Fit, Fearless and Fifty
Fit, Fearless and Fifty
When I get something in my head, I have to do it. No matter what. If it passes through my brain, and gets lodged for even a second, I am done. I have to do it. This may seem a bit obsessive compulsive (it probably is). When the thought of running the 10 mile Broad Street Run passed through my mind, I knew I was done and I was slightly pissed off. Now, I was going to have to carve out hours to train in an already too-tightly-packed schedule. I was going to have to confront the boredom that is a long distance run. I was going to have to sweat. A LOT.
The longest run I had ever done up until that point was 6 miles and mostly, I ran 3 or 4 miles at a time, a few times a week. My training plan was to add one extra mile per week. All was good until I reached 7 miles. I never had any residual pain from running, but at 7 miles, my body started to complain LOUDLY. My muscles ached, my back and hips hurt and my knees felt like they were going to give out whenever I tried to climb a flight of stairs. After my long run every week, I headed straight for bed and would spend the afternoon recuperating in front of the television, making my boyfriend, Patrick, wait on me hand and foot. "Patrick, can you please get me some acetaminophen? How about a glass of wine? Dinner in bed?"
It took me 2 full days to recover. I started to reconsider. Was the goal of running the Broad Street Run worth spending two days doing absolutely nothing worthwhile in bed? And I began to worry - was I on my way to a hip or knee replacement?
Before giving up, I decided to try Plexus's Ease for my aches and pains and their 96 Protein Powder to help build muscle. I had my doubts - if acetaminophen with a wine chaser did absolutely nothing to relieve my pain, why would Ease work? I was literally amazed at the results. Ease and the 96 Protein Powder eliminated my pain COMPLETELY! I could not believe how good I felt after running for 2 hours. I would take an Ease capsule before my long runs and one after. I drank a 96 Protein Shake after each run as well. (Ease contains New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel. New Zealand’s indigenous Maoris have traditionally eaten these mussels, which are packed full of nutrients that help our bodies in so many ways including reducing inflammation and strengthening joint cartlilage. Protein Powder aids in the repair of torn muscle and helps build lean muscle.)
I 100% believe that I would never have been able to run the 10 miles of the Broad Street Run if I had not started using Ease and 96. They were an absolute game changer and were integral in my reaching my long distance running goal.
So now that I have run 10 miles, maybe I should train for a half marathon? Dammit! Did I really just think that and put it down in writing? You know what that means. Now I have to do it - I have no choice.
My ex-husband, Louis, and I adopted our daughter, Chloe, from China when she was 10 months old. Louis fell in love with her immediately. However, when the Chinese adoption officials placed her in my arms,I did not feel the same degree of love that I had felt four years before when the nurses laid my sleepy first born son on my chest. I felt a responsibility to take care of her like you would a puppy or kitten, I thought, "there must be something wrong with me", until the night, I literally felt my love for her bloom inside my chest.
This is how it happened. One evening, after dinner, I took Chloe for a walk by myself. I was feeling overwhelmed, sad and homesick and couldn't bear one more night hanging out in our lonely hotel room. I loaded her into a front baby carrier, facing out, and set off on a walk through the hilly neighborhoods of Chongquing. Her tiny bare feet kick-drummed my hip bones and she kept up a constant babbling dialogue with herself and every passersby who stopped to ask in broken English "Is it a boy or girl?" and "What is her name?" I would mispronounce "nu" (female in Mandarin) and her Chinese name, "Aihua". My reply would always elicit a huge smile and nod and they would reach out to still her kicking feet, saying "ni hao Aihua". I could feel my heart with each interaction grow one additional size. By the time I walked back into the hotel lobby that night, my love for her was as strong as any mother's love could be.
In Chinese, Aihua means "love flower". This name fits Chloe to a "T". She is full of love, kindness and joie de vivre and with her dark brown hair, doe-shaped eyes and tea-stained skin (the opposite of my freckled complexion), she is more beautiful than any flower. Unfortunately, her beauty is marred by painful, red, itchy patches of inflamed skin - Chloe has been plagued by chronic eczema since almost the moment we stepped off the plane in America. Her eczema keeps her awake at night, forces her to wear socks on her hands to keep from scratching in her sleep, and makes her dress in long sleeves and pants in even the hottest weather in order to hide her red and irritated skin from the world.
I have no idea what it feels like to have eczema. I know it drives her mad. Recently, I showed her a news article I had found that told the tragic story of a girl in China who killed her parents and blamed it on her eczema. I jokingly showed Chloe the article, asking, "you would never do this to us, would you?" To which she replied, "I don't know. Would I?". Did I mention she's funny?
Chloe has tried every sensitive skin lotion available. She has fallen asleep wearing long tube socks, dampened with water on her arms to hydrate her skin overnight. She has taken antihistamines and has used cortizone cream and antibiotic lotion. She has smeared the inside of an aloe plant all over her skin. She takes a nightly shower before bed to rinse away environmental allergens. One doctor inexplicably recommended bleach baths. This did not heal her eczema, though it did keep my tub shiny clean! Her bedroom door is always closed so her room is cat-free and we wash our clothes with detergent that has no artificial colors or scents. Nothing really has helped.
This past year, we finally found an allergist who correctly diagnosed her condition. She has an oral allergy syndrome where proteins in specific fruits, vegetables and tree nuts cause a cross reaction,and she has an over growth of yeast in her gut. Chloe had to change her diet. No more common fruits such as apples, nectarines or plums, no more hazelnuts or almonds, and she had to limit her sugar and gluten intake and other foods that feed yeast.
She started taking a daily probiotic (She takes Plexus's Probio 5) to combat the yeast in her gut and Vitamin D which reduces inflammation and strengthens skin barriers.
The combination of her new diet, Probio5 and Vitamin D have finally worked! When she cheats on her diet, or forgets to take her Vitamin D and/or Probio5, she immediately suffers the results. When on her diet, her skin is clear and itch free. It is almost miraculous how much this new diet has helped. She also uses Plexus Body Cream which has activated charcoal. Unlike a lot of lotions made for eczema, it doesn't contain colloidal oatmeal which she is extremely allergic to.
She sleeps much better at night, without an annoying itch keeping her awake. And so do I - the news story about the girl driven to murder by eczema is now only a distant memory Thank God.
Kids watch everything their parents do; so, for a mom, dieting and weight loss is tricky. We want to show our children good diet and exercise habits, but unfortunately, in our culture, thin = beautiful = self worth.
When I was growing up in the 70's, my mom was always dieting. She could never quite lose that last 10 lbs of the weight that she had gained from giving birth to 7 babies. Her exercise consisted of endless housework, gardening and nightly walks. She was not an extreme dieter and even when she was trying her hardest, her diet always included a handful of potato chips and a light beer while watching Primetime TV. But she talked about it constantly and so at a very young age, maybe 9?, I began to diet.
My dieting was crazy - I ate so little that I became light headed and faint. One scrambled egg for breakfast, a bun-less, boiled, hot dog for lunch, and a handful of grapes for snack. (My cooking skills were primitive.) I never drank any water - I was used to the hi-c we had in constant stock in the fridge. Water was just too plain by comparison. By dinner time, I was starving and dehydrated. We had a large family of 8 people and so portions were always small and there were rarely seconds. I took great pleasure in being svelte and when my friends and I would try on each other's pants to see who was the thinnest, I was usually in the top 2. (Yes, we actually did this as a fun party game. Kids are weird.)
Through my teens, twenties and thirties, I maintained a healthy weight that didn't fluctuate much until I became pregnant at age 33. I am petite (just over 5' tall); I put on 35 lbs, which was a lot for my frame. I would close my eyes when stepping on the scale at my OB-GYNs' and ask the nurse not to tell me my weight. If she slipped up and revealed my weight, I would cry. My OB-GYN was a sweet, unhealthy, overweight man in his early 70's who obviously smoked. (I know this because he would always be delayed examining me - a smoking break I presumed. When he finally bustled into the room, I could smell the cold winter air and cigarette smoke on his white doctor's jacket.) He was a sweetheart though and despite my weight gain, he always remarked at how wonderful I looked and how great I was doing on the weight gain front.
I breastfed and exercised and before long, I was back to or near my pre-baby weight. I kept it off until I was 47 when I put on 30 lbs. I was in a new and happy relationship with a person who is 12" taller than me and able to consume at least double the amount of calories. When he suggested going out for a meal and drinks, with appetizers and dessert, I was all for it. Actually, we both put on weight - I started to tell myself the story, that it was okay, that we were happy and fat together. That maybe I was not fat, but voluptuous, and that was OK.
But it wasn't okay. I hated my reflection in the mirror and my fat face in pictures. My normal resting stance became me with my arms crossed just below my breasts, using the ledge of my stomach as an armrest. My clothes no longer fit and I went up a size (or two).
I am going to really vulnerable here and share with you this video to show you just how "voluptuous" I was. This was a video of our Bunk Head Team in 2013 performing our version of the Bella's finale from Pitch Perfect. If I need to point myself out, I am the one making the dreadful mistake of wearing white jeans. The only thing that makes this video ok are the appreciative cheers from the audience of 200 campers and the fact that I had the guts to get up on stage and do it despite my lack of dancing and singing ability. Do not judge!
Bella's Finale, Bunk Team 2013.
Everything changed one Sunday morning (unbelievably months after I saw this video I might add!) when I woke up early, poured myself a cup of coffee and turned on the TV. One of my guilty pleasures is starting the day watching the Today Show or Good Morning America - whichever one has the better guests. This particular morning, the guest on the Today Show was a nutritionist. What she said about weight loss made complete common sense, but up until that particular moment, I was not ready to hear it. Simply said, the only way to really lose weight and keep it off was to keep track of calories in and calories out (what you eat and how much you exercise). And most importantly she recommended a phone app to help keep track of your calories - "Lose It". I immediately downloaded this app, added my current weight, my goal weight and my weight loss target date. "Lose It" gave me a daily calorie limit and an organized way to keep track of caloric intake and activity. That February morning was the first day of my weight loss journey.
By October of that year, I had lost 32 lbs and weighed less than I had even on my wedding day which had been my previous low. I was exercising more, eating better and feeling much more healthy. If you haven't tried "Lose It", you should.
About two months ago, I realized that I had gained back 10 of the 30 lbs I had lost. I had stopped using "Lose It" and I was purposefully increasing my protein intake to build muscle while training for a 10 mile race. My clothes still fit but just barely; weight gain is a slippery slope - it was time to go on another diet. Unfortunately, I am 5 years older and my metabolism is slower. (Actually, I am going to stop myself here. It is convenient to blame the inability to lose weight on a slowing metabolism. I think we have trouble losing weight as we age because of bad eating habits that are hard to shake and because of sedentary lifestyles.) For whatever the reason, losing weight was not as easy this time around.
I was already taking Plexus's Triplex to regulate my blood sugar and balance my gut health and "96" to build muscle with great results. I felt stronger, I had more energy, I was running 10 miles, my digestion was improved and most importantly, I felt happier. I knew some people who had lost weight drinking Slim Hunger Control so I decided to try it. I also added a Lean meal replacement shake every day. And I started logging my calories religiously on Lose It.
Within 4 weeks of drinking Slim HC and Lean, I lost 5 lbs. By week 7, I had lost 7 lbs. I drink Slim HC around 4 or 5 o'clock everyday when I am about to head home from work. This is the time of day that I usually start getting hungry and when snacking seems like the answer. Slim HC tides me over until dinner. It is all natural, non-GMO, vegan, and tastes delicious. It contains polydextrose which plumps up your stomach lining, making you feel less hungry. I drink Lean for breakfast (also all natural, non-GMO and vegan). I blend it in a portable shaker bottle and drink it on my 1 1/2 commute to work.
In addition to these products, I cannot recommend the Lose It app enough! Recording my calories daily holds me accountable. I absolutely dread exceeding my calorie intake for the day. When I meet it or come in below, I celebrate this achievement on a daily basis.
Losing weight is hard. Especially at first when you are building new eating habits and eating way below your normal caloric intake. You are hungry literally all time! Lean and Slim HC help me cheat the system. They are both low calorie alternatives to snacks and meals and they taste just sweet enough to satisfy my cravings for sugar.
Losing weight does get easier, especially when you start to see results.
Here are my weight loss tips:
The story of Fit, Fearless and Fifty is my evolving story of self-discovery, personal growth, reflection, and prioritizing health and well-being. Along the way, I will have to face my fears - my fear of being found out, my fear of not being good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough/thin enough and my fear of being too old. And in the end, the lessons of my childhood - lessons of alcoholism, turmoil and never having enough money - will have to finally stop making me forever a perpetual low-wage earner and under-achiever.
My story of course begins 52 years ago, but for the purposes of this chapter of my life, I will start my story the day my friend Cori gave me a sample of "the pink drink" Slim. Cori had just had a baby and when she returned to work after maternity leave (did I mention she was my boss?), I could see that she was overwhelmed and exhausted. At the urging of her friend, Darci, Cori started using Plexus's Triplex which includes Slim. Triplex targets gut health and since a significant percentage of seratonin originates in the gut, it helps with mood and energy. Cori was happier and less anxious, she had more energy, and she shed her pregnancy weight fast. At least this is what she told me when she gave me a sample to try. I was skeptical. The weight loss was obvious - she looked great. But the rest? I loved the way it tasted, but did I want to spend money on some possibly-a-placebo pink drink? My frugality won out and I decided "no" and didn't give it another thought for another year.
But then, a year later, this past fall, I found myself feeling even more overwhelmed and exhausted than usual. I was working long hours, not really making ends meet at a non-profit job that fulfills me, with co-workers and an executive director who support me, but includes a one and a half hour commute to and from work every day, each way, I struggled to keep my eyes open on the long drive. Sometimes, I even thought it would be easier to just fall asleep and drive off the road I was so tired and stressed out. Instead, I would pull over, close my eyes for 5 minutes, wake up and continue on my way. Most mornings, I left the house at 7am and got home at 8pm after picking my kids up from work or swimming practice. I would make dinner and by the time I finished cleaning up, it was well past 9pm.
I was 51 with a senior in high school (Jacob) and an 8th grader (Chloe). My kids were growing up and becoming more independent. I missed them. This year was particularly hard in that regard. Jacob had a job and when he wasn't working or at school, he was out with his friends. Chloe was also developing a social life and when she was home, she was holed up in her room, texting her friends. With my busy schedule, I felt like I never saw them. I missed their physical presence by my side as my constant companions. I would drive by playgrounds where we used to spend our afternoons and choke back tears. I can't even write this paragraph really without welling up it is so painful to think back on how unhappy I was. I found myself crying A LOT. And I had gained back 10 of the 30 lbs I had worked so hard to lose just 3 years earlier.
I hate to admit this, and I actually lied to my doctor during my annual check up, but I am pre-menopausal which may account, now that I think about it, for a great deal of my angst. I have night sweats, mood swings, teary outbursts and hairs popping out on my chin.
I decided to seriously give the Pink Drink a try. If it helped Cori, maybe it could help me? I reached out to Cori and enrolled as an Ambassador so that I could buy the products at wholesale. (As I mentioned before, I am frugal and had no intention of actually selling the products.) I started taking Triplex religiously.
I suffer from anxiety and depression and have been on Prozac for 15 years. Prozac levels me out - "changes the subject" in my brain so that I don't obsess and worry so much. The addition of Plexus's Triplex took my anxiety and depression relief to the next level. I began to feel more optimistic and happier. I had more energy - I was no longer falling asleep at the wheel during my daily 3 hour+ commute. And I was pooping like a champ. (I always held stress in my stomach, hence the saying, "I have a gut feeling", and constipation was a way of life for me. But not anymore.)
The night sweats are also a thing of the past. I actually didn't lie to my doctor about pre-menopause. I simply forgot because I no longer have any of the symptoms he named when he asked.
In June, I traveled to a Plexus convention in Orlando, Florida, for 2 reasons: 1) to see if I wanted to become one of the women who I was hearing about who were not only changing their lives by using the products but also by developing a second income and 2) to have a vacation. Cori's friend Darci was one of these women I was hearing about. Darci was earning six figures as a Plexus Ambassador; she had quit her full time job as a teacher and she was living her dream; she was in charge of her own destiny. At the convention, I met hundreds of women like her whose health, well being and wealth had been positively impacted by Plexus. Women from all walks of life - women just like me. Actually. I'm not going to lie: they were just like me, but maybe the 2.0 version of me -the one I want to be - not the one that I write about in paragraph 3 of this story. One speaker in particular inspired me - Christy White. Christy's speech was all about "doing it scared". Her message resonated with me. I was scared (see paragraph 1) but I heard her loud and clear when she said, "If you’re not scared, than you are not living up to your fullest potential."
I thought about it - what would it mean to live my life to it's fullest potential? I took a good long look at my life's current state of affairs and I knew, deep in my gut (where so much good and bad originates) that I could not continue to live my life just "so, so". I am 52 years old. I could live for another 50 years if I am lucky. To live my life to its fullest potential is scary. I left Florida with butterflies in my stomach.
What will the next stage of my life entail? Will I find more quality time to spend with my son and daughter? Will I lose those last 5 lbs? Will I run a half (or gasp! A full?) marathon? Will I challenge myself to do the things that I dream about, but am scared shitless to do - like playing my ukulele and singing on stage at a local open mic night? Will I parachute out of a plane? (Doubtful). Will I travel to India, meditate in an ashram and write the next great best-selling version of "Eat, Pray, Love?" (Also, doubtful). But who the hell knows?
This essay marks the very beginning of the story of Fit, Fearless and Fifty. I have no idea where it is going, or where I am going, but change is a-foot. I can feel it in my gut.