I am a 34 year old, wife and mother of two girls, and a Human Resources professional by day. In my spare time, our family runs a semi-professional football team, the Shorewood Monarchs (part of the Mid-States Football League) and I am a singer who works with a number of local hip-hop acts in the Milwaukee area. As a child, I loved participating and watching a number of sports, basketball, football, track and volleyball. I wasn’t encouraged or discouraged to be very active, but I liked participating in sports. Unfortunately, after suffering a bad knee injury in middle school, my ability to participate in a number of those things ended.
I can recall my parents encouraging me to join Weight Watchers around the age of 10, because I was “bigger”. I laugh about that now, as I look back, I see a girl, who was “bigger” in comparison to her friends who all were size 0-4’s. Nice way to create a bit of a complex for a kid. I am certain that, as adults who had frequently fought the battle with weight themselves, it was a way to try to impress upon a growing girl the importance of healthy eating and being cognizant of what I was putting into my body. Unfortunately, I think many of the bad habits that I carried into my adulthood were due to such an early introduction to a hyper-sensitive focus on weight.
I have not always been passionate about fitness. I liked sports, but I was never one of those people that were diligent about a routine of training. In college, I went to the fitness center as more of a social activity, than for a real workout. In my adult life, I played a few club sports, nothing intensive, and often started fitness routines, with the best intentions, but motivation and life often were quick to get in the way of keeping an on-going commitment. Prior to now, I had given weight loss the old college try through working out and proper dieting many times, but the most successful and most recent attempt was cut short after suffering another injury after losing about 50 lbs placing me back on the side lines. I had gotten into the practice of regular exercise, 3 times a week, and really watching my diet. Unfortunately, a lack of physical activity quickly led to a lackadaisical approach to diet as well. Before I knew it, I was 33 years old, walking around weighing more than I had in my ninth month of pregnancy with either of my daughters, suffering from high blood pressure, chronic sciatica and degenerative disc disease. Basically, I was 33 living in the body of someone 83.
I made the conscious decision that the life I was leading was not normal and definitely was not a lifestyle I wanted my girls to think was “normal”. After discussing with my doctor the many options I had to accomplish the goals I had set for myself. I began doing some research thanks to some help from a friend on options of bariatric treatments. I know it seems weird, but unlike most people, when I had been able to maintain a regular workout regimen, LIKED working out. I liked sweating, I liked the burn of the next morning, however the body I was living with didn’t allow me to even start on the path I needed to get there. Based on my doctor’s recommendations and my research, I decided that for me, gastric bypass surgery might just be the tool I needed to start on the path to a healthy me. I struggled with the decision, for a number of reasons. There was the stigma of the outsiders that say, “Oh so-and-so had weight loss surgery,” thinking I did it “the easy way”. There were also, my own mental demons that were telling me that this was a cop out. After continuing with my research, however I realized, gastric bypass surgery was by no means “the easy way out”. If nothing choosing this option would likely be harder. Once surgery is done, it’s done, there’s no turning back. If you fail, you can’t get a do-over. Two, the gastric bypass is not a guarantee to losing weight. Sure, many people lose weight initially, but if you don’t follow a proper diet and fitness routine, there are many people who have seen little to no change. I set one goal for myself and that was to never again look like my before picture, creating the ability for me to be more healthy and active than I had ever been in my adult life. That’s where my journey started again a year and a half ago.
I am healthier than I have ever been in my adult life, a byproduct of that is that I am also smaller than I have ever been in my adult life. I can be active with my kids and encourage them to do things they might not have done without that little push. My youngest daughter loves going to bootcamps with me on Saturday mornings. Working out is now my stress reliever, instead of something I have to force feed into my daily routine. It’s my happy place, admittedly when I don’t get it, I am not the best of company.
Knowing where I came from, knowing how my body felt when I was at my worst, knowing that I have two daughters watching me as an example drives me on a daily basis. Additionally, my rebellious hard-headed nature, wanting to prove people wrong. So many times you see people who have had weight loss surgery, who have gone backwards, regained weight, or just were complacent with losing weight not taking advantage of this new found health and option of an active life that they have been given. I don’t want that to be me, I didn’t come this far to turn back now. Additionally, many of my successes in this journey, I keep getting people who tell me that my story has inspired them. I find that funny, considering my one real goal initially was just make sure I was still around at 45, but if my journey helps even one person, then all the better.
My friends and family have been an awesome support system, from my decision to make an actual lifestyle change to my ongoing hurdles and accomplishments. They have been some of my biggest cheerleaders and have continually made references to my determination causing them to now want to push to achieve specific goals. The hardest obstacle for me has been myself. I am slowly learning to get over these hurdles, but I can be very good at talking myself out of doing things. I can be very quick to convince myself of “I can’t…” mainly out of a fear of failing. After getting past, I can’t lose 100+ pounds, I can’t run, I can’t keep up with a regular fitness plan…I am slowly learning that there has yet to be an instance where I truly can’t (do something) if I set my mind to it. Make a realistic plan and stick to it.
Celebrating my triumphs:
* Weight loss of 105 lbs to date
* Loss of 46 inches to date
* Completed my first 5k mud run
For the first time in over 13 years I am no longer obese or even morbidly obese according to that evil BMI calculator. I am officially only overweight and I will take that!
Typically, I workout in some shape or fashion 4-5 days a week, if not more. At least 3 days a week, I am at the gym typically doing a combination of 30-50 mins of cardio (depending on my mom taxi schedule), typically using the elliptical and/or steep inclined treadmill, and alternating weight and resistance training. In addition, usually 1-2 nights a week, I use the Nike+ Training program for Xbox360 Kinect to help with toning and strength. Every Saturday morning I attend a kick butt boot camp with a local company, Solful Fitness, to get a full body workout and start my weekend right. I have learned in my journey, I can get bored easy. In an effort to never get bored with my workout, I have to change up what I do. During the summer, I like to run, it’s a stress reliever. Admittedly, you will not catch me running on a treadmill, I have a fear of ending up on YouTube bouncing off of it. I also enjoy taking classes like Zumba and Cardio Funk.
I don’t take many supplements, however due to having gastric bypass, I do have some supplements I have to take to ensure I am getting the proper balance in my diet. I typically take supplements of B12, iron, vitamin D and calcium. I am also a fan of adding unflavored whey protein isolate to my yogurt, eggs, shakes, to make sure that I am getting my full allowance of protein in a day if I know my actual food intake lacks that. Typically I stick to a meal plan of under 1200 calories per day, obviously that adjusts some days depending on my work out. I use MyFitnessPal.com pretty religiously, to track my diet and activity. It helps me a lot with keeping track of determining where and how I need to supplement my diet based on the food I am eating. Early on after my surgery, the site was good for helping me to make sure I was actually eating enough, which was a struggle I was unfamiliar with.
* My next goal is to complete a 10k followed by working myself up to a half marathon, I am thinking in order to this, the next fear I need to stop saying “I can’t…” to will be running on the treadmill, since living in Wisconsin is not conducive to running outside 12 mos a year.
* I am really working on toning, so I know I still have some inches to take off, but I am a lot less focused on losing pounds, I think they will continue to happen by virtue of the work I am doing, but I am really trying to work on sculpting this new body of mine.
Some Inspiration to Consider:
There’s a quote from a movie, “The Bell Jar”, that’s made by the lead character Esther at the very end, that I recall hearing almost 2 years ago, as I began to embark on this whole crazy roller coaster of a journey. The quote says:
“If I am to be the hero, than I cannot fly from darkness”
To me that line has come to mean a lot of things, however the one theme that I really gathered from this quote was, as we set goals for ourselves we are going to face a lot of tough times or darkness. The road to any goal we set is never easy, but it is how we face that darkness that allows us to truly come out better on the other side of it. This quote came to mean so much to me as I have gone through this journey that it is now literally etched on my body as a tattoo (number eight of nine).
On this journey, I have had so many people tell me that my transformation has been inspirational for them. I am grateful for that, but it is honestly a little funny to me, because I did what I saw I had to do to ensure that I could appreciate a healthy life with my family. If my drive to live a healthy, happy life has in some way effected someone else, all the better. I would like people to realize that everyone’s journey is different, there is no easy way or quick fix that can solve years of mistreating our bodies. I chose gastric bypass as a way to get myself on the path to leading a healthy life, this is not the right path for everyone. If people do choose this path, research is key and knowing that this may be as far from an “easy fix” as someone can get will be important. Whatever you do, do you! You have to realize that this is a lifestyle change, that it’s a commitment for life, not just until you can fit into that next cute swimsuit or little black dress.
Remember it’s one day at a time, one check mark at a time. We all like to view ourselves as a home remodeling project with a to-do list from here to Kingdom Come. I always say, you can’t check off everything on the list at the same time. Take each item on your list and truly check it off, doing your best and then move onto the next thing. Doing any one thing half way could mess up the whole project and could have you back at square one again sooner than you know.
twitter.com/ellerazberry facebook.com/ElleRazberry phattofabulous.wordpress.com