I recently went to the doctor for a simple check-up. No worries, all preventative. Anyway, this was my first time seeing a doctor over here. When she came in she looked over my information and then sort of looked puzzled. I asked if there was something wrong and then she stated that she thought that my file was mixed up because it said at one point that I was morbidly obsese. I pointed out to her that, it was probably correct as I had been much more overweight at an earlier point in my life…
So yes, apparently I was morbidly obsese. Hmm. It didn’t really shock me because looking back on everything, I was at the threshold. I am not sure what my highest weight was because I got to the point where I didn’t really want to see the number on the scale. I was depressed. I was unhappy. I was incredibly unhealthy. I had struggled with weight issues for most of my life. Then it hit me. I have to make a change.
January 2006 was my starting point. I had been vegetarian for many years and decided to go cold turkey (no pun intended) vegan. I also decided to start training for a triathlon. Shocking I know.
When I started to work out, I could not even run 1/4 mile. It was incredibly frustrating for someone who wanted instant results. I was very mired with things like not being able to workout for a long period of time and being faced with having at least a 100 lbs weight loss journey ahead of me. The macro-picture was overwhelming me.
But for some reason, I didn’t quit. Soon my 1/4 mile turned into 1/2 mile and then 1 mile and so on. I had the audacity to put on a swim suit and swim laps. It brought back the fun that I had in middle/high school on the community swim team. I feel back in love with swimming and was decidedly in a place where I was going to make myself fall in love with running.
I had two really awesome friends who helped me through this process. One of them is a personal trainer with her own business that was once in a position of being overweight. She wasn’t in as dire a position as I, but she overcame her situation and decided to dedicate herself to helping others achieve their health goals. My other friend was with me and ran races with me. She would hit the treadmill with me and help me to pass the time with talking and encouragement. She even did some brick workouts with me in preparation for the triathlon. There were others that supported me, but these two were pivotal in getting me over the times when I wanted to give up.
So that has been over four years ago and I have continued to keep the weight off. I am not sure exactly how much weight I have lost, because I stay away from the scales as much as possible. But at last check I was down 140 lbs. I have participated in a century bike ride, two triathlons, and countless running events (because the love story came true and I am in love with running now). It also led me to pursue a career in wellness and exercise. I am getting my certification in group exercise this weekend and am pretty excited and nervous at the same time. I am still not mentally in my body without the weight – meaning, I sometimes don’t believe that the body that I am living in is the same one that I was living in four or more years ago. I often think about what my life would have been like if I had my the decision to change my life over four years ago.
I think that this perspective helps me to train clients that are trying to get healthier. I have been there and can sympathize with most of their feelings because it is highly likely that I have had the same exact thoughts and feelings.
I don’t write this to brag about my position, as I look back on the unhealthy aspects of my life and am embarressed. I write this story and laying it all out there to inspire those that don’t have a healthy lifestyle and are teetering on the edge of change. It can be done and I am living proof that you do not need a TV show, 24 hour chef, personal dietitians, or a 24-hour personal trainer to achieve your goal (is this reminding you of a certain show?)
Here are some of my tips from reflecting on my health journey…
1. Let go of the macro – When faced with 100lbs or more of weight loss it is easy to say that it is impossible to achieve when you are losing 1-2 lbs per week. Think of the short term. Focus on upping your mileage, upping the time that you can perform cardio, or upping the amount of reps you can do when strength training. Those goals will bring gratification sooner than the triple digit pound loss that you are faced with.
2. Have a partner that can encourage you. Whether that is a friend, your spouse/partner, a trainer, anyone who has your best interests in mind and is encouraging you to be healthier not necessarily encouraging you to a body type.
3. Set a non-weight related goal. This will keep you motivated and give you a goal to obtain outside of the weight loss. A 5K “fun-run” or walk or a charity walk is a good place to start if you are new to exercise. Once you have signed up for it, tell others about it so that they can keep you accountable and encourage you towards your goal.
4. You have to change your exercise and diet plan. Just changing one will not work in the long run. While I went cold-turkey vegan (which is pretty drastic, I won’t lie), there are other ways of approaching it, such as taking steps. Remove soda from your diet. Change the way you snack. Every little bit helps and will make you feel better in the long run.
5. Use multiple numbers to determine your health. Weight alone will not give you an accurate account of your overall health. Numbers to know: BMI, Body fat percentage, cholesterol ratio, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
6. You have to get enough sleep. This is so important to your overall health and especially since your activity level will increase. I try and schedule my sleep (yes, I’m 80 and lame) because it is so important. Remember how great you feel after you get a full night’s sleep? Why not make that happen for yourself? Is whatever you are doing at night to keep you awake worth it? Or is it something that can be done the next day?
7. Plan, Plan, Plan – I am a planner. I have daytimers, I love calendars, and make lists constantly. So it was easy for me to plan out my meals over the weekend as well as plan out my workouts. I knew when I would not be able to fit in a workout, so I knew that day would need to be a rest day. If I was going to be away from the house all day, I would make sure to pack my lunch and snacks so that I wasn’t tempted to eat out or grab snacks that I knew were unhealthy.
8. Read! I love to read, that is no question. However, I had to research healthy living in order to encompass it into my life. Read everything that you can get your hands on and take everything in stride. Don’t believe everything, especially stuff in the news because they like to be alarmists. Some good starting points are anything by Michael Pollan and You: On a Diet by Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen.
9. Do Not ascribe to a fad diet. While it make work in the short term, most of them are designed to fail because you aren’t able to sustain them. Take your health into your own hands and refer to #8. Plus some of the fad diets are so new that their long term effects have not been studied and are undetermined.
10. Love yourself. This is super important and something that can still be elusive to me. Surround yourself with supportive people who also keep you accountable without being rude/mean. Respect your body and be astounded by how much it will allow you to do. Turning over a healthier “leaf” will make you feel better in general but the mental part is the hardest to overcome. You are doing yourself a favor and just leave the nay-sayers in the dust. They don’t have your best interests in mind and you do not need them. Surround yourself with people who make you better, not those that will tear you down.
So that is it. I have been ruminating on this post for a long time, and finally needed to get it out. The doctor’s visit was eye-opening in that I never knew that I was categorized in such a way. Plus it was a shock that no one ever really happened to mention that to me. Hmm. Anyway, I hope that this post will help others to determine that the best time to make healthier lifestyle changes is now, it is not something that can wait. In addition, the only person that can make the change is yourself. No one can force you to do it, or you will quit quickly. Your heart and head have to be in it so that you can get yourself through the rough patches.