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    Posted October 31, 2012 by
    Tupelo, Mississippi
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    CNN Fit Nation: 2013 Triathlon Challenge

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    Gotta Get My Swag Back!


    My name is Lee Anne Grace. I am 48 years old, the mother of two amazing daughters and an elementary music teacher. I live in Tupelo, MS.


    I have overcome much adversity in my life. When I was growing up, my family moved a lot. I was painfully shy and was  frequently  a target of bullying.  I also was a victim of childhood molestation.  As a child,  I didn't have the knowledge or skills to deflect or process the feelings of shame that I felt, so  I started stuffing my feelings down with food to escape.


    By high school I was known as that fat kid. I was the frequent target of jokes. My nickname was "Wide Load."  I laughed  with others when they laughed, then cried when I was alone.

    After graduating from college, I  married the first person who asked me out, and stayed in the marriage for a tumultuous 15 years. I continued to stuff down my feelings of shame and unworthiness down with food. My weight hit a high of 297 pounds.


    After my marriage ended, I realized my health was very bad because of my weight, and if I wasn’t around to raise my daughters, they would be alone. I had lost my mother to breast cancer and my father due to a heart attack from being morbidly obese.  I didn't want the same for them.


    I overhauled my eating and nutrition. Determined to change my life. I gradually lost 166 pounds. I went being breathless walking to the mailbox to  running. I had a host of other health problems that disappeared once I made the commitment to get my weight within a healthy range.


    I’ve kept most of the weight off for about 5 years.


    I am very, very passionate about cheering on others who are trying to make changes to live healthier lives. I truly believe this is where my calling is.


    I write a health and fitness column for our newspaper, sharing my experiences and life stories about good nutrition and exercise.


    I teach music at an elementary school and try to lead by example for the students to make healthy choices. There are about 450 students  who would be absolutely thrilled to see their music teacher on the CNN Triathlon Team.


    Well- it’s confession time- I need a kick in the seat of my pants right now to get back on track. I was sidelined  by a calf muscle injury earlier this year. That, plus, an extremely stressful season of my life has resulted in me getting off track. My eating has gradually gotten lax, and routine exercise is no longer the priority it once was. I now need to lose about 15-25 pounds to be at my healthiest weight.


    Truthfully, some days I'm really scared that I'm going to wake up one morning and the  300 lb me is going to be the one greeting me in the mirror.  I have got to get my act togther soon.


    I have had a unquenchable desire to compete in triathlons for several years now, but I’ve never had the opportunity to do so. Doing triathlons is one of my dreams.Sister Madonna Buder, the nun from Washington State that’s in her 80s and an Ironman triathlete, is my hero.


    It would be the perfect shot in the arm for me to get my swag back. I would be one of the team’s biggest encouragers!! I would be setting a good example for my students as well as the people of Tupelo and Missisippi. I don’t want this set back that I’ve experienced to be the swan song for my zeal for good nutrition and fitness. I want to push my body to see if I can really do a triathlon.


    I  want to get healthy and fit again  and be a team member for the face of  many different groups of Americans- those who need to lose a large  amount of weight and don't think its remotely possible, those who were  successful in becoming healthy, but have lost focus for one reason or  another and are feeling embarrassed and defeated; single parents just  trying to make ends meet; people who have experienced childhood trauma  (Your past does NOT define you!), people like me who were born with  close to zero athletic ability but  want to "Tri" to become  healthy despite the odds against them, and Mississippi residents who  have succumbed to the false belief that being from our state is an  automatic sentence for obesity.


    Please give me a chance, Dr. Gupta, to be on the 2013 Fit Nation team. I want to continue to change my life. I won’t let you down!

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