What would you try…

if you had no fear?

what would you doI went dragon boating this morning for the first time. It was one of those sparkling Sydney mornings… sun shining, clear blue sky, a slight chill in the air. It was great to be up and alive.

And, turns out, dragon boating is fun. I went with a group of girls from work – but there were 16 other people in the boat with us, all newbies. We weren’t good enough to win any races, but there we were, down in Blackwattle Bay, sun shining down on us, out amongst the tinnies, the rowers, the other dragon boats and a luxury yacht or two, splashing around, having fun.

It made me think how much losing weight and getting fit and healthy has given me. Before I started working out and lost weight, I used to avoid outings like this. It doesn’t stop everyone, but it used to stop me. I was always fearful of embarrassing myself, or being too fat to do something, too unfit to last the length of whatever it was. I would never have said yes to going along.

I used to live with a really high level of background stress. I don’t think I ever really acknowledged it, but I was worried about stuff all the time. Would the seatbelt fit on the plane? Would I be able to get out of the full restaurant without knocking someone’s table? Would I fit in the space?

And that was just the physical stuff. The amount of thought I gave to what other people thought of me was ridiculous. Were they looking at me as I pulled the seatbelt around myself? Were they judging me if I ate the cake?

It probably shouldn’t be like that – certainly no-one should be judging anyone on how they look, and if I had a better self-esteem, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so constrained by it. But being fat made me feel I was able to participate in life less. It made me put off so many things, it made me fearful, it made me anxious. It made me delay life, and have less fun.

Probably the thing I was most fearful about was really putting in the effort to actually lose weight and get fit and healthy. Because what if I tried really hard, and I couldn’t do it. What would that mean? At least if I hadn’t really tried, I could always give it another go. So I didn’t. For a really long time.

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What I know now is I CAN do it. It was not easy – there are many days when it still isn’t. But I can do it. And I can keep doing it.

Losing weight has given me so much. I feel like I’ve been given a whole new chance with life, and I want it all. I want to run, I want to lift, I want to dragon boat, I want to play tennis, to snorkle, to swim, to ride my bike… to do ALL the things! And being fit means I actually can, most of the time.  And the thing is – that’s a great motivator to keep doing the other stuff – the working out, the eating right – because the trade off is everything else I get to do.

The new normal is the me who gets out of bed to train – even on the days I don’t really feel like it. The new normal is the one who thinks consciously about what she eats. And today, the new normal feels great. The only regret – and I try not to focus on regret – is that I didn’t do it sooner.

There’s more of me on twitter!

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If it doesn’t challenge you…

… it doesn’t change you.

Lazy Girl Fitness – a personal trainer based in Sydney – has issued an ab challenge. A chance to spend 28 days focusing on your core… instead of throwing in a couple of rounds of crunches at the end of a session (or sit ups with a big barbell when your trainer MAKES you, like this morning) – 28 days where you focus on improving core strength and abs. Just because you want to.

For me, it never hurts to do some extra core work… a stronger core helps to keep my back happy. And who knows, I might start to love crunches so much, I just start busting out random sets while I watch TV. They are one of those exercises my trainer loves to point out you can do anywhere – no equipment required!

I’ve even done the whole “take-a-photo” thing. I have previously resisted all attempts by my trainers to record this journey of mine photographically… and I have to say that taking a photo of my bare midriff tonight may prove to be the most challenging aspect of this challenge. I’m certainly not brave enough to share it yet!

In my life as the fattest girl, I made a conscious effort not to be in photos. I learnt how to take photos, and bought really expensive cameras so I could be the photographer, not the subject.

Back when I started going to the gym, I wouldn’t let them take my photo. There is no classic before shot of me. I haven’t let them take it anytime since. The tape measure came out once, but I almost went catatonic, so that never reappeared either. I hated weighing in too… the humiliation of weighing in on that first day was almost overwhelming, but that was the measure I understood, the one I had reconciled myself to, so that’s what we went with.

But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about measuring success – the scales just aren’t moving like they did in the beginning, even though my jeans feel different. What is success now? Is it the elusive number on the scale? Is it a body fat ratio? A set of measurements? Or some physical feat I aim for and achieve (handstand push-up?!?)?

At the moment – aside from the very specific handstand push-up target – the goal is something like stronger, leaner, fitter. I am loving challenging my body to do new things, I am loving feeling stronger, and I’m kind of marveling at how much the shape of my body is changing without actually moving the numbers on the scale very much at all – I am developing some serious muscles! I have even consented to doing measurements in my session this Wednesday – I now want to know what those numbers say over time.

And tonight, the photo. With midriff bared. I have decided to embrace the  challenge in all it’s photo-collecting glory. Who knows, maybe by the end I’ll be brave enough to post the photo. That would be a completely unanticipated new normal!

I’m also on twitter.

PS You can join in too… no special equipment required, just visit Lazy Girl Fitness for all the details. I look forward to seeing your photo too… good luck!

Your mind will quit 1000 times…

… before your body will.

Ain’t that the truth.

When I first started working out, I was worried about so many things – but one of the biggies was that my body wouldn’t be able to keep up. I learnt pretty quickly that the body adapts fairly fast. I mean, I couldn’t run 5km straight away, or do 100 push-ups (ha! I still can’t do 100 push-ups!), but there was plenty I could do, and learn to do over time… plenty to keep me busy, keep me challenged and keep the kilos coming off.

 The mind on the other hand… the mind fights. It is dragged along kicking and screaming. It has all the excuses for not getting out of bed. It has all the reasons that a glass of wine or a cupcake is ok.

I have a friend Sarah, who I’ve recently encouraged (some might say nagged…) to join my gym. Like lots of us, she’s got a few kilos she wants to lose. She’s a single mum, she works fulltime – life is busy. She started with a bang – was starting to get all competitive with herself, pushing herself to do more – and then it got hard. Work ramped up, lots of stuff going on with her daughter – things were feeling out of control. And what was the easiest thing to control? The workouts.

She called Kirky to talk to him about it. He does a pretty good line in encouragement, and she’s changed her schedule around, and she’s back into it. And sometimes that’s what we need – someone else to show us a way through. Bless trainers and gym buddies.

Sometimes we’ve just got to rely on ourselves – dig deep. But there’s lots of websites and blogs – facebook and twitter. I’ve become the queen of the motivational quote. I have one for every occasion. I save them onto my phone, and recycle them in my blog. I always thought motivational sayings were twee before – not anymore!

When I first started, when I was really hating it, I would give myself permission to quit tomorrow. But I had to go just today. I figured if it was just today, I could stick to it. And when it was really, really hard I took it one decision at a time – each decision to workout, each meal choice… at that point “Just. Keep. Going.” was my motto.

The other thing I had to learn was to ask for help. People want you to succeed. Tell people you’re struggling… ask for the help you need to get you back into the gym, to eat a better lunch… people are more generous than you can imagine. They will help you out with a tip or some encouragement if they can.

And the longer you do this thing – the easier it gets. I mean the workouts don’t get easier – there’s always something new to learn (handstand push-ups anyone?) – but it gets to be habit. It gets to the point that when your doctor says you can’t train, you get stressed about that! Where the healthier choice is easier to make. It gets to be the new normal.

726So hang in there, Sarah. I have a plethora of motivational quotes to share, and I’ll do whatever I can to help you stick it out. Because it might be hard, but it is so worth it.

I’m also on twitter.

I want to inspire people…

I want someone to look at me and say, “because of you I didn’t give up.”

When I made it to the 50kg goal a while ago, the owner of my gym asked me to write a testimonial for his website. I wasn’t keen – I still hold on to a lot of shame about even having to undertake this journey – but he said he thought people would be inspired by my story. He also said I could be anonymous… guess I’ve blown that now.

I’d never thought about being inspirational. This was something I had finally felt motivated to do, and it was for a very personal set of reasons – I hated myself and my body, and I knew I was going to make myself sick if I didn’t do something to change. I remember saying to him at the time I hadn’t done it for anyone else, I’d just done it for me.

It took me a long time to even feel proud of what I was achieving. I was dogged and determined in my approach, but it felt like it was punishment for years of “bad” living. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to talk to people about what I’ve done, and acknowledge and feel proud of what I’ve managed to achieve.

So it was pretty special today when my little brother told me he was proud of me.

We spent the day driving up the coast to go to a funeral. Not the most pleasant of excursions, but it gave us hours in the car together. We talked about his kids, our work, the rest of our family – all the regular stuff. And then on the way home we worked our way around to diet and exercise.  He’s put on some weight lately, and he is finding it really hard to do much about it between long hours at work and a busy family life. He started asking about what I was eating, how I was exercising – how I’d “done it” – and how he might be able to change things around to fit into his life.

And I felt inspirational, right there.

When I was at the gym tonight, my mind kept wandering off thinking about who I’d found inspirational when I started. There were lots of people who were supportive – my trainers, friends, colleagues who all went out of their way to encourage me, especially at the beginning when it was really hard – and thank you to you all. But actual inspiration? Really that was just one person – my friend Marie. She’d lost a lot of weight, and more impressively, has kept it off.

Marie and I had worked together years ago, and when I came back to Sydney, she encouraged me to join her gym. And it was her success that inspired me to face my fear and call Jace, go and meet him, and go to my first session. She has supported me ever since, but part of getting through the door that first time was the inspiration that I took from her story – the belief that she gave me that this might be possible.  What I saw in Marie’s story was someone like me, who had done the thing I so wanted to be able to do.

Google tells me that inspiration is defined as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative. Marie’s success made me believe I could do something, that I could make a change, that this time it could work.

Because you can know all the statistics and the facts, you can know you should do something, you can even know how and where to do it, but sometimes what you really need is to know is that someone else has been there before you – someone real, someone like you – and that it’s possible.

So, I’ve decided to breathe deeply, and get more comfortable telling my story, because maybe it will be the thing that makes someone else feel that it’s possible for them too. And wouldn’t that be a cool “new normal”.

I’m also on twitter.

Don’t reward yourself with food…

… you are not a dog.

I was having lunch with a girlfriend and her one-year old daughter last week. Her daughter wasn’t having a good day. They’d had a busy morning, and she’d had enough. We made faces at her, tickled her, spoke in silly voices, tried distracting her with car keys and spoons… all the regular stuff. Eventually we got her a baby-chino and some hot chips. It kept her happy long enough for us to have lunch and a gossip, and then they went home so she could have a sleep.

My friend commented at one point that she was probably setting her daughter up a dysfunctional relationship with food. I responded that I thought it would take more than one lunch. And I’m pretty sure I’m right. Plenty of kids have been feed a bowl of chips to keep them quiet without developing eating disorders.

My own certainly developed and was reinforced through a mix of circumstances and over a period of time. It is something I am still unraveling, and I still struggle with. I manage to be in control most of the time now, but I wouldn’t say I’ve conquered it. I’ve struggled the last week because I haven’t been able to workout – doctor’s orders! – so that has made me even more conscious of what I’m putting in my mouth. I wonder if I will ever be able to relax with how I eat, or whether I will always have to be uber-aware of what I consume, and how it fits with the plan.

The behaviours are so practiced that they’re almost hard-wired in. This reward one has got me thinking today. A couple of weeks ago I hit a goal and I bought a cake – a very good flourless chocolate cake – to share with my team at work to celebrate. Today I got some good news from the doctor – I’m allowed to workout again – and I was walking home, wondering what I could grab for dessert to celebrate. My automatic response to celebration is to eat something… something off-plan, with sugar, salt or fat, or all three – salted caramel and white chocolate gelato anyone?!?

Sad? Eat. Happy? Eat. Stressed? Eat. There really isn’t an emotion I haven’t stuffed down my throat, and I’ve been doing it for years.

So much of this journey is about learning new responses and behaviours. I’ve learnt to get out of bed in the mornings to workout – I now miss it when I’m not allowed! I’ve learnt to plan my meals at the beginning of the week – and I now feel disorganised if I don’t. As I walked home today, arguing with myself about rewarding myself with food – and remembering this little meme above – I realised this was just another behaviour I needed to change. So I started thinking of other ways to celebrate or reward myself. Rewards that don’t make me a dog. And that brought up some far more interesting options!

So – I’ve had my dinner, written my blog, and I’m about to have some strawberries (on special at Harris Farms this week!) and yoghurt for dessert. It fits with the plan, it isn’t a reward, it’s just part of my nutrition for the day – it’s the new normal.

And what did I do to celebrate? I put the celebration off til tomorrow… I’m off running with the Ladies Running Club in the morning – and really, that’s celebration enough.

I’m also on twitter.

At some point in your life, you’ll have to trust yourself.

I suggest you start today.

I’ve said before I can be a bit black and white in my thinking. In my natural state, I’m in or I’m out, I’m on or I’m off. I’m going hard, or I’m going home. I’m eating well, or I’m bingeing on junk. I’m running a marathon or I’m sitting on the couch.

So this week was always going to be tough for me. I have been waiting for months to have a little medical procedure done – nothing major, but it involved cutting and stitching. And I knew they would tell me I couldn’t exercise while it healed. And I have been trying to prepare for that.

Well, when I say trying to prepare for that, I was looking for the caveats. I was hoping they might forget to tell me I needed to rest. Or that I might feel so great post-procedure, I’d be able to run straight back to the gym for a quick afternoon session.

Because I don’t trust myself to take a week or two off, and be able to get back into it. I don’t trust myself not to plonk myself on the couch in front of the TV with a bag of chips, a pizza and a tub of icecream and return to normal. Not the new normal… the old normal, the one I’ve just spent fourteen months working off.

I am trying to learn to trust myself more. To understand that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. That a week or two off doesn’t mean it’s all over, and it’s a bust. But I have to admit that I am struggling.

I have hated my body for a lot of years. I hated the way it looked. I hated that it let me down. I hated that I couldn’t control it. In the last fourteen months, I have learnt to control it. Mostly. I have learnt about calories in, calories out. I have learnt that I control what I eat, and I control what I burn.

But I am feeling very out of control today. In an effort to maintain control I walked for a couple of hours (walking is the caveat, by the way – I can walk because I can walk without sweating). I have been extremely careful of what I have put in my mouth. I know I am winning the calories in, calories out battle today. But I am feeling really anxious, and really out of control. Really uncomfortable. And I don’t like it.

On Monday I was congratulating myself for being able to have a night off over the weekend, and get back into routine, and understand that having a night off was OK. Today I am terrified that a week or two might be too big a test for the new normal, and that I’m not ready. That I might fail. And go back to the old me. The one I wasn’t proud of, and that I didn’t like.

I guess for now all I can do is what I have taught myself all along… to keep taking it one day at a time – one meal, one decision at a time. To trust myself, until it starts to feel better.

But if anyone has some handy tips or caveats… please, feel free to share. I’d be glad to hear them!

I’m also on twitter.

Don’t let the weekends ruin your progress…

… fight hard towards self control.

It can’t just be me. Weekends make it harder to stay on track. Something about the lack of routine… and so many opportunities for brunches, lunches, dinners, parties, each with their own traps and pitfalls.

I try and keep some routine in my weekends, because I know I do better that way. Saturday I head out to an 8am Pilates class, I stay on for the TRX class – so by 10am, I’ve burnt a few calories. Then brunch, catch up with friends… sometimes a massage or a trip to the hairdresser. The rest of Saturday is usually taken up with weekend chores – shopping, cleaning, washing – all the regular stuff.

Sunday is harder – I try and get in an early run, but I’m more likely to stick to it if I’ve organised someone else to go with.  Catch up with some friends, recreational shopping. Sunday afternoon I try to reserve for food prep and planning for the week ahead. Sunday night I sometimes have friends over for an early dinner before we plunge back into another week.

But even with a bit of a routine, there are little traps. Like brunch. I love coffee. Really, really love it. One brunch date with good conversation could easily cost me 500 calories in coffee if I’m not careful. I have to be constantly vigilant. Moderation in all things. Including milky lattes. Even when it’s skim!

But then there are nights like Saturday. A friend’s birthday drinks. I don’t drink alcohol all that much any more, so I volunteered to be the driver. The fact we had to get a cab home probably tells you some of what you need to know here.

We walk in. “Would you like a lemon martini?” Martinis are a particular weakness of mine. Start the night off with a kick, I think, why not? Then there was the first top up. Still time to stop, I think, we’re using small glasses. You can finish up here and still drive home, I think. At the second top up logic and experience told me I was in trouble. Then we shifted to the French champagne, and I knew I’d lost the battle for the evening. Enjoy yourself and grab a cab, I think. Shortly after, I pretty much just stopped thinking for the rest of the night…

And that’s ok – it doesn’t happen often, and it was a great party.

Not so long ago, a night like that would have thrown me right off track. I tend towards “all or nothing” in my thinking, so a big night would have meant I’d fallen off the wagon, and I would definitely have written Sunday off too, maybe longer. But Sunday I got up (late and seedy, I admit), and gave myself permission to skip the run. But I had an egg white omlette with micro greens salad (and a couple of small skim lattes) for brunch, went for a walk into the city with a friend, and spent the early afternoon trying on a few frocks (and buying a couple), then I cooked a healthy dinner and had an early night. And this morning, I got up in the dark and went and trained.  Right back into it. The new normal.

I guess what I’ve learned over time is it’s OK to have a night off, it’s OK to have a few drinks every now and then, it’s even OK to skip the Sunday run occasionally. This is about the long game. It’s about getting most of the meals right, and getting most of the workouts done. It’s about having enough of a routine to cover me most weekends, so they don’t ruin my progress. And even though it still makes me nervous, and more than a little anxious, I can breathe deep and know that the work I’ve put in last week before the party, and the work I will put in this week after it, covers me.

And the biggest thing to remember is it’s not how I do every weekend anymore. Because doing it that way all the time can stall my progress – and I work too hard the rest of the week to do that.

I’m also on twitter.