I just want to be normal.

IMG_7972

I went on a group trail run this past week.

I had a meltdown.

This trail running group is welcoming and they encourage anyone to join them.  I know the individuals who go to this run are fast and strong and experienced.  I went into this run — which I had honestly been artfully, purposefully dodging for over a year — with trepidation.

‘Can I keep up?’

‘Was I fit enough?’ 

The answer turned out to be no.

I couldn’t really keep up.

I got dropped on the first set of hills.

I spent the next 90 minutes or so wishing I had not gotten momentarily, stupidly brave and decided that I would give this a try. I spent the time listening to some shitty voices in my head about being slow and worthless and a burden.  I was questioning my fitness and training.

I spent the entire run DREADING the moment I would be the last one to arrive to the top of the trail, last to the top of the hill, last one back to the parking lot where everyone was waiting for me.

Emotional shitstorm is the best phrase I can think of to explain what happened.

I felt like I was in over my head.  I was embarrassed at being the last up the hill. I was beating the crap out of myself instead of enjoying the company, the scenery and the privilege of spending some time running on a glorious early Spring Oregon night in the Mac Forest.

Spencer reminded me multiple times on the car ride home that all of the other runners are only worried about their run. They were NOT thinking about me at all.  Let alone were they thinking I was worthless, or a burden or that having to wait for me meant anything other than we follow a code of trail running that makes sure everyone who goes out on a run comes back in.

No judgement, only safety.

Intellectually I get that.

This whole meltdown is about my self confidence in the world of running.

This is about trusting the process that I am working through in establishing this still-new-to-me lifestyle of plant based eating, running and maintaining my weight loss. I run with some baggage.

This group had to wait for me in three places.

There is nothing that embarrasses me quicker, or more completely these days than having a group of runners wait for me.

Within about 15 minutes of a 90+ minute run I was flustered, negative and quiet. I thought seriously about asking Spencer to give me the keys to the car and I would just wait in the car.  BUT having to explain to Spencer, let alone the rest of the people standing around waiting for me at the trailhead  that I was quitting because I felt like I was in over my head seemed like a far worse option than just gutting out the run.

We got done with the run.  Everyone was waiting in the parking lot for me to work my way off the hill.  I made quick good byes.  Spencer and I jumped in the car to head home.  I wasn’t going to tell Spencer anything. I was embarrassed. I didn’t really have the words to tell him what was going on.

But we know each other pretty well at this point.

And I suck at poker.

I lost it and attempted to tell him what I had been feeling the entire run.  What I said among some other personal and strongly worded, emotionally laden, harshly worded self-judgmental  crappola was ‘I HATE BEING LAST! I’m so %^$&ing SLOW…’

I was attempting to process it all, through the debilitating fog of shame and embarrassment.

Why were the voices zinging around in my head so freaking nasty…?


 

I went for a run today and I got some really good thinking time in.

I kept thinking about how disproportionate my reaction was to the reality of the situation.

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?  And why is having a group of fellow-runners, friends waiting for me such a trigger?

By the time I got home from running today I had narrowed down part of what I was sure was really eating at me…

I needed to talk to Spencer about it.

‘Spencer. I think all of this stems from me just wanting to be normal. And not be in a spotlight for at least once in my life.’ 

 

I lost 220 pounds,  I reversed Type 2 Diabetes. BIG things — I get that.  Visibly shocking even and most people reply with disbelief.  I can’t hide my weight loss and changed body.

But what I have FINALLY figured out about ME…?  I reclaimed my health and lost weight  in large part to try to become ‘normal‘…  I’ve never really been ‘normal’ at any point in my life that I can remember.

I just want to be NORMAL.

I want to be able to fit in an airplane seat.  Buy clothes anywhere, anytime.  I don’t want to need medicine. I really don’t want people to notice me personally for any reason unless I wanted to speak up, wear funky clothes or do something that warranted attention.

I really, really just want to be normal for the first time in my life.

Honest.

Running is a big part of that normal equation for me. Even though I pick really long distances which most people don’t understand — it’s all a critical part of helping me reach a ‘normal’, healthy, sustainable life.

I was telling Spencer that when you are the LAST person in on a run; you have everyone’s attention. Casually, fleetingly, non-judgementally.  BUT for that split second you are the focus of attention.  And in my mind — since I’m last it’s hinging on my body, my weight, my ability, my fitness — and I feel incredibly vulnerable.  If I were thinner, faster, a better runner – they wouldn’t be waiting for me.

It’s a fierce, instant trigger for me. 

And now I think I’m beginning to understand why.

Running has become my most beloved tool, my safe haven in this lifestyle process that is constantly changing.  It’s the place where I get to be me.  ALL of me. No one else but me.  Where I get to build me into the person I want to be. No one else can do the work, take the credit or see the rewards.

Running is about a whole lot more than just the physical act of running.


 

I have told Spencer, as a coach and now as my friend and business partner, that I want to get faster, be a stronger runner.  He was asking me – in light of all of this – if that goal has changed.

No… The goal has not changed, but I was finally able to but some words around WHY I want to run faster.

I don’t want to be faster to beat anyone. I don’t care about getting on a podium.  It isn’t to shorten a race or spend less time running.  It isn’t to be seen as a better athlete/person/runner.

I want to run faster so I can beat the race cutoffs and finish a race when everyone else in the middle of the pack finishes.  I want to be faster so I’m not the last person across the finish line. So I’m not the last person to the top of the hill.  So I’m running so ‘normally’ no one is noticing me.

Regardless of my motivation — the goal remains the same.  The work I have to do to get there — well… That remains the same too.

It took some serious mental gymnastics to come to the conclusion that what I really want in ALL of this is just to be NORMAL

As Spencer reminds me all the time…  THIS is all part of the process.

I just want to be normal.

20150525_100852

 

What if I just give up..?

IMG_0053
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.

IMG_6364
This is how I feel about life. 🙂  No words needed.

Remember the moment…


 

IMG_8129
Wendie snapped this pic about two seconds after I clicked ‘YES, I really, really, REALLY want to register for the Mountain Lakes 100 miler!’  This captures the moment, the feelings perfectly.

‘Write a note to yourself while you are so excited. In those rare, fleeting or dark moments when you aren’t excited, you’re exhausted or you feel scared or unsure about what you have just signed up to do, you can look back and read the words, your very own words, and remember this moment…  

Remember the ‘why’.’Peg Herring 

Peg is my mentor and friend who at the same time also said…

‘I do not understand what you have chosen to do. Not at all. But you need to know that I support you 100%.  You can do anything you set out to do.’

So, here’s the note I wrote to myself. 🙂



 

Bets,

You just signed up for the Mountain Lakes 100 mile race.

Now you get to spend the next eight months training for it! Then on September 24th you get to freaking toe the line!

You are wholeheartedly, bone-deep, excited!  Giddy even. You spent the week walking around grinning ear-to-ear. You have gone to bed each night happy and very much at peace with the decision to embark on this wild adventure.

Josh Gum planted the idea in your head to run a 100 miler about three years ago. He introduced you to the idea of ultras and endurance sports. (‘You don’t have to go fast, you just can’t give up…’) The idea that you might be able to run 100 miles, you, Bets, – the former morbidly obese girl, Type 2 Diabetic, the girl who swore she hated running – this idea, has become an obsession, a deep-seated desire.

Since the day the seed was planted, you have been wondering, dreaming, becoming focused on the idea that maybe, just maybe, you might have it in your heart and soul (and legs) to actually run something obnoxiously, audaciously, fantastically long; like a 100 miler.

The last three years you have been dedicated to learning the art and sport of running. And while you’re just barely getting started, that hasn’t stopped you from totally falling in love with trail running in the process.  Falling in love with all of it.  The people, the sport, the experiences, the miles, the challenge.

Every single thing about trail running appeals to you, speaks to you, heals and nourishes and strengthens your soul.

You have also learned that this life adventure with trail running is not just about running.

This whole process of getting ready for and tackling a 100 miler is really about wondering if you have the fortitude and ability to take a really big, scary goal and then TACKLE it, own it, beat it…

This is about putting your hard-fought lifestyle changes to the test.

This is about getting stronger.  Brain and body.

This is about really LIVING your life.


You spent your 20’s and into your early 40’s as a 392 pound, morbidly obese, Type 2 diabetic.

You were ALWAYS saying to yourself;  I…

‘… can’t run.’

‘… can’t do that.’

‘… am too fat to do that.’

‘… am pretty sure that would hurt…’

‘…am too old.’

Here’s the kicker…

How can you really hate/deny/be fearful of something you have never done?

Be honest with yourself Bets. You had never gone running.  You weren’t eating healthy. You weren’t being active. You weren’t doing anything long enough to form an actual, honest-to-goodness opinion of your own.

You were just accepting the passive opinions about your abilities and limitations based on ASSumptions. (We all know what word features prominently in ASSumption.)

Well…

You are done assuming.


This effort will require you to give your very best on every, single, possible level. It will test everything you think you are made of. And you have been told/warned/not-so-gently-reminded by people you love, trust and respect that this is going to test things you never knew were going to be tested, never dreamed you would encounter.

This will change you.

‘It’s going to be an experience that will change you in ways that will surprise you.’  — Josh Gum

You are ready for that testing.

Not just on race day, but you are ready for the testing that you know occurs every step of the way during the training process too.

Gaining new distances, building your core/back, learning to fuel, endless practice running down hills, even more endless practice with speed work, running uphills, power hiking.

You want to hit that start line for Mountain Lakes KNOWING that you kept putting in your best effort every single time you put on your running shoes.

If you commit 100% to the training, on race day you can put all of that together and enjoy the magic that happens when hard work and a heartfelt goal start racing in the same direction.

You did not just sign up for this on a whim.

You have been tenacious, intentional and consistent in working up to a fitness level where you feel wholeheartedly ready to train for and do your first 100 miler. You spoke with Spencer at length about what you wanted to do more than two years ago.

With guidance from both Spencer and Josh, you decided you had the perfect race in your sights and you picked Mountain Lakes for your first 100 miler.

You know you can do this.

Spencer says you are ready to train to run 100 miler.

Team Gum (Josh and Wendie) have said they know you are up to the task and will support you 100%.

That’s all the validation you wanted or needed to eagerly hit the ‘sign me up now!’ button.

Now go throw your heart and feet onto the trails and get training for this sucker.



 

So when and if the times get dark or scary or daunting, I will look back on this note and remember what I was thinking and feeling.

I will also be reminded that this is not just about running.

It has never, ever been entirely about running.

This whole, amazing adventure is about something much, much bigger. It’s about owning and chasing down a dream. It’s about believing in myself. It’s about intentionally choosing to push into new, scary territory. It’s about living life to the fullest each and every single day.

 

 

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.

IMG_1006
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…

img_1459.jpg
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.

IMG_1538
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…)

IMG_5473
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.

IMG_4068
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?

 

 

 

Yoga. (Second chances…)

1927308b35a0921a9c21c43a6facf637_original.jpg

So let me tell you about my first yoga class…

I tried yoga about 8 years ago.

One time.

It was because I was on all kinds of meds with high blood pressure and was told it would be good for me and would reduce stress. I was also a full blown T2 diabetic and they were anxious to get me moving.  ANY kind of movement. They said yoga would be ‘gentle’ and an ‘easy place to start’.

I’ll be honest…

I grudgingly and resentfully went to the yoga class to get my doctor off my back.

I was around 300 pounds. It took EVERYTHING  in me to put on spandex pants and go to the class.

I spent the entire 45 minutes HUMILIATED.  Everything had to be adjusted or accommodated for me and my bulk and my inflexability.  Every move it seemed, the instructor was calling me out and correcting me. I was not only horribly inflexible, I was also trying to silently fight my belly fat rolls that were totally getting in my way and impeding my ability to breathe.

I hated it.

Every.  Freaking. Minute.

I left the class and proceeded to spend the next 5-6 years telling everyone how horrible, useless yoga was.


So fast forward to about 2.5 years ago.

I’m now reasonably fit, getting healthier. Working really hard to establish and love some healthy lifestyle patterns around food, exercise, my body. I’m really getting into trail running and openly aiming for an ultra.

I was complaining to my friend Kris about being inflexible.

Kris asks me to go to a yoga class with him.

He said the flexibility yoga could give me would help my running.

I reminded him that I hated yoga.

He supports me on this lifestyle journey 100% – running with me, eating my kinds of foods, listening, going to races, lifting weights… 🙂   I hesitate to accept his invitation ONLY because it’s yoga that we’re talking about….

I trust Kris. Entirely. He didn’t have to work too hard to wheedle out of me that the reason I hated it was because I’d tried it ONCE.  One time, long ago, when I was morbidly obese and I still very much burned with shame over the whole freaking experience.  I told him everything.

He promised he would go with me, that he knew the instructor and she was great. The class was small.

He said I would enjoy it.

He promised to do everything he could to help me feel comfortable.

So I put on my big girl panties.  Yoga mats in hand… We went.

Kris had to talk me through what to wear, what to bring and what to expect. Multiple times. And he knew I was still really nervous about it all.

But I have to say, as thorough as he was, he forgot ONE KEY instruction

I didn’t know this was about being QUIET and not TALKING.

Somehow the whole idea of yoga and meditation being quiet had totally escaped me…

I mean c’mon… I’m an extrovert.  I love social gatherings. I figured if we were all suffering to contort our bodies into these weird poses that we should be encouraging each other and sharing in the misery.

And let’s face it. I’m still just a little scarred from the previous experience.

It started off great.  I was actually starting to feel comfortable.

About 15 minutes into the class, the instructor begins to guide us into a pose that seemed physically impossible…

Sit up straight, relaxed and cross your legs.  Gently place the tops of your feet on your opposite thigh…

I said loudly and clearly, making defiant eye contact with the instructor…

‘THAT is NOT going to happen.’

Of course everyone looks at me.

Total alarm spreads throughout the very quiet room that I’d dared to speak out loud.  Loudly, out loud.

The instructor just smiled at me.

I am guessing that Kris is somewhere between embarrassed and mortified at this point.  He’s giving me the unmistakable SHUT UP look and the whisper/shushing that friends who know each other well engage in.

And I am now totally choosing to ignore him.

I said at least two more times…

‘What?!  Really?  That’s just NOT going to happen…’

At this point the instructor leaves the front of the room to walk over to try to help me.

Kris has lost his pose and composure and is now sitting on his mat, staring at me and openly trying to figure out how to help me.

The instructor pretty quickly, with just a few soft words, helped me find a good modification.

She kept smiling at me; like a GENUINE, whole face smile… Not irritation masked with barred teeth.  Looking back; I am guessing that Kris MUST have warned her about my history.

I calmed down.

I tried the next pose… with success. 🙂

I got quiet again.

I would bet at this point that Kris’s blood pressure and heart rate probably dropped exponentially. 🙂

At the end of the class the instructor even said she hoped I would come back. To another class. With another instructor. 🙂

I talked with Kris afterward and finally understood…  Quiet.  This is all supposed to be quiet.

What can I say… I’m a slow learner. 🙂

I have branched out and tried other yoga classes over the last two years.  And much to my shock and surprise, I have actually gotten to where I enjoy it immensely as long as I make the time and stay in a regular yoga practice.

So what happened to Kris?  Kris moved out of state and never went to yoga with me again. 🙂

OK… OK… I’m kidding. The truth is that Kris got his PhD about a month after the yoga incident and promptly got an amazing job on the East Coast. He now lives and runs and practices yoga in Tennessee. 🙂

Namaste.

DREAMS and perspective.

IMG_0665

I am not a journaling kind of girl.

Yet, for some odd reason, when I started this lifestyle journey more than four years ago; I felt strongly compelled to start writing things down.

I had no road map and I KNEW I was headed somewhere totally new.  So I followed my gut feeling and started writing in a journal.

These books are deeply personal and have become cherished time capsules of my adventures. They also happen to be largely a chaotic mess and perfectly inconsistent. 🙂

They were never written or designed for anyone else to see…

Race bibs crookedly taped in. Notes people have lovingly written to me stuck in random pages. Cryptic and short hand notes about blood sugar readings and countdowns of units of insulin scratched in the margins.  Reminders to stay focused. Indications I was elated, terrified, frustrated.  LOTS of numbers; weight, blood sugar, insulin units, running paces. Pictures taped in that SHOW my story.

I am not a fan of spending a lot of time looking back. Having said that, sometimes you really do need a dose of perspective.  A solid reminder, from your own point of view, of all the work you’ve done, all the good that’s happened, how hard you’ve fought for progress or change.

Collectively these journals remind me how excruciatingly small, but critical, some of the steps really were.


 

These pages also remind me that I was intent – from the very beginning – on building a new lifestyle. A sustainable lifestyle.

This was never about a diet. Or about losing weight. Or even about running.

This was always about trying to find health and LIFE and learning to be in love with being active.

IMG_0666
‘Going to stop Lantus (insulin) and see what it does…’  I was down to 2 units, from a high of 72 units daily.  A LOT of work went into that single sentence. 🙂

I feel oddly grounded with these books in my hands and my eyes on their pages.


They contain my dreams and goals and hopes and wild longings…

  • I want to run. On trails. Actually, I want to be fit enough to do anything active if I’m lucky enough to be invited.

  • I want to wear normal sized clothes.  Cute, fun, sexy, NORMAL sized clothes.

  • I want to learn to eat only when I’m physically hungry and my body is asking me for healthy food.

  • I want to be alive and healthy to watch my nephews grow up.

  • I want to reverse type 2 diabetes.  

My journals never mocked or hesitated or questioned or doubted. They never shot down my goals with reality. 🙂

My journal pages have captured my thoughts and emotions and hopes.

And I am so, so glad that I have them.

The gift of perspective is priceless.

Do you keep a journal?!!

IMG_0667

 

 

 

Guest blogger Jeff Sherman: I accidentally ran a 50K.

My friend Jeff run a 50K last December.

On accident. 

Why?

He didn’t want me to have to run alone. Seriously. That is the sole reason he decided, with less than 24 hours notice, to run a 50K.

When I tell people Jeff is like the little brother I always wanted and never had — can you see why?

You’ll read his account of his accidental 50K , but I have one of my own stories about this epic adventure to share with you first…

Jeff KNEW he had to fuel (consume calories) to be able to endure this event.  Josh and Spencer had hammered home that point perfectly. But at the first tiny taste of the Gu he had picked out the night before at the grocery store, he refused to eat his fuel.

He hated the flavor and texture.

This episode occurs like 3 miles in on a 31 mile day. 

He was flat out refusing to eat his energy gels.

I start yelling at him, begging, pleading, I even told him at one point to just plug his nose and swallow the damn stuff… He just kept looking at me (all of this is happening while we were running) and saying ‘No.’   And then would lift the Gu packet to his face and without tasting it — he would make a face and gagging sounds. 

After several frustrating miles, we eventually reached a compromise of sorts. 

We traded gel flavors.

After some serious coaxing he finally decided to try, and liked my salted caramel flavored Gu’s. I wound up with his barely-tolerable Raspberry flavored Gu’s.

I mean only TRUE friends would give up their Salted Caramel flavored Gu’s just to help someone else through a race.

Right?  🙂

Thank you Jeff for embedding and creating such happy and cherished memories into an event that I will remember with pure joy for the rest of my life.

Take it away Jeff, my accidental ultrarunning friend


Bets loves telling this story.

This was her first 50K, and I was privileged to share the experience with her.

Yes—on accident, I had the privilege to race with her! I was not supposed to run this thing. And, not to mention, I had not raced since high school, and even then, those were 5Ks!

So, in this single race, I ran my first 10K, half-marathon, marathon and ultra.

Bets told me “Jeff this is something we HAVE TO SHARE!!!”

Think of all the stories that would be in ONE race weekend report!”

I said “Ok!”

First thing: I DO NOT want to downplay how much work Bets put in on this race… her first Ultramarathon. She wants to be an ultrarunner and this 50K (~31 miles) was her golden ticket to becoming that runner. She worked her butt off for this race. Almost literally. 🙂 She. Trained. HARD!

Meanwhile, I was running maybe 2-3 times per week with her (on her short distance days) and she was putting in 5-6 days a week training for this crazy thing. She asked me to travel with her, mostly just as support from the start line, aid station, and finish line.

I was promised there would be little running involved.

“Absolutely, I am in.”

 

ferry boat
The great yellow ferry boat’s deck.  Spencer, Bets, Hannah, Wendie, Josh and Jeff.

The idea was that I would travel to The North Face Endurance Challenge (TNF50) in San Francisco with Betsy, Spencer, Hannah, Josh, and Wendie, as their friend. Not a runner.

Wendie and I would crew for everyone else. Basically, we would load shoes, water, Gu’s, and lube in a backpack and jog between aid stations.

Sounds like fun to me!

When we flew in to California, Josh mentions he is not feeling well.

I don’t think about the comment too much, other than Josh had planned on running with Bets. I knew she might be a little nervous about going alone.

The next day [pre-race day], we drive to San Francisco and pick up running bibs. When we get back to the house, Josh, Spencer and I go out on a “shake-out” run. About 2 miles in on this slow, flat, dry run I make a comment to Josh,

“You know, if you are too sick to run tomorrow, I think I could run with Bets.”

They both looked at me with shocked faces, and then responded with huge smiles and yelling, “F%*# Yeah!” The context for their original shocked faces is that, up to this point, I was adamant to anyone that would listen that I was not a runner. Just a friend of Betsy’s who liked being outside.

The fact that I expressed interest in the run, was a little out of left field.

Bets, Wendie, and my Mother (not on the trip) did not share the exact, instantaneous, enthusiasm of the guys.

“You have never run a 10K race before, let alone a f@#$ing 50K on trails!” – anonymous

Josh did end up being too sick to run… and the teaching began. Between Josh and Spencer, I “learned” how to run an ultramarathon at the dining room table in our rented Yellow Ferry Boat.

I have never listened to anyone so intensely before in my life. I learned how to eat a Gu (NASTY- snot textured sugar packet), when to take a salt-tab, when to eat an Imodium (extremely important to keep the Gu in), how much water to drink, how to run downhill.

I listened to every single word.

Still today, I proudly quote Josh Gum before starting a long run.

Race day arrived.

We woke up early, covered our feet in this nasty paste lube and sent Spencer off on the 50 miler. Meanwhile, Bets, Hannah, and I, had an hour to sit around and process the ridiculousness of what was about to happen. I remember saying (several times),

“wait… this is going to take how long?!!”

Oh god.

In my head, I know I can do this. Bets and Josh keep telling me this is about mental toughness.

That is 99% true, if you have trained for your race!!!

If I can leave you with anything from this blog?   Train for races. Whether you train with a coach or from a variety of online sources, it makes a difference.

Trust me.

Happy jeff

This picture was from Bets and I at the “start” of the race, when I had run my first 10K (6.2 miles). No biggie.

This is fun.

We were having so much fun! Stomachs weren’t upset, we had climbed less than 1,000’ in elevation, laughing the entire way.

Life was good.

Then came mile 16ish.

Both of us may have fallen just a little behind on fuel and we had some upset stomachs.

[Short preface: Bets told me I could go this far into detail in the story.]

This is a nice way to say that we left some dignity in the bushes along the course. Apparently, pride stays in the rental van when nature calls during ultrarunning.

The trails were a slippery, muddy mess from the rain storm the day before, so people were really not paying attention to our bathroom trail side-excursions… Well, except for one poor gentlemen who followed Bets off the trail, thinking that was the course. I didn’t know what to say, so I just yelled,

“NO!!! She’s pooping!”

Let’s just say Bets was not impressed with me announcing that fact to a squadron of runners.

Then came mile 26.

This is the point where a normal marathon stops!

We still had 6 more miles – with hills – to go.

Here was my attitude at the time when Betsy asked for a selfie…

Not happy jeff

This part of the race hurt.

It hurt really bad. Every muscle ached. I was sure this was what death felt like.

She was smiling, but holy crap this was HARD!

I know at some point I laid down by a porta-potty and asked Bets if she could,

“just leave me here to die.”

After a few choice words were thrown at me, I picked myself up and onward we limped.

The trail was absolutely beautiful… In hindsight. We could see down onto the Golden Gate Bridge, out towards the water on one side and beautiful valleys on the other.

All we could talk about… Pizza and beer. Bets talked about pizza and I talked about how I could taste the beer. No more disgusting watered down sugar packets. This was our conversation for the last 6 miles. Pizza and beer.

We came across the finish line happy for the picture, but it was really time to be done.

We finished a few seconds past the 8 hour mark.

finish

Looking back, it’s hard to think about how tough the run really was, because I keep thinking about how much fun I had running with a great friend.

We kept each other mentally strong and now have some really great stories to tell.

I would go back in a heartbeat, but NOT for a 50 miler. 🙂

Wishing Bets the best in the 2015 TNF50 MILER!!

Obesity.

1898468_10153407349946258_3440774341656045308_o
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

IMG_6364
On top of the world. 🙂