Denise L. (NDM#493) (4 Posts)

Hello, I’m Denise! I’m a work at home mom, blogger, bargain shopper, Disney fanatic, home cook, volunteer, and distance runner (26.2 x2, 13.1 x4, 10k x3, and lots of 5k’s). I also know a little about weight loss. My dream of running my first Half Marathon at Disneyland at my goal weight had a lot to do with the motivation to lose weight, as well as being a healthier and happier person, mom and wife. With sheer determination, cleaner eating and exercise, I lost 110 pounds after the birth of my son. It wasn’t easy but it sure was worth it! I'm currently training for the 2015 runDisney Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World.


As part of our “A Month of Thanks” celebration, we asked our readers and contributors to share their stories about why they are thankful for Disney. Here is just one of those submitted. If you would like to share why you are thankful for Disney, please see this article or contact Maria (NDM 130)


Like so many of us, I fell in love with everything Disney as a child.

I had a collection of classic Disney Read Along storybooks and records, watched the Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday night, and dreamed of going to Disneyland one day. We didn’t travel much when I was a kid. When we did it was always somewhere within driving distance of our little house in Portland, Oregon.

Finally, the big day came to drive down to Southern California and visit Disneyland when I was 10. Disneyland was just as magical as I believed it would be! Walt Disney created a land so spectacular and awe inspiring – it was thrilling just to be there and feel the magic all around. It’s a Small World was my favorite ride and I went on it over and over again.

Disneyland and It’s a Small World represented something really big and empowering to me. I felt for the first time in my life that there was a whole giant world out there and someday I might really be able to see it for myself. My own world suddenly grew and became real and full of possibilities that I had never imagined before.

As I grew up, I never lost that feeling of excitement and curiosity about the world that Disneyland sparked in me. Throughout life’s challenges and hardships, I held out hope that someday I would travel the world.

In my twenties, I saved my money, quit my job and travelled around Europe with my backpack and a rail pass. It was a life changing experience to see France, England, The Netherlands and Italy, all with my own eyes. I visited Disneyland Paris too, staying in the big hotel and feeling Disney magic all around.

Traveling and the experience led me to return to college and earn my degree in International Studies. I wanted to learn more about the people of the world. I studied abroad in The Netherlands and loved living in a similar but different culture to my own. I both tried and eventually learned to cook Dutch and Indonesian cuisine that were unfamiliar to me as an American. When I graduated, a recruiter approached me for a job that involved heavy domestic travel and working in the culinary industry. While that wasn’t exactly what I went to school for, it was exciting work where I learned to cook world cuisine from renowned chefs, attend exciting events, and meet many interesting people.

I left my job following the birth of my son. I had a complicated pregnancy where both my son’s life and my own were at risk. My world had never felt so small and isolated as it did when I was fearful that he might not make it. I turned to food for comfort during that time and was on bed rest – not a good combination. After I delivered, I was more than 100 pounds overweight. I lost some of the weight through exercise and eating less but maintained at 197 pounds for months. I felt like I would never lose the rest of the weight and was just relieved to be under 200 pounds.

When our son was 4, we planned our first trip to Disneyland as a family. We arrived on Labor Day in 2011, right after the runDisney Disneyland Half Marathon. Seeing the runners wearing their medals around Disneyland was so inspiring! I thought right then and there – wouldn’t it be incredible motivation to lose the rest of the weight and run a Half Marathon at Disneyland?!

We went on It’s a Small World many times during that trip – both during the day and at night. Our son loved it too! The idea of running a Half Marathon at Disneyland was never far from my thoughts.

Here’s a pic of us from our first family trip to Disneyland


I came home and felt so nervous but hopeful at the same time about running. I ate healthier, cleaner foods, and trained really hard. I felt so inspired by my love of Disney and wanted to finally get my life and body back. I lost all of the weight and ran my first Half Marathon – the Tinker Bell Half at Disneyland in 2013!

I went on to run even more in 2013 – two full marathons and finally, to finish the year right – another Disney race. I wanted to earn the runDisney Coast to Coast medal and visit Walt Disney World for the first time so I ran the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon. My son also ran the Kids Races during Tink weekend and Wine and Dine weekend so he got medals too!

Here’s the pic of us wearing our medals from the 2013 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party


We have all run Disney races now and they share a special place in the hearts of our family. I am training harder than I ever have in my life right now to run the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World Marathon weekend in January. It’s a 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, and finally a Marathon on four consecutive days for a total of 48.6 miles. Then I’ll return with the family in February to run my first 19.3 mile runDisney Princess weekend Glass Slipper Challenge.

I am thankful for Disney more than I can ever say. Disney has always represented hope to me and the messages in Disney stories and films have carried me through some very tough times. No matter how stuck I have felt in my circumstances and challenges in life, I have always found motivation and inspiration through my love of Disney.

Thanks Maria (NDM 130) for the great idea of sharing why we are thankful for Disney this month!


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