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Bariatric Fitness – Is it a pipe-dream career path?

Desperately Seeking SlenderWhen I am sad, depressed or stressed out I get withdrawn and quiet. Like most of you, these are emotions I don’t deal with well. When I start to experience these emotions I instantly think, “I have to be really careful that I don’t start feeding my feelings.” Because, if I don’t, I know I am just a few Twinkies away from weighing over 400 lbs. again. It might seem like a drastic leap. But, for a recovering food addict like me, it’s an easy leap to make. My commitment to my own post-operative bariatric fitness program is the only thing that saves me from regain. That’s a true story.

Things have been difficult for me lately. First I was dealing with the strange and new grief of my ex-husband passing away. Almost exactly a month later, I starting dealing with a different sort of grief. The grief of a job loss. It’s not that I lost my job. I’ll always have a position as the Head Trainer at GoGirl Fitness Studio, so long as it is in business. But, this loss is the loss of my salaried position as the General Manager. The grief I feel is interesting. I’m sad, not just for myself but for my community as a whole.

This sounds strange at first I am sure. Why does my losing my position as a General Manager effect the weight loss community or the weight loss surgery community at all?

It doesn’t. That is exactly the part that makes me sad.

GoGirl When I began working at GoGirl Fitness Studio a little over a year ago, one of the stipulations of my taking the job as the General Manager and Head Trainer was that the company had to provide me a way to reach the population that I was most passionate about helping. The weight loss surgery population. I wanted to help other bariatric surgery patients like myself discover the mighty tool of fitness and how much it helps in their pre-operative, post-operative and weight maintenance phases of their journey. Bariatric Fitness. This was going to be my specialty.

I had dreams of being the Chris Powell of the weight loss surgery community. My goal was to become a leader in Bariatric Fitness. My passion was to make fitness fun. To make it exciting and affordable for a population that I feel the fitness industry often mistreats. Since this was a passion of mine, and the ability to chase this goal was of paramount importance to me, when GoGirl Fitness Studio hired me, they invested in a state of the art remote training system to make this possible.

Because I believed in myself, and in how I could help this population, the company threw it’s marketing money into helping me get the word out about this program. In the first couple of months we ran focus groups to work out the bugs. Next, we signed up as a sponsor for the Bariatric Foodie Pledge. The company flew me off to San Antonio to run a vendor booth at the WLSFA event. But, no matter what we did, the concept of Bariatric Fitness and remote training for a bariatric population just didn’t take off.

I believed they key was to make Bariatric Fitness affordable.

Financial objections always seem to be the biggest issues for prospective clients. “I can’t afford personal training.” – To answer this, I developed GoGirl Resolve, a personal training program specifically designed for those effected by obesity. A group personal training program that specifically catered to bariatric fitness. I priced it reasonably, and even offered huge discounts to the weight loss surgery community. $119 a month for 12 sessions a month. Less than $10 per session for a personal trainer to help keep you accountable on your fitness journey. Under $10 a session for a personal trainer to design workouts that keep things fun, exciting and to help motivate you into doing something that every single one of us knows we should be doing after weight loss surgery, exercise.

Yet still, the objections were that people could not afford it. It’s so heart-wrenching to me. To hear someone tell me they can’t afford a reasonably priced fitness program that will help them not fall into the pitfalls of regain. Yet, if I followed most of the people who tell me they can’t afford it on social media, I’d watch them post about spending money on all sorts of other non-essential things. It’s not that most people can’t afford it, it’s that most people don’t make it a priority.

We don’t initially see the value in paying for a bariatric fitness routine.

Bariatric Fitness - Personal Training for Weight LossI did the same thing. Told myself I could do it on my own. I’d pay $20-$40 a month for a gym membership I swore I’d use and then never had the accountability factor I needed to actually go. Accountability goes a long way. Knowing that you’re paying someone else to be there tends to make you actually go.

But these are hard things to overcome in a sales consult. Do I practice empathy and be understanding? Or do I practice tough love and ask hard questions?

“Will a fitness routine be valuable when you’ve regained 30-60 lbs. and realize that the fact that you didn’t listen when your surgeon told you to exercise might be a contributing factor to that?”

“What kind of value will a bariatric fitness routine hold when the honeymoon phase of your surgery wears off? When you can eat like a relatively “normal” person again? How about when you start to realize that the only way you will maintain your weight loss is with exercise and activity?”

“Is it more valuable to spend a third of what you would pay for a specialized bariatric fitness program where you have the accountability and motivation factor to actually show up for a gym membership that you might use for the first 30 days and then will likely stop prioritizing?”

Watching someone slide down the slippery slop of regain breaks my heart.

When it is happening, we are acutely aware of why it is happening. We stopped eating as healthy as we were. We aren’t exercising. We’ve fallen back into bad habits. The carb craving monster reared it’s ugly little head. Sound familiar? I know it does, because I’ve been there. Remember, I lost over 200 lbs. and gained it all back. I’ve been there too. I firmly believe that the only reason I don’t fall prey to this downfall is because I have a solid bariatric fitness routine implemented into my life.

Yet, even when we know that it is happening. We don’t see the value in hiring someone to help us. We’d much rather come up with the reasons why we can’t.

“I can’t afford personal training.” “My schedule is too hectic. I just can’t make the time for the workouts.” These are by far our favorite barriers. The reasons we give for not making a commitment to a bariatric fitness routine. Rational reasons we use as an excuse for the truth; that those of us that are effected by obesity seem to be highly predisposed to choose inaction over action. Why? Because it’s a hard habit to break when we have been doing it for such a large portion of our lives.

We’re so use to being sedentary, it’s hard to choose to be active.

Remote Training Bariatric FitnessThis is a harsh, sad reality. A reality that has truly made my dream of bringing fitness to the weight loss surgery community a challenging task. Perhaps I set too lofty of a goal for myself.

I’m honestly not sure. What I am sure of now, is that chasing that goal cost the company I work for a lot of money. Money that didn’t convert into clients in our remote training program. Funds that didn’t convert into my training schedule being full of clients searching for a trainer that specialized in bariatric fitness.

I believed in myself. Believed in the value of what I was doing. I was passionate about helping the population I was attempting to serve. Even now, I wholeheartedly believe in a bariatric fitness program. A program for people effected by obesity designed by people who have been effected by obesity.

Before I started this, I constantly used to hear, “I wish I lived closer to you so that I could work out with you.” I spent a good deal of blood sweat and tears developing a program that broke the confines of distance and location. But where are all those people now?

Now, I’m sad. I feel defeated. In fact, I feel like a failure. 

Not because my dreams didn’t pan out. Not because my program wasn’t successful. I feel like I failed because I took someone else down this path with me, the owner of GoGirl Fitness Studio. I overestimated my reach and potential in the weight loss surgery community. As a result, I focused on the population I was most passionate about helping rather than building up the business within a population of people who already see the value in fitness, activity and exercise.

I encouraged the owner to put our marketing efforts into the weight loss surgery community and a bariatric fitness program that yielded so little results in its first year that the company isn’t making enough money to be able to afford the salary they pay me to run it for them.

Now, I’m back to a part-time job in the fitness industry. Only getting paid for the time I spend training. I feel defeated. For the first time in the eight years since I started chasing this dream of being a Personal Trainer for people fighting obesity, I am honestly starting to ask myself if this is all just a pipe dream. If I can’t make a decent living working with the clients that I want to specialize in working with is it time to find a new career path?

Is Bariatric Fitness a pipe dream?

I dunno right now. I’m trying to figure out how to get back up on this horse and keep riding. Trying to persevere and get back up despite the fact that I feel like I’ve been knocked out of the saddle. Right now, I’m dealing with a huge pay cut, and the challenge of standing on my own to feet on a 19-25 hour a week paycheck. I don’t how I am going to pay my bills. It feels like Christmas has been canceled. I’m sad, I’m depressed, and there is a weight of uncertainty on my chest.

I’m struggling. Usually when I am struggling I am silent. But, when I returned to blogging this time I promised myself and my readers that I’d be writing through the struggles. Sharing, being transparent and being honest. Honest right now is, I’m struggling with my emotions and it is taking everything I have not to feed my feelings right now.


Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend Event 2018 Recap

Desperately Seeking SlenderLet’s take a break from all the seriousness. I know I need one. Not to mention I still owe you all a very important Disneyland Paris Half Marathon event recap.

I’ve ran a lot of half marathons. Forty-one to be exact. By far, my all-time favorite half marathons are the runDisney events. If you ask me, which you sort of did by coming to read my blog, this is appropriate. Because, for what you will end up paying to participate in a runDisney event, it should very well be an unforgettable experience.

Thanks to the good folks over at BariLife sending me on this magical adventure, my most recent runDisney Disneyland Paris Half Marathon event definitely became one of my most memorable half marathons. Once I had my bib in my hand, the “every mile is magical” experience you expect from a runDisney event was everything you could hope for and more.

The Avengers 5k on Friday night was amazing.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend - 5k Event

My boyfriend was participating in this 5k. Since it was his first 5k, I chose to do it with him. This worked out perfectly for us. As a big comic book fan, the Avengers theme of the 5k was most appealing to him. At the start line, we were informed that we needed to save the world from Thanos by locating the stones (kilometer markers) that would complete the infinity gauntlet before he got them.

The course began behind the Disney Event Arena, before heading into Disney Village. Entering Walt Disney Studios Park through the front gates, we were on a Marvel adventure through Studio 1, Toon Studios and then connected through a backstage area to the Disneyland Paris park. Running around the Rivers of America we made our way through Adventureland before returning to the backstage area and following the Studio Tram Tour route to a Marvelous (Did you see what I did there?) finish in front of the Tower of Terror. We finished the 5k in 1:13:22 averaging about a 21-minute mile.

I’m a huge fan of evening events. There aren’t a lot of them. Most events happen in the morning. Therefore, the simple fact that our adventure was taking place in the dark, when everything is illuminated, had me feeling like a little kid at Christmas time. The entire 5k was electric and fun. Not to mention, I had someone special right next to me the entire way. What more could a Disney loving runner chick ask for?

Back to Back Races Make for a Challenge

Typically, a veteran runDisney runner is use to multiple day challenges and early morning corrals. However, the evening 5k followed by an early morning 10k was a new challenge for me. With only 11 hours between start times, there wasn’t much time to rest between events. 11 hours might seem like a significant amount of time. But, there are several other factors to consider. First, there is the wait time in the corrals between starts. Then, there is the time it takes you to finish the 5k. Next, you’ve got the time it takes you to get photos afterwards. Additionally, you’ve got the time it takes you to get back to your hotel, clean up and get ready for that early morning alarm.

We started the 5k at 8pm. We had decided to wait and do dinner after the event. Neither of us wanted to be doing a 5k on a full stomach. By the time we got back to the room it was nearing midnight and I was almost certain the spell was about to wear off. My princess like demeanor was about to turn into rags and my boyfriend was about to turn back into a little mouse. That 5am alarm was going to come early. Leaving me about 5 hours to rest my feet, my body and my brain.

Goofing off during the 10k on Friday

The Villains theme of the weekend continued the following morning. The Pain and Panic characters from Hercules started off the event with some morning calisthenics in the corrals. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon weekend event participants here. If you did something like this in the U.S., the corrals would be full of people who are just way too cool to participate. But in Paris, everyone seemed to be able to find their laughing place and follow along with the goofy aerobic moves and funky flexibility drills.

The course began behind the Disney Events Arena before taking your through the front gates of the Walt Disney Studios Park. Next, the course lead through the Toon Studios area to the park entrance area just outside Disney Village where a direct path through the front gates of the Disneyland Paris theme park dropped you off on Main Street and looped you though Discoveryland. You couldn’t help but realize you were running through one of the most magical places on earth as you set off twisting through Fantasyland, passing through the castle and making your way through Frontierland and Adventureland before heading backstage. A short run along the Studio Tram Tour route and suddenly there you were at the Production Courtyard in Walt Disney Studios Park for your finish line finale.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend - 10k Event

10 “Take it easy” Kilometers

My approach for this event was to take it easy and save my stamina, or what was left of it, for the Sunday half marathon. I had walked the 5k with my boyfriend the night before. For the 10k I was doing a “Stop and enjoy the moment” interval system. In case you’re wondering what the hell that is, it means you do whatever you want whenever you want.

I ran when I wanted to run. When I felt like stopping and walking for a bit, I did just that. This approach gave me lots of time to collect photos of the different Disney Characters along the 10k route. As a result, I’d be a little less inclined to stop for them again the following day.

Keep in mind, I had been in Paris for nine days prior to the event. In those nine days I had put nearly 95 tourist miles on my feet. An average of 10 miles a day on my feet was taking a toll on me. But, I was making sure that I did everything possible to provide a successful half marathon completion. I finished the 10k in 1:40:26 averaging about a 16-minute mile.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon – Val d ’Europe 2018

The Disneyland Paris Half Marathon began in the parking lot behind the Disney Events Arena before doping a loop through Toon Studios. Next, it sent you winding around the back side of Walt Disney Studios Park. Traveling through Adventureland and Frontierland runners were on an out-and-back down Main Street and around Town Square. The course lead you through Adventure Isle and wove you through Fantasyland before heading into Discoveryland where you exited the park.

Outside of the parks, the course followed the Boulevard de l’Europe around the resorts into the town of Magny-le-Hongre. From there, it passed through a little residential village, lopped around a small lake and then returned you to the resort area. Next, there was a quick but grand tour of the Hotel Santa Fe and Hotel Cheyenne and then a cut through Disney Village. In the final stretch you ran along the Studio Tram Tour to the finish line in the Production Court of Walt Disney Studios.

My favorite part of the route was by far the scenic tour along the Paris countryside outside of the parks. Because I was participating in all three days of the event, the early miles of the half marathon were so like that of the 5k and 10k that it felt a little redundant. Considering that Disneyland Paris is much smaller than Walt Disney World in Orlando and lacks the space to take runners through 4 epically huge theme parks, I think this is a hard issue to avoid.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend - Half Marathon

“There must be more than this provincial life.”

RunDisney runners should be accustom to the events taking you out of the parks and traveling you along the tree-lined highways surrounding the Walt Disney World theme parks in Orlando. In the Disneyland events in California you travel along the, anything but, “scenic streets of Anaheim” to gather your distance. These are usually my least favorite sections of the routes.

But this was different. Running through the country side of Paris, I felt like I was engrossed in a tale as old as time. All the residents along the course route coming out to say “Bonjour” had me quietly humming tunes from Beauty and The Beast. I literally felt like the entire route had me immersed in a Disney universe. This was, by far, my favorite half marathon experience.

When you consider that the cost of attending a Disneyland Paris runDisney event, is pretty similar to, if not actually cheaper than the cost of attending a Walt Disney World or Disneyland runDisney event; (Assuming you are flying and staying on Disney property.) The experience is by far, one that I’d suggest you take the opportunity to gift yourself.

I was nervous and unsure of myself.

Back to my run experience. I will admit, I was nervous on Sunday morning. Before hitting the start line, I had 110 miles on my feet in the last 11 days. My feet hurt, my legs were heavy. My calves were sore and my achilles tendinitis was flaring back up in my right ankle.

I had taken nearly a year and a half off running. My training had been hindered by a broken toe I acquired during an altercation with a suitcase. I left that suitcase sitting in the middle of the floor to “unpack later”. I lost nearly 5 weeks of training to that little incident.

Fleeing hurricane Florence I left Wilmington, NC several days early to ensure I didn’t miss the event. As a result, I didn’t have time to get my last long training run in. I knew I could do 13.1 miles. But, I wasn’t entirely sure I could do it in the required pace time. I had to average at least a 16-minute mile. Since my 10k the day before had me finishing with a 15:59, I was more than a little worried.

On Saturday evening we got word that the weather was about to change. It was going to be cold and raining the following morning. Which meant I had to make last-minute changes to what I planned to wear. I hate being cold. I decided to bundle up. Sunday morning, I threw a pair of running pants under my sparkle skirt and put on a lightweight wind breaker jacket.

The only thing you can do is give it your best shot.

That is exactly what I decided to do. Finishing in the required pace was irrelevant. Bundling up, preparing to get wet, and knowing the weather conditions might slow me down even more, I arrived at the start line determined to finish.

Overdressing caused me to get overheated and took a toll on my time. I lost precious minutes I wasn’t sure I had to spare when somewhere between mile 3 and mile 4 I had to take the time to remove some clothes. This meant going into a park restroom, waiting in line, and rushing into a stall. I pulled up my run belt, took off my shoes, remove my sparkle skirt, yanked off my pants and then put everything else back on.

I wasted time figuring out how I was going to carry the jacket and pants with me. Had thought I’d be taking them off, I would have gone and purchased throw-aways. Certainly, I wasn’t leaving my $100 Nike run jacket and my $65 Star Wars Leggings on the side of the race course. Bundling them up, I hung them over my race belt and took off in search of my finish line. The entire ordeal cost me about 11.5 minutes.

Around the kilometer 13 marker, (about 9 miles in) I started questioning my sanity. I found myself wondering why I wanted to run 13.1 miles. Worried, I began consoling myself with the knowledge that my boyfriend would be waiting to greet me at the 18-kilometer marker. Reminding myself that in another 5 kilometers, I’d see his smiling face. I knew that I’d get some necessary emotional fuel from a hug from someone who believed in me more than I believed in myself at the moment.

Happy 41st Half Marathon to Me!

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend - Finish LineThat was exactly what was waiting for me at the 18-Kilometer marker. My boyfriend, hugging me, reminding me I’m awesome and what I am capable of. With just 3 kilometers to go, and him now holding my extra baggage, I was lighter on my feet. I finished the half marathon in 3:17:32 with an average pace of 15:04. While it is not the fastest half marathon I’ve ever ran (my PR is 2:24:18) – it’s quite an achievement.

I put it in perspective by comparing it to the 2:56:34 I ran at the Inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon in 2016. I give myself credit for the 11.5 minutes of wardrobe malfunction. That means I ran a 3:06:02 half marathon and averaged a 14:12 minute mile. Given the circumstances and the fact that this entire event was about me finding my love of running again; I’m totally okay with what I accomplished and the time I accomplished it in.

You don’t expect to pull a PR at a runDisney event, or at any event where you’re going to stop and take photos along the route. I took a total of 68 photos. If I estimate that each photo took me 20 seconds that’s 23 minutes of photo taking time. Which would make my 3:06:02 more like a 2:43:02 and more like a 12:26 average.

When you consider that once upon a time, this princess weighed 420 lbs. and couldn’t walk from the front door to the car without feeling winded; In the end, it doesn’t matter how long it took. I was at the start line and had the courage to even attempt to do it. That is what matters. In my opinion the start line is the big accomplishment. The finish line is the reward.


Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

This is #MyBariLife

BariLife has decided to send me back to Paris to represent the WLS Community as I attempt to find my love of running again.
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