Make Your Own Happiness

Felice Before

Felice (right) in 2010, before her doctor casually mentioned she was steadily gaining 5lbs each year

Felice Davis is a 39 year-old full-time managing director of a successful art gallery/corporate art dealer, mother of three, and Girl Scout leader who decided she needed to make a change after her doctor casually pointed out she’d been consistently gaining 5lbs each year. She tells her story here.

In her teens and twenties, Felice (left) didn't see a need to work out

Until recently, Felice (left) had never seen a reason to work out

There were a few things that came together all at once for me. It was about two years ago. I was having a very difficult time fitting into my clothes. Size “medium” was no longer an option, but if I had to be honest, I can’t remember when a size medium ever fit. I needed new jeans and had no intention of buying a size 12. I was getting older but hadn’t changed my eating habits. The bigger issue in my mind was, I never really worked out. At an annual exam, my doctor noted I had been gaining five pounds every year for the past few years. He casually said I should stop doing that. My health insurance just instituted a health vitality program at work, and I’m a sucker for competition and earning points. Additionally, my sisters had been posting races and runs on Facebook and I saw this as a good opportunity to have something in common with them. Being the oldest of six siblings, with the youngest 16 years my junior, it can be difficult to find things in common at times.

I wanted to lose weight, but just as much, I wanted to be fit. I thought I could accomplish both by running. It was April in Chicago, but I [made a commitment] to myself I would run at least twice a week for at least 3 miles. It helped that the vitality program tracked this for me, and I earned points for achieving goals. I have three motivators. The main one is my kids. It sounds cliche to say, but I want to be a good example to them. I want them to see how diet and exercise can make you strong, healthy, and happy. My husband is the exact opposite. He’s a chip-eating, pop-drinking guy who does not exercise*. He has extreme health issues, which I am sure are exacerbated by his diet and lack of exercise, so I view my example as doubly important.

At one of her first 5k's with her oldest son, Avery, and yours truly

Felice (right) after one of her first 5k races with her oldest son, Avery (center), and yours truly (left)

My second motivation came about a year and a half after my initial commitment to fitness. One of the moms in my neighborhood told me the posts I made on Facebook were inspiring her and have helped motivate her to start moving. She had lost a lot of weight through dieting, and wanted to add running to her life, but couldn’t even run a block without stopping. When I told her I couldn’t run a block without stopping for my FIRST THREE MONTHS, you could see this lightbulb go on in her head! She ran her first 5k the Sunday before Thanksgiving 2013, and it was seriously the COLDEST day of the year (Chicago will do that to you). I was really proud of her. I was going to stop my “annoying” workout posts, but because of her, I continue doing it. You never know how [your actions] positively affect other people.

Lastly, knowing I will be running 5k or 10K events with my sisters has been a huge source of motivation for me to stay on track. It’s fun to know we have events we can do together several times a year. I look forward to being with them. I have to be honest, it’s HARD to keep running outside in Chicago all winter, but I have been doing a pretty good job. Snow doesn’t stop me. Cold only stops me when it’s under 20 degrees. Two to three times a week, I have been posting my runs (through Nike+) on Facebook to make myself accountable to my commitment of running. In the spring, summer and fall, three times a week is my minimum.

We instituted a Family Fitness Tuesday at our house and encouraged all family members to participate. Some days it was all five of us. Some days just three. Many times just two. The little guy and I rarely missed a Tuesday. Making a mental change, where fitness is a regular part of our week, happened about a year after I started running just for myself. It was funny because neighbors even started looking for us at the track on Tuesday nights, going as far as including themselves in our fitness night or making mentions of seeing us on Facebook. What a great success!

The Davis crew enjoying fitness as a family

The Davis crew enjoying fitness as a family

On a personal level, I was really happy when I consistently started running an 11/min mile, which happened after consistently running for about 18 months. Initially, I was “running” a 14 or 15/min mile. I would set periodic goals for myself, like, “Starting today, I will run no slower than a 13/min mile.” Then, I seemed to hit a plateau running 12 min/miles. My new goal is the 10 min/mile, and I’m about halfway there. It is fun when my sister, Kyra, notices I ran fast on a particular night, but [I suspect] she’s the only one.

Felice was hesitant to start running 10k races, but smashed her own personal best by 7 minutes (right), only one month after completing her first 10k (left)

Felice was hesitant to start running 10k races, but smashed her time by 7 minutes (right, pictured with sister, Rebekah), only one month after completing her first 10k (left, pictured with sister, Danika)

After running VERY consistently for a year, I lost absolutely no weight. Not even a pound. It was very disappointing and demotivating. I told myself I was far more fit than when I started, and I was probably replacing fat with muscle; but I was still a little crushed. Just before summer started, I decided to do the one thing I never thought I would do–I began counting calories. When I first started, I didn’t set my daily allowance to 1,500. I knew I would not be able to cut that many calories out of my day. I started out by seeing what a 2,000 calorie day would feel like. Then, I decided how long I wanted it to take to achieve my weight loss goal according to the [MyFitnessPal] app. I reduced my daily allowance to 1,700 calories per day, knowing I could earn more back by exercising. Six months later, I have taught myself to better control portions, make good choices when eating out, and have lost about 20 pounds towards my 25 lb weight loss goal.

I do my very best not to compare myself to other people. Achieving my own goals makes me feel successful. It was nice this summer when friends and family mentioned how great I looked, after working hard for about a year and a half. At that point, I had lost about 15 lbs. I was THRILLED about the way I looked at my 25 year grammar school reunion in November. I hosted it in my gallery space and was very confidently able to wear cropped skinny pants. I felt great finally being able to buy a pair of size 8 pants. Not a fake size 8 from LOFT, but a real size 8.

Felice (center) with her classmates at their 25 year 8th grade reunion

Felice (center) in her skinny pants with former classmates at their 25 year 8th grade reunion

It is extremely hard at times to be balanced when you work full-time, are a wife and mother, lead three levels of Girl Scouts, etc, etc, etc. But the way I see it, living a healthful life is the one thing I do for myself. It means I wake up early on Saturdays or Sundays (or both) before the kids get up. It means watching less television. It means getting into gym shoes after a long day at work on a Tuesday night and having Family Fitness Night. It makes me feel happy and balanced when I have my endorphin high from my run so really it’s not something I have such a hard time balancing. It’s just what needs to be done!

I spent my entire adult life not being physically fit and am so glad I made a change. I feel good. I look good. And I have made my own happiness.

Felice's first step toward making her own happiness

Felice’s first step toward making her own happiness

* Note: Mr. Davis has recently joined a gym and I [have] accompanied him there once. I am hoping he continues to go.

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