January 6, 2007 was the day I had my last cigarette. As a pack-a-day smoker I quit cold turkey, and I’ve never looked back.
I have a son with special needs and he is the motivation for everything I do. Like many busy moms, I try to be everything to everybody, but I now know how important it is to take care of myself. I need to be on this planet for a long time so I can be here to take care of him.
I wasn’t always this focused on my own needs. I can still remember the day I was standing in the store and felt a tear fall from my eye. It was the moment I realized just how far off track I’d gotten.
At the time, I was an employee for Blue Care Network in Southfield. That day I’d gone shopping for work clothes at the local department store, but couldn’t find the right size. I had to go to the plus-sized store and that’s when I decided I was ready to make a change.
I started just by walking for a few minutes at a time. Pretty soon, my workouts became 20 minutes, and they kept getting longer. Each time I worked out was a small victory. Before I knew it, fitness became part of my daily routine. It wasn’t about “am I going to work out today?” it was “when am I going to work out today?”
I also began to make small changes in my diet, like choosing vegetables instead of fries or skipping the bun with my burger. Each little change added up to a big difference over time. Within one year, I lost about 85 pounds and went from a size 16 to a size 0.
There were no fancy diets or gimmicks, just little changes that got me here. I’m 45-years-old and this is the best I’ve felt in my entire life and the strongest I’ve ever been. I wasn’t moving much in 2007, but now I’m averaging about 16,000 steps per day – some days I get as many as 22,000 steps.
I have one of the best jobs in the world. I still work for Blue Cross, but now I’m a nurse case manager and get to help people every day, sharing my passion for health, wellness and the importance of loving yourself and living a good life.
My goals have changed now that I’ve lost the weight and am active. I’m focused on staying fit and building strength. One of the things that keeps me on track is being part of Blue Cross’ employee-led fitness group, Active Blue.
It’s a wonderful organization that helps encourage Blue Cross employees of all ages and walks of life to be physically active. Later this month I’ll be joining our team for my fourth Fight for Air Climb at the Detroit Renaissance Center. Last year, it took me eight minutes and forty-eight seconds to climb all 70 flights of stairs in this iconic skyscraper. I placed first in my age group and third out of all of the women that day.
I’m proud of how far I’ve come and want to be able to show others they can do the same. I’m even thinking about auditioning for the TV show American Ninja Warrior. I want to be able to show people that regardless of your age, gender, ethnicity, or whatever it may be, you can achieve your health goals.
Of course everyone needs a plan and support system along the way. But first you have to be ready to embrace change, you have to love yourself, and most of all you have to learn how to celebrate – because every step forward is a victory.
This post is part of a storytelling series we call, “Beyond the Card.” These stories will feature Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members, employees, and communities who are making meaningful differences throughout our state.
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Photo credit: Courtesy photos, Maritel LeBlond