How does a person end up being over 300 pounds?
- Lack of motivation?
- An addiction to junk food?
- Health issues?
- Life circumstances?
- A combination of all of these?
… Most likely.
Over the coming months, you’ll be getting a glimpse into my life with regard to getting healthy or as I like to think of it:
Why share my story?
Perhaps you need a little motivation to get yourself moving. Maybe, by knowing the struggles I go through just to walk a mile, it will motivate you to walk or run a mile or two. If you’re already healthy, chances are you have a family member, a friend, or a co-worker who struggles with weight issues. By following my story, it may help you understand that person’s situation better and enable you to be more supportive.
Developing The Mind Set
While in my 30’s, I lost my parents and my sister. Later, I lost a brother. A decade ago, I went through chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. You would think that these events would have been a big enough jolt for me to start taking care of myself!
Though I am lucky enough to count myself among those who have survived cancer, I struggle with some side effects from the chemotherapy. One of these is partial numbness in the bottom of my feet. When I walk on a hard surface, or go up and down stairs, it sometimes feels like I’m walking on sand. Making matters worse, I fell and smacked my left knee on ice a few years ago. My leg now retains a lot of fluid and this makes me extremely cautious – almost fearful – about walking any great distance.
Shortly after being declared cancer free, I went to a wellness center for three weeks and learned a lot of things. At the time, I scoffed at some of the things that were taught but I’m finally coming to terms with what I learned. It’s just taken several years for it to all make sense to me. During that same time I chose to leave a stressful school administration position to work part-time at my church. I’ve known for some time that I need to reduce the stress in my life, but for the past few years I think I’ve put life, and certainly my health, on hold.
It has taken me a long, long time to finally be at a point where I feel confident and eager about getting healthy. For the past couple of years I’ve been working with a health coach by phone. I jokingly refer to him as “Father Joe”. After all, I feel like I’m always confessing my eating sins and failing to perform my penance of exercise. Of course there are times when I look forward to Joe’s calls, but I often wish he would just dial the wrong number.
With Joe’s help, however, I’ve been able to stop drinking cola, have made attempts at cooking healthy meals, and have made an effort to exercise. When I’ve struggled with bad weeks, Joe has challenged me to think of reasons why I go off course. What an eye opener that has been! I’ve begun to take note of what triggers the activity of wolfing down a box of chocolate peanut butter cookies or skipping workouts for a whole month.
In an effort to motivate me, my doctor asked me to think about the things that I’m missing because of my weight. With tears in his eyes, Dr. Felsen once told me that there’s so much to explore and enjoy, but that I’ve got to commit to making healthy changes to get there.
He’s right, of course but that’s easier said than done.
For years, I’ve tried to convince myself that I don’t have the time or money to travel or to do other things that I’ve always dreamed of doing, but in reality it’s my weight that prevents me from doing those things. I want to travel to Australia. I want to fly in a hot air balloon. I’m tired of my weight preventing me from following my dreams – and I finally believe that I’ve developed a mind set to make healthy, long lasting changes!
An Opportunity To Be Coached
A lot of exercise equipment is built to hold 250 pounds or less, so anyone weighing more than that doesn’t have the option to use exercise equipment, unless that person has thousands to pay for equipment that will sustain their weight. I purchased an endless pool because I knew my joints wouldn’t hurt in the pool, but as an overweight person and exercise newbie, it’s difficult to know how hard to push myself with regard to exercise. After all, I get breathless just bending over to tie my sneakers – and that’s while I’m sitting on the couch! I knew I needed a coach, but I wasn’t looking for the Biggest Losers gurus – only someone who could help me get moving and hold me accountable.
Thankfully, I’ve been given an opportunity to work with Coach Brian. From our initial communications, Brian could see that I was ready to make healthy changes and agreed to coach me even though I’m not really a runner – yet.
Preparing For Commitment
Brian wastes no time! I was thinking he’d probably wait and have me start walking right after the holidays. Ohhhhh no! He was ready to torture me work with me – in mid-November! I stocked up on healthy food, reduced my freelance writing commitments, and made a commitment to myself to keep my health as a priority.
Brian’s email regarding my first walk told me that I needed to walk a mile. It didn’t matter how long it took, or how many breaks I took, but I needed to accomplish a mile. The night before, as I was mapping out the mile on the web I was fighting back tears. I honestly wasn’t sure if I could walk an entire mile. On top of that, I wasn’t even sure where I buried my sneakers. So for my first walk, I walked in my Burkies with socks!
Later that day I went to Hamilton’s, the local shoe store, and was fitted with a great pair of New Balance sneakers. I had a nice chat with the owner, Rich Shear, and I asked him if he thought I was crazy to take up walking right before winter.
“I enjoy seeing people get started with walking or running in the fall”, Rich said, “The weather is cool and there’s a bit of quietness before the hectic holidays kick in. The cooler weather helps you work out with more gusto.”
Slow > DNF > DNS
Obviously, I did survive that first mile. I stopped six times and it took about a half hour, but I made it! I remember breathing so heavily at one point that I kept checking behind me to see if someone was there. I wasn’t used to hearing my own breathing. I also remember that as people drove by, I hoped that they thought I was just finishing up a three mile walk. In reality I was just huffing and puffing all the way through that mile.
Feeling a little discouraged and embarrassed by the wake-up call of how out of shape I am, I was thankful for Brian’s response. He sent me an email with a saying he saw on the back of a shirt during a marathon:
“Slow > DNF > DNS”
He explained that in racing terms, “DNF” stands for “Did Not Finish” and “DNS” stands for “Did Not Start”. Finishing slow is better than not finishing. You’ve accomplished something. Failing to finish is better than not starting at all because at least you’ve learned something from the experience. You’ll be better prepared next time. If you never start, however, you’ve gained nothing.
Now as I walk, and begin to feel frustrated that I’m not walking very fast, I’m able to remind myself that slow is okay! I have STARTED to make an effort to get healthy, and I have consistently FINISHED my mile walks.
Naming Trees and Counting Pennies
I don’t own an iPod and I know that I need to distract my thoughts while walking; otherwise, I seem to focus on my heavy breathing. So, I’ve taken up name calling! As I walk by the trees, I greet and name each tree, using the alphabet…
“Good morning, Adam!”
“Nice day, Chad”.
Sure it may seem a little crazy, but it has really helped me and the trees haven’t complained yet!
When the weather is bad, I walk indoors, by doing a figure eight in the church’s sanctuary. It takes 20 laps to walk a mile. I crank up the music, put 20 pennies in my left pocket, and start walking. At the end of each lap, I remove a penny from my pocket and put it into the right pocket. It might appear odd to some people, but it works for me.
Progress Thus Far
I am pleasantly surprised by the progress I’ve made in the first three weeks. I’ve gone from three 1-mile walks a week, to two 1-mile walks, a 1/2 mile walk and a 1 1/2 mile walk. My times are getting better too! My fastest mile is 23 minutes with no stops. My resting pulse rate has gone from the high 70’s to the low 70’s. My systolic blood pressure (the top number) has decreased ten points! I’ve lost 12 pounds.
I realize that I have a long way to go, and right now I feel like the proverbial tortoise -“Slow and steady wins the race”. I am starting out slow, but each time I accomplish a mile, I have won that particular race! I’m looking forward to the day when I can walk a mile under 20 minutes and I’m especially looking forward to walking three miles, no matter how long it takes me! I hope you’ll join me on my journey. I’m 100% committed, but I can use all the encouragement you can give!