Happy SECOND Anniversary, Happy Exhaustion!

I know my right hand looks like dinosaur talons (can you tell I have a young son?) but I wanted to sneak a TWO into my pose-replication!

I know my right hand looks like dinosaur talons (can you tell I have a young son?) but I wanted to sneak a TWO into my pose-replication!

 Happy Exhaustion is officially two years old!

Look how little change there is in those after-after-after pictures! SCORE!

Guys, I maintained! I really, really did! Happy dances all up in this piece.

On December 6th, 2012 I stepped on that scale and the goal that once felt so out of reach had become my reality.

On that day I set up this blog with no intent to become a blogger. I just needed some extra online space to answer all of the questions that came flooding in when I announced my success to my social media circle with my very first Before & After picture. (The first two of the four seen above)

Two years later, Happy Exhaustion is an essential part of who I am.

As I considered what I wanted to say in this anniversary post, I thought of my Healthy & Strong lifestyle like a 2-year-old child.

On my first anniversary,  my Healthy & Strong self was only a one-year -old. It was barely past it’s infancy, just learning to stand on it’s own two feet. I could hardly believe I had kept the weight off, which made me feel a bit unsteady. I was still afraid I was going to fall and lose it all.

Now that Healthy & Strong is a 2-year-old, it’s running all over everywhere. It’s pretty sure it’s the boss of the household. But it still slips and falls, has temper tantrums, and has a lot to learn.

This year has been one for the books. No danger of forgetting the year I was on the cover of PEOPLE Magazine!

I wanted to pose with this week's edition of PEOPLE as proof that this pic was taken today, but the current cover is just WAY too depressing for this celebration post. Luckily, Sexiest Man Alive is still on the stands. That'll do.  Sexiest Man Alive is allowed to pose with me :-)

I wanted to pose with this week’s edition of PEOPLE as proof that this pic was taken today, but the current cover is just WAY too depressing for this celebration post. Luckily, Sexiest Man Alive is still on the stands. That’ll do.
Sexiest Man Alive is allowed to pose with me 🙂

PEOPLE was the hands-down highlight of this Happy Exhaustion year. It still feels like a full-on out-of-body experience. I’m grateful for the new friends I made at the shoot for reminding me it was real.

Happy Exhaustion even kicked off a new career for me this year!

A few months ago, I became a goal coach. I have the privilege of working with people in pursuit of their own Happy Exhaustion. I get to blog in person!

With all of the precious lessons I have learned along the way, I’m able to help others to tailor their own approach. It’s a dream job for me, and I feel very lucky to have it.

If you could use the support of a cheerleader who understands *all* of the excuses and obstacles on the road to fitness, reach out to me over at the Happy Exhaustion Facebook page! I have yet to meet a  roadblock that I  can’t wrestle into submission 😉

Now… my Proof of Maintenance picture. I gotta tell ya – I contemplated not posting this part.

But, as my brother pointed out – I have already ‘primed the pump’.

I have stated publicly & repeatedly that this picture will be here, and I don’t want to appear to be hiding anything when the rubber hits the road!

I toyed with the idea of only posting the Red Dress pictures. Because, really – that’s so much more important than a number on a scale.

Every single one of my clients is married to the number on the scale. *I* am married to the number on the scale.

I don’t want to be. I don’t want my clients to be, either. I want us all to use the way our bodies feel & the way our jeans fit as our guides.

Some day I hope to occupy that head space. I thought leaving out this picture would help to make that statement.

But, since I tied myself to the tracks… Maybe next year will be Red Dress Only. Today, you get some proof 🙂

It’s not the number from the scale in my Miami hotel room during the PEOPLE shoot. It’s better than that – it’s my happy place. It’s where I reached my goal. It’s where I was this time last year. And despite the way the scale can drag me down, you know I enjoy when it lands where I like it to!




Nothing is impossible.


When I got the call, I thought I was being Punk’d.

“I’ve read your blog and was wondering if you would mind being considered for PEOPLE Magazine’s ‘I Lost 100 lbs’ feature?”

I was sure someone had read my post about last year’s 100 lbs feature, and was messing with me.

But, just to be sure, I hit the Google machine.

Holy crap! This girl actually works for People Magazine!!!

Insert a scream only dogs could hear *here*

Well, I suppose I could be persuaded to consider…

Step one: Go ahead and send us a picture of yourself in a bikini.

Um…. Send you a what now? A bikini picture? Moi? An actual Two Separate Pieces bikini?? For strangers??

Can I really do this?? Do I have it in me to put myself out there that much??

Then, after a minor existential crisis:

Hell yes, I can!

There is no CAN’T at Happy Exhaustion. We roll Eleanor Roosevelt Style around here.

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Ok, Eleanor – it’s you and me. Let’s go buy a bikini.

(I feel a distinct possibility that just typing those words may have caused the great lady to roll over in her grave… Moving on.)

Back at home and it’s time to pose. Should I wear heels? Flats feel odd, and barefoot feels wrong…

My kids built Lego towers while daddy took painfully awkward pictures of a bikini-clad mommy in the living room. Hot.


Ok. Be brave. Hit send.

Step Two: Commence waiting for what feels like an eternity, stuck in a nightmare mind-loop: What if the sight of your body in a bikini results in rejection on a grand scale? Recovering from that kind of blow to the ego could take some time…

As the days rolled by with no word from PEOPLE, I even begin to consider the possibility that I was not being Punk’d so much as Catfished. What if some perv had talked me into  naively sending out bikini pictures!? My mind was spinning at 12,785,276,920 miles per hour.

But then, another call from NYC knocked me back on my heels. I was in! They picked me!

Suddenly everything hit warp speed. Interviews were being conducted, flights to Miami for location shoots were being booked, facts were being checked.

And, I was sweating my FACE off.

See – PEOPLE didn’t request a bikini picture because they wanted me to come for a photo shoot in a flirty little party dress. PEOPLE wanted a bikini, a small bikini and nothing but a bikini, so HELP ME, GOD!

I was sworn to secrecy until the day of the issue reveal and not a moment sooner, rendering me unable to share what I was really up to here on the blog – so I gave only the faintest of hints as I posted about my pursuit of abs and hamstrings.

WELCOME TO THE ULTIMATE FITNESS MOTIVATOR OF ALL TIME: PEOPLE Magazine is going to show your bikini body to the Whole. Wide. World.

I worked out like an athlete and I tracked my food like a fiend. Not a single morsel went into my mouth that wasn’t a plant, a seed, or a lean protein.

I got into the hands-down best shape of my life. I developed abs! Real ones! Can you see them?!

Eduardo The Great

Eduardo The Great

The Girl Who Used To Wear Size 24 didn’t know abs were possible.

I’m not even going to pretend I wasn’t proud.

The number on the scale did not take a nose dive from the 140 I have happily maintained since reaching my 100-lbs goal, but my body definitely changed. I became what the resident trainer calls ‘lean’.

I hit Miami at 136 lbs, with lots of new muscles and a BMI low enough to make them show.

After dedicating lots of heart and rivers of sweat to my goal, it was finally show time.

The adventure began  on June 12th , when my four new friends (all fellow 100+ lbs losers) and I all boarded planes to Miami.

Lori Filipiak, a fellow mother of two from Illinois was my soul-sister from the start. We bonded right off the bat. Lori and I flew from Atlanta to Miami together with Edwin Velez, the hard-body from Alabama. With his deep southern drawl and boundless energy, Edwin will charm your socks off the moment you meet him. The three of us giggled and gossiped all the way to Miami, sharing our before-and-after pictures, imagining what excitement lay ahead.

In Miami we were joined by Judith Anthony from New Jersey and Erin Banks from California. These two girls not only delivered the hotness, they brought with them the support of their diet plan teams (Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem respectively).

Judith may seem shy, but she’s a tiger whose eye-on-the-prize attitude is an inspiration. Erin rounded out the group with an ambitious fire whose posing experience (gained during appearances in national Nutrisystem campaigns) put me to shame.

Once we were all in the same place, it was full-throttle from the word go. After being collected from the airport and taken to our gorgeous hotel in Miami Beach, it was off to wardrobe fittings. I have never seen so many bikinis all in one place! Rainbow-colored racks of bikinis, all in my size, all there just for me!


All for me! Eeeeek!

After extensive fittings unearthed the best bikinis, it was off to bed after a quick spray tan.

*I may or may not have gifted a bottle of Grey Goose (my favorite cocktail) to the super-goddess that is Jennifer Lee – our spray tan/makeup artist. Before I even met her I had a feeling that after an evening spent spray-tanning the fully stripped-down bodies of five former-heavyweights, a cocktail may be in order.*

Day 1 was Location Day

on location

On location in Miami. A girl could get used to this… Left: Glamazon Lori prepping for her close-up. Center: Yes. Yes, indeed. Right: Celebs get red carpets. Ours were cardboard 🙂

Our first full day was spent on location at a gorgeous, massive private home on the beach.

We met the rest of our glam squad on location, who helped us to bring the sexy.

Jen was there again, this time to manage our faces. Full red-carpet-ready cosmetic drama was not on the docket for our ‘real people in swimwear’ shoot.  But after I waxed poetic about my love of false lashes, she conceded and gave me a *few*. Jen built me up. She was kind, she was insanely skilled, and she made me believe in myself.

It’s hard not to feel like a star when Jennifer Aniston’s makeup artist is touching up your face!

I then fell hard and fast for my new gay boyfriend (seen above) – hair god Eduardo Garcia, who convinced me that I really ought to strut even when my instinct was to hide. He did more than prove to me that my hair is capable of previously-unexperienced fabulousness, he gave a 33-year-old stay-at-home-mom her very own pop star moment.

Know what’s a great thing to have when you’re about to pose in a bikini in front of a whole crew of photographers, stylists, producers and assistants? A pop star moment.

glam squad

The glam squad.

They gave all five of us a ‘story’. Edwin and I both had ocean stories (score!), Lori had a pool story, Judith was cabana, and Erin was palm trees.

At this point, I earned the right to add ‘professional water kicker’ to my resume.

In pursuit of a whimsical and fun bikini picture, I did my utmost to channel every ladies’ razor commercial ever made. You know the ones – with smooth-legged bikini babes flirtatiously kicking water at the camera from the edge of the surf?

I may have looked like a dancing bear, but damned if I didn’t give it every ounce of Baywatch I could muster.

That was also the morning I learned of my pathological issue with dipping my chin in pictures.

Turns out – this is a problem.

Our high-profile and long-suffering photographer must have yelled “chin up!” at me 123,874,805 times. Somewhere in heaven, Perry Hagopian‘s halo was being polished, because at no point that weekend did he assault me with a blunt object.

After all of our solo photos were done, it was time for group water kicking. The wind was blowing our hair in our faces, my smile muscles were sore, and I was having the time of my life.

Sharing that unique moment with a group of new friends all celebrating the accomplishment we had worked so hard for was a moment worth savoring.

That day was FUN.


Group shot. See the chick in the not-necessarily-age-appropriate white Taylor Swift shorts? Yup. C’est moi.

 Day 2 was Studio Day


Primping for Day 2!

Despite continuing to marvel at the sensation of having stepped into someone else’s life, I gotta say – Day 2 was HARD!

Studio Day was Full-On Modeling day.

I take back everything I have ever said or thought about models not having difficult jobs. Modeling is rough!

That was the day I learned that I am capable of perfectly controlling approximately 3 parts of my body at a time. Anything beyond that is beyond me.

If you want me to point my toes just so, and bend one knee just so, and orient my hips in one direction, while twisting my torso in another, and pointing my shoulders over there, and hiding my back hand, and relaxing my front fingers, and smile big!, and keep my stupid chin UP… I might not be able to pull it off.

If ‘pop star’ is the way you want to feel at a bikini shoot, ‘I might not be able to pull it off’ is *not* how you want to feel at a bikini shoot.

But I had worked too hard and come too far to not do my very best, so I gave it 110%. And if anyone can get an awesome pic out of me, it’s Perry!

Thank goodness Eduardo was on hand to keep my hair looking fly while he manned the wind-machine.

Props... oh dear.

Props… oh dear.

Before we got to Miami, we were warned that there would be lots of down time while the rest of ‘the talent’ was shooting. It was suggested that we bring books, magazines, phone chargers, etc. to keep us occupied during all of our down time.

But I didn’t spend a single minute feeling bored. It was too much fun watching my new friends get their model on, interviewing with superwoman Michelle Tan, and picking up hair and makeup tips from the glam squad!


Effing fierce new friends gettin’ their pose on

That night, we all celebrated with more calories than any of us had treated ourselves to in months. After a long time without a cocktail, one was certainly in order.

Raise a toast to THAT’S A WRAP!

Lori, Edwin, Judith & Erin – Team Superstars – We did it! We really did it! We were all dangerously obese, and we just wrapped a bikini shoot for PEOPLE! Never has a tropical cocktail been more well earned.


That’s a wrap & I’ll drink (brightly colored tropical cocktails) to that!

I am so very grateful for this opportunity. As I write this, I have not yet laid eyes on the article. I don’t know how the text will read, or how the pictures will look. But I don’t even care. I made friends and memories that will last a lifetime, and that’s the best reward.

Now – Stay Tuned!

I’ll be sharing the workout routine that got me those abs, keeping you posted on my constantly evolving fitness adventures, and hopefully encouraging you to run hard in pursuit of your own goals.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine posing in a bikini for PEOPLE.

You have no idea what you can accomplish, so get to work!

Adventures await.

Special Thanks:

Photo Editor/Point Man Extraordinaire/Answerer of Incessant Questions/Dear New Friend: James Miller – I know that the five of us must have given you an ulcer. You had so much on your plate, and you handled it all with both compassion and grace. Even when the heavens threatened to open, you kept every single ball in the air. I knew I would adore you from the first email, and I was right. Thank you for all of the things.

Boss of All PEOPLE People: Michelle Tan – You, miss thing, are a force of nature! Your intensity and your heart draw everyone towards you. Full superstar status. Who run the world? Girls.

Wardrobe Stylist: Don Sumada – For your flawless taste. Also, because the moment when you insisted I wear a ‘sample size’ will play on a highlight reel in my head for the rest of my days.

Wardrobe Assistant: Belaxis Buil – Shine bright like a diamond! I cannot wait to watch you soar. Hope all who visit Miami will get to see your art.

Assistant Hair Stylist: Leandra Francuna- gurrrrl, you are the other side of my lucky penny!

PEOPLE Reporters: Stephanie Pfeffer and Catherine Kast – It was so fun working with the two of you. You have no idea how much an email from either of you would shake the snow-globe of my suburban life. Congratulations on successfully putting a Dyck on the cover of PEOPLE Magazine 😉

Production Managers Barbara Garcia and Johnny Beltran – Thank you for the fun. You were like my big brother and sister, keeping an eye out for me and making sure I made it to the church on time. You light up whatever room you’re in.

And finally, thank you to my real-life support team.

To my wonderful, strong & long-suffering husband, who kept me steady as I spun a million miles an hour and wrapped myself around a pole twelve times a day. I’m nothing without you.

To my kids, who think it’s so fun that Mommy is in a REAL LIFE MAGAZINE they can’t believe it.

To Maggie, Amanda & Cindy – the trusted few. Every girl should be blessed with friends like you.

To everyone who has cheered me on. Thank you.

I am so blessed.

The One Ton Panel

If you read about my participation in #140You and felt simply shattered that you couldn’t be there, never fear! The video of our panel discussion is up!

You have no idea how relieved I was when I saw this for the first time this morning. I have an unfortunate tendency to go all high-pitched when speaking publicly. I am positively bursting with pride that I managed to keep the screechiness to a minimum.

Hopefully we serve as a reminder that when you’re ready to commit to your journey, nothing can stop you! You’re never too old, too big, too inexperienced, or too damaged to grab control. This life is what you make it – so make it healthy!

Happy Inspiration

I saw two videos at #140You that made me smile and inspired me to keep up the hard work.

Obviously, this meant I had to share.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

No excuses, y’all! Get it in where you can fit it in!

Gosh, I hope that if I keep ‘fitting it in’ I’ll get as strong and fierce as Andia Winslow. I kind of want to be her when I grow up.

(Pay no attention to the fact that I’m quite sure she’s younger than I am. Details, details.)

Don’t wait until tomorrow. You can turn it all around right. this. minute. Do it up!

The only things holding you back are your excuses.

Sidebar/Update: 2 more days until the 1-month weigh-in. I am shaking in my boots. Wish me luck on Wednesday!

Accomplishing Goals While She’s Watching

I did it! I ran an official 5k race! I didn’t even have a stroke or anything!

See? That’s me beside an honest-to-goodness finish line!


Why is this a picture of me coming around a finish line, rather than racing gloriously through it? That’s because I missed my goal by FOUR. EFFING. SECONDS. So, the look on my face was less Happy Exhaustion, more Homicidal Maniac. Not so blog-worthy. I prefer to share this “Phew! I finished alive!” face.

Proving to myself that I could accomplish another fitness goal was fantastic. But the best part of my entire day was when this happened:


Standing beside the finish line, holding a sign and cheering me on stood my husband, my son, and my daughter. Accomplishing my fitness goals with my family watching is worth every less-than-fun hour spent struggling through endurance training.

One day about a decade ago, when my husband and I were still dating, we had to run to catch a bus. In the years that followed, he would joke – frequently – about the ONE time he had ever seen me run. Over the weekend, he cheered me on and snapped pictures, encouraging the kids to hold the sign up nice and high as I crossed an honest-to-goodness finish line. I loved that.

I loved having my little boy there, too. But he’s a bit too little to understand much more than that he was having a fun day.

The real highlight of the day was the presence of my daughter. She was so proud of me. In kindergarten the next day, she made this:


“On Sunday I got to see my mommy run in a real race and I helped my daddy make a sign to hold up and we cheered while we held the sign up. It was the best race ever. I loved watching my mommy.”

That – in an adorable little nutshell – is what this journey of mine is all about.

It’s not about skinny, it’s about fit. It’s not about a bikini body, it’s about a body that can keep up with her and the children she’ll have one day.

My daughter no longer sees a mommy on the couch. She has a mommy who runs in a real race.

I’ll drink (er, sweat) to that.

The Fun of the After Pictures

When I began my fitness journey, I had lots of motivators. The motivators that made me persist even when things got hard were the big ones – health, longevity, energy to play with my kids, etc.

But there were minor motivators in the mix, too. These junior-motivators (feeling comfortable in my clothes and happy on the beach, for example) could never drive a lifestyle change on their own, but they felt more fancy and fun. They motivated the girly-girl in me.

The Grand Poobah of the minor motivators was The Before & After Picture. I knew I’d have to do some digging to find Before pictures, because I was so expert at hiding from cameras for so long. But imagining the day when I could stand in front of a camera without wanting to hide could make me smile even when the hard work was seriously bumming me out.

The After picture wasn’t enough to keep me on track on it’s own, but it was a very helpful mental image when I needed a little willpower-boost to help me step away from the ice cream.

This weekend, I hooked up with Kathryn Raines of Plate 3 Photography in Philadelphia, and she helped me to make my little dream come true.

I give you: A Goal Achieved

Before & After 100 lbs loss

Before and After 100 lbs loss - 2

Before and After 100 lbs loss - 3

Now if I can just survive this cursed 5k, I’ll be in good shape 😉

Sometimes, Being A Bit Of A Hoarder Pays Off

Last night, my husband unearthed a very old bin of clothing.

Upon inspection, I realized: It’s my pre-obesity wardrobe!

It was like shopping without the spending!

I’m about 4 dress sizes smaller now than I was when I put my ‘skinny clothes’ in storage, but they fit a heck of a lot better than most of the clothes I’ve been swimming in these days!

Holding on to decades of hoarded clothes (Honestly. Decades. I’m pretty sure I still have my old prom dresses around here somewhere…) can pay off when it ends up saving you money.

But there’s another fun benefit to years of hoarded clothes in assorted shapes and sizes.



If that’s not a feel-good situation, then I just don’t know what.

Yes. Those are my old pants.

Now that I’ve gotten a good giggle out of fitting both legs into one of my size 22 pant legs, I think it’s time to load up all the ‘big girl’ clothes up and get rid of them. Don’t you?

I certainly don’t need to provide myself a safety net in case of failure. Failure is not an option.

No toxic thinking allowed here at Happy Exhaustion! Only onwards and upwards!

Heads up, Purple Heart! You’re about to get a large donation of plus-sized fashion.

I won’t be needing it anymore.

Losing 100 lbs. How I did it and why.

This gallery contains 1 photo.

I can’t believe I’m going to admit this. A lady never admits to her weight. Especially not THIS lady. But, this is the story of my road from 243 lbs to 142 lbs. (Should I rename this? Losing 101 lbs?) … Continue reading