One of the things I LOVE about being part of Strong is the New Skinny is all the incredible people I get to meet. My new friend Linda McFeeters just happened to post on SINS about her training goals and a bunch of weight she lost. I can be pretty impulsive at times and I just reached out to Linda and asked if she wanted to tell her story in a guest post. I just KNEW it was a good one. It was a gut feeling. Linda didn’t disappoint! Here’s an incredibly inspiring story from a strong woman who has seen, heard and felt stuff that ALL of us have at one time or another. Here’s what SHE chose to do with it… -Adam
I never knew I was fat until the first day of kindergarten…
Until kindergarten I was perfect in my little world. I was adored. The very first day of school my little world got blown apart.
I remember what I was wearing. Now, let’s remember it was the 60’s! An a-line dress in a geometric print of orange, yellow, blue and green with a peter pan collar, sewn by my mother, and orange fishnet stockings. All the children sat cross legged on the floor around the piano bench where our teacher sat. A hole sprang up in my stockings….my ‘pudge’ squished out between the bits of fishnet…the hole got bigger and more of the fat on my legs pushed through. Then I could sense it. The heads turning to look. The furtive glances between my new ‘friends’. The giggles hidden behind tiny hands. I stayed inside the cloak room during recess, trying to push my fat back into the stockings to no avail. I hated my fat legs.
I still do.
I learned through the years that to be accepted, and fat (because that is truly what it is although we politely use words like chunky, husky, big girl, large) you better have one hell of a good personality. I learned to be the fun one, the understanding one, the smart one, the kind one. And I learned how to work my way around being the fat girl. But through every year there was always at least one…and sometimes many….who called me names…loudly….in the hall, on the bus, out passing vehicle windows, behind my back and to my face. I never let them see me flinch. That was saved for my heart, my soul…deep inside.
There were years of diets. Fad foods. Needles, ‘vitamins’, pee-sticks, baked white fish and steamed celery. Cabbage and grapefruit. The lists are endless. Many worked for awhile but always the weight would come back on and always more than before. With baby Number 1 I gained 40lbs that never went away. Along came baby number 2 and another 25lbs that never got lost. From that point on it just kept coming back on.higher and higher… Eventually I weighed in at my heaviest ‘known’ weight – 306 lbs.
Walk until I can’t think anymore or can’t move anymore…
At a very low point in my life, and after being diagnosed with severely high blood pressure, I laid on the couch one night, a big glass of wine beside me, my hand dipping back and forth from chip bag to mouth and I thought to myself “I could die like this. This is how I could end up killing myself. If I don’t stop doing this I AM going to die…or … I could get up and walk on that treadmill in the corner…walk until I either can’t think anymore or can’t move anymore”. So I got up and got on that machine. I walked and walked, cried and cried and walked some more. I walked until I couldn’t walk anymore. Eventually I realized that my time spent moving helped clear my head. Made me feel better….happier. Within a few months of that, I started getting up before daylight and walking outside..in the dark..so no one would see me and make fun. As the season changed, daylight came earlier and I found people waving at me as they drove by – not making fun of me. My confidence increased. I met people on my road that I had never spoken to before. As I walked and felt better about myself, I began to watch what I was eating and over the course of the summer I lost 40lbs.
Then I moved houses. And then I stopped walking. The fear of new people in my neighbourhood kept me inside. Again fearful. Again the weight crept up. A year into my new home, for some strange reason that still evades me, I signed up to walk a marathon. A huge public event. No small feat to be taken lightly. I garnered my only friend I had at that time who was ‘into fitness’ to walk with me and to meet up every Sunday to train for the long distance that was in our future. We trained for this from December to March…the worst part of the year here in southern Ontario. We walked through rain, sleet, hard snow, ice, soft fluffy snow….we found every public bathroom there was to find!
I couldn’t find snow pants to fit my size 28 body…
I couldn’t find snow pants to fit my size 28 body so I walked in two pairs of the loosest track pants I could find, with a long raincoat to cover my butt – to spare anyone driving by with all the jiggling and wiggling. I struggled to even stay within eye sight of my fit and thin friend. I kept up a steady stream of self-talk for hours on end to get myself through those days. There were lots of negative thoughts to be pushed away with ‘just one step at a time’ thoughts. There were days that I would come home to stand in a hot shower and cry my heart out. Who was I to think that I could do something like this? I was a loser. I was fat. I was a big fake with none of this so-called self-confidence. Loser. Fat. Ugly. Those words kept playing over and over in my head. I was breaking my own heart. But somewhere inside me, I would not give up. I kept heading out for my training walks eventually getting up to over 55km in one week.
The day of the race came, there were thousands signed up for this…and me. Fat Linda. I walked. I walked and walked. Head down, one foot in front of the other. At the 18 kilometre mark I was looking for a way off the course – but couldn’t find any! What the heck? Shouldn’t there be buses standing by to pick up those who couldn’t finish? If there were, I didn’t see them. And I was not about to approach someone at a drink station, the fat girl, to see how I could get out of this thing. So, on I trudged. I felt every ounce of my weight working against me. I was passed by almost 7000 spandexed bums. I crossed the electronic finish line 5 hours and 25 minutes later. My friends…my crowd…went wild! I cried. I’m crying as I remember this moment.
This was the exact moment that changed my life…
I was never so proud of myself in my life. True, honest pride. Amazement. Self-knowledge. My heart knew I could do it. It only had to prove it to me.
Since then, virtually nothing has stood in my way to be a healthier me. This is what this journey has been about. Not about being ‘thin’. Not about seeing a certain number on the scale. Not about fitting into a certain size. I read everything I could get my hands on about nutrition. I listened to my body. What made it feel good. What made it feel too good. What was the difference? Well anything that is too good – probably is too good to be true. I dropped the ‘too good’s’ from my diet and like an apple falling from a tree, my weight fell … Fat Linda began her journey of disappearance.
As I carried on with my fitness I felt the need to attach myself, yet again, to ‘something’. I needed a goal. One evening I was following one click to another on the internet and I came across a bodybuilding site. I was looking for ‘Motivations’ and along came this story of a woman who went from being obese to being in a bodybuilding competition at the age of 50. I had never even known anything about bodybuilding at the time. Bunch of ‘muscle bound dick heads’ is all I associated bodies like that with! The minute I read that article I knew this was IT! This is what I was going to do!
That would be me someday!
I found a bodybuilding trainer in my area and with all the fake courage I could muster I met her and signed on! Over the next 2 ½ years I gave my all to my coach, my training, my nutrition and I lost, shed, pee’d out….over 150 lbs. I carved a body that I truly never knew existed.
With a laser like focus I did not waiver from my nutrition or my training. I learned to eat, and like, foods that I never ate before. I learned to love the feel of aching muscles. To laugh when my muscles failed me at the end of a gruelling set. To grit my teeth and ‘suck it up’ when all I wanted to do was puke or cry – and sometimes both.
I was too intimidated by ‘fit’ people to workout in a gym, so I built a gym in my home. Nothing got in my way. I had lose skin from losing so much weight and at my age, it was not about to spring back to anything resembling ‘youth’! So I had a full body lift where I was cut completely around my body, the skin pulled up, cut off and re-joined. I had an inner thigh lift as well. Nothing got in my way. I began official competition training 8 weeks after the surgery and 20 weeks out from the competition date. I had all kinds of people tell me that I was ‘too skinny’. I now had people judging me again for the way my body looked. Men stared. Women scowled. And yet, among people who ‘live the lifestyle’, I found acceptance, admiration and support.
When I told people that I was going into a ‘bodybuilding’ competition I had a lot of negative feedback. Everyone thought I would turn into a hulking male-like figure. “You don’t want to look like that!” I could not believe that they didn’t see what I did. The discipline. The drive. The guts. Female bodybuilders do not have to be ‘men with boobs’! I came onstage with no sparkles (and believe me, I live for sparkles!) and no heels – but I was still all about the hair and makeup, lashes and nails. I posed with female flair and hard-ass confidence. That being said, I didn’t not win and I did not expect to. My body will never be completely acceptable in this industry – there has been too much of a lifetime of stretched skin. But I was very successful in being a FEMALE bodybuilder … in bringing every ounce of estrogen that is me into a perceived male dominion. Even within the ‘industry’, female bodybuilding has fewer competitions, less categories, less press. It frustrates me to get excited about an upcoming show only to find out there is no female BB. We need more women willing to kick off their heels and come to the pose-down!
But I’m just the fat chick. Who’s going to listen to me
I am now in training for power lifting. I want to further strengthen my body. I want to build my inner grit along with my outward muscle. I am on a quest to forever challenge my body, my mind and my self belief. I have gone from seeking acceptance to being a role model. And once again, I have signed up for the marathon this year. I have come full circle and am so excited to find out what the next chapter of this fabulous life will bring me!
There is no easy way to go from being obese to being fit. There is no magic. I am not going to tell you anything foolish or foofie! There is only one way to get from being heavy to lifting heavy and that is one day at a time, one pound at a time…one heartbeat at time.
This is what I believe in. This is what I live. This is my journey.