Single, Unfit, & Unfocused to Single, Fit, & Focused

Single, Unfit, & Unfocused to Single, Fit, & FocusedA little over six years ago, I found myself in the dressing room of JC Penney’s quietly sobbing because I had just tried on the biggest size pants I had ever worn…and I needed a bigger size! I HATED shopping for clothes. I avoided it at all costs because I hated having to admit that I had gained weight.

I knew I had gained a few pounds but had not come to terms with the fact that it was more than just a few pounds. I was in denial. I knew when I would eat unhealthy foods that I shouldn’t be eating them but I wanted them. I avoided stepping on the scale because I didn’t want to face the reality I knew was there.

I hear people often say they never gave their weight, fitness, or nutrition much thought. This wasn’t true with me. I thought about it every day. I couldn’t avoid it. The vast majority of my family is overweight, some are morbidly obese. The vast majority of the residents of my state are overweight and obese. How can we not be when our state meal is chicken fried steak and fried okra?!

My story is similar to many in that I was thinner and more fit when I was in high school. I had my first problem with weight the summer before my freshman year in high school. Up to that time, I had been active in sports…basketball and track…and ate pretty much what I wanted. Then my mother, brother, and I moved to a different city, which meant a different school. I went from a small town school and knowing everyone to a larger town and larger school where everyone already had their groups of friends and weren’t very willing to invite in newbies. I had never experienced “clicks” before. It never occurred to me that people would choose their friends based on looks or status in the community or money. This is exactly how life was at this new school. I was highly intimidated and didn’t try out for basketball or track or band…I gave up everything I loved because I didn’t feel accepted.

I gave up the activity but not the eating. I continued to eat whatever I wanted. I didn’t eat more, just didn’t sensor myself. I didn’t know I needed to. Needless to say, by the end of the school year, I had gained 20 pounds. I hated it. I didn’t really know how it had happened but I did know that chili-cheese coneys certainly didn’t help me keep the weight off!

I grew up in a single-parent home. My mother had always struggled with weight loss and always ended up giving up. She was victim to the same struggles as most people…without instant results, it is difficult to find the motivation to continuing doing what you know you need to do. She tried all the fad diets of the time. She took diet pills daily but never changed the way she ate. She joined aerobics classes. She wore the plastic suits meant to make you sweat off the pounds without exercise. In about a month’s time, she would give up on those things & go back to what she knew…eating the same foods she was raised eating (greasy, high fat, butter in everything), coming home from work, changing clothes, and landing on the sofa until well after my brothers & I had gone to bed.

My father was a workaholic. He is a good man and always made sure we were provided for. The only lesson in health I got from him was not overeating…that is until it came to family holidays. Then, it was required!

You see, I had no idea what it meant to exercise daily or eat healthy. I had the same idea about healthy eating as most. It tastes bad and only the fanatics can stick with it for any period of time. I did not know that needed to be a way of life, this eating whole, clean foods and physical activity. What I DID know is I was tired all day every day. I knew I was overweight. I knew I hated the way I looked. I knew I was depressed. I knew I was tired of being who I was at the time. I had to change something and I had to start somewhere!



I started educating myself on how to get healthier and was determined to try out for my beloved sports the next school year. I learned how to eat better and ran daily. By the end of the summer, I had lost that 20 pounds. The school year began and I was back on the track team. My self-esteem was back up. However, I did not eat enough. I wanted instant results, too. I would eat only once a day. If I ate before then, it was something small. If I ate more than once because I was with family, I would throw it up later. I had started down the road of bulimia and anorexia…a dangerous road.

When I became pregnant with my daughter, I overcame the bulimia and anorexia. I didn’t want to harm my baby because of the choices I had made. Therefore, the next time I would really have a struggle with my weight would be after I had my kids. I know…who doesn’t, right! Nevertheless, I knew I could get the weight off because I had done it once. I hated that I couldn’t spend quality time with my kids because I had no energy. I joined Weight Watchers and got active. My activity was mostly walking a few miles a day pushing my daughter in a stroller and frantically cleaning my house (yes, I battled OCD, too, seriously). By the time my son was a year old, I had lost all the weight. My body wasn’t “perfect” in my eyes but I was at least comfortable in my own skin.

Fast forward about five years, two failed marriages later, working full-time, going to school full-time, on my third bad marriage, and not giving much thought to my health. We come to Thanksgiving, November 2006. I am approximately (I avoided the scales but this was the last I had weighed) 196 pounds and wearing a tight size 16 pants. I suffered from constant lower back pain so intense it took my breath away when I lay in bed at night. I couldn’t lay flat on my back because the pain was too much. I also had a sharp shooting pain through the socket of my right hip. This hurt me mostly when I was on my feet for more than an hour at a time.

This is when I had found myself crying in the department store. I had let myself go and I was unhappy. I was unhappy in my marriage, with myself, with my career. I was an overweight, depressed mother who also smoked. I was a terrible example to my kids. This was unacceptable. I wasn’t sure how I had let it all happen but I knew I could do something about it.

I took back control of my life. I dusted off my Weight Watchers tools and bought Slim in 6 (home fitness program by Beachbody). I worked hard despite still raising two kids, supporting a non-working husband through college, going to college full-time myself, while working full-time. I didn’t have a lot of time to squeeze in a workout but it was important to me, so I made the time. If I couldn’t manage 30 minutes a day to take care of myself, how could I manage to take care of my family for 16+ hours per day?

I lost 20 pounds and hit a plateau. I began running again. Boy, was that painful and certainly not pretty! It hurt and I couldn’t run even a quarter mile without feeling like someone was choking the life out of me! My knees hurt, my ankles hurt, my hips hurt…but I was determined to get better. I knew if I could get the weight off, I wouldn’t hurt anymore. This pain I felt was only temporary. Still, I could not lose anymore weight.

This is when my husband, at the time, saw the P90X infomercial. He had been wanting to gain muscle. He was one of those freak shows who had a hard time gaining weight at all. I did my research, as I always do. They offered a 100% money back guarantee. You can’t find this on workout programs you buy in the store! We bought the program and began it right away. The only thing I noticed about it right off was the amount of food the nutrition guide had me eating. It was enough for my husband but I could not cram all that food down if I wanted to! My solution was to simply eat what I could but still follow the program as closely as possible. Remember, I had once battled bulimia & anorexia because I thought to lose weight I had to eat less. I was wrong. I ate 5 times a day, smaller, healthier meals.

Finally, I began losing weight again…and fast! By the end of the first 90 days, admittedly I did not follow to a T, I had lost another 30 pounds for a total of 50 pounds lost in a year. This was Spring of 2009.

I felt so sexy and great about myself. This was despite the fact that during that first round my 3rd marriage came to an end. Staying focused on my fitness and health kept me sane during that horrible ordeal. I was 137 pounds and a size 4-6. I couldn’t remember being that size in high school!

In the Fall of 2009, my kids and I moved so I could be closer to work and have more time with them. I was commuting 3 hours a day & working 9-10, sometimes 12, hours a day. The move threw my routine upside down. I got off track and was missing workouts. At first, it was just a couple of days a week. Then, before I knew, it a month had gone by and I hadn’t worked out. I also started eating junk again.

When my kids weren’t home, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t know how to be alone. I came to the realization that I didn’t know who I was as a woman and an individual. My whole life had been wrapped up in my husband and my kids. I was terrified and depressed. I gained back 20 pounds inside of six months.

The new year (2010) began, and as most do, I set my resolutions. No more crying, no more feeling sorry for myself, no more being lonely and seeking companionship anywhere I could find it, no more eating myself into a deeper depression. I picked myself up, held my head high, and became determined, once again, regain control of my life.

At 160 pounds, I dusted off my P90X program and nutrition guide and got to work! My gawd it was difficult! Yes, the program was, of course, but the getting back on track with what I put in my mouth was the hardest part! I came to crave sugar again. I craved all those things that were horrible and not nutrient dense. However, I knew I had to get over it. For goodness sake, I quick smoking! I could certainly overcome food addictions!

I struggled with the nutrition. I struggled with the workout routines. I struggled giving into exhaustion and missing workouts. I struggled and struggled and struggled. However, by Thanksgiving of 2010, I had finally lost about 15 pounds and was doing sooo much better. We were eating so much healthier and I had kicked most of the cravings I was having. Every now and then, I would allow us a “free” meal night in which we ate whatever we wanted. I would indulge in some of my old faves like snack cakes. Much to my surprise, pleasant surprise, they tasted horrible! I couldn’t stand how sweet they were. They had become completely unsatisfying to me! This was a VERY good thing! Now, I need to kick the soda habit, then caffeine altogether!

I began doing Insanity the beginning of November 2010. I was three weeks in and got a head cold. I was down for a week. Determined as I was to NOT miss a workout, I started the program over the beginning of December. Again, I struggled. I was still not feeling 100% and was still giving into being tired and using that as an excuse to miss workouts. Instead of skipping altogether, however, I did what I could and missed at most 4 days in a row. The beginning of the year, 2011, I started the program over and added P90X Lean. I still struggled. Every winter I fight colds that linger for months. I have come accept this and work through it despite not feeling 100%.

Something was still off. I still didn’t “feel right in the head.” I made the decision to stop dating altogether. My divorce took a year & 3 lawyers to be finalized, not because we had kids together or any assets. All we had was a mountain of debt. We filed in early 2009. It was 2010 before it was finalized. I had tried to date off & on during that year & until early 2011. I found myself not really interested in any of the guys I was dating. The guys in whom I was truly interested were not interested in me. I recognized that I was starting to settle for any guy who showed me attention. This is exactly how I had come to be married & divorced 3 times. It was a pattern I would not repeat. I made the conscious decision to stop dating until such time that I was no longer bitter & completely turned off by the guys I was attracting to me. I also came to the realization that I was unhappy in my job.

I started a new job in May 2011. It was higher paying & in a smaller town. It required training in Canada for 7 weeks. I had dropped 15 lbs. again. I wasn’t back at my lowest weight yet but at the weight I seemed to maintain the best and at about the same as when I graduated high school. Having to work in Canada for so long & being away from my kids was difficult. The work wasn’t hard and Calgary was nice but I missed my kids terribly. They were being looked after by my family.

Being in another country and having a corporate credit card to pay for meals proved detrimental to my weight loss journey. I gained 20 lbs.!! Ugh!! Why could I not just control my eating habits & stick with my workouts!!! I was so frustrated with myself. I came back from Canada & started getting back on track. I continued to yo-yo having lost & kept off only 8 lbs or so.

By summer of 2012, I was back down, almost to where I started when I started my new job, before moving & shifting my family’s life. This is where the roller coaster began to pick up speed again. The last 3 months of the year were extremely stressful & I allowed that stress to wreak havoc on me body.

I have never really been an emotional eater but that is the only explanation for why I let my eating get out of control. I also started having IT band issues. That is a muscle that runs from hip to ankle. It is stressed a lot with running. I love to run and had been volunteering as a mentor in an at-risk youth program, with my son. This program used running as a focus to keep the kids out of trouble. We trained them for and ran a half marathon. I had done this in the spring and loved it, so I returned to it in the fall, having also convinced my 13 year old son to give it a try. I trained all season with these kids only to be able to run the half marathon due to my injury.

I stopped working out for about 2 weeks so the injury could heal. It still gives me trouble but only when I run. During that same time, my ex decided to take me back to court for custody of my son. My children have the same father. I have had sole custody since our divorce 12 years ago. He has been a less than part time father to my kids. My son wanted to live with him. This was devastating to me.
So, I ended my year topping out at 165 lbs, again. I have come to terms with my son living with his father during the school year (we agreed on joint custody) in that it is what is best for him at this time. I feel more at peace now than I can remember ever having felt. I’ve started my year off strong. I’m concluding this on January 10, 2013. I’ve not missed a workout, save for scheduled rest days, since December 31st. My nutrition has been on point with my only cheats being a few pieces of chocolate and homemade banana bread.

The year of 2013 will be my strongest, most positively impactful year of my life!

Written by Heather Cates

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