I'm really stepping outside of my comfort zone here, but I'm going to post 'before' and '2/3 of the way there' pictures in this post. There aren't too many before pics to choose from. Those who are on this same journey of weight loss and improved health will understand that I did my best to stay OUT of pictures. Maybe I can ignore it a little longer if I don't actually see myself. And more importantly, this is not how I want to be remembered as people look back at the pictures. I'll take pictures after I lose some weight and feel better about myself.
My journey is unique in many ways and yet very similar to others in many ways. I had entered a new phase of life March 8th, 2001 when I met my awesome husband. (We were married July 31st, 2001. I'll save that amazing story for another post). I will say that my 'weight' challenge began Thursday, Dec 13th, 2001.
I lived a healthy lifestyle and was athletic. I didn't eat fast food, had a diet consisting mainly of fresh fruits & veggies, lean protein and complex carbs. I drank only water, no soda, juice or alcohol. I didn't smoke, and I exercised regularly. In fact, my idea of a great date was to run Thunderbird Mountain (with a little friendly competition involved), ending at the picnic tables for a healthy dinner picnic of veggies and protein while watching the sunset. (I probably wouldn't have admitted that I ran that circuit every morning after dropping my son off at school until after the date.) I was a regular at the gym and enjoyed feeling alive, strong and energetic from my workouts.
December 13th, 2001 I received the diagnosis of breast cancer. If that wasn't enough, there was two types present...Inflammatory Breast Cancer (very rare-no lumps involved) and Ductal Invasive (very common-has lumps). I will save the BC story for another post, as it is an amazing journey of it's own. There is good in everything, if you allow yourself to see it. But suffice it to say, 12 surgeries and 30 weeks of aggressive chemo in 12 months really took a toll on my body. But the day I was given the okay to begin exercising again, I did. It didn't last long though. While I thought the fight with Cancer was over, little did I know that it had only just begun. The trickle down affect, the consequences, repercussions or fall-out if you will, from treatment received during that year would now begin.
I was given massive amounts of steroids with my treatments. Summarizing a year in a few short sentences: I gained 70 lbs during my year of treatment. I gained weight so fast I could feel my skin stretch...and no, that is not a pleasant feeling. My eating habits changed. The healthy foods I loved to eat made me nauseous. Food with a high fat content seemed to sit well in my stomach. I honestly thought "I'll eat what ever I can tolerate now, and when I'm done with this I will go back to my usual eating habits". Word to the wise: It's not so easy to change habits that you have ingrained for a year.
After completing chemo and being pronounced cancer free, most Doctors like to follow breast cancer treatment with five years of Tamoxifen or Aromasin (or other similar drug). I took Aromasin.This drug began incapacitating me, but so slowly that no one recognized that it was an affect of the drug. My joints would swell until they were unusable. My knees were the size of volley balls. I found myself using crutches or at best a cane. If I sat in a chair where I was sitting lower than my knees I couldn't get up without assistance. One day it would seem to be better, then the next day I was completely unable to walk. For a period of time I borrowed a wheel chair. It affected all of my joints but the most obvious was my knees because they carry the rest of my body.
Within a couple of weeks of starting this drug I was no longer able to exercise. I continued to take this drug for 18 months while being tested for everything under the sun. I didn't know that there are over 100 different types of arthritis. When I did stop taking it, the damage had been done. The inflammation went down over a number of months...literally months. But my joints never returned to normal. They had received permanent damage.
Jump ahead to 2009. I was now seven years cancer free, but still fighting to recover from the damage that had been done to my body from chemo and other drugs. I was still 70 lbs over weight. Many times I had tried to start an exercise program and had to stop because of 'over use' injuries. Once I started walking to the end of my street and back and developed plantar fasciitis. Ouch!! I thought only tennis pros got that! I had injuries in my elbows from carrying the groceries and injuries in my back and knees from standing too long to do dishes. Three years in a row I was in for cortisone injections in my lower back. I was more than frustrated. This was not ME. I felt like my soul was in someone else's body. I was uncomfortable and lacking energy and I wanted to hide. I felt beaten down emotionally and physically. It was easy to blame all the reasons I couldn't lose weight for how I felt.
One day, I got tired of reviewing all of the things that stood in my way and the reasons why I couldn't exercise and lose weight; basically all of the things that were out of my control. I decided to look at what I COULD control. For starters, I could control what went in my mouth. (It's just hard to be motivated to eat right when you don't feel well physically). Although slowly, I could still walk around the grocery store, so that meant I could walk for 10 minutes. I knew that if I did EVERYTHING that I could do to get my health back and lose the weight and it didn't work, then I had something to complain about. But until then, it was just an excuse.
That very day I cleaned up my diet. What does that mean? Fresh fruits & vegetables. Lean protein (not fried, breaded or surrounded in fat), complex carbs: whole grains (no white flour or sugar). No processed foods from cans, bags or boxes or fast food joints. After about 3 days of having no sugar your body quits craving it. Sweet fruit such as pineapple then tastes like 'sugar' to you and satisfies in a much deeper sense.
That same day I began to walk on the treadmill. If you think you are too heavy or tired to walk, it's not true...listen to how I started. I had just had another series of cortisone injections in my lower back to try to stabilize degenerative, herniated discs. They inflame easily. I got on the treadmill at 1.8 MPH. If you don't now how fast/slow that is, your toddler walks faster than that. I didn't care about speed, I was committed to doing whatever I could. I needed to feel like I had control of my life once again. I could only walk for 10 minutes then I had to get off and lay on ice for my lower back. I came back and did it again that evening. For two weeks I did that, morning and night until I was able to increase my time to 12 minutes. Again, after each short walk I laid on ice to reduce inflammation in my back.
Slowly, I built up the time as well as the speed that I was able to walk. All the time eating a 'clean' diet as described above. Six months later I had literally walked off 65 pounds. During this six months all I did was eat a clean diet and walk. In the end I was walking 1.5 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours at night. Yes, that is a substantial amount of time. But I was willing to give that time to lose over 10 pounds a month and feel great. If I could run or weight lift or do some other form of exercise that would burn more calories then I wouldn't have had to dedicate 3 hours a day. But I couldn't, so I did what I could do.
If someone could guarantee you that if you paid them $1000 you would look and feel like you wanted, would you do it? If someone guaranteed you that if you spent 3 hours a day for six months walking, you would look and feel like you wanted, would you do it? Would it be worth that short term sacrifice? That's how I looked at it. Remember, I started out 10 minutes at a time. Six months later it was 1.5 hours at a time. If you don't have similar back restrictions and can walk faster or jog slowly, you can do it in much less time.
I have managed to maintain my weight loss for over a year now. I feel good, but I want to feel great. I realize that I need to lose another 20 lbs (roughly) to feel great. I say roughly because I don't care what the number on the scale is, it's how I look and feel. I will know when I hit that point. If you are ready to begin or continue your journey to weight loss and better health, begin today with me.
My next post will be sharing five fabulous tips that I found for losing weight that may surprise you and do not require major changes in your diet or lifestyle. If you are not ready to eat a completely clean diet yet, these five tips will give you results and motivate you to make bigger changes for greater results!
So, here are my before and 2/3 there pictures. I look forward to being comfortable enough to take an 'after' picture soon!!