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  1. #1
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    Default Any overweight female hikers here?

    I have been overweight my whole life, but still fairly active. I'm currently 49, 5'5" and 225 lbs. I've been working really hard to condition for my first hike in May (only lodge to lodge) but in this process, have found I'm falling in love with hiking and am dreaming of doing a thru hike with a friend. My knees bother me on and off. I know I should lose weight and am still trying, but despite my life long attempts just can't seem to get much lower. I'm wondering if there have been any female hikers out there that are overweight who have hiked the AT? Any insights, comments, thoughts.......? Honest thoughts appreciated!
    ~Therapy

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    Registered User HeartFire's Avatar
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    check out the Trail Dames http://www.traildames.com/

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Therapy View Post
    I have been overweight my whole life, but still fairly active. I'm currently 49, 5'5" and 225 lbs. I've been working really hard to condition for my first hike in May (only lodge to lodge) but in this process, have found I'm falling in love with hiking and am dreaming of doing a thru hike with a friend. My knees bother me on and off. I know I should lose weight and am still trying, but despite my life long attempts just can't seem to get much lower. I'm wondering if there have been any female hikers out there that are overweight who have hiked the AT? Any insights, comments, thoughts.......? Honest thoughts appreciated!
    I was 5' 3" 119 pounds when I hiked the Long Trail (Vermont), 110 pounds when I did the Bikecentennial with my parents, 10 pounds when I hitched, ferried and walked half the Intracoastal waterway. Now I'm an an inch shorter ... and not 120 pounds. There are people hiking the AT at 300 pounds. My from own experience, the weight comes off. Even when I do the one-day Walk for Hunger (20 miles), a fundraiser here in Boston, I take off a few pounds - and the organizers provide us with high-calorie, high-protein snacks.

    Ask your doctor (if you haven't already) to look for hypercholesterolemia. You might be overproducing ... the first word that came to mind when I read your post was dyslipedemia.

    If you have no health issues that you no of, see your doctor anyway and tell her of your plans. The knee problems may be due to something as simple as weight. I told my doctor that when I get closer to my thru-hike, I want all the tests in the book, so's I can avoid getting sick.

    I only have Long Trail and flatlander hiking experience; others will give you more extensive advice. But at age 49 lipid, diabetes, EKG, mammogram testing should be well underway. You may just have a predisposition to weight. You say "I know I should lose weight" - I hope you feel this way for health matters, and not for what society says about overweight people.

    Barring any pre-existing conditions, you will probably lose weight on the hike. I myself am losing the poundage just by walking up and the down the various low-lying hills in the cities and towns of eastern Massachusetts as well as walking with a pack the beaches in my little harbor city and the surrounding towns (great for getting the legs stronger). Have you considered a trip to Indiana dune country, not far from you?

    I'm sure you'll be great!

  4. #4
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    I'm a section hiker. At my biggest point, about 5 years ago, I was a hair under 190 lbs. I'm 56 and 5'6" (hey, do those rhyme?) So far, my husband and I have sectioned over 1250 miles of the AT, including parts of every state except CT. I should be skinny. I am not. While it appears that I have lost some weight permanently, I go up and down fighting to stay out of the 170s. Not so long ago I was in the 150s. It's a struggle, and I'm convinced it will be a lifelong struggle.
    A couple of points:
    YES, it is possible to hike overweight and still have a good time. Go for it!
    BUT, reducing your weight makes hiking so much easier! And of course, there are other health benefits. The nice thing is that hiking is a great way to lose extra pounds. The struggle is keeping them off.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miel View Post
    I was 5' 3" 119 pounds when I hiked the Long Trail (Vermont), 110 pounds when I did the Bikecentennial with my parents, 10 pounds when I hitched, ferried and walked half the Intracoastal waterway. Now I'm an an inch shorter ... and not 120 pounds. There are people hiking the AT at 300 pounds. My from own experience, the weight comes off. Even when I do the one-day Walk for Hunger (20 miles), a fundraiser here in Boston, I take off a few pounds - and the organizers provide us with high-calorie, high-protein snacks.

    Ask your doctor (if you haven't already) to look for hypercholesterolemia. You might be overproducing ... the first word that came to mind when I read your post was dyslipedemia.

    If you have no health issues that you no of, see your doctor anyway and tell her of your plans. The knee problems may be due to something as simple as weight. I told my doctor that when I get closer to my thru-hike, I want all the tests in the book, so's I can avoid getting sick.

    I only have Long Trail and flatlander hiking experience; others will give you more extensive advice. But at age 49 lipid, diabetes, EKG, mammogram testing should be well underway. You may just have a predisposition to weight. You say "I know I should lose weight" - I hope you feel this way for health matters, and not for what society says about overweight people.

    Barring any pre-existing conditions, you will probably lose weight on the hike. I myself am losing the poundage just by walking up and the down the various low-lying hills in the cities and towns of eastern Massachusetts as well as walking with a pack the beaches in my little harbor city and the surrounding towns (great for getting the legs stronger). Have you considered a trip to Indiana dune country, not far from you?

    I'm sure you'll be great!

    Thanks for your comments. I have had most of the testing you mentioned.....I don't have high cholesterol (all my lipid profiles are in the healthy range),
    and same for glucose (diabetes). I do have hypothyroidsm and take Armour Thyroid for that. I have had a stomach reduction in 2006 and even with that the lowest I ever got was 211. Yes, I do have a predispotion to weight. Even with all the hiking I've been doing (min of 6 mile hikes 4 days a week with 10 lbs on my back), I have not dropped one pound. I eat healthy and sometimes wonder if I'm eating too few calories for all the activity I get in. I want to lose more weight for my health and to make hiking easier. Not sure I can keep going as far and as long as I want with the knee pain. Feeling pretty frustrated. But good to know there are others out there that are heavy and can do the AT.
    ~Therapy

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    Thanks for the input and encouragement. Yes, that is exactly it.....I want to lose more to enjoy it.....right now, I'm in so much pain but I just plow through best I can.
    ~Therapy

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    thanks Heartfire......I am checking out TD and it looks like a fabulous supportive site/group! Thanks!!!!
    ~Therapy

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Therapy View Post
    Thanks for your comments. I have had most of the testing you mentioned.....I don't have high cholesterol (all my lipid profiles are in the healthy range),
    and same for glucose (diabetes). I do have hypothyroidsm and take Armour Thyroid for that. I have had a stomach reduction in 2006 and even with that the lowest I ever got was 211. Yes, I do have a predispotion to weight. Even with all the hiking I've been doing (min of 6 mile hikes 4 days a week with 10 lbs on my back), I have not dropped one pound. I eat healthy and sometimes wonder if I'm eating too few calories for all the activity I get in. I want to lose more weight for my health and to make hiking easier. Not sure I can keep going as far and as long as I want with the knee pain. Feeling pretty frustrated. But good to know there are others out there that are heavy and can do the AT.
    Consuming too few calories is a possibility, do you track your caloric intake? (Most people consume more calories than they realize). I sometimes have this problem but I consume between 400-600 calories less than is recommended and I'm very active.

    Over time, your body gets used to doing the same exercise at the same pace and you stop burning as many calories. The solution is to increase the intensity of your workout or reduce your calories.

    Because you've had bariatric surgery, your nutritional needs may be different, so please discuss this with your physician and not take advice over the Internet.

    Good luck and keep hiking, you absolutely CAN do it!

  9. #9
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    You might benefit from looking into a dietary plan like this one:
    https://fullplateliving.org/diet
    http://www.dietsinreview.com/diets/the-full-plate-diet/

  10. #10

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    Not a woman, but I've lost 40 pounds and kept it off over a good number of years, and that's the last time I'll talk about pounds or weight. I had developed a lot of unhealthy habits over the course of a few decades, and then one day I noticed that I was struggling to stand up, I was that out of shape. I'm not making any assumptions about you, but this is what worked for me. So, let's talk about health instead.


    TLDR Version: There is none. There's no one easy trick to getting healthy.

    - Cut out fast food entirely. Cut out most pre-processed food. Not so much for the bad chemical compounds, but because planning the meal, getting on your feet and banging about the kitchen, taking time to think about portion size, thinking about the individual ingredients and the process of how they're prepared really does count. Time spent moving around doing something is less time sitting or lounging.

    Example: You become much more aware when you have to slice the fresh mozzarella, slice a tomato, chop up some fresh spices and eat it in a half slice of that flax bran oat pita bread (which by the way lasts a lot longer, so you don't feel you need to eat it all in one day.) Want real pizza? Make your dough yourself, it's hours of commitment. While the dough is rising, render down a tomato into fresh sauce. Buy a pizza stone with what you've saved on take out and frozen pizza. Eat a slice or two, wrap up the other six slices in foil and freeze them. Twenty minutes to reheat in the oven. Serve with a veggie heavy salad that you've made yourself. I skip salad dressing entirely, I've found out that I really like the taste of veggies by themselves. Holy crap, an apple tastes good too, how did I forget about apples?

    - Planning. This was a big one for me personally. I planned everything initially. I had a pad of paper with a list of everything I wanted to do the next day. From waking up at a certain time, what activities I'd do, what to shop for, to remind myself to stay off the damned internet, meals, snacks, drinks. I even switched gas stations, since the local one has excellent fried chicken, and fresh donuts daily.

    - Motivation. Don't get caught up in seeking out motivational pictures of skinny young rich people doing super amazing things. Eventually you'll run into a few items that move you. Every morning when I'm lying in my warm bed, I think "When you wake up, wake up!" Yep, I start my day with a Sound of Music quote from a young rich Julie Andrews. I use music for inspiration. I can also lose myself in sad music, don't do that all that often!

    - Activities. Screw exercise, exercise isn't fun. Go on an activity instead, activities are fun and life is an amusement park. Start slow with something you enjoy. Start every day with a walk before breakfast. Every day. Pop out of bed and start getting dressed for whatever the weather might bring. Start slow, play games with your head. No internet until my walk. Do chores around the house, put on some music, dance while you sweep the floor, rake your yard, haul leaves, sweat a bit. Think about how much they'd charge you at the gym to do these same kind of movements. Change up your internet habits, you're already here, so that's a great start. Give up those time wasting games. Research exercise videos instead. This one is what I started off with, low impact and it actually kicked my ass initially, now it's a silly easy, but I still do it once in a while (muted, with my own music.)

    - Plateaus. The first few will be relatively easy to push through. Changing your diet initially is easy and you'll notice the benefit. Slowly ramping up your activity level is easy. Eventually, you'll be feeling great and thinking about what more you can do, seeking out those endorphins. You'll be a bit pissed that your house is clean, the laundry done and you can't move around to do it. You'll return from a hike wishing you could have done more. You'll feel pretty damned good, and wonder why you're the same relative size. At this point when you push yourself harder, your body starts breaking down in a bad way. Initially take a day off and let your body recover, it takes a bit longer at this age. Just kind of stretch and keep moving on your off day. Eventually you won't need the off days, and you can do fun things every day. Still plateau-ing? Consider taking a week off, this resets your body, and when you restart, you can do a bit more.

    - Water and pH balance. Everything tasty and comforting is acidic. Your body has mechanisms for dealing with this extra acid, but they aren't good for you, especially for women, who can't afford to lose the bone density. Soda is pure acid with enough sweetener added so that your body doesn't puke it up as poison. Drink water with a bit of lemon instead. Yes, lemon is acidic but it's not digested that way, there's a biological explanation, but I don't remember it. Suffice to say, a bit of lemon water lowers your acidity somehow. Less soda = more tasty food. Too many people mistake thirst for hunger. Stay hydrated. All sorts of health benefits to paying attention to your pH.

    - Superfoods and marketing. Anyone selling you these concepts is trying to profit. Largely based on assumptions of 1980s theories and studies that have proven to be flat out wrong. Whole grains, whole fruit, whole veggies are good for you! But, it's not because of the anti oxidant properties. That delicious sugary pomegranate juice isn't going to help you out. Most things with health stickers are trying to sucker you into buying them. Read the labels. Low sugar often means added fat, low fat often means added sugar.

    -Thru Hiking foods. If you're putting in high mileage days, you can eat some extraordinarily fattening foods and it will be good for you. If you're not on the trail, then refrain from extensive testing. A bit of chocolate is energy before climbing that big hill. Consider it a pre-reward.

    - Sleep. Bigelow Sleepy Time tea saved my life. Calms racing thoughts, doesn't actually make you sleepy. Nothing bad in it, you can drink as much of it as you like. You don't even need to drink it if you hate the taste, just inhaling the steamed scent is a soothing process. Meditative.

    - Puppy? Only if you can commit to hours outside every single day yourself. Research by breed/mixed breed that suits your living conditions and activity levels. Positive: You have to haul your butt out of bed early every morning to take it for a walk, or they poop on your floor. Negative: You've committed to 15 years of not being able to travel anytime and anywhere you feel like it.

    Kick ass!

    Edit: Grammar, typos, added a link.
    Last edited by Puddlefish; 03-27-2016 at 19:20.

  11. #11
    Registered User Water Rat's Avatar
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    +10 to what everyone else has said!

    In addition I just want to say your dream is possible if you want it bad enough. Due to your knees bothering you, you might need to be a section hiker but there is nothing to stop you from completing the AT! It just might take you a little longer than Jennifer Pharr Davis, but you can do it.

    The biggest thing is to stay as active as possible. Have you thought about incorporating swimming into your exercise? Only if you like it, of course! I mention it because it will allow you to get a good workout in and is a non-weight bearing activity. Great for your knees! It will help you to strengthen the muscles around the knees, without causing knee pain. That might help for when you do hike. If your knees/legs are stronger and hurt less, then you will be able to hike farther and see more cool stuff along the way.

  12. #12
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    Thanks for the thoughtful, time consuming response puddlefish.....I really do appreciate it, but I am already doing almost all of these things you mentioned.
    ~Therapy

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    Quote Originally Posted by Water Rat View Post
    +10 to what everyone else has said!

    In addition I just want to say your dream is possible if you want it bad enough. Due to your knees bothering you, you might need to be a section hiker but there is nothing to stop you from completing the AT! It just might take you a little longer than Jennifer Pharr Davis, but you can do it.

    The biggest thing is to stay as active as possible. Have you thought about incorporating swimming into your exercise? Only if you like it, of course! I mention it because it will allow you to get a good workout in and is a non-weight bearing activity. Great for your knees! It will help you to strengthen the muscles around the knees, without causing knee pain. That might help for when you do hike. If your knees/legs are stronger and hurt less, then you will be able to hike farther and see more cool stuff along the way.

    Thanks waterrat, and yes, I might have to be a section hiker. I appreciate the encouragment!

    Thanks Water Rat.....appreciate the encouragement
    ~Therapy

  14. #14
    Registered User Sandy of PA's Avatar
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    I greatly improved my knees and wind on a bicycle. I use trekking poles, they help up and down hills. I never hike in a hurry, slow will get you there. I have not lost a lot of weight but I did lose a lot of inches. I focus on low carb. high nutrition to keep "hiker hunger" at bay so I don't gain it all back when I get home. After 50, just not gaining is winning!

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    To add to what Puddlefish said - drink a glass of ice water before you consume anything else in the morning. Not sure of the chemistry of it, but for a bunch of us here in Miel-land it took off an additional 12 pounds (per person) per year.

    You'll be great on your thru! (Like me, you may want to wear one of those little removable knee brace thingies, they look sorta like what people with carpal tunnel slip on when they type; sold over the counter at a store near you).

  16. #16
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    I'm 5'5'' and about 235 lbs and I am starting my thru-hike on April 5. I have been conditioning and trying to help with my hike, including seeing a personal trainer at a local gym. But from what I have, there are all shapes and sizes out there on the trial. I am not going to let my weight stand in my way, it may mean that I am a little bit slower in the beginning but every step I take will make me stronger.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Traffic Jam View Post

    Because you've had bariatric surgery, your nutritional needs may be different, so please discuss this with your physician and not take advice over the Internet.

    Good luck and keep hiking, you absolutely CAN do it!
    I recommend meeting with an exercise physiologist at the bariatric center. Before your appointment, chart EVERYTHING (meaning each bite/sip) you eat OR DRINK for 2 weeks. It is possible that you are ingesting too many liquid calories. My fitness pal is a great way to chart this - on your smart phone or computer.

    While you may be taking in too few calories now, it that had been the case since 2006, you would have seen weight loss and low levels of things in your blood work.

    The weight loss will be VERY important to your success and enjoyment! I can't believe how I trucked through over 100 miles last year after losing 60 pounds! I look forward to hiking over 200 this year during my section.

  18. #18
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    My sister and I did the Camino de Santiago together last year (~500 miles), and she is about the same size as OP (although granted only 19 years old). Other than lots of trouble with blisters and being a little slower on the uphills at the beginning, she ended up being the faster hiker of the two of us. We did plenty of 20 mile days and she did great. She had also done about 200 miles of training in the six weeks leading up to the start, and I think that was a big help.

    Meanwhile, I was considerably lighter but had only done some training hikes on the weekend because of the crazy hours I was working. I started out stronger because I didn't struggle with the cardio aspect of it at all, but I had a lot of ankle pain in during days 5-10 and then a knee problem that lasted the rest of the hike (and still bothers me, which has me worried about my AT flip flop plans for this year...)

    I guess the takeaway is that the number on the scale isn't as important as gradually training your feet and joints carry that weight mile after mile. It sounds like you're doing that, so that's a great start! My other advice would be to absolutely use trekking poles. I felt like they really saved me from a much worse experience during those ankle and knee problems. Plus, besides adding stability and relieving pressure from the joints, it also made the experience a much more balanced workout. Backpacking will obviously condition your legs, but thanks to the trekking poles my arms also looked great!

    I'm currently in physical therapy for my knee problem, and instead of focusing on the knees themselves, they have me do lots of IT band stretches and wall sits to both loosen up and strengthen the muscles in the thigh. This helps everything track more smoothly in the knee, reducing inflammation and pain. There are lots of Youtube videos of these kinds of stretches and exercises, so that might be another thing to try. Best of luck!

  19. #19
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    First, let me say, there is nothing wrong with being overweight and having a love for hiking. Anyone, any size can love hiking. Skinny people are sore too....so dont think losing weight will solve all your issues.
    And last, just be in the moment. You seem like you have tried everything everyone has suggested. So be ok with who you are and just enjoy life.....hiking.

    Happy Trails

  20. #20
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    Be happy with who you are. Everyone has an opinion on how you can lose weight. Your question was whether you can hike and the answer is "yes". You just need to go slow and steady. I have sectioned hiked 500 miles as an overweight female, including some of the hardest AT terrain in Maine, NH. Remember it's your hike so hike your way. Plan on lower miles and take your time. I am planning for a thru hike in 2017. As for you knee issue hiking poles really help with that. Also my personal trainer had me purchase some Knee support sleeves. These really helped me with knee pain / strain. I wear them on and off during the day hiking. Generally to start and the end of the day depending on terrain and ups and downs. Downs are definitely harder on the knees. They are Rehband sleeves I purchased from Rogue Fitness. They are worth their price tag (in my personal experience)- save if you need to. Support as well as proved warmth to the joint. Also I liked the padding for my knees on rock scrambles. Good luck to you and go for your dreams.

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