Tricia Cross, now 40 years old, grew up lean and healthy. It wasn't until after she had her children that she began to recognize her weight was causing issues. Staring at the scale wasn't really motivating her to do anything about it, though.
In 2007, Tricia was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the end of the small bowel and beginning of the colon. The exact triggers of the disease are not cemented, but diet and stress do play a role. Both of those factors were big culprits for Tricia.
Taking a few steps back, Tricia was dealing with more than the regular mommy stress. She was blessed with two daughters. Her first, Natalie, was born in 2000 and spent the first 17 months of her life as a normal baby and curious toddler. Just before the 18-month milestone, though, she became very sick. At first, it looked like a terrible stomach bug, but further testing showed Natalie was suffering from a bowel obstruction. It led to sepsis, which leaked into her bloodstream and left her with a brain injury similar to cerebral palsy.
"I became her primary caregiver and in that, I lost myself," she admitted. "I didn't exercise and I found comfort in food. Running her to doctors' appointments and therapies, I did not make wise food choices, and being emotionally and physically exhausted from caring for her, I ate whatever was fast and easy. I didn't exercise because I would fall into bed completely exhausted. Add those two ways of living together and you have weight gain and poor health."
It was a combination of her Crohn's diagnosis and needing to be more reliable as her daughter's caregiver. Her doctor suggested a drug to help her regulate the symptoms, but like any drug, it had side effects. Tricia didn't want to deal with them, and refused the drug. Instead, she turned to her diet and lifestyle, hoping that would be her ticket out.
"He was not happy with me," Tricia confessed. "I, on the other hand, was determined to put myself into remission, for me and for my family."
Seeing Tricia go through this, a friend recommended attending Weight Watchers meetings. She dragged herself in, but left with an exciting and refreshed perspective. She learned about the accountability and easy progress tracking tools it supplied participants. It became a challenge she willingly accepted, seeing it as a game she was bound to win. This kind of game reflected her Type A personality – playing off of her strengths as an organized and methodical person.
After Tricia received surgery on her bowel, she made a full recovery and dove into her new health and fitness routine. She started slowly – walking on the treadmill in her basement. The next step led her to cardio classes at a local church. At the same time, she pulled books and resources to educate herself on proper exercise techniques and began to log her food choices and portions. She later tried bootcamp classes, where she was asked to flip tires and push cars!
Within 16 weeks, she achieved the goal she set for herself – dropping from 165 pounds to 131 pounds, which is an ideal weight for her 5'6" stature. She earned her "Lifetime Member" status with Weight Watchers the following year.
With her new perspective and stronger body, Tricia's doctor checked her into remission. Today, she is still in remission and maintains her 34-pound weight loss. She accomplished her first 5K run, took on hill sprints, squatted 140 pounds and deadlifted nearly 160 pounds! Burpees don't scare her, and pushups are no longer performed on her knees.
She worked with a trainer for more than a year, worked out on her own for several months before finding another bootcamp, then decided to take the dive into CrossFit. With a combination of metabolic training and weightlifting, Tricia feels stronger than ever.
"Through all of it, I have to say that lifting is my favorite form of training," Tricia shared. "I have seen the best results and feel my best when I strength train."
As far as food is concerned, Tricia doesn't believe counting everything is going to make it difference, other than perhaps making you a little crazy. She uses her version of the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the time she eats well and 20 percent of the time she can play.
"I am a realist and know that I will have parties, BBQs, Christmas and occasions where I want to have dessert or appetizers or a big ol' cheeseburger," she explained. "So I set that 80/20 rule for how I eat. I have learned to love fresh fruit and grilled veggies. I don't eat as much bread and cheese as I used to, and I drink tons of water. Don't get me wrong, though... I love queso and chips!"
Throughout Tricia's weight loss and lifestyle transformation, she continued to be Natalie's primary caregiver. In March 2013, Natalie's health deteriorated and she passed. Her 13 years with her family were made as normal as possible, attending a public school, falling in love with music, making friends and hanging out with family.
"We miss her so much," Tricia said. "She changed our lives and those that met and knew her. She made a huge impact on our community. Our family has a deep faith, and we are confident that she is in heaven, completely healed, waiting to be reunited with us. I am so proud to be her mom!"
A couple of months before Natalie passed, Tricia had signed up for a personal training certification course through the encouragement of her own trainer.
"After she passed, I was lost," she said. "I was a caregiver for 13 years, and I thought, 'Why not just finish the course and see what happens?'. I took the test and passed in May 2013, but I didn't do anything with it for a year. Grief doesn't have a timeline; going to the gym was absolutely an escape."
Tricia said she's learning to let go of the reigns a little, finding herself in a "place of surrender" now.
"I believe that 'fitness' is different for each of us – you have to define it for yourself," Tricia said. "You have to do what you like so you will stick with it. When you feel you are hitting a rut, change it up. I tell women to go off how they feel and how their clothes fit. Exercise isn’t a punishment. We don’t need to be counting things all the time. That’s bondage. We need to be aware, have guidance, gain wisdom and make it a lifestyle. Transformation starts on the inside."