January 2, 2013- Now this is an amazing way to start the New Year!…Taking my first Soul Cycle Class with Olivia Ward as the instructor!!!

olivia&Wend
Got up this morning, extremely nervous for this new “first”, but also fully aware that I put this on my “Dream List” over a year ago…and was excited to walk through another dream and have it become a reality.
About a year ago, after Olivia had won “The Biggest Loser”, she had started spinning at Soul Cycle. She would tweet about it and share about how much she loved it, and tell everyone what a great work out it was. At that point, I was just starting out in my weight loss journey, but in my list of “dreams and goals” in my binder, I wrote on my list, next to a box to one day check off, “Take a spin class with Olivia and Hannah”. Well, Hannah wasn’t in the Soul Cycle class I took today, but when I wrote those words, never did I dream that Olivia would actually be leading the class, and I don’t think at that time, it was anything Olivia had pictured herself doing either.
A few days ago, Olivia put out a tweet that she would be leading her first ride at Soul Cycle. I thought about the possibility of going, as I really wanted to support her in her new journey, and I knew that it was also an item on my “dream list”.  I asked a few friends, and they said they would love to go with me. (unfortunately one of them got sick the day before).
So Lisa, (my friend who took me to my first trip to Lululemmon when I celebrated my 5 mile Turkey Trot done on Thanksgiving), and I ventured out this morning, taking the train to NYC, then a subway down to Soul Cycle. The closer we got, the more nervous we became. But I just kept holding on to all that I had accomplished and remembered in one of her talks, Olivia once said, “you can do anything for 45 minutes, you just have to hang in there.”
We finally arrived at Soul Cycle, and when we walked in, Olivia and her husband, Ben were at the counter. It was great to see them. We got our lockers, shoes, water…I think Lisa and I went to the bathroom at least 3 more times with nerves, before heading in to set up our bikes. Thankful to be in the back row, we had a really wonderful woman help us set up the bikes. The room began to fill up with others who spin all the time, and when Olivia asked who was there for their first time….it was only Lisa and I raising our hands.
Filled with energy and joy, Olivia counted down to the start of the class, then introduced us to our bikes which she referred to as our “dance partners”, and she started the music and proceeded to lead us in an exciting, exhilarating, very tough first ride.
She was really spectacular at transitioning us from one thing to the next, but it was the hardest spin class I have ever encountered….it was spinning, mixed with push ups and head banging and lifting weights….all while your legs never stopped going, at times faster and faster. There were many times that I just took in the moment, as well as thought about how far I had come to this point. I remembered the first spin class I had ever taken, where I wasn’t able to even stand up on the bike and continue riding. I truly had come a long way, and I needed to remember that and celebrate it.
Today, on this day,  I was actually at Soul Cycle…on a bike behind Ben (Olivia’s husband), being lead by Olivia…this being her first “community ride” as a leader..in a room filled with really athletic spinners. It was another surreal moment in time….another dream that had become a reality.
Lisa and I kept up,we sweat like crazy, and celebrated when the ride was over. It really was amazing, and Olivia truly was spectacular as an instructor! Her energy was contagious, she encouraged everyone to bring their best, as she gave her very best to all of us. Everyone in that room was so happy for her.
We took a few pictures with her before we left. I got to share with both her and Ben how I had put this on my list about a year ago. It was another fantastic day on this incredible journey that I am on. It was also a great way to really get back on target after the little downfall at Christmas.
At the end of the class, Olivia reminded us all to put ourselves first in this coming year. She shared how 2 ½ years ago she woke up and decide it was time to “choose me”, and urged us all to do the same in this new year.
So, I enter 2013, excited to continue to dream big dreams and meet more goals, and live with a great expectation of what the Lord is going to do in me and through me in the coming year. Happy New Year!  (ps, as I wrote this, Soul Cycle responded to a tweet that I sent out…..I wrote, “starting 2013 right, just took my @soulcyle class with @BL11Olivia, she was absolutely spectacular! Amazing class!” and they responded…@wendybelieveit Can’t wait to keep rocking out with you through 2013!”)

The Incredible Week at “Unleash The Champion” With Some of “The Biggest Losers”… This Is What Dreams Are Made Of!… Day 4- The Story Continues…

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It was Wednesday on the ranch, and the sound of the alarm came way too early! This morning, my room mates and I had to be down in the lobby extra early to meet Hannah and Murn, who so graciously agreed to start doing our RMR’s (resting metabolism rates), earlier than planned, so that we wouldn’t miss the boot camp on the turf. There is a special machine that is used to figure out your RMR, but it must be measured first thing in the morning, before you do absolutely anything, including brushing your teeth. We needed to start at 3:45am, in order to have all 5 of us finish in time to get to the turf for boot camp.
wendy rmr I went down and met Hannah and Murn at 3:45, what a blessing it was that they offered to get up extra early in order for us to get our measurements and still be able to get to bootcamp. Even at 3:45 in the morning, they are the sweetest girls in the world! We all took turns, and we got our readings from the machine, and then we jumped in the car to catch up with everyone who had already left for bootcamp. Of course there isn’t much traffic on these roads at 4:30 in the morning, so we were only a few minutes late getting on the turf.

As we walked into the gym, we noticed everyone at different stations doing various exercises. Courtney and Olivia were there working out hard and encouraging everyone around them.(Hannah and Murn were doing RMR’s back at the ranch, and Marci had a speaking engagement she had to be at.)  There looked like 9 different stations we were going to go through multiple times, as Carter lead us through moving from one to the other.

The first station had a huge tire and sledgehammers. At this station, we had to beat the tire as hard as we could, slinging the sledgehammers. It was one of those cool work outs you see on “The Biggest Loser”, and it was really great to be able to try it. From there, we lined up side by side on one of the lines on the turf, and we each had a heavy medicine ball in our hands. We had to squat down slam it on the ground and catch it, over and over again until the time was called… The next line was jumping jacks… then a line where we had horizontal tubes that we had to touch the ground with and then lift to our chest and then lift over our heads and then back down (over and over)… then jumping jacks again…then burpees…then jumping jacks…then sprints from one line down to another and back (over and over again until Carter called time).

When we got through the entire circuit, we went through it again. The energy in the room was powerful. Everyone was working so hard, working to their absolute optimum potential!

After that circuit, we got into lines and did various things while running back and forth down the turf. At one point, we had to get a group together and half of us had to use the sledgehammers to pull a huge tire down the turf while running backwards, as the other part of our team bent over and pushed it running forwards. My room mates, Darcy, Beth, Whitney and Sara wanted us to do this all together as a team, and they asked Olivia if she would do it with us. It was really hard, but it was so much fun, and to have Olivia right by our sides, pulling it out with us was a great moment for everyone. Again, the gym was filled the the sounds of everyone yelling and cheering and encouraging…pushing each other to reach your highest potential. It is the most exhilarating feeling to be a part of that energy and experience!

sledgehammer run sledge run

After all of the pushing/pulling/running, we then all spread out on the turf, and Carter brought us through some abdominal and back work. Lots of killer strengthening/toning exercises.  We finally got to the time of stretching (which I love, because it means it’s over soon.) After stretching, we all came to the middle of the turf to have our “ending huddle” to put our hands in together and shout, “START SWEAT FINISH!”, and celebrate our workout. We went over to gather our things, and then had some fun taking some pictures with each other, along with Carter, Olivia and Courtney. We truly were amazed every day that they all chose to work out along side of us….and their kind words, words of encouragement, and moments they cheered us on…the belief they had in us…we all continue to hold onto forever.
wendycarterbell wendy oliv bell

group olivia

group courtney_n

Olivia group 2_n We all headed out of the gym, into the darkness to our cars…the sun hadn’t risen yet, Our car was headed straight for Starbucks! A wonderful treat we looked forward to after each morning boot camp. The people working there were so nice, and just laughed as we arrived each morning and took fun pictures there.

IMG_5883Today, before the morning hike, we had to get back and put on a minimum amount of clothing in order to get measured by Carter to determine our percentage of body fat. I don’t think any of us were looking forward to this. The thought of getting on a scale, putting on a very fitted tank top and the most fitted pants that I brought, and have Carter take a gadget that pinched and measured the fat at all of those wonderful “trouble areas”… was not something I was looking forward to. But, I also knew that I wanted to take advantage of everything he was teaching us about ourselves, and if we wanted to have the truth of all of our numbers, then we had to choose to have this done. (everything for this week was optional, so the choice was up to us.)

So, I went up to my room to figure out what to wear. I had packed 2 fitted tank tops, which I planned on wearing under my t-shirts, and I chose to put my hot pink one on. I actually put this one on, with my new exercise pants and had my daughter take a picture of me in it before I left for the ranch, for me to use as one of my pictures in this journey.

When my daughter took the picture, she said that she loved my new tank top, and asked of I was going to work out in it at the ranch. Right away I said, “No, I bought it to wear under my shirts. Someday I’ll be able to wear something like this.” She just looked at me and said, “Mom, it looks really good, you should wear it when you get there.” And as she took a few pictures, I just said, “Not yet, Grace, but someday I will. It’s definitely one of my dreams to be able to wear a sleeveless top and feel comfortable.”

So now, here I was, in my room at the ranch, getting ready to be measured, layering on all the clothes that I would have to take off when it was my turn to go. I went downstairs to get on line and get it over with, hoping it wouldn’t be too busy. There was only one person getting done, so I was next. I noticed right away how discreet Carter was, and was being put at ease a bit as I watched. So much nonsense, so many stupid “issues” were going on in my head…. And I was next.

The set up for all of this measuring was in  the corner of the hallway that lead from the main entrance of the lodge, to the kitchen/dining area. There were women in various areas of the lodge, some just getting up for the day, some getting ready for breakfast, others hanging out talking or checking their emails or having a cup of coffee. Carter was doing all the measuring, and someone was sitting at the table next to him. Her back was to me, as she was looking at a laptop computer, typing in all of the information that Carter gave to her as he measured. In my uncomfortable, nervous state, I didn’t even look to see who she was. I took off my oversized t-shirt that I had been wearing, and walked over to be measured in my tank top. Carter began to measure different parts of my body and said them aloud to the woman typing them in, and then when he said my name, she turned around, looked up at me and just said, “are you kidding me? Look at you! Oh my gosh! Who knew that was under there!” It was my room mate, Darcy, who had already pointed out to me yesterday, that my shirts and clothes were too big, and asked if I had brought clothes that fit better. Her matter of fact honesty took me by surprise, but I know that it was something that I had to hear. Because of her statements and honesty the day before,  this morning I worked out in a new shirt that was smaller, which I bought for the trip, but now I was standing there In a very fitted tank top, feeling extremely uncomfortable and very vulnerable.

Now, with her stopping and making this bold statement in the middle of being measured by Carter…a few of the other women had looked up and come over and started to join her in pointing out how great they thought I looked, asking why I wasn’t wearing the tank top to work out in. It was a very uncomfortable moment, but one which became a turning point for me on the ranch.

 carter measurestank home

     With that, Sara, my other room mate, who at this point had lost the same amount of weight as I had, 70 pounds…came over to me and said, “how about tomorrow, we both work out together in tank tops for our first time ever? I’ll do it if you’ll do it with me?” By the time I said ok, she tweeted it out to everyone on the ranch that we were going to do it…no turning back now! It was a very scary and exciting decision.

The other amazing moment which occurred this morning was when Carter took all the measurements and figured out all of my information, including percentage of body fat. Upon calculation… my percentage of body weight was in the “healthy” range. After years of numbers being in unhealthy and obese ranges, this was really incredible for me. Even though I wasn’t at my goal weight, yet, my body fat percentage was already in a healthy range. That was the greatest news ever.

Standing there, I asked Carter, “how long does it now take, as we lose weight, to see ourselves as we truly are? Is it normal to still perceive ourselves as bigger than we are?” It’s amazing that the perceptions are off at both spectrums…when I was gaining the weight, I had no idea how heavy I was, until I saw a picture of myself taken at times, and I would think, Is that really how I look? I really didn’t think I looked that heavy, until I was faced with a picture. And now heading down in weight, others will make a comment about looking thinner or fit or I will see a picture now that really surprises me in a good way, and I will think…is that how I really look? Because in my mind, I still see myself heavier, and of course continue focusing on all of my “flaws”.

scale_n

    Carter, along with most of the contestants from “The Biggest Loser”, agreed that our perceptions are still so far off at times. And, unfortunately, we continue to always see the flaws, instead of celebrating how far we have come. Well, Sara and I had agreed that tomorrow we would celebrate how far we had come by wearing tank tops to work out in on the turf in the morning. But for now, the t shirt went back on….and so did the sweatshirt as we had to head out for our morning hike. The group was a bit smaller today, but we had a great hike, met some more women, and took some more great pictures together. This took us right into a wonderful breakfast, and then a hike up to the upper room for another great talk.

Wed. morning hike

     This is where another crazy “God incidence” took place. Carter was up front answering questions, waiting for the speaker to arrive. All of a sudden his phone rang in his pocket, and he stopped to answer it as he stood on the stage in front of us. As we all listened in on the conversation, we joined him in just laughing, as we could clearly tell from the conversation, that the speaker we were waiting for to speak at this mornings’ seminar thought he was suppose to speak tomorrow. So, Carter ended the phone call by saying, “don’t worry, I’ll call you later, I’m at the place now about to fill in for you.”

Well, although Carter didn’t realize it at this exact time, God did…. God knew that we had all gotten our measurements taken this morning, and we had lots of questions about the results, including the fact that we all thought we would have really been down a lot on the scale by now (Wed.). Instead, most of us were the same or even a pound or two up! How could this be after all the working out we had done since we got there?

The timing of this talk worked out absolutely perfectly. It was the schedule God planned…we all needed to hear from Carter and understand, and have all of our questions answered regarding RMR’s, percent body fat, calorie burns, how to lose weight the right way, etc.  It was the greatest talk that I have ever heard in my life, explaining everything in a way that I truly understood… And I finally really got it! I remembered thinking…I wish that all of this could be explained in the junior high school and High School health classes for all students to really understand nutrition, healthy weight loss, healthy weight and body mass, etc. I understood for the first time in my entire life, why I can’t be 130 pounds, and why, knowing what I know now…I no longer WANT to be 130 pounds for my body measurements. It was SO freeing, as well as empowering to understand all of this information!

The teaching was filled with incredible information and knowledge, and it was also a time for all of us to ask questions about anything we didn’t understand. Carter started out by addressing a question about fasting, which lead to educating us on intermittent fasting and spiritual fasting. From there, he talked about mindful vs. mindless eating in America,  and how so much has changed. For instance, years ago, everyone would eat around a dinner table, even if you had a snack, you ate it at the dinner table..kids finished their meals and were busting to just go back outside a play. You thought about what you were eating and drinking and you stopped and enjoyed it and took the time to have it. Today, we do so much “on the go”, we don’t even taste half of what we throw in our mouths. We don’t even mindfully decide if we are truly hungry or full or satisfied.

Someone asked, “what about having a cheat day?” And I loved his response.” What does the word “cheat” mean to you?” He went around the room, asking for responses. After hearing all of the negative terms associated with the word “cheat”, he went onto say, “I believe in eating days. If you learn how to eat, you don’t need a cheat day. If we could eat normally all week and work in what we would love to have within that week, then you don’t need to cheat.” Then Vinny shared something that Dr. H had asked them when they were on “The Biggest Loser”. He said, “what if you were addicted to cocaine? Would you let me be allowed to have it on a Sunday?” Wow, I never thought about it that way. Vinny then said, “rather than a whole day of cheating, add a few calories for just one day and choose what you would love to enjoy within that day, and enjoy it. Just think, if you are having a huge pizza once a week, every week, then you are not working to break that habit. Everything we do has a cost physically, emotionally and spiritually.”

Then Carter added, “ “Cheat”, what does it say going out of your mouth. It goes against your mind–fighting that you’re not doing the right thing. If you are enjoying food everyday, you don’t need a cheat day.” As I was trying to take this all in and understand it, as I usually give myself a cheat day once a week, and wanted to choose to do the right thing, Carter put it all in perspective as he pointed out something we were living that very week. First he asked, “How many of you have had the joy ripped out of your life, because you don’t enjoy eating anymore?” Most of us raised our hands as we thought about how we eat when we diet. Then he said, “Look at this week that you have been here.  Have you missed anything? Have you been hungry?” It was a HUGE “AHA” MOMENT for me!

We had been exercising like crazy, going from meal to meal, looking so forward to whatever we were going to eat…knowing it was going to be delicious, filling, satisfying..wonderful! We were never starving, and we raved about everything we ate. We were completely satisfied after every meal, and I hadn’t craved anything. We had dessert with every lunch and dinner, and our entire day was 1500 calories. We were eating great food. We were mindfully sitting all together, stopping, enjoying, savoring every bite, and loving every experience. It didn’t feel like “dieting”…This is how it was meant to be!!

Carter went onto talk about real, pure food… What God intended us to eat. When we asked questions about labels and what to look for, and what certain things meant in the ingredients, what should be organic, what doesn’t have to be organic…He went right back to the Bible. He said, “Jesus said there is no bad food, but he was talking about pure food, not the processed food we have now.”

When I explained to him how hard the labels on all the health foods are also to read, he asked me, “Wendy, what’s in strawberries?” I answered, “strawberries.” “What’s in steak?” ‘Beef.” “What’s in Chicken?”…and he waited until he saw me finally understand. It may sound so simple, but that was another lightbulb moment. He explained that if we shop the outside of a grocery store, and buy things that are exactly what they are, we won’t have to read and figure out a label. And the more we eat those pure, good, God given foods, the healthier we will all be. Wow! That was a revelation that I think about every time I go grocery shopping. My time is now very minimal with reading labels, because there isn’t a lot of processed foods coming in anymore. Pure and simple. Steak is steak. Pineapple is pineapple. Yum!

Another great piece of knowledge that I use when planning my day, he left us with after someone asked, “how do we know how much to eat at each part of the day?” His answer was, “Eat for WHAT you are going to do in the next 3 hours!! You fuel yourself for what’s coming. Brilliant! Another reason why you don’t load up on eating before you go to bed. This has really helped me decide when to eat my bigger meals throughout the day.

So much was covered in this brilliant talk, much of which I have incorporated into my every day living. Carter taught me, “You are your greatest science experiment. Grab a journal, write down how things affect you when you try them, note what does great things for your body, and the things that don’t. Use a system where you investigate, then educate yourself, then activate what you have learned, and then do it!  Investigate first–learn what you want to know, read, look, but don’t draw conclusions yet. Educate-select, educate, focus, start trying things. Activate- Select some of the best strategies and make a plan. Make it an “I am” not an “I will”(if you say I will, and focus on tomorrow, it will never happen, you are just smiling at the “thought” of tomorrow, but still not doing anything) For instance, “I am in the process of losing 40 pounds by (date).” Then, Do it-Start right away with doing everything to make this goal happen. At this point he asked,  Do you know how many great plans never get done, just because of saying “I will” and never doing it? You must do it.

I realized when Carter shared all of this, how many times I said, “I’ll start tomorrow, I’ll start Monday, I’ll start the first of the month, I’ll start the first of the year”. One of the biggest changes I have made, is that when I slip up, I say, ‘I AM just one meal away from getting back on track.” And I do it the next meal. I get right back on track.When you go through these steps of progress and conquer something, you start all over again with the next goal. Investigate..educate…activate…do it….  Investigate…educate….activate…do it.  And as you build one thing at a time into your life, all of it adds up to create this new amazing lifestyle! I have finally come to realize that it truly is a lifestyle, not a diet….a lifestyle.

You set these goals, and add each piece of wisdom and  knowledge, and it becomes a part of you. One thing at a time. There is an awesome feeling when you get to say “I did it”. And then you learn and choose to do it again and again again, each time setting new goals and dreams. Even when you finally get to that point in time where your time of weight loss is over, because you reached goal….now you have to maintain. After you get to the point of real maintenance, you add another new goal or dream to accomplish. It never ends. You keep setting up a new finish line after you cross one.

And, although it may be hard to do, Carter reminded us, “don’t get so focused on all the “stuff”, that you miss this huge gift called LIFE. YOU were created for such a time as this…not later..not “when I get thin”….NOW! And as you learn all of the knowledge regarding food, nutrition, exercise….whatever wisdom and knowledge you learn…. and it becomes a part of you, tell it to others, share and teach it.  If you take it in and don’t share it, it doesn’t become a real part of you. You have to be givers and receivers. We are all really good at giving, but we all need to learn to receive also. The food/nutrition is just going to make you better than you already are. It’s going to enhance who you are! You are an amazing, beautiful, awesome child of God. Know that and live knowing that, even now.

We each took out the packet we had with all of our numbers we had gotten from the RMR machine, being weighed and measured by Carter, etc., and the next hour or so was spent learning about what all of those numbers meant, why it was so important to understand these numbers, and how to move forward with the information we were now empowered with. From percent body fat…to percent body mass…to RMR….everything was explained in a way that for the first time in my life, I understood. We all faced the numbers with eyes wide open, along with an understanding of what they meant, and a hope of where we could bring them to and how to do that. Knowledge is truly power. Our numbers and measurements can be really tough to face, but once we face them, we start the process of improving every one of them.

After this amazing morning seminar, we went down to the big tent for another teaching about core training. Carter pretty much taught us that you don’t need anything but a chair to create the hardest workout ever. He had our legs burning, our core burning, just by standing, sitting, hovering.. Using all different counts standing and sitting in a chair. It was so hard, and what he showed us all, was that there is no excuse not to find a way to exercise. All we had was a chair, and our butts were being kicked.

The great core exercise session was finished,  and it was followed by a  delicious lunch with a dessert that everyone flipped over. It tasted like chocolate mousse on a crispy cracker with whipped cream on top. We were all savoring every bite, raving about it, trying to figure out how to make it. Chris came out to see if we liked dessert, as well as to ask us to guess what was in it. He also had 2 extra ones, and asked if anyone would like them.

Well, I was sitting next to this woman….who at that moment jumped up, and practically vaulted over the table, while yelling out loudly that she absolutely wanted the extra one!! We all burst into laughing hysterically as she charged over to Chris to grab it.  It was the funniest moment ever! Chris shared with all of us that it was made with avocado and cocoa powder, and the whipped cream was whipped coconut milk. It was so delicious, we all still talk about it to this day (right Annie?!!)

After lunch, it was time for the moderate and then harder hike. I was excited to see who would be going, and especially who would be trying it for their first time, as I knew that whomever it was, I would stay with them and help them get to the top. I just asked the Lord to show me who I was suppose to walk with today. I didn’t want to miss one moment He planned for me during this week, as He had been doing mighty things.

As the group started up the first incline, I noticed a man who seemed as though it was his first time on this hike. I knew him from other things we had all done together, but he hadn’t done this hike yet. I told him that I had done it already, and that I would stay with him the whole time, and that we would stop any time he wanted to stop along the way. We started up with the group, some people went up ahead, some stayed back with us. We all talked and visited. As the hills got a bit steeper and longer, we stopped and took some “breathers” along the way. I asked him about his kids, family, job, etc., as I knew that visiting and talking would make it so much easier to accomplish the climb, and it alleviates a lot of the anxiety and fear of the unknown. We talked about our families and life… and before we knew it, we were at the top of the moderate hike. We stopped to celebrate and take it all in, and then made our way down to the end. We stopped to take a few pictures with the group at the bottom by a beautiful stream.

When we finished with the first hike, some people left,  and some of us were heading over to take the harder hike. As people were making their decisions, the gentleman I was with was so proud of finishing the hike, he wanted to do the hard hike now. I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do them back to back for his first time, and when he said “yes”, I told him that I would stay with him the entire time, no matter how long it took.

We went over to the group, and there were a few more new hikers today who had the courage and faith to conquer this mountain. I love that every single day, no matter how many people showed up, everyone would wait at the top until the last person arrived, so that we could celebrate every single victory! We started out the hike in a group, and as the climb continued, we all rested at different places. We continued to talk and visit and share…and everyone continued to encourage one another to keep going and persevere, taking one step at a time to get to the top. We were all in this together.

Again, it was just such a blessing to be able to share in everyone’s victory as they reached the top, especially with today’s first timers. And today, it was really special for me to share both “first” hikes, done back to back, with Jim.

When everyone got to the top, Murn shared a song on her phone called “That Wasn’t Me”. We all listened, the words were so meaningful, it was beautiful. Then on the way down, Jim told me that I needed to hear another amazing song, and he set it up on his phone for me to listen to on the way down. It was a song called, “The Real Me”, by Natalie Grant. I had never heard of it, I held it close to my ear as I hiked down, and within moments, the song just hit my heart, as it just put into words how all of us here had felt at one point or another in our lives. As I listened, tears just flooded down my cheeks as Natalie Grant sang…

Foolish heart, looks like we’re here again.
Same old game of plastic smile,
Don’t let anybody in.
Hiding my heartache,
Will this glass house break?
How much will it take before I’m empty?
Do I let it show?
Does anybody know?

CHORUS:
But You see the real me.
Hiding in my skin, broken from within.
Unveil me completely.
I’m loosening my grasp,
There’s no need to mask my frailty
Cause You see the real me.

Painted on, life is behind a mask,
Self-inflicted circus clown.
I’m tired of the song and dance,
Living a charade, always on parade.
What a mess I’ve made of my existence.
But You love me even now
And still I see somehow…

CHORUS

Wonderful, beautiful is what you see
When You look at me.
You’re turning the tattered fabric of my life
Into a perfect tapestry.
Oh, I just wanna be me,
I wanna be me.

CHORUS

And you love me just as i am.
Wonderful, beautiful is what you see
When you look at me.

I told Jim when it was over, it would be the perfect song to use and put together a video with all of the pictures taken during this week… As we are all just trying so hard, to be able to come to a place where we each will finally look on the outside as beautiful as we are on the inside.

As if listening to that song, as well as the song that Murn played at the top… and taking these two hikes wasn’t emotional enough, and clearly divine appointments… a moment I will remember the rest of my life topped off this incredible day…. as we came to the bottom of the hill, and we were about to head over to the tent for our next activity, Jim slowed down and turned to me and said, “I just have to tell you something before this hike ends.”…and he hesitated a minute as I looked at him, and he slowed down walking, and overcome with emotion he said 7 words, that to this day, pierce my heart every time I think about that moment….he just looked at me and said,… “Thank you for being Jesus to me.”

He explained how much it meant to him that I had taken the time to walk and talk and encourage him to do something he wasn’t sure he could do. He had just done BOTH hikes, back to back, and it was just an extraordinary moment to realize what he had done. I was sooo proud of him, so honored to have been a part of his first climb to the tops of both mountains. And I was so overcome by his words, “Thank you for being Jesus to me.” Wow. What an amazing gift, to be used by the Lord to touch someone’s life .

As we continued to walk over to the tent, I was so overcome with emotion, and that moment took me back to where I was just days before coming to the ranch, where friends would ask me, “what can I pray for you while you are away”, and amongst many of my requests, one of them was actually…”please pray that I can keep up, that I am not last.” I had such fears coming here, not knowing what to expect, or how hard everything would be. I honestly didn’t know if I could handle it. And since the very first day of being here, and promising each other as room mates, that we would go and try everything….once I got through the entire first day, and realized that I could do this, I decided that I would choose, EVERY single day to be last, in order to help whomever the Lord lead me to help…not to miss one persons “first” each day. It became the most incredible moments of the week for me, each and every time. Every single one was the greatest gift ever, memories that I cherish to this day, moments that I continue to share with others in order to inspire them.

So, left completely in awe, again, of God’s incredible timing, and the mighty things he prepares and orchestrates for us, we walked over to the tent, where Carter was ready to equip us with more knowledge. It was an afternoon seminar learning all about increasing flexibility/pliability. We learned how to use rollers, as well as exercises to improve strength, proper stretching, etc. All very hands on activities, so that we could do everything in our own homes.

The day was coming to an end, and we gathered for another delicious dinner. One very lucky woman won dinner out with Murn, Marci, Courtney, Olivia and Hannah. She was so excited, and we were all so excited for her. What a special treat.

After dinner, we had some free time to gather together and process all that had happened so far. Some people had seen some of the leaders for Life Coaching sessions, and all over the ranch, breakthroughs were happening, lives were changing, real transformations were occurring. It was amazing to see what could happen in an hour of Life Coaching with these women and Carter.

On this Wednesday night, there were bonfires in a few places where people were gathering to talk or just process all that we had gone through so far. Some women were actually taking tough stuff and burning it for good in those flames. It was a very powerful night of letting go, and letting God transform lives. It was beautiful.

Time started to feel as though it was going too fast now. It was Wednesday night, so we only had a day and a half left on this ranch, and only one more night. The relationships we were making here were really special, and to share this experience together, was something that was already bonding us in a special way forever.

As I went to bed, after writing about the whole day in my notebook, I just thanked and praised the Lord, again, for another extraordinary day filled with miraculous moments that continued to leave each of us in awe. And I prayed for Him to just continue the amazing work that he was beginning here in each one of us.

Our bags were packed for the gym, our clothes were laid out, tomorrow Sara and I promised to work out in tank tops for our first time ever…headed to bed praying that I would have the courage to keep that promise. Looking forward to the gift of tomorrow, filled with more mighty moments and miracles!

The Incredible Week at “Unleash The Champion” With Some Of “The Biggest Losers”… This Is What Dreams Are Made Of!… Day 3- The Story Continues…

4am lodgeJPG

The alarm in our room went off at 3:15am. Second day of boot camp… and yes, again, our whole room was going. This morning I woke up with a lot less fear, because after yesterday, we now all knew, somewhat, of what was in store for us in a regular day on this ranch. However, upon entering that turf for boot camp each morning, we had no idea what Carter would have planned for all of us… and believe me when I tell you, he has quite an imagination! Those who live here and have taken his bootcamps for years, have said that they have never had the same exact workout twice. He really is brilliant when it comes to changing things up to work your body to it’s optimum potential…and this morning was another example of that.

We all came in and warmed up by walking around the turf, walking with our hands above our heads, then adding a jog to it, if we could. Then the tough stuff began. First, we had to do some sprints… then we had to do a bunch of side shuffling.. then we all had to use the lines of the turf and go quickly over the line and back, side to side, all while being timed by Carter, and then he told us when to start and stop.

Then, it was time to do something I had only seen others do on TV…flipping a huge tire,(148 pounds!) We were taught how to bend down, get underneath the treads and then lift and flip it. I couldn’t wait to feel what that felt like! We lined up in our lines at the end of the turf, then the first person flipped the tire and went to the back of the line, the next person did it, and we followed our line as we flipped the tire all the way to the end of the turf and back–over and over again. You could hear everyone yelling and cheering each other on…it really is the most amazing feeling to be on this turf, doing things you only see on tv, and now YOU are the one actually doing it! And when it’s your turn…all the yelling you hear around you… is for you! It’s incredible!

flippin tire

After that part of the workout was completed, we had to get into lines again at the end of the turf, and we were introduced to “mowers”. Sooo unbelievably hard. There is a huge heavy weight disc on the ground in front of you, you have to bend over and run, pushing it along the ground as fast as you can. Your line runs along with you, and you keep switching off at so many yards…and the yards get increasingly longer each time you go. There was a point I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do it for even one more yard, and my room mate, Darcy, was running alongside of me and said, “come on Wendy, you can do this, YOUR MIND GIVES OUT BEFORE YOUR BODY, you can do this!”….it was amazing, I held onto what she was saying and just pushed my body as hard as I could. It was so difficult, but I lived that statement that she shouted, and now believe it to fully be true. And so now, to this day, when I start to think I can’t keep going, I push to see just how far my body will go, even after my mind starts saying I can’t, and it’s pretty amazing what I can do. I always surprise myself.

After the mowers, which still remain one of the toughest things we did, the morning was still not yet over….We were told to get a partner, and Darcy and I partnered up for this one. I was excited, because I knew she would continue to push me to accomplish whatever Carter was going to ask us to do. She has been working out hard for months at home, she does “cross fit”, and I was going to be happy just keeping up with her if I could.

This time everyone had to line up at the end of the turf again, and facing your partner, one person was moving forward, as the other one was moving backwards. The person moving forward had the big round disc weight held on top of their head while walking and doing forward lunges, while their partner faced them and moved backwards, doing backward lunges. At certain lengths, you would switch places. It was really hard, my legs were burning. But the cheers of everyone inspiring you to continue, just keeps you moving and believing that you can accomplish it…and you do!

Ok, not finished yet….our next activity, each person had to find a place on the field and face their partner. Then when Carter said “start”, one person had the 25lb disc weight on the ground in front of them, they had to bend their knees, pick it up, do a chest press and lift it over their head, then back down to the ground. When they completed one, the partner would drop and do a burpee (drop to your hands on the ground, arms straight like a push up, shoot your feet out to a push up position, then jump your feet back in, stand up and jump.), when the burpee was over, the partner did the chest press with the  25lb. weight, and when finished, another burpee was done. You had to just keep alternating until Carter said stop. After what seemed like a very long time, we then switched places. (are you out of breath yet? I am, just thinking about it all over again!)

After that segment of endurance and pain…we all did some abdominal work. Everyone found a place on the turf, we had to lay down and then come up to make a “V” with our body and hold it for a certain amount of time and then release.This was done over and over again for different lengths of time. Then, we added our legs kicking quickly up and down as if we were swimming, all while holding our bodies up to work the abs, working and alternating from 4-8 kicks within the time, and then back down.

Finally…it was time to stretch and cool down….YES! It felt so good to stretch and take in the fact that we made it through another work out. This one was really tough, and we all worked so hard. Can I just tell you…It feels sooo good when it is over. There is no better moment…than the moment you are walking OUT of the gym, after working to your absolute best, knowing you gave everything your all.

We all left the brightly lit gym and walked back out into the darkness, as the sun had still not even begun to rise…and our car was headed to Starbuck’s, now that we knew how to get back to the ranch.  We saw one on our way, and we all couldn’t wait to grab our favorite coffee’s to celebrate. We all placed our orders, got our favorites, and stood there taking in our first sip together….like a hug from the inside…so delicious, I think I heard the angels singing….ah, ahhhh!!!

starbucks

We had another great visit in the car heading back to the ranch. We, as women, are just so energized by face to face, heart to heart visits with other women…Again, this ride was 45 minutes each way, and every time we got back, it felt like minutes. Such great talks.

While everyone regrouped for the morning walk, we had a little time to visit in the lodge a bit, and Carter was there. I can tell you this, I KNOW that when Carter is anywhere in sight, I am not going to miss the opportunity to learn from whatever he is sharing, and he is always sharing his knowledge and wisdom. And if I have a pen and paper nearby, I can barely write fast enough to keep up with writing down all that I don’t want to forget.
Carter

This morning he was just hanging out and talking about the power of God’s Holy Spirit. He has a beautiful metaphor where he explains that our lives are like having a sail on  a sailboat…He explained, ”everyone has a sail, do you let Him fill it, and if He does, does it just sail to and fro, how are you sailing?…Now you need to take the rutter…your voice, your tongue, what you speak…you have to use all of these things, along with choices, etc…and determine where you are going. You are not responsible for anyone else’s journey or happiness. You can’t make anyone do anything. You can inspire them, but the motivation must come from them.”  Just a few moments of great wisdom for the morning before our walk.

Everyone began to gather outside for our morning walk. I stepped out onto the porch and just prayed for the Lord to show me who to walk with, talk with, share with. I was learning very early on, that I didn’t want to miss one minute that He was orchestrating to bless each and every one of us. Mary Nell “Murn” lead the hike, I started out up front in her group, and she shared more great “God stories” of how the people working on, and running the ranch this week actually got there. Every single person was brought there for this divine appointment, including our wonderful chef, Chris. We found out that Chris was the regular camp cook for Deer Run, and had never had to prepare the low calorie, healthy foods that we needed for this week. They shared with him about who was coming for this week, the purpose, etc., and asked if he would be willing to research and create menus for all of us, and he said yes. He worked tirelessly up until us being there, and created a week of foods which made us feel as though we were eating at a high end spa for every single meal. Everything was so delicious, so beautiful…we had dessert with every lunch and dinner…was satisfied, and I know that I felt totally “spoiled” and “special” being waited on for every meal, not having to think about what to cook or what to eat or even count calories or worry about it being healthy….because he prepared amazing, healthy meals that were so delicious and satisfying, and were only about 1500 calories a day! What a gift!
Chris dessert lIlzlKgOuS6IpnMpY5oQs     Chris was so excited for us to try things and see our reactions, and most of the time, he wouldn’t tell us what we were eating until after we at it. One day we were all flipping out over the most delicious chocolatey dessert topped with a whipped cream…which ended up being avocado and cocoa powder topped with coconut milk whipped! So yummy!I still have to write him a letter to let him know what a gift he was to all of us.

So,on this morning hike,we walked and talked, I met more amazing women and heard some of their stories.I had a great time talking to Hannah and Marci, as well. While sharing a bit of my Dr. Oz story with some women, another woman shared with me that she had read my entire blog! I am still astounded that some of the women there had already read my story before meeting me.

One woman who became an inspiration to absolutely every person there was a beautiful woman named Roseanne, so when we all came to a nice, flat area toward the last part of our walk, we all wanted to take a picture with her. This week was a real powerful beginning for her on her weight loss journey, and as she shared her talents, her heart, her story… she touched everyone’s heart and life in a way that we have been forever blessed. We had fun taking a few pictures, and then proceeded to the last part of the hike

Hike with Roseanne

darcy and roseanne

 During the last part of the hike, I ended up walking alongside Andrew. Andrew was going to be our speaker that morning, which I found out as we were walking and talking. He had lost 140 pounds at this point on his journey, and in those last 10 minutes or so of walking, he shared some of his story and wisdom with me. I loved him right away, as he was so passionate and honest. He immediately stated with conviction, “ it’s tough work, it sucks, but you just show up day by day knowing that they will never see me on this day, this weight ever again, because every single day I will be less.” He shared about meeting Carter and the tough work outs he has gone through, talked about the things he eats now….and he said, “having 1 cookie or 1 piece of cake or 1 bad thing is ok, because the rest of your week you’re eating good foods. Your lifestyle now is the opposite of what it use to be. Before, you would try a few times a week eating a salad or 2, or chicken, but the rest of the week was fast food, bad foods, etc. It’s like throwing a can of soda in the ocean. If the whole ocean is ocean, then one can of soda is not going to affect it at all.” It really made sense, and I had to think as he was pointing this out… is my ocean the part this is good foods, good choices, or am I still living a lifestyle where my ocean is all bad foods, and I am throwing in a salad and expecting a difference in my weight and health? It was a great analogy. I couldn’t wait to hear his whole story, which would be after breakfast.
wendy andrewjpg      So after our delicious breakfast, we all hiked up the hill, back to the “upper room”, and heard Andrew’s amazing story. As usual, Carter began sharing, and he introduced us to Andrew with a few words…He started by saying how powerful Andrew was, but that HE (Andrew) had to find out how powerful he was. Then he looked out at all of us and said, “you all have the power in you, you just have to find your “enough”. Andrew had to find his “enough”, just like you all have to find yours. It’s the truth..you all have the power inside of you. And the thing is, you can deny the truth, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is the truth.” He then gave a great analogy about denying truth, using the idea of gravity. He said, “you can deny the truth that gravity exists and jump off a building… you can deny it all you want, as you fall to the ground.” Andrew had to find his “enough”, “I’ve had enough!”… and once he found his enough, he’s finding out a way to let that power out. He has an awesome story, just like you all have an awesome story, and you will all be able to relate  to him, because we all share the same story, it’s just that yours is uniquely you.”

andrew

     Andrew stepped up, and with such passion and enthusiasm and raw honesty–he shared his life story and weight loss journey…that was uniquely his, with all of us. He grew up in a family where no one was healthy. He started out by saying that he would take a pair of pants that fit over a winning powerball ticket any day. He had been overweight his entire life.

His friend, David Griffin was very overweight also, but he was a contestant on “The Biggest Loser” season 4, and after getting voted off around 60 pounds in, he came home, found Carter Hays as his trainer, and got fit and lost a huge amount of weight. He came on Andrew’s radio show, and when he saw what Dave had done he thought, “you’ve got to be a fool not to find out what he did and do it yourself. You need to find out what he’s done and just do it.” Andrew’s mom had had gastric bypass surgery, and he knew that wasn’t for him. This was going to be the way to do it for him.

So Andrew showed up at Carter’s turf, weighing in at over 400 pounds, and on his first day he started out walking down the turf holding a 50 pound dumbbell. Leaving that workout he said, “I cried and cursed out Carter to my momma from the doors of the gym to the first stop sign…but from that day on, I never stopped.” He looks back on that first day, and at that time on that turf and explains that it was a marathon to him. All he could do was walk and carry a weight, but he was so proud of accomplishing that day, he posted it all over his facebook page. He said to us, “We will all start out our first day pushing to do our absolute best that we can do at that time. And each time we show up, we will push a bit harder and go a little further.”

There were times he entered the gym and had to work out with NFL players and high intensity athletes. But although that was so intimidating, he decided right then and there, they were never going to see him at this weight again. Because although today they were seeing him at 400 pounds, next time he would be 399, then 398, then 395….and that is something that kept him showing up no matter who was there. Never in a million years, at that point, did he think that one day he would be 250.

He remembered going into a great store called “The Buckle” with a friend, and in that store, only two things would fit him….a hat and a watch. He would have given anything to be able to fit into something there. Sitting there, we all knew exactly how that felt.. wondering and praying for one day to be able to walk into a regular store and be able to fit into something there.

He went onto say, “what I control is something that I choose to do every day, it’s 45 minutes of my life…I started with Carter on Feb. 6, 2008 and it sucked, it is the hardest thing I have ever done it my life, and you couldn’t keep me from it now. It feels so good to get something on your own… your hard work. You feel proud. What in life is there to have that’s not worth working for? I looked up to those people who could run a mile, now I can! I’m doing things I have always wanted to do, BECAUSE…I wake up at 4 in the morning and drive an hour everyday to get beat up. But when you’re done…there’s NO better feeling! Carter gave me an XL shirt and told me that it was going to fit…and one day it did! You get on the right track and then people start asking you what you are doing… and then YOU start helping people, and it’s contagious! It’s my passion now! You just want to stand on a mountain and shout to everyone… get off your butt, no matter what your fitness level is, and just do it! You can! Get out there and fight for EVERYTHING you want! I won’t stop. It’s the most beneficial thing you can do for your life. I started on a Wednesday afternoon, and I know Carter didn’t think I would be back. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. You got where you are, because of your lifestyle, a lifestyle of just doing what you are doing. Your lifestyle is overeating.

When you just decide that you are done with the unhealthy lifestyle, if you can take each bad choice and replace it with a good choice, if you can put the good stuff through your veins and body. Each choice will make a difference. You will find that you don’t get sick anymore.” He was so inspiring, I could barely keep up with writing all that he was saying.

Andrew continued to share how his life has changed. He is no longer sick, he doesn’t have sleep apnea anymore. He doesn’t ever want to stop this healthy living, and he wants to pass it on to everyone. He has lost 140 pounds! He believes it takes a support system and divine intervention.

He shared some of the big accomplishments and moments in his life, that many of us have also walked through or dream of one day walking through…going on a plane without a seat extender, being able to fit on the amusement park rides so you don’t have to make excuses to your friends for not going or being afraid….when inside, you are dying to go on that ride or to that park, but you are too embarrassed to tell the truth. Dreaming of going on a cruise or to a beach and being able to take your shirt off and walk around in a bathing suit, having someone you know not even recognize you, because you look so different. We all have those things we dream of one day being able to do…buy clothes in a regular store, wear a shirt tucked in, wear a belt, wear a sleeveless shirt, wear shorts, play a sport, play with our children, swim in front of others, have your doctor say that your internal numbers are great, and your weight is fine, and you are fit and healthy. And Andrew was here to remind us that all those dreams can become a reality…why not you!

During the time where we asked questions, Hannah asked Andrew what made him come back after that first day on the turf. He thought about it and then said, he knew even after that first day that he felt part of a team and loved that. He wanted to belong to something that made him feel like this. Then he said to us, “what do you get out of quitting? You have to give what you’ve got and do it, always fight, give what you have, don’t cheat yourself. It’s hard, I was 400 pounds and I hated it, and knew that this is where I had to be. I’m not at goal weight yet, and I don’t want to quit, I’ll never stop! Today I’m working alongside some people who are where I was or even bigger…and I just want to say, Come with me, I want to share it with you! It’s so easy to beat, if you just have the knowledge to beat it– and a support system. It will work!”

At that point, we were also all watching old videos of Andrew on the turf, which were on a big screen playing behind him as he spoke. Carter paused the video and pointed to the turf, which we had all worked out on, yesterday and this morning. He said to us, “Tim Tebow sweat on that turf, NFL players sweat there…what makes you any different than them?….NOTHING!!!! That’s the exact same place that they sweat, that’s the exact same place you sweat, we are all the same in this thing, it all takes effort..it’s all about sweat and bringing your best to the workout.”

I remember thinking about that every time we were on the turf…all the people who sweat on that turf…all the famous athletes, the Biggest Losers…and my sweat was on that turf with theirs! Pretty amazing.

As Andrew wrapped up the evening, he reminded us that doing the same thing every day and expecting a difference is ridiculous. You have to make the time. After accomplishing all that he has, his dream is to pass it on to everyone. He wants to give it to the world. I know exactly how he feels.

Carter reminded us that whether it’s a loved one or yourself, we all have our defensive mechanisms ready. If you try to beat it out of someone or force it, they will just hold onto whatever it is tighter. What you have to do is just show up. Just show up. Because when you show up–you learn to get up…and when you get up–you learn to get down, then you learn to run 5 yards, then you do a push up, then you get up again, then you climb the stairs, then you climb the mountain, then you do a jumping jack. The trainer/instructor already knows what you can do, and they will help you as you show up. And slowly you will let go of every defense on your own as you show up and see what you are able to do. All you need to do is just choose to show up.

I know this first hand. I finally got off the couch and out of the house and started moving and showing up by just walking an hour a day. Then I started jogging a bit. Then when it got too cold outside and the excuses were going to kick in, I joined a gym and showed up at one class at a time. I modified everything at first, and made a list of goals in a notebook of things I dreamed of doing one day…and slowly I have checked those boxes off one by one. And the amazing thing is, every time I check off a box, I dream up another. You WILL see progress as you show up and do it. And to see what your body can do as you get stronger and more fit is just the most exciting thing ever!

Carter ended the talk by asking us to write down 2 sentences…1.)What am I willing to do? And 2.) What am I willing not to do?   Then he told us to completely CROSS OUT   number 2….and leave answering the question… What am I willing to do!

We all left the upper room and hiked back down to the main tent where we were all going to experience a very intense yoga class, with a woman that came highly recommended by Carter. As Carter introduced her and gave us a little bit about her background, you could already notice, not only did she seem fun and passionate about what she did, but she was also really really strong and fit. She began with some basic poses, and then began to add onto them. I had taken a month of yoga classes two summers ago with my daughter, Grace, and although she is really flexible as a dancer and could do everything and anything the instructors did, I could not. I tried some of the classes, and we had fun doing them together, but I remember having to modify a lot, and there was also so much I couldn’t get my body to do.

Yoga lady Yoga lady 2

So I went into this class with some hesitation, but trusted that Carter had brought the best person for us. I also thought, as an introduction class, how bad could it be? Well, let me tell you, she started out with wonderful breathing techniques and moves, and then she brought us to a place where we were doing things with our bodies that I never ever thought I could do. In fact, I know that two summers ago, I couldn’t do what she was asking us on this day to do. But, she was so brilliant at what she did, and kept working us over and over again, adding and building the movements to flow into one another.

When I started, I would break the flow and drop my knees or feet or hands and then catch up to the pose she was leading into, and believe me, 5 minutes into the workout, I was dripping sweat onto the ground. The way she had us move and hold poses, until all areas of our legs, abs, arms were burning and shaking as we held them and built up our strength and agility….it was so stinkin’ hard! But…remember when I shared that I had prayed that we would all experience our own “Hannah back-bend moments” during this week?…this was my first major one of the week. As I followed this woman and all of her instruction, and pushed myself to a place where I wanted to see what I could really do…putting aside all of the memories of what I couldn’t do last time I took yoga (and yes, a big part of that was the endurance and strength and agility and flexibility that I had built up in the last year), I worked up the the place where I could follow her and push my body through every pose that she took us through….from the hardest poses and contortions on the floor, taking us all the way to standing in warrior poses, etc… on angles and in positions that were so hard but soooo exhilarating! As she had us build up to them and do them over and over again, until we could do them the best we could, the emotion of what I was doing just poured out of me in tears. I could not stop crying. It was the strangest, most wonderful break through moment that I will never forget. And as the tears rolled down my cheeks in the last few moments of finishing the class, as she finished with beautiful words of inspiration, I was just praying and thanking God for what I realized at that moment was the “Hannah back bend moment” that I had asked for. I just praised Him and asked Him, again, to let every person there experience at least one that week for themselves. (one day I will have to send out an email to ask everyone there if they had one, and what it was).

After the class, I had to go up and just thank her and tell her what had happened. She really knew, through my tears, what I was trying to put into words, and was truly grateful that I had shared it with her. It was extraordinary! (and again, talk about full days on the ranch…..all this happened BEFORE lunch!)

We were all hungry and ready for lunch. We moved a little slower, walking over there, as our bodies had already been through a lot that morning…Work out on the turf, morning hike and yoga…all before lunch.

This was only Tuesday morning, but it was already hitting me in a huge way that miraculous things were happening on this ranch, and we were all a part of something much bigger than we had ever dreamed or imagined. I remember starting to literally stop in my place and ask the Lord where to go next…where to go, which table to sit at and meet someone, which group to walk with, which activity to choose. I realized early on, that I didn’t want to miss anything that He had divinely planned for me. I didn’t want to miss one person to meet or talk to, or miss any experience there, that was going to be amazing. And, by stopping and literally asking Him where to go next, I was left in awe every single time. There were things that I got to experience down to the second!…just because I stopped and asked Him to show me, instead of jumping forward in my own plans.

This lunch was spent at yet another table filled with great people, some of whom I hadn’t met yet. Olivia sat with us, and she and one of my room mates, Darcy, shared all about what goes on at cross fit. It is something that I have always wondered about, but never thought I was strong enough or able to endure it, and after hearing about how much they loved it, along with my room mate Sara, I put it on my check off wish/goals list to accomplish as soon as I can. They gave me the encouragement I needed to believe that I could do it.  Olivia also shared all about how much she loves Soul Cycle, as well as another cycling class in NYC, and it was so great to be able to ask her what actually goes on during the classes there, as I have had Soul Cycle on my dream/wish list for about a year now. So I look forward to trying that also some day.

After lunch, it was time for the moderate hike. Although it was optional, more and more people were finding the courage to try it. Since I had done all the hikes yesterday and knew what to expect, my fear and anxiety about it was gone. However, as we began to head up the hill with the group, I could see “worry” in the faces of some of the new people. As we walked up the hill, I saw a woman with a NYC taxi cab shirt on. I walked over to her and asked if she was from NYC. She wasn’t, but she explained that her mom had bought her the shirt on a trip. We started talking and walking, and came to find out that this was her first hike. She was struggling as we started, so her friends and I told her that we would stay by her side and do this with her. I shared my “Hannah back bend moment” with her, and I told her that this was going to be hers.

As we started, we told her that there was only one big hill, and we pointed to it in the distance. However, when we finished that hill, we forgot that there was one more, twice the size of that one behind it. We stopped when someone needed to stop and take a breath, we shared some of our life stories as we walked, and we encouraged one another in this weight battle that we were all in. We stopped and took a picture at the half way point.
Elisa 1 Elisa 2Then,when we reached the highest point, one woman took her phone and hit the Miley Cyrus song, The Climb, and we all sang it to her. The words were perfect, the moment was powerful…another experience that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss for the world.
I remember all of us just celebrating with her getting to the top for her first time…singing together..

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody’s gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb, yeah!

We had reached the top, the rest of the hike was all downhill. We hiked the rest of the way down, and just hugged at the bottom. We thanked our new friend for allowing us to share the hike with her, and we made her promise to do the  hard hike before the week was over.  Some of the group broke off to rest, and some decided to head down the road to meet the people doing the steeper climb of the day. As I praised the Lord for what we all just experienced, I asked Him again to just show me who to walk with, talk with and meet on the next hike. It was another great hike, helping others experience their first time. We all waited at the top for every last person to reach it.
group at top 1group at top 2

top timsarahtop murnandrew

Andrew came on this hike with us, so it was a great opportunity to just thank him for all that he shared that morning, and have even more time to hear about his testimony, and get to hear about his wife and family. Another special visit. We all took great photos at the top, to celebrate and remember. We used the time to visit more on the way down, and continued to just share heart to heart with one another.

On this hike, the Lord had another special woman share her story with me, just to point out what a divine appointment this was for all of us. This woman explained that by the time she worked out being able to take off from her job, etc….when she went to sign up for this week, it was completely booked! She was absolutely devastated. She said she just cried and wondered why God would allow her to work everything out in order to get the time off, and then have the weekend sold out when she went to sign up.

Well, instead of just giving up and giving in, she prayed and emailed Carter to see if there was anything that could be done. And, because of her prayers and moving in faith to ask and keep knocking…and in God’s sovereignty, Carter was able to open up a cabin to house just a few more women. And I can testify to the fact that,  after meeting all of these women throughout the week, they were all part of this divine appointment, and were meant to be there even before it was ever a dream in the making. I loved that the Lord allowed me to walk and talk with this woman, because it reminded me of just how blessed I was to have my husband sign me up immediately, and just bless me with that gift, because I would have waited days trying to figure out if I could work everything out at home, as well as find the courage in myself to decide to go…and if that were to have happened, I would have been locked out of the retreat completely. So God knew that I would wait and wonder and go through way too many “what if’s”, and placed it on my husband’s heart to just sign me up right away. Amazing!

So, It was only Tuesday, and we had already started to become a family. But as Carter explained it so beautifully, we are already family in the body of Christ, so when we meet one another, it is almost as if we knew we were going to one day be together… and finally as the moment happens, our souls and hearts and minds are saying, as we look into each other’s eyes “oh, it’s you, I’m so glad to finally meet you”…and we connect forever in a special way…because one day we will be together for eternity. I thought it was so beautiful when he explained it that way.

From the hike, we met back at the big tent, and Carter lead a great class on preventing back pain, along with having proper posture. He shared lots of great tips and invaluable information. That took up the rest of the afternoon and lead us right up to dinner. Wait until you hear this God-incidence at dinner…

We ate dinner outside at the tables, and when we were all seated, I looked around, and for the first time, my roommates and I were all sitting together (now before I go on, let me also tell you, that although it is only Tuesday, for the rest of the meals we never get to all be together, just us, again which is what makes this so amazing.) As I wrote earlier in Monday’s story, my friend, Lorraine, wrote notes/letters for me to open up each day while I was away. Each one had the day posted on the front, and was meant for that specific day. After we began to eat and visit for a while,  I realized that I hadn’t stopped to read the letter of the day yet. I shared this with my roommates, as they knew about the letters by now, and when I took the “Tuesday 9-25-12” letter out of my binder, I opened it up and saw these words in the middle of the page before I even began reading it, and it said, “This one is for you and your roommates”.

Loie letters

I stopped, took a breath, and smiled and looked up and told my room mates, “you are NOT going to believe this, but this is just how amazing God is, down to THIS very second. Lorraine wrote letters for the entire week, we haven’t sat for a meal all together yet, and here we are at this moment, and the first words I read are…This one is for you and your room mates…so, let’s just take in this letter, because evidently the Lord even made it so that we would all be together at this meal for this letter, at this very moment….How crazy is that!!??!!”

So, in tears and with chills, in great anticipation for what it was going to say, I read the words that the Lord placed on Lorraine’s heart, days ago, just for all of us, at this moment…and here is what she wrote…

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6).
This one is for you and your roommates, as well as the entire group. As each of you grow in your faith, in your knowledge of who Christ is, you will come into fellowship together more honest and ready to share…to go deeper…to look inside…to pass through these challenges.
Lean on one another in the knowledge that it is our King who gives you all the endurance.
Persevere friends…you are being prayed for!!  Love ya! Lorraine”

It was absolutely amazing. We were discussing some of what was in this letter right before I read it. It really was incredible. We all just took in the words and the gift of His timing. It still astounds me.
upper climbWhen dinner was over, we made the climb to the upper room to hear our speakers for the evening, which were going to be Olivia and Hannah. When I got to the top, I had to just grab my phone and take a chance and see if Lorraine was home to share with her what had happened at dinner. I was so excited to hear her voice, and it was so great to show her, again, how the Lord used her in a mighty way here in Nashville, TN even though she couldn’t be here, but wanted to be with me on this trip so badly….and even though she couldn’t physically be here, she was still with me impacting lives from thousands of miles away, because she listened to His prompting and was used by the Holy Spirit to write all the words in those letters to bless all of us.

Never underestimate how the Lord can use you right where you are, even when you think you should be somewhere else. I also got to share with her something beautiful that Hannah shared with me on the walk this morning. While we were hiking, Hannah and I were talking, and she reminded me of a letter that I had written to her and Olivia while they were on The Biggest Loser. I had forgotten that I had even written a letter to them. But here is the amazing thing…she then shared with me that she had read that letter over and over a few times before going into the finale and that it had meant a lot to her and helped her get through that time. I absolutely couldn’t believe it. It’s another surreal moment…Think about it…

Over 2 years ago, a very overweight woman,( that would be me), was watching yet another season of The Biggest Loser, praying that I would one day be able to find the motivation and knowledge to lose weight and win a lifelong battle… I was watching tv and was being inspired by the people on this season 11, Marci, Courtney, Olivia, Hannah.. especially this incredible purple team.. sister team, Olivia and Hannah…wishing that one day I could meet them and learn from them…being so inspired by them week after week, praying for them the whole time as they made it to the finals and actually won first and second place!….and here I was this night, 70 pounds lighter, talking on the phone to Lorraine, outside the upper room, where Hannah and Olivia were about to share more of their life testimonies, and I was on this ranch, in real life… with all of them, working out, learning, building relationships, and had found out on this day, today, that a letter I wrote during that year, during that tv program, impacted Hannah’s life.

As I talked on the phone with Lorraine, I remember saying…”Can you even begin to take all this in?…The timing of your letter, the words the Lord gave you before I left to be read tonight with my room mates sitting at the table…Hannah read my letter over and over before the finale of The Biggest Loser over 2 years ago, and I got to hear that amazing reality, while hiking with her today in the woods.” I was talking on the phone, pacing, looking around the woods, trying to just take it in with her. WOW! Somebody pinch me!

I had to say good-bye and head into the upper room. Hannah and Olivia were our speakers for the night, and we were all so excited to hear their testimonies and learn from them. Carter introduced them to us, and let them know, even before they started, that all that they had to share would be taken in by us.. and then be in us forever, and I know that to this day, I hold onto all that they have taught me.

In his introductions, Carter started by saying, “there are events in our lives that define us and help forge who we are. Friendships bring out the absolute best in you…just a smile or a note can touch your heart. The power of that friendship refines you and changes your life forever–Hannah was like that for me. People can refine you and you can recall them the rest of their lives. We carry others with us.” He spoke about some of the things he admired in both sisters…he spoke about Hannah’s humor, and Olivia’s tenacity and tenderness.

sisters 1 sisters 2

  Hannah and Olivia took the stage, and just as Marci and Courtney did the night before, they opened their hearts, their lives, their wounds…they shared their battles, their life lessons, and their living testimonies with all of us.

bef aft

They began by pointing out that this week reminded them of where they had come from and how they started. Just like some of the women there were taking their first hikes, or climbing their first mountain, Hannah remembered her first hike on The Biggest Loser Ranch with Marci and Courtney and some of the others. She shared with us that she actually had to stop 19 times on the first hike, and didn’t believe that she could do it. She pointed out what a gift is was for us, to be able to be with one another and learn from Carter, Courtney, Marci, Murn, Olivia, Hannah for this week. It was a gift that we should cherish. She asked us to notice, again, how close we had all become already only 2 days into this experience. The relationships we were building here, were going to, as Carter said earlier, be carried with us forever.

Just as we had all come to a place in our lives where we had cried out to God, for Him to help us with our weight loss battle, Olivia also had hers. Her battle with weight started when she was a child, and her “enough” came at the time of her 35th birthday. In her praying for the Lord to do something “extreme”, in His perfect timing, for such a time as this…God-incidence after God-incidence lead her to the amazing opportunity of being on The Biggest Loser with Hannah. (I’m sure they will be writing their own book at some point, so I don’t want to tell their whole story here…but it is absolutely extraordinary, and will be a best seller one day! In fact, if you ever get the chance to hear them speak, don’t miss it!)

We all got to watch their transformations on tv, but what went on behind the scenes is the most amazing story ever. It is still referred to as the best season of them all, but that is because of the special group of people who were on at that time, including Marci and Courtney. It was a season where everyone really supported one another, cared for one another, and even laid down their lives for one another. We only saw what was shown on tv, but when you hear these women share all that went on, even when the cameras were not rolling, you find yourselves in awe of what was taking place on that ranch.

When you hear the stories of each individual, and all the ups and downs…doors closing and opening…at the exact times in order to take a place on this show, there is no doubt that God is in control. Olivia even thought that she was taking her husband with her, until “circumstances” lead to Hannah as her partner for the show. (and Hannah didn’t want to go, and in fact to this day, hadn’t even seen a full episode of the show.) But God had plans for these two sisters. He was going to use them, their lives, their transformations, inside and outside…to change and inspire the world, not only through winning the show, but also through changing and impacting others’ lives even after the show has been over.

The beautiful part about being in the presence of all of these inspiring people, is that they have the freedom off the show to share their transformations giving glory to God… Being able to share with all of us the great moments, along with the really tough stuff along the way. Tonight, Olivia shared a story about surrender. A few minutes into her story,on the side of my notebook, I wrote the words, “hey Wen, she’s the one”.

You see, in the beginning of the week, Carter told us that everyone would be offering Life Coaching sessions. A time to have a one on one hour with any of the leaders there. He pointed out that they all had been trained in different ways, and you could meet with anyone, or even a few or all of them. Some of my room mates had done sessions, and they literally came back different people. They worked out so much in their hour, and had such amazing break throughs with issues they were battling. I would have loved to just sign up with every person there, but I knew they would run out of time, and there was an extra fee to be able to do this, and the sign ups were already filled with a lot of names. I kept praying for the Lord to show me who I should make it with. I wanted each person, each for different reasons. If we had a few more days, and I had lots of extra money, I think I would have tried to have a session with each one. Anyhow, the more Olivia spoke, the more I saw that we were alike in so many ways. The way she approached and thought about things, being a type “A” personality, the oldest in her family, worried about taking care of everyone else, controlling all of her stuff and feeling like she had to control so much other stuff in her family, the perfectionist, the student that had to get all “A’s”…the pressure she put on herself that no one else put on her. I could relate to so much of what she had gone through and who she was. I think it was only a few minutes into her talk that I wrote these words on the side of the page.

Olivia talk

I listened so carefully to her talk, as I wanted to learn all that she had learned in her journey. She taught us what it is to truly surrender. She showed us how she went from years of watering and cultivating seeds of bitterness, anger,  and disappointment in her life…to now being placed on this ranch, on this show, with all the challenges, along with playing the game… and she shared the amazing process where through the circumstances, relationships and moments on this ranch, the Lord brought her to a place where she surrendered, truly surrendered to Him and trusted Him…that His way was better. She learned to trust Him even though it didn’t seem like the way she wanted it to go.

And as she continued to make it week after week, staying on a show where they told her she would probably be voted off 2 or 3 weeks in, others were placed in her life to guide her and speak wisdom, point out what she needed to do, and as she chose to open Her Bible every day and see what the Lord had for her, He transformed her from the inside out. As she truly surrendered, He brought her from bitterness to a place of true forgiveness to restoration!

There was a week in New Zealand where she was put up for elimination for the first time, and was put up against a beautiful man named Moses. She and Moses had become very close, and he knew that one of the major reasons Olivia was there was to be able to one day have a family. So he told everyone, “I have a family, and she wants a family.. She needs to be here”, and he asked everyone to write his name down so that she could stay. He literally laid his life down for her that week, and Olivia got to stay.

That week, the Lord gave her Psalm 71:20, at a time where He really wanted to lead her to a place of  forgiveness and restoration and let go of all the bitterness and hurt. She shared this verse with us…

Though you have made me see troubles,
    many and bitter,
    you will restore my life again;
     from the depths of the earth
    you will again bring me up.

When she was given this verse, she shared something that she did on the ranch that night which gave me a visual that was so powerful for myself. She explained that the things that weigh us down are like chains or ropes attached to heavy cinderblocks or an anchor. All of those are things that are keeping us chained up and weighted down, and we have to cut them one by one by really forgiving and letting go. After reading this verse, she asked God, what do I do with this? And He told her to climb to the top of the mountain on the ranch and shout out every name, every thing that is attached to her, weighing her down, and cut them one by one. So she climbed up by herself and started shouting one by one…and cutting one chain by one chain until she was freed. She said that she shouted for over 2 hours! Can you imagine! What an amazing, freeing moment.

Her next words…”after that, the restoration began!” “He wants to restore you inside and out. That’s the promise, He will restore your life again and again and again, just like it says in this Psalm.” From that moment on, she was on fire. If you watched the show, the following week was the week she won the car, kept losing the weight and eventually went all the way to winning the entire show. Little did we know, all watching from home that season, what had truly been taking place in her life there. She said it was literally as if her body exhaled and said, I don’t want this anymore.

She shared one of her favorite sayings, which is on a bracelet that she wears, that Bob Harper gave her, “Stand up and finish what you started”. Those are words that she continues to live by. She explained to us that we all have to choose to keep going. There is no final finish line, because every time we cross a finish line, we should be setting out for another. We should be setting goals, and when we reach them, set out another. She continues to dream big dreams, set new goals and strives to keep finishing what she starts….The Biggest Loser…Soul Cycle Instructor….completing a marathon…doing cross fit…  What are your dreams and goals? Are you writing them down and moving toward them. Have you stopped to cut the chains that are holding you back?

She ended with an amazing illustration in dealing with motivation and inspiration. She said the number one question she gets is how do you stay motivated and inspired to keep going? She gave an amazing metaphor of building a fire. You need kindling and a match. The match is something that lights you up to want to lose the weight, but in order to start it, you need kindling. Find your kindling….kindling can be something you read, a pair of pants you want to get into, an activity you want to be able to do, an event you want to go to, getting better numbers at a doctor’s visit, being able to ride a bike, swim, play with your kids…kindling just starts the fire. Now you have to tend to the fire. The fire needs oxygen, logs and stoking.. So, one by one your good choices are the logs you throw on the fire. You make a good breakfast (log), you go work out (log), you park far away and walk (log), you drink your waters for the day (log)… each log you choose and place on the fire, you are tending to the fire.

Then she pointed out the most important log…your Bible. (another great analogy..it’s made out of paper, which comes from a tree…log!). View this journey as a fire that you want to burn your whole life! Light it, stoke it, keep the logs on it, so that it doesn’t burn out, otherwise you have to start it up all over again…but you can!

She ended by saying, “Go build your fire! That fire will burn inside you the rest of your life. It’s the best gift to give yourself!”

When it was over, I was leaving, walking down the dark path back to the lodge, and the Lord told me to turn around and go back in and just ask Olivia if she would fit me in for a life coaching session that week. I walked back in, expecting to wait in line to be able to speak to her, and believe it or not, she was walking toward the stage, where I was walking in the door, and she was alone at that point. (unheard of)…I walked over to her and told her that I had been praying about who I should see for a LC session, and that the Lord told me that she was the one. We started talking about some things right there, and I have no idea how long I was with her, but before I knew it, I was in tears just sharing heart to heart with her. I shared a lot of what was going on in my life, and how much her talk meant to me, how similar I was to her, and how her story about cutting the chains meant so much to me. She was so honest and open with me, and helped me with a few things right there. I told her that I would go back and see if she had any appointments still open for the week, and we could talk then, and just thanked her for sharing so much with me right there. It truly was a divine appointment.

We all met back at the room. Shared a bit with each other, but it was extremely late, and we would be getting up extra early tomorrow, as Hannah and Murn were so gracious in doing our RMR’s at 3:45am so that we wouldn’t miss Carter’s boot camp. I wrote down as much as I could before heading to bed, and then just praised God again, as I went to sleep for another unbelievable day filled with life changing events, fully orchestrated down to the second…by Him!

TO BE CONTINUED…. On WED.Morning at 3am…

The Incredible Week at “Unleash The Champion” With Some Of The “Biggest Losers”… This Is What Dreams Are Made Of!… Day 2 – The Story Continues…

Monday, September 24, 2012-
The first morning of bootcamp came very quickly. I heard the alarm go off a little after  3am. I hopped out of bed pretty quickly, as I hadn’t slept very well. I kept waking up a few times during the night, worrying and panicking about this first day, then going in and out of crazy dreams of actually thinking I was on “The Biggest Loser”. It was a very restless night, mainly due to all of the “unknowns” of this first day and the week ahead.

We put on a few lights in our room, as it was pitch dark outside, and started taking turns using the bathroom and getting ready. At one point, I was in the small hallway bathroom, dressed and ready, and I was literally holding onto the sink, looking in the mirror…my hands were shaking, my body was shaking with nerves and I was in a panic trying to take a breath, wondering, what if I can’t keep up at the boot camp? What if I can’t do what Carter asks us to do? What if I am last? What if I just can’t do it?….I took a few breaths and just prayed that the Lord would be with me…I held onto my verse that I had been holding onto during all of my challenges at the gym and with the Dr. Oz challenge in the last year, “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.”  In that moment, I just asked Him for the strength. I prayed, “I know that you tell me to be anxious about nothing, but in prayer and thanksgiving, give it all over to you….so I am asking you to take these nerves away, calm my spirit, and let me know that you are with me in a mighty way. Thank you for this amazing opportunity to be here. I know that I am suppose to be here, so help me to be able to do all that I need to do, and then please give me your peace that passes ALL understanding. I need your peace, Lord. I can’t go to the gym shaking and fearful like this.”

I also remembered asking the Lord this particular morning, something I had begun to ask for before leaving for this trip.. When others asked me about the trip and what they could pray for me, I said to them, “remember the episode on The Biggest Loser where Hannah was with Jillian and experienced her “back bend moment?” (it was a very powerful moment on the show, where she was brought to a place where she was able to do something she never even dreamed of being able to ever do, which resulted in a huge breakthrough for Hannah in her journey)… please pray for me and for every other person on that ranch this week, that we would each experience a moment like that at least once during the time we are there… And, I continued to pray for this throughout the week.

My room mates were ready, our bags were packed, water bottles filled, and we went downstairs to wait until the van pulled up. When it did, we got into Beth’s car and lined up behind the van. We all pulled out of the ranch, onto the dark country road which lead us to the gym. We were told it would be about 45 minutes, which sounded like a long time, but we had another great visit and time of sharing in our car, and before we knew it, we were pulling into the big parking lot in front of the gym.

We entered the gym around 5am, and although it was still very dark outside, the gym was brightly lit up. We walked around the corner, and there was Carter Hays.. standing on the turf. This part of the gym looked like a huge indoor football field, and lined up along the beginning of the field, were metal sleds with weights on them. As we entered and put our bags along the edge, Carter told us to warm up by walking around the outside of the field, making a huge oval as we walked. Everyone started to file in and walk, including all of his regular clients who got to be with him every day. They were all so kind and so encouraging as they worked out side by side with us each day that week.

A few minutes into walking, we were told to raise our hands straight up and continue walking. A few minutes after that, we were told told to start jogging if we could, and then jog with our hands in the air. Already, Carter was explaining all of the modifications for each person there, only asking us, each individually, to bring our best to the field, and to push ourselves to only do what we were able to do, not the person next to us.

At this point, I noticed Olivia run by…then Marci….then Courtney….then Hannah. You could see everyone starting to notice them jogging around the field with us, and although it might sound crazy, we had no idea that they would all be working out alongside of us. We were all really excited to see them, and really inspired to be working out with them. I remember feeling like I was in a dream, jogging around, listening to Carter shout out instructions, looking around at all of these people on this turf, and also seeing Olivia, Hannah, Courtney and Marci spread out within the group. Their smiles, their comments, their words of encouragement…their presence, literally each of them letting us know that they were fully in this with us, was an experience beyond what my words could ever convey.

After jogging for a bit, we were told to line up on the different lines of the turf. As I stepped up to the one in front of me, which happened to be the first line in front of Carter, I looked to my left, and on my same line was both Courtney and Olivia. Again, I was literally in dream mode…and this was what dreams were made of….after months of waiting and anticipating…there we all were, working out with Carter Hays, Hannah’s trainer… on his turf….the actual gym and turf that we had all only seen in pictures and on the internet. And we were all here at our first bootcamp…with Hannah, Olivia, Courtney and Marci…all working out by our sides. Unbelievable!

And then the workout began….we did walking lunges, high knee walks, high knee jogs, and yes the hardest one of all…bear crawls (crawling on the turf using your hands and feet, no knees down)…alternating one exercise to the other, going forward to the next line and then moving backward to the line before. I hung in there and did my absolute best, pushed myself hard, as I had Courtney doing it all right next to me, and Olivia a few people down from me. They were both in my peripheral vision, they were working to their max, which made me work as hard as I could. After doing a lot of different reps, in certain amounts of time,  we were eventually brought down to the beginning of the field and formed lines behind the metal sleds, which had various weights on them. The sled we were pushing today was 150 pounds. Everyone cheered as we took turns pushing… first pushing it 10 yards and switching to the next person, all while jogging down the field behind the person pushing..and back again, as it was pushed, then we were pushing 20 yards each, then half the field, and eventually we worked up to pushing it the entire field. The energy in that gym, the people cheering one another on, the feeling of pushing that sled and having everyone behind you, believing you could accomplish it…, was the greatest feeling ever! And again, to have our “idols” doing this with us, hearing them cheer us on and believe that we could do it… was absolutely amazing!

We continued to work hard, up until the end of the hour, we cooled down and stretched a bit, and then Carter had us all come in together, place our hands in the center of the circle we had all huddled into… and all yell the famous words that Mary Nell came up with for this week…”Start. Sweat. Finish!”, as we all raised our hands up to celebrate as we shouted. What an incredible first work out. We all got just a taste of what Carter does when he trains athletes, clients, famous people, regular people…and it was incredible. I was so relieved and proud to have been able to do what he asked us to do, and to do it with all of the amazing people on that turf was beyond words.

As we left the gym, we walked back out into darkness. The sun had not even begun to rise yet. We lined up behind the van, waiting for all of the cars to get into line. I remember getting out of the car to take a picture of everyone lined up, because we were leaving the gym after a complete work out, and the sky was still black.

We had a great time talking on the way back. Again, the time just flew by. We were talking about how great God is in His planning, and Beth said, “I just picture God sitting around with the angels, our loved ones, and Jesus in heaven, as he has been planning, since time even began, special moments… down to the second for us, and at times like this I picture him  just pointing at us and saying, look at them just smiling and laughing and enjoying this moment that I created for them.” It was such a great visual that we referred to many times that week as we stopped and enjoyed those moments.

One of them actually happened in the next few minutes of our drive back. As we were almost back on the ranch, we pulled over to the side of the road to see the mist rising in the fields, the horses grazing, and the sun just starting to rise. It was breathtaking, and we know that the Lord was just pointing, smiling and listening to us take it all in and enjoy it.

We pulled up to the lodge, placed our bags, notebooks and all that we would need for the day in the van, which would eventually be driven down to the area where we would be for the day (which was a bit of a hike away). At that point, the next work out was a long walk through the woods. This would be the moderate one, and the steeper one would be later on.

The people who wanted to go on the hike started to gather in front of the lodge. Then, appearing on the porch…Carter, Hannah, Mary Nell, Olivia, Courtney and Marci. We took some fun pictures while we were waiting, and then Mary Nell lead us on a hike. Again, we were all just so touched that they were all doing everything with us, right by our sides.

I started up front, walking and talking with Mary Nell, also known as “Murn”.It was so great to meet her and begin to hear her about her story and journey. The Lord brought her together with Carter and Hannah in a way that only He could do. Carter met Murn about a year and a half ago at one of his bootcamps. She had showed up, because her boss was working out with Carter, and told Murn that Hannah had been coming to work out with them. Murn loved “The Biggest Loser”, especially this season. She felt that deep down somehow she had a special connection with these women, and she really felt she ‘knew’ the people on this season, especially Hannah. When she heard she was working out with Carter, she showed up at the gym, but that day Hannah wasn’t there. She showed up a few days later, and that is when she met her. Although she had seen what she had been through on TV, she didn’t realize fully, until she was working out side by side with her, what she had actually accomplished. She shared with us, that It was when she was literally doing a plank next to Hannah, she looked and thought, “Wow! Look what she has done!” She said that being next to her at that moment was a privilege, and now being able to call her a friend is beyond anything that she could have ever imagined. She said it was in that moment that she felt a fire in her that she had never felt before, and knew then and there that this was what she was meant to do. She and Carter and Hannah began to talk about the possibilities of creating this Faith to Fitness…Unleash the Champion retreat, and together they began moving forward and walking in faith.

As we started hiking, my first question to Murn was, “can I ask you how you chose who went into which room?” I told her that our room seemed so completely hand picked by God, that the women in our room were just really meant to be together through our stories, struggles, journeys… I just wanted to know how they did it. She said that they all got together, and through prayer and just trusting that the Lord would provide, they just went  through the lists and “randomly” assigned the rooms. Ok then…..again…. All I could say was, Only God!

As we were walking through the woods, Murn told me how they found “Deer Run”, the ranch we were at, and how they knew right away that this was the place. The owners of the ranch are also Christians and continued to follow the Lord’s leading years ago, in building their land and ranch in order to be used to glorify the Lord. As Carter said during one of the talks later that week, “there’s something that happens here at Deer Run. You can feel it, you can’t deny it, it’s something very special.”  One of our nights all together, when he thanked the owners, Dave and Liz, he said, “Deer Run has brought a lot of laughter,  you put the hills exactly where they needed to be, it’s easy to design this retreat here…but the spirit of love that permeates everything around here, from a tree to whatever…it’s inherent In the hands that built it, and God works through the hands of the people who build.” I can tell you that after being so blessed to have been there for a week, it is a special place that has touched my heart and created memories and moments I will cherish forever!

Monday was our first morning being at the ranch, and through talking on that first hike with  Murn and Hannah, just sharing as we walked through the woods…along with learning from Candice the day before, that she prayed over each of us by name as we signed up…it was so beautiful to see how the Lord used each person, this ranch, each vision, each dream, every single prayer, each journey…..all to bring us to this place and time. Again, it was just a glimpse of what was to come from this week.

We hiked, took great pictures along the way. We waited and encouraged those people who had never hiked before. And when we got to the last section before walking down the last hill to breakfast, we took a picture to celebrate everyone completing this first hike together. All this…and it was only breakfast time!

Our chef, Chris and his team made us a delicious breakfast. He, and they, are one of the greatest treasures here. He and his team worked for hours/days, maybe even months before this week, to research and create the most delicious, nutritious, low calorie beautiful meals for the entire week while we were there. We consumed about 1500 calories a day, and that included dessert at lunch and dinner! Many times he would have us eat something before letting us know what it really was. And usually, we were absolutely astounded. We had a dessert one day that was so chocolatey and delicious, and it was actually avocado and cocoa powder! And many desserts were topped with whipped cream…yum! (made with coconut milk).

After breakfast each day, we would climb up a steep hill, which starts out with a bunch of steps and then goes into a steep, winding path that leads to a building called the “upper room”. That is where all of the speakers gave their talks, so it was a big climb that we had to make up and down, at least twice a day.

Today, we were heading up there to hear “Big Vinnie” speak (also a former contestant on The Biggest Loser). Vinnie shared his life journey with us.. we laughed, we cried, and we learned so much, as he poured out his heart right before us. He was born a fighter and a survivor, which he needed to be as he experienced so many hard things throughout his life, trying to grow up and make sense of things..violence, abuse, divorce, broken families, a traumatic childhood, being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at 27 years old, reaching a weight of  well over 400 pounds.

He spent the morning sharing with us all that he learned from, and during these devastating events, and how his journey lead him to being a contestant on “The Biggest Loser”, and how he eventually met Carter, Hannah, Olivia, Courtney, Marci and Murn. He shared how an amazing God could take someone with a very “poisoned mentality” of thinking he could do everything by himself, to a place where he finally realized that he never used any of his gifts for God, and wanted more than anything to do that first. He was honest in saying that the things that are difficult never stop being a challenge, but what matters is that you are trying to change.

He took us through some of the hardest, most devastating times in his life, and showed us what forgiveness and restoration looks like. The Lord continued to place people in his life to draw him back to Him. And now, His testimony gives hope to everyone who hears it.

At one point, he asked us to close our eyes and envision the one thing that we wanted more than anything else in this world. Then he said, “find your reason why. Until you find your reason why, you won’t ever do it. Your reason why has to be bigger than every single reason or excuse that you’re not going to do it every day. Focus on these things every time you want to quit or say no. Ask God to give you this. Every single day there are new choices. Take this life.. one choice, one decision, one day at a time. Don’t think, I have to lose 100 pounds, that’s too overwhelming. Make small choices each day to get there.”

He then challenged us to take a notebook and write down one thing you can change every day of the week, and then choose to do it. “The next thing you know, you will have changed 365 things in one year. It’s an every day thing you can do to make little changes that will lead to big changes.” He pointed out that we watch other people do amazing things all the time, and then stated… “why can’t that be you? The only difference between you and them is that they chose to do something.” He challenged us to lead by example, and people would eventually join you…”surround yourself with people who will help you and continue to be teachers in your life, those who will help you do great things. You have to put yourself first  in order to be able to really love others.” And I loved this one…”no matter how slow you are going, you’re lapping everybody whose sitting on the couch!”.  “You can go out and change it all, you can do anything. It can be you!”

He learned an invaluable lesson from Carter early on, “don’t compare yourself to the other people, just be the best YOU that you can be. The only person you don’t need to get beaten by is yourself.”

When he finished with all of his inspiring words, Carter ended by saying, “you’ve all got a story. The beauty of life is that you are creating and living out your story. That never ends. The book of “Acts” never ends..and you get to have a chapter. What’s your story?…”

( ok…are you still with me?….guess what…all this, and it’s not even lunch time yet!)

We had a great time visiting and taking pictures with Vinnie. We all felt so close to him after hearing his story. He is such a beautiful young man, inside and out. What a gift it was to meet him and hear his story.

It was time to head back down the hill and experience a zumba class. I was really excited, as zumba has become one of my favorite classes of the week at my gym, but I was even more excited to be with most of the people who were experiencing this as one of their “firsts”. Even at my gym, many people don’t come in and try it for fear of the unknown, and not believing that they can do it. I remember walking in my first time with Meg, and trying it. It was a little confusing, but it was so much fun, and the instructor helped us and modified it, so that we could do our best for our first time. I knew that Carter was going to have the best people brought in all week to teach us so many different ways to exercise, so I was excited to go to this zumba class.

We made our way down to the big white tent. You could hear and see some hesitation, but even Vinnie came down to try it with all of us, and I think his enthusiasm really made so many others want to give it a try. The woman leading was so much fun! She broke it down and did lots of repetition so that everyone could get a feel of what zumba was. The fun and laughter was contagious, and in the end, there were people talking about taking a class when they got home. We all had the greatest time.

After zumba, it was finally time for lunch. Chris created another amazing lunch and dessert, and it was fun to meet more people at the table I was sitting at. One of the greatest things that happened right away, was that everyone really mixed up where they sat, so that we were always meeting new people. There wasn’t any “clickiness”, and no matter what table you walked up to, you were welcome to sit and felt included right away. And again, it was so beautiful how Carter, Murn, Olivia, Hannah, Courtney, Marci, Vinnie….all spread out and just sat and shared with everyone they were eating with.

The weather was so beautiful all week, most of the time, we were eating outside at the tables, which was really nice. Each day after lunch, there were two hikes. The first one was considered “moderate”, and the second one was steeper and harder. This was our first day, so we were still walking through all of the “unknowns’’. Remember though, we decided as a room, that we were going to try it all, so we were fully going to go on both hikes.
The first hike was considered “moderate”. There was a pretty large group of us who decided to go, and Murn usually lead the hikes. It was another great opportunity to visit and share stories as we walked. After we completed the first hike, we were all at the bottom of the hill and it was explained that the next one would be the tougher one. Those who decided to go gathered, and we continued back into the woods, this time looking up at a steeper hill. It wasn’t as long as the first climb, but was definitely steeper.

We took some pictures along the way. We also stopped at various points to wait for others who were coming along. One of the wonderful things everyone decided to do was that we would all wait, especially at the very top, until the last person made it, so that we could all celebrate together. And many of those celebrations involved cheers, smiles, incredible testimonies, and tears of joy!

One of those incredible moments happened on this first steep hike. We were all at the top, watching each person come over and reach the top, cheering each group on. Then we saw Hannah walking beside the last woman to come over the top. Her name was Heather, and this is a moment that I still remember so vividly and can’t hold back the tears, even as I type this story…Heather is a beautiful woman, who always has the brightest smile, who looks very athletic to me, and was hiking up the hill with two ski poles in her hands, and as she and Hannah arrived at the top and the cheering ended, Hannah told Heather that she had to share her story with all of us. Heather then proceeded to tell us that she was diagnosed with MS, she had been working with Carter on his turf for a long time, and she was dreaming of being able to climb this mountain. When she finished sharing her story, we were all crying and all sooo proud of her, and she then said, “I’m going to climb this every single day this week!” And I vowed in my heart, at that moment, that I wasn’t going to miss one of those days of being able to hike with Heather and all of these amazing women and men on this mountain. What an inspiration she was to all of us at that moment, and every single day following. I’m so blessed to know and love her. She continues to inspire me today.

After our hikes, we were brought back to the main tent to go through a series of movement assessments. We broke into groups, and within those groups, we took turns squatting, first on both legs, then we had to do single leg squats  as we were watched and assessed through a form which Carter and the others assessing us had. We were viewed from every angle, so that our weaknesses could be noted, in order to then focus on those weaknesses and learn appropriate exercises to strengthen them. It was just another wonderful tool to know our strengths and weaknesses individually, and then be empowered with the information to work on those areas.

If I had done this exercise a year ago, I know that my form would have read much differently than it did now. I have gone to so many classes where I have had to do so many squats, and my legs have really been strengthened during this past year through all of the exercising. The people in my group actually said, “wow, you’re great at squatting”, which made me feel good, and then as I was doing the single leg squats, Carter was filling out my assessment sheet, and there was a point that he said, “you have really strong leg muscles.” (another proud moment that I will hold onto, as it reminded me, again, of how far I have come. I have a long way to go, but this moment I could celebrate what I had accomplished so far.) Our notes were made, and I was looking forward to the next day when we would learn how to strengthen our weaknesses. All of this information that Carter and his team were passing onto us was just invaluable. What a gift.

After assessments, it was time for dinner. On this evening I sat at a table with some more wonderful people to meet, and Courtney also sat at our table. We shared more great stories, laughter, and continued to share from our hearts. I am just in awe of how the Lord continues to place people at certain tables at specific times, it’s just beautiful!

Another delicious dinner cooked by Chris. This night, I think it was Salmon. I never eat fish. I hate fish. I am NOT a seafood girl. But…I know I was really hungry, and I knew that I would try anything Chris was making. Believe it or not, I really liked it, it was delicious. Who knew? I wish that I had thought to take a picture of each meal. Some women did. I will try to get their pictures, just for you to see how beautiful and delicious our meals were. And again, what a gift, as women, moms…to be waited on and not think what we are cooking for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (and dessert!)

Bellies were satisfied, and yes, it was time to climb the big, steep hill heading up to the upper room, again.  So, we grabbed our bags, etc. and made the climb. A nice little work out after eating. We were all excited to head up there, as our speakers for the evening were Marci and Courtney. It was also going to feel nice to sit down and relax for a while. Remember, it’s our first full day…we have been up since 3am….went to boot camp, then on a morning hike, then Vinnie shared, went to zumba, lunch, a moderate hike, a harder hike, movement assessments, dinner…and here we are.

Carter got up to introduce Marci. I have learned early on to grab my pen when Carter is about to speak. The wisdom that the Lord pours out of this man is something I don’t want to miss or forget. He started with a quote that I read in his book, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” He then said, “ Marci will share-You’ll hear it, you’ll see it, and now it’s also time to take and integrate it. When you do, YOU will understand and it will go inside. Inspiration is a gift to take in. YOU are the next story. You will inspire others. You can tell passion (who you are),by the way someone wears it.” He set the stage beautifully for this passionate woman, mom, wife, friend…Marci…to share her heart and story with all of us.

Her story also encompassed much of Courtney’s story, as it was her daughter, Courtney, who brought her to “The Biggest Loser” show. As Marci began to speak, she shared that she had three major fears when she entered the Biggest Loser ranch…mice, heights, and public speaking. She really started to worry about the public speaking and all that she may have to do, but then came to a wonderful place where she realized, “I don’t have obligations….I have privileges.” Which was a beautiful, freeing revelation for her. She went on to share that Courtney taught her everything on the ranch, along with Hannah and Olivia.

Her story began by sharing a bit about her family, and a little background about Courtney. As a mom, she brought tears to my eyes in the first few minutes as she stated, “You see, I could die tomorrow, because my kids know why God put us on this earth–to serve other people–that’s why we’re here! I thought I would have to teach my kids about life, and the truth is, when I look in their eyes, just like when I look in your eyes, I find out what life’s all about. It’s about love–it just comes down to love. We have to take care of one another. The journey doesn’t end. We need each other. I’ve been nothing but filled since I’ve been here.” I was already inspired and in tears, and she had only been speaking for a few minutes…

She proceeded to share how the Lord clearly orchestrated the timing and all the events that lead up to her and Courtney being chosen for the show. Courtney had been rejected 2 times after trying out for the show, she even went out to California to try out for Extreme Makeover, and although they loved her, they could only choose 8 people and she was choice number 9.

Courtney is another woman filled with wisdom, and one of her great sayings that I hold onto since meeting her is something she taught her mom at a huge turning point on the ranch, and with all of us at this retreat… “It’s going to take a while to change your body–but it only takes a split second to change your mind.”

Around this time, it was her 21st birthday, and she was so crushed that she didn’t make the show. She said on her 21st birthday she took that split second and decided to make a change. She told us that it really is about changing your mind.  She was 435 pounds when she started. She shared that it had to be small changes, so that she could make it a lifestyle. She gave up soda, then fast food at first, and just doing that, she was down 25 pounds. Then she did a 30 day “jumpstart” and was down 50 pounds. She began to walk, and eventually had the courage to walk into a gym and try a sitting elliptical machine. She continued to make one small change at a time and doing that, Courtney actually ended up losing 112 pounds before getting on the ranch.

Meanwhile, the producers were watching how well she was doing on her facebook page, and they ended up seeking her out. She knew at this point that she didn’t need a show to lose the weight, she had lost 112 pounds on her own, but after being called 6 times in 5 days, she decided to pursue it, and since it was couples…she needed her mom, Marci, to go with her. (I’m so thankful for their obedient hearts, as I believe the Lord needed to place them on that show to use their lives and testimonies to inspire the world….including me!)

Well, the Lord continued to orchestrate everything in a mighty way…as Marci states, “God had a plan–it was His time and His plan–we had to give up the control.” And in His amazing timing, Marci and Courtney got to choose Bob and Jillian as their trainers, along with Hannah and Olivia…and the Lord brought them all together… for such a time as this.

Through their journeys, they saw the hand of God in every moment and experience…before, during and after life on the ranch. Courtney lost another 110 pounds and ended up losing 230 pounds in 18 months, Marci was on high blood pressure medication, and has not had to take medication since stepping foot on that ranch, their season of The Biggest Loser was like none other (and continues to be the one that is most watched even now through you tube) due to the love and support, faith and prayer that they all shared, and they continue to share their testimonies and pass on their wisdom and gifts of inspiration and all that they have learned with everyone they meet….including us this week.

On this night, we not only heard all of the amazing ‘‘behind the scenes” stories, which are now woven into what we saw on TV, but we learned so much from this beautiful mother/daughter relationship…The power and depth of a mother’s love, the sovereignty, grace and mercy of God, and wonderful words of wisdom, along with great knowledge which they passed on from their weight loss and fitness journeys.

At one point, Marci said, “this is about hope–when you really want to change and make it happen, you have to have hope and believe it can happen. Proclaim it. Tell people and commit to it.” They both impressed on all of us that, “you have to ask for help, we’re all in this together, you have to find friends and family to help you, and as you do, you will realize that this is your family.” Courtney even asked us that night, “Do you realize how close you have all gotten in just a day?..You’re making bonds you won’t break. I already feel like we are a family.”

I sat there in amazement at how close I had already gotten with so many people here, and it truly was less than 24 hours that we had all been together. We had the same common bond found in the struggles we have been facing throughout each of our lives, and we were here to battle this together. The more we opened up and shared, the less alone we felt. And to have Marci and Courtney, two of our “TV superstars”, share the honest truth of their lives this first night…hearts and lives wide open…in order to help each one of us, made us realize that we were all part of a new, very special family.

Marci shared that she learned to do some of her best communicating on the ranch, and knew that it would be really important to communicate all that she needed when she got home. She taught us that you can’t put people above you, which is an important lesson that I have learned this past year. I love how my Weight Watcher’s leader taught it to me, “after me, you come first.” Still one of the toughest, but most important lessons I have learned. Then Marci told us, “you must have a plan and a strategy. You need good time management skills.” This includes planning for eating, working out, scheduling your day. “Your heart needs to be open to share your knowledge. You have to find your powerful “why”.” She explained that we all know what we are suppose to do, but many times we just can’t find our “why”. (Just like Vinnie said, “find your reason why. Until you find your reason why, you won’t ever do it. Your reason why has to be bigger than every single reason or excuse that you’re not going to do it every day.”)-are you seeing a pattern here?

Courtney also reminded us to be proud of, and cherish, the little things…like fitting into a restaurant booth, using the regular seatbelt on an airplane, being able to now do something you could never do before.  She explained, “those things are always going to be a part of me, but it doesn’t define me, and I won’t go back.” She went on to say, “weight is a number on a scale. You can love yourself at any weight, if you have your faith. You have to believe you are a beautiful person now, because you are. You’re perfect with your imperfections.” (I love that!) Courtney is one of the most self confident people I have ever met. Even Marci told us, as her mom, Courtney has always been a very vibrant person, no matter what he weight or situation has been.

Anyone who refers to Courtney speaks of her amazing spirit, her strong faith, her determination, her strength, her endurance, her love. She said to all of us, at the end of the night, “I have to celebrate where I’ve come from and always figure out what I’m fighting for—everyday. It’s all part of God’s plan. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t gone through what I’ve gone through. We all have something. We all have a story, our own story. I’ve come a long way.”

Anyone who describes Marci speaks of her gifts as a mom, caretaker, her strong faith and determination, her incredible wisdom,her strong love. She set such an amazing example and tone on the BL ranch, and touched lives in such a mighty way, that the day she was voted off the ranch, some of the others cried for hours! She is a person that you meet and feel like you have known her forever, and you want to just spend as much time with her as you can and take in all that she has to share.

At the end of her testimony that night, Marci reminded us to “be still and know that I’m the Lord”–she said, “I can’t be anything to anyone else unless I listen to him.” She also pointed out that, “on a healthy lifestyle, there are no finish lines.” Then, she wrapped it up by saying, “ I want you to remember 2 things….If you do everything in love, in His name—You are guaranteed success….and, if you do that , you really are taking care of you—and that’s not selfish, it’s selfless…as long as you want to do it in His name.

Our first spectacular night at the upper room had come to an end, and we all had to get to bed in order to get up a little after 3am for our next morning of boot camp. When we got back to our room, we placed all we needed out for the morning, then all of my room mates went to sleep, as I stayed up, sitting next to my lamp, trying to write as much as I could down from this day, so that I would remember it. I got to bed way after midnight, but slept a bit better, as the many of the “unknowns” from the night before.. we had all gotten through today.

As I try to even share half of the notes I wrote down during these talks, and during this first full day,  it is so hard to choose what what to write. I just keep stopping and holding my hands up, praying and asking for the Lord to just choose the words and use my hands to type what He wants me to put out there. I also continue to be overwhelmed with gratitude for the amazing blessing of having been able to be here at this place, “for such a time as this.” with all of these extraordinary people who have become a special family to me.

So, this is the end of the first full day, Monday. I can’t wait to share the rest of the week with you…..

The Incredible Week at “Unleash the Champion” With Some of “The Biggest Losers”… This is what dreams are made of! ….Day 1

Sunday, September 23, 2012- Got up very early to head to the airport. Bags were packed, everything was organized at home for my entire family, as I was leaving for about a week. My stomach was a mess with excitement..mixed with nerves and anxiety…This was the first time I was ever flying alone, the longest amount of time that I was leaving my family to be away by myself..and although I was extremely excited about spending the week with my “Biggest Loser” TV inspirations… Olivia, Hannah, Marci, Courtney, Carter Hays… and all of the women I had already been meeting through the internet, I also had my mind going crazy with all of the “what if’s?”….what if I can’t handle this? What if I can’t keep up with the work outs? What if I’m last, and everyone has to wait for me? What if I’m not strong enough? What if we have to run a lot? What if everyone else brought friends with them? What if I didn’t bring the right stuff?….What if?…

Little did I know then, what I know absolutely, for sure, now…that the Lord was orchestrating this week, starting many many years ago,  in order to create a life changing, life altering week/experience for each and every person, who was hand picked by Him to be there. I was just one of over 40 people who were there, and when you hear my story, mixed in with some of the lives of others there, you are going to be absolutely astounded. I actually wish that I could see your faces and hear your reactions as you read about my story on this ranch, and I wish that every person who was there could share their individual stories of how their lives were impacted…from the people who attended, to the team of professionals who came together bringing all of their gifts and talents to bless us.. All of whom we found out while we were there, each had a vision and dream to create such an experience, and through their prayers and faith, they were all brought together to meet one another, through miraculous, divine timing…”for such a time as this.” Their dreams and prayers became a reality and incredible experience for all of us, and we were part of the “pilot program” that forever changed all of our lives. I will blend in what I know of their stories, as I take you through the week.

So, as my journey begins, we left very early on Sunday and headed to the airport. My husband was taking me to one airport, as my son was heading to another airport to pick up my brother, who was coming in from California for the week to take care of my parents. On the way, my husband prayed for me, then stayed while I checked in curbside… and after a long hug, I walked away with tears streaming down my cheeks, took a big breath, and just asked the Lord to hold me tightly as we walked through this together. I got through all the security, found my gate to wait at, and then picked up some healthy choices to have a little breakfast. Olivia and Hannah always send instagram pictures of their healthy choices in airports when they travel, so instead of just grabbing comfort food and not thinking, I really looked around at two venues, and chose some good foods from each of them. That was a ‘first’ for me, and I felt really great about it.

I sat at the gate, ate a bit, and then opened my notebook, knowing that I had to read a packet that Carter sent to all of us, which was downloaded and placed in my notebook the night before. The title of it was “Today is the day to…Unleash the Champion…start.sweat.finish…-never quit.”

Let me stop a second and introduce Carter Hays to you. I could probably spend a few pages just writing about him, but let me take a quote from Hannah Curlee, as Carter was the trainer who took her to the finale of the Biggest Loser, where she came in second to her sister, Olivia.  This is the man who envisioned this “Unleash the Champion” program, along with Hannah and the team God divinely placed together. Hannah writes, “…We trained so hard, Carter’s nutrition plan and training program transformed my body in a way that I thought was impossible. I began to meet people who had been touched my this ministry he calls physical fitness. It was amazing.” Carter is an amazing trainer, and physical fitness is his ministry. He gives all the glory to God, and pretty much everything he passes on so eloquently and with such passion is not only scientifically sound and true, but also Biblically based. This week that we were all about to walk through, was now his dream come true.

So there I was, waiting at the gate for my plane, reading his packet, highlighting and taking loads of notes already. I was trying to focus and not let the fear of flying take hold of me. Well, here starts all of the incredible “God-incidences” of the week ahead….The packet started out talking all about hope, perseverance, confidence..then lead into a whole section on fear and courage. As I read his words, I was feeling more and more empowered, and couldn’t believe that this was the section I happened to be reading at this point in time. I underlined and starred and put the words, “wow” and “yes” next to so many statements…”Fear can be transformed into freedom”, “face your fear when you are experiencing great anxiety”, “you may have been anxious about many things, most of which we all realize will never happen”, “overcoming fear is the application of faith”. Courage is the opposite of fear. All of these words of wisdom were just washing over me   and helping me let go of my fear and anxiety.

My niece, Noelle,  who is only 12,  actually had to fly from California to Pennsylvania all by herself for a funeral the day before I was leaving. She called me a few times, as she was nervous, and I prayed with her and told her to picture the Lord holding her right hand, and I told her that when she got nervous, she should just squeeze His hand. I shared Isaiah 41:13 with her..“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. We prayed for the Lord to put his angels around the plane and I told her that she was in the palm of his hand, not to worry. I prayed for her throughout the day while she was on the plane, and prayed that she would enjoy it, and when she called right when she landed, she actually said that it was “fun”. I kept thinking of her and how brave she was and kept saying, Lord, if Noelle can fly across the entire US, I can fly a few hours to Nashville, and I know that all of the promises I shared with her are for me also.

Right when I finished reading the last sentence of the fear and courage section, they announced that we would be boarding in 10 minutes. I remember literally saying to God, “if this is just a glimpse of your timing and of how this week is about to go, it’s going to be mighty!” I wrote on the bottom of that page I was reading, “already, Only God could have orchestrated down to this moment, both the words I have read and the exact timing of what I’m about to do! This is going to be a mighty week ahead!” Then on the other side of the page I wrote “9:20am-LGA-Now getting on plane alone for the first time! He is with me- He who is in me is greater! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! With God all things are possible! Fear not…(why)…I am with you!”

I shut my notebook, got everything together, and my seat was called. I boarded and got buckled, and remembered that my friend, Lorraine, had come over the night before and placed 6 letters and notes in my binder for me to open each day while I was away. She wanted to come with me so badly, but she is a teacher, and there was no way that she could take off for a week so early into the school year. So, she promised to pray for me while I was away, and placed all of these letters and notes into my binder so that she could be with me in that special way.

After getting settled in my seat, I opened the first letter. It was on notepaper, and on the cover of the first page it said, “September 23rd To be read on Plane” and had a drawing of a plane on it.

It read…
“Day 1-Take off!!! Wow, you are taking off on yet another new journey…but know this…YOU ARE NOT ALONE!! -The lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46:7.
-The Lord is with us. Numbers 14:9
-Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you;he will never leave your side. Deuteronomy 31:6.
HE is with you my friend! I will be praying for you each and everyday. I am in AWE of your willingness, your desire, your perseverance, your bravery…and much more. Of course, there is a piece of me that is jealous and wish that I could be sitting in the window seat next to you. But since I can’t be, I commit to you to do my very best at a workout routine while you are away. I was able to start walking/jog this week 3 times so far. But I want and need more…so I commit to work out, someway, somehow everyday you are away. I will write it out or log it in too!
As you take flight, I pray Lord that you give Wendy an open heart & open mind to the week ahead. Lord you have already ordained these days. Bless her roommates, her workouts, her meals, her new relationships. Lord, Wendy has so much to offer the people she is about to meet, but allow her to be open to the changes you may begin in her. I pray blessings upon her flight & drive to her ranch. Lord take care of my dear friend. I know she is in good hands. In Christ, Lorraine.”

Wow, what a gift! When I read her letter, the amazing thing was that when I taught 2nd  grade years ago, Deuteronomy 31:6 was one of our class verses that we said together in a certain way together all the time, sort of a song. It came right back to me in that instant, and as the plane sped up heading down the runway, and we started to climb into the air, I held onto that verse, I closed my eyes and just kept saying it over and over again until we were level in the sky, smiling,again, at another “God-incidence”… that Lorraine would choose this verse to share with me at this particular time. She had no idea how much this would mean to me as she was preparing all of these letters, allowing the Lord to use her in such a special way, choosing a verse that was so important to me.

As we leveled off, there was a really nice woman next to me, she flew all the time, as she worked for American express, I told her it was my first time flying alone. She was so calm and just told me that I was doing great. She flew this flight all the time, and then she said it was “so easy.”

During the flight, I finished reading Carters booklet, highlighted so much of it, then actually slept for a bit and actually didn’t think about the flight at all. When I woke up, I decided to be brave and open the window shade, I saw that we were pretty close to the land, and within seconds, the pilot then said, “10 minutes to land!” It was a quick, perfect landing, and we were at the gate very quickly. When I reached the baggage claim, my bag was one of the first ones coming out.  Then, I found the baggage claim area where we were all suppose to gather to meet Carter for our ride to the ranch.

I was one of the earliest flights to arrive, so I was the only one there at that time. The Nashville airport is absolutely beautiful. You can hear people singing country music in different venues as you walk through, and there are beautiful adirondack rocking chairs throughout the baggage claim areas to just sit in and relax. I grabbed a cup of coffee, sat in a beautiful rocking chair, and then called my husband, my brother and Lorraine. After telling them all what the Lord was doing already in His amazing timing, I also told  Lorraine about the story of that verse she gave me in the letter. I had chills and goosebumps while I was telling her, and just said to her, “if God is already creating these moments– I know we’re in for a mighty week!”

Eventually, I looked over and saw some girls sitting by the baggage one area where we were told to meet. I went over to talk to them. (I didn’t realize it at this point, but one of them would be one of my room mates). Within a few minutes, we saw Carter coming towards us. We knew it was him from far away as he is so fit, and as he got closer, he was carrying an “Unleash the Champion” sign.  It was really exciting to finally meet him.

We all talked while waiting for other girls to arrive, and we took some pictures with Carter. I handed my camera to another woman, and when she took my picture standing next to him, with his arm around me, I just thought, “Wendy, this is Hannah’s trainer,… you are standing next to THE Carter Hays, and you are going to be working out with him…at his gym… all week long. This is the man you have seen on the videos, and you are standing RIGHT NEXT TO HIM! You are REALLY HERE, THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!” It was truly a surreal moment, (just one of many that would happen over the next few days).  Then, while we were taking turns taking pictures, continuing to introduce ourselves, one woman had said that she read my blog and was excited to meet me! (Really Lord?!!,  this woman read my story and was excited to meet me?…another surreal moment.)

When the last woman for our group arrived, we made our way to the van. I was really happy to find out that I wasn’t the only one with 2 suitcases. Pretty much every woman had 2 suitcases. As we all started to get to know each other, and compare luggage amounts, we all admitted that we had no idea what to expect, how many sets of workout clothes we would need, etc… It just goes to show, women are women…our fears, insecurities, worries seem to be the same no matter what state or country we are from.

We all loaded into the van, women were from all over the US and there was a woman from Canada. She actually had to sit right in front of me, sitting on 2 cases of water, facing me, as we were one seat short. As we drove, we started talking and getting to know one another, and Carter also told us about the areas we were driving through. We passed gorgeous houses and ranches..neighborhoods where many famous singers lived, as Nashville is definitely a place to come and record music. Carter pointed out that they are well known for their recording studios. My son has actually gone to Nashville with his band a few times, and he has said on more than one occasion that he would love to live there. As we drove to the ranch, listening to Carter share about the area and the people, I began to understand why.

As we pulled onto ranch, there was a big “Unleash the Champion” sign. Horses were in the meadow, and it was a beautiful piece of property. We pulled up to a huge white tented area, where there were such nice people there to greet us. They had bags for each of us, with the logo of the company that Hannah works for, and each bag was filled with fun stuff for us…”Unleash the Champion” shirts, bracelets, water bottles, bars, magazines, etc. We all hung out there for a while sharing stories and getting to know one another as each group arrived. I got to share some of my Dr. Oz story with a few women. We continued to mingle while waiting for our rooms to be ready.

At one point, a beautiful woman got out of a car that pulled up, we all actually thought it was Hannah, as she had sunglasses on, and we couldn’t fully tell, and we were all saying, “Hannah’s here.” As she got closer, she took off her glasses, and it was Carter’s wife, Candice. She and Hannah could be sisters. She had actually just had major surgery a few days before, and was still healing, but she was there to greet all of us, and help with everything. I talked to her for a bit, and when I told her my name, she knew who I was right away, and actually said, “oh you were one of the first ones to sign up. I know, because as people signed up, I started to pray for them by name.”

I was just so totally blessed in that moment. Candice, Carter’s wife, had been praying for all of us by name since we signed up…what an incredible gift. Especially since I know even just for my circumstance, that only by the grace of God and with much prayer, was I able to take a week off from all of my responsibilities at home, especially with my ailing parents, and be at this retreat.  I know that only through prayer and God’s grace and timing.. was I on this ranch, along with each and every other person there…”for such a time as this”.

A little while later, we were driven up to the lodge, and on the way, we were told that our room assignments were written on the back of our name tags. We found our luggage on the porch and then entered the beautiful lodge and were directed to our rooms.  Ours was up the stairs, off the main living room, in a section by itself. We had a bathroom in the room and another small one in the hallway….so great! Then when we entered the room, there were 2 sets of bunk beds, a bed up in a high loft and a queen bed on the other side of the room. Mine was the queen bed!!! Wow!…God knew ahead of time that I was going to be up very late every night writing about each day, and there was a lamp next to it that I could leave on while writing, so that I wouldn’t disturb my room mates too much having to keep the light on while writing…. Only God!

As we unpacked and visited and met our room mates, it was already becoming evident that the Lord literally hand picked each one of us to be in that particular room. After we organized all our stuff throughout the room, We were all sitting on our beds, and Darcy asked, “OK, so why are each of you here?” It was a brilliant question that not only broke the ice, but lead our room into the greatest time of sharing some of our stories.  It’s both amazing and beautiful how Christian women can go straight to the “heart to heart” talks. That time of sharing was really special, and we began to build strong friendships from that very first day, those very first hours of meeting one another.
After our great visit in our room, we all went downstairs to dinner. For this first night only, it was in the kitchen/dining area of our lodge. It was set up sooo beautifully. It felt like a beautiful fall dinner in a log cabin. The tables were set with candles and pine cones and wooden trays. We met our cook/chef, Chris, and his assistants. He explained all of the healthy foods we were about to eat, how they were prepared, the approximate calories, and he showed us what a healthy portion was. Everything was so delicious, and as moms/busy women, it was such a gift to have someone cook such incredible, healthy meals for us.

As we sat at our tables, we started to meet more of the women, shared more of our stories. I heard a beautiful accent coming from the table next to us, and found out it was a woman who flew all the way in from England. She was inspired through the internet watching Hannah and Olivia on the BL, and she had lost 100 pounds! Her name was Mary ( in my head I referred to her as Queen Mary from England, so that I wouldn’t forget her name-later). When I had the time in the coming days to hear how she lost 100 pounds, I found out the she just walked and cut back on food portions…wow! What an inspiration!

During our dinner, Keith Curlee (Hannah and Olivia’s dad) stopped at our table for a visit. He is absolutely one of the most precious men I have ever met. He had driven another van of girls from the airport. He was so excited to share with us, that since the show, his family has all gotten on board, and together they have lost over 700 pounds! He was almost 100 pounds down. He was just so proud. He said to us, “I use to eat my daily bread, and everyone else’s daily bread!  Now I have learned just to eat my own, and not too much of it.”  I told him that one of my favorite episodes on The Biggest Loser, was watching him play volleyball with Hannah. He got choked up a bit, and said that it still makes him cry just thinking about it. What a special man. It was really great to meet him in person. I have read many of his wise words, and would love to hear him preach or speak one day. I think he will be one of UTC’s speakers on a retreat one day, he has a lot of great wisdom to share, and I would love to hear him speak.

As we continued visiting at the table, another women heard my name and said,“Oh, you’re Wendyweighsin!, I read your entire blog on vacation. I stayed by the lake and didn’t get up until I read the entire thing!”  I was stunned, excited, had goose bumps on my arms,… literally trying to take in the fact that, again, someone far away, who didn’t know me, was reading my blog and was inspired. Wow….again, think about all that is happening so far… can you believe this is just day1?!

After dinner, Carter gave some instructions about signing up, as everything was optional. There were sign-ups for boot camp, hikes-moderate and hard, etc. We decided right from the start, as room mates, that we weren’t going to miss one thing. No matter how hard something was, we would all try it together. So we went right over and signed up for everything. At one point, we were all told that there were only so many spots in the van for boot camp each morning, but one of our room mates, Beth, had her car, so we could all drive together, to and from the gym (which was 45 min. away), and this way we would get to go every day. Although it seems like 45 minutes was a long way to go for boot camp every morning, this actually became a great time for all of us to visit and get to know one another even better….ONLY GOD!

So after having dinner and completing all of the sign ups, we were all standing around visiting in the lodge, everyone was getting to know each other, and shared about how excited they were to meet our “inspirations from The Biggest Loser”. I was standing near the front door, in the main foyer, talking with Carter and his wife, Candice. I was sharing about how I knew Olivia, how she was a big part of my story and journey so far, and also shared a bit about my Dr. Oz story. As we were sharing stories, the front door opened….and in walked Hannah, Olivia, Courtney and Marci, and another amazing woman, Mary-Nell, also known as Murn, who you will learn about as our story unfolds during the week….well, Oh-My-Goodness!!… we were all completely star struck! They walked in, slowly conversations halted, and everyone looked over toward the front door, and we were all just in awe! They all walked in, spread out, and just started hugging each of us… saying hi, thanking US for coming!…they were all so genuinely happy to meet all of us. First I hugged Hannah as she came in, introduced myself, and she was so excited to meet me, and knew who I was already because of Olivia. Then, it was so exciting for me to see Olivia and just hug her.. she is just extraordinary, and really continues to inspire me every time I see her. Then I hugged Marci and Courtney, and they already knew who I was from Olivia. I was astounded! I had just dreamed of somehow getting to know all of them during the week ahead, and they already knew who I was. Really??!!!!

After they greeted and hugged everyone, they sort of ended up spreading out  in the rooms… and I’m telling you, within moments, each of them, individually on their own, just began to visit and share from their hearts with the women around them in such a beautiful, honest and precious way. They shared right from their hearts, answered every question we had, and listened to some of our own personal stories.

I spent the first part of the night talking to Courtney. She is absolutely so beautiful in person. She just glows and shines as she speaks, with a joy and passion and love that goes beyond words. Her mom, Marci, was only a few steps away with some women around her. She also exudes such joy and love and confidence and passion… and it was really beautiful to see how close they are, even keeping an eye on each other.. And even from afar, sharing some stories together as we all listened. What an incredible mother/daughter relationship. You could see it on the show, but to stand there and just see in their eyes…and personally feel their love, respect, admiration for one another, and the way their stories and lives are so intertwined, was such a gift that night.

I asked Courtney all about her surgeries, and she was so honest about everything she has been through. Anything I asked, she just shared from her heart. It was just incredible. Just as in our room with my room mates, we all , as women, shared heart to heart that evening. I got to visit with all of them. First Courtney and Marci, then Hannah and Mary Nell for a while, and towards the end of the night, when things were winding down, I was in a circle of women listening to Olivia. At one point, while she was talking, Olivia mentioned a little bit of my story, and with that, another woman said, “oh YOUR Wendyweighsin?”…I continue to be absolutely blown away at the thought of these women reading my story from all areas of the US, and even Canada! And, again, it was quite a surreal moment to be in a group of women, all there to meet and hear from Olivia, and have her share a bit of my story with them.  CRAZY! I keep wanting someone to pinch me at times…. ONLY GOD!

We all took some pictures with the girls, and we were then reminded that we all had to get up around 3am, as we had to leave for our first bootcamp workout in the morning by 4:10am! Carter said that we really had to let the girls leave and also get some sleep, so everyone said good-bye, and as they all headed out the door, I have to just tell you…
they went from walking in as “super stars”, to leaving us that night, already as girl friends. It was absolutely surreal, like walking through a dream…. the whole evening.. the whole day!…and to think all this unfolded and was orchestrated in such a mighty way…..and it is only the end of day 1!

We went to our room, it was really late, but we all had to figure out what we would need to take out for the morning, as we would be getting up around 3am, leaving at 4am, and had 5 women sharing 2 bathrooms (praising God for that second one!) The nerves started to kick in for me, trying to decide what to wear, what to bring to the gym, starting to worry a bit… “what if I can’t handle what we will have to do?”

I laid everything out, packed my bag, filled my water bottle, then, although it was so late, I stayed up for a while to write down as much as I could remember about the entire day, so that I wouldn’t forget a thing. I was absolutely exhausted, but knew I had to get it all written down. I realized at this point, also, why the Lord blessed me with the queen bed with the lamp on the other side of the room…it was so I wouldn’t disturb all of my room mates who wanted to get to sleep as soon as possible. I continue to be absolutely amazed at how he cares about every detail of our lives.

So, already, I head to bed,  at the end of day 1…saying my prayers, praising Him for all that He as already done, as well as what He is going to do in this week ahead..placing my head on the pillow, exhausted and in awe….knowing for sure….ONLY GOD!

Had the perfect day before leaving for bootcamp…

Started the day off at Weight Watchers. My friend, Lorraine, and I celebrated this morning as I lost 1.4 pounds and she lost 2 pounds. It’s always a better meeting when you are sitting there with some loss…I know it’s not suppose to be about the number, but it does have a lot of influence, unfortunately. However, last week was the first week that I could sit there with a bit of a gain and be ok with it, as I knew I did everything right the whole week, but the night before ww, went to a progressive dinner and drank 64 ounces of water throughout the night in order to stay on track with the food. So I was really proud of myself, and the water really helped, but I was drinking that water from 6-10:30pm, so I know it had to be water weight on the scale. But to truly be ok after a gain that morning was a huge step. Our leader, the people who weigh us in, and the entire group is filled with such special people. I wish everyone could experience a morning with these special people who are so honest and encouraging. We are all in this together, and you can just feel such a camaraderie in that room. They are all so excited for me as I leave on this trip, and I can’t wait to share with them next Saturday morning. I’m sure that I will be sharing so much of what they have all taught me with everyone this week.

Anyway, after WW, I finished up some packing and organizing everything at home for my family while I am away. I also have been blessed with the greatest gifts while being away….. Lorraine set up meals to be delivered to my parents from her along with the church meals ministry, my brother is flying in from California to help with my parents, my husband is incredible and has everything under control with my house and my children…so all of this puts me at ease and allows me to go with a wonderful peace.

This afternoon, to top it off, Lorraine also met me at a nail spa and treated me to a manicure/pedicure, with an extra 10 minute foot rub….absolute heaven! Another very special gift. I am so blessed.

As I packed, my daughter took a few pictures of me in some of my new workout clothes, so that I could have the pictures for this journey. It was a really fun photo shoot, as she is taking photography in school, and she made me feel so great, she really is proud of me.

So, there are lots of butterflies in my stomach, my bags are by the back door, the flight is very early in the morning. I am just praying that this week will just take my breathe away, and I will return with those 2 amazing words….only God! I’m praying that he uses everyone there, including me, to just touch lives in a mighty way. That He will bring me to a new level physically, mentally and spiritually. I just can’t wait to take in all of the wisdom and knowledge they all have to share. I don’t want it to go too fast, I know  that this is another part of this journey that I am walking through, that is so much bigger than I am, or can even imagine. Very nervous, yet very excited…. ready to move forward and watch it all unfold….Can’t wait to share it with everyone!

I’M GOING TO BOOTCAMP WITH CARTER HAYS, OLIVIA AND HANNAH, MARCI AND COURTNEY FROM THE BIGGEST LOSER…

I’m Going to Boot Camp….

On September 23, which is only 9 days away from my writing this entry, I am going to be getting on a plane to Nashville, Tennessee, to go to my first boot camp/retreat. The really exciting part is that it is being lead by Carter Hays, Olivia Ward and Hannah Curlee (the sisters who won the Biggest Loser Season 11). If you watched, they were the first team to make it to the finals, and they were known as the “purple team”.

On July 5th, Olivia and Hannah announced this weekend on their myfitspiration blog, and when I saw it, I told my husband that I would love to be able to go to that week. When I said it, I was just dreaming of the possibility. There was a place to tag it on facebook and “like” it, and underneath the tag I wrote, “I would love to go to this”. Well, within minutes there was another post that said….”you are going.” It was from my husband. He bought it for me for my birthday! (which was July 18). I couldn’t believe it! As I was dreaming and contemplating the possibilities, he just did it. (I guess it was meant to be, because it was sold out in 72 hours!…and he made sure I had a spot.

As most of you know, following my story, not only did I watch The Biggest Loser and get inspired by this amazing sister team, but Olivia actually wrote that powerful first email to me that began my whole weight loss journey, “It’s not that you have failed, you just don’t have the knowledge”. Then, shortly after she stood on that scale 129 pounds down, with confetti dropping and her hands straight up in the air with pure joy…she took the time to meet with me for breakfast, share so much of what she learned, and she inspired me, believing that I could do the same.

So for me, this is one of those full circle moments. I am 70 pounds down since that first breakfast with Olivia and her husband, Ben, I still have a long way to go, but I am now about to spend a week with Olivia and Hannah and Carter Hays (Hannah’s trainer), along with Marci and Courtney (also contestants from the Biggest Loser…Courtney was the girl who lost 100 pounds before she could go on the ranch, and then lost even more when she got there. They were the mother/daughter team, who also owns a Dairy Queen.)

So, these are some of the “celebrities and experts” that I am so blessed to be spending the week with. It will be a week where they all share everything they have learned…from exercise to nutrition to cooking to the spiritual and mental side of what it takes to finally win the battle with weight for good. I know that this week is going to be the most amazing gift, but, yes, there is a part of me that is petrified!

As a woman, you can imagine all the things going through my mind at this point…will I be able to handle the work outs, will I be the last one if we are running or doing a challenge, will I be able to do it all, what will the other women be like who are going, what will I wear to work out in, what will I wear to hang out in, what will I wear to sleep in, what do I have to bring, do I have to bring/wear a bathing suit, do I have the right sneakers, can I last through the multiple workouts for the day?????…….and as the time gets closer, the questions continue.

Getting ready, shopping and packing for this has been a job and experience in itself. I already shared the story of getting fitted for sneakers…but, wow, I have been using them at the track and in my workouts and… what a difference! I have also gone out a few times for some jeans and shirts and clothes to hang out in. Of course, shopping continues to take longer than usual, as I am in between sizes,  I still start by taking in a load of clothes to the dressing room that are way too big, and different stores and designers run so differently in size. I have to get that out of my head at times, that just because the size is bigger in something, doesn’t mean I have gained weight back or increased in size. I am still losing and going down. I have bought larges, extra larges and even 1x in the same day, all because the cut is different.

Another amazing moment occurred at Target last week. I saw that Target now has tall jeans, and are offering 6 different fits for different body types. so I took a chance and grabbed a 14tall to try on. Wasn’t sure if it would even fit, as many times cheaper clothes run smaller, but when I tried them on, they were actually a bit roomy. I don’t know what made me go back out on the floor and grab a size down, but I actually found a 12 tall and took it into the dressing room to give it a try. When I buttoned and zipped those jeans, I just stood there and looked in the mirror, realizing that it was truly another “moment” in this journey. I checked the tag again to make sure it was true, and I just could barely believe it. Now, I know that I am not a true size 12 in everything …yet. But I can say that I fit in a pair of jeans that are a size 12. I have not been in a size 12 since I was in high school. (and a year ago I was in a size 22)

I needed this moment, because I have been stuck all summer at the 70 pound weight loss. I have really plateaued, and I’m doing everything I can to keep going. I have cried on the scale a few Saturday mornings at WW, because this is the first summer that I have stayed on a diet, exercised 5 times a week all summer long, and I truly thought I would have been another 5-10 pounds down.
About 12 weeks ago, we filled out a post card at WW to ourselves, which we had to give back to the leader, knowing that it would be mailed to us Labor Day weekend. I remember being so fired up, going into the summer, believing that I could keep going for the first summer in my entire life. Other summers, I would either take a break for the summer, or would do something extreme for the summer to start, and then give up midway, promising myself that I would start when the kids went back to school and I would “get back on a schedule and lose the weight.” This was the first summer of my life that I hung in there the entire summer.

I’m not saying that I was perfect. In fact, let me share with you something that I did that I hope I will never do again…In July, we were suppose to go away to California on our vacation, but with my mom and dad’s medical issues, I knew that I couldn’t leave. It was really hard to accept that we wouldn’t be going away on any family vacations this summer, which is something I hold onto…being able to just get away with my husband and children alone, even if it is not anywhere extravagant. It is a time to just be with one another on the same schedule, which gets harder and harder with all of their activities, jobs, etc. My brother decided to come in with his 2 children, so that we could at least together. the kids could be with their cousins, and he could help me with my parents.

My brother has been one of my biggest supporters, so he was all ready to make sure we worked out every day. He even came to my gym for a class. During the week, I told him that one of my goals was to run the Turkey trot on Thanksgiving, which is a 5 mile run, so he even got me up on the track and showed me that I could already run a mile without stopping. That was pretty amazing to find out that I was able to do that. (a week later, after he left, I ran 2 miles with my daughter, and then ran 3 miles with my husband). Still working up to the 5 miles.

In the meantime, during the week my brother was here, I made a big mistake and decided to relax, not count points or food for the week, and in our “vacation” mode, my brother made sure around 5 o’clock, cocktails were flowing. I haven’t done that in a long time, because the points and calories for alcohol have not been worth it, and of course while drinking, the chips and pretzels and dips arrive…not a smart place to put myself in. Well, although I didn’t go absolutely crazy with food and drinks, and we did exercise every day while he was here, when I got on the scale Friday night when he left, I was up 10 pounds in that one week!!! I couldn’t believe it. I thought maybe 2 or 3, but 10!…I was shocked and upset and just started to beat myself up. It took me weeks to lose 10 pounds, and here the scale was saying that I put 10 on in just one week.

I knew that I would go to ww the next morning no matter what, but I chose not to weigh in. I wasn’t going to have a 10 pound gain in one week on my card. ( I did track it on my graph, though. I have to face it. I went to ww and got right on target that day, and a friend of mine who worked for ww said, don’t worry, it is not all “real” weight. You lost it slowly and the right way, you didn’t really gain 10 pounds in one week. That was easy for her to say. but I was stuck on that number from the night before. I wouldn’t have believed it, had I not lived through this one also, but Saturday night, after getting back on track for 1 day, drinking all my water, etc. I was already down 6 pounds!   Thank God, she was right, it wasn’t all “real” weight. And i’m so thankful that I went to ww the very next day to get back on track. Years ago, I would have given up at that point for the summer, and promised myself to start after Labor Day when the kids went back to school. Not this time!

That was the good news, but the tough news has been that I have been playing around with that last 4 for a few weeks now, and it is not gone for good, yet. I have been eating so clean, perfect weighing and measuring, and the scale is stuck. I have exercised 5 days a week, and even jogged at the track a few times, and it is just not moving. I have broken down in tears a few times on the scale, even handed my weekly food diary to the leaders at ww, who looked at it and said it is really perfect, the only thing they said to try is to flip breakfast and lunch to change it up a bit, but they keep promising that the scale will catch up. A few people asked if I had measured my body lately, so that I could see that I am losing inches and my body is still changing, which was great, because I hadn’t done that since April, for the Dr. Oz finale. It was great to see the loss in inches. It was a great discovery to see that my body is still changing in inches all over.

So, the loss in inches, along with buying a size 12 pair of jeans, are my off scale victories for now, that I have to hold onto, as I am waiting for the scale to move. I also had blood work done and a saliva test to see if there is anything going on hormonally in my body.

In the meantime, although I am petrified…I am also beyond excited,with great expectation of all that I am going to learn at this retreat/bootcamp. I will be spending the week with others who have gone through all that I am going through, and I am praying that all of their wisdom and knowledge will take me to a new level in this weight loss, fitness and health journey. Holding onto the promise that…, I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.

I will write as much as I can during the week, and I will try to post it each day so that I can share all that I am learning and experiencing that week. I know, based on all that I have been through, along with how this all unfolded, in somewhat of a “full circle moment”, that this is truly a “divine appointment”, and I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for all of us that week. Looking forward to sharing it with all of you.

PS. Remember that Labor Day card I wrote to myself 12 weeks ago? I was so worried about getting it in the mail, as I couldn’t remember what I had written to myself, and with this plateau after the weight gain in July, i was so afraid to read it and feel that I had failed at my goal. Well, It arrived last week, and this is what I had written…

“O.K. Wend,-12 weeks until Labor Day!-Today you gained 1.8 pounds, because Dad is in rehab after his stroke, crazy week. You need a goal for summer to continue your amazing success. The summer will be crazy, but you CAN continue to do this!
1.) I will do the rowing class and the race
2.) I will work out 4x a week this summer
3.) I will be in a new number.
It’s going to be a rough summer– remember Wendy–“after me, you come first.”

I was so relieved to finally read the post card, as I had totally forgotten what I wrote. What is amazing, is that I didn’t just put..”you will lose ___pounds by Labor Day.”

Because of that, I was able to celebrate what I wrote…I not only finished the rowing class, but our boat won the entire final race!…a night I will never forget. I worked out 5x’s a week most of the summer, and although I am at a plateau, I am in a new number.
I actually kept this postcard to remind myself that I really made these goals during a very very difficult summer. It’s a nice feeling to be proud of myself, especially after getting a postcard that I thought was going to really be disappointing.

So, I am excited to continue setting wonderful goals…and going to my first retreat/bootcamp in the coming week is going to be a week filled with incredible goals to accomplish!