Thursday, June 24, 2010

How Did I Start?

A friend of mine is sitting on the fence, about to take the plunge into fitness. She asked me this:

"Where did you find the motivation to get started? I'm feeling pretty blech-y and I don't want to keep on this way, but I'm not really wanting to give up the habits that have gotten me here. I wish someone could wave a magic wand and fix it. The prospect of all the work I need to do is mighty unappealing."

I ended up writing a long response and I thought it would be a good post. So here it is:

Wow. That's a tough question. It was a combination of things actually. The first was stepping on the scale at a doctor's appt. and having it flash 250 lbs. in my face. That's really high for a girl my height. My body was like 53% fat. I felt disgusted that I had let things get that bad. The second thing was that it coincided with being laid off. I felt like I needed a positive project that would give me something to focus on with all that spare time. Finally, I'm pretty unhappy being alone and everybody keeps telling me that you have to love yourself first. It seemed like the most obvious way to start loving myself more was to get healthy. And if I got thinner in the process, maybe that would catch some guy's eye. :)

The truth is that I had reached bottom. I was depressed and didn't feel any joy in my life or hope for the future. I knew getting healthy was one thing that I could change. And you're right, it's mighty hard work. The hardest part for me is the food. Today, I went with my mom for an angiogram and it was super stressful. She's in real trouble. My response: eat a half a carton of ice cream. :( I haven't figured out how to comfort myself without food.

The exercise part is different. Crossfit has changed my attitude toward fitness. I don't slog through hours of jogging anymore. I was forcing myself to do that, and I hated every step. Now I look forward to going to a workout. Crossfit challenges something primal, deep inside of me. I feel compelled to keep trying and do better. The biggest component for me is the group. And I hear this again and again when I meet CF people from other places. The camaraderie and esprit de corps is what keeps people coming back. You're all in it together, no matter what your fitness level is. Super athletes are pulling for me. I'm pulling for them. And there's the middle-aged lady who maybe has never exercised in her life. We're all the same, trying to achieve our own personal best.

Plus, the personal attention and motivation from a coach cannot be underestimated. My gym has a cap: no more than 10 people per coach. I happen to go very early in the morning, so it's usually just me and 1 or 2 others. My coach knows me, knows what I can do, and gives me real attention. She is teaching me to push myself a bit harder and to trust what my body can do. She also inspires me to keep going when I want to lie down.

Yes. It is expensive. My membership is $115 a month. But it's worth every penny to me. I have made real change in my perception about exercise and my capabilities. I have made strong friendships. And I have a personal trainer who cares about me and wants to see me succeed. I've cut back in other areas so that I could keep doing Crossfit. I used to spend at least that much going out to eat for lunch everyday!

There's no way to avoid the hard work. If you want to change, there's only one way to make it happen. You start.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Heart Disease

My mom was diagnosed with coronary heart disease yesterday. She's having a stint inserted tomorrow. I'm really angry that I predicted this. She eats terribly, refuses to exercise, and insists that she's as "healthy as a horse." Meanwhile, she has diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and oh yeah, she's recovering from CANCER. I've been saying all along that a heart attack was around the corner if she didn't get control. I hate that I was right.

I don't want to be that! What an incredible reminder of why I'm trying to get healthy. I want the best quality of life that I can achieve. I won't settle for anything less. I deserve the best.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What Do I Enjoy?

A wise woman read my blog and noticed that I seem to have lots of things to complain about. She asked me if I am enjoying the journey. Or for that matter, is there anything besides food that brings me joy? She concluded that if I am not enjoying the journey then something is wrong.

These are important questions, but I think they might be unrelated or at least distinct. The first one is easy to answer, I am not enjoying this journey. However, I'm not sure that I agree with the idea that I'm supposed to. If it were enjoyable, that would signal to me that I'm not doing the real, very hard work that needs to be done. I have been asleep at the wheel for many years. It is not pleasant to look at my behaviors and ask myself the tough questions like, "Why do you fill the loneliness hole in your heart with chocolate?" It would be far more enjoyable to go back to eating fast food and sitting on the couch watching TV instead of working out.

By stopping behaviors that I logically know are bad for me, I have to experience the pain and fear that they used to cover up. I believe that being fat has been/still is a source of protection for me. Why am I alone? I'm fat. Why am I unsuccessful? I'm fat. Why do I have a hard time making friends? I'm fat. When you take this excuse away, you have to look at some unpleasant facts. There must be other reasons why I am alone and unemployed. What happens if I reach a healthy weight and I still am unhappy? What will I blame then? I will only be able to blame myself. So this is about finding out what I want, how do I get it, and what kind of life will satisfy me. Those are all tough questions that are not enjoyable to face.

The second question is not as easy to answer. There are things that bring me joy, but some are mixed with challenges. I experience pure joy when I spend time with Griffin and Molly. They are really loving, funny, cool people to be around. Griffin decided to move into the room that Molly and I were sharing, so we all sleep in the same room now. We spend many nights, after lights out, talking and laughing together. That is my favorite part of the day. Everyday.

CrossFit brings me joy AND pain. Sometimes I feel so proud that I could burst. I've come a long way in the strength department. I have muscles that I have never had in my life. Just today my mom was in a garden center and was trying to find an employee to load bags of mulch into her cart. I asked her, "Why?" She said, "Because they're so heavy!" I rolled my eyes and tossed 'em into the cart. What's 50 pounds when you can deadlift 200? Other days I'm disgusted by my performance. I am slow. My running times never improve for example. And 9 times out of 10, I'm the last one to finish, and everyone is standing around yelling at me because they've been done for 5 minutes or more already. That's embarrassing.

I enjoy the people I'm getting to know immensely. I have been alone for a long time. I don't have any friends that I socialize with in Eugene. I've met some amazing people through CrossFit and even done stuff away from the gym with them. That's huge for me. I crave people my own age to spend time with. I'm enjoying socializing with my parents. Even though we don't speak the same language, we do have things in common. Obviously my sense of humor comes from them and we laugh together a lot. It gets complicated sometimes, but overall, our relationship is better than it has been in years.

Men do not bring me any joy. They are idiots who do not see my value. It's painful and not worth talking about. I dwell on my singleness too much.

I don't like my job, but I love my two teammates. They are also single moms who are intelligent and funny people. It's been enjoyable to be on a team that has a purpose. I'm not a fan of the work itself but it's something to do. And the pay is good.

So anyway, it's not all doom and gloom, even though it may sound like that. I just tend to write about what's frustrating me, not what makes me happy. I don't process what makes me happy.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I wish I had something inspirational to write today. It was not an inspirational week. I worked my ass off at the gym, where I got knocked down everyday. I ate extremely well. Alright, that might be an exaggeration, but I did eat within my calorie budget, it's just that some of those calories were ice cream. (It was low fat, no sugar added ice cream, because I AM trying to reform.) I had a good week with friends and family and work. But the results? Nada. No loss on the scale this morning.

I'm trying to be philosophical about it. Maybe it's because my period started. Maybe it's because I was so brutal to my muscles this week. Maybe it's sun spots. Who knows? It's just one week. I guess the point is really that I did the work. The results will come when they come. But I am proud that I keep trying.

I've been thinking about what it will feel like when I do reach my weight loss goal. Will I stop working out? Will I stop eating healthy foods? Nope. These are permanent changes and there will come a day when I don't even look at the scale anymore because that's not why I do it. I'll do it for the way it makes me feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The scale can't measure those things.

Wouldn't it be crazy if I just decided to stop looking at the scale now?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Clawing My Way Back

I'm sitting in my new office. I am finally an official employee of the University of Oregon with a paycheck and benefits and an office with a window. I think my title is Research Associate. This is a huge relief because I haven't seen any money since March. The stress level was critically high. It's still unclear whether or not I'm going to be able to keep my car, but my CrossFit membership is safe for now.

Which brings me back to my fitness saga. I was looking over my journal where I am tracking my weight, exercise, food, etc. In the past 4 months, I've lost 9.5 pounds. Obviously, that's a significantly slower pace than what I was doing in the beginning. There were two big periods of time in there where I was completely off track, eating fast food again, and even a three week chunk where I didn't exercise because of my ruptured eardrum. It's been a depressing Spring. I feel like I undid a lot of the progress that I made in the Fall and Winter.

But the reality is that I did NOT undo that good work. For the first time, I made a different choice. I could have given up completely. That's what I've done in the past. I'd lose some weight, take up jogging, and then when things got off track, I'd throw in the towel. Not this time. I held my ground. I even kept inching forward a bit. I keep going to CrossFit, even though it feels like I'm not making any progress. That is a miraculous change for me. Half of me really wanted to quit. The other half of me was disgusted at the half of me that wanted out. I don't want to be a quitter. I want to make real change. It's just so freakin' hard some days. I still have to psych myself up to order salad instead of a cheeseburger and fries. I still have to force my body into the gym. There are days when I am still convinced that I will never be healthy, so why torture myself like this?

But clearly something, however small, is changing. I'm making new choices. I'm still down 40 lbs. I am NOT going to gain it back. I'm still attempting to get fit. I keep going to the gym even on days when I know I'm going to have to run. (These are the most depressing days for me because every step reminds me how fat I am.) I am angry and sad, but I keep doing it. Last week I counted every single calorie that I ate, and I was well within my allowance. I lost weight. This week, I'm on track to do it again. I went to the gym for two brutal workouts on Monday and Tuesday. I'm going again on Thursday and Friday. I may not be emotionally happy with how things are going, but I'm sticking with it. That itself is progress. I'm praying that the emotional satisfaction will come eventually.