinner. Make healthy choices in front of our kids. Encourage them in their health. Keep ourselves healthy. Oh, and exercise. Make sure you’re buying all the right groceries too. It’s just a lot. I have felt that overwhelm. I feel like it takes a lot of time and energy to find a balance that works for me and for my family in this season of life. That’s the other thing. As moms, it’s always changing, the age of your kids, what schooling looks. We move a lot. Then it’s, find a new gym. Figure out a new routine. It’s hard. It’s a lot. I love your group and your podcast and what you’re trying to do. All right, moms, we’re in this together. How can we figure this out? I think it’s great to just share tips and our stories. That’s what I find helpful. What is someone else’s story? What are they doing that is working for them? How can I glean a little bit from that and take what works for me and move forward?

Zibby: I agree with basically every single thing that just came out of your mouth. I couldn’t agree more. How old are your kids now?

Sherri: Four and five.

Zibby: Why do you guys move a lot?

Sherri: My husband likes to change jobs. We’ve moved all over the country. It’s fun. I like to travel. Obviously in the past year, we haven’t done anything. We moved right before COVID started. That has been a unique challenge. We don’t know anyone here because we got here and then everything shut down. I think that definitely impacts my health. I am one to go to comfort eating. I can fall off the edge of, oh, we’re in a pandemic. I don’t have any friends. This is so hard. Let me just eat, eat, eat. That feels good until it doesn’t anymore. I don’t know if you can relate to that. All of a sudden, oh, wow, I’ve gained all this weight. It was feeling so good and fun to eat ice cream every night. Now I’m miserable because my pants don’t fit. I’ve had to figure out, so how do I counterbalance that? What can I do that is a more healthy coping mechanism for me instead of running to cookies? For me, it’s moving my body, walking or running. When I spend time doing that, then I feel less guilty about the eating. I can never be the kind of person that just says no desserts, no food because I love it too much. I’m so grumpy.

If I want to keep that piece of it in my life, if I want to bake brownies and cookies with my kids and then actually eat one, then what I need to do to make sure I’m not going to be completely out of balance? That’s running, walking, doing something. There’s the physical part of it. Then it also helps me so much mentally to know that I’ve moved my body. It’s a whole balancing act. I think that’s what I’ve come to learn in recent years, that there’s not a quick fix. I tried that for a lot of years. What can I do to lose five pounds so I can squeeze into this bridesmaid’s dress that doesn’t zip up and the wedding is next week? What can I do real quick? That is not a way for me to live long term. I don’t want to be like that for my whole life. What is it that I can do that is more sustainable? My husband always jokes, he’s like, “Everything in moderation. Everything in moderation.” Okay, that’s really easy for some people, but that is my struggle. I have to rein in my sweet tooth and get my butt moving so that I’m able to balance it all. It’s just this constant balancing act. I don’t do it perfectly. I mess up all the time, but it’s more attainable than, okay, I’m going to count calories for the rest of my life. I can’t do that. It’s just too hard. It’s too hard for me.

Zibby: What part of the world are you in now? Just wondering.

Sherri: We’re in Seattle.

Zibby: I know that this period of life and this season of craziness that we’ve all maybe, hopefully, started to emerge from, maybe, soon, I hope — prior to this, like when you were growing up, were you an athlete? Did you think about your body and your weight? Was it always easy? Was it always a struggle? Give me some context before we got here.

Sherri: I was never athletic. I was probably quite thin as a child, just genetics and metabolism. I never really struggled with weight until I went to college. I made some unhealthy choices, for sure. I think what started my weight gain was some trauma and grief I experienced in college. I was a freshman in April of 2007 at Virginia Tech when the mass shooting on campus occurred. It was after that that I just really struggled. I struggled with some depression and some grief. It was complicated. That’s when I first started turning to food for comfort. My emotions just got out of control. It was a messy situation, and so I just ate. I gained thirty pounds. That was a lot for me at that time. Like I was saying before, it felt great until I was like, oh, wow, none of my clothes fit. I’m actually really miserable. I had to make some changes at that point in college. I was young, so I think I still had a good metabolism on my side. It wasn’t that hard for me to lose. I tried to log what I ate, which was embarrassing a lot of days, and tried to exercise. Eventually, it came off. I felt like I was in a place that I was okay with. There was some ups and downs.

My brother was tragically killed a couple years after that. Again, it was the comfort eating and just feeling so out of control. Okay, so let me just eat. At the same time, that was when I first started exercising, actually, was after I lost my brother because I had to do something with all of the grief and the anger and the sadness. I started running. I had never been a runner. I thought, that’s dumb, why would I want to run? I’d rather sit here and read a book. Why do I want to go spend my time running? I started running. That helped me so much to process some of the emotions and the grief and just how complicated it all was. From then on, I’ve had kind of an on-again, off-again relationship with exercise. In times of great stress, I will do two things. I will eat and I will run. Thankfully, they’re usually together, but it’s a cycle. You know, you’ve experienced some big grief in your life. There’s waves of it. In seasons around anniversaries and birthdays, I am eating more, but I’m also running more. It’s this constant yo-yo, almost. I don’t know if that’s ever going to go away. Grief changes and morphs over years, but it’s still a part of my story.

I think it’s just something I’m going to have to struggle with, this constant wanting to go to the food and then trying to also process through the emotions and the feelings by exercising. Anyway, that has been an underlying current in my story, of just doing that. Then also, when we do move, that’s also a little bit of grief tied up with that, saying goodbye to people and starting over. It’s a thing. That’s what I struggle with. Then in the midst of that, I got married and got pregnant. It was like all of that love for eating and my lack of self-control was magnified. I was like, if I’m going to gain weight, then I’m just going to gain weight. I gained fifty pounds with my first pregnancy. Then it took me eleven months to lose it. I got pregnant two weeks later. I was like, whoa. Then I gained all those fifty pounds back and more. I was just so uncomfortable. I remember I was driving down the road one day and my sunglasses broke on my face. My face had gotten so large, my sunglasses just burst off and landed in my lap.

Zibby: That is not why your sunglasses broke. You are so funny, oh, my god.

Sherri: What in the world? By the time my second was born, I was like, okay, this has been years of me being pregnant, gaining weight, trying to lose weight. I’m over it. I buckled down. I counted calories. I lost forty pounds in four months. I was like, great, I’ve arrived. Well, the great mystery of weight loss is the last four years I’ve been yo-yoing with the same ten pounds up and down. That is harder than those sixty pounds that I lost after pregnancy. Like I was saying at the beginning, it’s the balancing act. It’s the, what can I maintain versus what can I do really quickly in a few months to just let me see the finish line? Let me just arrive there. With body changes and getting older, I can’t eat like I used to eat. I can’t expect to bounce back as quickly. I think as moms, we hopefully can all relate to that. It’s just not the same anymore. There has definitely been times where I’ve had a lot of weight gain and I’ve lost it. I’ve had a lot and I’ve lost it.

It’s the day-to-day maintenance that is where I’m at now, that mindset shift of, okay, this is the long game. What small changes can I do that I can do every day that will have a bigger impact? I don’t know if you’ve read Atomic Habits by James Clear. That book is incredible. That really helped me a lot. The whole premise is we underestimate what small changes can do. We think these grand, short-term transformations are going to have the biggest impact, and they don’t. Maybe I don’t need to cut out ice cream for forever, but if I only eat it on the weekends, that’s better than eating it every night. He talks about that in the book. That, I found very helpful. I can make these small changes that are not overwhelming that will have long-term impacts. Maybe I’m not going to lose forty pounds in four months, but I might lose two pounds in six months and actually keep it off. I’d much rather do that than be miserable because I’m so restrictive that I’m a grump to be around. I don’t know if that answers your question. I feel like I’ve been all over the place with trying the quick fix, trying to do something sustainable, having complicated feelings around eating and just the comfort that it brings.

Zibby: Wow, what a story. First of all, as you’re talking, I’m having all these thoughts. What can she do while she’s at home with her kids? You’re obviously super bright and so articulate. You have all this energy. I wonder if there’s some way you can channel some of that into some other project that doesn’t take that much time that might also give you some of that feeling of being in control of all your feelings. Do you ever do any writing? Just curious. Do you ever write?

Sherri: I have, yes. I’ve written over the years. I had a blog back in the day when blogs were big. I’ve done some writing. I read a lot. That’s what I mostly do, is read everything that I can get my hands on. Now I’m seeing that in my children as they’re learning to read. They walk around with their nose in a book. I’m like, wow, that’s me thirty years ago. It’s very rewarding to see that. Reading is probably the next comfort thing that’s a little healthier than the brownies and the cinnamon rolls.

Zibby: I could skip cinnamon rolls, but brownies, yeah. I just realized that one of my kid’s birthday is on National Brownie Day. He was like, “Oh, my gosh, that’s amazing!” We’re already planning the brownie party to come. Can we go back to the grief just a minute? Not to make you have to sort of go back to that time, but I’ve found that bringing up grief isn’t really what brings it up. It’s always kind of there. If you talk about it, it’s not like you’re not thinking about it. Can you share what happened to your brother, or you don’t even want to discuss? You don’t have to.

Sherri: He was murdered.

Zibby: What?

Sherri: Yes. It’s very complicated. There’s just the shock of it. Why? There’s still a lot of questions. We don’t have a lot of answers. There’s my own grief and then also watching the other people that I care about more than anyone, my parents and sisters. Then, wow, it’s like everyone that I love is grieving. That is hard. It’s hard to have my own grief, but it’s hard to watch the people I love grieve. Now that I’m a mom and I think about my parents, I can’t even begin to imagine their grief now as a mom. They have said this over the years. “What’s hard for us is watching our children grieve.” It’s just so complicated. That’s the best word I have for it. It has been very complicated. It’s something that will rear its head in unexpected times. Then there’s times when I do expect it. It’s hard to fit grief into being a mom because I can’t just quit being a mom when I’m having a hard day or when there’s something in the news again that brings it all up or people are reaching out or strangers are reaching out. It’s just so hard. As my kids get older and are understanding more, that has been hard too, how to talk about it with them and how to have age-appropriate conversations with them without lying to them but being honest. Mommy has hard days sometimes. I’m sad. I miss him. It’s hard. The mom piece has been another layer of difficulty because I can’t just set my grief aside. I did that, and it doesn’t work. I tried that. It just made it worse. I had to come back and address it. I want to make sure that I handle it in a healthy way. I think that’s important for me but also for my children. I can’t be a good mom if I’m walking around with this anger and bitterness. I have to deal with it. I have to deal with it in the right way. It’s been really hard.

Zibby: That’s a lot of pressure. I literally, by the way, just started — I haven’t even launched it — Moms Don’t Have Time to Grieve. I feel like you need to be in charge of that or something.

Sherri: You shared something about this somewhere. I was running, of course, when I was listening. I almost stopped. I was like, that is so true. Moms do not have time to grieve. I have felt that. I know my sisters have felt that. They both have kids. One of them was pregnant when our brother was killed. One of them already had children. That was complicated. I even remember seeing my baby niece, like, this is so helpful. It’s such a distraction from my grief. Well, she wasn’t my kid. It’s different when it’s your kid. I can’t just have them and then put them away. They’re always there. That really resonated with me when I heard that you were doing that because it is true. It is another complication of grief that I don’t think is talked about a lot. So much of grief isn’t talked about a lot. Having to care for other people when you are trying so hard to just keep yourself together is very difficult.

Zibby: Especially because I feel like, at least my kids, but I feel like most kids, they have some bizarre extrasensory ability to pick up even when I’m faking that I’m happy. Do you know what I mean?

Sherri: Yes.

Zibby: They can tell the days that I feel like I have a boot pressing on my chest. I have those days. They always can tell even if I put a smile on my face. I’m like, I am not fooling anybody. I can’t fool them for a second. If I’m in a good mood and I’m running around playing tag with them and laughing, I can’t do that unless I’m legitimately in a good mood. They read everything. They read everything on me. You’re under a microscope at home. You’re trying to be calm. You know what they need, but some days you don’t have anything left to give them. That is hard.

Sherri: My kids are the same way. They’ll just start rubbing my arm in circular motions. It’s like, oh, they can sense it. Then that just breaks my heart because I want to have more to give to them. I think it’s also good for them to know that as adults we don’t have all the answers. We aren’t going to have it all together. As a mom, of course, we want to give our kids the best parts of us. Sometimes there just aren’t any good parts left in that day. The energy and the grief and all that has kind of zapped them for the day.

Zibby: Which is why sometimes, at least for me and it sounds like for you, at the end of the day when you get through one of these days, I’m like, if you even try to take away the dessert that I’ve been looking for all day — what on earth would I have at the end of the road if I didn’t have at least that? Seriously, I’m going to have a bowl of applesauce? No. I am going to sit down and if it’s ever quiet in this house, I want to sneak in the kitchen and just have a minute where I can taste something amazing and not have to think about everything else. That’s why I feel like in some of these losing-weight things where everything’s like — I don’t know. It feels like such a deprivation, which is why any plan I ever do is like, you don’t have to give up sweets. I’m like, okay, fine.

Sherri: That’s how I feel. My husband was like, “Please don’t do that. You’re so grumpy. Please don’t give up chocolate or dessert.” I’m miserable to be around. That kind of restriction doesn’t work for me. I’ve found that if I’m super strict about exercising, somehow that gives me more freedom because I know I’ve put in the time moving my body today, so I can eat the dessert without guilt. It’s all a balance. The all-or-nothing mentality, which is totally how I am, when I applied it to food, it didn’t work for me. When I apply it to exercise, it does work because that’s an easier goal to achieve. Exercise today. That’s much easier than, lose two pounds this week. When the all or nothing is shifted onto exercise for me, it’s much easier. I’m happier. I feel like it all works out better for everyone in my house.

Zibby: What type of books do you like to read? I don’t even know which podcast I’m recording for. I can’t separate my interests here. What kind of books do you like to read?

Sherri: I read everything. Literary fiction, contemporary fiction, those are probably my favorite. I love memoirs. I also read historical fiction. I’ll read anything. I can’t keep up with you, all of the podcast interviews that you do. I try to read whatever’s coming out, whatever I can get my hands on. I post my reviews to the internet and try to convince people to read this book that I love. It’s fun.

Zibby: If people want to read your reviews, where do they go?

Sherri: @WhatSherriReads on Instagram.

Zibby: What did you do before you had kids?

Sherri: My degree is in international politics. I loved what I studied, but I never really used it for a career. I studied abroad in China and spoke Chinese. That was going to be my job. I wanted to work for the CIA or something. We got married right after I graduated college. We moved to a really small town that was not Washington, DC. My plan kind of unraveled from there. I worked in finance. I ended up really loving it. I was a registered investment advisor and found out I loved numbers. Who knew? I never knew that. I was always the English person. Give me the books. Let me write papers and tell you all my thoughts. I didn’t know that numbers was for me, but I loved it. I worked in that until I got pregnant. Then I stayed home after that. I love being home with my kids, but I really also miss the adult interaction. I think other moms can probably relate to that. Whether you work or not, it’s hard to only be around small people all day. The pandemic, of course, has amplified that, just not really seeing anyone. Grocery store and the neighbors outside, and that’s it. I’m very thankful to be able to be with my kids, especially in these little years when they’re so funny. Every other thing they say is so funny. I remember when I was pregnant, I was so afraid we would have boring kids. Now sometimes my husband will be like, “Remember when you thought our kids were going to be boring?” I was like, “I’m so glad they’re not.” They’re so fun and funny. It’s just such a joy to be with them. They bring a lot of joy into my life.

Zibby: I had a lot of worries about my kids, but boring, that was not a worry. That was not one of my worries. Wow, that’s funny. That’s hilarious. What’s one your favorite meals? If you could go out to dinner at a restaurant, what would you order? What’s your favorite?

Sherri: That is hard. Anything that I don’t feel like I can cook well at home. I love to cook. If I’m going to go out, I want it to be a break. Some kind of really delicious pasta with shrimp or something that I wouldn’t want to tackle at home. Honestly, a lot of times I order a burger, which my husband makes fun of me for. He’s like, “I do not want to go on a date with you, and you order a burger. You do that every time. Just order something more interesting.” I’m like, “If it’s the middle of the winter and we’re not grilling out, that’s the food that we haven’t had in a long time.” I like burgers with fun toppings that I wouldn’t do at home. Interestingly, I hardly ever order dessert out because I’m afraid it’s going to disappoint me. I know that a cookie that I’m going to make at home is probably going to be better because I’ve had it a million times. Unless it’s ice cream. Ice cream, I will always be up for out because that doesn’t ever disappoint. My husband teases me. He’s like, “I’ve never seen anyone enjoy a bowl of ice cream as much as you do.”

Zibby: I was trying to explain this to my therapist when I used to make time for therapy, which I now I do through my podcast. I was like, “I don’t think you understand. I think I enjoy dessert more than most people. I get so much pleasure from each bite. I’m like, this is the most amazing thing ever.” She’s like, “Every time you come in and tell me that you had some cake, it’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever had.” I’m like, “But it is. It’s so good.” I feel like maybe there’s different pleasure sensors. Maybe I’m just hokey in that way.

Sherri: No, I feel the same way. I’m always on the quest to find the perfect thing. Right now, I have I don’t know how many dozen cookie dough balls in my freezer because I have this idea to do a March Madness bracket with chocolate chip cookies. I’m going to pit them against each other and find the best one. I’m on a quest. There’ll hopefully be lots of running also in the month of March to make up for all of the chocolate chip cookies that I’ll be eating.

Zibby: It’s like I’ve literally found myself in another human brain. I literally have ten different giant chocolate chip cookie dough balls in my freezer which I think about all day long. I know they’re there. Is tonight the night I’m going to need to make one? Can I wait until tomorrow? Am I going to have share these? I love the idea of a March Madness for chocolate chip cookies. This is not helping people who are listening to this podcast trying to lose weight. I’m sorry, everybody.

Sherri: Yes, I’m sorry. It’s all about balance.

Zibby: I think if you eat healthy most of the time and you’re excited for one chocolate chip cookie, come on, that’s not the problem.

Sherri: I agree. I’ve never done Weight Watchers, but I think that’s kind of my mentality. Let’s do more protein and fewer carbs at lunch so that I can eat whatever I’m making my family for dinner and not have to weigh everything and count it out. It all comes back to balance and what is reasonable. That might look different for everyone. I think deep down, each of us knows what is probably an appropriate balance for us. I think it’s just being honest with ourselves and getting to the place where we can maintain that and stick to it.

Zibby: I think it’s amazing how open you are. I love it. I think what you’re saying is going to resonate with so many people. I’m sorry about the traumas in your past. I know how that must feel. I just empathize so much with what you’re saying. The addition of the mom performance each day can be oppressive and certainly exhausting. Sometimes food has to be our ally. Sometimes it’s not the time to say goodbye to food. I’m really glad our paths have crossed in life. I’m really serious, if you want to help with Moms Don’t Have Time to Grieve or something in any way, let me know. We can email.

Sherri: I would love to.

Zibby: I really think that — this sounds ridiculous. I really think you have so much to offer, but I do. You’re really special and awesome. I also think sometimes when we’re home — I was home with my kids for many years. There was a part of me that just wasn’t being engaged. That made me turn to other things more too and added to a general depression that I felt when I just couldn’t snap out of it. Not that I regret it. I loved being home when they were little. I mean, I am home. They’re in the next room. I can’t get away from them, but when my older kids who are now almost fourteen, when they were little. I’ve been home the whole thing. I get it. Anyway, I’m just really happy to have met you. I’m so happy you were on the treadmill during that Book Movement book launch event. Now we’ve had this conversation. I am so curious about your story. You have to write your own book, by the way.

Sherri: One day. It’s a dream.

Zibby: One day could be tomorrow. Who knows?

Sherri: Thank you so much for having me. It was so fun to connect with you and talk with you. I feel like this has been my little therapy session for the day. You’re so good at asking questions. I’ve just really enjoyed talking to you. Thank you so much.

Zibby: Thank you so much. Thanks. We’ll be in touch. Buh-bye.

Sherri: Bye.

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