You can become what you want to be (or the story of how I lost 85 pounds)

by Kim on January 25, 2012 · 68 comments

I think I’ve done a pretty good job of describing the life events that lead to this decision to sell our things, quit our jobs, uproot, and travel.

I realized recently, though, that I haven’t done much (if any) explaining of the life I lead before I moved to Oregon.  I think that what I’m about to share is an important piece of the puzzle because, upon reflection, I can see that these experiences are what gave me the confidence to believe that I can create the kind of life that I want for myself.  

I believe that I can become what I want to become because I’ve done it once before.

__________

You can become who you want to be

In 2005 I started running.  I vividly remember the first time I decided to attempt a lap around the track.  Today, I will start running, I told myself. And I did.

I’d spent the previous year, 2004, in the gym.  The year before that, 2003, I’d experienced a number of big events that greatly impacted my life.

First, in March of 2003, as my college roommates and I and a few other close friends drove to Florida to celebrate our senior year spring break, I’d watched as a semi truck ran the SUV that carried six of them off of the highway (we were caravaning in two cars), causing a severe accident.  One of my friends was killed and the others badly injured.  I, along with the friends in the unaffected car, were nearly first on the scene.  It was a helpless and horrifying experience, as you can imagine.

Second, in June of 2003, three months after the accident, I graduated college.  I imagine that even during normal circumstances this is a major shock to the system, but I was uniquely unprepared to cope as I’d spent the previous three months in a fog (and would spend a good many months into the future in the same fog).  I was young and struggling to come to terms with the fragility of life.  At 21, I’d thought I was invincible, but experiencing this horrible accident had taught me otherwise.  I struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Third, in July of 2003, I’d started working full time as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer.  An overall good experience in retrospect, but I was dirt poor, earning a stipend of $750 a month (about $4.50 per hour).  Likewise, working as an AmeriCorps volunteer was a stop-gap measure.  I had no idea what I’d do with my life after my year of service ended.

To cope with the turmoil and stress in my life, I turned to food.  AmeriCorps volunteers qualified for food stamps and food became my one luxury, the only thing that I could afford to indulge in.  Also, I was supremely unhappy, and eating brought me joy, at least temporarily.

To make this long story a little bit shorter, let me get to the point.  In the year between 2003 and 2004, I gained sixty pounds.  I was unhealthy, extremely overweight, and unhappy.  I was 22 years old.

__________

By some miracle, over the course of the year that I was in AmeriCorps, I’d managed to secure a job once my AmeriCorps gig was up.  The new job was located across the country in Portland, Oregon.  In August of 2004, I embarked on my fourth major life change that year- taking a new job in a city that I had never been to and in which I knew not a single soul.  Actually, I knew one soul, my new-ish boyfriend, Brian, who would make the journey with me.

__________

I was quite a mess when I arrived in Portland.  I was broke, overweight, and depressed.  I was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.  One night I was sweeping the kitchen in our apartment with a miniature broom (they were cheaper than the normal sized brooms) and I threw out my back.  At the hospital the doctor pulled me aside “Are you on drugs?  Your heart rate is quite high.” I was not on drugs.  But in that moment I’d wished that the answer was so simple. I felt a deep shame at his judgement of me.

__________

The irony was that I had always considered myself an active person.  I was an athlete growing up.  I’d played soccer since the age of 5.  In college, I took my first backpacking trip and I fell in love with the forest.  I hiked whenever I got the chance.  Yet here I was, living in a wild and beautiful part of the country, and I didn’t have the endurance to climb the mountains around me.  I didn’t have the energy to set out on a hike through the forest.

Perhaps the worst part of it all was the huge discrepancy between who I felt that I was on the inside and who I appeared to be on the outside.  On the inside, I was an energetic, active, outdoorsy person.  I was an athlete.  On the outside, I was an overweight smoker headed towards an early grave.

I resolved to change.  I told myself that I would not give up until the person I was on the inside and the person I was on the outside were the same person.

So, in 2004, I joined the gym.  I went every single day.  Slowly, I began to lose weight.  Two pounds a week, week after week, gone.  I felt healthier, lighter, but I knew I could never be the person I was on the inside if I continued to smoke.  I quit smoking.

By the summer of 2005, I’d lost sixty pounds.  I’d always admired the fit, muscled runners I saw darting up the trails in the local park, so I decided to become one.  By the time I ran my first marathon in 2006, I’d lost ten more pounds.  By the time I ran my fourth marathon in 3 hours and 36 minutes- qualifying to run the Boston Marathon- I’d lost fifteen more on top of that.

__________

The first mountain that I ever climbed was Saddle Mountain in Oregon’s coastal range.  It’s a mountain that I can run up now, but at the time I huffed and puffed and stopped every few hundred yards to catch my breath.  When I finally reached the top, Brian snapped my photo, and when I look at that picture today I can see in my eyes a tiny twinkle of pride.

I know now that the moment I reached the top of that mountain was the moment when I began to believe that I would one day be, on the outside, who I’d been all along on the inside.  

 Happy at the top of the mountain, 2004

At the top of Saddle Mountain, 2004

Mary Tyler Moore said: “You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.”  I don’t necessary know if that’s true.  What I do know is that emerging on the other side of this challenging time made me stronger.  I know that suffering made me more compassionate.  And I know that pulling myself out a dark place taught me how strong I am, how strong we all are.  

That confidence has served me well as I chase this dream.

At the top of Dog Mountain, 2010

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{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

Gillian @OneGiantStep January 25, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Wow. That’s all. You don’t need inspiring. Your ARE inspiring.

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Kim January 25, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Thanks Gillian. I am no more inspiring than anyone else, but thank you for saying it anyway :)

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Janet January 25, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Kim, thank you for writing. You’re really, really good at it.

Even when I know the stories you tell, you tell them so well that I feel like it’s the first time I’ve ever heard them.

You truly are an inspiration.

I feel so proud to know you.

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Kim January 25, 2012 at 8:11 pm

XOXOX. Janet, I feel proud to know you, my friend.

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Lisa January 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Wow, you are an inspiration to all of us. Im so happy for you and your new life.

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Kim January 25, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Thank you for your very kind words, Lisa.

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adventuremom January 25, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Encouraging post! I just started running again after a long break. Thanks for being an inspiration and example of daily discipline.

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Kim January 25, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Ah, congrats on running again! Running has truly changed my life, and you are right, it is all about daily discipline. When I was losing weight I remember I asked myself, every day, who do you want to be? Then, I made decisions to reflect who I wanted to be. For some reason, asking myself that question made things easier. I guess in many ways it’s the same strategy I used to prepare for this trip. It’s how I saved money and gave up things I wanted (or thought I wanted). Every day we have a choice!

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Maryjean January 25, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Kim Thank you for sharing that. You are inspiring and I believe when we believe in ourselves we can make things happen! And your proof of that.

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Kim January 25, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Thanks MJ. Yes, I believe you are right. When we believe in ourselves we can make things happen.

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renee schauer January 25, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Wow. I.love.this blog.

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Kim January 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Thanks Renee :)

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Kristin M January 25, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Thank you for sharing your story. :) My friend helped me get into running this past year, and even though I’ve stopped for the moment (mainly because it’s been too cold and I’m a wuss, lol), I’m determined to start up again to get healthier.

As always, a very encouraging post!

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Kim January 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Man, the thing about running is that you never want to do it but you’re always glad you did! Best wishes starting again :)

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Shweta January 26, 2012 at 1:35 am

I love your honesty in this post and others!

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Thanks. A few years ago I would have been embarrassed to tell this story but I’ve learned that telling the truth about yourself takes away the stigma and, on top of that, connects you to others who are struggling with the same things.

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Hannah January 26, 2012 at 4:12 am

Bravo Kim, seriously, I’m giving you a little standing ovation from behind my desk over here in England. You never cease to amaze me, which is a magical quality I just love about you. I have always thought I was not built to be a runner – but now I think I will give it a try. Maybe we can take a run together some day :) xxx

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:04 pm

I would love to go on a run with you someday :) And, trust me, anyone can run.

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Alonna January 26, 2012 at 4:56 am

This is a great story, thanks for sharing it!

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:05 pm

You are welcome. Thanks for reading!

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Bisa January 26, 2012 at 5:34 am

Hi Kim

I am new to your blog. You have inspired me so much in the past week that I can’t even fully express. When I read your posts I am sitting hear nodding at the computer and saying, “That is exactly how I feel”. When I finally decided to follow my dream of traveling my weight is the first thing I know I need to control in order to have the experience I want. Thanks for sharing and I can’t wait to read more.

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Thank you so much! It means the world to me to hear it. If I offer you any support at all please just email me. Think of this time as the time that your dream is building inside of you so that when you decide to act you have reserves inside to draw from.

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Sarah Somewhere January 26, 2012 at 6:47 am

Kim, you continue to amaze and inspire me and I feel truly honoured to have the chance to know you better through your wonderful writing. You are a classic example of dont judge a book by its cover – I look at you (from your photos) and think “ultra fit, marathon runner,” (in a good way) which is true now I guess, but I never would have imagined you to be otherwise. Or that it may not have been easy for you to become the way you are. I love that you share your story, your honesty is so unbelievably refreshing. I truly believe that pain is the touchstone to growth, and you have obviously benefited exponentially from your dark times. Your friend would be very proud that you are living your precious life to the full.

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Hi Sarah, thank you.

I do feel as though I have an obligation to live my life in honor of my friend who didn’t get to see these years. She lives on inside of me and all of us (those girls, my roommates, are still my best friends. We email each other almost every single day). Okay, now I have to share this amazing poem even though it is long and going to make this the most enormous post ever. And I know I am always sharing poems and there are about five people on the planet that love poems, but I’m one of them and I can’t help myself:

My Dead Friends

I have begun,
when I’m weary and can’t decide an answer to a bewildering
question

to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear.

Should I take the job? Move to the city? Should I try to conceive
a child
in my middle age?

They stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling- whatever leads
to joy, they always answer,
to more life and less worry. I look into the vase where Billy’s ashes were-
it’s green in there, a green vase,

and I ask Billy if I should return the difficult phone call, and
he says, yes.
Billy’s already gone through the frightening door,

whatever he says I’ll do.

-Marie Howe

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Sarahsomewhere January 27, 2012 at 7:14 am

Thank you. It’s beautiful, as are you!

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Amy January 26, 2012 at 8:11 am

Kim you are such an inspiration to me! I needed to read something like this right about now and this is fantastic! I love following you on this journey!

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Thank you Amy :) I’m glad that it came at the right time. XO.

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Christy January 26, 2012 at 10:59 am

Wowzers. I have to agree with Gillian. You are truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Thanks Christy. I don’t know what to say to your kind words except for thank you and it is so nice to hear. But, everyone is inspiring, now just me!

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Justin January 26, 2012 at 11:10 am

This is great! Thanks for sharing.

I have this theory that in just one day anyone can become the person they want to be. You’re helping me prove my theory.

Just do it!

Great, Honest Post!

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Justin, I believe you are right. Because even though it takes awhile to become the person you want to be, the second you decide (like really, really decide) to commit yourself your world shifts and you aren’t the same anymore.

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Dalene January 26, 2012 at 11:52 am

Love your honesty (as always), in this story-behind-the-story. :)

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Thanks Dalene.

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Leah Travels January 26, 2012 at 12:04 pm

This is a timely article for me. I’ve always been an athlete, even playing basketball in college, but I’ve not made exercising a consistent priority since then. I decided recently to start training for a half marathon in October. You’ve given me encouragement and incentive to go ahead and lace up those shoes and get out the door. Thanks and congratulations!

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Congratulations!!! I don’t know if you’ve run a half marathon before but let me tell you that nothing feels better than crossing that finish line. Nothing. When the going gets tough I always repeat this mantra that I heard from an Olympic marathoner: “Run the mile you are in.”

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Darcy @SustainableFamilyFinances January 26, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Working with you for the past several years, I would have never guessed that you could have ever been anything but super skinny. I’m ready to loose my small chubbiness; you definitely inspire me to make a full lifestyle change. I’m so happy you were able to bring balance and joy back in to your life.

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Thanks Darcy. Did you just call me skinny? Say it again. Haha, just kidding.

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Amanda January 26, 2012 at 12:36 pm

You are the reason I started running, and continue to run. You have inspired so many different areas of my life.

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Awww, thanks. I love you. You inspire me everyday. The biggest blessing in my life is my wonderful sisters.

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Carmel January 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm

You never cease to amaze me. I’m so glad I get to know you outside of the blogosphere. :)

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Carmel, I’m so happy that this blog made us real life friends :)

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Isabelle January 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Wow, your journey is amazing! I’ve been telling myself that I should start running for years! I think your story is what I needed. Proof that you can really decide to exercise and stick to it! Congratulations! And I may just start to run too (not now, too much snow and ice!).

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Kim January 26, 2012 at 6:22 pm

You really can stick to it. Just do it (Nike really did come up with the simplest, best slogan ever). Just do it when you want to do it and just do it when you don’t want to do it. Good luck!!

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Rhonda January 27, 2012 at 7:59 am

Great post. Thanks for encouraging ALL of us to strive to be better than we are. Congrats on moving from an overweight, unmotivated smoker to a fit, healthy woman ready to embark on traveling around the world!

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Kim January 27, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Thanks Rhonda! Your 15 day raw food fast has definitely inspired me to test my limits :)

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Cherina | Quiet Wanderings January 27, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Kim, this is such an inspiring post. So personal and so well written. I am a firm believer in making your own changes in your life and am always proud to hear of people knuckling down and doing it. I think this new journey you are about to embark on is going to really compliment your already great attitude to life!

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Kim January 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Thank you! I really do hope you are right and that our new journey adds to the journey we have already been on :)

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Ali January 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm

You continue to impress me with your writing & your life. This is so awesome! Your blog has brought tears to my eyes more than anyone else’s, so wonderfully touching. I need to do some of this getting into shape myself. I will definitely re-read this often as I try to kick myself into gear.

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Kim January 28, 2012 at 9:07 am

Thanks Ali :) It honestly means so much to me to hear you say that. I hope you are doing well. XO

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Miel January 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Thanks for the inspiration Kim! I totally agree with you in the domino effect working both ways. Have faith in your dreams, take actions, and you will see results.

I’ve lost 17lbs in the last year, when previously I had convinced myself that it really wasn’t possible to loose enough to be within the healthy weight range.

Excuses are just those. Be the change and it will happen.

Thanks for your inspiration!

Miel

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Kim January 31, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Congrats Miel. I know it isn’t easy, whether it is 17 pounds or 85!!

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Ajay February 4, 2012 at 5:40 am

WOW ! Thats all I can say…

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Kim February 4, 2012 at 10:58 am

Hehe, thanks Ajay :)

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Kariann June 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm

I am so going running, right now!

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Kim June 27, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Yay! I’m so glad it could motivate!

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Angie Mattson November 8, 2012 at 5:39 am

Kim – I don’t know you, but I very nearly *am* you. Financial pressures, a significant move to a place I don’t love, a 2 hour daily commute…all of this has led to a hefty 20 lb. weight gain on top of my already being 30 lbs overweight. I am active – hiking, backpacking, kayaking,and more, but huff and puff up mountains more and more. Your success, words and journey continue to inspire me!

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Kim November 8, 2012 at 7:23 am

Angie, all I can say is I totally get it. Life is a complicated and messy thing and there are times when it seems we literally look up and think “how did it get this way?” I am cheering for you. Controlling my weight and staying healthy are constant struggles for me and a thing I know I’ll fight my whole life. XOXO

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Rob - Hungry Escapades July 26, 2013 at 2:14 am

Hey Kim, wow I love discovering your older posts! Another inspiring post! Well done on all your achievements.
Rob – Hungry Escapades recently posted..Choosing the perfect backpack

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Kim July 27, 2013 at 8:22 am

Thanks Rob!

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Beyang August 28, 2013 at 4:24 pm

I find your story and your blog so inspiring! Since I found it I’ve been reading it almost every day to help form my upcoming travel plans. Thank you for sharing all of your amazing stories!
Beyang recently posted..My First Stop-Motion Video

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Kim August 29, 2013 at 11:20 am

I’m so glad you found the blog! Thank you for your kind words :)

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Stephanie February 26, 2014 at 11:17 am

Kim, I’m sure I’m not saying what hundreds of people have already said before, but I’m so inspired by your blog. I just found out travel blogs existed, like, last week–and since then I’ve been inspired to switch from local blogging to documenting my travels. But your blog is so much more than the narcissistic “oh look where I’ve been” that I’ve seen from some travel bloggers out there; there’s something so comforting and matter-of-fact about your writing voice that I love! Like this: “I’d always admired the fit, muscled runners I saw darting up the trails in the local park, so I decided to become one.”

So simple, so true! I’ve been going through a hard time physically as well, and after reading your post, I’ve decided to just go for it. I’ve always admired toned, flexible, healthy yoga people. So I’m going to become one!

Keep writing, you’ve got another fan!
Stephanie recently posted..Our Two-Week Vietnam Itinerary

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Kim February 27, 2014 at 6:07 am

Hi Stephanie, I’m so glad you’ve found that blog and that you are enjoying it. Thank you for your kind words. And I’m so glad you’re stepping out on your journey to become a yogi. Once you begin you already are, of course I find I only ever see that after the fact.

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