One of the reasons I started my website is that I wanted a place for women to come together and dream. We women need to know that we don't have to hang on to an old dream that has stopped nurturing us -- that there is always time to start a new dream. This week's story is about a woman who packed on some pounds during her pregnancies and had a hard time keeping it off. She realized she needed to make a change -- but it wasn't until her daughter challenged her with two simple words that she decided to get going on her weight loss journey once and for all. -– Marlo, MarloThomas.com
By Lori Weiss
Like many moms, Phyllis Strand was having a hard time getting rid of the baby weight she put on while carrying her first child. She tried cutting calories and the occasional Jazzercise class, but nothing more than a few pounds ever seemed to budge. It would be frustrating for any new mom, but even more so for Phyllis, since her first born, Chris, was now 28.
“I had two more children after Chris,” Phyllis explained, “Pamela and Laura, and I’d carry them as camouflage, to cover up the rolls. And I became the family photographer. We’d go on trips to the beach and I’d take the pictures, so I didn’t have to be in them.”
And she kept the mirrors in the house to a minimum. It wasn’t that Phyllis didn’t know she had weight to lose, but in her case, no one was making a very big deal of it.
“When my son started dating our daughter-in-law, she began taking the pictures. I remember thinking ‘Oh, Big Mama! For someone who cares so much about her hair, there’s something going on south of there.’”
“I was a size 14,” she continued, “and I was carrying around an extra 50 pounds. There seems to be this middle ground -- where if you don’t tip the scale too far, no one says much. I’d go to the doctor and they’d ask if I smoked, if I drank or if I took birth control pills, but they never suggested that maybe I should drop a few.”
And Phyllis’s blood work didn’t appear to reflect any big issues. She took a little something for blood pressure, a little something for cholesterol and a tiny bit of medication for depression.
“They kind of made light of it. They said if it weren’t for pregnant women, they’d put these drugs in the water!”
But it was when she reached her 40s that her weight began to get in her way.
“There was a fullness to my belly,” Phyllis said, “that seemed to come with age. And there’s something weird that happened to my butt. It just suddenly began to sag. Gravity was taking over and that’s when I felt like I needed to figure this out.”
So when a co-worker suggested that they commit to a 90-day exercise plan, she agreed to 30 minutes a day on the treadmill, as long as there was no running involved.
‘If I were being chased,” she laughed, “I wouldn’t run, I’d hide! We are not hunters in my family, we’re gatherers.”
The exception to that rule was Phyllis' 25-year-old daughter, Laura, who had battled her own weight issues by beginning a running program. When Laura saw that her Mom was beginning to get in the game, she decided to challenge her to take the next step, by secretly signing her up for a 5K run that preceded the New York City Marathon. It was a race that would change Phyllis’s life, but the real turning point would come with two little words.
Article continues below slideshow.
Even though Phyllis was overweight, she wasn't obese and had no serious health problems. Her doctors never suggested a fitness plan to rid herself of the extra pounds.
It was at her very first race that Phyllis's daughter texted the words that would change Phyllis's life -- Run Faster.
Phyllis's weight never ballooned rapidly. Instead, she steadily gained weight over the years, starting with the hard-to-lose baby weight after she gave birth to her first child, Chris.
With her daughter Laura's support, Phyllis started racking up the miles. Here are mom and daughter after a race in Cleveland.
Phyllis's husband, Chuck, brought a sign to cheer their daughter Laura on during all her races. But when Phyllis and Laura ran the Staten Island Half Marathon in 2012, Phyllis reached the sign before Laura did!
After she had children, Phyllis found it difficult to lose the baby weight -- and found herself hiding behind her kids during photos. Here she is in 1991, on vacation with her daughter Laura. Years later, Laura would inspire Phyllis to get moving!
Phyllis shows off her finisher's medal after completing the Philadelphia Half Marathon in September 2012.
Before embracing her healthier, more active lifestyle, Phyllis was on medication for high blood pressure, cholesterol and depression. Unfortunately, none of her doctors suggested that incorporating better fitness habits could help make her medication-free.
It wasn't until her daughter-in-law began taking family photos that Phyllis realized it was time to do something about her weight. Here she is in her pre-running days with her son at his wedding in September 2004.
Running has become a major part of Phyllis's life these days. When her family went on vacation to Cleveland, she took the getaway as an opportunity to run a 10K race!
Phyllis rang in her 52nd birthday on Oct. 7, 2012, by crossing the finish line at a half marathon with daughter Laura by her side.
After lots of hard work, Phyllis models her first size 2 outfit!
Phyllis has gotten her husband Chuck on board with running as well! Here's the couple at Chuck's first 5K race in May 2012.
Laura celebrates Easter -- and her new slim figure! -- with her daughters Pamela and Laura.
Phyllis took some time during a family vacation to squeeze in a run with her brother David and daughter Laura.
Even injuries don't stop her! Here's Phyllis with a sprained knee after a race -- but she's still all smiles!
It was a co-worker who initially convinced Phyllis to start a 90-day exercise plan. Now, she's the one encouraging her coworkers to get active! Here she is with some workmates before a 5K corporate run.
“I literally said good-bye to everyone at the office, certain that my brain was going to blow up during the race. I had taken my workout up to an hour a day, so by race day, I was running a 12-minute mile, which really is just above walking, but it was running for me!”
“I took the train from Stamford, Connecticut, into the city and found my daughter and her friends. They were adorable -- all dressed alike, in leggings and shorts with their hair up. And there I was, with 7 layers of clothes on, wearing a race day shirt, which they informed me was a faux pas.”
And that wasn’t the only issue. As the race was about to begin, Phyllis found herself at the back of the pack, while Laura and her friends were right up front.
“They place you in the pack,” the apprehensive athlete recalled, “according to your speed. I was like number 2 billion! So I texted my daughter and said, ‘I don’t like it back here.’ And I got two words back. ‘Run faster.' That was it. It was on!”
“I couldn’t run fast enough at that point. I’d see people in front of me and think I’ve got to be faster than that person. And I’d make it my goal to get ahead of them. I’d see kids running and thought, ‘If they beat me, this is going to be embarrassing.’ And as I headed towards the finish line, it hit me -- I’m going to finish my first race. I’m actually finishing a race!”
Not only did Phyllis finish, she made it past the finish line just five minutes after her daughter. And to top things off, all that training helped her take off 25 pounds.
Laura continued to challenge her Mom, convincing Phyllis -- who still had another 25 pounds to go -- to try a 10K and then for her birthday, a half marathon.
“I have to admit,” Phyllis said, “I was worried about that half marathon, so my husband and I secretly drove to Philadelphia to sneak one in before I ran with Laura. Chuck told me that every time he saw a stretcher, he’d say, ‘Please don’t let that be Phyllis.’ But I made it -- 13.1 miles. I made it!”
So on October 7th, 2012 -- the day Phyllis turned 52, she joined her daughter for the Staten Island Half Marathon. And as she reached the 5K mark, she noticed her husband in the crowd. Typically, he would have been holding up a sign the couple brings to all of Laura’s races. But when Phyllis passed by, she noticed Chuck had it by his side. She stopped briefly to ask why -- and his answer: Laura hadn’t gotten there yet.
And just at that moment, Phyllis heard a voice from behind her. It was Laura asking, “You’re not ahead of me, are you?”
“That was the best birthday present ever! I was ahead of my 25-year-old daughter at the 5K mark!”
In the end, Laura did beat her mother to the finish line, but she circled back, so they could cross it together. By the time Phyllis finished that race, she was not only an accomplished runner, she was on her way to wearing a size 2. She had lost 57 pounds.
“I owe my life to my daughter,” Phyllis said. “I wish so much that someone in one of those doctor’s offices had just said something years ago. I have so much energy and I’m so happy now. I wish they had told me how much of a difference exercise could make in my life.”
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