Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Coming Out Of The (Fat) Closet

In the fall of 2009, shortly after my fortieth birthday, I began having dizzy spells that seemed to occur with no particular rhyme or reason. They were absolutely terrifying. My world would spin wildly out of control without warning and each episode left me gasping with shock and trembling with fear. The brain I knew, controls the very delicate equilibrium that keeps us all upright and spatially aware.

I worried that my brain was in trouble. But I kept telling myself I was being silly. It’s a thing I do…I imagine the worst. Every lump or bump is cancer, every ache or pain is scleroderma, mesothelioma, an impending aneurysm. I kept telling myself it was just stress, anxiety, the busy pace of my life. Maybe it was just an inner ear thing. Maybe it was my migraine medication. Maybe they would just go away.

But they didn’t go away. And I soon became frightened enough that I visited my family doctor hoping to get some answers. She suspected an inner ear disorder that causes vertigo called Meniere’s, but due to my long history of severe and debilitating migraines, ordered an MRI just to be safe.

I received a call at 7:00 on a Friday evening. My heart sank when I realized that it was my doctor herself calling; not the nurse, not the receptionist. That’s never good news. She told me gently that my brain showed three distinct areas of damage, which were evidence of stroke. The most severely damaged area of my brain was on my cerebellum, which controls fine motor functions and regulates balance and equilibrium. The dizziness and clumsiness I had been experiencing was explained at last. Also, the right side of my brain showed large areas of “diffuse speckling”, which were areas of damage consistent with a long history of migraine.

As I said, I was terrified. But I was puzzled too. How on earth can a person experience something as devastating as a stroke, much less three, without realizing what was happening to them? My doctor told me that certain types of strokes have symptoms that are very similar to migraine symptoms. She asked if I had recently experienced an unusually severe migraine. I had. I had lain in bed for four days, gobbling pain pills and praying for an end to the pain. If you know anything about me you know things have to be very dire for me to offer up a prayer. The doctor suspected that I had actually experienced that series of strokes, but wrote them off as migraine symptoms, never realizing that my life could have been in danger.

A follow up appointment the next day revealed that my blood pressure was 130/120, although honestly, I think that reading was affected by the fact that I was absolutely terrified. She explained that the strokes I had suffered were warning signs, and that the risk of suffering another more debilitating or possibly even fatal stroke within the next 12 months was about 30%. She put me on beta blockers to lower my blood pressure, blood thinners to prevent the formation of a clot or narrowing of my arteries that might precipitate another stroke, and an anti-anxiety medication to help me cope with the stress and the fear I was experiencing over the obviously serious state of my health.

I didn’t want to die. I had spent the last fifteen years focused entirely on raising my boys. I hadn’t yet written that novel, or travelled the world, or learned to play the piano. I hadn’t seen my boys graduate or get married or become parents themselves. You hear a lot of people say it, and it always sounds a little trite, but it really is what goes through your mind at such a moment; “I still have so much to do!” And of course, being a writer, my brain is the tool of my trade, as well as the essence of my identity. If I lost my leg in a car accident, I could and would adapt just fine. But without a healthy brain, I wouldn’t know who or what to be.

Clearly, something had to change.

About that time, we attended my husband’s 25th high school reunion, where a professional photographer took each couple’s picture. I remember picking out my outfit for the evening and doing my hair and make-up. I felt pretty and confident, but when we got the photos back three weeks later, I was appalled. I did not see the pretty, confident woman that I felt myself to be. I saw a fat, unhealthy woman whose face was that of a stranger. I’m not a woman who is given to fits of pointless hysteria, but I cried looking at that picture.

The next week I joined Weight Watchers. My first weigh in was on October 1st 2009. My parents had been doing the program since April and both of them had experienced very good results. I was encouraged and decided that if they could do it, I certainly could. But when I saw the number that registered on the scale and realized the full scope of the challenge ahead of me, I thought it was impossible. I would never succeed. Eighty four pounds seemed like a huge amount of weight to lose. But I realized that I really had very little choice. I had to succeed. My life quite literally depended on it.

The same week that I started Weight Watchers, I began walking every day at a local park. There was a nicely paved path that was exactly one mile around with an inner track that was a half a mile. I thought it would be a cinch. I guess it still hadn’t really sunk in just how far I had allowed my physical condition to deteriorate. I made it around one and a half times, but just barely. My back hurt, my shins hurt, my knees hurt and my feet ached terribly. I was red faced and sweating profusely.

I did not enjoy that first foray into physical fitness. But I walked every day until the weather got too cold. I was doing four miles at a really brisk pace by that time, and feeling pretty good about that. I had actually begun to enjoy my walks. There was something very Zen about putting on my iPod, cranking up the tunes, and just boogying around that track as fast as I could. I realized that the sunshine and fresh air really elevated my mood and I began to find that on the days I couldn’t or didn’t walk, I was grumpy and out of sorts.

During the winter, I did Walk Away The Pounds in my living room, gradually increasing the number of miles and upping the intensity by using a stretchy band and then free weights as I did the moves. When I mastered that, I graduated to step aerobics and even some introductory level kickboxing. By the time spring came, I was really curious to see how many miles I could do at the park. I was ridiculously excited when I found I could complete five with no problems. Soon I began running small portions of each mile, beginning with .10 and working up gradually to half a mile. But I didn’t really enjoy running at all. It was simply a mechanism to burn calories.

When I reached -50 lbs in April, I found that my losses slowed dramatically. I really had to fight for every pound. And some weeks, no matter how disciplined I had been with food and exercise, the scale just wouldn’t budge. I began to get discouraged and wondered if my body was just not meant to be any smaller. I had already lowered my blood pressure enough that I was able to stop taking medication. I had gone down 5 clothing sizes. I was physically active and feeling strong and fit. My body looked completely different and sometimes people who hadn’t seen me for a while would walk right past without recognizing me. Clearly, I had made a lot of progress. Had I done all I could? Maybe. But I am a goal oriented person, and that 84 lb mark taunted me. I decided that there had to be a way to get my momentum back. But how?

My Weight Watchers leader, who has been an absolutely amazing source of support, information, and encouragement during my journey, suggested that I try something entirely new; new foods, new routine, new exercise. She suggested that I try Zumba. She told me that her sister-in-law owned a Zumba studio that did not require lengthy and expensive membership contracts. A person could pay $8 to drop in and try it. Though that idea really appealed to me, I procrastinated. I thought I would look and feel silly out there shaking my forty year old butt. But eventually, desperation drove me to give it a try.

I attended my first class on a Saturday. I was completely unaware that I had chosen one of the most challenging instructors! But I was immediately charmed by Gisela’s energy, enthusiasm and engaging personality. Because of residual balance and fine motor impairment, I felt less than graceful. But I stumbled through the moves as best I could. Some I mastered pretty quickly, others just seemed hopelessly complicated. It wasn’t long before I realized that nobody was paying any attention to how poorly I was executing those moves, because they were all too focused on getting their own moves right. That really helped me relax and I found, to my astonishment, that I absolutely LOVED it. I had forgotten how much I loved to dance. And to me, it wasn’t exercise, it was just dancing.

But make no mistake…my body was working and working hard. It was by far the most challenging work out I had experienced up to that point. But I never found myself counting the minutes, or gritting my teeth to just make it through. The hour flew by and I was genuinely sorry when it was over. I had to do it again. And again. And again. And so I did. But not just because it made my body feel great. It was also because the owner Shana and the entire staff at FitU were so incredibly welcoming and genuine. They did and do make me feel like part of a great big family. That’s not a feeling you can get at a fancy gym with 4,000 members.

After doing Zumba, for one week, (4 times) I lost four pounds. I was ECSTATIC! I hadn’t had a loss that big in months! But the real shocker was that I had lost a half an inch off my waist and hips and ¾ inch off my thighs. WOW. Needless to say, I was sold. I had found a way to lose weight, sculpt my body and feel terrific that was also amazingly fun. You really can’t ask more than that from a fitness program.

A year after beginning my journey, I have not reached my goal. But I’m oh so close. And I know that it is within my reach. I have lost 9 inches off my waist, 8 inches off my hips, 4 inches off my arms and 6 inches off my thighs. I look and feel like a different person. I don’t really know that woman in my before picture. Who was she and why did she let herself get so desperately unhealthy? Examining that has been life changing as well. Shedding the pounds has made me physically fit, but it has also made me take a long, hard look at what I want for myself, and given me the drive and determination to go out and get it. Because I figure…if I can transform my body, I can transform my life as well.

I still experience occasional bouts of aphasia (language deficit) and I will never make my living as a tightrope walker, but I have several exciting possibilities in my life now, one of which is pursuing certification as a Zumba instructor myself. Because of my medical history, I absolutely have to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. What better way to achieve that than by making it a career? Once, I would have laughed at such an idea. Me?? A fitness instructor?? Impossible.

And today…((deep breath))… I have an interview with Weight Watchers. Sometimes, when I really sit and think about that, I am stunned. Once I would have scoffed at such a notion. Me? Teach? Lead? Inspire? Ridiculous.

But now, I believe I can do it. And love it. And love my life because of it. But most of all, I believe I can help people like me achieve all the wonderful things that life has to offer them. I want everyone to know that change is within them. The first step is really and truly the hardest. I am profoundly grateful for those who have walked beside me on my journey. So if I can encourage someone else to pick their foot up off the ground that first time and put it forward, I will consider myself fortunate and fulfilled beyond all reason. You all have heard me say it before…"Life is too short to hate what you do." If you're going to do something day in and day out for the rest of your life, you should love it. And this….this I can love.



“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” (Lao Tzu).


August 18, 2009
25th Class Reunion
232 lbs



October 1, 2010
1 year after starting Weight Watchers
165 lbs.



Face Before
This isn't the me I know


Face After
I recognize myself again


38 Comments:

  • At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Amie aka MammaLoves said…

    Look at you!!!! Gorgeous both ways, but your hard work is incredible!!!

    So wonderful to see you in my reader again. You were one of first blogs I began reading oh so long ago.

    So happy for you!! I am one of those people who would benefit from your experience.

     
  • At 10:28 AM, Blogger Tela said…

    WOW!! I just checked your blog last week randomly, hoping maybe my reader messed up and you had been posting and my reader was missing it, but you hadn't.

    Then you post this, the very next week!

    I was hoping we'd see a picture, but knowing you, I didn't think we'd get a glance. But wow, we did, and you LOOK AMAZING.

    Congratulations!!!

    Also, being selfish here, but I'm hoping you inspire me. I need to do something. But then someone compliments me--tells me I'm pretty or have gorgeous hair, and I decide I really do like that buffalo chicken dip to break up with it right now.

     
  • At 10:54 AM, OpenID malkatsheva said…

    Holy COW, lady! Way to rock it out. You look terrific. Thanks for sharing!
    -- Rachel

     
  • At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Gurukarm (@karma_musings) said…

    O...M....Gee!!!! You have made SUCH progress!! It's clear, in the "now" photo, that you feel great, and feel great about yourself as well.

    Like the other commenters, I wish I could take your experience and use it to motivate myself. Unfortunately for me, I'm actually quite healthy in spite of my weight (oh, except for no energy, tired all the time, out of breath easily, etc etc etc - and, I have quite a few years on you, too :-/ ) So, it's easier for me to put off change. Perhaps a "now" pic for me would help do the trick, too...

    Go you! and thanks for sharing your journey.

     
  • At 11:06 AM, Blogger Jozet at Halushki said…

    You are amazing! What a journey from beauty to beauty - I'm sharing this with everyone I know today. :-)

     
  • At 11:19 AM, Blogger slouchy said…

    What a wonderful story. So proud of you, lady. Amazing.

     
  • At 11:33 AM, Blogger Ice Mom said…

    You are an inspiration. As a migraine sufferer, your post really gave me pause.

    Thank you for sharing your journey, and thank you, Jozet at Halushki, for sharing it on Facebook. I'm going to share it, too.

     
  • At 12:20 PM, Anonymous Arkie Mama said…

    Wow!I'm so glad you shared this amazing journey with us. You look fabulous!! I discovered Zumba a year ago and remain hooked. I look forward to my classes every week. Keep us posted on your new roles as leader and instructor. And congratulations!

     
  • At 12:21 PM, Blogger em said…

    You are awesome! And I've missed you.

    I wondered how you were doing. Thank you for the update and for sharing the strides you've made in your life. Also, you look amazing.

     
  • At 1:30 PM, Blogger jess said…

    You look wonderful. And I'm so glad to hear that you're doing so well. You have inspired me to go for a walk. :)

     
  • At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Lee said…

    YAY YOU!!!! I am so glad you posted. I'm sorry you experienced strokes, but I'm glad is wasn't Meniers either. Congrats and keep up the good work oh, and keep posting :)

     
  • At 1:50 PM, Anonymous OmegaMom said…

    :D

    You've made amazing progress! Congratulations on your hard work & achievement, and your go-getter attitude!

     
  • At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Candy said…

    What an inspiring story, and just what I needed to read today. I could have written it (although not as eloquently!) myself. I never saw what I have become creeping up on me, but it has consumed me, and I have been thinking of exactly Weight Watchers and Zumba today. Maybe the Zumba has to wait...I think I would pass out...but you may have given me the inspiration I need to start the journey. Thank you for posting this.

     
  • At 2:18 PM, Blogger SUEB0B said…

    Standing ovation!!

     
  • At 2:52 PM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    SO, so, so happy for you! I remember when you posted that your 'migraines' weren't really migraines and my heart sank. You look amazing and you sound amazing! May you inspire so many others too.

     
  • At 3:16 PM, Blogger David Kirk said…

    Thanks for sharing. Congratulations on your progress. Best wishes for the future.

     
  • At 4:39 PM, Blogger Jaime said…

    wow!! fantastic progress! well done, and keep up the good work!

     
  • At 5:08 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    You are absolutely amazing!! I am so proud of you for changing your life in the healthiest of ways. I hope you got the job today! I am inspired by your success... I wish you lived close by me to be my workout buddy :)

     
  • At 5:43 PM, Blogger Amy Nathan said…

    You are fabulous inside and out. xoxo

    And, wow, the word I have to type to post my comment? 'elarge'

     
  • At 6:35 PM, Blogger Margaret said…

    You look fantastic--what an inspiring story!(scary too!!)

     
  • At 6:52 PM, Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said…

    I've been following your progress through Facebook and you're truly inspiring! And look at how gorgeous you are! I think I'll try Zumba solely based on your endorsement.

    Congratulations on such amazing progress!!

     
  • At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Julie @ The Mom Slant said…

    OMG BA, yay yay YAY for you!

    You look gorgeous, and I'm so glad you're feeling good. Thanks to Josette for posting the link. I haven't been to see you in so long (I'm sorry!), and I'm thrilled to see this fantastic update.

    Be well, and congratulations!!

     
  • At 10:46 PM, Blogger Just Words On A Page said…

    I am SO proud of you.

     
  • At 11:30 PM, Blogger Lara said…

    WOW WOW WOW! Congratulations! That is so amazing, I am so proud of you, and I can't wait to hear about your upcoming changes! :)

     
  • At 11:54 PM, Blogger Jammie J. said…

    Wow. Just wow.

    You know, though, it may surprise you that you can teach, lead and inspire, but not me. Since I started reading your blog a few years ago, I have always been inspired and taught by you... sometimes I don't agree, but you're always very compelling and that always leads me to think about the topic you present.

    I think you will excel at teaching.
    Congratulations. You should be very proud of yourself.

     
  • At 12:02 AM, Blogger Lise said…

    Wow. That's really impressive. I'm so happy for you - not because you look even more beautiful but because you sound so happy and self-confident.

     
  • At 12:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    wow.. what an inspiration you are.. Summer is just around the corner here in NZ and now I finally have the inspiration I need to start an exercise program.. thank you!
    Kay

     
  • At 7:31 AM, Blogger Jennifer said…

    Way to go Christina!

     
  • At 4:57 PM, Blogger Magi said…

    You are such an inspiration. I need to make some major life changes and following your story gives me hope.

     
  • At 7:19 PM, Anonymous Ellieranc said…

    You look absolutely amazing! My God! I am so incredibly proud of you, and, yes, jealous. I know from following you here, TPP and as a former sandbox member that you have struggled with your weight. You've done it! You're incredible!

     
  • At 9:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Congratulations on starting a new phase of your life.

     
  • At 2:12 AM, OpenID marketingtomilk said…

    What an inspiration. Losing weight is such a challenge of body and mind, our strength and determination is awe inspiring. WEll done you. You look fabulous.

    M2Mx

     
  • At 2:52 AM, Blogger Catch the Kids said…

    Good for you! So happy you're reaching your goals. Weight watchers is such a life changer.

     
  • At 3:06 PM, Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said…

    WOW! What a year you've had... I am so, so glad they found out about the strokes and so happy for you that you've changed your entire lifestyle. I'm extremely jealous of the outcome but I know what is required to get there: You worked HARD and should be SO proud of yourself!

     
  • At 1:13 PM, Anonymous Dyann said…

    When I grow up, I wanna be just like YOU!!! I'm serious. Congratulations! What an inspiration. Some day (soon) I want to be able to feel what you're feeling!! Thank you so much for sharing!

     
  • At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So nice to see you blog, so scary to read your story, glad you are well

    xx

    Boliath

     
  • At 12:11 PM, Blogger Mom101 said…

    Wow, Christina, what a story.

    Standing up and applauding you right now. For your bravery, your honesty, your commitment to yourself, your eloquence.

    All of those things matter more to me than your weight loss, but that makes me applaud you too.

     
  • At 6:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You look amazing. I just randomly checked into your blog ( I used to read frequently, before your entries slowed down), and was very happy to hear about the life change you have made. Your dedication to making yourself more healthy and fit is a gift to your family and all those readers you have shared with. It really is wonderful and inspiring. Thank you!

     

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