Unseen Changes

Picture it, you’re walking out of the YMCA with someone. While you are a member of a gym, you weren’t even there to work out. You were there to support an event. Yet as you walk to your vehicle, a car drives by. A passenger yells out their window, “I think you need to work out a lot more!” This person has just judged you on what they saw in a brief few seconds. But let me share what they didn’t see.

  1. You have already lost 40 lbs. (give or take).
  2. You are more active than you have been in as long as you can remember.
  3. Your muscles are growing.
  4. Your body is shrinking.
  5. The other night you ran for the first time in years. You didn’t even realize you could until you tried.
  6. You’re over halfway through meeting a challenge of working out 100 times in 6 months.
  7. You are able to consistently up your weight used when working out surprising yourself on how strong you really are.
  8. You are not lazy as you used to be. You now want to be doing things instead of lounging around.
  9. You are eating healthier than you have in years.
  10. You are starting to realize you really are worth it.

There are many more truths this person does not see. When it comes down to it, what this person said doesn’t matter. This person passed through your life in approximately 5 seconds. Is that a person worth listening to? Is that a person worth believing? Is it worth putting everything you know aside to believe what this one person said? No! The only person you have to answer to 24 hours a day is yourself. So stand tall, stand firm, and hold tight to what you know is true. Listen to yourself (those positive voices, not the negative ones), not the strangers who know nothing about you.

Freedom From Confinement

I was talking to a friend recently about losing weight. I said “You don’t understand what this means to me”. Their response was, “You are right that I don’t understand what it means. What does it mean?” The problem was, I wasn’t sure how to explain it.

Over the past few days I have been mulling this around in my head, trying to find the words to describe it. There is one word that keeps resurfacing in my head – Freedom. This is one of the most difficult things I have ever attempted to explain. It’s something you really can’t understand unless you experience it. Here’s my best attempt.

While this started out as a weight loss attempt, it has shifted to a journey to better health. That not only includes physically, but mentally as well. You’d be surprised at how much losing weight can affect the way you think – about yourself, about your eating habits, about everything really. A new world opens up to you. The impossible becomes possible. You see things in a different light. It’s empowering.

My body is moving in ways it hasn’t been able to in years. I have energy I haven’t felt as long as I can remember. I have a want to do things. Before it was do what I had to and then rest and relax (mostly just lounge around). I’m now pushing past that and doing more and sitting less. (Don’t tell anyone – but I was actually excited about getting out and mowing the lawn yesterday!) I actually want to be more active.

When you’re overweight, you can very easily get out of shape. You find it harder to maneuver in some ways. I had a moment just the other day at the gym where I walked between two pieces of equipment. Now, if you’re overweight, you may have experienced the “shimmy of shame” as I like to call it. You know the drill – you’re walking between two objects where other people just walk straight through. But you are unable to just walk right through. Either your hips are too wide, or your whole body is too wide. You have to turn sideways and side-step through. Sometimes sideways is just as confining as well, so you have to find another way. Well this time, I just walked right through. It was still tight mind you. But I did it. No turn. No shimmy. Just walking. I felt my face light up. I felt freedom. Freedom to walk through the way I wanted.

As I lose weight and begin to rewire my thinking, I’m learning to love myself. I’m learning to be proud of who I am. I’m learning to search for the gifts I have that I’ve never seen before. I used to doubt myself constantly on what I could do. I’m learning how strong I truly am. Why have I never realized all this before? The negative thoughts took over. They filled my head. I now have freedom from those thoughts to make room to focus on the positive.

I used to be a slave to food. I ate for taste. I ate too much. I ate the wrong things. I’m relearning how to eat. I’m learning to listen to what my body needs. I’m learning what is good for me and what isn’t. I’m learning how my body reacts to certain foods. I’m learning I like foods I never thought I would. I’m learning healthy eating doesn’t have to be tasteless and bland. I’m learning to enjoy natural sweetness. I’m learning I have the freedom to make the choice of what I eat and drink, and how much I eat and drink.

The truth is when trying to explain what this means to me, it’s hard to put into words. I’m not sure this writing is doing it any justice at all. But I hope it helps give you even the slightest glimpse into the freedom I am experiencing each and every day. With each new goal met, with each pound lost, with each weight and rep I can increase at the gym, with each new good choice I make on eating, comes freedom. The freedom for me to say “I CAN do this and I WILL do this. The freedom to say this is not the me I want to be. The freedom to look to the future and see a better me. The freedom of knowing I will get there no matter what anyone else says. I have a freedom I never knew existed. The freedom to believe. The freedom to believe, finally, in me!

Just Keep Swimming…

Many of us have seen the movie Finding Nemo. And if you’ve seen it then you probably recognize when someone is singing, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…” Well next time you think of giving up – on anything – I want you to remember this song, with a small tweak. “Just keep going, just keep going…”

Quitting is easy. Anyone, literally anyone, can be a quitter. It takes no effort, no skill, no planning, no muscle, no thought. It’s probably one of the easiest things in the world you can do.

I am quite skilled in quitting if you want me to be honest. I’ve quit more “diets” and workout plans than I’ve stuck to. I’ve quit jobs. I’ve quit friendships. I’ve quit trying when something hasn’t gone my way. I have a lot of experience in quitting. But I cannot call myself a quitter. Why you ask? Because this time I am not quitting.

The going is getting tough. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight, but I can tell it’s not coming off as quickly anymore. I could quit. But I won’t. Revamping my eating habits is very difficult. I’ve admitted it before and I will admit it again – I LOVE food. It’s hard to stay away from what I really want and sacrifice for what I should be eating. I could quit. But I won’t. There are days when I just don’t want to go to the gym. I don’t feel that great, I’m tired, I just don’t feel like putting in that much work. I could quit. But I won’t.

If I’m going to be bluntly honest, I have considered giving up on this blog. Not many people are reading it. My last post only got 1 view. I wondered why I’m even doing it. The reason is because someone out there is in my shoes. Someone has tried to improve themselves and has quit so many times before. Someone out there doesn’t have anyone to support and encourage them. Someone out there doesn’t have the answers and has no one to ask. Someone out there is looking, searching for someone who understands – so that they no longer feel alone on this journey. That someone is me. I could quit. But I won’t.

My point is simple – Just.Keep.Going. No matter how tough it gets. No matter how tired you are. No matter how much you would love that donut so much more than that banana. You can rest. You can pause. You can even have a siesta if you choose. But whatever you do – just keep going! Do not give up. You are the only person who can hold you back. Don’t let that happen. “Just keep going, just keep going, just keep going…”

Grocery Shopping – Temptation!

Have you ever gone grocery shopping when trying to lose weight? What a trip! You have to eat. But you have to choose what to eat. A grocery store is filled with decisions – some good, some bad. And it’s up to you to choose. But oh what a journey!  We went shopping today at one of the mega superstores (I’ll decline saying which as that doesn’t matter) and it was quite the experience. Especially if you go when you’re hungry…

You walk in and immediately you are greeted by a wall of pizzas. If you’re choosing a low-carb option, you put your hand up to hide the temptation from your sight and keep marching on – straight to the stack-up in the center aisle filled with those luscious goodies – cakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls and everything in between. Thankfully on the right you’re faced with fruits and vegetables – the saving grace. Mind you a few months ago I likely would have avoided this section like the plague – I now crave it.

If you’re lucky you avoid all of the “bad” foods in the aisles to come. You have a goal in mind, you know what you’re going to get, you stick with it, and you creatively figure out how to dodge those sweet temptations. Until you head to the checkout lane. And there you are taunted and teased the whole time you stand in line. There are sodas, flavored iced coffee – all with a lot of sugar. There are chips – loaded with carbs. And then there’s a vast wall of candy in every shape and size imaginable. You no longer have a choice just between different candies – oh no! Now each candy has multiple choices within itself. M&M’s, peanut M&M’s, caramel M&M’s, peanut butter M&M’s, coffee nut M&M’s, strawberry nut M&M’s. Then you have the Hershey’s family – Hershey’s milk chocolate, Hershey’s w/ almonds, Hershey’s cookies & cream, Hershey’s cookies & mint and now they even have Hershey’s layers in two flavors. And there’s my favorite – Reese’s. Reese’s Pieces, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Reese’s sticks, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups filled with Reese’s Pieces…and the list goes on.

There’s sweet melt in your mouth chocolate, the crunch of nuts, the smooth silkiness of peanut butter, the savory taste of potato chips, the crunch of the chips, the fizzy liquid gold disguised as soda. And there you are – faced with the slowest moving checkout lane ever! Time seems to stand still. The “goodies” surrounding you seem to close in on you. Your stomach rumbles in hunger. Your mouth waters. You stare longingly at the many decisions as your taste buds dance in anticipation. And you have to say NO!

Did I remain strong? Yes I did. Did I fall prey to these cleverly placed temptations? No I didn’t. I resisted. I won another battle. I’m the reigning champ! Let’s just hope next time I remain as dedicated as this time!

Hunger – Let It Change You

When you’re involved in weight loss, one thought usually tends to come up quite frequently – food. If you’re going to change your life, you more often than not change your eating patterns – you eat less, you eat better, you count calories, you diet, or try any combination of all of the above. And while making those changes, hunger can be a huge part of your life. If you cut back too much or make the wrong choices, you may have to suffer from hunger. That’s the bad hunger. But that’s not what I’m focusing on with this post. I want to focus on the good hunger.

The good hunger is the hunger inside. All the motivation in the world will not drive you. It takes determination – the hunger deep down within. You have to WANT it! As I’m typing this I’m watching Survivor and they just showed a great example of that. Cirie first came on the show a few years ago as a self-proclaimed couch potato. They were doing a challenge in the water on tonight’s show and Cirie was struggling. After swimming from one station to the next, she couldn’t climb up onto the dock. So a fellow teammate came out and helped her up. The next leg of the obstacle was a balance beam over the water. She tried, and fell. She said those fateful, harmful words, “I can’t do it”. Those words will change your actions. Even though the challenge was over (the other team won) Cirie didn’t give up. Her whole team swam back to meet her and help her. They encouraged her. The told her to believe. They rallied around her. And she made it successfully across, then jumped into the water to swim the final leg, and finished the course. She didn’t have to – she wanted to. She had the want – the hunger.

Food hunger doesn’t matter. It may drive you, but it’s often going to drive you in the wrong direction – right to food. Usually the wrong foods. If you truly want to change – if you truly want to make a difference in your life – if you want to lose weight like you’ve said so many times before but never followed through – its going to take hunger. It’s going to make motivation, determination, and the want to do it.

See where I’m going here? Do you have that want? Do you have that hunger? If so, let it fuel you. Let it drive you. Dig deep. Let it change you. The best is yet to come!

Motivation or Determination?

Are you driven by motivation or determination? At first you may think they are one in the same. Or you may think they both drive you in the same way. Perhaps you think it doesn’t really matter which one drives you as long as it does. Do you think along these lines? I sure did. Let’s take a closer look.

Motivation is defined as: “the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way”. Another way to define it is: “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something”.

Determination is defined as: “firmness of purpose; resoluteness”.

Do you get it now? Motivation drives you. It’s the reason why you do what you do. It’s not the action itself. But it’s determination that keeps you going and puts that motivation into action. See, all the motivation in the world will not change a thing. If you don’t follow through, if you don’t act on it, then that motivation will not change a thing. I learned that the hard way today. But it was a lesson worth learning.

This past weekend, I slacked off – BIG TIME. I went back to eating what I want, drinking soda instead of water and unsweetened tea, and didn’t work out. And I felt miserable in more ways than one. I realized that wasn’t what I wanted. What I really wanted was change. What I wanted was to feel good again and not aching everywhere. What I wanted was for the outside of my body to match what I feel like on the inside. I convinced myself that because I took a few days to “get my head straight” that I was ready to get back on the wagon and hit it hard!

I’ve gotten back on track with eating, and I’ve been working out. I even had a friend join me (working out is so much easier when you don’t have to do it alone!). I went in to the gym today determined that there would be no more whining, or complaining, and I’d be hitting it 100% full throttle from beginning to end. As time and the workout went on, I felt a struggle within. It only intensified as the workout went on.

What I didn’t understand was why, if I had so much motivation going into this workout, was I having such a difficult time? Why did I feel like I did every other time? Why was I ready to slack off and not put forth the full 100%?

At the end of the workout, a new challenge came up. Planks. Not a big deal for some. I have done(ish) by myself. But this was doing it in front of someone knowing I’m not that great. After a challenge of fighting through the rest of the workout, I wasn’t ready mentally or physically (or so I thought). With gentle prodding I was encouraged to try. The more encouragement from outside, the more the struggle inside. And then I reached it – my breaking point. It was fight or flight time. Every ounce of my being wanted to run. I felt the tears building inside. I was telling myself I couldn’t do this. I was ready to give up. I felt weak. I felt discouraged. I felt worthless. I felt like I would never succeed. I felt I would never beat this. Yet, when push came to shove – I set my feet, I planted my arms and up I went into a plank. I held it for a bit. Then down I went. But when this friend said one more – I followed through with a lot less about it this time and acted a lot quicker.

After the workout I started to beat myself up for the struggle, the wanting to quit, wanting to cry – the whole range of emotions. I still didn’t understand why this all happened. I had the motivation. What went wrong? I lead with motivation, not determination. But in the end, I found it.

I wish I could say it was a once and done moment, but it’s not. There will be more moments like this. There will be more struggles to face. There will be more moments of doubt, and more fight or flight challenges. This was just the first of many hurdles to come. But guess what? I know I cleared that first hurdle. Which means I can clear others that come my way. I just have to stay determined with each hurdle I face!

Support: The Two-Edged Sword

Support. Sounds pretty good, right? Sure it does. But what we fail to realize is that as wonderful as support from others can be, it can be a handicap as well. Stay with me here. Let’s explore the different sides of support.

  1. The Enabler – this can be one of the sneakiest ones because they are smooth. They are smooth because they seem like they have your best interest at heart, but they will help you stay off track. Many are well meaning of course. They don’t intentionally derail you, but they will keep you from staying the course. While trying to be supportive, they tell you it’s okay to cheat once, and once more, and once more and so on. It’s often those who you are closest to, so you let them sway you.
  2. The Temporary Supporter – you start out and they are extremely supportive. They offer encouragement, they follow up on you, they may join you for a workout or two. But somewhere along the way they stop. It can be a huge boost, but then what when they start slacking on following up with you? Do you lose the motivation to keep going as they lose the motivation in encouraging you? If they don’t follow up on you and don’t help you out, will you stop putting the effort in?
  3. The Buddy – this is the one you need on your side. They will put your arm around you and lead you down the path. They will join you for workouts. They will follow up on you (continuously, not temporarily). They may help you with workouts. They may guide you in doing it right if you are unsure what you are doing. Most importantly, they will not give up on you.

The one thing to keep in mind though – no matter what type of support you have – is that you have to do this FOR YOU and not for anyone else. It is always easier with the right type of support – I’m not gonna lie. But the wrong support can be just as difficult and can lead you astray just as easily as no support. Sometimes when we have someone cheering us on its easy for us to lose our way and to start doing it for them rather than for us. That can be quite unhealthy too. If you’re seeking praise instead of seeking to be proud of yourself, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Keep your focus. Find the support that matters. Find the support that will keep their arm around you leading you forward, while kicking you in the rear at the same time keeping you in line when you need it.

FOOD!

fast-food.jpg

Food. Where do I even start?!? It’s essential for survival. Once upon a time, humans ate that way – for survival. But as time progresses, so does the food. It is no longer about survival, it’s about the food. The taste is the obvious draw. I don’t know of many people who purposely eat food they don’t like the taste of. Then there’s sight – you may hear quite often (especially when watching Food Network Channel), “You eat with your eyes first!”. So food shifts from being what is needed to help us sustain to what we enjoy.

I saw a quote at the gym that says, “Eat to live, don’t live to eat!” How appropriate. Yet how many of us follow this simple rule? Is food fueling your drive – or is it driving you? It’s something to consider for sure. Everyone’s story is different. Here’s mine:

I have lived most of my life letting food drive me. I have eaten for taste alone. You know those moments when you’re not hungry but it tastes SOOOO good you give in and eat it anyway? Or when you’re already so full, but you just have to have one more bite (and one more, and one more…)? GUILTY! How about when you’re stressed, depressed, bored, celebrating – do those moments bring food into your life and into your mouth? GUILTY! Or how about social eating? You’re not really hungry but others around you are eating. So you do as well. GUILTY!

Honesty time. I have let food control me. I’ve had moments I grabbed something for lunch and ate in my car because I was too embarrassed to take it in the office and eat in front of everyone. I didn’t want them to see what or how much I was eating. I’ve had moments at home when I go to the kitchen to get a snack – but I first had to “sneak” a portion or two in the kitchen before returning to the living room. That way others didn’t know how much I was really eating. I’ve had moments where I stood in the pantry eating things I shouldn’t – pigging out – so others didn’t know. I’ve spent my life eating and not even noticing the taste. I just keep shoveling it in mindlessly. Those are just a few examples.

Recently, I’ve tried to eat better. I’ve cut most sugar. I’ve cut back on carbs. I’ve tried to eat less. I’ve traded soda for water and unsweet tea. I’ve started eating more fruits and vegetables. I’ve made a real effort. Have I made the wrong decisions? Yes. Have I failed at times? Yes. Will I fail again? Most likely. But along the way I’m learning. And that’s what is most important.

These past few days, I have “fallen off the wagon” so to speak. I could make excuses but that helps no one. I will be completely honest – I got lazy with it. I’ve had a long rough week and I just didn’t want to put in the effort. I wanted comfort food. I wanted to let my taste buds rule my decision. I’ve had sodas. I’ve had a lot of carbs. I’ve had fast food. I’ve eaten more than I should. I have even been sneaking food. But in these few days of eating horrible, I’ve noticed a change. I’ve noticed a difference. And even though I may have “messed up” I am proud of myself. Because I am becoming a different person. I am making strides. I am learning. My body is changing.

If you would have told me a couple of months ago if I would put forth the effort to eat better my body would adapt I would think you were crazy! But it’s true. So for those of you who are were I was before I started this journey, there are a few things I want you to know:

  1. You CAN do it. It will be very difficult. I’m not going to lie and make you think it’s a walk in the park because it’s not. You have to be conscious of every food decision you make. So much of it is habit. You have to push habit aside and plan and make everything that goes into your mouth a conscious decision.
  2. Support from others is very helpful. If you have someone who will make the changes with you, or support you, or hold you accountable, take them up on it. Trying to do it alone with enablers around you will be next to impossible. You will have to fight for it and you need a support team to help you through it.
  3. Your taste buds will change. So will what your body craves. Will the bad cravings go away? Not at first. Maybe not ever. Remember – you’ve lived how many years with these bad cravings? They won’t go away overnight. But your body will adapt and transition and you will begin to realize what you need rather than what you want. For example – after drinking soda for a couple of days, my body told me today it needed water. Even though soda is what I wanted, water is what I needed. I had to make that choice. But I heard my body instead of my taste buds. Another example – after cutting way back on sugar, when having a sugar-loaded dessert, it was so much sweeter than I remember. I couldn’t handle it like I used to.
  4. The amount you can eat will shrink. It takes less food to get to that “I ate too much” feeling than it used to.
  5. You will notice changes in your body reacting to what and how much you eat. Now if I overeat, I really hate that feeling. Instead of satisfaction I feel heavy, I feel blah, I feel tired, I have less energy. I hate how I feel if I eat too much. I’ve also noticed with eating a lot of sugar and a lot of carbs over the past few days my body aches more. My joints ache. This used to be a normal feeling for me and I just overlooked it. I notice it now and if I can prevent it, I want to.
  6. Your cravings will change. I may still crave the bad stuff, but I am also beginning to crave the good stuff. It’s all about choices. Blueberries are a new favorite for me. During the day I prefer to snack on fruits and vegetables instead of chips, cookies, candy, etc. Even today for Easter dinner the original menu was: ham, rolls, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, and corn (mixed with cream cheese and butter – yum!). While fixing dinner I found myself adding in brussel sprouts (believe me – they can actually be made to be good!) and oven-roasted cauliflower. While I filled my plate with everything – what I enjoyed most was the protein and vegetables. In fact I didn’t even finish the macaroni and cheese. It just didn’t satisfy me like the rest.

I realize some of you in my shoes are probably reading this saying to yourself, “Yeah right – that may be the case for her, but it will never be true for me!” I ask you to just give it a chance. Make a change for a month (they say new habits form in 28 days) and see. It may take longer. I’m still a work in progress. I still have to make those tough decisions. It doesn’t always come easily or naturally for me even after a couple of months. But I have noticed a difference. And that’s what will keep me going. I truly and sincerely hope you make that effort as well if you are where I was a few months ago. Trust me when I say – it is so worth it!

The Truth

So this is where I get real. This is where I lay it all out there. My goals when starting this blog were: 1. Hope I reach someone going through the same thing as me so that they know they’re not alone. There are those out there who understand. 2. Hope I can shed some light to those who have never gone through this so that they may even in the smallest way understand what someone like me goes through on this journey. So here’s a glimpse into the me in this step of my journey (keep in mind as I venture through this journey there will be new insights at each step). The following are in no certain order.

  1. I am excited. I’m ready to see what will come next. I’m seeing progress. I hope to see more – much more!
  2. I am still doubtful. Even though I see progress, I have failed so many times before. The negativity tries to hold me back by trying to show me I will fail again and trying to convince me not to believe it can happen.
  3. I already notice changes. Some movements are easier now. I have more energy. I am more willing to get up and move around and do things. I want to be moving more. I walk a little taller and a little quicker, with more purpose.
  4. I don’t feel “fat”. I never have. That’s the clincher. Pictures show it. Some movements have made it obvious. But I honestly have never felt fat. Seeing a picture of myself never matches what I feel like. It’s like a slap in the face every time.
  5. I have a constant battle in my mind. The negativity often tries to take over. It tries to convince me I am not worth it and will fail – regarding working out, eating right, having confidence in myself, etc.
  6. I am scared. As excited as I am to be on this journey – I am scared as well. I am afraid I will fail. I’m afraid I’m not gonna look good when I lose a lot of weight (look older, excess skin, etc.). I’m afraid of the confidence going to my head. I’m afraid of the positive attention becoming my new addiction.

These are just a few things in my mind at any given time. This journey is NOT easy. Don’t let anyone tell you it is. You need will power. You need determination. You need drive. You have to be ready to change your exercise level, your eating habits, and perhaps most of all, your mind. You need to be ready for the challenges you will face. You need a support system. You need to rely on yourself to lift you up, not constantly turning to others to do that for you. You need to find the dig deep within yourself, not letting high-fives or positive compliments or a workout buddy to keep pushing you on. The push needs to come within for you to truly change. This road will not be easy. It’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be life-changing. If you’re not doing it for yourself, you’re likely to lose motivation. You’re likely to give up. You’re likely to let distractions steer you from your plan. But you can do it!

Don’t Quit!

Hello again! It’s been a while. A year to be exact. Where was I during that year? (Feel free to insert any excuse here.) I could rack my brain to come up with a convincing excuse. I could create a whole back-story and reason that would be plausible. But the truth is, it really doesn’t matter.

What does matter? I’m back. I learned. I am applying. In one of my earlier blogs I noted I wasn’t sure where I lost track before and why. Well, the same applies here. Somewhere along the line, somehow, I fell off the wagon. I suppose I decided the trip was a bit too difficult at that point in time. While I could beat myself up for that mistake, I won’t.

Instead I am applauding myself. Why you may ask? Because I am back. I didn’t quit. Quitting has a finality to it. Quit is the end. Well guess what folks? It’s not the end. Not for me. I was sidetracked. I lost my way. I went back to my old habits and ways. But did I quit? No. Why? Because I’m back at it and stronger than ever.

So what changed? I thought I had the mindset last year. I thought I was doing it for the right reasons. I thought I was ready. I wasn’t. Again, it was for a reason other than for me. It was for the play I was in last year and fitting in the costume. Once that goal was passed, I had no reason to keep going. So I didn’t.

This year, I got there. I don’t have a specific reason for doing this. Except that I’m ready. It’s what I want. It’s my journey and I’m ready. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had a moment we wanted to quit. We’ve all been sidelined or sidetracked. When you’re at that dead end and you can only choose right or left (continue or quit) what’s your choice going to be? Mine is to keep going.

I may have lost my way. I may have reverted back to old habits. I may have stopped working out. But, I didn’t quit. It’s not over yet. We will all face challenges, difficulties, moments of weakness. How will you answer that call? I hope with the reminder to yourself – DON’T QUIT!