Lightbulb Moment: I have battled my weight for the majority of my life and for a period of my adult life I began to ignore the same. I attempted to carry the problems of the world, and it literally began to show on the scale. I eventually began to experience such severe anxiety that I contemplated being medicated as there were times that I would feel too anxious to participate in daily life. As a licensed professional counselor I knew what was going on, and I knew the extra weight was only exacerbating the anxiety. I managed to lose about 35 lbs. from the middle of 2011 through the beginning of 2012. However, I gained 10 lbs. back after experiencing a difficult time when I lost my job in 2012 as a result of the office closing/a program being discontinued. Rather than utilizing this extra time to focus on getting healthier, I focused solely on trying to find another job and feeling defeated when it took longer than expected. It was in January 2013 that I decided it was time to get serious before I no longer had a chance to improve my health. I decided to finally take the advice I continually give clients. I knew for me to be seen as a credible counselor then I needed to be a better example of a healthier lifestyle (a healthy nutritious diet as well as being physically active). I decided to treat my body as if I had received bad news from my doctor. I hadn’t received bad news from any physician, but I knew I was headed in that direction.
How did you do it? I initially lost the previously mentioned 35 lbs. by utilizing Visalus shakes & exercising mostly on the elliptical (my knees weren’t ready for much else). I quickly learned that this was not a lifestyle that I could maintain for more than a few months. When I decided to really get serious in January 2013 I began Weight Watchers and adding a variety of physical activity. For me this was the lifestyle change that I needed. Weight Watchers has been something that has assisted me in establishing a more balanced & nutritious diet without eliminating any food groups. I incorporate an abundance of fruits & vegetables daily while also ensuring that I drink a minimum of 64oz of water per day. I take two 32oz bottles of water to work every day and consume them prior to the end of my work day. The water I consume in the evenings (which is typically another 32oz or more) is considered “bonus” for me. I was alarmed to learn the amount of calories I was consuming just through beverages prior to January 2013, and I was not even drinking soda regularly. I began to try new activities in efforts to keep myself interested (I tend to get bored easily). I complete a minimum of 30 minutes per day of physical activity (even on “rest” days) while aiming for 1-2 hours at least 5 days per week.
I also have learned that I must make myself a priority. I can be supportive to others without attempting to carry their burdens for them. In attempting to carry the burdens others (often without their knowledge or consent) I was neglecting myself and not accomplishing anything positive in that process. I have learned that no matter how much I want what is best for some else they are not going to change until they’re ready. My goals often will not align with those of others, but it is possible for us to each do what is best for us as individuals while having different goals. This was an important part of the process for me in learning to let go so that I could be the healthiest me possible without carrying guilt for making myself a priority.
What was the biggest challenge you faced? How did you overcome it? My biggest challenge was learning that progress is measured by so much more than the number on the scale. I often wouldn’t see that number decrease (& have even seen it increase at times), which would result in feeling disgruntled momentarily. In lifting weights I have noticed my clothes fitting differently & even going down another pant size despite the number on the scale only decreasing a little. I have also began to see that my body is much more capable (from the little things of being able to do regular pushups vs. pushups on the knees to the bigger things of being able to engage in an hour or more of physical activity without feeling as if my heart is going to pound out of my chest). Recognizing all of this progress beyond the scale helps to keep me motivated. I am working on accepting that I will never be the type of person that can eat whatever I want without rather immediate consequences. Genetics may not be working in my favor, but I refuse to let that be my excuse any longer. I may have to work harder, but I am willing to do just that in order to live a longer & healthier life.
What was the single thing that helped you most along the way, especially when things got tough? Having a support system has helped me tremendously. One of my very dear friends & I check in with one another weekly at a minimum, which provides accountability & support. She has lost over 175lbs & has gained an amazing level of fitness in the healthiest ways possible. She has been a phenomenal role model, & I have also been very fortunate to have numerous other supporters. My husband has been willing to run at my pace since day one despite him being a much more capable soccer player type, and he is willing to help me conquer any task I decide to try. From kayaking to running in 5Ks that result in colorful explosions & glitter at the finish line, he is always by my side to provide encouragement when I just don’t think I can go any further. A whole host of friends & family have also been tremendous from simply providing words of encouragement to also joining me in my active adventures. I am truly surrounded by some wonderful people.
With that being said, I think it is also important to address that when you are on a journey such as this, people like to tell you what you should or should not be doing. Often these are individuals with the best of intentions, but at times their words are discouraging & critical. The important thing is finding what works for you and consulting with professionals as needed (I have a primary care physician, nutritionist, & personal trainer that I can consult with freely if any concerns arise) due to the amount of conflicting information you will encounter when trying to improve your quality of life. Also remember that the way people treat you is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves so try to not to take it too personally.
How has your life changed since losing the weight? I have experienced a significant decrease in anxiety and my enthusiasm for truly living life has increased significantly. I no longer dread physical activity, as it is something that I look forward to & try to determine how I can fit more into my day. I previously worried a great deal (especially when others were involved) about any activity that required some physical ability (even walking a short distance to an event) due to being worried that I couldn’t complete the task or would be the one to hold the group back. I now look forward to these opportunities. Due to my increased confidence & growing to believe that I am a capable person, I find myself continually stepping outside of my comfort zone (not just with regards to physical activity), but also professionally & personally. We are all given only one life, & for me the goal is to make this a life worth living.
Exercise routine: As previously mentioned I initially relied heavily on the elliptical (I still love it, but I have added so much more). Due to getting bored easily it is important for me to switch it up to keep myself interested. I also keep myself focused by setting goals (both long term & short term). I set a goal in January 2013 to run an entire 5K in June of 2013, & I have never been a “runner” in my life. This seemed like such a lofty goal for me as I could barely walk a mile without some sort of pain when I first started to get serious about my health. However, I did it! The pace was nothing phenomenal, but I ran the entire distance! I continue to run/jog (I have committed to doing at least one official 5K per month until the weather is too cold & icy) while incorporating numerous other activities to include: yoga classes at least 2x per week; kayaking & hiking when weather permits; walking the dogs; swimming (mostly during the summer); weight lifting (something I never thought I would do as I was too self-conscious to go to a gym. I finally took that leap in Dec. 2013 by joining a gym & obtaining a personal trainer. This has completely changed my level of physical fitness, & I couldn’t be happier with my decision); and the activity that catches most people’s attention is my love of hula hooping (I do a minimum of 30 minutes per day, & typically this is the first thing I do each day. I hoop on my waist while standing on an exercise trampoline to increase engagement of my core. I also have mini hoops that I use for my arms. I continually switch my hoops to one that is lighter & smaller in circumference to continually challenge myself. My goal is to be able hoop up & down my entire body, & I will get there eventually.
I typically get up at 5:45am on weekdays to allow for 30 minutes of hooping prior to getting to work at 8am. I go to the gym for weight training & at least 30 minutes of cardio at least 3 days per week (most often right after work as the gym I joined is conveniently located on the campus where I work). I go to an evening yoga class 1 day per week, & I have recently began attending a morning yoga class 1 day per week after hooping and prior to work. I allow for flexibility in my schedule several days per week so that I can incorporate different activities depending on the weather and my interest for the day. I am currently participating in a 30 day challenge of burpees, pushups, & squats with friends (one of my many 30 day challenges I have utilized).
Favorite on the go breakfast: An Xtreme Wellness (High Fiber Low Carb) Tortilla with 2 tablespoons of Chocolate PB2, ½ tablespoon of mini chocolate chips, & a banana.
Favorite snack: Almonds! I never leave home without almonds in my purse. There are also so many flavors so you can always switch it up.
Favorite dinner: Sushi (Rainbow Roll) with Eel Sauce & Wasabi along with a Japanese Salad. I also love seafood so I am frequently having some type of seafood grilled, steamed, or baked along with an abundance of vegetables.
Advice for someone just starting: I have several pieces of advice based on what has worked for me as well as things I wish I would have done. Start by setting small goals. You didn’t get to your current physical state overnight therefore you aren’t going to arrive at your long term goal overnight. Be willing to try new activities and new foods so that you can find what works best for your body (I recognize that Weight Watchers isn't the answer for everyone. It's just what has worked for me). I have established non-food rewards for myself when I achieve goals along the way as I think it’s important to celebrate the journey and not just the ultimate goal. Try to look at this as a lifestyle rather than a temporary "diet." I know I don’t want to go back to where I once was (high anxiety, lack of motivation, often lethargic, etc.), which motivates me to accept this as a lifestyle change. I am also a very visual person so I have two jars of marbles (one for pounds to go & one for pounds lost) so that I can have a constant visual of my progress. Do yourself a favor & take a picture of your full body at the beginning of your goals. You will be thankful for these comparison photos on the days you are feeling discouraged. Measuring inches is also a wonderful way to measure progress that doesn’t involve stepping on a scale. It’s so important to remember that your progress is measured by so much more than just measurements of your body.
Anything else that you would like to share: Believe that you are worth it! I have often heard people say that they don’t have the time to devote to exercise, eating healthier, etc. along with numerous other excuses. I was an expert on making excuses, but I eventually recognized that these excuses were literally destroying my life. However, until you are ready to make the change & commit to being a healthier you then you will find it very difficult to stay motivated (or so was my experience). The support of others may get you started, but the desire to make this change for yourself is what will keep you going. You may need to assess your life & see what is or is not working for you with regards to your schedule and habits. See what you might be able to change & be willing to let go of what you can’t change. My very supportive friend passed along a message that was very helpful to me when I would feel that I was neglecting others to take care of myself, so I will also pass that along to you: “A healthy you is the gift you give others. Take care of yourself so that the people who need you can have the best you.” I also found another quote that has been helpful to me when experiencing setbacks (moments of gaining weight, not meeting fitness goals as quickly as I would like, eating poorly, etc.) so I will share that with you as well: “Giving up on your goal because of one setback is like slashing your other three tires because you got one flat.”
Peace, love, & sweat to each of you!