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Emotional Weight Loss Journey

Attitude of Gratitude – Appreciating Your Journey

Sixteen months ago I wrote a blog that documented my running achievements thus far and gave a few tips on staying motivated and inspired in your journey.  At that point I had ran my first three half marathons and I was getting ready to take Dawn Brell, the winner of my first “How Do You Celebrate Success” contest, to run the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland.  I’ve learned a few things since then.

Sometimes life changes and things can get a little crazy.

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I started working full time as a professional weight loss and wellness coach in an all-women’s gym facility and the time I used to have to write about everything I was doing suffered greatly, as all my extra time outside of work was being spent on trying to get my own exercise done and getting acclimated to my new situation.

My days off became the days I had to run errands and get things done around the house and all that free time I once had thanks to my old work-from-home, set-your-own-hours life started to dwindle. Finding the time to be a runner, a blogger, a puppy mom and a good girlfriend sort of took a back seat to my career.

In March of 2014, I held the second “How Do You Celebrate Success Contest” and my winner Amy Smith and I were off and running. First we were doing a couch to 10k program to get ourselves ready to run a 10k that we would submit as our pace time for coral placement and next, we were training for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon.

 

Sometimes the biggest struggle is admitting you need support and being able to ask for it.

10724109_374080759417401_1504303184_nI lost myself somewhere between June and October. A really horrible bout of anniversary grief took me for a tail spin in June and it really took quite a while for me to recover.  I learned a valuable lesson though. I’m not impervious to falling into old bad habits and I don’t deal with the time of year that my Father passed away well when I try to do it alone.

But I had obligations to people that were important to me.  I had a commitment to Amy, as well as a commitment to a client of mine, Megan Hyler, to run the half marathons with them that I had helped them train for.

As the time for the first half marathon I had to run approached I was terrified. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I was convinced that all the time I had let go by between June and September had cost me my cardiovascular endurance and I’d lost the confidence that I could actually run 13.1 miles so I did what I normally do when I start doubting myself.

 

Sometimes you gotta pull up your big girl panties and deal with it.

20141111_130318So I went out and ran a half marathon, by myself, with just my dad and the music as my chip and time-keeper and I reminded myself that though it might be hard and I might have to push myself, I could indeed still do it.

Two weeks later I ran my fifth half marathon next to Megan Hyler at the Wake Forest Haunted Hallowed Half and pulled a PR of 2:31:59

Two weeks later, I was on a plane to Orlando to meet up with Amy, her friend Stacey as well as my dear friends Tammy, Heather and Joy, to do the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World where we all got to experience Heather running her first 5k. I learned so much about myself in that experience. I grew as a person and a coach thanks to the amazing women that were there to help support me.

Then came December, my first Christmas away from Oregon, and depression and sadness started sneaking their way back into my world. I sort felt like taking on a new career had taken over my life and put a dent in the things that were once a top priority for me, running, writing and sharing my journey with others.

11008270_783898281695301_76359475_nMy next half marathon was supposed to be in March. I had committed to running with a member of the gym that had tried to train for a half marathon two times before and had to stop because of injuries, and as March started creeping near I doubted myself and my ability to run a half marathon.

So I pulled on my big girl panties and signed up for another half marathon. I’d ran 3 half marathons in 2013, 4 half marathons in 2014 and now to try to get 2015 started right and convince myself I still had what it took, I did a last day registration for a local half marathon and got up early the next morning and went and ran the Wilmington 13.1 Half Marathon.

Less than a month later, with a lot of babying an unpredictable knee issue I ran my 9th half marathon alongside Ashley Hunt at the Quintiles Half Marathon

Sometimes you don’t realize your achievements until you write them down.

11023209_1581836505434143_1648585778_nThat half marathon really put some things in perspective for me. That morning Ashley and I went into that half marathon both a little unsure of what our bodies were going to allow us to do. When we finished that half marathon Ashley said something to me that will stick with me forever “Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you.”

It was the first time that I had the experience of running beside someone who really needed me there to help push them. Most of the other women I have taken to a half marathon already ran one before they ran with me. They had done the same thing I had done, proven to themselves that they could do it first.

But crossing the finish line with Ashley as she completed her first half marathon was a new experience for me.

That’s the point that I sat down and started to look at what I had really accomplished. Since I started my new career this year I’ve had the privilege of giving several of my clients their first taste of running.

In the beginning of 2014 I had a goal to help inspire others find the love of achievements like your first 5k, your first 10k and your first half marathon. I had held these two contests on my site in order to help facilitate that dream and I had accomplished it. Being a part of Dawn and Amy’s journey to their first half marathon was amazing.

Through my career this year I have also been able to walk beside two women who are very special to me in their first 5k at the Wilma Dash with Jamie Martin and her amazing daughter Kylee.  I’ve been able to run beside Nichole Marshall and Whitney Umberger in their first 5k at Color Me Rad. I got to be a part of Megan Hyler’s amazing journey from first 5k to first half marathon and got to cheer her on as she continued to take on her first full marathon and soon, her first ultra-marathon.

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of running beside a new client turned friend, Sarah Hanson as she ran her first 5k. Sarah had taken on the personal challenge of running her first 5k in honor of her mother. Nervous and unsure of herself I decided to take the pressure of trying to do it with everyone watching off and take Sarah to run her first 5k with me the weekend before. Completing that 5k with her was really special, I got to see Sarah realize what she is capable of and though she swore to me she’d never run a full marathon, she didn’t exclude running a half marathon, and that brought a smile to my face.

Last weekend Sarah ran her second 5k in order to honor her mother and to do something healthy to deal with the anniversary grief of her mother leaving this world instead of falling back into unhealthy habits. In order to support Sarah two of her fellow Weight Loss Boot Camp ladies Crystal Conklin and April Turner took on running their first 5k alongside her.

I had led the entire group in a stretching warm up routine before the 5k started and one of the gentleman there told us that he was running his first 5k. We noticed him several times along the route and gave him the thumbs up every time we saw him to encourage him.  Once all my girls had crossed the finish line I decided to go back for him and see if he needed a little encouragement or support. When I told the girls I was going back, Crystal and Sarah decided that they were going to go back with me too. April would have gone too but she was nursing a really bad blister.

Let me just say that for someone who has lost weight and changed their entire career in order to help others fight obesity to see my clients come out to support one another and then go back to encourage someone else like this is one of the biggest emotional rewards I have ever received. Thank you ladies, it makes my heart sing to know that my clients are adopting the same pay it forward mentality that I have.

Sometimes you just have to stop and breathe and be grateful for what you have done.

Being a part of all amazing women’s journey has been a blessing for me this past year. It’s taught me more about who I am, what sort of coach I am, and it’s shown me that almost every experience that I have gone through during my own weight loss and running journey holds the value of experience that I get to pass on to others.

To each of you ladies that have chosen me as your friend, coach, and running partner. Thank you. Each of you has gifted me with something that is absolutely priceless, the experience of seeing you grow into healthier and happier versions of yourselves and celebrating your successes with you.

Each of us has a personal story, our journey is one big book and we write each chapter as we go. While I am always amazed by how my story can help motivate and inspire others I am even more amazed by how being a part of your stories motivates and inspires me.

I think one of the most important things for us to remember is that even though things might be scary and thought we might doubt ourselves sometimes it’s important to remember that sometimes life gets crazy and we have to roll with it and sometimes we just need to stop, look at what we have done and appreciate the journey and be grateful for it.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies, a Motivational Speaker and Exercise Instructor at a women’s only fitness facility in Wilmington North Carolina.

The Teeter-Totter of Weight Bias

DssButton2FB2-150x150As a Weight Loss and Wellness Coach, I often use the illustration of a teeter-totter when sitting down with a new client to go over the theory of “calories in, calories out” and to explain the importance of putting good fuel in our bodies to support vigorous activity.

As I lay in bed restless tonight, I am thinking about an article I read about people who sit on both sides of the spectrum of weight bias. That is, those who know what it’s like to be overweight and struggle with obesity but are not anymore and now live as people of so-called normal size.

In thinking about this strange predicament, that image of a teeter-totter resurfaced.

 

Being the Chubby Kid

As a victim of emotional, physical, verbal and sexual abuse in my childhood, my mind is my playground. My imagination was my escape mechanism from the time I was very small child. As I grew older, food became my friend, confidant and lover. Before I even realized it, my escape into food had pushed me into the furthest reaches of the weight spectrum.

From as young as five years old, I recall being the chubby kid that nobody wanted to pick for dodge-ball and the target of weight biased jokes. “Fatty Fatty two by four she can’t fit through the kitchen door” is one of the first childhood rhymes I remember the “mean kids” chanting at me.

I remained the largest child in my class long into high school. That fact affected my relationships with both girls and boys alike. I was an unpopular outcast who got teased and ridiculed. In the sixth grade, I became the target of a school bully – shocking, considering that the bully was a boy very much in the same predicament as me.

He was heaviest boy in our class, endless teased himself, and in reaction he started punching me as his way of lashing out. One day, after he shoved me out of the lunch line and into a wall, I asked him one day with tear-filled eyes, “Why do you pick on me?” His answer was to punch me in the stomach. Confused and bewildered, that night I asked my father “Why do they hate me so much?”

His reply: “Because you’re different and unique and sometimes that scares people or makes them jealous and people do some really mean things when they are scared or jealous. They make fun of the thing that makes you different because it’s the only thing they have to justify their feelings.”

 

A Traumatic Adolescence

As I got older, this life lesson followed me as I grew in age and, unfortunately, also in size. As the bullying continued, I continued to question why people seemed to hate me so much. I also developed coping mechanisms to deal with it with what I felt was an inevitable fact. I was overweight, actually now I was plagued with obeisty.

So I became sexually active. I dressed in all black. The other kids called me “goth” and considered me uncool for it. I began to cut myself and the other kids accused me of doing it simply for attention. I cried myself to sleep at night, wondering why nobody understood me. I wasn’t doing any of these things for attention, but to try to feel better.

Sleeping with boys made me think someone loved and cared for me. Dressing in black, I thought, was figure flattering. I cut myself because when I got to a point where I was emotionally numb, the pain reminded me that I was still alive. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to win. The more I tried to survive, the more the bullies tried to push me underwater.

I did have a few brave moments when I stuck up for myself. One time a girl in my class took a note I had written to a boy we both liked and she photocopied it, passing it around for lots of other kids to see. I confronted her, asking why she hated me so much. Her answer was sharp and simple: “Because you are fat and ugly.” With nothing to lose I challenged her, demanding to know, “Why do you care that I’m fat?” She had no response.

I was fifteen at the time and I had spent nearly a decade – most of my life at that time – being  of the victim of weight bias, bullying and fat shaming.

 

Coming of Age

When I finally decided to take my life back from obesity, I was shocked that my true battle was to stop seeing myself as a victim and learning to see myself as a survivor. From there I learned to live, to thrive and strive. I’m proud to say I lost my weight, I have won that round in my fight against obesity. In this victory I told myself, “I will never again be defined or disliked by the number that shows up on the scale or the way my body looks.”

But oh how wrong I was. Because I hadn’t learned yet that in the world of weight bias, there was a teeter-totter – and a whole different end of the spectrum.

I’m new to the world of being slender. It’s ironic how hard I fought to get here – thinking if I did I’d win my battle – only to find new battles to fight and new demons to face! Body image issues took their toll on me, and I found myself associating the extra skin that hung from my body with my former abusers and the emotional addiction that perpetuated my obesity for so long.

To help free myself of the remnants of that past, I turned to reconstructive plastic surgery. I fought with body dysmorphia – that is, not being able to see the true image of myself in the mirror. I also felt haunted by “ghosts of the past,” the people whose behavior drove me to inflict so much harm on myself.

I beat myself up emotionally when the number on the scale, along with the Body Mass Index, told me that despite the fact that I’d lost more than 250 lbs, I was still “overweight.” I allowed that emotional self-abuse to hinder where I wanted to go in life and who I wanted to be. I put off my career in the weight loss, wellness and fitness industry because I thought I needed to be perfect before I could help others fight obesity.

Thankfully around this time of my life I found an organization called the Obesity Action Coalition, an organization that fights weight bias through education and empowerment. I got the amazing opportunity to attending their inaugural “Your Weight Matters Convention” in 2012. There I was able to sit at a “Lunch with the Experts” table with Dr. Robert Kushner, M.D. who helped me realize that neither the BMI nor an extra 5-10 pounds of weight loss was going to change how effective I could be or how inspirational my story would be to those that employed me seeking help in their weight loss journey.

Over the past three years, my membership to the OAC has taught me more than I can ever write in one article. It has also given me the courage to stand up against weight bias, weight stigma and weight discrimination whenever I see them.

You’ll understand the irony, then, when I tell you that it was at the third “Your Weight Matters” Convention this month in Orlando, Fl. that I discovered for the first time that I would battle weight bias no matter where I fall in the weight spectrum.

 

A New Day, A New Battle

Without going into the details (and perpetuating a lot of drama), I found out that someone had made a very harsh and superficial judgment about me based on this new body I’m working so hard to love.

I have to say I was shocked when I first found that out. Part of me thought it was a joke. But over the past three years of being in the weight loss community there seems to be a recurring cycle of drama and bullying. I’ve seen individuals targeted and shut out. I’ve seen others discouraged from associating with those so-called outcasts and I’ve heard from people who felt pressured to alter themselves and their friend lists just to fit in – or at least to prevent themselves from being the next victim. I’ve heard stories and recounts of this sort of behavior that predate my own presence with this community.

It puzzled me at first, how a group of people who have fought such similar battles – and have had such similar experiences with bullying, weight bias and stereotyping – could behave that way. You would think our common experiences would bond us together in a united front, make us join arms and rally for the same cause and empower us to support one another. After all, we’re all fighting the same fight against a disease that impacts more than 93 million people in our country.

But there I was facing a situation I had been through so many times. The fact that I was on the other side of the spectrum didn’t make it any less hurtful. I found myself once again asking that question, “Why do they hate me so much?” Apparently, now it’s because I’m skinny and my breasts are too big.

The shock I felt at that moment is about the same as the shock I felt when plastic surgeon told me that there wasn’t enough fat left on my body to perform the procedure I was asking him to do. My jaw hit the floor.

Never in my whole life did I think people would dislike me for being “too thin.” I won’t even touch the ridiculousness of the comments about my breasts.  After taking a moment to recover from that information, I asked, “Don’t you find it a little hypocritical that we’re sitting here at a convention that fights weight bias and weight stigma and that we protest judging and shaming people for the size of their body, the number on scale and their outward appearance and yet, that is exactly what I am apparently being judged for?”

 

Balancing Your Core

The answer to that question made me angry. Yes, it is ironic. It’s stupid really. And it needs to stop. I’ve sat on this experience for a few weeks now. I’ve dissected it to figure out what lesson it was supposed to teach me. Now, as I lay in bed tonight with that image that teeter-totter in my head, I’ve finally sorted out what I want to say.

While I was in Orlando, I met with a remarkable woman named Melinda Watman, the chair of the Weight Bias committee of the Obesity Action Coalition. I explained to her why I’m so passionate about fighting weight bias, why I wanted to be a part of OAC’s Weight Bias Committee and why the OAC’s Bias Busters programs calls to me.

Every year that I attend the OAC’s convention something absolutely life changing happens to me and I learn something I would never have had the chance to learn otherwise. This year, I learned that there is two very different sides to weight bias and that each of them are equally stigmatizing. I also learned that stigma, in general, is a lot less traumatizing when you have a solid foundation and a strong perception of your core strengths and beliefs.

Because when I was told that some people didn’t like me because they thought I was too thin or they thought my breasts were too big, I didn’t react the way I did so many years ago. I didn’t crawl into the solitude of my room and weep. Instead, I stood firm in my convictions and called it for what it was: weight bias.

The truth is, neither the size of my body nor the size of my breasts define who I am. When I am gone and the winds have called my name for the last time, neither of them are what the world is going to remember me for. In fact, I rather hope that the only numbers in my eulogy are the years I existed in the world. Instead, I hope to be remembered for the person that I am and the way I lived my life.

As an exercise instructor, my class and I stand in front of the mirror constantly moving our bodies in an effort to improve them. There are days I like what I see, and there are some days I don’t. But at the end of each day, the only person that has to like my reflection is me.

So if you ask me what I took away from the OAC “Your Weight Matters” 2014 Convention this year, my answer is very simple, I took away not only the education, but also the realization that if I want to truly stand up against weight bias, weight stigma and bullying I have to be prepared to do it from all sides and angles.

In the gym my clients often quote my tips on maintaining good posture while exercising and to build their core strength: “Shoulders back, girls out, core engaged.” Finally tonight, I understand why that teeter-totter was so prevalent in my mind. Because no matter what side of the battle of obesity you are on, if you can stand in the middle of that proverbial teeter-totter and engage your core, retain you balance and posture, you’ll be much stronger in your stance and your fight.

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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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