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Every year, Christie Pham and her family take a photo together during their beach vacation. This year, she decided she wanted to look better in that photo. So, on April 1, she challenged herself to walk a mile every day for 100 days in her Pittsburgh neighborhood.
It wasn’t just her appearance that motivated her to make a change. She chose her mile-long route so she would be visible to her neighbors. “Last April, I had a little scare — I was in the hospital for some stress tests. So, I started walking around my community, because I knew that if I had some kind of cardiac issue, one of my neighbors would see me. I was that afraid at that point. I had a lot of health anxiety,” she said.
Walking also gave her a way to manage trauma. She had a surprise pregnancy followed by a miscarriage three years ago that sent her into a deep depression. As part of her therapy, her counselor suggested to go outside and walk. “Walking helps you release the trauma,” Pham said. “People underestimate how much your mood is going to change from that little bit of exercise.”
Along with walking, she also rates her mental health on a 1 to 10 scale every day so she can see improvements, and she posts a daily #TinyJoy2022 on Instagram. “Starting or ending my day scanning for a tiny joy helped improve my outlook,” she said. “With these changes, I feel like I’m back to the Christie I remember before the miscarriage trauma.”
She’s seen these positive changes in her life
Pham has lost 16 pounds, but she’s more excited about the non-scale victories. “Everything is just going in the right direction,” she said.
- Her A1c, a marker for blood sugar, reduced from 6.3 to 5.8.
- Her total cholesterol dropped from 240 to 198.
- She has Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune thyroid disorder, and her thyroid-stimulating hormone levels have gone down.
- She’s lost a total of 25.5 inches from her bust, waist, hips, upper arms and upper thighs, including six inches off her hips and 5 inches off her upper arms.
- She’s noticing more muscle.
- She has less pain. “Within weeks, I was no longer reaching for pain reliever for a headache or body aches multiple times a week,” she said.
- She has more energy and doesn’t need coffee to get going in the morning.
- She’s sleeping better and no longer needs to take a sleep aid.
- Her mental health has improved — she’s not as anxious.
I feel like a brand-new person.
“It’s amazing that only one mile a day can make a difference. You don’t have to go out there and work out three hours a day,” she said. “I feel like a brand-new person. My anxiety is so much lower. I have decreased my therapy sessions, and I have more energy. I get up, and I spring right into my tennis shoes to go out for my walk. That’s the first thing I do.”
Her husband has noticed the changes in her, too. “He saw within a couple of weeks how much my mood was better. He made the comment, ‘I have my old wife back,’ and that was wonderful to hear,” she said. “He’s seeing the self-esteem, drive and energy of who I was when he married me 15 years ago.”
He’s been supporting her throughout her journey. “He starts the day with the kids so I can have that time to walk in the morning,” she said. “Everything works better when I get in that exercise, so we adapted our day for it.”
Here’s how her walking habit is making a difference
Pham takes a photo of herself after each walk, and she no longer looks red and exhausted when she finishes. “You see your face transforming,” she said. She used to have to stop or slow down on the first hill. “My heart rate would be astronomical when I got to the top. Now I’m just up and over, and it’s not even a pause,” she said. She has walked a mile and a half to a park with her kids, played in the playground and walked back. “I would never have imagined that we would have done that,” she said.
She hasn’t changed her diet much except for giving up her morning cup of coffee. “But because I’m taking care of myself better, I’m eating a lot better, and my portions are smaller,” she said. She’s no longer reaching for snacks as comfort food at the end of the day. “That was my trouble spot,” she said. And she realized she wasn’t eating enough protein, so now she makes sure to have protein with every meal.
She looks to walking groups and online communities for support
Pham joined the Start TODAY Facebook group on May 31 — the day after her 45th birthday — after seeing it on Today. “I’m big on support groups on Facebook — I even admin several — and I have never seen a community as 100 percent positive as the Start TODAY community,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re super athletic or just at the beginning. If people get a little bit frustrated or discouraged with their own progress, everybody chimes in and says, ‘You got this, don’t worry. You’re doing the right thing. Just give it time.’”
Groups like these help her stay positive. “I’ve surround myself with people also ‘doing their work,’ staying healthy, exercising and working to create a better world. These people inspire me and keep me reaching for a better me,” she said.
Her goals for the future
Pham is working her way through her next 100 days of daily walks, and her daughter made her a chart so she could track her progress. Her family took that beach vacation, and while she likes how she looks in the photo, she’s happier that she could keep up with her 11- and 8-year-old kids. “I was so much healthier running around on the beach this year,” she said.
Pham told her doctor she intends to get her A1c to a normal level within a year. By then, she would also like to be closer to a healthy body mass index. “For now, I’m going to keep walking my mile a day, add more as time goes on, return to yoga and Pilates, and focus on conquering my smaller goals one at a time,” she said.
Her 15th wedding anniversary is coming up this fall. “Before we got married, my husband and I discussed renewing our vows on our 15th anniversary,” she said. “I wasn’t happy being a plus-size bride, and I have always dreamt of having my original wedding gown taken in or remade for a renewal ceremony. I have never gotten close to being able to do that — until now! I tried on my wedding gown and it’s huge! I am more confident than ever I will get that non-plus-size dress for a vow renewal.”