Last night I was watching the NBC national news and caught a piece Harry Smith did on one of the Olympic hockey players that was on the American gold medal winning team. The story was about how he had to sell his medal for $40,000. What I noticed was how heavy this man was after being so incredibly fit 34 years ago.
I can relate! What I learned was that he sold the medal because he had been so badly injured at one point that he basically had to learn to walk again. While I was never that sick, his journey certainly reminded me that you can never judge.
Years ago, a much younger me was alternately thin and rail thin . For the most part I didn’t have to work at it. In fact, at one point an illness and my “diet” that followed on my path to wellness were, to my mind, the reason I could have been a famine relief poster child. But for the most part, until around age 35, I pretty much ate what I wanted and never showed anything resembling “fat”. The women in my family warned me that I would get heavy like them (all the women in my family could be considered zaftig or what is, to be PC, full-figured). I scoffed. I was 35 and still wore a size 6. Have a French fry on me.
By age 40 however, I was putting on weight and by age 44 I weighed in over 200 pounds. There are a number of reasons for the immense weight gain (illness, divorce, car accident, injury, loneliness) but frankly, none of them really matter to this discourse. What does matter is that somewhere along the way, it rapidly started affecting my health.
I had high cholesterol. I was fighting pre-diabetes (and my doctor’s choice for treatment). I was out of breath, my back hurt constantly. My skin was bad. My irritable bowel syndrome was always irritable and my hormones were running amok. How many ways can you say miserable?
By the time I owned up to the fact that I had fat (not that I was fat; I was still me), I had learned an awful lot about humility. I no longer judged those other fat people — how could they let themselves get that way, didn’t they care about themselves, how awful, geez, do they need that large fry — I WAS THAT OTHER FAT PERSON.
Surprisingly, I became more outgoing. Because many people didn’t take the fat woman seriously, I could get away with being myself. What I found was that I really was funny. I let my compassion show through. I made really good friends who liked me for me, not my dress size. How refreshing. (Being fat isn’t great for dating but that’s another story for another time.)
Still, my heath was of concern and I didn’t want to be that older woman with 3 doctor’s appointments each week. I was most concerned about the discussions about diabetes since my grandfather had died from complications of his diabetes. My mother had also started taking insulin and I was not going to continue on that path.
I started exercising. I actually lost 35 pounds. And then, I stalled.
While I didn’t get any fatter, I didn’t get any fitter either. My cholesterol was in the same place and my doctor was still giving me grief about my glucose levels and my A1C. I was almost 52 years old and I was miserable and looking at the prospect of a counter filled with prescriptions. Sigh.
In addition, my back was giving me fits and to top it off I had somehow become the beneficiary of a frozen hip. I didn’t like being in pain so at the suggestion of my massage therapist, I went to see her husband, an athletic trainer, about rehab therapy.
I inwardly balked at the location — a muscle gym (although we don’t call it a gym, we call it EVO — as in Evolution). I inwardly balked at the cost — more than $200 a month more than the regular gym. But I paid the bill and I went.
Eventually, I was moved into a modified regular routine (at a lower cost and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy about that). They had me learn how to do push-ups, deadlifts, hand release push ups, squats — lots and lots of squats, and other exercises that I never would have done before.
I started spending money on a health coach they recommended and while she and I have butted heads over my food choices sometimes, overall, I have made a number of positive changes to what I put in my gut.
It has been a very difficult journey. The first time I went to a regular class at EVO I thought I’d collapse after the warm up. I was convinced I would never do it. Some days, I still think “damn, this is too hard”. I have been known to cry from frustration. But then I chip away at each exercise until I have completed it and before I know it, I’ve done the entire workout. I make so many more healthy food choices without putting a lot of thought into it. The other night while out at a restaurant, I started to order something really deep fried. Before the waitperson left the table however, I had changed my order to something far better, and with a vegetable. And not fried. I have become one of the biggest proponents of “drink more water!!!” My health coach has also become a really great friend and positive influence in my life. The guys and gals at EVO have also been inspirational to me and I don’t know if I could have started on this road without their encouragement.
So where am I going with this? A few weeks ago, my doctor decided that my blood pressure was too high and I needed medication. I balked. We talked. She won. What was bad about the entire episode was that I was so fixated on having to go on BP meds in spite of all the good changes I’ve made in my lifestyle, I neglected to pat myself on the back for all the other good things that came out of our appointment. My glucose and A1C? Wonderfully normal for the first time in years. That means no longer in fear of diabetes. My cholesterol? I still need a low dose of meds but the numbers were very promising. Weight? Not changed.
My weight has not changed one little pound. What’s good about that? Well, my trainers do a body fat test every so often. In the year since I started at EVO (and added the health coach), I have lost 15.42% body fat. That is HUGE. I have put on MUSCLE. I am so much stronger than I was. I am also wearing much smaller clothes (hey, I’m still a girl!!).
So, my point in all of this is that while I’m being so supportive and non-judgmental of others, I have to remember not to judge myself too harshly either. I have to remember that while I am not done, I have come very far. Just like the former Olympian, who not only is walking, he is skating again.
Healthy me is a journey. One baby step at a time.
Oh, and by the way, throw out your scale. I threw mine away a year ago. One of the best things I ever did.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a drink of water.