It has been one year this week that I got really serious about becoming a healthier person. I have had several people ask how I have done it and thought it might be a good time to share how I am making it work for me. Here is an assortment of before and after snapshots.
The other night I had a self portrait session, here’s one of those. As a photographer, it’s hard to make myself the subject. But since it was a fitness post it was a little easier.
First of all, I do NOT think of myself as an athlete. I never played on one single sport team in my life and actually was always a bookwormish awkward sort of girl. I did like to do a little bit of step aerobics and might do some other little workouts two or three times a week for a few months and then quit several years ago and the only exercise I got was a little walking. I really had no idea what it was to really push myself hard. If I broke a little sweat I thought that was just about as hard as I could go. I wasn’t really overweight so I just didn’t think about healthy eating much at all. Then I had a baby when I was 25. I didn’t have much trouble losing the 35 pounds I gained with her.
Three years later I had another baby and gained much more. I never really lost that weight and for the most part have always been overweight for the past 20 years. I might go on a crash diet now and then and lose a few pounds but it always came back within a few months and my weight hovered around 30-35 pounds more than I should weigh for my heighth. I am about 5’3″ (and 1/2).
The kids grew and so did my husband and me. Here we are on a vacation a in 2008 and then there is a picture of me with my son who was a junior in high school then.
In 2009 our daughter got married. On the beach. I really thought that I would lose the weight for that. I mean if I couldn’t lose weight for a beach wedding, what could I lose it for? And guess what, I didn’t lose one single pound. I joined Weight Watchers – for the 3rd time in my life – and did not lose one single pound. Maybe I lost 5 pounds but then I gained it back even before the wedding. I was pretty disgusted with myself. (Wedding photo credit to the outstanding Rae Leytham, if you’re getting married in Florida, look her and her husband up. They are the greatest people to work with.)
Anyway, you get the idea. I was getting heavier each year. Also, my kids were growing up and needing me less and less. I am not a mom who handled that really well. I feel that one of my main purposes in life was to be the mother of these two outstanding people, raise them to serve God and be healthy happy people who always live next door to me. Well, the last part might be a bit of a stretch. Our daughter is a missionary to Nicaragua and will be moving there in March. Our son is in college now and much to my delight, still lives at home, at least for a few more weeks. So at some point I remember looking in the mirror at this overweight sluggish middle aged woman and thinking, “It will never get any better than this. The best part of my life is over, it’s all downhill from here.” I truly did not know how my life could be complete with my children grown and gone. Especially the gone part. So I ate even more. Also, I have had high blood pressure for about 10 years now and was bordering on high cholesterol. I lived a very sedentary life with little or no exercise and ate whatever I wanted. What I wanted was fat, salt and sugar. The unholy trinity of food. As I continued this way, my energy level continued to decrease and even walking sort of wore me out.
Finally, one day while I was praying, God began to show me that my life was not over because my kids were now young adults and that in fact I could accomplish things. I actually quit my job and followed a dream of pursuing photography. I felt a little more energized and decided to try one more time to run. I had a dim dream of running a 5K although I did not think it was remotely possible, I joined a Run for God Bible study group my good friends had started. If you could hear my knees every time I bend them you would understand why I did not think this was possible. Each night for the first several weeks of my running program I would sit with bags of frozen peas on my knees. I felt driven to complete this challenge and was learning how to push myself really hard. Running did not come easy for me. The component of combining scripture with running helped me so much. When I thought I was going to die from exertion and lack of breath, I would recite (in my head because I sure couldn’t talk and run with all that panting going on) Bible verses that would encourage me. Isaiah 40:31 “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” I sure thought I was going to faint! And Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” were instrumental for me to keep going. Much to my suprise I completed the training and my first 5K in late 2011. Also much to my suprise I did not lose one pound.
In very early January 2012 I saw my son-in-law’s mom who I had not seen in at least a year. I could not get over how different she looked. She had been small at the wedding but now she looked so fit! I asked her what she was doing to build all that muscle and to be so lean. She told me she was doing P90X. I had sort of heard about it and seen a few minutes of an infomercial for it but it looked much too hard for me. I remember telling Tammy she should be a spokesperson for fitness for women our age and I just couldn’t get over how much energy she had and just show healthy she was. I wondered if I could also do P90X. Surely if she could do it I could too. Or so I thought. By the second week of January 2012 I had purchased it and started on it. Let’s just say for the first two weeks I felt like I had been in a car accident. I had no idea how sore a body could be from exercise. I thought running was bad! This was every muscle in my body screaming out in pain. Again I relied on my favorite Bible verses to keep me moving. I remember one day early in the program I was in bed in the morning and could not get out of bed. I literally could not move myself out of the bed and had to have my husband come in and help me because I was so sore. (Don’t you want to rush right out and start doing P90X right now?) The point is, I did not give up. No matter how much it hurt and how much I wanted to just stop I didn’t. I stuck with it and in a few weeks, the pain was better and I could do more push ups, more sit ups, and more reps with the dumbells than before. I still couldn’t do one single pull up without using a chair to help me but I just kept working.
At the beginning of January I also began using an ap called My Fitness Pal to track all my food. It’s a great ap and you can use it on your smart phone or computer. I love using it on my phone because it has a great seach feature and also a scan feature where you can scan a barcode of the item you are eating. If you aren’t using it I highly recommend it. I also began to really study more about what a healthy nutrition plan consists of. I don’t call it a diet because it’s not a diet. It is a way of life. After about 3 months, most of my cravings for fries, chips, hamburgers, Oreos and anything chocolate were greatly decreased. I won’t say completely gone because I still occasionally get into the Dorito bag my son has in the house. I just don’t eat all that other stuff. I went from eating fast food, especially McDonald’s fries and those southern chicken sandwiches at least once (and many times twice) a week to not eating them at all. I am happy to report that I had two orders of fries in the entire year of 2012 down from 2 per week. I have learned what to cook and so much about nutrition it will have to be another post. There is so much good information out there if you really want to find it. I always knew I needed to do it but never really committed to it until this year. It has made all the difference for me. Now I know exactly how many calories I have consumed along with how much protein, carbs and other nutrients. It’s all there right on my phone so I can keep an eye on it. It even lets you add your exercise in and adds in the the calories you burn so you can eat more to make sure you are getting enough nutrients. As you eat less and your body adjusts to healthier food, you are just not as hungry for junk to fill you up. It’s important to make sure you are actually getting enough nutrients. I still love food, I just love different sorts of foods now. And I am happy to report that my husband uses My Fitness Pal and has also been doing P90X as well. He didn’t start when I did but I think after he saw my results he decided to give it a go. He is looking good, has lost 30 pounds and is so much healthier than before. Remember the picture from 2008 earlier in this post? Look at him now! I am so proud of him for so many reasons, this is just one more. God has truly blessed me with my husband, children and now grandchild.
2012 has been a year filled with so many blessings. We were blessed with a beautiful granddughter, a new career opportunity for my husband which he will begin shortly and God just continues to amaze us with His love. I know if it were not for the encouragement of scripture I would not be where I am today, in my fitness or in any other area. I am nothing without Christ and must always be careful to remain focused on serving God and not myself. It is easy to get carried away in time spent on anything you love, exercise included. We are to be good and faithful stewards with everything God has given us. This includes our family, our time, and the bodies that carry us around while we are here. We are all at different places but if you would like to increase your fitness level or have any questions about anything I have posted, please feel free to contact me on the “contact me” page at the top. I would love to be of any encouragement I can. I posted this, not to glorify myself but to say to anyone, including and especially you middle aged women who feel as if you are past being able to regain the energy of years past, who wonder what good you are now that your kids are gone and just feel sort of lost, “You can be healthier as far as exercise and nutrition are concerned. It can change your life!” It will hurt and it will seem impossible. You will want to give up and go sit back down. I know, I have been there. But don’t give in, push past it and you will be the better for it. With God’s help and through good nutrition and hard work, you can reach your goals and not be stuck on that yo-yo of diet and gain. Thanks for reading and God Bless.
Also, if you would like some fitness photos of yourself, either before or after, I have some fun ideas for great shots. Contact me for details. (And yes, that is grey hair you see so glaringly in this last picture. After all, I am a 49 year old grandma now. And I love it!)