Saturday, October 29, 2011

Biggest Winner Inspiration: Part 4

I'd like to introduce you all to a very special, amazing and inspirational woman who is part of the Biggest Winners (BWs) group. Jana Archer came a close second to being crowned the biggest winner of our last session. She lost an incredible 44lbs and 36 inches in only 12 weeks. Jana recently joined us in BWs after doing some personal training through BDHQ. Every time I see Jana in the gym I am so proud of how far she has come. She is always smiling, even through the squats and pushups, she has this way of always having a smile on her face and keeping all of us going. So when I asked her if she was willing to share her story with me for this blog I was delighted that she was willing to be so open and honest. It's not an easy thing, especially early on in your journey, to be so honest with yourself and others about why you got to this place. But don't let me tell you, let Jana tell you and i'm sure you'll agree that she is amazing.

Why did you start?

To be completely honest, I started because I had a friend at work (wonderful Sherry McKay), who wouldn't leave me alone! My sister, Heather, also played a huge part in it even being possible. That all being said, I also think I was ready to start taking control of my life and my health.

In summer 2010, Heather heard me napping at home one day (as I did almost constantly) and said to me, “I think you have sleep apnea.” She had recently been diagnosed with it and with her new CPAP machine she was feeling better than she had in years. I knew I hadn't been sleeping well and was struggling through each day to stay awake and function through work and other activities. Somehow I was managing, but I was exhausted all of the time. I often had to pull the car over on the way home, just to close my eyes for a few minutes and muster the energy to keep driving. Sometimes I’d sit in the car after I got home and not even have the energy to get out of the car and walk up the stairs into the house.

It took a bit of time, with my sister calling doctors to make appointments for me (I was too afraid), for me to get in and get tested. I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea; the night I got tested I stopped breathing over 450 times. I was told it was a wonder I hadn't died in my sleep. This moment was the beginning of my transition. I got my CPAP machine and suddenly, I had energy once again. The day after my first night sleeping with it I was hyperactive the entire day because I had actually slept well for likely the first time in 6-7 years. This was in August.

Going back a bit (as these pieces overlap): In spring 2010, I was at work and a woman in the hallway said hi to me. I had no idea who she was but we conversed for a bit; I left the conversation very confused as to who I had talked to. When I saw this person again, I still didn't recognize her but near the end of the conversation she said something that triggered a memory. I realized it was Sherry, but still was rather puzzled because I didn't recognize her at all. I went to a friend of hers and asked if something had changed; that when I was told how much weight she had lost. I was stunned and realized this is why I didn’t recognize her. Of course, I had very much wanted to lose weight for some time so I went and talked to Sherry about it. I asked what she did and how she did it; she very openly shared her story. She asked if I wanted information about her gym, and after I said yes she forwarded it to me. I looked at it... terrified...and thought - there is NO way I could ever do this. I told her about dealing with my sleep issues and how I'd consider it AFTER that was dealt with. On the inside, all I could think was that there was no way I was going to open myself up to the humiliation I thought I would feel when I stepped into a gym.

But... Sherry persisted. She kept checking in on me, asking me if I wanted to go in with her one day or set up a personal training session. I avoided her for a few months and at the same time, went to the doctor and got my CPAP. Once I realized I had lost my excuse to not go to the gym, I transitioned to avoiding Sherry at work. I would duck into bathrooms or try not to make eye contact whenever I saw her. I thought she got the hint, but then one day I received an email from her trainer, Lovisa. Lovisa suggested we go for a walk and talk about the trying some personal training. As much as I wanted to, I decided I couldn't be mad at Sherry for this. And as much as I wanted to say no to Lovisa, I said yes... noting that "walking and talking and I didn't get along at all". Lovisa said we'd just chat on the grass outside of the building where I work. Of course, this wasn’t the case - we walked all around the Royal Jubilee Hospital site where I work. I could barely breathe half of the time or move due to pain in my lower back. One thing I noticed was that Lovisa never once pointed out my struggles. She just stopped every once and awhile, letting me catch my breath, stretch my back... She didn't ostracize me, she just chatted with me like I was 'normal'. I got less scared. At the end of the walk (longer than I had walked in a few years), she asked me if I wanted to come into the gym on Saturday. I was still terrified, but now also intrigued, hopeful, and... unable to say no. So I went. On the Saturday, I trained with Michele Shorter. I can’t remember much about what I actually did that first session, but I know I could barely lift the three pound weights and do the step-ups. I worked out and she pushed me to work, but supported me the entire time. She helped me get up off the floor when I couldn’t. I cried at one point when we talked about what brought me to this point. At the end of the session I was emotionally and physically exhausted, but that hope that started after I talked to Sherry and that grew after my walk with Lovisa was now stronger. I realized this gym was different and that maybe I’d actually succeed… so I made the commitment to keep coming back.

How long have you struggled with weight?

I've struggled with my weight for a very long time; at some point in my life I developed a habit of eating to make myself feel better or deal with stress and anxieties. I remember being overweight in high school, but not significantly. I was maybe 20-30 pounds more than I 'should' have been, except in grade 12 when I dropped to my lowest weight of 143 pounds. Things got significantly worse about nine years ago. I gained a lot of weight after I moved out of my parent's house and into an apartment with my new husband. Although I was exercising quite a bit (cycling and swimming), poor eating habits, insane hormones from the birth control pill, and then a knee injury, started the spiral to where I ended up a year ago.

What inspired you to start BWs?

It was actually more practicality than inspiration that led me to the BW program. First, while personal training was awesome, it was more than I could afford for the long term. I considered lessening the number of personal training sessions I was doing (from three back to two) but this contradicted another fact – I wanted to work out more. I had grown to love working out, but two to three times per week wasn’t cutting it. The BW program was less than half the cost of my monthly personal training sessions and I would get to work out a minimum of four times per week. I was scared about going from a safe, one on one atmosphere to a group, but it was the best and most logical answer.

What keeps you coming back?

Bri, you asked me to make this post quite awhile ago. Since that time I've struggled with actually putting all of my thoughts on paper and even when I finally did, I couldn't send it. I thought maybe it was just because it wasn't good enough yet, or that I was procrastinating (or just forgetting to send it as is often the norm for me). This morning I had one of those light bulb moments that made me realize this was completely off the mark. I've been afraid. I've been so terrified of putting myself out there, opening myself up to people who may not be up to date on where I'm at and who I am. It's hard, to think about people who knew me at “my best” now knowing that where I was and where I am. But you know, along with this realization this morning, a new feeling hit me: I do still care about what people think of me, but I care a whole lot less than I did before. I am so incredibly proud of myself right now and while I may have been thin back then, that wasn’t an indication of my overall health. Now, I'm taking on something that has controlled my life for too long and I'm moving toward real health in the process.

There's my physical health: I now actually love running, boxing, lifting weights, circuit classes, and so much more. I could even dance for three hours at one of my closest friend’s wedding without breaking much of a sweat! I can get into cars without worrying about the length of the seatbelt and I can go to restaurants and not worry about fitting into a booth. These are just a few of the small milestones I have experienced, but there are so many more!

Even more importantly, however, it's my mental/emotional health: I used to be terrified of going out of the house, because the looks and comments I would receive from people on the street tore me up inside. Now, if I get a look or a comment, I react completely differently. I realize that yes, I'm currently bigger than many people but that's only temporary, and hey... if only they could have seen me awhile ago! I feel sorry for these people who feel the need to tear someone else down possibly because of their own insecurities. Then I get this feeling of pride - that I am doing so much and doing so well. I'm moving forward in my life and its SUPER exciting. I have a great family, wonderful and caring friends, an awesome support system, a great job, and so many possibilities on the horizon. Nothing is going to stop me - and although I may have rough patches as I work to change my patterns that got me to where I was a year ago - I know I can take them on because I am and will conquer one of the biggest struggles in my life. That makes me strong. That makes me confident - and I don't want to be afraid anymore. That makes me excited - because there is so much to be excited about. This, and all the other little accomplishments that I'm experiencing daily, makes me keep coming back.

What is the hardest part?

As much as I said the mental/emotional health piece is getting better, this is also one of the hardest parts. I can make it through muscle or joint pain after a good workout, but sometimes it is so hard to shut off the voices in my head that say that I should stop, that there’s no point, that I’ll never get to my goal, that I’m not smart enough, good enough, or worth enough, or that I simply can’t do it. It’s a constant battle and it’s draining. But amidst that, I’m making choices to help myself.

I’m spending time with family and friends – those who encourage me and lift me up, while I can be there for them as well. I'm finding healthy ways to handle my anxieties and make positive decisions in my life. I’m taking time for myself doing such things as going to the beach with a latte on a cool fall evening. I making an effort to raise my head up as I walk and look at nature, and getting out with my camera and taking pictures again (my passion for photography was blocked until now due to my inability to move well). I’m trying to remember that “I can” rather than “I cant”. This doesn’t mean that it’s easy and that I won’t struggle, but I am making progress.

Total weight loss to date?
84 pounds! I lost 44 pounds in my first session of BW and 40 pounds before that since I started personal training at BDHQ.

If you could go back in time and talk to yourself before this process what would you say?

Simply put…

You CAN do it and it will be one of the best things you’ve ever done. Trust me.

Jana said "I was ready to start taking control of my life and my health" well you have absolutely done that, look at what you've accomplished in such a short period of time. I cannot be more proud of you for what you have done in so little time and I know everyone else in your life is as well. You have blossomed from someone who is hiding beneath the weight to and stronger, more vibrant woman. I am so happy to be a part of this journey with you Jana and I know you will succeed and keep going, even if there are bumps along the way, always remember where you came from and how far you've come and continue to be proud of yourself for that. LOOK AT YOU NOW!!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm not PEOPLE worthy but still worthy

A couple months ago I submitted my story online to be considered for use in the January issue of People Magazine, yes THE People Magazine. It was a long shot, but I figured why not. I was delighted, but surprised at the same time to receive an e-mail a month later from the PR company who works with People Magazine, they had shortlisted my story for consideration but needed some more information and photos. Of coarse this was super exciting news, the thought of maybe being featured in a national publication that millions of people would read and the ability to hopefully inspire someone else to make the change that I have. I needed photos FAST and reached out to Nicki to help. In literally an hour she had arranged a photographer, shoes and had set up a mini-photo shoot for me. I told her i'd bring her to New York when they chose me for the cover which I think contributed to her speed in organizing. We went through my closet, found a dress that had been given to me by a fellow Biggest Winner that had never fit me before and now it did. The shoe situation was a little more dire, for those who know me you know that i'm probably one of the most low maintenance woman you know, I don't wear makeup, I don't own fancy shoes or jewelry and I wash my hear and wear it. This obviously wouldn't do for a People Magazine photo shoot, so a call out to the Biggest Winner group resulting in some "scary" shoes being donated for use - any form of heal for me is scary. Wide feet and fancy shoes generally don't work well together, these shoes were so painful but apparently that's the price you have to pay for beauty, so i'm told.

Here are a couple of the photos taken by Mary Jane of Mary Jane Howland Photography

Please visit Mary Jane's website at she does some amazing work, you can also "like" her on Facebook at

Doing this photo shoot was both fun but outside of my comfort zone. I'm not used to being the center of attention, but that's what this was all about. She made me feel comfortable and relaxed and Nicki was also there lending a hand. I have to say the photos turned out amazing.

I sent the photos off to the PR rep who then told me I would have to wait another month to find out if I was going to be selected for the "Half My Size" issue. Unfortunately, I found out the other day, that I came very close but was not chosen. Even though I wasn't worthy for the cover of People Magazine, that doesn't take away from what I've accomplished, I know that. I also didn't allow myself to get overly excited about this because I didn't want to be disappointed in the event I didn't get chosen, which worked out well in this case. I'm totally fine with it, obviously still a bit disappointing, but okay with it, their loss right? I was told that they MAY still use my story at some point in time in another context, but at this point I'm not going to be obtaining fame.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Harrison Hot Springs Weekend

Just got back from a lovely weekend away with the whole family at Harrison Hot Springs. John and I stayed with Maddison & Annabelle in an adjoining room which also connected to Craig & Kailie.

Here are my beautiful nieces...

It wasn't necessairly the most relaxing weekend given I was an adopted parent for a day, but that's okay I did still get to rest my knee and enjoy the hot springs. I'm still battling a cold which unfortunately proceeded to get worse over the weekend not better because our room was right above where people smoke. No real option to move us since there were three adjoining rooms and it was only one more night. We arrived really late on Friday night and basically just said our hellos and then played some poker with everyone. Saturday was a LOT of swimming and card playing. Sunday we checked out and did a portion of the Circle Farm Tour. First stop was "The Back Porch" where we got some delicious organic coffee and flour. Then it was on to the Canadian Hazelnut stop where we got some coffee flavoured hazelnuts, dark chocolate hazelnut butter and some u-pick hazelnuts. Here are the hazelnut trees...

Last stop before the ferry terminal was The Farm House Natural Cheeses where everyone else was too busy eating all the cheese samples that I just watched :). Of coarse doing all these farm tours did not assist in the cold situation which meant I was way worse then when I went away but that is the price I have to pay unfortunately. I knew that I would get allergic but didn't want to give up time to spend with all the kids. With my already existing bout of laryngitis at play this caused another yuck cold to start :(. We headed for the 5PM ferry and made it just before it started to get super busy. So basically I don't feel like I had a relaxing weekend, I feel exhausted, run down and sick :( but still had a wonderful time with my girls, oh and John ;).

This week will be all about staying focused with my food, making sure i'm getting veggies at every meal and fruit and one and listening to my body even when it's frustrating.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I cannot...but I can

I've been a bit frustrated and overwhelmed with everything this last week. Since running the 1/2 marathon a week ago today I have had alot going on. I wrote my first midterm on Wednesday, I was immersed in a brand new job feeling lost and without support, being overwhelmed with keeping up with my life and now i'm injured and frustrated with my lack of mobility. Even though all of this was going on I still knew that what was best for me was to make it to my workouts, even if I couldn't be 100%, it always is best for me to be there with my constant group of supportive people. I think also its this change in weather the last week, it seems to have drastically gotten colder. I've tried very hard this week to just be on track with my food as much as possible, knowing that the intensity level of my workouts would be minimal, and i've done relatively okay with this, not super, but okay. I was happy that I maintained at this week's weigh in. You would think that running 21 KM would make you lose weight, but really it didn't, I was up about 4 lbs after the race, so maintaining was a good thing for me this week. I'm going to the doctor tomorrow to get my knee checked out and just hoping he doesn't tell me that I need to stop running.

So with being a bit out of whack this week I was happy to have a bit of a wake up call this morning from Jen Ziebart of Empower Inquiry Life Designs. She came and talked to the Biggest Winners at the end of today's workout. It seems that I wasn't the only one struggling this week. Many people were very open about their struggles and excuses. What I took from this talk was that everything in life is based on a choice. You make a choice every day to wake up. You make a choice to eat healthy or not eat healthy. You make a choice to make your workout or make up your workout. It all comes back to YOU. We discussed, if you can't do something for some reason what CAN you do. Well right now I CAN'T run like I want to be able to but I CAN power walk or ride the bike, I CAN control what I put in my body and I CAN make it to the workouts. So instead of getting frustrated with myself that I can't run like I want to, I'm focusing on the fact that I can be in control of my food and nutrition. I'm focusing on not getting so frustrated with myself, being nicer to myself. Something Jen said that really hit home with me was "if your mother knew how you talked to yourself she wouldn't let you hang out with you". It's so true, we are our own worst critics most of the time. So this weeks focus will be #1 A+ nutrition and #2 what CAN I do?

Every time you find yourself saying "I can't do ____" make sure you finish that sentence with "but I can do ____". Make a list for the week on your "cannot's" and plan on what you are doing instead, write a "can" list.

Monday, October 10, 2011

1/2 Marathon Milestone

Running a 1/2 marathon was something I would never imagined possible even just a year ago, let alone running for 10 minutes. Even though I had already lost a significant amount of weight before joining Biggest Winners, I never actually thought I would be a runner, I thought that I just couldn't do it because of my asthma and my knees and a whole long list of reasons which were really just excuses in the end. Through a lot of hard work I was able to find a way around my asthma and actually breathe when I ran, I worked through the pain and learned how to make it work for my body. Now I can actually say "I am a runner" and believe it.

This whole past week has been a huge write off in terms of work outs because I've been so sick, the laryngitis came back again :(. So needless to say I was a little nervous that I hadn't worked out in six days and was just about to run 21 KM and was still sick. But I had worked so hard for this day and committed so much time that a cold wasn't going to stop me from doing it even if I couldn't breathe. The day was beautiful and thankfully the rain held off for us and all the other runners. We finished the first 10K no problem in just 1:01 but then the asthma started to set in and the pain and by about 12K I felt like it was never going to end. My family came out to cheer us on and keep us going, they were at about the 10K mark and then the 15K mark coming back through and it was definatly what I needed to keep going.

John and I separated about the 15K mark as his knees were hurting too much and he had to walk. I kept going with my 10 and 1s had 3 asthma attacks along the way but used my inhaler and kept going. By about 19K I just started breaking down, I was physically and emotionally just DONE, I felt like I literally could not move my legs any more and all I wanted to do was walk, I couldn't breathe but I knew that it was just 2 more kilometers and I would be done, I just kept telling myself that 2 KM is fast, i can do that, only 12 more minutes. By the 900 meters to go mark I was about to collapse but just kept focusing on the signs that reminded me I was almost finished. By the 100 meter to go a runner came up behind me who I don't even know and pushed/encouraged me across the finish where I basically collapsed in the medics arms. I was able to recoup myself in a few minutes and bring myself back to normal. I guess I had pushed myself to my limits and beyond because I could hardly even stand up, let alone walk.

Coming out of the medic tent I went to get my medal from Nicki who gave me a huge hug and congratulations. Let me just tell you I was an emotional mess for the rest of the day though. I am proud of myself for doing it, and after it was done I said "i'm never doing that again" but today's a new day, I would do that again because I want a better time. I completed my first half marathon in 2:14:00 and now I want to beat that time because I know I can do way better if I wasn't sick. Regardless, bottom line, I still beat my husband who completed it in 2:17. In case you haven't realized, we are a little competitive.

Today I feel like my body is broken, I can't walk, but thankfully we are going to get massages and get some of this lactic acid out of our muscles.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Where do you start?

I was looking online trying to find studies about people who had lost weight and kept it off. Reading over a few studies, each giving different stats, the key element was that upwards of 90% of people who lose weight do not keep it off and end up gaining some or all of it back. I am telling you all right now and making a commitment that I will never ever go back. Obviously there will be times, such as pregnancy, where weight may come back on; however, I am committed to being focused on my health and myself 100%. I have proven that I can lose weight and keep it off. Because of my success I am often asked how I do it? what is my secret? where do I start? By no means am I claiming to be an expert, all I can tell you is what my experience is and what has worked for me.

I have tried every fad diet known to man, DIETS DO NOT WORK. When someone asks me what diet i'm on my response is "I don't diet" and that's true, I don't. I eat clean, I eat small portions and I am aware of what I put into my body. I work out 5-6 days per week and choose active options instead of sedentary. I don't count calories and I drink lots of water. I fuel my body for energy and not for emotions. So doesn't that sound simple? Sure it's super simple and it works. It's SIMPLE but not EASY - I know that I've been there and I still get into those situations. It's about having the tools and knowledge of self to know what to do and be prepared.

So back to the question - where do I start?
#1: Recognize that eating right is 80-90% of weight loss, you can work out all you want but if you ware putting crap food in your body it will be very difficult for you to lose weight.
#2: Be 100% committed to eating clean with 5-6 small meals per day. Clean means no processed foods, no white sugar, no white flour and a healthy balance of protein, carbs (fibrous/complex) & good fats at each meal.
#3: Now that you are committed to eating clean and you know that eating clean will enable you to lose weight you must commit time. Set aside time each week to ensure you are prepared. Always be prepared!! I work a Monday to Friday job so on Sunday's I will go grocery shopping for my weekly food and will also prepare meals for the week. This is a huge time commitment, and often takes up a good portion of my Sunday, but without this I would be lost the rest of the week and would not be prepared. I will often eat the same thing all week for at least 2-3 meals, which can get boring, but I just remind myself i'm not eating for enjoyment, i'm eating to fuel my body.
#4: Make a workout plan. Each week or each month or whatever works for your schedule set aside time for your workouts, write it on a calendar and commit to it. Maybe you need to find a fitness buddy to be accountable to. For me I am committed to my Biggest Winners group but also have buddies that I know I can call on for extra workouts.
#5: Write down everything you eat! Yes EVERYTHING! Even if you slip up, write it down and be accountable to it. Your body keeps an accurate journal regardless of what you write down.
#6: Recognize that slip ups will happen, but that doesn't mean you have to stop. Take it one meal at a time, one day at a time, and slowly but surely the changes that seem so hard will just become habit.

So those are my tips for getting started. There are some great online resources when it comes to Clean Eating as well as books. I recommend any of Tosca Reno's Clean Eating books, she outlines what it means and breaks it all down for you. Some websites I like are The Gracious Pantry, The Eat Clean Diet and The Joy of Clean Eating. There are so many out there, but it's important to get a good foundation and understanding of what clean eating before you try being creative with your food choices. Remember don't dig your grave with your own knife and fork.

Also, here are some simple substitutions you can make right now that will help you make a transition to eating cleaner.

#1: Fat free greek yogurt - substitute it for sour cream in any recipe, you can also make your own cream cheese with the yogurt by straining the water out of it and flavoring it with whatever herbs you like (very yummy!), or make your own frozen yogurt by adding some natural sweetener such as honey and fruit and freezing.
#2: Dip your veggies in salsa or hummus instead of high fat/sugar dressings like ranch.
#3: Use cottage cheese as a dressing on your salad
#4: Use hummus or avocado instead of mayonnaise on a sandwich.
#5: No more white flour!! Whole wheat everything.
#6: Water Water Water! Dump out those pops and juices, all your body needs is water. If you're bored of regular plain old water try it with some lemon in it or fresh fruit to flavor it.

Here's an idea of what I eat on an average day:
6:30AM - Fat Free Greek Yogurt with 1 tbsp natural peanut butter & organic granola (usually make my own clean recipe)
10:00AM - Salad with cucumber, tomatoes and peppers topped with cottage cheese & 1/2 a chicken breast
1:00PM - turkey chili
4:00PM - fruit with almonds or cottage cheese
7:30PM - chicken & steamed veggies
Every meal has a protein and a carb (fibrous/complex) in it and I avoid eating any complex carbs like bread/rice in my last two meals of the day because otherwise it just sits in my stomach.

There's no time like the present people - start now! You've only got 3 choices in life — give up, give in, or give it all you've got.