Jen’s Story

How did it start? Where did the transformation really begin? I keep wondering that myself. I always wanted to be healthy. Actually, that’s not true. I always wanted to be “skinny”. To look like the models and movie stars. I guess that’s where it started.

A major event changed my life on the eve of 2012. I had a very sudden, very severe migraine which landed me in the hospital. Tests were done to be sure I didn’t have a life threatening problem. At the end, the doctors told me I really needed to get healthy or my days were numbered. I felt like this was it – my lifestyle had finally caught up to me and I no longer had a choice. If I wanted to live, I had to change everything. This happened to coincide with turning 40.

I’ve struggled with weight my entire life. I’ve tried every diet known to man since the age of 12. They all failed. Why? Because I wanted to be skinny, not healthy. Turning 40 was also a turning point. I told myself I wanted to do something significant to mark the occasion which would prove a change in who I am. I wanted to wipe away all the “wrongs”, shed my old skin, find out who I am as a person and not as a wife, mom or daughter. It was my time to embrace the person I always wanted to be.

The realization that being healthy was my primary goal and not being skinny has been a liberating, freeing transformation. First, I had to admit that I have an addiction; a very real, very strong addiction, to food.  The problem with that is I require food to live so it is a demon I confront several times a day. As I continue to work towards healthy eating and making sure I have the NUTRIENTS I need instead of the TASTES I want, I have made an even more astounding transformation – I’ve started running.

Two years ago, at over 220 pounds, if you told me I would be running a 5K I would have laughed at you. Living in a new town I had few friends and food was my comfort. The mother of my friend’s daughter was telling me how she ran all the time and was training for a marathon. I thought, “Oh, great, she’s one of THOSE people.” I figured she thought less of me because I was fat. Then she shared with me that she had lost 50 pounds from running. I realized she was me. Then I realized if she was me then she is me PAST and PRESENT. I could change.

My first program was the Couch to 5K with the goal of running my first 5K on my 40th birthday. I was doing well on my own and then a family emergency took me away from the program and I never ran. I beet myself up saying, “See? You can’t do this.” I fed my sorrow and packed on even more weight.

The same mother of my daughter’s friend had been talking with me and gently pushed me to reconsider exercising. I was afraid to run with her because I didn’t want her to see how out of shape I was. As if she couldn’t SEE it!

As I was succeeding in getting my eating under control the mother of my daughter’s friend could see the weight coming off and continued to offer to help with the next step – exercising. An email from her over the winter told me she was asked to be a mentor with a program called First Strides which is a 12 week program just for women who are learning to start running. It started on May 1st – my birthday. Clearly this was a sign so I said, what the hell and signed up. Everyone thought I was crazy.

Only 2 weeks are left of the 12 week program and it has changed my life. Over 100 women get together every week and break into their groups to run, encourage and inspire each other. I run with 7 women who range in age from 22 to 72. We will all be running a 5K in August as the final run together and I can’t wait. The finish line to that race is the starting line for the rest of my life.

To check myself on a 5K I signed up for one last night. I thought it would be a fun little run across the golf course but it was actually a trail run after weeks of rain so it was really a mud run. Mud up to my knees and I actually got stuck a few times. Parts of the track were so bad you had to walk because you would fall. I still managed to finish in 44:20. Not bad for my first ever run. I wasn’t last – technically – but only because the mother and daughter behind me got in their car instead of crossing the finish line.

Being last didn’t bother me. Not at all and I actually thought it would. The dozen other people who were “real runners” were there cheering me on! They were as happy for me as I was. They were proud of me for being there! They were PROUD of ME! Strangers. “Real” runners were clapping for ME! It was tough. It was hard. Wicked freaking hard and half way through I thought, “This is ridiculous. I’m never doing this again.” Yet at the end, seeing everyone cheering me on – I was already planning how I would strategize next week.

I smiled all the way home. I smiled all morning. I’m still smiling. I did it. ME! I ran a 5K! The new me – the real me and I like it.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far in my journey:

  • The last 40 years of my life were spent trying to get acceptance from everyone and now I only want to accept myself.
  • When I started First Strides I felt guilty spending a few hours away from my family then I realized it was the first time in my life I was doing something just for me.
  • My husband is proud of me; so is the rest of my family and friends but more important, I’m proud of me.
  • It’s not easy. It’s easier to make excuses why I can’t do it but then I come back to the feeling of accomplishment and it wins.
  • I forgive myself if I get off track.
  • I still have an addiction and I always will.
  • Nothing can stop me.

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