From Grief And Fear Of Happiness To Dancer

Metabolic Health in Small Bytes Course– Christine Beaird 

In January 2010, at age 39, Christine Beaird suffered a loss unknown to most men or women her age. She lost her soul mate and husband.

In her grief, she found herself depressed and seeking comfort in eating. As her energy, drive, and activity levels diminished, her weight increased to more than 200 pounds. Even as a taller woman—six feet one inch—that weight felt too heavy for her. But her attempts to curb the weight gain were unsuccessful.

“What I was doing on my own wasn’t working,” says the sales support consultant. “Counting calories, trying to exercise. I had no energy, no drive. Overcoming the inertia of coming home and sitting on the couch with my dogs was just impossible.”

Then she received an email that changed her life. It was from her employer, Aetna, announcing eMindful’s Metabolic Health in Small Bytes® program.

“I thought, ‘why not?’ I had been gaining weight since I lost my husband,” she recalls. “The email sounded interesting; it wasn’t just about counting calories, but a more holistic way of looking at weight loss.”

The Dallas resident signed up for the weekly class from eMindful and health coaching made available along with it, albeit with some hesitation.

“I wasn’t that in to talking to somebody one-on-one. I was looking forward to the class. I’m comfortable with the online technology; it worked great, it was really nice. I liked having the handouts I could re-read and work through, over the next week. The classroom sessions were awesome, but it surprised me how much the wellness coach helped.”

With the guidance of her coach Linda Duda, Ms. Beaird did a guided visualization of her future. “That’s the first time I realized I had a hard time seeing myself in the future,” she said. “Talking with Linda, I realized I had a lot of fear around the future, and was afraid to be happy. It was kind of a smack upside the head. But it made a lot of sense in the context of having lost my husband the year before.

“I had a conversation with my future self, and the word that came to me was ‘dancer’, from both an exercise and social aspect.” With the encouragement of her health coach, Ms. Beaird returned to an old passion—belly dancing.

Her energy began to return. She came to feel a sense of control over her life. And her weight began to fall, as she became aware of her eating triggers and habitual patterns around food.

“I began paying attention to what I’m eating, instead of just mindlessly munching on it. Now if I’m looking at something sweet like ice cream, I can be satisfied with two or three bites, instead of a pint. I’m actually enjoying it instead of just eating. I’m also more aware of my triggers, better able to ask ‘what am I really wanting?’ and ‘does this really taste good?’ A lot of times I find that what I’m munching on, I don’t really like the taste of.”

Ms. Beaird’s early concern about finding the time for the class during her workday soon subsided. “There was a bit of a challenge setting aside the time and not being disturbed, but I had a mind shift in making my health as important as anything else, making it an appointment. And being in the class was nice, having the interaction with the other students.

“Sometimes someone would say something that would make a light bulb go off, and make something click. I liked the class, thoughts coming in from different angles. There were some folks that I could really relate to. You’d find people doing the same thing like eating in response to feeling stressed out, and suddenly you realize you’re not alone, you’re not so crazy. And the instructor was good at taking in ideas, addressing roadblocks.”

Another epiphany she recalls having was learning “about feeding my body and not feeding my head. Just checking and asking, ‘am I really hungry or am I eating for some other reason, like boredom?’ So if I’m not sure, then I wait 10 minutes. And if I’m really hungry, then I eat.

“I have a better understanding of myself, my thought processes,” she continues. “This helped me feel more in control of my life. I’m not just doing something because it’s the way I’ve always done it. I’m being aware of what I really want, being able to re-address it, vs. thinking that ice cream is my only option. I can choose to do that, but it’s a choice, and not my only option. And I am more mindful about what I’m eating, and more importantly, knowing why.”

Ms. Beaird says that she has dropped 25 pounds and that her weight is stable, that her energy level is better, that she’s cooking more healthful meals, exercising, and dancing a lot more. “It’s a whole bunch of fun,” she says. And the life change that her mindfulness class and coaching catalyzed is still underway.

“I went back to college to get a Bachelor degree in health and wellness, with the goal of becoming a wellness coach,” she says. A student at 42, she is on track to graduate in 2014.

And every time she sees an email from Aetna promoting the mindfulness classes, she takes time to encourage others. “I send it along to my manager and people I know. It has made such a huge difference in my life. I truly recommend it to anybody. Even if you don’t have weight to lose, the other things you can take away from the class like the stress management and mindfulness….it’s not just about dropping pounds. It’s bigger than that.

“What I’ve learned in there keeps me from getting caught in thinking traps and habit traps. The class is one of the many things I’m grateful for in working for Aetna. It’s so easy to put off your health and your wellness in deference to other things, because there are so many other things going on. But this is the only body you get; it’s not like a car that you can trade in if the engine breaks.”