Camas woman celebrates 100-pound weight loss

Months of hard work paying off as she conquers hike with faster time

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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The day Laina Harris has anticipated for months — dreamed of for years — finally came Wednesday. The Camas woman stepped on the scale and saw the number 320.

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

That 320 means she has lost 100 pounds since her heaviest days, back in October 2009. That 320 also means in the 23 weeks since she first dedicated herself to fitness and nutrition — to making a better life for herself — she's dropped 85 pounds.

But for as long as she waited for that day to come, Harris is already looking forward.

One hundred pounds and 42 inches down. One hundred and 70 pounds and plenty more inches to go.

"I still have 170 pounds to go," she said. "I still have work to do."

"But it feels fantastic," she added. "It feels great to accomplish something that isn't common, and do it in a way that people are amazed."

Harris hiked and sweated every pound and every inch off of her body.

"It's pushing that stereotype that overweight people are unfit," she said. "We can do so much if you allow yourself to do it, if you believe in yourself."

So Harris celebrated her milestone, and her 41st birthday, by hiking up Multnomah Falls on Aug. 25. (At the time, the scale was sitting at 321 pounds.)

Three months earlier, Harris hiked up the milelong trail with her husband and kids. That was the first time she had hiked. It was her first physical challenge. And she was miserable.

She was tired and out of shape. She stopped dozens of times trying to catch her breath. She felt frustration as her family strode up the trail with relative ease. It took Harris one hour and 56 minutes to make it to the top of the trail's switchbacks.

This time, though, was a different story. This time, the 2-mile roundtrip constituted a rather light day for Harris, who has become an avid hiker in the last three months.

She hiked up the switchbacks with her friends, snapping photos and taking in the scenery. She sipped on water the few times she paused to rest. She smiled and laughed as she walked. This time, the top of the trail came after only 58 minutes.

That difference is what Harris sought when she decided to attempt the hike a second time.

"I wanted to see if, physically how I would perform after training so much," Harris said. "To physically feel how different it was."

"It was still tough. I still have a lot of weight on me," she added. "But there was no part of that journey where I said, 'Oh, this is too tough. I want to stop,' like I did the first time."

In the last three months, the only thing that's been able to slow Harris down is her own body. In the two weeks prior to her Multnomah Falls hike, Harris took time off from hiking to nurse a tweaked back and badly bruised right leg.

"My first love is hiking," Harris said. "I can't be tweaking my back. I can't be down."

"Without me out on the trail or out exercising, my mind takes a turn," she added. "Exercising changes my mental outlook."

In addition to her weight-loss accomplishment, Harris also celebrated her birthday last week.

In past years, Harris would celebrate by dining out and eating a rich meal and finishing the night off with cake and ice cream.

This year, Harris spent her birthday in sporting goods stores, looking at wet suits and kayaks for her next big adventure. She ended the day with a family dinner at a sushi restaurant and making s'mores with her kids in the backyard. Harris indulged in a chocolately marshmallow sandwich and felt sick the rest of the night as her stomach tried to process the sugar.

After the weekend festivities, Harris was back to work, hitting the trails and breaking a sweat.

"I got to be one of those people," Harris said. "I wanna sweat. I wanna workout. I'm not a fanatic, but I really love it."

"I didn't think I'd ever get that far," she added. "I never thought that would be my life."

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