Me 5-7-11 015 (Small)

The Journey For a Lifetime

by Bobbi Devine

The Beginning….

I looked in the mirror and said “I need to lose weight”.  How many times had I said those words to myself?  But when did I ever really “do” anything about it?  My mind was blank.  Oh sure, a couple of times I had half-heartedly started a “walking program”, only to quit a week later.  I even bought some dumbbells, but quickly lost interest.  Exercise just wasn’t my thing.  I didn’t get into the fad diets, pills and lose-weight-quick schemes that are out there.  I figured, a pill didn’t make me fat, so a pill wasn’t going to make me thin!  I wasn’t always fat, but I wasn’t ever skinny, either.  In high school, I weighed between 160 and 165 lbs, and wore a size 13/14.  At 5’8”, I could carry it well.  I didn’t play sports, I hated anything that involved running.  I remember dreading the National Physical Fitness tests, especially the 600 yard run.  “You mean people do this for FUN?!”, I’d gasp at the end.  That’s not to say that I sat on my arse all day, I just didn’t care for “exercise” (shudder).   After I got married, the weight started increasing.  Everyone said that it was because of “contentment”.  Yeah, sure!  I was tested for hypothyroidism, and it was discovered that my thyroid was a bit sluggish.  The doc put me on meds.   To my dismay, the only difference that made was to cause my thermostat to go haywire.  My weight kept slowly creeping upwards, eventually topping out at about 275-280.   Again, my height helped me carry my bulk better than a shorter person, but there was no arguing that I was fat.  I avoided scales like the plague.  I’d hide from cameras.  I hated seeing myself on paper, as it made me “see” what I had become.   I would tell myself “Sure, I’m overweight, but I’m healthy, and that’s what counts”, but that was lame too.  I knew that a lifestyle change was in order, but most of the time, I put it off until “tomorrow”.  I don’t know what triggered the “tomorrow” to come.  I think I just got fed up.  I was tired of being on the shady side of 300 lbs.  I was sick of shopping in the “plus” size section.  I was tired of my feet hurting.  I was tired of being chained to a CPAP machine at night.  And I think most of all I was afraid of becoming unhealthy.  I was 37 years old, and I wasn’t getting any younger, nor would the task at hand get any easier.

The “Aha!” moment.

I knew the change would not be a walk in the park, but I started small.  Spring of 2007, I cut out drinking soft drinks.  OMG, no more Coke!  The tragedy!  I stuck to my homemade iced tea, coffee, and water.  That was the extent of my effort for quite a while.  Working in my yard gave me decent physical time, but most of my other leisure time activities were heavy on the “leisure” and light on the “active”.  They involved sitting on my butt.  Suddenly, around the beginning of November, 2007 while my husband, Joe, was busy at work, I got bored.  I began taking my dogs for nightly walks after work.  We would walk before, but not nearly so often.  They loved the change, and I began to look forward to it as well.  As soon as I would get home from work, before supper, we’d hit the pavement.  I wasn’t power walking by any means at that point, but it was a bit more than a leisurely stroll.  It started to feel good.  I decided to add some medium cardio by stepping quickly up and down on the bottom step of the staircase.  I’d do this for the entire length of Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head” (I’m an ‘80s child, after all).  I’d be puffing at the end of that session!

Ramp it Up!

I realized at this point that I should add some strength training to my program.  I started doing pretty basic core moves, mostly floor exercises that my chiropractor had given me years before.  Then, I wanted to do something for my flapping arms, so I dug out my little wimpy 1lb, 3lb, and 5lb dumbbells.   After cleaning 15 years worth of dust off of them, I searched online for arm workouts.  Pretty soon, I got bored with my simple exercises, and searched for more complex moves for my gut, butt, and legs.  I devised a routine that involved a series of exercises targeting each of ab/core, legs, and arms.  Fitness Magazine’s website helped me a lot with those searches, and I then subscribed to the mag.  This was all in the span of about a month and a half!  I was already beginning to see results, and my journey down the road to fitness had well and truly begun.

At this point, you may wonder about my eating habits.  Well, I confess, I’m a complete foodie.  I love to cook, bake, and EAT!   The old me, she wouldn’t back up from the table.  Second helpings were a normal thing.  If it tasted good, naturally I wanted more.  That’s not to say that I stuffed my face all the time.  No, I just was a hearty eater at mealtime.  My “full” meter didn’t go off until I was FULL.  With my new exercise program and Joe coming off of overtime work at the end of the holidays, I knew that I needed to change our meal habits.  It was the time for New Year’s resolutions, so I was making one.  No longer would the food be set on the table.  I kept the food on the stove and counter, put reasonable portions on the plate and only that went to the table.  When that was gone, that was it.  No seconds.  No picking.  I also had to learn to cook to have minimal leftovers.  Joe would take those for his lunch the next day, while I began preparing a salad for my daily lunch.  Snacks during the day became yogurt, and a couple pieces of fruit instead of a candy bar or junk food.  I learned to resist the doughnuts and goodies that co-workers brought in.  I did a complete 180 and I stuck with it.

Enter the Kettlebell…

My trusty Fitness Magazine provided me with different workouts each issue, and in the July ’08 edition, there was one that featured kettlebells.  What the heck were kettlebells? I hadn’t heard of them before.  Good thing this workout could be done with dumbbells as well, so I tried it.  My curiosity was piqued about these kettlebells, though.  I was using up to 10lb dumbbells at this point, but when I shopped for a kettlebell, I bought a 20lb to start.  I was anxious to try it out.  I quickly learned that it really hurts your wrist during the clean!  I wasn’t at all sure if I was doing anything right, but I muddled through (I can see you purists out there cringing!).  I knew that the workout kicked my behind each time, and that was a good thing.  I wanted to know more.  I combed the Web, searching for more information, books, etc.  I stumbled across Lisa Shaffer’s book “Get In The Best Shape Of Your Life”.  Well now.  This certainly seemed to be what I was looking for.  When it arrived, I read it cover to cover.  I appreciated how each drill was broken down into its individual parts, with lots of photos to demonstrate the correct form.  I quickly learned what I was doing correctly with my ‘bell, and what I was doing wrong (which was, to my dismay, quite a bit).  I mostly had the right idea, but not necessarily the correct form.  I installed a mirror in my workout area so that I could watch myself.  That book opened a whole new world for me.   My fitness routine at the time consisted of either a 4 or 5 mile walk daily, with weight workouts every other day.  I would alternate KB workouts with other workouts.  No gym, no DVD’s.  I just turned on my Sirius radio and jammed out to Hair Nation.  The weight seemed to melt off.  I took every 5 lb loss as a victory.  I dropped sizes so fast, that by the time October of 2008 rolled around, I had met my goal weight of 165 lbs and was wearing a size 10 (down from a size 22).   Needless to say, I had to buy a lot of clothes that year.  Which for me, being female, isn’t necessarily a negative thing.  Heck, I even had to buy new shoes!  What a hardship!  J

The Mental Game.

I have to admit that my newfound appreciation for exercise got me a bit obsessive.  If I couldn’t walk due to weather, I’d find something else to do.  Rest day?  What was that?  I never took a rest day.  Joe commented that he felt I was becoming obsessed with exercise, and that really made me think.   He was right.  My mental drive to exercise was becoming dangerously close to unhealthy.  I decided to drop my walking back to every other day, and reduced the mileage.  I kept the weight training routine the same, alternating weight days with walking days.  And to my surprise, I continued to lose weight.  My rock-bottom weight was 152 lbs and wearing a size 8 (sometimes a 6).

The weird thing about weight loss is discovering anew how other people perceive you.  Where before, I wouldn’t get a second look, now I would get stares.  Going into a store, the old me would have to hunt someone down for help.  Now, staff (especially male) seems to pop out of the woodwork, asking if I need assistance.  It’s both flattering and irritating at the same time.  Where the heck were they when I was fat?  I’m still the same person!  I find that I don’t like to look at people out in public anymore because so many times I find them looking at me!  It’s a bit unnerving.  I’m still working on getting over this feeling, and only now am I beginning to drop the wall I put up around me.

Even today, it’s strange to see the person in the mirror and realize it is really me.  There are some things that I’m not happy with.  The years of being overweight took it’s toll.  Skin just isn’t quite as elastic when you’re 40.  I’ve seriously considered surgery to correct some of the issues, but in reality, they’re pretty minor.  Not worth the risk that going under the knife can have.  My vanity can just go pound sand.  I consider my stretch marks my battle scars, proof of a hard won fight.


Kettlebells In My Life.

Kettlebells have played a huge part in the change I made to myself.  I truly believe that had I not discovered them when I did, I would not be at the point I am today.  I find that I use them more than any other item in my small arsenal of equipment.  For the longest time, I made do with two 20lb and a 30lb kettlebells.  After participating in Jim Beaumont’s Swing and Press program in October 2010, I emailed him to let him know of my appreciation of the program.  He invited me to join the Kettlebell, Inc. forum.  I hesitated and poked around at first, not being a big fan of social networking.   Once I joined, I still just lurked for a while, reading about other members’ efforts and accomplishments.  Then, when the December TGU and Swing challenge was announced, I decided it was time to step up and participate in both the forum and the challenge.  I took on the challenge without taking an amnesty (rest) day.  Yes, the obsessive bit came out again.  Truly, I simply wanted to see if I could do it.  And, since it’s Joe’s busy time at work again, I had plenty of free time on my hands.  I am proud to say that I did all 31 days and the prescribed number of swings.

Then, the January 2011 10,000 swing challenge loomed.  Oh.  My.  God.  I remembered reading about this last year and thought it was nuts.  Well, I still thought it nuts, but I dove right in on New Year’s Day anyway like a Polar Bear swimmer.  I calculated how many swings I would need to do daily to accomplish the goal.  After the first week, I upped the daily totals, but kept it to 5 days a week in order to give myself a break.  By the third week, I knew that I needed to up the ante, because my 30lb KB was becoming so light, I felt I could launch it into orbit.  I purchased a second 30lb kettlebell, as well as 1 each of 35, 40, and 50lb ‘bells.  The last week was finished with a flourish, utilizing all of the heavier weights.  I am proud to say that I accomplished the 10,000 swing goal.   And I still power walked 3 to 3.5 miles every other day.

The three challenges that I completed really reshaped my body.  My butt and thighs are rock hard due to the swings, and my upper body is stronger and more flexible due to the TGU’s.  I constantly tell people of the benefits of kettlebell exercise, and encourage them to try it.

Food For Thought.

One of the neatest compliments that sticks with me came from an assistant at my chiropractor’s office.  She took one look at my arms and said “Nice pipes!”.   I admit I had to ask her what she meant by that.  Never heard that term before!  Another time, I was at my doctor’s office, and the nurse was comparing my current weight to the last one listed in my chart.  She asked me if I had had gastric bypass surgery.  I beamed, and said, “Nope, I did it the old fashioned way”.  Even a total stranger, a resident who lives along one of the streets that I walk, told me that she noticed how much weight I had lost and commended me for it.  Friends, family, and co-workers are amazed at the changes I have made, and I think that I inspired more than a few of them to try it themselves.  I don’t preach to them, but if asked for advice, I tell them that they have to move their butt.  No excuses.  Surely everyone can find 30 minutes in their day to do something healthy for themselves.  If I can do it, anyone can do it.  It seems so cliché, but it’s the absolute truth.  I am fortunate that I didn’t have physical or medical issues to hold me back.  I did it all without fancy equipment, an expensive gym membership, or medical assistance.  I dug down and found the wherewithal and determination to see it through.  And that’s the one thing that I can’t advise people on.  They’ve got to discover that for themselves.  It is important, however, to have support.  My family and friends were (and continue to be) very supportive and encouraging.  There’s nothing more inspiring than someone noticing the results of your hard work and giving you the high-five for a job well done.

My Life Going Forward.

I once heard a leading dietician say that if you eat healthy 90% of the time, you can indulge 10% of the time.  I’m so down with that!  Yes, I still love to cook, bake, and eat.  I just do it with more common sense than before.  I confess to having a sweet tooth, and I do have to indulge it each day.   It might be a small piece of cake, or some ice cream, a cookie, or CHOCOLATE, but I’m smart about it and am careful about the portion size.  Other snacks are almonds, pumpkin seeds, and dried fruits.  I eat a healthy breakfast, usually oatmeal with fruit and raisins.  I eat my salad with lots of veggies for lunch.  And for dinner it’s pretty much whatever I want.  I haven’t really cut anything out completely.  It’s important to eat something from every food group.  I just continue to practice portion control, and I still leave the food on the stove.  These habits are easy to keep.

For maintenance, I power walk every other day, doing either a 3 mile or a 3.5 mile route, at about a 5-6 mph pace.  I add running into it on some days, doing intervals.  At one time I had toyed with the idea of entering a half or full marathon, but the truth is, I still don’t enjoy running all that much.  I only do it because I feel compelled to push the limits some days.  I do bicycle regularly during the warmer months, traveling either our local rail-trails or the streets.  And of course, kettlebell training will continue to dominate my fitness program.  My life has changed completely and dramatically with the help of those funny weights with the handles.  My goal is to remain strong and healthy, and kettlebells will go a long way in helping me to maintain that goal.

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