Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘overcoming obesity’

If you’ve been following my blog ramblings for any length of time then you’ve read about my battle with heart disease. If not, let me get you up to speed. If you already know about my journey then feel free to skip ahead to the update.

My History

I have horrible family genetics when it comes to premature coronary disease causing death and there is also a history of diabetes. Couple that with my former self being severely overweight and sedentary… well you have a ticking time bomb. That would have been the case but I decided, after watching family member after family member suffer from heart disease, that I was going to change my life. I lost weight. I lost a lot of weight. Then I was diagnosed with diabetes. I became even more proactive about my health and reversed the need for diabetes medications. I fought for my life and fought hard.

I saw a cardiologist for a full work-up when I first started running. I had to push for this because it isn’t a standard part of a physical from a family doctor. I was diagnosed with left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) and my aortic valve had a very mild stenosis. The LVH was likely due to my former size as it was reversing. Things were going swimmingly and I ran my first half marathon. Then I accidentally kicked a dumbbell and broke two of the toes on my left foot. After they healed I returned to running and my cardio was worse than it was when I was obese. It didn’t make sense. I thought something wasn’t right, that this was more than a setback due to the toe business. I went to the cardiologist and failed a treadmill stress test but before I got the results I decided I should go to the emergency ward. I still felt really off. Less than a week later I was at home recovering from what is called Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty. In other words, I had two stents placed in a branch off the left circumflex artery. You can read the whole story in the blog post named Fixing My Broken Heart.

I had to come to terms that no matter how perfectly I did everything, genetics will always play a role. My cardiologist, Dr. J. has explained to me that I am doing everything right and that is why I didn’t have a heart attack or heart damage despite having a significant blockage. He told me my heart was strong. I was cleared to run a full marathon but I was to avoid things like heavy lifting. What followed was months of anxiety. Panic would set in when I would run longer distances. I was stressed and upset. I dropped out of all my races including the marathon. I had worked so hard to prevent heart disease and I was very disappointed in myself even though I didn’t have control over much of it due to genetics. I was bummed.

The update

So, now that you have the background, here is what happened on Friday’s visit to Dr. J. I stressed for days about it. I went to my appointment expecting to be told that I had to limit things like weight lifting at the gym and serious hill training for races like Run for the Toad. What happened next caught me off guard. Here is how the appointment went…

I had an echo-cardiogram first, followed by an EKG and measurements for blood pressure, weight and abdominal circumference. Finally it was time to consult with the doctor. Dr. J. is a rather pompous guy but not so with me. Well, not since the first visit when he started to lecture me about weight loss and I handed him my before photo. He knows I’m really proactive and that I take his advice very seriously.

So I am still dealing with Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (say that five times fast) and that is something genetic which I have no control of. In other words, I will likely be on a cholesterol lowering medication for the rest of my life no matter how healthy a lifestyle I lead. Thanks Dad! We talked about some new research into a monthly injection that has had great success in Europe and is going through trials here. It won’t be available to me for several years but it could be an alternative that is less harmful to the body.

The verdict… everything is great… really great! I can go off the blood thinner in 60 days. No more polka dot bruising from having NERF dart wars with my kids. No more anemia! I asked about lifting heavier amounts at the gym. I asked about training for Run for the Toad and other trail races where there are wicked hills. When I heard his response I was compelled to ask him two or three times to be sure my ears weren’t deceiving me. I have the all clear for anything I want to try. He said run hills, climb mountains… whatever I want. In fact, I have NO restrictions whatsoever!! I had to completely restrain myself from doing a happy dance in Dr. J.’s office. NO restrictions!!

Much of the success of this appointment and all of what I have been through with my heart and with diabetes has been due to my dedication to having a healthy lifestyle. Losing weight in a healthy way, keeping fitness fun, and having a balanced way of eating has proven to be the best medicine. I may not be skinny but I am healthier than I have ever been.

PS I did the happy dance in the driveway when we got home… lol.

PPS I’m going to tackle Run for the Toad again. It’s redemption time!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

It seems like I haven’t posted in quite some time, much to my surprise. I didn’t realize that it had been so long but I have had an adventurous summer and time to blog has been scarce. So many things have happened since July 16th and here is a little bit about what I’ve been doing with myself…

The Family Adventure

chutes aux iroquois - Labelle, QC

chutes aux iroquois – Labelle, QC

In mid-August, my husband Bryan, the kids, and I embarked on a cycling adventure in the Laurentiens with our dear friend Mandi. We biked with gear trailers from campground to campground. Well, I had my daughter in a child trailer behind me but everyone else towed gear. Around the 120K mark, after two days of cycling in a lot of rain, we decided to switch things up and we camped next to a gorgeous waterfall for the remainder of the trip. Mandi left on schedule via a shuttle back to the start of the trail. Bryan went back to the start with her and then returned to the campground with our Jeep.  We even played on the beach at Chutes aux Iroquois.

The trip was beautiful, despite the rain and we will return to explore the region a little more next year.  I have fond memories of peddling past Mont Tremblant in the downpour and riding along Lac Mercier.  There was one spot, past Tremblant, where there were horses in a field which was dotted with big hay bales. The hills were in the background and the mist was dancing near their rounded tops. It was almost magical in some strange way. If it hadn’t been so rainy I would have loved to have taken some photos. We had some delicious meals at little bistros along the trail. In all, our Quebec adventure was a wonderful one and although it didn’t turn out quite the we had anticipated, we learned a few lessons that will be applied to future bike-packing excursions.

Giving Back

Team Tyrel

Team Tyrel

Bryan and I have friends, Sandi and Phil, who have helped us through so many difficult times including our house fire. I’ve been friends with Sandi for a very long time—since my days at university and before I even met Bryan. Sandi and I have been there for each other over the years but this has been the toughest thing Phil and her have had to deal with. You see, their 13-year old little boy, Tyrel, was in renal failure. This required hemodialysis 3 times a week and being put on a transplant list. He wasn’t on that list long and the transplant happened shortly after we returned from camping in Quebec.  Everything transpired very quickly. Sadly, even though much of the expense is covered in Ontario, there are some things that aren’t and it is starting to mount for the family. These include loss of work, transportation, fuel, modifications to the home and such. Once he is home there are medications that aren’t covered by the family’s prescription benefits. I don’t have the means to help as much as I is needed and I felt helpless. However…

There were a few things I could do. I could be a friend and offer emotional support but I wanted to do more than that. I thought about how I could raise money in a way that people could afford and that would make it interesting for Tyrel—something that could make him smile. Thanks to some inspiration from a fellow runner named Laura Ingalls, who is founder of the Happy Races, I came up with a great idea to host a virtual 5K run/walk!! With Laura’s help I made our event a reality and now runners and walkers all over the globe are helping out. You can find out more at www.racemenu.com/teamtyrel and if you could sign up, that would be great! It’s fun for Tyrel and his family to see runners, from countries around the world, sending in their photos.

Health

In August I went back to the cardiologist, Dr. J., for another set of tests including an echocardiogram. In February 2012 I was diagnosed with LVH or Left Ventricular Hypertrophy (enlargement of the left side of the heart). That has been reversed and the mild aortic stenosis I’ve been dealing with is vastly improved. This just shows the positive effects of a healthy lifestyle. In the words of Dr. J., “Laurie, I’m pleased to tell you that your heart is very happy!” He gave me the go ahead to train for a full-marathon or any other distance as long as I keep it under 50K. Yay!

Training & Fitness

While I’ve kept my fitness up, I haven’t been training as hard as I probably needed to. That’s okay; I’m on track for my next race that takes place later this month. It’s the 10K ZooRun in Toronto and I’m participating with friends so it will be great fun. In October I’m also running in a 50K relay named Run for the Toad, the 5K Colours of Hope, and finally 5K at Horror Hill. That will be it for races until the New Year. I think.

Last year at this time I was extremely excited because I was anticipating training for my first half marathon. I’m going to run the same half marathon in 2014 but my big goal race for next year is the Sulphur Springs 25K trail run. I loved running in that area during training for the TREAD relay in 2012 so it will be a beautiful place to participate in an event.

I’m tossing around the idea of taking my first climbing lesson and becoming certified to belay at the Guelph Grotto. Bryan and I have also been discussing the possibility of joining a local boxing gym. Both would be quite fun although I might have to get over my extreme and irrational fear of gravity if I am to even consider climbing.

Career

I finally ditched the business name GJ Studios. I’ve never been keen on the name since it was first registered in the nineties. It was time for a change and one that suited the direction in which I’ve been working. My company is now named Outdoor Adventure Press and I couldn’t be happier with this new business identity. The new brand will better reflect the adventure related publications, camping cookbooks, and my other freelance writing projects. It’s exciting and there are a few new things in the works.

I’m still working on that third manuscript and having great fun with it. The book should be complete by the New Year and then I’ll embark on the tedious task of the final round of editing. I’ve been having issues getting great photos for the work because it always seems to rain when I am cooking at camp.

The Big Basket of Peaches

Remind me next time my darling friend, Kristin, sends out an open invitation to come over with a basket and take home some peaches, that it will be a crap-load of peaches! I had expected the typical quart basket worth of yummy deliciousness. It was practically a bushel! I happily took her up on the offer and spent an enjoyable morning in her kitchen before I went home to embark on the process of preserving what she had given me. I ended up with several large Ziplocs of frozen peach slices, three 1L jars of canned peach slices, four 500ml jars of freezer jam, and days of heavenly fresh peach eating. I had never canned peaches before so it was a learning experience. It was also the first time I had ever made freezer jam. Kristin canned a considerable amount and I was quite inspired by her dedication to the project. Thanks Kristin!!

So, that is where life has taken me since I last wrote on my little blog.

Have a Happy Tuesday!

Read Full Post »

no longer a sofa spud

from class III obesity to half marathon

Read Full Post »

Tapering is runner-speak for a gradual reduction in running distance and intensity for a short period before an event. That’s what I am doing right now. I have a ton of things on the go including the cookbook so the extra time is productive. I’ve also got a big old case of pre-race jitters.

You see, I’ve come a long way to get to this point. I’ve battled being morbidly obese and I’ve struggled with diabetes and heart issues.  During my training my Mom passed away, and the kids got sick, and life happened. Losing Mom, hit me hard and there were days I didn’t want to train, but I picked myself up and did it anyway. Sometimes the tears would stream down my face.

I’ve managed to continue training even with many time obstacles facing me, one being the wife of a guy who travels a lot. I did miss a few workouts and I managed to stay pretty much injury free. I did have some calf pain due to low sodium levels or a footwear issue. My husband, Bryan, and I worked together and with the support of some really awesome friends, I was able to complete my training and I have two small taper runs left followed by some carb loading. Then that will be concluded with a couple days of rest before the big event on Sunday morning.

Am I scared? Hell yes! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.

but…

My coach has faith in me. My friends, many who have run these kinds of distances and have followed my training, believe in me. I’ve run a single distance of over 19.5K in training and had a few runs at 17.5 K. I’ve done hill repeats and speed work. I’ve paid attention to nutrition and learned what works for me on these long distance runs.

I’ve booked a hotel, started packing my gear and making a list of things to remember, arranged to have my race kit picked up, chosen my shoes, had a pep talk from my coach, and arranged for the grandparents to babysit. Another friend, Carla, has offered to run alongside me to make it more enjoyable.

and…

As nervous as I am… I believe in myself. I’m looking at this run as fun and I will finish upright and smiling. I may not be fast but I am determined!

One last thing…

Believe – Suzie McNeil

“It’s like I’m falling through my own fears
They used to haunt me but now they’re not here
There’s no looking back
My future is clear
No giving up and I’m holding on when it gets rough
‘Cause you can get through most anything

If you just believe you can move mountains with dreams
The higher you climb the better it gets
‘Cause you will see things you’ll never forget if you just believe”

B(e) positive.

PS I’ll post a full race report sometime next week!

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: