Fitness goals a woman might set for herself could include wearing a tank top with confidence, fitting back into a pair of her favorite jeans or buying a two-piece bathing suit for the first time. But for one CrossFitter who has struggled with binge eating throughout her adult life, the need to lose weight far transcended the desire to fit into a cute outfit. She needed to fit back into the world.
No longer able to sit comfortably on a park bench to watch her kids play at the park, 40-year-old Holly Jordan Rose, felt like a prisoner at 417 pounds. Despite having tried countless diet plans, Rose was unable to maintain a healthy weight.
“It wasn’t the diets,” she says. “It was me. I turned to food when I was stressed to make me feel better.”
Last July, Rose turned to surgery in a desperate attempt to save her own life. Now she blogs regularly about her continuous weight loss. After having a gastrectomy, which reduced the size of her stomach by 85 percent, she has dropped 187 pounds in 15 months.
Rose says she knew it would take more than a major surgical procedure to turn her life around though. The day after her surgery, she started walking up and down the hallway in the hospital. These were her first steps toward a healthy life.
At home, Rose continued walking up and down her hallway, completing 50 laps every few hours. When this became easy, she went outside, making it to a mailbox before turning around. Each day, she added one more mailbox to her route. Pretty soon, Rose was walking three miles around her neighborhood. Then she started having knee pain.
“The doctor told me I had a meniscus tear and arthritis,” Rose says. “He told me, ‘You shouldn’t walk anymore. You should swim.’ Yeah, because I really want to get in a bathing suit.’ I became so depressed after that news. I didn’t exercise for weeks.”
Rose’s older brother encouraged her to join a gym and exercise on the recumbent bike. “I hated it,” she says.
Then a friend encouraged her to try CrossFit, telling her it pulled him out of severe depression. Rose’s first reaction: “I would die. Are you kidding? I would literally die.”
“But it planted a seed,” she says.
Through Twitter, Rose began corresponding with a CrossFit coach and affiliate owner in San Antonio, Texas and they connected instantly. She went to her first class, then blogged about the experience.
“I wanted to cry. I almost threw up. And I may, or may not have peed myself,” she wrote. “But that was all before I even got out of the car to walk in the door because fear wanted to keep me driving. Fear wanted to go back to McDonald’s, to the safety of Big Mac. But courage said, ‘Get your whiny butt out of the car and try!’”
“I walk/ran a short distance. I did squats. I lifted a kettlebell over my head! I could not do what the others were doing, but I did do something, and there is my name on the board: ‘Rose.’ And just seeing it there … makes me proud.”
CrossFit has also helped her knee, she says. “This stuff is making it stronger. Before CrossFit, I was limping along outside. Now I don’t even know I have arthritis. I don’t notice any pain anymore.”
Rose’s oldest daughter, Savannah, 16, was out of town the week her mother started CrossFit.
“I thought she had lost her mind,” Savannah says. “I couldn’t believe she would even try something like that. I was actually kind of mad because I thought she’d gone crazy.”
Not long after, Savannah began joining her mom at the box and realized her mom hadn’t lost her sanity after all.
“I saw that CrossFit is a team environment. Everyone there is very positive. I started understanding why she liked it and wanted to keep going back,” Savannah says. “She was starting to realize that she could do a lot more than just walk on the treadmill or around the neighborhood. Now we actually like working out, and it’s something we do together. I never thought I’d be that girl working out with her mom.”
Savannah says the best part of her mom’s fitness journey is watching her achieve things she never thought possible, such as picking up her younger kids or carrying in the groceries.
“She even changed the light bulbs in the house last week,” Savannah says. “She could never have gotten up on a chair and had the balance and coordination to do that before. But even her balance has improved massively since she started going to CrossFit. Oh, and now she’s jogging. It’s like she won’t stop coming up with new things to do. It’s like now I have to keep up with my mom instead of the other way around.”
Since joining CrossFit 925 in July, Rose has dropped 30 pounds. She’s gone from doing air squats onto a box, to back squatting 85 lb. She no longer does partial sit-ups. She does as many standard sit-ups as the workout prescribes. Rose says she is thankful for how the strength she’s gaining translates to the activities outside of it.
“I don’t need any help carrying or loading groceries in the car. I don’t need help putting the big water bottle in the car. I refuse help from the cashier. I want to do it because I can,” Rose says. “Those are like real-life things that you need. I can pick my kids up, which is very exciting to them. And without losing pounds on the scale, I recently dropped another pant size. If I was just running and doing cardio in the gym, I’d be getting smaller, but I still wouldn’t be able to pick up the stupid dog food.”
Rose’s participation in CrossFit impacts others, as well.
“Seeing a woman who struggled to walk through the door now walking out back with a barbell across her back chokes me up,” CrossFit 925 member, Merrily Brown, says. “So many people think obese women will always be obese. Holly is experiencing the joy of seeing a light at the end of a dark tunnel. She has a spirit that doesn’t stop. Watching her give it her all makes me want to give it my all, as well.”
Rose wrote in a recent blog post: “It appears there is a method to the madness after all. There is a point to lifting heavy things. And today I think I realized what it’s really all about. For in the midst of the kettlebells, and bars, and plates and rings, and among the push-ups that I didn’t want to do, the very moment I thought would never come, a dream that I had forsaken long ago: the simple act of holding my child in my arms, of being able to pick them up when they fall, or carry them around the yard on my back one sunny afternoon.”