I have thought through my story a thousand times in my head. Is my story even worth telling? Will I be judged? If I tell people about my world at my lowest low, it makes it all real.
It was real.
Perhaps my story can help someone, somewhere. So, here I go.
I am a 33 year old full time working mom and wife with a beautiful 5 year old daughter. I have dealt with body image issues and low self-confidence my entire life. After a brief marriage that ended in a painful divorce, I don’t think I ever really took time to heal and reevaluate my life. I began going out to bars every night, drinking, and eating without thinking all the time. I have always been a little thicker, but I found my weight gain really accelerated during that period.
At 27 I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. During my first OB appointment I was informed of the risks of being so overweight (215 pounds standing 5’3). I was determined to get healthier with the help of my doctor, not only for me, but for my unborn child.
During my pregnancy I watched what I ate and walked daily. I did not gain a pound my entire pregnancy. I was thrilled and thought I would surely be at least 10 pounds lighter after giving birth. WRONG. Not a difference. I was beyond confused. I asked my doctor why that could be, and her response was that this was just ‘normal for an obese person’. Needless to say, I did not like that answer. And man that word stung: Obese.
I was obese.
I fell quickly into a depression that was driven by even more weight gain. I searched for a medical reason that would explain why I was so large. In the process I let my weight spiral out of control until I topped the scales at 260lbs. I was disgusted, embarrassed, and deeply ashamed. I could barely walk up the stairs without losing my breath, my body hurt and my quality of life was poor. I just knew that if I did not change the direction I was headed my life would be significantly shortened. I have to admit, the thought of my funeral played many times in my head.
In March 2013 I finally looked at myself in the mirror, tears streaming down my face, and I asked myself WHY I let myself go so far.
Why did I hate myself so much? Was my life worth reclaiming? What would it feel like if I could change everything? In that moment, I knew it was up to me to take action. I needed to take ownership of what brought me to 260lbs and I needed to fix it.I started with finding an accountability partner; I chose my sister Heather. I still remember the day I sent her a message asking for help; I was so embarrassed and scared. She told me that if she was going to give me her time to help, she needed to know I was committed.
On the first night we got together to discuss my goals, she brought a contract for me to sign. Log my food. Move my body.Say 3 positive things about myself in the mirror daily. At the time I had no idea that contract would change my life.We began to do short work outs together: 20 minutes 2-3 times a week. It didn’t matter what I did, as long as I was just moving.
Over time I started to build on those workouts. My goals began to evolve from 20-30 minutes of activity to 30-40 minutes, then over time up to an hour. I transitioned from slow walks, to walking up hill, to doing short running intervals.
I’d day dream about what it wouldbe like to be healthy. I would see other women doing awesome things like running, and I thought that could never be me. I could barely run on the treadmill for one minute. Run a mile?? Ya, right! But the image of those women happily running stuck with me, so I made a goal of running a mile without stopping. I mapped out a flat route by my house that was exactly a mile. The first time I tried this mile I probably stopped at least 6 times. But I tried again and again looking for small improvements each run. I still remember perfectly the first time I ran a whole mile without stopping. As I could see the end in sight I remember thinking “I can do this. I am actually going to run a mile!” and I pushed ahead, literally telling my mind (that was trying to convince me that I couldn’t do it) to shut the heck up. As I reached the end of that mile, tears welled up and poured out of my eyes. My sister gave me a huge congratulatory hug and she shed a tear with me. Those 13 minutes were life changing. It started a fire within me that has only built rolling momentum over time.
I then set my sights on completing a 5k. And guess what-I did it! It took me 45 minutes, but it was further than I had ever gone before. My goals kept evolving. I loved seeing myself grow. I loved pushing to break through a new barrier I thought was unattainable. As I progressed with these physical achievements, weight loss followed in step. Just shy of a year into my fitness journey I decided to kick it up a notch with the encouragement of my sister and I committed to and completed a sprint triathlon in February 2014 which included a 400 yard mile swimming, 10 mile bike ride, and 3.1 mile run. A year prior I would have never even thought I could achieve something like that! My whole world was changing little by little. My confidence was growing, my zest for life was increasing, and I felt like a whole new person.
In May 2014 my sister and I were invited to join a newly created running group. I had only ever run with my sister-she was my comfort zone. She had been with me through it all, my very first work out, my breakthrough of a mile. The thought of running with other people honestly frightened me. What if they were stellar runners and I held them up with my novice abilities? I decided to put my fears aside and give it a try once. Everyone told me that running in a group would change me for the better-but I could not fathom how that was even possible. The first run with the group I was a nervous wreck. We were doing 4 miles on a dirt road. After the first mile my body (and nerves) settled in and I stopped thinking about running- I just started talking with the girls. It got my mind distracted from that little whisper that happens to everyone that says “Stop. You are tired. Just walk”. I completed the whole 4 miles with them without stopping which was yet another Personal Record. I was excited to go again. We started going weekly, sometimes even picking up a run on a week night. I began to gain endurance. I tested myself. I pushed to keep up and not stop.
In May 2015 I completed the Ogden half marathon and I crushed my original half time finishing in 2:17. It poured buckets of rain the entire time but I loved every second of it. Running through the closed canyon next to a rushing river was exhilarating. Seeing the heart of other runners pushing through the obstacle of being freezing and soaking wet, and hearing the cheers of the bystanders who came out in the horrible weather to show support, it all made me tear up. I wanted more…
I couldn’t have signed up for another race quicker. Huntsville Half September 2015. 2:11. Another PR. And the most beautiful course ever. After that race I decided I was ready to take it to the next level. I wanted more. I can feel the need to run burning in my heart, begging me to get out and see where my feet can take me next! I am currently in training for a full marathon in May 2016. My desire to explore has grown. I have taken to the trails to test my fitness in a whole new way. There is something about climbing to the top of the peak and running down a mountain that changes you. I am in love with trail running! It’s amazing how something so exhausting can be the most energizing experience on the planet.
Running has opened a whole new world for me. I love the feeling of my feet hitting the pavement and a breeze in my face as I fly through the air. Through running, I have seen not only physical growth, but personal growth. I have had ah-ha moments, I have shed a tear or two, I have fallen, I have been picked up and picked others up, I have laughed until I cried, I have vented like I was in a therapy session, I have struggled and I have overcome. I have gained friendships through running that I know will last a lifetime. I have felt the high of a PR and felt the low of struggling to even finish. And I want to go out and do it again and again and again. Rain, shine, snow, wind, road, dirt-my heart craves being outside, anywhere, logging any miles I can.
I dreamt of being one of those ‘success stories’ and one of those runner women. Well, here I am. 3 years and 120 pounds separate my before’ish’ pictures (forgive my ‘befores’; photos did not exist in my world back then) and my current pictures. My life, my attitude, and my whole demeanor have changed abundantly. To you I say this: if there is something in your life you want to change, if there is a goal you want to achieve, if you dream of being a person that is different than who you are today-What are you waiting for? Go. Live your life. Become that person—you can do it!
It takes little changes. And those little changes build up over time to become one huge change. Just take the first step. And then another after that.