Rock Bottom Kate: Me at 325 lbs, stressed to the max, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and no real knowledge on how to fix it. I can tell you definitively the hardest part about changing your life is figuring out where to start. It’s like walking out of your basement after a tornado levels your house. Obviously you have to cleanup, you have to rebuild, but the prospect of how long it’s going to take and how hard it’s going to be brings you to your knees. As much as you want it to happen overnight, it’s a brick by brick process. My first brick was my environment. I needed to create an environment that made me more likely to succeed.
Silly me, I chose to take up my crusade smack dab in the middle of the holiday season. I remember sitting down with my husband (I actually think he was eating a choco taco at the time haha) and spilling my heart out to him. I explained to him the point I had come to and that I couldn’t keep eating myself into an early grave. I told him I needed his support; that we needed to seriously re-think our lifestyle and the example we were setting for our kids with the way we were eating. “We are the gatekeepers of the house with the food we buy, the kids expect us to keep them healthy!” He rolled his eyes at first. He’d heard all of this before. I think I got his attention when I walked by with a trash barrel and started cleaning out our snack freezer. I literally eliminated every pizza roll, corn dog, chicken wing, bon-bon, and drumstick in a 2 mile radius and donated it to the local church. Before I knew it Chris was on my side helping me with the cleanup. This was scary for us, we really couldn’t afford to be doing this, but we sucked it up and started spending more to shop the perimeter of the grocery store and skipped the frozen food section. My secret became plan and cook three days ahead (and only three days ahead) this was do-able for me and works to this day. First brick was in place, now I had to move on to my next challenge: exercise.
Comfort zones in a weight loss process are obsolete. I felt like every time I got comfortable with a new change, it was time to get outside my comfort zone and make a fool of myself in another area (sounds funny now, but it’s terrifying). No challenge was harder for me than the exercise portion. I wanted to exercise but I had so many things working against me. I was over 300 pounds! I couldn’t just hop off my porch and go for a quick jog, and I was so self-conscious that there was no way I was going to show my face inside a gym. I didn’t really know where to turn. One day I was talking with my cousin about my new eating habits and she invited me to come to an exercise class with her. It was a Zumba class that she explained had several clients who had already lost over 100lbs. She said it was really motivating and that I would meet a lot of great people that I could relate to. I remember thinking to myself, “Zumba is dancing, you used to be a dancer Kate, you could do this!” I decided to take her up on her offer and joined her for a Saturday morning class. I’m so glad I did! She was right, I felt comfortable there! Everyone was so supportive and the workout was fun. There were no bright lights or mirrors, just a bunch of fun ladies trying to have some fun and burn some calories.
Slowly the Zumba crowd became my fitness family. We would all encourage each other and pick each other up when we were down. I even hired one of the instructors to become my personal trainer! He took my nutrition to the next level. Although I had cut out a lot of the junk, I still wasn’t being honest with myself on the amounts I was taking in. My trainer got me logging my food and I realized what a creature of habit I am! The food log kept me honest with myself after years and years of being dishonest with myself. He also got me cooking! I couldn’t believe how fulfilling it was to cook a healthy meal that actually tasted good. At this point everything was moving in the right direction for me. I had lost about 25lbs and was feeling great, so great in fact that I decided I wanted to give running a try (something I hadn’t been able to do in years). Unfortunately my enthusiasm was a little ahead of my body and I ended up having a setback.
One morning on a short run I felt a sharp pain in my knee. “Uh oh,” I thought. Sure enough I was sitting in the exam room with an orthopedic doc lecturing me about 3 hours later. “Kate, you’re still over 300 lbs, running for you right now is like 900lbs of force on your knee every time you take a step!” Way to kill the mood doc! Turns out I had a stress fracture in my tibia. I was discouraged, but a meme I came across online came to mind as I pondered my next move: “giving up on your goal because of one setback is like slashing your other three tires because you got one flat.”
I was way too far along at this point to let an injury stop me. That’s the great thing about seeing results, they motivate you above all else. During my recovery I focused on eating well and started walking once I healed up a bit. I started with a simple lap around my block and eventually worked my way up to a 10k! I stayed in touch with my Zumba community and ended up being able to celebrate my 100 and 150lb loss with them. Those people became like family to me, I still chuckle when I think back to my weight loss milestone celebrations with some of the newer zumba girls. The look of disappointment on their faces when I told them how I did it was so funny. “Hard work, patience, consistency.” You could see their brows slowly sag as their excitement for me turned to dread for themselves and the work they saw ahead. “But it’s worth it!” I told them. They were hoping I was going to reach into my purse and pull out a magic pill. I knew soon enough they would get it, and when they did they’d know what I meant.
Anyone who has been through substantial weight loss knows it’s not all glitz and glamour. One thing that’s rarely talked about is extra skin. I was severely obese when I was pregnant with both of my children. Skin and muscles- for me- did not go back at all. I did end up in mid 2014 having an extended tummy tuck with full muscle reconstruction. I didn’t have this done for cosmetic reasons. I had it done because it was near impossible to jump or run with that much extra skin flapping aroun. Kinda ironic, isn’t it? I couldn’t run or jump because I was severely obese and then I couldn’t run or jump because I lost the majority of my weight and had so much skin. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t I guess. The surgery itself went well.
With any surgery, there are risks. This was not a simple surgery and I did have minor complications. I healed very nicely and quickly on the outside. On the inside, however, I ended up with nerve damage and a very long recovery. The most I could lift was up to two pounds for a full YEAR. Yes, they even weighed my purse. I regret my surgery, but, not for the nerve damage or for reasons one might think. I regret it because it was very easy to feel “done”. This is a never-ending journey. One does not get down to their goal weight and just stop. This is for life.
Another factor I promised myself I would share is that of the mental component of extreme weight loss. Truth is, I gained back about twenty pounds since surgery. And yes, to me, that is a very big deal. Part of it was no matter how much I told myself that it’s a never-ending journey, I felt done. Every single day I wake up, I have to make the decision to stay on the path of health. There are days where I look in the mirror and I see my old self and nothing has changed… and other days I look and I see a person that is new, refreshed, and happy. Finding myself, learning about myself, learning about things that are healthy and make me happy that are not food related. Treating myself with the respect that I deserve. Dissecting and disproving my own negative thoughts and emotions. I still have a hard time finding balance with emotions, especially with some loops and situations my kids put me through. But with each day and with each new obstacle I try to remember “One brick at a time.”
Interesting fun fact- Starfish are very cool creatures of the sea: their capability to adapt and change in response to the world around them is amazing.. In fact, if they lose a limb, or even multiple limbs, they can regenerate or reinvent themselves.
Be the change you wish to see. And whatever comes your way, make it into an opportunity, adapt, change, reinvent- never stop working on your dream of optimal health.
Be a starfish.
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