Guest Post! Grief, Loss, Love, and Health: My Year of Huge Changes | The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


This post was crafted and written by Corissa Ozekin. I love, and am incredibly appreciative of, her story, and I hope that you can find inspiration in it. 

2014: The year I married the love of my life, experienced the death of my father, signed up for a marathon, and made a serious commitment to a healthy lifestyle. At first, I wanted to lose a few pounds so I would look good in my wedding dress. However; it became so much more to me than looking good in a wedding dress after I began to feel my life change in positive ways. It became so much more to me after discovering how my pent up anger, stress, sadness and grief could be released through long runs and weight training. After such a rollercoaster of a year-I’m talking a Mind Eraser kind of rollercoaster-I want to share my journey to ultimate health and well-being with the Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans. I want to do this in hopes that I can help others begin their journey, and to help them discover life as they have never experienced before.

There are days after a long run where I drop and flop to the ground… throw my head and hands up towards the sky and bawl my eyes out. After such a release, I feel an odd sense of renewal…and I can return to my day with newfound joy and passion. I can honestly say that I am feeling better than I have in a LONG time…that natural, raw sense of happiness is something I have been seeking for years. Of course, not every day is like riding on a rainbow unicorn through fields of roses…each day is a new beginning and an opportunity to do something amazing. What’s the habit that has gotten me feeling this way? You’ll find out.

I’m pretty much an open book when it comes to all 500+ of my emotions, so I don’t mind sharing the root of my unhealthy habits and how I have been overcoming them, one day at a time. My journey to health will continue for the rest of my life, and I plan on doing everything I can to support others that would like to make the same commitment.

Going back 5 years is where it all began. My dad, a heating and air conditioning business owner, had suffered a stroke. I guess he was “lucky” enough to be at the hospital at the right time, because doctors had also diagnosed him with stage 4 lung cancer. I was a student at Colorado State University at the time, recently got a job at a karate academy, and just started a relationship with my now-husband and fellow martial arts instructor, Enes. Things were moving at a crazy, confusing pace. I had never known anyone close to me that had cancer, let alone someone so important to me. My mind, plagued with darkness and uncertainty about my dad’s condition, convinced me that everything would be ok if I could just numb the pain with alcohol, and lots of greasy food.

That is precisely what I did. I tried other things to positively deal with these emotions, like running. I was not very smart about proper form or stretching, and due to this irresponsibility, I sprained my knee after running and started getting horrible lower back pain. I stopped running, quit martial arts, and for the next 4 years, became extremely lazy. The following few years, I treated my body like a garbage disposal and it became a toxic wasteland. I was sad all the time, foggy-headed, and fatigued. I was so selfish and self-loathing that I didn’t spend much time with my parents. The only thing that kept me going was my boyfriend at the time, who is now my loving and amazing husband. He pulled me out of darkness and helped me become a better version of myself.

Years pass, and one day in October 2012 I decided to quit drinking for good. It wasn’t fun for me anymore, and I got real tired of apologizing and hurting the ones I loved. Looking back, it was sickening how I wouldn’t even make it to my parents’ house because I was too hung over. I was disrespecting my body but I didn’t care; my mind was my worst enemy. I looked deep into my mind’s darkest realm, and decided to rise up and be a better person, not only for the ones I love but most importantly, for myself.

Things looked up; in 2013, Enes proposed, we moved in to our first home, and I got hired at my first “big girl job” working for the National Guard. My dad’s cancer seemed to be under control, and his treatments were looking good. I was in awe of the amazing things that were happening in my life, and was pumped about the beginning stages of wedding planning. I was so happy with how life was going. It wasn’t until that December that I got the news that changed me forever.

My dad’s prognosis was grim. Doctors gave him 3 months. I couldn’t do anything but sit still with a blank stare, numb. I couldn’t even cry. Instead I closed my eyes and thought about laying on a tropical beach in Hawaii…. taking in the warm salty ocean air, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face. As I snapped out of it, I came back to the harsh reality of the cold and bitter Wyoming night. I contemplated how I was going to try and function like a normal adult. I needed to spend all my free time with my dad. He was a fighter, and I convinced myself that the prognosis was wrong. I negotiated a schedule with my job that allowed me to work extra hours so that I could have every Friday off. The next few months’ stress took a toll on my life, and waistline.

My deep anxiety was taking a toll on me and my husband. I turned to food for comfort. Lots of it, and developed unhealthy patterns as a result. I knew I wanted to look good for our summer wedding and had every good intention of working out and eating right. However; this turned into an endless cycle of binging on the weekends, feeling bad about myself, and promising that I would start fresh on Monday. Fed up with no results, I would then go crazy on the weekends, order entire pizzas, Ben & Jerry’s, Chipotle, McDonald’s even…I couldn’t stop. It all tasted so good. I tried to convince myself that as long as I would do Zumba classes, I would be fine. That was not the case, as the cold, bitter winters made me want to curl up on the couch and eat cheesecake. That is what I did. I even went as far as picking up smoking cigarettes several times a week. Looking back, I can’t believe I did this to myself. I lost control while faking that I had it all together.

On a snowy and cold January 5th, 2014, my husband and I decided to officially get married. It was not big; it was a small ceremony at my parents’ house. The only ones there were my parents, my brother, and his parents. The pastor from my parent’s church came out and did the ceremony. My dad was there to give me away, to sign our certificate, to know that his daughter would be in good hands. I was grateful that my husband arranged everything. I didn’t wear a fancy white dress, bridesmaids or cake. My dad was there, and that was all that mattered.

Looking back at the pictures we took, I remembered the feeling I had trying on dresses. I wore a red dress with a gold and black belt, size 12. I was near 170 lbs. My husband and I were both at the heaviest weight we’ve ever been. After the wedding, we decided it was time to kick it into high gear! We bought P90X, new workout gear, and took “inspiring” before pictures. It was awesome. We were doing out workouts, eating healthy, and feeling great. Yes, we still had our weekends where we splurged. Usually it was Buffalo Wild Wings or pizza. We would say the same thing on Sundays; that we were going to start new on Monday. Then, something happened that would change my life forever.

April 8th, 2014. I had just finished a P90X workout. I was feeling great. Then, I got a call from my mom. My dad was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit. The doctors didn’t know if he would make it through the night. I immediately rushed down to Colorado and comforted my distressed mom and told her everything would be ok, even though inside I wanted to crumble. I had never seen my dad like this before. I could see how much pain he was in, and it crushed me. He made it through the first night, but 2 days later, the decision was made to transfer my dad to hospice care, where he would be made as comfortable as possible. I knew this was the end, and it was completely surreal…even to this day.

My dad was in hospice for 6 days before he passed away, only 3 days after his 58th birthday. It was devastating, and all I wanted was to help my mom with funeral arrangements and take care of her. It was a week after my dad’s death where it truly hit me like a ton of bricks. My reality became insanity. I screamed in my car, pounded my steering wheel and burst out into tears on my way to work on the first day back. I just couldn’t believe this happened. Forget any diet or exercise plan I was on, all I wanted to do was cry, sleep, and eat. Which is precisely what I did. This went on for a month until I came to the final realization that I had to take my health seriously, I couldn’t lay around and feel sorry for myself. This was not about me. This is not what my dad would have wanted. Plus, we were planning our summer wedding reception, and I only had a few months to get in shape.

With the motivation and support from my wonderful husband, I researched nutrition and alternative medicine. We found creative, healthy recipes, and cooked together instead of bringing home greasy bags of Taco Johns.

The last thing I wanted to do was take anti-depressants, and knew that food could be my ultimate medicine. I wanted to try to deal with grief without seeing a psychiatrist again. It had been at least 4 years since I last ran, and I wanted to see if my body could handle it. I started with only running a quarter of a mile. I would soon pick up the pace after discovering my knees and back did not hurt, and I was so relieved! With this new found confidence, I picked up the pace until I eventually got up to 7 miles. I was so excited that I could run long distances without hurting myself that my brother and I signed up for the Colorado Marathon in May 2015. We decided that as motivation for running, we will raise money for causes we cared about. For every dollar that we collect through donations, we would run one mile. 100% of the raised funds will go to lung cancer prevention and the hospice center where our dad was. That is motivation enough to push myself to new limits I have never experienced before.

After my renewed passion for running came back, I could tell the food I was fueling with could either help me or hinder me. Still, I decided to try an extreme diet plan. A few weeks leading up to our wedding, I went on a very low carb diet. I was constantly hungry, dizzy, fatigued, and out of sorts. I couldn’t stop thinking about cake and pizza. The slice of red velvet wedding cake sounded like Heaven on Earth. I couldn’t wait to have our friends and family join us for a wedding reception, to dance to John Legend with my husband, and eat so much cake and mashed potatoes that I could throw up. I didn’t even care if I barfed. I just wanted everything that was bad for me. I quickly learned that as soon as I went back to my unhealthy habits of eating cake and chicken nuggets one day, raw vegetables the next, followed by a day of cheeseburgers, followed by a day of green smoothies, that this was not the solution to long-term health and wellness. I needed a permanent, doable solution to respecting my body, yet not depriving myself of the things I enjoyed the most.

Together, my husband and I lost 100 lbs. for our wedding. We took a few days off after our wedding to eat our entire red velvet cake, 2 bags of Buffalo Ranch Doritos, and a 12 pack of Red Bull. We took time to relax and take in the bliss. The thing is, I knew that eating these things would make me feel bad, but I just wanted to “get it out of my system”. Well, I can definitely say that my conquest to ultimate health has not been an easy journey. I will be honest: I was about to make a box of Goldfish mac and cheese that I found in my mom’s food cabinet and eat it while I ironically write about healthy living and fitness. Instead, I got over myself and baked some salmon and asparagus spears. To celebrate this mini victory, I will reward myself with a scoop of banana-almond butter “ice cream”. YUM!!

Anyway; back to my original post. My secret to health and happiness was so simple all along. It’s not a fad or extreme diet, it’s not a diet pill, it’s not thousands of dollars in gym equipment, and it’s not about counting each and every calorie, or fasting for 3 days a month. Believe me, I have tried and tested all of these, only to find the cravings are uncontrollable, the weight will pile back on, and you will only end up taking one step forward and two steps back. The secret is what they teach you in preschool. Eat your fruits and vegetables! Eat real, whole foods. Learn portion sizes. Protein. Craving dessert? Make your own. I found a killer recipe for a gluten-free, grain free, and low glycemic avocado chocolate chip cookies that my family and coworkers have devoured.

As far as cravings go, there are sneaky ways around these. You have to be willing to put in the effort and think creatively. Trust me, I know that everyone is busy and has important adult responsibilities to take care of. I hear ya!! After a busy (but very rewarding) day at my full time job and 2 hour daily commute, I just want to veg out in my leopard print onesie, snuggle with my husband and two Chihuahuas while watching Lifetime movies and/or American Horror Story. Even though we’ve all got lives and lead our own busy schedules, the bit of extra effort WILL pay off. I know this because my body and mind feel better. I feel as though I am consuming foods that my body has been begging me for, for years. It’s not like I haven’t eaten vegetables for 4 years, but they definitely were not part of my daily diet. Not even close. Unless you count buffalo chicken pizza as salad.

Aside from my consistent rambling throughout this article, the one thing I would hope readers will take away is: Healthy living is something that can be attained by anyone, and WILL change your life in more ways than you ever thought possible!!

This is not permanently achieved by any diet pills, fad diets, cabbage soup cleanses, or 2 hours on the treadmill every day. No way.

This sounds silly, but no one else is living in your body. No one controls your mind except you. You wake up with yourself each and every day, whether you like it or not. Your body works hard to provide for you, to give you life, to help inspire you and get you going to do amazing things in the world.

Life gets in the way, things can and will happen that are out of your control. One thing that you can really have control over is yourself. Once you take control of your health and wellness, everything else in your life will fall into place. Wonderful things will come your way, you will unleash so much potential you never thought possible.

This is no fad. This is me in my truest form, living and treating my body with the respect it deserves. I deserve this, and so do you! YOU deserve to be the happiest, healthiest you that you can be, and just watch as everything falls into place. It’s ok to feel every single emotion play out. It’s ok not to be happy sparkling rainbow sunshine glitter every day. I can tell you that this feeling that I have right now, is something I’ve been seeking through other means and substances for years, and I finally have it. It’s wonderful to love yourself so much that you have so much to give to others.

I know this is what my dad would have wanted for me. He was never the kind to let things bring him down. He would always have a joke to tell, and knew when to take life seriously and when not to. I can only hope I can be half as amazing as my dad was. I feel him with me every day, and know he’s always with me in my heart. For those who have lost a loved one, it can truly transform your life, and the experience of grief is kind of like being lost out at sea-emotions hit in random waves, and it feels as if you don’t know where your life is headed. It is overwhelming at times; but I find strange inspiration from grief. I feel as if I am meant to do great things. I know you all can feel this way, too. You don’t have to lose someone to being your journey. You can be in any stage in your life and make this change, regardless of circumstances.

I’m no fitness or health guru, just your average woman navigating through life’s crazy and beautiful moments. I’m constantly learning as I go and always appreciate tips and tricks from others. I find inspiration in my husband, my family, and my friends, everyday!

Thank you for taking the time to read my story, I wish you all the best on your personal journeys and I would love to hear from anyone how and why they began their journey to health and well-being-and also to exchange amazing, healthy recipes!

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