So You Want to Be a Community College President? Take Care of You

By the time I turned 30 years old I was diagnosed with pre-hypertension. I was in a stressful situation professionally, and I would eat my problems away. It did not help that I traveled extensively to conferences, and every conference served breakfast, lunch, dinner, and multiple snacks. With the food staring me in the face, I would indulge myself with cold danishes and cookies, while sitting for hours listening to speakers at conferences. 


On top of the weight gain, I started periodically suffering from migraines that would force me to sit in a dark room for hours until the pain subsided. I knew there was an issue when the chest pains started and I was generally out of breath from walking up just one flight of stairs. In high school and college I was fairly active, but after two children and a job, I could not find the energy to remain active. There were times when I would walk with my neighbors in Texas, but that ended when I moved to New York.


Even after knowing that I was pre-hypertension, reality finally kicked in when I stepped on the scale and I weighed over 200 pounds with a BMI of 31.  I could no longer fit into my size 14 jeans. I went from a size large to an extra large within months, and I avoided full body photos whenever possible. This included looking at myself in the mirror.  I made an appointment to see my doctor and she was brutally honest about my likelihood of taking blood pressure medication before the age of 40, the risk of a heart attack, and a host of other ailments if I did not get on a plan to a healthier me.


I made the decision to change my diet and get on an exercise regimen. For breakfast I would have a wild blueberry smoothie  with scrambled eggs and spinach. Lunch usually consisted of a salad, and I treated myself to a normal dinner with my family each night. I purchased exercise equipment--an indoor bike, treadmill, and a punching bag (which I enjoyed especially after tough days on campus). Each morning I was awake by 4:45 and on my bike by 5:00, riding for 60 minutes while watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix. I would force myself to walk at least 15,000 to 20,000 steps six days per week with a break on Sunday. I started with a Fitbit but then converted to an Apple Watch, and focused on burning at least 1,000 calories per day. It worked. I dropped 40 pounds and two dress sizes in 8 months. The best part, my hubby worked out with me every time. But shortly thereafter, I became pregnant for a third time and gained it all back! Ugh!


Now I am back to where I started, having gained 50 pounds in my last pregnancy and my baby is almost 11 months old. I am nearing the point where I have to stop saying that my rolls are "baby fat." I'm sick of wearing Spanx and sucking in my belly before every photo and deflating afterwards. My daughter was born in September, I was in a presidential search in February, a finalist in March, accepted the position in April, and moved to Washington by June. Needless to say, it has been a struggle getting back to me. 


But I realize that self-care is vital. Thankfully, I have accountability partners literally across the country, thanks to my membership with Peloton. I am a HUGE fan and officially part of the Peloton Geek Squad and Cult! I tried the gym thing, but I wanted time to myself. I can exercise on my bike on-demand, with the best instructors (Alex and Cody), and I am in absolute heaven. I've only completed 40 rides to date, but my goal is to make 100 rides by the end of the year.


Last week I had a conversation with my board chair and at the beginning of our discussion, she asked if I was getting enough rest. That is an area I still need to improve as it is 12:45 in the morning while writing this entry in a hotel room without my bike. In these situations, I still get up by 5:00 in the morning and try to walk 4 to 5 miles before the day begins to make up for those irresistible cookies waiting for me at the end of the buffet line! 


While my road to grown and sexy has started back at step one thanks to my soon-to-be toddler, I want to not only do my job well, but more importantly, I want to see my children reach adulthood. So, I am learning to take better care of me through prayer, meditation, exercise, a healthier diet, time away, and lots of laughter. 


"An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly."