I have been overweight nearly my whole life, I have tried more times than I can count to lose the weight. A couple times, the weight did come off and I was on top of the world. I thought my life would never be the same again. The problem was, in my “ignorance of youth,” I never considered it to be about healthy living - I merely wanted to be thin, to be pretty, and to be accepted. My attempts at weight loss involved severe limitations on what I could eat, and while it worked short term, I always went back to my old ways in a month or two.
The conversation starts the same, “what was the breaking point for you?” Having lost about 125 pounds in about 10 months, everyone wants to know my secret. The truth is, even almost two years later, I can’t pinpoint what clicked for me in October of 2010. No matter how many times I have tried to “write my story” I end up staring at a blank screen/paper. Today, that ends.
I was a morbidly obese, stay at home mom to two small children. I knew I was too tired to keep up, I knew I was unhappy, and I knew that I wanted to be the best mom I could be. Somehow, nearly two years ago, I woke up and made a decision to change for myself and my family and I haven’t looked back. That’s not to say it’s been easy, or that I have been perfect – I have made mistakes, I have hit plateaus, and threatened harm to my scale.
I am ashamed to say that our diet used to consist almost entirely of processed, pre-packaged foods such as chicken helper and frozen foods. I could go into details of my diet but I don’t feel it is overly helpful, because as we all know, what works for one person doesn’t work for another. However, I will say that I started watching fat, calories, and sodium. I cut out prepared foods, I reduced my diet Coke consumption to one can a day (from 6-8), and started making meals from scratch. I didn’t eliminate anything, if I wanted a fry I would steal one from my kids, or have a bite of a chicken nugget.
I lost 6 pounds a week for the first 5 weeks. I was swimming an hour a day and eating too few calories, but at the time I didn’t care. I was losing weight and feeling good. People were complimenting me and I was seeing results which made it much easier to stay motivated. The weight-loss slowed down and instead of looking at my diet I added more exercise – running. My new years resolution for 2011 was to run one 5k and walk a half marathon. Little did I know, running would change my life.
Running made me feel such a sense of accomplishment that I was motivated to go out even on the worst days. I ended up running more than 12 races that first year, including 3 half marathons. As I got more involved in the running and blogging community I realized there was more to what I was doing than weight loss. I started focusing more on making sure I was fueling my body properly. I upped my caloric intake, added more vegetables/fruit, and healthier grains (such as quinoa), and continued to drop weight pretty steadily. By August of 2011, I weighed in at 185 pounds – while not my ultimate goal I was pretty happy where I was. I have maintained that weight within a few pounds one way or the other ever since.
I would love to lose about 10 more pounds to get to that “magical” number on the scale that would mean I was no longer overweight, but I am at a point where I know that my overall happiness and wellness is more important. I have been able to get about 5 pounds lighter, but it required being much stricter on my diet than I want to be, and honestly I didn’t look much different. For me now, its all about finding balance in my life - I could be “healthier” but for me it comes with a high price tag - excess stress and unhappiness. My food choices now aren’t as clean as they used to be, but overall my family is still getting much better food. I add in convenience foods here and there as I need for my sanity’s sake but try to keep it limited.
For now, I think the challenge comes in accepting the body that I have now, even if I get to my goal weight, I will still see flaws in my body – the loose skin won’t go away without surgery and that’s just not an option for me at this point. It’s expensive and I have watched so many people struggle with their recoveries that its just not something I can subject my family to for my vanity. (note: I don’t fault anyone for deciding surgery is right for them.) Maybe in the future things will change, but today I am choosing to learn to love myself the way I am, flaws and all.
Running and living a healthy lifestyle makes it easier to love myself for who I am today. I know I am working every day to be the best version of me possible. I know I have added years to my life and I like to think I have improved my family’s quality/quantity of life as well.
Because running has literally shaped who I am today and changed my life in such positive ways, I felt like it was time to “pay it forward.” I have never been one to put myself out there and I am a terrible fundraiser, but when I stumbled across the St Jude Memphis Marathon website online I knew what I had to do. I honestly didn’t think I ever wanted to run a full marathon. However, I knew if there ever was a reason to run 26.2 miles, raising money for children battling cancer was it!
So, the first day registration was open, I signed up to run the St Jude Memphis Marathon as a Hero and raise at least $2,620! Of course, because this is such a great cause I hope to exceed that goal. If you would like to help me change the life of a child battling cancer, please donate at: heroes.stjude.org/jenniferharning.
Thank you for sharing your story Jenn! You are an inspiration to many of us who have struggled with weight loss and a role model to your children. Your desire to run for the for a cause is awesome! I hope some of my readers will consider making a donation to St. Jude's under Jenn's name.