“I’ll begin with a note that I have a congenital heart defect. I’ll spare you the medical name for it, as it’s a mouthful, but in short, I had a leak in one of my valves. Surgery wasn’t necessary, but I did see a cardiologist at least once a year, and I was always told not to push myself past the point of pain or shortness of breath, hence why I loved swimming. When I got so big so quickly, the problem was just exacerbated, but I didn’t take any steps to overcome my weight gain, and my mother just chalked it up to teenage awkwardness, so I always had an excuse. This part will be important in a little bit.
I’ll start off by saying I wasn’t always big. When I was a kid, I did ballet and I would spend up to 18 hours (not a typo) a day in the pool. I was lean and wiry, I ate a lot, slept hard, and was very healthy. However, the pool wasn’t always available to me after age 12; I wasn’t as active after that, but I kept eating like I was: two Big Macs, a large fry, and large soda in one sitting was pretty much the norm for me. As you can guess, the weight piled on in no time flat, and I went from being a girls’ Small/Medium to a women’s size L/12 in about a year. My stretch marks got stretch marks. As you can imagine, my teens were f***ing miserable for me.
This pattern continued until I got married in 2002 and then it all went even more downhill really quickly. When I got pregnant with my son in 2004, I was 150lbs. Not terrible, but certainly not fit. I worked a job where I sat on my butt the entire 8-12 hours, with co-workers who would make fast food runs whenever I asked them to (which was almost every night). I couldn’t run, I couldn’t even jog, and doing a pushup? Ha, nope. I ate pretty much what I wanted and used my pregnancy as an excuse to treat myself all the time. Then it turned out that I had preeclampsia and was borderline diabetic. I ballooned up to 250lbs, and my birth story is so bad my OBGYN urged me not to have any more kids.
Fast forward to mid-2005 and I had only lost about 20lbs, when I really should have been a little closer to my pre-pregnancy weight. I was tired all the time and dealing with a nasty case of PPD, so everything just doubled down on me. I kept eating crap, not doing anything to help myself, which caused me to be depressed, which caused me to eat crap, etc. I was stuck in a terrible negative feedback loop. It was one of the many factors that cost me my marriage. I can’t blame him for that: I wasn’t attracted to me, either. In 2008, I was divorced, depressed, angry, upset, all the emotions one can feel.
By cleaning up my eating a little and lightly using appetite suppressants, I hit about 180lbs in 2009, and about that time, Sheena and I discovered P90X, which was the hot new routine on the market. We both figured “90 days? In the comfort of a living room? Pfft, no problem!” and hit it hard. I discovered that I loved the Kenpo (boxing) routine, but all of it helped me shed pounds like crazy. I went out and bought a bathing suit and shorts for the first time in a decade! I lost weight and gained confidence in myself and my body’s ability to keep up with what I wanted to do. I quickly got down to 150lbs in those 90 days. I wasn’t eating the healthiest, but I also wasn’t indulging as much as I had before, for sure.
Due to schedules and life conflicting, Sheena and I stopped doing P90X together about 2010, and I travelled down the awful road of “How skinny can I really get?”. Ladies, DO NOT GO DOWN THIS ROAD. I started an unhealthy obsession with diet pills, which only exacerbated the problem with my heart. It already had to work hard to overcome the leak, but now I was stressing it out even more by not eating and continuing to work out in a private gym. I had erratic heartbeats and just a general feeling of malaise all the time, no matter what. I had to take a nap in my car during my lunch break most days just to get through.
When I met my now husband in 2011, I was 117lbs and NOT healthy, but in the other direction this time. I was skin and bones and stretch marks, but somehow, he overlooked all that and we fell in love very quickly. As a former bodybuilder, he took me in hand and helped me beat my diet pill addiction, along with showing my how to eat healthy and create a workout routine that I would actually enjoy doing. I bounced up to a healthy 135lbs, gaining serious muscles! I could do one unassisted pull up, squat 105lbs, deadlift 95lbs, and bench press about 90lbs. Not big numbers, but I was excited with my progress. The best part to me was that, even though I put on 20lbs, I still fit in my size 4s. How?? Because I replaced the fat with muscle. I wasn’t skinnyfat anymore! As women, we fear getting big and bulky, but hormonally, it’s impossible for us to get as big as a guy without being on steroids. I promise!!
The strangest and best side effect to my lifting and healthy living came up when I visited my cardiologist in 2016. My husband pushed me to go since I hadn’t been in quite a few years. The same doctor who saw me as a kid was still practicing, so she was able to see me now, which meant she knew what she would be looking for. As she moved the wand around my goopy chest, her brow furrowed. I got nervous that I had made my defect worse with all my diet pills and crappy food, but she looked at me and said “I can’t believe it. I have looked in the same spot as before, but there is nothing there. The defect is GONE. You simply have a slight murmur now. Whatever you’re doing, KEEP DOING IT.”
I’m not saying clean eating and working out will solve every health problem, nor is it a magic pill, but it worked for me. Ladies, I’ve been up and down and up and down on the yo-yo of weight, being 117 and 230. Now, I’m at a healthy 135lbs, 20% body fat, 35/25/36 measurements, living my best life at the age of 36. I eat clean 80% of the time and treat myself the other 20%, so I never feel deprived. I box and kickbox 5 days a week, and lift heavy 3 days a week. I’ll run the occasional 5k and do a mud run once a year or so. I enjoy everything life has to offer and I never feel like I’m missing out. I’m also a positive influence on my son, who always encourages me to “GET SWOLE MOM”. Yes, I still have cellulite, yes, I still have thigh and arm jiggles, and yes I lost my boobs on my fitness journey, but I gained something so much more: a sense of self-worth and a greater self-esteem. I’ll take those anyday.
I couldn’t have done it without Sheena there at the beginning of my journey with her Can Do attitude, her pushing me forward, and always believing in me. Nothing has changed in her attitude between then and now. She will absolutely do the same for you!
Trust the process, enjoy the journey, love your life. <3