Walking Healed My Heart and Body
Rebecca Garson needed a larger-than-life goal to overcome the devastation of losing her young daughter
Stats• Age 42 • Height 5'7'' • Weight now 136 pounds • Weight then 198 pounds • Pounds lost 62
My Story In January 2005, my 10-month-old daughter, Ruth Ann, died in my husband's arms of a rare genetic disorder. We had known she most likely wouldn't make it to her first birthday, but her death still left me utterly shocked and heart-broken.
Letting go of my dreams for her was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I stopped taking care of my health and ate too much. A month later, I weighed 198 pounds--the heaviest I'd ever been. Still emotionally distraught, I had no idea what to do with myself.
A healing Plan I knew that if I wanted to have any hope of putting myself back together, I had to find a powerful new focus for my life. I also needed to start exercising, but without some greater aim, I wasn't motivated. Then I read aboutPrevention's marathon program and a lightbulb went on--this was just the sort of larger-than-life goal I needed to launch myself back into the purpose-driven world. I was so excited by having a new objective to put my energy into that I told everybody I knew: "I'm going to walk a marathon. Just watch."
Moving Forward I began fitness walking 2 miles, 3 days a week with my best friends, Melissa and Tricia. Those initial walks were my first steps toward recovery.
By the time I was 4 months into the fitness walking program, on my birthday, July 17, I'd already lost 34 pounds and was up to about 10 miles on my long walks. I was overjoyed at being thin again. Mentally I was in a better place, too, and my emotional dips were fewer and further apart. When thoughts of Ruth did come, I learned to use them positively. If ever I was ready to give up, I'd think of how she managed to smile so bravely during her short, painful life. Then I'd fight through my tears and keep walking.
Following an online marathon training schedule, I exercised 6 days a week and worked my way up to a 22-mile endurance walk.
In November 2005, I crossed the finish line of the Richmond Marathon in my home state of Virginia. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. And I'm still walking, even in the worst weather. I just put on my Yaktraxs--rubber webbing that slips over my shoes--and get moving.
Challenging myself to constant new targets is my way of honoring Ruth's life. The truth is, every time I go out for a walk, I invite her to come along, because I know that her spirit will always be with me.
How I Did It
I ate fewer...servings. I now eat six small meals a day instead of having seconds or thirds at dinner. And I cut back on comfort foods like Ben & Jerry's.
I ate more...snacks, but healthy ones-- baby carrots, almonds, and whole grain cereal--to curb hunger between meals.
I exercised...at least an hour, 5 or 6 days a week. And when I trained for a marathon, I walked at least 5 miles a day--sometimes up to 5 hours on weekends.
I reminded myself...that if my infant daughter, Ruth, could laugh in the face of pain, I could keep walking.
Unexpected gain: I can't believe how much younger I look and feel. What really surprised me was when my 20-year-old daughter blurted out that she's tired of all her guy friends saying, "Your mom is hot!"
My health bonus: I've had asthma for years and was on prophylactic steroids. Since I started walking, my breathing has improved dramatically. Except for during the worst part of allergy season, I haven't needed any medication.