The journey from pre-diabetes to marathon finisher
“Your mind is your strength.”
Teresa and I met 10 years ago in the early days of being “dance moms.” We spent countless hours together waiting for classes to end and supporting our daughters’ love of dance during weekend-long competitions. I was immediately taken by her soft southern accent, beautiful smile, and devotion to family. I was also impressed with the graceful way she held it all together as a business owner. Our “dance mom” career paths diverged about seven years ago when our daughters went on to different studios, but we continued to run into each other every so often.
In December 2015, we met once again and I found her on the cusp of a transformation. Although she had been pre-diabetic, Teresa lost weight and started training for a marathon.
As someone who has struggled to maintain a healthy weight all my life, I was truly inspired by Teresa’s journey to Healthy-Body & Happy-Mind. I believe everyone’s path is different and wanted to know what worked for Teresa.
Here are excerpts from my interview and her inspirational story:
THE BEGINNING (SPRING 2015)
I asked Teresa where her journey began.
“There was a moment,” she said. ”It was during my annual exam. I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. I had been helping my dad who’d been battling kidney failure and diabetes. It was a long drawn-out illness. I had never had any issues before but now I was encouraged to make some lifestyle changes so I wouldn’t have to go on medicine.”
ADD A FITBIT AND A COACH
Teresa mentioned her predicament to Cameron, her eldest son. “He was very good at helping me nutrition-wise and with fitness because he had transformed himself over the years. For Mother’s Day he and the kids gave me a Fit-Bit. Cam said “all you have to do is walk. Just start walking. Just do a little activity.”
Maybe more important than the Fit-Bit, Cameron had unknowingly stepped in as her coach. His natural instinctive ability was remarkable. He encouraged her to get grounded in the motivation behind the goal, which is a critical component of lasting behavioral change.
Here’s what he said to his mom:
“…what has to happen is you have want it more than anything…more than you want to breathe…So, basically nothing can get in the way of it.” This powerful step helped when the inevitable hurdles appeared.
Together they sat down and wrote out a plan to achieve Teresa’s goals. “He set me up with a food and water tracker. It wasn’t a lot. it was just a few little simple things that I had to do every day.”
He advised her to only weigh once a week and make sure to walk 10,000 steps a day.
“Write down what you want, take pictures and we’ll go from there.” (In the S.M.A.R.T. goal acronym, this is the “S” for “get specific” and the “M” for “measurement.”)
BUILD ON SUCCESS
“Within two weeks I saw a huge difference…six pounds. I was like, whoa, that was easy. I think I can do a little more than 10 pounds.”
“I felt like I wasn’t giving up anything. I felt like I was gaining something, gaining energy. It just felt better.”
I often encourage my clients to WOOP it up that inevitably present themselves when working towards a goal. Teresa did exactly that! She packed emergency bags of snacks to avoid the quick fix of fast food.
Her enthusiasm for planning started to excite her. “It was empowering that I was making choices that were healthier and showing results.”
TWEAKS TO THE PLAN
She was committed to walking 10,000 steps a day, however the time commitment became taxing. On the advice of her “coach” Cam, she began to run every four mailboxes, cutting her time in half to achieve her daily movement goal., “I’ll never forget the time he took me to the park and said we were going to run a mile,” says Teresa. This was another victorious step in her journey. Eventually, she also added resistance training for muscle tone.
BIG SHIFTS – THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF CARE
“I was running kids around everywhere and I never felt like I had time to do anything,” Teresa says. “But I had plenty of time to do things. When I was waiting for my daughter to finish dance class, instead of sitting on my phone or going shopping, I would walk. Every little minute I would do something for myself.”
Self-care became a daily priority. “There were a lot of things I had to let go of in order to focus on me. For 23 years, everything else came ahead of what I wanted. It wasn’t that they asked for it to be that way. It was the way I lived and I chose to live.”
Teresa realized she could start teaching her children to take care of themselves. By continuing to do their laundry, for example, she was holding them back from their own growth. It was time for them to take on more responsibilities so she could take care of herself too.
I asked her how her family reacted to the changes. She said it took some time but shifted when they saw how much happier she was. “It had been a long time since I had that feeling,” she says.
Although her family teased her at first, Teresa’s new habits started to catch on. ”Little by little,” she says. “From white bread to wheat bread and from Pop Tarts to homemade egg muffins…they started to enjoy it, too.”
Friends also took notice.” When those people would see results they wanted a piece of the action…everybody was more accepting,” she says.
Social influence is a powerful component of behavior, especially health-related behaviors like smoking and eating habits. I loved Teresa’s response when I asked her about letting go of unhealthy relationships.
“You have to surround yourself with energy that feeds into that lifestyle. I didn’t let anything go, I pulled more in.”
NOT A QUICK FIX
I asked Teresa what she felt were the keys to her success. She shared how many times she tried Weight Watchers, Slimfast, and countless other programs.
She attributes her success to not to “just one thing…but a big part was tracking and putting myself first.” Her relationship with the scale has changed as well. “In Weight Watchers, It was all about the scale. I would leave so sad because I had worked so hard and had nothing to show. It put me in the worst mood. It’s now about how I feel and how my clothes fit. It took a long time to see myself different.” Now having maintained 90 pounds of weight loss for years, she embodies the behaviors of people who have lost weight and maintained it. It is her way of life now.
There was no cash outlay for quick fix solutions promised by the six-billion dollar diet industry. For Teresa, success took motivated dedication, clear goals with measurement and feedback, the support of a “coach,” and small, simple habit changes. But she’s also compassionate with herself. “I’m a little frustrated I didn’t do it sooner but my mindset wasn’t there,” she says.
It was also nice to hear that Teresa was using the “really, really, really” tool I shared with her years ago. I love Dr. Michelle May’s question about instinctive eating and share it often with my clients. When tempted, ask yourself, “Do I really want this?.” If the answer is “yes”, ask the questions again but this time ask “do I really, really want this?” If the answer is once again “yes,” ask yourself a third time. If the answer is still “yes” it’s time to sit down and mindfully savor the thing you so deeply want.
This series of question helps discern other motivations for eating, like boredom, stress or comfort. The “really, really, really” tool shrinks the power of cravings and also honors your desires. It’s simple, yet it makes for life-long healthy-happy habits.
SAVORING THE VICTORIES
This past April, Teresa crossed the finish line of her first marathon. She dedicated each mile to a different person. Her last mile she dedicated to herself, and ran faster than any other. She was supported by her other son Bryce who ran by her side.
“Coach Cam” reminded his mom to savor the journey from pre-diabetes to marathon runner and all the Cupcake Moments in between. “Your mind is your strength,” he told her the night before the race. “Hang on to it.”
What an inspirational journey. Thank you Teresa for letting me share it with others.
The Walking Book Club begins June 9th
Let’s jump in together and be one of the first book clubs to partake in City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert.