BEFORE and AFTER
How I conquered a lifelong weight problem
By Karen A Brennan
June 2005, I was 47 years old in the body of a 54 year old. I was about 210 pounds. I stopped weighing myself when the scale tipped at 205 and I am sure I gained some after that. I was depressed and miserable. I was a size 16+ jeans. My body fat was 33%, my cholesterol was 202, right on the border of too high and my body mass index was 33 which equals Class 1 Obese. I had chronic back and neck pain from injuries that I sustained 15 years before. I had heels spurs in both feet that at times caused unbearable pain. My asthma was worsening over time. I let myself go for 15 years after a debilitating back injury. This coincided with the time of raising my children, being a soccer mom and girl scout leader and working part time.The frequency of snacks and pizza was always part of the agenda and ultimately I forgot about myself. I had no social life and I shut myself in and out of sight. As far back as I can remember, I have been overweight. It took a lot of strength and focus for me to change my life forever. I firmly believe that if I can do it, anyone can do it.
Today, I am almost 59 years old, I have been out of commission from over training for too long. But, I have maintained my 75 pound weight loss that came off in one years time. I lost an inch in height from having fat feet, my body fat is now 18%, my cholesterol is 145 (I will have to get that checked again soon) and my BMI is 21, and the best part is that I am a size 6-8 jeans! I inspired myself to become an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer and I help others who are in the position that I used to be in. It is my true calling in life to help others and I have a great plan that keeps me on track. I have continued my studies as a fitness trainer and I am now entering my 9th year! I haven't worked for a long time though. Unfortunately when I was at my top shape, I was "over-qualified" to work at a gym. that was their way of saying I was too old at 50! It was pure age discrimination. Most of the gym was filled with people my age so I couldn't figure that out..still cannot except for I live In Los Angeles where everyone has to look and be young. I try very hard to still influence and Inspire others around me and on facebook as silly as it seems. I Look to facebook and my followers for inspiration and motivation and I am not afraid to say it! :)
I get asked all of the time, "what inspired me to change your life?"
My true moment of reality was when my daughter returned from a year away at college and kindly told me that I must start taking care of myself. I put on the "Freshman 20" when she went away to school and with her push and the support from my husband and son too, I took the first baby step. I took a long hard look at myself naked in a full length mirror at every angle and wept pretty hard. I always had told myself that when I get fed up with the way I looked, that is when I will start the diet yet again. Being a yo-yo dieter all of my life I was familiar with the “new beginning” every year for that New Year’s Resolution of losing weight. I did it so many times 20 pounds at a time and by the end of the year I was heavy again. It was a vicious cycle of stress, depression and eating until I had that “Ah Ha” moment. Sometimes those moments are very hard to pinpoint and vague. It is up to you to recognize it when it happens. It could be as subtle as seeing an old friend that you haven’t seen for a while and the look on their face says it all.
The plan is simple. Diet and Exercise is the key to getting trim and healthy. OK, you must have determination, motivation, consistency and discipline too.
The first thing one must do is to take control of your mind. “Optimal Fitness is Achieved Through the Infinite Power of Your Mind.” this is my motto. All of our lives we have learned to live and eat a certain way. We are over consumers in this country thus the huge obesity epidemic that has struck America. I was part of that statistic until I decided to change my life forever. You must visualize yourself thin. Your mind is a very powerful tool. Believe in yourself and you have taken the first step. Become selfish with your time. This is not easy to do. The demands of balancing work and home life may seem impossible to you but fitting in 1 hour a day of exercise is not impossible, it is essential to a healthier and happier life.
My number one motivator for exercise is music. It is important to have a good beat to ramp it up. And you must change it up all the time to avoid boredom. If you are able to join a gym, find a cardio machine that you like and interval train. This means changing the resistance levels several times per work out. It drives me crazy when people say that they don’t sweat. Well, do my workout with me and you will need to change clothes at the end. Sweating is the objective. It releases toxins in your body. It makes you red in the face and gives you a natural glow. So put down the book and stop talking! Pay attention to your training and shoot for burning 200 calories in 20 minutes. It is a reasonable goal and if you don’t get to it for a while, keep trying. You just have to move your legs faster. You can do this at home too. Just rent a DVD, hire an in home trainer such as myself or just go for walks in the neighborhood. Bring your dog along. When I started, I walked with my dog 3 times a week and she got trim too! I I did not hire a trainer, but I studied them at my gym. The people who embraced me at the start of my journey are priceless to me now. I learned a few very hard lessons at the gym though. This is another topic all together though.
When I began my program, I wore baggy men’s clothes and hooded sweatshirts. It is incredible to me how invisible you are when you are obese, especially in the "City of Angels." I had a good case of gym intimidation, to say the very least. I almost gave up after 3 weeks because I was sure that people were making fun of me, but I dug deep inside my mind and heart for motivation. I recorded my progress with the measuring tape and scale and trained, full body workouts that I designed myself. I went to the gym 3 times a week, no excuses unless I was really sick, which I don't think that occured except for the very beginning of my training. We went to Vegas and I got sick with bronchitis for an entire month. I blamed it on the incessant cigarette smoke in the casinos and the germs on the slots! I really began my journey in the beginning of August, 2005.
A year later, after I took off the 75 pounds,I desperately needed some new work out clothes. A funny thing happened when a gym member who represented a line of Brazilian work out wear, gave me an outfit and said it was from a "Secret Admirer"! That was strange for me. That was an $80 Outfit! I needed to know who it was and I was hoping it wasn't as creepy as it sounded to tell you the truth! LOL! I tried the pants on and wow, I looked great! The tops was very sexy and I was very self conscious, but I had not ever looked like this before. I did find out who bought this outfit for me and thankfully it wasn't some creeper! How I looked in that outfit inspired me to keep going for sure and I bought a bunch of new outfits too. That was my reward system and they are not inexpensive, however they last a very long time. I was not rewarding myself with food which I often did throughout my life as most people do. I went to the gym now, looking good, trying to set an example for those who are intimidated. I was their cheering section and this was rewarding for me. I embraced those in need and they appreciated that more than they can ever say. I know this because I was in their position once and I had a group that cheered me on and my self confidence improved so much especially at those times when I was about to give up and throw in the towel. Giving back is my reward.
Diet is the other half of the secret of my success. I don’t believe in a “cheat day”. Not until some great strides have been made. Diet for me is all about portion control. I learned this with Weight Watchers after my first child was born and lost 60 pounds. That was in 1986 and the theory stuck with me even through the time when I grew huge. I just didn’t let my mind embrace that theory, obviously. I now eat 6 small, healthy meals per day and if I do put on some weight like I do
over the holidays, I know how to adjust my diet to lose this 5 pounds of cookies I ate. One big trick is to eat all of your carbs before 3pm. This means eating all of your fruit, breads, pastas and high sugar veggies before 3pm. Just eat low carb veggies and protein at night. Sometimes it is so hard to cut out dessert. I am a chocoholic by nature so what I do is buy the dark chocolate and have a square just to satisfy that urge. Herbal tea with no caffeine at night is also great for feeling full and it helps you sleep too. 8 hours of sleep per night is optimal as well as 8 glasses of pure water per day. I try to drink a gallon a day. It is important to plan out your meals and measure your portions. After a while it does become second nature. . I do this weekly. It really helps to stay on track this way. A healthy diet starts at the supermarket. Make a list that correlates with your meal plan and don’t defer to anything else. If you don’t buy junk it won’t be in your house and then your family will benefit too as mine did. My rule of thumb is to eat mostly organic foods. This is more affordable than you may think and you are eating less. The benefits are in the flavor and nutrition levels of the food. A food journal is essential as well to staying accountable and on track. To this day I write in my food journal and see where I have gone wrong. It is important to write down everything you consume and then analyze it. Don’t let yourself get lazy. I talk to myself sometimes for encouragement. We can only rely upon ourselves to change our lives. If you go off the plan for a meal or a day, tomorrow is a new day. New day, new life. Enjoy your life to it’s fullest and be happy with yourself. If you feel good, you look good and pat yourself on the back for a job well done!