Rage Against the Dying of the Light

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I used to be interesting.  I used to seek out danger and adventure like I was some kind of Navy Seal, rope propelling into questionable situations I wasn’t sure to escape from.  I used to have deep, meaningful conversations about politics, my hopes and dreams for the future, and my beliefs with friends whose views varied on every issue.  I used to fill a Saturday afternoon with new experiences, new vistas, and new friends.  Somewhere along the way to adulthood, I lost all of those vibrant hues that painted me interesting and allowed marriage, career, and motherhood to leave me in a boring gray-wash.

You know this is you too.  It happens to us all.  Each year into adulthood dulls the sparkle a little more until you wake up one day on a mattress that helps your back spasms that have haunted you from the days of carrying a child on your hip, wearing your husband’s t-shirt, with a child and a dog sleeping horizontally across your face.  Yes, this is what all that dreaming in your adolescence has lead to and you lumber out of bed to start the laundry, pack the lunches, and take out the dog.  You pass a mirror and realize the face starring back at you is a stranger.  Where is that girl who dared to jump off the cliff, who rode a motorcycle, who let belly laughter be her ab workout?  You don’t even recognize her anymore.  You spend the rest of the day looking and listening for a glimpse of her but your day is filled with conversations about which laundry detergent doesn’t aggravate your child’s eczema and exchanging trade secrets for how to stop your husband’s snoring or what dinner can be made in 20 minutes or less.  Surely, she’s in there somewhere…you watch what she does- filling her days with household drudgery, thankless errands, listening to her child summarize each moment of their day in excruciating detail.  She finally get the kids to bed and you think “Now, she’ll emerge and the sexy, I’ll try anything once, beast will attack her man with a whole new bag of tricks” but you silently weep as you watch her cuddle up on the couch and fall asleep (mouth completely open, oozing with drool) during the first 5 minutes of that Netflix series you heard was amazing.  You shake your head, you cry, you scream at her and then in a final act of desperation you run.  That is where my fitness journey began, literally running from what I had allowed myself to become.

While the physical reflection in the mirror didn’t match the girl I once knew, the thing that really scared the shit out of me was what I had allowed myself to become.  Yes, I ALLOWED myself to become.  I sacrificed all those aspects of who I was because I believed them to not be valuable as I grew into adulthood.  Where were all those interesting friends who challenged me, well they probably left right after the first 50 minutes I spent talking about the color of my child’s diarrhea after the latest stomach bug. Why wasn’t my husband chomping at the bit to fuck me?  He probably wasn’t enticed by me wearing sweatpants to bed or sensible shoes and turtlenecks to work.  Where were all those action-packed weekends filled with adventure?  Well they were filled up with basketball games, dance recitals, birthday parties, and vet visits.  Fitness was the way I started my journey to fight back to free the woman I once was from the internment camp of adulthood.  Once my outsides started looking more like the woman I once was, I became consumed with the desperate rescue mission to find the other parts of my identity that I allowed to be stolen, muted, swept out to sea.  And once I found my voice, my face, my form again- I guarded them zealously as the treasures they were to make sure I wasn’t so careless as to let them go again.  “Do not got gentle into that good night.  Rage, rage against the dying of the light”…let those words be your mantra as you find yourself again.  Rage against not a physical death but a spiritual one.

 

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Be Choosy About What Comes into the Temple.

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I’ve heard the expression that your body is a temple and up until recently when I envisioned this I imagined it more like Mayan ruins draped in vines and overgrowth visited only by those who dared rather than as an ornate Chinese temple complete with a pagoda and a grotto with lines of supplicants waiting days to worship there.  But now that the second image is the one I identify with my own body, I’ve become very choosy about what I let into it.

I’m going to try to say this without being super graphic but there are only so many orifices that act as entry points into your temple…we can skip the sexual ones until later (don’t worry I would never skip those).  First lets focus on the mouth.  I was never a discriminating eater which quite frankly was the main problem…I’d eat anything to attempt to replicate that full feeling.  As I became more restrictive with my eating and focused on foods that my body could use to maximum capacity, I became hyper selective with those cheat meals or special treats.  No gas station cupcake was going to be worth the extra hour at the gym…if I was going to eat a cupcake it was going to be from Magnolia.  I wasn’t going to cheat with a greasy McDonald’s cheeseburger, it was going to be a 5 star Michelin rated restaurant.  I wasn’t going to just have a bottle of beer- it was going to be so crafty it came with a knitted cozy. Selecting special indulgences made them feel special but more than that they made me feel special.  I am worthy of great things so I only put great things inside of me.

This idea permeated into every aspect of my life- yes every!  I didn’t let sub-par conversations into my ears either because ultimately they would end up in my head and that is the most sacred part of the temple- it should be protected at all costs.  I stopped frequenting the break room at work, all that negative speak which seems benign in the moment, was poisoning my view of my job and my colleagues.  I was equally as choosy with my friends, when the talk wasn’t edifying to my soul, I made my escape and yes that does mean sometimes I eat alone.  Now the eyes are another way we let things into the temple that you probably don’t think about that often but I spent a lot of time and money making my home, my wardrobe, and even my children look extra pleasing aesthetically.  I got rid of clutter, organized, and made the world that I spent my day staring at a beautiful one.

So now I’m ready to talk about those other orifices…yes sex.  If my body is now a temple, you need not even knock at the door unless you’re bringing the ultimate sacrament.  While I am a mom, so I get the idea that sometimes it needs to happen in the laundry room because that’s the only place the kids won’t look for you…but you never see the monks just throwing flowers and the alter and then leaving right?  I’m worthy of some concentrated focus and planning, right?  And don’t even think about kneeling at the entrance with a shitty attitude because you had a bad day at work.  This is some grade A temple here and it deserved to be worshiped with a focused heart and a clear mind.  While yes, this all seems a little silly, it is a very real aspect of this transformation that has emerged from the belief that I am worthy of only the best.  When you know your worth and start demanding to be treated at that value, you’ll be surprised to see that those who also know your worth are more than willing to treat you as the treasure you are.  Don’t be afraid to be discriminating, in fact be as picky as your toddler at the dinner table.  Putting good things that edify and enrich into your body will make you feel powerful and sacred and those are things that you deserve so accept nothing less.  Your body is the temple and you are the deity who controls what comes in…choose wisely.

Wear Those Battle Scars with Pride

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We all have them, even if you’re perfect, somewhere on your body are those pesky little lines that tell the story of where your body transformed for some greater purpose and instead of breaking- it stretched.  Maybe you hide them with clothing or rub some magical cream on them every night with the hope that they will be concealed or removed entirely but I say celebrate them- they are battle scars and show that your body transformed instead of breaking.

When I’m teaching my students about how new buildings in California are constructed with springs into their foundations so they wiggle when an earthquake hits instead of tumbling, I’m always reminded of how important flexibility is in all things.  Rigid things will break, crumble, disintegrate.  The things that survive are malleable- they can handle an earthquake-like change and with a wiggle and a bounce, they remain standing. Nowhere else is this more important to remember and embrace than when you’re trying to lose weight.  There are going to be days when you don’t make it to the gym and you fill your body with things that aren’t the healthiest.  There will be times when you don’t see progress and you think about quitting.  But you won’t because you’ll look down at those little lines of text that curve around your breasts and hips and stomach and you’ll read the story they tell of the woman you once were and the amazing things your body is capable of doing.

I remember when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter and the midwife told me prior to giving birth that the pelvic bones in a woman actually bend to make room to push out a little miracle…and while I’ll admit it terrified me, it also took my breath away.  My bones can BEND to bring life into this world.  And while I’m the first to admit that those lovely stretch marks don’t always fill me with pride- I’ve started to look at them with a sense of awe.  Damn,  I’m fucking amazing- my skin can expand to hold a human within it and my bones can bend to bring forth life- I think that makes me some kind of mythical goddess.  And I’ll admit that not all of those lines are from bringing a baby into the world, some of them are from bringing too many cupcakes into my mouth but this doesn’t take away from their beauty.  I was still able to transform from someone who used food as a weapon to someone who fought back and took control.  I wear those stretch marks now like Xena the Warrior Princess wears the scars of battle because like her, I’m a bad ass who doesn’t stopping fighting even when an army of enemies is bearing down on me.  Don’t give up, don’t be ashamed, own the amazing things that your body can do when you’re focused.

Be flexible as you start to make better choices for yourself and learn to love the things you once hated…Celebrate the things that show you are a fighter, a survivor, and that you may sway in the storm but that you will never fall, you will never let anything destroy you…not even that cupcake.

Drop the Weight…Dead Weight Too

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Invariably,  as you drop the weight and start working on the outside you, you will be forced to work on the inside you.  They go together and one doesn’t happen without the other. Trust me, I’ve tried,  and hit the wall and fought to keep the weights I’ve been carrying because they have become a part of me, an extra appendage I’m not willing to cut off because it will hurt too much.   Maybe you breathed in those asbestos-like fibers in childhood and your body has grown cells around them to protect you.  It’s time to cut out that cancer as you get healthier.  As you get stronger and drop the weight, you will be forced to evaluate the weight you are carrying that can’t be measured on a scale.

For me, the big weight that has immobilized me has been the fact that my father left when I was 15 and despite having 5 children, he only chose to keep in contact with two.  And I wasn’t chosen as one of those two.  This has been a failure that I have been shackled with for more than 20 years.  Something surely has to be wrong with you if your parent chooses not to speak to you?  I let this weight hold me down in ways that I hadn’t imagined- I let it permeate into my adult relationships, the partner I picked to build my life with, my self image, how I treat my children, even the career that I love.  I selected a difficult-to-please man as my partner, a man that I have to work triple hard to satisfy and I’ve spent the last 2 decades trying to prove to him through how I clean the house, what I make for dinner, and even the money that I make,  that I am worthy of love and that he shouldn’t leave me.  I’ve let this weight of not being good enough force me to be the kind of friend who doesn’t say no, who always wants to help.   I always thought that’s because I’m a good person but this weight loss has shown me that despite those lovely altruistic sentiments- that’s not the case.  Every favor, every extra thing I do for my family, my friends, my students comes from a desperate need to be accepted, a panicked plea- please don’t leave me…I’m good enough for you to stay.  And I’ve let those little favors drain me until there was nothing left for me.

Losing 60 pounds allowed, no forced,  a transformation that was decades in the making- that needed to happen in the most desperate way.  And while my muscles grew bigger and stronger from lifting and running, the most important muscle I’ve learned to use is the one that controls my middle finger.  Things that would have made me bend or yield or bow now get that all powerful one fingered salute.  Oh, you don’t like me because I didn’t have dinner on the table when you got home or because your friends couldn’t sleepover over for the 10th weekend in a row, or because I couldn’t find the hours in the day to solve 10 other impossible problems- one finger says it all…one finger standing up for me.  Love me or leave me…I’m strong enough to be okay.

Cut the weight, drop the weigh, loose the weight but damn it- stop carrying it around and you will find that it is easier to run faster, to lift more, to make better choices for you.   Don’t be afraid to throw that one fingered flag on any play that tries to reattach those weights….leave that shit on the field and head for the end zone unfettered.

Cheer For Your Own Damn Self

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Remember when your parents went to your soccer or basketball game and you were out there hustling extra hard because you knew they were watching and you could hear them cheering you on from the sidelines?  Remember how great that felt?  When did we stop doing that?  Why did people stop cheering us on?  Did getting a paycheck replace that?  Damn it…I still need to hear some cheering from the sidelines and since the likelihood of my boss coming to watch me teach every day and dole out high fives every time a kid gets a concept is small, I guess I’ll have to cheer for my own damn self.

On any given day, I’m sitting in the stands or on the sidelines cheering for my kids at soccer, tennis, basketball, etc.  I’m critiquing their performance, motivating them to push harder, celebrating their successes, encouraging them when they don’t get the outcome they want.  We do this for children because we know they need it to develop and grow not just as athletes but as humans yet somewhere after high school, we stop doing this.  I guess the expectation is that you have enough praise and encouragement by the age of 10 and if not that’s all you’re getting damn it!.  Many people employ trainers for this in their weight loss journey…I didn’t mainly because I’m too cheap and didn’t workout at normal times but that doesn’t mean I didn’t find my own source of encouragement on my fitness journey.  I used Facebook.

My real friends are too busy with their own crazy parallel lives to really give me the consistent feedback I so desperately needed.  My husband’s loving words of encouragement fell on deaf ears- I mean he loved me when I was fat so his words aren’t really impartial are they?   So I turned to that all important periphery group of friends- Facebook.  Yes, I became that needy chick who constantly checked in every time I went to the gym, posted endless memes about being hungry and missing carbs, and plastered waaaayyyy too many  selfies as I got smaller and smaller.  Yes, I’m sure there were friends who thought I was annoying and YES I was being annoying but somewhere along the line two things happened.  First, I got the cheering that I needed from their comments and likes and it helped me to be accountable (you don’t want to be that girl who posts about being at the gym all the time and then never lose any weight) and second, my journey helped motivate people in ways I didn’t anticipate.  People came up to me (yes outsides of Facebook land) and told me that they were starting their own weight loss plan based on what I was doing.  I also found a small core group who motivated and cheered me on and that made more of a difference than the whole Knicks cheer leading squad standing around the treadmill as I lumbered through my 11 minute mile.

Don’t be afraid to need to be cheered on…use social media, send dirty pictures to your partner every night, get a trainer.  We need it and in some ways it’s equally as important as the diet and excersize.   And don’t forget to put your hair in pigtails every now and again and grab those pom poms and root yourself onto victory because we need it, yes, even after we are 10.

 

Be Prepared for the Loss

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We all fantasize about how if one thing changed in our lives, everything else would change for the better.  If only I had a relationship or more money or a better body.  I spent my whole life as a fat girl and I always imagined that if only I could lose the weight- everything would be perfect:  I’d be happier, people would want to be my friend, men would find me desirable, I would feel alive.  Having lost 60 pounds in a year showed me that while most of those things were true- they came with an equal and opposite reaction that I wasn’t prepared for.

Weight loss, for me, has been about a greater loss…the loss of identity.  I always knew who I was because I had spent 36 years crafting myself on the inside and I think I had done a pretty decent job in creating a nice person.  If you’re fat on the outside, I think there is a duty to counterbalance that with a more evolved person on the inside.  I was a good mom, wife, teacher.  I always wanted to help other people and I cared deeply for the people in my life.  Others were always at the center of my focus.  But the weight loss knocked me on my ass (and without all that extra padding- it really hurt).

I started focusing on myself more and not just more- all the time.  All this focus on me sounds like a good thing but it wasn’t because I stopped checking and fixing the inside and instead focused only on the outside.  The outside you is the the face that people see and it’s the first judgement a person makes about you and when the outside begins to change so does others and your own opinion of who you are and what you’re about.  People who I had known for years, started treating me differently.  Men, who I thought were my friends, started responding in weird ways to me, either ignoring me completely or the other extreme.  While I wanted the attention, neither option made me feel good.    People who I had been friendly with all of sudden started inviting me out, including me in their lives in a more personal way.   This sounds like a great thing but it makes you think- why wasn’t I good enough before to be included in this way…do I want to be friends with people who are only willing to deepen our friendship when my body changes to fit more of a mold for who they would associate with?  My husband was paying me more attention but then when there would be a lull- I took it deeply personal….Maybe I need to lose more weight?  Maybe I’m not pretty enough?  Maybe he’s bored with me?  Whereas before I would think maybe he’s tired or had a rough day at work.  I started feeling sexy and that new feeling somehow got blurred with feeling sexual.  This has been the greatest struggle I’ve encountered on my journey because it blindsided me and made me question what was really important to me and who I really wanted to be at my core.

Nobody prepares you for what a significant weight loss will do to your life so I hope you use my cautionary tale to help to help steady you.  That fantasy, that it will all be better if only this happened, is like all good fantasies- not without consequence.  Be prepared to make some mistakes, question feelings and people you wouldn’t have imagined you would have to, be ready to take a hard look at what you see in the mirror and work diligently to align the two selves.  There is a loss in weight loss but if you’re ready for it, it doesn’t have to break you.

 

Variety is the Spice of Everything!

Paulo cohelo one of my favorite writers:

Monotony (like its cousin monogamy) can get pretty boring.  There are only a handful of animals in the whole animal kingdom that are monogamous for life and why is that so rare?  Even animals know that variety is important for survival.  How many marriages end because they lost the spark and settled into an unfulfilling routine.  How many people leave their jobs because they are sick and tired of living Groundhog Day for eternity?  Endeavor to kick monotony out of every facet of your life, especially when you’re getting fit.

I never followed those fad diets where you drink nothing but lemon water for 12 days or only eat nuts until you turn into a squirrel, not because I don’t have the will power but because I HATE (yes, that’s in big, screaming capital letters) monotony.  If you’re like me at all, you probably feel the same way.  Eating the same thing every night (you salad eaters- I’m talking to you) is about as exciting as having sex in the same position every time..You wouldn’t do that and expect a slamming sex life, so why would you eat the same thing everyday and complete the same workout and expect positive results?

While the goal is always about getting healthier, eating better and working out more, there is more than one way to feed your appetites and that’s with a little diversification.  Eat a variety of foods; bright,colorful ones are usually packed with the most vitamins and nutrients (and they look pretty too – and that’s important).  Your body needs a bunch of different foods to perform optimally for weight loss so give your body what is needs. When you’re working out, pick a manageable number (calories or minutes- I use 100 calories as my marker) and change machines when you hit it. Don’t limit yourself to leg days and arm days (and have to walk funny or get help getting your sports bra off).  Work on everything, everyday!  Workout during different times of day and note what feels best, when your energy is highest and lowest.  Some days, skip the gym and hit the pool or the track or  a hiking trail instead.  Do a workout video in the morning and  and use all those damn workout pins you’ve been pinning and not using (flatter tummy, booty builder, etc) before bed.

So when you’re crafting your diet and your workout routine, banish monotony and keep your interest and motivation high.  Don’t let any part of your life get into a rut.  Seek out ways to change up your routine and you might find that it’s not so routine at all.