Thursday, October 30, 2014

My struggle

“Don’t read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.”  This is a line from a song aimed at the class of 2000 with a musical background and a guy with a deep voice dispensing advice to the recent graduates as they got ready to face the world.  I heard this song on the satellite radio about two weeks ago.   I hadn’t heard this song in quite some time but that one line struck me.  It made me think about all the magazines out there with headlines appealing to our insecurities as women.  As I thought about it more, I realized that I needed to share my struggles with food and self-esteem.  This is personal and not one I am sharing for accolades but as a way to help others. I know I am not alone in this either. 
As far back as I can remember I obsessed about what I ate.  There were magazines everywhere with headlines that might as well have said “your body is not good enough” or “you are not good enough”.  I thought it was normal as a female to constantly be on a quest to lose weight.  I don’t want to minimize the fact that men can and do face body image issue as well.  I just can’t speak about it from experience.  I was never a skinny kid. From the time I was in elementary school until the time I graduated high school, there were people who tormented me about my weight as if it was some kind of character flaw.  At 10 I remember trying to diet to lose 5 pounds and watched everything I ate. I remember being in middle school skipping breakfast and only drinking chocolate milk at lunch because I thought that would help me get skinny. It didn’t work because by the time I got home, I was so hungry I ate enough to make up for the skipped meals.  It was miserable.  I was miserable. 
In college, I took things to an extreme. I pretty much stopped eating at the end of my freshman year.  I would eat a few pretzels here and there.  Once a week I would indulge in an actual meal but other than that I forced myself to keep my food intake in check. I exercised as often as I could in between work and classes.  I quickly lost 40 pounds and looked much better but honestly I didn’t feel any better.  Within 6 months I was having surgery to have my gallbladder removed.  This was likely a result of the rapid weight loss.  I had this thought that if I was skinny, people would like me and I would be happy.  The truth is that happiness comes from within and the skinniest people in the world often have people that say cruel things about them. 
Towards the end of my sophomore year in college, I met the man who I would later marry.  I was terrified that he wouldn’t like the way I looked or would be staring at the extra layer of fat on my thighs or stomach.  It was terrifying.  This couldn’t have been further from the truth.  He liked me for me and not the shape of my body. This was so odd to me because in high school it was all about how you looked.  I just couldn’t understand why he liked me.  As time went on I gained the weight back and then some.  You know what,  John still loved me.  
Fast forward a few years.  John and I were engaged and were planning our wedding. I had tried on wedding dresses and found my dream dress.  Then one day the owner of the bridal shop called me and told me she was ordering me a plus size dress. I remember that I had just started eating a bagel with cream cheese for my breakfast when she called. After the call ended, I started crying and promptly fed my breakfast to the garbage disposal.  At that moment, I decided that my body wasn’t good enough so I started exercising again and watching everything I ate. I started to sneak diet pills as well.  I had a little hiding spot in our cupboard with the pills so John didn’t know. To this day I have never admitted to this but I am sure he knew. He just knew it wasn’t worth fighting that battle with me. 
By the time the wedding rolled around I was at my lowest weight ever.  Within two months of the wedding I was pregnant with our first child.  At that point, the panic started to creep in. With pregnancy comes weight gain.  I knew I had to eat properly to fuel my pregnancy but it scared me to death to gain weight.  I was so sick in the beginning that I could barely hold anything down.  After that cleared and regained my appetite, I started to eat again. I ate so much that by the time I delivered I had gained 70 pounds.  I got to the point that I would get on the scale backwards when I went to my OB appointments.  I lost most of the weight thanks to crazy eating after my daughter was born. 
Within two years, we were back in the same spot again but this time I was pregnant with twins.  I was concerned about how much I was going to gain with this pregnancy.   I was so sick during this pregnancy that I could barely eat for three months.  I spent time in the ER being treated for dehydration because of the morning sickness. When I did eat, it was often fast food.  With this pregnancy, I left the hospital under what I weighed before I got pregnant.  Sadly, I still couldn’t fit in those pre-pregnancy pants because my body had changed.  
For the next few years, I was back at my disordered eating habits.  I had gained a bunch of weight and was ashamed of how I looked. I felt like I wasn’t in control yet did nothing to regain that control.  My doctor would tell me how I needed to lose weight for my health. I dismissed her and told her I just couldn’t lose weight no matter what I did.  I told her I didn’t have time to exercise either. I was lying to myself and her.  I no longer took the diet pills because I was worried about what they were going to do to me.  I got to the point that I would rarely eat in front of people because I was afraid that people were going to judge me for eating.  For thinking I was too fat to be even thinking of eating.  So, I would pick at my food in front of others and eat in silence on my own.  It had to be so difficult to my husband to sit and watch. He never said anything because he knew approaching my eating and weight was likely going to start a war.  He loved me and how I looked but knew I had unhealthy habits and wanted me to regain control of my health.  
I would deflect compliments anytime someone said something nice to me.  If someone said a dress looked nice on me, I would focus on my flabby arms.
Then, things changed and I had my “aha” moment.  I decided I was going to run a marathon.  Yep, the overweight girl was going to run a marathon. I told my husband I was going to start running and he was like “ok”. I knew in his head he was thinking, “I’m sure this is going to last for all of 3 days before she gets bored.”  This time my resolve didn’t waver.  I started to eat breakfast again.  I started to eat less fast food.  I wasn’t obsessing about eating in front of others. I am not saying any of this was easy but it was necessary.  
I realized that my daughters were watching me.  They were at that impressionable age that my habits were likely to become their habits because it was all they knew.  I had to break the cycle.  I would deflect compliments and would focus on some other part of my body that looked all wrong.  I would come into a room and criticize the size of my belly or thighs.  And the whole time I had an audience.  I didn’t want my daughters to learn that their bodies were something to be ashamed of.  I didn’t want my kids to see that food was anything other than fuel.  
The other morning, my daughter decided she wasn’t hungry and went back to her room. I quickly redirected her to the kitchen where we had an honest discussion. I told her why food was important.  I also told her that I used to skip breakfast and I didn’t feel as good as I could on those days. I didn’t think she realized this because she was younger.  Her response to me was sobering.  She said, “Mom, I know you used to skip breakfast.  Why was it ok for you to do then, but it’s not ok for me”.  At that moment, I was put into place by my 13 year old. I explained to her I thought I could lose weight that way but skipping breakfast actually had the opposite impact. 
I started to change my attitude food and my body over the past 18 months. I realized that my body is pretty damn amazing and has done some pretty great things. I may not be a model or a size 2, but that doesn’t matter. I look at food as a fuel.  I need fuel for my training.  I no longer skip meals.  I eat the food I want in moderation.  If I want ice cream, I will eat it.  I no longer try to stick to crazy diets which eliminate entire food groups.  My doctor said I have no health conditions that make this necessary.   While I eat less carbs than I did in the past they are still an important source of fuel for my running.    I still have moments where I will look at my body and call it fat. My husband now gives me a look to bring me back around. For that I am grateful.  
My relationship with my husband is better than it has ever been.  I realized that happiness is an inside job.  Losing weight doesn’t equate to validation, love, happiness or acceptance.  Because I am happy with me, I am able to see all the good in myself and my relationships.  Let me tell you that is a beautiful thing.  Let me challenge you all to think about your attitude towards food and your body. Over the next 30 days resist the urge to talk negatively about yourself. When you feel yourself heading down that path, think of something positive your body has done for you.  Resist the urge to compliment people on looks alone.  Don’t bash other women on how they look.  And stop buying those beauty magazines unless you are reading them for the articles on good sex.  In that case I say good for you.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Well it has been almost a week since my first marathon and I am back at it. There was one text message I sent after the marathon that said never again. Well by two days post marathon I had made some lofty goals and I am working towards them. Running has given me my life back and has shown me that I am capable of so much more than I ever expected. 

I hired a running coach to help me get to the start and finish line of my next marathon injury free. He is working on my  plan as we speak.  While the program I used was good, I was very burned out at the end. I was running 6 days a week and had little time for cross training which I felt was important for well rounded training. The plan I used wasn't geared to my abilities which made it hard for me to feel like I was progressing.  This plan will be made for me and will get me to that start line feeling confident.

I have decided that marathoning isn't over for me. In fact this is just the beginning.  I plan on running NYC, Chicago again, Kona, and my big huge goal which I want to achieve by 45 is Boston. It will take time for me to get my times down enough to qualify but I plan on making it happen. There is something so completely magical about a marathon that I can wait to do it again. I learned so much about myself during my time on the streets of Chicago. The absolute amazing power of the human spirit was unbelievable. Complete strangers outside for hours cheering people on, even the runners towards the back restored my faith in humanity as the world seems  to have made me cynical these days.  

Today I got out and ran 4 miles and it felt great. I was worried my body might revel today but it carried me through and reminded me of why I started in the first place. I contemplated my goals and whether to share them. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being open.  

For the next few weeks I'm going to take it easier. In three weeks I will start the next round of training as I prepare for WDW marathon weekend. This time my whole crew gets to be there with me.  I cannot wait! 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


One word. So many emotions.  Today I said I goodbye to Chicago after an epic weekend. I had been training for this weekend long before I was accepted into the marathon. My journey to be a marathoner started on May 5, 2013 when I woke up that morning deciding I wanted to run a marathon. I couldn't run a block at a time when I first started and after a 20 minute training session my legs were so sore, I don't know why I continued to push through because my body said no but my heart said keep going.  I kept my goals to myself for months. My hubby didn't know I was considering a marathon until about 6 months after I started running. Sunday, October 12, 2014 my goal almost 18 months in the was realized.

My hubby and I made the trek to Chicago early Saturday morning in preparation for Sunday's marathon.  We took the train from Milwaukee to Chicago and of course on this trip into the city we were delayed about 15 minutes. I was antsy. I wanted to drop the stuff off at the hotel and head to the expo.  We arrived at our hotel by about 10:15 and lucky for us our room was ready. We decided on a hotel in a different part of town for this trip and let me tell you I am so glad we did. The Langham was a beautiful hotel with amazing staff. We will be back. After we dropped our stuff off, we headed to the shuttle pick up stop and were off to the expo. The expo was huge but was very crowded.  I picked up a few things and we headed back to the hotel so we could have some lunch.  After lunch I got my two mile shakeout run in on the hotel treadmill. I was going to run outside with my hubby but he forgot his running shorts so I decided to run inside as I don't know my way around town like John does. Saturday evening we had a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant. I had chicken and roasted sweet potatoes which was a great pre-race meal. We were both exhausted from the early morning wake up call and we were ready for bed by 8pm.  It was an off and on night of sleep for me.

I was up by about 4:45 am on race morning. I got myself and all my gear ready for the day. It's amazing how much stuff you need when running a race. The hotel had food and water out for the runners that morning which was a nice touch.  I grabbed a banana and water on my way out to the shuttle which the hotel provided to it's guests.  The amount of people out and about that morning was amazing. So much energy in the city at 6am. We made our way to the hospitality tent we had tickets for and I ate a little more while trying to calm my nerves before I headed to the corral. We saw coverage of the national anthem being sung and the start of the hand cycle division. I was glad that John was with me because shortly after seeing that I had my meltdown. I cried on John's shoulder so worried about whether or not I could really do this. He had complete confidence in my abilities but told me that I needed to listen to my body because he needed me healthy at the end of this. I pulled myself together and headed to the corral.

As I entered the corral, an eerie sense of calm washed over me. My mom and daughters texted me before the race wishing me good luck. I watched the video they made for me complete with a race sign. It melted my heart. It was close to 8:30 when my corral finally crossed the start line. I felt really good starting the race and was hoping that feeling would continue through the entire race.  I heard a familiar voice yelling to me and holding a sign for me shortly after I hit the two mile mark. It was good to see John but I was too far over to sneak a kiss before continuing on.

The next few miles went well. We ran through Lincoln park and I was cruising along feeling good.  I was nearing Wrigley Field and turned onto Addison. I thought of my friends and their little girl Addison at that moment. It brought a smile to my face and as I was making a turn there was John. Again, I wasn't able to sneak a kiss because it caught me so off guard. I continued on and was worried what was going to happen when I hit the 10 mile mark. That is the point in a half marathon I start to get a little challenged mentally. That didn't happen during this race. Before I knew it I hit the halfway mark.   My plan was to push it the second half of the race and I was staying consistent with pacing until mile 16. Then it started to get really tough. At mile 17 I was ready to give up. I still had 9.2 miles to go. I was so tired. I played lots of mind games at that point. I told myself I could quit as long as I went one more mile and that went on and on until mile 20.  I developed a blister on my foot at mile 18. Every step I took was becoming painful and I could feel the blister getting bigger and bigger.

When I hit mile 20, I told myself I had 6.2 to go. That was less than one of my short runs in recent weeks and this was doable. I had heard that a marathon often comes down to the last 6.2 miles and I totally believe that. I slowed down on these last 6.2 miles. I didn't care as my goal was to finish. When I stopped to walk there were a few times I texted John. He told me the trains weren't lining up with my timing and he missed me at a few locations so he was just going to meet me at the finish. I was a little bummed about that because seeing him during those last few miles might have helped to give me that little push I needed.  Sure, they placed all the photographers in the last few miles when I was struggling the most. When I saw them I forced myself to push it and put a smile on my face. That simple act helped a lot. Even though I wasn't feeling it, the smile instantly boosted my mood.

I reached for my final salted caramel gel at about mile 22 and realized it was gone. It must have slipped out of my belt somewhere along the course. I realized I had some sport beans left and had a few to get me through the next few miles. At that point in the race they were too sweet. I put them away and fueled with gatorade and bananas that were provided on course.  This wasn't ideal but I had no choice but to make it work. Soon I was making the turn onto Michigan avenue. I knew that this was a fairly straight shot to the finish line.  I was struggling and then "Don't stop believin" came on.  It brought a smile to my face.  Then, I saw the sign on the course that said "One mile to go".  I texted John and let him know where I was at.  My text said this:  one mile to go. holy shit, I might just do this. I kept pushing through. 800 meters to go.  I made the first of the final two turns into the finish.  I was hoping there were no photographers at that point because the tears were starting to flow.  I have an ugly crying face but I was all emotions at that point.  Then I see another sign.  400 meters to go.  I picked up the pace a bit more. Now, the final turn. The finish line was truly in sight. I was looking for John in the bleachers and didn't see him. My heart sank. He was going to miss this. Then I heard his voice and realized he was on the other side of the road.  I was almost there.  I crossed the finish line with my arms up in the air like I had won the whole damn race. As I think about, I did win that race. It wasn't about beating anyone else, it was about proving to myself that I could do this and that my friends is what I call a victory.

This race challenged my physically and mentally. There were highs and lows in this race. There were times when I wanted to give up.  I am so glad I didn't though.  I worked too hard for this to give up and in reality that isn't the kind of person I am.  I continue to push through when things get tough.

John met me and I hugged him and again cried on his shoulder when he called me a marathoner. They were some of the happiest tears I have cried. I was a marathoner.

Then I looked at my phone and saw all the love and support sent my way during the race, I cried again. My heart was so full and all I could feel was gratitude for all the wonderful people that have crossed my path. It means the world to know there are so many people backing and supporting you.  When you believe in yourself, others will see it and they will start believing in you too. If there is something you dream about, go chase it because it can be reality with hard work. There was no shortcut to my victory. It was hard work, sweat, and trust.  Now I rest the next few days and slowly start to build up my training because I am doing this all over in about 85 more days.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Race week!

Well, race week is officially here. I have spent the last few runs mentally preparing myself for Chicago. I have spent time reflecting on the six months leading up to this point. I had trained for and ran half marathons before so I figured marathon training would be much of the same with some extra miles. I was WRONG! Marathon training was so much different than I expected, While out on my training runs, I tried to think of how to describe it. Then it hit me. Marathon training for me was much like pregnancy.

When you first sign up for a marathon, it's nothing but excitement. Your still giddy from that drunken night when you entered your name into the lottery. I pictured a slightly tougher schedule than half marathon training but nothing I couldn't handle. I thought about where we were going to stay in Chicago, pre-race meals, the race day outfit. You know the important stuff.  Then I realized I needed to figure out which training plan to use. So, I read books on different marathon training options. Everyone has their own theory on what works best.

When training for a marathon, your mileage increases. Then all of a sudden parts of your body start hurting for unknown reasons. All of a sudden you turn one night in bed and wonder when you fought and clearly lost the fight with an alligator. There are times I would waddle around the house because my muscles were tight, my hip hurt or my foot hurt feeling like much like I did 7 months pregnant with twins. Then my hip started hurting a lot. If I took a few days off it would start to feel better but once I started to run again I was back to this pain. I wanted to give up and I started to despise running. When visiting my local running store for a new pair of shoes, he suggested they refit me since it had been 6 months since my last fitting. It turns out, my gait had shifted and the type of shoes I was wearing were no longer what I needed.   Fast forward a week in my new shoes and I felt like a new person! It all comes down to the shoes in life.

Oh, the emotions that come along with marathon training. I can usually keep myself composed but during both pregnancies, tissue or diaper commercials had the ability to make me cry. The same thing started happening as I got into my training. Tears of doubt, tears of joy, tears because my favorite running pants were missing for weeks, or tears because it was raining. You name it, I could go from normal to a hot mess in about ten seconds.

Pregnancy for me was as much about mental preparation as it was about coping with physical changes. I found the same thing to be the case with marathon training. I was preparing my body to take on a large physical challenge. There are times where your body is tired and can keep going but your mind tells you to stop. But you need to keep pushing through. When I was delivering our oldest, I pushed for 3 hours. There was a point where I was said, "she can just stay in there". Obviously the doctor didn't find it funny but when I had tough runs, I had to remind myself that if I was tough enough to push for 3 hours, I can run a marathon. It's about mentally picturing yourself crossing the finish line.  I have watched the course preview video three times already and have committed the final stretch headed into Grant Park into my mind for these final training days.  Darn it, here come the tears again.

While training for a marathon nutrition is important. You need to feed your body proper fuel if you expect it to perform. But sometimes, I just really wanted a cheeseburger. Sometimes, I felt like I was eating for two in order to keep my body properly fueled. The good thing here is that I didn't gain weight.  I actually lost a few pounds and my body fat percent dropped a bit.  It took me almost the whole training cycle but I think I finally have my fueling strategy down.

Then there is the exhaustion. Sleeping in was no longer an option, especially as the training runs got longer. I had to drag myself out of bed in the morning while it was still dark out to log those miles. All, while my hubby said how he was going to enjoy laying in bed for another hour or two. Sure, rub it in. When you start logging longer miles your body just gets tired. I am looking to reduced mileage this week and getting a little extra rest.

After you have a c-section they give you these fancy compression socks to wear. Yep, I hated those. They were these ugly white things that the nurses joked about being from Victoria's Secret. Not funny nurses.  I find myself wearing them during and after long runs and saying how they are the best thing ever invented. At least running ones come in fun colors. It's funny how your opinion changes. I am rocking my hot pink ones as I write this.

During my first pregnancy, I decided early on that I was never going to get pregnant again. I feel that way about this marathon thing too. Like it is never going to happen again. I told myself that during my first half marathon at about mile 8 that I was never going to do this again because it wasn't fun. See how that turned out for me huh? 6 more half marathons have been completed since that.

Despite all of the challenges training for a marathon brings, it is one of the best things I have ever done for myself.  I have shown my kids that nothing is out of reach if you work towards them. I realized that I am a lot tougher than I ever gave myself credit for.  My fellow runners are the best as they have shown me support and celebrated successes during my training. I may have lost some people along the way that couldn't be happy for me but that's ok too. Right now, I am going to enjoy the next week as I prepare for one of the most EPIC things I have ever done. I am going to soak in all the marathon has to offer on Sunday because you only run your first marathon once. I am so glad I took a chance and entered the lottery for Chicago.  Chicago is one of my favorite places and I have a lot of special memories from our visits to the city so it makes sense to run my first marathon there. Have a great night all!