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!

How Are You Doing?

So, how are you right now, truthfully?

What has helped and why do you think that it has helped? What are you struggling with? 

 

 

2020april

What lies behind the smile?

Here’s where I’m at right now……

I’ll be honest, even before COVID-19 came along, I was struggling! Between this 3 year marathon house build, and not doing any riding, it has taken a toll on my psyche and my waistline. I’ve gained not quite 30 pounds back and it’s taken a LOT of effort to not get thoroughly discouraged in life in general. I’m exhausted! Folks complain about this show / rodeo season being cancelled, but mine has been cancelled for the last 3 years! It’s coming on 4 years since the last time I ran and that can get a horse girl down. 

Then when you add worrying about your health, your finances and then read all the conspiracy and end times stuff floating around out there right now, you really do feel like jumping off into the deep end, especially when you’re someone with a vivid imagination and writer brain that thinks WAY too much! By the way, the jury is still out on the conspiracy theories – I can’t help it, I’m researching. 

Honestly though, how do you get in a good place mentally in the middle of all this craziness, when you really can not do any of the things that bring you joy and that make you feel healthy inside and out? 

I think the answer to that is different for everyone, and you have to make an effort and a decision to feel better, be better. For me personally, in a nutshell it has come down to faith, and focusing on the future to get me through right now. 

Let’s talk about faith a little bit…This is one of those times where rubber has met the road in regards to faith. I’ve been through some very dark trying times that have made me question my faith and made me want to wash my hands of the church community. But you know what? I’ve always made it through – with God’s help. Always. He’s always had favor on me even during the times I most definitely didn’t deserve it. So why wouldn’t He do the same now? If He’s done it before, I have faith that He’ll do it again. Letting go and taking that mindset has given me some rest. It’s not my job to fix everything or save everyone, or even save myself. That’s God’s job so I’m letting Him do it. Besides, there’s not a lot I can do about it anyhow. 

We’re on the downhill side of the house and coming up on a deadline, which I’ll be honest I have worried over. Ask my boyfriend, he’ll tell ya I’ve had quite a few meltdowns over these last 3 years! (He’s been a trooper through it all really and has done such a great job.) Then I look back at where we’ve come from… 

And I get this big sense of pride and hope of what’s to come. I imagine what it’s going to be like when we finally get to move in. No more taking cold showers in 20 degree weather, riding out storms rocking back and forth, finding ice on top of the dog bowl in the kitchen, or making trips to town to do laundry at the toilet chained down laundromat! We’ll have a home that we can enjoy that will have room for what we need that will feel safe. I also remember how fortunate we are to have a place that’s ours to call home and put the horses. There’s a lot of folks that don’t have that so I’m thankful.

The last two years we have gotten record relentless rains. Having 4 horses and a donkey out on a bare lot without a barn has been a big source of stress. Between wading through knee deep mud daily to dump hay with a pair of rubber boots that have a hole, and battling multiple rounds of scratches in every single one of them, it’s been a real source of stress. It’s also been a proving ground and motivator for me. 

img_20171223_102850_5781225148504.jpg

If nothing else, I’ve proven to myself that I’m not a fair weather horse owner. I’ve hung in there even when I’m not getting anything tangible from owning them. It’s also made me learn and figure out things I wouldn’t have if they had been in a better environment. If they had nicer turn out and and barn, I would have kept doing what I had always done with Fireman especially, and Cool. I wouldn’t have figured out what they need nutritionally to be sound, and I wouldn’t have figured out what they needed in a trim either. I’ve learned that works in a barn doesn’t necessarily work in other environments. What works in certain parts of the year may not work in others as well. 

Because of these hard times, I’ve learned so much and I’ve wound up with horses that have healthier feet that will come back stronger than they ever would have before. I’ve also changed my philosophy on horse keeping and that will benefit when we finally have a barn. 

While I’ve gained some weight and gotten soft, the good thing is I know for a fact I can – and will – get back to where I was as a rider when we left off. My last few runs with Fireman were the absolute best they had ever been in my whole entire life – and I was 47 at the time. I know what I need to do and what it takes, which is strength and mindset. I also know that I’ll be hungry for it! That keeps me going as well. 

One thing about it, even after all this my heart still skips a beat when I watch the horses play and run. There’s just something about them that can’t be explained that has always had that effect on me. I just love horses, no matter what. My ass, well he makes me laugh! I make it point though to get some joy out of them daily and that helps as well. 

2020oscar

Oscar & Toad

If you’re struggling financially to keep your horses fed, Fleet Of Angels and the ASPCA both have mentioned that they have assistant programs for folks that need help right now. 

One of my previous blog posts from a few years ago also has some tips on how to cut your feed costs. Being on an extreme budget with building the house and dealing with hoof issues, here’s a couple of things I’ve learned since that post  – 

  • While they are more expensive, feed balancers are less expensive to feed in the long run. The better the balancer, the less you have to add. You can use a feed conversion tool to figure out how many mg of nutrients are in the feed.  
  • Beet pulp can definitely help cut your feed bill. That said, I have seen an increase in thrush in all of mine even when it’s dry. 
  • If you have hoof issues, Pete Ramey is a good resource to research to use a guide. He keeps cost in mind. 

So, what’s behind YOUR smile? What are you struggling with? What seems to help?   

You CAN and WILL get through this!! 

 

 

Improving Confidence

The last several months my confidence has improved tremendously, and with it my riding has steadily progressed as well. Not only have my times on the barrel pattern improved, but I’m riding more aggressively than ever.

While losing fifty pounds certainly does help to a certain extent, what has helped more than anything is getting stronger, not just in my core but all over. When you feel strong, you feel in control of not only your horse, but yourself as well and that builds confidence.

I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I didn’t spend hours at the gym. I have an extremely busy life between working two jobs, running a horse farm, writing books & marketing them, and writing blogs. I don’t have the time to spend an hour every day at the gym.I lift weights and only do a total of 4-5 exercises per workout. It only takes around 20-30 minutes at most to complete the exercises that I do. That’s realistic and achievable for someone that’s busy.

There are three exercises in particular that have helped me the most in becoming a better rider. I like these exercises because not only do you work multiple muscle groups, you also get a cardio workout as well.

The first is a walking lunge with a forward arm raise. Here I’m using 10 pound weights. This is a great exercise for riding because not only does it work your legs, but it also requires balance to execute the position, and it works your entire core to lift the weights.

Walking Lunge With A Forward Arm Raise

Walking Lunge With A Forward Arm Raise

The next exercise is a plank position with a pull up. Here I’m using a 20 pound weight. Let me say when I first started all this, it was all I could do to pull up a 10 pound weight! I’ve seen the most improvement in this exercise. It’s also an exercise that requires balance and complete core interaction while working your arms.

Plank Position With Pull Up

Plank Position With Pull Up

The next two exercise is a crunch with weights. I use ten pound weights. There’s two variations that I do. One is a regular crunch with the weights just above my head. The other is a crunch into a sit up where I lift the weights up above my head. Both of these exercises simultaneously work your core while you’re working your arms. Because you’re using your core to lift the weights, it’s almost like weight lifting for your core!

Crunch With Weights

Crunch With Weights

Crunch & lift up

Crunch & lift up

The last exercise is a twist in sit up position with weights. Here I’m using 10 pound weights. This is another great exercise that works your core. If you keep your feet just a couple of inches off the floor while you’re doing the exercise, you’ll also work on balance at the same time.

1018161844a-1

In addition to these, I also do the usual weight lifting exercises such as over head press, bench press, bent over row, and squats.

There’s numerous articles on the multiple health benefits of lifting weights besides just building muscle. Weight lifting helps with bone density, and it helps release growth hormones. Look at the bodybuilding grandmother Ernestine Shepherd and you’ll see that’s true! She’s an 80-something grandma that can do more push ups than most twenty year olds and she didn’t start weights until she was in her fifties!

Do you struggle with confidence in your riding? What is it that keeps you from feeling confident in the saddle?

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