WHY can’t I take my own advice?

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Wendie and Betsy 2016

 

I weigh the same today as I did last year.

And it’s the same as the year before.

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SAME race 2015, with Spencer

This is 2+ years of stable weight for me.  Ups and downs, but year over year – I am staying almost the same. 🙂

And THAT is a big deal in my world.  A world that was dominated by very consistent weight gains my ENTIRE life.  Mixed-in with radical, unsustainable, starvation-style, short-lived weight losses. Such a life-long, nasty, horrible, depressing cycle.

Until 5 years ago.

I enlisted the help of Wade, Hannah, Liz, Deb and Anneke to be my accountability team and help me get control of my life before Type 2 diabetes and obesity killed me. I carefully tracked my weight loss over the 3 years I was losing and checked in with them all weekly.  But I have only been tracking my ‘stable’ weight for the last year and a half. This was in part prompted by Spencer asking me why I was paralyzed with fear at a ‘small’ weight gain.  I was in total meltdown, convinced I had gained 15 pounds or more overnight.  When we really investigated it and broke it down; it was about a 3 pound weight gain.  It felt MUCH BIGGER. But the truth was that I hadn’t tracked my weight consistently so I had NOTHING factual to go on. So the past 18 months or so I have documented my weight along with my workouts in my Garmin database.   Now I can only argue with graphs and facts.  Not my faulty and anxious memory.

I weigh 172.8 pounds today.

The part no one told me about this whole journey was that every little dip, dive, gain on that scale (Which is ENTIRELY NORMAL) often escalates into emotional drama and fear and over-reaction. I am ashamed to admit how many times I have stepped on the scale multiple times within a single day seeking reassurance or in some way hoping that stupid little machine would banish my fears…

Holy crap has the scale/my weight/a NUMBER had me in a chokehold.

This morning it was in graph form for me to see.  No arguing with anything.  I weigh the same as I did last year.  I told Spencer that my weight is now 2 years stable.  And his response ‘so what does that make you think about…?’

Good question. 🙂

I thought about ALL of the wasted time, drama, energy, self-loathing that have gone into the last few years where I was SURE every single food choice had the ability to catapult me backwards or derail my efforts. Let alone when I let the daily number on the scale dictate my mood for the day…

But this mornings weight and graph were pretty solid proof that I can actually manage my weight with food and activity. I’m doing the right things over the long haul, even if I don’t get the day to day stuff just right. 🙂

This morning’s realization and conversation also got me thinking…  Had I been open-minded at the start of this whole thing and could have listened to and absorbed some grounded advice — what information would have been helpful?

I really wish I could have told myself a few things when I started this whole crazy journey…

Told myself and BELIEVED it…

1. Your weight fluctuates.  Daily. It can go up or down during training.  If you have your period.  If you eat too much salt.  The rotation of the earth. 🙂 Sometimes it’s really legit gain because you ate too many calories because your friend Wendie makes this insane guacamole that you can not stop eating.  But you have to understand that your weight isn’t stable in the day to day. Not gonna happen. Quit even thinking it’s possible. And you know what?  It isn’t meant to be. You thought you got to a number and stayed there with just a little effort?  That this whole bodyweight thing was simple math and cut and dried?  Uh…  HELL NO.

2. Take measurements.  I really WISH I had known how big my hips or belly or thighs were at my largest.  I didn’t take measurements because — hell — who really wants to know that they have a 75” waist?  You will wish you had those body measurements for reference and reassurance in the process. At any point when you’re feeling ‘fat’, stalled or just wondering how far your journey has taken you — you can pull out a tape measure and be assured, well beyond the confines of a stupid scale, that you were NOT gaining anything but muscle or fitness.

3.  Worry is wasted energy.  Spend time looking for solutions and opportunities.

4. And for the love of ALL THAT IS HOLY quit beating yourself up. YOU, who you are at the very CORE of your being, has nothing to do with the number on a scale or the packaging of your body. NOTHING.  Please, oh please, just believe me on this one.  I’m in tears writing this.  I am crying for you and for myself too. Because I know you won’t believe me, you can’t fathom what I’m trying to tell you… This is the last thing you can possibly wrap your mind around when you’ve battled your weight your entire life and a number is staring you in the face — a number you hate.  A number so large you didn’t know the scale went that high. I know that feeling of panicked desperation and hopelessness as well as I know the sound of my own heart beating. Text me, call me, reach out to me and I will spend the rest of my life relentlessly reminding you of your value to our world. I’m a way better judge of your value than a stupid mechanical piece of crap you bought at Costco.

5. Don’t pick a number for a goal.  (See 1.) Don’t pick a clothing size either. That’s really just another number. Pick a feeling, activity, ability, destination.  You want to climb stairs and not be gulping for air?  You want to feel solidly OK with how you feel in your birthday or bathing suit? 🙂  You want to be able to hike, run, walk, move better….  PICK something that isn’t a transient, essentially meaningless, number.

6. Know that the BIG picture is worth all the little steps, mis-steps, concerns, questions, sacrifices. It’s hard work. It’s worth it.  And this is in NO WAY linear.  No way.  There is nothing direct, logical or straight about this path you are on.  And you’re going to be making stuff up as you go.

7. Do NOT let that scale dictate your mood to the world.  It’s up a bit?  DO SOMETHING about it.  Don’t be a bitch. Or walk around like someone ran over your dog. Or have a short fuse with loved ones.  Or start secluding yourself from the people you love because you feel you don’t ‘deserve’ their love or you’re deeply embarrassed. Stop allowing that stupid, effing, scale to affect your mood.

8. Please, please, please love on yourself.  And believe in yourself.  YOU will do this.  And you can’t see the day, but it’s coming; you will be healthy and happy. Your weight should not be allowed to dictate ANY of that.  You have so much to offer the world.  You’re an aunt.  A sister.  A friend.  A daughter.  A momma. A lot of really, really remarkable things that no one else in the whole entire world can possibly be! We were only given ONE of you. One. Do what you can each day to help yourself get healthy so you can be around and enjoy the life in front of you.  Be around for US.

9.  This isn’t a short-term investment.  You will look at something daily and judge it as not moving, plateaued (favorite Weight Watchers scapegoat phrase right there…) failing.  But if you can just HANG ON and look at this from the 3,000 foot view, look at this from a 365-day investment — you will see growth.  YOU WILL.  Really!  Keep at it.  You didn’t gain the weight over night.  You will not lose it overnight. Trite and irritating – but TRUE.

10. One of my favorite songs of all times is ‘Live Like You Were Dying’ by Tim McGraw.  You’re living this weight loss journey with a lot of fear.  Fear of going backwards.  Fear of judgement.  Fear of FAILURE…  What if…?  Holy smokes.  The fear you have embraced and live with could choke an elephant. What if you could just enjoy the journey for what it was and live each day like you are trying to be your very best? Living like you’re dying doesn’t mean you live with no consequences for your choices.  It means you accept each day, each moment for what it is and keep moving toward the goal you want to reach…


Even though I was intellectually aware of all of this,  I sure as hell did not understand it.  Couldn’t figure out how to apply it to my situation.  None of it.  I know that until very recently I simply wasn’t ready to hear it,  understand it.

Today prompted a lot of thinking.

This time I really am listening. 🙂

I hope that anyone else who might need to hear this is listening as well…

 

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Docking the boat.

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I walked miles.  Each day.

End of an amazing, epic adventure!

As I sit in the airport waiting for the flight home — I still feel the rocking motion of the boat.  I’m told this is a phenomenon called ‘Jimmy Legs’. 🙂

I’m soaking in the memories of the experience and the bittersweet feelings of saying goodbyes with new friends.

Yet I am finally headed home.

Such a wonderful mix of feelings…


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I spent a LOT of time in my bathing suit. 🙂  I was either ‘sweating (walking) or swimming.’ most of the time on days that we were at sea.

I spent a lot of time sitting by the pool (saltwater pool!) working on this blog. I was slathered in sun screen since I skimped on ‘solar cream’ on day one and seriously sunburned my rear-end…

Lesson quickly learned. 🙂

This whole experience?

An incredible gift.

We’ll start with the short version

I stayed active. Made the best food choices I could given the situation. I’m thrilled I was entrusted with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity from my university. I met some incredible friends.  I’m so happy to be headed home.

Win, win, win!

The longer version?

I came on this cruise intent on doing the best job I could for OSU and also to work on testing my lifestyle in a new environment.

You’ll recall that I shared in my previous blog that I was worried about gaining weight, getting lazy and going bezerk with the unlimited food.

I really wound up learning/re-learning some critical life lessons.

I realized about three days in that there was a massive amount of accumulated life wisdom on this boat regarding health, wellness, business, adventure, relationships….  So I shut up. Listened intentionally. Observed. And tried to ask some good questions when I had someone’s ears.

Here’s my top ‘lesson’ list straight from my journal:

Age is simply number.  There were 55 year olds who are marching steadily toward the grave with an attitude of having given up.  There were 85 year olds kicking up their heels, laughing, having the time of their lives with each of the days they have left. Age is only a number.

Size matters. European food portions were served on this ship. Not American super-sized versions of portions.  There was a dazzling array of foods — at seemingly all hours.  Elegant and intentional presentations. Food and the dining experience was treated with respect and care.

Size REALLY matters.  Again, this is a European ship. Smaller towels, smaller showers, smaller chairs.  It is built for a non-obese/normal weight population.  A large (pardon the sad pun) portion of the inhabitants of this ship were overweight or obese. They struggled with some of the accommodations.  Watching their struggles served as a good reminder for me. The old me, 392 pounds, wouldn’t have fit in my shower stall in my room. Likely wouldn’t have been able to use the commode that was wedged into a tight corner.  I couldn’t have sat in the dining room chairs, worn the luxury robes provided and would not have been able to share a stairwell with anyone. That’s just naming a few of the reminders I saw that put my old and new lives in perspective.

Friends. Friends are where you make them and where you take them.

Accountability. I found new friends on the boat who quickly and happily agreed to being accountability partners. Meeting for walks/stretching/running, grabbing extra ice waters and focusing on great conversations; not on food. I shared my goals and ideas — they shared theirs!

Kindness knows no language.

Listen.  Two ears, one mouth.  I listened a lot on this ship.  Heard incredible stories of strength and determination and heartbreak.  I consciously tried to make sure I walked away from a conversation having listened more than I talked.  I mean, I know I talk. A lot. And I recognize that it’s a bad habit. This ship was good practice for me to re-learn the value of listening.

Drink water.  The older runners on board make plenty of water a daily habit.  Sparkling eyes, great skin, general good health. They were laughing at me when I finally strung together all of their advice and told them the only thing I could find in common with all of them was that they wouldn’t give-up, had worked to make sure running stayed a habit in their lives and they drank plenty of water. Everything else they suggested/lectured me about was a wildly mixed bag of contradictory advice.

Blowing a snot rocket on the boat deck is a) not acceptable or appreciated and b) super tricky with cross winds. 🙂

Rest.  I got great advice from a guy named George on day 12 of this adventure.  He had my number as far as my cheerleader/extrovert/go-go-go personality.  He said ‘Take ‘me’ time for you. Rest, recharge your emotional self.  Not just your body. Or you’ll crash.’  And MAN WAS HE RIGHT!  That sounds crazy given that I was on a luxury cruise ship in the middle of the ocean.  And resting and relaxing is like ninja-expert-professional level sport.  BUT I hadn’t been resting or relaxing for me…  So I took a day and slept in.  Hard.  Woke up after about 14 hours of sleep.  Ate a good food.  Worked on this blog.  Just kind of ‘hid’ and took care of myself all day long. Even extroverts need some quiet time now and again.

Routine.  Routines are powerful.  I spent time thinking about whether the routines I have created were being used for good/health or comfort/excuses/control. 🙂  Shaking up my routine has helped me evaluate those elements that I want to embrace and those that perhaps weren’t serving me best after all.

Be present. So hard for me to remember. But I had plenty of time to practice breathing and enjoying only what was in front of me.

This time on a ship was good for me to realize I can stay active and make smart food choices.  It did NOT look at all like the activity and food that would be my ’norm’ back home, and it honestly took me about 8-10 days to be OK with that.

I kept portions under control. I took stairs. I drank water. I mostly stayed away from the desserts (Fresh sorbets… Man. They were amazing!). I kept the focus on people and good conversations instead of food. By the time we docked, I knew every nook and cranny of that 1/13th of a mile track on the top of the ship. 🙂

I am reminded that I really do have the best of both worlds.

I loved this trip, new friends, the countries, the Panama Canal crossing, the fire-testing of my lifestyle in a totally new environment.

And yet I am thrilled and excited to be heading home to my family, friends, healthy foods, trails.

It is NOT the whole story…

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Running into the sun, on trails, with friends…

I was just telling Spencer and one of our mentors, Shawna, recently that I wish I could re-write an article about me that was in Runner’s World Magazine. It talks about my weight loss/type 2 diabetes transformation.  It is answering the question ‘How running changed my life’. (Here is the Runners World Article)

I wasn’t even aware they were doing the profile. The first time it appeared I freaked out. Just a little. More than a year later and the story keeps popping up. It is AWESOME!  I get a total thrill/shock every single time I am scrolling through a feed on Facebook or Instagram and see my picture. 🙂

But I also cringe a little every single time it re-appears. Cringe?  WHY?!  Well… It misses the stories about the people that are very much a part of this whole adventure and the moments that make my heart sing and some of the things no one really wants to talk about.

 

Given the chance, I really would like to add/edit/re-write that story to make it a little more complete. Here’s what I would add, here are some of the key additions I would want people to know…

There are people who walked every single step of this journey with me. They believed in me when I embarked on this crazy, huge, scary lifestyle overhaul. I had proved to all of them that I was really, really good at failing at diets. I have a life-time worth of experience at failing at diets.  They stuck with me anyway.

My running coach, Spencer, is the one person who has put up with untold amounts of sass and tears and freaking-ridiculous-questions as I continue to learn to run. Spencer has watched each mile build into more miles and bigger goals and even bigger dreams.

My running and training partners. The ones who meet me at o’dark thirty.  In the rain.  With smiles and headlamps and laughter and patience.  The ones who encourage shenanigans.  The ones who helped me learn how to pee in the woods – and not get caught or get poison oak. 🙂  The ones who encourage me to sign up for crazy-ass distances for the fun/adventure/epicness of it – just to help me test my boundaries.  The ones who spend their vacation time traveling to a race to run some of the late-stage miles with you to make sure your butt crosses that finish line.

Kyle at Gallagher’s in Salem.  Kyle fit me into my first ‘real’ walking shoes when I was finally down to 280 pounds, registering for a walking marathon and had finally scrounged up every last ounce of courage I had to walk into a ‘real running’ store. Kyle was kind and helpful and never once acted like I didn’t belong in their store. Never. I still buy my shoes at Gallagher’s.  I went in to see him today as a matter of fact.

They didn’t talk about how much I hated.  hated.  hated.  those first few tentative steps that were trying to learn to run.  How embarrassed I was and mortified at the thought one of my neighbors would see my 250 pounds bouncing along with my face a charming shade of ‘heart-attack red’.  Or how I was breathing so hard I genuinely felt like I was going to throw up. And yet even as hard as it was, I oddly and intuitively knew I could not give up. I had to keep trying to put one foot in front of the other no matter what anyone thought. This was the make-it-or-break-it point.

They didn’t talk about how hard I worked for and how much I cherished some of the first days I ran without those extra 10 pounds of skin hanging around my belly.  Or how months later when I was all healed Josh and Wendie went for a run with me in Bend (3+ hours from home), on isolated trails, so I would feel comfortable stripping down to just shorts and my sports bra to go for a run.  That ‘shorts and sports bra’ dream was hatched the very first time I ever went to a race and saw women running comfortably and carefree in next to nothing. I on the other hand was carefully and strategically covered in head-to-toe compression gear just to keep my extra skin on my belly from gaining unstoppable momentum and beating me to death.  I ran that day with josh and wendie in just shorts and sports bra.  I felt the sun on my belly.  And the sun on my mid-back.  And I was running on world-class trails. With cherished and trusted friends who knew what this meant to me.  I felt free, brave, happy – and comfortable in my own skin for the first time in a long time.

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Just a sports bra.  Oh.  And shorts.  I have on shorts. I promise.

They didn’t talk about how when I finally ran one full mile without stopping I bawled like a baby out of pure joy and quickly called my friend Wade to tell him… I HAD DONE IT!!  (Bets!  QUIT YELLING IN THE PHONE!)  I was hooked at that moment on asking my body to try to do more… I knew in that moment that my body was strong and my mind could be my biggest weapon if I wanted to work on them both…  🙂  Could I do a mile and half?  Could I possibly run a 5K at some point?  What else could I do?  What else in life had I missed out on because I had been obese and immobile?  Oh my heavens…  I felt like the doors to the whole-wide-world were finally opening and I was getting to run though them…

They really didn’t tell the whole story.

They didn’t tell my favorite parts of my story. 🙂

And maybe that’s good.

I mean, my story isn’t over.

Not by a long shot.

I’m still really busy writing it.

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Signing up for the 100 miler.  Happy and excited and realizing I get to live my dreams…

My uterus is NOT falling out…

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I am a bit cranky right now.

I am down with a mean little sinus infection.  I am choosing to listen to my body and giving it good food, solid sleep and some quality healing time.  (And there’s also the fact that my coach ‘strongly suggested’ it was the smart thing to do.)

But I haven’t run in days. And the ritual of getting ready, running, the feeling of accomplishment that comes from a solid training run… Well.  I miss it.

I’m was in a conversation with a woman at work today about the fact that I was not running.

‘Good to take a break and let your body heal. You know running is hard on your knees and back and I just read that too much running is really bad for your ‘girl parts’.’

Ok. Huh. Girl parts.

The conversation could have gone several different ways at that point.

If I were getting in my regular training time and not feeling icky-sick and exercise-deprived, I would have laughed and said something like…

‘I wear a good sports bra and I’m not using my uterus anyway.  I am more worried about being attacked by a cougar while I’m out running trails.’

But as I said, I am not getting in my regular training runs.

I’m publicly admitting that I am a little cranky.

Ok. I’m grumpy. Maybe even a little more than grumpy.

So I wound up being pretty blunt and pointing out that Type 2 Diabetes and those extra 220 pounds I had been carrying around for close to 20 years had been trying really, really hard to KILL me.

So when you think about all of that?  My love for running and the possibility of my uterus falling out is the least of my worries…


But this whole exchange caught my attention.  And leads me to a bigger question…

And my size-11 feet are kicking right up against the base of a pretty big soapbox…

Why can’t women support, promote, encourage other women? 

Why can’t we enthusiastically support other peoples loves and lives?

Why can’t we just support what other people say they love and want to do without placing our fears and judgement and unsolicited opinions on THEIR dreams?

Seriously.

And I’m guilty of this crappy dream-dousing behavior too.

GUILTY as hell.

This whole ‘girl parts’ conversation made me aware of the potentially fantastic shift that could occur if I were to choose carefully about how I react and comment when people invite me into their conversations about what they cherish and value and love…  What if I just declared myself ‘on their team’ no matter what that team might be?

SO I’m going to pay attention to it for the next few weeks and see if I can’t make a new habit out of supporting — without hesitation or placing my own judgements/concerns/jealousies — on what THEY are excited about.

I’ll give my little social experiment the rest of this Lenten season.  I’ll be intentional, supportive and endeavor to learn why they feel so passionately.

Not sure this will save my uterus from falling out the next time I get to go for a run, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. 🙂

(My sister says I should have named this blog, “I’m ovary being sick.”)

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Supporting someones dreams and hopes. Wendie was giving me some last minute ‘GO KICK ASS’ words of encouragement. 🙂  (Wendie, Pac Crest)

 

What if I just give up..?

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First 10 K, 4 years ago.  The work was just beginning.

I look back on some of my early journal entries from this lifestyle make-over and wonder how in the hell I made it to today.

Honestly.

Why didn’t I just quit?  

It was brutally hard at times.

I get the ‘How did you not give up?’  question perhaps more than any other single question.

I don’t have a good answer.


 

I mean, I had quit every other time I tried to lose weight and start exercising.

I am really succeeding for the first time.

Check out these journal entries…

1/10/2012: ‘I tried step aerobics class.  I didn’t understand the routines and can’t physically keep up. Stood behind my ‘step’ and marched in place for 45 minutes. Drenched in sweat, red-faced and couldn’t breathe from working so hard. It was humiliating. I walked out to my car crying. I feel ashamed and embarrassed.’

The very next day…

1/11/2012: ‘Today is the first day of circuit weights. I’m 5 hours post-lifting and I am so sore I can’t lift my arms. I could only do about 1/5 of the workout. Maybe less. I can’t bend, my fat belly is yet AGAIN in the way. Everyone in there has been doing this for years and I’m intimidated to hell and back.’

HOW and why did I keep going?

Why didn’t I just go back to my old, comfortable, easy ways?

My journal posts those kind of sad, too-honest, desperate entries, then the following weeks I’m only documenting glucose readings, weight, noting that my appetite is through the roof.

There is curiously nothing else about the aerobics,  weights classes, walking or learning to run.

Nothing.


When I do get asked how I kept going when things were tough, I usually answer with something basic, but true:

I wanted my life to be different.

I was tired of being sick and tired and I was ready to do the work.

Those sound like platitudes or motivational quotes. Those were really, truly how I FELT.  Fiercely, totally, with my whole heart. I was NOT giving up this time no matter how hard it got.

I knew there was a different life that could be mine.

I had promised myself I would do what I had to do this time around to get healthy, get fit – create a whole new ‘lifestyle‘. This time around was NOT yet another a one-fix wonder, a silver bullet, a starvation plan.  I – the chronically impatient – KNEW I had to be patient this time around because I was trying to exchange prescription drugs for food and exercise.

I HAD to invest the time and effort to build something I could keep and do for the rest of my life.

When I think about it, even before I committed to trying to change my lifestyle — I was often hungry, sore and defeated because I was fat, sick and totally out of shape.  I mean, I was taking 3 shots a day, handfuls of prescription meds and I was carrying anywhere from 100-220 pounds of extra weight most of my adult life.  That takes a substantial amount of WORK.

So really the whole ‘hungry, tired and sore’ thing hadn’t changed.  It was no longer a valid excuse for me to be using.

I think my brain and my heart recognized the equation of wanting to fight for healthy and that needing to find a long-term, permanent solution was the only way to make this work.

The little fire in my soul that was SCREAMING ‘things can be so, so, so different for you if you would just work at it!’ was what I was choosing to listen to this time around… I could finally hear it loud and clear.

The biggest of the mysteries for me that remains in this whole adventure is why that little voice — smothered for so, so long —  was finally what I was choosing to listen to, what I was focused on…


My journals intrigue me.

They confirm that I’m crappy at journaling. They’re frustratingly incomplete.

By my 2013 journal they’re full of race bibs, happy benchmarks and lots of running related notes.

I’m not sure when that switch occurred.

Personal details about that critical interlude are just simply missing from my journals entirely.

I wish I would have taken better notes or written more descriptions so that I could tell people ‘THIS is what I felt, how I did it, why I kept going…’  But I don’t have any of that information collected. And do not remember most of those details.  Perhaps I blocked them out because things were that hard OR more likely — they felt profound enough at the time I figured I would never forget and I didn’t bother to write them down…

I’ll be writing stuff down a little more carefully from now on. 🙂


 

I would hazard a pretty good guess that the reason I kept going was that my motivation – the reason driving all the changes – was so, so different than any other time in my life.

This lifestyle change was not a reaction to someone’s opinion of what I should weigh/eat/do.

This was entirely about finding health and life.

This had nothing to with a number on the scale or a size of dress.  And EVERYTHING to do with getting free from Type 2 Diabetes before it was too late.

This time I was carefully and systematically searching for the things I would needed to make this a lasting lifestyle.

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This is how I feel about life. 🙂  No words needed.

Giving the Sharps container the boot…

2012 on February 3rd I took my last shot of insulin.

And I’ve lived a whole other lifetime in that time. A lifetime I never thought I would have. So grateful for each and every day…


Facebook, February 4, 2013.

I am type 2 diabetic.  Most of you know that.  I’m not exactly reserved and shy about it. 🙂 I am a type-2 diabetic which means my body makes insulin. Plenty of it actually.  Through years of abuse, I’ve messed up the receptors that recognize insulin and know how to use it.  (Think about trying to use a baseball glove to catch a soccer ball…  Just doesn’t work very well…) And it was MY OWN DAMN DOING.  Type-2 diabetes is by and large considered a lifestyle disease. There are rare exceptions to be sure.  But I was not.  I made poor lifestyle choices.  I ate too much. Ate things that weren’t solid choices for my health situation.  And I loathed sweating and exercising.

My feet hit the floor in July 2011 and I decided I was done.  D. O. N. E.  Done with needles and shots and doctors and monthly blood tests and being fat and being unhealthy and slowly, but very, VERY surely killing myself.

Done.

It has been a journey and an adventure and the hardest work of my LIFE! And it will continue to be a fight all the remaining days of my life. I am not out of the woods. I am not done. There are still hurdles. That’s OK – I’m up for the fight.

Tonight is a bit of a celebration for me — indulge me for a moment…

Tonight is ONE YEAR since I took my last shot of insulin. 

A year ago started what was to become a mass exodus from prescriptions drugs that is ALMOST complete. One drug left to exit.  I was taking 72 units of Lantus, 2 other injections, 5 other drugs to regulate sugars and other attendant issues with out of control sugars/diabetic issues in May 2011.  But there is only ONE drug left to quit. And that day is near. 🙂  Focused on being totally medicine free by early 2014. (I was meds free by May 2014, just for the record!)

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of being shot/needle/sharps container/supplemental insulin/shot-in-the-belly FREE.  WOO HOO!   And no… I am not celebrating by eating a piece of cake. Tempting. But not tempting enough… I’ll probably celebrate with a big ol’ cold Honeycrisp apple. 🙂

A lot has changed in the 18 months since I started on this journey.  I worked closely with my doctor. Shared my plans.  She sometimes agreed – sometimes re-directed.  We worked on decreasing the insulin in small increments weekly over many months.  It was NOT a fast process, but slow and steady (and truthfully terrifying – as staying off of the drugs relies TOTALLY on my maintaining serious lifestyle changes. I am trading food and activity for drugs.)… I track all my food. I relied on advice/reader boards on the American Diabetes Association website for help with specific issues and food challenges.  I  continue to be surrounded by family and friends who cheered me on EVERY single, tiring, painful step of the way…  I was never, ever alone.

My doc said in her 25 years of practicing medicine she has had two patients work their way off substantial meds without surgical intervention. Several times she has had to research our next step – since this isn’t something she has practice in working with…  Kind of cool to be the challenging patient in a GOOD way.

Will I be able to stay off of insulin for the rest of my life?  No.  Not likely.  Research indicates that diabetes will re-emerge again at some point. But the longer I can go without insulin, the longer I can stay with TIGHT self-control on blood sugars, the longer I can go without causing collateral harm to my eyes/heart/kidneys/heart — the better for me!

I bought myself a hat from the Life Is Good store in Maui while I was there for the marathon a few weeks ago… It has a picture of Earth with the words  “Happy to be here”.

I am just happy, really happy, to be here.

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The Diabetes Walk in Portland. The Gum’s and about 25 other friends were there with me!  It was a magical day! This was a celebration of me getting off of Insulin. Our shirts said ‘All Bets are off’. 🙂  Hence the name of my blog…

Curls. A funny thing happened…

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Passport. 🙂 2003 (Close to 400 pounds, I think…)  and 2013 (close to 200 pounds).

A lot of things happened all at once when I was getting close to getting off of injectable insulin…

I was working hard — single-minded focus kind of hard — to get off of insulin and other meds.  Nothing else mattered.  I wanted off insulin.

I was losing weight. I had discovered walking and weight lifting. My diet was getting cleaned up, stronger, healthier by the day.  All of this was helping me wean off of insulin.

I was experiencing glucose highs/lows like crazy as my body was working frantically to adjust to the diminishing supply that I was injecting daily.  I could FEEL my body working to take over an injection-free life.

It was an amazing time!

It was at this point that I began to realize and understand that I was changing my LIFE, not just sticking it out with a diet. I was finally beginning to own the idea of this being my new lifestyle. 

I was outright trading PRESCRIPTIONS for FOOD/ACTIVITY.


 

This past weekend I was in a conversation with someone I was meeting for the first time. He and I had very similar wild/crazy/uncontrollable hair and we were laughing about it. He was talking about the life-long struggle, I admitted that my curls were fairly new.

Natural, but new…

I shared with him that one of the most noticeable and perhaps panic-inducing moments of getting off of insulin involved my hair…

If you have only known me in the past 3+ years, you might be puzzling over the fact that my hair is decidedly NOT straight.

My wild mop is pretty much a way folks recognize me these days.

So how did I get curly hair?


 

I quit taking injectable insulin in February of 2012, by early June of 2012 my hair was falling out.

Most of it fell out one morning in the shower.

I never thought I was vain about my hair. Still amazing to me how I suddenly became pretty damn connected to my head of hair when it was falling out and I had no idea why…

So get this…

Turns out that insulin, which I was injecting 72 units a day for Type 2 Diabetes, is a hormone.

When you quit taking it; combined with shifting your entire lifestyle to try to get your body to accept that you want your OWN insulin/glucose receptors to kick back in and take back over…?

Well…

Turns out your hormones are just a wee-bit out of whack. Your hormones are not even remotely stable and they’re fighting hard to normalize.

Apparently, shedding hair can be one response to this ‘sudden’ hormonal shift.

Who knew?!!

Here’s how it went down…


 

I went for a run.  I was in the shower washing my hair and went to rinse my hair and looked at my hands…

Huh.

That seems like a lot of hair.

BUT — it’s Spring.  Maybe I’m just shedding hair because it’s getting warm. 

Ran my hands through my hair again to rinse my hair.  The hair was so thick on my hands I could barely see the skin of my hands.

Panic is starting to surface.  But it can’t REALLY be that much hair — right? — maybe I’ve just never really paid attention to how much hair I lose daily… This is probably normal…

Repeat a third time.

Crap. That is a LOT of hair. Is that ALL of my hair?! DO I have any left?

Get out of the shower. Towel dry my hair.  Lots of hair in the towel…

Look in the mirror.

Panic.  Full blown, breath-stealing, hot-tear inducing panic.

I called my Doctor.

Doc… ‘This is a possible side effect to going off of insulin – which you have been on for years. It’s fairly rare.  It’s totally benign. You are fine and healthy.  Your hair will grow back. It might be a little different color or texture as it grows back in.’

Me… ‘Swell.  Uh… WAS SOMEONE GOING TO TELL ME THIS AT SOME POINT AND TIME?!!’…

Doc… *laughter* ‘Bets.  In 20+ years of practicing medicine you are one of two of my patients that have successfully reversed Type 2 and gotten OFF OF insulin.  The other patient was a bald male. *laughter* ‘I didn’t know what to tell you to expect.  It will grow back. Find some cute hats.’

Me… *Digging in my room for a hat.  Any hat. Frantically texting my sister and friends for a phone number for a hair stylist.  ANY hair stylist… *

I went from wavy/straight hair to absurdly CURLY hair almost literally overnight.

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Hannah and I.  My hair was just starting to grow back in, around 4+/- months of consistent grow out at this point . Big earrings and bright lipstick were key distractions while my hair was growing back. 🙂

I have lost a bunch of weight, reversed type 2 diabetes and found running…  And even when I look at pictures from that timeframe and see the weight coming off, or the race pictures where I know I was learning to run…

I am reminded how my hair is probably the one, single thing that best shows the changes and tells the story of my new life. 🙂

 

FIRE! (And shutting up…)

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One of the most generous listeners I know of, my friend Jennifer. 🙂 And one of the first ones to help me get a handle on the goal that was looming in front of me…

I had a conversation the other day that helped me re-ignite a fire…

A fire I had forgotten about.

And it took me screwing up and self-correcting to finally get to the right spot.

Here’s what happened earlier this week…


 

I met with a woman I don’t know very well. She reached out to me because she has just been given a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. She said she felt she had a triple digit amount of weight to lose. She doesn’t know where to start.

She asked me to tell her how I lost weight and reversed Type 2 diabetes. She said she wanted to hear my story.

I was trying to find the right words to help her understand a few things about what I had encountered that I thought might be specifically helpful to her. I was trying to explain that my journey was not linear.  It was not easy, nor over.

The trade offs were life changing in every possible, positive way immaginable.

I explained that I remembered the day I mentally understood that I was trading medicine prescribed in a pill bottle and syringe for MEDICINE in the form of healthy, nutrient dense foods.

I remembered when I finally understood I was trading a lifetime of being lazy, inactive and comfortable for a new lease on life that would make me wildly uncomfortable and have me running in the woods and facing exhilarating fears head on.

I understood I was in the life-long process of building a whole new lifestyle.

I wanted her to understand that with every fiber of my being, I had become willing to trade certain death with Type 2 diabetes for a chance at what I knew could be a life worth living out loud, fiercely and completely each day.


So I’m in this conversation with this woman and I have this intense energy building in my head and chest to try to help her understand ME and my journey…

Yet I can see that I am failing in trying to help her understand that the power to save her own life lies in her own hands… I could see that she was overwhelmed with the task that was stretching out in front of her.

And then it FINALLY registered through my thick skull what it was I was actually seeing, feeling and experiencing with her…

My story, combined with her own journey winding out in front of her were BOTH scaring her.

A lot.

Beyond the tears, the averted eyes and bowed head — there was just fear.   I could see it. She was trying hard to hide it.  But it was too bag, too pervasive, too consuming.

I felt like I had to stop and re-group. For both of us.

I pulled out my best imitation of my ‘Wendie’ breathing techniques.

I stopped.  Mid-sentence, mid-story.  Sat up straight.  Made solid eye contact and then I just took a few deep breaths. 

DEEP, loud, intentional.  That habit has become soothing for me in times of distress.  When my friend Wendie Gum breathes that way — she can calm everyone around her…  She can calm an entire freaking room of people.  I have seen it happen.  For real.

I was trying to steal just a bit of her magic. And hoping it would work to help me figure out how to put this conversation back on the right path.

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Wendie and Bets. 🙂  

And then I did something that’s hard for me to do.

Really hard.

I shut the hell up.

AND I started to listen to the silence.

I had been right to stop talking.

The silence was really, really tense and full.

So I just kept breathing.

I tried to convey to her, simply with my breathing and my eyes, that I could and would wait for her, WITH HER, in the fear and overwhelm.

I would willingly sit there ready to listen and just be with her for as long as she needed me to be there…  I wanted her to know that struggling with emotions and words was safe and OK and warranted and healthy between us.

And then I waited for HER to fill the silence.

And she did.

Eventually.

And I let her talk, cry and grapple for words.

Which is what I should have done from the very beginning…

See, I have a fire burning in my heart and soul.  I want everyone to catch the passion to CHANGE what’s broken in their lives.  And to be fired up.  And to be excited by the challenges in front of them.

I fundamentally understand that it has to be their OWN fire.  I can’t tend it, can’t light it and have no right to even share in the warmth.

This conversation proved to be a perfect reminder for me. Spencer (coach) is always reminding me to respect, trust and work the process.

Well… It turns out that I really needed the reminder to RESPECT THAT PROCESS for others.

It’s NOT my process. Not my fire. Not my opportunity.

It. Is. Theirs.

And it was also a great reminder that I wasn’t always fired up and ready to take on the world. I sat there staring at her and could suddenly remember when I was terrified.  And ashamed.  And overwhelmed.

I could see me sitting across the table.

I remembered when I just wanted someone to listen. And understand. And not judge me. And maybe say something that I’d never heard before that I thought might just be POSSIBLE…

I was there in a similar, fire-less pit for a very long time.  Too long.

And while I wanted someone to light the fire for me…  I really just needed someone to listen and understand.

When that happened? THAT is when things finally caught fire for me.


I really want to be the person I so desperately NEEDED when I started on this journey.

The fire I have is really NOT to tell my story.

The fire I have in my soul is to HELP other people…

This week I was reminded that people don’t need to hear my story, they just need me to care about THEIR story.

Could listening actually ignite a fire?

 

 

 

Candy canes. (Freaking candy canes…)

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Me and my sis. 🙂  This picture serves as a good reminder for me when I’m faced with cravings or hard choices.  I LOVED my life at this point, but I’m not going back…

This time of year is dangerous for me.

I know I’m not alone.

Some of my favorite foods start appearing in stores and at Holiday parties.  They’re seasonal foods, which to my mind means they’re SCARCE and treasured and not-to-be-missed.

In most cases these crazy-wonderful-delicious treats are tied to some of the happiest memories of my life.

My happy childhood Holiday memories are built on food.  Again, I know I’m not alone.

Anyone else get caught up in the ‘OHH!  I used to love this!’, ‘It’s only available right now!’ and ‘The holidays aren’t complete without this…’  frenzy?…


I was shopping this past weekend with my sister.

We suddenly found ourselves in the candy/food/food gift aisle.

You can SMELL the sugar floating in the air.

Deb asks me as she’s holding up a package of something, ‘Do you remember this…?’

Fancy cookie mixes.  Almond Roca. Peppermint ANYTHING.  Chocolate everything. Fancy drink mixes.  Maple candies.  Candy.  Candy canes.

You get the idea.

My reply to my sis was ‘yes..!’

The conversation in my head was not so simple.

It was literally like a pair of little fat devils were sitting on opposite shoulders and whispering in my ears…

‘You could eat that and then just go run it off and you wouldn’t even have to give up any other foods today in exchange…’

‘You don’t have to tell anyone.’ (SEVERE RED FLAG WARNING.)

‘Actually you are at a stable weight Bets and you did just run a really big race… I mean, c’mon – you earned this! You could eat this and  totally get away with it and get back on track tomorrow.’

‘It’s the holidays!  Celebrate! This is only around for a short period of time! Why are you so freaking strict with yourself? It’s just a piece of candy…’

‘No one has to know… And you’ll only do it this once…’ (Again, RED FLAG WARNING.)

That’s NOT the kind of healthy thinking I’ve been working to develop as it relates to food and the relationship I want to have with food. I fight these cravings/impulses/habits all the time.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to think about it daily.

Holiday or not.

I wasn’t surprised in the least that this type of thinking showed up in full force surrounding Holiday foods.

I mean… I’ve been thinking this way for 40+ years.  It’s still kind of the default.  It’s oddly, sadly, disturbingly comforting.


Early in my journey to gain control of my lifestyle I had to handle things by NOT BEING around it…

So I didn’t go NEAR speciality or holiday food aisles. I avoided parties and potlucks. I couldn’t walk by the bakery section at Costco.  I avoided weddings and showers and parties. I brought my own food to family dinners.

I was very, very careful to limit just how hard I would have to test my resolve.  Stark?  Severe?  Yes… But I knew I needed some distance and some solid practice creating new habits surrounding food to combat the old ones.

I needed some time to get practiced and strong.

I guess I knew it instinctively, defensively; so I was really careful.  I was really restrictive for several years.  At times I still choose to be restrictive.

One more side note?  Remember…  This wasn’t just about losing weight for me.  I was in a fight to beat type 2 diabetes.  So I had a little different motivation than most to try to figure out ways to change my habits for good, not just a period of time.


So this time around, standing with my sis and staring at the container of food I used to LOVE…  That is only around for a few weeks each year?

I caught the two little devils and their suggested thinking that wasn’t super healthy…  They’re old friends.  I knew their voices.

And I had a plan of action for giving them the boot…

  • I walked out of the aisle and went to look at Holiday cards.
  • I popped about 3 pieces of cinnamon gum in my mouth.  And chewed.  Hard. 🙂
  • I texted two friends about finding time for a healthy dinner or simply  TIME together to build some memories this next week.

Diversion tactics.

I’ve practiced them.

They work.

Getting out of that situation, finding something BETTER than the food gracing the aisles.

Taking positive action that resulted in something non-food related that I can now look forward to.

It worked.

I had a great dinner with two of my best friends a few days ago.  We laughed and built memories and just enjoyed time with one another.

It was WAAAYYYY better than whatever food tempted me in the first place.

Anyone else have any tactics that work at this pressure-filled time of year they would be willing to share?  

Obesity.

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Shay, firecracker Kora and I out for a walk! 🙂

My friend Shay said she had a blog idea for me.

‘This might be a touchy topic Bets, but you should talk frankly about what you think about obesity now that you are no longer in that medical category.’

Here are my thoughts on that topic… 🙂


At the time Shay sent me this note, I noticed a theme in my Facebook feed content; postings on fat acceptance, being ‘fat and happy’, miracle cures for  rapid weight loss, rampant and not-very-subtle, fat shaming. (Thin shaming is prevalent and malevolent as well, as my friend Taryn would remind me…)

Endless.

I feel that 80% of what I typically see is crap aimed at ‘helping’ people feel like there is a quick/effortless answer or trying to aggressively sell the ‘magic bullet’ to losing weight and getting healthy.

The part that I think is largely absent is discussion about managing and solving the oncoming tidal wave of issues headed our way given that 68.8% of our TOTAL U. S. population is currently estimated to be overweight or obese.

Let me say that again…

68pointfreaking8 percent of our U. S. population is currently overweight or obese.

Whoa.

A lot of the information out there is about ‘losing weight and getting healthy’, quick fixes or ‘loving who we are no matter what we look like’… There is not a lot of discussion to be found about solving the core issues surrounding the topic of obesity.

The hard issues and truths.

These are brutally difficult discussions to have because they are about people, their body and their very personal relationships to food/health/society.

So let’s take me for example. I mean, people approached me about my weight periodically.  And no matter what ANYONE tried to say or how they tried to say it, here is all that I ever HEARD…

‘Hey, Betsy, I can see you’re fat.

I don’t know if you know that.

Being fat is not a smart life-choice.  It’s not healthy. I’m sure no one has ever told you that.

Research backs me up.

I see a heart attack waiting to happen. I see that you are physically uncomfortable with every breath you take. And while you keep yapping about how you’re happy and healthy, I really think you’re protesting so loudly about being ‘happy’ because you’re trying to convince yourself that being fat and unhealthy is OK.

I think you’re too lazy to do the work to make your life different.

Why can’t you do a little work to try to save your own life?

Why can’t you just eat less and get moving..?”

Yeah.

THAT conversation – and variations on it that occurred over the years – never went well no matter who said it, how it was phrased or how loving or well-intentioned they might be in trying to help me find a path to health…

I really think they thought I would listen and not be defensive and immediately change everything I was doing…

Right.  

What would happen when someone tried to talk to me about losing weight? I would listen, thank them politely for their concern, be utterly humiliated and go find comfort food. Lots of comfort food. And then spend the rest of my life avoiding the person who tried to talk to me…


I obviously have some level of understanding on both sides of this issue now.

I hid from the conversations – real and imaginary – for years. Clinging with longing to those messages and ideas being pushed at me to demand that I be accepted exactly as I was, that society at large (pun intended…) is the one who had the problem with ‘fat acceptance’.  Not me.  Not my problem if they couldn’t accept what I looked like.

I was part of the obese population and related health problems for a very long time.  I didn’t want to face the core issues with my obesity and subsequent lifestyle-induced Type 2 diabetes. I wanted to convince those around me I was fine.  I wanted everyone to accept me as I was. I desperately wanted everyone to think I was a beautiful human inside and out. And there were endless conversation with friends looking for affirmation that I was indeed loved and worthy no matter my size.

From where I sit now… I can see that all of my posturing and fervent hoping was simply a way to avoid the core issues that I faced.

I was obese and unhealthy and didn’t want to do the work to NOT be obese. It is a hard work to change that kind of chronic thinking. And it is incredible amounts of on-going, non-stop work, to change life-long habits surrounding food and exercise.


Here’s what I think we need to acknowledge…

Obesity remains a taboo topic.

We have to quit ignoring the hard conversations about how obesity, and all that relates to it, is killing us and robbing our quality of life.

We need to talk openly about how the way to health, from obesity, is in most cases going to be a lot of hard, un-fun, not-sexy, work.

People need to take personal responsibility for their health and quit blaming ‘society’, genetics, life…  Those play a role, but in most cases they don’t have to OWN us…


So I’m going to do the only thing I can think to do…

I’m going to work, intentionally and consistently, to help shift the conversations with those around me.

I will talk less about weight and scales and talk more about fitness and quality of life and health.

I will be thoughtful about moving conversations away from diets and tricks and toward talking about life-long, healthy choices.

And  I want to talk purposefully and thoughtfully about reclaiming our LIVES from the grip of obesity while we still have the time and ability.

‘You have exactly one life in which to do everything you’ll ever do.  Act accordingly.  — Colin Wright

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On top of the world. 🙂