Health, Wellness, & Self Care

How “Junk Mail” Changed My Life

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When Russ deployed to Afghanistan (the second time), one of my goals for the deployment was to lose more of that stubborn baby weight. I blogged about my weight-loss journey and had made a lot of progress in the first four months of Ezra’s life. But that baby weight was as strong-willed as the baby who gave it to me! Throughout the deployment I made little to no progress. The day Russ that came home on RnR in September I was only about 5 pounds less than when he left, and I had the flu that day and hadn’t eaten anything! It was frustrating and disheartening, but there were so many other things I was struggling with (ahem SURVIVAL) that exercise and eating healthy was pretty low on the priority list. I had tried some exercise DVD’s like Jillian Michaels and some other ones on Netflix, but I either couldn’t keep up with the workouts (because I seriously lack coordination) or ended up with such intense pain in my joints that I could barely walk in the days afterward.

About halfway through November, I was sorting through a pile of “junk mail” that had been sitting on my hutch for weeks. I came across an envelope addressed to my husband. I opened it to find a voucher that was equivalent to half of the cost of a 15-month gym membership at a local fitness club. I looked it over and was about to throw it away when the word “childcare” caught my eye. The gym offered on-site childcare. I called the gym for information, but they wanted me to come in to talk to them. I was like, “um, no thanks, not interested in dragging my toddler to the gym just before dinner time.” But for the next half hour I couldn’t stop thinking that I should at least look into it. I tried to call back, but the man I had spoken with was with another client. They told me I could still stop by. So I rushed out the door with Ezra to look into it. I was sitting there at a table trying to keep Ezra from wrecking the place. The other appointment was taking a long time. I kept waiting and waiting thinking the whole time, “This is nuts, I should just leave.”

But I kept waiting, and finally it was my turn to speak with the employee. He graciously offered to let Ezra check out the childcare while I toured the facilities. I was immediately impressed, especially seeing that the childcare room was spacious and had windows that you could easily look into from almost any position in the gym. He walked me through the entire facility and showed me how to use some of the machines. I tried not to look like a newcomer to an alien planet, gawking at the photographs of body builders on the wall and built women lifting weights. I kept thinking, “No way…I don’t belong here.”

But then we sat down to talk about the details of the membership and the cost. I asked a lot of questions, most of which went something like “what if I hate it and want to break my contract?” But, childcare included I was looking at about $20 a month (remember this is a discounted rate with an additional military discount, so I can’t vouch for their “normal” rates). “That’s about what I spend at Starbucks each month….” (ouch) The days and times would work for my schedule (mostly). And there was a walking track. I may hate exercise, but I love to walk. So, for $20 a month, I could go as often as 3 days a week to stick my kid in childcare, turn on my ipod, and just walk. To get a break. Time to myself. Something I rarely was getting as a “single mother” of an active toddler. So I signed on the dotted line.

I felt like it was the craziest thing I’d ever done. I. Don’t. Ever. Exercise. and I just joined a gym!!!

But I am no longer a 100 pound gal who can never exercise, eat whatever she wants, and still look like this:


Now I’m a busy, over-tired mother with an extra 15 pounds who tries to be everything to everyone:


My friend Kayla who had just visited me had so graciously sent me a JC Penney gift card, which I used to buy cute workout clothes. I was determined to make this 15-month commitment work for me. The first time I went, I was convinced that everyone was staring at me, the newbie, who had no clue what she was doing. Included in my membership was a one-time consult with a personal trainer. She did my measurements, weighed me, calculated my body fat percentage, and took me through a mini workout. (Mini my not-so-small tooshie!!) I don’t think she understood the meaning of the words “I’ve never really exercised before.” She also had no idea what fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue were. She started me out lifting 20 pounds over my head. Ha yeah right. I suffered through the workout, discouraged, but on the other hand slightly motivated to never feel so humiliated again. I knew I couldn’t do what she was recommending, even if I had a regular personal trainer. But I determined to do what I could do. I started out working on the treadmill and trying out the elliptical. From then on, every time I went to the gym, I tried to do something new. A new exercise here, a new machine there. I spied on everyone else at the gym to see what they were doing. If I had my eye on a machine but was afraid I would look stupid trying to use it, I waited until someone else used it to see what they did.

I struggled with scheduling for the first few months. I had to miss Mondays every other week for MOPS, and Ezra was struggling with getting sick a lot through the winter months. Sometimes it would be two or three weeks between workouts, but I didn’t give up. I learned how to pace myself at the gym so that I could minimize joint and muscle pain afterward. I quickly realized how beneficial exercise was for my emotional well-being. I often found myself working out frustration and loneliness the last few weeks of the deployment with exercise in the gym.

Russ came home, and while it took a few weeks to adjust to life with him home, by mid-January I was back on schedule. I had also started a new “diet” because of newly-discovered food allergies. I was hopeful that with the diet and exercise I would start seeing more results in my body. But my weight stayed the same throughout the spring. Overall I felt better, had more energy, but got so discouraged that I wasn’t seeing the changes I wanted to see. I found myself lapsing on my eating plan and eating a lot of allergen-laden food, a little here, a little there. I had the trainer re-take my measurements in late spring and she confirmed that I had lost a few inches, lost 2 pounds of fat and gained 3 pounds of muscle. While I was happy to hear that there was improvement, I just wanted to be able to look in the mirror and see the difference, because I couldn’t.

Before I went on vacation at the end of May, I had talked to my chiropractor addressing the fact that I was still having abdominal pain in spite of being on such a strict diet and that I wasn’t losing weight like I wanted to. He recommended that I go on a diet that was even MORE restrictive–grain free. Completely. No cheats. The idea seemed insurmountable. On vacation I junked my system to death. Soda, pizza, ice cream, tacos…I ate it all. But I knew that I needed to follow his recommendation and make the changes. On my way back home I mentally committed to go grain-free for four weeks (his recommendation is for 6-8 months, but I couldn’t think that far ahead). From the minute I set foot inside my house I have been grain free. The first week was the hardest, but I’m now into my 8th week.

I also recommitted to exercising with more intensity than I had previously. It’s summer–so commitments like MOPS and PWOC are not causing scheduling conflicts. For the first time since I joined up at the gym I’ve actually been able to go all three times each week, and on non-gym days, I’m trying to do other exercise activities (walking, hiking, even climbing stairs at the hospital while waiting for my allergy shots!)

I’m finally starting to see results. I haven’t had my measurements re-taken, but the scale has budged just a teeny-weeny bit. My weight fluctuates drastically depending on time of the day and time of the month I weigh myself, but on average I’ve lost around 3 pounds! My clothes are fitting looser (a lot of times I feel frumpy), and a few weeks ago, I looked in the mirror and saw smaller arms, a leaner face. I almost felt like I was looking at my pre-baby body.

To celebrate my accomplishments, and to supplement my ever-changing wardrobe, last Saturday I took myself on a small shopping spree. I was shocked that most of the tops that I bought were actually a size SMALL! I came home and did a self photo-shoot, modeling my new clothes and using the tripod that my parents had bought me for Christmas that I still hadn’t broken out of the box and my self-timer on my camera. Perhaps it’s vain to take pictures of yourself and post them online…but I didn’t take them for that reason (at least not entirely). I wanted to show my mom some of the stuff I bought, but more importantly, I needed to see the difference in my body for myself. Looking at the pictures afterward was a huge boost for me, far more than any number on the scale. (…Although seeing 131 didn’t hurt either!)

All the pictures turned out great…it was so hard to pick my favorites so here’s “a few.”

Ezra was being my little helper, so it kind of turned into a mommy-kiddo shoot. Getting him in the photos was the only way to keep him from knocking over the camera!

Chasing the camera angle (literally) because Ezra kept moving it:

Joining a gym was far from anything I had ever foreseen myself doing, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Working out and pushing myself physically has helped my physical conditions, given me more energy, and decreased my pain level, but it’s probably helped me emotionally even more. It’s given me a mental break from the responsibilities at home, given me a chance for reflection. It’s given both me and Ezra a much-needed routine. It’s something we both can count on. It makes me feel much more in control at a time in my life when very little seems to make sense. It makes me feel successful. (Now I can even lift 16 pounds over my head!)

So, my advice to you? Open your junk mail once in a while. It just might change your life!

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