Friday, June 30, 2017

Grace Wins Every Time

At the age of forty-eight, in October of 2012, I started this mental challenge with myself called "Fit by Fifty". Steve and I joined 24 Hour Fitness on October 31, 2012, and we both began working twice a week with personal trainers. At the same time, we were eating Nutrisystem diet foods {which tasted awful}. This focused stretch lasted until about June 2013. I did not have a good relationship with my trainer: she regularly had me crying, and so I decided that leaving for our Florida vacation was as good a time as any to quit. Now, I weigh myself just about every day before showering and I log it. I can tell you my weight on any given day for the last several years, going all the way back to 2006 when I began Jenny Craig {for the first time} after moving to the Dallas area. I'm not obsessed with dieting. But I'm probably obsessed with eating, and being married to a curious and persistent Foodie doesn't help my cause. It's highly unfair because said Foodie walks ALL DAY for his job and self sits all day for hers. The deck is stacked against me. Hence my campaign for Fit by Fifty. 

Well, fifty came and I wasn't "fit" yet, so I changed my internal slogan to "Fit AT Fifty". Still had quite a nice ring to it, yes? I did a bout with HCG drops. And then I enrolled in Jenny Craig again. I started walking at lunch. I tried changing all the variables, looking for that magic answer to getting the scale on the downward slope that would match my aging trajectory. Nothing seemed to work permanently. It's all too painful really to recount in detail, as I have basically dieted my entire adult life. I've done all the food diets over one time span or another: Weight Watchers (three times), First Place, The Grapefruit Diet, Adkins, Jenny Craig (three times), Nutrisystem, Slim4Life, BistroMD, and I've done a couple of plans that involved pills. Remember "Fit and Trim", Sheila?.... Suffice it so say my working slogan is now "Fit IN my Fifties". Ah, the sliding rule of middle-aged sedentary working life, with a genesis of slow metabolic genes....

I'm clinging to that quote "You never really lose until you quit trying" which is attributed to Mike Ditka, or perhaps you prefer "You never fail until you stop trying" which is attributed to Albert Einstein. Either works for me, as in it works to keep me trying, but I still haven't "won", because I cannot fully lose. And I'm not miserable, and I'm not seeking a pity party....I'm just determined in a comfortable way. I'm not willing to live and breathe and die for a fitness regimen, for instance. But I've stopped binge eating ice cream and cookies and chips. I'm exercising, more or less, regularly. I'm embracing salads now. Small, incremental steps. Lots of little steps of progress along the way. I see it as a math equation that can be solved if I work at it long enough. It's a challenge to be sure. And there is nothing more addicting to me than a good challenge.

For what it's worth, I did lose the baby weight from both boys. I was a size 10 for my brother's wedding. I remember that navy dress well. And I was holding baby Andrew on my hip. So, whatever I've got going on is all food addiction related, and not maternity pounds gone awry....And there was one point when my eating got really out of hand, and again, without too many details, I battled depression while living in McAllen and ate my way through the pain, and got up to a size 20. I was at that size, or just below it at an 18, when we moved to Dallas in 2005. Oh, the pictures do not lie, do they?

It was equal parts vanity and health that drove me to Jenny Craig for the first time in early 2006. And that same formula has been corraling my gains and had me fighting for losses ever since. {It is equal parts freedom and humiliation to write this out.} As a companion to my dieting manueuvers, and in pursuit of the health aspect, I have of course had varying attempts and successes with exercise. I was never athletic as a child and when I wanted to pursue junior high volleyball, my father forbid it because of the uniform. Additionally, in the sixth grade I was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia and put on heart medication, and developed a mild fear of over-exerting my heart. So, the metabolism of a highly sedentary person began its formation long ago, and I have been, as an adult, working that angle of the equation as well. 

When I revisited Jenny Craig in October 2015, I did simultaneously begin a regular if modest workout: I would walk for 30 minutes each day during lunch. At first I did this begrudgingly, but over time, it became something I really looked forward to. By April 2016, I was walking twice a day: at lunch, and then again in the evenings with Steve. At this point in time, I loved walking. Loved it. I loved how it made me feel. I loved our end of day talks as we made our way through our mapped out path. I could tell it helped me handle my stress, and I could tell also that it was a great way to unwind the days' troubles.

So 2016 rocked along as a pretty good year of victories in the weight loss war. From October 2015 to June 2016, I lost 24 pounds and then I stalled in loss with my Jenny Craig plan around June, and went off of their food plan because it was too expensive to be used as a "maintenance" plan. We did keep up with the walking. Well, by July I had put a few pounds back on. Between June and mid August, I had put 8 of those pounds back on. And in mid August, we saw for the first time in over a year some dear friends of ours from Knoxville, Damon and Lea. Damon and Lea had begun the Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomroy in February and we could see before our eyes their incredible changes in body composition and in weight loss. After spending the weekend with them, we came home convicted to try this new program that would repair our metabolism.

I will tell you that it has been hard. We have gone off and on Haylie's 28 day cycle plan. We have basically been off of caffeine, wheat, soy, dairy, alcohol, and refined sugar since August 2016. Oh, we have had our "cheats" here and again, but we haven't enjoyed how we have felt afterwards, and we have slowly been falling out of love with things like pizza, Mexican food, hamburgers, Italian food, desserts of all kinds....a whole host of former faves. The tragic downside of this drastic change in eating is that the social avenue of eating out basically dies a slow death. So many restaurants that we loved are out of the rotation for the meager nights we brave eating out. The inability to eat out, or grab a quick bite anywhere, has been the hardest aspect of it all. 

During the course of this new way of eating, I was FaceTiming my friend, Lea, and we were talking about the three phases of eating and cardio and weight training came up. She was talking about how they were running for their cardio and casually mentioned, "You know, if there's ever a 5K at Disney, we'd be up for it," to which I replied, "Well there IS, so are you trash talking me, or serious?" Before the conversation ended, it was rather apparent that I had committed to running a 5K, and she had committed to going to Walt Disney World with us. I think we were both equal parts elated and mystified. ;-) Thankfully, all of my walking combined with my weight loss had equipped me to mentally and physically take the next step. In November 2016, I was actually only one pound higher than my lowest Dallas weight from October 2006.

On August 28, 2016, in the heat of the Texas summer, I set my Apple watch to track my first {pitiful} effort of my running workout, implementing a 5K training plan of timed walk/run intervals that Lea had shared with me. Steve was in this with me. We were all signed up {both couples} for the February run, and the training gauntlet had been thrown down. Steve and I did really well on our training until the time to move in our home on November 10 arrived. The pressure to get settled for the holidays superceded any race training and before we knew it, it was January and I was nowhere near able to run 3.1 miles. 

On January 10, two months after our move-in, Steve and I knew we were up against a wall and we resumed our race training, which was running 3 times a week. Forcing myself to prepare for this finite deadline, and simultaneously confronting the reality of running {in public} with my husband and our two dear friends, was some of the hardest truths and experiences I've ever faced. I could not quit. I had to finish. I had to keep going. I did not want to, though. I did not think I could do it. Here is an excerpt from an email I wrote on January 24:
Last night as I was running I contemplated the verse, "With man nothing is possible, but with God ALL things are possible" and I thought about getting the word possible tattooed on my wrist. No joke. I need the daily moment by moment reminder that Papa is BIG. I did not have a good run. I am feeling very much like a failure at it. I am full of doubt and feeling very foolish for even trying this. I am the oldest, I have the heaviest % of body fat, and I have a heart problem to boot. "WTH was I thinking?" kept running through my mind.
In one last desperate attempt, on January 25 I Googled some 30-day 5K Training Plans and, mustering gumption and grit, on January 29, we increased our 3-4 day a week running regimen to running every day. Every day. Work, eat dinner, change clothes, lace up shoes, run, die on the couch. The 5K was Friday, February 24. I had a finite amount of time, and what seemed like an infinite amount of distance to cover in my running.

I would spend the next twenty days trying, trying, trying to get to where I needed to be. See, I just was unable to run continuously for 3.1 miles. But, what I realized on February 11 was this was a mental hurdle, and not a physical one. Let me share with you another email excerpt from February 13:

Steve and I continue to be PRESSED into the nuttiness of eating FMD (and ALL that entails) and pairing that with the last minute prep for the 5K. I WILL BE HONEST and tell you I DID NOT THINK I WAS GOING TO BE READY. I WILL BE HONEST and tell you that the progress I have made CAN ONLY BE SUPERNATURAL. I alternate the breath prayer of POSSIBLE with IMMEASURABLE AND IMMENSE daily, moment by moment, as I slog through our route. GOD IS SO MAJESTIC AND OMNIPRESENT. WHO ARE WE THAT HE IS MINDFUL OF US?

I praise God for giving me the idea to SEEK OUT a 30 day training plan, and I praise God for also whispering to me to evaluate the elevations that we were running. We were basically running an uphill circle, where the downhill wasn’t long enough to equip me for the uphill, with an accumulated climb that equated to a 74 ft climb over the course of running for 30 minutes. (The Epcot course has a cumulative climb of 42 feet. We ran that looping uphill route that way for the last time on 1/31. On 1/30 we made the adjustment to push ourselves to hit 3.12 miles per night, whether we were walking OR running to begin to transition our bodies for the distance. (Another God whisper.) Papa has guided me relentlessly, helping me to adjust. After 1/31, I felt so FOOLISH and defeated. We took a couple days off, did some weight training, and went back to running on 2/5 - hitting 3.12 miles successfully for the first night. On 2/5 and 2/6, I was able to run nonstop for about 6 or 7 minutes total before needing to stop to walk. On Tuesday 2/7, I stretched that to 8 minutes running before stopping. 
Every night during this time we are adapting our route, trying to even it out, adjusting some each time, thinking where we can turn to hit some flats…? On 2/8 and 2/9 we rest from running. On Friday 2/10, we head out to run and I push myself - God helps me - to run for 16 minutes without stopping to walk. I DOUBLED MY TIME FROM ONE RUN TO THE NEXT. PRAISE GOD!! On Saturday 2/11 we go run and I tell myself I’m going to make it to 20 minutes without stopping. Hit 20. Okay, go for 25. Hit 25. Okay, for for 30. Hit 30. Okay, go for 35. At 35, I know I’m struggling, but I know I have the gas in me to go ahead and finish. On Saturday, 2/11, I RAN A 5K FOR THE FIRST TIME WITHOUT STOPPING ANY. I was filled with joy, elation, disbelief, doubt. MY PREDOMINANT THOUGHTS WERE, “I DID IT!” FOLLOWED IMMEDIATELY BY “CAN I DO IT AGAIN?” 

Well, we ran Sunday 2/12 and yes, yes, praise God I COULD DO IT AGAIN. And my times were a little better and it was incredibly windy at that. I document all of this because in the span of FIVE DAYS I go from being able to run for 6 minutes to being able to run for the whole distance…the time of that varies from 41 to 48. I ran for 48 minutes on Saturday and 41 minutes on Sunday….My paces are improving. My heart rate is getting steadier and stronger…My breathing is getting better. SUPERNATURAL PROGRESS. PRAYERS ANSWERED. I pray that I can continue to get faster and I am not relenting on my training until the race day arrives!! Thank you for your prayers and support. It means so much.  
{There were too many details to try to recount that, so the email sharing was the easiest.} 

I say all of this backstory to say, to quote Walt, "If you can dream it, you can do it," or to quote my scripture, "With man nothing is possible, but with God all things are possible." I feel like if I can run a 5K, anyone can run a 5K. When race day came, we were ready. The race began at 6 AM. We had to be at our corral by 5:30. We had to be on a bus to Epcot by 5 AM. We set our alarms for 4:15 AM. We all quickly got up and got dressed and, thankfully, a bus was there waiting and we walked right on. It was surreal to see so many runners. Over 7,000. We were slotted in corral D. They released 4 times from each corral at 2-minute intervals. We were the first release of our corral, and we began at 6:26 AM and finished 44 minutes later. 

My husband and my friends were so kind to run slowly with me, at my pace that would keep my heartrate at an acceptable level. We started in the parking lot. We ran in the dark. We played frogger around those that were walking already at mile one. Navigating the crowds was the hardest. We entered Epcot at the backstage entrance near the Mexico pavilion, where Donald Duck has his meet and greets. The race went so fast! All of hours and months of training -- for this brief 44 minute run. We tried as best as we could to stay together. There were moments where we were tightly together, and moments where it was just me and Steve, and sometimes I was at the back by myself. I just kept running. I had trained for this! This was the moment! 

The Photo Pass photographers on the sidelines of the race path, in their little green huts for safety and visibility, were proof of that. There was one moment in the breaking dawn when I was clearly by myself as I approached a photographer. It was after mile one, and before mile 2. I know this because towards the end of mile 2 is where I always struggle, until I push through that barrier and get my second win that takes me to mile 3....I know this because the pose I gave the photographer was my moment. That photo of me captures the essence of it all! I was here, I was doing this, I was running in a 5K, I was doing something I never before thought possible!!

I know all of this was a gift to me from God. I know I'm not measured by my body weight, or shape, or size. I know I'm not fenced in by them either. I know my ability to break through that mental barrier on February 11 was my gift, far less tangible than my race medal, but so much more visible in my mind. From August to February, the four of us had a slogan, and on race day we owned it. We crossed the finish line together, holding hands, arms up over our heads. Victory. See, grace wins every time. I'm not done with my "fit in my fifties", but this story, this moment, this race, this medal is a capstone. And every time I doubt my ability to succeed, I tell myself "Anything is possible if you believe," and I recall a sparkly crown, a blue tutu, Epcot in the breaking dawn, 7,000 runners, my husband and friends cheering me on, and I remember grace wins every time.

Anything is Possible if You Believe ~ Epcot Royal Family 5K ~ February 2017

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Echo Park
Title: Silhouette file