In Need of a New Garden
When I sat down with Lori DeMarco behind the gym in the back alley where the ghosts of lunges past roam the Earth, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. On the outside, Lori is a vivacious woman who wears her heart on her sleeve and is as kooky as the Caribbean sand is hot (in the most endearing way possible of course). I’ve come to get to know this 51 year old 5 feet 10 inches tall stick of dynamite quite well over the last 6 months, and was really looking forward to the story I was going to hear.
“Awesome! How’d that go?” I replied… and we were off!Lori’s parents, who were both “beautiful people,” had instilled confidence in both of their daughters yet strayed from encouragement in the athletics department. Even though both Lori and her sister inherited the family height, the push to be active was reserved for the two brothers Lori also had. Luckily the aforementioned confidence her parents DID help her out with made being a tall, heavy set kid a little more bearable than those cards typical pan out to be. She wasn’t exactly running for school president, but bullying never really snaked its way into Lori’s childhood. This led me to ask “so being teased and bullied doesn’t seem to be a factor growing up… Were you aware you were a tall and heavy kid who wasn’t really that athletic?” Her answer was one that is sure to make a WHOLE LOT of you say “I hear that… I know how you feel!” creep into your brain…
After High School, Lori met somebody with a similar mindset. A heavy set individual who had similar limitations due to his size. Misery loves company, right? Let’s see, we’ve got one cliche… All we need is one more stereotypical ingredient to make this truly combustible… Oh, I’ve got it! Ignorance is bliss! You take a pinch of “misery loves company” and add a dash of “ignorance is bliss” and the final product is a big one!About 100 pounds bigger.
Lori had managed to slowly but surely rack up over 100 pounds over the course of 20 years. Lori had managed to “pretend” being active for so long that she didn’t realize it was becoming harder and harder to “pretend” as she went along. She had convinced herself that as long as she was active and busy, helping out with kids, running errands, keeping up with hobbies and a plethora of other “I’m all over the place!!” activities, she’d be ok. She even joined Team in Training, a group dedicated to training for all different sorts of marathons! How’d her experience go with that? She trained rigorously for 10 months culminating in walking a half marathon… Without getting rid of one bad habit or shedding a single pound. None of this could cover up anymore the fact that Lori actually had a REAL problem on her hands…
“There is nothing more degrading then stepping on a scale and being called an ‘error.’ AN ‘ERROR?!?!’ I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but nothing has ever stung as much as being call an error!!”Unfortunately, Lori’s sister was gaining weight at the same rapid pace. It took Lori’s sister wanting to lose HER weight for the competitive “I’m not gonna let her be the skinny one!” sisterly mentality to kick in to shed light on the truth of the situation… This was more than just a competitive sisterly debacle… This was real life. Real life had Lori pegged as an “error.” Her sister was also experiencing the abbreviation “ERR” whenever she stepped on the scale and decided Gastric Bypass surgery was her ticket out. Lori said “if she’s gonna do it, I’m gonna do it!”
Alcohol. An immediate answer with immediate success. Why think about it? Lori found she was able to put herself in an alcohol filled haze and lift any worry about the weight she was at and how bad she felt. She could drink it whenever, for however long, however much she liked. It was like self prescription only way easier than going to any Doctor! It seemed like whenever Lori had a problem in life, the answer wasn’t too far behind. Only problem was, Lori didn’t always choose the right answers…Then, all of a sudden, within one moment…. alcohol was no longer an option. Lori had found herself medicating herself a little too much one day before an important family event. Sparing details, it left her facing an incident that upon coming down from her haze she had a difficult decision to make; Is this really the person I want to be or am I capable of better? With the thought of embarrassing herself further through a dependency on spirits that took its namesake from her being expelled as an option, Lori took action.
“Just my friggin’ luck!” she thought as she now started to re-evaluate her decisions and what was going on. First, she realized that she took the “eating for weight gain” a little bit too far and that was the first thing to be reigned in. Next, she evaluated her boot camp… After being honest with herself, she realized she wasn’t getting that much out of it anymore. The class structure hadn’t changed too much and it lost the motivation of being shiny and new. She now felt more like a sheep walking into a barn. No one talked with one another, everyone went to the same spot every time, no one encouraged one another, and when class was over everyone went their separate ways. It was like they were actively trying NOT to come into contact with one another.So, Lori decided to shake up her environment and join a NEW gym! There was a tiny gym near her house that she’d always been curious about… What better time than now? So, she brought herself on over to this little gym down the street, and found herself signing up for a trial membership. While there, she happened to be walking by this gym’s aerobic room as a boot camp was about to start. “Rebels” they called themselves. The enthusiastic trainer who happened to be buzzing about and greeting people before class caught her lingering for a moment and stopped abruptly. “Wanna join?” he asked. “Um, I’m just checking the place out, thank you though!” Lori said (she later admitted she was freaked she wouldn’t be able to hang and was prepared to give ANY excuse as long as she could walk away). “Well, what else are you doing?” he queried with a sly smile. “Damnit, I don’t really have an answer to that…” Lori thought as she scanned the room for any excuse to get out of it. Then, she saw a gentlemen who looked to be in the same age bracket as she was. Faced with a circus-like trainer who wouldn’t take no for an answer with no good excuse to give as it was, she decided that if this guy who looks to be her age can do it, then so can she!
At this point in the interview I said “Who was it that you saw?” to which she dryly responded “Art.”
By now, if you haven’t figured it out, I’m the enthusiastic trainer she saw. A little back story on Art… When I met Art he was barely able to hold a 10 second plank without trembling like a paint shaking machine, he was about 50 lbs over weight, and had the blood pressure of a power lifter on the Atkins diet (meaning BAD… REAL BAD). At the point where Lori had seen him however, he had shed 50 lbs, regulated his blood pressure, and held the record for longest plank at 12 minutes for the 10 week string of boot camps she was witnessing. Art is a machine. He spawned one of my favorite phrases to rile my Rebels up with “HEART LIKE ART!” He realized he was his own last line of defense and he took charge of his life like a newborn mother lifting a car off her own child. He was notorious for wiping the floor with the most fit participants through sheer heart and willpower alone. While everyone would be dying in between exercises, he would force himself to do a wall sit. He is the first one to encourage you and the last one to leaving you hanging when you look like you need a hug. Whenever we’d have 10 seconds remaining during a particularly tough exercise, his cry of “YOU CAN DO ANYTHING FOR 10 SECONDS!!!” became legendary. THIS is the man she saw that day that made her think “if he can do it, so can I!”
Thank our lucky stars this turn of events happened, because without it we wouldn’t have “float like a butterfly, sting like LORI!” We wouldn’t have one of the most iconic images I’ve ever seen of someone pushing through every adversity via a one arm plank photo. We wouldn’t have Lori’s encouraging voice ring through every boot camp “COME ON REBELS, WE’VE GOT THIS!” when it gets tough. We simply wouldn’t have Lori!
Well, Lori joined boot camp that day, and it all finally clicked. Lori had grown accustomed to being three different individuals, and she had finally landed on the perfect one for her… She had lived the life of the miserable wife by topping out at 327 lbs. She had lost exactly HALF her body weight only to find that there IS such a thing as too skinny… Well now, after overshooting her goal weight of 200 lbs by a not-so-meager 25 big ones, she is now at her goal weight. She is happily married with a wonderfully supportive husband. She has a band of Rebels she can proudly say she knows all the names of when she goes to boot camp. No longer in her own bubble being made to keep to herself, she is thriving in a group of people who wants what she wants… To be happier. To live healthier. To embrace the journey rather than condemning it. She is strong. She has a handle on the scale and realizes there IS such a thing as “too skinny” when you feel your only validation as a person is how many pounds that scale says you’ve dropped. She’s realized that running away from problems in a haze only causes those very problems to balloon to suffocating proportions. Lori doesn’t do it for the scale or validation of others anymore. She doesn’t “pretend” to be active… She is. She doesn’t live in a haze anymore, she sees things crystal clear now. She’s run (RUN) a 3k and a 5k. Next up… a 10k. She is doing exercises with her own body weight! If she had to do that Presidential fitness test all over again, she’d be a top ranker. The air is easier to breathe and the sun couldn’t shine brighter…
As the sun begins to set, Lori and I realize that 2 hours have passed and it’s about time to mosey on over to our homes for a little late dinner. As we get up and stretch our legs, I reflect on the alley we did the interview in. The one with the “Ghosts of lunges past” roaming the Earth. It was here where Lori said it all came together… On her first “official” boot camp, I had her whole team of Rebels lunge down the alley and back 3 times, which is equivalent to about 250 yards. She said she was positive she was going to be broken that day. When she not only survived, but had people encourage her BY NAME on her first boot camp, even coming up behind her and finishing her laps of lunges out with her, she knew… She knew that if you plant a positive seed, you get a positive flower.
Lori had carried this positive seed around her entire life, she just needed the right garden to plant it in. Well, she found her garden. Can you dig it?