Meeting Goals…or, Being Brave Instead of Vague

I’m eight weeks into my transformation/weight loss journey and things are going remarkably well. After having several meltdowns and moments (ok, ok…days) where I wanted to throw my hands in the air and eat my feelings, I think I’m finally past all of the hysterics. And, I’m ecstatic to report that I have surpassed a weight loss goal!

I began doing Weight Watchers again about two weeks ago after hitting a weight loss plateau on my previous plan. Don’t get me wrong, the plan that my FES (Fitness Extraordinaire Sister) put me on was great and it helped me lose about ten pounds in a week’s time, but after some time, I felt it to be restrictive and after about six weeks of following the plan (albeit with cheats) and working out five days a week, I still wasn’t losing any weight. So, I decided to give ol’ WW another go of it and see what would happen. What happened was I started losing weight again! I weighed in on Tuesday and was astonished that I finally surpassed a weight loss goal; it was a small goal, but a goal nonetheless.

I realize that I’ve been rather vague about my weight loss thus far, never actually mentioning a number. Part of that is because this journey is intensely personal to me. Part of it is because stating a weight that I’m not proud of makes me self-conscious. And part of it is because actually stating my weight to an audience of people is a daunting and scary task.  But after thinking about it, we’re all friends here, so here goes nothing. I’ll start at the beginning.  When I started this journey, I was a whopping 238 pounds (I’m only 5’5”). Somehow along the way, I’d eaten my way to an unhealthy and uncomfortable weight. I became increasingly self-conscious about my looks and downright uncomfortable in my own skin. I wasn’t happy with the me that I’d become. This is why I decided to start this journey. I want to be a more confident, healthy version of me. I want to feel good and look better.

So, now that that big matzo ball is out there, I can happily say that I’ve dieted and exercised my way to 224 pounds. That’s a fourteen pound loss since April and I’m quite proud of myself. I’ve been trying not to look at the big picture when it comes to how much weight I’d actually like to lose because it makes me feel like I may never achieve that goal.  I find that it’s the small victories that make being on the weight loss journey bearable. I think breaking a big weight loss goal of 80 pounds into smaller, more achievable goals of perhaps five to ten pound increments helps. Hell, I even celebrate each one pound loss.

Different things work for different people and I believe one of the big hurdles people face when decided that they need to make a change and start the process of losing weight is to figure out what works best for them. Some people like working with a trainer at the gym, while some people need just a little bit of guidance when it comes to working out. As far as dieting goes, some people need a very restrictive set of rules when it comes to diet (a forbidden list and an allowable list of foods), and some people need a little more wiggle room when it comes to diets because they end up going home at the end of the day feeling deprived and end up in a pool of their own tears.  In my case, I hate going to the gym, but I do it because my personal trainer sister told me to. And because I’ve started to see results.  I go and I sweat intensely (as I like to say, I sweat like a man) for 45 minutes a day, five days a week. As for diet, for me, I need wiggle room. I need to be allowed wine and treats and fruit…otherwise it’s me that ends up feeling deprived and crying hysterically at the end of the day, feeling utterly hopeless and like I’ll never achieve the big goal that I’ve set for myself. Now that I think I’ve got what works for me figured out, all I need to do is to keep plugging away at it and see where I am in another week’s time.

Advertisements

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.

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.

Another One Bites the Dust…Or, I Have Hope for Myself, After All

That’s right. I’m back. Back and better than ever! I recently lost about two hundred pounds. Yep. I’ve re-entered the kingdom of Singledom. As it turns out, the one that I thought was “the one” was in fact most certainly not the one for me. I chalk it all up to another bump in the road with the apropos phrase “another one bites the dust”.

The season of renewal and growth is upon us and thus I find this latest occurrence in my personal life rather fitting. I’ve decided it’s time to really focus on investing time in myself and exploring who I am (again. But this time to do it more than a couple/few months). At thirty-one, I figure it’s time to get that figured out…or rather to continue the journey. With my time not invested in someone else, I now have the opportunity to delve deeper into myself; what makes me tick? What makes me happy? And the better question: Why am I not doing what makes me happy? Where do I actually want to live?

I’ve found that when I am in a relationship, a lot of my personal goals go by the wayside; for some reason, I can’t seem to juggle focus very well. Does everyone struggle with this or am I on my own here? I’ve decided to hit the reset button on my priorities and to reassess my goals now that life’s circumstances have changed:

#1 Get back to writing on a regular basis.

#2 Start playing music again. And possibly *gasp* start writing music again. The prospect of which scares the ever-loving shit out of me. Possibly start taking mandolin lessons.

#3 Make a concentrated effort to expand my culinary abilities.

#4 Continue hiking and *trying* to form myself into a shape that is a little less round.

#5 Start thinking seriously about moving. No really. I mean it this time.

#6 Start saving. No really. I mean it this time.

#7 Do not get distracted from any of the above goals.

After I pulled myself together, I realized that I was going to find myself with time that I hadn’t had in several months. After all, I wasn’t going to be commuting to anyone anymore. I was going to have weekends back to myself. I wasn’t going to need to be tied to my phone at night anymore. At first, the thought of breaking all of the above habits was going to be overwhelming. But then something beautiful happened. My mind opened up and I had a moment of clarity; I remembered that there are no rules and I can do what I want with my time. In fact, I can do whatever I want in regard to *all* of my life. There is no rule in stone saying I have to stay in one place or that I must do anything in particular. Those thoughts are liberating in what can be a very scary time of transition. I have hope for myself after all.

Long Time Gone…Or, Updates & Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

I know, I know…it’s been a really long time. Since last I wrote, a new development has taken place.  I decided to jump back into the world of online dating. I did so with much trepidation after some of my experiences, but this time…this time I actually found someone nice. I actually found someone normal. I actually found someone with whom I can talk about anything. I actually found someone that I just click with.  We’ve been together going on three months now!

That’s right folks: I’m no longer a singleton! I’m a happy member of a twosome with an incredible man. Someone who makes me laugh, listens intently when I need to talk and loves me for me.  I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Now, back to business! My goal with the coming year is to be more diligent in my writing. I realize now as my fingers tap on the keys of my laptop how much I truly enjoy the act of writing. There’s something about putting ideas “on paper”…and something even greater about having other people connect with those ideas. I believe that my focus is going to be my dietary journey. I’m in the beginning stages of trying out the Elimination Diet (which I will promptly throw out the window come Christmas Eve & Christmas Day). I’d like to share that journey with you and hopefully in the process come up with some really great recipes.

More to come (and soon)…I promise!

My New Torture..or I Think I’ll Keep Doing This

Spring has sprung here in northern Virginia and I’ve chosen a new means of torture…I mean exercise …to try now that the weather is just puuuurfect.  I’ve decided to start running. Ok, maybe not “running”; It goes more like this: start off jogging at the end of the driveway up the small hill and slow down to a walk when I can no longer take a breath and I’m gasping and drawing in breaths through my mouth because I’ve lost all control over the most involuntary bodily function. And then I walk until I can easily breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. And then I run again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. You get the idea.

Generally, I’m fairly repulsed by the idea of running. It makes you sweat, it makes you feel like your heart is going to explode and limits your breathing ability.  In fact, when urged to run because of its health benefits by a co-worker, my response was, “I only run if I’m being chased by something with a dangerous weapon.” However, I caught up with someone who I used to date last week (a very bad decision) and noticed a big difference in his physique.  He’d started running. I figured if someone like him (trying-to-quit smoker, heavy drinker, non-exerciser) could do it, so could I. I also have felt like a slug as of late. I don’t remember the last time I went to the gym (and I hate the fact that I’m paying for a gym membership that I don’t use) because I hate being on a machine in a humid (yes, for some reason it’s somewhat humid there) gym.  Being on a treadmill or a stair climber or an elliptical machine makes me miserable. My reasoning is that I have to do enough things in life that I dislike…why should I force myself to go to a gym if it’s optional and it makes me miserable?

Anyway, once I decided I’d give this a try, I decided to follow through. After all, if I hated it, I didn’t have to do it again. The funny thing is, the first day that I did this (last Wednesday), I was shocked at how very little I could jog before I needed to come to a screeching halt; before my heart felt like it was going to leap up from my chest cavity into my throat.  The second day (embarrassingly enough, this was just yesterday. I didn’t feel like moving at all on Thursday and Friday night I needed a girls night with pizza and a movie) seemed a lot easier. I don’t know how, but somehow it felt easier to move my body at a faster pace than walking. I also chose to extend the area of my walk/jog to about 2 miles; amazingly enough, I was able to run longer and further distances before I felt like I was going to collapse.  By the time I made it home, I was sweaty and short of breath, but I’d done it! Today (day 3) I did it again…and I even bested my distance again!

I look nothing like this when I run

I look nothing like this when I run

There’s something very strange about this new “hobby” (yes, we’ll call it a hobby). The pounding of my feet on concrete is strangely hypnotic. I get a sense of pride every time I look back at a section of road that I’ve just run down (this is of course once the urge to vomit has passed and I can breathe again). And, the best of all outcomes is that I feel good after I’ve completed my walk/jog. I have a huge sense of accomplishment and pride every time I finish my loop around the neighborhood (or two neighborhoods, as the case has been the last two days). Those are reasons enough for me to continue this new hobby and pushing myself to new levels.

I can because I think I can

 

Damn Gravity: Oh Hell, This Mountain Hurts Me

Last Saturday, my friend C and I pushed ourselves harder and further physically than ever before.

I set off for my second hike of the spring with my good friend C. After my first hike of the season, Mary’s Rock (the week before last), I was pumped and full of excitement about experiencing some new trails this year, seeing some new scenery and taking some photos to document the adventure.  So, I did some research and came up with Big Run Loop, a trail in the South District of Shenandoah National Park on Brown Mountain. It was deemed an “easy to moderate” hike by the trails book, of approximately 5.8 miles set fairly deep in backcountry (read: bears).

view from the trailhead

I prepared in advance this time (and for that I give myself a huge pat on the back), making sure I had the first-aid kit, munchies, a hat and gloves, a water bladder and my fleece. When it was all said and done, I’d folded and smooshed about 10 to 15 pounds into my small Gregory pack. C and I hit the road a little later than anticipated, around 9:30 and set out for the Rockingham County entrance of the Park. By the time we reached mile 81.01 of the parkway, it was 11 o’ clock and we knew there were going to be serious thunderstorms rolling into the area in the afternoon, so we promised each other to huff it in hopes of missing the downpour (and forecasted lightning and thunder).  I handed C the trail map and we ventured into the forest.

We set off, goofing off and laughing, crossing a small stream at 1 mile. Then, later we came across a couple of (incredibly good looking – TWIN) backpackers coming the opposite direction, stomping up with the path with determined steps. After a few more steps, we heard a loud howl and happened upon the remaining backpackers making their way back to their car. They were sitting on rocks, sweating profusely, trying to catch their breath. We smiled and kept moving so as not to lose our momentum (or as I like to call it Hiking Mojo).

Right before we were about to reach what I knew was our two-mile marker (a larger stream that we had to cross), I asked C to break out the map. I knew we’d have to change trails and couldn’t remember what direction we were heading; that’s when I heard what no one wants to hear when they’re on a mountain with storms rolling in: “Oh, shit. I think I dropped the map.”  Evidently, our visual guide had slipped out of her pocket when we stopped to chat with the passing backpackers.  I decided that instead of panicking, it was smarter to try to recall what I’d read the evening prior about our trek.  We reached a cement trail head and looked for an arrow to point us in the direction of the remainder of our journey. When I looked up, all I could see was a nearly vertical climb. That’s when I started panicking. The guidebook had touted this route as  “easy to moderate”;  after beginning the ascent, I decided it was best to turn back and backtrack, easily making our hike a bit over four miles.

I’ll state now that this was the absolutely worst decision I’ve ever made.

We turned back, crossing the second stream and began our ascent. About five minutes later, a quick glance down at my heart rate monitor made exceedingly clear that I was indeed ascending. And my body was working really, really hard. For the next hour and a half, I pushed my body harder than I’ve ever pushed it before.

My heart rate stayed between 160 and 168 as I took each agonizing vertical step. At the beginning of our journey, it never felt like we were making a sharp descent, my steps were evenly paced and the ground felt like it was making a gradual and easy loll. Not this way; this way was pure hell. Here is a visual of the trail:

Big Run Loop: The Trail from Hell

See the first part of that trail, where the elevation drops from about 2900 ft. to about 1000 ft? That is the part that made me hurt.

Every step was a struggle. My calves burned, my hips ached and my knees throbbed . Sweat soaked my back (and stomach). I’ve done many different trails throughout Shenandoah National Park and never once have I ever uttered these words: I don’t think I can do this.

But this past Saturday? I said it. I sat down on a rock, panting, watching the numbers on my heart rate monitor blip backward, ever so slowly…168…167…166. And then, I said it. I wanted to throw my fifteen pound pack to the dirt, fall to the ground, curl up in a fetal position and pant until I could breathe regularly again.

But, I didn’t. I kept moving. Slowly but surely. I’d take fifteen to thirty steps, bend over panting and find a tree or a rock to lean on or sit, watch the numbers on my heart rate monitor blip down while my thudding heart banged loudly in my ears. I sat or leaned and waited for the thudding to fade, softer and softer. Then, I stood, gritted my teeth and put one leg in front of the other.  Incidentally, each of my legs felt like they weighed a good twenty million pounds at this point.

C and I kept up this pattern for an hour, bitching to one another about how unfit we both felt, how much we hated the mountain we were on, and how we felt like we wanted to throw up and faint at the same time.

Then, somehow, we did it. We reached a point in the trail where a clearing in the trees gave us a glimmer of hope: we could see the stone wall that bordered the parkway! We were almost there.

And then, I bit it. I tripped and down I went. I felt like I was falling in slow motion and the only visual that flashed through my mind was me rolling down that God forsaken mountain and making that climb again. Luckily, I didn’t roll downhill. I dug my shoes into the ground, shook my head, caught my breath and stood up looking forward to reaching flat ground again. At the backcountry sign, I stopped, breathing heavily wanting only to cry. The only thing that stopped my tears of frustration and physical pain was the fact that I’d have a large audience: the large group of backpackers we passed? They’d reached the top of the trail. So, C and I took deep breaths and put one foot in front of the other until we reached the top of the trail.  When we were asked if we’d had fun by the friendly backpackers I responded honestly, “That was fucking brutal.”  It got a good laugh.

I learned two very important things last Saturday:

1)      Always have two copies of the trail map. Keep one in my backpack.

2)      I’m physically and mentally stronger than I ever thought I was and now I know I can push through anything.

Despite the horrific physical strain that Brown Mountain put on us, I’ll continue hiking – though I’ll be sure to read every review that I can possibly find of a trail prior to venturing out.