Thursday, July 22, 2010

Powerful Words

"Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you"

I am standing in line with my classmates waiting for the school nurse to measure our heights and to weigh us.  I am in the fifth grade in Baltimore, Maryland.   I am oblivious to what is being said or not said to the kids ahead of me as they are weighed, measured and recorded until it is my turn.  I don't know what changed at that moment, and maybe nothing did, but that exact moment is forever locked in my memory.  I step up on the scale without fear or concern totally unaware of how my life will change, perhaps forever.

It is an ordinary day in elementary school. The same kind of day we had everyday.  I have lots of friends, love school (especially the school nurse), and think the whole idea of going to the nurse for these measurements is weird, but just another part of another day.  It is fun to get out of class for a while regardless of the reason.  So we all stand in the line and wait.

It is  my turn.  I step up on the scale without a care in the world and then my day comes crashing down around me.  The nurse has just said my weight OUT LOUD - 135 pounds.  My friends are laughing!  I can't believe she just said my weight OUT LOUD.  More laughter.  Are they laughing at me?  Why are they laughing at me?  I don't remember hearing anyone elses weight as they were weighed.  Why did she have to say mine so loud?  I am ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated, and intimately aware that for some reason what the nurse had said that day mattered even though I didn't understand why.

My day went on but it was no longer ordinary.  I found out I was the heaviest of the girls and the boys.  I felt different.  My friends were different.  I was different.  What I weighed apparently mattered.  I finished out the day but don't remember much of it.  When I got home my mom was there and so were my brothers but I didn't tell anyone what had happened.  I didn't want to talk about it.  The one thing I do know for sure about that afternoon was I immediately found something to eat, took it into my bedroom, closed my door  and ate hoping to feel better.

"Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you"

I am a full time elementary school nurse.   I am required by the state to record heights and weights as well as calculate BMIs on all third and fifth grade students.  I am not the school nurse who recorded MY measurements in the fifth grade.  I bring small groups of same sex students to my office, weigh and measure them silently, recording their numbers myself before showing them to the individual students.  I am occasionally surprised by the students who readily share their numbers with others but also acutely aware of the student who says, "I'm not telling" when asked by another student what they weighed or how tall they were.

My battle with my weight continued until I reached my all time high of 376 pounds at 5 feet 6 inches tall.  I joined Weight Watchers and began exercising first at home and then at the YMCA and have reached my goal weight having lost 196.6 pounds.

I have gone full circle.  Did the school nurse say all of the other student' heights and measurements out loud - probably.  Was the laughter after my weight was announced related to my weight?  I will never know, but what is important is I believed it was.

"Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hill Warning

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." -Loa Tzu

In September 2009 I began a training program which would hopefully prepare me to walk the 13.1 miles needed to complete a half marathon. My husband and daughter are both runners and I have watched both of them prepare and successfully complete both marathons and half marathons. I have been impressed with their determination but intimidated by the amount of training that must be done in order to be successful and injury free. After a great deal of thought I registered for a half marathon, made a commitment to stick to the training schedule, and tried to ignore the voices screaming in my head which repeatedly shouted, "Hello, are you crazy?"

I am a full time elementary school nurse, teach water aerobics 3 days a week, take a Zumba class 2 days a week in addition to a step/sculpt class 2 days a week. I have lost 196.6 pounds without surgery (thank you Weight Watchers), and have two knees which are bone on bone. I am 55 years old. I thought the voices in my head were correct-I was crazy to even think about this!

When I first began my weight loss journey the only exercise I could do was walk. I lived in a community which valued their "green spaces" and had laid out miles of marked walking trails. These paved trails meandered along a stream and continued through the downtown city area into the neighboring town. The trails were always in use and while they did have lengths of flat trail there were many changes in direction as well as elevation. My son frequently walked with me. We used the walk as a time to review spelling words, study for tests and quizzes and just to catch up on the days activites. Lugging an extra 200 pounds while "just walking" was an effort but facing an uphill grade was always a challenge. I demanded a "hill warning" anytime an incline approached no matter how slight it might be. As my weight came down and my fitness level increased I no longer needed a "hill warning" when faced with an incline but the habit stuck, and so even though it was no longer necessary, I still got my "hill warning."

As I faced the commitment I had made to walk a half marathon I was confronted with the need for a training program. I carefully searched the internet for a training program aimed at walking a half marathon and selected one by Hal Higdon. It was a 12 week program which required walking 5 days per week with the long walks on Sunday. It looked like it would work well for me. The program indicated when you were done you would be a "fitness walker." I did follow Hal Higdon's training program religiously and even managed to squeeze in helping the State Health Department with after hours H1N1 immunizations aimed at the children of South Carolina in addition to maintaining my regular exercise regime and full time school nurse job. On December 10, 2009 I successfully completed my first half marathon in 3:28. As I rounded the corner and headed toward the finish line I realized there was nothing I could not accomplish if I prepared well and was determined. I have since walked another half marathon, this time in the rain from start to finish. My time wasn't as good and I was a bit more beaten up but I was, as a good friend says, upright and breathing as I crossed the finish line.

Life is full of "hill warnings." They are the challenges you face every day that cause you to pause and evaluate. Beating the hill is about good preparation, believing in your abilities, having faith and plain old determination. I now know I will not be afraid to face the hill and climb it. I may be slow, I may reach the other side a bit beaten up but as long as I am upright and breathing as I reach level ground I will be just fine!

Hill Warning!