Most mothers can testify to having obstacles on the course of their weight loss journey. For some it’s the schedule of work, daycare and the children’s homework. For others, it is living in a more secluded area away from the local gym and still for many other moms, an upbringing of an unhealthy lifestyle is considered to be the hardest obstacle to overcome. For Real Fit mom Gillian Payette, her obstacle was much more serious. At the age of 19, Gillian was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She went from being a normal, healthy teenager to life in a wheel chair, loss of her vision and numbness in her legs and feet. She recalls the day of her diagnosis and says, “I remember that day very well. That was the day I gave up my health and fitness and gave in to this MS monster.”
While the physical fatigue and pain alone were enough to hinder her fitness ability, she says it was her mind that really caused the damage. “Being healthy and fit and having MS just didn’t piece together properly in my mind,” she says. “I can’t workout, I can’t play sports if I have MS; I definitely can’t run if I have MS.” Although she was able to maintain a successful career and went on to marry and have a daughter, that four letter word, CAN’T quickly turned Gillian’s beliefs and fears into her reality as she allowed herself to slip further away from the person she once was.
Several years later, Gillian along with her husband and daughter, moved back to Moncton where her family lived. It was here that she was introduced to a gentleman who would be the inspiration for her transformation. She explains, “In one of our many conversations about MS and my attitude he looked at me and said, ‘you don’t have MS, MS has you.’ I guess you could say that was my light bulb moment.” Gillian began to do research on her disease and discovered many stories of MS patients who had great success through changes to their diet and exercise programs. She removed all processed foods from her diet and even began making her own foods like yogurt, bread and protein bars. That small change finally gave Gillian the energy she needed to begin an exercise program.
She began her program slowly with swimming some weight training and yoga, but longed for the days when she could hit the concrete in her running shoes. “I could still hear that little voice in my head saying, ‘how could I run with MS’?” she says. Not only did Gillian have self doubt against her, but the fact that she had no feeling in her feet made that little voice scream even louder. She decided to ignore the voice and believed the only way to finally know for sure was to simply get out there and run. She began cautiously, running for 1 minute than walking; repeating this transition until she had ran for 10 minutes total. This small goal was the triumph she needed to not only ignore the voice saying, “I can’t” but even better – drowned it out completely! A ten minute run turned into a run around a block which turned into a run around the block twice and before she knew it, Gillian found herself registering for her first 5k race. Although she still felt fear and doubt, she refused to let either hold her back a second longer and finished the 5k successfully. After completing the 5k race Gillian became even more inspired. She went on to compete in a 10k and 15k race, and soon after made her dream of completing a half marathon come true. Gillian is still not free of her MS monster and she knows that she never will be. In addition to the physical obstacles that have affected her from the beginning, she now battles a new one. Once a week she is forced to self inject a medication for her condition. This medication has side effects much like severe flu symptoms for 24 hours. Still, she refuses to ever let MS have her again. She compensates by doing her long runs on Sundays before the injection and allows Mondays to be her off day. When asked what motivates her to continue to push through despite the illness Gillian simply responded,
“My New life. And my life is myself, everyone and everything around me. I will never forget how I used to look and feel when I didn’t take care of myself, suffering so much more than I actually needed to; I never want to go back to that place again.” She hopes that her story and her transformation just might be enough to motivate someone out there to remove “can’t” from their vocabulary and make their dreams a reality.