Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lealah's story

I would like to introduce you to another teammate from my Ragnar Relay team. Lealah (pronounced LAY-luh) was very close to having lap band surgery, but discovered she could lose the weight on her own--and she did. Check out her super inspiring story!


Hi! My name is Lealah, and you can find me and more details about my life at Lealah on a Mission. I've been privileged to be included in an amazing group of people with which to run the Florida Keys Ragnar Relay in 2013, and here is my story:

I've spent my entire life overweight, if not obese.  In 2010, I realized I was incredibly unhappy with the way my life was and with how I felt.  I tried anti-depressants from my doctor and that actually made things worse for me.  I was in a spiral of being depressed and angry, and many times I would direct my anger at the people around me. 

I reached a high of 260 lbs, and I felt miserable with nothing to look forward to. I saw a picture of myself and realized exactly how much weight I had gained and why it was so tedious climbing up and down stairs. Everything felt overwhelming.  I felt like there was no escape and the more I thought about trying to change, the more difficult it became to even conceive the idea of a better life with better health.  I felt trapped.

In January of 2010, I had a friend whom was planning getting lap band surgery and I thought "Hey that sounds like something that could work for me!" So I went to several seminars, got really excited, pumped myself up, dreamed of not being fat anymore. Then I got to the financing. 

This part made me nervous, but I had found a weight loss surgeon whom I particularly liked that reassured me we'd find a way to make my insurance cover part of it. He said that with a recommendation, his documentation, and reports of prior weight loss attempts, we could make a case for it.  The first step was to lose 10% of my body weight.

On February 15, 2010 I started eating better and I started walking. One month later, I had lost 20 pounds.  I kept going until suddenly I'd lost more than the 10% required to begin the process of weight loss surgery.  I had somewhat forgotten the lap band surgery and every time I thought of it, I remembered the repercussions that came with the surgery.  I LOVE to eat. I knew I did not want to give up so many of my favorite foods and I started thinking to myself, "If I can lose this much with diet and exercise, then maybe I can go all the way."

I found an awesome website called Sparkpeople.com where I tracked my food and exercise.  I got a membership at the YMCA for myself and the kids, and started trying new exercises.  I started using the elliptical, and the first time I got on one, I only lasted about 8 minutes. The next time, I made it 55 minutes.  I tried Yoga, even started trying the Couch to 5k program.

By May, I had started going to Zumba and loved it! The amount of courage it took me to enter that first Zumba class is immeasurable. Being overweight came a huge sense of insecurity and fear of crowds, but I overcame it. I was on a roll, and all the paperwork I had from the different weight loss surgery seminars had been shoved into a drawer somewhere. I no longer even considered that an option.

Lealah would love an "after" pic with Jared Fogle and the mayor one day
The summer of 2010, I entered a Subway Weight Loss Challenge to which the winners would be announced at the Midnight Streak 5k. Since I was attempting (struggling horribly through) the Couch to 5k program, I considered signing up for this as my first 5k.  Regrettably, I chickened out, because the running was not going as well I would have liked. I started doubting whether I wanted to pursue running at all or not.  I did, however, win third place for body fat percentage loss.

I continued on my journey and the weight loss started slowing down.  At the beginning of June 2011, I decided to try running again.  This time all the hard work on the elliptical paid off and I started running short distances immediately.  It was tough, but I knew I could do it.  I decided to sign up for my first 5k, and what better way to mark an anniversary than to sign up for the Midnight Streak?

Since then, I have run a total of three 5K's, one Warrior Dash, a 25k, and a half-marathon. I plan on doing the Midnight Streak again and hopefully another mud run this year. Maybe, just maybe, I will run a full marathon in November.  It's hard to believe that only a little over two years ago I was twice my size and could hardly manage getting up the stairs.

Now running is just a part of who I am. But don't misunderstand me; many days I still have to force myself out the door before I realize that yes, I did really want to go for a run.  I just have to remind myself of why I run and why I enjoy it so much. I run for freedom, peace of mind, size 2 jeans, cheat days, and to control my depression and anxiety issues.  I run to breathe.  I truly run for life.  I can't imagine not being a runner now.

I still receive mail from the different weight loss surgery offices I had visited.  It always makes me smile to see because I am instantly reminded of how far I have come. It's been two years and two months since I started this journey and I have traveled a great distance.  I have lost more than half my body weight.  I have become an athlete.  I instruct Zumba twice a week.  I have deemed myself worthy.  I've regained my pride.

Now I'm focusing on bettering myself in all aspects of my life.  Now when I see something in my life that I'm not happy with, instead of wallowing in despair, I look at how to fix it.  How am I going to make my life better?  It takes work and dedication, but it is by no means impossible.  In fact, it's quite possible: 
Lealah now

9 comments:

  1. I love these posts highlighting your team. It's a really great idea! You are all an amazing inspiration!
    I hope Lealah gets to take her after photo with Jared!

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  2. Awesome post! I love learning more and more about our team members - simply awesome!

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  3. The posts are so great. Your relay team is going to rock!!

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  4. Loved Lealah's story. I especially identified with her comment about how she felt doing anything at all was overwhelming when she was overweight. I had no energy and did very little that required any movement at all. And then I read about how trapped she felt. I have this incredible sense of freedom now and just now realized that is because I felt so trapped by my morbid obesity before. Thanks for making me understand that.

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  5. I cannot even remember how I stumbled upon your blog, but I'm so glad I did. I needed something like this, and all the other peoples' blogs that are on your team. I have around 120 lbs to lose, and I love running (for the 1 min I can do it at a time) but its a start. Seeing all your pictures and reading your story is incredibly encouraging. so thank you.
    -Sara

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  6. Nice to meet you Lealah! I can relate to being too embarrassed to try new things, as I live in Japan and when I go jogging in the park I feel all the tiny Japanese people watching me jiggle as I huff and puff around the track. Awesome pics!

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  7. So happy for all of Lealah's accomplishments. My gf is a Zumba instructor in PA and I know what it takes to get a class together and then put yourself out there for everyone to see! Congratulations Lealah!

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  8. Awesome Lealah! What an inspiration to stay out from under the knife! So many people think that weight loss surgery fixex everything, and I have so many friends that went under the knife, and now 5 years later are back to where they started because they didn't change their lifestyle. Katie, thanks for sharing her story!

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I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)