The Amazing Adventures of Jilanna – Part II

Today we continue my chat with the Amazing Jilanna and she spills the beans on her maintenance tactics. If you missed Part I you can check it out right here!

7. On New Years Day 2012 you ran a 5K race in honour of your late Uncle Brian and made me blub on the Up & Running with the tale of this big day. Can you summarise the story and what it meant to you?


Jilanna with her Uncle Brian, on her wedding day

My Uncle Brian died very suddenly at the end of July 2011. He had been the picture of health, retired from the military but still very active as a trainer and stuntman. One morning, he got up for a cup of tea and that was it.

We eventually learned that his heart was not as healthy as outward appearances had everyone believe, and that his fitness likely extended his life considerably. After the memorial, my sisters and I talked about what we could do to further celebrate his life. I knew it was time to commit to an exercise program and together we decided to run a 5K on January 1. Up & Running was already on my radar so I signed up for the Fall 5K course.

My previous experience with running was limited to merrily chasing my friends around the yard when I was little and loathing physical education classes throughout school. As an adult, I dreamed about running but I really couldn’t imagine that (a) it would ever be fun, or (b) I would feel good about it. I was convinced that I would be terrible, that I would never be able to run 5K, but I decided it would be good for me to try something new anyway.

For a long time, I thought Brian’s expectations around fitness were too high. He tried to push me outside my comfort zone and I thought he expected everyone else to be as fit as he was. Since changing my eating habits and my life overall, I can see that he was just trying to encourage us to be better tomorrow than we are today. I didn't have a chance to share this realization with him, nor was I really able to celebrate my changes with him in person. Running is / was another opportunity to push myself into uncomfortable territory and learn something new about myself. It’s also a chance to feel close to Brian.

On January 1, I ran 5K. The weather was cool, right around zero celcius and there was a crowd of about 400 runners. My husband saw me off and I started out with a former classmate. I soon found my pace, though, and got comfortable in the crowd. I was on my way down a hill when I spotted my Mum, sisters and nieces waiting at the bottom. They clapped and cheered and I waved and hollered as I ran by.

I felt a bit emotional at that point. The girls had elected not to do the run but they were there cheering for me! And so was Mum! And my nieces! I saw them all again after rounding the same loop and then, around the corner from the finish, I saw one of my sisters and one of my nieces on the sidewalk. I ran toward them, ready to give them a big high-five but they surprised me and jumped in to run the rest of the way with me.

My husband was waiting at the finish and so were the others. It was WONDERFUL to be there with all of them! Mum gave me a big hug and congratulated me on “the first of many!”. I’m sure Uncle Brian was there too.

It felt so good to have done something positive on January 1. Last year was incredibly difficult and I feel like I started this new year off right. There’s no telling what 2012 will bring but I made myself proud on the very first day! I know that my uncle would be proud of me too.

He would also be proud of my new Up & Running friends who encouraged me and did their own runs on January 1. I was blown away by the support I received from the group and I felt a bit teary each time I read that someone was out there, thinking of Uncle Brian and I as they actively celebrated the arrival of a new year.


Jilanna on New Year's Day

8. So what are your impressions of running so far? How does it make you feel – both mind and body?

Learning to run was just the challenge I needed. It helped me work through some serious grief for both Uncle Brian and one of my best friends. It reminded me that I can change my life for the better; it’s just a matter of doing the work, day by day, to make it happen. With the right support, I really can do anything. I now know that if I can change how I feel about myself and running, I can probably do anything.

Running helps me burn off excess energy and refocus if I’m feeling grumpy or stressed. It helps me feel strong and capable of change and improvement. It isn’t 100% natural yet but each time I exercise my will and actually go, or push myself to run a little farther, I feel awesome. I love feeling strong and capable.

I am connected with the women on the UAR forum and I feel a sense of solidarity with each person I see running around town. I know how good they feel and I am proud of them for getting out there. Fast or slow, getting out there and doing the work is what matters. And that little mantra keeps me connected with Uncle Brian too.

9. What’s next on your agenda?

I’ve signed up for the UAR 10K course. I love a project and a plan. I’ve been looking forward to spring and the course will help me get out there and take full advantage of the weather.The Fredericton Marathon is on May 13 – I plan to run the 10K distance that day, do my best and cheer for local runners.

Big picture, I want to make running a part of my life in the long term. I love what it does for my body and soul.

10. You’re very consistent with your exercise and have been successful at maintaining your goal weight. What things are essential to you staying on track? How do you keep your desire strong to eat healthy and move your butt?

Throughout my adventure, I have had great support at home and at work. My husband continues to cheer for me, encourages and celebrates every success with me, and continues to remind me when I need help focusing on my plan. He is my partner in this venture and has never complained about the ways it has changed his life too.

My family and friends have been outstanding, asking how they can help and listening to a whole lot of thinking aloud, providing healthy alternatives to my favourite snacks and helping me clean out my closet and learn to dress my new body. Colleagues still check in after every weigh-in, tracking my progress on my whiteboard and putting up with my stash of veggies in the freezer. Long distance and online buddies have also been great about checking in. I am grateful to each person who has cheered me on.

Here are a few of the things I do every day to make it easier to stay on track:

  • I keep at least one good snack in my purse at all times and my desk drawer is full of snacks, tea and cereal.I keep milk in the fridge and veggies in the freezer at work. I pack a lot of snacks when I travel. As long as I’m traveling within Canada, I carry fruit in my carry on and I pick up milk and a few other essentials as soon as I get to my destination.
  • I eat something healthy every couple of hours and try not to let myself get too hungry. It’s much easier to make good decisions when I’m not out of my mind with hunger.
  • I don’t worry about being perfect. I try to make the best choices I can and keep things in perspective. Today’s version of a bad day is still far and away better than a good day used to be.
  • At the end of every day, I write down what I’ve eaten and add a note about how I feel about my choices.If I’ve had a particularly good day, I give myself a little star or add a note like “More VEGS!” if I think I need to refocus the next day. If I’m traveling or go out to lunch with someone, I jot that down too.
  • I read about nutrition and healthy living almost every day, and I love to read stories about people who have overcome significant obstacles. When I feel discouraged, I remember their stories and carry on.

It’s not always easy but it is worth the effort to eat right and move a little more. I know I have improved the quality of my life and – as much as possible – I have added days to my life. If I keep it up, I will be a healthy mother someday and, in the meantime, I’m setting a good example for my nieces and others in my life. And that feels good.

11. Could you sum up your Healthy Living “Formula” in ten words or less?

Work hard every day to become a stronger, smarter, healthier you.

It’s worth it. I promise.

10 thoughts on “The Amazing Adventures of Jilanna – Part II

  1. Jilanna has me blubbing all over again today. Congrats on all you’ve achieved and will continue with this year. Here’s to a fab 10k course and race in May!

  2. I’ve already cried at your story and I’m teary again today! Well done Jilanna- you really do inspire me. Good luck with the 10k- I’ll be cheering you on in spirit. I know you’ll do really well. Lots of love, xx

  3. This is an excellent series, Shauna – you do a great job of these interviews. Thanks to you and of course Jilanna for a healthy dollop of inspiration – just what I needed right now!

  4. Thanks for sharing your story it made me tear up too. I find myself sitting here feeling overweight, achy and weak in my body. I wish i could find the strength to do something positive about it, i feel totally stuck in a rut of being heavy and sore. I have a small son which makes it even more important to do something about it. I hope a story like yours is in my future too.

  5. Inspiring stuff, well done Jilanna! I think that losing the weight is the easy part, the maintenance afterwards the harder part!

  6. I knew Jilanna in both her before and now bodies and the pictures don’t do justice to how vibrant and healthy she looks. She is a wonderful inspiration to many in her wide circle of friends and coworkers!! Way to go Jilanna!!

  7. Thanks everyone! It’s been an honour for me to share my story with you guys here on Shauna’s blog. I love reading her interviews and find it a bit surreal to be here. 🙂

    Racheal – You’re looking after your new little boy and have lots on the go…The important thing is to make changes you can sustain and keep being brave. I’ll be cheering for you! BIG HUG.

  8. Jilanna, it’s been really inspiring getitng to know you in the UAR forums, and I think you’re just a complete star. (Though you don’t seem to be able to count to “ten words or less” in qn 11, hehehehehe…) Your Uncle Brian will be looking down on you with such immense pride in what you’re achieving. x

  9. I like that you incorporated real food into your life and how important that was/is for your continued success. What a fabulous before and after shot!

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