Kenwood woman used shutdown to drop booze, clutter and 80 pounds
In a year where most people were stuck idling in neutral, Adrienne Shubin found her lane and stepped on the gas.
She stopped drinking alcohol.
Then lost 80 pounds.
And then she purged the detritus from her new life.
Her journey began last January when old friends invited Shubin and her husband, Bill, to join them in Tahiti, where the tropical heat would require scanty garments. Shubin, 53, was at least 50 pounds overweight, and was dreading the idea of a swimsuit.
“We were with people we’d known for 20 years, but they hadn’t seen me for a long time,” Shubin said. “You could just see the look on people’s faces. I was desperate, but didn’t know how to fix it. I’d lost hope, and really didn’t think it was possible to lose weight.”
She got through that holiday with the help of strong cocktails, which distracted her from her chronic unhappiness. Drinking had slowly become a daily habit, the ritual with which the Shubins ended each day.
But when she returned home, a budding case of dengue fever came with her, and Shubin spent the next 10 days in a haze. When she woke up, the coronavirus was everywhere, and she fretted about catching it on top of the dengue. “Dengue affects the liver and heart, and then there was COVID,” she remembers thinking. “If I drink on top of that I’ll have this trifecta of illness.”
With 11 days of sobriety already under her belt, Shubin decided she would continue. “Let’s just see what happens,” she thought.
What happened was the slow realization that alcohol wasn’t the elixir she’d always thought it was. It was, in fact, at the root of her unhappiness. “Alcohol is such a powerful substance. It talks really loud in your head,” Shubin said. “Any feeling I had, whether excitement or worry, it was like alcohol was always the answer. It had to come along with me on every feeling. It took up a really big space in my life.”
Now, absent alcohol, the weight started to come off. The first 15 pounds were almost effortless, but then the weight loss struggle got real. She and Bill had been intermittently fasting, abstaining from all food for 16 hours each day. But for the other eight hours, all bets were off. “I was buying red vines by the case. Tons of ice cream, ice cream sandwiches. And we were making banana bread like it was going out of style,” Shubin said.
So in May she enrolled in the weight loss program Noom, which Shubin credits with educating her about nutrition and exercise in a way nothing else had. By New Year’s Day she was down 70 pounds, and had shrunk her waist by a total of 12 inches. Bill, too, was all-in on the journey, losing some 40 pounds himself.
And then the Shubins watched the Netflix documentary “Less is Now,” which preaches the gospel of minimalism. They looked around at the life they had built, and decided they simply had too much stuff. Together they embraced the challenge proffered by the filmmakers: to purge items from their lives every day for a month, matching the number of things shed to the day’s date. On the first day of January they each gave up one thing; on the 15th, they discarded 15. By the end of the month they had removed more than 1,000 items, all of it — as it turns out — extraneous to their new lives.
“It’s heavy to have all that stuff,” Shubin said. “Getting rid of it all was so liberating.”
With her weight loss goal met, her closets cleared, and sobriety her new daily high, Shubin has started a blog to supplement her already considerable reach on Instagram, motivated to help other women change their lives.
“The Rich Life After Fifty” is aimed at women in transition, mature women confronting the invisibility of middle age. “I really just want to share this experience, especially with women over 50,” she said. “I really believed I couldn’t make these changes, and I didn’t know where to turn.”
She’ll document her experience as she continues the journey, gaining strength, flexibility, and a deepening sense of surety and calm. If she can radically alter her life in the middle of a pandemic, Shubin said, there’s no reason other women can’t, too. The rewards are almost incalculable.
“Having energy and a clear mind?” Shubin said, “It’s freedom.”
Email Kate at email@example.com.