Lori's Story: How I battle anxiety

Fit to Fat to Fit

Only after I succeeded and then fell apart did I learn, we are what we repeatedly do and, as a lifelong anxiety sufferer, I must focus on transforming and supporting new habits to break the nutty cycle of repeating the same actions but expecting different results.

This is my story, still developing as you read this.

He didn't return but never left me.

Little girl Lori.jpg

My first and only memory of my father probably didn’t happen. I stood braced against my Gram’s front door begging him not to go. That evening he was killed by a drunk driver. I was three.

That real or imagined scene preceding his actual death turned me into a tough little girl who built walls to hide her anxiety and panic so everyone would believe she was OK. My Gram raised me in a small mountain town in Central PA to be strong and not take crap from anyone, especially men. At 15 I got my first job, and by my senior year of high school lived in my own apartment and worked full-time to support myself.

Packing down tightly my emotions and not dealing also led to stress eating. Sound familiar? But I was active, played soccer (until I quit the team to work full-time) and was on my feet all day so the eating didn’t catch me, until Jake.

I decided to stay home with my firstborn, and then Sam too, so my nervous eating habit began packing on pounds. I weighed more a few months AFTER Sam was born than I did while pregnant! I rationalized all moms go through this and without any clue or care kept stuffing my pie hole whenever anxious.

I was a Size 2 before the boys and during pregnancy wore my husband’s clothes, which were baggy, until they weren’t. His roomy jeans, sweaters and t-shirts began to snug up and finally I faced the mirror and realized I was tubby.

Flipping channels one night set me on a new course and ultimately changed my life, when I landed on The Biggest Loser……….

I felt like the Biggest Loser!

I connected instantly the first time I tuned into The Biggest Loser. I related to the contestants, feeling inferior because I was F-A-T. My anxiety disorder tag-teamed, I fretted others judging me, that all they saw was the blubber. I was disgusted with myself.

Jillian Michaels spoke to me, both figuratively and literally. I bought ALL of her DVDs (remember those?) and worked out in my basement.

Jillian grew up a fat kid, got years of counseling and used what she learned to guide her Biggest Losers, including me, often yelling at us about our Whys. Some of the answers drilled me between the eyes and I cried as I sweat, “Why not me!?! I’ve always been a decent person. I deserve to feel good!” Slowly, I began to BELIEVE.

Then Jillian came to D.C., and you bet I purchased tickets and upgraded to the meet-and-greet. No matter how long I stood in line I had to thank my hero for helping me.

Jillian Michaels signs for Lori 3-30-09

Despite being scared, I shuffled forward to meet her, and when finally I handed her my book, Jillian looked up, said hello, and I mustered, “Thank you for helping me lose weight.” As she inscribed, she also gifted, “You did it. I didn’t help you, I don’t know you. You’ve done all the work so don’t give away all your power.”

Jillian Michaels hugs Lori 3-30-09.jpg

Wow, that bolt-from-the-blue struck, Jillian was damn right, I worked my butt off, literally. That was the moment I decided to get certified and pay it forward training others.

After I started leading classes, the jittery little girl walked even farther onto the branch of discomfort and I did something I couldn’t have imagined, except maybe in my nightmares….

Baring nearly all

Before I felt judged for being fat, now I wanted to be judged for being FIT.

I felt so amazingly confident whenever I stepped into the gym, calling it home for the day, pumping iron, training and educating other moms to get in shape and feel strong and attractive. Then I accompanied another trainer to a bodybuilding show and discovered immediately my next challenge, to step on stage in a bikini competition!

Lori bikini front

Training for the bikini show eliminated any thought of comfort eating, you’re not even considering a handful of chips when you know your fanny will be on stage in a teeny-tiny bikini.

And I did it! I trained like an athlete, ate like a competitor for 12 weeks (orange roughy for breakfast, anyone?), fought through my terror of being onstage half-naked, and looked like a million bucks—I even won a trip to Vegas, cash and prizes in a national contest.

I felt so awesome, convinced I had “fixed” myself, then the Real World came calling and Anxiety slapped me back down…...

Lori Duck small

Hello, my name is Lori Duck.

Ducks look so calm atop the water but their feet paddle away beneath the surface, often in circles. That’s me, so seemingly cool and collected topside but flapping frantically on the inside. Know that old pal Anxiety?

Almost immediately after my bikini triumph, our family began dealing with a crisis (actually two or three but who’s counting?). Anxiety returned full force and I buckled stress-eating and gulping Diet Crapola.

I had lost 35  pounds and now chunked it all back on, in addition to another 27! So  friggin mad at myself, knew exactly what I was doing (and not doing) but couldn’t stop myself. And except leading a morning bootcamp with friends, I quit fitness training, my passion, and instead got a full-time job at a construction company.

A legal dispute between the partners turned work into a living hell and the company collapsed. Stress and my childhood fears skyrocketed so intensely I sought counseling.

Then the topper, I severely pulled a shoulder muscle lifting something at work. Following a pair of injections to ease the stabbing pain, an infection deep inside the joint required emergency surgery and risked permanent disability. My right arm just dangled. Once able to dumbell press 20 pounds, I couldn’t raise that arm whatsoever without using my other arm. Really attractive now, for a month I self-administered antibiotics intravenously, praying the infection would abate and I’d regain use of my arm. What a hot mess.

But it turned out to be a blessing because of how I rebounded and what I discovered as a missing component of my fitness training method, a missing piece of EVERYONE’s workout program, the whole reason people revert after meeting their goals.

New habits with positive health outcomes are the lynchpin, and group support helps ingrain long term. The fitness industry helps people reach their goals but then cuts them loose at exactly the wrong time.

I can and I WILL…..BE-lieve!

My 2017 sucked royally but awakened me. I’ve learned about self-love, resourcefulness, forming lasting habits, empowerment, personal limits, cleansing my environment and finding your tribe. Truly, it’s all about friendships and support. In order to become or BE, first you must BELIEVE, even if in the beginning you must force yourself to say and think (fake it until you make it).

I’ve learned how tough I am and that real change only happens when we allow ourselves to lean into our struggles, feel the emotions and rely on others to help support. The Army has a saying, “Embrace the suck”, which essentially means, keep going. What other choice do you have? You know it’s going to suck so accept and just keep moving one foot in front of the other and you will eventually emerge with help from others.

Throughout the hard times, I found my truest friends. I’ve learned to love myself and let go of what I’m “supposed” to look like, what I’m “supposed” to eat, and finally, my body started to respond, again. And now I’m back in the fitness industry like I was born to be, helping other women who are struggling with anxiety, or who simply want to achieve and maintain the best for themselves.

You don’t have to but now a small ask, a jumpstart if you accept. What’s known in habits lingo as First Action or First Effort.

Find either a mirror or window where you can see your reflection. I want you to stand in front of it but far enough away that you can reach out with one arm without quite touching.

Now look yourself in the eyes, reach and stretch out your arm as far as you can without falling forward, really stretch until you feel the pull within your shoulder muscles, move your fingers as if attempting to grab something.

That something is the ideal you, imagine yourself, how and what you’re meant to be, and you’re so close, just an inch beyond your grasp! While reaching and looking at yourself, think or say aloud, “I CAN and I WILL.” Repeat throughout the day.

I believe you and so should you. Science says to set high your expectations and through action you will create a feedback loop and achieve your aim. Your dreams are your map.