From there, Baker moved her runs outdoors. She was a New York City transplant and wanted to use her runs to explore the city. By Thanksgiving 2021, she ran her first 5k, a turkey trot.
After that, a neighbor recommended she join a group run. Initially, Baker felt unsure about the prospect of running in a group. “That was really intimidating, because I had the mentality that I was such a newbie and I was going to go run with other people. It was a lot for someone who came from a mindset of being ashamed and upset with my physical body. But something inside me kept saying, ‘You gotta do it,’” Baker said.
Gradually, she increased her running to walking ratio so that she could run a half-marathon in March. “That was the worst run of my entire life. But I learned so much from that. I had to use each experience when I wasn’t necessarily happy or proud and grow with it,” she said. Again, Baker found that the long-term gains she was experiencing helped keep her going when she was uncomfortable in the short-term.
Baker got the opportunity to run the New York City marathon in early November as a fundraiser for Be the Match, an organization that helps match bone marrow donors and recipients. “I felt like, ‘What did I get myself signed up for?’” she said. “But deep down, I wanted to do it, and I knew I was doing it for an amazing cause.”
She created a training plan that worked for her busy life and added a few miles every weekend. “I still had to go to work every day. I still had to take care of my children, and I still had things to do, so I knew I had to tailor my plan,” she said. “I work out a lot, but it helps me be a better mother, a better nurse and a better person.”
She pays attention to her body when she eats
When Baker was training for the marathon, she was eating a lot of carbs, but now that she’s running shorter distances, she’s balancing her proteins, fats and carbs: “I allow myself to eat what I want when I want, but I listen to my body.” She aims to eat whole, nutritious foods most of the time.
What she eats in a typical day
Baker prefers to have smaller, more frequent meals. Here’s how that might play out:
- Breakfast: Baker is on the go in the mornings, so she’ll often have a protein shake. She’ll make overnight oats or cook two eggs if she has time.
- Mid-morning snack: One or two protein balls.
- Lunch: Stir-fry with chicken, vegetables and rice.
- Afternoon snack: Beef jerky or yogurt.
- Dinner: Chicken with a vegetable and rice, or mini pizzas.
Baker has learned that while something like mini-pizzas might not be the healthiest choice, it can be a part of her overall diet. “It doesn’t work in our house to have multiple dinners, so I make sure I’m eating something the kids will also eat. We’re not perfect 100% of the time. That was a mindset I had to change — before, one bad meal would have derailed me,” she said.
“Now, I don’t even want to call it a bad meal. I’m allowed to eat something that might not have as much nutritional value and still have a nutritious meal the next time. I’m looking at food differently. It’s like I’m taking the power away from the food.”
She connects with in-person and virtual support
When Baker joined the running club, she met her coach — they’ve been training together for a year: “She’s not just about the workout. We work on my mind, my body, and everything in between. With her help, I was able to shed some of my negative thoughts and patterns.”
Baker also finds support in the Start TODAY Facebook group. “For so long, I felt so alone in my struggle with my weight and how I felt,” she said. “Now I’m in an environment where people are motivating and encouraging and feeling the same way, and that’s what’s helped me more than anything else,” she said. “They’re total strangers, but they’re rooting for you. There’s so much value in that.”
She prioritizes herself, so she can be there for others
“I’ve learned that when I make myself a priority, it allows so much more room for me to then make my children a priority, to make the people I care for a priority, and to make my goals a priority. You have to care for yourself. It’s not selfish. You can’t pour from an empty cup,” she said.
Baker, who is now a running instructor and a certified personal trainer, also wants her children to learn from her example: “I want my children to understand you can make good decisions about your health and you can change your life at any point. You just have to be willing to put the work in.”