All good stories have a turning point. A point where someone makes a decision that at the time seems simple, but ends up changing the course of history. In July of 2009 I made one of these decisions, and I know for a fact that I did not have any idea that I would be changing my history.
I knew I didn't want to be on cholesterol medication at the age of 30. I knew that I didn't like who I saw in the mirror anymore. I knew that I was shortening my life with every sedentary day and bite of unhealthy food. I knew that I wanted to have energy again.
But what I didn't know was how or even where to start. 285 pounds is so far from where I wanted to be.
One random day, I was emailing with one of our coaches at work, Barb. She was midway through the P90X program and was feeling awesome. I could tell in her words in email she was energized and excited about life. I told her in an email that I knew I was nowhere near where I could do something like P90X...but that I wanted to make a change. She responded with an offer...would I let her help me make a plan that was doable for me to change my health?
It still amazes me to this day that she would even offer that. I happily accepted and we set up a lunchtime phone call for the following day (we live in different cities) so I could give her some info on historically what had not worked for me and my health issues that came into play.
Together we put together a list (most of the input from her of course) of what "small changes" I could make that would yield eventual "big results." The list included things like weaning myself off of caffeine, starting to walk regularly and eating less fried food. It was a long checklist, but it had stages to it, so nothing was cold turkey.
I actually had run out of diet coke that day (my caffeine of choice) so I decided to implement the caffeine and water challenge immediately. I went out and bought a 32 oz water bottle. After a few weeks of caffeine withdrawal headaches, I was free. It was incredibly empowering to find myself energetic without the use of the drug caffeine is. And I found it easy to drink 100 ounces of water a day given it was July in Florida. :)
I also decided to start walking. My amazing friend, Heather, started walking with me. Heather is one of those people who is thin and active, and she would run to my house, walk the 2 miles from me and then run home, which in my eyes was such a gift to me! We walked a 2 mile loop 3 times a week to start. My toes were bleeding from blisters and it being August I was sweating like crazy. I wondered many times if I could do this. I know my pace was slow and I felt bad for Heather slowing down so much to walk with me. But I was also so incredibly grateful for her support. It kept me going knowing I was going to meet someone out and they would be looking for me.
My focus really wasn't on "weight loss" as much as it was on saving my own life. I didn't even have a number goal yet for my weight. At the same time, the company I work for had started an "Active for Life" program and we got points for each minute of exercise activity we completed each day. I focused on getting as many activity points as I could. I ended up increasing the number of walks I took each day. I also did walking videos when the weather didn't cooperate. When I traveled to corporate for my week in the office each month, I walked with friends there.
In time, I felt strong enough to try Tae Bo again. I love kickboxing. So I did that here and there in addition to my walking.
I bought a scale a few weeks into it and began tracking my weight, BMI and body fat percentage (its a cool scale) on a weekly basis. I also took body measurements at the very beginning and I retake them each month.
My friend Barb and I talked every week for ideas, accountability and the like.
My eating changed alot. One of the things on my check list was to figure out more healthy options when I eat out. I travel alot for work, so that would be hard...and yet I did it. At McDonalds I get a grilled chicken sandwich and a yogurt parfait. Or a BBQ grilled snack wrap and apples. Now, everywhere I go, any restaurant, I can find something that is healthier. It isn't about "I can't have that" because that is a dieters mentality and I'm not dieting. It is more like "I am making a better choice and getting this instead."
As time went on, I amazed myself at how great I felt. It was as if someone had turned a switch on and it was permanently stuck in the on position. My little girl and I walked a 5K in October to benefit breast cancer research. It felt awesome to walk in honor of my grandmother, a friend's sister and a wonderful friend I lost earlier this decade. On the grand scale of what I need to lose, 18 pounds didn't seem like too much...but it motivated me to keep going.
I started snacking as well - this is a very important point. I eat when I am hungry, which some days seems like every few hours with all the exercise. But I eat healthy snacks, like a cheese stick or almonds. I have even become a huge fan of dried plums (the old prunes). Part of the program at work was to learn about nutrition, so I dug into healthy eating habits. I knew alot about what was "good" for me by years of weight watchers and other diets. But I started learning about what foods would fuel my body to be able to do more. Being a pro at dieting I would never have eated a handful of almonds a day - they were loaded with fat! Now they are a daily staple in my diet as I learned the difference between good fat and bad fat. I stopped eating fat free food, or food that was pretending to be food I used to like...I realized that eating three low fat sugar free chocolate chip cookies would NOT satisfy the craving I had for one real chocolate chip cookie. But instead of baking them, I would go to Subway and buy one. Craving solved. Day not ruined. My body NEEDS fat in order to be fuel efficient. I had gauged successful weight loss weeks on how hungry I had felt during the week. No longer did I have to feel hungry and the weight was coming off.
We had 2 Thanksgiving dinners to attend in November. I walked that morning, then took the family to walk with me again in between meals. I lost weight that week. As the first of the year approached, I watched people everywhere set huge goals for themself and I did not feel pressured to do that. What I was doing was working for me. And it was SO not a diet! How crazy, right?
In January my friend Barb challenged me ~ what was I going to do to step up my exercise? I was a walking pro by now, walking 6 days a week at least 2 miles. Even walking to my friend Heather's house (about a mile away) instead of driving. I had heard alot about the Biggest Loser workout series. I got some random spam email about it and decided to look at Amazon and check it out. I purchased the Cardio Max DVD and waited in anticipation for it. I mean, these trainers know how to work a thick chick out, so this was going to be good.
The video came and it has 3 levels - the first is 20 minuts of cardio (after a 5 min warmup, followed by a 5 minute cooldown), then you graduate in a few weeks to adding another 10 min cardio segment, and then another. I LOVED this video so much I bought the Power Sculpt DVD next. I was still walking too, a few days a week. But something about doing 300 lunges was really appealing to me and extremely effective. Weight continued to drop, but the biggest thing I saw drop at this point as inches. By January, I had lost about 25 inches total (measuring arms, bust, stomach, hips, thighs, calves). 6 weeks after starting the Biggest Loser DVDs I had lost another 20 inches. It blew my mind! My favorite part? The people I was exercising with on the DVDs were NOT skinny. It was the BL contestants themselves "before" for the most part. I felt like I was exercising with people who were just like me. If they could do it, so could I!
Then some friends in New Orleans decided to start the Couch to 5K running program. I had tried this once before after being sedentary (no exercise at all) and wasn't able to get past week 3. I decided to try again. My first two runs were amazing! I felt so strong, so excited. I found a running store in Panama City and planned that Saturday to go and be fitted for running shoes.
Friday night (February 19) I fell down my front steps in a completely freak accident. There are a few things that could have happened. One, my jeans are too big and therefore too long, and caught under my boot and made me slip. Two, Dixie was pulling me and I just lost my footing. Or, three, we will blame it on Fernando, my brain tumor. Yes, he has now earned a name. He's too famous in my daily clumsiness not to be named.
I cried while on the ground, as I knew I had really hurt my ankle. Not because of the pain, but because I was so depressed that my running and exercise would be halted. Now I sit here with a cast on my ankle up to my knee almost. It will be 2 weeks before my cast comes off...then who knows how long before I am able to walk for exercise and even run.
But the best part of this is that I will not gain weight back. I may not lose as quickly either (dang it) but I will not gain. I know how to eat now. I can do my weights with my arms and focus on core training. On the days I am not exhausted from gimping around that is.
I look at every day right now as a day of decision. What will I decide to eat today? Will I make good choices 90% of the time? That is my goal.
One of the girls on the Biggest Loser DVDs said this in an interview. "I used to look at how much weight I had to lose and it was too scary, too big of a number. Then I decided to just put one foot in front of the other, every day."
One of the trainers on BL says "Its all about progress, not perfection."
I have lost 42 pounds and 45 inches to date. I won't be able to get on the scale again until after I have the cast off. And I'm ok with that. My cholesterol has gone down 52 points. My doctor is very happy with that.
I have a goal of losing 50 pounds by March 25th. That is 3 weeks away. The significance of that date is that it is my 10 year wedding anniversary. Now that I can't exercise the same way, I am not entire sure I will make it. In fact, I won't even know if I'm close until March 16th when I get my cast off. :) But I am excited nonetheless. If I don't make that goal, I'll readjust. And it will be fine. I want to have lost 100 pounds by September of this year. That will put me at the weight I was when I got married, 185. Then, I will decide how far to go from there.
I am incredibly excited, energized, and interested in how my future will look. I don't feel like my health holds me hostage anymore. I feel so completely calm about food choices. I can't wait to get back to my BL videos and walking/running again. But I will do so slowly and carefully so my ankle can heal completely.
So, my posts from now on will be about where I am now. You're all caught up on the back story. If I think of other things I've missed, I'll add them in.
I'm excited you are on this journey with me. This weekend I will try to post a "now" picture. It is kind of unbelievable how 42 pounds has changed how I look so much. I can't wait to share that with you.
Until next time,