I am too fat to exercise.

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Disneyland. Circa 2004. I was close to 350 pounds. Exhausted form all the standing and walking.

I was convinced I was too fat to exercise. 

When I talk with people facing mega-weight loss this topic always emerges as one of their core frustrations, embarrassments and concerns. It was one of my core concerns, for more than a decade.

I will tackle the physical barriers in another blog.  But, in my opinion, the MENTAL hurdles are just as fearsome.

So how do you get your mind to quiet down enough so that you can get your butt to the gym to get started??!

It seems to be a radically different tipping point for everyone. 

My tipping point?!  When I finally understood that food alone was not going to get me where I was trying to go. If I was going to control T2 diabetes, exercise had to be added.

I had to get moving.

From the point where I knew I HAD to add exercise to where I set foot in the gym?  Six months. I spent six months battling the demons in my head. (List below.)

When you are obese and totally out of shape and you finally take the big, brave step to join the world of the physically active you feel VULNERABLE beyond belief.

I felt ragged and mentally exhausted before I even set foot in the ‘gym’.

(Gym?! I use the word generically to mean any place where you are going to make an effort and will BE SEEN. Walking down your street, classes at a community center, hitting your city pool.)

So what kind of thoughts were zinging around in my head for 10+ years? Here are my “I am too fat to be seen trying to exercise” thoughts:

  1. Fat people don’t belong in the world of fit and thin people. We are not welcome and do not belong.
  2. I am desperately afraid someone is going to mock me, laugh at me or be mean.
  3. It will be UGLY. I am not a pretty crier. I am not a pretty ‘sweat’er.
  4. I am beyond help.  I don’t know where to start.  Why bother at this point?
  5. Thin people are disgusted by fat people. I do NOT want to see the look of pity or disgust when I wind up next to them on a treadmill at the gym.
  6. I will have to shower after working out. Which means I have to be naked. The likelihood of having the locker room all to myself is about ZERO. Which means… Kill me now.
  7. Did I mention I was afraid people were going to laugh at me?

Having just shared my fears… I must confess that one of my fears did play out early in my gym-going career.

Humiliating story, but I share it because the experience wound up providing me with clarity and motivation.

I had been going to the gym about a month. I was probably 325+ pounds. There were two guys on the mats near me. One guy stage-whispered to his friend; “Dude, why is she even trying? It’s not like it’s going to make a difference.”

I froze. I was the only other person around. They were talking about me. I was wounded. Mortified. Humiliated. I tried hard NOT to cry… Failed. I laid on the mats and cried once they walked away. It stung deeply for at least a week.

I had been worried people were thinking that EXACT thing about me. Someone had just proven me right.

But eventually it made me mad.

It ultimately made me more determined.

Why?!  When I stopped to really think about it, I had already seen progress in the four short weeks I had been going to the gym. Almost every other person had been nice to me. My blood sugars were better than they had ever been. My pants were fitting looser. I could walk more laps on the track.

belonged there as much as he did.

As much as anyone did.

I may have been fat, but he was a jackass.

I’m now healthy, but I bet he’s still a mean jerk.

The rest of my experiences with going to the gym?  Routine.

Don’t get me wrong; The work was (still is!) hard. LOTS of sweat. Learning was scary. I had some physical challenges. I still felt totally intimidated. But really… The fears I kept rattling around in my head; were all just that. In my head.

No one cared that I was there.  Really.

No one laughed, mocked or made fun of me. OK. One guy, one incident. The rest of the time?People kindly asked me if I needed help if I stood staring at a machine.

No one cared that I was fat and in ‘their space’.  Seriously NO ONE was even looking at me or anyone else for that matter.

Do you want to know what happened the very FIRST time I went to the gym?

I walked into the locker room with my gym bag, looking like I was either going to cry or bolt. I am sure it was both. A woman saw my distress, waved at me and said ‘Hey – do you need help finding your locker? I did when I started here…”

She assumed I belonged. She offered to help and was friendly.  Not a hint of judgement. She instantly smashed some of my long held fears to smithereens.

It cost her nothing to be kind. I valued it deeply.

Have I had bad moments, met mean people, had pointed comments made to me? YES.  But the life-truth is that there are mean, ignorant people in the world, well beyond the walls of a gym. Are you going to let them stop you?!

Have I felt dumb and ill-equipped and out of my league?  I have fallen off of a stationary bike.  Twice. 🙂  This is where having a sense of humor and being able to laugh at yourself is KEY.

Have I wanted to quit? More times than I can count. BUT I was determined to win the war against T2 diabetes. I made friends who held me accountable and expected me to show up.  FRIENDS and staying focused on your goal are key in the ‘not quitting’ process.

I thought I was too fat to exercise, but I started anyway.

(What was your tipping point?  I would love to hear your success story!)

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Hannah and I at the gym. Yes, this breaks some rules of civility to take selfies in the gym. It TOTALLY breaks the rules Spencer (running coach) has for us. We’re rebels. 🙂

‘Do you know Betsy Hartley?’ — Guest Blog

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I can talk Jeff into almost anything. And I know it. Even when it involves handing my phone to a homeless person and convincing Jeff to jump off of a wall for the sake of a picture. 🙂

Meet Jeff Sherman.

Jeff is my friend, work colleague and a trusted running partner.

He started running with me simply because he didn’t like that I was running alone in the dark, early morning.  He doesn’t consider himself a runner. (He is.)  The first run or two (or 10) were a true testament of our friendship.  Let’s just say that he wasn’t a big fan of running and he found ways to express his opinion using creative language. 🙂

We have run together a ton this past year. Jeff has patiently taken the time to teach me a few important life skills. Among the most useful skills for running?  Snot rockets and spitting WITH the wind. (There is at least one other thing you should do WITH the wind as well…)  🙂

He’s like the brother I never had and have ALWAYS wanted.  He tells me the truth, even when I really don’t want to hear it. He always helps me out and only sometimes does it include a lecture.

He is also one of a very small handful of people who knew me at my heaviest and who RUNS with me now. He has seen the transformation over the years. He knew me as a full-blown diabetic. He knows how hard I have worked – first to manage the disease and then finally to reverse it. He’s heard the questions I get asked, the comments that get made. He has seen me when I am struggling to learn something new. And he has been there at more than a few finish lines/special life moments where I was on top of the WORLD!

Take it away Jeff…


When Betsy said, “would you write a blog?” My first comment was sarcastic…

‘My thoughts already work like a blog— words in disarray with pictures. PERFECT!’

The truth is—this is harder than it looks, but I am so proud of Betsy for putting her journey out to the world. So, of course I am so excited to contribute.

And, it’s a blog—so obviously the grammar is not perfect and my ideas are not based on research! I love this.

For context, a few points about our friendship, because I hear all the time, “You know Betsy Hartley?:

  1. I do know Betsy! She began working in higher education when I began as a true freshman in College (2005).
  2. She can (and will) talk me into anything. See #3.
  3. I did not like running when I began RUNNING with Betsy. We have been running together for a year.
  4. She is my inspiration for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a positive outlook on life.

Betsy and I (and the friends/family around us) are genuinely happy people. We know that everyone has baggage and crap, but I am specifically going to write about the things we do to keep the positivity flowing:

  1. Smile and laugh. A lot.

Smiling is easy (flex those cheeks… 🙂 ) and laughter is CONTAGIOUS. Notice the picture below? We laugh all the time.

So much so that we are avoided by one particular person at the gym who can’t stand happy people. (If I was typing on my iPhone I would add a shrugging emoji icon).

No matter where we have been in our life journeys, fitness, other struggles, etc. The smiles are the genuine.

Smile more. Just try it. 🙂

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2009. Genuine smiles and happy times.

2. Be awesome and find the awesome in others

Betsy is awesome for MANY reasons. But, I think the most central awesomeness component, is that she genuinely cares about people.

I will give an example: newcomers in the gym generally feel overwhelmed, especially if they are alone (see point 4), she will be the person who goes out of her way to introduce herself, smile, and learn the person’s name.

An upcoming blog from Betsy will have more about her journey in the gym.

It costs nothing to be nice to people.

  1. Try to avoid comparing your journey with someone else’s.  (Or, in Betsy language: eat your own damn elephant).

Once I realized I would never be a six foot tall Men’s Health Magazine Cover model, it made working out more fun. And, there is a whole lot less pressure.

“Comparison is the thief of joy” –Betsy Hartley

  1. Find an activity AND PEOPLE you like – get moving!

Honestly, being active with friends is the most fun for me.

Like I said before, Betsy is my motivation to stay active, and she keeps me accountable. Find friends like that.

Also, if you are newer to fitness: I have found the buddy system makes me more relaxed in the gym, feel safer trail-running (especially in the dark-ass mornings that Betsy runs), and provide a supportive environment to ask the tough questions about life in general.

Hopefully, this short little extroverted ramble was helpful for someone.

In closing: smile more, sit less, encourage others, and find great people to be active with!

Happy Holidays!

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Hannah, Bets and Jeff. All smiles.

Cinnamon gum and a plan.

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Size 28 pants. They don’t fit anymore. And I plan to keep it that way. 🙂

“How do you get through the holidays and not gain weight?”

I have been asked this question more than a dozen times this past week alone.

The Thanksgiving Holiday is the official start of an entire eating season. 🙂 

This is my fourth Thanksgiving (roughly 1,200+ days) with my new eating habits. So what is my strategy for staying active and eating healthy during our food-obssessed Holiday season?

I create and stick to a plan. 

My plan for this Holiday season is not very sexy/cool/fun. It’s simple and straight forward. If you have ever gone on a diet of any kind, you’ve heard most of the tips I now rely on.

The specific strategies aren’t the point. The point is that I have a plan.  And I follow the plan to the best of my ability.

So, what is my plan for Thanksgiving?

Activity. I am going for a run. I will work up a sweat. No, I am NOT exercising SO I can eat more. I am exercising to be healthy and live a balanced life. Exercise is a habit and a choice. I don’t skip it just because it’s a Holiday.

I wear snug, bordering on uncomfortably tight clothing to the meal. NOT gonna feel like over-eating if my pants are already cutting me in half.

I take along foods I know I want to eat, and that fit with my food lifestyle.

Good conversations, games, distractions. It should never be all about food.

I keep a flavored/favorite water on hand and TANK ON IT.

Eat a normal breakfast.

Load my plate with veggies and salad and fill up on that FIRST.

This is NOT the only meal of the day. NOT the only meal of the year. It’s not like I couldn’t make/get ANY of this stuff, ANY time. Don’t let perceived scarcity/specialness lure me into eating more than I intended.

Fruit for dessert.

When I am done eating, but I am tempted to graze? I chew sugar free cinnamon gum. Kills the taste buds. (I chew a LOT of cinnamon gum.)

I told you; nothing earth-shattering in my plan. Probably all things you have heard before.

HAVING a plan and sticking to it is really the point. (And having a pack of SF cinnamon gum. Don’t forget the gum.)

Happy Thanksgiving.

A has-been.

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Sums up the feeling I had on the first day of NO SHOTS. 🙂

‘How did you reverse T2 Diabetes?’

July 2011 marked the start of a MAJOR life change to reverse type 2 diabetes.

I weighed 285. I was taking 3 shots a day, 7 oral meds.  I was considered well-controlled in the world of T2 diabetics.

This part of the story is hard to write simply because it was so wild.

I had a basic goal, but no real, detailed plan. I didn’t care. I was learning as I moved forward. If I waited for a concrete plan, for the moment I was totally comfortable with all of the details, I never would have started.

To the casual observer, my journey had to have looked like a total shit show.

But it was MY shit show.

The next 3+ years would be a frantic, chaotic, successful, mess.

I was finally ready to do the work needed to make changes. A much different feeling than the forced enthusiasm and hope that were present when I usually started a new diet.

This was different.

Entirely different. This was soul-deep and relentless and essential. This time I was not driven by fear or despair or guilt.

My desire to LIVE was finally bigger than my fears.

My only goal was to reverse T2 diabetes.

Focused on that thought alone, I picked ideas that provoked and energized me:

  • Reverse T2 diabetes. Get RID of it.
  • Choice between managing blood sugar or losing weight? Blood sugar. Every time.
  • I was not doing this to please anyone. This was about saving my own life.
  • No excuses. None. I was going to OWN my journey.
  • No whining.
  • Give 100% effort.
  • Stay open-minded about solutions.
  • Think long-term lifestyle shift. New habits, not quick fixes.

Then I spent 3+ years learning all I could about food, exercise and myself.

I eventually got down to a handful of ideas that continue to work;

  • Let true belly-hunger be my guide.
  • Keep working to have a peaceful relationship with and around food.
  • Exercise will be a habit and a priority in my life.
  • Stay focused on the healthiest, smartest food choices for my needs and goals.
  • I have a small handful of people in my life to whom I remain accountable. They have unconditional permission to remind me to get back on track.
  • Food is fuel. Not a reward.
  • Say no to social situations where food will be an issue for me.

‘You have come too far to take orders from a cookie.’

I needed to share this background with you. This was the foundation that had to be built if I was going to be successful in reversing T2. I absolutely HAD to cement lifestyle changes for this to work long-term.

“HOW did I reverse T2?”

I talked to my doc and told her my plan; I was going to get off insulin and reverse T2 by eating less and moving more.

She sent me away for 3 months to lose weight, learn how to move more. I KNOW full well she was genuinely skeptical that I would stick with it.  I never had before.

I worked hard and then showed her proof of my commitment.

I went back to see her with improved numbers, weighing less, signed up for a 10K with my friend Hannah. I showed her my food journals.

I wasn’t screwing around. I wanted off insulin. She could help me or I would figure it out myself. I told her that, in those exact words. Then I asked her what the plan was.

 ‘OK. You really are serious. Here’s our plan…”

Getting off of all meds would take close to 2 years.

We decreased insulin in small increments weekly over many months.  It was NOT a fast process. I would decrease the daily bolus then we would watch my daily fasting numbers for 10 days or so. IF my numbers stayed steady I could decrease the bolus again… Repeat process.

There were periods of 25+ days where I could not decrease the dosage. I wasn’t losing weight, my diet wasn’t tight enough,  I had been sick or maybe I wasn’t exercising consistently. I would figure out the issue, work to get it corrected and we would start the process of decreasing dosages again.

At one point it finally dawned on me that I was trading one drug (Lantus, Metformin, Byetta) for another (food and exercise).

STAYING off diabetes meds would rely TOTALLY on ME maintaining serious lifestyle changes.

At the same time that I was eating better and working my way off of insulin, I started MOVING more. I was a hot, sweaty, mess. All the time. I didn’t care what I looked like working out, or what anyone thought of me.  I was starting to see the scale and my glucose readings drop. Seeing results strengthened my resolve and dedication.

I started learning to run. I bought a bike. I met the Gums.  I started lifting weights. I met Spencer, my running coach. I was buying REAL running shoes and then actually running in them. 🙂

And then the days I had been working for finally began to arrive…

February 2012 I was OFF insulin.

May 2013 I was off of all meds.

This past October my Doc said the most incredible words…

You are no longer diabetic. 

She gave me a hug. Told me I could put my glucose testing kit in a drawer. I weighed 164 and BMI was ‘normal’.

My HgbA1c was the lowest it had ever been. We were both proudest of that single number; it was ALL because of diet and exercise.  It reflected my lifestyle change. I had chased a low HgbA1c for over a decade and FINALLY caught it.

I left her office and went out to my car.

Bawled for about 10 minutes.

The odds had been against me. BIG time. I had purposely ignored that fact for several years.  It was finally hitting me.

But the BEST feeling of all???  Knowing I had developed solid habits that I could use to keep healthy and active for the rest of my life.

I got home. Hugged and chatted with my dad. Ate a healthy dinner. Got up early the next morning to go for a run with Hannah and Spencer.

Story continued…

(You thought this was THE END?  Hell no! I am JUST getting started.)

Learning to live with T2.

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May 2011. 280 pounds, 3 shots a day, well controlled diabetic. Head shot by Hannah O’Leary. http://www.hannaholearyphoto.com

‘How did you learn to live with T2 diabetes?’

Diabetes and I settled into an early, uneasy truce.

The truce would last for about 10 years.

Anger, fear, grief, frustration, confusion, embarrassment, panic. LOTS of emotions. All battling it out daily. The best words I have for the first 6 – 12 months of being a diabetic were confused and intense. A lot to learn. A lot to change. All happening at once. I was not a fun person to be around for that first year.

The meds started working pretty quickly and were clearing my brain of the cloudiness you get with high and sustained glucose levels.

I slowly started to see and understand what had happened. Later I would tell people that I started to see and understand what I HAD LET happen… It sounded harsh. But it’s the truth.

I had NOT stopped the disease when I had the chance.

Now I would have to manage it.

I couldn’t re-write history.  But I could sure as hell write a new ending. I held the pen(needle). Sorry. Diabetic pun. 🙂

I eventually accepted the idea that I had a couple of choices to make.

  • I could survive OR thrive.
  • I could learn about the disease and how to manage it OR stay ignorant and let the doctors tell me what to do.
  • I could accept that this disease owned me OR I could fight for my life.

Thrive, learn and fight.

 (These three words still mean the world to me.)

I immediately made diet adjustments. I hated the changes. But I was too scared NOT to change. EVERY single bite of food had to be considered. It was a whole new level of mental fatigue, laced liberally with fear.

About 4-6 weeks in, with the help of meds, I started to feel better. Less sleepy. Less ravenously hungry.  More clear-brained. I started to see the results of my work at eating ‘better’ show up in my daily glucose tests. Motivation to try to get those glucose numbers to drop was an incentive that worked well for me. I used it.

I quickly learned that life as a T2 diabetic, if you are actively trying to manage the disease, takes serious and relentless work.

So what exactly did my life as a T2 diabetic look like?

I had to learn to count carbohydrates. And not eat too many over the course of the day. Carbs were my favorite. This was seriously unpleasant work for a very long time. LOTS of temper tantrums on this nasty little learning curve.

Sugar free is NOT carb free. BONUS? Artificial sweeteners used in sugar free food products can cause side effects.  ‘Excessive consumption may cause laxative effect.’  Save yourself. Just trust me on this one.

I had to find sugar in my diet and GET RID OF IT! Overt and hidden. I STILL play this game.

I had to learn to stick my finger each morning for a glucose reading. And try not to bleed all over my clothes or leave the counter looking like a crime scene.

I had to manage medicines, needles and Sharps containers. I was taking 3 shots a day and 7 oral meds.

I had to learn to read and understand nutrition labels. And learn that SERVING sizes matter.

I had to learn to give myself shots. Cussing; fluent and abundant and creative. Lots of bruises and bent needles as I tried to figure out how to stab myself in the stomach.

I started to learn about being physically active. I started SMALL. Parking my car further away. Taking stairs. Drinking more water so I had to get up from my desk to pee more often.

I had to learn how to manage T2 when I was sick. Rampaging and nonsensical numbers, dehydration, questionable judgement from a foggy brain, drug adjustments.

I had to learn to manage side effects from meds. When the warning label says ‘may cause severe gastric distress’, it will. You do not want witnesses. It will be an issue every single day.

I also began to slowly, cautiously acknowledge my messed-up relationship with food.

I had to learn to count calories and track food. All of the calories. All of the food.

No hiding or lying or cheating or excuses.

This was the hardest thing to learn.

I mean, I could lie to myself all I wanted, make any excuse I wanted, but my blood work would eventually rat me out and reveal whether I was doing the work that was necessary. I was eating a LOT of food, for the wrong reasons, and all of the wrong kinds of food. Wrong for diabetes AND wrong for life.

Being honest about what I was eating, why I was eating was humbling, humiliating and brutal.

SO much learning and changing and fighting. And it never really let up.  And just to keep things entertaining and interesting – there were plenty of failures, tears, scares. I hit stumbling blocks, bad attitudes and plateaus.  I had bad numbers and crappy weeks and major set backs.  Details and stories for later days.

But giving up was NOT an option even on the worst of days. Even a small amount of progress was still progress and not a step backwards.  I had to keep reminding myself of that fact.

Thrive, Learn and Fight. Remember those words? I had promised myself that I was going to live by those words.

I forged a solid coexistence with Diabetes. We got along quite well for about a decade.  I worked to get my numbers stable. I worked to lose weight. I was working on building a better relationship with food. My doctor was happy that I was holding my own against T2. It was good enough for a long time.

And then one day…

One day ‘good enough’ was no longer good enough. Comfortable and coexisting was no longer working.

I was starting to feel restless and eager and brave…  Odd combination, I know. But I finally recognized that what was emerging was the feeling of being DONE.

DONE.

I was DONE with diabetes. Done with shots. Done with being fat. Done with ACCEPTING that this was going to be the ‘story’ of my life.  I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t depressed.  It was just that good enough was NOT enough anymore. Never would be again.

I was resolute and determined.

I wanted to LIVE.

Diabetes and I were headed for a show down.

Story continued…

‘You have Diabetes…’

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My trusty sidekick for many, many years. Glucose monitoring kit.

My diabetes story has 3 distinct parts.

I was pre-diabetic.

I was full-blown T2 diabetic.

I reversed it.

Let’s start at the beginning.

I first heard the words pre-diabetic as early as 1996. I was 28. I remember thinking ‘pre’ meant I had time.

I really wish I could have understood what was coming…

The doctors didn’t seem concerned. Why should I worry about it? They said ‘This means you could get diabetes at some point. Eat better and lose some weight. We’ll keep an eye on things.”

Knowing what I know now… I wish they would have said ‘You have ONE LAST CHANCE to avoid a devastating disease. Listen up! This is in YOUR hands. You are running out of time to STOP this.”

As much as I would love to be able to blame anyone but myself, I can’t blame the doctors. I was NOT ready to listen.

I was playing ostrich.

If I buried my head in the sand, maybe this would just ALL GO AWAY…

Diabetes would mean I had to change what/when/how I ate. Food was an ISSUE for me. This was going to get messy and scary and NOT fun. Life was going to suck. So… I was only pre-diabetic. I could put off dealing with it.  Right?! They had said ‘could’ get diabetes. Maybe I wouldn’t get it at all…

I was flirting with a deadly disease and my messed up relationship with food had me in a complete choke-hold. I was not paralyzed by the facts…

I was totally refusing to accept them.

In early 2000’s I saw my gynecologist. She was reviewing my lab reports and asked me what medicines I was taking for diabetes. I said none, ‘I’m only pre-diabetic’. She said:

NO.

You are full blown type 2 diabetic.

There’s no more of this ‘pre’ crap.

You are actually VERY sick.’

She made sure I had an appointment with a diabetes doc the very next day.

Being an ostrich had NOT worked.

At all. Not for even a moment. 

I was not Type 1 (T1).  T1 is an autoimmune disease. Beta cells in the pancreas do NOT work. Beta cells produce insulin. T1’s have to take insulin or die. Period.

I was Type 2 (T2). T2 is largely a lifestyle disease. I have a working pancreas. I produce insulin, but my body couldn’t use it very well; I was also called insulin resistant. There are genetic factors to consider, but most of us T2s have done it to ourselves. Inactivity, carrying too much weight (specifically belly fat) and not making good food choices.

How did they figure out I was diabetic? A blood test called the Hemoglobin A1c (HgbA1c) and a finger stick. The HgbA1c measures how well you manage your blood glucose over a 3-month period.The finger stick tests your fasting blood sugar and is essentially a real-time reading.

BOTH my fasting and my HgbA1c were high. Really high.

How high!??

My HgbA1c should have been somewhere in the 4.8 – 7.0 range. It was 11.2. ‘Dangerous’.

My fasting numbers should have been between 80-120.  It was 340. “Whoa. That can’t be right. We’ll check it again.”  342.

I had symptoms, serious symptoms that I was ignoring. Well, ignoring AND I thought it was just because I was fat.  I didn’t realize the problems were tied to diabetes. Over the years I had adapted and accepted my reduced quality of life as just part of being obese.

So what were my symptoms?

Sores would not heal. A blister on my foot wouldn’t heal for over 6 months, so I was referred to a wound care specialist.  He talked about cutting off my toes and portions of my foot as a means of treating the infection. THAT kind of not healing.

I could NOT sleep enough. I was BARELY getting through the day. Not just sleepy; groggy and foggy all the time. Would sleep for 10 – 12  hours a day. Fell asleep in meetings, while driving my car and on phone calls. I would sleep 15 – 18 hours a day on weekends.

I could not get enough to eat. I could eat until I was physically over-full, stuffed and yet still feel hungry.  All at the same time. T2 makes it so that your body just can’t use ‘fuel’ efficiently. ‘It was like putting diesel in a gas engine.’  I could consume 5,000 calories a day and be hungry. Sugar. I wanted sugar.

Anyone watching from the outside knew something was going wrong for at least 3 years.

Again, I figured these symptoms were the price you paid for being obese.

I was not ready to fight. I did not want to make changes. As crappy as things were, it was something I had grown to understand and be comfortable with. Sad and implausible for some to believe, I’m sure. I was in bad physical shape and yet willing to stay there because the thought of what it would take to make things different was utterly overwhelming.

You accept and allow what you think you are worth.

Being diagnosed as a full blown T2 diabetic threw everything I knew and loved out the nearest window. Just as I feared it would.

I heard the diagnosis and spent about 4 months grieving. Deeply.  I was put on meds for depression. I totally cut myself off from friends and the outside world. I threw an epic pity party.

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.  I was moving through the stages of grief in my own order. I had been in deep denial. I had bargained to no avail.  I was depressed.  Acceptance would take a while to find…

Then I finally started to get angry.

I was angry at myself. At the situation. At what I had allowed to happen.

I actually do some of my best work when I am angry. Always have.  I get focused and productive and persistent. Anger was very much the companion I needed by my side for a while.

I knew I HAD to make changes. I had to start to face my food issues. I had to make a serious effort to try to gain control of this disease while I still had my toes…

So how did I learn to live with T2?

To be continued…

 

Worm Walks.

‘I hate to exercise’

Sometimes it’s said off-handedly. Sometimes with intense emotion. Usually with some kind of tone of apology or plea for sympathy.

Followed quickly by ‘So, how did you learn to like running…?’

I have this conversation weekly.  No lie.

It comes up when I admit that in the process of finding a healthy life I discovered that I love running.

I think that the real question or comment hanging in the air is ‘HOW can I learn to like being physically active?’ or ‘I’m too fat, too out of shape.” (We’ll tackle the ‘too fat’ topic in another blog. I keep working on that blog post and setting it aside. It’s a tough one.)

I used to hate exercise too. ‘Run when chased’ and even then if I stood any kind of chance I would much rather stop and fight back.  I had no desire to run or take classes or lift weights. I had no fitness. I hated to sweat.

Times have changed.  

More importantly times CAN change. 

It obviously took some serious baby steps to change things.

I was 392 pounds and inactive. Now I’m 160 pounds and I love to run.  HOW did THAT happen?! How did I learn to love running?  How did I learn to make exercise a priority and habit?

The honest answer is boring.

I learned to love running by walking.

I started walking with my friend Hannah 8+ years ago. Long before I began my lifestyle overhaul.

Hannah is a runner. (Qualified for Boston Marathon in 2015!) She is one of my best friends. She has solidly healthy habits and is someone I have looked up to for years. She has been by my side on this journey almost every step of the way. Literally. (Not hyperbole.)  She’s an artist, a world-class photographer and one of the toughest women I know.

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Meet Hannah! One of my favorite pictures. Story for another day. Suffice it to say I talked her into a race I knew nothing about… But it had a great shirt. 🙂

Our early walks were a labor of love. And a time to chat. We would meet at the Oregon State campus in the morning, several days a week and walk. Slowly. Short distances. She would encourage and push me to walk just a little further each time we met.

Over the years these became the famous ‘Worm Walks’.

Worm Walks?

Yes… It rains a lot in Oregon. Worms are strewn all over the sidewalks and paths. When you are grossly overweight and out of shape, the act of pretending to save each and every worm you encounter is a brief, welcomed REST period. Trust me. It was a horrible, obvious stalling tactic. She knew what I was doing. I pretended otherwise.

We joke now about those early Worm Walks. Getting in a mile was a 30 minute endeavor and thousands of worms were saved.

With Hannah’s help, being active became a consistent endeavor. A daily walk with my friend slowly became a habit I truly enjoyed and looked forward to.

I started to measure and observe things after a few months of walking…

  • How much further could we go?
  • How fast were we going?
  • How many miles had we covered in a week?
  • My blood sugars are better on the days we walk…
  • ‘Hey – I can walk AND talk to you without gasping for air…!’

I had no idea that the Worm Walks were the beginning of a lifestyle change.

With my lifestyle overhaul in full swing, Hannah and I signed up for a race January 1, 2012. We picked one where I could walk. It had generous time limits. Hannah knew that having a race to look forward to was important and would keep me focused on staying active. I hadn’t figured that out yet. I just knew that having an event to train for kept things FUN. Fun is important when you are doing hard, repetitive work. And we got free t-shirts. Win. Win. 🙂

I walked the first race; a 10K. I was the last person to finish. I was SORE for days. But I felt invincible. I had DONE it!

So I signed up for a marathon.

Logical reaction to completing your first-ever 10K – dontcha think?

The marathon was the SECOND event I ever signed up for. I planned to walk the whole thing. I remember when I told Hannah. Conversation went sort of like this;

 ‘Ummm… You signed up for a Marathon in 11 months??!!”

“YES!”

“Bets, you have not yet even done a HALF marathon…”

“I know. I am going to walk it. You’ll train with me. I can do this!”

“Yes. Yes you can! We really have to get training.”

THAT, my friends, THAT is a living example of unwavering support and friendship.

If she ever had any thoughts other than those of pure support and encouragement, I never knew it. She helped me pull training plans and understand them. She made sure I had good shoes. I got lectured about NOT wearing cotton. (Chafing.)  I couldn’t have done it without her. I know that. She knows that. Maui Marathon, including the months of training was an incredible experience.

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Night before the marathon. 🙂

Some of the best changes in our lives can happen because we simply choose to face our fears.

Signing up for a marathon was facing my fears.  A friend walking by my side made facing my fears possible.

And it changed everything.

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Maui Marathon, 2013.

Having a friend who was as eager to celebrate my goals and successes as she was her own. Slogging out the long, slow miles in happy, cheery companionship. Keeping me focused on learning and developing walking and running as a safe and life-long habit. Someone who understood the DAILY balance I was trying to find between fear and reason.

Someone who let me stop and pick-up worms.

Thousands of worms. 🙂

You have to walk before you can run.

#runhappy, #Lifeisgood