In Cathy’s Words: Cathy the Cortisol Container

a.k.a. my journey of stress & weight issues

There are defining moments in our lives, the indescribable joy of having my kids, the soul-deep sorrow at losing my beloved Mom. The I DID IT feeling of bringing a dream to reality and the I CAN’T DO THIS feeling when your body crashes after powering through for so long, dare I say TOO LONG!

There are moments where you stand proud and say I AM STRONG! I AM CAPABLE! I CAN SLAY ANY DRAGON WHO DARES CROSS MY PATH!

And then there are the moments where you drag yourself across the threshold of your castle, remove your armour and put away your sword while you weep from exhaustion and despair at battles fought valiantly, but lost. You close the door on the world outside and retreat to recover.

I’m here to tell you that I have lived all of the above.

The OTTAWA MAKEOVER PROJECT has shown me a version of me that is evolving, that is braver and stronger than I ever thought I could be again. You see, I’ve faced many dragons in the course of my life and lost many battles, but the scars remind me that I’m still standing, still ready for what life brings my way.

The biggest dragon for me has always been my weight. I was teased a lot about it growing up and it hurt. Every. Single. Time. So, like so many folks with a similar issue, I turned things around and would make fun of myself, if I am self-deprecating, it won’t be as fun for those who would tease me to do so, right? Nope, that is the deluded thinking of someone who uses humour as their armour. It still hurt whether I said it or someone else did.

Can we control what we look like? From a body mass perspective, yes, to some extent. But, we cannot choose our overall build, not naturally. So, we may have blue eyes or brown, blonde, brown or red hair, big boobs or small, fabulous butt or hardly any. Perfect teeth or not. NONE OF WHICH WE GET TO CHOOSE NATURALLY!

Yet, people are judged for what they look like, what they weigh, what they wear, where they live, their education, their bank balance, their job. ALL SUPERFICIAL!!!

I have been told that 80% of our body shape/build can be attributed to diet; to whatever we’re putting in our mouths. Makes sense to me! Your cannot out-exercise an eat-whatever-crap-you-want lifestyle.

Cathy wedding close-up


I was a smokin’ hot 18-year old. A truly stunning 25-year old bride. Then I had kids and went into my ‘shapeless-clothes-so-nobody-notices-my-shape’ phase. That enabled me to not have to face the long-standing unwanted and inappropriate attention of entitled men. And, by being shapeless, I focused on my raising my kids. A few relationships over the years, but nothing monumental.


ALL THIS TO SAY, that on 3 November 2015, I learned that I had about 100 pounds of fat on my body. 100 pounds – that was a stunning revelation. You’d be right to wonder, what happened to the smokin’ hot 18 year old & stunning 25-year old bride? Well, in a word S-T-R-E-S-S!

STRESS releases cortisol which puts your body in fight or flight mode as needed. My stressors were a combination of being a single parent with a deadbeat ex, struggling to provide for my kids, the shame of being on assistance because working part-time meant I could be with my kids and not spend so much of my income on child care. I always worked and volunteered; always gave back. There seemed to rarely be more than enough money for the basics; things didn’t seem to quite work out for me/us. So, I was essentially a cortisol container. Now, that sounds sexy!

I maintained this level of stress for almost 20 years! Yet, you’d never know it because I presented a facade of get it done and keep smiling. The stress/cortisol combo opened the door, and poor food choices, a lack of physical activity (overwhelm is a companion that keeps you from being any kind of energetic) and general malaise brought me to a breaking point.

Stay tuned.

– Cathy