I Hiked My Way Healthy
I was thinking about an inspirational story to help to get you into the right mindset for the New Year but wasn't sure what to write about. I posted the opportunity to do guest posts in Wendy White's The Departure Lounge and Donna responded by submitting her transformation story. Hiking is something I'd like to start doing, although I don't know about doing multiple day hikes like Donna talks about in her story. Read on to discover what she uncovered about herself and how she found her why for staying healthy.
I never thought of myself as fat.
I weighed 183 pounds. If I rounded up, my height was 5’ 3” tall. I thought my figure was kind of cute.
I walked almost 10,000 steps each day at work. I walked 2 miles most days with my neighbor. I went about my daily routine with ease--or so I thought. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
In 2016, as I was in the process of losing 50 pounds, I realized I had had a weight issue.
Here’s my story of self-discovery and transformation.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail, a 2,190-mile “footpath for those who seek fellowship with the wilderness,” has been a lifelong dream. The AT passes thru 14 US states along the east coast. It goes over so many mountains that the ups and downs are the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest 16 times!
Unfortunately, I didn’t know anyone who was interested in hiking. My now ex-husband wasn’t. My friends weren’t. I was too inexperienced to try it alone or with my then young children.
But in 2013, I started dating a man who was interested in hiking with me. We were both overweight and out of shape. It didn’t matter. We just hiked slowly.
Ascending mountains was easier for me. I loved scrambling up and over rocks. I loved the burning sensation as my leg muscles worked hard to get me up those mountains. Descending was a different story. Going down was painful and slow. My knees ached with each step--especially on steep sections of trail.
When I told a friend who also suffered from knee pain about it, she said, “That’s why my doctor keeps harping on me to lose weight. For every extra pound of weight on my body, it’s like 4 extra pounds of pressure on my knees.”
Yikes! I didn’t know that!
Another challenge I faced on the trails was of a personal nature. Forgive me if this is too much information, but one thing I struggled with on the trails, was going pee. I know, it sounds silly. Squat, pee, wipe, done.
It wasn’t that easy for me. It was hard to pull my pants down far enough to be sure I wouldn’t spray or sprinkle on my clothes. So I frequently ignored my need to pee until we were back to the trail head where a cold privy was available. Sometimes, I had to hold it until we drove to a gas station. Needless to say, hiking during these times was extremely uncomfortable--and unhealthy!
Eventually, I purchased a product called a feminine urinary director (it’s like a funnel for peeing) that I fondly called my “portable penis.” It definitely made peeing in the woods easier and overnight trips possible! It made hiking more enjoyable!
Fast forward to late 2015.
Earl and I made a plan to take two weeks vacation to hike the 100-mile wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail in the summer of 2016. This 100-mile stretch of trail was secluded. There were no road crossings or stores where we could resupply our food needs. We’d have to carry everything we needed for those two weeks in our packs.
Research indicated that my pack would probably weigh around 40 pounds. Forty pounds! Yikes!
I did the math.
My 5’ 3” frame (rounding up) would need to carry approximately 223 pounds up and over mountains for 14 days. Oh sure… the weight would decrease each day because of the food I’d be eating, but that amounted to less than two pounds per day.
According to the various weight calculators, my ideal weight is around 120 pounds. The Body Mass Index (BMI) recommends a weight of 104 - 141 pounds. Using 141 pounds as my guide, I calculated that I would be carrying 82 pounds of excess weight. On the downhills, I would be putting an extra 328 pounds of pressure on my knees.
I remember almost crying when I saw those numbers. I wanted to cancel our plans to hike the 100-mile wilderness. I wanted to ditch my dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail. My body wouldn’t be able to handle it. Not for fourteen days without a rest.
As I prepared to give up on a dream, I finally accepted that my weight was NOT okay.
Just before New Year’s 2015, I signed up for Weight Watchers. Following their program, I slowly started losing weight. I was hopeful that I might be able to lose 20 or 30 pounds before our 100-mile hike.
Earl and I continued hiking most weekends. We were descending a particularly steep trail one Saturday afternoon and I dawned on me. I was keeping up with him. My knees didn’t hurt! Tears filled my eyes and I had to stop to wipe them dry.
“Hey Earl,” I called. “Have you noticed that I’m keeping up with you?”
“It’s because I’ve lost 20 pounds, and my knees don’t hurt any more.”
On another excursion, I stepped off the trail to go pee. I reached into the pocket for my “portable penis” and discovered it wasn’t there. I searched thru my pack. Missing. I must have forgotten it.
I considered my options. I could wait until we got back to the trailhead, or I could take a chance on peeing on my clothes. I opted for the latter.
Amazingly, I had no problem with the squat, pee, wipe, done method. My pants were not at risk. I didn’t understand it.
It was only later, as we were continuing down the trail that I realized why. Because I’d lost 30 pounds, my stomach no longer got in the way of allowing me to squat in a comfortable position. I could squat lower, I could push my butt out further.
When we finally hiked the 100-mile wilderness in August 2016, I weighed 140 pounds. Me AND my pack together, weighed less than I had when I started my weight loss journey. It took us 10-days to cover the 100-miles (not the 14 we planned for). My knees never hurt.
When we reached town, we spent the night at a hiker hostel. We showered, we ate pizza, we slept in a bed. We decided to keep hiking to the next town.
I had not realized how my excess weight had restricted my activities until I lost the weight and saw the differences. It’s funny how the weight slowly creeps on and we just don’t see the full impact of those extra pounds. But now that I know what I know, I stay focused on maintaining a healthy weight. Future adventures are depending upon it!
Donna Doyon is a habit strategist, an independent podcaster, and an adventurer. She challenges women on either side of 50-something to adopt a “small-changes, common-sense” approach to improving their health, so they can enjoy life’s greatest adventures. Her FREE 10-day Healthier Habits Starter Program (www.donnadoyon.com/habits) helps women go from feeling powerless to powerful as they take control of the daily habits that can define their healthier lifestyle. Learn more about her other programs and her podcast Reflections of a Recovering Ugly Duckling at www.donnadoyon.com.