Merriam Webster says the definition of denial is “refusal to admit the truth or reality”. For years, I was the walking definition of denial. I knew I was gaining weight, I knew I didn’t look like I wanted to look, I knew that it couldn’t be good for me, but I didn’t want to face the reality of my real health risks. At 315 pounds, borderline high blood pressure, and having 54% body fat, I was well on my way to heart disease. Thankfully, I had a huge wake up call and the opportunity to turn my life and health around.
I recently had the honor of speaking at the Northwest Louisiana American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” Luncheon. I was able to share my story of restoring my health and lowering my risk for heart disease. The work that the American Heart Association does is exactly what women need to hear. Our weight is much more than vanity; it can be a life or death situation.
Denial was not my friend. I spent years with my head in the sand, not really wanting to know the numbers. We did not own a scale; I did not go to the doctor. At all. Ever. I missed my basic Ob-Gyn appointments for several years. I did not have check ups. I did everything I could to avoid doctors, out of shame about my weight. I would tell myself “once you lose a little weight, you’ll get a check up”. I was so afraid of what I might hear from any doctor, that I just avoided them. It was the complete opposite of what I needed to be doing.
Once I arrived at boot camp, I was put through a complete battery of tests and was given the low down from Dr. Holly. It wasn’t the worst news; I wasn’t pre-diabetic, which was one big concern of mine. But it wasn’t great, either. I had borderline high blood pressure. And I was officially in the “morbidly obese” category. That was one of the hardest things to hear. It was then that I knew that I had to succeed. I had to lose the weight.
Being at the luncheon and hearing stories of women who have fought heart disease, who have had heart attacks, made me so thankful that I had the chance to turn my life around before it was too late. I met so many great men and women who are fighting the good fight.
The recipient of the Life Style Change award was Sonya Edelen. Sonya has lost 125 pounds! She made a commitment to change, and is succeeding. Meeting Sonya was incredible. She is a nurse and counsels people on healthy living. She felt like a hypocrite when she weighed over 300 pounds, but now can proudly give patients the advice, because she is living it on her own! What is so cool too, about meeting Sonya, is that she was inspired by my episode and would watch it while she worked out! The feeling was definitely mutual. I was so inspired to meet Sonya and see how far she has come.
As much as I was in denial, and for all those years that I was scared to go to the doctor, finally hearing the numbers, finally knowing exactly where I stood was a huge relief. It was empowering to just know. Not knowing exactly what kind of damage I might have been doing to myself just allowed my mind to run away with worst-case scenarios. I would imagine the worst, and pray that I wouldn’t die before I could change. As corny as it sounds, knowledge is power. Knowing my starting point allowed me to know where I needed to go.
If you are like me, I implore you to schedule a check up. Don’t allow fear, or embarrassment to keep you from getting the help that you need. I stayed frozen for years. I was stuck in a rut, unwilling to ask for help, and ashamed to reach out to anyone. Don’t do what I did. Tell someone that you are ready to change. Make a doctor’s appointment. Find out where you stand. Turn your risk around and take control of your health. No one can do it for you. As hard as it may be, it is worth it. Find your starting point, so you can celebrate when you make progress.
Your health belongs to you. Own it.