Tuesday, May 13, 2014

From Obesity to Fitness -- The Journey for Three Women

At a recent athletic event for one of my children, I sat by a couple who had not seen me since December. I am down almost 40 pounds since January 5th and it is showing in my face and neck. Kelly asked how much I had lost and what I had been doing. I told her that I was putting in a lot of miles each week running, I was regularly mountain biking and was using My Fitness Pal to carefully watch my intake. Her response was, "Oh, why is it so easy for men to lose weight and so hard for women?" I could have let it go, but responded, "Maybe you think running 40 miles per week, biking and me depriving myself of one of my favorite passions, food, for months at a time is easy." She was embarrassed and nodded in acknowledgement. There was no friendship lost. She is one of the best people I know, and we have spoken since as though nothing was said earlier.

The point is that it may be easier for me or men in general to lose weight, but it is a bad assumption to assume that any individual situation is easy (or hard, or anything). We can only speak in generalities.

The success stories seem to have desire, discipline and pain tolerance at their core. Failure occurs when one is missing. Fortunately, all three can be improved.

Here I profile three women with similar stories on successive posts and make some observations. I will begin with Heather Dittenber. Heather showed up in my facebook news feed as a participant in a run. Though impressive, one of the best features of the photos below is not her weight drop, but her facial expression in successive years. The difference between the first three and the last three is stark.

Heather's Story

Pictures of Heather running the Fifth Third River Bank Run in successive years

I friended her on facebook, got her permission to do a write-up and asked her some questions.

D:  What made you decide to get fit?

H:  It was a combination of things. It started with my sister-in-law talking me into doing the 5th 3rd 5k. We wanted to do one that was huge I started running and exercising and joined the YMCA after that but never really changed eating habits. I got sick of always trying to stay out of pictures when my hubby would take pictures of our children. I hated buying clothes from the big girl catalog and hated sitting in the bench at the park while the kids played. I wanted to play with them.

D: What was your weight loss journey like?

H: I am 5'6" and my top weight was 298. My lowest was 173. I have a lot of that weight is extra skin and a lot of muscle. I met a trainer at the YMCA, and they were having a 'Choose to Lose' competition so I joined his team. In the 10 week program I lost 61 lbs . In that program I met a woman who was very into fitness she got me in to weights but I wasn't as strict with my diet so It took me a total of 10 months to lose 100lbs.

Side Note: I'm not sure if you are aware of the latest, big weight loss story, but Shape Magazine has decided to run with a story and photos of Brooke Bingham which show her excess belly skin after weight loss. The reality is that skin loses elasticity over time, and only surgery can remove it to any significant degree. When Heather talks about excess skin, it comes as a consequence of weight loss, unless you lose weight in your teens and even then there is excess skin. You can see Brooke's photos HERE.

 D: That is impressive! What other things do you do besides run and lift weights?

H: I like boxing but not great at it. I have a friend who has a boxing class at the Y and I love that. Other than that, no. I don't have tons of time with 2 younger kids and a husband and not willing to sacrifice running or lifting for much of anything

D:  Another blogger mentioned that your husband is very supportive. 

H:  I have a super supportive husband who will buy me all kinds of spices to change things up and he always has my food prepared when I get home from the gym. He has even started running and loving the gym. When the kids complain, he would always say.. 'mommy going to gym gives her more years with us. Please don't make her feel guilty.' He is my greatest fan. He has literally loved me through 'thick and thin.'

D:  Were you thin in High School?

H:  I was thin in High School

D:  How did you get heavy in the first place? Was pregnancy a part of it? 

H: I wish I could blame it on that. I became depressed around 22yrs old, and got put in anit-depressants. I put 60lbs on in 3 months and just continued to try different meds until one day I decided I wasn't taking this crap medicine any more, and I was going to fight it! I got out of the depression med free but still hung onto to weight. And I love food. I always say...unlike alcoholics who can choose to stay away from their addiction, food addicts have to eat to live.

D: What advice would you give someone starting out on their own fitness/weight loss journey?

H: Find something you love to do, and make meals ahead of time. Being prepared is very important! Drink water! We are made mostly of water if we don't give our body water it will hold onto what it has. Find a partner with like minded goals.

Heather is also an impressive weight lifter. She dead lifts 225, no grips. Her max squat is also 225. Her max bench is 165, and she leg presses 440.

Heather is open, kind and delightful. Her story is inspirational.
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