For as long as I’ve hiked with my regular crew from the gym, Run Wenatchee and Leavenworth, I’ve watched one particular woman in awe. Her name is Ana … and she is a powerhouse! Strong, fit, smart, articulate and capable of hiking ridiculous miles hours faster than I would ever dream of. Imagine my surprise when Ana said she’d be willing to share her Before & After story.
How could Ana have a Before & After story? How could my inspiration, this beastie beauty, ever have been anything but the epitome of what a fit chick is? How could I say no to an interview like that? We set the date and I went, questions in hand to meet her for dinner at her place.
I was not prepared for the delicious spread she set before us but knew in an instant, nutrition was as much a part of her healthy lifestyle as fitness was. The spinach salad with accents of fresh mouth watering little bits was as good to look at as it was to taste but her potato & broccoli soup with its Latin flare was one of the most delicious soups I’ve ever tasted and stole the show. It was hard to focus on the interview with the flavors bursting in my mouth, but I managed and what I learned gave me so much more respect for a woman who already hung the moon for me. I’m sure you too will be awed, inspired and encouraged by her story.
Ana grew up in a Hispanic family where good food, not health or nutrition was celebrated and she really never knew a different way of life. She grew to be a woman who appreciated the flavor of food more than fitness and considered the walk from the parking lot to the office quite enough exercise for any day of the week. She married a chef and together they enjoyed decadent food and she spent most of her twenties over weight but mostly happy.
At her heaviest Ana was about one hundred eighty pounds and hovered around one hundred seventy. Despite the weight Ana says she always felt like she had a level of self confidence that kept her from caring too much about how heavy she was, but in retrospect she suspects it was more of a defense mechanism than the true self confidence she knows more about now. If she could, she would tell her younger, unhealthy self that she had much growing up to do. And the growing for Ana began with a heartbreaking revelation and tragic divorce. In a state of shock and depression she lost fifteen pounds in two weeks and in a matter of months the grief had reduced her to a shocking one hundred twenty pounds.
Ana was literally a shell of her former self. The sorrow of the loss invaded every aspect of her life. She’s grateful for the understanding people at work who empathized and were patient with her through the trauma. Finally in 2012 Ana knew something had to give, either she needed to make some life changes or her life wasn’t going to be good for much of anything. She started going to Gold’s Gym in Wenatchee. Like all rookies, it was a daunting, foreign, unknown venture. But true to the iron spirit inside her, she didn’t quit, bend or break under the intimidation. She learned, she evolved and she came to be a woman who loves her body.
“It has done so much for me, the least I can do is love it and take care of it!” she told me with a twinkle in her eye only a fitness enthusiast can express. Before long Ana was comfortable in her gym and now regularly works out every morning for about an hour enjoying a mix of cardio and weight lifting. She hates to miss even a day and has added evening WODs (Work Out of the Day) at CrosSport to supplement her morning routine a couple times a week. Admittedly she hates to miss working out but neither the weights at Gold’s or the WODs at CrosSport can make her body, mind and soul sing the way the mountains can.
Unbeknownst to me in 2015 Ana started hiking with the same crew of avid and novice hikers as I did. Because of her prowess and ability on the trail I assumed she was an old pro at hiking but apparently the hike up Mt. Cashmere that was transformative in my life, was also her longest and most arduous hike up to that point. And in the summer of 2016 she was out nearly every weekend hiking some trail or peak, challenging, training, using and loving all her body could do.
Hiking has certainly been the most exhilarating part of Ana’s transformation but the most surprising part happened in the kitchen. Ana realized she loved to prep and cook food and figure out how to incorporate good health into what she made. Having a chef for a husband had given her the impression the she “couldn’t” cook but after the divorce as she started cooking for herself and learned that, not only could she cook, but she thoroughly enjoys it. She’s given up processed muffins, high sugar drinks like mochas and soda and restaurant food for five or six clean, healthy meals a day and figures her meals are whole and clean 70-80% of the time. One of the hardest things in the transformation has been to find the balance in her nutritional plan especially when it comes to social events and activities where unhealthy options are rampant.
As she looks forward to the future Ana doesn’t see her healthy lifestyle changing. It is a lifestyle she enjoys and encourages others to participate in as well. Before the change she was sluggish and struggled to have the motivation to get up and get active, now she loves to move and care for her body. Her best advice to everyone including herself is to remember how far you’ve come on your journey. She tends to look too far ahead and gets stuck in physical perfectionism and forgets to celebrate all her accomplishments. Do it for the right reasons. Love yourself and take care of your body out of that love and maybe you too will become one of my health and fitness heroes or heroines!