I Did It!…or, I’m Starting To See Changes

I did it. I achieved what I believed to be the impossible. It started small…and turned into a huge accomplishment. My last blog post, I wrote about how I was finally able to stay on the stair climber (AKA The Beast) for a total of thirty minutes, climbing for fifteen minutes then stopping for a moment and continuing on for another fifteen minutes. Well, this past weekend (as I type this, I’m grinning a grin so big it hurts) I was able to climb for thirty minutes straight!  And then something even bigger happened. On Monday, I climbed my way onto The Beast and kept going, past the thirty minute mark all the way to forty-five minutes! I’ll be totally honest, I don’t kick up the speed. I keep my hands on the heart rate monitor handles and watch my heart rate, trying to keep it within the fat burning range, so slow and steady is my style on this machine. But slow and steady is what got me through forty-five minutes of heavy breathing and sweat and wishing I was at home on the couch. When I was done, I was disgustingly sweaty. Seriously sweaty. Like my whole shirt was a sweat stain. I had sweat dripping from my hair, down my face and into my eyes. But damnit, I did it! Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I could stay on that machine and keep moving for that period of time. Never.  Because it’s hard.  And because it hurts. But I did it. And now I know I’m stronger than I thought I was and have way more determination than I thought I had (because I was ready to get off that machine about five minutes into it!). And do you know what I did yesterday? I forced myself to attempt it again, and I climbed for another forty minutes.

I don't know if the stair climber will ever be considered my "warm up", but I'll stick with it!

I don’t know if the stair climber will ever be considered my “warm up”, but I’ll stick with it!

I’m now in week six of my transformation. I call it a transformation, not a diet because I am changing: the way that I eat has changed and my relationship with food is slowly changing. Sure, I still want ice cream and cake and pizza and wine and all of the crap that I was allowing myself on a regular basis. I won’t lie and say that I don’t occasionally indulge and allow myself those things, but the frequency and the amount of any food I eat has changed drastically. I want a better me more than I want the food, which is why I live on a steady diet of grilled chicken and field greens and veggies. It isn’t fun. And it isn’t easy. But I’m doing it. Another big change is my activity level; I went from literally doing nothing, to spending forty-five minutes a day, five days a week at the gym. That’s a huge change. I still can’t say that I “love” working out, but I tell myself that it’s a necessity, so every day after work, that’s where I am, pushing forward and imagining myself a whole lot littler as I huff and puff away on the stair climber. After four weeks of not seeing any progress on the scale, I’ve had very minor weight loss over the last two weeks. I’ve decided to take each one pound loss as a victory rather than thinking You’ve only lost a fucking pound and you’ve been killing yourself at the gym and eating rabbit food!? Ok, ok, I sometimes think that…but then I tell myself this will take time and I suck it up and move on. The major things I’m noticing six weeks into this journey is the way I look naked and the way my clothes fit. My body is changing! Clothes are starting to become too big! I’ll take those changes with a smile and keep on keepin’ on! I’ve decided to set little goals for myself and crush those little goals, one at a time until I get to my major goal. I’m realizing that in order for me to get to my big goal, I’m going to have to stick to this new way of eating and living for an extended period of time – that there is no overnight fix. And I know myself: I burn out and lose interest in things and move onto the next thing that is shiny and new and peaks my interest. I’ve just decided that this time around, that isn’t going to happen. So, everyday, I’m going to remind myself that I have to keep going until I meet the big goal and transform myself into the person who I want to be.

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Seeing Progress…or, Achieving Milestones at the Gym

It really is something special to achieve an unknown fitness goal. Over the last several weeks, I’ve been killing myself at the gym, forcing myself to workout hard in an effort to aid in my weight loss goals; I walk through the gym door with a little bit of dread every day, wondering Am I going to be able to push myself hard enough? Will what I’m about to do actually help me to lose the weight? Rereading the last two sentences, I realize that I’m putting a tremendous amount of pressure on myself for something as silly as a gym workout. But anyway, I digress…

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been forcing myself to once again tackle The Beast, the ever dreaded stair climber machine.  When I worked with a trainer back in 2012, I worked on this machine and hated every minute of it, but was so proud of myself when I was able to increase my time on the machine to twenty minutes. So, this time around, the first time I approached the machine, I did so in the women’s only area of the gym. I wanted to sweat and curse under my breath and make strained faces only in front of my fellow female members. I believe the first time I tackled The Beast, I was able to do about ten minutes before feeling so exhausted, winded and sweaty that I simply couldn’t do it anymore. As the past couple of weeks have gone on, I’ve challenged myself to gradually increase my time, pushing myself a little harder each time. Ten minutes turned into twelve, and twelve turned into fifteen. And then, one day, fifteen turned into twenty. The next day, I thought I’d push myself a little harder and try for twenty-five minutes; alas, I hit my limit at twenty-two minutes and went onto the next machine to complete my forty-five minutes of cardio. But then, something magical happened. Wednesday, I surpassed my goal of twenty-five minutes. I climbed onto The Beast in the main area of the gym (onlookers be damned, they’d have to watch me grimace and listen to me inhale and exhale deeply) and began climbing. I was able to climb for fifteen minutes before pausing my workout to grab a quick drink of water and catch my breath. Feeling disgustingly sweaty and hot, I then began again, climbing and climbing and climbing until I reached a goal that I never thought I’d actually reach. I climbed for a total of THIRTY minutes on The Beast! As I watched the numbers blip from 29:55…29:56…29:57…29:58…29:59…I smiled. I smiled and inhaled and exhaled deeply… and then I immediately hit the big red Stop button on the machine. I had done it! I’d climbed for THIRTY minutes! I descended the stairs of the machine, inhaler and water bottle in hand, with elation. I did it. I did it and I lived!

The Beast

The Beast

Then, something even more impressive happened yesterday. I did it again. That’s right: I climbed on The Beast for another thirty minutes. And you know what? I might even try for another thirty today. At first, I never imagined I’d be able to work on that machine for an extended period of time because…well, because I’m not exactly in shape. But now? It’s kind of like a game. A really painful, sweaty, curse-inducing game called How Long Can I Do This Today?

The longer I force myself to go to the gym, the more I realize that all of the work is paying off. If I hadn’t forced myself to at least try The Beast a couple of weeks ago, I would never have accomplished thirty minutes on that ridiculously sadist machine. Granted, I still loathe working out, but now I realize that it’s working. I’m able to work harder without feeling out of breath, clothes are starting to fit a little differently and I’m starting to get comments about looking different at home and at work. Now, I just need to be able to keep up the momentum and continue to force myself to do cardio. Ugh. Cardio.

Completely Oblivious in Culpeper…or, Did That Really Just Happen?

Something happened to me yesterday that never happens to me. I mean never. I’ve heard of this happening, you know, to other people…but not to me. Ok, I take that back, it happened to me once in a grocery store when I was about twenty-one. I was hit on while running an errand.

Maybe I’m just oblivious. Maybe it happens and I just don’t recognize it happening. That’s exactly that happened yesterday.  I walked into the bank, which I never ever do. I always go through the drive-through or run to the ATM, but I’d gotten off work early and decided to run in really quickly and do what I needed to do, despite being dressed in workout clothes and coming straight from the gym. I stepped out of line to grab a deposit ticket and filled out the pertinent information and quickly stepped back in line. Who knew the bank would be hoppin’ at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon? I jumped back into line as I saw someone walk in and get ahead of me out the corner of my eye while I was filling in the deposit ticket.  So, there I am, standing there in tight workout clothes, and the guy in front of me turns around and asks me if our old ATM cards would work since the bank was recently bought out by a new company. So I’m standing there talking to him, as the line slowly moves forward and the guy starts telling me he’s divorced. Which at the time, I thought was odd, I thought Why is this stranger telling me he’s divorced? So, we’re standing there and he’s making small talk and we get up to the front of the line and he turns and looks at me and says, “So, do you have any plans for the weekend?” So I smile and say I’m not really sure what I’m doing, but that it’s supposed to be beautiful. And then, it’s his turn and he goes up to the front of the bank. So there I am, standing in line with a puzzled look on my face putting together the pieces of the puzzle: he told me he’s divorced and that he lives in town, he just asked me about my weekend…was I just hit on?

captainoblivious2

 

I finished my business at the bank, hopped in the car and immediately called one of my best friends at work. As soon as I told her that he told me he was divorced, Christina responds with, “You realize that was your opening, right?” It was? When it comes to men, am I completely retarded: I literally have no know-how.  Maybe, this doesn’t happen enough for me to realize when an opportunity presents itself? Or, do opportunities present themselves more often than I realize and I’m just too oblivious to realize it? I talked with my mom about it and, God love her, she looked at me and said, “Well, maybe he does that to everyone? Did he look simple?” Thanks, Ma. Am I alone in this? Or, is anyone else out there as oblivious as me? If this happens again, how can I know it’s happening so that I can respond appropriately?  Evidently I need a 101 course in human interaction.

Week Three…or, The Moment of Realization

I’m nearing the end of week three of the Do It or Die Plan and as time wears on, it’s become more apparent to me that I need to look at myself rather closely and discover what on this earth brings me happiness other than food.  This has been a sad realization, but a necessary in order for me to continue the weight loss journey. After a multitude of melt downs (that my Fitness Extraordinaire Sister has put up with) because I couldn’t have _________(I’ll let you fill in the blank), I feel that the only way I’ll be able to continue successfully is to re-examine what exactly brings me joy.

Food has always been the center of gatherings with friends and family in my life, and something in which I’ve always taken great pleasure.  Therefore, in these past 3 weeks when I’ve had to deny myself simple pleasures like a glass of wine or pizza on Friday nights, I’ve gotten mad. Mad because I feel I’m depriving myself of the one thing that has always been a source of joy.  Is that sad? Or, am I simply a normal person who takes a great interest in savoring food? Logic tells me that anyone depriving themselves of something that they enjoy is bound to get cranky. Logic also tells me that when I get cranky in this instance, I become resentful and want to throw in the towel. So, the question begs to be asked: is all of this work for naught? Will I, after a week of 45 minute cardio sessions, six days a week become so disillusioned by it all that I say fuck it and quit because I feel like I’m killing myself and depriving myself at the same time? If I did decide that this just isn’t for me, will I then feel a ridiculous amount of guilt because I quit? Would I then try yet another weight loss plan with limited success?

I’ve thought a good bit about what other things in life I could focus on that bring me joy when I’m pissed that I can’t have popcorn or a glass of wine. Time with family, time with my friends, and music are the obvious three.  Hiking and gardening once brought me joy, but I haven’t been out once this year for a hike and I have planted absolutely nothing this season.  I know what you’re thinking: that can be remedied. You’re right. In fact, I have a hike planned in the very near future with my kindred spirit, Lady Di with whom I always have a good time. And I think I’ll head to the store to buy some plants this weekend.

But, what else is there? I think the reason I have such a hard time listing the things that make me happy is because I have never spent a real good chunk of time alone with myself. I’ve always tried to focus on other people and have placed a great deal of significance on other’s happiness. One of my best friends tells me that the reason I don’t like being single is because it forces me to be alone with me and the fact of the matter is that I don’t really like myself all that much.  Perhaps she’s right. I mean, we could always learn to love ourselves more, right? Or, perhaps the thought of being alone with myself and being forced to find out more about myself is a daunting task.  I have friends who are completely at ease with being alone, and actually relish the time and these are the people who, I believe, know themselves the best. They have distinct likes and dislikes and are very comfortable within their skin.

I think this is a time of transformation for me. Not just physical, but emotional and mental as well. I’m pushing myself far harder than I ever have in the past physically and mentally. Every day is a battle with my self from the time I get out of bed until the time I’m back in bed at night: do I force myself to drink the gallon of water a day? Do I have egg whites or do I eat what I want for breakfast? Do I make myself go to the gym and do 45 minutes of cardio or, do I do what I really want to do and go home and have a glass of wine? For the past three weeks, I’ve been changing the way I live my life.  This morning, I watched a vlog that a friend and former yoga teacher posted and a piece of a sentence that she said echoed back to me: become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I think that I’m in this uncomfortable place and I’ve not yet become comfortable with it. Living your life in a completely different way is uncomfortable. But maybe, if I start to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, if just for a little while, it’ll make this transformation period a little bit easier.   This is my new mantra. And I’ll continue to repeat this to myself as I’m on the treadmill walking on an incline and my legs just want to quit. And something tells me that I won’t quit; not just because of impending guilt if I do, or possibly disappointing my sister who has done a good thing by helping me, but because I want this transformation. And being uncomfortable for a little while is a small price to pay for that.

Dieting at a Beer Festival…or, I Can’t Eat BBQ and I Want It

On Saturday, I picked up my honorary aunt, MaryMary and we went “over the mountain” (as folks ‘round here say) and headed to the 4th annual Rocktown Beer & Music Festival in Harrisonburg, VA. This year, they had 31 breweries/cideries and three bands, four local restaurants set up in tents, and, thank God, enough portapotties for everyone in attendance.

MaryMary and I left Culpeper around 1 o’clock on Saturday while threatening looking rain clouds (or as my Grandma “Bill” would call them, “weather clouds”) started to roll in. As we climbed the mountain, the sky got clearer and it looked as though we would escape the threat of rain. I was excited just to spend time with my kindred spirit and to be out in the sun. I was not, however, looking forward to the temptations that I knew awaited me when we arrived: bbq, burgers, and lots and lots of beer and cider. I was prepared though: that morning, I drank my powered chicken, er…protein smoothie, and had my lunch of stuffed pepper and noshed on almonds on my way over the mountain. I also prepped a protein shake and threw that in my purse along with carrots and hummus.

By the time we found parking and arrived at the end of a very long line of waiting ticket holders, I thought it best to try to choke down the protein shake. Much to my chagrin, the damned thing had leaked in my purse and was warm. Nothing better in life that a warm protein shake. I guzzled as much as I could stomach as MaryMary and I waited in line behind a ridiculously annoying group of early to mid twenty-somethings. I wouldn’t go back to that stage in life if you paid me. Aah, to be older…and kinda, somewhat, maybe a little wiser?

First TasteThe first vendor we hit was Bold Rock, out of Nelson County, Virginia; not my favorite cidery, but a decent replacement as I couldn’t find one of my most favorite brands, Crispin. If you’ve never had Crispin, you simply must. They make a delightfully refreshing, light and flavorful product in two varieties: apple & pear.

After MaryMary enjoyed a ridiculously good looking bbq sandwich from Clementine’s, we hit Devils Backbone (Roseland, Virginia); they offered a tasting of pear lager which was interesting and very dry and had light elements of pair in the finish. We were fortunate enough to meet up with MaryMary’s son, Jamie and his beautiful girlfriend Kate at the festival and they were able to lead us to the Crispin tasting spot and because he was part of organizing the event, got us samples without having to stand in line! Crispin2

Jamie has been a part of the beer world for years and before moving back to Harrisonburg, announced that he will be opening his own brewery with partners, Pale Fire Brewing Company . We were able to tour his new brewery space while at the festival, and though right now the space is lookin’ a little rough, Jamie has a vision and I’m sure that his hard work and perseverance will pay off and Pale Fire Brewing Company will be a big success.

While at the festival, I was able to catch a great band out of Connecticut, Bronze Radio Return. They’re touted as an American roots music band, but they sounded to me more like a crossover band with American roots music influences. Their band included a banjo, a harmonica, both sounds that I love.

Rocktown Beer & Music Festival

Beer festivals are an interesting thing: they bring out all walks of life. Hippies and CEOs; young & old; stupid and not so stupid; drunkards and connoisseurs. They merge drink and food and music, three of my favorite things. Perhaps at the next beer festival, I’ll be in a position where I can splurge and enjoy the drink and food a little more than I did this time around. But this time around, I went home knowing that I was sacrificing for a better body the next day. And that isn’t a small feat.

Holy Shit, This is Working…or, Life is All About Balance

I’m on day five of the Do It or Die Plan and I must say that every day that I step onto the scale I’m simply stunned at how this plan is working. I’m about seven, count ‘em, seven pounds down since I started this plan on Monday! This entire venture has been really hard (and yes, I know, it’s only day 5) because it’s been all about breaking bad habits; bad habits like running out and grabbing something quick and yummy for lunch, or going home and not sitting on my butt. It’s also hard because now that I’m on this special regimen, it means my weekly dinner with my Gramma is out the window.

The food aspect of the plan isn’t really any more appetizing now as when I first started, though I can tell you that I look forward to my morning protein smoothies and my stuffed pepper lunch like I’ve never looked forward to meals before! I look forward to days when I can eat eggs and have peanut butter and branch out from the I-can’t-describe-how-bland combination of sautéed zucchini, squash, peppers and onions. It’s the little things in life that we look forward to, right?

I’ve been walking every day for a minimum of thirty minutes, and yesterday I started a new workout routine that was provided by my FES. The good thing about this circuit training routine is that I can do it from home when I don’t feel like going to the gym. The bad thing about this circuit training routine is that I can do it from home when I don’t feel like going to the gym. No excuses. Ugh. The series of exercises she has me doing are nothing fancy: things like lunges and squats and light arm weights. The worst part of the entire thing is that I have to do this circuit training a total of three times before I’m done and the sad fact of the matter is that I’m simply lazy. I’ve been used to going home after work, sitting down and not moving. That’s been a big change and challenge this week.

Speaking of challenges, tomorrow will be another big one: I’m off the Rocktown Beer & Music Festival in Harrisonburg, VA and I know that there will be all kinds of wonderful foods and drinks there. While I’m going to go and indulge a little, I’m not going to go wild, and my hope is that this little bit of fun (and alcohol) won’t throw me off my weight loss path too awfully much. Somewhere along the way, I didn’t learn how to balance fun and health, so now I’m learning how to do that at thirty-one. Life really is all about balance isn’t it? Eat, but don’t overeat; drink, but don’t over indulge; rest, but don’t be lazy. How come we aren’t supposed to do “too much” of what I think of as the fun stuff? Eating and drinking has always been central to fun times with family and friends and now…well, now I have to do things a little differently. Finding balance is tough. But I keep this mantra in my head: You can do anything for a few weeks. That and the steady loss of weight is what has been keeping me motivated, even on the evenings where all I want to do is stick a straw in a bottle of wine and shovel salty foods into my face. Well, that, the steady weight loss and my sister saying “Don’t you fucking do it” when I tell her that I can’t do this; that keeps me pretty motivated, too. Here is to Week 2 of the Do It Or Die Plan and watching the numbers on the scale get smaller and smaller!

The Do It Or Die Plan…or I Really Miss Salt

Monday morning I awoke with the realization that I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of making excuses, of continuing to watch the scale move upward, to continue doing things the way that I have been. I’ve had enough of settling for the me that I have been.  I’m lucky enough to have a fitness extraordinaire sister to whom I could reach out for help, and reach I did. What any trainer or fitness mogul worth their salt will tell is this: The gym is only a small percentage of weight loss. What happens in the kitchen is key. So, knowing my sister (she who shall go by the moniker FES for Fitness Extraordinaire Sister), I got in touch with her Monday morning as I was spooning yogurt and strawberries into my face and asked her for a meal plan. I knew I wasn’t going to like it. I knew it was probably going to make me hangry and yearn for taste: for salt, for chocolate, for alcohol, for sandwiches, for chips, for everything that I routinely put into my body. But, I reminded myself yet again: ENOUGH. Enough of doing things your way, Lex.

My sister put me on a meal plan for the week. It’s Wednesday and I can tell you that I miss salt with everything in my soul. Salt and coffee. As an avid coffee drinker, I generally start my day with a big ol’ mug o’ mud, with lots of milk or creamer and a tablespoon or two of sugar. No longer. Nope. These days, I begin my day with a protein smoothie. In my most recent trip to Houston, my sister lovingly prepared me a protein shake to gulp down one morning. My response to the taste of this was, simply put, “Feh!” I actually don’t mind the smoothies though. I use chocolate protein powder (or as I like to think of it, powdered chicken), a banana, a very scant amount of non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt and ice. Tuesday morning was the first morning I made this concoction and I must admit, it took me a while to choke it down. I’m not used to drinking my breakfast, so I think the combination of that and the flavor took some time to adapt to. But this morning? That smoothie was the best tasting damn thing I put in my body since yesterday morning!

Snacks and the other two meals of the day aren’t my favorites, but they’ll suffice for this week. My mantra is ‘I can do anything for a week’. There is one recipe my FES gave me that is absolutely aaahmazing, though. Quinoa & turkey stuffed peppers: simple, good for you, and since I made them over the weekend, super easy to heat for a good, filling lunch. Now, dinner is another story. I love vegetables. Or rather, I love vegetables with salt. Dinner consists of veggies sautéed in coconut oil – no salt, damnit – and 4 ounces of a protein. Also, no salt. As anyone who has ever used Mrs. Dash will tell you, this is no substituted for salt. But, it’ll do. For now.

My FES also told me that running in my current state is not a good idea. Short bursts of jogging are alright, but no running for any kind of distance. This advice kind of made me laugh, because I can’t run for any kind of distance. But, I digress. I’ve been instructed to do some kind of cardio for 30 minutes a day. If it’s walking outside with short little bursts of jogging interspersed or walking on the treadmill with intervals on an incline, or using the elliptical at the gym – do it: 30 minutes and leave. Even I can follow those instructions; I mean, 30 minutes? I can make room for 30 minutes of moving five days a week.

I’m midway through the week and so far I’m down almost three pounds from Monday! I’ll take weight loss over salt any day. Doing things another person’s way is always a challenge. It makes you change your way of thinking and reassess the current situation and biggest of all, it means admitting to yourself that your way isn’t necessarily the best way. That one is tough for me, and always has been. But, seeing results this quickly has motivated me to continue on with a positive outlook and hopes for change and results a lot faster than I could garner if I were still doing things my way. I think I’ll stick with my FES’s plan, or what I call it: the Do It or Die Plan. My sister is one tough cookie and I know if I slack off on this plan, I’ll have to answer to her, and to myself. So, I’ll continue on doing what I’m supposed to do and see what the end of the week brings. Here is to new beginnings, change, and the Do It or Die Plan.