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Archive for the ‘weight loss’ Category

Soon we will celebrate the beginning of 2016. There is a sense of renewal that comes with the dawning of a new year and and it’s tempting to resolve to make great changes especially when caught up in the energy of it all. Waiting in the wings, there is a multi-billion dollar diet industry that thrives on our want to better ourselves. Fad diets, quick-fix plans, and all the other tricks in the business of weight loss are designed to garner profits and create repeat customers. January is by far the most profitable time for such companies and one only has to look at this week’s sales flyers to see the plethora of offerings related to the business of New Year’s resolutions.

However, there is a saying… “Don’t make a resolution… make yourself!”

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions especially when it came to losing weight. I’ve always felt that this yearly tradition is a setup up for failure. For example, back in the days when I was morbidly obese I’d resolve that a certain year was going to be the one where I’d lose all of my weight. I’d start out strong with the latest diet plan that guaranteed success. More often than not the plan was flawed and the task was too daunting. By mid-February my umph was gone and I’d give up because it was just too hard. I’d hang my towel over the console of the treadmill and walk away. I saw it with many people at the gym this year. The gym was jam-packed during the month of January and a few weeks later crowds started to thin out. By the beginning of February things had died down quite a bit and by the end of February it was back to normal.

Why does this happen? My thoughts are because we choose resolutions that are too specific, too big, and too rigid and in doing so we set ourselves up for failure. Throwing in the towel often happens because the process is difficult or it’s taking too long and frustration wins out. It can become an “all or nothing” scenario. Sometimes it is a matter of pushing too hard, too soon, and burning out rather than making incremental and lasting change. Instead of focusing on how far we’ve come, we look at how much work we still need to do and that puts us in the wrong mindset for success.

The answer is easy… shift the focus. Change is very much a mind game. When I started to look at the days ahead differently, real change began to happen and there was a permanence to it. Instead of the typical New Year’s resolutions I adjusted my perspective and I found the results were amazing. In the process I lost close to 180 pounds and my lifestyle became dramatically different. Here’s what I did…

Rather than resolve to lose a huge amount of weight, I chose a few milestones that I wanted to complete. That first year was to go on backpacking trips and I accomplished that. I was morbidly obese so I knew I’d have to work up to backpacking. I started with short walks, then day hikes, then practice hikes with a pack. Next thing I knew I was hiking the rugged shores of the Bruce Peninsula. The weight was coming off and I felt better than I had in a very long time. Years that followed included activities like canoeing, cycling, bike-packing Le P’tit Train du Nord, running a half marathon, and all sorts of other fun adventures. Some of these milestones didn’t have set timelines but others had dates attached to them because of the need for registration or reservation as well as booking vacation time.

As I prepared for such activities everything else fell into place. I watched nutrition through moderation and mindful eating which helped to fuel my body properly. Not having a specific deadline lowered stress levels. This in turn reduced cortisol and other stress hormones which helped me to lose weight more easily. I trained so that I would be well prepared and not risk injury.

Accountability is a big motivator for me but I find a blanket statement like a that of a resolution just doesn’t cut it. My milestones, whether camping excursions, cycling trips, or running events, are what keep me accountable. Even those times when I’ve had to bail on an event, like this year when my heart had other ideas, I kept the next milestone in the back of my mind and did what I could to work towards that.

In a few days I will share some of my plans for the coming year and I would love to hear what milestones you have in mind for yourself.

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I have never been so happy to have put a year in the rear-view mirror as I have been with 2014. What a year! It started out with broken toes that weren’t quite healed and the roller coaster continued from there with the heart issues, bronchitis verging on pneumonia, and this last few weeks… the bloody flu. On top of that I was still grieving the loss of my Mom and there was quite a bit of anxiety that came to light after the heart procedure. Despite all of this, it was a good year with many firsts including my daughter’s first time at school and joining a gym.

As I have mentioned in years past, I don’t believe in doing the whole New Year’s resolution bit. I came to this conclusion several years ago. I feel that it sets me up for failure and when something I had resolved to do wasn’t realized I would beat myself up emotionally. Instead I like to look at the year as a book consisting of 365 blank pages for me to fill with the things that keep me healthy, happy, and fulfilled.  I prefer to choose milestones and make general plans with no set timelines punctuated with events such as running and camping trips. This year is no different and here are some of the things I’d like to accomplish throughout the year.

I’m committed to  spending less time online, plugged in and on the phone especially with social media. Those of you who follow me here and on twitter may have noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet since October and lately I’ve been less active on Facebook as well. Yes, I am ignoring you.  Instead of being consumed with social media, I’m spending more time with my children, husband and friends. I have been teaching my four year old little girl how to knit, sew, and cook. Next up… snowshoeing (if we ever get any snow). I will continue to walk back and forth to the school twice a day with the children. I could simply let my son walk his little sister as he is very responsible, but I choose to add the 15K to my fitness every week. I’m fortunate that being a writer allows that freedom and it is a great time to chat with my teenage boy. In the Fall he is off to high school and walking with Mom would just be uncool.

I mentioned in earlier posts that I am rebuilding my running base. I’m still working on that although I’ve been slightly sidelined by the flu. While progress has been slow, I’m still moving forward. My goal race is the Toronto Yonge Street 10K on April 19th. I’m very excited and I’m hoping to make it a personal record for 10K. Of course, I’ll be training smart and coupling that with workouts at the gym. The goal is to run another half marathon too. I’m not sure which one yet but I’m leaning towards the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon in June or the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in the Fall… or both. I would like to do another trail race too. That reminds me, I need to do some running shoe shopping.

I hope to cross a few things off my list this year such as the climbing lesson and belay certification that was put on the back burner when I first broke my toes. It didn’t end up being in the cards for 2014 but perhaps I’ll tackle it in 2015. And… I still want to try zip lining. Did I mention I am terrified of gravity? Boxing is still on my milestone list, as are many other things. What I tackle will depend on time. Our family plans to return to Le P’tit Train du Nord for a cycling and camping trip. Unfortunately between what was going on with me and Bryan’s travel with work, we didn’t make it back to the trail in 2014 but I’d love to revisit the area this year… without the rain.

Over the holidays I had the chance to spend some time with one of my dearest friends, Sandi. It’s hard to believe we’ve been friends for over 25 years (where did the time go?) and the last few years we haven’t been able to see each other as much as we would have liked. The weekend before Christmas we talked about making a point of seeing each other more often. Our boys (and husbands) get along famously plus we have similar interests which is great. We both love cycling so there will likely be some bike rides together in the Spring and Summer. Who knows, maybe I can even talk her into running a race with me or maybe not… lol.

While I still want to lose a bit more weight, I haven’t set an actual number because I’m more about the complete picture… body, mind, and spirit. I haven’t let the scale define me in years and will continue with that mindset. I’m more focused on being active, hydrating properly, and eating healthy. Speaking of food… my goals with nutrition remain the same as in previous years— I will continue to eat foods that are kind to my body in order to keep the side effects of diabetes and heart issues at bay. I appreciate being able to use nutrition and fitness in place of diabetes medications. I don’t diet, I simply eat according to my goals and to ensure I have balanced intake of nutrients. This is important for our whole family. Children, as you know, learn by example.

Eating fresh and local whenever possible is something I strive to continue although it’s nearly impossible at this time of year. In 2014 I started relying on our local farmers’ market and farm stands for produce. I would venture out on Friday and our menu for the week would revolve around what I came home with that afternoon. I plan to continue that throughout 2015 as I found the quality was often better than the grocery store and the produce seemed to last longer before spoiling. It’s a great for the children to learn more about where our food comes from and I like to support our local farms. I’m going to get back into growing sprouts and making my own yogurt. Both are really easy to do and will be good skills to pass onto the children. I have even done both on wilderness camping trips. I also love that this way of eating means avoiding some of the unnecessary things that are added to our food. Sure, it takes a bit more effort but that is nominal in comparison to the benefits.

Hobbies have come to the forefront lately. I’ve been teaching myself to knit plus I’ve started to do needlework and sketching again. I find that activities like this help me reduce stress and give me a way to unwind. Hobbies are much like running or the gym in that regard—being immersed in the task at hand takes the focus off whatever stress there is.

Work-wise, I completed my last client website and redefined my business. I’m still in the process of finishing my third cookbook manuscript. It’s due in March but I’m in good shape with it other than needing to take some more photos. My fourth cookbook proposal is on the table too. I’ll tell you more about that once I sign a publishing contract. I can tell you that it is going to be an amazing project and I am very excited about it. I’m also working on telling the story of my personal journey and, although I feel somewhat vulnerable, look forward to sharing that with my readers. Once again, I’ll be writing some freelance articles for a variety of publications. The outdoorsy project for families and kids that was to launch in 2014 should come to fruition later in the year.

2015 is all about forward momentum. It will be interesting to see how this year unfolds and what adventures my family and I get up to. I’ll keep you posted.

Happy New Year!

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The last few weeks have been a period of transition. My baby girl is now a kindergarten kid and her big brother is in his final year of elementary school. I’m not sure where the time has gone. I spent the first week of school tying up some loose ends and putting steps in place to move my career as a writer forward. My husband has been at the IMTS in Chicago so I spent the school days writing and negotiating new ventures, one of which is a freelance food writing gig with a magazine that focuses on fitness. I also started working on the outline for my fourth cookbook.

Now that the children are settled in the school routine and my career is moving in the direction I want it too, it is time to get the rest of my life on track. As you’ve heard, ad nauseum, the last ten and a half months have been akin to a roller-coaster ride when it comes to my health. So much of it was out of my control and lately I’ve been dealing with the emotional side of that. Things started turning the corner a few weeks before school started and I began to contemplate what adjustments I should be making to move forward with my goals.

Mid-week I saw a post on my friend’s Facebook timeline about an eight week lifestyle challenge. She was asking for people to join her. I looked through the videos, looked at what the program had to offer and decided that I would create my own 8 Week program and call it my Fall Challenge. This is partially to support my friend but also in order to regain my fitness and make some positive changes. Supporting and encouraging my friends helps me too and it makes me accountable because I’ve made a commitment to myself and to them.

Below you will find an overview of what I plan to work on over this 8-week time frame. This weekend I will measure and weigh myself. Then the scale will be hidden away until the end of the challenge because the scale lies. You’ll notice that there is nothing mentioned about weight loss although I am sure that will be a side effect of this process. I’m removing the scale from sight because I don’t want the focus to be related to numbers, I want it to be about healthy choices, wellness, and fitness.

The Fall Challenge

Nutrition

Eating will be a conscious activity. All meals and snacks will be consumed in the relaxed environment of my dining room. This means no more eating while I am writing at the computer or checking email. I won’t nibble when I am preparing meals or school lunches.

Portion control will be a big focus. I haven’t been as careful with that as I should have been and I have gained eleven pounds since my half marathon in 2013. There are several ways I will implement being better about this and I’ll share those in another post.

Caffeine reduction is going to be a difficult one for me. I am susceptible to severe headaches when I cut caffeine out entirely so I will need to do this gently over the length of the challenge until I am down to one cup per day. I started to reduce intake recently because I realized I was drinking four to six cups a day. Another issue is time of day. There have been days where I have a coffee at 7 pm and I wonder why I am having interrupted sleep patters. It’s really the warmth of the drink I like so I will be supplementing with herbal teas and such.

Better hydration. One thing I’ve noticed during my running hiatus is that I am not hydrating properly. There are days I drink nothing but coffee and a single glass of water. While the coffee does add to hydration, I know that I am out of balance in this regard.

Choosing more whole foods especially when it comes to snacks is something I need to get back to. This year I haven’t been as selective about the type of snacks I’ve been eating and often reach for a few crackers rather than a piece of fruit or some veggies with hummus. While I did make more of a conscious effort to do this throughout the summer, I know I could do more especially in the dark green leafy veggie category.

There is one thing that I have been far too lax with and that is testing my blood glucose. I used to check multiple times a day but lately the only time I’ve done that is if it is a day that I run and as we know that hasn’t been very often. So, I will be testing more frequently and keeping a better eye on how the dietary adjustments are affecting my body from that perspective.

Fitness

I’ve already started making some of the adjustments, such walking back and forth to the school with my children even though my teenage son is more than capable of escorting his sister to her kindergarten class. I will continue this and walk a minimum of 18K a week. This will include the trip to and from the school as well as the warm-up and cool-down walks I do on days that I run. Some days I will use the school walk as my warm-up if time and weather permits.

I plan to get back to running a minimum of three times a week but no more than five days per week. I will take two rest days. I hope to have achieved this consistent level of running by the fourth week. I will also strive to be better about stretching after I run. It is important that I rebuild my running base and do it in a smart way that prevents injuries.

Every day I will complete a yoga workout whether it is for 10 minutes or an hour. I will vary what I do to keep it interesting and also to complement running and cross training. On the days I rest from running I will select a flow that is more on the gentle side so I can give my body the recovery it needs.

I’m planning to cross train more consistently than I have been. This could include hiking, cycling, weights, or boxing. I also have several DVDs that I can draw upon—everything from kickboxing and Pilates to Qigong.

The other important element here is intensity. I will ensure that at least two of my weekly fitness activities are at a much higher intensity than the rest of my workouts. This could mean hills or speed work if I am running. I will lengthen the time holding planks and yoga poses as I get better at them. Every week I will slightly increase the heaviness or repetitions of the weights.

The focuses will be improving cardiovascular ability, running endurance, core strength, and flexibility. The goal is to feel strong.

Posture

This has always been a big issue for me. I have rounded shoulders from years of slouching. I’m a tall and chesty girl at just shy of 6 feet and have always been self-conscious when it comes to my height. When I was a child I started to physically try and reduce how tall I appeared and some habits die hard.

Because I write for a living, I need to reconfigure the height of my laptop to help correct my sitting posture. Currently I have to look down and my gaze is practically at a 45° angle.

Strengthening the core will help as will watching my form while running. I will hold my head high and be proud about standing tall.

Other Adjustments

This is an emotional and social makeover too. Surrounding myself with like-minded, positive people has been so amazing for me. I don’t have time or inclination to invest in toxic relationships. The last one ended around this time in 2012 and through that I learned a great deal about what kind of BS I will not accept in my life. As I connect with new people I will remind myself to pay attention to the red flags rather than ignore them.

I won’t sweat the small stuff. This one may be easier said than done as I am a worrier by nature but I know worry is counter-productive. I need to have faith in myself and that I can overcome any problem big or small. When I start to worry I will refocus by distracting myself with something else.

Another aspect that I want to reincorporate into my life is time for me. For years I took 15-minutes a day just for myself. It made me feel good and that in-turn helped me to be a better wife, mother, and friend.

Since I broke my toes back in the latter months of 2013 I’ve been somewhat hiding out. It is time to be a little more social. This isn’t just from a family and friends perspective, I would like to be more involved with my children’s school. This week I went and picked up the forms to get a police check so that I can help out on their school trips. I will do some volunteer work as well.

One of the most beneficial changes will be correcting my sleep habits. Actually that should be lack of sleep habits. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends trying to balance being a Mom and a writer. I will attempt to get to bed at the same time each night. I will avoid caffeine after 3 pm. I will try to refrain from checking the messages on my phone if I wake up in the middle of the night.

Clutter on my desk causes clutter in my mind. It may sound odd, but for some reason it affects my writing when my desk looks like a tornado dumped half the contents of my purse, scribbled notes and scraps of paper, junk mail, flash cards, various chargers, USB keys and other odds and ends on its beautiful wooden top. I will spend a few minutes every morning to keep it from getting out of hand again.

My challenge will come to a close around the one year anniversary of kicking that 5lb hand-weight and breaking my toes. By then this should all have become a permanent part of how I live, at least that is my hope. I’m looking it as a bit of a reset—the end of 12 difficult months.

So there you have it, my plan of action—my Fall Challenge. I will start on the first day of Autumn and go from there. It’s not written in any particular order and I likely won’t be trying to do all of this at once. I believe some of this will progress quite naturally. You can find more about the program here at www.8weekchallenge.com or you could make your own version as I have. Throughout these 8 weeks I will share my successes, setbacks, and how I’m managing overall. I may even post a bit about what is going on in my kitchen with meals and even a recipe or two.

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The other day I was chatting with a friend and we were discussing what our goals are. We chatted about the races we’ve chosen for 2014 and what motivates us. She and I have been on somewhat parallel journeys so it was great to talk with someone who gets the struggles I deal with.  And… we talked about the setbacks we have both experienced lately. Our conversation made me sit back and take pause. That’s not always a bad thing and I feel that it is good to re-evaluate my goals from time to time so I don’t lose sight of the bigger picture—a healthy life.

Setbacks happen and it is very important that I don’t beat myself up about a few steps backwards. It happens to all of us at one time or another. On November 9th, 2013, as many of you know, I broke two of the toes on my left foot when I accidentally kicked a dumbbell that was sitting against the big oak desk in my office. This meant that running, and pretty much any other exercise that involved my toes, came to a screeching halt. This time off from running hit me like a ton of bricks and I took it really hard. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t exercise or that I was concerned about diabetes. You see, I use running as my way of thinking things through and dealing with the negatives in my life. 2013 started with the death of my Mom and the time off finally forced me to work through some of the grief. I gained a little weight and started to self-deprecate. I had worked so hard. I was within 15 lbs of my goal and then I lost momentum. How could I let this happen? I could make all sorts of excuses but the bottom line is that I just gave up caring about myself because I was wallowing. The good thing is that it was a short-lived hiccup and I am back on track.

My motivation for running hasn’t changed very much. It’s still about having fun while working on fitness and enjoying activities that we can do as a family. Running is my insulin and my way to keep ill effects of living with diabetes at bay. It’s also a social outlet for me which caught me somewhat by surprise. I have met so many wonderful runners who encourage and inspire. This is something I try to pay forward. Being a Digital Champion for the Toronto Yonge Street 10K is just one way I am doing that. Giving back in other ways is important to me as well and I love fundraising for a good cause.

I also thought about the commitment and drive to improve. I like to dream big and sometimes I will chose a distance and think that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. That was certainly how it felt when I started training for my first half. During that time I discovered something… training isn’t a chore to me but rather something I embrace. I enjoy the process immensely—I love a long run on a Saturday morning and the way it makes me feel. It also makes me happy to see how I progress week after week and month after month. Being off with the broken toes reinforced how much I missed being in training for a long distance event. Every long run last winter and spring was a new milestone and on those runs I was able to gain clarity or perspective about things other than running. Accomplishing those goals gave me courage to make some wonderful changes in my life. My feelings about being a distance runner remain the same… I enjoy the process and it helps me grow as a runner and as a person. It’s a win win for me.

This year I plan to tackle the full marathon. It scares me because being diabetic adds some other challenges especially when it comes to things like fuelling, hypoglycaemia, and foot injuries. This adventure brings a good kind of fear too. It’s the kind of apprehension that gives me the butterflies but makes me feel really alive. This distance will be a huge challenge for me and the fact I am even going to try is very exciting. Training will be tough and time consuming but there is something about it that simply calls to me. I have an amazing circle of support and hold onto the belief that I can realize my dream of crossing the finish line after running 42.2K. I may not be speedy but I have spirit and I will cross a finish line in the footsteps of so many people that have inspired me to try.

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no longer a sofa spud

from class III obesity to half marathon

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I am a die-hard fan of a show called The Biggest Loser and last week Dr. H. at The BL Ranch said something that I thought was right on the mark. When the contestant said they didn’t have time for healthy eating and exercise, he said… “If I told you, you were dying of lymphoma, would you take two hours out of a day for chemotherapy?”

Harsh? Most definitely. True? Absolutely! It certainly made me step back and take notice. He had summed up, in one sentence, my philosophy on being active. It’s essential to our health and wellness. Not to mention, that obesity is a risk factor for developing many diseases, including cancer.*

Time is the number one excuse I hear from the people who say they want to make change and frankly that’s what it is… a mere excuse. I’m a Mom, business owner, and author working on my third manuscript. My husband travels extensively for his work so sometimes I’m like a single Mom. I don’t know how to drive so getting to and from a gym or the track takes me twice as long as the average person which is why I don’t have a gym membership. Yet, I find time to chase after a toddler, help my 11 year old with his homework, make homemade healthy meals, keep the house somewhat in order, and work the equivalent of a full-time job… all the while, training for a half marathon.

There are so many ways to sneak fitness into the daily routine and here are a few ideas.

  • take the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator
  • park at the end of the parking lot when you are shopping
  • walk or ride your bike to work (you’ll help the environment too)
  • make it a family affair (go for family bike rides or walks together)
  • find an exercise buddy (having similar goals can help with motivation)
  • make it fun (exercise doesn’t have to be boring)
  • sign up for a charity walking or running event to keep you motivated
  • watch your favorite show while on the treadmill or elliptical

I was the Queen of Excuses. Been there done that and somewhere in my closet there is a 5X t-shirt to prove it. Only I could stop the behaviour of telling myself why I couldn’t do something. I owe it to myself and those who care about me to be active. I find that I feel much better when I am being physically active. I sleep better and am more productive in other areas of my life. Not to mention, a little time now could prevent a lot of time spent dealing with serious health consequences later.

*Health Canada – Health Risks of Obesity

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the journey continues

Last week I created a page on Facebook to go along with my blog! Sunday I posted a few “before” and “after” photos. A kind lady named Sally, who is a Registered Dietitian, made this comment…

“I’d love to know what other positive changes you’ve noticed as you’ve changed your lifestyle. Weight loss is often what others notice most, but is usually only one of many positive benefits of a change to a healthy lifestyle.”

It’s a great topic so I will share that answer here with all of you. Sally is right about weight loss only being a small part of it, like the cover on a complex book. Let’s look, briefly, at the first chapters of my journey before we talk about where I am now and what some of the other benefits have been.

Emotionally, I was very timid albeit I put on a good front in social situations. I’d get anxiety when we had to go anywhere. I’d actually toss my cookies before we went out and sometimes my husband Bryan would even have to stop the car. I was terrified of rocking the boat. If you said the sky was yellow and I knew that it was blue, I’d agree with you just so you’d like me. I felt like everyone was judging me because of my weight and some people were. I had absolutely no confidence and I felt alone even in a crowded room. When it came to self-image, I hated looking in a mirror and I hated myself. I detested shopping for clothing. I wanted to hide. I quit taking care of myself on the outside and on the inside. I started becoming reclusive and would barely leave the house; instead I would have friends come over to visit. Even then, I’d often cancel at the last moment. I lost all of my passion for the things I enjoyed doing, including artistic endeavors.

Physically, I was prone to extreme bouts of bronchitis and occasionally pneumonia. I’d be down for six to eight weeks at a time and it would take months for my breathing to return to what was normal for me back then. My nails were brittle and my scalp was always dry. My hair would fall out in handfuls. My skin was even affected. I was tired all the time and listless. My posture was awful and I had a hump shape to my back because of excess fat. I had one across the hips too and would often suffer horribly from sciatica. Standing up straight was impossible because of both the weight and years of trying to make my almost 6 foot tall frame appear shorter. I was klutzy because I was so self-conscious and I was always falling.

The transformation started and here’s the answer to Sally’s query.

As Sally mentioned, it wasn’t just the weight that came off. Everything started to heal. My skin and hair were better. My nails became stronger. My posture improved. The sciatica was a thing of the past. I wasn’t horribly hot all the time and I could actually sweat. But what was happening inside was more remarkable. Just over two-thirds of the way through this weight loss I was diagnosed as diabetic and put on insulin, and, as you probably read in earlier postings, I reversed all need for diabetes medications. My enlarged heart started to reverse, my liver enzymes sorted out, my blood pressure went down dramatically. Over a decade of infertility was resolved because my hormones leveled out. Diabetic retinopathy, a serious eye condition, started to heal. My cardiovascular health improved and I can breathe. I can run up the stairs and not have to pull myself up with the banister. Even intimacy is different. Not just with my darling husband but even something simple as hugging a friend. Hugs no longer make me cringe.

Now I’ll tell you about the emotional side of things. This change in me has been as much to do with weight-loss as it has to do with the confidence that came from putting on a backpack for the first time and going into the wilderness. That energized my spirit as well as my body. I wanted more. As the outer transformation started so did the inner changes. I finally decided to become a Mom. In the same year I started pursuing my dream of becoming a published author and freelance writer. I started doing things that I loved again, and picked up a sketchbook for the first time in years. I embraced being daring and did things I thought I could never do. Things that others told me I couldn’t do—canoeing, backpacking, cycling, running, and hiking. I did them despite the naysayers. The more I did, the stronger I became and the more things I wanted to try. I started thinking positive and accepting that I didn’t have to put limitations on myself just because others had—that I can do anything I put my mind to.

I’ve embraced that I am my own person instead of trying desperately to be who others want me to be. I share my opinions even if they differ from my friends. I make the first move to introduce myself to new people and I am strong enough to walk away from negative people who try to sabotage my efforts and hold me back. I even garnered enough courage to teach wilderness cooking workshops and am considering becoming a motivational speaker. Teaching, even though it was my dream, was something that I would have never done when I was obese, because I was just way too self-conscious. I am no longer so ashamed of the obesity and I can share my “before” photos because I’m proud of what I have accomplished—that I have overcome what I once thought was impossible.

So there you have it. Losing weight isn’t just about what others see on the outside, it goes far deeper that. It is a culmination of a healthy body, mind, and spirit. It’s about creating boundaries with how I fuel my body while breaking the boundaries of what I perceive I am capable of doing from a physical standpoint. It’s about becoming whole and being confident, meeting challenges head on and accepting myself and all my idiosyncrasies.

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Tomorrow is a beautiful word and one so full of promise. It signifies a fresh start and a day with potential. Tomorrow is also the beginning of a new year for me so I’m taking a few moments to look back over the past year and to the future.

Last year, the day after my birthday, I wrote about my milestones. Today, as I await the arrival of a dear friend for a running date, I am going to share how that has changed in a mere year and what new things I have decided to add to the list.

First on the list was achieve my final weight loss goal. I didn’t set a timeline for this but I am within 17 pounds! I’m almost there and I’m very proud of that. It is certainly refreshing to be able to shop in regular stores now and it is definitely more economical. The second milestone was to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is, simply put, my way of life.

Third, I was planning to run a 5K race. I did it, as you’ve likely read, and I also went on to run 8.4K in a hilly trail relay and 10K at a nighttime trail run which was comparable to the relay for difficulty.

I mentioned that one of my goals is to write a book about my weight loss journey and that is still on the table. I signed a contract for a third camping-related cookbook that will be released in 2014 and have been concentrating on it. That said, I’ve started writing my story and will work on it as time permits.

Being Mommy to a toddler and a pre-teen is busy especially with a husband who travels extensively so there are some milestones that will have to wait a wee bit longer. That didn’t stop me from trying some new things though. In early July I bought a bike. We rode about 425 km over the summer. Our family did some camping and hiking as well. I even ran in Algonquin Park—twice!

In August I made the decision to run a half marathon after getting the all clear from my medical professionals. I chose a race and booked it which means I will be running my first half in May 2013. So much for it just being one 5K race!

Here is the revised edition of my milestone list. Just like last year, some of these goals are more immediate than others.

  • Run the Mississauga Half Marathon (already booked!)
  • Learn how to drive (I’m studying for the G1)
  • Finish my third cookbook (in the works)
  • Bike the entire L’Petit Train du Nord (230K each way)
  • Write a book about my weight loss journey
  • Pursue a career in Health & Wellness (motivational speaker, dietitian, or diabetes educator)
  • Complete the 25K Run for the Toad
  • Participate in the TREAD relay (again)
  • Complete a triathlon or adventure race
  • Hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu
  • Visit Nepal
  • Hike the Annapurna Circuit
  • See a Kermode or Spirit Bear
  • Visit the East Coast
  • Volunteer for an expedition on another continent
  • Learn to speak French
  • Rock climb
  • Learn to rappel

I’m sure I’ll have loads of other things to add to this list as time goes on.

What are your milestones?

B(e) Positive!

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This has been such a long journey and some days I can’t believe just how far I’ve come, but here I am… finally down to losing those last 20 pounds. I’m almost there and it’s time for the final push. Why is it that the last 20 pounds seems so difficult to lose? Back when I was over 375 pounds I could drop 20 in week or two without blinking an eye. Yet now, with my body being leaner than it ever has been, 20 pounds will take a decent amount of determination and effort. I’m ready for the challenge. It’s going to mean changing up my routine as well as adding in more resistance and toning exercises. Bring it on!

Being here has brought out such a range of thought and emotion. Some of what is going through my mind is difficult to articulate, however, I will attempt to put it into words.

First of all, I didn’t get to this point alone. I have had much support from Bryan, Tobias, my in-laws, and my dear friends. Having people believe in me certainly helped when I had those dark moments where I felt like throwing in the towel before I used it to wipe the sweat from my brow. I am grateful to all of you.

I’ve changed so much from that girl I used to be that she is a distant memory to me—a stranger. Memory is a funny thing and while I try, I can’t remember how it felt to be her from both a physical and emotional perspective. You see, she was really chubby for as long as I can remember. Even in kindergarten she was the big kid that everyone teased because she was different. As an adult, she was scared and unhappy—trying to protect herself in her own strange way, from the plethora of abuses she suffered in her youth. I know that she didn’t have a lot of energy. Even going up and down stairs was a monumental effort for her. Through all the grief and struggles her weight reached a level where she was slowly killing herself. That girl shut herself off from the world because there was less risk of getting hurt and less risk of being seen as a failure if she ever attempted to follow her dreams. Somehow she transcended all of it.

One day this scared and timid girl decided she was the author of her own life and decided that she was going to be the one to write the ending. Her way. She chose a path of her own making and she mapped her own course rather than let the emotional vampires of her past, lead the way. She quit listening to people who were so unhappy that they put her down to make themselves feel superior. She started to follow her dreams and with that began a metamorphosis into the person that has become… me.

I was borne out of those experiences and I will never regret them. I’ve learned from both the negative and the positive. Experiences have allowed me to feel empathy and compassion for others struggling with their own journey. I’ve discovered that there is not a single obstacle that can’t be overcome. Sure, there are people who still try to hold me back, but I now realize that it is often because they are not content in their own lives.

Another thing that runs through my mind surrounds being a Mom. To be quite honest, I don’t know how I would have had the energy to be Mom to Tobias and Kaia when I was so morbidly obese. This rings especially true with Kaia who is just over 2 years old. She’s busy. Really busy. When she takes off at the park I have to run up the hill to grab her before she makes it to the road. My former-self would have collapsed. Seriously.

I look in the mirror and don’t quite recognize my body. That’s a good thing. I no longer hide  in uber-baggy, oversized clothing out of shame. I actually wear things that are fitted, including my running clothes. You can’t get much more fitted than that! While I still have some work to do, I am so proud of where I’m at. I’m somewhat fascinated with my own body and seeing concrete changes to my physique. There are bones that I can feel and see—bones that I have never been acquainted with before. I found a lump. I freaked out. As it turns out, after seeing my doctor, it wasn’t anything scary. The “lump” was merely one of my ribs. Oops. Sure, I’ve always had them, but they were covered with a lot of padding so I had no idea what they felt like. I also have muscles. When did that happen?

It is impossible for me to be any happier. I’m overjoyed with myself for persevering and taking my health seriously. I am also very thankful to those who continue to believe in and support me. Even though this journey isn’t over, I’m okay with that because I can see the finish line.

You know about finish lines, right?

There aren’t any. Finish lines are merely an illusion; they are the starting lines for the next adventure.

PS When Bryan returns from Chicago I will get him to take a recent “after” photo to share with you all.

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Ah, I bet you were thinking that this might be a post about love and romance. It’s not. This is about my family history of heart disease, how freaking much that scares the panties off of me, and about the consult with my cardiologist yesterday.

I’ll give you a little background in case you didn’t read from the heart back in February. Dr. J., my cardiologist, wrote a letter to my family doctor, Dr. R., on February 3rd after a second ECG and an Echocardiogram at his office. I had requested the first ECG from my family doctor back in December and on the same day she prescribed a blood pressure medication (an ACE inhibitor called Coversyl) because of high readings. Now back to that letter. Dr. J. wrote to Dr. R. “Needless to say she is quite alarmed over this horrendous family history of premature coronary disease. She has made up her mind to be very proactive in her cardiovascular health.” His letter of assessment indicated that I had LVH, a very mild aortic stenosis, and evidence for pulmonary hypertension. He went on to recommend further testing and confirmed that I should be on a low-dose statin for familial hypercholesterolemia. So I had the testing on the 9th of February and the next morning I was given the all-clear to resume training for races.

Fast forward 6 months to my follow-up consultation yesterday afternoon.

Dr. J.’s nurse said my blood pressure was a little high. I brought my monitor from home and tested myself. This wasn’t because I didn’t trust the nurse but moreso because I wanted to ensure that my equipment was still giving accurate readings. It was. I was upset because I was hoping he’d take me off the Coversyl and here I was with the highest reading I’d had in 6 months. I’ve dropped from 8 mg to 2 mg a day and my readings are still considerably lower than they should be when I test at home. I was stressing about the readings in the office and I couldn’t help myself. Another reason I wanted to discontinue the medication is that I can’t take ibuprofen or electrolyte replacements that contain potassium because of possible interactions.

By the time Dr. J. came to speak with Bryan and me, I was finally calming down, albeit only a little bit. He walked into the room and said “Hi Skinny!” I took that as a huge compliment because, well, he’s not the kind of guy to flatter. Dr. J. is much like my husband in that aspect. He asked how I was feeling. I bluntly told him “I’m completely stressed out here because, frankly, you freak the hell out of me. Even being here scares me half to death”. I explained that he shouldn’t take it personally; that it is just my family history devastates me and in turn that makes seeing him a nightmare for me. I mentioned that my endocrinologist was concerned that I was given the go-ahead to resume running when I was having a diabetes follow-up at the end of May. That too, stressed me out and I’ve been worrying about it for months. Dr. J. and I had a chat about how many types of heart disease, especially the kinds which are prevalent in my family, are very much behaviorally driven and therefore quite preventable. He stated that some people live with their heads in the sand and that he was happy to see that I’m proactive about things.

Then we discussed some updates to my medical history like my 56-year old brother passing away, from heart disease, a week after I saw Dr. J. last. We chatted about the race and I told him about hill relay, TREAD. I hadn’t cleared that type of training with him so I was a little concerned. Dr. J. thought it was great. He listened to my heart and lungs and said they sound “beautiful”. He did say that the slight murmur is still there and that it is caused by the mild aortic stenosis. He mentioned that he had no concerns about my lower heart rate and that he felt it was because of the training. Whew!

I asked him about going off the Coversyl and he said that he wanted to keep me on it despite my clear documentation that my blood pressure readings are pretty low on a day-to-day basis. I like him because he doesn’t treat me like an idiot and gives me the full story. “Laurie, I want you to stay on it for a reason not related to your blood pressure. As far as I am concerned, from reviewing your blood work, you are no longer presenting as diabetic but Coversyl provides great benefit when it comes to kidney protection. Because of that, I think it is worth continuing even though diabetes isn’t an issue for you at this point.” I explained my feelings about the electrolyte replacement for longer races and not being able to take ibuprofen during recovery if I need to. His response was that I could simply go off the Coversyl 5 days prior to a race and go back on it once I’ve recovered and go back to my normal routine of day-to-day fitness. He also mentioned that I should increase the sodium in my diet a little because of the running. This would help with the blood pressure, which is a little low, and with the losses from sweating. That works for me and I totally see his reasoning when it comes to taking the medication for the other benefits as a preventative measure.

I went on to ask about the mild aortic stenosis. Dr. J. remarked that it is nothing to be overly concerned about at this point and to just keep doing what I am doing. He encouraged me to train for the half-marathon that I’ve been considering and was totally positive about my health. He told me that my take-charge attitude with my lifestyle is refreshing to see. He also shared a bit about his wife, who runs marathons. It was inspiring.

Then Dr. J. and Bryan chatted for a few minutes about how I wasn’t diagnosed with diabetes until I had lost a substantial amount of weight and how that diagnosis has helped all four of us in that we have become a more health conscious family. Dr. J. agreed that the timing of my diagnosis was very unusual. He then asked me how much I had lost to date. I told him that I could only guesstimate. My heaviest was over 375 pounds but our scale at the time didn’t go that high. I told him that I figure I will have lost over 200 pounds when all is said and done. Bryan then reached into my purse and pulled out the “before” photos that I carry to keep me motivated. My doctor asked how I did it and I told him that it was merely healthy eating and exercise. In our last appointment I felt like he didn’t really believe me when I said I had already lost a lot of weight. I’m sure he hears that kind of thing all the time. Seeing those photos and that I had lost almost 17 pounds since he saw me last really cemented just how serious I am about my health.

I have to tell you that I was on the verge of tears coming into this appointment. I was afraid that he was going to tell me to stop running and that I needed more tests or even worse, valve surgery. I had a very negative picture painted in my mind when usually I am more positive. All this health business has been wearing me down. In fact, I was so worked up about going for this consultation that Bryan had to talk me down more than once. You have to understand that heart disease is one of my greatest fears. It isn’t any wonder with what I’ve seen happen in my own family. I couldn’t have been more wrong about how this visit was going to play out.  Dr. J., doesn’t want to see me for another year and other than the aortic stenosis, which is very mild, he says I’m extremely healthy. Good news!

So there you have it, I’m okay. In fact, I’m better than okay.

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