I immediately loved Nadia upon first meeting her back in January 2011. She is the kind of woman that radiates warmth and kindness. She enters the room like a tornado, but always bringing laughter and happiness along with her. I always knew when she was in the gym—she’s not quiet—and I looked forward to talking with her each time she came to work out. I would often chat with her after her sessions with Megan, and I became her substitute trainer on the days when Megan was out. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that Nadia was a bit lost. Nadia is as open and honest as they come, and as a trainer, this is a dream come true. It’s a lot easier to tap into a person’s motivation when you know what’s going on inside their head. The usual rules didn’t apply with Nadia though, and I knew it was going to take a special approach to get her healthy again.
When Nadia officially became my client in the fall of 2011, I wasted no time introducing her to a new way of training. Nadia had a lot of excess anxious energy, and I knew if I could figure out how to get her to move in ways that would allow her to expend this energy, she would have happier and more productive days. It turned out that the answer was quite simple: Nadia just needed to run. We began running together several days per week—not fast and not far—but boy, it was effective. The combination of our runs and her time with Team in Training made the pounds just fly off. She was literally shrinking before my eyes. I remember the day she whirled into the gym, still wearing her pants from work, and I couldn’t help but laugh because it looked like she was borrowing her husband’s pants—they were about 4 sizes too big for her!
Don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t easy for her, as it’s never easy for anyone to make a transformation like this. For Nadia, the key was developing different habits. When she was stressed or anxious, I encouraged her to workout. Rather than eating two large meals each day, I encouraged her to eat small “meals.” I encouraged her to stop drinking alcohol while she was trying to lose weight. I encouraged her to move more often and at a higher intensity. There were some tough days in the journey…One day she showed up to work out with me and informed me that she had just eaten a full order of Pad Thai noodles about an hour before she came to the gym. While I had originally planned for us to a fun cardio circuit that day, I decided to switch things up. I put her on the treadmill for an interval run. She wasn’t happy, but she made it through the workout AND she never ate Pad Thai before one of our sessions ever again.
Never one for fibbing or fudging the truth, Nadia made my job a lot easier. When she had a week where she didn’t lose weight, we always knew why. Crossing the finish line at the US Half Marathon with Nadia in April 2012 was perhaps the proudest moment of my career as a trainer. Nadia ran the entire race, and improved upon her time from the November race by an hour. I had seen her transform in just six months. She was calmer, happier, and more focused and motivated than I had ever seen her. She was in her zone.
Nadia will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m so proud of her and I know that she’s going to continue to work towards her goals. Nadia, you are a wonderful woman, and I love you!
Here’s what Nadia had to say about her journey…
My relationship with Elisabeth started at the 24 Hour Fitness (24) in San Francisco, CA. One day, after several months of long overdue therapy for anxiety and depression, I finally walked into 24 to get back into a fitness routine. I was at the heaviest I had ever been in my life at 60 pounds overweight. I had recovered from a broken toe and associated blood clot, and was trying to get over my fear of going to the gym. Megan, the head trainer at 24 initially took me on as her client. She was fun and energetic, and just what I needed to motivate me to exercise regularly. She introduced me to the other trainers, and eventually I also became friends with Elisabeth.
Megan and Elisabeth would often work together to encourage my fitness goals, and Elisabeth even worked out with me a few times when Megan was sick or out of town. We initially connected over my efforts to train for the Nike Women’s ½ marathon with Team in Training, because she also was an avid “marathoner”, and I remember coming into the gym sometimes to see Elisabeth coming back from an 8 mile run like it was a five minute walk. I was always in awe.
At some point, Megan had decided to relocate back to her home state. The strength training and rehab I had done with Megan significantly improved my muscle tone and stamina, and helped “cure” my chronic low back pain. I could tell when I was training for the ½ marathon that the hills kept getting easier and easier. I was devastated that Megan left and worried I’d never reach my goals. While I had made a lot of progress and was regularly working out, I had only lost about 10 pounds and knew I had a long journey ahead of me. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise that I was able to start training full time with Elisabeth.
I soon discovered that Elisabeth understood at a personal level my dilemmas in battling anxiety, depression, and weight issues. I had success in the past with the Weight Watchers program, and since she used the system herself when she struggled with weight loss in the past (believe it or not!), we had an instant connection about diet and nutrition concepts. She encouraged me to go back on that system, counseled me to refrain from drinking alcohol and explore switching my medication, which she had seen seemed to cause other clients to have difficulty losing weight as well. I also learned I was gluten intolerant, and she already had recipes and resources based on the “paleo diet” that was compatible with my need to avoid wheat. With a combination of eating better, and increased cardio workouts that Elisabeth added to my routine, I lost 40 pounds!
My most memorable time with Elisabeth is when she convinced me to participate with her in the US Half marathon only a month after having walked my first half marathon. While we were halfway through the race on the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, I discovered I had exercise-induced asthma. She saved my life by making me stop and told me how to regain my breath. She turned me around early, and stuck with me until we finished in just over 3 hours, even though she could have run the entire race in half the time it took us to complete. Apparently, I had never worked hard enough to realize I had this issue. From that point on, she resolved to run with me until I could train to finish it successfully under 3 hours. And we did—on Easter Sunday April 2012, she ran the US Half Marathon with me—to the finish line, in 2hrs 40 minutes! She was also a great sport and wore the bunny ears I brought for her.
I was devastated (again!) when she also had to leave 24 and move to Missouri with her husband in the Army. Elisabeth, like Megan, had become more than just my trainer and running buddy. She was an amazing counselor and most of all a good friend. Recently, I had the opportunity to see Elisabeth again at Megan’s wedding — she continued to express concern over my health, especially since she knew I had started struggling again after she left. I was touched to know that she is there for me even through the distance, and I have consulted with her whenever I am having difficulties. I know I will always meet my fitness goals with the support of Elisabeth and Battle Buddy Fitness! Elisabeth is a very special lady, and I am honored to have worked with the most talented personal trainer on the planet.
I’ve told my story of transformation many times before, but this time is different. This time I have PHOTOS to prove it. I’ve kept these “before” photos locked in a deep, dark dungeon for 3 ½ years now. I think only my mom and one of my closest friends have seen these photos, and now I am sharing them with the cyber-world. I have high hopes that by posting these photos along with my story, it will lend me a little credibility. I want you all to see that I once was in a very sad, dark place, and they always say that “a picture is worth a thousand words…” So, here’s hoping that’s true.
Over the past few days, I have spent many hours going through my old photos. I finally organized them nicely into properly named folders on my laptop, and I’ve even started making photobooks on Shutterfly. Part of the problem with photos being all digital now, is that I never end up doing anything with my photos. I haven’t put together a good photobook since we moved to San Francisco in 2010, so it’s high time that I find a nice home for all those awesome photos from the last 2 years.
While organizing and reviewing my photos from the last 6 years of my life, I was able to look at how my appearance has changed—most notably, my body. I hadn’t looked at photos from my heavier days in quite some time, and I was ASTONISHED. I hardly even recognize the person in those photos. It brought back so many memories of that period in my life, many of them unpleasant. But it also gave me cause for much celebration and pride, seeing how far I’ve come in the past 3 ½ years, and how many changes I’ve made not just to my body, but to my life in general.
I struggled for so long to find balance. I was either “on the wagon,” or I was, “off the wagon,” and at any given time, I was ten pounds up or down. It was SO frustrating and I knew that it wasn’t good for my mind or my body. When I was gaining weight I would berate myself for eating too much, and instead of exercising, I would take a nap to try and forget about it. When I was losing weight, I was obsessed and could literally think of nothing else other than what I was eating and how much exercise I was getting in each day. Both ends of the spectrum were exhausting, and at the time, it was a very private struggle. This struggle to find balance went on for many years—all the way through college and eventually it led to my 50 pound weight gain in 2008.
With regard to our weight, it’s so easy to lose perspective—no matter what direction the weight is going in—up or down. Even though I gained my weight at a rapidly steady 2-3 pounds per week, I quickly lost perspective of just how much weight I had gained. Sure, I knew my pants were tight, and I knew that I had to go to WalMart and buy new jeans two times in two months, but somehow I was able to justify it in my mind for one reason or another. I had taken a couple of really awesome photos with Moose (back then, she was just a teeny puppy) when I was feeling really fit, and I should have pulled one of those photos out to give myself a little perspective…but I didn’t. I just kept on gaining and gaining until I walked past a restaurant window one morning, and literally didn’t even recognize my reflection.
I was tired all the time, I lost my breath simply walking up the small flight of stairs in our cabin, wait for it…I got STUCK on a waterslide. Yep. I’ve never told anyone other than my husband about this, but it happened. I still don’t understand exactly how it happened, but I was definitely stuck on that waterslide and my husband definitely flew up and over me as I sat there scooting my large butt to the next drop off. It’s laughable now, but I sort of wanted to die at the time. I avoided seeing people I knew. I am a person that thrives on socializing and having fun activities to look forward to—instead, I thrived on when and where I was getting my next snack.
After I stopped striving to be fit in order to look good, finding balance was much easier. Being fit and healthy is the BEST feeling in the world. Knowing that I can run from one end of a city to the other is comforting (especially when I can’t flag a taxi at the end of a long night). Training for endurance events and completing them is a source of incredible pride for me, and it keeps me motivated on those days when I want to regress and eat mashed potatoes in front of the television. It feels so good to know that my blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, and all those other things are all in a healthy range. I have more energy than I’ve ever had, and I am able to fully enjoy my life with my friends and loved ones. Being overweight was like living under a cloud, which did not allow me to enjoy life unless I was eating or drinking.
Finding and keeping balance is always going to be a struggle, but I feel like I’ve finally got a handle on it. As I sit here typing, I am on vacation in Wisconsin with my husband and his family, and I am sipping on a delicious Belgian beer. In fact, I’ve had a couple of these Belgian beers this week…It’s not something I do every day of the year, but I went for a run today and I skied the last two days, and I am on vacation, so I am going to kick back and relax. I’m not going to obsess about it, because I know that after I relax for a bit, I am able to hit the ground running (literally) even harder.
I am now a firm believer in hanging on to a few key photos of yourself, no matter where you are in your transformation journey. Keep a couple of photos of yourself when you were at your heaviest. If you’re anything like me, it’s hard to find those photos, but dig them out and dust off the cobwebs. Celebrate your victories, however big or small. Each day that you get out there and live the healthiest version of yourself, be sure to give yourself praise. It’s not an easy choice, but it always pays off.
Make 2013 YOUR year to shine. Become the healthiest version of yourself that you can. Take baby steps towards your larger goals. Try and keep perspective. Glance at those old photos every now and again to see how far you’ve come, or where you’d like to go. Celebrate your victories. Life’s tough enough, don’t be so hard on yourself.
Enjoy the holiday with your family and friends and get excited for the New Year…I have a feeling it’s gonna be your best year ever.