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!

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.