Not that long ago, Cheryl Lathrope spent most nights sleeping on her couch. At 5-foot-7 and 344 pounds, it just took too much energy and effort for her to climb the stairs to her bedroom.
And when her dog dropped his toys under that couch, sometimes she’d just leave them there because bending over was too difficult.
“I could barely even walk the steps to my mailbox,” said the 53-year-old Lathrope, who’s hips ached constantly.
On top of struggling with day-to-day tasks, Lathrope’s health markers were on the decline. Her blood pressure was high at 146/110 mm Hg and her A1C—average blood sugar level—was 7.0, which is considered diabetic. She was also on a fairly high dose of antidepressants as well.
“And I never wanted to travel because I needed an extension on the seatbelt and I was devastated to ask for it,” Lathrope said.
The doctor gave her two options: A low-calorie liquid diet to help her lose weight or undergo bariatric surgery.
“It was August 2018. I was driving to my appointment to see if I’d have to have bariatric surgery, but I couldn’t do it. So I turned around and drove to work instead. I sat in the parking garage at work and I didn’t know what to do,” said Lathrope, who works as a consultant for the Government of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario.
At the time, she had also become addicted to watching the CrossFit Games.
“I watched all of the CrossFit Games movies over and over. Something about it fascinated me. I would be sitting there thinking, ‘I can’t even bend over to tie my shoe. I can’t even pick up my dog’s toys.’ I was amazed by what (Games athletes) could do,” she said.
Still feeling completely lost sitting in her car at work, Lathrope decided then and there that she wasn’t going to have surgery. And she wasn’t going on some short-term liquid diet either. Instead, she googled CrossFit gyms in her area and selected Landmark CrossFit in Ottawa.
“I sent an email right then and told (owner) Rob (Lalonde). I told him, ‘I’m 52, over 300 pounds and I feel like I’m going to die.’ I didn’t even know who I was writing the email to, or if I’d ever hear back, but Rob literally answered within an hour,” she said.
Today, Lathrope considers writing that email the moment that saved her life.
“Once I sent that email, it felt like I had abdicated responsibility. If he hadn’t answered that day, I doubt I ever would have tried again. But he said he could absolutely help me, so I went in to meet with him the next day and it was the scariest thing I have ever done,” she said.
“I felt like I needed to take control, so I just started doing a ton of research and became obsessed with learning about nutrition and learning how to be skeptical about nutritional studies,” she said.
She stopped eating fast food, which she had been doing at least once a day, and instead started preparing her own meals made from whole foods, as well as counting her macronutrients. Most of all, she started to heal her broken relationship with food.
“You don’t get to be 300 pounds without having an unhealthy relationship with food. There was definitely some disordered eating,” she said. “I used to see food as a way to reward myself on a good day, or feel better on a bad day, or to solve boredom or sadness. But I started to see it as a way to fuel my body. It has made me way less obsessed with food.”
With this new mindset, results came fast and furious.
Today, 18 months later, Lathrope is down 183 pounds. Her blood pressure is normal. Her blood sugar levels are normal, she’s off the antidepressants and can do things she didn’t think she would ever be able to do.
Not only can she walk up the stairs without feeling winded, Lathrope can also run up them. And not only does she no longer hesitate to bend down to tie up her shoes, or pick up her dog’s toys, she willingly chooses to do burpees, over and over.
Last summer, Lathrope even completed her first Spartan race and participated in her gym’s challenge of running 100 km in the month of August. Most recently, she ran a 10k road race.
“I don’t even feel like the same person anymore,” she said, and now attends group classes five days a week.
Lathrope is adamant she never would have had the success she has had without figuring out what she really wanted and why.
“When I started training with Rob, it was because I didn’t want to die. To be frank, I was a heart attack waiting to happen. But as I started to lose weight and get more fit, it helped me figure out what I really wanted. And what I really wanted was to be as fit and healthy as possible. I suddenly wanted that way more than I wanted to eat unhealthy food,” she explained.
This is her message to others looking to make lasting changes: “The first thing you have to do is figure out your why. What do you really want? And it will change over time, so you have to keep re-evaluating it,” she said.
Her next goal: To get her first pull-up.
“I admit, sometimes I get frustrated that I can’t do a pull-up yet, and then I have to remind myself, ‘Cheryl, be realistic. You have only been doing this for a year,’” Lathrope said.
She added: “I know I’ll get a pull-up one day. And I don’t feel like there’s a time limit on any of this anymore. I have given myself so much more time, and I’m just going to keep trying everything I can.”
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