What Was Your Life Like Before Your Transformation?
I had always been overweight growing up but when I was 18 and attending Eastern Washington University I was diagnosed with two life threatening neurological disorders: chiari malformation and pseudotumor cerebri. This was in March 2012.
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I underwent 3 major brain surgeries in a 5 month span that year. They had to remove part of my skull, the top two vertebrae of my spine, and a portion of my brain. They put a shunt in my brain I had to relearn how to walk.
As an adult I couldn't bathe myself and I spent the better part of that year in the hospital on so many medications and pain killers. I was gaining weight uncontrollably. I had to start doing physical therapy in the pool and I could hardly touch my finger to my chin. I was so sick I thought it would never get better
Please Detail Your Turning Point
In September, 2014, I had been dating this guy for a year. He was really into powerlifting and spent a lot of time at the gym. Too much time, I thought. But then I went to a few of his competitions and was inspired to give it a try. If nothing else it was more time we could spend together.
He showed me the ropes the first month or so at the gym, and taught me everything he knew. I fell in love with lifting weights. I felt strong. I felt like it gave me just a little control over my life and the craziness of being a 3 time brain surgery survivor.
Then I thought, as long as I'm working this hard to get stronger in the gym I should eat better so my body reflects all of the hard work I'm putting in. And the rest just fell into place for me.
What Were Your Major Struggles or Challenges?
The major struggles I faced, and still face, relate to my health issues. Trying to be a successful powerlifter with 2 brain diseases and a central nervous system that was pretty well destroyed because of it.
I can't count the number of times that I would be working out and the lights in the gym or the music in my headphones would over-stimulate my brain and I would be left in excruciating pain. Or how many times I would be mid-set when one whole side of my body would go numb or my vision would go blurry. But I refused to give up.
I used the handicap showers when my workouts left me with no energy to even stand up. I would have other people help me put on my socks and shoes if I pushed myself just a little too far. Nobody ever asked questions, they just helped.
On the really bad days I would just do the bare necessities of my workouts then sleep in my boyfriend's truck until he was done lifting. I figured it I at least went and got something done it was better than not having gone at all
Detail Your Workout and Cardio Plan During Your Transformation
Being that my focus was powerlifting I really focused on lifting heavy the majority of the time. Cardio twice a week, which for me was walking on a treadmill at 3 mph on the maximum incline.
As far as I how I organized my lifting, I focused on a different muscle group every day of the week back, legs, chest, etc.
Detail Your Diet/Eating Plan During Your Transformation
My dieting plan was always changing because that's what worked for me. At first I started out just cutting out the 3 worst eating habits I had which were Hot Pockets, sauces like ranch and barbecue, and carbs.
Once I had that handled I switched to a low carb, high protein diet and upped my water a lot. I found it easy to track my carrying a gallon of water everywhere I go. I also made sure my meals were based around my daily activities. Carbs in the morning and before and after the gym, and I would save any cleaning I had to do for after my meals because then I knew I would be up and active while my food had time to digest.
Detail Your Supplement Plan During Your Transformation
When I first started the only supplements I used were pre-workout and protein powder. Over time I dropped too much weight and pre-workout made me sick. Now I just make sure to have carbs before my workout. I drink protein after my workout and I also use BCAA's on my rest days.
What Was Your Major Accomplishment, or Major Milestones?
My first major milestone was losing all the weight I gained from being sick and on medications. This came when I dropped from 265 to 220. The next was when I dropped below 200 pounds, since I hadn't been that light since before high school.
The biggest milestone of all was when I lost 100 pounds. I think at that point I finally knew there was no going back. I would never be that bad again. While my medical issues weren't getting better, my mental health was. I finally felt in control of my life.
Detail Your 3 Biggest Mistakes
My 3 biggest mistakes were:
- Wanting to only max out. When you first start lifting personal records are happening multiple times a week. As time goes on they start to slow down. I was so focused on my next PR all the time that it took me a while to realize it's okay to mix it up every now and then and do some volume work.
- Next was not taking enough official before pictures and measurements because I didn't like my body, which is the point. They are supposed to be motivation to change.
- Finally I wish I would have started eating better so much sooner than I did. I never realized how important it was to fuel your muscles properly if you want them to grow.
- The first thing I learned is that exercising is the easy part. It's the staying on track with eating healthy when people are constantly around you offering up temptation is the hardest part of it.
- Second is that it is so important, especially in powerlifting, to have one solid gym partner/spotter. Trust in your spotter, and as a spotter knowing the lifting style of your partner can either make or break a lift. Luckily for me my boyfriend is obligated to spot me all the time.
- Third, I learned that we all start somewhere. As much as you are embarrassed about the way that you look nobody is judging you for at least being at the gym and trying to make a difference.
You have to do this for you and not for anybody else. Do it in whatever way works for you. There is no wrong way to get healthy. I have come from rock bottom and I changed my life against all odds. It wasn't easy but you don't have a choice. You have to fight for the things that matter. I had brain surgery what's your excuse?
I hope that not only does my story inspire other people to change their lives for the better, but that it also raises awareness for incurable diseases such as chiari malformation and pseudotumor cerebri. Neurological disorders are devastating especially in young adults.