Meegan finds love in the trenches

by Krista Scott-Dixon
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Love is hard to find at the best of times.

It feels even harder to find when you’re in one of life’s deep ruts — those high-walled, mucky grooves gouged out when the weight of the world has mashed you into the soft dirt.

As you lie there, face down with a mouthful of psychic soil, you have time to think. Mostly you think about how to get the worms out of your nostrils. But a tiny part of you — the part that has not yet been crushed into the muddy loam — yearns. Dreams. Wishes. Hopes for something better.

When you find yourself in this position, that tiny wishful part of you will whisper: Change.

Then say it out loud. Change.

Then yell it: CHANGE!

And then, years later, you will find love in the mud.

A few years ago, Lean Eater Meegan Dowe was contemplating the dirt at eye level.

She’d been overweight as long as she could remember, living in a rut of “neglectful behavior”. It wasn’t comfortable, but at least it was familiar. Food was a friend, a soother, and a longtime companion in the dark, lonely trenches.

Occasionally she would peek out, over the rim of the groove, but always duck back to safety.

“Over the years I had made a number of half-hearted attempts to conquer my personal weight battle before. I did Weight Watchers, and joined my local gym, but I always seemed to wane in my dedication before I could see any significant results. I wasn’t ready then.”

It didn’t help that the world of movement seemed out of reach, well past the edges of her rut.

“Most of my life I also thought about fitness and sports as something I wasn’t good at. Something that equaled social exclusion (think the last one picked for a team etc.) or brought up these feelings of inadequacy. I just figured for my whole life exercise and movement would be a challenge, something I dreaded and hated and had to force myself though.

“For a very long time I avoided it at all costs.”

She was depressed. Stressed. Distressed. And a bit of a mess. She wasn’t yet at 300 pounds, but she could probably hit it with a well-aimed pebble thrown by a grubby hand.

Change, said her little voice. Live. Choose something different.

She listened. Her tiny voice of resilience grabbed her hand and hauled the rest of her to the gym for another attempt. She found a trainer. Brushed off some of life’s debris. Lost some weight. Lost some more weight.

Then, thanks to her trainer Chris, she found Lean Eating.

“I had made gains in strength and fitness and I was at a place I had never been before, but I felt ready for more,” she recalls. “My attitudes about food and fitness had changed significantly. I wanted to understand more about food and movement than I had ever before in my life. That magical switch and craving for more in my life was turned on.”

She was ready. Mostly.

“That summer in 2010, when Lean Eating registration opened, I remember sitting at my desk at work and just wanting to go for it. To make a conscious decision to put my health and my life first and see what I was really capable of. I was nervous. Nothing about undertaking Lean Eating fit with the person I was for my first thirty years on this planet.

“It was scary, but I felt important enough to try.”

Happy surprises were in store.

“I had no idea what I was capable of, nor what the program would ultimately consist of. It was so much more than a workout/eating plan.”

At the time, she was single. Working full-time. Living at home with her family. She could only control a few square feet of personal space: her allotted drawers in the fridge and her shelf in the cupboard.

“Change was far from easy,” she says. She had to learn to ask for what she needed. To open up to other women — sorry, “ninjas” — in her Lean Eating support group. To swim upstream. To confront body image issues. To get outside her comfortable — if constraining — rut.

“Lean Eating was like permitting myself (in a world where it was way outside the ‘normal’) to think, eat, sleep, and breathe healthy living.”

“While in Lean Eating I hit the 100 lb lost milestone. I was learning to live and move in a foreign body, one I didn’t recognize. I know from my past experiences with depression that self worth and loving who you are (just as you are) is important, but it isn’t easy. I still struggle with it.

“But Lean Eating helped me to build more confidence in who I was an athlete, and as someone who set health and fitness as priorities. The fact that I was able to put myself into a bikini — a body formerly obese — and then to post those photos online are nothing short of a miracle.

“I loved that body, my body, enough to feel confident enough to do it.

“Was it scary? Hell yes.

“Would I do it again? Hell yes.”

Meegan began blogging about her journey. Along the way, she met another woman on the same path, doing the same thing. They were separated by a continent, but united by their struggles.

Blog met blog. East Coast Canada met West Coast USA. Then girl met girl. In person.


More muddiness. But this time, a delicious mess.

“Partnering with a woman, partnering at all at that point in my life was completely unexpected. When I met Tara in person in April of 2011 we met as friends who had supported one another online.”

“I never dreamed in a million years I would fall for her, nor her I. But the connection was undeniable.”

“For me the transformation in my life was uncovering who I am meant to be. Realizing I loved things that I had been too terrified to consider before, that working out and moving my body was something I loved. That you don’t have to compromise for love. That who I am is worth fighting for.

“I definitely had to find myself before any of those pieces could come together.

“As people who shared such a significant transformation, it makes it easier for both of us to be more open about new things we’d like to try. There’s no fear about judgement when we make a suggestion, just support.

“We get that who we were doesn’t dictate who are, or who we will be.”

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Tara (left) and Meegan (right), “before”

She describes Tara as “my super hero, because I admire her approach to health and fitness and her mindset about what it means. Pitfalls aren’t failures to Tara, they are opportunities to learn more about who we are.

Being with Tara “was like having a window into my own world. There weren’t other people in my own life who understood what was happening to me.

“Tara understood what it felt like to look in the mirror and not recognize herself any more. She understood how emotional it was to fit into a pair of size 10 jeans when before, we lived in plus-sized clothing. Tara understood that something as foreign as being An Athlete could be — and is — a title that suits us perfectly.”

Meegan was swept off her feet. A whirlwind romance ensued.

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They ran away together. Literally.

Throughout Lean Eating, Meegan had worked on her running, tenaciously transforming herself from heaving, gasping, sweaty tears during her first workouts on Halifax’s grueling Citadel Hill to lean ‘n’ mean speed machine.

Lucky thing, too.

“Tara’s passion is endurance running, and although I don’t consider myself a long distance runner, we have joined a local running club together and will compete in shorter distances runs together. We’ve also volunteered for races (recently the hypothermic half at our Mexican-Themed water stop with our group Heart & Sole Running Club — featuring Tara in a taco costume — olé!) together.”

They did yoga. They blogged together as the Healthy Dynamic Duo, sharing healthy recipes and tips.

And they found love in the mud. Again, literally.

At the end of the Warrior Dash in summer 2011, a very mucky Tara proposed to a likewise mucky Meegan.

WDProposal Crop Meegan finds love in the trenches

In July 2011, they bridged their geographic and national divides and eloped to Vancouver.

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Unfortunately, Meegan got swept off her feet again. Yep, literally. This time by a truck.

Smashed across a crosswalk, dazed in an ambulance, she tried to gather her strength. And in the following days, she tried to make sense of it all.

She’s still recovering from the accident that happened in November 2011. “Right now, my challenge is one of spirit. In a lot of ways, the accident’s taken the wind out of my sails.

“The physical setback has been difficult for me to overcome emotionally more than anything. The process has led me to some shifts in behavior that are not reflections of how I want to move forward. I’ve gained a bit of weight. I’ve had setbacks physically in the gym, as well as mentally in my approach to eating. What I’ve uncovered is that for me, there’s a clear connection between my success and my sense of self-worth.”

But she still has her timeworn tools that she honed in Lean Eating.

Resilience. Self-awareness. Self-care. A lifelong commitment to wellness — however that looks in practice. The tools still work pretty well, even if her body doesn’t.

“My life today and who I am is an evolution of where I was when I started Lean Eating. Lean Eating helped me explore my boundaries and challenged my comfort zones in ways I hadn’t considered before.

“I think I understand better now what I can push within myself and what I really am capable of when I make myself a priority.”

June 2009 June 2010 June 2011 1 Meegan finds love in the trenches

“Going through Lean Eating and my life-changing transformation as a whole has changed my focus in life.”

I now look for fitness opportunities and think about where and how I will eat in ways the ‘Old Meegan’ would not have considered. My perspective on life now as someone formerly obese and sedentary is much more open.

“I am very much looking forward to getting stronger again, rebuilding my body and my mind after the accident with the love of my life by my side. I am looking forward to being able to work towards my own PN Nutrition Certification. Tara and I have been selected to speak at www.fitbloggin.com in Baltimore in September 2012 as leaders for a group session for fitness bloggers who have a lot to lose.

“We wanted to help encourage those who might otherwise be afraid to attend because they think no one will understand what its like to lose 100+ lbs. So many things to share and look forward to!

“My life and routines have shifted enormously in the last 18 months. I can now declare with confidence that thanks to Lean Eating, I love exercise. I love to move. I don’t hate it any more.

“Don’t get me wrong – this took time, and I worked up to it in stages. But, now that exercise and movement and strength are a part of my life every day my attitude about fitness has completely changed. I honestly remember thinking that that moment would never come.

“I thought I would be like Oprah and hate it every day, and have to feel forced into that misery for the sake of ‘doing what was good for me.’

“Now I find myself feeling enormously satisfied by moving.”

Meegan’s advice to anyone on their own Lean Eating journey?

Remember the 3 Ps:

  • patience
  • being positive
  • being persistent

“It’s been difficult,” she says, feeling occasionally like she’s back in another quicksandy rut. Sometimes, she confesses, “I feel like I’m being slowly sucked back under by what’s happening with my body and the emotional roller coaster.”

But then she grabs a fistful of dirt and starts climbing out of that groove again. “I will remember. I will be patient with who I am and what I have learned — including what I learned in Lean Eating.

“I will cling to the positive whenever and however I can. And I will be persistent that my journey isn’t stuck. It’s just another chapter unfolding and I will move on through. And best of all, I have Tara to remind me of my Ps.”

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Want to read more great stories like Meegan’s? Then come meet a few other men, women, and couples who lost weight, started eating better, and took control of their health.

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