I have never been a super skinny person. Even at my lowest weights as an adult, I’ve had curves. But as long as my size 8 jeans fit me comfortably, I felt good in my skin.
I’ve also never been an athletic person. I’ve gone through periods of my adult life where I got into a walking routine, but I let my efforts peter out. I’m embarrassed to admit that the last really regular exercise that I got was in high school, when I rode horses almost daily (and if you don’t think riding a horse over jumps and for miles at a time equals active exercise, well then, you’ve never ridden horse over jumps and for miles at a time.)
In college I did practically no exercise on purpose, however walking or riding my bike miles a day to classes, my job(s), and back up fairly steep hills to get back to my various apartments each day actually kept me in pretty great shape. My weight just wasn’t ever an issue when I was in college. However, I did inexplicably develop an obsession with food in college because I thought I was overweight. This was even as I was wearing a size 4-6 leather skirt on a regular basis (that sounds horrible but the skirt was actually really cute. No, really.) I began obsessively counting calories and I developed bulimia, a problem I struggled with for several years. That was a terrible, humiliating and compulsive experience, and I’m 100% sure that it had no impact on my weight one way or another. It just made me feel awful.
But then I had my first baby at 23, and the minute I found out I was pregnant, the bulimia just stopped like that. I knew that I couldn’t binge and purge and have a healthy baby so I somehow just quit doing it immediately even though I’d tried so hard previously to quit with no success. And I’ve never been bulimic since.
I gained 50 pounds with that first pregnancy and with the excellent metabolism of someone my age, I lost all of my baby weight except 5 or 10 pounds without any particular effort. Sure I would have liked to lose that last bit of baby weight but it wasn’t that big a deal to me. As far as exercise went at that point in my life, I did love to take my baby boy out for walks in his stroller on a regular basis so I’m sure that helped me get most of my baby weight off.
I then gave birth to my next two babies at ages 27 and 30 and once again I gained 50 pounds with each pregnancy. With these pregnancies, the weight stayed on a bit longer. I remember feeling so huge after baby #3 was born but looking back at photos and remembering what size clothes I was wearing within a year of baby#3’s birth, I realize that my weight was pretty damn good.
By the time I was in my late 30s, my weight was as close to where I had wanted it to be at any time in my adult life. I truly did nothing special diet or exercise-wise to get to this weight. It just slowly came off over the years until I was really happy with it. I look at photos from when I first started dating my second husband in 2006, and from our wedding in 2007 and I realize that I was about as skinny as I think I will likely ever be again in my life. And it felt great. Again, no particular exercise program or diet helped me get to this weight. I just slowly lost weight over time.
But then, in late 2007 I gave birth to baby #4 and this time, at age 39, my metabolism wasn’t so naturally great as it had been in my 20s. Again I gained 50 pounds and this time, the weight didn’t come off quite so easily.
I was still 20 pounds overweight when I became pregnant with my last baby when I was 43 years old. That’s when the weight really started to hang around. It’s also when I started my thus-far fruitless attempts to lose weight rather than keep gaining more weight each year. Unfortunately, the latter has been the case rather than the former.
I invested in a really nice bike thinking that biking would be both fun and would get me in shape. I did find riding my bike fun but I never did enough of it to drop any pounds.
As my weight continued to climb,II joined the YMCA and I found that I sort of enjoyed running and walking on the treadmills as well as doing the circuit weight machines. But as with every other organized effort I’d ever made to exercise for weight loss, I somehow misplaced my motivation. Quickly.
Soon, except for the walks that my husband and I took around the neighborhood with our two littlest ones in their double stroller, I wasn’t getting any exercise.
I felt like such a complete failure as my weight rose and my motivation to try any new exercise routine became pretty much non-existent. After all, I had failed at every exercise program I’d tried. I decided that unlike the fit people I know, I just hate exercise while they actually enjoy it. I love a good walk but that’s about it. That was the main reason that I couldn’t stick with any program longer than a month or two. I couldn’t understand – and I still don’t – why I don’t ever enjoy any of the ways of exercising that other people seem to enjoy. What was wrong with me?
When Henry died, I was 43 years old and 8 months pregnant with baby #5. I gave birth to G only 3 weeks after my son’s death, and at this point, I became nearly housebound with grief. For 2 or 3 years I simply didn’t want to leave the house except to go to work. During this period, I was beyond unmotivated to exercise, and for the first time in my life I didn’t begin losing any weight at all after the birth of a baby. I started pregnancy #5 at 20 pounds overweight and along with the 50lbs I gained in pregnancy, my weight really began to spiral out of control..
Additionally,the psychiatrist I began seeing to deal with my complicated grief following the loss of my son began prescribing different medications to me in an effort to find one that would effectively address what we increasingly realized was turning into major depression. I’ve now been seeing my doctor for 6 years and I kid you not, we have tried at least 20 different medications to try to get a handle on the mental pain that came with losing a child. Most of these medications listed weight gain as a possible side effect and several of the ones that I have found most effective are known to really boost patients’ weight. Like, in studies of these particular medications, the average patient gained something like 20% of their total body weight within 3 months. That’s how bad these medications have been in affecting my weight, and between the grief that and the medications, I found myself mostly wanting to stay indoors and do nothing remotely resembling exercise. With my sedentary lifestyle and the impact of the medications, over the last six years, my weight has absolutely ballooned. I’m not going to tell you just how much I now weigh because frankly, it’s just too embarrassing. I don’t even want my husband to know how much I currently weigh although he’s obviously noticed that I am now – and there’s no nicer way to say it – obese.
Despite what I knew the scale said, I was somewhat delusional that I hadn’t gotten as fat as I have until 2 things happened; First, I started to have to buy larger and larger and larger clothing until the only place I could find anything that fit was in the plus size section. And also, when my sister and brother and I went to Chicago for a little sibling vacation last fall I was beyond shocked to see the photos of me from the trip. Could that woman in the pictures REALLY be me? Was I really that fat? Apparently so.
When we got back from Chicago, I joined Weight Watchers which I pretty quickly decided wasn’t going to work for me because I hate, hate, hate shopping for and preparing food. It’s hard enough for me to get meals on table for my family without also preparing a special WW-friendly meal for myself. Just as with my sad attempts at exercise in years past, I fell off the wagon.
I was totally disappointed with myself for failing at yet another attempt to lose weight, this time with Weight Watchers which works so well for so many people. And to add insult to injury, I gained another six pounds within only a few weeks of quitting the program.
Then, a couple of weeks ago I had an episode of such bad chest pain that I was 100% sure that I was having a heart attack.I’ve never felt any pain in my chest for any reason bit this had me doubled over in pain for hours. I told Jon that I thought I might be having a heart attack and he took me to the hospital. After all kinds of tests the doctors concluded that my heart was not the problem but my weight is. I was told that I probably have sleep apnea caused by obesity. I was also told that I am at high risk for a heart attack if I don’t lose all the weight I need to lose. Hearing this, especially in front of my husband, was super embarrassing but I did decide then and there that I have to get in shape. I hate the way I look now and I’m tired of feeling like none of my clothes fit and that I can’t wear anything cute. I hate being told that I probably have sleep apnea because I’m fat. I hate being told that I am at high risk for a heart attack. I hate the way I look in photos and I hate running into people who haven’t seen me in a while.
In the weeks since the hospital visit, I’ve given a lot of thought to how I’m going to lose the weight. I’m trying to be realistic about it based on what I’ve experienced in recent years so I decided that while I can work on eating more sensibly, a “diet” isn’t really going to work for me. Given that that’s the case, I decided that the only other option is a regular, committed form of exercise is the way to go, but I don’t want to have to go to a gym or pay for a gym.
I gave some thought to the most fit people I know. Pretty much all of them are runners, or at least incorporate running into their workouts. Even my grandmother took up running in her late 50s and ran until she couldn’t anymore in her late 70s. But she ran almost every day and won several road races in the years she was able to run. My sister in law runs marathons. My brother runs 5ks and half marathons. My Uncle John runs ultra ultra marathons of something like 100 miles.
I decided that I need to figure out how to be a runner too. It doesn’t require any equipment beyond good shoes and I don’t have to go to a gym where I’d feel like everyone is staring at the fat woman on the stair master. But how could I become a runner when I currently can’t even run a quarter of a mile? How could I get to a place where I enjoy running like other people say that they do? Because right now I straight up hate running.
I knew what I need: the Couch to 5k program. If you’re not familiar with this program, it’s an iPhone app that tells you when to walk and run at timed intervals until, at the end of 9 weeks, by using the app three times weekly, you’re supposed to be ready to run a 5k. I was already familiar with the C25k program because I attempted it during the period that I belonged to the Y and was regularly walking and running on the treadmill. But just like all of my exercise attempts, I let it fall by the wayside after a relatively short period. However, of all the exercise attempts I’ve every tried, I liked the C25k program the best. It starts very slowly so that really out of shape people like me can actually do the workout. And I love the idea of having an end goal: the ability to actually run a race. I would be so proud of myself if I could actually run a 5k or someday, even a half marathon. I have one friend who told me today that she started with the C25k program only two years ago and she’s; now running FIFTY MILE races.
So here’s the deal: starting today I am committing to following the Couch to 5k program 3 or even 4 days a week until I hit my goal of being able to run a 5k. I don’t know for sure how doing this walk/run program will affect my weight but I believe it will move the needle down in a significant way. I hope so anyway. I’m publicly declaring my intention to fully commit to the C25k program as an accountability function. Now that I’ve told everyone who reads my blog or follows me on Facebook that I’m going to do this thing, it would be pretty damn embarrassing to quit before I hit my goal.
So in the weeks ahead,, feel free to ask me how the C25k program is going and whether I feel like it’s helping me lose weight. I welcome your accountability questions. And now, I’m going to go pull on my plus sized running tights and lace up my running shoes, open the C25k app and put on my headphones and go out to complete day 1 of the program. Wish me luck.
Have you ever started an exercise program from a place of being totally out of shape? What did you do to get yourself into shape? Did you lose weight once you started exercising regularly. And if you’re a runner, at what point did you actually start enjoying running instead of just enduring it? Tell me about your own exercise journey in the comments below.