Saturday, June 22, 2013

They Are Losing It: Kat Bukowy

I met Kat Bukowy at a 6-week summer program called the North Carolina Governor's School, a magical, fabulous experience that truly changed the way I viewed academia and the world around me. We also happen to go to the same gym. Kat offers raw honesty, practical tips, and thoughtful encouragement. I teared up reading it! Without further ado, I'd love to share Kat's story with you.

Kat in mid-April 2013

So the honest truth is…I cheated.  Ok, not really, but kind of – it’s as confusing as it sounds. 

I started working on “getting healthy” two years ago.  When I was young my mother did Weight Watchers (still does I believe); so Daddy and I did WW.  For a whole lot of years, I did not realize that corn and peas and potatoes are vegetables.  To me they were starches and you shouldn’t eat two in a meal.  “Family style” is a recent fad in my world.  We always ate our meals pre-portioned at the stove.  I have been well-indoctrinated into the teachings of WW.  I’m not saying it’s a bad program; it works well for many people.  I even did it once in my twenties and lost about 20 lbs (I also gained it all back).

Despite all of Mom’s efforts, I have weight and body image issues.  I finally had enough when I hit around 230 lbs.  It was time to get serious and find a “healthy lifestyle” that I could actually maintain.  Essentially, 230 lbs + genes that tend toward heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes + own personal issues (depression, asthma, and premature arthritis) = impending DISASTER! 

Kat (right) with our friend Lacey (left) near the 230's around her 30th birthday
(stay tuned for Lacey's story)
I found a gym and joined with a friend to help hold each other accountable.  I probably lost about 20 lbs.  I was honestly not paying a whole lot of attention to the weight loss between 230ish and 203 lbs.  I just know it went away.  At 203 lbs I was frustrated that I was still not really losing weight (apparently the whole 27 lbs or so loss kind of got missed in my brain to the point that I don’t even acknowledge it now).  A friend suggested I try using a free online program (I use My Fitness Pal) to actually track what I eat, that perhaps I was eating more than I thought I was. 

On top of that I had discovered triathlons, something I had always wanted to do, but thought I couldn’t.  The reason I thought I couldn’t?  I did not believe I was physically capable of running.  I discovered that doing a run/walk is a legitimate thing, not something just for fat people like myself, and that I could do a triathlon with a run/walk for the “run” part of the event.  I started training for and doing sprint triathlons.  If the high I get from triathlon is the high that crack addicts get, I understand why they go back for more.  However, the scale only dropped a little for all of the effort I was putting in.

And this is where I cheated.  Sort of.  When you train for a triathlon and you’re swimming, riding or running twice a week and the “long” ride is 30 miles, you expect after awhile to see a DROP in weight, especially if you’re eating within the calorie range that you are now diligently tracking.  

Kat's first team triathlon
 To make a very long story much, much shorter, I saw an endocrinologist throughout the whole train for triathlons, count calories process.  She trusted the lab results and the average limits for those results.  It turns out that I am sub-clinical, which means that my results fall within range, but are actually too low for me.  When she told me that my thyroid was not my problem, I got another opinion (Ok, she told me my problem was not something she could deal with because my lab results were fine; so I fired her and got another opinion).  I happened to find an endocrinologist whose philosophy happens to be "treat for the simplest solution first."  The odds that I had some remote form of cancer are pretty slim, so he decided to dramatically increase the synthetic thyroid hormone that I was on.  No surprise to me, it did the trick.  The moral of “the cheating” is that if something doesn’t feel or seem right – my hair was falling out, I was tired all the time, I had weird hot/cold flashes and I’m 32 – get an answer.  Get one that makes sense and don’t stop asking the question(s) until you do. 

So from May 2012 to May 2013, I lost 35 lbs.  How much of that was me working and how much was “cheating” I don’t know.  I can say that I don’t think I’d have lost that much weight that fast if I had not been working so hard.  I love having lost 35 lbs.  I am 15 lbs away from my goal of 50 lbs down.  Even with the 35 lb loss, my brain sees the physical changes and accepts the complements with pleasure, but something in me still sees a fat person.  I am deathly afraid that the fat person will come back one day.  I’m not going to let it, and I won’t let the fear drive what I do.  I keep pushing my “limits” because I know I can be stronger, faster, harder, better and happiest because I did it.

I think my biggest problem, like a lot of people, is diligently recording what I eat.  Fortunately, I am a creature of habit and like my routines.  I eat the same thing (nearly) for breakfast every day: oatmeal (Quaker Rolled Oats), vanilla protein powder, flax seed, and cinnamon with either fruit (blueberries, peaches) or apple/peach butter or jam thrown in for interest.  Lunch is typically a Lean Cuisine or similar at the office.  Days I’m in the field are nearly a free-for-all, although I try to eat a chicken sandwich or I bring peanut butter and jam/honey sandwiches and carrots or something "healthy."  When I’m in the field, I can burn up to about 700-900 calories depending on the weather and type of work.  I almost always carry apples and Lance peanut butter & honey crackers with me.  A hungry Kat is NOT a happy Kat.  Because I’m at the gym until 7 p.m. and my boyfriend is usually home before me, I try to make something on the weekend to have as leftovers during the week.  I need to get better at the food planning thing. I keep trying, but haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.  I also have a mid-morning and an afternoon snack that is usually protein-based.

I have had recent digestive issues so I have discovered that I need to avoid most dairy, beans, and corn.  I am also severely allergic to cashews and pistachios.  These are the only real “limits” on my diet.  I LOVE to bake and do so frequently.  I put the recipes into the online recipe calorie calculator so I can know what the calorie content of a serving is.

Some advice…

Exercise is key.  If you’re not doing anything, I wouldn’t expect you to go do a marathon.  I started with walking and going to the gym; it worked for me.  Whatever you do, do it with your best effort and start today. Then go back tomorrow. 

It took a variety of gyms (from the super-cheap, to the posh, and the exclusive with a personal trainer) for me to find my Y.  Don’t be afraid to shop around.  It’s really about what works best for you.  The Y is on my path home.  I figured out that it takes the same amount of time for me to go to a 5:30 class at the Y and get home as it does to go directly home fighting 5 o’clock traffic.  It also happens that all varieties and types of people are welcome at the Y.  I don’t get on the cardio machines and see tight bodies that I want to beat to a bloody pulp everywhere – there’s one or two, but I can usually ignore them. 

If you’re exercising be as comfortable as you can.  For some ungodly reason, everyone is telling us to be (or get) fit and healthy, but the stupid clothing industry is NOT helping the large trying to become small(er).  The best investment you’ll ever make is in a solid pair of athletic shoes.  Go to a local running shop – if whoever comes to help you isn’t helpful and friendly get someone else – and be properly fitted for shoes.  Yes, they are expensive, but your budget will thank me when you’re not spending money on doctor’s bills or you’ve quit because your feet/legs/hips/back are killing you.  If you’re female, the second best investment is a GOOD sports bra.  I’m partial to the Moving Comfort brand discovery I made last year (I started out as a 40 DDD and they make a very supportive larger bra), but I had Luminere and Champion (when I wasn’t so well-endowed) before that.  Be warned that you should try them on first if possible.  Sports bras do NOT fit like regular bras.  I wore a 40 DD sports bra, but my regular bras were DDD.  Try them on, jump/bounce up and down, run in place, whatever.  Make sure nothing pokes or pinches.  If you fear chafing get an anti-chafe stick.  I think I got an Arm & Hammer at Walmart, but I also use Body Glide.  I sweat like a cold glass on a hot day, so for me, moisture-wicking material is the best invention ever. Just remember, getting your exercise on is not about what you look like while you sweat; the reward comes in the afterglow of what you’ve accomplished.

Because I run and ride outside I don’t listen to music very often, and I recommend that for safety reasons you learn to live without the tunes (or at least not via headphones/earbuds that cut out all other surrounding sound).  I like to think that my theme song is "Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson.  I know it’s cheesy, but I first heard it about the same time I started down this path and it’s gotten me through some rough times.  The quote that I mostly live by is “The voice inside your head that says you can’t do this IS A LIAR.”  I think I saw that on a Nike advert circulated on Facebook at the beginning of this trip last year.

P.S.  I can now run a full 4 miles without stopping.  It’s not fast, but it’s still running.

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