The story of the month for December 2010 comes from Therese Lean of ThereseLean.com

Therese has a joyful spirit, and her passion for all that she does come through so vibrantly and clearly. Therese is inspiring because she made a decision to change, through conscious and consistent actions towards better health and wellness. She shares her personal journey in detail, as well as recipes and motivation tools on both her personal site, and blog Life’s Tasty Adventures.

She serves as such an inspirational being, as she took her goal to lose weight and get healthy seriously. She has already been successful at losing 90lbs and taking on marathon running, and for Therese this is all just the beginning. She has birthed within her a new passion and dedication to herself and her health, and for this reason serves as an amazing example for so many of us, who are on a similar journey.

Thus please help me welcome Therese. Enjoy her story and may it inspire you, to take your health and wellness to a new level:

Area(s) of My Health and Wellness that Needed Change

I’ve always been overweight. When I was 13 I remember being taken to a nutritionist and seeing the scale clock in at 180lbs. I’d been overweight for so long that it became a part of who I was. I blamed all of the things I felt were wrong with my life or myself, on my weight.

In 2006 I must have been in the right place, at the right time because one day, for the first time, I took a real glimpse at where my life was headed. I was obese, unhappy with myself, unhappy with my life and afraid to do anything because there was a possibility that I’d fail at it. I saw that if something didn’t change, I would continue to live my life in that matter. But I didn’t know how to change! I needed someone to give me the motivation, to give me an opportunity, to give me something so that I could change! I started listening to some self-help podcasts and through these the answer hit me like a ton of bricks: no one was going to help me but me. I was the only person responsible for my life, I alone made my life the way it was and I alone could mold my future into what I wanted it to be.

This was honestly the biggest slap in the face I had ever received. I always blamed my life (or lack thereof) on other things. I always denied that my weight gain was the product of my own choices, but here I was being told that, no, it was MY doing.

I cried. I cried the hardest I have ever cried in my life. I was ashamed, I was embarrassed, I was hurt. And then the strangest thing happened. I felt like a giant weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. The past was the past. There was nothing I could do about that but there was something I could do about the future. The future, for the first time, was a clean slate and with a clean slate anything can happen!

That was the day I started taking care of my life and myself.

Strategies I Implemented & Their Results

The biggest strategy I have implemented is to be honest with myself. Did I just overeat because I was truly hungry or because I was stressed? If I missed several workouts in a row did I really need the rest or was something else going on?

My bad habits were a symptom of greater problems, so now when I see these habits resurfacing I try to get to the bottom of it before they get out of hand, without being judgmental. This has allowed me to not only stay on track with my eating and exercise behaviour,s but to also know myself better.

I’m also patient with myself. I have many years of bad eating habits to change, it won’t happen overnight. It’s taken almost four years to lose 90lbs and I still have more to lose but I’m alright with it because this time it’s permanent. By being patient it allows these changes to become a part of who I am, setting myself up for permanent success. It has also helped to take a lot of pressure off of me. I am successful every day I make healthy decisions.

I’ve always been someone to make goals but I never knew how to make them effectively. Now I make goals that I break down into smaller action steps, something I can do every day or once a week that will lead up to the success of my larger goal. These help me to not feel overwhelmed and to be in control every day. This strategy has helped me to implement better eating habits and helped me to train and participate in races. It has also helped me to create balance in my life, doing small things every day instead of being faced with a really large task.

Lastly, I try very hard not to compare myself to others. I used to be really bad at this and it did nothing but cause my self-esteem to plummet. All of our bodies work in slightly different ways. Some people lose weight very quickly but also gain it all back very quickly. Others lose slowly and maintain easier than others. Some people just can’t seem to gain weight and others just can’t seem to lose. Comparing ourselves to others will only cause you to give up or feel like a failure.

If I find myself doing this, I stop and remind myself that I am doing the best I can every single day and if I’m not doing my best that day, what can I do to make it better? Is there something that the person I’m comparing against can do to help me? Use these people as inspiration but never forget that you are a unique individual. What works for others may not work for you. You need to find your own way!

How My Changes Benefitted Me

The changes I have made have benefited both my body and my mind. My switch to eating cleaner food and exercising regularly has caused me to have more energy, cleaner skin, confidence, determination and focus. I took up running just to see if I could do it. I had no aspirations of becoming a runner, I just wanted to see what would happen if I tried. I signed up for a 5k race in 2008 and now, two years later, I AM a runner and just recently completed my very first half marathon. I no longer care about being thin, rather I care more about being healthy and fit. My weight no longer determines my character. I determine my character with the choices I make.

I push myself now, seeing where my body and mind will take me. I used to take the easy road out on anything and now I relish the challenge to see what I am capable of. New opportunities don’t frighten me anymore, they excite me! I no longer balk in the face of a set-back, I use it as an opportunity to see how I can get through it and learn from it.

My outlook on life is also much healthier. Whereas before I saw the future as this place where I wanted to be happy but thought I never would be, I now see it as a completely open opportunity to make of it what I want. It’s never too late to become the person you’ve always wanted to be. In fact, with that in mind, I decided to go back to school and finish my psychology degree. It’s been tough to go back as an adult with a full time job but I’m looking forward to having that degree and am enjoying the learning process!

I am now excited for my future and to see where it will take me!

Next Steps on My Health and Wellness Journey

Personally I plan to keep stepping up the game and see what I’m capable of. As mentioned, I’ve gone back to school which finishes in April 2012 and for the next few months I will be hard at work on my thesis. I will also continue to run and build a regular strength-training regimen into my routine and run a few more races (including a 30k!) in the New Year.

Professionally I have come to realize that I truly desire to help others find their own potential, just as I found mine. In early July 2011 I will be launching my own Life Coaching business focusing on helping people to overhaul their life, to make healthier choices on a daily basis and to help them find, and achieve, their greatest desires.

I will be polishing up my blog to be used in conjunction with the business, offering anyone who drops by tips, tricks and discussions on living a balanced, happy life (while also providing readers with yummy recipes).

Wisdom & Inspiration for Others

It sounds cliché but if I can do it, anyone can.

That being said, I never would have been able to do what I did without getting out of my comfort zone and forging ahead, regardless of how afraid I was or how slow the process.

We are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for but we never realize it because we like to play it safe. If you want something, you have to work for it and, many times if it’s something worthwhile, you have to work hard. But, as my favourite spin instructor told me last year, just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. If it’s worth having, work at it and don’t stop until you have it!

Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not worthy of it or that it’s silly, if it’s important to you, that’s all that matters.