Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day 160 - Karen's Story

I physically became overweight while I was in my 20's, long before I had children. Although while I was in High School, I thought I was overweight even though I wore a size 6. (How foolish our self image is when we are in High School) So my struggles with my weight has continued for decades, something that has always been there, all consuming, in my adult life.

When the children started to come, one would think I would have gained weight from that experience, but I didn't. Eating for me during pregnancy is very controlled and "normal", normal being that I don't overeat or binge. I have always gained the healthy 20-30 pounds during my pregnancies. I would then return to my pre-baby weight within weeks of delivery, right back to my "before" body which I loathed. The pregnancy weight gain would start to increase around the time my baby was about 4 months. I breastfed them all and I took advantage of that at the table.

After having my second baby, I went to Weight Watchers and lost 50 pounds! It was great to get back to a size 8. Although it felt great to be lighter and at a weight that was classified as healthy, I didn't feel stable. I felt like I was on the edge ALL the time. There was no peace being at a healthy weight, I felt like I had to fight harder to stay there than I had to just to get there. I felt like I would fall off the wagon at any time. I enjoyed the weight but I didn't enjoy the lifestyle it took to stay there. At the pique of my struggles, we found out we were expecting our 3rd child. I was so happy not to struggle any more.

I have often returned to that time in my mind to try to figure out why I was so unsettled. Why was it so hard to stay thin and healthy?? The conclusion I came to was that my mind set didn't change with my body. My body may have been a size 8 but my mind was still plus sized. I "started" the program knowing that there would be a "finish" and that is how I lived it. When I got to the finish line, I didn't know what to do. Since I was nursing, I got extra points with the program. I manipulated the program so that I would eat the food I needed and then use the extra points to eat the junk I craved. I used low-fat, fat-free, carb free, anything so I could fit the junk food within the point range so I could pretty much, "Eat, drink and be merry" with the "drink" being calorie void, heavy chemical laden beverages-not the alcohol type. When I finished the program, I didn't have any tools to do it on my own and I was no longer nursing. The way I used the program to loose weight, wouldn't work now to maintain. Don't get me wrong, Weight Watchers is an AWESOME program and I would recommend it to anyone!! But for me, I learned what I needed from the program and when I went back to it after the 3rd baby, it no longer helped me because my life changed. Weight Watchers was so helpful for me before because Ben worked nights and I was able to go to meetings and work out before he left for work so he could watch the kids. It was easy for me to follow the program and lifestyle in that particular phase in my life.

So after my 4th baby in September, I didn't have much for options. I knew I couldn't go back to Weight Watchers, the only way I have ever succeeded in loosing weight, because my mind set would be the same and I would just manipulate the program again. Also, having 4 children and homeschooling? Going to a weekly meeting wasn't going to be easy especially since Ben leaves around 6am and gets home between 5-6. So I found myself at the end of 2008, desperate. I didn't like where I was weight wise, I knew I would be gaining more weight if I didn't do anything, because I always had around that point post-pregnancy. The New Year was coming and like millions of other people I toyed with the idea of making a weight loss resolution. But we all know how that ends, after a week, we're right back to our old habits even more frustrated that the resolution only lasted a week! How often I have started the year more than ticked off with myself because of my weakness to stick with a resolution!! The cycle would begin...again.

This year, being just tired of the same old thing, the idea of something different popped into my head. I am a compulsive person, I admit it, I understand it, I live with this understanding. I have learned that this personality trait can get you in a lot of trouble, but it can also be a strength, if you apply it in the right area. So this year, 2009, I decided to put the two together, to take advantage of my weakness/strength: Karen Hansen was going to work out on the elliptical trainer every day of the year, 365 days in a row. I knew when I got started I couldn't even skip a day, because then it would be over and I would end up in that miserable place with my body.

I decided I wouldn't start gung-ho either on the workouts. I knew, from prior experience, that if you start off too big, you just can't keep up. Knowing that if I missed for one day that I would just not do it at all, I knew I had to start with a workout that would be easy. Consistency was the key so I made it as easy as possible. It was a habit I wanted to create, so even with a measly 15 minute workout, one that I would typically laugh at for being a "waste of time", I had to focus on creating the habit and nothing more. And so I did. January is a very stress-filled month for me. It's recovery from the holiday whirlwind the month prior, it's flu season, I have 2 birthdays to celebrate and make special for the kids, and it's just the time of year were it's easy to fall in a funk. I eat to deal with stress. So several times in January, I would literally walk off the ET and serve myself a hot fudge sundae. I knew it was crazy, but I was creating a routine!! Needless to say, I did gain a couple of pounds in January because no matter how hard you figure it, a 15 minute workout, on level 1, doesn't wash out a fudge Sunday or an entire day of overeating.

But I had a goal and a plan. Every month I was going to up my workout by 5 minutes. Initially I was going to increase by 5 minutes each month until I ended the year with a workout of 70 minutes. Over the course of this experience, I realized that a 70 minute workout each day wasn't feasible and that it would be hard to keep up the pace. So after a few months I decided to stop the time increase when I reached 30 minutes and then each month I would increase the intensity instead. This is the current plan that I am sticking to and I am liking the results.

Somewhere in February, I was starting to grow in confidence that the habit of the daily workout was going to stick. I had been maintaining my weight, which in and of itself is a good thing, but my desire to drop the weight was as strong as ever. I began to feel a tinge bit of hopefulness. I knew that if I would just eat a little better the workouts and the nursing would work to my advantage. I just don't have time to put into all the planning and recipes that I did the last time I lost weight. I am feeding a family of 6, with 6 different palates!! I decided that I would continue to cook and eat the same foods. I don't like foods that have fake anything so we tend to buy the full fat products for the simple fact that they don't have processed or fake stuff. If you want to see what I mean, next time you go to the grocery store, compare the ingredients of "fat-free sour cream" with that of "regular sour cream". I cook with regular sour cream, real butter, real mayo, whole milk yogurt, make salad dressing with real olive oil and vinegar-REAL FOOD. I decided I would simply make smaller portions for myself.

Once I had made this decision to eat healthier, I noticed something was different. It was the strangest thing and never before in my life had anything happen like this. I would want to drink a hot chocolate after I worked out. Not a bad thing, but it was extra, empty calories. One night, I was literally in the kitchen reaching for the milk when for a split second, I imagined myself drinking the hot chocolate. I thought to myself that it wouldn't taste as good as I was imagining it would taste. It's really hard to explain, but I was able to see that the reality of the treat wouldn't be as good as the perceived thought would be. I decided I didn't want it after all. This kept happening every night for the week and then I didn't even crave a hot chocolate at all. Getting used to this practice, I applied it to dessert. Before digging into a serving, I would imagine that first bite and the pull to consume it would be gone. I would have a bite, enjoy the flavor and the desire to eat the whole thing would be gone and I was satisfied, I felt strong. I was discovering that I was no longer a slave to food!! This is a HUGE thing to me! I have been a slave to food for decades!!!

So, here we are, in June. As of today, I have had 160 workouts in a row (come tonight) and have lost 26.6 pounds. I feel great and for the first time, I feel in control!! I am no longer on a fence, I have a lifestyle that is mine like I enjoy. I don't know what made the change in me. Is it the regular workouts? Is it taking the "beginning" and "ending" of weight loss out of the equation and just knowing that it's a lifestyle I am trying to create giving me the motivation? I don't have these answers now, but I feel someday I will know. I am only half way to the weight I would like to be, but this is a journey and I feel great about it. I can post my before pictures because I am not embarrassed to show them since I no longer look the same at this point in my journey. Our lives are a journey and everything that happens in our lives no matter how big or small, good or bad, these experiences are there to shape our spirits, to strengthen them. I am grateful for my struggles, because I learn so much about myself from them and this I am grateful for.


  1. Karen I am sooo proud of you! Keep up the FANTASTIC job you are doing. I am with you all the way! Lifestyle IS the key and I am so happy you have found your place of peace in this equation. Onward and upward I say!

    Love you


  2. Congratulations! I wish you luck on the journey. Looks like you're doing well!

    Check out:
    I learned about this in a health class of mine, and it opened up my eyes a great deal. It has the official health requirements for daily consumption, as well as a great meal planner (and recipes) to keep one on track. Highly recommend checking it out sometime. Might help make things even easier.

    Good luck in all you do!

  3. That is a great site! They gave the food pyramid a face lift to what most people recognize it as. A very helpful site for someone wanting to eat better. Thanks Margaret!!

  4. Your thoughts here are very inspiring. I would like to do something like this. I would probably do walking with my babies everyday. I need to think it through and plan it out. I love your mind power! It's amazing!!! Last time I saw you, about a month ago... you looked great! Congratulations to you for your determination to get and stay fit!!! Thanks for sharing your story!

  5. WOAH! This is such a great story. I follow you on twitter. What an inspiration! I can do 15 minutes a day, too!!! Wow.... wonder if I will....

  6. Hi Karen!

    I'm going to leave your blog up and open in my browser all the time. I need to change my life and lifestyle and I've been thinking about YOU and your blog basically nonstop for the past few weeks. I'm going to start exercising every day, too. I want to follow in your footsteps. I hope I can even half the success you have had. ((Hugs))