It’s Not All About the Numbers

Today I rediscovered the joy of running.

One year ago today I bought my first “real” running shoes.  I was painfully slow, and filled with pain – both emotional and physical.  With each mile I ran, I found freedom.  For the first several months,all of my running was inside on the treadmill.  there I could run in the safety of home, with my television for entertainment, the air conditioning and ceiling fan for comfort, the bathroom mere steps away, and an unlimited supply of ice water whenever I wanted it.  I could run in shorts or pajamas.  I couldn’t imagine running outside.  That soon changed.

As the weather became nicer, I decided to venture out to the local high school track.  I couldn’t believe how different it felt.  I hated every step that first trip.  The wind made it harder to run.  There were people there who might secretly (or not so secretly) make fun of me.  They were all faster than me.  They had nicer running clothes, too.

I posted on Facebook that I didn’t think I would ever really like running outside.  A friend commented that she wouldn’t be surprised if I changed my mind.  She was right.  I loved watching the scenery pass, and I loved the feeling of actually moving forward.  I enjoyed the sights and the sounds and the sensations.  Sometimes I ran with music, and sometimes I listened to the wind and the birds.

Soon I was running at the track on a regular basis.  I “branched” out and began running around town and on local trails.  As winter fell, I found I hated the treadmill.  I had fallen in love with running.

Although I tracked my pace and was delighted to watch it improve, I didn’t focus much on my pace.  That all changed when I signed up for my first half marathon.  I knew it was an ambitious undertaking.  I had started as a person who needed to lose fully one half of her body weight.  I couldn’t walk a mile without stopping.  The race I signed up for had a time limit.  I was slow (I still am).  Not only was I asking my body to move much farther than it ever had before, I was demanding that it do so at a particular rate of speed.

I began tracking my pace on every run.  I tend to get a little obsessive about certain things.  Soon I was running with three different apps open, each with a particular feature the others didn’t have.  The joy of running turned into anxiety about a slower than average day, or the fact that I hadn’t improved over the previous week.  I pushed my body harder and faster, and when the race came, I still couldn’t keep up with the pace.  I got swept.  It was terribly disappointing.

Upon my return to the gym, I downloaded more apps that did more things.  I put a sensor on my shoe and obsessed about whether or not the apps were properly calibrated for the indoor track.  I lost sight of the joy I had found and focused on the numbers as a measure of success.

It’s been a long, cold winter.  When the sun came out today, I went back to the high school track where I took that first outdoor run.  I turned on an app to track my pace, but I turned off the feedback about pace and distance.  I listened to music.  I ran “faster” for one minute, then “slower” for the next minute.  I didn’t stress about my pace.

When my run was finished, I looked at the stats.  My pace wasn’t half bad, but that wasn’t what was important.  I got out there.  I ran.  I burned calories.  I sang.  I had fun.  I remembered why I started this running business in the first place.

Celebrating Life – The Anniversary of My Decision to LIVE

Tomorrow is an important anniversary for me.  I will celebrate one year of learning to love life again.

Sometimes depression creeps  in unnoticed.  We keep on doing the things we need to do, but we stop caring about the things that used to matter to us.  We may continue to care about others, but we stop caring about ourselves.   For me, it was like that.  I can’t point to an event that triggered it.  I don’t know why things changed.  I just know that in the days and weeks leading up to March 9, 2014, I was in a dangerous place.  I didn’t think anybody really cared.

You see, at over 300 pounds I was having a lot of health issues.  Daily life was difficult.  Losing half of my body weight seemed like an impossible task to contemplate.  I was having “heart palpitations” and began to feel as if I was about to lose consciousness on more than one occasion.  I came to believe that I was dying.  Rather than seek medical help, I decided to let nature take its course.  I wasn’t about to take steps to actively end my life, but I didn’t want to make the effort to save it.  I guess you’d call it passive suicide.  My overeating and inactivity were robbing me of life in a very real way, and I didn’t care enough to stop it.

I wish I could tell you what, exactly, flipped the switch in my head.  On March 9, 2014, I made up my mind to call my doctor and ask him to prescribe an antidepressant medication.  It was a Sunday.  The office was closed, but I made up my mind.

I called first thing on Monday morning.  My doctor was out of the office for the week, but I had a prescription bottle and an appointment for the next week before noon that day.  Opening the bottle and putting the first pill in my mouth, I felt both a sense of failure for not being strong enough and a sense of relief that maybe, just maybe I could feel better.

I have a group of online friends who I have “talked” with in various places for 7-8 years.  They are my invisible (not imaginary) friends.  I have plants they sent to my dad’s funeral to prove they exist.  I confessed to them my feelings of failure over needing medicine.

I confided in them about the tremendous loneliness and the feelings of isolation I was experiencing.  One of them suggested I try running.  I chuckled at the thought.  I tried going to the gym the next day.  I had a panic attack.  I couldn’t do it.  I was afraid of judgment.  I made my husband turn around and take me home.

A fellow attorney practicing in another part of the state (not one of the previously mentioned group of invisible friends) who I have never met in real life sent me a message suggesting we virtually work out  / run together and sign up for a race.

The “Arthur” video began showing up in my facebook feed over and over.  I’d watched it dozens of times before.  I’d even purchased the DDP Yoga videos in 2012, shed quite a few pounds,  and did a great job of learning to get off the floor (a skill I’d retained) before eventually giving up and going back to my old ways and regaining nearly every pound I had lost.

I watched the video again.  This time, when Arthur began running, the tears streamed down my face.

I’ve learned in my life that when I start getting the same message over and over from different sources, God is trying to tell me something.  I listened.  I decided that if I wanted to live badly enough to put medicine in my body, then I wanted to live badly enough to take back my life.  If Arthur could learn to walk again, and learn to run, then so could I.

Those of you who have followed me the past year know how the rest of the story goes.  I started walking, and then I began running slowly on the treadmill.  I got over the fear of the gym and added weights to my workout.  I hit the yoga mat and did some DDPYoga.  I swam laps.  I posted on Facebook (a lot).

Soon the weather warmed and the outdoors called.  I ran on the high school track.  I ran through town.  I ran on trails.  I ran on the beach.  Although I sometimes took Jimi the Wonder Dood with me, usually this was time to myself.  I started seeing the wonder in nature- in leaves and waves and birds.  I talked to God.  He talked back in rustling leaves and wind on my face.  He talked to me through “cheers” when friends “liked” my runs on Facebook.

It wasn’t quick or easy.  I still had days when sadness pressed on my heart and made it difficult to do anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary.  Slowly, though, I returned to the land of the living.  I stopped just going through the motions.  I devoted more time to getting my soul back in order through prayer, meditation and lots and lots of sweat.

The popular adage says that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  I’m making lemonade and trying to give it away.  One year ago I really didn’t care if I lived or died.  One year ago, I thought that nobody cared.  One year ago I couldn’t have dreamed how wonderful life is today.

I still take those pills.  I take another for my thyroid and one for my blood pressure.  It’s part of my daily routine.  The pills didn’t fix me.  I had to do that myself with a lot of help from God and my friends and family.  I still run.  I still get sad once in a while.  It’s no longer overwhelming.

I’m a little frightened to post this, but I feel it is necessary.  It’s scary to admit that you struggle with depression.  I worry that it could hurt me professionally.  I fear that people will think less of me if they know that I have problems just like anyone else.  I believe that we need to move beyond the stigma that mental health issues hold.  I believe that if people in pain knew how many people suffer with them, people would be more inclined to seek help before it becomes easier to think about dying than to think about living.

Writing this blog post is me making lemonade.  It’s not the  “koolaid,” if it’s not your thing – move on.

I don’t believe that God tests us like Job in the Old Testament, but I do think that he gives us opportunities to understand and help others when we face trials.  I think that he gives us the grace to move through our challenges if we ask.  I think that when we are taught lessons paid for with blood, sweat and tears, it is only right to share the lessons that we have learned.

Please don’t give up.   Don’t passively wait for your vices and problems to kill you.  If you are depressed, there is hope.  Medicine is not shameful.  Therapy is not shameful.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Don’t be afraid of failure.  Don’t be afraid of judgment.  Never, ever give up.

Today, I celebrate the life I have been given.  I am excited to see what the next 365 days holds. I am a work in progress.  Next year you will see another brand new me.  I can’t wait.

To those of you who have “liked,” “commented,” or “shared” my writing in the past, thank you for encouraging me.  To those of you who are new to this page, welcome.  Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share with you.

Today, I am celebrating life.  Welcome to the party.

~Be~

Ditch the Witch!

I wrote this several years ago (2012) at the beginning of one of my “practice starts” to my healthier lifestyle.

*****************************

There is this woman in my life – she makes things so hard

  • she never leaves me alone
  • she goes everywhere with me
  • she sleeps with my husband (that’s awkward!)
  • she makes me carry her up the stairs
  • she makes me carry her down the stairs
  • she shares my clothes
  • she eats my meals
She’s mean, too:
  • she won’t let me ice skate with my kids
  • she won’t let me ride a roller coaster at Cedar Point
  • she won’t let me do fun things with my husband

Every step I take, I carry her with me.

Letting the other woman into my life made sense at the time. She helped me hide from the people who might want to get too close.  She protected me from attention I couldn’t handle.  She helped me come up with excuses for why I couldn’t go for a walk or dance at a wedding.  She was my partner and co-conspirator (and made a wicked hot-fudge sundae, too!)

I weigh as much as two of the *real* me.

Every step I take is twice the work.

I’m going to ditch the witch!

She won’t go away all at once.   I’ll have to push her away ounce by ounce.  She knows she’s on her way out.  I’ve started packing her suitcase.  Most of the size 26 clothes are already in it.  She can have them.  I don’t need them.

I won’t send her away hungry.  The cupboard is full of processed foods with gluten and refined sugars.  She loves that stuff, so I’ll pack her a care package.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I’m going to run on the beach, ride roller coasters and chase kids and grandchildren.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I’m going to buy skinny clothes made for one person – not two.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I don’t need her anymore.

*********************************

Update:  her suitcase is getting pretty full.  She’s been given the eviction notice and she knows her time is limited.

I’ve added to the things I’m going to do when I ditch the witch

I’m going to run (and FINISH!) a half marathon.

I’m going to run up and down the stairs at the high school stadium

I’m going to zumba and kickbox and yoga and RUN her right out of my life.

I’m going to ditch the witch (3/4/2015)

The Bus of Shame (or, The Saddest Ride at Walt Disney World!)

Last Sunday, I had the great pleasure of participating in RunDisney’s Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World Resort.  I lined up at 4:30 a.m. in a parking lot  at Epcot Center with about 15,000 of my fellow runners for the happiest half marathon on the plant.

On the long walk to Corral “N,” we passed a large truck with the label “mass casualty response unit.”  This was more than a little disconcerting.  Still, although the air was chilly and I hadn’t had my coffee, I lined up and excitedly waited for the first group to be released at 5:30 a.m.  As you may have gathered, it takes some time to release nearly 15,000 runners on a course.  Consequently, I was still waiting to begin my run for another hour.  I spent that time reflecting on the journey that had brought me to where I was.

I thought back to the day in March 2014 when I took my first steps in several years on the treadmill.  I was elated when I finished my first mile.  Soon I traveled to a running store and purchased “real” running shoes and downloaded an handful of running apps.  Although I often felt slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter, I kept going.

A few months later my lovely “bonus daughter” (also a runner), told me she was planning to run the Princess Half Marathon.  Although I knew it was a lofty goal for me, I registered and began training.  Over the course of 2014 and early 2015, I logged over 400 miles.  Sometimes life got in the way, and between unexpected life events and illnesses, I missed out on several significant blocks of training.  As the race date approached, I knew that I could go the distance, but my times were still slow, and I knew it was questionable whether I would be able to maintain the required minimum pace, although I was doing w11020486_10153158688958223_2338817202565848104_nell on my training runs on the nice flat, climate-controlled indoor track.

I obsessively checked my training times, read blogs about the wicked “balloon ladies,” (the pace group for the 16 minute/mile).  I crafted my tutu, packed my bags and felt moderately confident that I wouldn’t be “swept” and have to ride the “bus of shame” back to the finish line instead of running through the happiest finish line on earth.

By the time my corral was called, I was cold and my feet hurt from standing in one place.  My timing app wasn’t working right, my glasses were fogged and smeared so I couldn’t read the screen anyhow, my earbuds were malfunctioning, and I had absolutely no clue what my pace was.  I just knew it felt slow.

I had a blast running among other “princesses” (and a few princes) wearing tutus (the princes, too!).  I pumped my fist as I ran by the speakers playing the theme from Rocky.  I sang along to “Don’t Stop Believing”  and I smiled my way into the Magic Kingdom.  As I passed through the park, I remembered the long, long lines at the porta potties I’d passed, and I popped into a “real” bathroom.  Still blissfully unaware of my pace, I readjusted my tutu, washed and dried my hands and popped open a packet of caffeinated jelly beans.

As I joined the pack of princesses, I heard the news – the balloon ladies had passed by.  My trip to the bathr10502162_10153159811733223_3231952080083691982_noom had cost me precious minutes, and now I had to try to fight my way through the pack of princesses to catch up.  I flew through Cinderella’s castle and as I exited the park again, I spotted the balloons waaaaay up ahead of me.

I tried my hardest to pick up the pace.  The news filtered through the pack that we had until Mile 8 to catch up, or we would be swept – transported to the finish.  I tried hard to weave through the other back of the pack princesses.  I could see the balloons getting closer.  We passed by several security people and I overheard one tell the other, “the race is over for these ones, whether they like it or not.”  I passed by a woman sobbing loudly.  I asked if she was okay, and she answered through tears that she was okay, just devastated that she wasn’t finishing.

I pushed harder even though I knew I was wearing myself out with 5 miles left to go.  I could see Milepost 8, and I could see the balloons.  As the balloons passed the mile marker, two large buses pulled across the road.  Medics were there to help those who needed assistance, and we were asked to board the bus.

The driver told us each, “great job.”  The ride back to Epcot seemed to take a very long time.  There wasn’t a smile to be seen.  We had been swept.  We were on the vehicle that had been dubbed “The Bus of Shame” by numerous bloggers.  My heart sunk.  My Facebook was broadcasting my splits to my friends.  I really thought I could do it.  I had failed to reach my goal.  I was sad.

As we exited the vehicle, some of the wonderful volunteers staffing the event met us with high fives and medals.  Although we had not finished the 13.1 miles, they draped a shining medal around each of our necks.  They showed us where to get our bananas, our drinks and our snack boxes.

I wandered over to the “real” finish line for a few minutes and watched the crowd cheer for those who were finishing.  My heart sunk into my shoes, and I moped my way back to the bus that would return me to my hotel for a much needed shower.

I called my husband, and told him I’d only made it 8 miles.  I posted on Facebook that I’d only made it 8 miles.  I waited for my bonus daughter  (who finished!  Yay for her!!!) Then, I took a nap.

Naps fix almost everything – especially attitudes.

My high school friend, Lyle, posted one of my statuses from early 2014 on my wall – one where I was overjoyed that I was able to run for a handful of minutes without stopping.  It was at that moment that I realized there was absolutely no shame in having been swept after 8 miles.

I thought back to my first 10K race in September.  I finished dead last, but I was thrilled to have finished.  That race was only 6.2 miles.  My Disney run was 2 miles longer (more if you count the long hike to the corrals before it even began!)

Since I started running in March 2014, I’ve completed four 5K races and a 10K.  Yesterday I finished my 500th mile.  I’ve run on trails and tracks and through parking lots.  I’ve had scores of wonderful experiences and only a handful of negatives.  Best of all, I’ve lost over 70 pounds, I’ve regained the ability to physically do many things that I couldn’t dream of for a number of years, and I’ve made new friends and reconnected with old ones.

Although that bus ride was still the saddest ride at Walt Disney World, there is no “Bus of Shame.”  Every back of the pack princess on that bus was someone who set a lofty goal and spent many hours training getting to mile 8.  While I apologize to the runners who had to fight their way through the pack in order to pass me, I’m so glad that I tried.  I’ll be back next year, and I may even wear a tiara.  10959471_10153161521318223_290637641601916152_n

They Call it the Present Because it’s a Gift

There is no time like the present.  I really mean that.  Right now is the time to start doing whatever it is that you know that you need to do but have been avoiding.  You may think it’s too big.  You may think you’re not ready.  Whatever idea it is that you have in your head that’s holding you back, get RID of it.

I’ve spent pretty much my entire adult life being overweight, obese, or morbidly obese.  I’ve used every excuse out there.  I can justify anything.  I’m the master procrastinator.  I’d go see my doctor and he’d bug me about my weight.  My line was always, “One thing at a time.  I’ll deal with (fill in the blank), and then I’ll work on the weight.”

I dealt with the broken leg, the thyroid, the illness and death of several people close to me, undergrad, law school, setting up a law practice, and countless crises that come with the territory of being a wife, mother and human being. When I had bloodwork, my numbers were good.  Although I was borderline hypertensive, my A1C and lipids were good.  I prided myself on being “healthy fat.”  I had a love affair with Ballreich’s potato chips and anything sweet or salty.

Just about a year ago I was sitting at my office conference table with three friends who were in my Rotary Club.  We were discussing what needed to happen and how to get things rolling.  As one of my colleagues was talking, I realized that the room was fading.  I broke into a cold sweat.  My heart was doing weird jumpy things, and I couldn’t concentrate.  I considered asking one of my friends to call my husband to take me to the hospital.  I was feeling that strange.  However, I said nothing.  I concluded the meeting, went upstairs to my office and collapsed into my chair.  I was chilled and clammy. I wondered if I was sick or dying, and at the moment, I wasn’t sure if I cared.  Life wasn’t much fun.  I had a hard time moving on the best of days.  I was tired of watching the people who I cared about get sick and die.

Whatever happened was happening to me passed.  I went about my business and finished up the day.  I didn’t pass out, die, or get sicker.  I also didn’t say anything to anyone about what had happened.  In retrospect, it was probably an anxiety attack, but in that moment it felt like death was knocking at the door.

I got up the next morning and realized that something had to change.  I had put off going to the doctor because I didn’t want to have the conversation about my weight.  I hadn’t been on a scale in months.  I don’t know exactly how heavy I was, but it was a big scary number, and it was only one of my problems.

I posted in a Facebook group full of ladies I met on another internet site that I was having some troubles in my life that had me feeling very discouraged.  One of those ladies suggested I look for a group called Moms Run This Town.  She said that not only would I feel better getting some running in, but the other ladies would be great listeners as I worked through my issues.  I thanked her, and laughed silently at the thought of me running anywhere.

Over the course of the next week or two, more people suggested I try running.  One offered to train with me for a 5K race.  Although we lived miles apart, and the training together would be virtual, I agreed to give it a try.  That night I put on my walking shoes and dusted off the treadmill.  I walked a mile.  It took a good, long time, but it felt good.

I remembered a line from The Shawshank Redemption.  Red said, “get busy living, or get busy dying.”  I decided to get busy living.  I’d been just simply going through the motions for far too long.

When I first started exercising, it felt like I would never be able to “run” a mile without stopping.  In those first weeks, I spent lots of time holding on to the side rails of the treadmill and supporting a good part of my weight with my arms.  Still, I faithfully got on that treadmill night after night.

Time passed, and I got up the courage to go to a running store for a pair of real running shoes.  They didn’t laugh at me.  I didn’t get sarcastic comments or rude remarks.  I left the store with a box with a pair of shoes that cost a good chunk of change and I vowed not to let them gather dust in the closet.  I vowed that if God would just let me live long enough to undo some of the damage I had done to my body, I would enjoy life again.

As I progressed, I left the safety of the house for the high school track and then trails at local parks.  I began participating in 5K and 10K races.  I marvelled as a doe and fawn watched me run.  I came alive listening to the sounds of nature.  I began looking for new places to run.  I visited parks and neighborhoods in my town that I had never been to in the 15 years that I have lived here.

I’ve listened to music of every genre, waved at hundreds of strangers, learned to enjoy a good sweaty run, and I’ve enjoyed (nearly) every moment of it.  I’ve learned that chocolate tastes better if you have to run a mile to earn a piece, and that potato chips are still my kryptonite.

Since that day in March 2014, I have run over 450 miles.  Today, I ran a half marathon on the indoor track at my gym.  In two weeks, I will repeat that feat at Walt Disney World dressed as Ursula from The Little Mermaid.  I can hardly wait.  I’m still 100 pounds overweight, but I can run a half marathon.

half marathon

I’ve done a lot of reviewing the past year.  What does it have to do with the present?  I’m still here.  I’m healthier than I’ve been in years.  I’m happier than I’ve been in years.  My life is still not perfect, but life is sweeter because I received a wakeup call.  Only when I thought that I might possibly be dying did I realize how sweet life really is.  I don’t take my life for granted any longer.  I want to live long enough to dance at the grandchildren’s weddings.  I want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane on my 65th birthday.  None of those experiences are promised.  Life is sweet and it can be cut short in a moment.  When you “get busy living,” every moment, even the sad ones, is a gift.

I don’t know what you’re struggling with.  I don’t know what battle you are waging and which side is winning.  I do know that whatever you want to happen, there is no better time than right now to start doing something about it.  If you want to lose weight, get up and walk right now.  Don’t wait until Monday to start your exercise program.  If you want to write a book, grab your pen and write an outline.  If you want to learn to play Rhapsody in Blue, get up and play the first page as slow as you have to play it to get all of the fingers in the right place.

If you want to run a half marathon, put one on the calendar.  Pay the registration.  Recruit a partner.

There is no time like the present.  Tomorrow is not promised.  You will never regret starting right now.  A year from now you’ll wonder why you waited so long.  I promise.

Everybody has a story

I’ve never attended a twelve-step meeting, but I’m familiar with the one day at a time concept.  I have often used it, or variations (one semester at a time, one month at a time…you get the idea) to deal with difficult or stressful events.  I got through law school 16 weeks at a time.  I told myself that I could do anything for 16 weeks, and having resolved to do so, I finished on schedule.

I started making some big changes in my life in March.  There was no plan.  I was afraid that I was going to die.  I had a couple of scary medical events.  I was hypertensive, morbidly obese, and full of excuses.  With a thyroid disorder, a busted up leg, severe arthritis, COPD and likely close to type II diabetes, I was a mess and convinced that my sedentary lifestyle and obesity were beyond my control.

One day in February I was in a meeting in my conference room and the room began to get black around the edges while a ringing in my ears got louder and louder.  I didn’t pass out.  The event passed and I lived in far that it might repeat itself. Soon thereafter, I was walking through the grocery store with my husband when I broke into a cold sweat.  I could feel my heart beating, and I couldn’t wait to get back home to crawl into bed and see if I lived until morning.

This pattern repeated itself a few times over the course of a few weeks.  I did not seek medical attention because I was convinced that my physician would scold me about my weight.  I had a gym membership that had been unused for at least 9 months.  Several times I got dressed for the gym only to have a panic attack on the way there and scream at my husband until he drove me back home.  I was convinced people would stare.  I was convinced people would laugh.  I was convinced that people would find me disgusting – and tell me so.

One day, I hit rock bottom.  My health was scaring me.  I was short-tempered, my family was bewildered, and I was depressed.  I went to the doctor.  He added a prescription for an anti-depressant to my list of meds and told me I needed to lose weight.  I said I would (like I had each time I saw him over the many years before), and scheduled my follow up visit.

The next day, I decided it was time to “get busy living, or get busy dying.”  I dusted off the treadmill (we won’t talk about the thickness of the dust layer) and took a step.  I don’t remember how long it took me, but I walked a mile that first day.  I went back the next day and tried jogging a little bit.  I was thrilled when I was able to “sprint” 2.5 mph for 30 seconds.  Day after day, I went back to the treadmill, and was amazed at the difference those 20, 30 or 40 minutes made in my attitude.

I began to share those little successes with my facebook friends.  I found a iPhone app that tracked my runs.  My feet starting hurting, and I asked my facebook friends to help me pick out a pair of running shoes.  I received scores of comments and suggestions from runners and walkers who are scattered all over the country.  Boosted by their well wishes, and filled with a sense that this time would be different, I entered a running store and plunked down $120 for my first pair of running shoes.  On that day I posted a photo of my new kicks and decided “I am a runner.”

Having found the confidence to walk into a store for athletes without being met with scorn or laughter, I resolved to try the gym again.  Armed with my new shoes, I made it through the door and through a circuit without anyone laughing, pointing, or (to my knowledge) posting a picture of my backside to their flickr account.

I have a hugely supportive circle of family and friends.  They have “liked” and commented on my runs (which makes my phone cheer), they have put up with me posting photos of myself in spandex, shining with sweat and holding up a medal.  I began posting for accountability’s sake, and along the way I have received many messages telling me to keep posting because I have inspired my friends to make changes in their own lives.

As I share my story, those friends keep telling me to write a book.  I love the idea, but didn’t know where to begin. I finally know where the book is coming from. I am a survivor.  I am a fighter.  I am a listener.  I am changing my life one day at a time, one step at a time, and one mile at a time.

My name is Betty.  This is my story.  It’s still being played out.  I want to help you become the person you were meant to be.  I can’t tell you how to do it, but I can tell you how I’m going about it, and perhaps you will find inspiration to do the same.

Every story has to have a beginning.  You may see parts of mine in flashback, but for now, we’ll start here: “Once upon a time there was an unhappy woman who was scared of life.  She was sick, and tired, and didn’t know where to turn.  This is the story of how she took her life back.”

Looking Backward (and Finding Motivation)

Looking backward in life can be dangerous.  It can lead to revisiting past hurts and disappointments, it can lead to sadness over lost opportunities.  It can be a very negative experience.  However, looking backward can also be a tool for measuring success.

I’ve spent 2014 making some very large changes in my life.  This is the year that I finally grabbed the tiger by the tail and got serious about making my health a priority.  With at least 167 pounds to lose, getting healthy is no small proposition.  I’d spent many years as an obese or morbidly obese individual.  I have health conditions that make it more difficult to lose weight.  I’d convinced myself that because I wasn’t yet diabetic and my blood pressure was only marginally high, I was “healthy fat.”

I’ve lost (and regained) over 100 pounds twice before in my life.  Looking back, I’m convinced that things really are going to be different this time, and the key is that I have a completely different mindset.  This time, rather than viewing the changes I must make as temporary measures necessary to effect a change, I am changing my lifestyle for good.

I’ve lost 70 pounds through a combination of diet and exercise.  I don’t follow a prescribed diet.  I have completely eliminated certain foods because they actually make me ill, and not because a book says I have to eliminate them to lose weight.  I have incorporated regular exercise, I log every mouthful of food, and I weigh myself 1-2 times per month.

Getting to this milestone has taken seven months.  Historically, this is the time in the process where I have started backsliding – and ultimately failing in my efforts to get healthy.

I will admit that I came close to throwing in the towel after an injury set me back.  I went a week with little exercise.  Instead of finding an alternative, I found excuses.  Fortunately, a post came across my Facebook feed that reminded me that the key to success is often looking at the progress you have made instead of the distance left to travel.

I am a firm believer that life should be lived looking forward instead of back, but I now realize that there are times for reflection.  As a result, I did an exercise that I should have done at the outset of this journey: I made a list of all of the things that my prior weight prevented.  I wanted to be able to:

  • Get off the floor without help
  • Ride a roller coaster
  • Fasten the seat belt in my husband’s old corvette without help
  • Cross my legs
  • Climb the stairs without being out of breath
  • Put on a pair of pantyhose without a struggle
  • Sit in a restaurant booth without a struggle
  • Fit into an airplane seat and not have to worry about “overlap” or a seatbelt extension
  • Sit in a seat in the auditorium at my kids’ school without having to hold my breath

Now, even though I am only 42% to my “goal weight,” I have managed to accomplish every single one of those things.  Additionally, I have run a 5k race and a 10k race. I have lost 4 jeans sizes.  I am off my blood pressure medicine.  I am mostly pain free. I have achieved things I did not think were possible for me.

Today, I’m crafting a new “bucket list” for the second half of this journey.  Before I am finished, I will:

  • Ride the roller coaster I couldn’t fit on this summer (the one with the smaller seat belts)
  • Run a half marathon (I’m already registered)
  • Do a push up
  • Do a pull up
  • Shop in a store that doesn’t specialize in “plus sizes”
  • Go on a challenging hike

The number on the scale has ceased to be my primary motivation.  If it was the only thing motivating me, I would have given up when it spent a month parked at the same spot.  I now realize it is only one way of marking progress.  When I look at the monumental task of losing 167 pounds, it is far too easy to discount the progress I have made.  Seventy pounds is a lot of weight, but when you view it next to 167, it doesn’t seem like I’ve made much progress.

When I look back, though, at the pictures I took at my top weight, and when I try on the once-tight pants that now fall off and pool around my ankles, it puts things into a different perspective.  When I cross my legs, fasten my seat belt and sit on any chair without worrying about whether it will hold me, I see how my life has changed.

I would encourage anyone who is embarking on a weight loss or fitness journey to make her own bucket list.  Take pictures and measurements, too.  There will be times when the scale isn’t budging, or you are tired and sore and hungry and you need to remind yourself where you were and how far you’ve come.

I started my journey without a road map.  I managed to pass a few landmarks that I would have celebrated had I known where I was headed.

It’s a journey, not a destination

I’ve been neglecting this blog for a while.  I’ve had a few “when life hands you lemons” moments, and seemed to have lost my recipe for lemonade at the time when I needed it most.  Yesterday one of those moments happened, and I was reminded that although we have no control over many of the things that happen to us, how we react to them is 100% within our control.  I’m sad to say that I didn’t react to some of those things the way that I wish I would have, but I learned a powerful lesson.

Whatever the goal, be it fitness, happiness, or health – it is a journey, not a destination.  If you think that you can achieve any of those without continuing to work at it, you’ve lost the battle.

Those of you who know me in real life know that weight has been a lifelong struggle.  I’ve gained and lost hundreds of pounds over the last 30 years.  Each time, I looked at the weight loss as a project, thinking that once I reached my destination I would be free and happy and the problems that got me to an unhealthy weight would miraculously be cured and I wouldn’t have to struggle.

This past March, I reached a crisis point in my life.  Some of the stressors were within my control, but many were not.  My health was bad.  My mood was depressed.  My life seemed to be spinning madly out of control.  I was not fit, healthy or happy.  In desperation, I turned to diet and exercise because those were two things that I could control.  By taking control of what I could control, I was able to better deal with the aspects of my life that were beyond my control.  I had an outlet for that stress and negativity.  This time, instead of dieting, I am focusing on remaking my life.  I know that to be happy and healthy, I must fuel my body with healthy foods and get plenty of exercise.  This isn’t a “fix,” it is a journey that will never end.   If it ends, the trip is back to an unhappy, unhealthy place.

I have spent part of this journey sharing my story with others through Facebook and on this blog.  Sharing keeps me accountable, but I hope that it also shows others that depression, obesity, arthritis, auto-immune disease and a host of other problems are not insurmountable.  My journey began when someone else shared their journey and I was inspired to make a change.

On the days when I put in the work (eating clean, exercising, practicing thankfulness and being kind), I enjoy happiness.  I enjoy the benefits of increased health and stamina.  On the days when I slip back into my old habits and cure hurt feelings with potato chips and lash out at the person who I perceive hurt me, I wallow in pain. The emotional pain becomes physical pain as my body becomes inflamed and my joints hurt, which makes me put off exercise, and throws my whole system into a mess.

I cannot claim that happiness is merely a choice for everyone.  Some people are suffering so much that telling them to “choose to be happy,” minimizes their pain.  I do not want to do that.  For me, though, happiness began with a choice, and it depends on me making the right choice every time I am confronted by something that makes me want to crawl back into the hole that I created for myself.

Fitness is a journey (one that I’m enjoying more and more as I progress).  Happiness is a journey (one that is becoming easier day by day).  Some days the journey seems solitary.  Other days I am surrounded by people who inspire my every step.  I am not content to just keep doing what I am doing.  I want to be fitter, happier and healthier than I am today.  I am doing this for myself, but if I can inspire others by sharing what I learn that is a bonus.

I am learning to reach out and reconnect with others.  The journey does not have to be solitary (and it’s much more fun when there are companions!

We all need goals, but they are mere milestones on our journey.  When we reach one, there must be another to look for or we will lose our way.  The journey never ends.  Thank you for joining me on this step of the way.

You’re the inspiration

I began my fitness journey on March 9, 2014.  I’ve done the “diet thing” many times before.  As a 47 year old adult female who has been overweight for most of her life, I have mastered the art of the excuse.  I can justify nearly any unhealthy food or activity.  I can procrastinate with the best of them, and the person it has harmed the most is me.

This time, it is different.  My husband says he, too, can sense that this time, it is different.  This time, it is about changing my life, and not just about doing what I need to do to make the numbers on the scale come down.

The difference, this time, is inspiration.  With Robin Williams’ tragic death in the media this week, I will share that depression played a major role in this change.  I was struggling with some issues that had me feeling awfully bleak.  I was still struggling with my father’s death in early 2013.  I was struggling with feelings of inadequacy as a partner, a mother, and a lawyer.  I looked in the mirror and struggled with the signs of age and bad health.  I was tired of the struggle.  I was so unhappy that I lost sight of the many things that make my life so beautiful.

A series of coincidences, or perhaps providence, led me to step on the treadmill instead of eating a package of gluten free cookies or a chocolate bar. I have a group of people in my life who I refer to as my “invisible friends.”  Some are ladies I met on or through an online “mom” forum I was active in for many years.  Others are people who I met through DDP Yoga forums, or other lawyers I reached out to on Facebook.  These people have played an important role in my journey.

When I posted in a “secret group” on Facebook that I was feeling very depressed, a mom suggested I join “Moms Run This Town.”  I poo-poo’ed the idea.  I never envisioned myself a runner.  Soon, another invisible friend suggested we train online together for a 5k.  Running took over my facebook feed as friends, both in real life and my “invisible” network, began sharing running posts.

One night, hurt, angry and sad, I brushed off  the thick layer of dust that had settled on the treadmill, and I took that first step.  I came back the next night, and the next.  As is typically the case, life began to get in the way.  One night as I was browsing Facebook instead of getting some exercise, I saw a conversation between two “invisible friends.”  One asked the other how to ensure success at getting in shape.  His response was a photo that said, “Commit.”

I found my inspiration in that graphic.  I think of it daily.  To succeed at something – anything, you must commit to succeeding.  I found inspiration in the “cheers” that my running app sent my way when my friends “liked” my status that said I was on a run.  Each cheer inspired me to take another step – to go another 1/10th mile.

I wasn’t sure how my friends would react.  I worried that I would annoy them with my fitness posts.  I kept posting anyway.

Soon, I began receiving messages.  “I wanted you to know that you inspired me to get back to the gym.”  “You inspired me to get moving.”  “Thank you for sharing your journey.  I wanted you to know that I joined a gym.”

I thanked each of them for reaching out, but on the inside, I was saying, “I’m not an inspiration.  I’m a morbidly obese person whose bad decisions led to this state.”  “I’m not worthy of being your inspiration.”

I started to craft a response that said I’m not someone to emulate- that I have too many weaknesses, I’m too flawed…”  At that moment, I realized that inspiration is a very individual, personal experience.  What right do I have to say that I’m not an inspiration?  If someone can find inspiration in my words, my actions, or my photos, what right do I have to tell them they are wrong?  In that moment I simply thanked God for the opportunity to inspire others.

I don’t write to inspire.  I write because I really enjoy writing.  If, however, it inspires you to look at a sunset, to buy a coffee for someone, to run a half marathon, to clean out your closet, or to bake a gluten free cake, that is a gift to me.

Find inspiration everywhere.  The world is an awesome place.  If someone inspires you, let them know.  Don’t be afraid to share your accomplishments, no matter how insignificant  you may feel they are, because someone somewhere may fin the inspiration to improve themselves through your example.

Every single day, you inspire someone to feel happy, or sad, or angry through your words and actions.  Being mindful of that fact, choose to inspire others with love and kindness, with your positive energy and your lust for life.

You’re the inspiration.

Over the hill

I live on the south shore of Lake Erie.  I’ve been in this town for 15 years, and I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never really explored it.  I’ve lived here, but I’ve never really LIVED here before.

I started running in March.  I use the term “running” loosely, as there is not a category for the pace I run at on My Fitness Pal or SparkPeople.  When I told my doctor I had started running, I started to discredit it, saying, “I guess it’s more like slow jogging…”  He stopped me and said, “Betty, if you’re not walking, you’re RUNNING.”  I like his definition, and it’s the one I use when someone asks me if I’m “really” running.

I started on my treadmill.  I could only run 1/10th mile before I had to walk, but I fought for those first miles.  I soon progressed to the high school track, the parking lot at an Amusement Park, and a wooded trail at a MetroPark.  All were very level.

Several weeks ago, I noticed a trail winding through a city park on the lake.  I resolved to check it out.  Last night was perfect.  It was in the low 70s, with a beautiful breeze coming in off the lake.  I ran the loop closest to the parking lot, and then stopped – there was a hill – and I needed to go down it.

I have injured myself in two falls in the last 20 years.  The last fall resulted in 4 breaks, a plate and a whole bunch of screws in my left ankle.  That hardware has been my excuse for not doing anything about my weight for almost a decade.  At any rate, I am deathly afraid of falling down.  The last time I fell down (I slipped on a wet spot on the deck), I wasn’t even hurt, but I screamed and cried like a baby because I was sure I was injured.  Falling is bad.

I took little teeny tiny steps down the hill and got to the next level stretch, congratulating myself for not dying.  Soon, though, I was faced with the fact that where there is a “down” hill, there is sure to be an “up” hill that follows.  I trudged up the hill (okay, it was just a bank, but it was a BIG bank) and continued on my way.

The trail continued to wind through the park, over a bridge and sure enough – another hill.  This one led to a path along the road.  I froze.  Roads mean cars, and where there are cars, there are people who might shout mean things at me out the window.  (yes, it has happened to me).  I considered turning around and going back the way I came, but curiosity got the best of me.  I wanted to see where the trail ran.

I took a deep breath, and “ran” the hill the best I could.  I was over the hill!  I got to the top and ran the handful of yards along the road to the next “down” hill.  There were cars.  Their drivers did not honk the horns or shout at me.  It was okay.

I proceeded along the path around trees, along the lake, and looked up.  A dozen buzzards were trailing me.  They sensed weakness.  They circled.  I ran some more.  I looked up.  Still there.  The buzzards knew I was a goner.  Obviously, they sensed my history with falls, and they were waiting.

buzzards

I shook my fists at the feathered hecklers.  If the cars on the highway couldn’t stop me, neither could a bunch of feathered carrion-eaters.  I laughed.  I charged down the next hill.  I felt the blister form on my right big toe.  I laughed some more.

I managed to make it around the trail 3 times.  By the last lap, the hills were no longer something to be feared.  The buzzards didn’t get me.  I was sweaty, happy, and as I reached the end of the path, I was treated to the most glorious view of the sun descending toward the horizon…and the buzzards were still circling.

Like me, the sun was proudly going over the hill.  Life is good.

sunsetlakeside run