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Bariatric Fitness Contest Winners Half Marathon Experience

Guest Blog
By Dawn Brell 

happy girl

As I am recovering from my big weekend I wanted to write this blog now so that I can put down all of the things I am thinking before I forget anything.  First I want to say a million big thanks you to all of our wonderful, amazing and generous sponsors. The fine folks at Pace Setter Athletic, Celebrate Vitamins, Kay’s Naturals, and Ameriwell Bariatrics did one of the most amazing and selfless things imaginable.  They gave me a wonderful gift and honestly a once in a lifetime opportunity to go and attempt to do the one of the biggest and hardest things I could have ever imagined.  This ranks right up there with being brave, strong, and fighting the odds to have my surgery.

I have had to fight hard on the way to this half marathon.  When I first won this contest I had several people tell me I was crazy and that no way could I do this.  I was determined to prove them wrong.  I will be honest I did expect that this was going to be hard but I never expected it to be as hard as it was.  I’m not one to shy away from hard things because my entire life has been hard so sometime I’m blind to how really hard it will be a bit of a blessing (cause I will try almost anything) and a curse (when reality kicks me in the face). It was a bit of shock. Add to that shock that after my first 4 mile run my back went out and I was side lined from running for 6 weeks.  I could walk during that time but no running. I was sad to lose that time and I think it may have played a role in the issues with training and time issues that I had.  But I fought on and did the best I could.  I was always a little under the pace that was needed to pull this off.

race morningWe did think that Pandora was going to be able to “drag” the time we needed out of me. But as we stood at the start of the race at 4am I was cold.  I think that I also let a few things get in my head and rattle me. I was so cold I was in pain. Even as I was jumping around like a frog with ants in my pants I couldn’t get warm. I dropped and broke my brand new phone. Then as we were talking to some other racers we were talking about the pressure that I was probably feeling (which I had tried to block out) because so many people, sponsors and loved ones were watching and expecting performance.  It was then that I started to panic because I knew that was true and I was overwhelmed with letting all of these people down.  We finally got to where we were about to start and I was nervous.  We got the official start and no matter what I tried I could not find a rhythm.  I still was not in full on panic mode just yet. I thought that it would come but I still struggled at a little over 3 miles we got a warning that we were going to be swept.  I told Pandora to leave me. She has been running for 3 years and I knew that she could finish this easily I did not want to take that away from her. As she started to go a few tears fell, she tried to stay with me but I wanted her to make her dream come true and I urged her to go and she did. I felt so upset and disappointed in myself. I had done so much better at home and here I was about to be swept in the very beginning and that was a sickening feeling. So I just decided that I was going to go until the sweeper got me.  I picked up and just ran.

At the 4.5 mile mark I was about to get swept again.  I suddenly had that moment where I knew I was not ready to be done and that no matter what I had to do and no matter if I dropped dead I would get half way come hell or high water. Suddenly that rhythm was there.  I was able to run and go and make progress.  I got to the 6 mile mark and was feeling good at what I had accomplished. I got some motivation at this mark as I watched people who were “over it” just sit down and wait for the bus.  I was unwilling to do that and sad to see others do that. I was also shocked by people doing that. What a huge commitment to an event and then decide “I just don’t feel like it”.  So again I was going to go until the sweeper legitimately got me.  So again I stuck to the rhythm.  I also got a lot of energy from the people cheering along the route.  They had some great and funny signs that made me laugh and gave you a little wind.  I got through miles 7 and 8 alright. OK that’s a little white lie. I had a friend texting me and I was telling him that I was hating it and that I was NEVER gonna do it again. I had also told Pandora at one point in the beginning that this was hell and no fun. That little convo is in her blog. At mile 8.5 I almost got pulled by the medical team. I had hurt my foot a few days earlier. I was so happy to be in the warm weather I wanted to wear flip-flops. I love flip-flops however they are not a good choice if you are going to be walking 9-12 miles a day.  We went nearly non stop in Anaheim even with the bad foot.  The medical team could tell I was in pain and having issues but I was able to convince them that I was ok and that I was going to keep going. We knew the sweepers were coming. We thought they were behind us and we were doing alright but what we thought were the sweepers were actually the clean up crew.  At mile 10 the sweeper popped out from a side street and got us.

finishI was sad at first and nearly shed a tear or two but there was an amazing woman on our bus who told me and the others we had nothing to be disappointed about.  We got out and did it.  We should also not be upset and beat ourselves up as we have been surrounded by plenty of people who do that to us against our will so we should not inflict that ourselves. We did a great job. I got farther than a lot of people. I did not quit as a lot of people did.  I kept going no matter how it hurt and I was honest and did not take any of the cheats that I did see others take.  If I had taken one of those cheats I would have finished. But then the whole thing would not have meant as much and where is the pride of finishing if you took shortcuts. I did it and I made it a long way.  I am a little disappointed that I did not finish but the pride and sense of accomplishment I have for what I did and how far I got (without cheating) outweighs that 10 fold.  I will forever cherish that medal.  I will always remember the trials of race day and knowing that I over came nearly being swept twice in 4 or so miles to make it 10 miles is a huge accomplishment and one that can never be taken away.  I again owe that to Miss Pandora and all of our amazing sponsors.  This truly was one of the best times of my life.

hulkMy advice to the next person who wants to do this is try, try, try.  This is possible and it can be done. You have to not be afraid to try to go for it. But realize that it is also a lot of very hard work. You have to be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone.  I did maybe take it a bit easy after I hurt my back as I was scared to get hurt and miss out totally.  You have to believe that you can do it.  I think you have to research what needs to be done. I never ate or took water on my training runs. I know now that was a bad idea  and that I needed to do that. So I have learned a lot. I also learned that even though I hated it ( at first) and had some doubts about it, my making it 10 miles has made me want to try this again.  So a huge thank you to Pandora for that.  I do hope that I did our sponsors and Miss Pandora proud as I am incredibly proud of myself and what I accomplished during my trip.

This trip also provided a lot of firsts and some healing for me as well. I do not travel alone do to some drama in the past. I almost fainted at the airport on the morning of my flight but I did it. I went all through the airports alone surrounded by strangers and survived that.  I was able to walk in Anaheim some alone and be ok.  Most importantly I was able to do something I was not sure that I could do. I ran in a huge event. Hell I was able to run period.  I do not handle crowds or strangers well and yet I ran with 15,000 people.  So again I owe a huge thank you to Pandora and our amazing sponsors.  Thank you also to Heather, Tammy, Sandy, Kelly, Logan and the godfather  for cheering us on. It was great to meet all of you.

Yes you did read correctly. I am going to do this again. I am going to run another half the end of April. I am also going to start to train for a mini triathlon. I wanted to do it this year but it was only about 6 weeks away when I found out about it and I haven’t ridden a bike in 25 years so I think that was just to close for me to try it this go round. I am also going to go back to the Tinker Bell Half Marathon next year. I will finish. It is my mission to do that.


Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.

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Why Junk is NOT Food – What Junk food does to our bodies

Junk Food Junkies.  It sounds comical but I am not kidding, and I am a recovering Junk Food Junkie myself.

1f491acf0137683a_shutterstock_66804169.previewFirst let’s start with the obvious. If something was labeled Deadly Doughnuts, Poisonous Potato Chips, or Toxic Taquitos would you eat it? If I was taking the label seriously I wouldn’t. And while these labels are fictitious, what we don’t recognize is that if it starts with something bad like “Junk” the truth is we already know what we are putting in our body.

Let’s talk a little bit about what this junk does to your body. You can pretty much bet that when we are talking about junk food we are talking about processed foods that are high in sugar. These types of food are very easy for your body to process, because they have already been over processed for you. And when you make things too easy for your digestive system to process guess what you do? You make your digestive system a less effective machine. Junk food is also often lacking in fiber, which also means we’re not using our intestines correctly–and did you know that your intestines are a muscle? What happens to muscles we don’t work out? They become weak. So what happens when we have a defunct digestive system and weak intestines?

Well, first digestion slows down and constipation can occur. Then there is the overwhelming amount of chemicals that are required to make the junk we’re talking about. All those long names you can’t say correctly on the nutrition labels, and of course one of our biggest enemies of all.  Dare I say it aloud? Yup, the junk food devil itself: High Fructose Corn Syrup. Guess what your liver and kidneys try to do with these chemicals? It’s trying to process them, and it’s overburdened doing so.

Do you know what “junk food” mainly consists of? Junk food is usually high in fat, sodium and sugar, all of which can lead you to a mirage of health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. High levels of sugar put your metabolism under stress and make your pancreas work overtime to give off enough insulin to prevent dangerous blood sugar levels. The high sodium in junk food can also have a negative effect on renal function and eventually, lead you to kidney disease.

And then there is the high fat in junk food. I normally like to avoid the word fat, I really do, but it doesn’t take a very far leap for us to understand that if we eat foods that are high in fat we are likely to gain fat ourselves. I’m not talking about the size of your clothes here folks; I’m talking about visceral fat gain. That’s the fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity around some very important organs like your liver, pancreas and intestines.

And do you know why this happens? Because junk food makes us lazy and lethargic because it doesn’t contain adequate amounts of protein or good carbohydrates (complex carbohydrates) and after consuming it your blood sugar levels drop which will often leave you feeling unhappy, tired and… craving sugar. Additionally high levels of dietary fat are known to hinder cognitive performance, so once again, leave us feeling tired.

So if we are constantly putting junk in, and the junk is sucking away at our energy levels, what’s happening? We lack the interest an enthusiasm to perform normal daily physical activities let alone the motivation to get in the exercise that we need in order to make any sort of progress in our weight loss journeys.

JW420Often, I have been asked what I ate in a day when I weighed 420 lbs. My answer is usually “I ate junk.” And it’s not untrue. I try to go back and think about what a normal eating day was like for me then and it’s difficult for me. But I can say that I ate a lot of junk food. Jalapeno potato chips, candy bars, and spicy pork rinds were my go-to snack.  McDonald’s, Jack-In-The-Box and Taco Bell were my favorite dinners. My vegetables came deep-fried, smothered in butter, breaded, and dipped in fatty dressing. Dessert wasn’t something I had once in a while; it was a nightly event in front of the television and usually consisted of a pint of my favorite flavor of ice cream.

I was a junk food junkie; I had to get my fix every day. And when I started feeling tired, lacking energy or was depressed, I turned right back to the very thing that was causing it.

If you have ever been around someone who struggled with sustenance abuse, the pattern isn’t all that different.  I watched my “Family” abuse drugs most of my life. It didn’t matter that they were hurting their bodies. Acne appeared on their skin, sores took longer to heal, and they looked like they aged faster because it affected their skin elasticity. They started suffering tooth decay and losing their teeth, they were depressed, unhappy, miserable, and guess what they did? They’d spend their grocery money on an “8-ball” because they were addicts.

Often times, the weight loss community gets offended by this comparison. They don’t like being considered addicts; they don’t like their food addictions compared to that of a meth-head getting their fix.  But in this community, I’m one of the first people who will say this to your face.  Because I have no problem admitting that I was once a food addict and a junk food junkie.

I’m not here to sugar coat it for you or to tell you that it’s okay, and I won’t pat you on the back for eating pizza and jelly doughnuts. I’m here to educate you and help you along the way in your weight loss journey. I’m here to tell you the truth, even when you don’t like it.

Today’s truth: Junk food is two words that shouldn’t go together in the vocabulary of our weight loss journey. It is either

A. Junk: We don’t want to put in our bodies

B. Food: Nutritious fuel that we put in our bodies to make it perform.

It’s either A or B Slender Seekers.  When it comes to unhealthy eating and junk food there simply is no “All of the above”


Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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