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3 lessons I learned on the mountaintop

NOTE: This week marks my 3-year anniversary living as a fit, active, healthy, happy girl from the center of her equation — maintaining a -200 lb weight loss. To celebrate, I’m working on a series of blogs sharing the lessons of the road of the past three years of healthy living. This is a continuing journey. It’s been the ride of a lifetime and I wouldn’t change a thing — even and especially the hard stuff.


Hello mountain. Hello fresh spring air. Hello switchbacks and ascending trails….expansive and breathtaking views. Hello critters of the forest. It’s just us today. Just the way I like it. Good morning!

As I pass the entrance to Oberg Mountain and hit the ascending trail, this is my internal conversation — with myself and my mountain. It’s been months since we’ve met and it feels like coming home again.

Oberg — on the beautiful North Shore of Lake Superior — was the first mountain I ever climbed. And like a first love, it will always have a very special place in my heart.

That was not always the case.

The Lori Schaefer at Weight Loss Boot Campfirst time I climbed this mountain in weight-loss boot camp, I weighed over 360 lbs. It was winter so we climbed all bundled up in our winter gear, including snowshoes. I not only dreaded it, I offered many four letter words during that first climb as Oberg and I got acquainted — none of them appropriate for this blog!

lori&leif-on-mountainBut it was here on the switchbacks and the nearly three miles of ascending and descending trails that I learned what I was made of. What I am capable of. What I desire. What I fear…

Oberg Mountain April 2015And in the 50+ climbs since that first climb 4.5 years ago, I’ve sorted out a lot of stuff, written a lot of blogs in my head, and found a peace within myself that is profound.

Family on "my log" - sans heart attack!This little mountain on the North Shore of Lake Superior has become “my mountain.” My life training ground. So what better way to celebrate three years of mountain climbs than to reflect on the lessons of the trail. I’m delighted to share them here as I celebrate 3 years as a healthy, happy mountain-climbing girl.



Don’t let your head stop you from accomplishing what you are capable of… from reaching your biggest dreams and greatest potential.

The very first time I climbed Oberg, I thought I was going to die. Literally.

We climbed this mountain on our second day of boot camp. I didn’t want to climb a mountain. It was not on my bucket list or even my desire list. Yet in this environment, I really had no choice.

Because I was one of the heaviest on this mountain trail, I got the benefit of coach, Leif Anderson, climbing with me. Leif encouraged me, cheered me, pushed me, and most importantly, told me NOT to stop or sit down. He explained it would be harder on my heart.

As we navigated what seemed like the longest trail on the planet, I got impatient and discouraged. I was in pain. Countless times I accused him of lying to me as I exclaimed: “How much farther, Chief? This is bulls_ _ _!” His answer was always: “Just a little farther. Don’t stop.” Or, “This should be it for hills.” NOT!

After nearly two hours of what seemed like an eternity, my aching back and body couldn’t take it anymore. I spotted a log and sat down. Yep, I plopped down to rest, contrary to my coach’s advice.

Immediately, I started to breathe heavy…then hyperventilate. I started to cry, hard. And got more worked up. Within seconds, I thought I was in full blown heart attack mode. It was then that Leif slipped and fell on his snowshoes (intentionally?). I started to laugh and snapped out of my “attack.” Whew. I was okay. I was not having a heart attack. More like a temper tantrum combined with anxiety attack. But I was scared.

“You’ve got this,” Leif said to me. “You can do this and I’m with you.” As I looked over just 15 feet ahead was the sign indicating that we had done the loop and were ready to descend the mountain.

Fear of the unknown. Self-doubt about my capabilities. Those internal voices that said: “I can’t.” All, threatened to stop me in my tracks. But the truth is, I was strong enough to climb that mountain that day, and about five more times during boot camp. Now, I relish it.

My head — in particular those old tapes that I wasn’t good enough and couldn’t do it — was getting in the way of accomplishing something so cool, so powerful, that it’s now part of what feeds my soul and my spirit.

Today, I’m a mountain climber. I seek out new mountains to climb — literally and figuratively. And I know I can do it. I can do anything.


No excuses. You won’t know until you do it, that you CAN do it! And I promise, you will never be the same.

I spent so much of my adult life, the heaviest years, letting fear stop me in my tracks. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what others might think. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of failure. The fear manifested itself as excuses and sometimes in apologies. “I’m sorry I can’t …”

Then, in weight-loss boot camp, on that mountain, I had to just do it. I had signed up for this stupid camp and committed to doing it. At the beginning of camp, when others were setting weight-loss goals, I said my goal was that “I would not quit, no matter what.” So, what choice did I have but to start? To just do it. And trust it would all work out.

And so I did. I put one foot in front of the other, terrified I would fail. Uncertain of what I would encounter. Definitely uncertain if I could do it. And then, I did it.

I climbed that mountain 1x, 2x, 3x, and more. I found my legs. My strong legs carried me. My strong heart pumped for me (albeit pretty hard). My strong mind fought through pain, heartache, hardship and won. I did it! And I wanted to do it again, and again, and again! Even though it was hard. Especially because it was hard and I did it.


You can’t embark on any mountain climb — literal or figurative — and not be prepared to persevere. To keep going when the going gets tough. To keep moving when you don’t want to and you don’t know what’s around the next bend. Or, how steep and challenging the next climb will be.

I have hiked this mountain trail to celebrate my wins. I have hiked it in the saddest of places looking for answers within myself. Not sure if I could survive a struggle or challenge only to find the lesson in the struggle as I put one foot in front of the other and forged ahead. It was here that I found my wings. I learned to persevere when the going gets really, really tough. To keep moving forward without the benefit of the light. And to always get up again when knocked to the ground. I will not quit, no matter what.

This lesson is serving me today as I navigate yet another life lesson about letting go of something I really wanted. I’m trusting that there is something better for me on the other side of this. In fact, I’m counting on it.

#Gratitude for lessons from the mountaintop

Today, as I celebrate three years of healthy living. As I reflect on where I’ve been and how far I’ve come, I am especially grateful for my mountain. For it is here that I learned:

1) I am strong. Far stronger than I thought. In fact, I can do anything I set my mind to.

2) The beauty and strength of pushing past my fear and just STARTING to move forward.

3) How to persevere, no matter what. In particular, how to get up every time I fall down in pursuit of something I really, really want.

Thank you, my Oberg Mountain. Until we meet again…


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