This is not a story about my weight loss success story.
It is about making the most of what God gave us and then renegotiating.
In February of 2009 at 32 years old I had my fifth baby. I always considered myself a young mom owing to the fact that I gave birth to my first child at the age of 20. At 33 I appreciated having reached such a substantial threshold in my life at such a young age when most people were just starting to build up their families for the first time. I know that being a young mom can be really great except for one small problem; when my baby was born my energy level and weight were not where they should be.
Let me start at the semi-beginning.
My battle with my weight has always been a difficult one. A nice figure never came easily to me. During high school I was very fit and athletic. Unfortunately, I was not healthy. In retrospect I look at my weight as being the only way I had to be in control of my life when I didn’t really have control over anything else. My parents had moved to a new country in 1990 when I was a teenager forcing me to leave behind my family and friends. It was such a stressful time in my life that I guess I just started to starve myself. I ate under 1000 calories a day and exercised like a maniac. Two hours of high intensity aerobics and then a half hour run home. My body was one of the only things under MY control and I used that to my advantage.
I was at my lowest weight: 130 pounds and I stopped getting my period but I was always cranky, hungry and tired. This was not going to last. Slowly over the years I gained back the weight and by the time I reached University in 1996 I weighed 190 pounds. I met my husband in the first semester of University and we were engaged to be married by June of that school year. I lost ten pounds and weighed 180 pounds at my wedding. I felt great and I was so happy. I was not a size 4 bride, but I felt beautiful anyways.
After I had my first baby a year later in January of 1999, I gained 20 pounds and was bordering on 200 pounds. I decided to go to a nutritionist who helped me get back to 180 pounds again, a weight that I felt came with a feeling of personal contentment. All of my struggles were for nothing considering that my next baby would soon follow a few months later. Every baby came with extra pounds and at my highest point I was weighing in at around 245 pounds sometime around my fourth pregnancy. I had low energy, very bad digestion, heartburn, headaches and lethargy. I had tried everything: High protein diets, liver cleansing diet, nutritionists, and exercise but I just couldn’t get the weight off.
I was in very bad shape. I just didn’t know how to change my situation. There were so many factors that were impeding my own personal care. Firstly, in February 2000 I had been in a critical car accident when my first child was 1 years old. I had a lot of still chronic injuries from this MVA including knee pain from the surgery, my head concussion which developed into epilepsy, terrible back problems and a general fear of driving. I spent a lot of time at home which meant a lot of eating and very little expenditure of calories. To make things even more difficult, I was living a religious lifestyle where I was expected to wear full coverage clothing and a head covering. This limited my ability to exercise freely unless I was willing to go to a women’s gym which meant extra time, driving, babysitting and money all of which I had none.
It was a difficult time for me and I felt very alone. I had to hide my personal life at home from my own family and I always thought that I was at fault for the way things were. I kept thinking that I could solve all of the problems I had in my personal life, my marriage and everyone else around me. That’s right. I was going to fix everything and it would all be OK. I felt guilt and shame and oh so alone living far away from my family in Israel. I lost touch with many of my friends, cut back on my university, my career and my life to try to be the best wife and mother that I could be and to make my husband happy. In the end I was unhappy which affected the feeling in our marriage and in our home.
In 2002 I started to go for counseling following the sudden murder of my Uncle David, whom I was very close to and who was murdered near my home in 2003. My fear of leaving my home and of making changes was exacerbated after this incident. So many things were wrong and I didn’t have the ability to make them right. I tried to take control of the things that I could but it still didn’t make me feel any better.
Finally, after my fourth kid in May of 2006, my then husband and I made the decision to move to Israel. It was a very difficult decision but it meant making a lifestyle choice for our children and giving them different opportunities than they had in Canada. I hoped and prayed that this would also make my husband and I happy. We would be living near my family so it would soften the blow of the move and we would have a built in support system but it also meant moving all of our things and our entire life away from our home for the past ten years of our married life. As the typical over-functioner, I once again looked after the entire move and all of the details from beginning to end. And as usual, I neglected myself.
After the birth to my fourth baby, right before our Aliyah, I had terrible heartburn and stomach problems. After an intense pancreatic attack from a gall stone that entered my pancreas, I went to emergency and had an emergency cholecystectomy (removal of the gall bladder). The recovery was a tough one and I cried a lot from the physical pain and the emotional pain of feeling so helpless. After the surgery I found that I constantly had stomach problems. I couldn’t eat without feeling sick or having diarrhea. I would dread anytime a meal came along. I kept gaining weight and I just felt sick.
Our Aliyah was a rocky one which meant my trying to solve the problems we encountered, even if it wasn’t in my control do to so. In February of 2009, I had my fifth child. I weighed 230 pounds. I was so happy to see my baby and I had a great birth. I was preparing to leave the hospital soon after my birth and since the doctor who was signing my release papers knew me (we had been in high-school together) she tried to be very delicate. She came over to talk to me and told me that she was really, really sorry but she would have to write on my release papers in my medical profile that I was obese. OBESE! I was in shock. This was a real wake up call for me. How had I gotten to the point where I was clinically obese???
It shook me to the core. This was the beginning of my turning point.
Before my baby was even a month old I started walking with him in the stroller. I walked for a couple of hours every day to do my errands and to get around. I lived in a hilly city so I really started to get my legs pumping. The stress from my marriage and my post-natal stress was building up. I was feeling so tense that eventually I collapsed from a grand-mal seizure. I woke up in the ambulance on my way to the hospital and I realized that I was killing myself. I needed to stop trying to please everyone else and to start including myself in the equation. Things were going to change….NOW!
My exercise became vital to my day. I also started looking for work. I put my baby in a day care at 7 months old so that if I got a job I could start to work immediately. This was something I never did before, considering that I nursed some of my babies until 2 years old. I got a lot of flak from my family and my husband’s family but I knew that this was what I had to do. I started to look for work and began working in February of 2010. I had decided that walking wasn’t enough and after plateauing at 190 pounds I started to run.
Every night I ran the Judean hills of Efrat. I ran and I ran. I couldn’t drive a car for a year because of my seizures so any errands or meetings I scheduled I ran to get there…literally. My feet were now my main mode of transportation, for more than just pressing on the gas pedal. And I didn’t care if it was freezing, hailing or boiling hot. I prepared my clothing and equipment accordingly and went out to run.
I changed my life in so many ways. I separated myself from my unhealthy relationships; I removed my hair covering and let my beautiful hair show. I started to be myself and not be scared all the time. I stopped eating food that disagreed with me. I ate only when I was hungry and never until I was too full. My energy levels soared. I worked 9 hour days and came home to look after my 5 kids and the house. I didn’t have a housekeeper. People would ask me questions like: “What’s your secret?” and “You don’t eat carbs, right?”
My answers to them were as follows:
There are no secrets!
Exercise and sensible eating!
Don’t starve yourself! Diets don’t work!
Eat healthy and well. Be good to yourself. Don’t eat hydrogenated oils and fats.
Be active and look after yourself. Don’t sit on the couch watching TV while life flies by. TV is the way to live vicariously through other fictional people’s lives. Live your own life, not theirs.
Socialize with friends, do exercise, read books.
Set goals for yourself. Improve skills that you have neglected.
Nurture your relationships with the ones you love.
Have fun with your kids, play with them, slide down the slide with them, and swing with them.
Laugh!! Always remember that laughter is a healer. It gives you strength and energy. My coworkers joke with me regarding my implementation of a “smile twice an hour” policy. I really don’t like sour faces in the office. And when people walk into the office, I smile at them and they are forced to smile back.
I have been through the ringer and no one can hold me down. I am a fighter and God gave me a lot of strength for a reason. I eat plenty and I eat well and I enjoy my food. I lost weight slowly and my body feels good at 150 pounds.
I ran my first half marathon in March of 2010 for the children of Shalva (http://www.run4shalva.org/) in Jerusalem and it was such an amazing experience running the 21 km run throughout Jerusalem. I finished in 2hrs and 16 minutes and as I ran I said to myself: “Self, you are going to finish this marathon…not because you are the fittest, or most athletic here, not because you are strong or skilled…you are going to finish because you are determined to do so and nothing will stand in the way of your goals.” I collapsed at the end but I knew that I had done it. The feeling was an amazing one.
Human strength is an unbelievable tool. Harness your will and make it work for you. Women, you all need to look after yourselves because so many people depend on us, and you are worth it. Every ounce of care you invest in yourself will ultimately benefit everyone around you too.
People, we have one life to live, and we had all better live it well.
All my love,