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DIVING IN                         Lynetta Smith

 It took months for me to get the courage to go into the doctor, but I was at the point of desperation. I could barely walk. I sat in her office, heel throbbing, waiting for the painful blow. Whatever was wrong, I knew it had to do with the excess weight I was carrying and she would no doubt tell me to lose it. I was ready for her with the perfect excuse -- how could I exercise being so much pain?
    After scribbling on my chart, she told me that I had a case of plantar fasciitis. Though other factors caused it, it was exacerbated by being overweight, she said.
    "It's hard to lose weight," I told her. "I can't really exercise with the pain."
    "Are you eating balanced meals? Make sure you're not drinking your calories."
    I assured her that I was doing my very best with food choices. Not exactly the truth, but I had been trying. I'd even seen a dietician for a couple of months.
    "Try swimming," she said.
    Excuse me? I must have misunderstood. She wanted me to put on a bathing suit and go into a public place? Forget it! Just because I felt like a whale didn't mean I needed to go put myself on display like some small-town version of Sea World. I left her office with a printout of some stretches and little hope of recovery.
    A few weeks later, I could barely get out of bed in the morning. My husband and kids were doing virtually everything for me -- I couldn't even lift 10 pounds without searing pain shooting through my heel. I decided that if I could get my life back, the humiliation would be worth it.
    Early the next morning, I stood at the edge of the pool, feeling every bit like the Orcas that swim off the coast in my hometown on the Oregon Coast, except, could I remember how to swim? It had been years. As I edged in, bracing myself against the cold, I glanced at the lifeguard slouching in the chair; he was a skinny
teenage boy. Thankfully, he didn't seem to be too alarmed to see such a big woman getting into the pool. I half-wondered if he'd be able to help me if I were to get into trouble.
    As I started stroking over to the other side, a miraculous change occurred. Every extra pound seemed weightless. In the water, I could move gracefully. Though I huffed and puffed, the movement after months of inactivity invigorated me. I swam lap after lap for half an hour. For that little bit of time, I felt truly free in my movements, almost like flying. It was the only way to move without stabbing pain in my heel.
    I started a three-times-a-week regimen and added laps each time, until I was swimming more than a mile. It took 60 minutes, but it became my lifeline. I had lots of time to think as I propelled myself back and forth across the pool. "Being like an Orca isn't so bad," I thought. "They really are graceful animals."
    Sometimes it was difficult to force myself out of bed so early in the morning to swim. After a few months, I noticed that I rarely had pain in my heel. The exercise improved my mental outlook on life; I was happier with myself, and it became easier to make wise food choices. The best part was watching as the scale started moving downward! I was an athlete in a couch potato's body.
    Now I swim, cycle or walk on the treadmill five times a week. I continue to make progress, going faster and farther, all without pain. The scale continues to move downward, slowly but steadily. I still have a way to go, but I've been set free to regain a healthy and fit body.

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(From "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You")
Reprinted by permission of Lynetta Smith. (c)2010 Lynetta Smith.
(c)2010 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Distributed by King Features Syndicate.