fitness nutrition

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!

 

After my husband bought his first iPod, I reprimanded him for being suckered into spending money on a fleeting product. I don’t trust new things.  I hate following trends and I am anti-establishment.  I am difficult to manage and opinionated.

I have been faithfully pushing and following 6 meals a day for years. I have been taught that it is the best way to support a strong metabolism.  When I heard about intermittent fasting a few years ago, I was not interested. Anything that involves the word fasting feels dangerous unless God is involved.  My co-workers were raving about the benefits for years, but they were all guys. My daughter lost 20 pounds doing intermittent fasting but she considers ketchup a vegetable.  My other daughter started to send articles on the neurological benefits of intermittent fasting and hmm.  So when I was struggling with injuries, weakness, and brain fog I considered making a change to my nutrition.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my breakfast routine. I linger around the kitchen perfecting my bacon while watching CNN and FOX News.  How could such a beautiful routine be anything but beneficial?  The only way I could have survived the past year of morning news was my regular dose of bacon.

I impulsively made a decision to start intermittent fasting over a week ago. I rushed home to finish my dinner by 7 pm. It took a lot of self-control to make changes to my nightly routine but I stopped myself from grabbing another spear of asparagus and so it began.

I am loving this new plan.  I have so much energy and more time in the day.  I believe we should all become students of our own body.  The first few days were not great but things started to change.  My family knows not to call me 15 minutes before my feeding. My girls compare me to a vampire because of my attitude toward to 8-hour feeding schedule. Only two weeks in and I am not as crazy. I am more relaxed and my pain is gone. My brain feels different.  I have my six-month neurology appointment on Thursday and I am feeling pretty good about my choices.

 

You can google “the importance of 6 meals a day” and find a lot more articles promoting the benefits.  I would encourage you to watch the youtube video at 13.58 and research the research.  No one should tell us how to think because they don’t know how we feel.

What is intermittent fasting, and is it healthy?

 

 

I will keep going on this until I don’t feel well.

cornell

On Monday I celebrated my 20th anniversary of motherhood. I spent the day visiting my daughter who is a college Sophomore in Ithaca, NY. On the morning of her birthday I ran her college campus multiple times even though it was in the single digits and my phone would freeze unless it was flush against my skin to stay warm. The run was painful but I felt amazing.  During the college search process I promised myself that I wouldn’t support a college choice unless I could run during my visits. I set a goal to sprint up every hill in Ithaca by the time she graduates.

During this difficult run I was reminded of a question posed by my middle daughter almost 15 years ago. I can still remember her practicing her letters on our kitchen table.   She never lifted her head from the table during our entire conversation.   “Mom I know I got my math skills from my Auntie who is brilliant mathematician and I know I got my writing skills from my other Auntie who is a talented writer, but what did I get from you?” After running through a long list of possibilities, sense of humor and good looks were on the top of my list, she rejected every idea and finally said, “Don’t worry about it because you gave me the gift of life and that was enough”.

I love my girls and desperately want credit for everything. I know we are so different, however I like to think that in addition to the gift of life I gave my girls the gift of resilience.  They are masters of handling stress and moving forward. It is trait they all share and it is the backbone to their success. I’ve always viewed my life as teaching moment.

For years, I used my relationship with swimming as a guide to handle stress.  As a child swimming was not just my weakness, it was my greatest fear. I was so bad that I remember one frustrated instructor endorsed  the dog paddle as a reasonable path for some kids. During swim lessons I was satisfied to stand on the swim deck and watch my weak minded peers blindly follow the instructor.  I was never embarrassed about being difficult.

My islander parents would not accept my adversarial relationship with water as an excuse to not learn basic survival swimming. They worked for hours to help ease my worries and sent me to the best instructors in the area but nothing worked until I had one lesson with my dad.

My dad had a gift for patience and storytelling.  It was a unique combination that made him my first defense to any stressful situation. A conversation with my Dad could only be compared to taking a combination of the best anti depressant and anti anxiety pill with one side effect.  At the end of of every conversation I usually had a supreme inflated ego. My dad was so masterful in this role that during my most awkward years he convinced me that I was a brilliant academic who had a future as a Seventeen magazine cover model when I was actually  an uninspired student who looked like an overweight man-child (that’s the exact description my daughter bestowed on my middle school photo).

On one magical night he sat next to me in our backyard pool. He asked if I knew the secret to swimming, which of course I did not know and did not want to know. He said that I only needed to master one skill to be a great swimmer and then I was hooked on his lesson plan.  I could conquer my greatest fear by focusing on one thing.  Ok, sign me up!

He told me that he was one of the best swimmers on his island because he was an expert in floating.  Floating was his key to success because if he got tired he turned over on his back until he caught his breath. If the water got rough or his boat capsized he never fought the current instead he would float until he was strong enough to swim.   If you ever saw my dad in the water that man could float for days.  That night I mastered floating and conquered my fear.  I was also the oldest child to graduate into the advanced beginners swim session under the watchful eye of the famous Mrs Millican.  

Floating was not only my trick to master swimming as a child, it became  my strategy for handling stress.  Getting bad news in my life was like getting hit by a storm in water. Some storms were more powerful but I could just float until I had the strength to swim.  My dad was in the water with me for most of the big storms. He was the great protector who would take the big blows and make sure I just felt the current that was left in the wake of the vicious waves.  I floated for years with his help and became a proficient swimmer.   

papou

My protector

The pain of losing my dad hit me like a tsunami in unprotected waters. I realized that not only was he  protecting me from many of the big storms, he also had his hand under my back the entire time.  I was tricked into believing I was a gifted floater and masterful swimmer.

I lost my dad in December of 2013 and I was constantly gasping for breath and barely staying afloat in these new unchartered waters. My daughters rallied around me like a coat of arms and propelled me forward.  During my darkest days I had two girls getting ready for college.  The college process was already a unique time but this added an a new level of complexity.

I remember hearing about a relevant Slate article from one of the greats of our time, Rob Lowe,  regarding sending his first child to college. I always felt a strong connection with Rob since he spent so many years saying good night to me when he was a member of the Brat Pack.  His Teen Beat picture had a prominent place on my wall.  Other than that one awkward sex scandal, we were kindred spirits. I was excited to connect again.  I googled the article and it already looked promising with his beautifully chiseled face front and center.  By the second paragraph when he compared his son going off to college to the death of a parent I was out!  I felt betrayed by Rob.  I thought we had so much in common but I was going through the loss of a parent and sending a child to college at the same time and there was nothing similar.

While I was consumed with the grief of losing my dad, I was sandwiched between one freshman daughter in college and senior in high school. I traveled to watch my Freshman play her first scrimmage in her first softball game as a collegiate pitcher. She was living her dream and I had a front seat in her life. Her path to this field was a Greek tragedy with a shockingly happy ending.  I thought of my dad because he never loved the game but he loved his grandchildren and jumped at the opportunity to watch her play. He used to make the sign of the cross every time she struck someone out and once showed up during a practice to stare down a bad coach.  My dad could not resist swimming in her ocean.  I was thrilled to be there for her first scrimmage, but heartbroken I couldn’t call my dad.  

I grabbed my winter jacket from the car to walk the fields of Ithaca because I wanted to hide my tears. I had not used the jacket for months and though it was not cold I felt compelled to be a little extra warm.  I was holding my husband and sobbing thinking of the past year.  I placed my hands in my jacket pocket and found my dad’s gloves. Here were his big grey fleece gloves in my hands and I felt him next to me.  Instantly, I went from barely staying afloat to this desire to swim, for the first time.  

I went home from that trip and I was excited to look at colleges with my Senior in high school.  As I drove to multiple colleges I had an opportunity to connect with my girls and it became  clear that Rob Lowe was wrong about everything.  Watching my girls enter the next stage of their lives was the best gift in the world and it was the opposite of sad.  I cherished every second of motherhood even when I was in pain.

On my 20th anniversary of motherhood I was emotional thinking about how far we had come. I realized that I am not a naturally resilient person nor am I the best mother.  In reality, I am just smart enough to surround myself with remarkable people. My ocean has transformed because of the violent storms and I have weathered.  Those storms and the people in my life changed the landscape of my life in an extraordinary way.  Not only are my girls swimming next to me the entire time, they’ve inherited their masterful swimming skills from their grandfather.  As I sprinted up the hills of Ithaca, fighting against the wind, I felt blessed.

 

Beginning a blog is a daunting prospect, especially since I don’t have faith in my writing skills.  After struggling with my words for years I was surprised to hear from my clients that I need to go public with my story.

At times, my train of thought can be described as a crop dusting of brain farts.  I was diagnosed with a learning disability at a young age and when you combine that with the distractions of motherhood, screen time and my most recent MS diagnosis, let’s just say this experiment could be a train wreck.   I will do my best to find some clarity in my calamity.

In 2000, I was living with Lupus and switched my career to fitness because I had seen the benefits it had on my health.  For 10 years I had a good run.  I completed multiple marathons, an Olympic distance triathlon, and a 200ish mile relay race. In addition, I survived three high-risk pregnancies. I was teaching spin, yoga, Pilates and training.  I was in a rush to live this life and did not want to waste a day.  

In 2010, my Lupus appeared to be in remission and I celebrated by bragging to all my fitness classes. I was a walking advertisement for the benefits of exercise.  I had grown accustomed to living in constant pain but I was thriving.  

36 Pounds ago!

36 Pounds ago!

A few months later I was out running and felt weakness in one side of my body with discomfort lasting 2 miles into the run.  At rest, I had tingling in one arm and vibrations down both of my arms.  I was exhausted all day and every day.   The final straw came when I was in Lenscrafters getting my eyes checked without any successful results.  It only seemed appropriate that such a life altering moment should happen at the Burlington Mall.

My doctor scheduled an MRI immediately and that was when they discovered the first lesion on my cervical spine.   My diagnosis was transverse myelitis and eventually MS.  

MS is not an easy diagnosis and the MRI was just the beginning of my journey with this disease. It’s a club that you would prefer not getting an invitation to, but I got the official invite after years of testing. The process for a diagnosis is  time-consuming and easily took over my life. First opinions, second opinions, and excessive tests.  Waiting rooms, needles, lab technicians, nurses and doctors became my social outlet. I slept during my scans and blamed it on my morning runs sandwiched between teaching two spin classes.  I discovered the best place to get a scan with warm blankets and good music.

I became the Roger Ebert of medical procedures. I was lucky to have a 5-star neurologist perform my first lumbar puncture. He was a true artist with a needle. He was delicate but efficient.  He played his role with the unique charm of a true veteran in his craft.  I cried and laughed before it was over and knew that he was the only neurologist I would trust with my spinal fluid.

I used to tease my husband that I thought my neurologist was just into me and that’s why he kept asking me to come back. After all, how many almost 40-year-old hotties did this guy get to see on a regular basis?  

During this time I was trying to be a good mother to three girls;  two in high school and one in middle school.  I vividly remember my OBGYN, after my third daughter was born, warning my husband about the impending hormonal craziness of the teenage years. Just like any good oracle priestess, her enigmatic prophecy became a reality at the most stressful time in our life.  I can still remember one dinner where we watched PMS get passed around the table like a bad cold.  

The peak of teenage years.

The peak of teenage years 2011

The worst of the high school drama was happening while I was losing my dad and coming to grips with MS.  My plan to move forward was unconventional and some would say crazy.   There was no manual for this life, so I had to write my own.  

January 2016 working on my balance.

Along the way I have shocked my doctors and friends.  I am strong and fit because of lifestyle choices, nutrition, fitness and NO pills. I even gave up my daily ibuprofen for pain(2400 MG a day). In addition, I have lost 36 pounds and transformed my life. Some people talk about all the amazing things they are going to do in this life and quit when things get tough… I used to be less inspired than those people. I used to be afraid of announcing a goal or aspiration.  It took me a long time to be different.   

Committing to and completing my goals is something I have learned in this crazy life.  I know if I eat a donut I will wake up in pain… so I don’t do donuts.  I know I could be in a wheelchair or using a cane in ten years if I don’t workout every day… so I get off the couch.  I force myself out of bed at 5:30 AM even when my body screams “no”.   

My next goal is to provide a weekly blog post. I will share how I handle stress and what motivates me to keep moving forwardSubscribe to my blog by adding your email address to the form on the right. You’ll be the first to hear about how I have shocked my doctors and friends!