Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Remembering Denise Cramsey

Sometimes the most power gift you can give another person is to believe in them. That's what Denise Cramsey did for me.

Denise died suddenly Nov. 23 after suffering a brain aneurysm. She was 41.

It is hard for me to put into words how much I appreciated her integrity and commitment to help others in every project she did from Extreme Makeover Home Edition to School Pride.

Denise and I were in the midst of developing my celebrity weight loss trek up Kilimanjaro into a television docu-series. Denise was kind, funny and a delight to know. Our last conversation, which was a week before she died, was laughing about one network's rejection because the project was "too earnest" for them. We took it as a compliment.

I attended Denise's wake on Dec. 1 in Allentown, Pa. It was an opportunity to thank her for all she did, for believing in me and my vision. That meant the world to me. There were so many people touched by her life. I feel blessed for having been one of them. The world is a better place because of her.

I decided to continue the Kilimanjaro project in Denise's memory -- to help others who feel stuck in their weight loss journey. My fellow hikers and I decided to postpone our trek from February to July 30-Aug. 14, 2011 so we can do it the right way.

Another memorial for Denise will be held 3:30 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Academy of Television Arts and Science in Los Angeles, CA.

Scott Farquharson, Denise’s fiance, is collecting notes to Denise that will ultimately buried in a place that she would love -- near the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the 48 contiguous states at over 14,490 feet.
It is a fitting tribute for a woman who moved mountains.

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Denise Cramsey Memorial fund, through Wells Fargo acct. # 6708486094. Contributions will help pay for the memorial and will be donated to Expedition Inspiration fund for breast cancer research. Checks for the memorial fund or notes may be sent to Scott Farquharson at 686 Camino Manzanas, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hiking Confession

I have a confession to make. Two weeks I posted on Facebook that I had bagged Mount Frissell, Connecticut's highest point. When my husband and daughter got up to where we thought was the summit, we ate snacks, snapped photos and headed home.

That night, when Chris was reading more about the mountain, he discovered we made a mistake that many do -- stopping on the top of Round Mountain, instead of continuing on to the south slope of Mount Frissell. Oops.

We had unfinished high pointing business in Connecticut.

So when we had to cancel our Mount Hunger Mountain hike due to snow up there, we decided to head back to Salsbury, CT to reach the true high point -- and then some.
Chris found an 11-mile trail that would take us to Bear Mountain, the highest peak in the state, back up to Round Mountain and on to the south slope of Mount Frissell. Because really, why do one mountain when you can do three.
We left our house at 6:30 a.m. to meet Chris's cousin Stacey (and fellow Kili hiker http://www.climbing4health.com/) and her friend Shannon at the Under Mountain trail head.

The first trek up Bear Mountain felt easy. We reached the top within two hours... the harder part was heading down the steep sections of the mountain. We had to be patient and scoot down a number of the more treacherous rocks.

Then on to Round Mountain (again!) where we had lunch to celebrate being five miles into the journey. I didn't bother to snap photos there...

From there, Chris thought it would take another hour and a half to the high point at Mount Frissell and then back down again. Tired legs and leaf-covered slope made this part of the journey even more difficult but I soldiered on -- because I really ddin't want to have to come back yet another time!

I was glad I did because I found the marker on the southern slope next to a large cairn. It was a bit anticlimatic as far as markers go -- but I was so grateful to see it because that meant I could head back.

We did soon as Chris signed the log book: "We came, we saw, we conquered three mountains and a high point."

We didn't make it down until 3:30 p.m. The sun was sinking so we had to hurry through our last three miles of the hike back to our vehicles. Thankfully, after heading up and down three mountains, the last part was pretty flat. That allowed us to zoom through the last bit. We actually had to switch on our headlamps for the last little bit.

It was a long day on the trail, but it really was a high point in my hiking history.
Fat Woman on the Mountain is available on www.fatwomanonthemountain.com and Amazon.com.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Not conquering Mount Hunger... yet.

I have decided to postpone my journey up Mount Hunger... Vermont had some early snowfall last week and I am worried about hiking conditions up there. (Mount Mansfield had 3-foot drifts on top!) To quote my dear friend Robin Simon: I may be crazy but I'm not stupid.

So instead, I will hike in Massachussetts... joined by Stacey (http://climbing4health.com) , Chris' cousin and fellow Kili hiker. We have our sandwiches (and gloves!) made for the six-hour hike.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Great Day on the Way

It's windy outside but I am heading out to Watchung Reservation for a quick jaunt in the woods. I have a big hike to prepare for next weekend -- Mount Hunger, Vt. -- so I want to make sure that I keep my legs moving but don't overtax them.

That, plus I did a killer Spinning class plus workout with Heather Worthy (www.worthyfitness.com) yesterday. Yowzah!

Then I'm heading to Readington Buffalo Farm to go pumpkin picking. This is a real patch where we get to trip over the vines and tug our favorite pumpkin off the plant.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Biggest Losers Ed and Heba talk about joining me up Mount Kilimanjaro!

Here's a look at Biggest Losers Heba and Ed talking about joining me up Mount Kilimanjaro. They are incredible people and I am so grateful to have them along on the journey!

Ed and Heba Co-Host My Carolina Today My Carolina Today

Don't forget to meet up with me at an upcoming book signing or hike:

Please join me 7 p.m. tonight (10/12)at REI, 280 Route 10, East Hanover, NJ for an inspirational talk and book signing.

Other book events:
7 p.m. Nov. 9 Bridgewater Library, 1 Vogt Drive, Bridgewater
6:30 p.m. Nov. 17, MediaBistro Book Club, location TBD, NYC
7 p.m. Dec. 8, REI, Norwalk, CT
Upcoming hikes:
10 a.m. Oct. 16, Watchung Res., NJ
11 a.m. Oct. 23, Mount Hunger, VT
10 a.m. Oct. 31, Jockey Hollow, NJ
(Halloween Hike fund raiser w/healthy lunch to follow. Bring ghost stories if you dare!)
Please email me or call me at 973-452-7620 if you would like to join me!
If I have to cancel, I will post it here on my blog, www.fatwomanonthemountain.blogspot.com

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Noticing Nature

One of the things I love most about hiking is that every step, every turn brings a whole new scene. There are so many things to admire out in the woods.

Some of of my colleagues (past and present) also have taken notice of nature and captured it. I wanted to share their amazing projects with you.

The first is Courier News Managing Editor/Digital Editor Loren Fisher's What's Good Blog. He started this project because:

"There is plenty of coverage of what's wrong with the world. I'm glad others are keeping an eye on things that could be better, but I want to show what is good around me."

So what's good? A cat in the arch of the courthouse. A bear in his neighborhood. A storm rolling in after sunset. And so much more. Check it out at: What's Good Blog

Second, we have Courier News photographer Andrew Miller. Here is an amazing piece of music he composed himself. Andrew then made a video using photos he took from his cell phone. Awesome. Brilliant. Creative. See for yourself:

You should also check out his amazing Hit the Trail images on Full Frame.

Finally, we have Star-Ledger Deputy Managing Editor Steve Liebman. His amazing photos inspired me to go down the Grand Canyon (and back up again). I still carry his hiking tips (such as cut your toenails short or you will lose them) with me on the trail!

Here's a look at his Flickr Stream: http://www.flickr.com/people/sliebman/

So get out there and notice nature on your own adventures. Happy trails!

p.s. The book, Fat Woman on the Mountain, comes out next week! Keep an eye on my website, http://www.fatwomanonthemountain.com/, for more information!

He also has some great stuff on the Courier News photo blog.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cleaning My Plate

I have been trying to trim down for third trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. My workouts have been on track, but, as always, I was struggling with food. I could come home from the grocery store with the same old stuff -- quick, but not exactly quality. I hadn't been paying attention to portions.

Even though I had stepped up my workouts, the scale wasn't moving down.

While I was visiting my mother, she handed me The Eating Well Diet Cookbook. She used it to help get her and my step-father on a healthy track. She also issued me a challenge: If I drop 60 more pounds (which is my goal) she will donate $200 to Global Alliance for Africa on behalf of my trek.

I got home and got right to work on, well, Eating Well. So far, so good. The pounds have been peeling off as I have been following (more or less) the 28-day plan in the book.

Most of the recipes are simple and beautiful healthy concoctions. Sometimes my kitchen is like some scenes in Julie & Julia -- with me cursing through a recipe that is taking me too long to prepare (ehem, Chicken Divan!).

Cooking more has helped me be more mindful about what I am eating. For example, the egg recipes for breakfast sustain me longer than the Blueberry-Coconut Macadamia Nut Muffins (though they are damn good). I am not rushing through a super-sized bowl of cereal anymore.

I am happy to report I have dropped 20 pounds since that July Vermont visit just by cleaning up my plate.

Fat Woman on the Mountain, the story of my 120-pound weight loss and quest to hike Kilimanjaro, will be available Sept. 14 on my website, http://www.fatwomanonthemountain.com/.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Hardest Part of My Story

"The ax forgets, the tree remembers." -- African Proverb
One of the hardest but most important things for me to write about in Fat Woman on the Mountain was about being sexually assaulted at age 12.

The story about my 120-pound weight loss and quest to hike Mount Kilimanjaro, which will be released Sept. 14, also details my journey up the scale.

I gained 40 pounds the summer after after I was molested. I am not alone, several studies have shown a strong link between survivors of childhood sexual abuse and obesity.

"Abuse also is a form of control by adults over the child victims, and overeating may be a way for abused children to gain some control of their own... Others have argued that being overweight is a way to make oneself unattractive and ward off undesired attention," according to a 2007 issue of Psychiatric News.

I have spent years in therapy trying to sort out the aftermath of what amounted to a few afternoons as a pre-teen.

Perhaps I struggle with food because it was a comfort, a protection. (I wrote about how heading to the pantry actually saved me from one incident). Then, it became a "weigh" of life for me. While the abuse may be a distant memory the eating habits gained after it still gnaw at me.

Still, I do my best to move forward with strength and purpose. I hope to inspire others to do the same.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

How to Hug A Tree

My neighbor was cleaning out some of her daughter's things that she had outgrown and invited my daughter to pick through the stash. (A great form of recycling!).

My daughter is a bit of a book worm like her mom and took every book she had to offer. When we went home and sorted through the pile. There, I found gold: Hug A Tree (and Other Things to Do Outdoors With Young Children).

I am looking for ways to encourage my daughter (who is now 2) to explore. Now we can Take a Bird To Lunch, be Texture Collectors, make Water Clocks and more...

Kids could use some encouragement to get outside... according to a Bay Area Wilderness Training newsletter, the average child gets less than 10 minutes of outside play time versus 120 minutes of screen time. (If you didn't know Bay Area Wilderness Training helps get at-risk youth out of the city and into the wild for life-changing adventures.)

Don't forget, Fat Woman on the Mountain, the book, comes out Sept. 14. Get your copy at www.fatwomanonthemountain.com

Friday, August 20, 2010

08.20.10: Newest Adventure!

I have some incredible news....I am heading up Mount Kilimanjaro a third time! This time, I am going with a group of celebrities who have also struggled with their weight. Each one of us is using the trek to get in shape and raise money for charity.

I have former Biggest Losers Heba Salama and Ed Brantley coming, Muhammad Ali's daughter Khaliah Ali, Top Chef contestant Andrea Beaman and others on board thus far.

We will begin filming the training this fall. We will leave for the Kilimanjaro trek on Feb. 12.

We are thrilled to be joined by Emmy-winning Producer Denise Cramsey and Director Scott Farquharson to make a television series on the project. Denise is now working on NBC's School Pride.

I promise to share details as I can... but I just can't wait to share this journey with my fellow hikers and the world.

Fat Woman on the Mountain, the book, will be available Sept. 14 on www.fatwomanonthemountain.com

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

01.13.10: Help Haiti

As I write millions in Haiti are awaiting help after a devastating earthquake rocked the region. Countless are dead.

Please take a moment to Donate to the Red Cross International Relief Fund to get aid to Haiti, takes less time than buying coffee. https://american.redcross.org/site/Donation2?4306.donation=form1&idb=991405240&df_id=4306

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!!

I just wanted to share that I finished 2009 with a trek up Kilimanjaro for AIDS orphans. It was an amazing finish to my year of taking on a physical event for charity each month.

I raised more than $10,000 for charities and dropped several pounds. Most importantly, I feel more empowered about me and the world around me.

I wanted to share that my story will be featured in the February edition of Redbook (out the last week of January).

Also I would like to invite you to my upcoming speaking engagements:
7 p.m. Jan. 14 at REI in East Hanover, NJ
7 p.m. Feb. 19 at Green Mountain Club Headquarters, Waterbury Center, VT

So what's up for 2010? I will be taking on just one challenge for charity -- The Warrior Dash Sept. 18 at Windham Resort, NY (Charity TBA) so I may focus on my family and my book project.

Wishing you an incredible and inspiring year to come!