30 lbs overweight and overwhelmed

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July 15, 2015 Atlanta – While reporting on a story last summer, I (right) joined Mercy Care outreach specialist Ricky Alexander (left) and his team as they helped the homeless in downtown Atlanta. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Thirty pounds. That’s how much weight I gained when my boyfriend, now husband, nearly died in January 2013.

I went from avid runner, backpacker and healthy eater – well mostly – to fast food connoisseur with my backside firmly planted in hospital chairs for hours on end. (My favorite chair was a seen-better-days recliner a kind nurse finagled for me.)

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I ran my first half marathon on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 2010.

For months, I scavenged sketchy-looking breakfast burritos from sketchy-looking gas stations. I raided the hospital snack machines when I got tired of Chick-fil-A or Blimpie subs. (You can read about my husband’s accident and journey to recovery here.)

Anything was fair game for my stomach as long as it was nearby.

Amid the chaos – juggling hospital visits with a full-time job then eventually taking on what was essentially a second full-time job as a caregiver – my lowest priority by far was myself.

I can’t remember when I eventually stepped my 5’2½” frame onto a scale, but I’ll never forget the bright red digital numbers that glared up at me. 

160.8 pounds.

When the initial shock passed, I realized that number put me solidly in the overweight category with a body mass index, or BMI, (a quick, though overly simplistic, way to gauge if someone is at a healthy weight) of 28.9.

More than two-thirds of American adults are now considered overweight or obese. I was – and still am – one of them.

I could see those 160.8 pounds in the puffiness of my cheeks and expanding waistline. I suddenly found myself sweating uncomfortably when it wasn’t hot out.

It wasn’t the way I looked that bothered me about the extra poundage. Frankly, I had more important things to worry about. But I worried about the toll on my body.

That was a little over three years ago. My husband is thankfully on the mend. Life is getting somewhat back to normal.

I have no excuses now.

My efforts to get back on a healthy track have come in fits and starts. I ran and tried to eat better. I lost 10 pounds, then promptly gained them back.

It wasn’t until this past summer that I told myself – enough already.

Now, I’m back to running. I’ve lost about 20 pounds so far, but my weight continues to fluctuate. I’m still shy of reaching what’s considered a “healthy” BMI – defined by the National Institutes of Health as 18.5 to 24.9.

As a health care reporter, my mission to get healthy has spurred me to examine why it is so challenging for so many people – including me – to not just achieve a healthy weight but also enjoy an overall healthy lifestyle.

What makes our favorite junk food so delicious if it’s bad for us? Is it better to sweat profusely at the local CrossFit gym a few times a week or take 30-minute, moderate-paced walks every day? How do the stresses of daily life affect how long we live? What does the term “natural” that adorns the labels of supposedly healthy foods really mean?

These are just some of the questions I hope to tackle here at Health Matters. And I’ll share some of my own challenges and frustrations along the way as I try to improve my own health.

I hope you’ll join me and perhaps offer up your own insights and questions along the way.

Got a health question? Email healthmatters@ajc.com.


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