One year ago Courtney Craig walked into her first Weight Loss Boot Camp. Anxious but determined to change her habits and both her physical and mental health, she made the decision just three days earlier to dedicate herself to the next 12 weeks – she had finally reached the realization that something had to be done about her health.
On her one year anniversary of taking control, she has lost over 60 pounds, dropped all of her medications (to the shock of her doctor) and completed four WLBCs back to back. Though weight loss is the typical measurement of success, she is quick to emphasize that though she “watched the scale like a hawk” in the beginning, she began to see her accomplishments through the journey as even more important than the exact amount she had lost/continues to lose. “Like the first day I discovered I could touch my toes…WHAT?! Or the day I just put on my shoes to do a little warm up run before class, and discovered I’d ran 3 miles on accident. And when I went to my doctor who hadn’t seen me since I started this journey – when she entered my weight into the computer it kept bringing up error messages, saying the percentage of weight loss was too great and to re-enter the number. She was ecstatic!”
Courtney spent many years battling her weight – since middle school she was shopping in the plus sizes and says “I was never the tiny girl.” She was raised with healthy perimeters on TV time and “we were kicked outside to play all summer,” but says she never really thought about health and fitness growing up. By the age of 34 she was on the verge of diabetes, taking medication for it and also prescribed cholesterol meds. “Aside from those I had heartburn and headaches all the time so Tums, Advil, Pepcid, etc. were all staples in my medicine cabinet. I’m a numbers girl, so I recently added up what I was spending on medications, even after insurance, and I’m not kidding – it was enough for a down payment on a car!”
“I had always wanted to lose the weight but never wanted to do the work. I had seen other people do it, but it wasn’t until I watched my friend Allison complete a WLBC and saw her tagged in a WLBC Facebook post with her and all the other women’s results that something clicked in me. Finally I thought, this is it, I have nothing to lose. That same day I called Shawna and registered, warning her that I didn’t run, I was crazy out of shape and I couldn’t be expected to do everything Allison did, but if I lost 20 pounds I’d be happy. It was that day that I flipped my switch and three days later started my first WLBC.”
To say it was a rough start would be an understatement. “We started to do our assessments,” Courtney says, “and with our small group it probably took about 15 minutes – and being honest here – after I was done I felt so dizzy and gross that I had to leave the room to go throw up. I was completely discouraged and thought, if I can’t even make it through 15 minutes, how am I going to do an entire hour? A week? The entire 12 weeks? The next morning we met at the soccer field for our first “real” workout and after 30 minutes, boom, I was throwing up again.”
“But like I said I’m a numbers girl,” she says, “and at that point my biggest motivation was that I had paid the money so I was going to do it. Plus I knew if I didn’t go back and continue my plan, this was the end of the road and I would just have to go ahead and get super fat and unhealthy or even perhaps pursue weight loss surgery. Then I did my first Wednesday night with Jacqui and it about killed me. I was in tears. I couldn’t imagine 12 weeks of it and thought, why would I want to go back to that?!”
But go back, she did, and “I’m not gonna lie, I felt awful” – but she kept pushing and pushing until she says she eventually pushed through the wall she describes as her mental barrier – and now nonchalantly refers to her “pre-Fusion” life in conversation, as it has so drastically changed her physical and mental self. “I started to make friends in the camp who were going through the same things, had the same feelings, and the same challenges. That kept me coming back. Eventually I started to feel better. And I have to say that Shawna and Regan were a big reason I kept showing up. I believe these two women saved my life this past year!”
So tell us why Fusion has been the spot you chose to stick with – what keeps you here?
Fusion is my ‘home base’ if you will – as the year went on and I got more confident I started to try other workouts and now I like that I can include running (and also my friend’s studio Pole Fitness when I’m at our family vacation home in Michigan). But Fusion is my go-to because of so many things – the workouts, the women, the instructors, the community. Fusion is where a lot of my friends are now, and friends of mine pre-Fusion are now coming with me to the studio to hang out while we sweat together (and curse under our breath at times.) It makes my heart so happy! Lane was also a big cheerleader for me in my first WLBC, so I’m a loyal follower of her Fat Funeral on Instagram and Facebook and love seeing her accomplishments and continued success.
What would you say you learned here – why did it finally “click” for you?
The biggest thing I learned from my WLBC experiences is that my mind was the only thing getting in my way. I kept having negative, doubting thoughts and when I started to take the attitude of, “I can do this”, “I can do anything for a minute”, “I am the only one that can change my life” – then it all just clicked. I stopped blaming outside forces for my bad choices, I stopped making excuses (too tired, too busy, too expensive, etc.) and I said “Suck it up and get after it.”
What do you say to women thinking about joining WLBC – what has been your biggest gain from your camps?
I know the weight loss is huge, and it’s definitely the bonus, but the absolute best part for me has been getting my mind to a great place. About six or seven months into my journey I realized one day that I had not had a negative thought about my body or myself in months. Do you know how much energy and time I wasted thinking negatively about myself? It was so wasteful. It is so incredibly freeing to wake up and feel good about myself.
Have your family and friends been supportive of your lifestyle change?
Absolutely – my parents have been my biggest cheerleaders as well as my brother. This summer in Michigan I put my cousin through the ringer with bootcamp workouts and she did great – every morning we’d do it in the driveway with our yoga mats and an hour-long workout. We each had to burn 500 calories before we could have our vacation fun for the day!
I have to say my friends have been amazing. When I made the decision to do this, I wrote my best girlfriends (the Sisterchicks) a divorce letter of sorts. I told them I had decided to do this and that I was going to need to separate from all of my friends for a while because I had to put myself first and I knew it was going to be challenging. They were all so supportive and I am happy to report they all started doing healthier things for themselves as well! One was even brave enough to try a Fusion class with me.
Even my work has been super supportive. My boss and his boss both cheered me on all year and if I needed to adjust my schedule to make a class they both supported me – they knew I was a more productive and happier worker when I got to work out and having healthy employees makes the office a better place.
What has been an unexpected challenge during the last year?
Weeding out the toxic people in my life. I know it sounds harsh but honestly there are people in your life that pull you down and do not lift you up. And, as much as you want them to be as happy as you are, they are on their own journey and it’s not your responsibility to change their life for them. Some people drift away naturally and others may say some really cruel things on their way out – which actually makes it less of of a problem to turn away from them. I’ve learned it is out of their own insecurities and you have to choose to love them but let them go and pray they find their own way to a healthy life.
What has been something that has surprised you by being easier than you’d imagined?
Staying motivated! Right now I work out seven days a week (at least getting 45 minutes of cardio in per day) because I want to. Because I am a happier and more productive woman in all areas of my life when I move every single day. I aim for 10 workouts a week, or if I’m really pushing, like during WLBC, I’ll do 12. Honestly, if you can get through the first 4 weeks of WLBC then it becomes easy. Not in the sense that the workouts become easier or avoiding junk food gets easier – but in that your mindset becomes different. You have changed your life so drastically that if you try and slip back into old habits it really feels gross. One thing that truly has gotten easier is the 4:40a wakeup calls and 9p bedtimes. Heck, that’s why they invented the DVR!
What other parts of your life have improved?
One of my favorite hobbies is golfing – there are so many great courses in KC and I’ve always loved it and always played with my entire family – but I used to be absolutely exhausted after eight or nine holes. This summer I played 90 holes of golf in four days and had the best game of my life! Thanks to the incredible shape I’m in now, I even won my family tournament and the coveted green jacket!
I’ve kept a blog this whole time, I Refuse to Fail, so I could keep track of my own feelings and share them all with others going through the same things. Sometimes I’ll go back and read it, thinking about where I was a year ago, and wish I could just go back and give myself a hug. Both to say “it will get better” and to say how proud I am of the decisions I continued to make throughout each day, month, and now year. And to encourage others doing the same thing!
How have you learned to control your food cravings?
Water is huge and important. But, honestly if there is something I really want and am fixated with, I eat it. I just eat a bite or a small portion. Most of the time a bite will not taste good and I walk away. But this is life. Sometimes a girl needs a a piece of chocolate. I gave up fast food this year, I gave up cigarettes. But honestly you can have my Diet Coke when you pry it from my cold, dead hand! (That being said I did go from four or five a day to just one and often none. But it’s my treat.) I also thoroughly enjoy pizza, but my version of pizza has changed into a healthier way to eat it – thin crust, heavy veggies and chicken, and watching how many pieces I eat. It’s a balance.
What’s a favorite healthy snack?
Raw almonds or pistachios are my go-to, but I have to count them out and not binge. Half an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter is also a good one. I’ve been surprised out how amazing it is if you eat slowly and pay attention, how you can curb that hunger. I also love veggies and hummus, but again, it’s important to measure out the hummus beforehand and not sit down with the whole tub.
What’s a favorite breakfast to start your day off right?
Breakfast is when I load up, so to speak, and one of my faves is this egg scramble: half of a chicken apple sausage diced and cooked slowly (I remove the casing), then about two tablespoons of fresh pico de gallo (I’m too lazy to chop veggies in the morning so this does the trick), three egg whites, and a tiny bit of mozzarella. Voila. High protein keeps me going – and if I really want juice I’ll do a cup of Trop 50 cut with water. Yum!
What would you say is one of the biggest keys to eating healthy?
Planning, planning, planning. I make the most of my meals or plan my week of eating on Sunday afternoons – and the crock pot is a fantastic invention. My best weeks are when I have planned every bite and have it all in the fridge ready to go.
How do you get through the challenging days?
Oh, I’ve had rough days for sure. When I had the flu I was down for about a week, but 36 hours after the fever broke I was at the track with one of my WLBC girls walking laps. We had a traumatic loss in our family and all I wanted to do was eat and cry – but I kept thinking of our friend and how proud he was of me so I left the funeral and went straight to class – I cried the whole time but it felt so good to be there working out.
On the rough days, I think about who I was, who I am now…and who I want to be. And I know that based on my improvements so far that I am not too far from the woman I want to be.
The Fun Five
Favorite Restaurant: When I want to go big, the Plaza III! When I’m being super good Seasons 52 or The Mixx for something quick
Inspiring Book: All the Best by George Bush & My Life in Letters and Other Writings by George HW Bush – he wrote beautiful letters to family and friends through his whole life documenting his relationships, his children, his military and political careers.
Favorite Place to Drink a Glass of Wine: Actually my favorite beverage is a Hot Chocolate and I like to drink it walking around the Plaza in the winter. But, summertime patio sitting with friends is fantastic too!
Favorite Beauty Tip: My Grandmother Craig always told me to take care of my skin and stay out of the sun – that a tan wasn’t worth it! I will never be a super tan girl (unless it is sprayed on) but I won’t have leather skin either!
“I Find My Confidence In…”: …stepping so far outside my comfort zone that it makes it worth it when I succeed. Knowing I have a solid base of family and friends to support and love me makes it a bit easier, but confidence is built by pushing past the fear. The best part is looking back at those treks outside my comfort zone and realizing they weren’t so bad after all.
“Never for the sake of peace and quiet, deny your own experience or convictions.”