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My Insanity Transformation

I’ve tried to start this post a few times now and just don’t know where to start. The cursor just sits there, blinking at me. A million thoughts go through my head, but I can’t get them ordered the way I want with the intensity and depth that I imagine in my head. I want this post to be the culmination of ten years of health and wellness tracking, of endless hours in gyms and on yoga mats, of sweating buckets onto my floor, of eating only what my body needs and trying not to eat that piece of cake in the fridge, of hearing mostly negatives from people around me, of birthing two beautiful children and wanting my body back, of not giving in when every ounce of me screams to. I want this post to inspire, persuade and enlighten anyone who is willing to slog through it.

So let’s start near the beginning.

Oops, not that far back…


When I was 13, I was told I needed an x-ray. That x-ray ended up showing a horrible distortion in my spine known as scoliosis. It was very progressive and would need surgery immediately. It was scheduled for three months later. In February of 1997 I received a spinal fusion from the bottom of my neck all the way down to my hips. My spine was attached to rods and hooks and then bone chips from my hip were used to fuse it all together. One vertebrae was left unfused to allow for bending at the hips.


Here is a before and after (actually it’s after on the left and before on the right):

What followed the surgery was pain and lots of it. I stayed in the hospital for six days recovering, I don’t remember much, I had a morphine drip and my mother read me Margaret Atwood books. Days and nights blended together, nurses came and went.

Then we went home. And I spent the next few weeks recovering there. My sister lovingly administered me pain killers every four hours around the clock. I watched Spice Girls videos on MuchMusic and ate while I lay on the couch for hours.

Over the following years the weight really started to pile on. I was removed from Physical Education classes at the behest of my doctors and was glad. No more embarrassing run/walks around the block. I turned 16, got my driver’s license and didn’t need to walk to school anymore (six blocks). I gained more weight.

I didn’t pack a lunch and so I ate at 7-11 or Subway or Panago Pizza or I got chips and pop from the vending machines. Sometimes I would walk home during the lunch hour and make myself a cheese sandwich. Always the cheese sandwich. Breakfasts were two eggs microwaved and eaten on two slices of buttered toast or a big fat bagel with 1/2 an inch of full fat cream cheese layered on each side. I snuck food when my parents weren’t looking, I particularly loved margarine spread on Stone Wheat Thins.

I ate at every opportunity I could and then I ate more. I didn’t exercise, I had no concept of it.

In my first year of high school, three years after surgery, I looked like this:

That’s me on the left with the Coke….

Here’s  me at my prom two years later:

I had ballooned to 185 lbs on my 5’4″ frame. I felt miserable. It took my breath away to walk up stairs, I couldn’t run, I had a lot of back and neck pain.

After graduating from high school I took my life into my hands and started on the Weight Watchers Points program along with my then boyfriend’s mother. Amazingly, I had will power and the pounds began to fall off. I started roller blading. I would skate for miles, my face beet red and sweat dripping down my back, but I loved it. I wanted more.

By the time I moved to Victoria, BC I had lost 65 lbs. I felt like I had never before in my life. I was healthy and trim and I could run!

For the next few years I battled with my own inner demons concerning my weight and my only knowledge of how to keep it off. Eating less. I didn’t eat. I worked in restaurants and I would taste the food and then spit it out when no one was looking. I didn’t want to ingest the extra calories. At 11pm every night I would eat a salad. I drank only coffee all day long. I was skinny and I was miserable again. I love food, a lot. And I wasn’t allowing myself to eat it. It was my best friend and my enemy.

I started working out more and after receiving comments on how skinny I was, I began to eat more. I joined a gym and researched everything I could about being healthy and fit.

Boys came and went. One in particular sent me into such a frenzy after breaking up with me that I quit the gym that minute and went home to eat. I ordered a Dominoe’s Pizza for myself and a box of chicken wings. I ate it alone on my couch at midnight while drinking a bottle of red wine. I was beyond miserable. I gained 20lbs in the next month.

That same month, I started dating my now husband. Things leveled off a bit, but those niggling feelings of not being able to separate myself from what I ate continued.

Fast forward a few years. I’m married, and we have two children. I gained 35 lbs with both my children. After the first, the pounds melted off of me. 20 lbs lost in the delivery room alone. My second, not so much. I barley lost the 7lbs. she weighed. I felt frumpy and out of control.


Enter Amy Flanigan of Very Culinary. I had seen her daily updates on Twitter about doing some fitness program called Insanity. I had it on my mind to do something. I was thinking of P90X or Jillian Michaels or something, but this one intrigued me. After a very descriptive email and some good back and forth, it was settled, I was going to give it a try.

Now going from no fitness to Insanity is a bit insane, but I managed to fit the six day a week workout into every day without a break. I started in November of 2010. and after 60 days I was impressed with the physical changes. Not just my appearance but my overall fitness was amazing. After 75 days I decided to actually change the way I ate as well. I increased my calories (I wasn’t eating enough for the amount of calories I was burning) and the weight started to fly off.

Here are the photos I took after 60 days and 75 days that I posted on my personal Facebook page to show my friends and family:

I became obsessed with the fitness aspect. The feeling of having muscle and being able to run with my kids and not be out of breath. I’d come a long way baby. I continued to do Insanity every day. I dragged fellow friends and family into it with me. And seven months in, this is what I have achieved:

And I will keep going. My aim was to have a six pack by summer, and as of yesterday it is summer. I reached my goal, but I can go farther.

Why do I push so hard? That big girl inside me is always waiting to come out and I can’t let her. Not only do I not like the way I felt and looked then, but it has dire consequences on my physical disability. With the added weight I was packing and the lack of muscle I lived on pain killers for almost my entire adult life. Stronger and stronger they would be. I haven’t taken one in years. My doctors tell me now that the one vertebrae they did leave me unfused is taking the brunt of all the pressure and movement in my body. One day it will require surgery. The longer I can push that off, the better. I would be a happy lady if I never had to have spinal surgery again.

Aside from that, there is the health conditions that run in my family, cancer, etc. I am working on avoiding as many age related diseases as possible.

Was it easy? No. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Having two small children makes it hard to fit in these workouts, but I make the time. I get up at the crack of dawn to workout and I never miss a workout unless there is an emergency, or a party…

What about the naysayers?

There will always be people who will come down on you. “You look too skinny!”, “Are you STILL counting calories?”, “You workout six days a week??!”, “You must starving yourself to look like that.” These people may be your friends and family. They may have your best interests at heart. But taking your life into your own hands will always make some people uncomfortable, for it exposes their own insecurities with their health. What you have to remember is that you are healthy and you are doing what is right for you.

I’m not going to say it’s easy, because it’s not. Do I always eat salads and fruit and fat free this and that? Mostly, but I still eat everything else I want as well. Just less often and with more control.

After ten years, I feel good. I feel healthy and happy.


62 comments to My Insanity Transformation

  • Elizabeth – bravo girl! You are truly an inspiration. I have not been able to work out since February because of my viral infection and vertigo and miss it terribly – it gives you the best feeling both inside and out. Am off to France for 6 weeks where I plan to start back on the road to fitness by walking as much as I can (it’s so do-able there, here, not so much) and then when I am back in the fall it will be back to the gym. YOU will be my motivation. You are amazing.

    • Elizabeth

      Ugh, Mardi, I feel for you. I also have vertigo, though it comes and goes a lot. When it’s there though…terrible! Good luck and what a start to your fitness journey! France! I will have to use you as my motivation to travel…:)

  • Congratulations!!!!

    Good for you! It’s sounds as if you have found the balance that works for you – and that is truly the secret I think. So many women fixate on their physical appearance when the emphasis should always be on health as you said.
    Now that summer is here I will be “pumping up” my fitness routine – thank you for the increased motivation!!!

  • As someone who struggled with weight and managed to finally conquer it (ups and downs still, of course) I totally identify with you. Amazing job, an inspiration to all!

  • You look fantastic. This is a very inspirational and motivational post for me

  • Amy

    Ah, Elizabeth…my red-headed kindred spirit. I love that you did this…and sort of with me. And now you’re way farther ahead! My abs don’t look like that, girl. I love that you wrote about it. And aren’t the before/after shots the proof in the pudding? Bravo to you <3

  • Amy

    I posted on my FB fan page 😉

  • Hi there! I discovered your lovely blog this morning and I love the way you were just so open and honest about your journey to health! I have also struggled with my weight since my teens, and through running (and Jillian Michael’s videos, funnily enough) have lost about 15 pounds in the past year. I feel so great and comfortable in my own skin for the first time, maybe ever. Even though I felt beautiful at my 2009 wedding, when I zipped into my gown in March this year and found it to be about 2 sizes too large I felt absolutely giddy.
    I would love to know more about Insanity… I am in a rut now, and would love to see about 10 more pounds go and shape up my muscles, but I can’t seem to find a way to do it on my own. Where can I get more info?
    Way to go!!

    • Elizabeth

      Way to go Katie! That sounds awesome! You will love Insanity, and for more info just visit beachbody.com or wowy.com. There’s plenty of good stuff on both those sites.

  • I loved reading about your journey! We have had a very similar journey. I had gained a lot of weight during my pregnancies and I’ve always struggled with food. But after finding Beachbody workouts, my life changed forever. I have done Insanity and love it. I mix it in with my all time favorite workout, TurboFire. I workout 6 days a week and still count my calories. It works for me. You look amazing and thanks for sharing your story!

  • This is an amazing story Elizabeth! Way to go! I can’t even imagine how proud you must feel. Keep up the great work! 🙂
    – Brittany

  • Bravo, Liz!! You look fantastic — and after two kids too! My body is quite different after number 2, not quite the bounce back after #1. So thanks for the encouragement! Keep it up. You’ve got your head in the right place.

  • Mr. Guilty

    Well Liz, you will always amaze me. Not that you have just gone through this journey, been poked and prodded about it, told you were nuts but you have also changed my life. I now enjoy food more than I ever have. What Liz never mentioned in her post is that she isn’t alone with her problems with food. I went from quite large, to very skinny entirely too quickly. She is kind to not mention it, but my food issues come up in conversations as well.

    Liz has changed my life. Taught me so much about eating habits, calorie intake, exercise habits and emotional impact of all of this. She has been my personal trainer while doing this all for herself at the same time.

    She is a wonder woman.. no foolin.

    Congratulations Liz!

    p.s. damn you look good…..

  • What a great story! Good for you! The funny thing is that I was sitting in the nail salon last weekend and on the TV was an infomercial for the Insanity workout! I watched with rapt attention and thought — holy !#@$%^, how does anyone do that!? All the while thinking, this Weight Watchers thing I’ve been doing these past 17 weeks has been great. Awesome. It’s easy and the weight is coming off while allowing me to eat wonderful, satisfying, flavorful food, but that it would come off SOOOOO much more quickly if I would just get off my butt and exercise, but I’ve been using the excuse of this pesky MS disease as my excuse. Reading about what you’ve been through though put me in my place. This may just be the inspiration I need.


    • Elizabeth

      Well good for you for starting on the right foot. I hope I can inspire you to overcome your disability and get a move on! 😉

  • Amy

    Heee heeee! I love Mr. Guilty ^^^ We can’t do this without support from the ones that mean the most to us. Nice.

  • You look amazing! This is fantastic, I’m so happy for you. 🙂 You are so fortunate that your disability didn’t disable you to the point where this was no longer possible; I very much wish I still had this option as well… I admit it makes me rather jealous. 🙂

    On a personal note: my husband also had a dramatic weight loss through fitness and better meals (From almost 400lbs to 180) and feels just incredible. He literally is a brand new person, and has been much happier for it for nearly 10 years now.

    – Heather

  • Hurrah!
    What an honest post, what a fantastic journey with no end. Very inspirational.

  • Sasha

    Brava! What lovely post. It was wonderful to hear another person’s story of dealing with scoliosis. I had a very similar surgery when I was fourteen; for years afterwards I let myself become unhealthy and developed bad eating habits too. Nowadays, it’s hard to focus on taking care of my body. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • My daughter will be 2 in a couple months and since she is born I have promised myself a million gazillion times that I will workout and shed off the pounds I gained during the pregnancy. BUt I always find a reason not to get off the couch and I know I always will unless I tell it to myself that I have to start RIGHT NOW! Thanks for the inspiration Liz! While being a mom, taking care of the family and engrossed in work we forget that we too need some ME time and we too deserve to look sexy. I am so proud of you!
    P.S- Sorry for the long confession 🙂

    • Elizabeth

      Prerna, you can leave as long a message as you want! What are friends for but to inspire? And yes us Moms need to set the family aside (no matter how hard it is) and think about ourselves for a minute. We will always be there for our families no matter what, but not at the cost of forgetting ourselves.

  • Way to go! Your sheer determination and candidness in telling your story are incredibly inspirational. I’m so happy for you that you’ve reached your goals and feeling healthy and happy are the best rewards.

  • Did you hear the “wow” all the way from Ontario? Yea, that was me, as I was reading this and looking at your pics! You are proud and you should be! keep it up liz:)

  • I’m so amazed and impressed…and PROUD of you. Such an accomplishment. I have the same battles with weight and food. I joined WW after I had my daughter 7 yrs ago and lost about 45 pounds. I think I gained 30 of it back over the last few years and I’m back on board with WW. It’s so, so tough. Food and I have never had a healthy relationship, but I’m doing what I can to change that.

    You are an inspiration. And you look fabulous, by the way.

  • Melissa

    What a great post!!! You look amazing and are proof that hard work and commitment pay off!! CONGRATS!!!!! And what great motivation to just keep going 🙂

  • Amazing. You look amazing and you are so inspiring. I’ve had five kids and believe me, I know what you mean by the bounceback. I feel so much better when I work out consistently and I think the key is finding the plan that works best for you. You clearly have done that and I hope that feeling sustains you.

  • lo

    Wow. and more wow.
    Good for you, Liz. And yes, I’m coming out of lurkdom to say that 🙂 I still haven’t figured out how to change my relationship with food, but reading your story reminds me that it’s possible.

    • Elizabeth

      It’s all mind over matter, but it’s like climbing Mt. Everest really. Food is such an integral part of our lives and it is everywhere. In every culture there it is, every celebration, every get together. It’s all about the food! Such a hard thing to overcome. Almost like being an addict presented with their addiction three-five times a day and having to say “well, I’ll just have a little then…”

      It’s something that we all battle with I think, but you can do it! You just have to climb that mountain.

  • Amazing! I loved reading this post… Congratulations on your amazing transformation!

    I had started P90X in May, just before finding out I needed surgery. I got about 3 weeks into it, and I was just loving it. I could really feel my body changing and my outlook was changing, too.

    Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to do anything “strenuous” for a while, so I had to take a break, but I’m really looking forward to getting back to it. I’ll have to give Insanity a try, too.

  • RisaG

    Good for you. You stick to your guns and you are doing things for your health, not just for your weight.

    I have scoliosis. I wore a brace for 3 years in H.S. They didn’t think I was bad enough for surgery. My mom gave me a decision right before I graduated H.S. – surgery on my spine or on my jaw (I had a long jaw). I went with the jaw. The recovery was less time and less painful. I wanted to start college with all my friends. If I had done the scoliosis surgery I would’ve been on my back for 6 months according to the doctors. The brace helped a lot. Almost no one can tell I have a curvature. I see it in myself though. My shoulders most evidently. I am not regretful that I didn’t do the surgery on my spine.

    BTW, Scoliosis is hereditary. My 15 year old son has it. We took him to an orthopedist who said that if we had come to him 2 years before we did, he would’ve had a brace. We came to him after much of his growth was done so he couldn’t have a brace. he said his curvature isn’t bad enough for surgery. I see it when he sits down though. He does karate 3x a week and only has a problem with stretching because of it.

    You are brave to have gone through that surgery. It is a difficult one. You look terrific. The only thing I would change now that you have lost all the weight is to drop down to exercise 3-4 times a week instead of 6. You don’t need to do it that extremely at this point. Watch what you eat but don’t be obsessive. You don’t want to end up with an eating disorder.

  • Wow! You are so inspirational Elizabeth! Over the last six months I have started that big girl come out have been pushing the idea of getting back to my good girl routine. I sure was headed in the wrong direction. I’m working out from tomorrow!

  • Patricia

    You are truly inspiring! The Insanity program found its way into my life last summer and, knowing from experience what those workouts are like, what you have achieved is no easy feat. Congratulations! Enjoy that two-piece bikini– you have literally worked your butt off!

  • Jennifer

    Thank you for sharing your personal struggle and how you are overcoming! I needed this, it is perfect timing. I am just embarking on this journey. Working out is very difficult for me, I don’t enjoy it. I will need lots of prayer to get through this. I am about 20-30 lbs over weight. You look great! Your story of determination has encouraged me!

  • Kim

    I am inspired!!! Saw this on Amy’s feed and just had to read it. I’ve been on my on get fit journey for a while, too, but I’m not doing anything quite so intense. But I do notice that I have the workout bug now. I am seeking it out– seeking the feeling that comes from the physical strain. I know this is a good sign because I’ve never felt this way before. Now, I’m wondering if I should give the Insanity tapes a try. I’ve been in a boot camp since December ’10 and we try out tapes at random, but don’t do them on a regular basis.

    Anyway, I just wanted to reach out and say both congratulations and thanks for the extra inspiration! I may not know you, but I’m very proud of you!

    • Elizabeth

      Thank you so much Kim and I wish you luck on your journey as well! Bootcamp, I’ve never tried, but they do seem right up my alley.

  • This is a very brave post – especially including pics. It would be hard for anyone to read this and not feel inspired. Not about losing weight in itself but doing what you need to do to feel healthy, energised and to live life to its full. Good luck and thanks for sharing.

  • Melissa

    Quick question: Once you are done the 60 days (or however long) of the Insanity Program, what happens?? Do you keep repeating the Insanity program?? Are there any programs that follow up with the Insanity one once you have completed it?? Hope this makes sense….

    • Elizabeth

      Hello Melissa,

      After the 60 days of Insanity you can repeat it if you wish (which is what I did) or you can move on to other programs in the Beachbody line such as TurboFire or P90X. There is a follow up program called Insanity: The Asylum for Insanity Graduates, but I have yet to try it. It will be my next purchase though!

  • Nadia

    Incredibly inspiring Liz, I’m tearing up reading about your journey. It would be so incredibly easy to fall into being just ok with things but your perseverance in incredible! Congrats to you!

  • Brought tears to my eyes……You ARE great, and you look fabulous!

  • Danica

    What a beautiful story. I am so happy for you!

  • This is a wonderful story and you give me hope…

  • Somehow I missed this post but it’s really fantastic Elizabeth. You look amazing! I have let the exercise stuff slip out of my life this past year. I am active but do not make working out a priority anymore like I used to 🙁 You are an inspiration and maybe I should check out this Insanity thing!

  • Congratulations on a huge achievement!! You look amazing! I also suffer from vertigo, and have since I was pregnant with my oldest daughter (now 12). In fact, it was my first symptom. I can pretty much manage it in a way that keeps it dormant (I know what brings it on), but have been sleeping on my left side since then. Crazy……

  • ok, i’m totally late to the game. I actually googled “Scoliosis & Insanity” and got to you. I just realized that my [unchecked] scoliosis had gotten worse which caused a lot of weird, painful things in my body. [i love the power of my denial..]

    I was wondering if you had to modify any of the exercises or had any backpain while you were doing Insanity? I’m debating on whether or not to pull the trigger on this but don’t want to waste $150 if it causes too much pain!
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  • Laura

    I Need your help
    I also had that surgery when I was 17 now I’m 25
    I look good and I’m very athletic I started insanity 6 weeks ago not missing a day I was finishing week 6 last Sunday
    I tried to go out of a car and my back stayed sore and I couldn’t move
    Doctor tellsme to stoP for a week to see how it goes and getting shots on my ass for pain and now I move more
    Still have to talk to my dr who operated me and show him X-rays my back looks fine I guess
    Maybe too much effort
    I was trying not to compromise form
    I sad cause I wanted to finish the 60 days just had 3 weeks left
    Will this ruin all I earned in 6 weeks 🙁
    Please advise
    Congratulations to you keep it up

    • Elizabeth

      Hi Laura,

      I’m no doctor, but I’ve had my fair share of problems with my back in the 16 years since my surgery. I’ve had a growth develop on my L5 and sometimes cannot stand all the way up…I kind of have to bend down and rotate as I come up to get it to “un-stick”…it’s weird.

      I would say that you will definitely not lose all that you’ve gained in the 6 weeks, but more then a week off and you will start to lose some of your endurance and stamina. After two weeks, you will start to lose muscle mass. I’ve had to take two weeks off, it’s not so bad, but it’s a little frustrating. I’ve found the best attitude to have is that this disability is permanent and we have to work with what we have. Embrace it and keep going strong. Your injury will heal and you will be fine!

  • Elizabeth

    Hi there Elizabeth~

    My name is Elizabeth too! I found this page while googling *scoliosis and insanity workout!*– I had a major spinal fusion in Aug of 2012– they fused T3-L4, 13 vertebrae total. I really want to go insanity workout and challenge myself but wasnt sure if it was okay! From what I’ve gathered thus far– is that I can with some modifications? Is this what youve found to be true too? Would love any feedback! I’m also curious what levels and how many you are fused? Thanks for posting this–it certainly motivates me!!! All my best to you!

  • Ro

    Congratulation on your achievements!
    I think this site is great!
    I had the surgery done approx 12 years ago. I am quite in shape and I am a regular at the gym and I do weights for my back as it makes it feel better.
    I have started insanity and everything was going great until day 17, 18 and 19. My back is in pain and I will stop doing the program as I am afraid that it will effect my spine. I am not sure which exercise or stretch did this to my back. I don’t want to quit insanity because the results are amazing. I feel like continuing the program when the pain goes away, but I will need to modify certain exercises? Do you have any advice?
    Another thing I find difficult are the stretches but that has always been the case since my surgery. I am wondering if I am overstretching my back?
    Congratulations and continue the good work!

  • […] Elizabeth from the fabulous blog Guilty Kitchen. I read this post and knew just what to do. I ordered INSANITY! I got started with the workouts a few days ago, and […]

  • […] a lot of you know, I did Beachbody’s Insanity from 2010 to 2011. I posted my transformation last summer. Since then I have done Insanity: The Asylum twice through, plus a hybrid of Insanity […]

  • […] Cheese Pound Cake with Strawberry Buttercream… and the next day I’m reading about her Insanity Transformation, her journey from a (supposedly) chubby young lady with severe scoliosis to a fit, muscular mother, […]

  • […] Cheese Pound Cake with Strawberry Buttercream… and the next day I’m reading about her Insanity Transformation, her journey from a (supposedly) chubby young lady with severe scoliosis to a fit, muscular mother, […]

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