My life was extremely hectic. Besides being busy with my children (Haley was seven and Tate and Spencer were five), I was teaching four mornings a week as an ESL (English as second language); I was the provincial director for KidSport Alberta, responsible for the overall operations of a children's charity that services 27 volunteer committees in the province and helps provide sport funding for more than 3,000 disadvantage children; I had a consulting contract with the Canadian Sport Centre YES Program -- the athlete speakers' bureau -- providing program development and athlete public speaking training, and I had a fourth contract coordinating the Olympic and Paralympic Salute 2002, Alberta's recognition event for the athletes and coaches who competed in the Salt Lake Olympics and Paralympics.
I loved all of the jobs and thrived on the responsibility and the creativity. Each job represented a different opportunity for me and I just couldn't give any of them up. Beside the jobs, I was one of 30 participants in Leadership Calgary -- a yearlong leadership program. I was also taking one university Masters' course and was volunteering as a Sparks' leader once a week.
What's more, my husband, Tim, was going to the Salt Lake Olympics for the month of February as the Team Leader for the Olympic Luge Team, so I was going to be a single parent for a month. Usually we co-parent equally and "shift-parentf" so that one of us is always home for the kids.
Despite moving along at high speed, I had gained weight to the tune of three to five pounds a month since September 2001. I have a distinct lack of ability to control myself when it comes to limits with food. Because I eat when stressed, I was constantly bingeing and snacking due in part to the pressures and time restraints I felt as I ran from contract to contract. For example a road trip would see me scarf back a bag of chips, a chocolate bar and an ice cream -- each way. The only things I managed to drink were diet colas, coffee or water!
On Saturday, January 26 Tim and I went out on a rare date to have a little "alone time" before his trip. On the way home from the restaurant we were sideswiped by a 4 wheel drive that couldn't make the stop at an intersection. I was briefly knocked unconscious and had a welt on the right side of my head. At the accident scene I was walking and talking but after a quick examination from the ambulance staff, they decided to send me to the hospital. At the time I didn't know what I had done that day, where we'd had dinner, what had just happened etc. After a few hours of delirium I came to. I was sent home with a "concussion". I had some amnesia and to this day I still can't remember anything after leaving the restaurant and arriving at home five hours later.
Following the accident, I missed a week of work due to splitting headaches, and my normally quick mind was now in a stupor. Near the end of the week I started thinking about my life and what I was doing and I came to the conclusion that my life was out of control. I looked down at my flabby, chubby body and thought about how I'd let myself go. The haggard looking face that looked back at me in the mirror surely wasn't mine -- where did all the wrinkles come from? And my hair hadn't been cut for a year.
The great thing was I had this month that I had already de-scheduled for myself so that I would be home every night and on weekends. Unfortunately I didn't have my fantastic husband to depend on but I quickly got into a routineâ€¦teaching in the morning and consulting from my home office in the afternoon. Then Haley would get off the bus and I'd go pick up the boys at their afternoon sitter (they went to Kindergarten in the morning). We'd go home and the kids would at the table while I cooked supper. Then we would usually do some family activity; games, dancing, whatever they wanted. I even managed some one-on-one time with each of the kids in the evening. It was fantastic. Once the kids were in bed, I spent a half hour tidying the house, then would start to exercise using a video tape program or simple body exercises. Unfortunately I would then go to my home office and work for two hours until midnight.
I really started to love the routine and felt in control of my life again. At the end of the month I started to look for some articles and books so that I could continue to have balance once my life wound up again. All I could find were before-and-after type articles; I wanted to see some "during" articles, like the real-life TV shows. Since there wasn't much out there, I wrote to Canadian Living and suggested an article about getting life in balance, and I volunteered to be the guinea pig.
Tim came home after a wonderful experience at the games. And off I went full speed ahead again. We were also going on a 10-day trip to Mexico with Tim's mom, Patricia -- our first "exotic" holiday since our honeymoon eight years earlier.
Tim's first week home I was able to keep up many of the past month's routines, including exercising (after all, I had to be in a bathing suit in three weeks). Then my contracts got in the way and I was working more than 75 hours for the next two weeks. After two weeks I heard back from Canadian Living saying they were interested in the article -- I was so thrilled that I had a response.
Mexico was awesome; basically we spent our days at the beach and went out for dinner each night. We did a lot of walking and playing -- and not too much snacking (my mother-in-law, who is just over 60, is a total health fanatic and is in excellent condition since she eats right and exercises regularly. In light of my up-coming public life-balance program, she was an excellent role model to be on vacation with.
The big Olympic and Paralympic Salute were happening this month, requiring lots of last-minute details for a formal government dinner hosting more than 400 people. KidSport events were happening, school was busy and I was conducting some public-speaking workshops. I was also volunteering for our Olympians Canada annual dinner committee, Sparks was wrapping up and I volunteered in the classroom, too! Looking back I don't how I made it through that month. Tim was at a planning stage in his job so he had more time to be at home, with not as many evening and weekend meetings and events -- so he was instrumental to my survival.
Physically my weight was holding out between 175 and 180 pounds and I was completely and utterly exhausted. I also had no time to exercise. Mentally I was a write-off -- work was all I could focus on and I just did the bare necessities with my kids. I only had two hours a day with them, but because I wasn't dealing with all of the little things it was at least quality time. Tim got them ready for school as usual, but now he was doing all of the grocery shopping, cooking and bedtime stuff too! He even took on most of my chores; usually it is 50/50 but because I was so very busy he did about 70 to my 30 per cent.
With the Salute over I had one big thing off my plate, and managing the other three jobs became easier; the Canadian Sport Centre athlete speakers program was winding down and I could focus mostly on teaching in the mornings and KidSport in the afternoons. I was exercising randomly and inconsistently. The article was to be a go and Canadian Living was busy coming up with the concept. I was to try and stay status-quo physically so that by the time the article went I wouldn't have already lost too much weight or changed my life style too much. No problem there; I was still booked up solid till the end of June.
I had more time to rest this month but wasn't motivated to exercise a lot. My headaches from the accident continued to occur about three times a week. During March and April I just had to forge ahead, take some medicine and forget the pain. But this time I gave into the headaches and slept. I was so exhausted that I would come home and spend an hour and a half with the kids, then fall asleep on the couch or in a chair as soon as Tim walked in the door from work. He'd cook dinner and I would rouse myself to help during the bath routine. Then I'd either sleep or work for a few hours. On weekends we'd go for walks or bike rides or visit family. (I sometimes tried to clean the house -- which by this time looked like a tornado had hit it.) No time for exercise and mentally I was mush.
My teaching was winding down, but student assessments, record keeping and program development for the next school year were keeping me busy outside of school hours. KidSport's plans for their annual general meeting were in full gear and plans for our next year were high on the priority list. The Olympians Canada dinner went off well and the YES program was petering out as school graduations came and went. Life was getting more sane -- I was now working about 50 hours a week and felt like I had a lot more time. Of course I chose to spend it with the kids and try and right the house a bit. I didn't spend any time on my self at all. I did get to meet Mary-Ann Owens, my life coach, and knew right away that this gentle relaxed woman could help bring some sanity into my life.
As the weather in Calgary finally warmed up, I started to get my spring/summer clothes out of the box in my closet. Nothing fit. I was nearly 20 lbs heavier than last summer and nothing would fit me. I'd purchased two pairs of shorts for Mexico and these became my summer mainstays. For work I just wore dresses that had no waist. I felt completely down -- physically and emotionally.
Summer came and I was just working on KidSport 25 hours a week, which meant I could work in the mornings and spend the rest of the days with the kids. This was more like it! I was more relaxed and less stressed out. I was busy with the kids but I also started to do some basic fitness, walking or running 3-4 times a week.
Then a three-week vacation camping with my husband's family in BC was next on the agenda. We are all very close but every female is very skinny. I outweigh them all by 50 lbs or more. I am the tallest but I can't really justify it as an excuse. So while all the skinnies were on the beach in their itsy bitsy teeny weenies I just hung out in my voluminous shorts and baggy shirt. We had fun but I was so self-conscious. Food wise, what can I say? I was on vacation and, remember, I had no will power. So the food and exercise cancelled each other out and my body remained a constant 175 pounds.
Vacation was over and the kids and I got back into our little routine, with me working in the mornings and spending the rest of the day with them. I kept up with my occasional exercise regime and was getting ready because the Canadian Living project was starting in September. Things were great for the first three weeks, then everything got into the mix.
The photo shoots were being organized and I was actually getting pretty busy with that and then school was starting again -- the teacher organization week at the end of the month. For KidSport we had just received news of funding and we had hired another staff person and were getting ready to hire another. I was to work 10 hours a week for KidSport and four full days a week as a teacher. Mentally I was feeling refreshed and was looking forward to my new schedule. We had lucked out and our neighbour across the street was going to take care of the boys three afternoons a week -- they were now going to French kindergarten. Tim was to be home Thursday afternoons with them and I had all day Tuesday off. The plan was for me to work for four to five hours on Tuesday morning and then be with the boys in the afternoon. I was to do my other five hours for KidSport spread out during the evenings and weekends.
The kids started back to school and everyone had a hard time getting used to the 6:45 wake up and the 7:20 bus pick up time. Thank goodness Tim got the kids ready and I got to wake up at my leisure! My little dream schedule was starting out okay. Except I found I was working 15-20 hours a week for KidSport -- it was just hard to get the job done in less time than that. I also was taking a night class towards my masters every Thursday night. I volunteered to be a Brownie leader on Tuesday nights and a Beaver leader for the boys on Friday night. This left me with Monday and Wednesday nights -- one for a special thing with my kids, and one for me at University. I met with my "Support Team." The life coach, Mary-Ann and I had already met and had begun to set some goals. Michelle Cederberg was the fitness coach. She is cut from the same endless energy cloth as me, so we hit it off right away. My nutrition coach, Kelly Anne Carter Erdman is a colleague of mine and a 1992 cycling Olympian. She has a practical perspective on nutrition and it was clear that there would be no fad dieting and no binging! Verty is the clothing consultant and did my "colours" -- she'll come into play later to complete the transformation. Jarome is a well known hair stylist in Calgary -- can't wait to see what he'll do for the next photography shoot in January. Kelly Blackshaw agreed to do some fitness assessments.
The summary was that I am fit but my BMI (Body Mass Index -- a weight-to-height ratio) was too high. My per cent body fat was 33% -- an all time high for me. Even when I was very pregnant I weighed 188 at the most. My diet was actually okay when it came to meals -- except for a little too much starch at times -- but snacking was a big problem. My goals were to get some balance in my life: work a regular full-time job and have time with my family and a little time for me. Sounds easy but as week two rolled into three and into four I was back to my busy schedule and finding it hard to fit the "me" time in -- when I had free time it was for my family. I followed the nutritional plan to the "t" for the first two weeks, then stress and busyness got to me and I began to snack occasionally -- though less than before, I just couldn't stop snacking altogether. But eating more protein and having regular healthy snacks definitely helped me. By the end of the month I was down four pounds and was physically active five to six times a week.
I began to settle into a routine. I was scheduled to do an hour a day of physical activity and was finding it hard to find the time. So instead of beating myself up about it, I agreed to give myself a break and try to follow the fitness program as close as possible given my schedule. I did the best when I had a workout partner. If I was scheduled to meet someone I did -- if it was on my own it was easy to work or sleep instead.
One of the issues is my time of day to work out. I can only work out first thing in the morning, 6:30 -- 8 am and after 8 pm at night. I work during the day and I don't want to work out between 4 and 8 pm because that is my time with the kids. The time restriction was my biggest barrier to working out. I was managing to walk 2-3 times a week during lunchtime at school though.
Halloween was tough as I can't be trusted around a cupboard full of treats. I am weak and during the last few years Tim has had to hide the candy in his car until Halloween night -- because I couldn't stop myself from reaching in for "just one" which always turned into 10 or more mini treats. This year I didn't buy any candy until three days before Halloween and managed to keep the bag closed until then. This was a major feat of success for me. I congratulated my self by letting myself eat whatever treats I wanted to that night. To my surprise after four little chocolate bars I felt gross with the sugar. Wow, I thought, my tolerance had decreased. To celebrate that I let myself have a couple the next day and the next day and so on and so on. Within two weeks my tolerance and bad habit was back in full swing.
Tim went away for 10 days and I was still very busy with work -- when I was home, I was working. When I'd come home I would bring the kids downstairs and work in my office until 5:30. It wasn't easy for them. I would have calls to return and need to concentrate on some work and was always asking them to be quiet. Sometimes I would be frustrated and yell at them. It was unhappy for everyone. After the "witching hour" we'd go upstairs and have dinner and then do our night routine -- which brought some sanity and calmness back temporarily. After they went to bed, I might exercise once a week, but mostly I either worked or slept. I only lost another two pounds that month.
I was feeling pretty down, I was supposed to be on this program and making all of these changes to my life by exercising more and eating less. I had increased my exercising but not as much as I wanted and I was still binging. I decided it was time to 'fess up to my "TEAM."
Mary-Ann was encouraging me to cut out my consulting contract, since the 10 hours a week was actually 15 to 20. It wasn't just the hours, it's the stress and pressure of being responsible for the program and for helping the kids and the volunteers. I always put it first because -- well who wouldn't give up some of their time for a good cause? She also asked me to do something for myself. She was completely shocked when I couldn't even think of anything to do for myself by myself. Reading a book, having a bath, and journal writing were all I could come up with -- and those are luxuries I rarely take. I had a gift certificate for the local spa, which I haven't used in a year -- so we agreed on that. So I promised that I would do two things for myself by our next meeting and work on decreasing my hours.
I also called Kelly Anne and confessed to not following the nutritional plan because I was still snacking excessively. I asked her for some type of gradual withdrawal program. But, true to form, Kelly Anne wouldn't yield. She said a food addiction is something you have to learn to control. Food is needed for daily sustenance while other things that people get addicted to are not necessarily needed for basic survival. She said I was just going to have to control my urges; she gave me lots of helpful hints. Don't eat at your computer, because then you associate eating with work. Instead go sit at the table, eat and go back to work. Don't just grab a bag or box of food; instead try and pick a healthy choice and size out a small portion. Drink lots of water and chew gum to keep your mouth busy.
I felt much better for confessing!
My workout schedule, which was very ambitious, was revised. Michelle and I discussed the timetable we had set up and while it is still the ultimate goal -- I need more time to adjust to it. My work timetable was too hectic still and that exercise program was developed for someone with a more regular and consistent schedule, which I didn't have yet. We still met once a week and the sessions were as good for me mentally as physically. Michelle is motivating and knows that, since I am a former athlete, she can push me hard. I know how it feels to have the right weight and push through the repetitions.
By the end of the month I had a clear conscience and I had lost nine pounds in total! I had a long relaxing bath, instead of a hurried shower, and I wrote a little. But I didn't get to the spa!
I was feeling good and happy that I was making some progress -- 23 pounds to go! But oh my -- have you ever seen a school staff-room at the holidays? It is non-stop treats. I was good though. I ate the veggies and one treat only -- I was proud of my self control. By mid-December I actually lost another two pounds -- I was down to 166 pounds. Tim went away for 10 days for work and I was a single parent again. This time I was busy at night working. I wasn't snacking that much, but I didn't exercise as much as I wanted to.
We went to Vancouver the week of Christmas. I went for a brisk 7 km walk every second day and did a half-hour home exercise routine. I read a book and spent tons of time with the kids. I was feeling pretty good and managed to get lots of rest too. I was so proud of my loose jeans and making it through Christmas without being a little piggy, that I started to snack on December 26. I kind of snacked in between meals for the next four days so that by the time we got home on December 29 I was up three pounds to 169 pounds! But hey -- I'm okay with itâ€¦..I stayed in control for quite a while and I finally knew what it felt like to go for almost four weeks with some consistency.
New Year's Resolution -- to be me and be okay with it. As you can tell by now I "yo-yo" with my eating. So my realistic goal is not to stop yo-yoing altogether but to control it so the highs aren't so high and the lows aren't so low. I gave my notice to KidSport in December so I have one more crazy month and then I am just going to be teaching and doing some public speaking workshops occasionally for the Canadian Sport Centre. With more available time I will be able to exercise more and spend more thoughtful time on my menus! I love eating still but I must admit I crave more protein and veggies and savoury food now. I like to cook and when I actually have time to plan a grocery trip -- my whole week is better and I have better food choices planned.
So this last four months has been very tough -- I thought it would be easy and that I would slide right into the programâ€¦.but I have learned more about myself and my values and my ability to make choices. January will still be tough but I am on the right track and I have made a lot of progress since September. It has been challenging but I have been slowly moving along the road towards my goals. I need to celebrate what I HAVE done and learn from the challenges. I can do it!