Baby-steppin’ it to better health

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Goal setting.

If you do a little Google search on the term goal-setting, you will find 28,100,000 results in .30 seconds. Literally. You will also see this toward the top of your search page:

Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about your ideal future, and for motivating yourself to turn your vision of this future into reality. The process of setting goals helps you choose where you want to go in life.

The process of setting goals helps you choose where you want to go in life. . . 

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Additionally, if you want to dig into it a little farther, you will find meme after meme stating things like this:

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or this,

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or this,

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To keep us alive? Ahhhh! And on and on it goes. It can get scary as fuck (pardon the language) quite quickly. If you aren’t careful you can go from simply wanting to make a positive change to being overwhelmed in exactly.30 seconds with 28,100,000 examples of how to do it. If I was new to goal-setting or to the fitness world,  I probably would have said fuck-it (done swearing now) after Googling goal-setting and walked away. But, I am not new to either one so I will tell you this. . . goal-setting IS a powerful tool that WILL lead to lasting and sustainable change, IF you are SMART about it.

The acronym SMART as applied to goal-setting means creating goals that are: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/realistic, and time-bound. It may sound a bit intimidating but trust me, it isn’t. Using the SMART acronym to will help you reach the goals you have made for yourself and that, in turn, will keep you moving forward on your journey to better health. Let me give you a hypothetical example of setting a proper SMART goal and hopefully it will make better sense.

Goal: To run a marathon by February 25, 2016. That’s a great goal if you are already an experienced runner that consistently runs substantial miles every week.  The goal is specific (to run a marathon), measurable (26.2 miles), achievable (you are already an experienced runner), realistic (you’ve been logging the necessary miles), and time-bound (you have a specific date.) There is only one problem with this scenario–you are not an experienced runner. You are a 42-year old couch potato that hasn’t run since high school (which was me in 2012 when I began my quest to better health.) If I would have set a goal like this for myself early on in my journey, I would have failed MISERABLY. The failure would have likely set me up for additional failures because I was already feeling bad about the inability to achieve the first goal (albeit wildly unrealistic) I had set for myself. (Some of you know that downward spiral. A person can go down the drain of self-despair pretty quickly sometimes.)

Keeping with the hypothetical couch potato-to-marathoner scenario, what if the goal-setting looked more like this:

My goal  is to run a marathon in December of 2016. Currently, I do no physical activity so I will begin work on my long-term goal by setting smaller, SMART goals to help me achieve my dream of running a marathon. My first step will be to walk for 10 minutes per day for the next week so my body can begin to get used to moving. This small, short-term goal is specific (walking for 10 minutes per day), measurable (10 minutes), achievable (most any able-bodied person can walk for 10 minutes per day), realistic (it’s 10 minutes), and time-bound (one week.) The most important point here is that this small goal, with some effort, is achievable. With achievement comes a mindset for success. This success mindset will help you  to create your next goal, and your next goal, and your next until you suddenly find yourself cruising across the finish line in a 26.2 mile race. Make sense? You can dream big but to achieve great things, we have to start somewhere and that somewhere is usually small. And that somewhere always involves time and effort; but, starting small makes the big dreams possible. Think baby-stepping it small like Bill Murray did in the movie What About Bob?

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Baby steps. Set small goals that are achievable (achievable not easy, there is a difference) and go from there. It really is that simple. Baby-steppin’ it to better health. We can ALL do that.

Where are you in your journey to better health? What goals have you or are you going to set for yourself in 2016? Write them down and go for it! One baby step at a time.

 

Five reasons to love running outside during a Minnesota winter. . .

*****WARNING*****WARNING*****WARNING*****

(This post is nothing but a desperate attempt at positivity.) 
 

It’s November 10. Two days ago I s-h-a-t-t-e-r-e-d my 5k personal best and I am currently 169 days into a runstreak. I am desperately trying not to let this early winter storm–that has arrived in FULL FORCE–dampen my running spirits.  Now, when I am running better than I ever have, is not the time for winter to settle in. Why, Mother Nature? Why?

I rolled out of bed around 9:00 a.m. (As luck would have it, I had decided last week to schedule today off work.) I immediately peeked out the window. I could see through my curtains that the ground was white but I was intensely hoping that the weather predictions had been wrong.

UGH, even worse than I imagined.

So many inches already on the ground! I knew if I was going to get a run in I would have to do it now–or I’d likely succumb to the negative thoughts (it’s cold, it’s snowy, it’s slippery, you don’t need to run etc.) that were already creeping into my head. I’d soon cave to the negativity and then head on over to the neighbors who had graciously offered up their treadmill.

But, I refuse to succumb to the drone of the treadmill.

Well , at least this early in the season. Not just because I don’t like the dreadmill treadmill, but because my mental health requires that I get outside and run. Running outside soothes my soul like few other things do.

Not really seeing much of a choice in the matter, I bundled up and headed outside for my first winter run of the 2014-15 season. Alas, woe is me.

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Beauty of a look , I know. And yes, the white behind me is blowing snow.
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While these shoes work perfectly for winter running, I already miss my regular shoes.

I set foot into the snow and surprisingly my legs (albeit reluctantly) settled into a running form of sorts. I made it out of the yard without falling and headed down the road on some tire tracks. The snow was deeper than I thought and it was blowing hard enough that the visibility was less than two blocks. The snow stung my eyes and I ran the first block with them mostly closed. I’m sure I was a sight.

About a quarter mile in, I was already wringing wet with sweat. I had definitely overdressed.

About a half mile in, my calf muscles were screaming at me. “This is not normal! Why are we trying to run through this white stuff?”

At my turn around, my lungs were definitely more taxed than normal. I had forgotten how cold temperature affects breathing. By this time, the negative self-talk was beginning in full force. “Why are you running in a snowstorm? This is dumb. You are dumb. Go home. Head back to the gym.” And on it went, eventually progressing to a full-on whinefest in my head.

I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the things that I hated about winter running. Breathing is hard. My mile-per-minute pace slows significantly. Runs are usually shorter. I can never get down how many layers I need to stay comfortable. Shoe choices are limited. Running on the trails I love so dearly is nearly impossible.  And I slow down. (Oops, did I already mention that?)

Apparently though, I began to settle into the run because as I got closer to home, I made the decision to run a little farther (despite my crap attitude) than I had originally planned. I had realized that it was going to be one helluva long winter if I was going to be grumbling miserably already. I thought back to last winter. What were some of the things that I actually liked about winter runs? Was there anything?

Amazingly, I discovered,  there were a few things I actually loved about winter running.

5.  Winter running clothes are pretty cute (and black running tights, which I wear all the time, make my legs look rather toned.)

4.  Winter cross-training activities are a blast. Snowshoeing anyone?

3.  Running while it is lightly snowing is incredibly peaceful and beautiful.

2. Moonlight runs on a calm winter’s night are some of the most soul-soothing runs,      EVER.

1. Running outside in Minnesota in the winter is just plain, BADASS.

 And who doesn’t want to be badass?

What about you?

Winter running, love it or leave it?

Reflections on a 100-plus day run streak

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Me! After my 100th day run!

I’ve been streaking now for 100 118 days. . . (I fully intended to finish this on day 100 but fell asleep while writing. Over two weeks later, I am finally getting back to it.)

Inspired by the Runner’s World Magazine’s challenge (http://www.runnersworld.com/tag/rwrunstreak) to “run at least one mile per day, every day, from Memorial Day to Independence Day” (40 consecutive days of running), I set out on my streak journey on May 26, 2014. Those 40 days flew by, and before I knew it, Independence Day had come and gone. I am not sure when or why, but at some point I made the decision to keep streaking until I could streak no more. Here I am, 118 days later, still going strong.

As I was on my 100th-day run, I reflected upon my streaking journey. Even though I hadn’t thought about it much, I suddenly became very aware that I had grown as a runner over the last few months (for somebody that struggled to run a mile just over two short years ago, this is a pretty big deal) but even more so, I had grown as a person (for somebody that works hard at being a better human, this is even a bigger deal.) Despite the difficulties of this streak, I am so completely grateful for every step, both literally and figuratively, of the journey so far.

Here are a just few of the realizations I’ve had about the last few months. . .

   1.  I have gained the confidence to run in shorts, in public, in front of people. As a former overweight, eating-disordered person with body image issues, I cannot explain to you in this short blog what this means to me. The funny thing is, I don’t weigh much less than I did last shorts season but the confidence I have gained from running every day has given me the courage to run in shorts and more importantly, to be totally okay with however I look or wherever I jiggle. Perhaps though, most importantly, is the fact that somewhere over those 100 days I finally gave up being concerned about what others might think of my less than perfect, bright white, jiggly legs, and I just run. I just run! For a person like me, this kind of freedom is incredible.

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That’s me, in the green shirt and hat, with the bright white legs, (incidentally, I am the tannest I have ever been! other redheads get this) excitedly waiting for my awesome Ragnar teammate to hand-off. At one time in my life, this picture would have mortified me. Thankfully, those days are behind me.

 2.  Running every day has made me mental rockstar. There are some of you reading this that know EXACTLY what I mean when I say this. Even though there are days that I only run for a mile, the discipline of getting out there–regardless of what is going on in my head or my heart–forces my mental muscles to do work. And we all know what happens when we do work, we get stronger. Some days I use every ounce of mental muscle that I have just to just physically get through my run and other days I use my run time to reflect, plan, create, grieve, pray, give thanks, and gain focus. Then, there are some days when I just let my mind run free and I focus on soaking up every drop of beauty surrounding me. A couple of weeks ago, I even ran through a full-blown, grief-fueled anxiety attack. 4.7 miles later I was feeling fine and was grateful for the ability to overcome. (More on that run at a later date.) Being a mental rockstar doesn’t mean I don’t have struggles–because obviously I do have big ones–but having the mental capacity to deal with them and still thrive is something that I cherish.

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The wildflowers on the trails this year have been absolutely breathtaking. My favorites are the less than perfect ones–ones that despite their imperfections, still stand tall and proud–like these beauties here. Some days when running I soak up every single ounce of beauty surrounding me. Being in nature clears my head and soothes my soul.

3.  Running every day has made me physically stronger. I suppose that almost goes without saying right? That moving every day would make a person stronger? I am not the fastest or lightest on my feet but I can move for hours when I need to. Knowing this gives me the confidence to tackle physical challenges that I wouldn’t have previously. Which leads me to the next thing. . .

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Me, earlier this summer, standing at the top of one of the hills in one of my favorite places to run. At one time, I couldn’t make it to this point in the trail without stopping several times to gasp for air. Now? I can run to this point, without stopping, a feat I never thought possible.

4.  Running every day has given me the confidence to tackle physical challenges that I wouldn’t have had the courage to say yes to previously. Case in point. . .Ragnar. It has been just over a month since I had the amazing experience of being part of a Ragnar team. (In a nutshell, we relay ran 204 miles over two days.) I got the call to join when a last minute vacancy came up on a team of local runners, most of whom I did not know. Even though I was extremely nervous, hadn’t been training for the running I would need to do, and had a desperate need not to let a team full of strangers down, I still knew that I could do it. I had been logging the miles and had the mental strength to complete the challenge which enabled me to muster the courage to say yes. I am happy to report it was one of the very best yesses I have uttered. (More on this awesome, life-changing journey at a later date as well.)

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This is the amazing Ragnar team that I am SO completely grateful to have been part of! You get to know people very quickly when stuck in a van with them for 36+ hours. I woke up the day after, clean and comfy in my own bed, wishing I was back in the van. Yep, it was that good. Can’t wait to do it again. RUSTY NUTS, WE ROCK!

5.  Running every day has given me the opportunity to get to know my body well. I have learned when I can keep pushing myself and when I need to back off. I have learned when to step up the miles and when to ease off. I have learned how to hydrate and fuel my body for longer runs and have learned that I won’t die without water on the shorter ones. I have learned that some days my body feels like I’m young and other days, it feels like what I imagine it would feel like to be really old. Some days I feel like it’s my first day running, and other days, my I feel like I could go on forever. Every time I run, I learn something new about my body and its capabilities. Knowing my body’s strengths and weaknesses is empowering.

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Here I am with my beautiful Aunt Lori, who also happens to be one of the people that inspired me to start running in the first place. She got to join me in a hometown race this summer. It was during this race that I FINALLY was able to achieve my goal of breaking 30 minutes for a 5k. Running every day gave me the strength to push myself to do better than I had ever done before.

Although this journey has had many challenges so far, and despite the fact that I can procrastinate a run for hours (for instance, I have been dragging out the writing of this all morning), I have yet to regret a single run. EVER. Besides. . .the benefits have far outweighed the challenges. As of now, I have no plans to stop streaking. I guess I’ll know when the time has come, but until that day is upon me, I plan to make the most of every single mile and give thanks every step of the way. And now, I’m off to run. . .

Staying present when life gets crazy

Hello Blog, it has been a while. . .

Not the first time I’ve written those words on these pages for the world to see and probably won’t be the last. Luckily I don’t blog for a living. Whew!

My hiatus from the blogosphere started unintentionally, of course. Then one day, I realized that it had been a while since I had written. By then I had so many things on my mind to write that I didn’t know where to begin.

So, I didn’t.

Then, the pile in my mind of things to write got bigger and bigger.

And I became a little lot overwhelmed.

So, I stopped. . .

And I wondered why I was struggling to create space in my life for something that I love to do?

Then, I realized. . .

Sometimes life comes at us so fast that we barely have time to breathe. It’s in those crazy times that we need to just hang on and stay present so we don’t miss a thing.

So, I did. . .

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And a funny thing happened when I simply stayed present–in the midst of this crazy, amazing, beautiful, chaotic time–space had been created for awakening, change, and growth in my life. The uncomfortableness I wrote about a couple of months ago? Yeah, well, it settled in, created some angst, then finally allowed me to follow my heart and to make some tough changes. Even though some things have been messy, I have had faith all along that I am heading in the right direction. After all, God has yet to lead me astray.

Staying present throughout the insanity of the last few months has also allowed me to fully embrace the life I have before me and the person I have become. Life is SO completely different than I could have ever imagined it could be. As much as I have tried to compartmentalize my life, especially when it comes to writing about it, I can’t. Life for me isn’t about family, or friends, or faith, or grief, or joy, or loss, or running, or serving, or weight loss, or healing, or even about orphans in Uganda. My life is about ALL of those beautiful things wrapped into one. Even though there are parts of my life I would have never chosen, I couldn’t be more grateful for the beauty that has risen from the ashes. I have come to fully understand that life is truly what we choose to make it. We can’t change what happened a second ago, let alone yesterday, and we surely cannot, with any sort of certainty, know what the future has in store for us. We only have now. So, take a deep breath, stay present, and hang on for the glorious ride. You won’t want to miss one crazy, amazing, beautiful, messy, awesome moment of this incredible life.

 

 

A 15-tune, hard-rockin’, bad-a@@ playlist to fuel your workout

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It happened almost magically one extremely blustery Saturday afternoon late last November. I had been putting off getting ready for a run most of the day when the weather suddenly tanked, big-time. UGH. Not ready to face the frigid temps and gale force winds, which ironically would be no big deal at this point in the winter, I found myself forced indoors for a workout. (Yes, I understand that the word “forced” is a bit dramatic and in the grand scheme of life–who really cares–but, when running in the great outdoors is something you depend on for your health and sanity– yes, I mean that literally–this WAS a big deal to me. And no judging because I know some of you totally get where I am coming from here.)

At one time, I was a diehard workout-only-to-music person but over the last six months or so, I had gotten away from running with the tunes constantly pounding in my head. I had become accustomed to running sans music and had learned to appreciate the sounds of my feet pounding the pavement instead. I now crave silence and solitude on my runs but a workout indoors, that was completely different story. There was NO way I was getting through that kind of workout tune free! It, quite frankly, doesn’t seem possible to me.

Because I had spent most of the day “preparing” for my run, my motivation to move was quickly waning. I needed to get on my elliptical ASAP, but I had a major dilemma (again, a bit dramatic, I know.) My 1st generation hand-me-down iPod, on which I had spent years accumulating a wide variety of incredibly awesome music, had been reduced to only playing when attached to a power source. To make matters worse, I had just switched phones had not put any music on my new phone yet. I N-E-E-D-E-D music blasting through ear-buds, not from a stereo, to get through the winter workouts; besides, if I sat down to create my usual type of playlist, it would take hours. I would be done for that day, motivation bye-bye.

I scrambled to my phone and decided to see what I could throw together from my cloud. Much to my surprise, what I created in just a few minute’s time was nothing short of a hard-rockin’, bad-a@@ miracle. I rushed to my elliptical, hit play, and before I knew it, an hour had flown by. This little gem of a list had powered me through a 60-minute workout and I had been only hoping for a 20. What? I know. It rocked that much! I have listened to it on almost every gym workout since that day and I have yet to tire of it. It is a bit of a departure from my usual workout playlists–generally a mix of disco, rock, grunge, new-wave, and Christian rock–but it is apparently what I need to survive this brutal winter indoors. (It also may help to explain the lost, blank look I have on my face when I am at the gym.) Anyways. . .

After my inaugural workout, I knew I wanted to share this mix of mine. If you are looking for something rockin’ and different to workout to, you’ll appreciate these tunes. I even created  a YouTube playlist for your viewing enjoyment (which you can find here http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJU6PG_tnWuu0rWdLowVnev_Al8T5pg2B). (Incidentally, it did occur to me as I was watching YouTube that this playlist is a little dark, a little hard, and probably is very telling of the dark, hard side of me. Nonetheless, there are some brilliantly catchy guitar riffs, screamy vocals, and great beats. A warning though for all of you 80’s kids like me–you may suddenly find yourself singing wildly into your faux microphone, playing your air guitar, and banging your head. Don’t ask me how I know this, I just do.)

For the record, to anyone that may happen upon this, I am NOT a music critic, so don’t bash unless you have an entirely valid argument. This post is just for fun. Music choices are completely subjective anyways, right? So what is to argue (unless you disagree on #6.) It is also important to note that this list is definitely not all-inclusive of the great hard-rocking songs that I love or would be great to workout to. The beauty of this list is that it came together without a hardly a thought. So, without further adieu (drumroll please), let the magic begin. . .

  1. “Animal I Have Become” by Three Days Grace- Great band. Great song. The second verse says it all. . . “I can’t escape myself. So many times I’ve lied. But there’s still rage inside. Somebody get me through this nightmare.” Have you have been to that place? I have, more than once.
  2. “Bleed It Out” by Linkin Park- I LOVE this band! The tempo on this song is perfect for a runner of my speed, especially when you are struggling and need a pick-me-up. Again, some of the lyrics are pretty spot on. “Bleed it out, digging deeper just to throw it away. . .I’ve opened up these scars. I’ll make you face this. . . I’ve pulled myself so far. I’ll make you face this now.” Sounds to me like somebody was gutting out a long, hard run when they penned these words. Whew.
  3. “Fire Woman” by The Cult- “Fire. Smoke she is a rising.” If you have seen me after a run, you have no doubt noticed that I look quite like a “firewoman” with my red hair, crimson face, and entire body radiating heat like fiery coals from hell. LOVE the guitar melody and the vocals on this song. Plus, the lead singer has very pretty 80’s boy band hair. What’s not to love about that?
  4. “New Year’s Day” by U2– Best. U2. Song. Ever.
  5. “No One Like You” by the Scorpions- Ahh, the 80’s. This band. The guitars. The vocals. The cheesy videos. A little change of tempo with this song. It’s good mid-workout when you need a bit of a breather.
  6. “Rainbow in the Dark” by Dio- Ronnie James Dio had one of the best hard-rocking voices, EVER. (If you argue that one, you are crazy. Just sayin’.) Anyways, the lyrics and guitar are STELLAR. “Do your demons, do they ever let you go? When you’ve tried, do they hide deep inside–is it someone that you know?” Crazy powerful words if you have ever been through some dark times. Consequently, this is one of my favorite songs EVER. (Two-versions on the YouTube list. The “official” video comes nowhere near doing the song justice. The live version is definitely better.)
  7. “Self-Esteem” by The Offspring- Another one of my favorite bands. Seriously, what would the 90’s have been without them? This song may be a little slow for faster runners but works great as a warm-up or cool-down. The video is classic 90’s and the retro Evil Kneivel footage brings me right back to the 70’s. Hello, who doesn’t remember sitting in your living room glued to the television when Evil made his ill-fated Grand Canyon jump?
  8. “Separate Ways” by Journey- My favorite Journey tune. The guitar and the beat make this a great running song. The video, however, is one of the cheesiest videos to emerge from 1980’s. FYI: If you love this song, don’t torture yourself by watching the video. PLEASE!
  9. “Turbo Lover” by Judas Priest- This is my second favorite Judas Priest song even though I can’t decide what my favorite song by this group is. The video is completely creepy but the beat and tempo make this a killer song on the run.
  10. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana- My favorite song by one of the best bands to have EVER rocked the planet. EVER. This song has motivated me on many a dreadmill treadmill run.
  11. “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses– 80’s kids, is it possible to listen to this song and not do a little Axle shoulder sway? I think not. This song is loud, hard, classic, and awesome. You will work a little harder when it’s blasting through your earbuds. I promise.
  12. “Youth Gone Wild” by Skid Row- Another lead singer with pretty 80’s boy band hair. Sigh. This song is hard, heavy, and in your face. Perfect for a workout (or an 80’s keg party, so I’ve heard.)
  13. “The Zoo” by the Scorpions- Yep, the Scorps made the list twice.  LOVE this tune but the video is. . . well, not sure what it is. Definitely not cool, and that IS for sure.
  14. “B.Y.O.B.” by System of a Down- This song is HARD and SCREECHY but has some amazing guitar work and the tempo changes are great for an interval workout.
  15. “Fight for Your Right” by the Beastie Boys- Yes, I saved the best for last. This song is the quintessential teen anthem and it brings me STRAIGHT back to 80’s keg parties high school. Fun fact here for ya– I know every single word to this song and can sing those said lyrics in an incredibly cool faux London/Brooklyn accent. “I’ll kick you outta my home if you don’t cut that hair!” I have solo concerts with myself to this song and you should know that I ABSOLUTELY ROCK! For real. Hence, I apologize profusely in advance to any friends or family members that may be near me if I happen to be in public, have had one too many adult beverages, and this song comes on the jukebox. Just walk away, walk away. It’s really okay. I’ll totally understand in the morning.

How about you? Any awesome running/workout playlists you want to share?

Facing fears and finding me the fifth: Part two, how I lost 70 pounds

(This Part two of the blog-version of a presentation I recently gave. Part one can be found here https://melissafaithbodin.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/facing-fears-and-finding-me-the-fifth-owning-your-story-and-believing-your-worth/)

Do not let the number on the scale define your worth.
Do not let the number on the scale define your worth.

As I wrote in Part One, accepting myself as is and believing I was worthy of happiness and healthiness was essential to losing (and keeping off) 70 plus pounds. Obviously though, it takes more than believing in one’s self (even though it’s a necessity) to effect life-long, positive change. Throughout my healing journey, I have had to make some choices that have required me to change how I looked at my life and my health. For starters, I took the word “diet” out of my vocabulary. I encourage you to do the same.

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Instead of ever saying I was going on a diet, I chose to say that I was opting for healthy changes and then I slowly integrated those changes into my lifestyle. For example, I added more fruits and vegetables to my plate,  upped my hydration goals, and increased my exercise time. The ripple effect of making healthier choices led to more changes, and then to more again. And so it goes, each change leading to a better one.

One thing I have learned over the years is that there isn’t a SINGLE weight-loss gimmick, protein diet, low-carb diet, super-calorie restricted diet, diet pill,  shake, herbal concoction, or surgery that will do for you what adopting a healthier lifestyle will do. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. Trust me on this one.

Also, because I am NOT on a diet, there isn’t a single food that I have given up over the last two years (there are foods, however, that I don’t eat anymore mainly because after making healthier choices most of the time, the not so healthy ones don’t always taste the best.) MOST of the time, I eat relatively healthy. For instance, I rarely eat fast food, we cook most of our meals at home, and I try to stay away from highly processed foods. (I say MOST of the time because I doubt I will ever give up the Dairy Queen or Jack’s Frozen Pizza.)

I read recently about the 80/20 rule and it made sense to me. 80% of the time, strive to make the healthiest choices possible. The other 20%, well, those are the Jack’s nights and DQ trips. Choosing to live a healthier lifestyle isn’t about being perfect, it’s about making an honest effort to effect change–it’s about being real.  

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The next choice I made was accountability.

How many times have you ripped open a bag of chips vowing only to have a few and suddenly half a bag is gone? Or maybe you taste-tested your new brownie recipe to the tune of chowing down an entire row? Been there, done both. I’d like to tell you that I have quit doing that entirely, but that would be a lie. The difference now? If I eat a half of a bag of chips or a whole row of brownies, I account for it. No, I am not thrilled with myself if I make choices like this, but. . . I do not beat myself up over them either. I account for the poor choice and move on. (In the old days I would have gone hog-wild the rest of the day because I had already “blew-it” and vowed to “start again” the next day. Sound familiar?)

To help me with accountability, I started using myfitnesspal  in January of 2012 and haven’t stopped. It takes less than 10 minutes per day to keep track of what I eat and how much I workout. (YES, you do have 10 minutes to do this.) Keep a journal or find an app (there’s many out there) but just find some way that works for you to account for your intake. Make an effort to strive for accountability. By making the choice to be accountable, you will take control over your food choices instead of your food choices controlling you.

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Third on the list is movement. LOVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TO MOVE. Move, even if it is for only 10 minutes per day. Start with a minute, if you have to, but move. Exercise is imperative to good health, weight loss, maintaining weight, good mental health, stress relief, muscle tone, anxiety relief. . .the list goes on. Our bodies were made to move and you will be amazed at how good you feel when you do.

The key is to find something you like and then to do it. Walking is good. Running rocks. If you aren’t a fan of either one of those, there is swimming, biking, hiking, rebounding, elliptical, good old-fashioned calisthenics, Zumba, Crossfit, yoga, rowing, spinning, aerobics, stair-stepping–the choices are endless. Most of the time I run but I also do most of the other things on the list. Moving your body will change your life, I promise. I know this because it has saved mine.

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Next up, change the way you look at food. How many times have you said to yourself,”I have been so good today on my diet that I am going to reward myself with a brownie (or cookie, or piece of cake, or a bag of chips, etc)?” Unfortunately, I have said those exact words too many times to count over the years. If you are currently doing this, STOP IT NOW! Do not REWARD yourself with food but instead make food a choice that you are in control of (I know, it sounds a lot like accountability.) By all means have the brownie, not because you deserve it, but because you choose it. It is a subtle– but powerful– change to the way you approach food and it works. Food is fuel for your body, not a reward for “being good.”

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Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is patience. When embarking on any healing journey you need to accept and understand that lasting change takes time. You did not put on the weight overnight, so don’t expect to lose it overnight. Strive to be patient. Work on being kind to yourself. Give yourself space to create sustainable change. By doing this you will find that you will be able to stay the course of your new healthy journey, no matter what life throws at you–that I can attest to (see Part One.)

I stated in one of my first blogs that I someday I wanted to be a “marathon-running, mountain-climbing, vegan.” At the time I couldn’t jog a mile, climb a small hill without feeling like death was coming for me, or go a day without eating meat. If I would have tried to do any of those things, let alone all three at once, I would have failed miserably. It took nearly 18 months; but, last summer I completed a marathon, climbed a mountain or two, and made it a week without meat. (On a side note, I can’t really imagine ever going “vegan” because that would mean giving up Jack’s Pizza and DQ. Hello. The best I am hoping for is to be an 80/20 vegetarian. Makes sense, right?)

In the end though, no matter where you are on your journey through life, it all starts with you. YOU choose your path. YOU choose to move. YOU choose to be accountable. YOU choose to create space for change. YOU choose to be patient and kind with yourself. YOU, and only YOU, can make the choice for a healthy and healing journey. Love yourself enough to make the choice. YOU are SO worth it.

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P.S. Some more essentials (that I won’t elaborate on for the sake of not making this post a novel but are all just as important as the above):

  • Hydration is key. Staying hydrated staves off hunger and tiredness, both of which lead to overeating.
  • Eliminate excuses–there aren’t any good enough.
  • Set goals that are attainable, measurable, and realistic.
  • Learn to breathe. Stop and take a deep breath now and then. It does wonders for your mind, body, and soul.
  • Surround yourself with people that lift you up and ditch the ones that don’t.
  • Find workout buddies–they keep you accountable and push you to new limits. I am SO grateful for mine!
  • Learn all you can about weight loss, exercise, and getting healthy. It makes your choices easier.
  • Rest is essential. Allow yourself time for it.
  • Eat! Don’t deprive yourself or cut too many calories. It won’t do you any good in the long run.
  • Don’t forget to enjoy yourself on this journey.

Facing fears and finding me the fifth: Owning your story and believing your worth

(On January 5, 2014, I had the honor of speaking at the MACCRAY Community Health Challenge 3rd Annual Kick-off. Here’s  the blog-style version (part 1) of where I was coming from and where I have been on my weight-loss journey. To some of you that read my blog regularly, some of this will sound very familiar.)

To truly believe in yourself and all of your amazing awesomeness, you must first learn to accept yourself with your whole heart. This means forgiving yourself for past mistakes and honoring your own unique and beautiful story, no matter how difficult some of the past chapters may be to reread. Accept yourself, own your story, and believe that you are worthy of great things. ~MFB

As I write this, it’s been nearly two years since my first installment in this little blog within a blog. Little did I know what life had in store for me at the time of my first writing. When I started this journey just two short years ago, life was SO completely different. . .

I really hadn’t stopped to think about it until I started preparing for a little presentation I did last night for my community’s annual health challenge. Even though I talk in front of people on a regular basis, this one was rattling my nerves BIG TIME. After pondering why for quite some time, I finally concluded that even though I frequently bare my soul in writing on this blog, I had yet to publicly speak about my weight loss. Quite frankly, it is scary as H-E-L-L. It also dawned on me as I was looking back through my earlier blogs that when I began this journey, life was “as usual” in our family. The beginnings of this story had started for me pre-crash with my mom and sister-in-law cheering me along every single step of the way. They were my absolute biggest and most loving supporters. My sister-in-law was the first commenter on my first blog and one of the very last conversations I had with my mom (just a couple of days before she was killed) was about my weight loss. She had exclaimed (in a way only a mother could) that she forgot how small my shoulders really were (they aren’t, but the last few pounds that I had lost had come off that area of my body in a very noticeable fashion). She also had told me how proud she was of me and that I was inspiring her to “get on the stick” and lose some weight. Even though I am so very thankful for these beautiful memories, recalling them is still crazy painful. I hadn’t thought I’d be “going there” while preparing to talk so it threw me into a bit of a mental tizzy that I wasn’t expecting. Nonetheless, I had to do this–not because I had yes to speaking–but because I had to do it for me. I had to own my story, out loud, in front of real-life people, as opposed to the usual virtual audience– even though I was scared sh$$less.

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Own your story. You are amazing and worthy.

Over the last couple of weeks, I had been contemplating what I would talk about and how I would present what I knew in a manner that would be helpful to others. I am obviously not an expert on nutrition, weight-loss, or anything of the like. I am, however, an expert on myself and my own story. I know from experience the power that owning your story holds. I also know that no matter what our struggles are or where we are on our own journeys, we are NEVER, EVER alone. Because of this, I knew that what has worked for me would work for others in their own way, on their own journeys.

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You can stop the weight loss roller coaster once and for all. You have the power.

For the record, I truly have no idea how much weight I have actually lost. I stepped on the scale in January of 2012 for the first time in nearly a decade. At my official “weigh-in” I tipped the scales at 240. Yep, 40 pounds more than I thought and 30 pounds more than the worst-case scenario number I had in my head. Since that fateful day, I have lost roughly (depending upon the morning) 65 pounds. I am guesstimating though from looking through photos  that at my heaviest, I probably pushed 250 on the scales, which would make my total weight loss somewhere between 70-75 pounds. I was able to finally the stop weight-loss roller coaster at that moment, not because I had suddenly become a health and fitness guru, but because I had done the mental work beforehand. I had faced down the demons in my head and had decided that I was WORTHY of being happy and healthy, regardless of my past or present circumstances.  I had learned to accept myself for exactly who I was– nothing more, nothing less. I had zero excuses left (not that any were truly legit anyways) not to stop the not-so-thrilling ride that I had been on. Once I learned to accept and believe in myself, the journey became so much easier.

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Believe that you are so very worthy, because you are.

The most terrifying thing is to accept yourself completely.”  ~C.G. Jung

It’s hard though! Learning to accept ourselves and believing that we are worthy of happiness and healthiness can be so very difficult to do; but, acceptance of ourselves and belief in our own worthiness is essential to the journey. There isn’t a single thing that you cannot overcome– if you make the choice to do so. You cannot change your past, you can only integrate it into your present and own it. Make it part of your own beautiful story–the one where you truly believe you are worthy of great things. The one where you are in charge of writing your own ending. . .

(Next up: Part two: The rest of the essentials)