liz ross-collier – anything is possible

liz_ross_collier

in this week’s edition of the sh*t-sorter files, we head across the tasman sea, to the land of the long white cloud and the short distorted vowels… not surprisingly, i met this lady online, via the facebook running community. as you might expect by now, this is the tale of an ordinary woman, making extraordinary life changes, and loving it!

so just to get things off to a flying start, can you tell everyone your name, where you’re from and what you do!

hi, my name is Liz Ross-Collier, i’m from Auckland in New Zealand and i’m a teacher – currently working at a local High School.

excellent – thanks for that – so let’s get straight into things – can you tell us a bit about your background?

I am 49 years old. I started life as a normal, healthy happy kid, growing up in the suburbs. When I reached my teenage years though, something changed.

I began to eat all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons and by the end of my twenties, I had a weight problem. Since then I have always struggled with my weight.

As far as weight programmes go, I have tried them all. Exercise (the ‘e’ word) was a dirty word as far as I was concerned and life was a succession of tried and failed ‘diets’ where I had lost weight, quit the diet and then piled it all back on again, and then some.

More recently, at the beginning of 2012, I had reached my heaviest weight ever, I was on medication for high blood pressure, I didn’t fit properly in airline seats, my doctor was concerned about my risk of diabetes and I only shopped in plus size stores.

I was as unhappy as a person can be and blamed the rest of the world for all my problems!

that’s an all-too-familiar storyline isn’t it? it seems once you cross a line, it’s hard to get back on track, and the endless “quick fix solutions” on the market rarely (if ever) help. but you DID do something about the situation, can you explain how that came about?

Last year I had a major change in my outlook on life. I think the universe may have shifted on its axis or something because I experienced a complete philosophical transformation. I had been through a major event in my life (left my job of 12 years) and with it, had experienced some major bouts of self-doubt and hopelessness.

So, after the universal disruption of significant proportion, I made a decision to lose the weight. I’d done it many times before; I could do it again. Only this time, I knew it had to be for life.

My daughter, who had recently lost 19 kilograms herself, inspired me, to download the “My Fitness Pal” app on my phone and started using it like it was a new-found religion. I also joined the gym.

My thinking had changed. My old ideas about weight loss and exercise became a long-distant painful lesson and I took everything I had learned over the years and started using it to fuel this new personal crusade to lose weight and get fit. The rest, as they say, is history.

that’s fantastic – it really is unbelievable how things line up for us once the mind is tuned into the necessary thought waves. if you had to narrow it down, what would you say is your motivation to keep these changes in your life?

My sources of motivation nowadays are varied, but initially, one key factor in making me want to make changes in my life was embarrassment. The fact that I felt self-conscious going for a swim or going for a walk up a hill with my family really played on my mind.

Changing rooms at the pools were a nightmare and I would absolutely panic if I ever saw a camera come out at a social event. I was living in a shadow, and, finally, one day last year, I decided that something had to give.

My motivation at first was a little misaligned and I compared myself to other people that I wanted to be like. Since then I have realised that this is also a way to set myself up to fail, and I have changed the way I think about that too.

These days the only person I compare myself to is the person I used to be. The only other person I ever compare myself to is the person I am yet to be. Once I was able to reconstruct all the misconceptions I had held dear to my heart for so long, I made the most exhilarating progress I had ever made in my entire life.

awesome. it’s a truth that can take a while to sink in. you really are not in competition with anyone else. it’s all about creating better versions of yourself. now, just digging back a little to where this started – what would you say was your “enough is enough” light bulb moment?

This is a tough one to pinpoint, but there was one specific moment that comes to mind that was pretty life changing. My husband and I were invited to go on a Pacific Cruise with a friend of ours that was turning 30.

During a shore visit to Vanuatu, as a birthday present surprise, we decided to buy him a helicopter tour of the island. We got two tickets, which meant that I was able to go along for a ride. When we arrived at the office to register for the tour, I was presented with a form where all passengers had to sign in and, as we were about to board a small helicopter, record our respective weight.

I was mortified. The thought of those other passengers (including my friend) seeing my weight written there was really upsetting for me. I felt physically sick at the time. The tour was awesome and I really enjoyed it, but it was a moment I will never forget. I realize now it was a catalyst for change, although I didn’t really know it at the time.

sometimes the universe just slaps us in the face with a reality stick doesn’t it? well, you certainly went on to make those changes – can you go into a bit of detail around what your goals were and are?

My original goal was to lose fifty kilos by the time I reached fifty years old.

It was my 50 by 50 dream.

I have lost fifty-six kilos now (123 pounds) … and I’m still 49 years old!

My goals now are about my new-found love, running, as well as toning up, building lean muscle and lifting weights. I am training to run in my first 5KM at the Hamilton Half Marathon in October, which I am hoping to do in half an hour.

impressive! you’ve smashed that weight loss goal, embraced running (something i can definitely relate to!) and i reckon that 5k time will be in the bag. can you describe how things have gone for you so far, how you have achieved that goal?

When I first started, at my heaviest, I could barely run for 50 meters. I feel like I’ve come a long way since then.

I’ve had lots of goals since I first started, and I think the key to achieving them all is my state-of-mind. I am an advocate for positive thinking and I don’t think I would have made it without some pretty hard work on changing the way I think. Each small goal that I reached became a personal victory and just motivated me more and more.

It really is just a matter of having clear goals and making small, steady steps toward them … like the saying goes “It is not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves”

yes – it’ all starts with the right mindset, and good things flow from that. however, things never run completely to plan do they? what would you say have been your biggest challenges on this journey to date?

My biggest challenge has also been my greatest joy … running. I had no idea that such a simple, “one foot in front of the other” activity could be so enriching to the mind, body and soul.

It is hard to describe but I know other people who run will understand exactly what I’m talking about.

It hasn’t been easy and I have had to do a lot of mental work to push myself a little bit harder, a little bit further and a little bit faster each time. I’ve had loads of problems with my knees and complaining hamstrings and there have been times where it has really hurt but every single second has been worth it.

I LOVE running!

good stuff. running has to be one of the best things out there. with all that you have achieved to date, what would you say has been your biggest achievement?

I would have to say that my biggest achievement would be running 5KM on the road. It is something that, once upon a time, I would have laughed at anyone suggesting that, one day, I would be able to do it.

Twelve months ago I never would have believed it, but there you go. Even though I know this was already true, it was at that point in time that I felt like I could honestly say “I am a runner”

we’ve covered a lot of ground about what you’ve achieved, how and why… but when you make  these kinds of changes to your life, they really can have huge impacts in areas you don’t even expect. what impacts have you seen in your life since starting down this path?

This is an awesome question. People that have known me for a long time often comment and say things like “it’s like you’re a whole different person”.

They are talking about the way I look, but the truth is, the changes go much deeper than that. I am a different person, it’s true, but this is not just about weight loss.

I have changed the way I behave, the way I think, the way I interact with other people. I am so much more positive and I deal with stress differently now.

I focus on solutions instead of problems and I set goals all the time. I have said it before, and I will say it again … positive thinking has the power to change your life.

This is also something that is magnified by running. Success or failure depends completely on the way you think about it!

I have taken a lot of pleasure telling others about my journey and I sincerely hope it is helping motivate at least a small proportion of them. It brings me a lot of personal fulfillment and I’ve met some truly inspirational people.

The Facebook network never ceases to amaze and inspire me and I am honoured to be a part of it.

awesome – there is so much in there that I can relate to directly! making these changes can bring so many benefits, what would you say are the greatest benefits you’ve experienced?

I could write a book about this. I have dropped five dress sizes, I have lost almost one half of my original weight, I can run! I am happy, I am fit, and I am kinder, more thoughtful and way more positive …

not to mention the physical benefits. I no longer need my blood pressure tablets, I can fit size 10 jeans and did I mention?

I can run!

I could go on for a very long time about the benefits of my life changes, but for now, I will sum it up in one sentence:

The benefits are endless.

great answer – but if the benefits are endless, how about pitfalls and drawbacks – what would be your main ones on that reverse side of the coin?

Tough question. I guess the biggest pitfall for me is the risk of getting obsessed with my fitness / weight loss goals. There are times when it feels like an addiction! (I guess there are worse things to be addicted to!)

Another thing that I am aware of is when I meet people or socialize with friends, I find myself wanting to talk endlessly about my next goal, my last run, my latest PR … People seem genuinely interested in what I’ve achieved, but I know in reality they are probably just being polite.

I’ve also become a bit of a ‘preacher’ to others about healthy eating and exercise. These things have changed my life so much, it’s just hard not to want to talk about it! I find myself drawn to like-minded people more and they are an awesome bunch of people!

i’m trying not to laugh at that answer – it’s somewhat familiar! now this may seem a silly question, given the fact that you are gaining so much from the new lifestyle – but how do you stay motivated?

If I am to be really truthful here, one thing that keeps me motivated is my fear of going back to the way I was before.

There are so many, much more positive things that keep me motivated though … every time I look in the mirror now I am reminded why I should keep going. Something else that keeps me motivated is that I never stop setting new goals. There is never any doubt in my mind that I will achieve them, so it becomes a fun challenge.

Most importantly I stay motivated through the practice of positive thinking. This is who I am now; it is just the way it is … for life. There is no turning back.

finally then, if you were able to say one thing to people considering making a similar life change, what would it be?

I want to say: “Just do it” … but I know from experience that it’s not that simple.

My advice to you, then, is to say that, even if you think you can’t do it, even if you’re worried that it will take a long time, if you have self-doubt, or fears or worries about not succeeding, just know that you are more than capable of achieving any dream that you can dream.

Anything is possible and I am living proof of that.

All you have to do is take that tiny one step in the right direction and believe that you can do it. Once you have made the decision to change your life, then you just need to decide how.

Set those goals and go for it.

that’s a perfect way to finish, thankyou Liz, and thanks for giving your time to do this.

all the NMMFG minions out there who want to find out more about Liz’s story, to connect and so on, simply head over to one or both of the following:

Facebook page: Anything is Possible (https://www.facebook.com/liz.ross.collier.aip)

Blog: Anything is Possible (http://anything1sp0ssible.blogspot.co.nz)

You can also connect with Liz via My Fitness Pal – http://www.myfitnesspal.com/lizrosscollier

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