“You look like Miss Piggy, but she at least is sexy.”
I no longer know the man who said those words, though they continued to define me, sitting like barbed wire under my skin. I felt emotionally and physically drained. The healthy vanity of wanting to look good, dress well and love myself seemed to have left me. This feeling wasn’t new. I had lived for years with an Illness that all the best specialists in Ecuador couldn’t diagnose. My illness was embarrassing, inconvenient and painful. I felt the urge to use the restroom every few minutes, my bladder hurt, and I felt a burning sensation that wouldn’t go away. It affected everything- I couldn’t even watch a movie in a theater, because of the incessant need to pee. When I moved to the US, it took the doctor one meeting to diagnose that I had Interstitial Cystitis.
But this illness cannot be cured, only managed. The doctor explained that if all treatments failed, he would have to remove my bladder. At the beginning, he gave me pills. Sometimes I tried to be strong and avoid the pills but the pain was unbearable. I remember sitting one night in the bathroom and thinking, is this how I am going to live? I wanted to escape from my own body, but I couldn’t- the feeling of something burning inside me was always there. I also had difficulty sleeping due to the need to go the bathroom, my performance at work suffered. It was horrible. Later, I had 3 surgeries in 2 months. During those months ice cream, cookies and chocolates were my loyal companions. Thus, I found that I was 40 pounds overweight, inactive and lived in pleasure-coated candyland.
I wanted to run a marathon and feel good in my own body. I was hungry for life, but didn’t have the energy to even walk around the block. During this time, a friend invited me to a demo class at Life Time Fitness and I saw the 60-Day Challenge poster. I was excited, but it was an impossible dream. I started anyway.
The Holiday 2016 Challenge was hard, but I was encouraged by Gary Schneider’s belief in me. This was the stepping stone to Spring 2017. He advised me to join the Team Fitness class and to take the ACTIVE Metabolic Assessment. The test was a key to my success, as it taught me how to make the most of my cardio by keeping my heart rate at the correct level to burn most of the fat and no muscle. The Barbell classes with Monica Villagomez were adrenaline-packed, and she made an emotional connection with us, making us feel valuable. This made it easier to exert more effort in my workouts. But the single greatest change was that the core of my belief had changed. I knew I could do it. I knew this was my time.
During these two months, I have been determined and laser focused. I battled with my weaknesses. It was not easy, as I work full-time and take care of my mother, who lives with me. In order to exercise, I woke up at 4 am every morning to do cardio and did weights after work. I changed my diet after a session with the Life Time nutritionist, who helped me understand the right amount of proteins, healthy carbs and fat to consume in a day. I started enjoying eating healthy and seeing my office pants balloon on me. I also felt the beautiful pain of soreness, of pushing my body to its extreme limit. This was not the paralyzing pain of my illness, but instead a pain that showed my body’s increasing power.
My initial health problems continued to challenge me in new ways. Due to the interventions that I had had, the doctor advised avoiding weight exercises for my legs. I was scared of injuring myself and going down a pain spiral, but the team at Life Time was great at directing me to the correct exercises and form. Since I couldn’t run due to the doctor’s advice, they helped me to push my body in different ways.
Today, I find myself close to my ideal weight, my illness is in remission, I have much more energy, increased mental focus, and more self-confidence. My vanity as a woman has come back. I want to play with my hair, do my nails, and wear make-up. The changes are not only on the surface, but reach deep into my personality. I became more patient with my mother, more alert to her needs and am emotionally there for her. My cheerfulness is contagious and our home is a happier place. I feel like I have conquered myself.
I intend to continue taking the amazing Yoga, Zumba and Barbell classes at Life Time. As my heart rate keeps improving, in a few months, I will do another Active Metabolic test, so I make sure I am maximizing my cardio. Life Time had created a wonderful environment and will continue to provide a vital support to me.
As Matt Kasel asked, “Did you leave everything in the field?” It’s a question I will ask myself in life every day.