Inspiration + Motivation + Perspiration = Results!
How many people can boast that they are in the best shape of their lives at age 48, after being treated for cancer, enduring chemotherapy, and going through menopause? I can, and although I worked hard for my now-fit body, I give much of the credit to Hilton Head Health and Bob Wright.
I first learned of Bob and Hilton Head Health (H3) after my dearest friend from high school attended the program in 1985. As students, neither one of us took fitness seriously. Looking back now, I realize we were not the best influences for each other in terms of exercise and diet. We made up excuses to skip going to the gym and would much rather raid the refrigerator instead. Then I went off to college where my bad habits got worse: staying up all night, smoking and eating chocolate (a lot of chocolate) while I studied. My friend decided to try the program at Hilton Head, and when she came home, she looked phenomenal! From that time on I vowed to make it to Hilton Head Health as soon as my time and wallet would allow. But the rigors of graduate school got in the way. It wasn’t until I completed veterinary school and my internship that I finally had the time and funds to visit H3. By 1992, I had quit smoking, but I was carrying about 60 additional pounds on my 5’ 2” frame. I was also sedentary, and was in the worst shape of my life. If I didn’t make a change, I knew things would get worse.
In 1992, just before beginning my new career, I took two weeks off to “get serious” about my health. The two weeks I spent at H3 gave me back control of my health and well-being. For the first time in my life, I made exercise and a healthy diet a priority. Listening to Bob Wright changed the way I thought of my own health, and after almost 20 years, his meaningful advice has stayed with me ever since. The top 5 most influential things Bob said to me:
- Pick a realistic goal. Boy, I hated to hear that one because I didn’t want something realistic! I wanted to lose 50 lbs, and I wanted to do it right away. Intellectually, I knew that was unrealistic given the time I had for exercise. I remember I wanted to cry. I would not be leaving the H3 at my ideal weight, or any weight that was even close. Over the years I have learned the wisdom of these words. I am finally at my ideal weight, it has take a lot of effort, determination, focus and as Bob taught, it has taken time.
- Find an exercise you love. Exercise most days of the week.
- Who’s in charge? This addressed my inner voice, the one that made excuses and justified why I deserved to eat a cookie (or two or three) or peanut butter.
- Even when you are tired, practice the one-minute rule
- The biggest benefits come from small changes.
I lost 4 lbs at H3 and then went home and lost another 20. I felt I was on my way. But just to keep reinforcing what I had learned, I returned to H3 the following year. I did great…until I got pregnant. Suddenly I was too tired to exercise, the baby in my body was in control of my eating (so I told myself), and my doctor gave me permission to gain weight. And gain weight I did. Hard to believe that the child inside of me was only 5 lb. 13 oz. at birth – where did that additional 44-lbs I gained come from? It was a lot of extra weight for my body, and I had trouble losing it. During the summer after my son’s first birthday, our family vacation was a week at H3. It was like visiting a familiar friend. After that visit, by following the H3 program I regained control of my health and fitness. My body was fit, my weight was in control. Now, at last, I was proud of the way I looked.
And then, the unimaginable happened. At 33 I was diagnosed “out of the blue” with breast cancer. I learned that I carried a BRCA gene mutation and my risk for ovarian cancer was very high. So in addition to breast cancer treatments, I also underwent a full hysterectomy which caused premature menopause at age 35. Between cancer treatments and menopause, I regained quite a bit of weight and soon (it seemed), I was back to my heaviest.
Like many breast cancer survivors, I struggled with weight, and that created body image issues that undermined my self esteem and confidence. I knew I needed help, but I also knew where I would find it—H3. It was so reassuring to return, renew what I had already learned, and once again, see results from the approach and message that worked so well for me. As Executive Director of Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), a nonprofit organization I founded for people like me who have a high genetic predisposition to cancer, I meet so many women who believe that achieving weight loss after treatment, early menopause, or surgery is impossible. I’m here to say it’s not.
I go back to H3 every year, not to get on track but to stay on track. It is a gift I give myself and it is worth it. I know now that I can lose the weight and maintain my fitness and health. As new research is linking body mass and cancer recurrence, it is critical that I prioritize my health.
Positive change requires more than education, it requires commitment. I learned that from Bob. Hilton Head Health has been a part of my life for the last 19 years. At age 48, despite all the health challenges I faced, I am now in the best shape of my life.
Bob Wright and the staff at H3 are my extended family. Last year, for example, Bob was a presenter at FORCE’s annual conference, motivating our attendees to improve their diet and lifestyle. He is a busy guy; he could have simply made his presentation and left. But he is also someone who is thoroughly committed to his message and helping people understand how they can make meaningful changes to their overall health. He could have left, but he stayed to absorb the entire conference experience, in part to learn about our community, but also to see me in action. Bob knew me before I started FORCE and has been hearing about the organization since its inception. He also spent quality time with my family, especially my son, Beau, no doubt motivating him to keep fitness and health in the forefront. That’s the type of person Bob is. That is why I’m proud to call him not just my lifestyle coach and inspiration, but my friend.