Docking the boat.

IMG_1625
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…


IMG_1435
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.

Cruise.

img_1459
392ish pounds on the left, 190ish pounds on the right.

‘Travel far enough, you meet yourself.’ — Cloud Atlas

I am leaving for a 16 day cruise.

Like…  I’m in the Portland airport and waiting for my plane to board.

This cruise is for work.  (I know, I know. I’m LUCKY and I really do have a great job!)

It’s a freaking once-in-a-lifetime-dream trip on a luxury cruise ship! Where do I get to go?!  From Florida through the Panama Canal and up to San Francisco with stops in 7 AMAZING countries and ports!  I am so lucky and truly honored that they would entrust me to represent our university and work with a bunch of adventure-seeking alumni.  I want to make the most of this opportunity!

So, I’m sitting at the airport and waiting for my flight to board.

And I’m fighting some anxiety. I have been for a few months.

I love travel and adventure and meeting new people and seeing new places.  That’s not at all what this particular anxiety is about…

This cruise is going to be an extended test of every piece of my lifestyle that I have worked so hard to cement, embrace and put in place.  It’s seriously shaking up my carefully crafted, intentional routine.

There will be unlimited, gourmet food.  No set routines.  I’ll be ‘unplugged’ for 16 days.

Did I mention the unlimited food?

Sounds like a version of heaven-on-earth that most of us dream of — right?!

I’m not entirely sure as I get ready to board the plane. I’m a little scared about this adventure.  But I think I’ve done my best to prepare.


This is really my first big trip since losing weight, reversing Type 2 Diabetes, learning to run and adopting a plant-based lifestyle.

I can’t help but compare the old/new me from time to time. In getting ready for this adventure I noticed a few really, really cool things about my new life:

  • I didn’t have to worry about packing insulin, needles, prescriptions bottles.
  • I got to buy a 2 piece bathing suit. (Polka dots!)
  • My running shoes were the very first thing given space in my suitcase.
  • I bought a sexy little cocktail dress that’s uncharacteristically daring for me.
  • I won’t be needing the seat belt extender on the plane. 🙂

When the advertising pieces for this luxury cruise were sent out there was a lot of emphasis on the food, french pastries, buffets, restaurants, eating…

So of course, as a former 400-pounder, that’s what I’ve been worried about for the last four months.

My former self would have CHERISHED this opportunity to gorge, indulge, over-eat, have food be a central focus, try ALL the new foods with NO EXCUSES needed.

I have spent the last few months making sure ‘that girl’ doesn’t show up on this trip.  She’s not invited. She’s not part of my life anymore. I know she lurks in the shadows at times, sometimes she sneaks back in beside me and I have to remind her to go away. 

I knew this would be a test. A really solid opportunity for me to see how all of these changes in my life can work when I’m out of my carefully crafted routine.


They told me I had been selected to go on this cruise.  And…

First, I panicked. (Hey. I’m human. This process of embracing a radically different lifestyle is NOT linear, as much as I would love it to be. How would my ‘new’ life work in this environment?)

Second, we reached out immediately and put a food plan in place with the boat. They know I eat plant based. They wrote me a really cool note telling me they were thrilled to be preparing food just for me.

Third, I have spent weeks reaching out to a handful of friends and asking for their support, encouragement, ideas. I got just what I wanted and needed from these wonderful souls because, well, I have amazing friends.

Here were their best advice and reminders…

  • One meal at a time. That’s all I have to focus on. Make one smart food choice at a time.
  • BE MINDFUL. Think about the food you choose to eat and make sure — each time — that it aligns with the goals you have for your life off of the boat.
  • BE PRESENT. Relax.  Enjoy.  LIVE.  Embrace the adventure. This is NOT just about food… Don’t make it all about food.
  • Stick to an activity plan, but get creative and USE the boat, new friends and the port visits to keep moving.
  • Journal and track your food. Those tools work for you, and they’re totally portable. 🙂

I’m boarding the plane and headed for the boat.

The trip of a lifetime.

I’ve packed and prepared and I think I am as ready for the adventure as I can be with good advice and a fabulous new polka dot bathing suit.

I’m ready to put this all to the test and see what new things I learn about myself in the process.

Bon Voyage!

 

 

 

It is NOT the whole story…

Betsy in sun
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.

IMG_5962
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.

IMG_8129
Signing up for the 100 miler.  Happy and excited and realizing I get to live my dreams…

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

 

My uterus is NOT falling out…

IMG_6855-web

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.”)

10497392_10203606711639607_6770474442744265797_o
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..?

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…

Food and a meltdown.

IMG_0904
Mile 46 of the North Face Endurance 50 miler last month. All I wanted was oranges. (Wendie Gum, pacer/photographer/orange wrangler.)

Food owned me for 44 years.

Truth?

It still does at times.

It’s at the oddest, most random moments that a titanic wave of emotions about food gets triggered.

I have been actively working on my relationship with food for the last two years.

I want to have peace with food and eating.


 

Right before the Holidays I had a meltdown. It turned out to be a productive emotional meltdown that’s moving me closer to that ‘peaceful’ relationship with food that I’m pursuing.

For me it was a big meltdown because – I don’t really have meltdowns – and this one involved tears and about three days of me feeling emotionally exhausted as I sorted out what had happened.

I learned something really good and positive about myself in the whole process; my coping mechanism this time around was conversation, with just a little bit of hiding/crying thrown in to keep things interesting.

My coping mechanisms was NOT FOOD AND EATING.

Huge win.


So what happened to cause the meltdown?

I have always said I was NOT a secret eater. I am not, at least not in the classic sense of making sure no one sees me physically eating and then hiding any evidence.  (Hiding candy wrappers, burying trash, dumping packaging at the grocery store…)

I’m not a classical secret eater because I would eat anything, unapologetically, in front of people.

But where things get interesting is that I was a version of a secret eater. I was a ‘just don’t let any SINGLE person have a clear picture’ kind of eater…

I’ve been very careful, my whole adult life, to make sure no single person knew my calorie count for the entire day.

Very, years-long, careful. 

I’m a ninja at this crap.

My thinking?  ‘If someone knows the totality of what I’m eating then they will KNOW with absolute certaintity why I am fat.’ Which might have possibly made sense when I weighed 392 pounds.

Now at 168 pounds, 4.8 years in on this epic adventure to change my lifestyle?

This is still my thinking.

You need to throw into this mess that I’m still carb-phobic at times given my background with Type 2 Diabetes. I am NO LONGER T2, but I still think about every bite of food in the form of counting calories, carbs, fat.

I still very much have a hard-wired list of foods that are labeled good/bad that I chronically weigh every food choice against.

Old habits.


 

I now have a roommate. My friend, and business partner, Spencer is my roomie as we work to get our business off the ground and running.

In the time we have been sharing space, I’ve been unconsciously careful to make sure that he didn’t know the full picture of what I was eating each day.  I didn’t realize I was doing this at the time, but looking back; it’s exactly what I was doing.

And I was really good at it.

Then he ‘caught’ me.

Spencer does most of the grocery shopping, we prepare foods to share and we have the same eating habits.

Spencer was showing me some new foods to try for breakfast. At my request.

At the time, I remember I was being a bit squirmy; I needed help finding some food options and variety in my eating choices.  I really was working to lose some of my fears and rules around food. Spencer was willing to help. But the desire to find some food solutions was battling big time with me not wanting Spencer to know what I was actually eating for meals.

I’m not sure how to explain that I specifically requested help with ‘breaking’ my self-imposed food rules/fears, and then at the same time I didn’t want it…

Welcome to my messed-up mind?

So, totally (at least I think he was) unaware of most of this emotional baggage that I’m dragging around the kitchen, Spencer showed me how to build a good, plant-based, protein packed, breakfast bowl.

I was on my own for lunch.  But had packed food from the fridge.

Dinner rolled around.

The meltdown occurred…

He knew what I ate for breakfast. He could easily figure out what I took from home for lunch. Here we were talking about what to eat for dinner. In the grand scheme of trying to hide my total calories consumption for the day; I KNEW Spencer, maybe better than most, could quickly calculate what I had just eaten for the entire day.

Please note… I eat healthy. I’m focused on making sure my running and activity are fueled appropriately. BUT my mind is not healed entirely… (You have probably figured this out by now.)

As I stood in the kitchen with Spencer, all I could feel was that my secretly screwed up relationship with food was no longer safe and secret. That is a SCARY feeling.  Spencer now KNEW what my calories/quality/foods were for the day.

I quietly lost it.

The tears I had been fighting back all day were going to spill over. I don’t cry in front of anyone.

So I did what most healthy adult females would do. I ran upstairs to my room, closed the door and hid. I cried for a bit. I waited for a while hoping he hadn’t noticed anything was amiss and we could just go about business as usual.

Not so much.

He was waiting to talk to me.

‘So we’ve obviously uncovered some painful shit…  You want to talk about it?’

I sat down at the table, with my dinner and choked on it.  I cried.  Felt like I couldn’t even begin to put into words how horribly, terribly vulnerable I felt NOT only because he KNEW what I had eaten for the day; but he wasn’t going to let me just walk away and not talk about it.

Bastard. 

So we talked. Haltingly. He patiently waited me out as I tried to find the words to explain what was happening. I’m grateful that Spencer gave me the gift of generous patience as I was beginning to process 45 years of food issues out loud.  He helped to safely and gently open the flood gates.

I wrote all of this down in a journal. I immediately sought out the solace, advice and comfort of my friends the Gums. We sat in their home and had an honest, tough, problem-solving kind of conversation the night after the breakdown. (They’ve changed their lifestyles and have the type of relationship with food that I’m trying to build.) I am also working with a great therapist.  ALL of this is what I have put into place to figure out how to create and sustain a healthy relationship with food.

I know that this is a key issue I have to continue to work on.

I’m finally done hiding food or my eating habits from anyone.

The best way out is always through. – Robert Frost

 

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. 🙂