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The journey from overweight to marathoner
By Linda Castor

When Kimee Armour hears people complaining about how difficult it is to lose weight, she immediately pulls out a picture of herself and shows them what she used to look like.

After the initial shock leaves their faces, she explains that losing weight is a lifestyle change - not just dieting - and the journey is actually quite easy if they just make time for themselves. "A lot of people want to see immediate weight loss," she says. "I wanted the same, but it just doesn't happen that way."   

As a registered nurse at St. John's Hospital and adjunct professor of nursing at Lincoln Land Community College, Kimee, 40, knows more than the average professional about health issues related to obesity. She has tipped the scales at more than 300 pounds on three separate occasions in her life.

"I seemed to lose weight when I needed and then gained it all back," she recalls. "I tried all the diets and things that were supposed to help you lose weight, but the pounds still kept creeping back up on me."

She remembers a very bittersweet chapter in her life when she was pregnant with her youngest child. "I got on the scale, and my weight had soared to a whopping 315 pounds. I opted to not get on the scale again until six months after I gave birth, and that was not a pretty sight, either." Through hard work, determination and lifestyle changes, Kimee has lost more than 150 pounds and continues her journey toward wellness.  

Kimee readily shares her newfound philosophy about getting into shape with anyone who wonders how she did it. "Do you have 10 minutes in the morning before you go to work?" she asks them. Those brave enough to admit that they do have some extra time are told to go for a brisk walk during that 10 minutes.

"Or," she continues, "you can play the 'fat and skinny' game: you push out your stomach like you were really full, hold it there, then suck it in and hold it there." Kimee used to play this game as a child, not realizing that it was actually a pretty good core workout.

"I tell people it really only takes a small amount of time," she says. "Maybe 10 minutes, three times a day. Once you start feeling better about yourself, you automatically find time to do extra things, like going to the park for a walk."  

Kimee did more than walk during her weight-loss journey. In 2008, she signed up for Abe's Army, a group that trains runners to complete the Abe's Amble 10K, and was placed in a moderately fast-paced running group. Some people questioned how she even qualified, but with attitude and fortitude, Kimee kept up with her group, carrying her 175-pound body along with her 125-pound counterparts.

Kimee has since inspired several runners in the community with her love for life and zest for adventure. She is known to take the hand of a fellow runner as they both struggle up a hill. She has purposely lagged behind in a race so the last runner or walker didn't cross the finish line alone. "They inspire me," she admits. Kimee recently ran 11 miles by herself and stopped to pick a flower for one of her running friends, she says, "because I could."

That inspiration led her to the challenge of doing something she never thought imaginable: a marathon. Everyone, including her running friends, cautioned her to train properly and not be so ambitious. But they forgot one thing about Kimee: Never tell her what she cannot do, because she will prove you wrong every time. So, she ran her first marathon in May - the Illinois Marathon in Champaign-Urbana.

Kimee recalls how pure ambition and steely determination helped her overcome several obstacles to finish the race.

"In 2008, one of my patients fell on top of me and injured my back. I had to have surgery, and the surgeon told me that I would never (and should never) be able to run again. At that time, I had to change my thought process and try to prove my surgeon wrong. I told him that I could run and stay injury-free while practicing safe running techniques."

While running in the Illinois Marathon, Kimee experienced what most runners call "the wall." This is when the body indicates that it can go no farther, so the mind kicks in to push it just a little more.

"I cried from miles 22 to 25 and was mad that no one could see me cry, since I had no tears left. It is so funny to think about it now, but I was quite upset then."  Wearing a pair of running socks her students decorated and signed with words of encouragement, she persevered and ran across the finish line.

"My feet were still rainbow-dyed four days later from all the permanent, multi-colored markers they used," she remembers.

While Kimee has achieved her goals in extraordinary ways, she still believes that focusing on the simple things in life creates the greatest changes within.

"So many people look at exercise as too much work. I look at it as something enjoyable. If I have fun, then I will surely go back for more."

She pauses for a moment to emphasize an important point. "And you don't have to be a runner. Find out what you love to do and go for it. Stop and smell the flowers."

She reminds us that many changes are small and don't take much effort. "Sometimes it is just eating ice cream out of a coffee mug instead of the entire container (which was always my favorite). You never know how much sugar-free ice cream you can cram into a coffee mug until you try!"

Two weeks from running her second marathon, Kimee is no stranger to fear and pain.  Yet, she is exuberant about her upcoming race. "I signed up for the Chicago Marathon because it was close to home, and many of the Biggest Losers (from the television show) have participated in this race. They are one of my sources of inspiration," she says. "I jokingly tell my husband, if the Biggest Losers can run a marathon, then so can I!"

Kimee recalls some of the more daunting moments during her first marathon.

"I watched people drop on the side of the road. Paramedics were putting IV fluids in people lying on the grass and taking people out on backboards. I said to myself, 'I will finish what I came to do!' And that is exactly what I did. I finished with my head held high, tears streaming down my face and absolutely in awe of what I had accomplished. Now, I am ready to run Chicago." 

Linda Castor, RN, LCPC, is a nurse and psychotherapist at Clocktower Therapy Center who treats eating disorders and other mental health issues. Castor can be reached at www.LindaCastor.com


Story published Friday, November 5, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 6 )

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