While the trend in our culture is to encourage people to see themselves as beautiful no matter what their size or shape, when I looked in the mirror, I could not see beauty, I only saw ugliness. I’m glad that society is more accepting of those who struggle with their weight, but I couldn’t accept myself. Sixty days ago, I decided to change the reflection.
I’m a former athlete and fitness professional, so I have a high standard for myself physically. However, in my late 30’s, I suffered a series of health setbacks. I sustained severe internal damage to my pelvic floor during the birth of my daughter. After seeing several specialists, I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a connective tissue disorder. This explained the injuries I suffered throughout my college career as a soccer player: 2 knee surgeries, several ankle sprains, and ongoing back and Achilles problems. The EDS was so severe after childbirth that I could hardly walk, and I was told by the specialist that if I continued any high impact activity that I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was 60. Around the same time, I had gained 50lbs in only 3 months and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I hit an all-time low 2 years later when I took my daughter ice skating in the winter and suffered a severe head injury, leaving me with permanent brain damage and severe vertigo.
Here’s the problem, if you’ve been in fantastic shape before, and performed at elite levels, that person is still inside you. And when you see yourself in the mirror at 80-100 pounds overweight… it destroys your spirit. Depression and self-loathing set in. My coping mechanism was turning to alcohol and crappy food. I just didn’t care anymore.
After moving to NJ, I joined Life Time and decided I needed to be stronger than my excuses. This would be my fresh start, and the 60-Day Challenge was the motivation I needed to get going. I felt that most aspects of my life were going well except for my mental and physical health. I needed to be able to look at myself in the mirror without feeling disgust.
The first few workouts were a real eye opener for me. I tried a spin class and could barely make it 20 minutes, I could only swim for 20 minutes, and I struggled to hold a plank for 20 seconds. But I had to stop focusing on what I couldn’t do because of all my medical limitations and instead figure out what I could do and embrace it. I quickly realized that I was going to need some serious help and support to get through this.
Thankfully, I found some incredible staff at Life Time. Mike, our team leader, set me up with some core exercises I could do based on all the medical limitations I have. He set me up with Brent from Team Burn, a group class where he was able to modify the workout so that I could participate. Tammy and Nicole from the pool, stopped to talk to me almost on a daily basis, and the trainers started to get to know who I was. All of this was an extremely humbling experience for me. I was used to leading others, and for the first time, someone else was leading me. But with the high fives and support from the staff like Jeremy, Alicia, Mike, and the awesome ladies in the Team Burn class, I finally started to feel something I hadn’t in a long time: hope.
One of my greatest challenges throughout this program has been food. I love cooking and I love eating. Therefore, nutrition was a major factor in my weight gain and also in my weight loss. I stopped drinking alcohol and cut out all sugars, fats and oils, dairy, carbohydrates. I ate only specific proteins, fruits and vegetables. I went from eating crap to eating extremely clean. I met with the nutritionist at Life Time and she reviewed my nutrition plan and gave me a few ideas to help keep me on track.
In my 3rd week, I was given another powerful motivator. I found out that one of my friends had been diagnosed with stage four cancer of the spine. Our kids were born only days apart, so as a mom, I was devastated. Her fight has been incredible and she became my inspiration. She has always been passionate about fitness, and on days when I felt like giving up, I reminded myself how she would give anything to be in my place: in the gym, working out, instead of undergoing chemo and battling for her life.
As the weeks went by, I started to see drastic improvements, not only in my appearance, but in my strength and fitness levels as well. I can keep the pace through an entire spin class, I can swim freestyle for 60 minutes at a time, and my strength increased significantly in the TEAM Burn class.
While this has been an incredible start to my weight loss journey, it is not over yet. I have now become a part of something bigger than just the 60-Day Challenge, I have become a part of the Life Time Community. I plan on continuing my weight loss challenge and intend to lose another 20-30lbs while maintaining the healthy lifestyle that I have now become accustomed to. Thank you for letting me love me love my body again.