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I am posting my before picture because it represents a time in my life when I was deep in the weeds of life. I had lost my dad to complications related to his diabetes, I was helping two daughters with the college process and I was recently diagnosed with MS.
I had all the excuses to quit on my nutrition and just buy some better clothes to hide my choices. Instead, I made an agreement that I would be better, faster and stronger at my oldest daughters graduation from college in 4 years. I learned to focus less on the after photo and focus on showing up for the milestones.  Milestones are the greatest gifts to anyone living with chronic disease.
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I went public with my journey and invited friends and clients to join me. I had some bad weeks and some phenomenal weeks along the way, but those bad weeks were just learning opportunities. I did get better with time and with every obstacle I faced.
My daughter graduated last weekend and I hit my goal. I sprinted every hill in Ithaca.

I have been in this business for years and discovered the after photo makes people sick. Any stylist can make Oprah beautiful and that has nothing to do with good health.

oprah

A true transformation is focused on getting healthy and staying healthy. The waistline is the best measurement of health and wellness. Visceral fat(the fat around the waist) is the bodies way of saying that something needs to change.

The choices that we make today will be more powerful than any pill in the future. My favorite part of my job is getting calls from my clients on the way home from their physician. I get a lot of those phone calls. Those phone calls make me think of my dad.

I was a teenager when my dad came home with a “miracle pill” called Actos. He struggled with diabetes after living in this country. Living on an island in Greece was great but the US diet impacted his health.

For most of my life, I remember how careful he was with his diet. He listened to his doctors when they told him to eliminate sugar, but artificial sweeteners were fair game. He drank Tab and eventually Diet Coke like I drink water. He carried Sweet n Low and eventually Splenda for his coffee in his wallet. He was careful with his health.

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/29/business/takeda-agrees-to-pay-2-4-billion-to-settle-suits-over-cancer-risk-of-actos.html?_r=0

I lost my dad 4 years ago to bladder cancer. During his diagnoses, there were multiple commercials on TV about joining the class action suit against his miracle pill. He used to watch a lot of TV when he was recovering from his grueling chemo treatments and joined the class action suit.

I am passionate about everyone finding a healthy lifestyle because my dad would have been at my daughters’ graduation if someone had forced him to change in his 30’s or 40’s or 50’s or 60’s. There is no magic pill for anyone. A healthy lifestyle requires being consistent.

Success with a healthy lifestyle is a marathon. Find the right program for your family.  You can see with my weigh-ins that this marathon never ends. Success is about trending in the right direction.

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I would not be here without those challenging days. Set a goal and realize that it will take time and patience. I would not have reached this goal without the support of my community. Encourage your family and friends to join you in January.

I want to begin by breaking down my relationship with chronic pain.  

After living with lupus most of my life and being recently diagnosed with MS, chronic pain is my life partner. My partner has many different names, Trigeminal neuralgia(TN), Proctalgia fugax, Pleuritis, Arthritis or Bursitis (ect) but in the end, the name is irrelevant.

We share a bed. We share meals. We watch movies together. Pain runs shotgun on every car ride. Chronic pain is with me all the time and weaved through most of my memories. Chronic pain is a relationship with a partner unwilling to break up.

friendship

As a mother of three girls, I am not diminishing the pain of childbirth but chronic pain trump’s labor pain.  I have given birth three times and two times without any drugs.

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My third girl tried to come 9 weeks early. One additional week meant a dramatic improvement of lung development, therefore, I was in active labor for one week and declined any drugs. That week of labor and a lifetime with chronic pain has certified me as a pain expert.

 

Childbirth pain will end with something awesome.I forgot the pain as soon as I held each baby. Labor pains are terrible but only last during labor with the best prize in the end.

Chronic pain can be anytime and anywhere and there is no purpose to the pain.  I never got a gift with chronic pain, I only get more pain.

 

You don’t have to be polite during labor. I remember screaming obscenities during my labor.  People were offering me ice chips before and inflatable pillows after.  I was encouraged to rest and recover with unlimited support.

When chronic pain wakes me up in the middle of the night I quietly get out of bed so I don’t wake my husband.  I feel bad for any friends or strangers that sit next to me in a movie because I am constantly moving trying to find relief.  I don’t want to stop on long car rides and make everyone extend the trip in order to stretch at multiple rest stops.

 

People care. Nurses in the OBGYN unit are the nicest people I have ever met.  They are constantly asking how they can help with the pain.

Chronic pain is invisible and most caregivers don’t know how to respond.  Coaches, trainers, and caregivers sometimes even roll their eyes.

My tricks for managing chronic pain

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Nutrition

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Nutrition works.  I don’t care if you try vegan, paleo or Whole30. Work with a professional and commit to at least 10 days. You will know instantly based on your pains scale.  I still own the same bottle of ibuprofen from 5 years ago. I was taking 3 pills 3x a day until I cut out sugar. I think this is the hardest part.  Make sure you have a community of support during this journey.

 

Fitness

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Work through the pain. It is tough for me to give this advice but it’s true.   Stretch and warm up properly. Don’t overdo it!!!! Hire an experienced professional. I love trainers who are goal oriented and listen to their clients. If you trainer, doctor or coach doesn’t listen to you, move on.

 

 

 

Stress Management

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Cut out the negative, first! If someone doesn’t bring you joy, don’t speak to them. Plan out a treatment plan.  Schedule a regular restorative treatment, stretch class or yoga class and find a healthy community for support.

 

 

 

Good luck on this journey to feeling better.  I was motivated to write this blog after meeting with so many new clients over the past month.  I am excited those clients are feeling better.

When I was hired by a large weight loss franchise five years ago, to “empower women through body transformation”, I was desperate. My oldest daughter was about to start college and we needed the regular income. I was 40 pounds heavier than I am today, but the commute was convenient.  Who knew that this one job would change the trajectory of my life and health.

Corporate orientation should have made me pack my bags and call Gloria Steinman, but instead, I sat for a week trying to memorize a sales script that made me want to wash my mouth out with soap and relinquish my ovaries.

Make them cry.

Remind them how their clothes don’t fit.

Show them a BMI chart and point to obese.

Don’t accept everyone into the program.

The best part of orientation was the final day. I sat for HOURS waiting for the CEO/Founder to come in and repeat the mission statement about “empowering” women.  While I sat waiting, I unexpectedly got my period.  This is a company designed for women, yet in their corporate office (run only by men), there was not one tampon in sight or out of sight. Trust me, I looked but there was no one to ask.

After being coached on how to speak to my sisters about body image and women’s health, by men with no degree in health or psychology, I had to march across corporate headquarters with my period and get a picture for their internal marketing.  I will give all corporate men a little heads up: when a woman gets her period unexpectedly, don’t take a photo.  My advice is to politely end the meeting and send people on their way.

And so my job began. I tried their sales pitch and it worked. Ladies handed me their credit card and I charged it up to $4,000 with that script.  After a few weeks, I did notice a trend and not a positive one. They regretted their choice and wanted their money back, but we had to force them to sign a “no money back” guarantee.

It felt wrong and I finally dumped the sales script and started to find my own voice and tweaked their program.  I worked hard to find the perfect plan for my sisters and followed it with my own results. I did like the weigh-ins and focus on results but dumped their product pushing and focused on real food with their family. I dropped weight with my clients.  I continually adjusted the program after LISTENING to my sisters, hearing their requests, and ignoring the corporate plan.

I was constantly in trouble for not following the corporate script or selling their nutrition and weight loss products.

Secret shoppers sent from the franchise were randomly checking in to grade my performance.  I failed when it came to following their strict rules, but was managing to exceed their revenue goals.

My loyalty went to my new sisters, my clients, and there was no way I would offend them by following that script or peddling unnecessary products. My plan worked, and women wanted to stay with the program and started sending their friends our way.

I never asked my clients to do something that I was unwilling to embrace personally. Why should they do it if I wouldn’t? So, when corporate forced managers to recruit clients for “transformation” pictures, I stepped in front of the lens. It was so hard to be naked with my story and let those men use my image.  They continue to use my image, words, and life with misleading information, even after they stopped signing my paycheck.

First, I would like to thank the founder for empowering me with their current advertising. I am feeling so empowered that I would like to share the sales script I currently use that helps so many of my clients maintain their healthiest, happiest weight.

First, I would like to thank the founder for empowering my transformation.

You are beautiful! 

Don’t do this to look better, just go spend your money on a new wardrobe if it is about appearance. 

Take the first step because you want to live longer and feel better. 

Eat real food and do safe workouts. 

Don’t allow anyone to body shame you, because we are all gorgeous at any shape or size.

I thought I was beautiful when I weighed 40 more pounds.

Our value is not determined by the size of our jeans, however, we need to listen to our body.

Do this because you want a front seat as a spectator in your families lives. 

Don’t do this for any man!

 

Going on vacation and traveling for work is the downfall for anyone trying to develop healthy habits.Unless you are planning to never travel it is important to create a plan that works. I have couple hard fast rules for success on the road.

 

My travel bag always includes snack packs of almonds, a bag of clementines, peanut butter or almond butter

If you travel on a plane just purchase Justin Almond Butter Packets. Security threw away my un-opened almond butter.

Purchase 16 oz of water before you get to the airport. Make sure you finish the bottle before you board the plane and refill it every two hours on the flight.  You will have 32 oz of water completed before you exit the plane for a two-hour flight.  When you get off the plane don’t stop drinking.  Make sure you refill that bottle 2 more times.

If you travel by car, just grab a cooler and fill it with these yummies pictured above. Don’t forget the travel utensils. I would also add some prepared foods. Any of the recipes will travel well.  
If you are on the road and need a grab and go here are some good options

You can purchase these goodies at any supermarket and leave it in the fridge or cooler

http://www.egglandsbest.com/product/hard-cooked-peeled-eggs/

Turkey Breast sliced thick with prepared green vegetables. My favorite is roasted brussels sprouts at Whole Foods.   

How to order at emergency restaurant stops

Subway or any deli- My advice for any unsuspecting Subway patron.  Don’t do the salad. It is a scary adventure that is not worth repeating.  Order a sub with double protein and skip the bread.  You can add mustard. When I ordered my first sub without bread the butcher asked if I was from California, that is always a good sign.

Starbucks- Feta Cheese Wrap and skip the wrap

Boston Market – 1/2 a chicken with a double order of vegetables.

If you are stuck going to a pizza place because you are traveling with your kid’s sports team, don’t go in hungry with pizza and salad as your only option.  Try and add an order of chicken wings(not fried) to the order.  I have found that it is always a big hit at these team dinners.  
Don’t be manipulated by great marketing.  If something says “high protein” or “low fat” don’t fall for it.  Just grab your 200 calorie bag of almonds, peanut butter on a spoon or almond butter packets.

Cheats

If you see something delicious on a menu…order it and enjoy it. Don’t go on vacation and have a Snickers bar.  Just make sure you get back to the plan ASAP.

My travel workout.

I created this go-to travel workout because of my short-term attention span.  It takes me about 40 minutes.  You can add some extra minutes to the cardio if you want a little more of a challenge.

 

Run/Walk on a treadmill(on a scale of 1-10 it should feel like a 7) 5 minutes

20 pushups

20 air squats(make 10 of them jump squats for an advanced workout)

20 situps

20 lunges(10 on each leg)

Rinse and Repeat 4x (or more if you are feeling motivated)

Yesterday, as I trained for a marathon I broke down thinking about how 11/11/11 was the beginning of bad news.  I remember sitting in a waiting room feeling like a warrior.  I was a Lupus survivor, mother of 3 with a healthy happy family just going in for a simple MRI.  After my MRI, I was quietly escorted from the public waiting room to a private room for a phone call from the doctor, and so the journey began. My potential MS symptoms matched with the two lesions they discovered on my spine.

I drove home and called, my rock, my dad.  He promised me that doctors knew nothing and that I was fine.  The miracle man guaranteed me a life with no pain and suffering and I believed him.

In less than 6 months I was in a different hospital back in yet another private room hearing another doctor tell me that my dad had cancer.  As my dad danced around the room promising me another miracle, I couldn’t be as optimistic and broke down.  You could tell that this was a different talk from his team.

We fought hard for miracles and his first round of chemo was considered a home run, according to his oncologist.

During that time Cal, my niece, and his youngest granddaughter would be diagnosed with MLD.  He fought that diagnosis with his faith and we argued about what terminal meant.  After Cals diagnosis the second round of chemo was not a home run.

Dad and I spent the next months having some intense discussions about the power of prayer and miracles. I argued that we cannot pick our miracles.  We are not promised a life without pain and suffering, and sometimes we have to redefine what we view as a miracle.  Sometimes we have to fight for those miracles. Our family was not immune to pain because God was not our private genie in a bottle. Babies could be terminal and spiritual men could die. We were not allowed to define our pain threshold. In my typical harsh way, we argued and cried. I never left his side but I couldn’t pretend that his youngest grandchild was going to escape MLD simply because of his connection to God.

However, I defended the miracles man’s decision to not sign a DNR and I secretly dreamed that he would get on a plane to Greece for one of his famous pilgrimages and come back cured.

Instead, he declined quickly, as did Cal.

Within months my dad and Cal both entered hospice care.  I had no idea what hospice meant, but now I was screaming at hospice nurses to fight for my dad to stay alive. I pleaded with my dad to fight for a miracle, but it doesn’t work that way. In 2013 I lost my miracle man, just a few days after the birthday I share with Callie.

Cal is still in hospice, and I am witnessing those miracles that Dad promised.  My neurologist cannot understand the progression of my disease.  He considers my MS to be subtle, and because of research, fundraising, and mothers like my sister, MLD kids are going to school. Cal won’t be one of those kids, but without Cal and the other families that have witnessed this disease, this wouldn’t have happened.

Running a marathon is such a small part of that miracle but that is how it works. It’s a lot of people doing small things that build up to real change.

I broke down on my run because I wanted to apologize to my dad for arguing about miracles.  I wanted to tell him I was fighting for miracles because of him and everything he promised me.

 

My first marathon was an impulsive decision I made in my 20’s before my frontal lobe was fully developed. Since that first marathon, I have run a total of 5 marathons and was celebrating a conscious uncoupling from marathons for the past 10 years.

The first time I ran a marathon

  • iPhones did not exist
  • Texting was fancy
  • I listened to music on an MP3 (because the iPod was a passing fad)
  • I had 2 weeks to train.

I was a young mom with three babies, 4-years old and under. I had survived three high-risk pregnancies with three healthy girls and was a trainer in a gym. I was living the miracle and felt a little invincible.

I had two weeks to train. I had no idea I was even on Heartbreak Hill during the marathon.  I decided that when you are not running really fast it does not matter as much. I did not know how many miles was in an actual marathon.  There was no “search engine” to fully understand what a marathon entails. My training was a 9 mile run the weekend before and a chat with an experienced runner on the bus ride to Hopkinton. That bus ride probably saved me a trip to the hospital that day.  Who knew those water stations were important?

Currently, at 44 my life and legs have changed.  My girls are calling me excited about their college classes.  My father is not available to get nervous about my crazy life choices. And, my life has helped prepare me for this marathon.   I made the decision to run this time for, Cal, my running motivation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqvZabxJHqs

The training was going great until July. I had to take a month off because of weakness in my left leg and the summer heat.  Today I finally felt strong enough to run a solid distance.  It takes a lot of planning for me to run that distance, now.  I don’t understand how my body works but with a fully developed frontal lobe, I am very careful.

I decided to add caffeine to my life again and only drink one cup of tea before my run. I am still intermittent fasting which means it has to be timed perfectly in the day.  I am trying to add more yoga to my schedule. Today I crushed my 10 miles in under 90 minutes and was able to work a full day, walk the dogs, bathe the dogs, fold laundry and clean my house(“clean” might be a generous description of my house..cleaner is more appropriate).

I am thrilled that I hit my goal this morning and I am ready for next week. My goal is 11 miles.

 

 

“I have been eating your turkey chili for years and haven’t lost any weight.”

“I stopped eating bananas and my weight still goes up.”

…and this is why I don’t love sitting down and doing one nutrition session.  People usually pick and chose advice and get frustrated with the results.  Personally, I eat bananas and I don’t just eat turkey chili, but I am cautious with my sugar even from fruit and I enjoy my turkey chili.  I create recipes by looking on the internet and modifying them to fit in my plan. Success is not about one recipe or one piece of advice. Success is all about habits and lifestyle.

So, I thought I would review a day of eating on the road when I don’t have time to cook and I am not super careful. Currently, I am intermitting fasting with means I only eat for 8 hours in the day.

The day starts with herbal tea and water because I gave up caffeine…. I am not sure if this is a keeper but I am trying life without caffeine for 28 days.

11:30 My husband bought me donuts because we happened to be in a town with a 5-star donut shop. I have a donut shop yelp rule because I really love donuts. I had one bite of chocolate donut and one bite of coconut donut and hid the rest in his car.

I drank 3 bottles of 16 oz of water

1:00 We stopped off at a new restaurant in an unfamiliar town.  I ate steak tips with a side of steamed broccoli and a baked potato.

7:00 pm and I am home. I make my favorite breakfast while I eat a freshly picked apple.  I cooked my sugar-free bacon in a cast iron skillet.  I used the bacon grease to saute kale.  I cooked two eggs in the kale and covered the eggs with 1/4 of an avocado.

I bought my daughter some wonton soup because she had a nasty cough. I ate her soup broth with all the greens.

I thought about waking up my husband and asking if he knew where the rest of the donuts were but I stopped myself.

I drank at least 3 more bottles of 16 oz of water.