If there was a low point in Shannon Arboneaux-Fish’s otherwise happy life, it was the bridesmaid’s dress fitting for her mom’s wedding.
She’d been measured, and came in for a fitting with her mom alone, without the other bridesmaids, and there was a reason for it.
“I was so excited for her,” she said, but at the same time, cringed at the thought of shopping for a bridesmaid’s dress that would fit her at 320 pounds.
“I realized as I was putting the dress on that apparently they didn’t make it in my size, because when I put the dress on, I couldn’t get it zipped,” she said.
The store had ordered the biggest size available, and planned to use extra material generally ordered for making matching shawls to expand the dress to fit.
The fitting process involved more examination of her body in the dress that didn’t fit, the dressing room door wide open, and her back exposed to what felt like the world.
When she was back in the car with her mom, she broke down.
As she sat there, weeping as her mother, the bride-to-be, watched, hurting with her, she said, kindly, gently, “If you’re not happy, change it.”
She and her mother, Sheila Chelette, had already been through tougher things up to that point. Chelette was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and fought her way through it, keeping a positive attitude.
Arboneaux-Fish threw a Pink Party for her mom on the last day of her chemotherapy treatments, and it was a happy day, almost as happy as when her mother got engaged.
“I was so excited for her,” Arboneaux-Fish said, but weight always lurked at the back of it.
It lurked behind almost everything she did.
Her friends and co-owners of her hair salon, Mona LouElle, decided to sign up for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in March of 2013.
“I remember saying, ‘Ahhh, I’m not running,’ ” she laughed. “I mean, I decided to walk it, and I was anxious about walking three miles. But on the day of the race, we were all walking together, and I saw my mom in her pink mini-skirt power-walking ahead of me, it was exhilarating. That day, we went to eat after the race, and I ordered a salad.”
Then, she started walking. She walked so much that when she went back for the final fitting of that bridesmaid’s dress, it was too big.
She joined the YMCA and started walking and swimming, and took off about 50 pounds by herself.
It’s at this point in the past, “when I’d get on what I called my health kicks, that I’d either get sick, or get hurt, and quit.”
Instead, she decided to try a spin class.
“I worked up the nerve to go in there, and I couldn’t get my feet in the pedals,” she said. “I was about to pull one of those moves where you pretend you lost track of time, and have to go, then the instructor asked if I was having trouble. She came over and showed me how to adjust the bike.”
It was the spirit of the people at the Y, the non-judgement and kindness, that kept her coming back.
It was about that time that she met Meredith Atterbery, a trainer at the Paula G. Manship YMCA. “I was at the point that I could go on by myself, but I wanted help. I met Meredith in a spin class. She’s got this magnetic positivity that I was drawn to. She’s never condescending, very cut-and-dried, and the first thing she asked me to do was to establish goals. I wanted to run.”
Specifically, she wanted to run a half marathon.
Atterbery is a triathlete in her own right, and set up a program for Arboneaux-Fish to follow that started off very slowly, running only in short bursts. By the summer, she was doing long runs every Sunday around the LSU lakes.
“I said ‘Do I have to do them outside? It’s so hot.’ She said, ‘Yes. Get up earlier.’ So, I did.”
Jan. 11, 130 pounds lighter, Arboneaux-Fish ran her last long run, 10 miles, before the Louisiana Half Marathon, which she will run on Sunday.
She thinks back to all the times she searched the Internet for weight loss stories, hoping they would inspire her. She now realizes, she said, that everyone has to come up with their own reasons, and get healthy in a way that works for them.
For Arboneaux-Fish, replacing the predominant thought of weight with “health” seemed to do the trick. A switch flipped.
“This makes me think about all the things I’ve always wanted to do, but thought I couldn’t,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to take voice lessons. Maybe I’ll do it.”