Nov 5, 2011

Weight loss - Life Found

I'm writing this from a very personal place in my heart. I don't want to forget this journey. More importantly, I pray that it will help someone who is weary and tired of running the same old race. This road to health was much more about God teaching me some very important lessons, than just "eating right and exercising" so I can be "skinny."  I hope that I can share my heart with you without sounding too "Jillian Michael-ish." --she bugs the tar outta me.

Here goes......

A few years ago, I got to witness my sister run her first half marathon.  Since then, she has gone on to run several full marathons.  I remember the morning of her half marathon.  I remember the nervousness I felt for her. I remember all the training she had done to prepare for this day. I remember her coming home for holidays, and getting up early so she wouldn't miss a training day. She was very determined to accomplish what she set out to do. Race day arrived. This was her day....all that she trained for condensed down to this one day.  She stepped up to the start line. We were all smiling and cheering for our sister/auntie/and daughter. We were so proud of her!  The crowd was full of cheering, clapping and whistling.  Everyone was anticipating the sound of that gun. Krissy looked over at us, and gave a final wave.  The gun fired, and she was off.

When you're standing on the sidelines, you can't help but notice the wide array of runners out there... different shapes, sizes, and ages. -yet coming together to accomplish their one goal... to finish.  I'm sure each one had their own story of what brought them to this race.  My husband and I love watching the Ironman that takes place in Hawaii each year.  It's so inspiring to hear some of their stories. Some of them have overcome tremendous odds! My thoughts were interrupted as the first racers blew by me. I stood there in awe. Tears filled my eyes and began streaming down my face. One after another, they went racing by me.... in wheelchairs!  Where did they get the strength to do this? I felt a sense of guilt as I looked down at my legs. They worked, but were not being used to their fullest potential.  I had no excuse. These wheelchair athletes were certainly not going to allow their "handicap" to hinder  them.

I looked on the internet for the definition of the word "handicap," and found this.

       handicap - A condition that markedly restricts a person's ability to function physically, mentally, or socially.

I honestly did not see these people as being "handicapped." I saw myself as the handicapped one. I was, "restricting my own ability to function physically, mentally or socially." A life of inactivity and poor food choices had crippled me.  The wheelchairs continued to pass by. They were determined, disciplined and strong. -Oh, how I wanted to be like that!   I walked around for the rest of the day with a plastered smile on, but my mind was in a fog....Where would I be five or ten years from now?

My sister crossed the finish line. I felt like I was just walking up to my "start" line.

I went home with a new determination.  I was so sure that I was really going to do it this time.  I had tried so many diets.  I didn't want to fail again.  I really wanted to change,  but somehow my cravings always won out, killing my determination.  I went right back to what I knew best... no discipline, and a peanut butter cup sundae with extra peanut butter sauce. Occasionally, I would think back on Krissy's race day with wishful thoughts.  I really did want to run a half marathon some day.  Why couldn't I get that will power?

One day as I was out grocery shopping, grabbing all my favorite treats, and throwing in junk food after junk food, I noticed the contents of my carriage. -chips, doughnuts, cookies, ice cream, brownie mix, sugar cereals, hot dogs, white bread...We were going to eat all this in one week!!  I was repulsed.  "What am I doing to my family?"  I am responsible for their health.  I'm the one who shops and cooks the food. "My" choices were not just affecting me anymore.  If I wanted to do that to myself, that was one thing, but to make those unhealthy choices for my growing children...that was another thing!  I wasn't the only one affected with weight gain in my family. My husband was overweight as well, and it affected his work greatly. He would come home more exhausted than normal.  MY grocery shopping, MY example of unhealthy living, MY cooking was also destroying quality of life for MY family.

Life was about to change!

When I got home from the grocery store, I immediately went downstairs where our Nordic track was kept prisoner.  I removed all of the clothes that were drying, blew the dust off and reclaimed my machine. I got on it, and began moving my arms and legs.  Beads of sweat were pouring off of me.  I was out of breath.  I was sore.  I stared straight ahead.  Woooo-weeee....Yeah, man, I was in my "zone."  I did not allow myself to look down at the timer.  I wanted to go as long as I possibly could without time limiting me.  Agonizing second after agonizing second passed by.  My body was screaming at me to get off.  I persevered.  I wasn't going to give in.  In fact, I cranked it out hard for those last few seconds.  That's it!  That's as far as I could go, but WOW! I must have been on there for at least 20 minutes.   I looked down at the timer..."WHAT?  IS THIS THING BROKEN??...TWO MINUTES!!?"  I could only handle two minutes!  I burst into tears.  My husband came home just as I was dragging my exhausted body up the stairs.  I poured my heart out to him. "I coudn't even last two minutes!  I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired, " I sobbed.  Joel, my darling husband, the love of my life, my best friend, always my encourager, just hugged me.  In his gentle voice, he told me how beautiful I was, and no matter what size I was, he would love me.  "I can't stand seeing you sad about your weight. I hate seeing you cry about it.  I promise that I'll help you."   As heavy as I was, he still made me feel beautiful, but he also knew my heart was breaking under my weight....literally!  I signed up for a gym membership.  I remember how embarrassed I felt the first time I entered Gold's Gym.  I felt like everyone was looking at me, like I didn't belong. (Quite frankly, I felt like Han Solo in that bar room scene on Star Wars.) After about a month, I made friends with Fran, the 80 year old woman who always had the third eliptical machine from the right.  -Get it right.  It's the third, not the second!  I learned quickly, that was Fran's machine!  If I missed one day, Fran would ask where I was.  My nosey little buddy kept me honest about my commitment to the gym.  I met another woman one day, who shared her "weight story with me."  She had gastric bypass surgery, but within a short period she gained it all back.  She was back to square one, trying to lose her weight the right way this time. I'll never forget her pointing to her head saying,  "The surgery couldn't fix this." (Karate Kid really did know what he was talking about when he said, "Nah, it's not here" -points to his scrawny, little bicep- "It's here"-points to his head.)

Eventually those sad little two minutes on my Nordic Track became 15 minutes on the treadmill, then 20 minutes, and before I knew it, I was outside jogging two miles, than three.  I continued to add a little more on each week.  I searched blogs that promoted a healthy lifestyle.  I started looking for new substitutes for healthier cooking.  I joined Weight Watchers for a few months.  Little by little,  the weight started to come off.

So far, I've lost 47 pounds.

And my husband has lost 50!! 

He kept his promise! He was there for me. He encouraged me. He ran with me.  He wouldn't let me cheat, even when I got mad at him and DEMANDED he bring me home chocolate.

Last year, my sister got to come home for Thanksgiving.  Joel, Krissy and I thought it would be fun to wake up on Thanksgiving morning and go running.  We live among the hills, so it was a pretty difficult 8 mile run.  Krissy turned to me and said, "You know you could run a half marathon, right now, don't you?" Huffing along side of her, I rolled my eyes and sarcastically said, "Yeah right." She looked at me, and with all authority that my phlegmatic sister could muster, she said, "Beck!! You. Can. Run. A. Half. Marathon!!!!!"  Although I was a few sizes smaller, the self doubt was still there.   "Ok, here's the deal,"  Krissy said, "All three of us are going to register for a race. I'll fly home, and we're going to run a half marathon in the Spring."  The deal was sealed with sweaty high-fives.

And now, the real training began.

My schedule was very busy! I would homeschool from 9:00-3:00 and by 3:30, my sneakers were on, and I was running out the door. -leaving behind piles of papers, dishes and laundry.  At first, I had such a guilty feeling, leaving all that mess.   However, the guilty feeling subsided when I found that I was actually much more productive after a run, and seemed to get twice as much work done.  My exercise time became very precious to me.  It was an important part of my day that I looked forward to.  I would put my headphones on, listen to Christian music, or messages, pray, and plan.  I felt stronger physically and spiritually each time I returned home.

Many of my runs were with Joel.  He is much faster than me, but we made a great pair on his "slow days" and my "long and hard days."   I remember struggling one day as Joel was running along next to me.  There was so much self doubt floating around my brain!  I doubted the speed, the distance, the hills, my strength.  I doubted that he wanted to even run next to me, because quite frankly.....I couldn't stand myself at the moment.  I was a ball of anxiety and insecurity! He never stopped encouraging me,  "You can do it!"  My legs were like jello. "I can't today." I was so mad at myself, because just the day before I had gone twice as far.  I kept saying, "I can't."  He kept saying, "You can!"  I was gasping for air. "Babe!" I whined, "I just can't! I've got nothing in me right now!"  Finally, I stopped and started to walk with my tears streaming down my cheeks.  I felt like a failure. He hugged me. "Look how far you've come!!   Remember those 2 minutes of exercise when you first started?  Every day is not going to be your 'best day.' You've got to work through these hard times, because you're going to have them on race day...just keep running. But don't worry, I'll be there next to you."

I love this man! He was willing to sacrifice his own race time in order to help me achieve my best, but deep down, I knew that I was going to have to do this race myself.

"You don't need to run next to me.  I want you to run your own pace on race day." It stung as I said it out loud.

"No, I am going to run next to you. Beck, you need me. I see how you struggle, and I can help you."

"You do help me, and I will forever need you, but I feel like I'm at a point now where I need to become a stronger runner.  I can't always rely on you to get me through the hard times during my running.  I really want you to run your personal best on race day.  Krissy will run hers, and I'll run mine.  Then we can all celebrate at the finish line."

"Alright," he agreed.

We were about three miles from home. I had an idea, "Let's not wait until the race for you to take off ahead of me. It will play on my already weakened emotions.  So, do it right now. Go ahead and run your pace.  We're not far from home anyways."

He refused.

"Really.  I'm serious.  I think it will help me become a stronger runner. Go ahead."

"Alright, if you think it will help you, than next run, I will."

"No, I need you to do it right now....please!" I begged.

We ran for a bit in silence.

"Are you sure?" he asked.



And with that, he gave me the "football pat" on the bum, and was off.  I tried to keep up.  I couldn't.  I tried to keep him in sight.  Impossible. It didn't take long before he was completely out of sight.  It was just me, the pounding of my sneakers, and as always...God.  I am never alone.  Sometimes I rely more on my husband than on God.  If I have a problem, I'm more apt to share it with my husband and rely on him to fix it, than to pray and leave it with God to fix. In a small way, running would help me see my need to change this. What I didn't know at the time was that particular training run was going to be the beginning of a much bigger picture that only God knew.

Because we wanted to focus more on our pace, the majority of our training would be done separately.  Sometimes I would be running up the hill toward home, as he was coming down.  We high-fived and gave encouragement. We both downloaded a running app to our iphones.  It  had a GPS so we could see where each other was.  It was fun to track that little green dot on my phone, and when I knew he was faced with a hill, I would quietly pray for him.  He did the same for me. Many days, Joel would call to tell me that he was on his way home from work, and I would say, "Ok, I'm running toward you. Be looking for me out there." It was fun to "race" him.  I loved seeing his truck heading toward me.  He pulled off to the side of the road. I climbed in where he had a water bottle, power bar and kiss waiting.

A few months before our big race, Krissy called with some bad news.  She had a stress fracture in her foot.  The race was off for's orders.  I was sad for her and sad for me.  "Listen!" she said, "I AM flying home for you guys.  I will not miss this for anything!!"

Finally! After months of training, and years of dreaming, our race day came.  I picked up my sister from the airport the day before.  We anxiously talked about the race. She gave me great advice for proper nutrition and tips for the half marathon.  She encouraged me to stop at all the water stations along the race.  It was suppose to be record high heat!  In fact, race day was suppose to be so hot that we received an e-mail from the Memorial Day Half Marathon giving us options to back out, and run next year instead.  Or they suggested that we pick a race with less mileage.  Joel said, "If you want out, now's the time.  You could do a 10K if you wanted to."  I was bummed. We had trained for the full half marathon. "I don't want to back out. Who cares if it's hot.  We've run through hot weather before." I decided that I was still running the half.  Joel did, too.  We laid our running clothes out, and set our alarms for 4:00 am.  I tossed and turned in bed all night.  Doubtful thoughts were keeping me awake.  "Did I train enough?  Would it be a good run day?  Was it going to be too hot?  Should I go for the 10K?    Those hills are huge! Will my legs cramp up?  Am I even going to get enough sleep to get through it?"  The next morning,  my running buddy and ever encouraging husband woke up....SICKER THAN I HAVE EVER SEEN HIM.  He could barely walk to the kitchen for breakfast.  He was sitting at the table trying to eat breakfast, and heaving for breath.  He looked at me with sad eyes and said,  "I just can't run today."  My heart broke for him.  He had trained so hard.  His heart broke for me. "I'm so sorry," he said. He wanted our first half marathon to be together. Now, it was just me.  I looked into his handsome face, "It's ok, honey!  It's ok!! God has prepared me for this."  The clocked chimed, and it was time to leave.  I don't even think I was this nervous about giving birth! When we arrived at the race, we were instructed to get our packet and go line up.  I honestly thought I might throw up or just give up.......or perhaps both!  My sister helped calm my nerves, and pin my number on.  My shaky hands couldn't do it.

An announcement was made that it was time to step up to the start line.  This was it!  All that I had trained for was about to be put to the test.  My mind was in complete panic mode. I walked over to my sweetheart, encourager and running buddy to say "Goodbye." I felt like I could burst into tears. His eyes looked sick, but he wasn't about to show me how he was feeling. He hugged me tight. "You're gonna do great!" he smiled. I sighed. Oh how I hated walking away.

The music began playing, "Sweet Home Alabama."  People were jogging in place, high fiving and cheering. My sister decided to run the first few miles with me to help keep me on pace.  "Don't start off too fast or you won't have anything at the end," she advised.  She saw the anxiety on my face. "Don't be nervous! This is fun!" The alarm sounded, and my half marathon had officially begun!  I blew a kiss and waved to my husband and sweet little fans, as we ran by.  "See you at the finish line," he smiled.   I knew he was praying for me.

It was a little congested at the beginning of the race as everyone was finding their pace.  Krissy ran along next to me.  Before I knew it, we were at mile 2. "Alright," She said, "I'm heading back now. You got this!  I'll see you at the end." And with that, she broke off from the pack, and headed back.  I put my earphones in.  All was well.  She was right.  I was having fun.  The first five miles were easy.  I was enjoying the scenery. My music was uplifting. I was happy.  "I'm doing it." I thought. "I am running a half marathon!"  I was thinking about all my training runs.  I had put many hours and many miles in for this moment...this moment! I am running my half marathon.  13.1 miles! Everything was going smoothly.  

 Shortly after mile 6, I started getting hot...very hot.  My legs starting to cramp.  I knew it was my body's way of telling me to get water, but the water stations just were not coming fast enough. At miles 7 and 8, I could feel every step. At mile 9, the battle of my mind had begun, "I can't do it.  I'm so tired.  I can't, I can't...." I was looking around every corner for family. Even though Joel said, "See you at the finish line," I was secretly hoping that they were going to surprise me, and show up somewhere out there on the course.  I knew he was sick and had two munchkins in tow, but who knows...maybe, juuuuust maybe, he would show up??  I needed someone to be there.  I saw the sign marking mile 10. At that point, I really began questioning whether or not I would be able to finish.  I had another 3.1 miles to go. My legs had slowed to a walk. "Please Lord, " I prayed, as my eyes were scanning for a familiar face,  "I need someone to help me.  I can't do this on my own."  My eyes welled up with tears.  I felt myself giving up. I was so out of breath.  I was so thirsty, so hot, so hungry and so tired.  I remembered that run with Joel when he told me that I was going to hit a hard spot in the half marathon, and to just keep going, keep praying, keep going.  This was no longer about my legs not making it the 13.1 miles.  It was about my mind!

 I thought back 47 pounds ago to the "old Becky."  The one who only dreamed about races, but thought she could never do one.  

Phillipeans 4:13

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" 

I was heaving for air. "Lord," I prayed,  "You breathed life into all of mankind with one breath into Adam. Just give me a little breath....Please, Lord, breath life in me right now!"  I was absolutely exhausted. I had been running for almost 2 hours.  At mile 11, I came around a corner and saw a huge hill. "Breathe....breathe."  It was all I could whisper.  I kept my head down and stared straight ahead.  That was how I tackled hills.  Don't look at the whole thing.  It's just one step after another.  I was definitely slowing down.  Runners that I had passed were now passing me. Insecurities starting plaguing my thoughts.  Pain was shooting from my heels to my thighs.  I needed water desperately!  I looked up to see when my next water station was coming, and SUDDENLY, my heart jumped!!!!  It was as if the entire sky opened up, and I heard the "Hallelujah chorus."  There was a familiar silhouette!  At the top of the hill, with her arms raised up to the sky was the answer to my prayer....MY SISTER!  She was running toward me with a huge grin on her face.  I was half running, half walking, half limping toward her.  Tears filled my eyes.   I was swallowing hard to fight back the sob that was about to explode from the depths of my heart.  When she got to me, she gave me a huge hug....

"How are you doing?"

"Not good." I breathlessly answered.

"Ok, well, I've just come from the finish line.  You have one more big hill, so save some energy for that one."

"I have none."  She handed me a squished, little peanut butter sandwich that she had run 2 miles with.

I inhaled it.

"You've got one more water station at mile 12, and then it's HOME FREE, Baby!"

It felt so good to have someone next to me, telling me what was up ahead.  I was sick of the surprise hills.  We continued running, side by side.  She was cracking jokes, trying to get my mind off the pain. I felt a smile s-l-o-w-l-y emerge for the first time like I was the Christmas Grinch.  We passed the sign that said mile 12.  "Come on, Beck," she cheered, "One mile! You can do this for just one more mile.  Let's try to go a little faster." That little sandwich fueled me. My legs were gaining strength. My wimpy mind getting stronger. And then, I saw it....mile 13!  I have never been so happy to see the number 13 in all my life!!  "This is it!" she said, her words filling up my once empty tank. "Thank you so much, Krissy! I couldn't have done it without you."  As we rounded the last bend, she turned toward me, and offered her last words of encouragement,

"You're about to become a half marathoner!  Look!  It's right up there.  See the finish line?"

"Yes," I whispered.  

"Joel's waiting for you.  You did it, Beck!  You did it!!"   She slipped off like an angel, and disappeared into the crowd on the sidelines to cheer for me as I crossed the finish line.   I saw the huge banner with those beautiful letters that spelled, "FINISH."   There was my husband under the banner, just as my sister said. He was smiling from ear to ear.  My babies on either side of him. "Here comes Mommy!" he proudly announced to the kids.  I ran under that banner and right into his arms.  "Good job, BABY!" his voiced cracked.  He held me tight, as I was gasping for air, "I'm so proud of very proud of you!"  I heard my name over the loud speaker,

"I wanna congratulate Rebecca Browning -Congratulations on finishing your half marathon."

 Me...a half marathoner.  It was no longer a dream. It was stamped with "finished."  I looked down at my smiling children who had their arms wrapped around me as well, "Good job, Mommy."  They had no idea that this was much more about enduring hard things, than their mamma wanting to run a long, boring race.  They had no idea that this was much more about keeping my body under subjection, than their mamma just hoping to lose weight so I could fit into smaller clothes.  This race was about getting my life back under control.  God used this half marathon to drive the truth home of His word.

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Verses like that penetrate my heart a little deeper now.  I feel like I understand the word, "endure" much better.

"Endurance can only take place when there is the presence of something difficult."  

Resistance creates strength. I refer back to those difficult training runs a lot more than the victorious ones.  My mind daily tells me to give up when life presents its challenges.  Homeschooling is hard.  Raising children is hard.  Keeping a home in order is hard, but sitting around "on the sidelines," wishing for the hard things to get done, doesn't get them done.  My son gave me this piece of advice the other day, "Mom, did you know that when Thomas Edison was questioned on all his failed attempts at the lightbulb, he said, 'I didn't fail 3,000 times.  I just found 3,000 ways not to make a lightbulb."  He never gave up.  Maybe at some point, he wanted to, but he never did.  Johann Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, faced much opposition in trying to open his printing shop.  Eventually, he went bankrupt, but along came a man who believed in him and financed his way. Johann Gutenberg gets the credit for the invention, but his wealthy friend made quite the assist!  When I had absolutely nothing left in that race, my sister showed up with some encouragement and nourishment. -That's how we ought to be when we see those struggling with hardships.  We all need it.  Krissy had been through several marathons.  She knew what I was feeling.  She could relate.  She was in a place where she could give me advice. If God has brought you through something difficult, use it to help others.

Proverbs 12: 25  

Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.

We are all in a race, whether you registered for one or not.   If you're on the sidelines saying, "Woe is me.  I could never do that," -Get in the race!  Start running.  If you are going through something difficult, -Keep running. Don't ever, ever give up!  And Pray!  Maybe you've already gone through a painful hardship, and you've crossed that finish line. - Don't forget to run back and offer your help to others.

My half marathon is finished, but as long as I'm here on earth, I'll keep running this race for the Lord.

Isaiah 40:31 - But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.


Trish said...

I am so proud of you!! This was so inspiring. I woke up this morning with beginning a diet once again. The timing was perfect to read this!! Keep up the good work my sweet sister. Can't believe the before and after pics. I love you!!

Becky said...

Thank you, MY SWEET SISTER! I love you!

Krissy said...

Praise the Lord, He is the One who helped us all to decide to live healthier. It's a great feeling to know He used me in this way in your life. I enjoyed every minute of our talks, prayers, runs, etc. The only true sacrifice was carrying that hot peanut butter sandwich in my sweaty hand for two miles on that hot summer day in Lenox. Ick. But, you know I'd do it again for you in a heartbeat. That's how much I love you!

Becky said...

Could you spread a little Nutella on that sandwich next time?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how I found your blog - probably God. :) Anyways what an inspiring post. God Bless!

Becky said...

Thank you. :o)

Anonymous said...

tears in eyes. I am so blessed to read this. love to you and I am so proud of you and challenged to not give up either.

Liz said...

I'm so proud of you!! Love you lots!!!

Becky said...

And I'm proud of you, Liz! :o)

Thank you, Alyssa! We are always in this race.

Kristine said...

Amazing, simply amaaaaazing new family picture! Did you have it professionally done?
Oh no? What's that you say? Your uber talented sis took it?

Anonymous said...

Wow, you look great, Beck. What a convicting and challenging post. Thanks. Your hard work has paid off. Keep Running!

Becky said...

:o) Thank you

parlasoni said...

i had tears running down my face as a read this...what a beautiful story! and what a tribute to our God who gives us the strength that we need to do the "impossible" :) blessings to you!

Becky said...

Thank you. This race has forever burned in my mind the verse that says, "His strength is perfected in my weakness." Man, am I weak....and WOW! is He strong! :o)

Kris said...

Read this blog post again. I just did and it reminds me of all that God did in your life through this race.

Tonia said...

You blow me away, sweet sister in Christ! So inspiring and such a neat story! Thanks so much for sharing your heart and shining for Him! I feel so privileged to have you as a friend! Love you :)