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Life after Weight Loss

A Bucket List Moment – Meeting Chris Powell

There are times when I can’t begin to figure out where to start…

My Father’s remains are in my car after my trip to Los Angels where I helped my Mother move out of the house that my parents had lived in my entire life and said good-bye to the one place, that no matter what memories it held that haunted me, I always knew I had to go back to if I needed it.

It’s been almost two years now since my Father passed away and inevitably my relationship with my Father seems to constantly put me in the right place at the right time. As I left for California a friend on Facebook asked “What do you do for a living Pandora, you are always traveling.” It’s strange the misconceptions people get sometimes, often we think someone is out gallivanting around and having fun when the truth is, life is falling apart all around them.

Things haven’t been easy for me this year, good yes, easy no. It’s been one of the most heart breaking years of my life. In January I pretty much wrote off the rest of my Family when I realized that no matter what ever happens, the drama that happens in that family will never be something that I can pull myself far enough away from without disengaging myself from it completely.

I spent the first couple months of the year recovering from my reconstructive thigh surgery, and what should have been five months full of me studying for my Personal Trainer’s certification turned into a much different adventure when my three-week “vacation” in March turned into something I didn’t expect. – There are some people who have been such an amazing part of my life, my chosen family if you will, and if they ever need anything, and call on me, I am there, no matter what. But the next few months had a lot of those people needing my help and I wasn’t really expecting it.

I wasn’t expecting to rush from Ohio to Dallas to help my friend deal with her Mother dying of cancer in an 11 day period from diagnosis to passing, I wasn’t expecting to take my course at the Cooper Institute without finishing all the reading in the book because I forgot to reschedule and just happened to be there. I wasn’t expecting to rush back to Ohio a couple of weeks later when Heather’s Step Father lost his 15+ year battle against MS and Parkinson’s to be there for her and her Family and I sure wasn’t expecting for my Mother to decide to move in the middle of those eight weeks.

I literally had two days at home, one of which I spent primarily finishing up graphics projects for the WLSFA event in Vegas before I had to unpack, re-pack, pay some bills and grab the puppy before we were headed off to California to pick up my Father’s ashes and help my Godfather Tom, run his annual Maserati Rally before digging our hands into a house project that he needed help with. After losing my Father two years ago, I never say no when someone like my Godfather needs me, no matter how much of my own life I have to adjust to make it happen. He’s 71-years-old and I know I might not have him for that much longer, so he is a high priority in my life.

Going back to the house that I grew up in for the first time after my Father was gone, was hard for me. I had walked out of that house the moment he passed away and never gone back inside. There were a lot of tears and bitter-sweet moments in that for me. Putting his ashes in my car was hard, knowing that I was taking my Father away from the only place he had ever called home in my life was a difficult task for me. Seeing all the memories and pieces of my life that were left behind because my Mother couldn’t take them was an emotionally shattering moment in my life.

To top this all off, I had also just received the news that my insurance won’t cover the final stage of plastic surgery I need to get my body back to where I am going to be happy with it after surgery. This has been a devastating blow to me, not something I am likely to get over anytime soon. My insurance will no doubt be paying for the mental health sessions I am going to need to figure out my way through this before it is all over, but I guess that won’t cost them as much, so they’ll be ok with that.

Exercising in LA was hard for me. Eating was easy and grazing as I stuffed my emotions with food exactly the way I used too, was a bad habit that was kicking back in for me while I was in LA. Sometimes when things get too emotionally heavy, we fall back on old habits… But just as I was starting to fall into the darkness, life threw me the answer I needed. It offered me a chance to meet my hero, Chris Powell and his amazing wife Heidi.

I could have cried when I met Chris and Heidi, it was absolutely amazing. I was so scared that I’d turn into a blubbering fool if I really opened up that I didn’t dare tell either of them what all was going on in my life at that moment, it didn’t matter, what mattered was that yet again, when I needed Chris and Heidi most, life found a way to put me in their path.

I jumped all over the opportunity to attend the ABC Extreme Make-Over Finale for Mehrbod at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood when I saw it posted on Facebook. In fact, I stayed in LA three extra days that I probably shouldn’t have in order to be able to go. This also made it so that I was there for more of my Mother’s move, and able to go through some of the stuff she left behind to make sure that things like old family photos didn’t end up in piles of junk that was taken to the dump or set out in boxes at a garage sale.

A Photo from the Finale that Heidi Powell posted on Facebook. Wait till you get to see Mehrbod now on May 28th, 2013 on ABC Extreme Make-Over Weight Loss Edition

I wasn’t sure if I would actually get the opportunity to meet Chris Powell, but I knew I would get the opportunity to see him live on stage and I knew that would be amazing in and of itself. Seeing my hero in action… what could be better. Okay, meeting him could be better, and it was. When I first walked up to Chris Powell he was talking to someone else and taking photos with them and he looked over at me, stopped for a moment smiled and said “Hey, I know who you are!” Then he went back to taking photos and when he was done and I walked over, he wrapped his arms around me in a big hug and said “It’s great to finally meet you.” By this point I was a little bit star struck, and I honestly can’t remember the entire conversation, but a few pieces of it stand out a bit. Chris Powell told me how proud he was of everything that I had accomplished, how much he appreciated me staying the extra few days in LA to come to the Finale, and how impressed he was with my determination to pay it forward. He told me that his favorite quote is by Gandhi “Be the Change you wish to see in the world.” and he said that he saw me doing that. He told me that I looked amazing, and asked me how it felt, and reminded me that from here on out, I don’t really even have to say anything to people, that they will see how far I have come, what I have accomplished and how good I look, and just start asking me what I have done to get there.

I got the opportunity to take a picture with Chris, and then I had the opportunity to meet his wife Heidi Powell. You want to talk about an amazing human being! I have never met a woman that exuded kindness the way Heidi Powell does. She is just one of those people who when you first meet them, you think, “What a kind-hearted soul and generous nature she has.” Of course I should have known this already, it must take such a special woman to share her husband with the world the way she shares Chris, and it was so touching to me when she and I had the chance to talk about our Father’s passing away. I had no idea until a post on her Facebook page a short time ago that our Father’s had passed away so close to each other, but Heidi and I had a few moments to talk about our Fathers and about how losing someone so monumental in your life can change it so much.  Heidi mentioned how it made her appreciate her time with Chris so much more, and how it made her fear losing him every time he traveled without her and I got a chance to share with Heidi how much Chris coming in and telling me he was proud of me once my Father was gone and could no longer do it had really saved me.

It was very interesting, because during the Finale, Chris talked a lot about “Falling without Failing,” the ability to fall off track without failing and ruining all the hard work you have accomplished so far. I guarantee if you watch the finale for Mehrbod when it airs you will hear a lot about this. I found it so interesting because quite honestly I was at a point that I was falling, for the first time since my weight loss I saw a weight gain of 10 lb. on my scale and instead of my normal panic that would set in and make me start working hard to get back on track, the depression of the bad news about the remainder of my skin removal surgeries had set me in a tail spin where for the first time I found myself thinking “What does it matter, I’m always going to look like this and I’m never going to be who I want to be or do what I want to do because of it.”

Then all of a sudden there was Chris and Heidi Powell. giving me hugs, thanking me for coming to meet them, telling me how great I looked and what a great job I had done. Then the next day, Chris went on Facebook and responded to a post I had made talking about how great it was to meet him and said, “It was wonderful to meet you! Keep up all you are doing. I would love to hear how your training goes.” – Heidi came in right behind him with “It was so fun to meet you in person Pandora! Wasn’t it an amazing transformation?” – Heidi had also thanked me the night before for all the updates I send them, and they both asked me to keep in touch.

I call Chris Powell my hero and it’s not something I say lightly. There are very few people in the world today that I believe live up to my expectations of a hero, Chris Powell is hands down one of them. In the two short years since my Father has died, Chris has single handily pulled me out of two of the darkest moments of my journey, one with a letter and virtual pep talk, and one with a hug and the promise of being interested in what I am doing to help other’s fight obesity.

There are not many celebrities that I look up to, admire, or say “I want to be like that when I grow up,” Chris Powell is one though, and when I say “Grow-Up” I’m talking about my wimpy little Cardio Queen no weight training muscles. But I have plans to fix that between June and October when I am doing more studying at the Cooper Institute, working with some trainers in Dallas to get some experience under my belt and taking on my own weight training program as if I were my own client.

Thank you Chris and Heidi Powell for such an amazing experience, meeting you in person was as awesome, moving and motivational as I expected it to be. You are both so special to me. <3


How Can I Help You To Say Goodbye

This isn’t going to be your usual WLS post. Unfortunately today I have something else to share with you.

Most days I am happy to stop and do anything I can to help someone along their journey. Most days I am happy to share my life experience with someone in order to try to make their journey a little easier than mine might have been. Usually I do so with an eagerness I can rarely explain to others. Today however, the journey I must share is one that fills the heart with an overwhelming sadness.

Yesterday as I ran the fastest 5k I have run to date, I listened to old country music as my Dad and I ( Yes I still speak to him when I run ) had a conversation where I sought the answers to one of the most complex questions I’ve ever posed to myself. Suddenly as I ran my second mile in under 12 minutes listening to old school country music I heard not only my question but as usual when I turn to my Father for guidance, the answer as well.

“Through the back window of a ’59 wagon
I watched my best friend Jaime slippin’ further away
I kept on waving ’till I couldn’t see her
And through my tears, I asked again why we couldn’t stay
Mama whispered softly, Time will ease your pain
Life’s about changing, nothing ever stays the same

And she said, How can I help you to say goodbye?
It’s OK to hurt, and it’s OK to cry
Come, let me hold you and I will try
How can I help you to say goodbye?”

July 5th will be the two-year anniversary of my Father’s passing, one of the most horrible moments of my entire life. and here I am sitting on a plane as I go to help the best friend I have in the world, embark on the same journey.

Sometimes I’m a little surprised how much our lives parallel one another and as I watch my best friend struggle to find her way of  saying goodbye to her Mother, I’m saddened by how much Cancer has taken from her in such a short time. In a matter of days they have gone from stomach pain to the possibility of surgery that was pretty much a gastric bypass to cut the cancer out of her stomach to a six month to live prognosis to just a few days of in home hospice.

Every time she had a moment to catch her breath they cut the time she thought she had left in half on her. And when she asked me “How do you say goodbye if she does know she is going?” I had to take off on a run to try to find the answer for us both.

“Sitting with Mama alone in her bedroom
She opened her eyes, and then squeezed my hand
She said, I have to go now, my time here is over
And with her final word, she tried to help me understand
Mama whispered softly, Time will ease your pain
Life’s about changing, nothing ever stays the same
And she said, How can I help you to say goodbye?
It’s OK to hurt, and it’s OK to cry
Come, let me hold you and I will try
How can I help you to say goodbye?”

We’re never prepared for something like this. It’s never the right time. For me; I had expected the call for years because I knew my Father was getting up there in age. ( He was almost 85 when he passed away ) .. but still the first thing I thought when the call came in and I hung up the phone was “This isn’t fair.”

It took me awhile to find my Father through exercise. To be able to get past the pain and hurt of him not being there for me and realize that he was still there in my heart and that he lives on through me as I share the lessons that he taught me with the world. But as I offered my dear friend the comfort that she too would find a way to still feel connected with her Mom, I realized how hard that is to have faith in right now.

I think of my two-year old Nephew and I wonder how I can ease the confusion he’ll experience when he realizes Grandma won’t be there to play with him or help take care of him anymore.

As my friend, her family, my chosen family and I begin this journey together today, I can’t help but think of how similar we all are. How many things we have all experienced and I am reminded of a lesson that a wise man once taught me…

In life we must understand that sometimes we have to reach out for help from those that are a little bit farther along in the journey than we are and let them show us the right path. My friend did that when she asked me to come to Dallas and help her with this journey. Other times, we need to know when to hold out our hand and reach out for someone who we know is a little bit behind us and try to help them.

This is the very reason that I devote so much of my time to helping other people with their weight loss journey and why I am focused on a career change as a personal trainer, to make sure that I am working on always reaching back to help others step forward.

Today I am reminded that we need to appreciate the present. Do what we can with it and make the best out of it, because we’re not guaranteed a tomorrow. Whether it’s kissing the person that you love,  saying “I love you” or getting out for that walk or run that you’re just not extremely motivated to do, you’ve got to enjoy what you’ve got and appreciate the people you have to share it with.

So Tora, my soul sister, when you read this. Please know that I love you, that I am sorry that our lives have paralleled here and that you are having to find a way to say good-bye to your mother. I’m not sure I can help you find the words to say good-bye, but I can hold your hand and comfort you while you do and I can share with you the experiences that I had so that you might learn from them and know what to expect.

I have no sage words for you that will help you find yours but I can tell you one thing, without any doubt, this isn’t good-bye, it’s the beginning of a different journey with your Mother, one where her presence with you is spiritual and you’re tasked with the oh so important job of making sure my nieces and nephews know their grandmother through you.

As for the rest of us, I think it’s important to remember that our weight loss is just another life journey, one that I want so badly to help you with. So as this heavy topic embraces my loved ones in its grasp I just feel the need to remind you all to live life loud, to love hard, and remember to appreciate the special moments. Be kind to each other and most important live today as if tomorrow is an uncertainty, because it is.

I’m planning on taking my niece and nephew for a walk tonight, after I get a little nap in. Exercise is an amazing way to process everything going on around you and a natural anti-depressant. Making sure my chosen Family utilizes that outlet is on the top of my to do list. Who wants to support us and get their fit on too?


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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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