I never had a great body image, probably because I never had a great body. I struggled with weight and fitness all my life. I was never so big as I was last year though. After 15 years of not caring and two pregnancies, I was weighing in just around 220 pounds. I had no energy and felt disgusted with myself.
In July of 2013, I had a gallbladder attack (no removal) which forced me to respect certain dietary changes. I started shedding pounds but quickly realized that I needed to go further than that. A friend (the same one who encouraged me to share these images and story with you) told me about your DailyHIIT website. It changed my life.
In less than a year, I lost 73 pounds, started running (training for my first half marathon now), working out regularly (with your workouts), and rock climbing (I organized and lead a group that introduces women to rock climbing). I have more flexibility, energy, motivation, and coordination. My life went from sleep walking my way through each grumpy day to shining from sun up to sun down. I am a different person. The eat part is that because I am happier, calmer, and more focused, my kids and my husband get the best of me everyday. No more cranky-mom!
I just wanted to thank you. Your workouts and trainers are amazing. I seriously couldn't have done it without you.
Below are pictures of me before and after. I also put a copy of the whole story (which in posting on my FB page - along with a link to your site - one part per day beginning yesterday 7/17, the one yet anniversary of the attack that kicked it all off).
Part One: The Catalyst
One year ago today, I had a gallbladder attack resulting from stones developed during my second pregnancy. This is not to say that I was not at fault for the attack at some level. I had, after all, been abusing food - or rather using food to abuse myself. In either case, I was in the worst shape of my life. I was growing more and more depressed and was steadily drawing nearer to the brink, the point at which I was not going to care (or try) at all anymore. Then it happened...
It was the worst pain I had ever experienced in my life, and that says something because I fractured vertebrae at 19 and had two 9+ pound babies el naturale. I thought I was going to die. After a brief visit to the ER and a whole mess of dilaudid, I spoke with my doctor and decided to postpone surgery until ...whenever... since I was still nursing Dylan. In the meantime, I could - in theory - control attacks by controlling my diet, so it began.
I switched to a low-fat diet which immediately resulted in high carb, high sugar. It took me a couple weeks to roll that back and really begin to look at food differently. We had been doing the organic thing for a while, but just because something is organic doesn't mean it's good for you. There are organic brownies, organic ice creams, organic cookies, organic bacon,... and a billion other organic foods rich in fat and high in sugar, and I had been living off them. I needed to begin seeing food as sustenance, not as comfort or solace or pleasure. I had to stop feeding myself and start fueling myself. Once I made this distinction, everything changed.
Part Two: The Change
I didn't really notice it at first. It was a gradual loosening of clothing I wore purposely loose. By fall, I was swimming in my clothes. I pulled out some pre-pregnancy clothes and found a few items that worked -sorta. I was down about 30 pounds and tipping the scales at about 190.
Feeling pretty good about the weight loss, I realized that I didn't just want to be thinner. I wanted to be fit - strong, healthy, toned, coordinated, and capable. With Jack in school 5 mornings a week and a jogging stroller in my basement, I had no excuses and every reason so I started running.
I started off walking briskly for 2-3 blocks then jogging just one. Slowly but steadily, I tipped the ratio until I was running the whole distance. Then I began increasing the distance.
With runners among my Facebook friends, I reached out for guidance and information. I found an app-for-that and discovered that I was running more than 5 miles routinely, about 16-21 miles a week. I was stunned and inspired, but winter was about to pose a problem.
I had no "heatlock" running gear (expensive!!), and jogging in sweat clothes that were 3 sizes too big was downright comedic. Again, reaching out to my FB stars, I discovered there was more to the snowy months than missing runs and scowling at Old Man Winter. Sarah Champion guided me toward an awesome online workout site that offered free daily workouts (www.dailyhiit.com
) - high-intensity interval training in 12-15 minute workouts that kick your butt and give you guns.
At first attempt, I failed miserably. About 5 minutes in, I thought I would die and was positive that I'd injured myself... maybe permanently. I turned it off and showered with the salt of sweat and the sour of defeat in my mouth. I returned within a day or two and started with a beginner level 5-day program. On day 6, I went back to the workout I hadn't been able to complete a week before and killed it.
The results I saw from the interval training were incredible. I was developing tone, strength, and definition. All I could think was that I wanted to use it, to apply myself to something that allowed me to use the strength and coordination I was getting from the training. I wanted to rock climb.
With my newfound confidence strapped firmly to my back, I signed myself up for an introductory class at a nearby rock gym. I didn't know anyone who climbed; I didn't know anything about climbing; and I was a little uncomfortable with heights. None of that mattered. I was going to do it, because I had recently discovered that I could do anything.
(Turns out I wasn't so afraid of heights, I was sort of a natural, and some of my favorite people are climbers!)
With my winter running gear (a Christmas gift from my brother, Joseph), an interval training program at my fingertips, and a passion for an amazing indoor/outdoor sport, I was barreling headlong into the best shape of my life during the worst winter anyone could recall. By spring, my routine was - well, routine, and I was on top of the world.
Part Three: The New Me
I've been through a lot in my life. Some great things, some horrible things, and a few WTFs. I have been over some real barrels but managed to find my feet. Whether it was just being too stupid or stubborn to quit or derived from the support of my many beloveds (I'm very blessed when it comes to people), resilience has been a strong suit of mine and reinvention defines me.
By spring, I was down 72 pounds, wearing a size 8, and feeling like a million bucks. I was reveling in the glory of serious thrift shopping (something I always loved but was never did because my large size and larger insecurities neutralized any chance of success). I was tearing it up in my home workouts and in the rock gym, and I was training for my first race.
On my 37th birthday, along with my beautiful sister-in-law who shares my birthday, I ran a 5k. I finished in just over 30 minutes, a slight disappointment that I attributed to be directed off course by a handful of volunteers who had no idea what they were doing. Finishing time aside, I loved the day. It was a fun event, a great experience, and a great celebration afterwards.
Six weeks later, I completed a 30 obstacle 5k mudder to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, an organization that works to find treatments for a disease that has impacted too many people in my life. With a team assembled on hope (and begging), I made some new friends and had another amazing personal first. Then I cleaned mud out of my ear canals for a week.
Summer set in, and I was loving life. I happily chatted poolside with the same summer moms I met last year who hardly or straight-up didn't recognize me. I enjoyed a level of mental and physical well-being I'd never in my life known. I felt satisfied, centered, and fulfilled. I even rewarded myself with a couple of new tattoos! Everything was - in a word - great; and that's when it happened again.
Part Four: The Attack
The tricky thing about gallstones is that being healthy and avoiding an attack doesn't make them go away. They are still there. They don't even shrink. They just stay, quietly waiting for the moment of weakness when you over-eat or splurge twice in the same afternoon, then they strike! Bastards.
There were warning signs. Nausea, indigestion type pains, and mild discomfort had been plaguing me at narrowing intervals for a couple weeks. I ignored it, telling myself it was because I wasn't being hard enough on myself. I ate half an ice cream sandwich or took a nibble of Dylan's peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I'd tell myself that I'd be stronger tomorrow, that it would pass.
Then came the Fourth of July. I indulged a little, over-ate a little (by my standards - which are incredibly trim) and ended up writhing on the sofa in excruciating pain. I ruined the night, dragged my kids and hubby home early, ate a bunch of acetominophen, and went to bed. By 5am, I was headed to the emergency room.
An ultrasound showed the same as it had a year before: no infection, no fluid, no blockage, just an attack. Got some pain relief, and I was on my way home thinking it would just go away like it had last year. I was, however, planning to call on Monday and schedule the surgery.
I was ready. After a year of pain threatening me at every mouthful and keeping my extreme diet regimen a reality, I felt capable of making the right food choices without the threat (and I was growing eager to enjoy the occasional pub burger). The second attack had happened, and it seemed like it was getting harder to maintain which could only mean "the big one" was just around the corner. What I didn't realize when I left the hospital Saturday was the this _was_ "the big one."
Sunday morning came and I was dying. 10 milligrams of Percocet, which would put me in a coma on any other day, wasn't doing a thing. I was once again writhing in pain and desperate for medical intervention so back I went. I was admitted later that day, watched for several developing issues the whole next day, and sent for a cholecystectomy first thing Tuesday morning. Both my gallbladder and a large stone blocking my common duct were removed laparoscopically. I got my first mouthful of food in 3 whole days the next morning and was discharged that evening,Wednesday.
So, I'm missing a minor organ. Not a big deal. I missed my (probably) once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet my favorite actor. Got over it. But the physical setback... Well, that was the worst part.
I went from being in the best shape of my life, absolute butt-kicking, body-rocking, rock-climbing, 7 miles on a Saturday morning, feeling great condition to helpless, weak, and living on nothing but IV fluids and pain killers in the blink of an eye. My powerful core had holes drilled through it. My waist was gone, replaced by a bulbous and swollen gas bubble of constant discomfort, and I was getting winded every 3 words I spoke.
Good thing I have a penchant for reinvention.
Part Five: The Lesson
Being cut down when I was at my best was difficult mentally, physically, and emotionally. But I am one of those people who thinks that if we don't find the place where we can make ourselves better than we were before, our suffering was pointless... And let's face it, there's few - if any - things crappier than meaningless suffering. So it has to go like this...
Tomorrow morning (the day I will post Part One), I will wake up early and go for a walk... A brisk walk but just a walk. While I walk, I will remind myself of all the times I've fallen, of all the stupid, irresponsible, and otherwise horrible choices I've made, and of the awful repercussions of these unpleasant things. Then I will remind myself that not coming back bigger, better, stronger than I was the day before the attack would rank very high on this terrible list, very high.
Fitness, health, and the sense of well-being that we gain from a body in balance are the spoils of a war that we fight against ourselves and our environment every day. Life, duty, responsibilities, our kids, our spouses, our bills, our homes, our chores all come before ourselves. The marketplace had become a cloaked villain tempting us with a big, shiny, red, genetically modified apple. We struggle to tell which foods are healthy, to understand what these labels say, and to uncover what may be lurking behind them. The air we breathe, the water we drink, even the shampoo we wash our hair with is likely poisoning us. We fight to stay in good enough health that old age will be a golden sunset instead of an intubated nightmare, and despite our best efforts we are all just really only hoping that we're doing it right. We don't even know for sure. I cannot guarantee my longevity or the health I will be in for whatever my duration. I can only tip the scale in my favor.
Conversely, I know that life isn't about living for tomorrow. It's about being in the moment. Would the moment be more enjoyable if I were slopping up giant spoonfuls of chocolate ice cream with brownies bites and crushed up snicker bars in it while sucking down hot coffee milk-white with artificially flavored creamer? Hell, yes! But I can't live that way either. I tried. It made me feel like crap... tasted great!... but felt like poop on a shoe. What I can do, however, is live responsibly. I can live and eat and enjoy my life in balance and harmony with my body.
It took one year, 70-some-odd pounds, and an organ removal for me to finally understand what 37 years of struggling with weight and self-image couldn't: that the person that I am is stronger than the person I was being.
Part Six: The End
Part of being a rock climber is learning to keep your balance where nothing is even, to keep you head level when everything tells you to panic, and to throw yourself that last inch higher even though there's nothing to indicate your going to make it. You do it because you know you can. And when you fall, you know that you didn't fall because you "can't." You fell because it's inevitable. We all fall. That's when you grab back on at whatever point you fell to and you finish the climb. So that's just what I'll do.
I'll be back to running in a few days (by the time you're reading this part of the story). By week's end, I'll be back in my climbing shoes and tied in for my first outdoor experience. In the year ahead, I will train for and run the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I will also complete the Broad Street Run in fewer than 90 minutes. I will fly my east-coast butt out to Colorado and let my friends out there get me Rocky Mountain high. (Do you hear that, Rick?! I'm coming. We're climbing.) I will rebuild myself to where I was and keep going to be even better.
I am extremely blessed to have a body that is healthy and functioning. I have had a few health mishaps over the years, but none have threatened my life or left me with permanent injury. I feel compelled to honor that blessing by keeping my body in the best health possible. I also know what a raging psycho I turn into when I'm not getting out to run and climb, so avoiding confrontations with that nutcase is incredibly beneficial to me and the three men who live with me.
I understand that this story might seem silly to some people. Having your gallbladder out in no way compares to the perils that so so many people face and bounce back from. I am not an Olympic athlete or a veteran with prosthetic limbs. I'm just a Jill with a common medical problem, but maybe that's what makes it valuable.
You don't have to be a star or a top competitor, making a huge comeback or getting out there against all odds, climbing Mount Everest or surviving a marooning. You can just be a Jill who stopped caring about her body, who let life take over, who gave up on health, who let her body image determine her happiness, who abused food, who never "reeled it in," and your own personal comeback can be just as amazing to you as the Olympian's or the veteran's is to everyone else.
It doesn't matter what you look like in the mirror. It doesn't matter what people think as you jog on by. It doesn't mean anything to anyone if you lose 3 pounds or 30 pounds. It's about finding out what you're made of, testing your limits and discovering they're a lot farther out than you think they are. It's about how you feel toward yourself. It's about loving, respecting, and taking care of yourself. It's about stretching your capabilities and expanding your capacity. It's about defeating the thing that is standing I front of you and basking in the glory of that victory... however small, however personal.
In the end, I'm really glad all this happened. It gave me the chance to rise and reinvent myself once again. I'm grateful for all of it. All the pain, all the relearning, all the sweat, all the criticism, all the self-discipline, all the times I pushed myself when I wanted to give up; it was all worth it... And not because of what size clothes I wear or how I look on the outside, but because of who it allowed me to become on the inside. It made me better, stronger, more confident, more determined, calmer, more introspective... closer to the person I want to be. I'd trade a year and a gallbladder for that any day.