Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ann's Story -- Her Weight Loss Journey

Ann's story is the second of at least a three part series profiling success stories. I am so happy to have met Ann and grateful that she took time to tell her story. Ann is a friend of a friend and now a friend. Ha!

Ann's Story

D:  Let's start with how you put on weight in the first place. Were you thin as a teenager?

Growing up I was always naturally strong. I played volleyball and stayed active but never really worked out. I tried cross country one summer and hated it. My senior year I strained my back and then a car accident left me with a lower torn disc. I knew I wasn’t a skinny girl but I assumed that I could stay where I was and nothing would change, right? College was busy and I gained about 10 lbs, not bad. When I was cleared to start being active again, I never really picked up any sports or workout habits. 

D:  Ten pounds is not bad at all. Was the gain slow and gradual or was there an event?

A: In 2004 things started to change. I was now married and we were expecting our first child. The pregnancy was going great till 24 weeks when I went into preterm labor. Weeks of bed rest resulted in a
healthy baby girl but I was now just less than 200 lbs. naturally some of that baby weight came off but not much. Our second child came one month after moving to the Midwest, far from family, to start grad school. This pregnancy had done better with less bed rest but I didn’t work out at all during the pregnancy. In our new city I found a group of girls that also liked to play volleyball. We would meet each Tuesday to play, and occasionally we would have a couple’s night. This is where I started to feel like I could be active again. I dreamed of extreme weight loss, but let’s be realistic, an hour of church volleyball and chatting doesn’t lead to weight loss, but it is a great stress reducer!
When my son was 8 months old I decided to finish my bachelor’s degree. I remember thinking that this would also be a good time to work on losing some weight because I would be out of the home. I could plan better meals, walk a lot on campus and omit all the extra snacking. Well, my intentions were good, but things never really got established. I tried the “Eat to Live” diet and went from 195-183 in a few weeks, but as soon as I stopped the program the weight came right back. It was so frustrating. 

D: It sounds frustrating, but that is pretty typical. It seems that unless there is a life change, diets may have immediate results, but they rarely lead to lasting change.

A: Frustrations come in lots of different forms, I haven’t mentioned it yet but I have two absolutely gorgeous sisters, and one is my twin. They both look amazing after each and every pregnancy. My perspective of them over the years has changed, but at this time I felt like I was the girl that drew the short stick. I was constantly comparing myself to them. Always shopping, spending money to try and find that perfect outfit that would make me look smaller whenever we would travel home to visit family. I had a false perspective of them and a false perspective of myself. Neither helped. Comparing myself to them only made me more miserable…and then I would eat more…a vicious cycle difficult to break. 

D: Wow, a lot of people will resonate with that.

A: Just after graduation we were excited to find out that a long desired baby number three would be joining our family. I continued to play volleyball weekly, but it still only remained a stress reducer. My husband was in the process of preparing to present his preliminary defense and we were making a move from an apartment into a rental home. It was a bit stressful. I talk about stress a lot; with each of my pregnancies I’ve dealt with post-partum depression. Thankfully after my first I was able to find the medical help I needed to keep it under control, but I have a history of depression, something most people don’t know about me, because I try hard to keep that part of me in control. This means keeping up an appearance of being happy and helpful to others all the time despite however I may truly be feeling…it is exhausting. 

D: I am astounded at how highly weight gain and depression positively correlate. What was your weight at this point?

A: My weight kept going up and when we had our second daughter I was 220. Frustrated, I asked my husband to purchase a treadmill so that I could start working out. He was so supportive and the purchase was made. I signed up for my very first 5K and started training.
Mid training I tore my shoulder in a volleyball game, so physical therapy started, but as my arm got weaker they realized that surgery was necessary. Two weeks after that race my shoulder was surgically fixed but it came with a setback. No workouts for 2-4 months. I felt defeated. I finally was making some good choices and building up my activity levels and now I couldn’t do anything. Holding my five month old baby was difficult, caring for the other two one-handed wasn’t easy either. We accepted a summer internship and it was there that we found out that we were pregnant with baby number four -- a complete surprise! How was all this supposed to work? I was still over 210 and I never saw my husband. I took it one day at a time and stayed very busy to help manage everything. Thirteen piano students, one daughter now in school, one son in preschool, a husband preparing his final defense and I was keeping the fort down. I snacked all the time. I told myself at first that it was to help with the nausea of the first trimester. In truth it was a comfort, a crutch, something to make me feel better. Well it worked, I didn’t go crazy, but it didn’t help the scale either. 

D: Taking it 'one day at a time' is good advice. I can't imagine how difficult and frustrating that must have been. When did your weight peak?

A: Two months after I delivered my 2nd son I weighed 255 lbs. For the most part I was happy. I avoided mirrors and photos and tried to make up for it in other areas. This lead to some hobbies and talents that I truly enjoy now, but they didn’t fix the root problem. My son came three days after my husband’s final defense. We packed up the house, made a trip to visit family and then moved to another new city to start his career. 

It's fun to have to give away bog clothes!

D:  What turned things around for you?

A: While waiting to close on our home, we rented a two bedroom apartment with no air conditioning, a tiny kitchen and on an upper level. I found that my previous struggles with depression were starting to come back and I wasn’t ready to deal with those again, so I decided it was time to make some permanent changes. Running wasn’t that bad the last time I tried it, so a friend and I decided to train for another 5K. We had five months so we started the “Couch to 5K” program. I also met some ladies at this time who attended the same church as me. They are beautiful and athletic and they run half marathons. I remember being so impressed. My twin is a runner and I’ve always admired her ability to maintain this activity as a mother, so I started making plans. I signed up for a six mile trail run called the “Frosty Trails” in January of 2013. I told myself if I felt good after that I would consider running a half marathon too. Several other friends included me in their training plan and we prepared for the KY Derby half marathon for April. I trained hard and met some amazing friends who I continue to run with today. I finished my first half in 02:26:00 and I was so proud of myself. My family came with me to support me on the race, they were there at the start line, then at mile four, then mile 12 and then at the finish line. My husband has continued to make it possible for me to race. 

The running pictures were one year and 50 pounds apart!

D:  Having a supportive family seems to be common with success stories. Did you do any other events?

A: I ran two other half marathons and a 6 mile race in 2013. Now in 2014 this last April I repeated my first ½ marathon setting a PR of 2:17:00. A year and a half of running and being aware of what I eat has helped me lose 77 lbs. I have a goal to lose a total of 100 lbs and I’m getting there! I now run 10-20 miles a week and heavy lift daily. A YMCA membership has helped me spend more time building more muscle because their gym is amazing. I am surrounded by women of all ages, mothers, grad students, single women all working out because they too want to be stronger and healthier. No one is there training for a body building competition or racing around the track to show off a 6 minute mile. No one compares, no one judges, everyone just encourages each other

Ann with an old pair of shorts
D: What advice would you give to someone in a similar situation as the one you were in after your last baby? What did you do to deal with certain setbacks and difficulties?

A: Depression: There is nothing wrong with asking for help to manage depression. For me it centered around my hormones changing and pregnancy. What a blessing to have a doctor that knew how to readjust things so that I could be happy. 

High expectations and Comparing myself to others: I had to learn to like myself and my body. I’m not like my sisters and that’s okay. We all have something that we would like to change about ourselves. 

Stress: I needed to find a new way to deal with it. Eating wasn’t the best option that fit with the fitness and weight loss goals that I was trying to achieve. I had to be honest with myself and stop making excuses. I figured out what my stressors were and then looked for healthy ways to manage them rather than turning to food. 

Diet: I try now to take good supplements and watch the calories that I eat. I track with My Fitness Pal and use a heart rate monitor to follow my calories burned while working out. I’m trying to eat more fruits and veggies and make more foods from scratch. 

Ann recruiting her daughter into running

D: I am a big advocate of My Fitness Pal. What else has worked for you?

A: Things that work great for me: Find a buddy (or two) who can workout with you or help trade kids. Sign up for an event; this motivates me to train for something. Plus that wall of medals and photos is really motivational!! If you have a cheat day or meal that’s okay. Just don’t let it turn into a week-long episode. Pick yourself up remind yourself of your goals and keep on going. Find a balance with the other things in your life. I rely strongly on a balance between a few big things. Spirituality, Physical Performance, Education, Emotion, and Family. I have found that I need to be doing something in each of these areas to help me feel well rounded. So daily I try to focus on something small that meets each category. My family is a huge part of my life and with little kids, I want them to know that I am never putting other things before them. If I have a workout planned I try to make sure they have a fun activity to do or they can work out with me. Meal time as a family isn’t negotiable. We eat together no matter what, and at the dinner table, where everything else for 30 minutes is put aside. Is losing weight and running easy? No but neither is life. I love this challenge and I love the results that I see from the hard work.

Ann and a running buddy at the KY Derby half

D: Thank you, Ann. Your story is inspiring. Please keep me posted on further progress. We would love to do an update as a blog post as you hit goals and milestones.

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