From homecoming queen to marathon runner, alumna gains confidence
Blair Christie, a member of the Erskine College Class of 2008, was featured in the March 26, 2012 issue of First for Women with two other women who lost significant amounts of weight after undergoing a DNA test to help determine their best dietary regimen.
The women followed the recommendations of Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is medical director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the Columbia University Medical Center and host of The Dr. Oz Show.
The magazine article, “Skinny gene discovery,” describes the remarkable results of the women’s diet and fitness efforts.
But for Christie, there is a more personal story , expressing “my heart and my victories,” as she describes it.
Outward success, inner turmoil
Overweight all her life, and coming from a family “where overweight struggles are common,” Christie said that even in elementary school, “I would bring things like grapefruit and tuna for lunch while other kids ate their ‘Lunchables.’”
She took diet pills in middle school and tried out, unsuccessfully, for sports teams. In high school, she said, “I played sports and I did other programs like ‘Weight Watchers’ but was never able to really lose a significant amount or make a real life change.”
As a college student, Christie was named “Most Talented” in the Erskine Arrow and selected as homecoming queen in 2007. Known for her vocal talent and sense of humor, she majored in special education and minored in music.
“ ‘Happy’ would probably be a common term that I would assume my college peers and friends would use to describe me, but deep inside I was so unhappy and was fighting a really difficult battle in my mind and in my heart,” she said.
Christie identifies a theme running through her childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. “I never thought I was good enough in anything because of my weight,” Christie said.
“It did not matter how smart I was, how talented I was, what grades I made…I always felt like I fell short. I felt like all those things were shadowed by my weight,” she recalled.
“The funny fat girl—that is how I always thought of myself, from elementary school up until I reached my first year as an ‘adult’ in the real world.”
It was after she moved to Charleston to take a job at Windsor Hill Arts Infused Elementary as a special needs kindergarten teacher, “an excited and anxious young adult ready to begin my career,” that she began to face real difficulty.
Having made the move to a new city, “away from friends and family, all alone,” and with “all the responsibilities of adulthood hitting me like a ton of bricks,” she found herself hitting “rock bottom.”
“I was unhappy with myself and where I was in life,” Christie said. “I had to do something; there was no other option.”
Getting a boost
Christie’s definitive move toward fitness began when she made a new friend in Charleston who had completed the Healthy Charleston Challenge (HCC) at the Medical University of South Carolina. Inspired by her friend, who also became a mentor, Christie signed up for the program “with money I really didn’t ‘have,’” trusting that she would find funds to cover it.
“I knew that it would be worth the investment in myself, my health and my future,” she said. “There was a winner, overcomer and fighter spirit inside of me waiting to get out, enough that I figured out how to make the money happen and took a leap of faith!”
Christie credits the HCC with opening “a new doorway to becoming who I was created to be.” Offering “intense exposure to training and exercise” and “team accountability,” the program led to “success and incredible friendships” for her.
“The HCC empowered me to realize that there was more inside of me and to truly make a lifestyle change,” she said.
“When I began the HCC, I could not climb a flight of stairs without being winded,” she noted, adding, “Let’s get real, I could not even bend over and tie my shoe, much less run a mile.”
When the 10-week program concluded, Christie had to carry on with her healthy eating and activity — minus the support of a team or a program.
“I plateaued halfway through the major chunk of my weight loss,” she said. “At that point, I began to get frustrated, but I was determined not to give up.”
It’s not a sprint
Christie heard about Inherent Health Genetic Testing, which offered the DNA test described in First for Women, through her nutritional supplement business. She decided to try it. Her test results classified her as a “fat absorber,” so she followed a low-fat plan that calls for no more than 77 grams of fat per day, with 70 percent of calories coming from carbohydrates, 15 percent from protein and 15 percent from fat.
“It took a lot of the guesswork out of figuring out my nutrition and helped me tweak things in how I exercised and ate,” she said.
The test taken by Christie was developed by Ken Kornman, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the Interleukin Genetics laboratory in Waltham, Mass., and was used in research at Stanford University.
First for Women noted that “fat absorbers” like Christie make up 39 percent of women; “energy burners” make up 45 percent; and “calorie storers” make up 16 percent.
Christie continued to drop the pounds and gain overall fitness. She sees now that her previous attempts at “fad dieting and working out” were not designed to last. “I never wanted or planned on a lifestyle change,” she said. “I wanted the results without putting in the work.”
Now, she says, she has been “transformed not just physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”
Each day, Christie continues “gaining confidence not just in who I am but in Whose I am!”
It’s a marathon
Having already lost 109 pounds when she was interviewed for the First for Women story, Christie ran her first full marathon—that’s 26.2 miles—on Feb. 18, 2012, at the Bi-Lo Marathon in Myrtle Beach. Her roommate made her a shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Choose to Overcome” on the front and “From 282 Lbs. to 26.2 Miles” on the back.
She continues “overcoming” in daily life, but that marathon was something special for her.
“Every day as I choose to make decisions based on what I need and what I want most in life rather than how I feel in that moment, I am changed and moving forward,” Christie said. “But I was radically changed when I crossed that finish line in Myrtle Beach. I will never be the same!”
A full-time job as a special education teacher, a business sideline, church activities, not to mention fitness workouts, keep her busy, and she describes her ambition level as “through the roof.”
More to do, more to give
Christie is “always looking for new challenges to add another chapter of victory to my story,” she says.
She is considering writing a book about her experiences and would also like to write a children’s book “that depicts my story, struggle and victory in weight loss from a young age.”
Her latest plans? “If all goes well and funds are provided, I will be going to California in late July to train with Billy Blanks for 12-hour training days to become a certified Tae Bo instructor.” Blanks is the inventor of the Tae Bo exercise program, which combines movements from martial arts and dance for an aerobic workout.
“I am really excited about the challenge that the certification will be in itself, but also about the possibility of getting to lead and inspire others in a fun, healthy workout and hopefully to help empower someone who was once like me learn to love who they are,” she said.
“We all have so much goodness inside of us. We all have so much more to give!”