If you’re like most people, your mental image of a caregiver is of middle-aged women taking care of elderly parents. For me, only half of that is true. I’m middle-aged (or early Renaissance; medieval if you’re one of my boys). But I’m not caring for my parents; I’m now caring for someone who is only 57 and had a stroke in late September.
Without going into a pity party about what that means, especially when it’s completely unexpected, and therefore not planned for, I’ll just say that dealing with it has been made easier because I’ve accepted help.
It’s against my nature to ask for help. I’ve spent over 30 years in the health and fitness industry, helping others. I got an advanced degree in systemic counseling so I could help others. It’s more comfortable for me to give help than to receive it. Which probably makes me just like everybody else. Yet don’t we all immediately rush to help whenever someone we care about needs it? Heck, most of us rush to help complete strangers, and we don’t care about them. Until we do. Because we share the human trait of compassion.
According to AARP, more than 42 million U.S. caregivers provide an estimated $450 billion worth of unpaid care to relatives and friends. That’s a lot of compassion. Speaking from experience, I know this can be highly stressful. AARP reports that caregivers are also at higher risk for immunosuppression, cardiovascular disease, premature aging, and to top it off, financial problems. I know that after the initial stress and chaos of the stroke, I ended up with bronchitis. The financial problems are real too, even with supplemental disability insurance and full medical coverage.
But knowledge is power, and feeling more powerful and in control helps decrease stress (at least for me). And the extra support AARP offers through its community of experts and other caregivers at aarp.org/caregiving makes some of the chores easier. The detective work involved in figuring everything out was a depressing surprise, and I know that my sister will soon have this same issue with our mom. Trying to sort out paperwork when the only person who has the answers isn’t in a state to do so is crazy-making. Spending hours and hours on the phone and buried in paperwork, knowing that there should have been an easier way is exhausting.
That’s why I’m fully on board about the public service ads (PSAs) that AARP and the Ad Council have just launched that illustrate how the changing roles of parents and children can impact your life. I’m not caring for a parent, yet I have found these resources to be helpful, and recommend them to you:
As November is National Family Caregivers Month, why not help celebrate the more than 42 million people who are providing care? By “celebrate” I mean offer rides, provide respite care, bring a meal, do household chores, ask after both the person being cared for AND the caregiver, and understand when the caregiver is a bit grumpy or distracted or doesn’t send a quick thank-you note. And take advantage of these resources, because with demographics being what they are, you’ll probably be a caregiver one day too.
Special PSA from us: Walk. Move. Dance. Strength Train, Golf. Garden. Bicycle. Swim. Exercise keeps both your body and brain sharp and strong. If you don’t want someone else to have to care for you, then take care of yourself.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: If you’re working full-time AND caring for your parents, it’s easy to see why you are exhausted. If I understand correctly, you are more frustrated by motivation and time issues; not a lack of information, right? So let’s look at some ways to reframe your motivation.
From the way you word your question, I gather you don’t like exercise too much (join 75-80% of the population). So forget about exercise – focus instead on what kind of MOVEMENT you enjoy. Do you like to walk, swim, dance, mow the lawn, bike ride, bowl; what? Anything that you do that is MORE than what you’re currently doing will help you be successful.
You also talk about feeling paralyzed, which triggers all kinds of things in my counseling brain, both literally and figuratively. It tells me you know what will happen to you if you DON’T change your habits, and that it’s overwhelming. I believe you are thinking in a 1-10 way. In other words, you are at 1 (I am not exercising, I have to lose 50 pounds & I have no time), and you can only think of 10 (I will be 50 pounds lighter). But you need to map out what 2, 3, 4 …. look like. If you have stairs at home or work, can you add 2 extra trips up and down each day? That could be step 2. Can you then make your food portions smaller and do 2 trips daily? Step 3. You don’t have to even contemplate intense, sweaty movement or weight lifting (this helps you burn extra calories even when you are NOT moving) until step 8 or 9. Write down your first few steps at least!
If your parents are ambulatory, can you walk around the block with them? Not only will it help slow their rate of mental decline, it will help keep YOUR brain healthier. (Read our post on the subject by clicking on the link). So when you are thinking, “I could get in a few minutes of exercise now, but…” remind yourself that those few minutes will not only help with your weight loss goal, but keep you alert as well.
You obviously don’t have any extra time in your day, so you might want to think of ways to change up some of your current routine. For example, how much of the day are you sitting, and when can you switch some of that out for standing or even pacing? If you spend a lot of time at work on the phone, you could be pacing while on calls. People who stay at a healthy weight tend to be fidgeters – can you add in some fidgeting? Another trick – every time you go to stand up or sit down, add in one extra sit-stand. You can add an extra 10,000 squats per year using this trick. Move stuff from convenient places to inconvenient spots. An example – I keep most of my food in a back pantry, which means I have to leave the kitchen quite a few times in order to get the ingredients I need to bake or cook. Put your phone across the room instead of near you so that you have to get up every time you need it. Anyway, you get the idea.
Even if you and your husband cannot get away from the house at the same time to be active together, he can still be a source of encouragement and support (nagging doesn’t count as support – I know; I’ve tried it). In our post about losing weight when you’re a caregiver, we talk about the importance of having a pal who is on your side.
Kymberly: Susan – With everything you have going on, no wonder taking on another “should duty” is exhausting. I agree with my sister about reframing. If you could shift from thinking of adding a fitness routine (yikes – another task in an overloaded life!) to seeing movement as a positive time for YOU and a break from responsibilities, you will have an easier, more successful time meeting your goals. For instance, if you or your parents watch tv evenings or weekends, would you find it helpful to perform stretches, yoga, or light jogging in place during ads? Near work, is there a park, interesting street, or a mall you can go to for your lunch break – even once or twice a week – where you can walk as you eat? As few as 5 minutes in nature has a calming effect; 10 minutes of cardio activity decreases stress levels, enhances energy, and assists brain activity so you will actually feel more awake; less fatigued.
Perhaps even more impactful and surprising is that you may need to sleep more to lose weight and minimize exhaustion. Caregivers are usually sleep deprived, which leads to higher stress levels and stimulated appetite. Our post on the role sleep, stress, and sugar play in weight management offers more insight.
Again, is your lunch time and place flexible enough that you could slide in a guilt-free 20 minute nap? Can you get to bed 20 minutes earlier? While sleeping may seem counter intuitive to getting more fit, it is possibly one of your key solutions.
Here’s to slotting in a bit more movement and ZZzzzzssssss for yourself! Let us know whether any of our suggestions get you moving in the direction you want.
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Be a winner while losing, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to access short videos that will improve your fitness level and destress you. Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.
Good news Amy – you and Patti are already doing a number of things that will help you reach your goal. Take a look at these 5 action items:
You don’t say how the 50 pounds are split, so let’s assume 25 each. You have seven months to lose 25 pounds, which means you have to drop just under 4 pounds a month. People who have been successful at losing and keeping weight off lose no more than 1.5 – 2 pounds per week. You only need to shed 1 pound a week. Make that your mini-goal; it’s less daunting than focusing on 25 pounds.
Because you have until March, you can choose low, moderate or high intensity cardio. If you are caregivers for your parents, we think you are probably past 40, which means you may have knee or hip joint issues. High intensity is the most time-saving method for burning calories, yet you may not wish to do high impact. The link to our post on losing weight via high intensity, lower impact activity includes a video. You two will also need to add some strength training (hand weights, tubes or your own body weight work great). The combination of cardio movement and resistance training will have you burning calories at a higher rate even when you’re finally sleeping at the end of your very long days! You might like to take a look at this post from a woman who wanted to lose 100 pounds. The focus is on choosing movement you enjoy.
Successful “losers” write things down, especially their goals and food intake. You’ve already publicly stated your goal, so you’re halfway through this one. A fun fit fact: just the act of writing down your food intake can cause you to lose weight! How? The mind (whooooo eeeee oooo)! If you tell yourself that you’re just taking stock, not judging or eliminating, it’s easier to make an honest, complete record. And you don’t get stuck in that mental loop of wanting what you think you “can’t” have. Yet once it’s written down, you unconsciously will find yourself dropping some of the unhelpful foods out of your daily intake.
Again, the mind is the leader in weight loss, as well as the saboteur. You cannot go from 1 – 10 without going through 2, 3, 4… Drastic changes or denials don’t lead to success. Figure out what the increments look like. Do you switch out one soda a day for water? Do you cut one high-calorie, low nutrient food in half before eating it? Change the mental, “I can’t have this,” to “I choose to not eat this because it gets in my way.” Another fun fit fact: when you find yourself about to eat something that will not help you reach your goal, give yourself permission to eat it…in 5 minutes. In five minutes you’ll either eat it or you will have moved on to something else. But telling yourself “Yes” instead of “No” tricks your brain into losing interest. We have some other incremental tips in this post about overeating at the holidays.
As women who work and provide care, your time is probably precious and quite limited. Maybe you can’t go to an hour-long group fitness class (our favorite), but can you go for a 3 minute walk several times a day? It doesn’t have to be outside – pacing your kitchen for 3 minutes works just as well. Do you have stairs? That is the #1 weight loss tool in your home. Add in an extra set up and down a few times daily. Pace when you’re on the phone. Fidget when you are seated. When you go to sit down, pause just before your seat hits the seat, stand back up, then sit down. That one extra squat each time you go to sit adds up to thousands of squats, which adds up to calories burned. Circle your car 3 times before you get in to drive to work. You get the idea. I, Alexandra, like to crank up the Led Zeppelin songs and dance while I sweep and iron. What works for you?
Boom. You have this one down, done and did!! Whether you team up in person or via text messages, having a support system is key. Schedule regular accountability check-ins with each other to stay on track.
Math Problem: Working + Caregiving = Stress. Stress can actually make you gain weight. Within the demands of your life, choose some actions that help you relax. This can be as quick and simple as clenching your fists as tightly as possible for 5 seconds, then completely relaxing your hands. You cannot physiologically be stressed and relaxed simultaneously.
Let us know what works for you and Patti as you lose, then maintain your weight. We love to share good tips and successes.
Once you reach your goal, read this post about maintaining weight loss. The steps are different, yet the mind is still in charge.
Hire us for your next meeting or conference, or to write your clever blog posts. Call us at (805) 403-4338 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be a winner while losing, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to access short videos that will improve your fitness level and make you happy! Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.
In 1973, my mom took 4 of her 5 kids (all teens) backpacking through Europe. Before we left California, she explained that we were ambassadors from our culture/ country and that all many people might ever know of California was what they learned from us and television shows. I still remember her rules:
* No badmouthing the U.S., as it was many people’s dream to come here, and it would be disrespectful to their dream
* No gum chewing
* No cursing
* Learn a few words in the language of each country we visited, including “please” and “thank you”
* Smile and be polite
* Try new foods, especially if the chef brings something to you
* No using the words “weird,” “ugly,” or “icky.” Instead say that something is “interesting” or “unique.”
* No littering
* Observe how the locals do things and take our cues from them (i.e., using utensils for pizza)
* Ask questions. People love to share their stories
* Remember that we are guests in someone else’s “house”
This advice came in handy when a chef took a shine to our mom and brought us a full plate of cheeses to try for dessert. Mostly we smiled, then dashed to the bathroom to spit it out, as we were not fans of strong French cheese.
It also was helpful preparation for the many questions we got from Europeans about life in southern California. Because of the influence of U.S. television shows such as Green Acres, Happy Days, and the Mary Tyler Moore Show, lots of people thought we all ate steak for breakfast. They also assumed we were all related to movie stars, or at least had access, especially when they discovered we hailed from a beach town in L.A. County.
Instead of coming across as self-indulgent So. Cal. teens (we weren’t), we were commended on our travel manners and treated especially well, even in Paris, which wasn’t a particularly friendly city back in the 70s! I won’t mention the escapade where my brother somehow turned off the lights in St. Peter’s. Nor will I bring up the rum birthday cake that we were forced to endure in Rome on our 15th birthday, after thinking we had asked for chocolate. We ditched it on the train.
Not only was my mom right, her advice has stuck with me as relevant to many situations. In my profession as a writer, public speaker, and counselor, I’ve been aware of the impact and importance of words since that time. I’ve also travelled to quite a few countries, and learned a few languages besides my own. Then there was that undergrad degree I got in British Medieval Studies. I believe these choices were based mainly on my experiences during that trip.
Whenever I feel like I have less than I need, I just remind myself that I’m better off than most people in the world. Travelling is a great way to get “outside myself” and appreciate even more how lucky I am to have been born and raised in the U.S.
Hmmm, maybe I won’t mention the Dutch campground we stayed at that was mostly young people having hallucinogenic drug experiences. Remember, this was the early 70s. We were transfixed by the Woodstock feel to the place, but I imagine our mom couldn’t wait to move on to the next city!
And a special shout-out to our mom – she just took Kymberly and me on a 3 week trip to Thailand!
What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your travels, whether abroad or to a dissimilar county?
This post is just one of many Boomer-oriented posts on the topic “Transformative Travel” over at Generation Fabulous. We invite you to visit the other posts in the series.
Photo credit: Fodor’s Pinterest board
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Travel on over to our YouTube channel to see short videos that will improve your fitness with maximal impact yet minimal joint issues! Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.
Yesterday morning I went to the memorial service for the father of a friend of mine. In the afternoon I called my own dad, with whom I am quite close. In the evening I watched as my son did chores he knew would make his dad happy.
As the circle of life (curse you, Lion King for co-opting this phrase; I prefer Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” ) is on my mind, I got to thinking about what this means to us boomers. More memorial services, more taking on of responsibilities by grown children, more contemplation on love, happiness and longevity.
Sometimes I get sad, thinking about the few years I have left with my dad, or the fact that my kids are on the path to leaving this home and creating their own. But getting sad just makes me feel stuck and powerless. So I try to think instead of the many years I’ve had with my dad and how much we’ll enjoy the ones still left to us. And I think of the pride I feel, seeing my boys make their way as contributing world citizens. That makes me feel hopeful and happy. And I go for walks. Those really clear my “stuck” moods. Which is good for my health!
According to the Mayo Clinic, physiological and emotional links between movement and happiness have been established. And the exercise doesn’t have to be hardcore; it can be softcore. Hmmm, that sounds slightly off. In any case, gardening, strolling or washing the car (anything that’s movement) counts. Exercise can:
Release feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters and endorphins)
Reduce depression-related immune system chemicals
Increase body temperature, which may have calming effects
Help you gain confidence as you meet exercise goals or challenges, even small ones
Improve your assessment of your appearance
Take your mind off worries.
Increase your chances to chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
Help you cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive is a healthy coping strategy.
Additionally, life satisfaction increases when you exercise. Not only is that good news for me, it’s especially relevant to my college-aged son, as his age group is at the most risk for life dissatisfaction. So, my happiness goes up if I exercise, and my worry-warting goes down if he exercises! Win Win!
So go for a walk! Or wash the car. Better yet, wash MY car. My happiness will definitely go up. And in case you’re wondering – I took my own advice and went for a hike up the mountain this morning. The views helped contribute to my feeling of joy as I walked above the fog blanket. And it’s fun to do the “Sound of Music” spin when I near the mountain top. Try it. You’ll feel loved, lovely and loving. Just try not to burst out singing, “The hills are alive….” when bicyclists are passing. It might make them crash.
What do you do to make yourself happy?
I dedicate this post to my friend Caitlin and wish her many joyous memories of her dad.
Photo of Julie Andrews courtesy of Photobucket
While spinning and singing, subscribe to our YouTube channel to see short videos that will improve your fitness and health. So satisfying! Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please also follow us on Google+: Alexandra and Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click now on the icons above.
As our parents (and grandparents) age, they tend to lose a lot of their strength, mobility and balance. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sarcopenia (progressive decline in skeletal muscle mass…that may lead to decreased strength and functionality) is common among older adults, but exercise can help prevent muscle wasting (yup, the article in the link is by OUR Alexandra).
In honor of Father’s Day, and all fathers (mothers can do this workout too) who need more strength and mobility, we have created a functional, achievable mini-workout. Have your favorite fairly inactive older adult try it and let us know how it goes![youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ordMc5oBDM[/youtube]
Cardio: 10 minutes
* Lower body – foot movement
* Upper body – arms and torso movement
If you use music, 150-160 bpm is ideal for really working up a sweat in this seated workout
* Sit to Stand – 10 reps – leg & core strength
* Wall Push-ups – 10-15 reps – upper body & core strength
* One- arm reach and rotate – 10 on each side – core strength, flexibility and balance
Heck, why not try it out yourself? It’s effective! May all our dads be around to enjoy good health for many years!
Clothing: Top by YMX Yellowman
Workout pants by Nike
Hiking/ Running shoes by Vasque Footwear
First up is a book for younger kids, entitled “Wallie Exercises.” We’ve been sent kid fitness books before that were either so “preachy” or “lesson-y” that we had to scrape the gackle off our tongues before politely setting them aside. But this book does a good job of being upbeat and (somewhat) indirect about the need for kids to get out and move. The counselor side of me likes that the author, Steve Ettinger, who is also a personal trainer, emphasizes that kids need to choose the type of activity that’s right for them. Two other appealing factors: Ettinger gives exercise descriptions in the back of the book, and he acknowledges that exercise can be hard and not always enjoyable.
Book info: Wallie Exercises
Second on the list is a board game called Füdoo that helps kids older than 3 learn about healthy living. There is a board, magnets, handbook and marker in the set. I was looking for the mom that comes with it to explain the rules, but it would seem we are to learn the rules all by ourselves. The pictures on the magnets are appealing, and I like that the kids get to have control over the action. I also like that it involves the parent and the kid, so it’s definitely a family game. Double score: kids get their parents’ attention while learning good food habits. Of course, the implication is that the parent will be educated well enough about nutrition to be able to help the kid, but I guess parents who buy the game are going to be motivated to eat well or they wouldn’t get the game in the first place, eh? My one concern? Small parts. Not for the kid’s sake – for mine! When my kids were really young, I hated dealing with all the tiny pieces. But you may be more organized than I was back then! One main draw for me: the inventor, Sarah Vinch, has the tag line “Eat! Drink! Move! Think!” which is very holistic, and fully describes the four parts to the game.
Game info: Füdoo
Readers: What family fitness products do you enjoy? And don’t say Twinkies!
We were not compensated for talking about these products; we just like them and are sharing our opinion!
by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams,MA
Kymberly: Easy shmeasy. In fact, we get asked that question all the time. The cute one is Kymberly. If you exercise regularly, maintain healthy eating habits, brake for animals, and generally have a merry attitude toward life, you can grow up to be just like me — a 4th grader with adorable catwoman glasses.
Alexandra: The top left what? I am always on top, because I am a top-notch kind of gal. My jokes are tops and my manners are top-drawer. One of the many things you need to know about Kymberly; she has been a liar since 4th grade. Pick the one you think is cutest–that one is me, no matter what my mom says and she has no idea, as we discovered to our dismay. Debbie, I am going to tell you a secret (if you are a regular FnF reader, you know we LOVE secrets). We had stand-ins for those photos. We were so good-looking at that age that the photographer broke down in tears of ecstasy and never got fully revived. So those are some other red-headed, freckle-faced, uneven haircut, glasses-wearing, super sweeties in any case.
K: So that gives you another clue: the overly confident one is Alexandra. The appropriately confident one is Kymberly. Alexandra will give you one more clue, which, if you follow will help you burn one calorie.
A: To find the answer to your question, you will have to go to the About Us page. All will be revealed.
Readers: What tricks and skills have you used to tell identical twins apart? What question do you most want to ask twins?
Check out how our mom transforms herself from an active senior to frail little old lady back into a force to be reckoned with in less than 1 minute. Learn our quick zip trick to look 10 years younger in less than 10 seconds.
Agents, talent scouts, and publicists – our mom is available for media interviews and bookings. Ya gotta admit she’s pretty cute!
Photo credit: Creative Commons
Guest post by Mary Ellen Ciganovich
For me, fitness has always been fun! I was lucky enough to have been born at a time when fun meant coming home from kindergarten, doing my homework or chores then grabbing my bicycle and riding around the neighborhood with my friends. In summertime we would ditch our bikes for a game of kickball in the street. Or if we could find a mason jar we would catch fireflies! My neighborhood had a small creek running through it, so on really hot Atlanta nights we would wade through the creek like a band of pirates.
I had a very simple case of petite mal temporal lobe epilepsy but my family took it very hard. They tried to explain to me what epilepsy was but nothing made sense at that age. I was told what I “couldn’t” or “shouldn’t” do but I did not feel any different so I continued to play and stay fit as much as possible. If it was fun, why should I stop? Plus playing outside got me out of the house.
My home life was not the best. We looked like the model family at the movies or restaurants, especially on High Holy days when we would go to church. I was very well-dressed, and as my mother often told me, “at least you don’t look like you have it,” “it” being the epilepsy. I used to wonder what people with epilepsy were supposed to look like!
Our true home life was verbally and emotionally traumatic. When mom and dad fought it would just tear me to pieces. I believed they were fighting about me or I had caused the problem somehow. I am a very sensitive person and did not like to hear them yell and fight and …………… I think you get the picture. When I would get on my bike to ride around the neighborhood I could leave all of their turmoil behind me.
I continued to involve myself in activities that were athletic. My epilepsy was well-controlled though medication so to me it was not a worry. In fourth grade I tried out for cheerleading and continued to cheer through high school. I also took ballet through the Atlanta School of Ballet catching rides to get to my lessons with several worthy friends. I went on to attend The University of Georgia, graduating Magna cum Laude in Education and becoming a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
Even though my mother and sister told me I could never get married nor have any children–at this time it was illegal in most states for people with epilepsy to marry and/or have children–I did get married and have a beautiful daughter! (You can imagine the ignorance about epilepsy back then.)
I remember when my neurologist told me this diagnosis, my first question was, “Can I still work out?” Exercise always made me feel good and normal, something I never felt growing up. She hesitated for only a moment before saying, “You’re going to work out anyway, aren’t you?” I said “yes” so she told me to “go ahead. It probably won’t hurt.” In 1986 there were no medications or shots to take–nothing but prescriptions to deal with the symptoms. My first symptom was a sharp knife-like pain through my right eye. Prednisone took care of it. Then a sol-u-medrol IV treatment put me back on my feet.
I read everything I could get my hands on about multiple sclerosis. I even called the National MS Society asking them to send me their literature. In 1986 this literature was NOT optimistic. When I received and read this horrible “junk” I called the MS society and told them what they could do with their literature. Then I slammed the phone down and tore it ALL up! I was determined to learn what I needed myself.
What I read about MS pointed at keeping three things in balance
Usually you can find me at the Sports Barn on Lee Highway in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I take lots of classes–such as power flex class, step aerobics, cardio dance, and yoga–because I enjoy them. I also work out on the Precor machines. I played tournament racquetball for awhile but I had to give that up because when I get hot my MS flares up and I start seeing two balls or stumble around as if drunk!
Lately in the heat of the summer I’ve had to back down just to keep my MS under control. You have to know your body. Listen to it. Push yourself to get out there and work out. Meet new people. Make new friends. Find a fitness routine that works for you and DO IT! There are no excuses!! Even on my bad MS days I push myself to exercise because when I finish I feel so much better and I know my MS “monster” is back in its cave!
Being active is fun! It means getting together with some of the most wonderful women in Chattanooga who have become much more than workout buddies – they are my friends, my own little support group. (I would like to tell them Thank You! I hope all of you know how much your kindness, love and unending support have meant to me!)
To all of you reading my story: what is your excuse if you are not working out regularly? Lack of time? Money? The old “I don’t look good enough to go to a gym” excuse?