July 18, 2018

A guest post update from Sarah, who'd lost 101 pounds

You may remember several years ago, when I did my 100th Motivational Monday post--it was a short Q&A with 20 different people who had lost 100+ pounds! Well, it's been a few years now, and I wanted to check in and see how things were going for them. One of them was Sarah:
Sarah's before and after
(You can read her original Q&A here)

Sarah has a great update to share! So here it is, in her own words...



Three years ago, when Katie sent out a request for folks to share their stories if you had lost 100+ pounds, I had just hit that mark of losing 100 pounds. I was living in Kenya with my husband and two young children.

After the birth of our second child in Nairobi (just a year prior), something just "snapped" within me and I desired to get healthy. I'd realized that the "snapped" feeling was that I was finally feeling safe and loved. Not like anything was ever not safe or that I wasn't loved--but that I was finally able to breathe and had the space to work on me.

I felt like I could be me. I worked with a long-time friend who is a nutritionist and personal trainer and she taught me to how eat well and work out. I am forever grateful for Stephanie and how she worked with me (virtually) for a year. When I got to see her for the first time since returning from Kenya (131 pounds lighter)--it was all tears.

Sarah and Stephanie

The past three years have been full of adventure and increased learning while maintaining my weight loss. We made the decision to leave Kenya after many years there, and while stateside we got pregnant with our third child.

During that time, I stayed active and maintained a healthy weight during my pregnancy. It was the best pregnancy, and I thoroughly enjoyed "looking pregnant"--unlike my other two. It was nice to sport a cute "baby bump"!

Sarah while pregnant

Nine weeks after my daughter was born, we moved our family to Southeast Asia. Even with another new adventure and transition, this healthy lifestyle had already been deeply rooted in me and there was nothing to change it. It's in my bones now.

After only seven months in Southeast Asia, we moved back to the States. We have been here for a year now and are enjoying our community and life here very much. Life is just sweet.

The process of becoming healthy has been liberating for me.  In some ways, I feel like I truly came alive for the first time three years ago.

I've learned that eating well is a lifestyle. Some days, you just need something sweet. And some days, your body is craving more veggies. I've learned to listen to my body. Give it good stuff.

I adore cooking. I could spend a great portion of my day researching recipes and tweaking them to make them healthy and cooking.

For the past three years, I've been learning what I love to do for exercise and staying active. I do love a good sweat from a run, but I enjoy weights and strength exercises so much more. There's a thrill from being able to lift heavy.

Above all this, what makes my heart happy is being able to play and be active with my family. Run with my kids. Go bike riding. Rock climb. Not be scared to go jump with them on the trampoline for fear that it might break. Go down waterslides without worrying what the weight limit might be.

Sarah rock climbing

So many of those types of worries, sadnesses, and fears are removed.

I'm not sure what the next three years will hold. I have so much loose skin from weight loss. I keep wondering if I should have it removed or just live with it, like a "badge of honor" of sorts.

Ideas of how can I challenge myself? Any goals I want to have before I turn 40? Those things I am thinking through. But, really, I'm just enjoying right now and the fact that all this is a gift from God--it's just been such a sweet gift.

Sarah and her husband


July 16, 2018

How valid is YOUR stress?

I came across a really good documentary series last night called My Last Days (on The CW channel). It's about people who have terminal illnesses, and how they want to make the most of their remaining time in life. I only watched the first episode of the second season, but it was so heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. (I'll include some links at the end of this post--you can watch the whole thing on their website)

It made me think of a comment someone left on my last post. Normally, when I get not-so-nice comments on my blog, I just ignore them and don't think about them again. (I've come a LONG way with that--I used to spend days losing sleep and feeling horrible about myself from a stupid blog comment! In therapy last year, I finally had an "aha!" moment, and ever since then, the comments don't bother me at all. I would certainly never draw attention to them, as I'm about to...)

Anyway, so here is what the comment said: "If the biggest stressor in your life right now is your weight, you really need to get a job or go do some volunteer work and stop focusing on yourself so much. I am sure just feeling like you are contributing to the world would make a world a difference.
I would give anything for the biggest stressor in my life to be 30ish pounds overweight."

My first thought was, "Well, I'm *actually* only 10-15 pounds overweight, but okay." BAHAHA!

The comment is right, of course--I have so much good in my life, I have no reason to stress over things as stupid as weight, and all of that. Yeah, I know that.

BUT--if everyone thought that way, then there would only be one person on this planet who could say, "Well, you don't have it as bad as I do, so you have no reason to worry about anything." There are ALWAYS going to be people who are worse off. Does that mean that we are unable feel stressed by what's going on in our own lives? Maybe for some people, but I can't control feeling stressed about things--even things that some people find completely insignificant (like my weight).

My obesity kept me from being the mom I wanted to be to my kids--there were so many things I physically couldn't do with them because I was too big. I even had to hold my breath in order to tie my shoes, because I couldn't bend over and breathe at the same time! I eventually resorted to wearing slip-on shoes.

Every time I felt a slight pain in my chest, I wondered if I was having a heart attack. Knowing I was so overweight made me question a heart attack... in my 20's! My eating habits were setting my kids up to be overweight as well, if I kept up the way I was living.

Are there worse things than being overweight? Of course! But knowing how my life felt when I was 253 pounds makes a small weight gain now feel like a pretty big deal. I don't ever want to get to that point again, and it always starts at 10-15 pounds (or 30! haha). So, maybe outsiders looking at me would think that I have nothing to stress about, and I understand that; but for me, the weight gain equates to my not being able to do the things that I want to do with my family, to setting a bad example for my kids, to fearing for my health almost constantly.

Basically, what I'm getting at is, I don't think it's fair of us to judge what feels stressful to each other. There are always going to be people who have bigger problems than we do, but that doesn't mean that we aren't allowed to feel sad or stressed out over things that we have going on.

Look at Joey. This poor dog feels stressed out every time I leave the house without him. Dogs don't have much to stress about, because we give them everything they need. But Joey worries about things that I imagine normal dogs worry about... "Is she going for a walk without me? Eating treats with another dog? And FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, is she ever coming home?!?!"


If I was being judgmental, I would say that yes--those are ridiculous things to stress about. But I'm not judging, because it's something that dogs in general stress out about. (At least that's what we humans assume based on their behavior)

Whenever I find myself complaining about the heat, I try to remember my brother, Nathan, who spent a few years in Iraq when he was in the Army, and how hot it was there (especially wearing all of his equipment). He said that he once drank over 30 liters of water (I picture 15 of the 2-liter bottles of pop) and he didn't pee for the entire day. THAT'S how dehydrated he got from sweating so much.

Do I have any legit reason to bitch about the heat? Nope. Do I do it anyways, when it's 100 degrees and I'm drenched in sweat? Yup.

Using that same line of thought... I could say, "Wow, he has every reason to complain about the heat! I need to keep my mouth shut." But then someone else could say to Nathan, "Well, you have no reason to complain, because at least you had clean water to drink!"

My point is that this train of thought could go on forever, until you truly get to the one person on earth that has it worse than EVERYBODY else. And even then, who is to judge that? That person could probably say, "Hey, at least I'm still alive. I have no reason to complain."

I could say to the person who left the comment on my blog, "I'm so sorry for what you have going on in your life right now, because it must be very stressful to have caused you to leave that comment. But, at least you have access to the internet. And a device to use it. And the time to read blogs and post comments on them. There are a lot of people who don't have those things!" Does that mean that the commenter shouldn't feel stressed out by whatever is going on? I don't think so. I think that the commenter feels like his/her problems are worse than my own, and therefore, my stress isn't valid. And if leaving a comment to let me know about it makes him or her feel better, then I accept that. Whatever floats your boat!

In my opinion, I think that whatever feels stressful to people is all relative to their way of living. It might look superficial and ridiculous to others, but if it causes them stress, then it's just as valid as the stress of someone who has what other people would call a "bigger problem".

But what would I know? I'm just a blogger who contributes nothing to anyone but herself 😉

Anyway, after that very long tangent... the documentary series ("My Last Days") is very inspiring! It will certainly make you feel grateful for all that you have (especially your health). But I learned quite a bit about two major health conditions in just the one episode. I had heard of ALS, for example, but I really didn't know anything about it until seeing a glimpse into the life of someone who has it. It was very eye-opening.

In looking for a link, I just discovered that the whole series is available on the CW website, which is pretty awesome! Here is a link to the episode that I watched (I especially loved Anthony's story): Season 2, Episode 1. Here is the general link to the show's page. I was hoping to be able to watch season one, but I don't see where it's available, so I'm not sure if it is.

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Noah is away at church camp all week, so it'll just be Eli and me hanging out together this week! :)


July 12, 2018

Weight Gain Through Emotional Eating

I can't really pinpoint when my mood started going downhill, but I feel like a big mess right now. Remember that post in April I wrote, called "The Big Fat Mess That Is My Life Right Now"? I just re-read it, and everything that I wrote is still very true. I could basically slap today's date on it and call it a new post!

I have tried to get my life back on track by setting new goals and posting them here for accountability (by being public with goals, I hoped it would make me embarrassed not to accomplish them)--that didn't work (well, it IS embarrassing, so I guess that part worked--haha!). I have tried setting goals and keeping them to myself, hoping that having less pressure would be the trick--that didn't work.

I've tried easy goals, I've tried challenging goals, I've tried having no goals at all, I've tried taking everything one day at a time. I've tried everything I've ever done in the past that has worked for me, and nothing is working right now.

I found this four leaf clover a couple of days ago, and I thought it was funny because it looks very symbolic of my luck--four leaves, but one of them is chewed almost completely off, so does it really count? 😂Two steps forward, one step back.

four leaf clover

In the past, I've always had pretty clear depressive episodes. I was either hypomanic or depressed, and neither of those was very mild. Since starting my bipolar meds, though, the mood stabilizer has definitely put those in the "mild" category. I still have episodes of each, but they are nothing like before.

Currently, I only have very mild depression, and I think even those symptoms would probably go away if I could just get my life back on track. By that, I just mean feeling in control and motivated to do the things I need to do. Get rid of some stress.

My biggest stressor is my weight (or what I imagine it to be, because I am actually too afraid to look at the scale). I can feel it in my clothes and see it when I look in the mirror--I'm SURE I've gained even more since the last time I weighed in. I feel like I've gained 30 pounds in the last two weeks, but I know that's probably an exaggeration. Realistically, I'm thinking maybe I've hit the high 150's. I know that I should just face the number, but without having a real plan to lose the weight, I think it'll just discourage me even more.

Speaking of, remember when I posted about my plan to get back to my goal weight? Yeah, I haven't been doing it. I didn't make my plan very difficult, but I (obviously) haven't made any progress. I'd planned to count calories again, because that always works well for me; but after not counting all last year, and doing SO well with intuitive eating, I keep telling myself that I'll just eat intuitively like I did last year.

Except it doesn't work that way. I wasn't sure why I'm having such a hard time with it now after it felt so natural before. The whole concept of intuitive eating had finally clicked for me, and I was so excited about it! And then when I started having symptoms of depression, I began to eat for comfort. Now, I'm just stuck wanting to lose the weight I've gained, and to do it like I did last year.

I've been thinking hard about it, and the biggest difference between now and then, as far as my diet goes, is that I was very happy last year and I didn't feel any urges to eat for comfort. When I was happy, I only thought about food when I was really hungry. There were times where I would completely forget to eat a meal because I was busy with something and I just wasn't thinking about food at all.

When my mood is down, eating becomes something that I actually look forward to--something that makes me feel better. Obviously, that affects my weight!

So, I don't think that the weight gain or loss comes from whether I'm counting calories or not; rather, it comes from my frame of mind and happiness level. If I can feel happy, I shouldn't have a problem with eating better (whether it's counting calories or intuitive eating or something else). My mood is what makes it easier (or harder) to stick with whatever plan I am following.

Last year, when my life felt like it was finally on the right track, going so smoothly, it was because I was 100% focused on doing what makes me happy. And because I felt chronically happy, I didn't feel the need to try to make myself happy with food.

I saw my psychiatrist a couple of days ago, and it ended up being a long appointment because of my mood being all over the place lately. There was a lot to go over. He ended up changing up my meds a little bit--decreasing the dosage of two, and adding a third. He told me to give it a few weeks and see if that helps; if not, we can try something else. So, I'm hopeful that I'll start seeing some (positive) changes. Mainly, I want some of my focus and motivation back.

The most difficult emotion for me is feeling overwhelmed. When I have a ton of stuff to do, and I fall behind on things, I get overwhelmed; and then, because that feels so uncomfortable, I try to put it out of my mind (i.e. procrastinate); procrastinating just makes me more overwhelmed. So, it's a constant cycle until I get caught up. And then with my weight going up and my not running regularly, it just escalates. I guess I just get this feeling of being "too far gone" to get back to that good place I was in before falling behind.

The solution, of course, is obvious. Don't take on too much. Don't procrastinate. Just do what I can. GET IT OVER WITH.

It sounds so simple in my mind. But when trying to practice that mindset, it's a big challenge for me.

As far as running goes, I just haven't been. I started doing my Cookies Summer Challenge, with plans to get in every single run on the list. It's not too late, so I am REALLY hoping I can make myself get back to it ASAP (I'm banking on the medication switch helping me). My last run was the Independence Run (on the 4th of July, wearing red, white, and blue).

red white and blue running clothes

Ha! I was trying to take a photo to prove I was wearing my red, white, and blue, but it was pretty difficult to get my socks in it, and they are the best part!

Right now, I'm going to try to just focus on one thing at a time. I managed to clear out my inbox over the last few days, which felt great to catch up on. I haven't figured out what to do with my eating habits, so I'm going to leave that alone for the moment. But right now, I'm committing to going for a run tomorrow. That's it! It might be on my treadmill, and it might only be one mile, but I'm going to state right now: I am going to run tomorrow.

Anyway, this whole post is basically to say that I am a mess right now and I'm trying to get myself back together and functioning normally ;) I hope to see some progress soon!


July 8, 2018

Inspiration


After writing so much last month, not posting the last few days feels like I haven't written in weeks! Despite not posting, I did do a ton of work on my blog, and I'm really excited about it.

I've written before that I love hearing/reading personal stories from people. My favorite book genre is memoirs, and almost all of the podcasts I listen to are of people telling true stories about their lives or things that have happened to them. It's no wonder, then, why I enjoy reading guest blog posts.

So, I created a blog page called "Inspiration" (you can find it on the navigation bar below my header, or you can click here to go to it). It contains a clickable photo gallery of almost all of the guest posts I've shared on my blog (I say "almost" because I am still working on doing the rest). 

There are nearly 50 stories from people (some share just a few paragraphs, others share long posts) in order by post date. Almost all of them are about weight loss, because that was the primary focus of my blog for so long--so the gallery mostly consists of before and after photos right now. When you click on the photo, it'll take you to that person's guest post. 

It's a page that I am hoping to keep growing, and expanding the topics of the posts as well. I'd love to share inspirational stories from people who have overcome obstacles (not just weight loss)--stories about mental health, paying off financial debts (like Jerry and I have been doing), overcoming addictions, getting over fears, and other hurdles people have dealt with. 

So, if you have a story that you think is inspiring, I'd be happy to consider it! A few guidelines:
  • The post must be a PERSONAL story about a topic that would fit in with the basic tone of my blog (weight loss, fitness, mental health, financial freedom, addiction, facing fears, hurdles you've overcome, etc). I am not looking for "how to" posts, preachy stories, or persuasive/controversial articles.
  • The post may not contain any affiliate or sales links, nor links to any promotional, business, or product websites. 
  • Photos (about 2-5) must be your own (no stock photos), and by submitting them, you are giving permission to share them on my blog. Please make sure that if there is someone else in the photos, they are cool with you sharing it.
  • I will likely edit the post for length, clarity, and/or format. If you'd like, I can send it back for your approval before posting. 
  • I do not pay for (or accept payment for) guest posts.
  • The whole purpose behind guest posts is for my blog readers to share their stories to inspire others. The more personal the story is, the better, and a conversational tone is the most engaging. Basically, just tell your story as if you are chatting with a friend! 
I cannot guarantee that I will share your story, but you are welcome to email me an inquiry. Please do not send me an entire post--just a paragraph explaining what you'd like to write about will be all that I need. I'll contact you for more info if it sounds like something that would be a good fit! It would be great to post some fresh content--because there are already so many weight loss stories, I would love to share some stories about the other topics I mentioned.

All of that said, if you have an inspirational story to share, you can email your idea to me at: inspiration (at) runsforcookies (dot) com

This guest post that I shared in 2013, titled "I Kept Running", was written by a woman named Katie Wiggins. It's a great example of what I love to read! It made me feel all of the feels--anger, empathy, humor, sadness, and, of course, inspiration. All in the same post! It's great. 

Back in March of 2015, for the 100th Motivational Monday post, I shared bio's of 20 people who had lost 100+ pounds each. It was so fun to read how they'd lost the weight and the advice they had. I reached out to them a couple of days ago to ask if they'd like to share an update on the blog, and several of them are interested in doing that--so I'm looking forward to reading about how maintenance has gone for the last three years! 


July 2, 2018

The Craziest of the Crazy (a review of the running documentary "3100: Run & Become")

It's not uncommon for non-runners to think that runners are just crazy people. Run for fun? Really? Crazy.

I used to think the same thing until I became a runner. THEN, I learned that sure--we're a little crazy. I ran, I trained, and I paid money to run 5K, 10K, a half-marathon. Who does that?! Crazy people.

When I trained for and ran my first marathon, the non-runners who I told about it couldn't even fathom the thought of running 26.2 miles. Crazy.

And now, as a three-time marathoner, I learned that there is another level of crazy runners--they are the batshit crazy runners. These are runners who run even farther than marathon distance--ultramarathons! More than 26.2 miles? I'm out.

But it gets even crazier.

My mind was totally blown when I learned about the Badwater 135, a race of 135 miles through Death Valley in the middle of July, when temperatures are roughly 130 degrees F. Oh, did I mention the 13,000 FEET OF ELEVATION GAIN?

Batshit crazy!

But why do that race, when you can choose the Barkley Marathons? The Barkley Marathons is a race of more than 100 miles that must be completed in less than 60 hours--it's a five-loop course of 20+ miles per loop (the distance varies a bit because the course changes every year--and none of the runners know the course in advance). This race commonly ends without a single finisher.

WHY, on God's green earth, would anyone choose to do this? Because they are batshit crazy, that's why.

And recently, Friends, I learned that there are runners who put "batshit crazy" to shame. They make that level of crazy go way down to the bottom rung of the whole crazy ladder.

I was invited to watch an advance screening of a documentary about a race that I'd never heard of, and when I read about the race, I legitimately thought that the mileage was a typo. It had to be. Or meant to be an ironic title. Or a joke. It couldn't possibly be a real race!

I'm talking about the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race.

After you pick your jaw up off the floor, envision this: A road race where the runners must complete at least 59 miles per day for 52 straight days to finish. The entire race is on a 1/2-mile loop of a block in Queens, NYC. And it's done in the summer heat!

Is there even a word that describes that level of crazy?!

I'm going to NYC in September, and after I watched the documentary about this race, I said to Jerry, "Oh, I wonder what day the race is? I'd love to go spectate!" And I looked it up online. It read "17 June - 7 August". For a moment, I thought, "Well, which is it?" HAHAHA, my brain couldn't even grasp the concept of the race taking place from June 17 TO August 7!

The documentary that I was kindly invited to screen is called "3100: Run & Become". It is fantastic, and it made me so interested in learning more about the role that running plays in different cultures. Different "levels of crazy", so to speak.


The film is not just about the Self-Transcendence 3100, however. While that is fascinating in and of itself, my favorite parts were about how running fits in to other cultures--the Navajo, Bushmen, and Japanese Marathon Monks.

Here is a quote from the producers regarding these:
"Cameras in hand, we set off on a global exploration of running.  
We hunted on the run with the Bushmen of Botswana. Hunting was recently banned by the Botswana Government as one step in their attempt to destroy this ancient culture. We met a group of Bushmen hunters defying that ban who wanted us to film their ancestral way of hunting. 
We ran with champion Navajo runners versed by their Elders in the spiritual traditions of running. Shaun Martin, a Navajo educator, was attempting to retrace the footsteps of his father, who like many Native American kids was forced into government boarding school. Shaun's dad would routinely escape and walk the 100 miles back to his family's homesite. Shaun was attempting to do that distance in one shot. 
And we embedded with the Japanese Marathon Monks to document their epic 1,000 day running journey where the stakes are literally life or death. Once a generation they pick an Aspirant to do 1000 days over 7 years, in 100 day chunks - up to 56 miles per day. If the Aspirant fails to complete his/her daily mileage requirement, he/she must commit suicide (!). Thankfully this hasn't happened in 100s of years."
Jerry and I both loved the film. My only complaint is that it wasn't longer and more in-depth! Here is the trailer:


The film will soon be available to the public at several screenings around the country. Here is the film's website, where you can see the dates/locations of some of the upcoming screenings. Even if you're not a "crazy runner", I encourage you to watch the film--it's informative, inspirational, and very interesting!


(Photos courtesy of 3100: Run & Become)


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