A wellness journey evolving

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Me, five minutes after waking on the morning after a four-day holiday feeding frenzy.  Yes, I felt as rough as I looked. At one point I would have been so shame-filled about my overindulging that I never could have posted a picture like this. Not anymore. I’ve evolved. I know that most of the time I choose well. My worth is not defined by a temporary lapse in judgment. And neither is yours.

It occurred to me last night as my body was going into its post-four-day-holiday-feeding-frenzy total meltdown, that I realized that I really missed (and need to be) blogging about all the things health and wellness that I used to when I began my fitness journey nearly six years ago. So, here I am, back at it, determined to keep writing.

Six years. For real. It’s been that long. It was a journey that began with me just wanting to lose weight. Instead, it has evolved into a journey that I never could have imagined. One that has had me rejoicing on mountaintops to painfully falling on my face (literally), more than once, mind you. From taking life for granted to learning to navigate the grief and challenges that accompany a devastating loss of life. From not being able to run a mile to running marathons. And a whole lot of other things along the way including people. Amazing people have come into my life. Each twist, turn, celebration, and fall from grace that this journey has brought me on has been an opportunity to grow in strength, patience, courage, grace, humility, joy, and so much more. I am grateful for all of it. 

As with every departure from writing regularly that I’ve taken, it always feels a little awkward hopping back in. I always feel the need to recap the gaps in painstaking detail and catch y’all up to speed but that usually turns into a novel that ends up completely emotionally draining me mainly because I haven’t written for so long and I have so much to get out. (Most of the time–for a million reasons or none– I end up not hitting the publish button anyways! Ugh!) Naturally then, because of the mental angst,  I don’t write again for a very long time because it was so hard to write the last time. Which ironically doesn’t make much sense because writing is one of the things that I need to practice as part of my core-level self-care routine so, in theory, I should be keeping up with it. But, I don’t. Then I get caught in my own vicious cycle of feeling bad about things I should be doing to keep myself well but fail to do. Soon, because of my failure to do what I need to do for myself, the shitstorm of shame begins. (For the record, it’s a ridiculously vicious cycle to get caught up in as shame can wreak havoc in a person’s life. And as a side note in this parenthetical note. . .  I know that I’m not alone in this as I am guessing a whole lot of you reading this have your own shitstorm of shame stories to share when it comes to health and wellness. Life is a treat sometimes, isn’t it?)

So, I’ll spare you all the gory details of my hiatus and just recap the highlights of the last couple of years for you, in bulleted form. (Things always seem easier to digest in bullet form, don’t they? Also, I have managed a couple of yearly updates during this time so some of this might be familiar to a few of you. )

  • Since my first DNF (Did Not Finish) on my first attempt at a 50k race in September of 2015, I’ve failed two subsequent times, once in 2016 and once in 2017. Although there is a part of me that cringes when I think about those failed attempts, I’ve grown immensely as a runner from each experience. Considering six years ago at this time I literally could not run a block, the fact that I’ve attempted 50k’s seems like a freaking miracle. I’m trying really, really hard to celebrate how far I have come on my running journey, despite the many setbacks.
  • In 2016, amidst a whole lot of life-changing experiences, the old fat girl tapes started replaying in my head during a particularly tough long run.  “What are you doing? Fat girls don’t run. What are you trying to prove? You aren’t a real runner. Real runners don’t take walk-breaks. Look at those thin fast runners whizzing by you. Why are YOU out here?” And on and on it went in my head for miles. It took me over a year to get to the root of that break-down. Again, like my race failures,  I learned greatly from that experience although if truth be told,  it still haunts me a bit. 
  • I’ve discovered over the past couple of years that writing, practicing yoga, and trail-running are my essentials for my optimal mind, body, and spirit wellness. I need them all to thrive, to breathe. Unfortunately, I don’t practice what I need to. Although I run several times a week, I don’t always get to the trails, which is what soothes my soul. Writing and yoga? Well, they are sparse, but I know that I need them as much as I need to run.  I haven’t figured out what is exactly stopping me from doing what I need to do for myself, although I have a pretty good idea. (Hint, likely relates to the old fat girl tapes mentioned above and there is definitely NOT space to unpack that baggage in this post.) I can, however, wholeheartedly say that I am working on it all. 
  • With the exception of falling off the wagon briefly over the last few days only to eat meatballs and a bit of bacon (my brother and uncle both make incredibly delicious meatballs that I will never pass up and then, of course, there’s bacon, because bacon) I’ve stopped eating red meat and I really don’t miss it. At all. In fact, I feel better NOT eating red meat. Now, if I could just stop eating sugar. . .
  • Although I doubt that I’ll ever follow a completely vegan or vegetarian diet, I will be incorporating more and more vegan recipes into my diet. It is crazy how good food tastes when it’s not laden with a bunch of animal products. During the holiday feeding frenzy we baked/cooked/made the following vegan recipes:
    • Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting. It was decadent and was seriously one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever eaten. (Okay. A chocolate frosted cake is not really a healthy option ever, vegan or not. Just wanted to acknowledge that.)
    • Green-Bean Casserole. You know the kind with the crispy fried onions. Instead of the crappy canned cream-of-something soups, we used a recipe that made a cream of almond milk, garlic, vegetable broth, and a bit of flour. In my opinion, it was much better than the original version.
    • Vegan Monkey Bread. I must admit, I was a bit skeptical when we decided on this recipe, but WOW, I was blown away by the taste. While this was still a sugar-laden treat, applesauce replaced the butter making it a better option. It was incredible!
    • Vegan Waffles. Just as fluffy and delish as regular waffles.
    • Vegan Wheat Bread. Five ingredients. Bam. So good.
  • When I began my weight-loss journey in 2012, my original goal was to lose 100 pounds, a goal that I didn’t come close to reaching. I have, however, lost 70 pounds and kept it off for over five years. Although I know now that my original goal was likely one that was a little too lofty, I do have a solid 20 pounds that I want to be gone, not because I don’t like the way I look, but because I know that I will feel better and be able to move faster and farther. I’ve already unpacked all of the reasons and excuses as to why I’ve remained plateaued, and details aside, it comes down to the fact that I’ll need to return to the hard work of being mindful about what I eat (like when I began) and to commit to not being lazy about my choices. Because I am very active, it has been relatively easy to keep the weight off. Easy is lazy. Lazy is comfortable and fun. It’s easy for me to eat chocolate cake and then run it off. It’s not easy for me to NOT eat the chocolate cake and still go for a run. Flawed? Of course. Am I working on it? Slowly but surely.
  • I’ve learned that health and wellness are SO MUCH MORE than just diet and exercise. True health and wellness come when we are taking care of our WHOLE selves–body, mind, and spirit. Please know that self-care is not selfish. In fact, self-care is essential for life. When you believe that you are worthy of taking care of yourself, you will begin to experience life in a beautifully different way. It was when I was finally able to accept and love all 250 pounds of myself, as is, and then embrace all of my lived experiences wholly for what they were–nothing more, nothing less–was I able to commit to loving and taking care of myself. I’m still a work in progress and always will be. I’m okay with that now. I wasn’t okay with that when I began this journey.
  • I have learned that wherever you are at in your quest for better health, you are never alone. There is a wonderful health and wellness community out there, loving and supportive folks that will have your back. Find people that will be there for you along the way, people that will be there for you to help you through the struggles as well as celebrate wildly with you when you reach your goals. Be accountable. Don’t fall for the plethora of weight loss and health gimmicks available. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Be patient with the journey. Remember that you are worth it. You will gain a much better perspective on life when you stop beating yourself up. I know this from experience.

So, that’s mostly it in a neatly bulleted nutshell! And, I decided as I was writing this that I am not setting resolutions for the upcoming new year, as I do every year, instead, I’m setting them now: write often, run a lot, do yoga, evolve. Sounds like a tee-shirt. Maybe I should get one made.

P.S. Although I will hold myself accountable for my goals, accountability partners are always appreciated! What intentions are you setting for yourself when it comes to health and fitness? Share if you like!

P.S.S. THANK YOU to every single person that has been a part of my journey over the last almost six years. There are so many of you! I have treasured all of the runs, walks, talks, hugs, tears, recipes, challenges, workouts and everything else along the way. And I am looking forward to so much more of all of it!

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Celebrating my year in fitness! (Even if I didn’t lose a single pound.)

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My journey to a healthier me began years ago, somewhere in the decade of my 30’s.  It wasn’t until 2012 though, at the age 42, that I finally worked up the courage to face myself and get down to business. I was literally out of excuses on why I was so fat and physically unhealthy. I was grossly overweight and in was total denial about my about the state of my overall health. The only thing I had going for me at the time was my mental health. I had done some hard work over the years and was finally comfortable being inside my own head. I had long since grown from a place where I felt unworthy of being happy and healthy to wondering why I ever attached my weight (among other things) to my self-worth in the first place.

Fast forward to almost four years later, and I barely remember my old self. Sometimes I see the old me in pictures and wonder who the hell that person was yet I no longer berate myself (something I would have done at one time) for letting my health spiral out of control.  I know exactly why I ended up in such a physically unhealthy state and I know exactly what it took to climb out of that hole of unhealth. I am grateful for having the strength, the courage, and the support of an amazing tribe to do it. And to keep doing it. A journey to better health isn’t one with an ending, it’s a constant trek–one that is full of twists and turns, peaks and valleys, and often times, rest stops along the way.

What I have learned along my journey over the years has been incredible, but perhaps the most important thing I have learned came earlier in 2015 when I was introduced to the art of celebrating, not my successes mind you, but my failures. Yes, I have learned to celebrate the times in which I suck, and unfortunately that is quite often. I have learned that it is not whether we reach our goals, instead, it is how we celebrate along the way, even when our journeys aren’t going the way we planned. We can wallow in our failures or celebrate them, learn from them, and ultimately move on. Thankfully, I am learning to celebrate. Although 2015 marked a year of many failures for me (many successes as well), I want to share two of my bigger “flops” with you in hopes that you can learn to celebrate the times when your journey heads down a path you weren’t expecting.

  1. 2015 marked the second year in a row that I did not lose any weight, and it is not from a lack of trying.  Zero pounds. ZERO! I am still roughly 25 pounds from my goal weight and have been for the last two years. TWO YEARS! Last year at this time I was wallowing in the fact that I had failed to lose weight for an entire year. This year? I am celebrating the fact that I have learned to maintain my weight because you see, even though I have lost zero pounds, I haven’t gained any either. That’s right. Zero weight gain. ZERO! For those of you that have been on the weight-loss roller coaster, you know the significance of weight-loss maintenance. For that, I celebrate.
  2. 2015 also marked a significant event in my journey–the first time I failed to complete a race. It was a big one, my first 50k, and I fell flat on my face. Literally. I hit the ground so hard I was surprised I didn’t bounce back up like a weeble-wobble. After a few seconds, I managed to get up and brush myself off. Other than my ego being a bit bruised I thought I was physically okay until a few minutes later when some aches and pains began to creep in. (Up until the point of my fall my body was relatively pain free and I quickly began to realize that what I was feeling was injury from my fall.) I kept going but as time wore on I realized my injuries were worse than I initially thought. With just under 18 miles to go at that point in the race, I had a big decision to make. . . trudge on at whatever pace I could muster, risking further injury and a prolonged recovery that could keep me from running for quite some time, or drop at the next aid station (which was still four miles away.) I slowly made it to the next aid station, waited for about 10 minutes as I lamented my pending failure, and then officially dropped from the race. A million thoughts rushed through my head about being a quitter, thoughts that included words like loser, wuss, and failure. But that train of awful thought didn’t last long as quickly I began to think of how far I had come in my journey. 3.5 years prior to that point, I could not run more than a couple of blocks. Now, I had just ran 17, smashing my previous PR for this distance by 15 minutes. And other than the pain from my injuries, my body as a whole felt great. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would say I felt great after running 17 miles. Most importantly though, I learned that the health of my body is more important than a finisher’s medal. For all of those reasons, I celebrate!
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Not too long after this, I fell. Hard. I ended up with a DNF behind my name, my first ever. Failure is a tough pill to swallow but the lessons learned are invaluable if you choose to celebrate.

I have many other failures from the past year that I have reframed and subsequently celebrated. The celebratory lens I now have to view my journey through has given me a renewed strength to continue on my path towards better health in 2016. Do I ever plan to fail or settle for mediocrity? NO! But will I wallow when things don’t go the way I hoped they would? NO WAY! Wallowing is a word that is no longer in my vocabulary. In 2016, I plan to celebrate every failure and then move on from there–growing, learning, and refocusing on new goals.

As you look back over your own fitness journey what failures can you reframe as successes? What about going forward? Will you go a little easier on yourself when things don’t go the way you planned? Cheers to you and a Happy New Year! Vow to celebrate wildly in 2016!