Go Big or Go Home

I haven’t felt like I’ve had much to write about lately. Much of that comes from just being too busy, tired, in the midst of deployment, blah, whatever – to put forth the energy to make coherent sentences. I often identify with Solomon in Ecclesiastes…”there is nothing new under the sun” Ecc. 1:4-11 when it comes to writing, but just when I think ‘why should I bother, it’s all been written before anyway’ – I’m quickly reminded that I don’t write necessarily for others. If someone benefits from my experiences, that’s wonderful. I’m grateful to be a conduit of a message needed, but I don’t write for anyone but myself. It’s a release, a creativity, a hobby, a sorting of my thoughts, and a clarity-giver. Sometimes I just don’t know how I feel until it escapes my fingertips, flying across the keyboard faster than my mind can form the paragraph. While we’ve been getting through the blah days and the good days, walking the dogs, I’ve been reading and thinking. My niece wrote this post about her wellness journey, and all that it entails and it got my mind churning again. I’m also celebrating a milestone.

I have been sober for 6 months.

The thought of a glass of wine sometimes sounds so good. The warm swirl flicking across my tongue, the warm flush as the alcohol enters my system. I daydream about it sometimes. Not often, but when I do, it’s vivid. I have become hyper-aware of both the overt and subtle marketing of alcohol to women. Across social media, you can easily see either a movie featuring a female lead drinking, or a funny meme with ‘mommy juice’ as the topic, and even fitness-themed posts such as beer-yoga and lifting the barbell, with a convenient bottle taped securely, one rep = one swig. Isn’t fitness grand?! A wry smile crosses my face, but I really don’t find them funny. I find them to be… normalizing. Normalizing behavior that really isn’t healthy, but I admit the marketing strategy is effective. Smoking was mainstream and normal once, too. They were and are marketing geniuses.

At the beginning of this sobriety path, I started taking selfies and little mini-check in videos. Not as a vanity measure, but as some evidence of the beginning of change, where my head was at on a given day, and/or any physical changes due to the change over to a whole-food plant based way of eating. Watching the initial video, I was startled at how puffy I was, and how tired I looked. In hindsight, there’s a lot of stress and anxiety, there too.

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Day 1, still shot taken from a video.

The last 6-7 months have encompassed many changes – giving up alcohol as well as switching to a whole-food plant based way of eating. I decided to stop coloring my hair almost a year ago, and actually wanted to go super short then – but couldn’t get my stylist on board. Embracing authenticity in many areas, it has been a season of shedding the superfluous – including hair that for as long as I can remember has almost had an identity of it’s own.  No, I didn’t have a Brittney-style meltdown, but simply feeling the need for some outward expression of inward changes.

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I probably won’t keep it short forever, but I love the idea of a fresh clean break. A starting over and a reboot. It’s freeing in a way I didn’t anticipate. As I picked up the kids from school sporting the new ‘do, I felt lighter, bolder, and honestly – pretty badass. I always thought women who go pixie or bald were so brave. I remember staring in awe as Demi Moore shaved her head in G.I. Jane. “If only I had the guts to do that,” I thought. “I could never….”

Turns out, I have the guts to do a lot of things I didn’t think I could.

I don’t miss the hair. I don’t miss the upkeep of highlights. I don’t miss meat. I don’t miss cheese or bacon, surprisingly. I don’t miss alcohol or the fuzzy way it blots out life. I don’t miss numbing out, because alcohol can’t mute the crap without muting the wonderful.

The crap is definitely worth wading through to get to the wonderful.

Changes

Why all the changes?

Chopped all the hair, stopped working at the gym, vegetarianism, no alcohol….

Um…wait, what?!

That’s right. I stopped drinking. Permanently.

But having a cocktail or two is fun! Drinking responsibly is no big deal. Having a glass of wine with dinner doesn’t make you an alcoholic. There’s no harm in having a drink or two with friends! Ugh. It’s summer. The kids are home – drinking is a survival mechanism.  It’s been a long day, I DESERVE a drink, damn it. Nothing tastes so good as a cold beer after mowing the lawn. There’s just something about the smell of grass and the taste of a good, cold ale. 

I don’t know if I am an alcoholic. I know that it’s really easy for me after one drink to have five. Or ten. I guess in my mind, when I think of an alcoholic, I think of a stumbling drunk who has to go to the bar everyday. In my early 20s I was a binge drinker. Get trashed, wake up with cotton mouth and a belly full of shame. I ended up in the hospital once, broken blood vessels in my eyes from having vomited so hard it felt like I had hacked up my toenails. But that’s just part of being a twenty something, right? I never had a problem not drinking for long stretches. It has never been a compulsory thing in that way. As an introverted person, alcohol is convenient for putting on the mask of “shiny, happy, and fake-extroverted”. But, does that make me an alcoholic? A cursory Google search offers many definitions and parameters under that term.

Alcohol is a depressant. So if you are already someone who battles with depression? Yeah, alcohol is really not your friend. If you have an addictive/impulsive personality AND deal with depression? It’s definitely not a winning combo long-term. I used alcohol as a tool to deal with depression, to numb out, and to deal with uncomfortable situations. What I have really come to realize is that it’s not serving me. It doesn’t make me healthier. It adds to the grocery bill. I don’t feel good about myself when I drink. So why continue to partake?

I downloaded an app called NOMO. As in no more. It has encouragement, a counter clock tracking days of sobriety and chips you earn at milestones. Strongly rooted in AA, I have found it very helpful.

I still don’t know if I’m an alcoholic. I know that it is not a good thing for me, or for my goals. Evolution is necessary if what I’m doing is no longer productive.

The haircuts are optional.

Faking It

A-hem. Not that kind of faking.

I had a conversation with a friend the other day who hasn’t seen me in person for over 6 or 7 months. After posting some silliness from a dress up day at work, the conversation drifted to something along theses lines:

“By the way, you look amazing…You were already looking good when I left, but holy transformation batman!!! Do you feel how much you’ve changed in such a short time?”

As the exchange continued deeper, I got to thinking. Do I realize it?

The answer is no, not really. Partially because I’ve been down this path before. I usually only can tell when I go to grab an article of clothing to try it on and realize I went three sizes too big. It’s a body dysmorphia of sorts, but it bleeds over into other stuff.

Stuff like thinking, “They are gonna find out that I’m not that good.” If I was at _______ gym where the “real trainers” are, I wouldn’t get hired. (As if I am not a “real trainer” or the people I work with are not “real trainers”?!) It’s a feeling that I’m back where I was. Both physically and mentally. She went on to state that, “Outsiders always see more clearly than we see ourselves.” How often have I said this exact same statement! It’s so true.

As irrational as it sounds, I feel like I need to pinch myself because inside I still feel like the size 16-18 girl who somehow managed to land a job in the fitness industry. This isn’t false humility or a begging for compliments, please do not misunderstand. When we lose a significant amount of weight, what we often don’t realize is that there is still some mental weight to offload. Just because you lose body size doesn’t mean you lose insecurities, at least not overnight.

Chasing a dream and going after it with abandon didn’t happen TO me. I went after it. It wasn’t luck or chance. I studied, learned, practiced, and continue to learn. Will it ever feel real, that I’m not faking it?

I sure hope so.

I love what I get to do. I know in my bones that I am fortunate to be able to do something I am passionate about and can pass that passion on to others.

While all of this is playing around in my mind, I engage clients day after day that continually remind me that this fitness deal is about so much more than just an aesthetic. That may be what brings us in the door, but it never fails – when we stick with it, it becomes more.

How honored I was to be told that because of our workouts, a client survived a severe physical attack. Her attacker had a knife. She ran faster than she’d ever ran before. I sat in my car and cried after our session. Who gets to be privileged to witness such amazing acts of courage?

I do.

I hope I never lose the perspective that get to do this. That it’s a gift. This deal isn’t something to be faked or phoned in.

Resolutioners

I love this season. Reflections, taking stock of accomplishments, setting new goals, appreciating the good of the past while looking ahead with anticipation of what the next year might bring.

Lately much of what I hear at the gym is, something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, just wait until January! All the New Years’ resolution makers will be in here making the place packed…”

I love a new year. Why not make a plan to achieve a goal? Even if the goal isn’t completed, isn’t it better to make steps in the direction of your dreams than to not try at all?

How about this: instead of eye rolling the new members of the gym, why not smile? Why not give them a nod of encouragement?  What does positivity cost you?

Nothing.

Maybe if we are kinder to people, they won’t find the gym such an intimidating place. Instead of complaining about a lack of parking, let’s be a community of encouragement.

Let’s make one of our resolutions to be welcoming rather than arrogant. Remember how scary this stuff was when you started?

Perhaps this really is the year.

Their year to make lasting healthful changes.

Your year.

2016. Let’s dream some big dreams and chase them with abandon!

It’s Not Flashy…

I was chatting with another trainer friend of mine, discussing how frustrating it is to sell what really works. After gaining strength and losing fat, someone will inevitably ask, “How did you do it? What’s your secret?”

Usually it’s asked in a conspiratorial tone, the asker typically wants whatever book, diet guru, meal plan, macro elimination “thing” you must be doing. We so want all the reward with little to none of the work. Perhaps it’s human nature, perhaps it’s a cultural shift – or some of both. We look for the shortcuts.

Especially rampant in the fitness/health industry are the multi-level marketing products. These really get under my skin. The wraps, the pills, the shakes, even essential oils all promise amazing results. And you know what? Some of them actually work – when you pair it with healthy eating and exercise. We don’t have to chase the latest and greatest thing to throw our money at. It’s simply not necessary. Not only do their business practices promote the purchase of (often very expense) products, but it reels in “associates” by promising the ease of a debt free life. Did you know that the majority (like 99%) of distributors in MLMs actually lose money? I know, I know, there is always that one friend you know that makes amazing money doing their thing. But you know what? They worked their rears off to get enough distributors under them selling as well, most likely alienating friends and family along the way. As my friend asked, “How is this not different than a legalized drug trade?” Pushing product on people, asking them to sell it, too.

The bottom line: If it sounds to good to be true…it is.

Gaining health and fitness is not flashy. It’s not New and Improved! It’s not Now Formulated with More Vitamins! It’s not going to be endorsed by your favorite celebrity. (My first thought becomes Dolvett from NBC’s the Biggest Loser. He is endorsing Tropicana orange juice. Seriously? Eat an orange. I doubt he drinks juice outside of that commercial.)  It is not finding some guru who wrote a book to sell. It’s not your neighbor who sells some random product, no matter what those before an after photos look like.

This is what changing your life looks like:

It’s hard. It’s swimming upstream. It’s delaying gratification. It’s moderation. It’s consistency over time. It’s work. It’s persistence. It’s falling but getting back up and trying again. It’s educating yourself, learning what works. It’s getting professionals involved; be it your doctor, a personal trainer, and/or a dietician. (Not some goober on the internet!) It’s doing your homework. It’s long-term. Personally, it’s about saving my life. Every day making the choices that will enable me to live the life I want.

It’s your life, for the rest of your life. Why not do what works 100% of the time?! Exercise and a proper diet work every time, over the long term. Find what you love to do in terms of exercise and go do it! For me, it was a run this morning:

The view on the trail behind mi case

Sweaty, hot and tired!

Running not your thing? No problem – go find something that lights you up and do it! No sense in doing what you hate – that won’t last. Find what gets your heart pumping. Don’t like broccoli? Don’t eat it! Find a veggie you DO like. Don’t look for the easy button. Your life is not Staples.

It may be hard, I know. Change is very difficult.

What I can promise is, it is worth it. 

Body Image and Progress Pictures

When first embarking on this fitness ride 5 years ago Facebook was still (fairly) new and smartphones had been out for a while, but I didn’t own one. I remember taking pictures on a flip phone when my 6 year old was born. People didn’t edit profile pics and use fun filters like Instagram like we all do today. None of these are bad things, but it was just a little bit different.

When losing 50 pounds, I snapped pictures all the time. It was so fun being surrounded by people on the same parallel fitness journey, we supported each other, and it was amazing to see our progress via these quick pictures. So often when we start taking our fitness journeys and our health seriously, those successes are not always reflected on the scale. The camera gives a tangible, visual affirmation that changes are happening regardless of weight. Pictures are powerful.

Lori's Before with Jen and Katy

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So powerful, in fact, that they can often send the wrong message. When we look longingly at other people’s physiques, it sets us up for all kinds of disordered thinking. “Oh, if I had her legs (or chest, or arms, or rear or whatever) then I would be happy with my body.” Or worse, it sets us up to critique others because, you know, it’s just some picture on the internet.

I came across this today:

Powerful stuff.

This is stuff that I’ve been ruminating about for a while now. Do progress pictures blasted all over social media really help anyone? On one hand, it’s INCREDIBLE to see real results when you work so hard for them! It’s great showing the progress. On the other hand, does my picture inspire someone else? That has been my intent in sharing the journey.

But not every body is the same.

Genetics, height, build, age, gender, stress levels, support systems, medical history, and so much more contribute to a body’s ability to gain muscle, maintain muscle, and/or lose weight.  If two people eat the exact same diet, exercise the exact same way – they will end up with 2 different results: they are two different people. Again, does my progress picture really help anyone but me see those changes? I suspect probably not. That is in part why this is the first time in a long time that I’ve shared body progress pictures. Who does it really help? We are so much more than just our shell. We are souls, we have minds, we have feelings – we just happen to live in a body.

As a trainer, I know the way I appear is essentially my business card. I get that. I also understand that what it takes to be a figure competitor or professional body builder is not something I am capable of, nor do I have the desire. (Not knocking those things – that’s awesome if that’s your goal. That’s just not my bag.) My niche, and where I feel I have a voice, is the everyday person looking to feel better in their skin. To not be tired before noon each day. To have the energy to lead an active and healthy life and not sit on the sidelines missing out on really living.

When we gaze at a drastic before and after photo, it gives us hope. It plants the seed of possibility. That is a good thing to some extent, provided it’s not a sales pitch and the photos are not altered. While hope is a good thing, we often fail to realize that the tiny divide between a “before” shot and an “after” is where the real story is. In that tiny line lies the sweat, the tears, the backsliding, the frustration, the joy, the camaraderie, the fist-pumping victories – all of it.

Right there.

In that tiny line. 

Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but I’m more interested in the story of the dividing line.

What brought a person from there to here? How long before they realized that they had the power to run that race? Do those pull ups unassisted? Get up the nerve to not hide behind the camera? When did they start to realize their worth?  When did they reach that seemingly unattainable goal? When did they start to feel better? When did their spouse tell them they were proud of them? When did they realize that fitness is about so much more than just bodies?

That’s the story.

That’s where life is.

New

Everything.

Everything has changed in the last two months. New city, new state, different climate, new house, new bigger bugs, routines – all of it.

And, my first started kindergarten this week.

As I sit snuggled with him in our rocking chair, feeling the steady rise and fall of his breath, I smell his washed-last-night hair. Everyone tells us how fast it goes. I just want to inhale this moment and press pause. Savor it.

The first day was rough, coming home from school telling us how he didn’t like school, it was too long, he didn’t make any friends, etc. (It didn’t help that a scheduling fiasco at Hannah’s school made me late to pick up Jake, prompting all sorts of chaos.)

I had to learn the intricate child pickup route, and that if I don’t go early enough, both Jake and I get to wait an additional 40 minutes.
I learned that after just 2 days, my son has “got it, mom!” and to just leave him at the door. He didn’t want Hannah and I to walk him into class anymore. I learned how to swallow the catch in my throat and the sting in my eye and simply wish him a good day.

I learned that my son didn’t speak up for three days when he didn’t get milk for his lunch – even after I’d set up money for it. By the end of the week he asked the teacher and they showed him how to go in and just buy milk by telling the lady his name.

He’s learning so much every day. He’s sleeping like a rock at night, completely wiped out from the day.

He’s learning the true value of the weekend.

New stuff is scary. Transitions are exciting, but unsettling. As the cardboard sea around us begins to diminish, we are getting used to the new. Though a rough couple of days, they are adapting. We are adapting.

It’s all new. And every little thing’s gonna be alright.