If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this year of healthier living, it’s that we must do hard things. Do them bad, do them well, but do them.
I started 2012 off as morbidly obese. There is no other way to put it. I was depressed and on anti-depressants, I was in a bad relationship, I ate too much, and I was lazy. When I lay it all out there like that, it’s pretty scary. It’s also hard: hard to admit that I no longer had real control over anything. I let it go. I stopped caring. I knew I was unhealthy and I would cry sometimes, out of nowhere, because I was so miserable about how I looked and felt, but I didn’t care enough to do anything about it.
In late January, for no specific reason, I decided to make a change. I even declared it here on my blog. I would change my lifestyle. I would lose weight. I would get healthy. I had done all of this before. I had gone on diet and exercise binges, and had successfully lost weight on more than one occasion. I gave up on all of those occasions though, after just a short while. I gained the weight back each time, and then some. From 2007 – early 2012, I was on an anti-depressant medication. In that five year span, I gained about 100 pounds. When I started this journey, I stopped that medication cold turkey because of all the weight it had “helped” me put on. I had always been overweight, but at this point, I was downright obese. Funny how when I looked in the mirror, I knew I was fat, and I hated it, but I don’t think I realized at the time just how bad it had gotten. Walking up and down stairs would leave me breathless, as would walking around the block. At 23, this was not what I wanted for myself.
So in January, I asked for a Wii for my birthday. I knew there were exercise games, and since I was so out of shape, I wanted to exercise at home. I started working out for 10-15 minutes a day, using Gold’s Gym Dance Workout. And for 15 minutes a day, I danced. I panted, I struggled, I ached, but dammit, I was moving! I would walk down the stairs the next day, and my body would be screaming in pain, from 15 minutes of dancing. At this time, I also signed up for MyFitnessPal, at the urging of a friend who was also using it. So I started tracking calories in addition to the dancing. I gave running a try that winter, but I gave it up after one run when the snow started falling. Excuses, excuses.
In February, I found a trainer, Scott. I still see him now, and we meet once every week or two. Back then, he encouraged me to go back to the gym at which I’ve been a member for over 6 years but rarely ever used. I was nervous about working out from somewhere other than at home, but I agreed. We had our first meeting there and I could hardly do six minutes on the elliptical, but I kept going back almost every day. Slowly, my time and strength began to increase. Around this time, my five year relationship had also ended. Despite that, I continued to work out almost everyday. I think that made me work harder.
I continued working out at the gym several days a week. Eventually, I could do the elliptical for an hour. Some days, I would even work out for 90 minutes. Scott and I also played some tennis, just to switch it up and get some exercise outside in the summer. I used to play tennis in high school (badly), but it had been a while since I had last played and I really missed it. That summer, Scott also had me start doing some strength training at the gym . I hated every minute of it, and just wanted to get back to the cardio that was helping me lose all the weight, so I did that just once a week when we met, never any more than that though. The other days, I just stuck to cardio.
I lost 10 pounds. I couldn’t believe my loss was in double digits.
I lost 25 pounds. Scott gave me a congratulatory gift card.
Then I heard about the Run For Your Lives zombie 5K that would be held in September. I decided I would train for this event. I went to the running shoe store, Fleet Feet, and got fitted for some very expensive Brooks running shoes and inserts. I just knew that was what I needed to keep up the running motivation. That was all it would take to keep me going this time, right? Wrong! I tried running again, but I hurt my ankles and knees from running on the concrete sidewalks. I gave it up again, so easily. I quit the race before it ever even started. I didn’t care though, as long as I kept doing my cardio at the gym and losing the weight. Excuses, excuses.
I lost 50 pounds. I got my first tattoo to reward myself.
I lost 75 pounds. I had reached the halfway mark of my goal.
So I kept at the gym thing for awhile, just doing cardio. Then I slowly added in more strength training. I knew that while it was good to lose weight, I also needed the weights in order to get truly lean and fit. Scott also kept pestering me to try running again, but on a track this time so that I wouldn’t get hurt. Every week, he’d ask, “did you run this week?” Aaaand I’d have some lame excuse as to why I hadn’t gone. Finally, in September, I just did it. Okay, maybe Scott made me, but still, I agreed. I went around the track four times for a total of one mile. It took me close to 16 minutes, and I walked most of it, with a couple little spurts of jogging. I went again each week, and each time, I could run a little more, and my mile was a little faster. Shortly after, I could run the whole mile, in 11:49. I kept doing that, and each time I ran, I thought I was going to pass out and die, but I kept going. I kept going because I knew when I finished that mile, nothing would feel better.
I reported to Scott that I was now running a mile, and his response was, “why don’t you sign up for the Turkey Trot?” It’s a 2.5 mile race on Thanksgiving Day. I agreed. I registered and continued my mile runs twice a week which I’ve been doing now for the past month and a half or so. About a week ago, I met Scott at the track. I was prepared to show him that I could run a whole mile. Know what he said? “We’re running two today.” I gave a little “Pfft,” and we took off. Well, I did it. I ran the whole two miles, and I did it again the other day. The girl who really was always picked last in gym class can now run two miles. And you know what I believe? “It doesn’t get easier, you just get better.” My runs are never easier, but I’m getting better, little by little. Now the race is a week and half away, I still haven’t beat my personal best mile of 11:49, but I am so pumped to run this race, I can’t even describe it!
It’s been almost 10 months since I started this journey. In this time frame, I have lost 82 pounds. I’ve run two miles. I’ve gained a little muscle mass and a lot of strength. I still have a long ways to go. At least another 60 pounds to lose, but you know what? I’ll get there. I know I will. Had you asked me this one year ago, I would have said no. I am not the same girl I was a year ago, not in looks, or in mind. Today I know I can do anything I set out to do. Today, my dreams are bigger than the moon, and they’re all going to come true because “limitations only exist if you let them.” I have shown myself that with hard work, anyone can change their life, even me.
You know what else has happened in this journey? I met the man I’m going to marry, on MyFitnessPal no less, which I log into consistently every day to monitor my caloric intake and exercise. I made friends on there with Jerry from California. He had lost 200 pounds. We started chatting, and, well… now he lives here in New York with me. We are engaged to be married October 5, 2013. During this journey, I also realized that unless someone loves you enough that they’d be willing to move across the country for you, you deserve better. I found the love of my life because I learned that I am worthy of that kind of love. I never knew before. I had always settled because I never knew I deserved better. I know now.
I am not who I used to be. I am no longer the funny fat friend. I am the funny, slightly less fat friend. I believe in myself. I dream big. I want to run a marathon some day. And you know what? I will! My journey has really only just begun. I will struggle with food for the rest of my life. I will have to work at this every single day. But it’s worth it. It’s worth all the sweat, the aches, and the pains I’ve endured over the last ten months. Why? Because I’m happy! I’m healthy! I’m running for fun! I have no more excuses to make! Who knew?
When I started, all I wanted to do was lose the weight. But after a while, I saw that my determination and hard work should be aimed at other things as well. I wanted to start setting goals for myself. While it will be nice to be skinnier someday, I want more for me than just that now. I want to achieve more than that, so I’m becoming a runner. First, I will finish the Turkey Trot, then it will be a 5k, then a 10k and so on, until one day, I will cross the finish line of a 26.2 mile marathon. And I will know that I busted my butt and gave it my all just to be able to do that. Even if I come in dead last, I will be smiling bigger than the winners.
Right now, I’m a girl in progress. I’m not yet where I want to be, but I’m getting there. I work at it every day, and while some days it’s beyond frustrating, I keep going. I now know with all of my heart that I can and will do anything I want to do in this life. Everything I’ve done is hard, and everything I want to do is hard and it’s all just going to get harder as I continue to set my goals higher. It won’t get easier, but I’ll get better.
So thank you to my family and my friends who loved me then and who still love me now. Thank you for being proud of me. Thank you to my Jerry for inspiring me to keep going, just as you have, and for loving me through this journey, for being my partner and for changing my life. Thank you to my runner friends, who inspire me with their greatness every day, and never hesitate to answer my questions. And a HUGE thank you to Scott. You have pushed me constantly to be better and do more, and you have helped me come far and dream big. You have taught me to do hard things. Thank you, everyone, for believing in me and enabling me to believe in myself. Because of all of you, but mostly because of me, I’m becoming a runner! And that’s taught me more about life than anything else. It’s taught me that you just have to keep going, even when you can hardly breathe and your legs are all but screaming at you to stop, and not take another step. It’s taught me that mind over matter is the truth. It’s taught me that anyone can change their life around, can do hard things, if they just believe that they can. It’s taught me that I am unstoppable, that nothing will ever hold me back anymore, that with hard work and determination, anything can be done, even the unimaginable! I never imagined I’d be running, that I’d have faith in myself, that I’d be so excited about anything healthy. It’s taught me that I can do hard things.
All I have left to do now… are more hard things.