For years, Pamela Hansen’s No.1 New Year’s resolution was to lose weight.
“I finally thought, ‘I have made this my resolution so many times and it never works,’” Pam recalls. “‘Lose weight’ is not going to be at the top of my list. In fact, it is not even going to be on it.’”
The Orem woman had struggled with obesity for much of her adult life. Like many, food provided much-needed comfort during times of tragedy.
The death of an infant daughter and deteriorating health of two other children left Pam’s emotions constantly reeling, and food was one way for her to escape the pain.
Her weight climbed with her sadness, and her self-esteem tumbled, creating a vicious cycle where Pam began to hate her body.
“There was a lot of self-loathing there,” Pam says. “I hated this body. It wouldn’t do what I wanted to do.”
Unable to break the cycle of eating to pacify emotional pain, Pam’s weight continued to escalate. Then came the stillbirth of a son.
“When I lost the baby in April 2001, I realized I needed to do something to have a little more compassion on myself,” she says. “I think our bodies go through a lot. I didn’t love my body, but I needed compassion, and of course, taking better care of it enabled me to find that love that I had been missing.”
So Pam started walking, one painful step at a time. She started by walking for five minutes each day.
“My back hurt, my feet hurt, everything hurt when I walked,” she says.
Slowly, Pam added more time and distance. She joined Weight Watchers and started a food journal where she wrote down everything she ate – good and bad. Every day, she thought about what she would eat that day and how she would get her exercise.
“I moved myself up higher on my priority list,” Pam says. “I realized it was not only important, but essential, in being a better wife, a better mother, a better member of the community.”
After working out consistently for several months, Pam had lost 50 pounds.
That summer, her husband, Mark, ran the Deseret News 10 K. As Pam waited with their five kids at the finish line, inspiration struck.
“I saw all these runners coming across, especially the marathoners, and thought, ‘I could do this,’” Pam says. “And that was when I turned my dream into a goal.”
Since she knew running a marathon would be much different than walking around the local track, Pam started training that night.
“I went about 10 steps and thought, ‘there is no way,’” Pam says.
Although she was tempted to give up, she continued running and gradually built up her stamina. When the winter hit, she ran indoors on a treadmill. She printed off a map of the marathon course and hung it on the wall. As added motivation, Pam hung clothes she used to be able to fit into in front of the machine.
“I would work really hard during the week and splurge a little bit on the weekend with my eating,” she says. “It couldn’t be all or nothing.”
Her steady determination and clear thinking got her through training, and by the time she completed her first marathon the following summer, Pam had lost more than 100 pounds.
She wrote a book, “Running with Angels,” about her struggle and triumph over obesity, which was published last year. This May, Pam will participate in the 2nd annual Running With Angels 5K in Provo Canyon. She hopes to run another marathon soon.
“Everyone needs something to shoot for,” Pam says. “That’s how the marathon really helped. I don’t know that everyone has a dream of running a marathon, but I really believe we are running some kind of marathon in our lives. And we can do it.”
To register for the run, visit www.runningwithangels.com.
PAMELA’S WEIGHT LOSS TIPS
1. Keep a food journal of everything you eat each day.
2. Use visual reminders to stay motivated. Pamela stared at her “skinny” clothes while she exercised.
3. Put yourself high on your priority list.