Guest Post: Angela's Journey
Today I am posting a story from Angela on her journey to become a runner...
Hi, I’m thrilled to be part of the Sweat Pink Blog Swap! Many thanks to Jill for hosting it and to Jen for featuring my guest post! I thought I’d share my journey with you.
I was underweight for most of my early childhood because I was hyperactive and anemic. I was a picky kid and didn’t eat much, and my parents were always worried because I was so thin and short. When I was about 10, I started to eat more, which made my mother so happy, she would push food into me, because for a change, I was finally at a normal weight. That only lasted a couple of years. As I hit puberty, my hyperactivity phased itself out and I slowed down. My parents had split up, we had moved to a new town, and being painfully shy, I had a hard time making new friends. Instead of running around outside, all I wanted was to sit in my room and read… hide, actually (although I did- and still do- love to read!). My weight went from normal to pudgy.
I was only about 15 pounds overweight. However, that was enough to cause the kids to start teasing me. I’d come home from school miserable, and my mom would make me feel better the same way her mother had, by having cookies or cakes or some other kind of yummy foods ready. She cooked like she had been taught: fried chicken, butter laden veggies, cheesy mashed potatoes, and other southern dishes. It didn’t take long to go from pudgy to fat. The bigger I got, the worse the teasing, and the more I took comfort in food. I was caught in a vicious cycle that my parents didn’t understand and didn’t know how to stop, as they both had similar childhoods.
Throughout junior high and high school I was still moderately active, having to walk back and forth a mile each way to school. I’d lose a few pounds during summer vacations, when I was more active with outside activities, but come fall, the teasing (bullying, actually, but that’s another story) would begin anew, as would the overeating. By the time I was old enough to really understand the correlation between overeating and being fat, I was about 35 pounds overweight. I had already developed the habits of sitting in front of the TV or lying in bed with a book. I had issues with motivation and willpower, and no one to turn to, no one to show me or tell me how to change my eating and activity habits.
I weighed about 180 pounds (I’m 5 foot 6 inches) when I got married at age 20. I got pregnant immediately and packed on another 40. Only about 25 of that came off when I had my daughter. Being a young, inexperienced, stay at home mom didn’t help. I’d eat from loneliness and boredom. My weight slowly inched up. Less than two years later I was pregnant again. I only gained about 15 pounds, but it all stayed after my son was born. The cycle of poor eating continued, but this time it was exacerbated by a crumbling marriage and lack of close family and friends.
When my husband and I divorced, I weighed almost 300 pounds. My metabolism was so slow that all I had to do was sit on the couch and five minutes later I was asleep. I felt terrible, my blood pressure was through the roof, and my knees hurt. It took me 10 minutes to climb the steps to my second floor apartment because I had to take a break to catch my breath halfway up.
I now had to get out and work, and that activity, combined with the stress relief of being out of a bad marriage, led to me losing about 70 pounds. I didn’t really change my diet that much, except for the simple fact that I was no longer angry and miserable, so I wasn’t eating as much, and I was moving around more at work. However, the weight loss had me feeling great, and I became much more active, getting out and meeting people, and enjoying life.
The fact that I didn’t really change my eating habits would eventually be my downfall. By 2007 I was working at my dream job with the Humane Society of Missouri, taking care of animals that were unwanted and/or abused, and I had just gotten married to a wonderful, caring man. Then, I got badly hurt on the job. While wrestling with a large dog, I wrenched my back and had to be hospitalized. It took several months of painful physical therapy to get back on my feet, but my back was never the same. I eventually had to leave my dream job, and I was never without pain again. During those months of physical therapy, I was upset and depressed, and as always, I turned to food for comfort. With my reduced mobility, I wasn’t burning calories. My weight slowly crept up. Over the next few years, my life went through major changes: my mother passed away in 2008, I was laid off in 2009 and unable to find work for over a year, we moved across the country (away from all friends and family) because of my husband’s job, in 2010 my husband was laid off, and eventually we became homeless in Arizona before finally moving back to Missouri to live with my father this past year. During these years, some of the minor health issues (like high blood pressure and depression) flared up and other health issues developed. I was eventually diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, borderline diabetes, Hashimoto’s (low thyroid), and low adrenal function (borderline Addison’s). I also sustained an injury to my left arm, resulting in permanent nerve damage and chronic pain.
The more depressed I felt, the more I ate. The more I ate, the more weight I packed on. The more weight I packed on, the worse my health issues became. The worse my health issues became, the less I moved. The less I moved, the more depressed I became. I was once again caught in a vicious cycle, but this time, I knew it, and I had given up. I figured with all of these health issues, there was nothing left for me. I was in constant pain, was on 12 medications, and figured what was left of my life was pretty much useless. I was destined to be bedridden, just like so many others in my family had wound up. I was missing out on life, and to be honest, I just didn’t care anymore.
One day I was sitting on the couch, half dozing, and it suddenly hit me: I was going to die. Soon. That’s all there was to it. I was fat, sick, and headed for death. And it scared the heck out of me.
I don’t know why, but I got up and decided right then and there: I needed to fight back. I had people who cared about me, I had friends, I had talents I hadn’t pursued in a long time, and I had a lot to offer. I may not be able to do much about my health issues, but I could do something about my weight, which just may help those health problems lessen. So I went outside and took a walk.
It was a slow, painful, gasping walk around the block that took almost 20 minutes because I had to keep stopping to catch my breath. But I did it. And the next day I did it again. I kept walking, slowly pushing myself just a little bit further every day. Eventually, after a couple of weeks, I went online and mapped the route I was walking. I was stunned to discover that I was walking almost a mile a day! The next day, I pushed further and hit that mile mark. I wasn’t just walking, either. I also started to change the way I eat. I knew the basics: cut out the soda and junk food, eat more fresh fruits and veggies.
That was just three short months ago. Since then, my workout routine has grown to walking three miles a day, four or five times a week, one yoga class, and two water aerobics classes. I am starting to run, but because of my Fibromyalgia, I can’t make it very far. Imagine running with a sack of sand on your back… the weight pounding on your knees and ankles. That’s what it’s like for me right now. Despite that, I’m up to about 30-45 seconds of running, and during a three mile walk I can manage about 6 running intervals.
I’ve lost 14 pounds. I started at 298 and as of today, I’m down to 284. I haven’t noticed the weight loss (except in my breasts… what is up with that???), but others have started asking if I’ve lost weight, so there must be some kind of change. Also, some of my health issues have lessened. My blood pressure has already come down slightly, my knees and back are less sore (although I still have Fibro flare ups which can put me back in bed for a day or two), and I have more energy. Mentally, I’m feeling refreshed and alive for the first time in a long time. I know that I have an active and awesome future ahead of me!
There’ve been other changes as well: I started doing weight loss research online and not only found healthier recipes and exercise tips, I’ve discovered much more: a whole community of people committed to healthy living. I’ve started connecting with so many people who were once where I am now, and have lost weight and gained a healthier lifestyle; people who are still working on their weight loss, people who are marathon runners, and people who are health challenged like I am, but still doing whatever they can to be healthier. I’ve even met athletes who have encouraged and challenged me to be the best I can possibly be.
I had been half-heartedly writing a blog about this and that, and it became a blog about my own journey (www.angiloo.blogspot.com). I soon found a whole neighborhood of fellow bloggers who welcomed me with open arms. I now have friends all over the country and people who are cheering me on in ways I never expected.
I’ve participated in three races since starting my journey. I did my first race in September, just two months after taking that first walk around the block. It was a non-timed one mile fun walk to raise money for brain tumor research. The rush of pride and accomplishment I felt when I crossed that finish line was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. This is something I never dreamed I would do. I never joined an athletic team in school, so to be part of an organized athletic activity was anathema to me. I felt so amazing that I immediately signed up for more, completing three walks in three consecutive weekends.
I’m still in the infancy of my journey toward wellness. I’m learning what works for me and what doesn’t. I am, above all else, a realist. I know that I may never become skinny, but I can lose weight, and be as healthy as my limitations allow. Even with those limitations, I can still push the boundaries; I never know when one of those boundaries will expand or fall away. A few weeks ago I never thought I could walk three miles at a time, but now I am, and I’m slowly increasing that distance. I’m aiming for a 5K by spring, and after that, who knows? I may never become a marathon runner, but I can still run as much as my body will allow me, and walk the rest. I may never be able to run an entire race, but I can keep moving forward. I’ve learned that it’s all about balance and moderation. I’m eating better: lots and lots of fresh veggies and fruits, lean meats, eggs, nuts, healthy snacks, and smoothies (and the occasional gluten free brownie!). I’m not always perfect, sometimes I still indulge in some kind of junk food (Mc Donald’s fries are my downfall!), but I am working toward being the best me I can be.
I’m living by one motto: Stop eating junk and get your butt up and move! It really is that simple, and it’s amazing how much the world opens up when you walk through that door.