Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Journey to be thin…and it’s a long distance journey, literally

What’s worse: being asked, “when is your baby due?” when you are not pregnant or asking a woman “when is your baby due?” when she is not pregnant?

When I was asked, I almost went along with it and made up a due date but because I am mathematically challenged I could not think fast enough to be convincing enough. I only considered this because I adore the person who asked and did not want to embarrass her any more than she had already embarrassed herself, especially since the question was 100% fair—no doubt, I looked pregnant.

It’s not as though I wasn’t aware of my physically unfit situation. I had recently been to several different doctors. At my OBGYN appointment, my doctor’s skinny little assistant entered the room with her handy dandy Body Mass Index (BMI) chart and informed me that I was “obese.”

“Wait there just a minute, can I see that chart you have?” I thought I was “overweight”--the section that comes immediately after “normal,”--but not “obese.” I thought wrong; I was two sections away from normal now. It was official; I had crossed over to the next column and was now labeled “obese” and knew I was not getting any closer to “normal” on my current “see food” diet and lack of exercise plan.

Shortly after my hair began falling out in chunks, I started to acquire some bald spots on my head about the size of a quarter. Until then I seemed to be coping fine with being a fat woman; but a fat, bald woman? That is where I drew the line—that could not be good for my sex life.
After a full panel blood test, I received a very large envelope in the mail from Kaiser; they weren’t happy with my 240 cholesterol level. It was a packet of information, on how to lower cholesterol through diet and exercise, written by a dietitian. Wow! I actually have a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, and I am the targeted recipient of a cholesterol lowering informational packet written by a dietitian. How pathetically embarrassing is that. I’m thinking of the plumber whose toilets don’t work, the psychologist who’s slightly psychotic, and I’m the dietitian who’s obese—nice, real nice! Being officially labeled as an obese dietitian seems like an oxymoron, if nothing else, just plain hypocritical.

I was not tall enough to be pushing 200 pounds—I’m only 5’4”. I had no excuses; I was just a very good example of how the law of thermodynamics works. When you eat too much and don’t move enough, you gain weight, it’s not rocket science.

Here's me in front at my heaviest
 Not long after being asked when my baby was due--and getting news from my doctor that I was going bald, officially obese and my cholesterol was dangerously high--I got news from the pediatrician that two of my four children’s weight-to-height ratio was bordering on unhealthy. This was a nice way of saying that they’re getting chubby--like mother, like daughter. How could I possibly explain to my kids that the doctor suggested they loose a little weight when their mother was the classic before--without an after--picture? The only way my kids were going to care about their health is if I cared about mine.

At our ward anniversary dinner, I was chatting with some of my girl friends. They were talking about running a 4th of July 5k run, and they were going to start training the very next morning. For some strange reason I committed to go.

So the next morning I ran my first--post childbirth--run with the ladies for two miles on the Santa Ana river trail. I seriously thought I was going to die, my legs were like Jell-O and I didn’t even know if I could drive myself home let alone ever walk again. I HATED every second of it. Why do people run? I thought. This has to be the world’s stupidest sport! It’s not like we’re trying to get a ball in a goal. I remembered this quote I read with a picture of a runner on it: “My sport is your sports punishment”—I completely understood. The only problem is that I was stuck, I had committed to my friends to do this 5k and the only reason I had any desire to follow through is because I was obligated and would be the biggest looser (and not weight loss looser like the reality show) if I quit. I was running on all obligation and zero motivation.

I decided that whatever I was going to do to get this weight off, I had to like. If not it would never last. I had an epiphany and realized that I needed to replace my addiction for food with an addiction for some sort of exercise. That’s the only way I could think to reverse this…but how do you get addicted to something so miserable? I had no desire to waste money to join a sweaty, germ infested gym, where meat heads go to show off their muscles and hot chicks wear sports bras with their big fake boobs hanging out—that just sounded depressing. I had been noticing all the runners around me—I didn’t know of any fat runners. In fact, I knew some runners who I thought were a little bit Nazi about running and definitely addicted by my standards. I started hanging out with them and trying to keep up with them.

1st 5K, Me on the far right, maybe 5 lbs. down
 I found that running for a reason was the only thing that would keep me going. I had always wanted to hike the Grand Canyon into Havasupai. That first 5k short term goal was one baby step toward my dream of hiking the Grand Canyon. I didn’t think I would be motivated to keep running after the 5k but then I wondered if I could beat my own time. That was it! I got the itch. I started getting competitive with myself and it was not such a bad thing. I felt great and I started loosing weight, the weight loss became addictive in and of itself. A runner’s high is a beautiful thing, but to a fat girl, more so is a daily shrinking number on the scale.

I asked our friends, Rod and Lori Parker, to come to Havasupai with us. They reversed the invitation and invited us to do a 30 mile, 5 day hike in Machu Picchu, Peru--Richard’s dream vacation for as long as I’ve known him. For this I had to get fit and running became the most convenient and cheapest way. Along the way I continued making short term goals and continued to loose weight, by this time I was down about 20 lbs. weighing around 175.

About 5 months into my journey I met Lisa, Lisa was a new mom at my kid’s school and I immediately noticed her lean running physique and tight calves. I asked her: “Are you new to the school?”

“Yes” she said with a very inviting smile.

“Are you a runner?” I asked.

“Yes” she said with another very inviting smile.

“Well, you look like a runner” I said.

Lisa was slender but muscular, not too tall, not too short; she appeared to be very healthy and had the perfect figure in my opinion. She had short brown hair and a fading summer tan. Her humble sweet smile could welcome the shyest individual. Thanks to my excellent probing skills, or as others might call it, my busy body-ness: sure enough, she was another one of those crazy marathon runners.

Lisa was flattered by my interest in her. I invited her to run with us the very next morning. I was flattered by her acceptance of my invitation. I’m not sure I would go with me. It was our Saturday long run. I told her “I’m one of the slow ones but I’ll introduce you to the fast people that you can run with,” but she ran slower for me and inspired me to do my first 9 mile run ever. Before this day I had never run more than six miles in one day. I could hardly walk for 2 days, but hey I did it! Lisa felt guilty and tried to take the blame for my aching feet saying that she was irresponsible for pushing me and that as certified running coach, she should know better. Whatever, she was wrong, humble, but wrong. What she forgot is that she didn’t PUSH me, she inspired me, not once ever suggesting that I extend myself beyond 6 miles, only setting the way by an example that I chose to follow. What I didn’t know then that I do know now is that increasing your mileage with aches and pains is a normal part of the adjustment that our bodies make to accommodate to our new lifestyle. I wasn’t physically injured, I was only responding as one would in my overweight situation.

Besides, it didn’t help that my costume for the Halloween party that night required me to wear heels, and then church the next morning—heels again. Just remember: runners, heels, bad.

Every Saturday and the weekdays in between, Lisa always stuck with me and I could always depend on her to wake up at the crack of dawn and run slow with me. I can’t remember a time when I suggested we run the following morning and Lisa wasn’t there. I was so spoiled it was unbelievable. Lisa would run to my house and pick me up in the mornings and run me back home after our run, then run home herself. It really doesn’t get any better than that. I could always count on her.

By now, I was very slowly loosing weight, but still loosing. I started running longer on Saturdays and occasionally ran with the faster people when they were having a slow day. This was real distance running. I could have NEVER done this without Lisa. I would have never even attempted or desired to extend myself this much.

Running became a social thing for me too. Lisa always showed interest in what was going on in my life, never giving up on me, always encouraging me to press forward and do my best.

Then something crazy happened that brought my weekday runs to a halt. My husband became severely ill. He was paralyzed from head to toe and was in the hospital for two months. My focus became my husband and my kids, and my running took a backseat. Morning runs were out of the question as Richard wasn’t home to stay with the kids anymore. My new running route was a lonely one; it started at our home and ended at the hospital four miles away.

Lisa stuck by me through thick and thin. She made herself available to me to do my Christmas shopping among other things. It was a busy time of year for everyone, her husband had lost his job and they were suffering their own problems, but she always made me feel like I was number one on her list.

I know this sounds elementary, but Lisa inspires me to be the best I can be. Running with such a committed and caring individual makes running fun. Lisa has great knowledge in all areas of running from shoes, to Gu; but most of all great training plans. She never pushes her opinions on us new clueless runners, but gives us food for thought and helps us decide what is best for us.

Lisa inspired me to try my best to become as physically fit as my body will allow; I may never get there, but I will die trying.

Fast forward exactly 1 year from my first 2-mile run on the riverbed. It’s June 5th, 2010 and I’m in Fontana with my friends where I just finished my first half-marathon race. My running mentor, Lisa, she calls it my “runniversary.” I can’t call her my coach because I can’t afford to pay her for her services, but that’s really what she is. I ran it in 2:05 and was already thinking about the next half marathon race where I would break two hours.

“So Kelly, we’re doing a full marathon this fall, I’ll email you your running plan.” Lisa said after the half. “That’s okay, I’ll pass on the marathon.” I said.

Lisa and my sister Heidi had conspired behind my back that I would be running a marathon with them. I wasn’t feeling the excitement they were: “No, I won’t be running a marathon, that’s just crazy!” I said, “I have no desire to run a marathon, don’t marathoners get hurt?” I thought, “I’ve heard nightmare stories about bloody nipples; it’s like lactating blood instead of milk, and don’t their toe nails turn black and fall off and then their toes look like little nubs?” That’s not cute with sandals, I was thinking, and it didn’t seem healthy either.

I knew as I wasn’t even close to my full potential yet. Still overweight and fighting a plateau, I have this inner desire to conquer my weaknesses, increase my speed, loose more weight, and attempt to be as physically fit as my body will allow. It may never happen, but I will never stop trying. I went ahead and ran the marathon…with Lisa of course. Or should I say…Lisa ran the Marathon with Me. Yep, she did. She coached me through the whole 4 hours and 29 minutes, only three weeks after running her own Fall Marathon, almost fully recovered. Talk about committed, yes she is. Talk about spoiled, yes I am.
To be continued… Marathon Race Report