Hello lovelies, 

You just need to know, this will not be like any other “Health and Wellness” anything else you’ve ever followed. I will explore a lot of the traditional health and wellness aspects like workout routines, new exercises, meal plans, etc. But I will also explore mental wellness, caring for our bodies through beauty routines and building self confidence. I will also talk about educational topics. Because this is going to be a truly holistic approach to health and wellness.

My Story

I am a little hesitant, yet also excited, to share with you my health and wellness journey. Why am I excited? Despite what people may see in my pictures, health and fitness have been a huge part of my life ever since I hit puberty.  Puberty is when I went from being a thin and fit young girl to being what the teenagers now call thicc. I remember vividly in fourth grade my mom getting a call from my principal to ask her to take me bra shopping. I was completely mortified. No training bras for this girl! I started out as a B cup.

The Early Years

I remember at 12, my mom joking that I was her answer to Honey I Blew Up The Kids. She would talk about how I went from 12 to 21 overnight. I was almost 6 feet tall and a D cup. 

I remember in 8th grade in the gym locker room listening to my peers talking about how they couldn’t believe how fat they were. They were 93 lbs. Hearing that, I thought I must be so fat because I couldn’t remember ever being under 100 lbs. I also remember obsessing about my weight  but never thinking about my height. In 8th grade, I was six feet tall. The girls around me complaining about their weight were maybe five feet if they were lucky. but I didn’t see that.

I remember in 9th grade health when we were learning about anorexia, and realizing that I hit two of the three marks for concern. I also was horrified when I calculated up my calories and realized I was consuming less than 1,200 a day, which, according to my health book, was less than my brain needed to function.

Looking back at pictures I realize that I wasn’t fat. I was curvy. I was shapely. I wasn’t as thin as The girls next to me. But I wasn’t fat. Those early years really damaged my self-esteem. I remember trying every fad diet on the planet, including the cabbage diet. I still can only eat cabbage and bananas on a rare Blue Moon. 

I was way taller than most of my peers and so that made me feel huge in all ways, not just being tall.

At 17 thinking that no one would want to go to prom with me because I was so unattractive and asking a guy I knew who had homeschooled, hoping that he would say yes just because he didn’t get to go to prom otherwise.

Learning to Love Myself Again

I think somewhere around 18 or 19, I began to accept that it was okay to be what we now call fat and fit. Back then we didn’t have a term for it. My heart was healthy and I was very active (thought I had a doctor tell me that I shouldn’t run as my frame was too small to handle the weight. I didn’t like running anyway, so it was no skin off my nose.) 

While some of my peers were being diagnosed with diabetes, I was in regular numbers for everything. I worked out 2 to 4 hours a day, and I ate extremely healthy. I began looking in the mirror every day and telling myself that I was fat and beautiful. I was fat and healthy. If the world couldn’t handle how amazing I was, that was on them. 

And that attitude has carried me well into my thirties. even as the scale climbed and I found myself 50, 75, 100 lbs overweight. Despite being morbidly obese every doctor I ever saw was shocked by how great my numbers were. No diabetes or prediabetes here, o high blood pressure, no cholesterol concerns. I was fat and fit and I just had to accept it.

Seven years ago we moved to Salt Lake and for the first time I dropped nearly 50 lb without even trying. I truly felt fat and fit for the first time. I wasn’t always tired, I felt good when I looked in the mirror, but because of things that were going on in my life, I was far from happy. To this day I can’t tell you why I lost that weight. My best guess is because we moved back to the mountain air and the higher elevation. While that often causes difficulty for others who aren’t used to it, for me it was coming home. It was coming back to my natural environment. It wasn’t quite Montana but it was Montana adjacent.

No Longer Fat and Fit

But stress, life, a new job, and dealing with a recently diagnosed special needs kid slowed my life down. I was in an office job where I sat most of the day, and when I got home I was cleaning house picking up after everybody, making dinner and then crashing in bed. There was no time for working out. I gained 25 lbs back.  I can’t even find photos of this time in our life because I would hide behind people or avoid cameras

I resolved that I was going to do things differently and started walking during my breaks at work, started adding in HIIT training while I was making dinner and cleaning the house. For the first time ever, I had elevated blood pressure. My doctor assured me that it was extraordinarily good for as heavy as I was, but I wasn’t okay with it. I realized that for the first time in our marriage we were eating out two or three times a week because both of us were working 40 + hours a week and there wasn’t anyone home to cook. While I tried to make changes to this unfortunate routine I had developed, nothing seems to help as slowly the scale crept up another 10 lb. Stress and conflicts in dealing with our special needs kid left me to drained to do my workouts. While we were making more money than ever, constantly having to miss work to help our kid left us no time for vacation. Fighting about food just wasn’t worth it so we continued to eat out.

Health Issues Creep In

In 2016 I had my first back surgery. I’ve had issues with sciatica off and on ever since my youngest son was born in 2004. We were poor and working on getting our college degrees. As we only had medicaid didn’t I never went to the doctor. I was under the impression that sciatica was just nerve pain caused by being obese and I did stretching exercises and RICE whenever it flared up. I had no idea how much it has to do with your back, your discs, nor how serious it could get. 

Well here in Utah, my husband’s job offered exceptional insurance. When I started having problems that were severe enough that I was having a hard time making it through a shift at work, we got in to see a specialist. They tried back injections, but the specialist told me that he doubted it would help considering that my disc with 75% impinged. My goal was to put off surgery until my sales job went on Christmas break where I would have at least three weeks possibly longer to recover. I made it to just before Thanksgiving break and then ended up having to have the surgery early because I was developing foot drop, which could have led to permanent nerve damage.

During that six months of trying to hold off on having surgery, because of the pain that I was in I was doing far less activity than I’d ever done in my entire life. I found myself creeping up on the scale again. I remember after surgery getting on the scale and I weigh 330 lb I just wanted to die. Despite being six foot three, I always vowed to myself that as long as I was under 300 lb I was fine. 

I remember after my last checkup and everything was fine from the surgery I thanked the surgeon and said goodbye. He chuckled and said he’d see me again in 3 years. I asked him why he said that and he said because people don’t change and at your weight it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll be under my knife again in 3 years. I was so angry I swore in that moment that I would never end up under his care again. 

I forced myself back into a healthy eating pattern and picked up my workout routine again. I refused to be another statistic. He had referred me to a nutritionist to help me lose weight. I saw her for six weeks and two sessions. At the second session she told me that I was lying about how many calories I was consuming each day because if I was consuming what I was telling her then I should have lost weight and I have not lost any weight since my surgery.

I remember being so distraught. Why would I lie about what I was eating when I was paying her to help me lose weight? It made no sense to me. I was using a food journal to track and literally measuring out everything I ate, no rounding for me. I didn’t know enough at that point about nutrition to understand what the problem was. But I wasn’t going to pay someone who was just going to tell me that I was a liar. I canceled our third session and that began my journey of learning all about nutrition and health and fitness online.

A Group of Professionals Who Helped

There is so much garbage out there! It’s hard to know the quality of the sources, how to trust the “experts”. There’s so much conflicting information. But I muddled through. Once again my cholesterol, my heart health, my blood pressure, and my A1C1 were below normal for someone of my weight. They weren’t textbook perfect, but they were pretty darn good. I kept trying different doctors, hoping somebody could help. 

Heidi in the Bandana

Two years after my surgery, we moved just outside of Salt Lake City and I finally had a doctor who actually listened. He didn’t lecture me about losing weight, he didn’t suggest that I was lying about what I was eating. He worked with me. When I hurt my back in 2018, he referred me to a physical therapist rather than to the injections. He also recommended a really great book,  and told me that the injury didn’t happen because I was overweight, it happened because I needed greater core strength.

His therapist was also great about helping, truly helping. Not only did she teach me exercises to help strengthen my core, and encouraged me that core strength was the number one thing that mattered about back support. She also told me that many of the patients that she saw with back issues were “healthy”  weighted individuals who injured their back because of poor core strength and poor movement. But she knew lots of obese individuals who never had back problems. 

She demonstrated how several activities that I was doing because of my height were actually causing my back problems and recommended great solutions of ways to replace these activities to provide better support for my back. After 6 months of trying to address the issue with physical therapy and medication, my doctor referred me to have a scan done for my back. Interestingly this scan didn’t show any slipped discs. It was then that my physical therapist noticed something odd with the way that I was walking. 

She asked if I had ever seen a doctor about my feet and wondered if what was happening with my feet was causing the posture issues that were inflaming my back. I was referred to a podiatrist who determined that I had a tailor’s bunion on my left foot. He also asked me when I had broken my foot. I was completely shocked! I had no idea that I had broken my foot. But he showed me clear as day on the scan and he said he suspected that it happened sometime in the last three to five years. That was how heavy I had gotten, I had created stress fractures in my foot and never even noticed because the pain wasn’t any different from any other day. After the surgery to fix the tailor’s bunion, I was on bed rest for 6 weeks. Once again my blood pressure went up, my cholesterol went up, I still wasn’t pre-diabetic, but my weight ballooned to 350 lb. 

Once my foot was completely healed, I strove to get back to, fat and fit. I continued working out I continued my healthy dieting. I managed to get down to 300 lb and then the scale just stopped. but my blood pressure was doing better, my cholesterol was fine, and still not pre-diabetic. I accepted that this was going to be my life and for the most part I was okay with it. Despite working out an hour to an hour and a half 3 to 5 days a week the weight didn’t go anywhere. But at least it wasn’t going up.

My World Collapses

During this time I was working from home so that I could be there for our special needs kid. I had partnered with a publishing house and we were building an amazing community. As the pressure to bring an additional income grew, and as the goals for the publishing house expanded, I found myself spending more and more time in my chair working. I was working 80-hour weeks, and while I was still striving to do my walking several times a day, they kept getting shorter and shorter. I reached a point where my day consisted of chores, kids, work, kids, work, chores, work, maybe a walk, dinner and bed exhausted.

I was pursuing my passion. I was pursuing my dream, and I was still fat and fit. Then another major medical bill hit and it wasn’t enough for me to be working 80 hours a week with a publishing house, we needed some additional steady income to pay down our medical debt. So I took a job working for Taco Bell.

Before staying home with my special needs kid most of my early career was in retail and restaurant work. I was not unfamiliar with 8-hour days on my feet running around lifting, bending, squatting, stretching. I did it when I first hit 300 lb. So I really didn’t think that Taco Bell would be a problem for me. Boy was I wrong! 

I have a certain work ethic, and I will push that work ethic beyond what my body can handle. Whether that be working too many hours, or whether that be washing walls when my knees were screaming, or being the only person willing to wash up all of the dishes, despite the industrial sink wreaking havoc with my lower back. Accommodations that I’d made to my home working life weren’t really an option in the restaurant industry. There was no reasonable accommodation, in my mind.

So I did the work while I tried to consider ways that I could continue doing the absolute best work despite the pain. Which of course led to another flare-up of my back. This also led to me losing the job at Taco Bell. That took six weeks. I was devastated. I was in massive amounts of pain and doing the exercises and even getting medication for my doctor wasn’t helping.

 I got back in to see the physical therapist who helped me in the past and despite everything that we were doing the back was not getting better. It had been 3 years and 6 months since my back surgery.Once again I found myself in that surgeon’s office. Fortunately he didn’t remember me, but I felt so defeated. 

He had another back scan done and he said that his concern was that there wasn’t anything really showing as impinged. Which suggested that the problem more than likely had to with the disc that he had operated on previously. By this point I had numbness in my left leg that was covering 25% of the front of my left leg. I couldn’t feel my foot. I was afraid to walk alone because it would be easy for me to fall and I knew I would never be able to get up. I had gained significant weight and now found myself at 375 lb. The heaviest I have ever been in my entire life. I could barely move without being in agonizing pain, and as he walked me through my options I felt completely trapped and destroyed.

We were going to do a round of injections. The injections were designed to target the inflamed sciatica that was causing the pain. The hope was that if the inflammation went down then we could avoid surgery and hopefully the numbness in my foot and leg would go away. If it didn’t, the only option we had left was a spinal fusion. He went on to assure me that if ever I was going to get a spinal fusion now is the best time to do so because they’d made great advances. In the past when you did a hard fusion you were out of work for 3 to 6 months and it took over a year to heal, but thanks to technology I would now be looking at being out of work for 90 days to 3 months and fully healed in 9 months to a year. They also suspected that the risk of follow up surgery after a soft fusion would be considerably lower than hard fusions because there wasn’t all the extra metal plates and screws pulling on and rubbing against the other joints.

I hadn’t even finished paying off my foot surgery yet and I was being faced with another extremely expensive surgery. I remember thinking, “I can’t do this! it’s not worth living through.” 

I did the injections and got a temp job that paid less than Taco Bell, but at least was steady money coming in. I began working out again and focused on building up my core. 

I struggled and struggled and struggled to try and lose weight because my recovery time was dependent on that. Of course while all of this going on my personal life was a complete stress ball mess of disaster. I was barely able to function 3 to 4 hours in a chair each day. We got a standing desk and speech to text tools to extend my working time, but it just wasn’t enough. In my absence, the publishing house collapsed.

I was Broken

I sank into a horrible depression. Everything I believed about myself had been completely torn down and proven to be a lie. I wasn’t fat and fit, I wasn’t strong, I wasn’t an amazing worker, I couldn’t do anything. In April I fell down the stairs and broke my left shoulder, adding to my crippling pain and limiting my work function. When my temp job contract ended, I had no idea what I was going to do next. I had spent almost a year trying to get a good paying job and never getting a call back. It felt like my 14 years of experience was completely irrelevant. I was taking whatever work I could find and none of it was worthy of the varied 14 years of experience I had.  

I was a failure at everything in my life, it seemed. I failed as a parent, a partner, a business professional, a college graduate- injury after injury showed me I had failed at being fat and fit. 

A Ray of Hope

I had my last injection in March, 2019 and while the numbness in my leg had not gotten better (hence my fall in April) my back was improving. I kept walking and working out and applying for jobs, despite feeling like a complete failure. 

In May I was hired for a temporary assignment that turned into a 6 month contract that changed everything. As quickly as my world had collapsed and my sense of self had been shattered, I was able to recover working this contract. 

During that six months, I got away from toxic people in the book world and realized that I had given all of myself to people who did not value me. But at this job I was valued. Not only monetarily (I made more in six months than I had made ever in any other job over a six month period.) Without the financial stress looming over us, I was able to repair relationships with my husband and kids. I wasn’t a horrible mom and wife. We had just been through something horrible. 

The work I did for this contract was something that my years of ingenuity and working with start ups had perfectly prepared me for. I did have value in the workforce. I had skills. I did work faster and harder than my colleagues and management took notice. 

Without all the pressure, my work life balance got on track. I started a special program to help with weight loss at the recommendation of my doctor, I started a daily workout routine. I joined a ym and ad weight lifting and swimming to my routine. 

I got a taste of the good life. 

Life is a Journey

I was so sad when the contract ended in November, but there was a hope of bringing me on full time in the first quarter. My life was busy with my youngest doing swim team and color guard at the same time, so I wasn’t stressed. 

While I’d only managed to lose 25 lb during that time, I could see the changes and was counting the changes in other ways. I could see my body firming up, I could see my shape-changing, I felt good, I felt confident, I felt strong. I was frustrated by how little I’d lost but I had a nutritionist who was working with me and I knew it was going to be a long path because she pointed out that a huge part of the reason that I have been struggling with my weight is because I was still eating too few calories and my body was constantly in starvation mode. 

I have been calculating my calories based on online information and pushing myself to eat as much as I could. I was proud of the fact that I was getting close to 1800 calories a day. She said my minimum without working out was 2100 calories. With my workout schedule, I should’ve been consuming closer to 2500 calories to lose weight. I knew it was going to be a long turnaround to make those changes and get where I needed to be. 

I continued working out, I continued with the way to health class and with the new year and no contract offer, I began job hunting again. I was feeling confident, and had a great full-time job opportunity on the line by the end of February. I could see life being amazing.

And then covid-19 Hit

That new job, like many other jobs, went on freeze. The market tanked. Job opportunities are few and far between. So many people have had it worse. I will not complain. I also wasn’t going to sit around waiting with baited breath. Since November I had been trying to rebuild my author career. Creating a new website that would host not only my reader personna and author personna I had for 9 years, but also encompass the work I had done with the publisher that all disappeared when they went under. I have 9 books to republish under my own brand. I have six courses to re-build under my own label. I had been systematically working on that all along, around applying for new jobs. With the job market dried up, I devoted more and more time to rebuilding. 

I am capable. 

I am strong. 

I adapt. 

I have tasted the good life where work balance was easy, where I loved what I did and how much I made, where I had energy and strength to be fit. I will keep working on my health and wellness. I will keep fighting to lose weight. I will keep growing every day. Thank you for joining this adventure. 

Until next time,

Stay healthy!