Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Journey

            My struggle with food, health, and weight has been a life-long journey.  My first memory of my struggle with food, health, and weight was at the age of 10 years old.  I was in fourth grade.  I remember thinking that I was bigger than my peers, my mom had to cut the sleeves of my shirts to fit them over my arms, and I constantly thought about food.  My first memory of my compulsive overeating was also at the age of 10 years old.
 I had won a king sized Reese’s peanut butter cup package and my mom had asked me to save half the package for my brother.  I agreed.  Before getting home, however, I quickly inhaled the entire package knowing full well that I was going to get in trouble, but I did it nonetheless. 
Fast forward two years and I was lying to my mom so that I could get my “sweets” fix.  I told her that I needed a large package of candy for a class party.  I then stashed it away in my room so that I could sneak a piece every so often to get “my fix”.  Soon enough she found me out and questioned me about why I lied.  Quickly I started babysitting so that I’d have my own money to go out and “get my fix.”
I stayed pretty busy and active throughout elementary, middle school, and high school keeping somewhat physically active.  Once in college, however, I quickly found “the freshmen fifteen” and then some.  There are two things I remember: 1) my doctor telling me at 176 lbs. and 18 years old that I needed to lose weight 2) telling myself I would never get to the 200 lbs. mark.  Unfortunately it did not take long into my adult years to find that 200 lbs. mark and surpass it.
May 2007
Before getting married at 20 years old I tried to quickly shed some pounds, but to no avail.  Two months into my marriage I was thinking how I could find a few bucks without my husband knowing what I bought so that I could “get my fix” of sweets.  A couple months before my one year anniversary I was trying the latest fad diet so I could shed some weight before our one year anniversary trip.  Two years into my marriage I practically starved myself to shed a quick 26 pounds while going to university and working. Four months later I found those 26 pounds and a few more.  I knew something had to change if I was ever going to overcome this battle with food, health, and weight.
Dec. 2007
I was on the computer and found myself typing in some words into Google.  Soon I came across an organization called Overeaters Anonymous (OA).  I had mixed feelings about OA.  Did I really need something like this?  Perhaps I have found the answer I have been looking for?  The only way to find out what OA was all about was to attend a meeting.  I promptly looked up my local chapter, called someone to confirm their meeting times, and attended my first meeting spring 2007.  I left the meeting on a high.  For the first time in my life I felt as though there were others who understood my constant struggle with food, health, and weight; mainly food.
Oct. 2008
Soon I found myself purchasing all of the OA materials I could get my hands on, applying the principles in my life, and turning to the other OA members in the local chapter for encouragement.  I was by far the youngest in the group, but I felt accepted nonetheless.  Similar to AA or NA, OA has their own 12 steps for compulsive overeaters to follow.  A compulsive overeater, as defined by OA, is someone who has an unhealthy relationship with food.  This compulsive overeater can starve themselves, binge, hide food, eat in secret, obsess about food, etc.  Clearly I was, and still are, a compulsive overeater. 
Although I am not currently a part of a local OA chapter, I do still remember and apply some of the OA principles to my everyday life.  I acknowledge that I have a disease and must ask my higher power, God, for support. If I slip up with my recovery I try to not let it get me down.  Instead, I remember that it is one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time.  I also recite the serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Nov. 2009
After I found OA I never struggled with food, health, and weight ever again, right?  Wrong.   About a year later, during my divorce, I turned to my drug; food.  I ate when I was sad, when I was angry, when I was grieving, etc.  Quickly I found myself at an all time low.  I was living in a foreign country, trying to grieve, and turning to all of the wrong things in the process.  I was low emotionally, spiritually, and physically. 
In my darkest days I found myself walking to Pizza Hut, trying to hide the pizza on my walk back so that no one would see me, and then locking myself in my apartment eating nearly the whole thing all by myself, all alone.  I had a gym membership, but rarely went.  I found every excuse there was; it was too hot, I had a headache, there was no time, I had nothing to wear, etc.  When I returned to the states 13 months later my friends and family were shocked by what they saw. 
That year for Christmas, December 2009, my family bought a Wii as our family Christmas present.  When I stepped on the Wii Fit Plus Christmas morning I was shocked by what I saw; 214 pounds.  How did I let myself get here?  What was I going to do to recover from this?  I wasn’t sure, but I knew it had to be something or else I was going to die at a very young age. 
The very next morning I started watching what I ate (making better choices) and exercising regularly (walking, biking, strength training, etc.).  Slowly, but surely the weight started coming off.  By June of 2010 I was already down 25 pounds.  In March 2011 I was down another 10 pounds, but now I needed something more to help keep me motivated and continue moving towards my goal to be healthy.
In the winter of 2009 I had started training to complete a sprint triathlon in the spring of 2010.  This plan, however, was put on hold when I moved to Honduras in February 2010.  Fortunately, while in Honduras I continued working on my healthier life choices of watching what I was eating & working out at the gym.  Summer 2010 I felt really good, but knew I still had more work to do.
May 2011
In March 2011, after turning 27, I realized I needed something more.  On Sunday March 27 I woke up and asked myself, “What about the triathlon training?”  I quickly got on the computer and started researching triathlons.  That same day I found a training plan on and headed out on my first training run.  I started out with running 3 minute increments at a time.  It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
The next day I had my first swim training and by Tuesday I had my first bike training under my belt.  The fire was lit and there was no stopping me.  Before I knew it I was running 3 miles Saturday morning followed by 75 minutes on the spin bike.  Soon I was down to less than 10 pounds to go before getting to my goal weight.  The greatest part was that from March 27th to July 9th my goal was not weight loss.  My goal was training for the most physically grueling thing I had ever done before.  In fact, I hadn’t even realized how good of shape I had gotten in until I arrived back home to California and saw everyone’s reaction to me.
Little did I know that the triathlon was going to light a fire in me; a fire to run.  After the triathlon I asked myself, “Now what?”  I knew that I needed a goal in order to remain motivated to exercise.  I’ve found that it’s more difficult for me to regularly exercise without having something that I am working towards.  I therefore, set October’s Victoria 10k race in Torreon, Mexico as my new goal.  Much to my surprise, however, my first of many 10ks came on August 28th.
I quickly became addicted; addicted to the high of running.  I enjoyed running in the “carrerras” in Torreon because they were 1) cheap, only about $8 USD each 2) mostly came with a cool finisher medal and t-shirt 3) it was something I was able to do with my running buddies 4) made me feel accomplished 4) kept me on a path to a healthier me.
From July 9th through the end of 2011 I ran one sprint triathlon, six 10ks, and five 5ks.  I was trying to make it to 11 races in 2011 and I made it!  I was able to start 2012 a whole new me.  To celebrate this whole new me I tried something new, a trail run.  The 10k Resolution Run on January 1, 2012 was one of the toughest runs I had done yet, but I pushed myself and I placed first in my age group of 20 – 29 year olds.  I was on a role and there was no stopping me!
Next, I set my sights on a much bigger race; the Lala Marathon on March 4th.  I had only started toying with the idea of running the full Lala Marathon on December 7th.  Earlier in the fall I was thinking that I would just stick to a half marathon, but soon I got the crazy idea that I could do more.  Could I prepare my body to run 26.2 miles in a mere 13 weeks?  I thought, “If I am able to complete this marathon then I will have gone from 0 to 26.2 in 49 weeks!”
March 2012
At first I started with 9 miles, then 11, then my first half marathon 13.1 (in training) on January 6, then 15, 17, and finally my longest training run, 18 miles, on February 11.  With 3 weeks to go until my marathon I trusted my training plan.  Now came time to taper.  I had completed the most difficult weeks of the training plan; the long runs.  Still I questioned, “Can my body go an additional 6.2 miles past 18 miles?”
Finally the day I had been working towards for the last 13 weeks finally arrived.  I went into the marathon telling everyone that my only goal was to finish, but truth be told, I had a different goal in mind.  I was aiming for 4 hours and 30 minutes, but knew that it might be closer to 5 hours.  Half way into the race, 13.1 miles / 21k, I was at 2 hours and 4 minutes; my fastest half marathon yet!  The question was, “What was going to happen to my pace during the next 13.1 miles?”
I am so proud to report that I crossed the finish line at 4:32:45!  When the finish line finally came into view I couldn’t help but throw my hands up and soak up every last stride, cheer, applause, and sensation.  After I crossed the finish line I bent over, put my head in my hands, and started to cry.  I, someone who only started running 49 weeks prior, just finished a race in which few have achieved.
My journey from a 214 pound unhappy woman to a 150 pound triathlete & marathoner has been a slow, but steady 26 month journey.  How did I do it?  Simple.  I started moving and I never looked back.  To me the trick has not been a magic pill, or a magic trainer, or a magic drink, or a magic surgery.  My answer was exercise.  When I exercise I feel better about myself.  When I feel better about myself I eat less.  Plain and simple. 
Am I scared that I will once again be that 214 unhappy woman?  Yes, a part of me is.  Can I keep up with my current healthy lifestyle?  Absolutely!  My trick will be to keep a goal in mind.  With a goal, I am unable to say, “Tomorrow I will exercise.”  I know that when I put in the work I can show up to the starting line ready.
This summer I am celebrating my 10 year high school reunion.  Now, at 28, I am so much more confident, healthy, and wise than what I was at 18.  If I could go back and tell my 18 year old self anything, I would tell her to continue exercising no matter what.  I would say, “It doesn’t matter if at first you can’t jog, just walk.  It doesn’t matter if at first you don’t know how to use the equipment at the gym, just ask.  It doesn’t matter what anyone may tell you, just believe in yourself.”
In the last 10 years I have gone through college, a failed marriage, a low, traveling the world, living abroad, and then a complete life transformation.  I am where I am today because of my wonderful parents, brother, friends, and most importantly God.  I was once hopeless, but now am hopeful.    What’s great is I know that this is just the beginning.  Honestly, I can say that I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me.
“I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13


  1. Stunning!! :) What an accomplishment! This inspires me to start exercising. I always make excuses!

  2. Stunning! :) What an accomplishment! Way to go!

  3. You have always been someone that I admired. After reading this, I'm even more amazed. Congratulations on all you have accomplished. You have the right to be proud :) -Margo Black

  4. Oh Pretty Girl I am so proud of you. You are doing so much with your life. I see a happy lady. Keep at it...and remember you have at least one very quiet cheerleader out here in internet world.

  5. oooops O2 angel is me Margaret Hunter....English schoolmate

  6. Stephanie you are such an inspiration and you look fantastic! Congrats on the marathon...that's such a huge accomplishment : )

  7. You're such an inspiration Stephanie!As someone who has just started running this year I found myself nodding at parts of your story. Weight gain is so insidious and it can just creep up on you. I have had 2 occasions now where I have gained lost and then gained again. I have just discovered running (at the grand age of 40) and hope I can achieve half of what you have! I have my first 5K race in July for the UK Cancer Research charity and I will book mark your story for inspiration! :)

  8. AnonymousJuly 08, 2012

    Wow, So proud of you Stephanie but you have always been such a beautiful woman regardless of your weight. This just enhances what I have always seen and that is a selfless, Godly woman. Way to go Stephanie! --Cindy B.

  9. You go Gurl!