I’ve arrived – in a big way!
Okay. Let’s face it, I let myself go.
After so many years of delayed gratification–eight years of college and three years of residency–I finally had the opportunity do whatever I wanted – to eat out when I wanted, indulge my fondest cravings. It seemed to make up for all the times I had to deny myself these things because I couldn’t afford it or I didn’t have the time.
Indulge I did.
No one told me I couldn’t. And I was a grownup. I could do whatever I wanted. Blissfully in denial, I paid no heed to the effect that inactivity and overindulgence was having in my body.
Eventually, I noticed but became conveniently resigned. I told myself that I was just fated to be a chubby old lady. Hadn’t all my female relatives struggled with weight issues all of their adult lives? Wasn’t I just a product of the genes I inherited?
I even bought I whole new wardrobe of “fat lady” clothes. At least I looked better than when I was still trying to squeeze into the smaller sizes.
Life seemed to be full. I had a great practice, a new beautiful house, a wonderful accepting husband and a lifestyle that held few limits by normal standards.
Besides, self-acceptance is good, right?
Reality Strikes Unexpectedly and Hard
I was walking through the house admiring my accomplishments when I stepped into the gym. Yes, I even had a place for the treadmill, weights and piped in music to keep me diverted during exercise. But I never used any of it. Then it hit me.
Sure we used to hike in the mountains. We could walk all day… ten years back. Now I hardly ever took the time to do things in the outdoors that I used to love.
What if I didn’t get the chance to enjoy the fruits of my labors?
I started to think about the number of patients I had known who “out of the blue” had a devastating life threatening event or diagnosis. Could that happen to me? Of course.
And I’ve known that for as long as I’ve been in medicine. But, no matter what you know, you can always push it way to the back of your mind where it can’t bother you.
But, if you’re lucky, it rushes you one day when your guard is down. The reality that lifestyle related events don’t just happen to other people.
My blood pressure already ran high and was climbing. I have a family history of diabetes.
I have a genetic endowment for longevity. Sure, the random strike of cancer could rob me of long life. But it could just as likely a stroke or heart attack! And maybe not a fatal one. I might live a long but debilitated life.
For the first time, I really felt from deep down that I had better get serious about change.
The family came together at our house for Thanksgiving. That’s when I saw my sister for the first time since she lost over 50 pounds. She had been following Weight Watchers for about a year and having great success.
What an eye-opener.! Karen looked great. And I looked, well, old. And frumpy.
That was it. If she could do it, I could–and would.
Not an hour after the family packed up and we waved them goodbye, I was on the computer at the Weight Watchers web site. My erratic schedule made attending local meeting unlikely; so I signed up to get started with their online program.
The next day I started counting my “points” – units based on calories but with certain nutritional preferences factored in.
Over the next year I slowly and steadily dropped 60 pounds. During this process I began to exercise to enhance my weight loss as well as to up my points. Meaning I get to eat more. Now you’re talking!
As I lost the weight the walking became slow running. At first, I ran because I could get my point deficit in a shorter time. But I began to like it. By the time I hit my weight goal, I was hooked on running.
A Whole New World!
A whole new world of self control opened before me. I had the potential to become something I previously thought wasn’t possible.
If I could lose and maintain a weight I choose, I could also train and improve my running as far as I wanted to push myself.
I signed up for and told everyone I was running The Great Columbia Crossing, a 10K race over the Columbia River.
I found a training schedule and stuck to it – 5 days a week. At the end of the 3 months, I stood in the rain with a bunch of runners and I finished the race under my one hour self-imposed time limit. What a hoot!
What an accomplishment! What did I get myself into?
That old drive had kicked in. The same drive that powered me through college, then medical school, and now in my medical practice.
I found myself first wondering about, then contemplating, then actually saying out loud that I wanted to run a marathon. That’s when Rodney, my husband of 20 years, began calling me The Mad Runner. At first I thought he was making fun of me for running. Now I know it’s just his sense of humor. How? Because he shows up for every run.
I did it. I ran in a marathon. No, I finished a marathon.
Not always fun miles either. Some were. Others w
When it was over, I surprised myself and Rodney by throwing myself in his arms and sobbing uncontrollably.
It was wonderful!
Two years later …
A patient of mine, taken aback by my loss of 60 pounds (1/3 of my former weight) reared back and said:
“Yea, well, let’s just see what you look like a year from now!”
I dedicate this photo to her.
Kate Merrill, 2006