Some people hear, “You’ll never be able to do that,” and take it as a challenge. They use those words of doubt and discouragement as fuel for their goals. They climb over adversity and break down barriers, proudly proclaiming to the world, “I did it!” When they fall down, they get back up. They never quit.
Me? I’ve never really been one of those people. Even subconsciously, I think most of the time I’ve preferred comfort over conflict. I’ve let others do the running, being willing simply to cheer them on from the sidelines.
I was diagnosed with asthma and severe allergies at a young age, and was often hospitalized with lung problems. I spent my summers indoors curled up on the couch with piles of classic novels, safe from the tormenting clouds of pollen that loomed outside. While this hobby had a fantastic influence on my grades (I graduated from both high school and college with honors), it had a far less positive impact on my health.
Lack of physical activity and a complete disregard for portion sizes caused me to gain weight at a steady pace. Even though my mother was a conscientious cook who tried her best to make healthy meals for us, I was overweight. It was simple: I ate too much, and I didn’t exercise.
Once I hit college, I had accepted the fact that I’d always be the “funny, fat friend” in my group. I couldn’t wear the clothes I liked because they didn’t look right on my short, bulky frame. In fact, it was pretty difficult to find anything to fit well. Since I was about 13 years old, I’ve been only five feet tall! It seems that the clothing industry still hasn’t realized that there are a lot of women who are both petite and plus-sized — but that’s another story entirely!
Although I made periodic efforts to lose weight — and actually saw some success — I weighed 167 pounds when I graduated. According to the BMI charts, I was, for my height, obese. Body image and self-esteem aside, I was simply not healthy.
For several years after college, I made changes that resulted in an overall weight loss of almost 30 pounds. But nothing was consistent. I’d lose weight, then gain it back a few months later. I’d have fits of working out frantically for weeks, then just stop altogether. I’d count calories for a few weeks, then quit. Life happened. Good things (getting married to an amazing guy, finding a great new job) and bad things (three miscarriages, my mother’s death) made me forget about taking care of myself. And the weight came back — almost all of it. With the weight gain, the negative self-image returned, too. Despite having wonderful friends and a husband who loved me no matter how I looked, I felt the same disappointment and disgust I’d felt in college. I would punish myself for over-eating, which led to feeling bad and continuing to over-eat. I needed a way out.
The first decision I made was that I would stop speaking negatively about my body. Anytime I felt myself starting to say, “I’m ugly” or “I’m too fat,” I forced myself to stay silent. I knew that if I could conquer a negative attitude, everything else would fall into place more easily.
The second decision I made was that I would take my time losing the weight. No fad diets, no starvation, no impossible goals, no overly strenuous exercise routines. I planned to lose 32 pounds by my 32nd birthday, which is in the middle of November.
So, I’d set goals, but how was I going to achieve them?
Earlier this year, my husband and I were in charge of the youth group at our church and we taught a very important lesson on goal-setting. We explained to the kids that goals need to be definitive, realistic, and attainable, and that you need a way of keeping yourself on track. I applied that same lesson to my personal weight-loss goal, and this is what I came up with: I downloaded an app called MyFitnessPal for my phone. It’s designed to calculate daily nutrition, calories, and exercise to help the user get (or stay) on track. Immediately, I found that several of my friends had also signed up for the app and were willing to encourage me and keep me accountable for my choices.
Although I wasn’t cutting anything specific from my diet, I was going to continue to make healthy choices (wheat pasta over white, baked foods instead of fried, etc.) as a general rule. I tried more vegetables. I tried to limit my snacks. My big revelation was in regards to portion control. Once I started counting, measuring, and recording, I was shocked at how small a serving of potato chips really is! I had to do a lot of adjusting to stay under my calorie goal each day, while still trying to incorporate enough vitamins, minerals, and fiber into my diet. There were a lot of days when I went over my goal. But I decided that each day, I’d wake up and start over, forgiving myself for the previous day’s mistakes. That attitude has helped a great deal!
I had a way to record my calories, the support of family and friends, and a faith which taught me that anything is possible (even for a lazy girl like me!), but something was still missing. Yup, you guessed it: this girl needed to work exercise into her life as a rule, not an exception! I was reluctant to do this because of my history of asthma. I’d always been told I shouldn’t “overdo it” and accommodations had always been made for my health when I was in school. But, when I started working at Pediatric Alliance and realized that my lunch break was a built-in hour to work out, I didn’t give myself a choice. I started out by walking at a slow pace for a half an hour, using my albuterol inhaler every day for two weeks. My body quickly adapted to my new lifestyle. By the fourth week I was exercising regularly, I no longer needed my inhaler, and I was clipping along at about 3.5 miles per hour for about 45 minutes each day.
To date, I’ve lost about 16 pounds and I’m fitting into clothes 1-2 sizes smaller than when I had started out. Although that feels wonderful and I’m very proud of that, I’m even happier to know that the steps I’m taking now will help decrease the chances of my struggling with the many health issues that have plagued my family: diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems, just to name a few. I know that my new, healthier lifestyle won’t completely wipe out any chance of problems later on, but I’m at peace knowing that I’m doing my part to get — and stay — healthy.
Just last week, I did something that I never thought I’d do. I went for a run. Granted, since I’m still new at this, it wasn’t a very fast run. It was really more of a brisk walk, sloppily punctuated with brief moments of jogging. But I’m not giving up! My former college roommate — a mother of three and an avid runner — reminded me that, “Speed doesn’t make the runner; the desire to run is what defines a runner.”
Well, you know what?
I guess I’m a runner now!