Monday, January 26, 2015

All hail the new TIMES COLONIST HEALTH CHALLENGE PARTICIPANTS 2015 (of which Stéphane is not one.)

The Times Colonist Health Challenge changed my life and subsequently changed the life of my husband.  In 2013, he hopped on board the health and fitness bandwagon with me and thereafter got a gym membership at the Crystal Pool & Fitness Centre to support me.  He ate the meals I prepared, honoured my extensive new rules...such as, "No junk food in the house!"  Stéffi put up with my griping about delayed onset muscle soreness and being hungry all the time.  And, without too much effort except for the grueling workouts he set for himself at least 3 times a week and our almost nightly walks through Victoria, he lost weight.  He started 2013 at 217 pounds and by April he was down to a svelte 187 or so...he continued to lose, as I did, and managed to lose 40 pounds in the time it took me to lose 100.  He was the perfect partner in crime, not only did he back me mentally, but he also took on the responsibility of assisting me financially.  Throughout my weight loss he congratulated my success, but reminded me that it never really mattered how much I weighed because he had always loved me and would continue to love me no matter what the future had in store.  That's just the kind of guy he is.  Insert "AWWWWW" here.

In theory, the 2013 Health Challenge afforded me 2 fitness assessments complete with skin fold tests (before and after the 3 months), a basal metabolic reading, a personal trainer twice a week for 12 weeks (though I saw Jonathan much more than that), 2 nutritional consults with a dietitian, a group session and a one-on-one with a psychologist/mental coach, and a free pair of sneakers - a prize valued at over $2000.  Of course, there was also the accountability that comes with being featured from time to time in the paper - priceless!  That, my friends, was a pretty good deal considering I was off work on unpaid medical leave (I'll share that story with y'all later, it's a doozy).

After the Health Challenge was over for me...I kept going, kept up with my training sessions with the MIJO Sport ninja twice a week, did at least an hour of morning cardio 6 days a week, and supplemented with once or twice weekly yoga and taekwondo classes.  I dedicated pretty much a year and a half of my life to getting fit and healthy.  And so did the man of the house, Stéphane.  But, it wasn't only about getting into shape for me (and the weight loss that came from all that exercise and healthy eating), but it was about getting well-conditioned, mentally and physically.  Over the course of a year, I regularly saw my family doctor, had a session with a psychiatrist, attended the Eating Disorders Programme weekly, went to my usual physio appointments, and pretty much took the best care of myself ever...full stop.  Fabulous for me, not so fabulous for my partner-in-crime.  Stéphane went a year and a half paying for absolutely everything.  He took no vacations nor could he spend his money frivolously as he was now the only bread winner in the family (mmmmm bread).  How do you pay a man back for that?  Well, I can tell you how I tried.    

I have always been proud and will always be proud of Stéphane.  He is fun, hilarious, enthusiastic, handsome, goofy, clever, artsy, and a bunch of other adjectives as well.  I have always seen him as "L'homme de ma vie" - he and I are true kindred how do I reciprocate?  Well, hopefully my clever writing could do something, especially now when I am again on an unpaid medical leave (because of ACL replacement surgery).  I decided I would fill in an application, on his behalf, to be a participant in the TC Health Challenge.  This is what I wrote:
My name is Stéphane Gagnon.  I am a mild-mannered project technician for a local company by day:  I get up way too early in the dark, drive to work with a brown-bagged lunch, and begin my coffee drinking.  I come home (again in the dark) after 8 hours of sitting in front of a computer and have every intention of going to the gym.  Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I just drive my wife to and from.  And if that's the case, I know I can get away with eating 2 packs of ramen for dinner before I have to pick her up.  I like noodles...a lot.  Almost as much as I like poutine.  This is what my weekdays look like, for the most part. 

Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad life.  But, I feel like I need more...where's my energy, vitality, and joie de vivre?  

Enter the weekends.

Come Friday?  Well, I shuffle off this weekday mortal coil and become Deejay Cheeky Tiki - a garage punk spinner with an encyclopaedic knowledge of music that you don't even know you like yet.  Or I pick up my pen and paper and step into the role of Stéffi G - a drawer of pictures and writer of words for my own form of "bande dessinée" - I like to think of it as graphic poetry.  I read voraciously, I get up early on Saturdays and Sundays to sit on the couch with the cat and pour over the countless novels I have stashed in my E-reader.  And then, batteries charged and healthy breakfast eaten, I hit the gym.  I attack the treadmill, the elliptical, I do sit-ups, and push-ups.  I give it my all.  I return from the gym high on endorphins and ready to conquer the world!  I need more of that in my life.

I am the everyman.  I am 47 years old, 5'7", and about 207 pounds, which means I have about 50 pounds to lose, but don't most people?  When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a keg and not a 6-pack and as much as I like beer, I know that has to change for my life to be healthy and happy.  I have it in me to transform from fat to fit, I am determined.  After all, I lost 100 pounds years ago going from obese to manorexic in a matter of months.  But this time, I want to do it right.  I want to eat clean and train dirty, as my wife calls it.  I need the accountability, the resources, the community, and the guidance that the TC Health Challenge provides - I know the effects this challenge has on its participants first-hand, and I want in!  I had a supporting role a couple years ago in HC 2013, but 2015 is my time to audition for something bigger than back stage!  

Guess I should use my stage name for this one.
"Good afternoon.  My name is Stéffi Spitfyre and I will be auditioning for the role of 'Health Challenge participant 2015.'" 

In my experience, the Health Challenge is what you make it.  Stéffi wasn't chosen, and he didn't expect to be, he told me later.  Simply put, he didn't think he had enough to lose.  Don't most middle-aged men have a few pounds to drop?  I guess that doesn't make for as interesting a story, or does it?  We'll see.  In the weeks that follow, I'll post updates on Stéffi's progress...because, frankly, a lot of us out there are challenged with losing around 40ish pounds, and it isn't easier because the number is smaller.  Sometimes it's harder, it's easier to take more liberties when you are faced with a smaller amount.  I buckled down and lost 150 odd pounds in just under a year and a half, but trying to lose the last 10 pounds was the hardest, and it's easy to get complacent.  My husband has regained the 40 pounds that he lost in 2013, and I am currently 20 pounds up from my lowest weight in June of 2014 - in the next 3 months, we will embrace the spirit of the challenge and commit to being losers again.

Let the countdown begin!

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