More wonderful success stories for you! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the release of my second book than sharing these inspiring stories with you. Today, you’ll hear from a mom who beat cancer, a woman who beat two eating disorders, a woman who shaped up mentally and physically, and a man who began to run because of his wife’s motivation to get healthy.
Read on for motivation…
Stacie’s Battle with Cancer
Stacie says: I was 34 years old and had a 1.5 year old son. I was in the best shape of my life and trying to conceive my second child… when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had surgery, chemo, and radiation. I had never felt so sick in my life. I would want people going through a situation similar of mine to know these things: First, be your own advocate. I can’t stress this enough. No one cares about your health as much as you and your family. Get a second opinion if the first opinion is "Don’t worry, you’re fine." If you have a lump, insist on a biopsy. I had a palpable lump in my right breast, but a negative mammogram (this is common in younger women). I went and got a second opinion a few weeks later because I felt really unsettled.. the second doctor also though it was nothing but biopsied it. It was cancer. If I’d listened to the first guy, I’d be dead (it was already in my lymph nodes). That’s pretty sobering. A biopsy is not a big deal.
Secondly, listen to your body, even if the message is strange. Before cancer, I exercised regularly and ate well (lean protein, grains, veggies). My weight was perfect, but chemo made me really sick. I lost more than 15 pounds. I could not eat for 3-4 days after each treatment. After that, I tried to eat like I normally would, and I felt terrible. I could only eat small portions. Then, I ate part of a quarter pounder and I felt so much better. After that, until my normal appetite returned, I was on a high fat diet. I had to translate my smaller portions so that they were enough calories. I have never eaten so much Hagen Dazs! I was not able to gain any weight until the treatment was over but at least I did not lose any more. I don’t eat that way now, but I sure needed to then.
Third, let people help you. We all want to be superwomen but the truth is, in a health crisis, everyone needs help, And, people WANT to do stuff for you – it makes them feel like they are doing something positive in a negative situation. Let them bring meals for the family (even if you can’t eat them!), babysit the kids, drive you to the doctors, clean the house. Help for the spouse is important too. It’s harder on them than it is on you, really. I also joined a support group and it was the best thing I ever did. No one really gets what you are going through unless they have been there too. There were two other women in their mid-30s who had breast cancer and I felt so much less alone for knowing them. I also met some wonderful older women. The psychological impact of that support was huge. I am still in touch with about 6 people in the group today.
The short of it is that I am now 14 years cancer free, 48 years old, and have two wonderful children who are now 15 and 8. My youngest was born when I was 40, after the doctors told me that there was a greater than 50% chance that the chemo would put me irreversibly in menopause (at 34). I was in the lucky 50%. I am an older mom now but thankful for every moment. (Stacie has a blog, too!)
Clare’s Battle with Eating Disorders
Clare says: My eating disorder started when I was a junior in high school. I don’t like to blame it on anything, but I think it was the result of my first break up and letting food be something I could control. Anorexia truly is a psychological disease because it quickly took over, and despite the fact that I knew I was harming my body, I couldn’t bring myself to make changes. I convinced myself that my body didn’t need that much fuel, that there was no reason to eat more than every seven hours, and that I could survive off of diet coke. Finally, after my yearly physical, my mom put her foot down and I started seeing a nutritionist. We made meal plans and I put on weight, but I was still anxious and regimented about eating. I briefly relapsed the spring of my senior year during a hiatus with the nutritionist, but was still stable enough to go away to college in the Fall.
Freshman year sucked. I rarely let myself have fun and my eating disorder prevented me from making true friends. I was a pain to be around and completely unhappy. I had been seeing a therapist at school and finally in the early spring she suggested I start medication for depression and anxiety. I had secretly been wanting this but was too afraid to ask. The meds made me more relaxed and I started eating more normally. Around this same time I started hanging out with my best friend LB. I attribute a lot of my recovery to her. She introduced me to a group of girls that I clicked with, she understood my issues, and she kept me in check if I started to slip up. I love her!
Now this may seem like a happy ending, but it’s not over yet. I gained all my weight back sophomore year (large in part due to tailgates!), but I never stopped. I was so used to telling myself “just eat it” that I did just that. A lot. Another break up followed by a semester abroad in Dublin exacerbated the problem, and an unhappy summer internship in Chicago sealed the deal. I was thirty pounds heavier than I wanted to be. The beginning of my senior year was very difficult. I had six classes and two jobs, was embarrassed about my appearance, and tried to fix it through eating terrible diet foods. I wasn’t fueling properly and would end up binging at night, and my half-hearted elliptical work outs were not doing much.
Finally, something clicked. I was reading more blogs and realized that you can eat good food and still lose weight! I started eating REAL FOOD – big oatmeal breakfasts, almond butter (fats!), baked sweet potatoes (carbs!) and more. I also went pescatarian, started Bikram Yoga, and decided to train for a half marathon. Weight FELL off of me – to the point that some people were initially worried I wasn’t eating again. But really I had just fallen in love with creating healthy meals and challenging my body with new forms of exercise. I was finally HEALTHY. Now I am at a healthy weight, but still fight eating disorder thought regularly. I am no longer on anti-depressants. I get excited about food, and I know that living a healthy lifestyle makes me feel my best. And it works! (You can read more on Clare’s blog.)
Caitlin’s Holistic Health
Caitlin says: My healthy tipping point was six years ago, when I was 20. I was in such a dark place where I really believed that there were set limits (I couldn’t run more than 3 miles, I would never be a runner, I couldn’t lose weight, I couldn’t be loved, I couldn’t be successful… the list goes on). I realized that physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. Making strides physically, such as running my first 5K, helped shift my mentality and improve my self-image. Seeing that my body – the one I had felt so terrible about for so long – was strong and healthy and capable showed me that I could achieve goals. Getting mentally fit and gaining self confidence and self worth was less about feeling great about my physical appearance and much more about the confidence that came from making healthy changes and succeeding.
My number one tip for someone who was in my position would be to seek help, even if it’s just finding one person you can talk to. Talking about mental health is so important and it’s so easy to feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit to another person that you are struggling with self worth. Once I got over that hurdle and could talk openly about it, the rest of my journey got so much easier as I could talk to others and ask for their support.
Six years later, my life is transformed in the best possible way. After being overweight and unhealthy most of my life, I finally lost 45 pounds the right way (exercise and healthy eating) and have kept it off. Yes, I am fitter and have run 2 marathons and fit into a size 6 and all that jazz – but none of that even compares to my mental and emotional health today. I truly believe that there are no limits on what I can achieve in life. My life is wide open with possibility. Setting goals was also an important part of road to mental health. In the beginning, my goals were small… but accomplishing these goals meant a new world was opened up to me and I was able to see what I was capable of. And that’s what I’m most proud of. (You can read more from Caitlin on her blog.)
Matt’s Incredible Look Back
Matt says: I think the biggest thing that amazes me is how far I’ve come in such a short amount of time. When we started running, I did it just so my wife Jennifer wasn’t out there doing it alone. I was never athletic growing up, but I think some part of me always wanted to be. So somewhat reluctantly (but not completely), I started the Couch to 5K program with her. I don’t think we finished the program the first time we did it, but we ran our first 5K together in the Fall of 2009.
Either late 2009 or early 2010, Jennifer decided she was going to do a series of races called the Triple Crown of Running, and then run the miniMarathon. I forget my exact words, but I’m sure I used the phrases, "You’re crazy!" and "Have fun with that!" Always determined, she stuck to her guns (and eventually I came around), and we got back on the Couch to 5K horse with a little more seriousness in 2010. I figured if I sat on the couch while she was out there running, she’d meet some other runner dude and drop my lazy ass. I wasn’t about to let that happen.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t take things as seriously as she did, and I wound up injured more than a few times. But the important thing is that we did it. We set a goal, we trained hard (even when we didn’t feel like it), and we accomplished something we didn’t think we could. Now, that I’m a little deeper into the sport, I do think I have somewhat of a natural ability for it. I’m certainly not the fastest out there, but I know I can work at it and get faster. But you never would have convinced my former self of that — not so long ago, I was 65 pounds heavier and more unhealthy than I ever hope to be again.
It’s crazy to think that only two years ago I could barely run for a minute or two at a time. Now, I can go out and run for an hour like it’s nothing. All it took to change that was making a few small choices each day to fit my training in. People get into racing for many different reasons. Mine were to be healthy, to challenge myself, and to experience something new with my wife. I feel like training and racing have brought out the best in me. Going for a run helps me clear my head so I can take on the challenges of life, and so I’m able to focus better for work. It doesn’t really make sense, but I definitely have more energy when I’m actively training than when I skip my workouts. I still can’t quite believe I’ve completed two triathlons already! And last year I had no desire to seriously take on a marathon, but now I think that’s something I’d like to do. Just to be able to look back one day and say I’ve done it. (You can read Matt’s blog here!)
Need more inspiration?