Laina Harris doubles weight-loss resolve as pounds defy her exertions

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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photoLaina Harris goes through a 20-minute incline workout on her new treadmill in her Camas home Wednesday. Harris uses the steep incline workout and weekend hikes as preparation for an 8-mile hike on Mount St. Helens' south side this summer.

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Laina Harris has been at a standstill since August.

She's changed up her diet — more calories, fewer calories. She's tried new exercises — more intensity, less intensity. She's drinking more water.

Her scale still won't budge.

From New Year's Day to the end of February, Harris lost just 1 pound — a letdown for the Camas woman who had, up until that point, shed 124 pounds off of her 5-foot-11-inch frame.

"In my mind, I feel like I've kind of failed," Harris said.

"It tugs on you because you wanna see a loss," she said. "That stupid scale. I want to throw it out the window."

At her heaviest, Harris weighed 420 pounds. Last spring, weighing 405 pounds, Harris began her weight-loss journey in earnest — adopting an exercise regime and completely making over her diet.

But in the last couple months, when the number on the scale stopped dropping, self-doubt crept in.

"In my mind, it doesn't matter that I've lost 125 pounds. I'm still that person that wants to lose weight," Harris said. "It's hard not to let my mind trickle toward fads."

The gimmicks appeared everywhere. Her email suddenly seemed full of weight-loss tips. Advertisements about various diet foods caught her eye.

"I'm still subject to that," Harris said. "I'm still human."

Harris turned her attention to others, spending time catching up with friends and connecting with people who had followed her progress. They had fresh eyes, and Harris began to see what they saw. A woman who had lost 125 pounds. A woman who had dedicated herself to creating a healthier life.

"It made me more mindful," she said. "It's not a small task. My results will come if I'm diligent."

"This is 20 years in the making," she added. "It's not going to turn around completely in a year."

In the last few weeks, Harris has shifted her focus. She's going back to the basics. Regaining her discipline.

She's dedicating more of her workouts to elevation training. Most weekdays she cranks her new treadmill incline up to 40 percent and uses her entire body to climb. On weekends, her "push days," she sets out on longer hikes, usually in the Columbia River Gorge.

She's also being more strict with her diet. She's cracking down on the food her family brings into the house. She's set her calorie intake to 1,200 to 1,400 calories a day. She ditched her coffee habit, again.

"I'm going back to what was making me successful," Harris said.

She's set physical goals for this summer, things to keep her motivated.

Harris and a group of fitness-minded friends are planning to hike the south side of Mount St. Helens on Aug. 30. The 8-mile hike begins at 4,000 feet and has an elevation gain of about 4,500 feet, ending at the crater rim.

"I can't climb that mountain (weighing) 300 pounds," Harris said. "I can't successfully."

Since making the changes, Harris has dropped 5 more pounds, bringing her total loss to 130 pounds. She now weighs 290 pounds.

On the days when she's tempted to eat a sweet dessert or skip a workout, Harris reminds herself of her new mantra: "I'm committed to being fit."

Even if the scale isn't changing, Harris said she's living a healthier life. She feels good. She feels healthy.

"I've got to realize I'm not a TV show," Harris said. "I don't have a gang of people around me. I don't have doctors and a special diet. I'm just an average Joe person."

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