True Confessions from a Formerly Chubby Girl Who Embraced Her Inner Fitness Goddess:
For as long as I can remember I battled maintaining a healthy weight; especially after rupturing a disc in my lumbar spine—I must keep a high level of exercise or I gain 10 pounds in three weeks. I grew up learning to cook from my mother and my Grandma Pat. The matriarchs of my family cooked like southern women on a dairy farm; our meals consisted of meat, potatoes, something fried, and amazing desserts, usually a pie made with Crisco or lard (which by the way is the only way to make a pie crust delicious and flaky). My Grandma Pat just so happens to know exactly what treat from her kitchen will cure any life situation: flu, stress, heartbreak, etc. These home-cooked remedies averaged about 700 calories per serving and created social and emotional eating habits that cultivated unhealthy habits and eventually an unhealthy weight. I always said, “I was born a size 12—I am big-boned—I just have a big frame,” attempting to make excuses for my size.
One of my lowest points and highest weight was after I survived an unhappy marriage for nearly two years; the toll of dysfunction and eating my feelings made me tip the scales at 209 pounds. I was devastated and disgusted with myself. I remember actually shopping at the maternity store that summer to look for a two-piece suit that would cover my hips and stomach. I felt so ashamed to shop in this store, with my very large, very un-pregnant belly like all of the other cute pregnant-bellied ladies shopping around me. When the lady in the maternity store asked me when I was due I made up a bogus due date and made a quick exit to the fitting room. I sat in the fitting room with the fitting belly pillow and sobbed. I knew I needed to make a change in my life, and I tried everything from jogging, stair machines, walking, swimming, Adkins diet, Weight Watchers, cabbage soup diet; you name it, I tried it.
In the midst of my radical work-outs I ruptured a partially herniated disc and faced back surgery that ultimately lead to two more back surgeries in the next 14 months including a complete fusion at L4-L5. The frustration of not exercising came to a head on the New Year’s Eve before my final back surgery. I attended a party with a large group of people at my best friend’s house. We all gathered around to watch the ball drop when a commercial for diet pills came on the television. I will never forget the shear humiliation I felt when my now ex-husband looked at me and said in front of a room of 40 people, “Maybe you should try those.” The air left the room as everyone gasped, and I knew—I knew I needed to make some serious changes in my life, my marriage and health.
Ten days later I started the recovery from my spine fusion and started to make healthier choices in my eating habits—nothing extreme like Adkins or cabbage soup diets that failed me in the past. I started to adjust my food portions, balanced my diet with high protein, low sugar, and tons of fruits and vegetables. I stopped telling myself that certain foods were off-limits; I just applied the rules of moderation—instead of eating three hot, fresh Krispy Kreme donuts, I only indulged in one and only if the red sign was on! As the year went on I started exercising in the pool and walking as my doctor limited my activity for the first 12 months following surgery. I lost 15 pounds by the summer time; however, I still felt chubby—but also proud of my progress.
Starting to loose the weight:
After the year of recovery I made the choice to forgo the abuse, stop eating my feelings and got the divorce I so desperately needed. My surgeon released me to initiate a regular exercise routine. I started jogging, lifting weights, swimming, and dropped another 10 pounds within a month of beginning my new life. I dug deep as to what my overall health looked like—not just the number on the scale or dress size, but also my emotional well-being, nutrition, and relationships.
Three months after my divorce I met my Gabe. He began to teach me what true respect and admiration meant. I learned what a healthy relationship looked like; imagine my shock when I no longer felt the need to scarf down a box of Cheese-Its because of my starvation for respect and healthy affection. Over the last three and a half years I worked very hard at finding a fitness and nutrition; I started running 5K races locally, and really enjoyed the rush of the finish line. My weight fluctuated 10-15 pounds so I started running longer races and training for a half marathon; until everything changed on March 27, 2012.
Starting to look like a different person after all that running:
After a lunch date with Gabe I drove to an afternoon presentation on a four-lane highway between Wichita and my hometown, El Dorado. As I approached an intersection at 70 mph a woman ran a stop sign and I t-boned her. When the Sherriff’s deputy woke me up I could not feel my arms. After an ambulance ride to the local trauma center, and MRI of my cervical spine, I found out I had several disc bulges causing the numbness. I worked so hard in physical therapy to regain my strength, work on pain control and get back to my exercise routine. I was frustrated beyond belief that all of the work I put into training for longer races was out the window: I was at the beginning again.
Over the next year I kept seeing a friend of mine from high school posting pictures on her social media page about this new workout called CrossFit. I could not believe how amazing her body looked. She did not look skinny or beefy; she looked strong. I think I emailed her several times asking about her fitness routine, she told me to give it a try. “You will become addicted to it,” she said!
This summer after the continued boredom with running and plateauing with my weight loss I decided to give a local CrossFit gym a try. I emailed the owners about the free week trial offer on their webpage and decided I would give it a try. The next morning I attended my first “Fit Camp” class and thought I was going to throw up and pass out. I knew if this did not give me the results I wanted; nothing would. I enrolled in three Fit Camp sessions a week and motivated myself to attend at least two classes a week. Fit Camp parallels CrossFit as it applies the same movements and high intensity as CrossFit; just without the Olympic weight-lifting and more cardio conditioning. This was the perfect class for me to initiate gaining strength in my neck and back.
The primary principle of physiology is “shape dictates function”. I could not believe how quickly I saw results not only in the definition of my muscles but also the decreased pain in my neck and back. I recently had an MRI of my cervical and lumbar spine and because of the strength I gained it seems that my stronger muscles have pulled my vertebrae back into place, as my MRI results look much better than they did before starting CrossFit. I’m not saying that this is a cure for everyone with cervical and lumbar herniations, I am saying that for me—it has worked!
For six weeks I attended three classes a week, dropped 20 pounds and two dress sizes. I remember looking at myself in the mirror after I got out of the shower, and for the first time in a very long time, I did not cringe at the sight of my naked body in the mirror. One particular morning as I stood there I noticed something I hadn’t seen even in my thinnest days: SPACE BETWEEN MY THIGHS! Ladies, you will relate, this is something all of us strive for, and no matter how many laps I swam in high school, or how many carrots I ate instead of French fries, I had never seen the light of day between my thighs! The results motivated me to continue working toward pleasing my inner fitness goddess—to become strong.
Before and After:
My fitness Ah-ha moment came when I was no longer obsessed with the number on my bathroom scale; I developed and obsession with my biceps. During one of the Fit Camp classes about six weeks into my journey a new athlete looked me up and down and said, “I want your arms!” I was floored; my inner fitness goddess jumped up and down with glee!
I started to attend the CrossFit side of the gym this fall and really love the Olympic weight-lifting; however I missed the Fit Camp side (you see I happen to have a love-hate relationship with cardio). I set goals for myself to attend four classes a week, two Fit Camp classes and two CrossFit classes. Our coaches at AMP CrossFit Box are fantastic and every athlete and coach work as a family to encourage, teach and inspire each of us to become better, to push our minds and bodies beyond the point of wanting to quit and sometimes to the point of throwing up. It is a common rite of passage for all CrossFit athletes! Just when I want to start walking on a run or modify a box-jump, a fellow athlete will encourage me to keep going. They have a saying on the wall that hits home with me during every workout, “Don’t be upset with the results you didn’t get by the work you didn’t do.”
I love how my body feels after class and the soreness the next morning of my muscles repairing and building strength. I love that endorphin release after pushing myself to the limit, and how well I sleep after a WOD (workout of the day). Eventually I want to compete as I thrive in a competitive environment, it’s the same thrill of crossing the finish lines of races! It is a challenge sometimes to limit myself on the amount of weight I lift; my ego wants to match the athletes around me, but my mind reminds me that if I push myself too far, I will reinjure my neck and lumbar spine. I am slowly but surely gaining strength and seeing more and more changes in my body.
During the first part of November I started a two month stent of not attending CrossFit because of the respiratory flu, followed by kidney stones. I had surgery to remove the stones and to open my ureters with the placement of a stent; which happens to be more painful than the actual kidney stone. One week post-op from the surgery I spiked a high fever and was so weak I could hardly get out of my recliner. It turned out I had a kidney infection that somehow managed to migrate into my blood stream and a critically high white count of 27,000. I was hospitalized with IV antibiotics and sent home with more antibiotics. It was another three weeks before I started to feel like myself again. So two months later, I feel soft, weak, and out of shape. I feel like I took three steps back—so time to get back at it and gain back my strength. It was my goal this fall to not gain weight during Christmas and be that person setting a New Year’s Resolution and coming back to the gym in January—but here I am!