A BetterU Blog from EMILY!!!

This is the most difficult of the four blog posts I was assigned to write to document my #HVBetterU journey. Why? Because it’s the final one.

In eight days, our BetterU team will have our “graduation celebration” at the Hudson Valley Go Red for Women luncheon at the Grandview in Poughkeepsie. We’re all looking forward to it and have shopped for our red dresses. But I know I’m not the only one who’s feeling very sad that this amazing program is concluding. But when I feel like that I remind myself that only the formal program is winding down. Many of have already signed up to become independent members of Gold’s Gym and will continue our fitness regime into the future.

Carolyn asked all of us to list the single most important thing that we achieved during this time and I honestly can’t come up with just one thing. There have been so many!

While this program is not really just about losing weight, I have to say my body’s transformation can be viewed in the selection of BetterU tees. From a 2X to an XL to a L (that is now becoming wonderfully loose), My body is becoming my own again and it feels wonderful. I’m so happy that the dress I’ll be wearing at the luncheon is five sizes smaller than one that I wore when I began the program!

I can shout out “No Surgery Necessary!” as the radial tear of the meniscus that was the final straw of my body’s downward slide and was what inspired me to finally apply for BetterU…it is now 90% healed.

I never dreamed that a misfortune could lead to such a true life changing endeavor. But it did. I still remember sitting at the computer and praying before I began to answer the questions on the application. Somehow I knew this could be a turning point in my life, but had no idea how important it would be.

And it is important. Meeting the program alumna and speaking about their experiences, I realized that my sistas were not alone in the feeling of such positive transformation. And it’s the alumna who’ve been cheering us on. Sharing their stories. Sharing recipes and the realities of how to incorporate this change into a forever lifestyle. Our Facebook group is one that I find inspiring and humbling on a daily basis.

I remember saying to Sean Murphy, the great Gold’s Gym team trainer in Fishkill, that I needed to strengthen my left arm when it seemed so much weaker than my right the first time we hit the machines. I should watch what I say as the next week I tripped over my dog and broke my right shoulder. Now when we do weight training, my left arm is as strong as my right! That’s thanks to Sean, because throughout the entire time my arm was in a sling, he continued to train me, modifying the exercises and movements when necessary. He also researched and found evidence that by doing weight training with my left arm, there was some phantom limb (beneficial) effect for my right arm. I think he’s right as my orthopedist is amazed at the speed of my recovery and range of motion. Again, thanks to #HVBetterU and Gold’s Gym.

Discovering I have spinal stenosis and now the knowledge yesterday that there is not one pinched nerve, but three, I have to admit to being depressed last night. But thanks to an amazing doctor, I was able to balance that with the knowledge that the training I’m doing through this great program is actually what he would order to help repair my spine. As he said, he’s so happy I’m not someone who is just lying in bed not moving because of the pain, but moving. Training. Stretching. I can’t imagine not being active and that’s a return to the old me. The one I’m familiar with.

A gift BetterU gave me that is probably beyond any other was the realization that the relationship I had been in for the past 16 years probably was the cause of many of my problems. When Dr. Somjee spoke about different causes of high blood pressure, weight gain, etc. – all things that effect your heart health – one of the triggers she mentioned was being in difficult relationships/marriages. Why? Because this stress raises your cortisol levels, which in turn will have a devastating long-term effect on your body. A lightbulb went off at that point as I had been in what could politely be described as a difficult situation – more accurately an emotionally abusive one – for 16 years (even with a separation), up until this April 2018. My weight in 2001? Probably around 135-140. When I started BetterU, 240. That’s 100 pounds of unhappiness over 16 years.

But it wasn’t just that. I had truly gone inward in a protective sense. My weight became almost a protective armor. Each week, because of my BetterU sistas, the armor started to fall off, just as the pounds did. I became more like the Emily I remembered, when I had been nicknamed Julie the Cruise Director year’s ago. At work, I could feel a confidence and assurance returning. I hadn’t realized they’d been lost, but they had. And finally I felt open to other people in a way I had forgotten to be. I had become so accustomed to hiding, being silent, that I’d forgotten how wonderful it was to just engage with others.

So to my BetterU sistas. Thank you. This journey would not have been possible without you. If I felt like it could be too much of a struggle at times, I just looked at all your posts and said, I’m not a quitter. I can do this. Even when I lay on the mat at Gold’s practically crying as my back was in spasms, I knew that being there was the best thing. And thanks to Janine, I didn’t stay on my back too long, but got up and started peddling on the recumbent bike, ironically the activity that helped me the most to release the nerve pressure.

I’m so grateful that both I and all my sistas have been given this amazing opportunity to reclaim ourselves. It’s truly one of the most amazing gifts ever. The American Heart Association and the sponsors, including Central Hudson, Gold’s Gym, Health Quest and others have made this transformational program possible for the past nine year. Throughout the Hudson Valley there are women who are BetterU alums. Each of these women have learned the benefits of nutrition, spiritual and mental as well as physical health, and are determined to spread the word. That’s really important when you consider that Heart Disease and Stroke are the number 1 killer of women. While I go pink in October, I also go red, as my family has battled both diseases.

I’ve done this program with the knowledge of friends who’ve survived crippling strokes in their early 30’s, heart attacks in their 40’s and my dad’s nephew (the marathon runner) who had a debilitating stroke more than 10 years ago and is still recovering. In fact I’m doing it for them in a way as they’ve spoken to me about their health and how important it is to be in the  best possible shape, paired with the diagnosis of other silent triggers like high blood pressure.

On November 9th, we’ll be celebrating the completion of what is to me the most amazing 15 weeks ever. But that’s not the end. It’s just the beginning for our new life as BetterMe’s. Thank you for your support of the AHA, which makes this program possible.

#HVBetterU #GoRedHV