I was recently asked if I had ever been heavy. She said, “You seem like you’ve been trim your whole life so was just wondering.”
Yeah I gained weight during both pregnancies, reaching the recommended weight gain of 20 pounds. My weight climbed up to 150# from my usual 130# frame. For a moment after answering her question, I felt as if that wasn’t enough. Like I didn’t gain enough to feel what is was like to be obese or heavy. I even found a before and after picture of me before I had kids during my happy and in love I’ll drink and eat whatever I want phase, just to prove that I had been pudgy.
But that feeling of having to prove quickly subsided.
I remembered WHY I began my fitness journey before I decided to help others.
Growing up, I was a “closet athlete.” I had always wanted to play soccer but we didn’t have any money for sports and it was ok because I hated jocks and THAT crowd anyway. They were always so full of themselves and rude to everyone else. So, I hung out with kids who drank and smoked weed. Then when I was alone, I’d run around the block in my converse and then come back into my room and do push-ups and bicep curls with 5 pound weights until I “felt the burn.” I had no idea what I was doing but I enjoyed how it felt. I enjoyed riding my 10 speed Schwinn with my friend Sarah.
Over time, my mom had purchased a couple of VHS tapes of Tony Little and she wanted to get in shape. I always had been a momma’s girl and wanted to do them with her. Together we worked out in the living room and went for walks.
Flashback to when I was 5-6 years old: mom and I lived in Palmer Lake, Colorado. We were headed to the 4th of July parade with a friend of hers in a Volkswagen bus. As we were getting out, I looked over and my mom’s seat was covered in blood. All of a sudden mom was rushed to the hospital and I stayed with my friend for a week.
There are some more elements to that story of course but that was first time I understood death and that I could lose my mom. From that moment on, my worst fear in life was losing her. Something that would inevitably happen. I remember crying myself to sleep at night at the thought of losing her. I was so full of fear and panic at times and would do anything for her, to make her “invincible.”
So as the years passed by mom was overweight and I think at that time she had just been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. When she wanted to get in shape I was totally onboard. Anything to prolong mom’s life. She wasn’t dying, but my memories always took me back to that day. What I saw.
So back to Tony Little: Over the next couple of years while I was still in high school I began to put connections together that bad foods and lack of exercise made for an unhealthy body. Seems like a no brainer now but at the time, it wasn’t talked about. I began looking at my family and those who ate and drank and were overweight. I noticed a lot of my friends were that way too. I started putting the pieces together and decided what I DID NOT want my life to look like. Realizing later what the meaning of an addict is, I knew I could easily fall into that trap and I worked like hell to not follow in the footsteps of some of my family and friends who had turned to alcohol, drugs or food. Instead, I became a workaholic, but I digress. That’s another story. I began racing BMX with some friends and one friend in particular, Danette, took me to a gym and taught me the ways of lifting. I was hooked. We raced BMX and lifted together for several years and my love for fitness continued to grow.
More importantly, I wanted to continue this path to help mom become healthier. I was there during her struggles and I remember feeling helpless not knowing what to do. We’d continue to walk but her work would often take priority over exercise. Eventually, nearly 10 years after graduating high school, I decided to finish my bachelors in Exercise Science and Nutrition. I had to help mom in some way and this was the start.
Then, December 29, 2006, just months after graduating UNM, mom suffered a heart attack with 90% blockage. Thankfully she recognized the symptoms immediately and made a full recovery.
After that she was totally onboard putting herself first and making changes. We had to ease into walking again and I created a meal plan for her that lead to her losing 30 pounds. She had never felt better and her cardiologist said she was one of his star patients!
Things were great until her primary care physician changed her thyroid medication dosage (something that I would learn later from my own personal struggle). Mom gained her weight back very quickly and we were both confused, frustrated and a bit pissed off.
It would be two years later to realize just what all of that felt like. I had given birth to our first baby girl and within 6 weeks I was having panic attacks, severe heat sensitivity, anxiety, and heart palpitations.
My thyroid levels were so far off the spectrum I was prompted to see an endocrinologist immediately. At first, I was diagnosed with HYPERthyroidism and 3 months later, I was feeling fantastic. I asked to be taken off my medication and my endo said, “Just one more month.”
Three weeks later I went from feeling phenomenal to feeling extremely lethargic and foggy headed. To the point I felt like I was drunk without the fun. My speech felt slurred, my body felt weighted down with bricks, and it would feel like my body was nailed to the bed and could not wake up. My hair was falling out and I had the look of “crazy eye druggie.” One of the symptoms I had was “unusual and debilitating reaction to exercise.” It would take me 90 minutes to do something low intensity like rows. My lips, jaw and entire body would go numb and start cramping up. I was told “this is the new you now and it’s probably just new mommy fatigue” and basically to get used to it.
My thyroid levels went so far down the other end of the spectrum and was diagnosed with HYPOthyroidism and Hashimotos, an auto-immune disease. I remembered what happened with mom and her immediate weight gain. I admit I was fearful I was headed down that same path.
I call BS. There is NO way this is the NEW me.
It took three years for my thyroid levels to finally balance out, blood work every six weeks, different medications that didn’t make me sick and learning that the doctor I dealt with had no idea of the impact of nutrition or adrenal glands. Specifically, wheat/gluten, dairy and saliva testing. Most of the changes I did on my own through research, trial and error and a lot of persistence and patience.
Mom had reminded me of being on Armour thyroid before Synthroid came out. She loved how she felt and remembered feeling full of energy and back to normal. My family moved around a lot before I was born and her new doctors kept her on the synthetic Synthroid. She never felt "good" after that. For 50 years.
I had to get brave with my doctor and request things she didn’t approve of and fought me on. When she finally agreed she phrased it “WHEN this doesn’t work, you’ll go back on this other medication.”
Six years later and it’s still working and I am ME.
Mom continued to struggle with her thyroid levels which affected her weight and emotions that contributed to her stress eating and continued fighting her diabetes due to her stress foods. She wanted to be healthy, she wanted to lose weight, and she fought and struggled for it. It was a viscous cycle and when she saw the progress I was making she fought the same battle asking to switch thyroid medications. "Not yet" was the answer she would get. March 22, 2014, my greatest fear became a reality when mom, my best friend, passed away after suffering a stroke just 2 days prior.
I could go on about how strongly I feel about being our own advocate for our own health, pharmaceuticals, doctor kickbacks, finding the right doctor with your best interests and fighting like hell to keep your body healthy and from turning into what “runs in the family.”
At age 40, I gave birth to another beautiful little girl and I find myself going through the same symptoms as before. However this time, applying what I’ve learned and practice daily, the process has been a lot quicker.
Now, my WHY for my family is to make sure our girls grow up to stand up for themselves, fight for their own health, and more importantly, love their bodies inside and out. To continue to fight for those who were just like my mom and help empower women with the knowledge they need with their health, hormones and nutrition. To build that foundational strength, self-confidence, self-esteem and positive nutritional habits.
It’s easy to say, “You have to have the right mindset to achieve the body you want.” While that’s all true and I don’t disagree, it’s a different story when your hormones affect your mindset.
If this sounds like you, know that you are NOT alone and there is hope to feeling better again. Feeling like YOU again.