I started gaining about 10 pounds a year until I hit a weight of 285 pounds in 2013. I love to travel and often had to worry if I could fit in a plane seat and had my own seat belt extender because it was embarrassing to ask for one. Daily struggles included trouble getting from a seated position to a standing position, my knees always hurting, and waking up in the morning thinking about what I would eat for the day and going to bed at night planning meals for the next day. Everything I did revolved around food.
There were two things that made me decide that I had to do something to change my lifestyle. One of the biggest was being diagnosed with a hereditary electrical heart condition. Even though it was electrical I began to realize that my weight and inactivity could exacerbate the condition because I could do actual damage. The other wake up call I had was when my husband had to reinforce the platform on the sail boat, so I could get on and off the boat. It was time to make a major change.
I tried many things at the beginning including Weight Watchers, delivered meal plans, and Atkins. Each time I would lose some weight only to gain it back with a few extra pounds. That’s when I decided to explore bariatric surgery. For any one that thinks this is “the easy way”. I guarantee you it is not. It was over a year of pre-op work including a no weight gain policy for the year+ of the pre-op. The pre-op included classes on nutrition, follow up with my primary care physician and a psychological consult. It also included a two-week pre-op diet of 1000 calories and 10 grams of fat max because most people who are morbidly obese have fatty liver disease and there is a risk of harming the liver during surgery if it doesn’t shrink before the day of surgery. There is a risk that the surgery would be canceled if the liver didn’t shrink.
I had the surgery in February of 2015 and the weight began to melt off, but it wasn’t without problems. It was painful and I was so tiered for over a month because it was hard to even get sips of fluids down. I started on one week of a liquid diet and then progressed to a week of soft and then ground meats only for two more weeks before gradually adding food. The recommendation was to get 60 grams of protein in a day and that was a challenge as I could only sip fluids and take one or two bites at time. It was a challenge.
Within two months into my post-op days I joined a couch to 5k with a friend and I didn’t stop. Exercise became a part of my daily routine from then on out. I got down to around 160 pounds and was strong and felt fantastic. I had confidence I hadn’t had before. I also started working with a trainer multiple times per week to gain more strength and tighten up my body after all the weight loss as I was carrying around a lot of extra "skin" & surgery to remove it was not an option. About a year later I found Body Essentials and started training and taking classes multiple times per week. After two years of hard work, progress and a wide variety of experiences I was presented with an opportunity to study to get certified as a personal trainer. I became certified with 4 months of study and later became certified in RaisedBarre in addition to earning a certification kettle bell training. I was strong health and happy. My joints didn’t hurt anymore. I even completed a Spartan race.
Now, 4 years into my surgery my eating habits began to slide. I saw old habits creep back and the weight began to creep up. As the weight creeped up it became harder to do the things I love so I stopped doing them, so the weighed creeped up. I hit over 200 pounds again. Not wanting to face it I ignored it and avoided things that made me face it. I am writing this today because one of the people I avoided made me face it. So, my journey begins again starting here and now. I am committing myself to remember everyday how good it felt to be strong healthy and happy and lose the excess weight that was causing my body and mind pain. I know it will not be easy but I have been given the tools I need so I have to use them. I am taking the time to focus on myself and my lifestyle. This includes taking time off from teaching and coaching fitness to others so I have the extra time for my own workouts. The bariatric surgery continues to prevent me from over eating but it doesn’t prevent me from eating the wrong foods. I have the best support system at Body Essentials, not only the trainers but also from the BE family. I am thankful I found them 3 years ago. Body Essentials gives me the guidance for proper nutrition, exercise and over all mental health and I know I will be successful with this next phase of my journey.
I know I am not alone in saying that I am sick and tired of the wet, cloudy weather that has followed up the gray and snowy weather. I do love the multiple seasons that make Vermont special but for the first time ever, I would take a sunnier and warmer location for living and working. Think about it, it is May, we have been in gray, wet and cold temperatures since at least November…..6 MONTHS! We have a shot at 4 months of warm and sunny weather with 2 more months that are a toss up. ARGH! Reality is that I am not moving anywhere sunnier soon and do not have the time to head to any land of palm trees, beaches, and sun filled sky every month in order to get my spirit and vitamin D recharged. If the same goes for you, then we need to some strategies to keep our Vermont loving gas tanks full so here are some of my favorite ways to stay in love with Vermont when you live with 22/30 days of rain in the month of April and limited sun thus far in May.
Sunnier Days are ahead (I hope) so don’t give up hope but do embrace the abundant opportunities we have in our great little state to enjoy on sunny, rainy, and snowy days before heading south or west to sunnier and warmer locations! The grass is not always greener elsewhere.
This post was written by a former team member in 2018 but my morning routine of over 2.5 years is still the forefront of well-being as a fitness professional and business owner. I cannot speak for everyone in the caregiving/service field but for I feel strongly that making a way of taking care of yourself first and an on an on-going basis when you spend your day helping and teaching others to do the same is at the center of being able to sustain oneself in the fitness business or any work related to caring for others PLUS why would anyone trust someone dispensing and educating on health and well-being if they do not appear to practice what they preach?! So ponder my level of craziness getting up now as early at 3:30am to keep sometime for myself each day.
Trainer Christie Garofano wakes up at 4 a.m., when the rest of the world is still in bed.
Ask her and she'll say it's the most critical part of her day.
In her profession, where she's constantly giving to everyone else, this is the time she gives to herself.
For the past 11 months, Christie has structured her mornings around what she learned in the book, The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.
Elrod teaches you to start your day with this routine called S.A.V.E.R.S.:
SILENCE (AKA Meditation)
Sit calm and peaceful. Breathe in and out slowly. Be in the present.
Remind yourself of how capable your are. Focus on what’s important to you and read positive affirmations out loud.
Close your eyes and visualize your daily goals, what it will feel like when you reach them. Imagine what your day will look like and then create it.
Get your heart rate up and get energized.
Read a self help book to learn a new tidbit or a new fact or to discover something new about yourself.
Write down what you’re grateful for - what you’re proud of - to put you in an empowered state of mind.
Christie heard the author speak at a business owner’s conference and she said it's changed her life.
“It means that I am giving to myself everyday prior to taking care of everybody else all day long as a trainer, coach and business owner,” she said. “It helps me focus and proceed mindfully into the day.”
This is what her S.A.V.E.R.S routine looks like, from start to finish:
4 a.m.-wake up (no alarm needed).
5-10 minutes - SILENCE-Christie mediates for 10-20 minutes.
2-3 minutes - AFFIRMATION Christie uses the ThinkUp app on her phone which has a selection of pre-recorded affirmations. It also allows you to pre-record your own affirmations.
2-3 minutes - VISUALIZATION-Christie visualizes what the day will look like.
25-35 minutes-EXERCISE-Christie walks her dog for 1-1/2 miles if she’s not doing a strength training routine or yoga.
20-30 minutes -READ- Christie is currently reading
1 minute -SCRIBE-Christie writes in an online journal with the app Stigma. (in addition to noting daily gratitude handwritten (lost art) in a journal) The app is handy because it limits journal entries to 200 characters. It also allows you to rate how you’re feeling.
There you have it. Who's ready to give it a try? If you feel like you need to freshen up your daily routine or just feel like you would like to increase the meaning in your life, week, and day, I highly suggest this book and routine. Soon after I read the book the author was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer with a very low survival rate. He fought the cancer and is alive and thriving today…...perhaps due to the high quality of life and daily practice of SAVERS and the value it brings into the rest of his day and overall well-being. Exercise is not the only tool in our box of health and well-being. Weaving in practices that keep our mindset as strong as our fitness are as equally important to stay resilient to life’s challenges.
My husband and I have been together for almost 9 years. Before we met I had never had a dog as a pet. As our 9 years have progressed so has my relationship with our now 14-year-old Australian Shepard Austin. I do not know much about the development of dogs but Austin was 5 when I first met him and he jumped all the time and I was not crazy about that but I suppose he was just a kid at that point but perhaps old enough to know better. Nonetheless he has grown into a faithful friend whose best day is every minute of each day. Recently I got thinking all the great correlations I can make to the four pillars of health and what dogs can teach us. So keep reading.
What do I mean by the pillars of health? The four critical pillars of health that inter-weave with one another to create a truly healthy life includes: Exercise, nutrition, sleep, and stress management. As a fitness professional I do not like to say that nutrition is probably the most important but in this day and age with a growing obesity issue and sky rocketing diabetes crisis, nutrition is far and away the best way to decrease side effects of obesity and diabetes. At a time where sitting is considered the new smoking, a physically active lifestyle comes in a close 2nd place for helping us live a long vigorous life free of disease and rich in preventative measures against age and lifestyle related health complications like falls, fractures and joint replacements! A variety of unhealthy sleep patterns prevent us from benefitting from good nutrition and exercise practices and an inability to bounce back and actively manage stressful life events and day-to-day stressors can undo the other three patterns more than we like to believe. So what do dogs have to do with all of this? And where do cats fit into this post? Keep reading!
On dogs and the pillars of health:
Ok so what about the cats? Well first, I lost my cat of 10+ years in March of 2018. Target was a great companion and similar to Austin would meet me at the door many days when I came home from work. It took me over a year to feel ok with the absence of her temperamental presence. Cats are like humans when it comes to caring for our health, consistently inconsistent. Cats (especially indoor cats) seem to be put out by exercise including walking to the food bowl or litter box. I mentioned earlier that Target lived on the 2nd floor of our house for almost two years to the day but once she finally stood her ground and told Austin to cut it out, we were unable to successfully transition her litter box to the basement. That was apparently too many stairs to take multiple times each day. Cats are finicky about their nutrition and as Target got older she got fussier with her food selection. Cats are not as resilient to the stress they have (in our case Target’s stress to old age and failing health and still being annoyed by the dog). And finally, cats sleep so much, they do nothing else except find other locations to hide and sleep so their canine and human counterparts will leave them alone!!!!!!