Name: Susan Dillon
Occupation: Art studio manager
Start Weight: 300 pounds
End Weight: 152 pounds
Time Running: 1 year, 5 months
To get a complete picture of my weight loss journey, we will have to go back to around 2012 when I was pushing 300 pounds—my heaviest weight ever. I paid zero attention to what I put in my body, and very rarely did anything that could be considered “active.” Over the next couple of years, I was running my own business, working 18-hour days, and didn’t make health a priority.
Fast forward to 2015 when my husband spent three weeks in the hospital due to a lung infection complicated by undiagnosed type 2 diabetes and obesity. He was over 400 pounds when he hit the hospital.
He had to make some changes, or he was going to die—so I started to make them, too. We began eating healthier as a couple and began hiking, backpacking, and camping. I got myself down to about 200 pounds, but my exercise routine lacked consistency. I could hike 10 miles at a stretch, but would couch surf the rest of the week. I also was not vigilant about my nutrition.
I referred to myself as “hiking healthy,” and didn’t really worry too much about trying to lose any weight or making any other changes to my diet or exercise routine. As long as I was able to hike when I wanted to, I figured I was fine.
Then came the high blood-pressure diagnosis in February 2018. I was 207 pounds and turning 50 later that year. I’m not sure why it made me so upset, but I did not want to be tied to those pills. Instead of just accepting that this was how it was going to be, I decided to do something about it.
I remembered that I liked running as a child. My whole family did it for a while, and I thought that I could give that a go as I hated working out at the gym. The first month was lots of walking, but I remember each time trying to mix in more jogging time. Each time I went a little farther or ran a little longer, I felt so incredibly good about myself and what I was accomplishing that I kept pushing onto new goals. It took the better part of that spring, but I’ll never forget the first time I ran a mile without stopping. It was amazing.
That July, I attempted my first 5K, which I did in 39:47. By September, I got that time down to 37:35 and didn’t walk once. I kept pushing my mileage and planned to do a 10K on my 50th birthday in November.
Shortly before that race, I reconnected with an old friend on social media who’s an avid runner. Jokingly, I mentioned doing a half marathon someday. His response was that he’d fly from Connecticut to run it with me. I was so touched by that offer that I decided I had to do a half. We decided on the Spring Equinox half marathon in March 2019.
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I was so incredibly nervous the night before the half. I am not sure why. Maybe it was because I still had not run more than 9.5 miles prior to the race. Maybe it was because I had made such a big deal of it in my head. Maybe because I just didn’t know if I could do it.
I hoped to not only finish, but to do so in less than three hours, and away I went. The first couple of miles, I argued with that voice in my head saying “you know, you could just stop.” I argue with that voice most runs even to this day. But when I realized that I crossed the finish line almost 20 minutes ahead of my “best case scenario” time—2:39:33—I was tired, achy, and sweaty, and never had a postrace beer tasted so glorious. I was over the moon that I had actually done it.
Since then, I’ve wanted to go even longer. I recently discovered trail running, and I decided to skip right past the marathon and go for my first ultramarathon—for me, a 50K—by the end of 2019.
Through all of this, I’ve gotten my weight down to 152 pounds. I’ve gone from an XL or size 16, to a medium or a size 8. I am now off the high blood pressure pills, and have knocked back my cholesterol and blood sugar levels to boot.
Don’t get me wrong; I am very happy with lower numbers on the scale and the way I look now, but I’m much more excited about the things my body can accomplish since I started. I love how my legs can carry me longer distances, how my physical endurance is far greater than I ever thought possible, and how I can tell that little voice in my head that says “you can’t possibly do this” to shut the heck up and let me get to doing it.
I can also credit that to changing my eating habits. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet took care of me, making me eat lots of veggies along with whole grains, lean meats, fruits, and even some sweets here and there.
For others out there, wherever you are on the road, the best advice I have is to find something that makes you feel good about yourself and keep doing that. That way, it becomes self-perpetuating. Maybe it is biking, or maybe it is swimming, but any physical activity you will enjoy doing on a regular basis.
Running makes me feel amazing about myself, and I focus on that when the actual run is less than fabulous. You will go backward on occasion, but that doesn’t have to be the final direction you go. I heard a saying one time, “As long as you get going at least one more time than you stop, you will make progress.” I know I will stop sometimes, but I make sure that I get going again.
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