January 26th, 2010
03:46 PM ET

Starting over in a quest to get fit. Again.

By Meredith D. Clark
CNN Fit Nation Challenge Participant

Two weeks after meeting my fellow Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge participants, I can safely say that my runner’s high (fitness high?) has worn off.

After I returned home from our first appearance on CNN, the reality of what it will take to get a healthier - and hopefully less hefty - me across the finish line in July really set in. I guess some small part of me expected the enthusiasm of working out with our head trainer, Laura Cozik, to miraculously melt my fat cells and firm me up a bit.

One step on the scale and two long looks in the mirror quickly helped me snap back to reality.

Since being selected in December, I’ve wondered what thing - an attitude? a feasible plan? - I’ll have to develop in order to complete this challenge. I submitted my video because a) I’m tired of losing and gaining the same 10 to 20 pounds, b) I want to break the cycle of obesity-related disease in my family and c) I want to help people like me see that we really can be the fit people that we want to be, despite busy schedules, complicated family histories and all. The finish line in New York will be the starting point of a lifestyle committed to my own fitness and well-being so that I can be better than I have been for the first 30 years of my life.

That takes learning how to live all over again. What brought me to this point - having regained 20 of 30 pounds I lost two years ago, embarrassed about my backslide (and my backside, ha ha) and determined not to let it happen again - are a jumble of behaviors and habits I’ve practiced in an ongoing battle to lose weight and keep it off.

This time, I’m out to get fit forever.

When diet programs place an asterisk next to a standout weight-loss winner’s shed poundage, the “results not typical” disclaimer is a reminder that there’s a reason big, permanent weight loss and improvement in wellness don’t come via quick fix. The evolution of going from couch potato or even moderately active to truly fit takes un-learning all of your bad habits, and retraining mind, body and spirit to embrace new ones.

When I realized this two weeks ago, I freaked. Bringing the kind of change I see in my mind’s eye will mean turning to exercise instead of chocolate, margaritas or my favorite meal when I seek comfort at the end of a long day. It will mean learning how to say ‘no’ to more activities in order to provide myself with ample time for rest, recovery and reflection. It means separating the haters from the celebrators as I work to be better than I have been before.

And in a generally un-American fashion, it will mean that all of these changes will have to occur s-l-o-w-l-y.

So instead of relying on the strategies that have worked with an expiration date, I’m using this time to re-learn the way I live. Whereas I’d normally start my workout regimen with a commitment to sweat for 45 minutes to an hour a day, seven days a week, my training for the tri begins with a 15-minute run two days this week, a 40-minute bike ride on two other days, a 30-minute session in the pool, and two days to do nothing.

Instead of cutting sugar cold-turkey (a practice that has helped me lose pounds and friends as I become increasingly irritable), my nutrition plan allows me to include just a little here and there. Eventually, I’ll wean myself off that white horse, but I don’t have to torture myself (or others) to do it.

Going slowly will probably be the hardest part of my triathlon training, but I have six months to find my groove, and a lifetime to sustain it. I hope you’ll join me.

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soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. rickeywilliams

    I'm with you Meredith. Reality hit me pretty quickly too. Fit for life. That's what I want too! Great Post!

    January 26, 2010 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. standaman

    We in this together, till the finish line and beyond!!!!! Got your back ! Goooooo "FItNation Team"!

    January 27, 2010 at 04:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. LindaFisher-Lewis

    What a great plan Meredith, we are all in this together and hopefully will learn from each other. Go Fit Nation!

    January 28, 2010 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. kmguest

    This was inspiring. It's good to know people of like minds are working together to help each other reach our goals. great post and plan. Good luck!

    January 31, 2010 at 05:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. vgr

    I am 63 with zero disease. Got health awareness when I was 46. Since then I strongly believe in moderate exercise and nutritious balanced food. For me moderate exercise means brisk walk for atleast 30 minutes a day with some moderate yoga/weight bearing exercises and nutritious balanced food means daily not more than
    150 gm of meat which includes fish also, veggies with lunch and dinner and fruit as snacks. My meals include also cereals, multigrain foods, olive oil, yogurt, nuts, seeds, prune, milk, cheese, chocolate, etc.

    February 2, 2010 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Ralph 50+

    The quest to get fit again........where can I go to find real information on helping men 50++ "get fit again?" Everything printed seems to target the 20/30 possibly 40 age range. Us 50+ guys know the basics but more detail than a few paragraphs of fluff would be nice.


    February 8, 2010 at 06:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Susan Micinski

    I just finished reading "Eat to Live" by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I am really excited about what he has to say about eating and exercising, and it is not geared only for the younger crowd. I am in that 50+ group. I highly urge everyone to check this one out!

    February 23, 2010 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Natasha

    I am a 46 year old female who used to be fit. I have asthma as well as a variety of other incurable, chronic health conditions that flare, resulting in fatigue and pain. It seems like every time I get myself back into shape, one of my conditions will flare. The flares typically last weeks or months. During this time I am too sick or in too much pain to exercise. In addition, I am on a few prescription medications that can cause weight gain (Neurontin & temporarily, oral Prednisone). Oral Prednison increases the appetite and lowers the metabolislm, so it's a double whammy. It can also cause depression. I'm depressed anyway, because I am sick or in pain for an extended length of time and I respond to that depression by binge eating. The Prednisone makes me binge even more.

    2009 was quite possibly the worst year (health-wise) in my life. I couldn't wait for it to be over. I told myself 2010 would be SO much better.
    Then, in January 2010, a routine blood test revealed that I was severely anemic. I was directed to take iron supplements. My hemoglobin level droped very quickly. On January 16 my hemoglobin level was 9.4. By January 21 it had dropped to 8.2.(That's a loss of approximately 25% of the blood in my body – and I felt fine!) The doctors indicated that it was mostly likely a bleed in my gastrointestinal tract. Once again I was restricted from exercising. I was under a great deal of stress and I was very frightened. So I started binge eating. I had an upper endoscopy on January 21. The source of the bleed was not identified. After that my hemoglobin began to magically increase, which the doctors told me indicated the bleed had stopped. I was told that even though the bleed had stopped I should submit to a colonoscopy. (I had to have a colonoscopy in 2006 due to bleeding – it was a hemmoroid! That they didn't even fix! I HATE colonoscopies. Can't someone come up with an easier way to do that???) I refused to submit to the colonoscopy for quite a while but gave in, defeated, and had it on February 23. The colonoscopy did not identify any sources of possible bleeding. My hemoglobin had reached a normal level a few days before the colonoscopy, but again, I could not exercise because I had to do the colonoscopy prep. (You don't lose weight doing a colonoscopy prep – but you should. It's just not fair.)

    As soon as I regained my strength (about 3 days after the procedure) I exercised for the first time in many months. I went very slowly, but it felt wonderful. I returned to work and first thing in the morning, on my first day back, I ran into a woman I am friendly with and we walked across the building together, to the elevators. She told me she'd had bronchitis for 10 days and could not get rid of it. I did not get into the elevator with her. I waited for a different elevator. Two days later I was sick with bronchitis, which then caused an asthma flare. I'm very ill. So I'm once more missing work, unable to exercise, depressed (I'm on Prednisone) and binge eating. I am scheduled to report to work on Monday. I need to go shopping and buy a couple outfits that fit my new, fatter body, as I have gained 20 pounds and nothing fits. Hopefully I will have the strength to do that this weekend. I have to have something to wear to work that complies with the company dress code.

    So I'm right there with you, Meredith, and if it makes you feel any better, I've had to get BACK into shape at least 5 or 6 times in the last 5 years. I am reading "The China Study" right now, and after I go grocery shopping (probably Saturday) I will begin eating a whole food plant-based diet, excluding all animal products and as many processed foods as possible. It's not a drastic change. I ate that way for about 2 years. Then when the illness flares began piling up, I gave up and just binged on every bad food I could get my hands on. Since I have Barrett's Esophagus (pre-cancerous cells, for those of you who don't know) and have endometriosis (increases one's risk of getting 10 or so different kinds of cancer by 20%) the plant based diet can't hurt. Hopefully I'll lose weight as I'll have to restrict the foods I binge on to carrot and celery sticks. I will begin exercising (ballet, yoga and aerobic activities) as soon as my doctor gives me the OK.

    What I wouldn't give to be healthy so that when I fell off the wagon and got soft and fat I at least had a good time doing it. Regardless of the reason(s), however, My body is presently fat and mushy and I must again begin the very hard work that is necessary to get fit again. By Sunday I will have begun the healthy, plant-based diet discussed in The China Study (after one final visit to the Coney Island restaurant). Then, as soon as I can, I will exercise. I'll check back from time to time. Every bit of encouragement helps, and this time I need a LOT of encouragement. The hemoglobin thing came out of no where – I'd never had that problem before and it's left me very emotionally shaken, hence the binge eating. (I guess it could be worse. I don't drink alcohol, so at least I'm not binging on THAT.)

    I wish all of you (and me) the good luck, discipline, motivation and good health that we will all need to get back into shape, AGAIN.

    Thanks for taking the time to read by very long comment.

    March 5, 2010 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.