One year ago I was sitting in an armchair in my living room, holding my five-month-old baby girl for the first time in over a month. As I cried tears of joy feeling her snuggly body curl up in my arms, I vowed that I was going to do everything in my power to be with my kids for as long as possible – starting with good health. I had been off of mom duty for those several weeks because of open-heart surgery to repair a congenital heart defect, my second surgery in five years. While my surgery wasn’t brought on by poor health choices, making better ones moving forward would only help my cause to stay out of that operating room for good. And so my journey began.
Weight has been an issue for me for as long as I can remember. Not only do I carry scars from years of being picked on and bullied throughout school, but also the damage had definitely been done to my self-esteem. At a younger age, I wanted to lose weight to make other people leave me alone. I wanted to fit in, wear the same cute clothes my friends were wearing and have the energy to ride my bike around the neighborhood with them. I remember being about ten and mailing in a request for information (remember having to do this before the internet?!) on a “fat camp”. I was sure if I could just spend two weeks of my summer at this camp, all of my problems would be solved. But what I didn’t realize is what needed to be solved first was on the inside and had nothing to do with weight.
So after years and years of yo-yoing through many attempts at weight loss I had finally arrived at a moment when I was not just physically ready, but mentally and emotionally as well. My goal was overall health and I wrote down things like “Have more energy,” “Feel stronger,” and “Appreciate healthy food.” The real difference this time around was this journey was for one reason: me. I no longer cared if people thought I was fat. I had grown past that. It was this simple – I wanted to live. Really live. And I felt like I wasn’t doing that.
My plan was fairly basic – eat right and workout. No short cuts or quick fixes and I didn’t even buy in to the “30-day” this or the “21-day” that. During my down time after surgery, I spent hours on Pinterest finding recipes and meal ideas and I set up the MyFitnessPal app to help. Instead of working in cardiac rehab like I had after my last surgery, I signed up with an experienced personal trainer at my gym. It was the best investment I ever made. He has taught me (along with the other wonderful staff there!) how to maximize my time during workouts to not only burn calories, but also build strength. When I started, I could barely hold a push up position from the edge of a tall table. I’m now doing dozens on the floor. While I’ve overhauled my diet, I don’t deprive myself of things either. I eat birthday cake, pizza and ice cream, just not everyday and in much smaller portions. I’ve done what all the experts recommend – adopt a new lifestyle, not go on a diet. The changes don’t stop there.
In the past year I’ve lost about 70 pounds and gone down 4 sizes. I have enough energy to keep up with my two toddlers, even with usually getting very little sleep. I rarely get sick. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and surprised myself the other day by running three miles with no struggle. But more importantly, I’m confident. I’m proud of myself and I am a better role model for my kids. I smile more and genuinely feel happier.
It’s not about the weight and it’s definitely not about those who have teased me and hurt my self-esteem. It’s a journey to discover that I am a worthy, capable person and I was before I lost the weight too. But now I am healthier and am hopefully setting the stage for a healthy future for my family.