My Story – Holly Danks

Posted: October 22, 2010 in body image, Diet, Excercise, Fitness, Motivation, Weightloss
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My Story by Holly Danks – Guest Blogger

I grew up with the nickname “Moose,” a tomboy at a time when girl jocks weren’t cool and didn’t have a place to play. I wasn’t overweight as a kid, although at my current height of 5-foot-6 since fourth grade, I was taller than most boys in my class until high school. As the first-born, Dad taught me how to throw a curve ball and block the plate, how to dribble and shoot a layup, how to toss a spiral and tackle a runner. I played baseball, basketball and football with the neighbor boys, holding my own against guys five years older and 50 pounds heavier than me. The nickname stuck – and didn’t bother me. Never has. My brother still calls me that.

I have a great collection of stuffed mooses and other moose stuff.

I lost about 15 pounds – whether I needed to or not — mostly by cutting out sweets and desserts my sophomore year away at college. When I came home for Christmas break, Mom accused me of being anorexic. I didn’t think so, I was just busy with classes and my job in the dorm cafeteria and didn’t always eat. Or eat right. But weighing just under 120 didn’t last, and when I got married at age 22 after graduation with a journalism degree, I weighed about 129 — pretty much ideal for my smallish frame.

Fast-forward 33 years and 100 pounds — where did the time go and the weight creep in?  I’d always been active, or so I thought. I could always get rid of the extra weight. Until it started ganging up on me. And by that time I didn’t really care. I was Moose.

Racquetball four times a week gave way to plantar fascitis and bad knees.  A lifeguard and swim instructor through high school and college, it was a bother to get into a swimsuit. Besides, I told myself that I didn’t have time to workout because my job, as a reporter for The Oregonian, was unpredictable and the hours long.  So instead using exercise and a balanced mind/body to relieve the stress of deadlines and the ugliness and tragedy I saw on the streets and heard in court on a daily basis, I relied on fast food, candy and diet Coke – and a lot of yelling and cursing – to get me through the day.

After my first knee surgery on torn cartilage in 2001, I wanted to rehab so I could play racquetball again. So I had a trainer at my health club show me how to do the weight machines and set me up on a program. I stuck with it for about six months and lost 40 pounds, but my knees never did feel right and my enthusiasm petered out. I got bored and probably something like vacation or work interfered, I don’t even remember why I quit. I told myself I didn’t care.

Every now and then, my doctor told me that I should lose weight. Yeah, I know. But even as my blood pressure and cholesterol began to mount, I shrugged it off.  Too hard. No time. I’m fine. I still play softball. I’m Moose.

I’d cut out French fries, bacon and dessert and lose 10 pounds here and there, but still wasn’t into regular exercising. My doctor made a mistake by telling me that I didn’t have to starve myself or give up everything I liked, that I could allow myself a fry or a few once in a while.

That was all I needed to hear. A few fries turned into supersize – and so did I.

My husband knew I wasn’t happy – or healthy – and suggested that I try water aerobics at the club. I started dropping in for deep-water class on Sunday mornings, with Eleni Kehagiaras as the instructor.  Easy to do, I already was up for church and the club was on my way home. Path of least resistance. Something to make me feel like I was doing some good.

It was a start, but that’s about as far as it went. Back then, the only pool was outdoors, so there was no swimming nine months of the year. I did miss it, but still didn’t make time for anything else at the club until the indoor pools opened. Then I did water aerobics year-round – yeah right, still only weekends.

Eleni started a weight-loss program at the health club about four years ago and every now and then would mention why didn’t I attend? She didn’t push, though, knowing instead that for a healthy change to stick, each individual has to make the choice, has to be ready and has to be in the right frame of mind. I just didn’t feel I was there.

The first real move I made for my health – and myself – was when I retired in November 2009 after 25 years at The Oregonian. I was only 54, but could see the writing on the wall both for me, an old-school reporter resistant to change, and for the newspaper industry as a whole. Not room for either in this new, technologically wired world. Yes, I was pretty depressed about that, but at the same time, I was happy to be getting out.

So with my buyout money, I had double knee surgery (second meniscus repair on my right, first on my left) just before Thanksgiving 2009. A couple weeks later I was standing all day making Christmas cookies at my sister-in-law’s house in California — and my knees were screaming all night.

I decided right then, if I couldn’t even enjoy the simplest of activities with my family, that I was going have to do something drastic. I wanted to be healthy enough to make the most of my new-found free time and enjoy it for many years to come. I needed to get in shape, get the extra weight off my knees and overburdened heart and lungs, and enroll that January in Eleni’s weight-loss program.

The first weigh-in was scary – I had been avoiding the scale for years as my clothes size increased. But already wearing a 22W and hating shopping in the women’s department, I was NOT going to go up another size. Even if my thighs were rubbings holes in the seams of my only pair of jeans.

Eleni had me fill out a questionnaire that made me think about my commitment, why I eat and why I wanted to lose weight. I didn’t know it then, but she now tells the story about how freaked she was when I pulled out the list of 17 medications I took regularly, including prescriptions for high cholesterol, acid reflux, irregular heartbeat, migraines and irritable bowel syndrome. About the only thing healthy about me was that I didn’t smoke or drink. Heck, looking back on what a mess I was, I probably SHOULD have been drinking!

I weighed 229 pounds on Jan, 5, 2008. I think Eleni was being generous giving me two pounds for my clothes and my breakfast. My body mass index was 37 and my body fat was 46.2 percent. Obese on all counts and heading toward diabetes and a heart attack.

To start off, Eleni had her clients keep track of what we ate. She preaches no processed foods, sugars or salt. Cut down on carbohydrates and eat more protein. Drink plenty of water, at least eight glasses a day. Because I come from a long line of salt-a-holics, it was huge for me to take the salt shakers off the table and counter and replace them with Mrs. Dash. I also used to guzzle four or five  – OK, seven or eight – diet Cokes a day, especially at my work computer. Now I have none. I drink green tea for caffeine and haven’t had a bad migraine in months.

I also cut out fast food (unless you count Subway once every couple months), fried foods, desserts and bakery items. Well, OK, I used the 100-calorie cookie packs and fat-free or sugar-free puddings to help me through the early months of my diet, but since I threw them out at the beginning of this year, I’ve gotten past my plateau.

My staples are chicken, fish, turkey, oatmeal, apples, oranges, broccoli, lettuce and tomatoes. I try to limit bread to turkey sandwiches and carbs to reduced-fat crackers and pretzels for snacks.

I have found that I am an “All or Nothing” girl. I tell myself I will only have one piece of candy, but if I get started, I have a bag. So if I don’t take the first bite…

But diet alone isn’t the answer. Exercise gets everything moving, mentally as well as physically.

Taking my gimpy knees into account (not to mention my rotator cuff tendonitis) Eleni put me and the others in my class through our paces twice a week for eight weeks. Lunges, leg extensions, squats, leg curls, chest presses, leg presses, seated rows, pull ups, push-ups, triceps pushdowns, biceps curls, lat pull downs, hammer curls, dead lifts, ab crunches, roll-ups, bench step ups, front raises, lateral raises, reverse rows, walk/run laps on track. Then she’d get out the medicine balls and weighted bars.

Besides the two days with Eleni, I went to the club three or four other days a week to do core strengthening classes in the pool and ride a stationary cycle for cardio and my knees. In all, I’d spend at least two hours a day, and often three or four hours, working out as often as six days a week.

In no time at all, I got stronger and the weights we used got heavier. Within a few weeks of starting Eleni’s workouts, friends were commenting on how my face was getting thinner and my clothes were beginning to hang. I could sit cross-legged on the floor for the first time in years. Heck, I could even get down on the floor in the first place.

In four weeks I had lost 10 pounds and more than 20 inches. May not sound like a lot, but because I started losing weight slowly and with both diet and exercise, it will stay off!

At the final weigh-in after eight weeks, I was down 22 pounds and 30.5 inches, including nine inches off my waist alone. My body fat dropped 2.6 percent and my total weight loss was 9.6 percent. I was the biggest loser. I was happy – but didn’t quit there.

Today, a year after starting Eleni’s weight-loss program, I can’t quit smiling. I have lost more than 80 pounds.  My doctor has cut my prescription doses in half, until she can check my blood work in another three months. She was astounded, to say the least, and probably will take me all the way off the heart, cholesterol and gastric medicines. My physical therapist is ecstatic and has given my knees and shoulders a clean bill of health.

I really didn’t have any goal weight in mind, but I had no illusions about ever again being what I weighed 30 years ago. Bodies change, skin isn’t as elastic, bones are more brittle. However, if I approach the elusive, magic number with a positive attitude, who knows? Besides, my size 12s are already loose and I’m in better shape than I was on the beach in my 20s!

I keep weight lifting, spinning and doing core strengthening in the water, and have added Pilates/yoga to the mix for stretching, stress reduction and mental health. I have found I truly enjoy exercising and working up a good sweat. I am proud to have tossed my baggy shorts and T-shirts for tight tank tops and spandex. I laugh when people tell me I am “buff.”

Because what I really am is a Moose.

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Comments
  1. Allan Brettman says:

    You’re not a moose! You’re an Illini!

    Great storytelling of inspiration, determination, support and payoff, Holly.

  2. christina murrell says:

    Great story…I’m going to be the next sister to lose weight…

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