As a kid I was not the most active child nor was I the smallest. I was teased and made fun of for my weight ever since I can remember. I had boys chase after me throwing rocks while calling me fat and ugly. My elementary years were spent in torture as I continued to be bullied because of my weight. I thought for sure it would get better in middle school when everyone goes through their transition but instead I was stuck on my transitional plateau and the name calling intensified. Being called fat and ugly became a regular occurrence. I started reverting more and more inward, finally removing myself from all social settings. I would come home from class, change in to my pajamas knowing that I was not going anywhere the rest of the night. I was coping the best way I knew how but I was still missing out on life. With each day my weight began to pile on and I hide behind baggy clothes and over-sized sweatshirts. When I looked in the mirror all I saw was sadness in my eyes so I decided to stop looking in the mirror. I became so obsessed with what others thought of my weight that I kept telling myself that I was unlovable. No one would ever see past my weight and I would be that fat girl for the rest of my life. I had given up hope because I didn’t see any way out of this downward spiral that I was in. I remember once in high school sitting on the couch and watching an episode of Oprah in my pajamas. On the episode there was a woman that had lost over 300 lbs. She said she started by just clapping her hands above her head and that would wind her. Then she would make a weekly goal to walk to the door in her living room, then to the front door, to the mailbox and down the street. I clearly remember starting to clap my hands above my head and thought,
“I am only 16 and if I don’t change something soon, I will end up just like her.” I knew then that something had to change but it would take me several years to finally get up the courage to make the change that would ultimately impact the rest of my life.
When I graduated from high school, I was grateful to finally be out of the school setting that had caused me so much torture and anguish over so many years. I told myself that I would never go back and left the people that I met in my past because the pain of those transitional years was too much to bear. The next couple years my weight only continued to increase and I became obsessed once again with weighing myself. When I got to my breaking point I was 18, wore a size 20 and weighed 235 lbs.
I hated what I saw in the mirror and knew that it was time for a change. My family started on the South Beach Diet, combined with the Dr Phil Ultimate Weight Loss Solution. After a week of the South Beach diet, I had lost 5 lbs but knew it was simply a diet and I was looking for a life style change. I knew that changing the way I ate would help me lose weight but I also knew that there was more emotional baggage that was protecting me from losing weight. As we started to discuss the emotional abuse that I had experienced over the years, that is when I started to see the most impressive weight loss. I was ecstatic as I saw the number on the scale continue to drop. Over the course of the year I had successfully lost over 60 lbs. I was elated. Finally, I wasn’t the fat girl anymore. Except when I looked in the mirror all I saw was that same girl that weighed 235 lbs. I still saw the sadness in my eyes and still heard those voices of the people who called me ugly and fat. Even though they were no longer a part of my life, their words had become a constant white noise that I heard in my head. People would tell me I looked great but no matter how many compliments I got, I still downplayed them. I told them, “Oh you don’t see what is under my clothes.” The more people started to compliment me, the more uncomfortable I started to feel. I thought losing the physical weight would be enough, little did I know that I still had mental barriers that I would have to overcome as well.
As the compliments continued, I noticed that I was reverting back to my old patterns. I was starting to emotionally eat again and using my clothes to once again hide my body. I had spent a year working hard to lose the physical weight, but had not focused on my mental weight. I would try the same techniques that had worked the previous year to lose the weight but the number on the scale started to climb once again. I was devastated and terrified. I didn’t want to gain all that weight back and the more I was terrified, the more the weight crept back on. Over the next several years, my weight has fluctuated but I have not been able to lose that final 15 lbs to reach my goal weight. I tried multiple diets, workout programs and even counting calories, but nothing would budge me from that plateau. Then I decided to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was excited to finally have something else to focus on besides my weight. I was excited to serve the people of Peru and teach them about something that has had such an impact on my life.
While preparing to serve the people of Peru, I was playing frisbee and tore the cartilage in my knee. The tear required surgery and the doctor’s removed half of the cartilage in my knee, I was devastated because they had to send me home to recover from the surgery and teach me how to walk again. They told me as soon as I could walk 5 miles consecutively, then I would be able to come back and finally go to Peru. Well when I am given a goal in life, I will work my hardest towards that goal, no matter how long it takes me to get there. After 7 weeks, I was walking 5 miles a day and feeling great. I went in to see the orthopedic doctor and received the news that because of my surgery, he was hesitant to send me out of the country for 18 months, especially to a country
that had so many hills. I was heartbroken once again. I felt like my heart was already in Peru but was then reassigned to Richmond, Virginia. I was still excited to be able to serve and made the most out this reassignment. I was only in Virginia a week before I re-injured my knee again. This time I was bending down in my suitcase to get out a book and when I crouched down, my knee cap
popped out and started tracking diagonally, I knew then that I would have to go home for surgery but was hopeful that the doctor’s would tell me that with PT, I would be able to heal and not have to go home. After several weeks of pain and doctor’s appointments, we finally got word that the injury was too extensive for PT and would require a surgery that would cut the bone and tendons and move it over 13 mm. I would have two metal screws put in my tibia and it would be a long recovery. I knew that night that I would have to leave my mission and my dream behind. I told myself that if only I hadn’t push my recovery from the first surgery, that maybe this wouldn’t be happening to me. I was sent home to wait for the orthopedic surgery and tried to remain optimistic but after weeks of inactivity, I once again reverted back in to my old eating habits.
My knee surgery was a success but the weeks spent in recovery were anything but productive. Laying there day after day, started to take a tole on me mentally I started reliving the past and hearing those voices telling me I was fat and would never amount to anything. As I lay there I kept allowing my past to taint my future. I thought, “well this is as good as it’s going to get.” I’ll never be able to run again and even walking at that point looked nearly impossible. One day during recovery my niece wanted to watch Lion King. Since I had a huge crush on Jonathan Taylor Thomas as a kid, naturally I agreed. While watching this video, I was reminded that even though we have painful experiences in our past, we don’t have to continue to relive them. My past happened and there is nothing I can do to change that, but I can learn from it and move forward with a determination to succeed.
From that point on, I decided that I was going to live an active life, no matter what my limitations. After a couple years, I started training for a 5k. I started using the Couch to 5k running program. For the first month, I felt incredible. I really thought that I would be able to run a 5k by my birthday. I continued training and in February 2010, 3 years after my surgery, I developed a stress fracture in my knee. Once again I found myself on crutches, only seeing failure and the reality that running was out of the question. I tried to accept this reality but ultimately I became numb to my emotions and learned to once again repress the emotions that I was feeling and started emotionally eating once again. I saw the numbers going up on the scale and even though it scared me, at this point I didn’t care. I had lost hope. It wasn’t until I took a weight lifting class at BYU, that my determination to make goals and strive to achieve them was once again revived.
When I originally signed up for the weight lifting class it was because I have always loved weight lifting and thought why not get college credit for this. In my class I met a girl who became my lifting partner. We had similar life experiences that made it easy for us to connect and since it was summer we decided to become hiking buddies. I hadn’t successfully finished a hike since my knee surgery 4 years prior but wanted to give it another try. In preparing for my hike, I made sure I had all the anti inflammatory and hard core pain medications a person could legally obtain. I had to prepare for any degree of pain. I also brought a variety of knee braces not knowing the level of support that my knee would need and most importantly I brought with me an attitude of determination that I was not going to let this hike defeat me.
We decided that our first hike would be an easy 3.5 mile round trip hike to Stewart Falls up Provo Canyon in Provo, UT. As we
started on our hike neither one of us was sure if we would be able to complete this hike but as we talked and distracted one another, before we knew it, we could hear the joyous sound of water crashing on rocks. As I saw the falls I couldn’t believe that I actually made it to the end. Completing this hike was more to me then just reaching a destination. I learned that I am a lot stronger then I give myself credit. After this hike we decided that we wanted to continue our hiking adventures. We decided that by the end of summer we would have prepared ourselves to hike Mt Timpanogos. This was a pretty ambitious hike for a us because here we had only hiked 3.5 miles round trip and the assent to Mt Timpanogos was over 15 miles round trip with a 3,200 ft elevation gain. We knew if we planned hikes that increased in mileage and elevation, that we would make our goal in 4 months. We hiked almost every weekend that summer and I knew that we would reach our goal. As summer came to an end, the dream of Timp was looking like a reality,until I once again injured my knee on a hike. I gave my knee a couple weeks and during that recovery time, the first snow of the season fell on Timp. That is when I realized that I was not going to be able to conquer Timp that year. I was determined to not allow Timp to get the best of me and the next year, I made the same New Year’s resolution to hike that mountain. As we all know though with New Year’s resolutions, if the determination and dedication are not behind the goal, then the goal is likely to go unmet as your resolution and will wain. 2012 came and went and once again I would look up at that mountain and see my failure. When January 1st, 2013 rolled around, I decided that this would be my year. I was not going to let my failures define me and I was going to conquer that mountain even if I had to crawl to the top, I was going to make it to the top.
With a new determination and perspective, I decided that I had to change my attitude when I looked at Timp. When I was driving down the road, instead of looking up and seeing my failure, I looked up and saw my success! I envisioned myself sitting on top of the mountain and overlooking the valley. I felt the cool breeze on my face and felt the success pump through my veins, as if it were the life force getting me to the top. I would always say, “I’ve got this.” every time I would see that mountain. In envisioning my success, I started to believe that I would actually make it to the top. In April, I started my interval training again. This time being sure to listen to the needs of my body and if I felt a even the slightest bit of pain, I eased up knowing that it was more important to take the journey slow than to push myself to my breaking point early in the training. With each additional hike, I felt the strength returning to my knee and knew that this dream would soon be my reality. On July 24th, my roommate and I decided that we wanted to hike to Emerald Lake which is 2/3rds of the way up Timp. We figured there was no better way to train, then the tackle the final objective and see our endurance level. We were only a couple hours in to our hike and I thought for sure I wasn’t going to make it to the top.
My whole body ached, my knee was throbbing and everything within me told me to quit. But then I looked up at that peak and once again resolved that this mountain was not going to get the best of me. I made my roommate tell me stories the entire time to distract my thoughts and I focused my energy on putting one foot in front of the other. We weren’t worried about how fast we were hiking but rather enjoying the journey along the way. As we stopped to enjoy the scenery and take in the majesty around us, we were amazed that the miles seemed to pass and before we knew it, we were at the meadow right before you begin the final assent to the top. As we stopped for lunch, every part of us ached but even more invigorating was the fact that we had successfully hike 2/3rds of the way up the mountain. Of course when we made our descent down the mountain, our hips hurt, our feet were blistered, we were dehydrated but we knew know that hiking Timp was possible and that there was nothing going to stop us from reaching the top.
On August 30th, 2013 we awoke at 2:00 am. We filled our packs with water, Powerade, snacks, lunch, first aid supplies, our hiking sticks, ankle and knee braces. We were prepared for whatever came our way and even managed to recruit 6 others to embark on this journey with us. We reached the Timpanooke trail head while it was still dark and began our ascent. Since this wasn’t our first time on the trail, the first couple hours went by with ease. Also since it was dark, it was easier to remain optimistic because you did not continuously see the daunting task in front of you. As the sun began to rise, we began to once again see the splendor of the mountain. Our bodies began to ache but our determination to succeed overpowered any thoughts of doubt and pessimism. If our thoughts did begin to weigh us down, we started listening to our inspirational playlist of Journey, Kelly Clarkson, Sara Bareilles and even the Backstreet Boys provided us with continued motivation to reach the top. As we reached the meadow before the final ascent we felt optimistic and excited as we were about to embark on the last few miles to the top. As our eyes focused on the final goal, the affects of fatigue and the high elevation began to set in. Every step we took felt like 10 as we would slide back on the shale and lose rock. The last .5 miles felt like we still had a marathon to run. We kept our eyes focused on the top and slowly continued our ascent. Every large rock became our best friend as we would focus on one large bolder at a time. At each bolder we would rest, take a drink of water and once again rededicate ourselves to our resolve to conquer this mountain. We mustered up our strength and pushed through the final .25 miles telling ourselves that we could rest once we reached the top. As we reached the saddle, we saw hikers sprawled out on any flat surface they could find. We found our own rocks to rest on and were in awe at what we had accomplished. As I sat there I was in shock that I was actually at the top. I had set a goal and I had finally accomplished it. As I sat there I was brought to tears as images and memories flooded my mind at all I had accomplished to make this goal a reality.
I remembered that little girl who was called fat and teased because of her weight and flashed through the years of experiences and growth. Sitting there reflecting on all that I had gone through, I felt the liberation of realizing all that I had just accomplished. I overlooked the valley in awe and splendor, realizing that I had just mastered one of the most difficult goals I had ever set. I sat there contemplating how in life we have mountains that we are required to climb. When we start on our journey, we are amazed at the beauty of the journey, but slowly the aches, bruises and reality starts to set in. You realize that in order to overcome the challenges in front of you, you have to dig deeper and find a determination to just keep walking. There will be obstacles and challenges that arise, but nothing can come in the way of achieving the goal that your heart so desires.
Sitting on the top of the mountain, I realized that I did not want to take the emotional baggage that I carried up the mountain back down with me. I did not want to continue to allow my past to determine my future. Since that day one year ago, I look back upon that experience with fondness in my heart. There have been set backs and slides but I continue to take one day at a time, knowing that no matter how difficult the obstacle, it’s all about the climb.