Camas woman facing weight loss challenges head on

Laina Harris' journey to get healthy continues

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 

Laina Harris knew she wouldn't shed 270 pounds without hitting a wall, a weight-loss plateau.

Still, she wasn't expecting the nine-day stall that left her body aching and her scale stagnant.

"It really tugged on me emotionally," Harris said.

Harris was months into her journey, having dropped more than 50 pounds from her heaviest weight of 420 pounds. After a while, the 1-mile loop she walked from her downtown Camas home became easier and easier. So she decided to increase her physical activity.

Keeping up with Laina

Follow Laina Harris’ weight-loss journey by visiting her blog, or by following her on Twitter.

Instead of walking the loop twice a day, she started hitting the trails at Lacamas Lake. She more than doubled her daily mileage and continued to follow her diet. She expected to see big changes on the scale.

But for nine days, the scale didn't budge. Harris began doubting herself.

"Is something wrong with me?" she worried. "Will I ever lose more weight?"

Then she met Michelle Clark, a personal trainer in Camas. Harris explained her situation, telling Clark about her exercise routine and meals. Clark suggested Harris incorporate more protein into her diet. Harris had increased the amount of calories she was burning but wasn't giving her body enough fuel.

Three days into the diet change, Harris had lost five pounds. She hasn't looked back since.

In fact, she's continue to challenge herself.

During the week, she goes on 90-minute hikes around Lacamas Lake and at Heritage Trail in Camas, logging five to seven miles a day. She reconnected with her best friend from high school, Rondie White, who has become Harris' walking buddy and motivator. On Saturdays, the duo heads to the Gorge and spends hours hiking challenging trails.

"I'm not a nature girl, but I'm really enjoying it," Harris said. "I think I'm becoming a nature girl."

And a couple weeks ago Harris started working out with Clark. Twice a week, Harris lifts weights and focuses on strength training in hourlong sessions with Clark -- in addition to her regular cardiovascular workouts.

Today, Harris is 85 pounds lighter, weighing 334 pounds. She's noticed her clothes fit different. She has more energy and sleeps better at night. She's lost 10 inches off her thighs.

That's all in addition to the physical feats she accomplished. Her biggest physical accomplishment came a few weeks ago.

During a Saturday hike in the Gorge, Harris and White decided to take a detour from the trail they were on to check out the Rock of Ages Arch. All that stood between Harris and the arch was a half-mile hike

and scramble. Harris didn't know scrambling meant essentially scaling a rocky cliff.

Harris spent hours navigating up, and then down, the cliff side, encountering soft dirt, tree branches, roots and rocks.

"It was the most difficult thing I've ever done," Harris said. "The most rewarding thing I've ever done."

In addition to the physical challenges, Harris still faces mental challenges.

Despite the changes to her body, Harris still struggles with her body image. Physical appearance is tied to self-esteem and pride, and Harris doesn't feel good about her appearance. She still doesn't like photos of herself; they're a reminder of how much more weight she needs to lose.

"Just because you're losing doesn't mean that person you are is going away," Harris said. "You still have to deal with those things."

"I hope my ability will transcend what I don't like about my appearance," she added.

But Harris has noticed mental growth, as well.

She no longer thinks about how her size could limit her. If someone suggests going shopping or to a restaurant, Harris no longer questions whether she can do the walking involved. Her outlook on life has changed.

"This whole process is a crash course in joy," she said. "I've never felt so content in my whole life."

Harris is also looking beyond her own weight loss. She's blogging her experiences and getting involved in the community weight-loss challenge, Camas & Washougal on a Diet, in hopes of encouraging and motivating others who are on their own weight-loss journey.

"It's amazing," she said. "You feel elated. It's like you're walking in your bliss. I've never had that. I'm not planning on dropping that anytime soon."

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.