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.
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.