Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to Class

Since I've returned from Mount Kilimanjaro my workouts have been, well, lackluster. There is a bit of a let down after accomplishing a goal so grand, something that you've been training for and dreaming of for more than a year.

I love having a grand adventure to visualize while I exercise. Otherwise, I find myself bored and unmotivated. I just spin my wheels on the bike or go through the motions on the elliptical trainer for a quick 28-minute workout.

I'm still deciding what my next Big Fat Adventure will be. Other items on my life list include a rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike, a trek up Machu Picchu or another one of the world's Seven Summits (Aconcagua, perhaps). Since I've just barely unpacked after this last trip (and then again after Irene), I decided to give myself a little while to decide what my 2012 challenge will be.

In the meantime, I decided to shake things up by heading back to class -- exercise class that is. I love the positive peer pressure of an exercise class. You have to keep up, and people expect you to return.

I grabbed the group exercise schedule at the Summit YMCA to find some fun, challenging activities here at home. I started circling Zumba, Spinning Out Loud (where singing is encouraged) and others that can keep me motivated and working hard.

Since it is nice to have a familiar face in class, I started with my personal trainer Heather Worthy's class -- Cardio, Cuts & Core. She kept us sweating for an hour with a mix of kickboxing, strength training and more. What an incredible workout (I'm still sore).

So with the back-to-school season upon us, think about shaking up your exercise routine. Is there something you've always wanted to try? Get out there and try something new!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Made it to the top!

Just a quick note that I have made it to the top of Kilimanjaro and back down.

A lot of the porters and guides doubted that I could make it to the top. This challenge was as much a mental one as it was a physical one. I had to calm feelings of doubt along the way. I used mantras such as "Strong, Steady, smooth" and "I believe in me" with each step to squash negative feelings and continue on this journey.

I am so grateful for your support along this long, hard journey. Hope your summer has been full of awesome adventures.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Wish I Was Fat Like You....

Today a woman in the Kibera Slum, in Nairobi, Kenya asked me, how can I be fat like you....

Kibera is one of the largest slums in the world, home to as many as 1 million people. It is some of the most vast poverty I have ever seen. A visit like that has made me appreciate everything I have including my fat.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Altitude and Attitude Training in Telluride

I am spending the week in Telluride, Colorado to get a taste of thin air before heading off to conquer Africa's highest peak -- Mount Kilimanjaro.

I am here with Stacey Pratt, who is also hiking Kilimanjaro for Global Alliance for Africa, and Sydney Clover, who is helping me document my journey. My 3-year-old daughter also joined us and is attending day camp while I'm hiking way up high but it is a wonderful way for us to spend quality time before I take off for two weeks to Africa.

Our home away from home is an amazing condo at Mountain Lodge in Mountain Village. We sleep at about 10,000 feet. Just being here is altitude and attitude training. There is 73 percent as much oxygen here compared to home. (At the top of Kilimanjaro there will be half as much as home!)We often wake up with a smidge of a headache and a dry mouth. The key is to stay hydrated. I've been downing at least four liters of water each day to stay ahead of altitude sickness.

Each day we hike -- often trying to reach 12,000 feet. That will give us a head start before taking on Kilimanjaro's 19,343 feet. Our ulitmate goal while in town is to conquer Ajax Peak.

I am also using this week as a wellness retreat. BistoMD was kind enough to provide our healthy meals (ranging from 1,100 to 1,400 calories a day)so we could stay on track and could focus on our training. They are so easy to prepare, just a few minutes in the microwave and diner is served. So far, my favorites have been the Shrimp Burrito Bowl and the Chicken Breast Stuffed with Broccoli & Cheddar.

There is a little relaxation built in here... Yesterday we headed to Moab to visit Arches National Park (only 1.5 miles of hiking because of the 108 degree heat). I am heading to a Monsoon Yoga Class on Wednesday at Telluride Yoga Center and will hit Mountain Lodge's tub as often as possible to keep my legs feeling happy for the big challenge ahead. (We will summit Kilimanjaro two weeks from today!)

Packing to travel from the Equator to glaciers

I wanted to share two videos with you as I prepare for my trek up Kilimanjaro. The packing list for this adventure is about two pages long, as we make our way from the equator to glaciers.

Here is a trip to Bill's Army Navy Outdoors in Millburn:

and a packing confession about my second ill-fated trek up Kilimanjaro:

Hope you are having a wonderful summer filled with great adventures!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Breaking a Sweat!

I have been working out with my trainer, Heather Worthy, to prepare for Mount Kilimanjaro. I can't believe there are less than six weeks before the summit!

Here is a video of our training session this week. If you want to learn more about Heather, please check out her website, or her book, Worthy Workouts!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

20 Pounds of Sugar on My Back

The more I have sugar around, the more I want it.
I have been doing really well in my training. I keep hiking higher and higher mountains as well as longer and longer trails but I am not dropping pounds. The only time that I have been truly successful in losing weight was when I drop refined sugar.
On Sunday I decided to walk to my friends' house, which happens to be eight miles away, as a training exercise and get together. It was my responsibility to bring the bagels -- a baker's dozen -- to the gathering so I loaded them in my backpack and away I went. The weight of the pack was significant and it got me thinking about all the food I've been carrying around with me all this time.
The following day, when I suited up to hike Mount Tammany, one of New Jersey's best training mountains, I decided to bring along sugar -- 20 pounds of it to carry along, as I would like to drop that many pounds (or more) before I take on the mountain itself. Here's how it went:

The experience made me really think about what I really want to carry with me on the journey ahead.
Read more about my story at:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Birthday Hike Video

Thought you would love to see this video from my birthday hike. My biggest question to resolve in this 37th year of life is why am I again hanging on to this baggage, this weight. Once I let it go, it will be a lot easier to do the things I want to do.

Be sure to check out my website,
Happy trails!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Celebrating My Birthday on the Trail of Life

I have hiked on my birthday every year since I turned 31, and conquered Camel's Hump, Vermont's second highest peak, after years of feeling stuck in obesity. Today, on my 37th birthday, will be no different.

My weight chart looks like a mountain range with ups and downs. But the most important thing that I can do is to keep moving forward. And though I have struggled to get the scale to move down these past couple of years, I know I have the power to move upward and onward.

Hiking is my favorite way to celebrate life and all my body can do. This year will be a test of strength, stamina and spirit as I take on Kilimanjaro a third time. My goal is to raise $1 per foot of the mountain -- $19,343 -- for Global Alliance for Africa's AIDS orphans programs.

It is my greatest hope that my journey inspires others to better health and a better world.

Click here to make a donation to Global Alliance for Africa on behalf of my next trek.

Visit my website,

Monday, June 6, 2011

Asante Sana for a great event!

Thank you so much to all those who supported me Saturday at the Kilimanjaro Spinning Challenge. I was able to raise more than $1,000 for Global Alliance for Africa and garner lots of great energy to bring on the journey ahead. You will all be my rock on the mountain.

Here is a video from the event, which was created by Sydney Clover:

A big thanks to the Summit YMCA, and for Spinning instructors Monica and Joe who picked the most amazing music for the very uphill ride. I'm now absolutely in love with Afro Celt Sound System. Here's one of Afro Celt Sound System's songs, featuring Peter Gabriel, that they played on the ride.

Asante sana (Swahili for Thank You) for your support!
This is my fundraising website. My goal is to raise $19,343 -- $1 per foot of Kilimanjaro -- for Global Alliance for Africa!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spinning My Wheels on June 4

I would like to invite you to a very special event:

Kilimanjaro Spinning (Indoor Cycling) Challenge and Online Silent Auction
10 a.m. June 4 at the Summit YMCA, 67 Maple St., Summit, NJ

The online auction -- with some absolutely fabulous items -- will be right here on the blog. Bidding starts May 26.

I decided to host a special Spinning class (with the fabulous instructors Monica & Joe) fundraiser for Global Alliance for Africa because indoor cycling is a major part of my training for my upcoming Kilimanjaro trek.

I love Spinning because it creates less pressure on my knees. I get great anaerobic training in each class. Proper Spinning posture helps you tighten your core. Great music helps propel you forward. Most of all, the ride, is in the mind.

During the Special Event we'll be emulating my next journey up Mount Kilimanjaro, to the very top and then down again... Be prepared for a fabulous ride -- Kilimanjaro is like climbing the side of the globe -- from the equator to glacier.

Hope to have you there! You can sign up by sending me a note at A pledge of at least a $50 donation to Global Alliance for Africa will reserve a bike for you with a souvenir license plate!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Atlantis: Plus-Sized Paradise

As I am preparing for Kilimanjaro, I am feeling stronger, leaner and more adventurous.

When it came time for my husband and I to book our first family vacation with our 3-year-old daughter, we decided on Atlantis in the Bahamas. It seemed like the right mix of fun and relaxation for our vacation-starved family.

I was excited about the trip but harbored a trepidation that I think a lot of people who are overweight or obese do.... Even though I have been working harder over the past few months, I am still very much a plus-sized adventurer, especially around my hips. I worried that I'd get stuck down the water slides, sink the intertubes, or I would have to sit out the dolphin experience simply because I couldn't squeeze my rear into the wetsuit. Of course, there was the annoying anxiety of walking around in a bathing suit for four days.

My first move was to pick out swimming gear that I could feel comfortable playing in. For me, that was a pair ofLane Bryant swim shorts (because seriously, why should men be the only ones who get to cover their thighs with active swimming gear?) to go along with a cute swimming top.

I made a deal that I would just do the best I could, and if I had to sit something out, at least I'd be doing it on Paradise Island with sand between my toes.

The Atlantis was everything I hoped it would be -- and more. It was luxurious, fun and the swankiest place I've ever been (I usually spend my days off sweating up a mountain). I never once felt uncomfortable in my own skin.

When I first arrived at the Atlantis, I let my husband do all the crazy stuff (aka Leap of Faith and Abyss straight-down water slides). Each day I got a little braver. It started with me taking my first-ever water slide -- a tiny little one my daughter did before me. Whoosh. Down I went to the pool below.

It was a vacation for a lot of firsts -- such as my first time hanging out with a dolphin (while wearing a wet suit that fit). I don't remember ever saying I said whee, wahoo and yippeee so much in one week.

My husband nudged me into trying the Serpent Slide, an intertube ride that swirls through darkness before emering into a slow journey through the (glass-enclosed) shark tank. I laughed and shrieked my way through the Current, an intertube "river" ride that includes rapids, with an optional trip down the Falls.

I seriously don't remember saying whee, wahoo and yippee so much in a four-day period.

I should mention the Atlantis had lots of healthy eating choices (such as egg white omlettes as part of the OMG breakfast buffet at SeaGrapes) to stay somewhat on track (minus the frozen drinks of course). There was also a fitness center, though walking between the Beach Tower and Royal Tower was a nice hike, to keep up activity between the lounging.

I finished my day with a lovely morning beach walk truly felt I was on the path to a life full of more adventures.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kids tease me, a mother, at the playground

The first teasing my 3-year-old daughter experienced on the playground was seeing a little boy barrage me with questions: "Why are you so big? Your bottom needs exercise."

He kept on until his father called him over and gave the little boy a good talking to, "You don't say those kinds of things to strangers. You don't know their story."

I was mortified, at a loss for words. I was so embarrassed in front of my daughter. She's only 3, but I'm sure she recognized it in some form.

Still, I have to admit, I am terribly frustrated by my pear shape, especially because it seems to drop weight last in the places that need it most.

It is frustrating when I know I am making great progress, but you wouldn't know it by my hips. I melt from the top down, so even though I can finally notice my cheek bones again. I feel like sand bags are straped to my thighs, making it even harder to do the heavy-duty workouts required to drop pounds.

I needed to remind myself that even a month ago, I couldn't do the kind of rocking interval training that I do to get in shape for Kilimanjaro. My hikes are now a breeze, when last July I was huffing and puffing my way up the shortest trails. Every day is a step forward.

Working out and active play with my daughter is the most important thing that I can do. So there is no way I'm backing down...

The truth is, I probably won't see any noticible difference in my hips until June or July. I need to be OK with that and respect my body for all it has done for me over the years. I need to remind my daughter that it is important to be healthy and strong -- and I am headed in that direction.

Next time I will come up with a better response, because kid, I am exercising this bottom EVERY.SINGLE.DAY to make it up Kilimanjaro a third time.

To learn more about my story, visit:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Assumption Trail

I needed to step up my hiking pace so I am prepared for my Kilimanjaro trek in August. When I hike by myself (something I will never do again after seeing 127 Hours) I am a bit of meanderer... taking my time to smell the roses, the pine, the brook...

I've wanted to join a hiking club for a long time but doing any kind of new activity can be intimidating for any plus-sized person. I am not immune to the insecurity that not fitting the mold can bring. After all, when I started hiking at more than 360 pounds, the only thing I could buy at the local outfitter was a water bottle or fancy pair of sunglasses.

On Sunday, when I got out of my car, I could see a few "what the heck is she doing here" glances. When I approached the sign up sheet, the leader asked, "Have you ever been hiking before?"

Now I realize that this was probably a safety question, one asked to anyone new to the group, as I'm sure they've had lots of people bite off more they can chew on the trail... but the tone left me feeling miffed. It felt condescening, like he was judging a book (or Fat Woman on the Mountain) by its lumpy cover. I mean, really, have I ever been hiking before?

"Um, yeah.... In fact, I was just featured in American Hiker magazine," I replied with a little bit of a smirk. "And I'm in training for my third trek up Kilimanjaro."

It was probably an over-cocky response but two-thirds of Americans are in my shoes as overweight or obese. I am trying to pave the way to help others become active.

Every once in a while when I am working hard on the treadmill, I get an, "Oh my, she's probably about to have a heart attack" glance. But rather, I am being active and taking care of my heart.

The hike leader still seemed a little nervous about me joining the group. I worked to gain the respect of the group with each step. I was a solid mid-pack hiker, keeping up. I know it surprised some people, even me, as I hadn't realized how strong I had become in my last few weeks of training. The five-mile trek by Bear Rock, Whale Head Rock and Tripod Rock was a breeze.

I had a few things to learn as well, like a "separation", means pee break. The group ended up being really welcoming. I met some great people, had a wonderful workout and left knowing I would join them again.

As I returned to the trail head, I asked the leader, "So, how did I do?"

He said, "Anyone who makes it back does great. You did a great job."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Strength. Stamina. Spirit.

Now that I'm just about 20 weeks away from my third trek up Kilimanjaro, a lot of people have been asking me about my training routine. Getting fit is my life's work but with this upcoming challenge I have kicked it into high gear.

Getting to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak at 19,343 feet, takes a mix of strength, stamina and spirit.

First, I need the strength to support my body. Somehow, this is the first thing I omit from my workouts. I favor cardio in all forms than strength training. However, when I add it in twice a week (as per my trainer Heather Worthy,, I feel able to support my body better.

Second, I need stamina. The journey up Kilimanjaro is five and a half days up and one and a half days down (you walk up slowly so your body can acclimatize, you race down because you really want a hot shower and a cold beer). Summit day alone is 12 to 15 hours of hiking, which begins at midnight, takes you to Uhuru Peak and half-way back down the mountain. So each week I include some endurance activities such as Spinning class and a long hike. I mix in lower impact cardio (such as walking or the elliptical trainer) because of my size.

Third, I need spirit. I work with my yoga instructor Reina Tendler to train my inner-self for the journey ahead. I love yoga for a lot of reasons. First, it helps me focus on my goal (or intention) by visualizing it. I gain flexibility and strength in yoga. There is a tremendous amount of breath work, which at 19,343 feet (where there is half as much oxygen as there is at sea level), it is important to feel like you are in control of your breath (so it doesn't control you). For me, the real power in yoga is how I realize I have everything in my body to succeed.

Each week, I try to up the intensity or duration of each activity so I'll be ready for Kilimanjaro in August. Also, I'll be "checking-in" on Facebook to hold my self accountable for my workouts. (Click here to add me as a Facebook friend)

Here's a look at my current routine:

Monday: Low impact cardio + strength circuit

Tuesday: Interval training (2 minutes walking up hill, 2 minutes jogging, repeat)

Wednesday: Low impact cardio + yoga

Thursday: Spinning

Friday: Rolling staircase/uphill walk + strength circuit

Saturday or Sunday: Long hike

Off to the gym I go!

(This is Kara's personal routine. Be sure to consult with a doctor before taking on a physical activity.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring into a BetterU

I decided to use the first day of Spring to sign up for the American Heart Association's free 12-week BetterU! I have about 20 weeks until my next trek up Kilimanjaro and I figured it would be great to have an awesome online health coach along the way.

Want to BetterU with me? Tell me after you sign up at and you could win some great prizes along the journey.

BetterMe Coaching Tool: "The Go Red BetterMe Coaching Tool is the perfect companion to the Go Red BetterU 12-week program. Every day, you'll get tips, reminders, and more sent directly to your tool. You'll also be able to chat directly with other members of the program on the “Wall” share tips, motivational quotes, and work through barriers with others. You can also access and edit your journal entries directly from the tool."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

3.20.11: Tribute to U2

Last night my husband and I had a great time seeing A Beautiful Day, which is a New York-based U2 tribute band.... I thought it was due time that I give my own tribute to U2, especially to frontman Bono.
I had used hiking as my path to wellness for many years. I started with flat trails, then moved to molehills, mountains that once left me winded and even down (and thankfully up) the Grand Canyon. However, after conquering the Grand Canyon, my I started to feel a little lost in my training.
I started going to the gym and do a 28-minute fat burning cycle on the elliptical trainer (without breaking a sweat), or skip my strength training sessions for yummy yoga. I decided I needed a new challenge and it had to be Mount Kilimanjaro.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the epitome of hiking challenges. It is Africa's highest peak and it is the largest mountain that you can hike to the top of. In other words no ice axes, ropes or supplemental oxygen are required. However, it is still an arduous task -- a grueling 5 and a half journey to the top, as you are stripped away from most of you comforts (your warm bed, your loved ones -- and a shower!)
I decided if I was going to take on this challenge, I was going to do it for a cause bigger than myself. It was because of Bono's use of his voice -- for not only his music -- that I learned about the AIDS crisis in Africa.
I was particularly taken by the plight of AIDS orphans in subsaharan Africa -- healthy children who have had a generation of parents, leaders and teachers stripped away from them by the deadly disease. To give you an idea about how many AIDS orphans there are in sub-Saharan Africa, prior to my first Kilimanjaro hike in 2007 there were 13 million. As I am about to take on my third hike, there are 18 million.
I found Global Alliance for Africa, a Chicago-based organization devoted to helping AIDS orphans through empowering programs such as education and microfinance. I signed up to date have raised more than $15,000 for their programs. I will raise $1 per foot of the mountain -- $19,343 -- through my next trip up Kilimanjaro. Click here to learn how to make a donation.
Now, as I gain some spotlight for my endeavors, I try to use it for good as well. Here is my latest live television interview and essay in Self magazine talking about my journey to wellness, hoping to inspire others to be active with their bodies and in their communities.
So thank you Bono for making me aware, inspiring me to do better and teaching me to use my voice in a positive way.
I'll be speaking 7 p.m. Tuesday (March 22) at Interweave in Summit, NJ about how to take Action Steps.
You can find my book on Amazon or on my website.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Heading to Hike THE Hill

On Monday (Feb. 14), I will join trail advocates and hiking enthusiasts in Washington, DC for the American Hiking Society's 2nd annual Hike the Hill.

I am so excited to join the trek which will begin 9 a.m. Monday at the Lincoln Memorial and will end at the U.S. Capitol. For me, this Valentine's Day event is all about showing my love for hiking. After all, it was those trails that set me on the path to wellness.

If you're in the Washington, DC area, I do hope you'll join me. Here's a link with all the details. Hike the Hill

Happy Trails,


Other upcoming appearances:

March 12 Vermont Women's Expo, Burlington, VT

March 22 Interweave, Summit, NJ

March 24 Moms & More, Summit, NJ

Saturday, January 22, 2011

1.25.11: Wear Your Watermelon Sneakers

I got a letter last weekend from H&R Block with some sad news:
I am sorry to share with you that your tax professional, William Sommer, has passed away. William's professionalism, knowledge and friendship will be missed by clients and colleages alike.

Here's the remarkable thing about Mr. Sommer, who died in September from complications following a heart attack: Getting your taxes done with him was actually kind of enjoyable. Yes, it probably took twice as long because of his long anecdotes about the tax code and how they relate to real life, but it was fun.

Before I even met him, I knew he was a quirky character, and I had great admiration for how he walked his own path in his Watermelon Sneakers. In fact, he had been featured in the New York Times City Room blog, "Must Be the Shoes (Those Watermelon Sneakers)."

(Photo by Corey Kilgannon/New York Times)

Corey Kilgannon interviewed Mr. Sommer about his unusual shoes.

Mr. Sommer told the reporter that he found the shoes at a shop at Chelsea and decided he must have them. At first he was afraid to wear them, worried they would get ruined.

Then, he decided he would wear them 13 times a year -- on "Watermelon Days" to mark obscure holidays such as Red Ruffing Day and Bloomsday. They were meant to be conversation starters, he said.

Even without the shoes, you would have wanted to talk to Mr. Sommer. He was interesting, informative and brought delight to drudgery, even taxes.

My challenge to you today is to add bring delight to others' days and to walk your own path (even if you don't have a pair of Watermelon Sneakers).

Here is a link to the New York Times City Room Blog

1.22.11: A Mysterious Photo

My brother Bryan had a surpise for me when I visited him last weekend in Vermont. He just bought a new house so he has been spending time at garage sales and Burlington's Recycle North trying to find things to furnish and fix it. In his search, he came across a real gem for me. It was an old photo of Kilimanjaro, which came along with a mystery. The date on the bottom is 6/10. I am not sure if that means June 10 or June 1910. According to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the first documented attempt at the summit was made by Baron von der Decken and Charles New in 1861. Hans Meyer reached the top in 1889 (it was his third attempt). So 1910 would not be out of the question.

The photo, by Dr. Michael Weidman, is inscribed to Betty Bandel, "who has known many heights." I will spend some time in the coming weeks trying to find out who they were and what connected them to the mountain that I love so much.

My favorite part of the photo (other than the plentiful snow on Kilimanjaro) is the silhouette of a hiker, embarking on this great adventure. It makes me think of the possibilities for the dozen hikers who will be joining me up the mountain August for the docu-series. What a wonderful journey we have ahead of us!

Hope you can join me at my upcoming appearances:
Jan. 28-29 at the Chicago Travel Expo, Chicago, IL
March 12 at the Vermont Women's Expo, Burlington, VT
March 22 Interweave, Summit, NJ
April 15 Somerset County United Way Women's Initiative Luncheon, Bridgewater, NJ

Happy Trails!

Where have you been, Kara?

Please forgive my absense for much of these past few months... I have been in cyberspace, just not here.

I wanted to share a few places I visited on my Blog Tour, as well as some awesome awards that have come my way:

Outside Magazine's 127 Defining Moments Finalist.

Here are some of many Blog stops on my tour... I am so grateful for the online hospitality for my book:

And of course, my television debut on NJN News.

I hope to see you around here more often!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

1.1.11: A Clean Start

I admit it. I got a little naughty when it came to holiday eating.

I had a stressful November and December. There were so many special parties with wonderful friends between Thanksgiving and New Year's. The leftover hot cocoa from my gingerbread decorating party snuck into my coffee each day. I even used extra candy canes as stirrers! I even volunteerily picked up and ate a slice of a Natale's Bakery Yule Log at my friend Suzanne's Solistice Party. Christmas cookies appeared on my stoop!

I kept up with my workouts but I needed a clean start for the New Year. It is a great time for new beginnings and with my next Kilimanjaro trek coming in August 2011, I needed to get back on track

I decided to let my refrigerator inventory dwindle right before we left for our Christmas long weekend. Then I cleaned the whole thing out, letting go of every last little high-caloric crumb.

When I returned I made sure to fill it back up again with healthy foods -- salmon, salad, fat-free milk and more. I gave myself a clean start for health success in the New Year.
What can you do to give yourself a clean start this year?