I have struggled with my weight all my life.
I was a big kid, and badly bullied. I ate my lunches sitting against the wall of the school building, or begged the teacher to let me help with classroom chores. I took more sick days than most kids – partly because I was avoiding school, and partly because I was often sick from the stress. My pets and my parents were my best friends, with few others my age breaking through the circle. Those I let through often turned on me, throwing my weight back in my face at the first sign of a problem. I became angry and cynical, and began experiencing blind rages when the bullying got to be too much. In elementary school, a couple of fights actually even resulted in serious injuries of other children, because I would black out and not realize I was hurting them (one day I will get into my struggles with mental health issues – but it’s a very long story). I developed asthma at the age of 12, which made physical activity more difficult, and my clumsiness often led to injuries when I did participate in sports. At some point during my childhood, I developed Binge Eating Disorder, and would buy food and hide it from my parents, stuffing myself full of junk food in secret.
The bullying continued through my teenage years, although less overtly, with my first few relationships – with boys – being “secrets”. All three of my first boyfriends insisted that no-one know about our relationships – because others wouldn’t understand. One of those boys at that time had been my best friend for five years before that – but had also wanted to keep our friendship secret as well, lest anyone think we were more than friends. And yes, I let my friends treat me that way. I DID let them. I don’t now. But maybe that’s why, even now, I don’t have many friends. The first relationship that I had that wasn’t a secret lasted three years, but when it ended, one of the reasons he gave for dumping me (on the night of our high school graduation, no less) was that I hadn’t even tried to lose weight (he was wrong, I had tried many times over the three years, but never been successful – just like had happened many times over the previous years, and just like has happened many times since then).
I gained weight steadily after high school, and even after meeting my partner in 2004. My father had been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes at the age of 42, when I was 18. At the time, the doctors told me that I would likely develop it as well by his age if I wasn’t careful. I figured I had lots of time. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome at age 22, which causes weight gain and insulin resistance. I should have take that opportunity to really try to change, but I think somewhere in my head I used it as a reason why it really wasn’t my fault – and besides, my doctors told me it could lead to diabetes in the future, probably by age 40, according to this set. My highest weight was 282 lbs, right around the time of my diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes – only a year after my P.C.O.S. diagnosis. I managed to avoid having to take insulin until a little over two years ago, but have had to take daily injections since then. I wish I could say that my diagnosis 10 years ago or having to start on insulin was the catalyst I needed to start taking care of myself, but it wasn’t. That doesn’t mean I haven’t tried at all, or that I’m not aware of how important it is to take care of myself – only that I haven’t stuck with anything long enough.
I have attempted Weight Watchers a number of times over the years – the first time being in high school – and it worked a little bit the first two times, but not after that. Don’t get me wrong – the formula works – eat better, get active, lose weight – but the format doesn’t work for me. I find the meetings frustrating, and the online program isn’t enough accountability – and the cost can be prohibitive at times, particularly since my partner and I attend together when we do go.
The binge eating disorder has never gone away. To be honest, I don’t know if it ever really will. I still catch myself sometimes hoarding food, as if somehow there won’t be enough later. The addiction to junk food – primarily sugar for me – might be manageable if I could somehow spread the consumption over time, but I don’t. My process goes something like this: “I really want chocolate. I shouldn’t, but I’m going to go to the store and get some. I’ll get something that’s individually wrapped so that I can eat one or two and save the rest for later.” Then I get to the store, and it’s “I can’t decide between chocolate and candy. I have to pick one. I cannot get both. Eh, maybe I can – I’m not going to eat it all at once.” So I buy both, get it home, and hide it, and then by bedtime I’ve somehow eaten it all.
In 2011, I made a decision to at least become more active, and I took up running. I participated in the Toronto leg of Ben Davis’ “Do Life” tour (not that you’ll ever read this, but Ben, you have no idea what you did for my life, and I can’t thank you enough). My partner and I ran the Sandbanks Fall Getaway Fun Run that fall (5k), and then attempted the Fat Ass Trail Run (10k) at Batawa Ski Hill in November, and it kicked our butts. We finished, but it took us over 2 hours, and we walked almost all of it. After that, we had trouble getting back into running, discouraged by our failure. In December, we both slowly began to return to the gym, and probably would have continued, had a run of bad luck not intervened. My partner began to feel ill on Christmas Day, and by that night, was barely able to stand. The illness rapidly developed into pneumonia, which meant a terrible start to 2012. Two weeks later, I developed it myself, and was off work for a week, sick as a dog. After recovering, I packed my bags one evening and put them in the car to take to the gym the next morning. As luck would have it, I tripped that night, rolled my ankle, and fractured the cuboid bone in my foot, along with tearing the syndesmotic ligament in my lower leg. I was in a walking cast for 8 weeks, unable to run, or even to drive. It took longer than 8 weeks to fully recover, but by August, I was starting to do a little running again. In late 2012 and throughout 2013, I did a little more running, but nothing serious. I found it difficult to get back into it, but by 2014 I was finally getting back into the swing of things. I even ran a 5k – the Pride And Remembrance Run at World Pride in Toronto. Then summer hit, and brought with it a series of family tragedies. I shouldn’t have, but I let them derail me. In the winter, I finally decided enough was enough, and joined Nerd Fitness – a program that presents healthy eating and exercise in a RPG format, allowing the user to create a character that they level up as they improve their health. The Facebook groups for members have been incredibly supportive and valuable, and they have helped immensely with everything.
2015 brought with it a new determination. The losses from 2014 helped to motivate me to improve my health, and I began registering for races, which has always been wonderful motivation for me as well. I ran the Perth Kilt Run (8k) in June, then immediately quit smoking (believe it or not, running and smoking do not mix well). A week later, I ran the 5k Pride And Remembrance Run in Toronto again, then decided to go bigger, and registered for the 10k Oasis Zoo Run at the Toronto Zoo in September. I ran it, finishing in an hour and 34 minutes, and ran another 10k a month later, this time a virtual race for Zombies! Run. Admitting I needed a little outside inspiration, I registered to be matched with a buddy through a group called I Run 4 Michael, which pairs a runner with someone who cannot run themselves – for whatever reason – and was put on a waiting list. I also joined a local dragon boat team, and moved to the competitive race team rapidly. I loved being out on the water, and the paddling was therapeutic.
In April of this year, I finally got my match – an amazing little boy with Koolen deVries Syndrome, which is a rare deletion on the 17th chromosome with causes a number of health issues and developmental delays. He is a beautiful, determined soul who I am happy to dedicate all of my miles to. The day after I was matched with him, I ran the Butterfly Run, a 5k run with proceeds going to the pediatric bereavement program at our local hospital, to help parents who have lost a pregnancy or a child. I followed that with the Kilt Run again, then the Pride and Remembrance Run for the third year in a row. I am again registered for the Oasis Zoo Run 10k in September, and am once again going to attempt the Fat Ass Trail Run in November – this time, I will be far better prepared. I haven’t been able to do dragon boating this year as I have had some complications with diabetic neuropathy in my hands, but have gotten back to cycling after a 10 year hiatus, and am loving the freedom that provides.
I have huge goals now for running, cycling, and swimming (do I hear an Ironman in my future…?) and am determined to reach them.
My doctors have told me that there is a possibility that I may never lose a whole lot of weight – insulin makes weight loss very difficult – but that doesn’t mean I can’t be healthy and active, and that is my exact plan.
This blog will be about my running, swimming, cycling and nutrition, and my journey through Nerd Fitness, as well as “leveling up my life” (a phrase borrowed from Nerd Fitness’ creator Steve Kamb – and the title of his book) in general – family, career, etc.
Welcome, and enjoy.