Getting Back Into the Groove: Gail Maki

Posted on Posted in Courageous Spirit Sunday Series, Personal Growth

roller coaster

I think many of you will identify with elements and emotions of Gail’s story. She openly describes a decade of ups and downs with her weight. Thank you, Gail, for sharing your story with us.

“Being the daughter of a marathon runner was not easy. My father started taking me on runs with the dogs when I was 10. By high school, I was on track and cross country. I ran my first Shamrock Shuffle 8K with my dad when I was 15. For college, I was awarded a full scholarship through the United States Army Advanced Designee program. I probably was in the best shape of my life in college and about 15% body fat.

I left the army to have my first child at age 21. I was a young, married, new Mom who needed to figure out how to be an adult really quickly. I gained 50 pounds with Isabel. That devastated me, but I was determined to get back into shape.  Although I lost all the weight, it wasn’t the same. I wish I knew back then what I know now about diet and exercise. Maybe I wouldn’t have been obese by age 30.

By age 25, I was newly divorced and had a second child. I also had a very demanding and stressful job in sales. I found myself having to figure out how I would support myself and 2 small children.  That was my main focus for many years. Exercise and diet went to the wayside and comfort eating began. I always had 2 jobs. My full time day job in sales and then a waitressing job at night. This lead to poor eating habits, horrible sleep habits and no time for taking care of myself.  I was 27 and hadn’t lost much of my baby weight from my previous pregnancy.

I started running again and went on Weight Watchers. I won a Bahamas vacation through work, and I was determined to lose the weight. Weight Watchers helped me lose 25 pounds in three months, with the help of running 27 miles a week. Sadly when I returned from my vacation, I did not follow the WW points system. I went back to my unhealthy eating habits. The weight came back in four months and I was back to square one.

This yo-yo dieting happened to me for years. Discouraged and overweight, I continued to use food for comfort. My whole adult life has been a roller coaster ride, and I thought eating would make me happy. In reality it was doing a lot of damage.

Fast forwarded to my early thirties. I changed jobs, working an even more demanding sales job, which included traveling throughout the Midwest. Being on the road made me gain even more weight and gave absolutely no time to exercise. I met my current husband and decided to do something about the weight gain before our wedding.

I began kickboxing and running again, and I lost 25 pounds in seven months. I didn’t really follow a particular diet, but I did cut down on portions and stayed away from my desserts that I love so much. That seemed to work, but I never stuck with it and I was back to my old habits after the wedding. Two years after I got married, we found out I was going to have a third child. I was heavy to begin with, and although I only gained 30 pounds with Peter, this weight gain brought me up to 224 pounds, my heaviest weight ever.  I was mortified and disgusted with myself, just 14 years earlier I was a svelte 125-pound woman with a six pack.

After the pregnancy, I went back to the gym to start kickboxing and running again.  It was so hard to get back into it, but this time I was determined to get this weight off. By the following summer I ran my first 10K and tried my first Warrior Dash.  I was stronger and lost a little bit of weight but not seeing much results.  I didn’t change my diet because I thought I could burn off what I ate with exercise. I continued exercising but not dieting. I would work out for 2 consecutive hours at least 4 times a week. I would do an hour of cardio and then a class or some type of boxing rounds. By the time my youngest was 2, I began training for my first half marathon. At the same time I had to go back to work.This made it very difficult to train, but I still did the race. I wanted to finish in 2 hours 45 minutes. I missed it by 15 minutes but was still proud. After my marathon training, I discovered why my feet were bothering me. I had heel spurs on both feet, so my love for running turned south.  Although the doctor told me I could still run with the orthotics he made for me, I still wanted to try to find another alternative to keep in shape.

Gail, April 2013
Gail, April 2013
Gail (wearing sunglasses), in September 2013
Gail (wearing sunglasses), in September 2013

I saw a Groupon for Fit Code bootcamp. I took a chance and bought a pack of 15 classes.  I loved it so much I bought 12 more. I saw results in the way in 6 weeks. I finally signed up for a membership and then decided to try their Lean Jeans Program. This program guarantees you lose up to 2 sizes in a 6 weeks. They teach you the proper nutrition guidelines to follow when dieting. This was going to be a lifestyle change for me. No more yo-yo dieting. Time to change the things I eat and the types of exercises I do. Since I have joined Fit Code, I have stopped taking my blood pressure pills and have lost 2 sizes. My weight needs to go down but I know I was at least 40% body fat when I started. I have come down to 32% body fat since the Spring Lean Jeans and I am currently doing the Fall Lean Jeans. My ultimate target is 22% body fat and to lose 20 pounds.

I am beginning to really understand what I need to do to be healthy. Starving myself won’t help and exercising to make up for the food I ate will not help either. Running 30 miles a week will only hurt me by taking away my lean muscle. You need to have equal balance of exercise, weight lifting and eating right to get the job done.

I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but at least I have the proper tools and resources to help me on my journey. I have to remain focused and remember to take time for me.  I don’t want to get older and have to be on all kinds of medications. I exercise to make me happy.  Exercise helps me focus for the rest of the day, and it is also a great stress reliever. The support network at my gym is wonderful. Everyone is so positive and are always willing to help.

I feel stronger and healthier now than when I was in the Army. I am loving my new food choices, and I do let myself have a little treat here and there. I have to enjoy a little treat, or I might just binge or fall off the wagon, but there is always someone there to help you get back on track.  Motivational sayings help me remind myself that I am not perfect and I do make mistakes. “Don’t sweat the small stuff, just keep going.”

I have learned so much in the last year. I try to share with women in their twenties because I wish someone told me when I was 25 that the Big Mac and French Fry I was shoveling in my mouth was going to lead me to obesity by age 30 and high blood pressure by age 37. They are shocked, but it gets them thinking.  I tell them to think about the ailments they will have by age 40 if they do not start changing their diets and start exercising in their twenties. Exercise is empowering, and eating right gives you more energy to tackle your day. As my great friend Christine Riley, who lost 100lbs, says: “one day at a time.”