Getting Thin Or Getting Fit?


The pictures above were during one of the hardests times in my life – the aftermath of a tragedy followed by a divorce, selling a farm, and losing horses. At the same time, it was the first time in my life at the ripe old age of 47 that I could look in the mirror and be proud of what I saw.

You see, my whole entire life I have had an unhealthy relationship with food. I love to eat, but food has always been a coping mechanism for me. Simply put, I am a food addict. It took me a lot of years to realize that. Although I’ve always been active and strong for my size, I have always struggled with weight. At 5’3″, I stayed in the upper 180’s for several years, but the scale kept going up as high as 208. 

As the scale went up, my health went down. Blood work, paired with a biopsy from a place of my face that wouldn’t go away for well over a year, and symptoms like joint pain, fatigue, depression, sores in my nose, all pointed to Lupus. The only option the doctors offered me back then was a rhuematoid med that had horrendous side effects and made me feel like I had the flu. That wasn’t good enough, and that’s when I slowly started on a journey to get better, which eventually led me to the first set of pictures.

I was able to stick to my regime for a long time…. basically eat clean (meat and veggies) and do kettlebells. I had finally figured out that the more simple it was, the more likely I was to maintain it. I didn’t count anything and my workouts were a max of 15 minutes. I felt great, my confidence went through the roof, and I started riding the best I’d ever ridden in my whole entire life.


Even when I was in my 20’s and thinner, I never thought I was thin enough. I also didn’t ride as confident…so what changed at 47? Mindset and strength. If you want to change your life, you change your thinking – and that’s what I did!

In the craziness of building the new place however, all of that fell by the wayside over time. The day to day living in the cramped space of a camper, and the stress of having to build a house weighed heavily. I found myself eating comfort food more than I should have, and not working out or riding. I just wanted to get on to the next phase and be in the house, and if I couldn’t do that food was the next best thing! Food made me feel better momentarily – although I always paid for it in the form of joint aches and fatigue, along with depression – which just made it worse. I didn’t have anywhere to spread out so that I could work out — most of the time there was too much mud! This went on for 3 years…and I was gradually headed back to being as heavy as I was before. But I told myself once I got in the house, I would find my way back.

We finally passed the final inspection and moved in this year at the end of July. At first, I wasn’t really consistent with eating and working out. Then in August I had extreme back pain – the worst I’d ever had! (Keep in mind I fractured my thoracic vertabrae in my early 20’s from a car wreck!) I could barely move, and the only way I could get any relief was to sit or lay down, and even then I still hurt.

Being in that much pain, and not able to do anything hit me pretty hard. I didn’t want to live like that. After about 2 weeks with no relief, I finally went to a chiropractor. On a side note, it was the same chiropractor that I used for my horses – Wells Chiro Healthcare. It took quite a few adjustments, but one thing he pointed out was how important nutrition is in how we feel. He also reminded me of what I had been a few years before, when I was strong and healthy. That was the kick I needed!

So I started back on what I had done before – eating meats and veggies, and exercising. Eventually, the pain got better. But you know what else got better? My attitude!

After about 3 weeks, I started tracking my progress through pics. Right before all this started, I had gained up to 188. It was less than I had weighed the last time I decided to make a change, but if I was going to get back to that place where I felt good, I had 35 pounds to lose. More importantly, I had a lot of strength to build back as well.

The first 8 pounds came off pretty easily, but then I plateaued. Even on the days that I was good and did kettlebells, I would either not lose or I’d gain. Two years into hot flashes at 51, soon to be 52, the weight not budging was to be expected, but I wasn’t going to give in.

The whole reason what I was doing before had worked was because it was simple. I don’t like tracking anything because the last thing I need is something else to keep up with. However, working in reporting and analytics, I knew I needed to start tracking what I was eating to see if I could tell a pattern. So I downloaded the Carb Tracker App, and chose the KETO setting. I figured if I couldn’t lose on that, then I really needed to make some big changes. It gave me my ideal Macro for the day – 22g of carbs, 135g of fat, 108g of protein, and 1731 calories. The ideal Macro for me is 5% carbs, 70% fat, and 25% protein. The app calculates all that for you, and tells you when you’re going over. So, in a sense it was still simple.



There have been some days that I’ve gone over my carb level and gained a pound, but there’s also been days I’ve went 15g over and still lost a pound and half in one day. I’m learning where my limits are, how my body handles food. One thing for certain, getting enough protein seems to be the key to keeping the scale moving in the right direction. The key is athletes don’t diet and exercise, they diet and train. As a rider, even an old one, I’m an athlete.

More importantly though is building strength. That part has seemed a bit slower! The good thing is I’m back to doing crunches with 20 pound weights, but presses and building strength in my legs is taking longer than what I’d like — but I will get there. I’ve done it once, I can do it again.

At 51, I’m on another journey to get back to that place where I actually felt good about myself, and doing it as naturally and as realistically as possible. I don’t want to take a bunch of pills, or buy a bunch of expensive supplements, or spend hours in the gym. I also don’t want to look like a 20 year old. I just want to ride the absolute best I can possibly ride, and be the healthiest, strongest and most confident that I can possibly be because I want to enjoy the years that I have left as much as I can — and it’s all up to me to get it done.

With Thanksgiving coming up, I’m going to enjoy it to the fullest. I’ve already ordered a couple of pies and rolls since I don’t eat those on a normal day. But the next day I plan to be right back to eating healthy for me. I also plan on getting some more riding in as well.


I plan on sharing my progress because if I can do it, anyone can! As the saying goes, sometimes you go through the darkness to show others the way. Life is worth being healthy inside and out!

What Makes You Confident?

First of all, I want to say “Thank You” to everyone that helped spread the word about Cowgirls With Curves! The response since launching has been overwhelming, which confirmed what I already knew first hand! Let me just say, it’s fulfilling to talk to other women with the same issues and feel like you’re making a difference. So, I can’t say THANK YOU enough!

One of the hot topics among us real size cowgirls is confidence – How do we get it? That’s something we struggle with in and out of the saddle.

I’ll confess, I’m probably more confident in the saddle than I am out of it, mainly just because I like working horses so much! That doesn’t mean however, that I’ve not had times that I’ve had to work for it, and I still do when it comes to barrel racing especially. The one thing that has always made a difference in my riding confidence has been working out and getting strong – notice I didn’t say losing weight. It’s strength that makes the difference.

I’ve always said there’s nothing like having a colt to break, or a young horse to start back in the spring to make a person get strong. Ride a few fresh young horses and you’ll see what I mean!

Where that came from, for me, was that each winter I took a break from everything. No riding, no working out. Then when spring rolled around, I’d get back to riding.

Each year, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed it’s taken me longer to get back to feeling normal and in sync with my horse. With each passing year I’ve had to work harder at it – and if I’ve had a young horse I’ve had to put even more effort.

Most of the time, I’ve done the usual core work like planks and crunches to get my balance back. While that helped tremendously, I’ve found something that works even better!

This year instead of taking the whole winter off, I started working out in early November doing Kettlebell exercises. The difference that it has made in my riding has been amazing, especially considering I was only doing three exercises at 20 reps each. In fact, it made such a difference I made the fastest run I’ve made so far on my horse, and I felt good about it and in control the whole entire time. I’ve been trying to make that silly run for three years!

I took pretty much the whole month of December off, and then didn’t throw a leg over one until the end of January. Even having that much time off and my horse absolutely full of it, I felt like I hadn’t taken any time off at all. To me, that said a lot about the exercises that I’d been doing.

Kettlebellsworkouts.com and PositiveHealthWellness are the websites that I used to find Kettlebell exercises. Kettlebellsworkouts has a list of 52 exercises with videos and they periodically will do a Kettlebell Challenge to keep you motivated.

PositiveHealthWellness has a great list of Kettlebell exercises with instructions that will help you get started. They also have nutrition articles, and an extensive list of exercise ideas if you need to switch up your routine.

I’ve shared the three exercises that I’ve started out with. Since I’m not a personal trainer, I’ve listed the links for each exercise with the proper instructions.

I already had 10 pound dumbbells and two 20 pound weights on hand so that’s what I use instead of a Kettlebell. Since I use different weights for different exercises, this works out well. At some point I might cave in and buy a couple of actual Kettlebells but for the moment, I’ll use the money for my feed bill and entry fees!

The Kettlebell Plank Row is one exercise that I can honestly say is the absolute hardest I’ve ever done! It’s also an exercise that I feel makes a huge difference in how you ride since you’re engaging your core at a high level the entire time.

The Kettlebell Walking Lunge is one that I do with a little variation. Instead of keeping the Kettlebell overhead, I’ll hold the weights out in front of me and raise them overhead which engages the core even more.

The Kettlebell Swing is a great exercise to get your heart rate up very quickly so it’s a great option to use for not only strength but cardio as well. I do this exercise with more weight than I do the other two exercises simply because I’m stronger in that position.

A word of caution on the Kettlebell exercises – the Kettlebell Turkish Getup is a whole lot harder than it looks! I let a teenage student and her two little brothers try it with a 5 pound weight. It was all they could do to get up. So if you want a hard challenge, try it.

Because these exercises elevate your heart rate while working several body parts and engaging the core the whole entire time, you really do get more bang for your buck. Because of that, you can save on time since you don’t have to do as many exercises to work the same amount of muscles.

There’s something about being strong and being in control of your body when riding that has an effect on your mindset and confidence. When you’re strong, you don’t feel out of control or over-powered.

You may be at a point where you’re thinking, “I can’t do these type of exercises!” It doesn’t matter what you can do – what matters is that you start somewhere. If you can do one rep, do one. Then the next day try two reps. Just start at the level you’re at – YOU CAN DO IT.

How confident are you when it comes to riding? Why do you think your confidence level is at the level that it’s at? What is one thing you can do today to improve your confidence?

Let me know how you guys are doing out there! Drop me a line, visit the Cowgirls With Curves facebook page!

FT SMITH TRIAL RUN