CrossFitter Anna Marie is Still the Same Her, Just 155-pounds Lighter

I feel like I've accomplished something. It makes me feel good. - Anna Marie Steinbarger

Everyone has their pre-workout routines. Some stretch. Some use the facilities (why lift more weight than you have to?). Some chat with their fellow CrossFitters. But there is only one person at Muncie CrossFit who reads calmly before a workout–Anna Marie Steinbarger.

I have no idea how she sits there and turns page after page while the rest of us prepare mentally and physically for a kick to our ego. Maybe after working for years as a nurse and then a nurse practitioner in clinics and ERs, not much phases her. She’s an island of calm in the CrossFit storm.

Growing up in a military family, Anna Marie moved around a lot. She wasn’t really into sports, but she was always into a good book. On the road, books are the best friends.

Shy girl becomes a Nurse Practitioner

“I wore glasses,” she told me. “I was kind of heavy.  I’d bring my book along and read in the corner.”

She still likes a good mystery and averages about a book per week.

“I don’t make friends well. My sister and I are total opposites – I’m very introverted and she’s very extroverted. I’ve gotten better at that. As a nurse practitioner you have to talk to people.”

Anna Marie came to Muncie to go to school at Ball State.

“I got married while I was in school and basically never left. We lived in New Castle when I first got out of college as an RN because I worked at Henry County for a little while.  And then I went to Ball, and we moved here, and I’ve been living in Muncie pretty much every since.”  

“In 1996 I decided to go back to school.  There was an overage of nurses, and they were actually laying off nurses in Indianapolis, so I thought if I got my Master’s, it would make me more marketable.  So I decided to go back. They told me about the nurse practitioner option, and I was like, ‘That is what I would like to do.’”

“I’ve been a NP for 16 years now.  We can see all but about 20% of patients, like people who need intubated or are coding, critically ill patients, I don’t do those.  We can evaluate, diagnose, prescribe medications.”

The decision to become even more engaged in the health of others, led to her evaluating her own.

“When I became an NP, I decided that if I had to tell people to quit smoking, I needed to quit myself. You can’t tell other people to quit smoking if you are sitting there smelling like smoke.”

But the long shifts and the irregular schedule of working as a nurse then as an NP didn’t make for the healthiest environment.  

“You have a high stress level, you are so busy, you don’t have time to eat.  You are picking up snacky stuff.  If you do eat a meal, you eat it in such a hurry.  When your work a twelve hour shift, it’s hard to work in exercise and take care of yourself.  It’s hard.”

This is going to kill me

“I was fat most of my life. I probably tried every diet in the world. Finally my turning point was when I walked up  a short flight of stairs, with an overnight bag on my shoulder, and it probably took me 5-10 minutes just to catch my breath.  ‘This is ridiculous,’ I thought.  At that point, I was 285 pounds.”

“I remember flying, being in those seats and having trouble with the buckles. I remember how hard it was to sit in those seats when I was heavy.  The seats are narrow, you feel cramped.  It’s awful.”

Anna Marie decided to get a lap-band. an inflatable device placed around the top portion of the stomach that slows food consumption.

“You have to have a psych eval to make sure you will be ok with losing the weight.  Food for most overweight people is a coping mechanism, and if it’s a strong coping mechanism, and you take that away from them, they don’t do well. They have depression, psychosomatic issues.  They get a lot of perceived illnesses that are not there.”  

“I finally said, ‘I have to do something, or this is going to kill me.’  I did really well with it. I lost 155 pounds.  That’s a whole other person!  I still have it.”

“Losing weight has made me feel better about myself.  It was hard to interact with people when you are that heavy.  You are just treated different.  People are not as friendly to you when you are heavy.  They don’t want to be your friend.  You’re treated like you are lazy.  They think that is why you are heavy, because you are lazy.  They think you don’t care what you look like.  That’s not the truth.  That’s not how you feel.  You try and do all that stuff.  When you try to exercise, it’s hard because you don’t have any energy, stamina. My whole life, I was treated different.  Now that I have lost the weight, the difference is amazing.”

We interrupt this story for a few thoughts on weight discrimination from Kelsey

Weight discrimination is real, and it’s almost accepted by our society.  Susie Orbach, author of “Fat is a Feminst Issue” wrote this in The Guardian.

Fat shaming is a new and vicious sport … Children and their parents are being shamed for looking different than the thousands of Photoshopped pictures we see weekly on our screens … No wonder society has a thing about fat.

The paradox of consumer culture is that we should and must consume — our economy depends on it — but we should at the same time do so discreetly and expensively. Fat challenges this idea. Fat dares to show. Fat is disdained because it is read as greed and an inability to choose or say no…We value holding back and then assign to fat people the contempt we can feel for our own longings.

Many medical students have an unconscious bias against overweight patients. Heavier workers earn $1.25/hour less than their peers.  

As a fitness community, I think it is our responsibility to not contribute to body size discrimination. One of my favorite parts of CrossFit is that our community is made up of all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities.

Still the same me

“I feel like I am still the same me, and I, to be honest, still look at myself and think I am fat sometimes.  But that feeling is still there, you just feel like you are still fat.  I mean, people will say you have lost so much weight, and you are so skinny.  I’m like, ‘I’m not really skinny,’ but when I look in the mirror, I’m like, ‘Yes, you are skinny.’  I used to fixate on my weight.  I used to weigh myself every day, and if I gained a pound, I would hardly let myself eat that day because I would be worried.  That has been a struggle for me.”

Anna Marie was working out with a personal trainer, but when he left she struggled to workout consistently.

“I was looking for something that would make me commit to exercise, and I knew going to the gym randomly wasn’t going to work for me.  The personal trainer had been gone 6-9 months.  He had given me a list of exercises, and all I had to do was go in and do them, but I wouldn’t make myself do them.  So after someone told me about Muncie CrossFit, I went in and met Adam.  I really liked it.  I like the fact that they change it up all the time.  You might in one week do several squats, but you are doing them in different ways.  I love that it’s always changing.  They do accommodate people who have a lower fitness level.  The modifications that they do are wonderful. When I’m done exercising I feel like I have accomplished something. It makes me feel good.”  

“I still watch the scale like a hawk.  But with Muncie CrossFit, I’m like it’s alright, it’s alright.”

So that’s Anna Marie’s story. She’s not shouting, “I lost 155 pounds!” from the rooftops. She sits quietly in the corner reading a page-turning mystery until it’s time to workout. She has a remarkable story, but one that she’s not quick to share unless she feels like it can help a patient.

“I can kind of understand where they are coming from when they are struggling.  When someone asks me, I try to help where I can.”