It should have been her "aha" moment, Annie Giddens now admits.She’d developed a hemorrhage on her optic nerve. Excess spinal fluid was building up inside her skull, causing symptoms that mimicked multiple sclerosis. It was a condition called pseudotumor cerebri that most often strikes morbidly obese women of childbearing age.
But the longtime single mom who was used to working 12-hour nursing shifts and shuttling two boys to travel soccer practice had zero experience focusing on herself. She took the medication she was prescribed and trudged on.
That led to what her doctor called medication-induced type 2 diabetes."But that still didn’t do it," Giddens says.
It was while watching "Dr. Oz" – a young mom had lowered all those vital signs that in Giddens’ 400-pound body were soaring out of control – that the 35-year-old finally decided things had to change.
"I just laid on my bed and cried," she explains now, seven years and 218 pounds later. "My two boys are my whole world."
Giddens’ father had died at 42 of a cerebral aneurysm caused by hypertension and atherosclerosis. She couldn’t bear the thought of missing all her sons’ milestones that her dad had missed with her.
Now 42 herself, Giddens isn’t just fit – she’s an athlete who can deadlift 325 pounds.
It’s been a long journey, and Giddens, a clinical coordinator at Visiting Nurse Service, still hasn’t quite reached her destination. But now she’s got a road map, with every detail planned along the way.
FINDING HER WAY
On Jan 30, 2010, Giddens, then living in North Manchester, signed up for Weight Watchers Online.
"I did these 10-minute dance videos," she remembers. From there she moved on to zumba and "Biggest Loser" videos. She started doing yard work.
"One week I dug a fire pit. I lost seven pounds that week!"
Giddens lost more than 100 pounds on Weight Watchers. After she started working at Visiting Nurse, a hospice care center on Homestead Road, she got a membership at the Jorgensen YMCA. Soon she was waking at 4 a.m. to squeeze in two-hour sessions before work.
The former high school swimmer and tennis player hired a personal trainer for strength and cardio. When she asked for some CrossFit-style workouts, her trainer referred her to CrossFit Praus on Merchant Road.
"One of the first workouts I did there was called the ‘Murph," Giddens says. "It’s one of the most grueling workouts. But I just loved it. I knew I’d found what I’d been looking for."
HOW SHE EATS NOW
Giddens’ weight loss hasn’t been a smooth downhill trajectory. At one point, during a stressful period, she put 55 pounds back on.
These days she gets nutrition coaching from a friend who works for a company called Performance Macros.
"You can eat what you want," she explains. "But it has to fit your macros" – target numbers that in her case total 46 grams of fat and 175 grams each of protein and carbs per day.
"So I can have a little Snickers bar, but then I have to adjust how many grams of sesame oil I get to cook with that night."
A planner who does all her prep cooking on Sundays, Giddens’ menu doesn’t vary much during the week. She weighs all her food "down to the gram," including the 5 grams of coconut oil she puts in her morning coffee. She puts extra gelatin in her sugar-free Jell-O to get more protein with fewer calories.
Currently following an intermittent fasting schedule, she doesn’t eat her first meal until 1 p.m. She then eats again at 3 p.m., followed by a later afternoon pre- and post-workout snack before heading home for a nutrient-dense dinner.
Halo Top, a low-carb ice cream that’s high in protein, has become a popular indulgence among her macro-counting CrossFit pals, but Giddens usually reserves that for a Sunday treat.
"I know some people who will work it in every day, who like the idea that they can have ice cream every day." She shrugs. "They need sweetness; I want volume."
THERE IS NO FINISH LINE
Now only "six or seven pounds" away from her original weight loss goal, Giddens is eager to finish what she started. But that goal is now just one of many – and not necessarily the most important.
"I would love to have abs," she says. Currently at 28 percent body fat, she wants to trim a bit more. "I think 20-24 percent (body fat) will get me abs."
It’s hard to say whether anything will ever mean more, however, than nailing her first pullup ever during a competition last May, more than 2½ years after starting CrossFit.
Giddens put so much force into her first attempt she nearly whacked her chest on the bar.
"We were so excited, screaming and yelling and celebrating," that it never even occurred to her to try for more until her teammate reminded her. She wound up getting all 11 reps.
Giddens is still getting used to her new body. She doesn’t see what others do when she looks in the mirror.
"I don’t know how to accept compliments sometimes," she admits. "I still feel like clothes are going to be too small when I put them on, even if I’ve worn them before."
But she’s proud of what she’s accomplished, and loves that her sons, now in high school and college, are proud of her, too. She’s off all her meds. Her blood work is "about as good as it gets."
Giddens wants to keep getting stronger and faster, and for that there is no finish line.
"One of the things I fell in love with about CrossFit is that the focus is more about what your body can do as opposed to the aesthetic of it," she says. "I found my people."
Tanya Isch Caylor blogs about postfat living at www.90in9.wordpress.com. Contact her at email@example.com. This column is the personal view of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.
From Annie Giddens’ Jan. 25 food log:
In the morning: 5 grams coconut oil in coffee
1 p.m.: 200 g carrots, 1 cup fat-free cottage cheese, a serving of sugar-free Jell-O with extra gelatin for more protein.
3 p.m.: 6 ounces egg whites, 25 g sweet peppers, 15 g mushrooms, 1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt with 6 g walnuts
4:30 p.m.: pre-workout Quest bar
Post workout: Cliff bar
Dinner: 100 g sweet potatoes, 7 oz (raw cooking weight) boneless pork loin, 100 g broccoli, 300 g spaghetti squash, 5 g sesame oil for cooking.
After-dinner: "Protein fluff" (like a chocolate mousse) made with 30 g chocolate protein powder, 20 g peanut butter powder, 5 g dark cocoa powder, 4 g xanthan gum, 4 ounces unsweetened vanilla almond milk and 4 oz club soda.
Daily macronutrient targets: 46 g fat and 175 g each of protein and carbs (+/- 5 g)
Try CrossFit for free
Guest sessions at 9:30 a.m. Saturdays at CrossFit Praus, 4106 Merchant Road. For more information, go to www.crossfitpraus.com.