“I began thinking about where my life was headed.”
Before my transformation
When I was at my heaviest, I weighed 245 lbs. and was a size 22. I was diabetic and had been placed on daily insulin injections. I also had high blood pressure and fibromyalgia. I was in some sort of pain on a daily basis. I could not participate in very many physical activities and was limited in things I could enjoy doing with my daughter. When I did attempt some, I usually paid for it by being in more pain the next day. Because of this, I believed that I was physically incapable of doing any sustained activity or exercise to change my health. I felt trapped in my body. For a long time, I was depressed and had settled in the "fact" that this was my life. It would only get worse because I was only going to get older (and we all "know" we fall apart as we age). I would one day not be able to function physically at all.
During one of my semi-annual health checkups, my doctor was reviewing my blood work results. My A1C (the measure of average blood glucose levels) was steadily climbing at each visit and my current daily insulin injection dosage was maxing out. My daily pain maintenance medication dosage was also increasing. As I sat there and discussed the results and the options for my health treatments, I began thinking about where my life was headed. I thought about how disappointed my daughter looked when I would tell her I wasn't able to go outside and play with her. I thought about the concern in her little eyes when she saw mommy hurting. I thought about her future and how she needs me to be a part of that future. In that instant, something snapped. The sadness turned into disgust and anger at myself for allowing my life to become this way. I had to do something NOW.
What I did
The first goal I set was to lose 50 lbs. I wanted to be able to say I weighed less than 200 lbs. I also wanted to get off of my diabetes and blood pressure medications. Because I hated "exercise," I had no specific plan other than to start cutting out carbs and calories. I started working out slowly on a Gazelle on almost every lunch break. For a visual reminder of my goals, I created two glasses to place in front of our TV and filled one with 50 marbles. As the weight dropped, I would let my daughter move marbles back and forth between the "bad" and the "good" glass, one for every pound lost or gained. The first 20 lbs. seemed to fly off. Then I hit my first plateau. I began working out on the Gazelle at night as well, and the scale would barely budge. I grew increasingly more frustrated at my lack of progress as each day passed.
In looking for an extracurricular activity for my daughter, I took her to try a martial arts class at Alan Belcher MMA Club. I was fascinated by martial arts and was hoping she would feel the same. While we were being given a tour, I was shown the women's-only kickboxing class that was in session. When I looked into the room, I saw women who were just... like... me. After my daughter's first class, we sat down with Tyler Hill, the fitness and nutrition coach, to discuss the kids' programs. While we were talking, I worked up the courage to ask about the kickboxing program as well. I made arrangements to try one out and was told the first thing I needed to do before joining was to make it through a class. I did NOT make it through the first class. I was mortified that I had to stop, but that only fueled my determination to overcome the embarrassment and prove to myself (and everyone else who had seen me) that this would not beat me. So I went back and made it through the entire second class. And the one after. I was hooked. My husband soon followed.
After joining, I quickly became part of this new "family." The staff and other members have been very encouraging throughout this entire process. As I worked my way up to four to five kickboxing classes per week, I saw the pounds begin to melt away, which only kept the fire burning. In the meantime, I also started following a nutrition plan that Tyler developed using proper eating times and macro control based on physical activity levels.
The most difficult part
Even with the passion that I've developed for kickboxing, the progress hasn't been made without some minor struggles. At first, the classes were difficult, but I was determined to get better and better. It took a few weeks to become accustomed to that level of exertion, but I quickly learned to pay attention to my body and pace myself. As time passed, I began to hit small plateaus with my weight-loss again. I had become fixated on the number on the scale rather than enjoying my changing body. The most difficult part of my journey is staying encouraged about my progress and how far I've come rather than frustrated by a silly number.
How I feel about myself today
Today, there is not much left of the old me. I have lost a total of 75 lbs. to date (I bought more marbles for the glasses, by the way), and my ultimate goal is to reach a total of 100 lbs. lost. So far, I have gone down five sizes to comfortably be a size 12. I am within weeks (if not days) of being completely off of my insulin injections and my blood pressure medication is down to the minimum level. Taking this journey with my husband by my side has helped me stay the course. The kickboxing program and its instructors have helped me feel strong and confident. I feel good about my ability to handle high levels physical activity, but, even better, I feel more able to physically defend myself if ever necessary. I now enjoy doing more things with my daughter. But, most importantly, I feel in control of my future, and I now look forward to seeing what the next chapter holds. Not done yet!
My advice to others
Know that YOU are in control of you. No first step is too small. Whatever the activity, whatever the passion, the most important thing is to just start. Find a mentor (or two or ten). Surround yourself with people who have the same goals and passions and encourage each other.