BEFORE MY TRANSFORMATION
I have been overweight all my life. It is in my genes and (also caused by) bad lifestyle choices. I had never been into sports or any activities like that as a child. As an adult, my bad lifestyle choices continued, and I continued to gain weight.
Eventually, I’d had enough. I had a small child who I wanted to watch grow up, and I didn’t want to be an embarrassment to him. I didn’t want to be that “fat mom.” I had tried to lose weight with every fad diet around (cabbage soup, HCG, Weight Watchers, Atkins, hot dog diet … so many diets), and nothing seemed to work. I would lose a couple of pounds to just gain them back along with more. Enough was enough — I was over 420 pounds and not happy.
My goal in everything was to get healthy, get active and see my son grow up. I wanted to lose 200-plus pounds, which is a lot to ask for. So far, I have lost 180-190-plus pounds, depending on the day. Right now, I am to the point I am not worried about the number on the scale. I am just trying to be fit and healthy.
WHAT I DID
I decided to have gastric bypass surgery in July 2007, (performed by) Dr. William Avara III. That was the best decision I’ve ever made. Gastric bypass surgery was the first step toward getting healthy. Some people think it is the easy way out; it is not. At 420-plus pounds, you are not healthy. Your joints and bones don’t want to exercise. Your heart and lungs do not want to exercise. It is HARD.
HOW IT WORKED
I had to find a place that I was comfortable being uncomfortable, then find motivation to stick with it. I am glad that I have done that. Paul Lacoste Sports, and then B.E. Fit, were full of inspirational people. I went from not being able to run a mile to running a marathon! Now I love to challenge myself.
In 2013, I started just wanting to run a 5K, so I trained with the Couch to 5K program and did it! Then in 2014, I wanted to run one 5K a month, and I ended the year with 32 races under my belt, ranging anywhere from a 5K to a 10K to an obstacle course race.
The next year, 2015, I wanted to do a half marathon; I did six. Then in 2016, I wanted to do a marathon and a triathlon. I got injured, so I was not able to complete my marathon, but I did complete three triathlons.
In 2017, injury got the best of me, so I decided to just swim and heal my body. I had to realize that I’d just spent several years shocking my body, and it was not equipped to do all of the things I was making it do. I decided to train for the MS Senior Olympics and an open-water swim in Key West, Florida.
2018 was the best year yet. I completed a sprint triathlon, an Olympic triathlon and a half Ironman distance triathlon — and I finally completed that marathon (26.2 miles). This year, I am going to redo the marathon and the half Ironman (70.3 kilometers) to get better times in my competition against myself.
THE MOST DIFFICULT PART
The most difficult part was getting comfortable being uncomfortable and realizing that my journey is my journey. My journey is not like your journey. I can’t compare myself and my place in my journey to where you are in your journey.
Nothing I do is easy, and I am not really good at any of it. I had to learn that it is ok to be back of the pack. I will never be fast, and that is OK — my race, my pace.
HOW I FEEL ABOUT MYSELF TODAY
Today, I feel strong. I feel ready to take on anything. We all have days where we feel like a busted can of biscuits, but I try to get past those days quickly. I don’t dwell on it when the scale goes up and down because it does that a lot.
With running, swimming and biking being such a big part of my life today, I like to help and inspire others to get out there and have fun. I have changed my career to lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons. I even helped start a Southern Mississippi Aquatic Krewe (SMAK), a master’s swim team. I love volunteering at Hurricane Multisport Races (I still run in the back of the pack in my tutu), and I am an angel runner for Ainsley’s Angels — which aims to build awareness about America’s special needs community. I also support Avery’s Army — a group of people in the Southeast who back Avery Akins and her family in their fight against Rett Syndrome.
MY ADVICE TO OTHERS
Treat yourself and others with kindness. Know you are worth it; you are enough. Get up and get moving. I wish I would have started challenging myself a few years before I did. Right now, I would not change a thing. I am the person in every race at the back of the pack in a tutu having a blast! If you see someone trying, please tell them “great job.” Do you know how many times I was out running (looking terrible, feeling terrible), but someone smiled, waved or said “great job” and made my day? That one act of kindness helped me complete my task. Have the courage to start, and surround yourself with positive people.