Hello hello everyone! I have been having a great time on vacation and have been SO excited to share this guest post and I thought a Sunday would be a great day for some inspiration. And boy is this poster inspiring! So, I admittedly struggled with the title of this post. Initially had titled it “Melissa’s weight loss story” but, after reading though Melissa’s story a few times, I realized that it is far more than just a “weight loss story.” I am sure you will agree! So, without further ado…Here is Melissa!
This morning I woke up and saw the best news ever. I have lost 123 pounds. That is a newborn giraffe. I have lost a freaking giraffe! Talking about my weight and my weight loss is not something that comes easily for me. It has been a taboo topic for me most of my life so pardon my ramblings as I write.
I was always overweight and I was an athletic kid. I was a swimmer and a softball player, but was consistently the largest person on the team. Starting as a teenager, everywhere I went I felt and everything I did I felt judgement based on the way I looked. During college I tried to interject myself into social activities and even joined a sorority, but felt more at ease at home by myself. As time went on, I continued to put on weight and just figured it always be an issue that I would work around in my life. I started working with my husband as a photographer and it was then I could really feel the toll the weight was taking on mind and my body. Work was exhaustive being on my feet and running around for 10-12 hours at a time. I would sleep for days after a wedding and when I was up, my knees and ankles would ache. When I would enter a getting ready room or ceremony space and I would hear snickering or snide comments from guests, all I wanted to do was crawl in a hole and hide. Traveling for work was a nightmare, particularly flying. Anxiousness crept in as I venture towards my seat to see if I can even fit in it let alone buckle the seat belt without an extender. It was all becoming too overwhleming.
How did I deal with the stress? I ate…a lot. When I look back now at what I was eating, I ate enough calories in one day that I would eat now in a week. Food for me is how I coped with my overwhelming anxiety, how I distracted myself from the crap that took place that day, and also how I combated boredom. Rough day running errands and sending deliveries? A frosty always helps! Traffic? Better get some fries for the road. It was such an easy option for me as those meals provided me with a bit of joy that I was lacking at the moment. As a result, I gained an enormous amount weight which would set off this cycle of eating to comfort myself from the stress I felt from gaining weight due to the eating.
One day after a particular rough day of emails, I decided to take a walk outside to let off some steam. I just needed to get out, away from the frustration and the temptation of food. It started with a slow walk around the block. Little did I know that that tiny stroll would put me on a path that would change my life. The next day I chose to take another walk. And then the next day. Eventually bought myself a Fitbit and started tracking my steps each day. 10,000 steps. That was my goal. ThIs was something that I could control. This was a challenge for myself to keep my mind off everything that was angering me and making me feel like I was losing it. Soon I found myself walking 5 miles a day. Then 6. Then I thought, I wonder if I could run to the end of the sidewalk. I did it. I felt like I was going die, but I did it. From there it grew. Within a few months I was able to run (if you want to call it that) 3 miles without stopping. About a year after I started walking, I ran my first half marathon.
During this time, the pounds were melting off and physically I was starting to feel better. Have there been bumps along the road with my weight loss? Absolutely. I hit plateaus that were so frustrating that it made me just want to quit. It became discouraging as it felt like I was working so hard and I was not accomplishing anything. Also, It wasn’t until I lost about 70 lbs where I really could see in the mirror the changes to myself. I was so used to being overweight that I could not see any physical difference. My eyes would always see the stomach rolls and the sagginess in my arms. Even now, I don’t recognize the person in the mirror. I am happy with what I see, but it doesn’t seem like me. Hopefully, that will change as I get used to the new me.
Training for these races has taught me a lot about myself. I am a lot stronger than I think. Going beyond the physical aspects, mentally I really can take on more that I give myself credit. For me, exercise has been a source of relief. When I get angry, I pound the pavement for a 5 miles and I am a changed person. Stressed? Now I’ll go swim a few thousand yards and zone out. It has allowed me to feel confidence in myself and what I can do, which is something I have not felt really ever in my life. It also also forced me to become more accountable with the actions I take and what I eat. I log everything. Even these M&M’s I am sneaking as I am writing this are getting logged in my food journal 🙂 I will say I have been incredibly lucky that have such a great support system in my husband and also the friends I have made with my local running club encouraging me along the way. Could I have lost all of this on my own? Maybe, but it would have sure been a lot tougher.
Since I reached my goal weight, now I am setting my sights on what I can push myself to do next. My mind is focused training for a triathlon this September followed by the NYC Marathon in November. Then my next goal is to become an Ironman. Maybe a few more marathons. What matters most to me though it to keep on this path of fitness. Do enjoy the 4am wakeup alarms to go swim? Hell no. Running in 100 degree heat? It sucks. However, it is now part of my routine and the discipline I had to build for myself so that I do not ever allow myself to end up back in the same situation I was in two years ago.
So now to enjoy the next chapter of my life as an athlete and move on from the self doubt and self destruction because in the end, you can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep on re-reading the last one. I just keep reminding myself, this whole process isn’t getting easier, I am just get stronger.
Editor’s note: I met Melissa about a decade ago. We taught together and she is super nice however taught a different grade so we didn’t know each other that well. She ended up actually photographing my wedding many years ago as part of a dynamic husband/wife photography team. Check out their Hopkins Studios Page. I highly recommend them; they are fabulous! Currently, I enjoy following Melissa’s continued running journey and live vicariously through her “southern” running routes (and recent half Mary in Ireland!). GO MELISSA!