October 2015, I celebrated my 39th birthday, the final year of my thirties. As I got older, birthdays became a yearly reminder for a health checkup. Even with the reminder, I skipped several checkups – four to be exact. I thought the appointments during my pregnancies were enough as a ‘health check’. Plus it felt as though I was in and out of the doctor’s office for the kids’ own appointments.
No big deal I figured. I was at an okay weight. Sure I could lose a few pounds, but it was the least of my worries. And I rarely got sick. It would be another normal checkup with a clean bill of health or so I thought…
I had a comprehensive blood test done to include lipids (cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides) and glucose levels (fasting, A1C). You could imagine my shock when I read the results. Triglyceride level was almost triple the level I had four years ago! Hemoglobin A1C – the average glucose levels in your blood for the past two to three months – was only .1% from being diagnosed as prediabetes!!!
How could this happen? I’ve been active as a runner – the previous year I trained and finished the NYC Marathon 2014 and I recently ran the Marine Corps Marathon. In my head it played out that as long as I ran, I would be fine. I guess I was trying to outrun a nutrient-deficient diet.
When my daughters were born, it was one of the happiest moments in my life. But let’s face it, a mother’s role is stressful. The way I handled stress was to consume food and the perfect time for me was late at night when the girls were finally in bed. Stress coupled with exhaustion translated to snacking for comfort. Sugar was my friend. I relied on running to burn off the calories but it wasn’t enough. My body was already conditioned to run long distances as I’ve done it for many years. I dismissed strength training as a way to build muscle and help with fat loss. And I needed to find another outlet to reduce stress. It was truly a wake-up call that required action.
Below is a photo of me taken the summer of 2015, weighing less than 110 pounds. As you can see most of my weight settled around my waist. Apparently, when the capacity of the liver for glucose storage is full, the liver converts the extra glucose into fat. The fat finds it way to your belly as it did in mine. This is why my triglycerides were high. The result of excess sugar converted to fat. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any issues with body image. In fact, I accepted this as a fate of becoming a mom giving natural birth to two children. That was my story then until I found out the real cause behind my fat gain.
Fast forward to October 2016 when I celebrated the milestone age of 40!!! So many things can happen in one year. When I first found out about my health risk, I decided a CHANGE was non-negotiable. And it had to be a lifestyle change because I cannot regress to my old eating habits. Otherwise, I would follow the path towards Type 2 diabetes. The thing about change is it’s difficult and can get complicated at times. I armed myself with the awareness and knowledge to help me get through tough times. Buried in books, podcasts, online articles – as much information I could handle, I researched and applied different approaches to refine the way I eat, move, sleep, and handle stress. It certainly paid off. My blood profile is back to normal, I have more energy and feel stronger than ever. I think I may be in the best shape of my life!
The road continues to wind with peaks and valleys but the journey has been worthwhile. Out of this experience, I realized I wanted to share it with others, in hopes my story will bring awareness to another person’s life. I understand we reach a point in our lives when we tend to focus more on other things besides our health. Unfortunately, when we abandon our health, it can tremendously impact our way of life. The good news is it’s never too late to change our behavior. The human body has an incredible capacity to bounce back when we take the time to nurture it. I am just one example.
Are you someone who realized a change was necessary in your life to take back your health? Have you taken a journey of transformation?
Or is something holding you back to FOCUS on your HEALTH? What type of outcome will change your mindset?