Tip of the Week

Roll with the punches! Life is gonna smack you right in the face when you don't expect it. If you're head's on straight, you're certainly gonna handle it just fine. Roll with it. Complain a little bit, and let it go.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday Success Story

Today's Saturday Success Story is a Miss Cassandra King from Massillon, Ohio! She currently works as a Marketing Associate for an industrial repair company, creating advertisements, trade show displays, web promotions, sales literature, press releaseses, and newsletter articles. Through her weight loss (over eighty pounds!), she has found a real passion for pilates and yoga. Now, she is striving to become a personal trainer one day, inspiring other women in the same way that her life has been changed. Thanks, Cassie!

Was there a point where you realized, “I’m really going to do it this time”? How motivating was that? Had you tried before and not succeeded?
I was always a little thicker. I never even attempted to lose weight because I just acted as if I was embracing my curves and was meant to be a little bigger. I was fat and pretending to be happy about it. I went on that way until 2005, when my whole world crashed: My mother died.

She suffered from congestive heart failure, combined with decades of severe depression that stemmed from her childhood. Before she passed, she avoided relationships and activities, hiding her inner torment behind her own obesity for decades, until the emotional and physical damage on her heart proved too much to bear. She took her life by her own hand, with an overdose of pain pills, wanting to drift away peacefully instead of painfully.
I was only twenty at the time, and was completely devastated. After her death, I felt abandoned and I fell into a severe depression that mimicked hers. I would hide away on the couch, tucked under her old blankets. I would cry over the shows we used to watch together, and I would indulge in “comfort” foods. I knew the pounds were stacking up as I continued to torture myself over my mother’s death, but I tried my best to ignore it. I saw a psychologist for therapy and was prescribed several different antidepressants. Nothing seemed to work — and the weight continued to creep up. I also started having agonizing knee pain and was diagnosed with chondromalacia patella, which is deterioration of the cartilage of the knees — in my case, a hereditary condition that was exacerbated by the excessive weight on my joints. My orthopedic surgeon warned me that I’d have early onset of arthritis and might need surgery unless I lost weight — every pound lost would remove seven pounds of pressure from my knees. During this time, I also discovered a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart attacks, and congestive heart failure.

Enough was enough! I didn’t want to die at a young age from conditions that were preventable. I decided to make my own choice to turn my life around, just as my mother had made her own choice to end hers. I had come to respectfully accept that my mother set herself free — and I was finally ready to free myself of my inner turmoil by becoming a happier, healthier me.

How did you begin? What is different now? What are you excited about?

I enrolled in a wellness program at work and was blessed to have a nurse willing to support me on my long journey. I also had to take a physical education credit to graduate from college, so I enrolled in an abs class. My best friend committed to doing Denise Austin’s Pilates for Every Body DVD with me on the days I didn’t have class.
I started watching what I ate and gave up fast food, fried food, and anything I couldn’t consider to be part of my new, healthy lifestyle. This was not a diet; it was a promise to myself to change my life for the better, to be healthier, and to live longer!
I ended up losing twenty-six pounds after I graduated and then I bought a few more Denise Austin dvds to vary my workouts and work through my plateau. At the beginning of this year, I kicked it into high gear and started working out for an hour everyday. I knew I would have to work harder if I wanted to be at that goal of a healthy weight. I made sure to incorporate the three most important elements to any exercise routine: cardio, strength training and stretching!

I learned that stretching not only feels great and prevents injury, but it improves the efficiency of your workout by 19%. The challenge of Pilates was always the most exciting part of my routines. I felt stronger, healthier, happier and most of all, sexier. I found this healthy woman inside of myself that was finally reaching her full potential and it felt amazing!

Is there anything—especially early on when it gets tough—is there anything that motivated you? What kept you going when you thought about just throwing in the towel?
I guess you could say I'm one of those people who thrives off a challenge and giving up just did not seem to be an option for me. Honestly, I felt so much better about my health, my future and my life in general that I was disgusted by my old habits. I didn't want to be the fat, depressed person I once was ever again. The transformation was motivation in itself. However, I did find that rewarding myself for mini goals of five pounds here ten pounds there (with new workout clothes, Denise Austin dvds, and equipment) always pushed me a little harder. That's how I got over my plateau.
How did you integrate new choices into your lifestyle?

I truly commend the women out there who wake up super early and run 5 miles, but the whole early bird thing is NOT for me. I found it much easier to get as much sleep as possible, work my usual 8-5 and then go home, hit the trail or go to a gym to burn away the stress of my day.

It was easy to integrate that into my lifestyle because it was right after the stress of work and right before my relaxing evenings.

Let’s talk about food. What would you say were your biggest problem areas as far as eating? Was it what you were eating, how much, when, etc.? Tell us a little bit about that. And eating-wise, what changes did you make early on? What did you find easy to stick with?

My biggest problem was that I was intimidated by the grocery store and would just rather catch fast food and eat out at restaurants, than try to figure out what to buy and cook for myself.

I wouldn't eat breakfast and then I would eat fast food when I got off work right before class and fast food after my evening classes. I started limiting myself to 1200-1500 calories a day. I found websites like nutritiondata.com, calorieking.com, and thedailyplate.com that helped me calculate things accurately. I started eating breakfast and was amazed at how much more energy I had. I also started incorporating scheduled, healthy snacks into my day to increase my metabolism.

To this day, I still crave things like french fries and fried chicken, but on the few occassions I would give in to those cravings, I would feel the difference in my body. I feel so much better when I eat the whole grains, fruits, veggies, dairy and lean proteins our bodies crave!

Would you take us through a typical weekday now, and tell us how that goes, as far as exercise and eating?

I have quite a predictable schedule. When I'm getting ready for work at 7am, I usually have bran cereal, oatmeal or a Fiber One pop tart for breakfast. At 10am I eat a healthy snack (usually fresh fruit, veggies, raw almonds, low fat cottage cheese, low fat string cheese, pretzels, light popcorn, triscuits or fat free yogurt). For lunch I'll have a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce and tomato, a spring mix salad with spinach and balsamic vinegarette and some sort of fruit. At 3:30pm I have another healthy snack. At about 6:30 or as soon as I'm done with my workout, I'll have grilled chicken breast and a baked potato with salsa on it. I'll also snack on a few veggies while I'm cooking. If I'm in a hurry, I'll eat a lean cuisine or something like that.
I don't eat the same thing everyday, but this is one day of my favorite things and the range of snacks I love! I work out for an hour and I'll alternate between Denise Austin's cardio focused dvds and her strength training dvds. I usually do 4 days of cardio and 3 days of strength training and I always stretch. I love doing yoga and pilates. When I don't feel like working out I'll just do a quick yoga routine and then I'll be rejuvenated to do the entire hour!

When I can, I love working out with friends. We'll hit the tow path trail together and walk a few miles with sprints of cardio thrown in there to get our heart rates up. I also like to switch up my workouts and hit the gym with friends every once in a while.

What part of your body do you absolutely love, and why?

I love my neck now! I actually have a collar bone and my double chin is completely gone. :) I also love my arms because I have beastly biceps!! I was excited when I got to meet Denise Austin in Cincinnati at the Flying Pig marathon in May and flexed with her. I also love my waistline because it's so much more tiny now, but I still have curves! I really just love my whole body! I'm healthier and that's what makes me sexier!

What were your particular difficulties, and how did you overcome them?

It was difficult to incorporate a lot of cardio because I have a lung condition. That's why I love pilates, because I wasn't running and running, but I was still working up a great sweat and making my muscles longer and leaner. I worked at my own pace and realized that it was about progression. At first I couldn't even do a T stand and now I can do V sits and even yoga poses that I never thought would be possible for me. The stronger I got, the more endurance I had and now I don't even think about my lung capacity when I'm working out.

What is the one habit you swear by?

I swear by breakfast, healthy snacking and STRETCHING! I also swear by sweating away the stress. I think it's important to incorporate pilates for a strong core and yoga for a centered mind. However, everyone is different, so just find something you love to do and it will be that much easier to stick with it! :)

Starting Weight: 230

Current Weight: 150

Height: 5'7"

Oh, I almost forgot-- I should include the fact that I am now a non-smoker. That nasty, social, college habit of craving nicotine during finals is, now, finally over. I am walking in the American Heart Association's Heart walk this year and being honored for a Lifestyle Change Award. :)

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