Camas’ Laina Harris pushes through weight loss setbacks

Woman moves forward quest to get progress back on track

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter

Published:

 

Two-thirds of Clark County adults are overweight or obese. Laina Harris of Camas is one of those adults. At her heaviest, Harris weighed 420 pounds. Today, she's lighter and armed with the resolve to lose more. This is part of an occasional series following

her journey.

Two-thirds of Clark County adults are overweight or obese. Laina Harris of Camas is one of those adults. At her heaviest, Harris weighed 420 pounds. Today, she’s lighter and armed with the resolve to lose more. This is part of an occasional series following

her journey.

In 14 hours, Laina Harris saw her biggest goal slip through her fingers.

For more than a year, Harris has been training for an 8-mile hike along the south side of Mount St. Helens. But two weeks before the Aug. 30 hike, Harris had to do something she never wanted to do: admit defeat.

That confession came after a spirit-crushing hike on the Mount Defiance Trail.

Harris and her hiking buddy set out on the trail for a 12-mile round-trip hike with 4,500 feet in elevation gain. They got a bit of a late start and slowed at points to chat with other hikers. By the time Harris reached her 4 p.m. turn-around deadline — a time limit she set for herself — they weren’t quite half-way.

So Harris ignored the deadline, something she has never done. The result was a slow descent as the hikers carefully made their way down the mountain in the dark. Harris wasn’t off the mountain until 11 p.m. Her feet throbbed. Her body ached.

The trip took 14 hours — the same amount of time she would have to complete the more-challenging Mount St. Helens hike.

“I knew I lost Mount St. Helens then,” she said.

Harris was devastated. After that day, she began to feel as if the world around her was crumbling.

Not only was Mount St. Helens out of grasp — at least, for this year — but while recovering from her July 5 gallbladder surgery, Harris lost momentum in her exercise program and gained weight. She was working full time in an office that was understaffed. The pressure of her decision to go back to school full time was mounting. Relationships in her personal life were strained. And, out of nowhere, Harris received the bombshell news that she has a sister she never knew existed.

“My life has been absolutely turned upside down,” Harris said.

And, on top of it all, she was reverting back to old eating habits that included processed foods and restaurants.

“I connected my stress level to comfort food,” Harris said. “For the first time, I made that connection. I totally saw it.”

Harris hasn’t gone hiking since her trip to Mount Defiance. Mainly because her new work schedule has her working weekends, and she doesn’t have a weekday hiking buddy. But also because mentally, she was still reeling from the fallout of that last hike.

She hopes to get back on the trails soon, though, and wants to try snowshoeing this winter.

“I like the possibility of going out and doing things,” she said. “I lost that for a while.”

Now, however, Harris has a clearer path forward.

“I know I have something good to look forward to,” she said.

About a month ago, Harris hired a personal trainer — something she always wanted to do but couldn’t bring herself to spend the money on. Harris works out with her trainer, Cody Sorensen, twice a week for 30 minutes.

“That’s twice a week when I have someone on my side,” Harris said. “It’s supremely hard to do this alone.”

The rest of the week, Harris does exercises prescribed by Sorensen on her own. She’s also continued with Bellyfit classes, and works out on her treadmill three days a week.

To get her eating habits back on track, Harris is attending nutrition classes at her new gym, Body Design Fitness in Camas. The classes focus on the paleo diet, which Harris has adopted.

Paleo — a diet built around meat, seafood and fresh fruits and vegetables — isn’t much of a stretch from how Harris was eating. She’s only had to cut out a few foods she used to eat regularly, such as oatmeal, toast and Greek yogurt.

“I just need to see any kind of progress,” she said, whether it’s lost pounds, fewer inches or increased strength.

“This process takes so long,” Harris said. “Three hundred pounds takes a long time.”

The scale has been a tough obstacle for Harris to tackle this year. She’s lost and gained 10 pounds multiple times this year.

“I’ve gone nowhere this year, and it’s so frustrating,” she said. “I want to go into 2014 strong.”

During her gallbladder problems and surgery recovery, Harris’ weight crept back up over 310 pounds. But after three weeks with the trainer and eating clean, Harris has lost 12 pounds, bringing her weight back down to 299 pounds.

After a tough couple of months, Harris said she’s happy with where she’s at now and where she’s headed.

“You can’t always win. You will have losses,” she said. “What makes the difference is you get back up, regardless of what’s hitting you, stop wallowing in pity and step forward.”

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