Ever wonder what it takes to make the change to a healthy lifestyle? Read on as erotic romance author Mahalia Levey shares her story – you’ll be glad you did, and don’t miss the knock-out photos chronicling the change she’s made!
Welcome, Mahalia, and thanks so much for joining us to talk about staying sexy and healthy. As you know, hubs and I write an occasional column, Stay Sexy, focused on keeping vibrant, healthy, excited and sexy across the life cycle. Both of us have faced some health challenges, and we’ve thrown ourselves into learning and doing whatever’s in our power to maximize our health and our future.
Over the last year we’ve noticed other authors posting about weight loss, diet issues, workouts and health challenges, so we decided it would be great to involve you and others like you in the conversation and give our readers a chance to benefit from what you’ve learned.
Adriana: So my first question is, what are the health-related changes you’ve been focused on recently – what are your goals?
Mahalia: I’ve been focused on eating cleaner, smarter, and exercising daily. I can still eat a variety of foods, just not all the junk that’s available
Adriana: Sounds like a plan J What prompted you to begin making this change?
Mahalia: In 2013, I was at an event and it seemed like everyone I saw was overweight. You hear about how America is the only place you can get food 24/7 everywhere, and how we are the largest obese country in the world. The statistics continue to rise exponentially; it forced me to take a hard look at myself.
With SVT, supraventricular tachycardia, my heart sometimes just races out of nowhere. It’s a common heart arrhythmia that can be maintained by some without medication. If you do the exercises the doctors advise, like bearing down, or plunging your face into ice-cold water, a way to jolt the heart into rerouting the pulse.
What happens is the pulse finds an extra pathway and you end up skipping a beat, the body doesn’t realize at first then tries to compensate, and a person gets dizzy, short of breath and clammy, almost like a panic attack. Mine last about four minutes, before medication I bounced in and out for about a half hour. Once the event is over exhaustion kicks in. The adrenaline rush is down causing a crashing syndrome of lethargy. If the exercises don’t work then the cardiologist will have a pt wear a holter monitor for a month to see if medication is warranted. I’m on a low dose of metoprolol.
With my SVT, the exercise I was doing and eating wasn’t helping. I still gained about 5 pounds a month or retained a steady weight. I thought this will be me soon. I’m behind a desk all day, then at home writing, editing, promoting and marketing. I needed a change before my health declined worse.
Me at 5K Susan Komen walk, August, 2013
I’d tried diet fads, all including exercising and nothing worked for me. So for the next year I began looking into having surgery done. A year later I had it planned. My insurance copay that year was high around October when I was thinking of doing the surgery. In January my insurance company matched copays, which left me with minimal out of pocket expense. I was lucky. Through BCBS they paid 90% of the surgery, my copay was 2,000 but with all of the doctor visits for me, the kids, etc, that copay was complete, then my company matched 2,000. You want to plan so you’re not financially crippled. (If you do the math, less eating out, eating healthy, you’d be amazed at how much money is saved in a given time period.)I needed six weeks of notice for my supervisor to have coverage for my job position and had my surgery in March.
Before I had surgery when I was researching. I went to a six hour seminar, after that I met with my surgeon the first time and told him I wanted the sleeve. I had a friend whose mother had stomach cancer and lived to her mid 80s with almost no stomach. I didn’t want a port placed in my ribs for needle injection for saline for the lap band. I said if I don’t need it just take it out.
After that I met with the Psychologist had to do a battery of tests before signing off on allowing it.
Two days after surgery
I met with the Nutritionist and went over the book we were given with pre and post op instructions, food and beverage consumption, complications etc…
Then I met with the Surgeon again and gave them the clearance from my general physician and cardiologist. We planned the surgery after that.
Adriana: That’s an impressive journey – careful thought, research, professional consultation, and most important, commitment. Good for you! Is there a particular person or event that serves as inspiration and motivation for you?
Two weeks after surgery
Mahalia: No. I motivated me. I was tired of feeling exhausted, not having energy to do simple things. Hated the doom factor and high anxiety related to my heaviness and SVT problems. For instance each year I go on a float trip with ten friends. The last two years, swimming in the river, I always felt like I was going to drown, I was so heavy I couldn’t keep myself afloat as well and I got tired easy. Coming from me, a virtual fish in another life, it made me sad. I also couldn’t do little things like, paint my toes, tie my shoes, the fat got in the way and made it difficult to breathe when bending over. I also showered twice a day. I need to mention that another common problem with too much fat is incontinence, not complete wetting but leaks, with fat weighing on the bladder sometimes movement, or laughing can cause it and at the wrong place could be very embarrassing. With all the extra fat, I sweated like crazy everywhere and never felt clean, even with baby powder in all places. I found my body didn’t carry that weight well and I needed a drastic change if I wanted to live long enough to see grandkids and be able to care for them, play with them in the future.
Adriana: I love that, “I motivated me.” In the end, I think that’s the only place it can come from. What about these changes has been most difficult for you?
Mahalia: So far, family. No one else in my house wants to change his or her eating habits. I do not fry food for anyone anymore. I make them do their own since that’s not something I will do. Eating out. There isn’t much I can have out to eat yet, so we rarely go or if they want to I stay home and eat what I want.
I am pretty much low or sugar free – what that means is my immune system is improved, my energy level is great and maintains and my body doesn’t have the toxins in it sugar gives off. I use truvia or splenda for substitutes and that works well.
Adriana: I love your solution with your family. It’s easier at our house – there are just the two of us (kids grown and gone), and hubs and I have the same goals. I am so with you on the sugar issue! I’ve been refined-sugar free for a decade now, and it’s made an incredible difference. It directly compromises our immune system, and refined sugar is more implicated in heart disease than fat, it turns out. When you bump up against a hurdle, what are your most tried and true tactics for overcoming it? What works for you?
Mahalia: I haven’t come across any hurdles yet. After I had surgery it was pretty rough for a few days, couldn’t move much or dress myself, shower, had to have help getting in and out of our huge bed. After that just playing with what I could have at that time period and making sure I chewed. I learned fast if something bothered my stomach I’d vomit it back up so it wasn’t too difficult, just a bit gross to navigate what to eat or not to eat.
I do have to remind myself to eat since I don’t have the hunger hormone any longer. Sometimes I forget to take all three of my vitamins and don’t take in enough fluids. I have a four ounce stomach. I can’t drink 30 prior or after eating. I have to consume 40-50 oz of fluids a day. So it can be tricky at times. There are nights where I’m trying to down 20 oz of water a few hours before bed.
Now I keep a water bottle in my purse, on my nightstand and in the bathroom to remind myself to drink. When I work out I drink a lot since I sweat a lot!
Adriana: So it truly has been a life-altering, habit-changing experience for you. What do you find most rewarding so far?
Three months post surgery
Mahalia: It’s been a little over 3 months and I’ve lost 60 pounds. I forgot how much I used to enjoy the gym and exercising. I go four or five days a week, and do 2 miles on the Arc trainer, 12 min abs and the 30min strength and toning express workout. So I am at the gym about 1 hr and 45 minutes each day I go. I can’t really see the drastic change. My face is thinner, my body is loosing inches all over, its gradual, but it’s mainly what I feel. I am feeling pretty fantastic. I eat what I should, that doesn’t mean I don’t have treats. I have blue bunny’s sweet freedom icecream bars, sundae cones for fun. I can paint my toes!
Adriana: in a way you’ve already started to answer this one – sometimes we start out with one purpose and goal, and as we get going, we find that the changes we’re making spill over into other areas of our lives, hopefully in a good way. Has anything like that been happening for you?
Mahalia: I think my fiancé Mr Hales sees me smile more. I want to make this clear. Surgery was never part of making myself feel pretty, not an issue with self confidence or lack of self esteem, it was a health related choice for me.
Because I feel better physically, I am happier, I smile more, joke more, the abundance of energy I have feels good and makes me less crabby
Adriana: That’s some wonderful positive spillover. What has been the reaction of other people you’re close to? (family, friends; support? Any undermining?)
Mahalia: Before the surgery people were like you’re going to what? Don’t do that, there are other ways. Or my unfavorite comment was you know this is not a cure all you’ll have to change your lifestyle. I hated that one the most. I’m in the health field and was surrounded by Debby Downers or people. I also heard you’ll never drink alcohol again. I take a beta blocker so I rarely drink. I have SVT can’t have caffeine, including chocolate and most soda, so those weren’t things I had to work on.
Post Surgery- A lot of praise, and I keep getting it because they see the difference in the pics I post. I have a handful of friends in our writing community, fellow authors who have had bariatric surgery and are always around to talk to me and offer advise or questions on foods or exercise, or just to chat and see how they’re doing. I am not alone. I do have a ton of support, but even if I had no support, I’d do it myself because in the end it boils down to who I need me to be, not any other individual.
You know, as you and I were chatting the other day, you also talked about the risks of sedentary occupations, like our writing. Could you say more about that?
Sure. For a majority of my young life I had a very physical job. I was an exotic dancer at least four nights a week. I was fit and extremely healthy. Pole work is not easy and it isolates so many different muscle groups, along with dancing for others. I transitioned into a regular nine to five about nine years later and found out if I wanted to stay fit, I had to work out twice as hard by going to the gym or running.
From there I moved back home years later, finished college and worked three 12 hour shifts a week as a Respiratory therapist, still on the go and active. Somewhere along the line, I quit working out, no big deal I was super active at work. Then came downsizing, and moving to part time. Without that exercise I gained weight. Then came layoffs and I spent two years unemployed, in sweats, and didn’t go to the gym. I think I gained forty pounds in three or four years due to inactivity. I spent my days writing, editing, proofing, at times I think I was in pj’s all day, it’s easy as a writer to forget about the outside world and become so enmeshed with what we’re doing that we slowly start on the train to kill ourselves with lack of exercise, bad snacking habits, horrible eating habits and we don’t see it coming until we look in the mirror and notice we’ve gone up ten sizes. Below is a link I found about sitting being fatal, not just in the writing community but in any occupation.
At my previous job, I walked during breaks and during lunch, made sure to get up and take the long route to the ice machine and not the short cut to get my blood moving.
Sitting is Fatal
Health Hazards of Sitting
Adriana: Have you written a character who faces any of these same issues? Tell us about him or her.
Mahalia: I actually have a few curvy women books but I’ve not done one yet with this experience.
Rhapsody is a hotflash and the novella that started the Kiss Me Rock Series. Neveah is a plus size woman who is the girlfriend of a lead singer She and Garrick have some great chemistry. I’m working on their full-length novel now, little spoiler…pregnant with twins she has enormous body issues and insecurity, esp when he’s on tour with all the hotties. You’ll have to wait and see if her insecurities will rip them to shreds or if they’ll work it out together.
Neveah Harris finally has her chance. Two albums in a row she’s worked with Crimson Rage’s vocalist/lead guitarist. From his perfectly styled hair to the faded jeans and tee’s he sports, she’s quickly becoming groupie fan number one.The only problem is, he doesn’t notice her dropped jaw every-time he enters the same room. Her age and weight are issues she must face in order to drum up enough courage to get his number.
Wade ‘Garrick’ Stevens is psyched to work on the newest cover for his band mates. They have a vision that only one sexy graphic artist can bring to life. The last two sold goldmines thanks to her brilliance. Underneath her professional front he senses she may be into just more than a working environment, which is just fine with him.
Years younger than her, he plans to convince her on one date. He’s sure sparks will ignite.
Adriana: What advice or tips would you like to pass on to our wonderful readers?
Mahalia: I think my biggest advice is not to let others deter you from making a change you may want. No one knows what’s going on in your body better than you do yourself. Research, research procedures, doctors, all avenues of options that may best help you, surgery related or not.
Know that just because you may change your lifestyle in your house, doesn’t mean that your husband, or sig O, kids will do the same. Be confident and strict on what you feel. Don’t get roped into cooking unhealthy for others. They should have enough respect not to ask you to cook what you can’t have, whether you have surgery or choose another option.
Don’t fall for the gimmicks on radio or tv boasting about weight-loss without a lifestyle change, including healthy eating and exercise. You have to do both for a significant change to occur.
Make time to work out everyday for at least 45 minutes. Even if it’s just walking. For me since I’m losing rapid weight, I do strength toning and cardio. I belong to Planet Fitness and do some weights, then to get my heart rate up I do the arc trainer for 25 minutes so that I can do the 30 min power cardio/strength toning routine. (I take a beta blocker so before I can do a hard core workout I have to get my heart rate up and pumping which is why I do the arc trainer for a mile or mile and a half so that I’m sweating buckets) Keep in mind that when you exercise you diminish the possibility of having anxiety attacks, if you’re prone to them ask your doctor if working out more can help reduce them.
Because of my racy heart, I can’t tell by my heart rate or the heart rate chart, so I sing to myself with my Ipod workout playlist. I can tell how well I’m getting a work out by how well I can sing (or talk.)
If you don’t take a beta blocker you can just jump into a power workout like the 30 min one at Planet Fitness.
Workout Link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcW_-VSXiNk
Adriana: That’s a brilliant solution to gauging your cardio level. Sing your heart out! So many important lessons in your advice. Staying healthy is hard work – but the payoff is almost miraculous.
Mahalia Levey on the Web:
Facebook fan page
Amazon author page
www.irmcbooks.com for IR/MC readers and authors