The past few days I have spent some time reflecting on my weight-loss/health/fitness journey. And while reflecting on this journey is something I tend to do regularly, I have been extra reflective as I get ready to write down my 2016 goals. Adding to that, a good friend recently asked me for some weight-loss tips the other day which really got me thinking. . .
This was the very first honest post I wrote about my weight and my struggles. I wrote it on January 23, 2012 and I remember this night vividly. We had just returned home from Iowa after sending our youngest off to Oman to study abroad. I had looked at the going away pictures. I remember consciously trying to stand in a way that would make me look not as large as I was when we were taking the pics. Those pics were my tipping point. My surrender. Later that night I sat down to write this after I ordered my scale. Again, thank God for Amazon one-click or I may have chickened out. I am also not sure where I found the courage to hit the publish button that night. . . but I did. Facing your fears and owning your story, is the most empowering and freeing thing I have ever done in my life. Happy New Year. May you find yourself and be free.
Part of truly being yourself is owning your story. Today, I’m owning a pretty big part of mine…
I did something today that absolutely T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D me, something I have avoided- successfully or not, depending upon how you look at it- for years. My heart is still pounding a bit, but thanks to one-click shopping at Amazon.com I didn’t have time to stop and think before I tossed it into my virtual cart. Boom, it was done. No going back. I had to face this once and for all.
Anti-climactic, I know, but the big, scary thing I did was order a digital scale, something I haven’t owned for years. For many people, hopping on the scale is not a big deal, but, as a person that has battled an eating disorder for a good share of my 40 plus years, the thought of owning and stepping on a scale is…
(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.
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.
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. . .
“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.
“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.
“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?
“New Year’s Day” by U2– Best. U2. Song. Ever.
“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.
“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.)
“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?
“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!
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.)
“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.
“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.
“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?
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.
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.
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 myfitnesspalin 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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. . .
BREATHE! Stop and take a deep breath now and then. Train yourself to do this when you are stressed, when you are angry, when you are feeling sad, when you are feeling happy, etc. Just the act of stopping to consciously take a breath can change your bad mood to good, help you to focus, and to stay present–all things that are needed to keep stress at bay. If you are already in a relaxed mode, that deep, conscious breath can send you into a deeper state of relaxation, which, quite frankly, is amazing!
Laugh more.-If we didn’t laugh every day in our office, we would explode! It is totally okay (and necessary) to laugh, even in the grips of grief and despair. I know this from experience; laughter truly can be the best medicine some days. Go ahead and LAUGH. It’s okay.
“New year, new you!” It’s easy to start the new year with great resolutions to get fit and get healthy, but our resolutions often slip away as quickly as they began. However, anyone can stick to their new year’s resolutions with a little focus, dedication, and hard work.
Here are some suggestions for keeping your 2014 fitness new year’s resolution:
Set a specific time to exercise each day – this will help you schedule your workout into the day so that your busy schedule doesn’t sneak away from you! Also, if you exercise at the same time every day, it will become a routine after only 2 weeks.
Mix it up – try new and different exercises and activities. Zumba, biking, kettle bells, stair steppers, yoga… the options are endless! This will help you discover your favorites! It also keeps your routine exciting so you won’t become bored.