My journey to health…

Thanks for stopping by Will Run for Health!  My name is Carla Shorts, I’m 27 years old, and I live in upstate South Carolina.  Among other things, I am a mental health therapist, a vegetarian transitioning to vegan, a begrudgingly-avid-yet-frightfully-slow runner, and somewhat of a health & wellness obsessed nerd.

To say the least…I wasn’t always so concerned with my own health.
I attended graduate school at Johns Hopkins University and graduated in 2009 with a M.S. in Clinical Community Counseling. I spent my first year at Hopkins working full-time in an inpatient psychiatric unit, attending classes full time, and working on a research project.

I was constantly stressed and for the first time in my life, I was truly miserable.
Like most creatures in misery, I began looking for relief of my pain.  I’m not much of a drinker (4 years of undergrad at College of Charleston ruined me). Thus, I began dealing with my stress and general unhappiness with my life through other means.

Enter carbohydrates, starch, and sugar. My drug of choice became food.  I started to eat my feelings.  I ate to stay awake late at night, I ate to distract myself, I ate to comfort myself.  Hell…I just ate to stay busy.

You would think that being a graduate student in a counseling program, I would have learned better coping skills. I must have been absent that day of class because I continued to eat myself sick.  Food became my drug, and Royal Farms became my dealer.

I had a lot of feelings…

I treated my body like a trash can…
I never worked out…
In June of 2008 while attending a family get together,
my uncle snapped this picture of me:

I absolutely did not recognize that girl.  When I saw this picture, I suddenly realized that the past year of being miserable, binge eating, and stress had taken a toll on me.  I remember this picture being such a wake up call.  In the drug and alcohol field, we often say that addicts need to hit a rock bottom before they are ready to embark on the journey of recovery.  That photograph was in many ways my rock bottom.
The very next day (Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008), I walked into my first Weight Watchers meeting.  I admit, I felt kind of lame.  I had the preconceived notion that Weight Watchers was for old women and school teachers.  But at this point…I felt I really didn’t have much to lose.  I filled out my information card, took my shoes off, and boldly stepped on the scale.  The sweet lady sitting behind the reception desk could see that I was visibly shaken (…I hadn’t had a donut in 12 hours, visibly shaken doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling).  She smiled, recorded my weight in my little book, and sent me into the meeting room.  I sat in the overly air conditioned room (…which was ironically sandwiched in between an ice cream shop and a surf & turf restaurant) and braced myself to see the numbers that lay waiting for me in,  what I had dubbed, “my little book of doom”.

My jaw hit the floor when I saw, the numbers 167.

That was the most I had ever weighed in my life.  At 5’4”, my weight had given me a BMI of 28.7 which happens to be the line between being “over weight” and “obese”. I made it through the meeting and safely back to my car before I started crying.  I had a complete melt-down after that first meeting.  Yes, in the parking lot of a surf & turf restaurant, there I sat, with mascara running down my plump little cheeks.
Vanity aside, I knew my health was being impacted by the weight I had gained. Unfortunately, I did not hit the genetic lottery in life.  Sadly, 3 of my 4 grandparents underwent by-pass surgeries.  My paternal grandmother was  the exception.  She died of ovarian cancer before age 65.  Cancer and heart disease both run rampant in my family.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I picked myself up and dusted myself off.  I went to my Weight Watcher meetings, I followed their plan, I counted my points, I tracked my food, and I began to walk in an effort to move more. Every week, I went to my meeting, I took my shoes off, I handed the receptionist my “little book of doom”, and stepped on the scale.  Every week, I would see that number go down.  Pretty soon the “little book of doom” just became a record of my progress, and the number became “feedback” rather than an indicator of my value.

Somewhere in this process, my walking slowly became running.  Around the end of June 2008, I decided in my head, that I was going to become a runner!  True to form, I decided that I, “Carla Shorts: Queen of Weight Watchers” was going to enter the Baltimore Half-Marathon.  At the time, I could run about 3 miles without stopping and in my inexperienced mind there wasn’t that big of a difference between 3 miles and 13.1 miles…ya know?

As it turns out, there is a huge fricken difference between 3 miles and 13.1, as evidenced by the loss of blood.  My sister and I finished that race in 3:17. Looking back it was a miracle that we both didn’t chafe to death seeing as how we were dressed head to toe in cotton.  That race fueled my fire for running.  Since then I have run 24 races, including 5ks, 10k, half-marathons, and a full marathon.
I am happy to report that I lost the weight I had put on during grad school.  I still attend weekly Weight Watcher meetings as they help to hold me accountable. I now weigh in anywhere between 130-135.  It is a very happy weight for me and I feel great!

I am not a registered dietitian.
I have been a vegetarian for 6 1/2 years, and recently made the switch to eating a mostly vegan diet.  In short, I eat what feels right to me and works best for my body.  Please consult your health care professional before making any changes to your diet or workout routine!!