I was obese the majority of my life. People that didn't know me then don't always believe it when I tell them. But it's the truth.
In 2014, after years of dieting, cycles of exercise programs, and pure frustration, I made a choice that would change my life forever. I spoke to my husband about the possibility of weight loss surgery. I hated not being able to wear nice clothes, I didn't want my kids to be embarrassed by me, I wanted to play better and longer with them, to be a good example, and I wanted a chance at a longer, healthier life. Living life obese wasn't easy. Living a healthy life, wouldn't be easy. Making a total lifestyle change is hard. But so is chasing your kids with an extra 100 pounds on your body. I had to choose my hard.
I began exercising and making changes to my diet. In November 2014 after losing 32 pounds, I had a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, which removed 2/3 of my stomach from my body forever. I ate pureed carrots for Thanksgiving dinner. I chose my hard.
By July 2015, I met my weight loss goals. I dropped in total 154 pounds. That's an entire human! I went from a tight size 24 to a size 6/8. I continued to exercise on my own, but struggled with regimented strength training. It was hard. I lost my job and spent 7 months out of work. As the breadwinner of the family, it was a hard summer. I was able to focus on my health, spend time with my kids over sending them to daycare, and searched for a job.
Eighteen months post-op, I'm still down 150 pounds. I was working again. No one there had any clue that I was once twice my size and struggled constantly with my weight and self-image. It was harder to say no to holiday cookies in the office. It was harder to keep exercising. I walked at work some days, but I didn't always choose my hard. I went for easy. As a result, I gained 10 pounds. I didn't mind, because at my lowest, I looked sick. With the added 10, I was still considered a normal weight. My face was fuller. I chose to continue the easy path.
Fast forward to June 2016. I didn't choose hard this time - hard chose me. The warning signs were only there for a few hours. Harder than losing my mom, harder than watching my husband have two open heart surgeries in 3 years, harder than facing bankruptcy, harder than moving from my home state, my surgery or unemployment. I had to call my step-son and tell him his dad was in the hospital and might not make it. A few hours later, my husband died. Hard is telling your 7 and 5 year old children they will not see their dad alive again.
When life is hard, it's easy to fall back into bad habits. Suddenly a single parent, and grappling with my new label of “widow,” I didn't make time for myself. It's too hard. It's hard to hand over your kids to someone else when you want to keep them close and they don't want to let you out of their sight. Emotions are easy to swallow with a scoop of ice cream. Everything tastes better with ice cream, especially if it’s chocolate. I stopped exercising with any regularity. I stopped logging my food. I stopped focusing on staying away from the healthy foods for all of us, let alone my bariatric diet. I sought comfort in those foods that brought instant gratification - but lingering regret, discomfort, and guilt. It's hard to be good, and so I wasn't. I gained 20 pounds.
I was frustrated with myself. After six months, I finally started to exercise more. I declared enough is enough. I still made, well, make, some poor choices with nutrition. I love my elliptical; it treated me well in the past, but I needed a change. I needed to challenge myself again and I knew I needed to incorporate more strength work in my exercise this time around. HIIT Like a Girl was that change, and it was hard.
I messaged Zara to get information about class locations. I think it took me another week or so to convince myself to actually go. Leaving my comfort zone was hard. I left my office on a Friday for my first class. I almost didn't leave. But I did. I walked across the parking lot and thought of every excuse I could to not go. I argued with myself over and over, until I was in the car and driving. And even then I almost backed out. I was nervous. What if I didn't fit in? What if I couldn't keep up? What if I didn't know how to do an exercise? What if all these women were far beyond me in physical strength? What if they were all built like fitness models? What if I look like a fool? Making that choice - to walk into class - was hard for me. Despite the mental torture I was giving myself, I was about to be challenged physically, rather than emotionally, for the first time in a long time.
My first class was great. I survived and I felt more proud of myself than I have in a long time.
But I almost didn't go back. Going back meant commitment. Commitment to that hard change. To break out of my comfort zone (read: easy!) and do something for me again. I was about to pay for someone to torture me in 20-60 second intervals, make me feel muscles that I wasn't sure I actually had, make it hard to take the stairs back to my office or lift my arms overhead to undress at night. I debated for days, then finally did it. Not only did I sign up, I jumped right in on an 8-week fitness challenge. I remind myself that I can do anything for 20 seconds during Tabata’s. Anyone can do anything (well, almost anything) for 20 seconds. I can make time for class. I may be the only one working out in makeup and jewelry so I can jump back into work clothes and run - but I can do it. I have chosen my hard once again.
Do I fit it? How could I not, when surrounded by women that are mothers, professionals, vested in their health and are in my age bracket? Can I keep up? With who? My only competition is myself. Do I know how to do every exercise? No, but I have great instructors that show me how, even if I still lack enough coordination to do a Turkish get-up. Modifications are encouraged when needed, and I do it. Is HIIT-LAG full of fitness models? Hell yes. Every single one of us. Fitness isn’t just about a flat stomach and ripped muscles, though some of you ladies rock it. Fitness is about keeping your physical body and mental state strong. It’s about improving your longevity. And HIIT-LAG ladies are killing it.
My last fear – do I look like a fool? Absolutely not. At least I hope not. But when I’m in class, I’m focusing on being a better me. I try not to compare myself to anyone but who I was before walking into class. And if I look like a fool; well, I’ll be a strong, healthy fool.
Making time for class still isn’t always easy. Sometimes, it’s still hard to go. But HIIT-LAG is empowering me to find my confidence again. My husband was my biggest cheerleader. Any confidence I found after losing weight and trying to figure out who I was in this new body – left the day he died. I didn't lose a single pound during my challenge. But health goes way beyond the scale. I lost a few inches. I improved by endurance by 86%. I know that the scale is just a measurement of gravitational pull and not of my worth. My thighs are still thick, but thicker with strong muscles over fat. I’m less concerned with that number and more concerned with how I feel, physically and mentally. I do feel better and have more energy when I go to class regularly. The work is hard, but the choice this time is easy. I give thanks every day for the hard I chose.
The HIIT-LAG tribe is over here, out of your comfort zone, waiting for you. Waiting to support, motivate and challenge you. You have one life to live. Live it healthy and strong or sick and weak. Which hard will you chose?