Friday, March 29, 2013

Foam crowns, free weights, and a flasher: Alliteration at its very best

Man, two entries in two days! I think I should be getting paid overtime for this. I might chip a nail if I'm not careful.

I've decided that it is time for more "Tales from the Gym." I've been storing up all the weirdness for a while, and it is time to share.

  •  There is an older gentleman that is in the gym almost every day. He is in really great shape. But I am really curious about his choice of gym apparel. His workout clothes always consist of a t-shirt (normal), extremely short khaki shorts (something I don't particularly want to see, but still not freakishly abnormal), and dress socks with dress shoes (weird!). I don't understand his fashion choices, but maybe that ensemble is what helps him keep in such good shape. If so, maybe I should invest in short shorts and men's dress shoes as well! Or maybe not.
  • I've recently started doing my abdominal exercises at the gym instead of at home. In the interest of honesty, this is because they often do not get done at home since I can be a slacker sometimes. I mean, no matter what Jillian Michaels says about doing sit-ups and stuff during commercials, sometimes I just want to watch the dang TV with my butt on the couch! Jillian, I'm sorry I let you down. Anyway, there is a little alcove at the gym where you can do your ab stuff without everyone else seeing. This is a very popular option because I don't know of many people (women in particular) who enjoy having a whole gym full of people watch you a) stick your legs up in the air and do crunches, giving everyone a nice view of your butt or b) continually throw your legs up into the air until they actually separate from the rest of your body. So it's always very crowded in the little alcove and there is usually not enough room for everyone. When it a spot becomes available, it gets very cutthroat in an effort to snag the available spot. It kind of feels like The Hunger Games, except you know, without all the kids killing kids and mutant dogs. But you do what you have to do to get what you want.
  • I was changing clothes in the locker room the other day, and I was happy to see that no one else was in there. I feel comfortable enough with my body now that I don't mind so much if other people are in there when I'm changing, but I still do like it better if I'm alone. Anyway, I had just taken my sports bra off when this other woman comes in. I wasn't expecting it, and so I did this weird spastic movement where I ended up with one arm across my chest (for obvious reasons). She decides that this is a good time for a chat. She keeps talking and talking and talking, and I am stuck there with my arm glued to my chest. She never looked away, and I couldn't seem to find a socially acceptable way to either stop her incessant chatter or put on a shirt without flashing her. Oddly, she seemed oblivious to the awkwardness of the situation.
  • Another odd character in my gym is one I shall refer to as "His Royal Highness." He is in the gym pretty often, and is hard not to notice. This is because his outfit of choice includes a fluorescent orange plastic vest and a foam crown glued to a helmet. The orange vest, I could maybe understand. I mean, for all I know he bikes home at night or something and uses the vest for visibility. But the helmet crown remains a mystery to me.  Hey, whatever floats his boat. 
  • I like the machines at the gym. I feel like I at least somewhat look like I know what I'm doing on them. Or that could be wishful thinking. I do not feel that way about free weights. I always feel like an imposter or something with them. I think a big part of the problem is that I don't know where to look when I'm using them. At first, I tried in front of the mirror. You know, to check my flawless form (haha!). But it takes awhile to get through all my exercises and I felt weird staring at myself that long. So I tried facing the cardio machines in the gym. But then I felt weird looking at other people with my intense "these weights make my arms burn so much that they may spontaneously combust any second now" face. They also got treated to the face I made during the time between reps, which was my "I'm so tired that I can't make my facial muscles curve into any kind of expression, so I'll just vacantly stare" face. I finally ended up staring at the wall. Kind of boring, but at least I don't have to scare other people with weird faces or scare myself with my own reflection.
And you all thought the gym was just a place to get in shape. Never a dull moment!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Life is too short for regrets

I have been thinking a lot about regrets lately. If I chose to, I could drive myself crazy with the things that I regret in my life. After all, it would be easy to look back and think, "Why did I let myself get so big?!?" And I have had people ask me questions to that effect. That's a tricky topic. On one hand, it's kind of like "Duh!" Of course I wish I had never had a weight problem. Why would anyone wish to be obese, unhealthy, and unhappy? But on the other hand, I know better than anyone that adversity can bring out strength of character much better than success. My struggles and my fight to get through them have helped to make me the person I am today. I'm pretty proud of that person. She is someone that I can respect. I believe that I always had the capacity to be that person, but I don't know if that potential would have been realized if I had had an easier path to take.

The truth is that many of the tough times, many of the times we would probably choose to erase if we had that option, almost always also have the potential to be the times of our greatest triumphs and growth. It's all a matter of how you look at it. So if I chose to erase my weight problems from my past, I would also have to erase all the good things that have come from this struggle as well. I would never have met many of the people that have become friends due to sharing my weight loss struggle. I would not have this blog. I would not have learned so many life lessons. I never would have felt such a calling to help other people struggling with weight. But more than anything else, I would not know just how much inner strength I possess. Because between all my personal issues and losing all this weight, I know that I am strong. I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt, and that is a gift I would never choose to be taken away.

In the end, none of us can change our pasts (unless someone has a time machine they're not telling me about). Because of that, I believe regrets serve no purpose. For better or for worse (usually some of each), our pasts have molded us. You can't choose to change the bad things without taking away some of the good things too. I can either choose to drag myself down with regrets about how I got so big, or I can choose to move on from that and to be grateful for everything my struggle has taught and given me. I choose to be grateful.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Winner, winner, chicken dinner (grilled of course)

Last week, I entered a contest that asked people to share their weight loss success story. The best stories were nominated by a panel of judges, and then the final winner chosen by Biggest Loser season 11 Courtney Crozier. The prize was being interviewed by Courtney for her blog, and also some Biggest Loser merchandise. I didn't tell anyone but a couple of people because I didn't want to jinx myself. I went into it differently than I have contests or other things I have attempted in the past though. I used to usually think to myself that I would probably wouldn't win what I set out to win. I think this is because deep inside I felt like I didn't deserve it, that I wasn't good enough. But this time, I thought to myself that I was going to win this. Obviously, I didn't shout this from the rooftops, because that would be cocky, and because it's kind of hard to get on a rooftop. It was just something I knew could happen. It's not because I thought other people didn't have inspiring stories, or that I thought I was better than them. It was just that I believe so strongly in myself and in my story now.

The winner was chosen yesterday, and I was constantly checking the website on my phone to see if I had won. It got to be around 10 at night, and I figured I hadn't won because I had not been notified of anything. But I checked one more time, and there was my face staring back at me on the page! The heading said, "Get inspired by this story." It still blows my mind to think that people would be inspired by me. I'm not ashamed to admit that I keep going back to look at the page because it's just so freaking cool. I am so excited!

Anyway, the story they showed is not the complete essay I wrote for them because I think they just wanted a little summary. I guess they want the more detailed stuff in my interview with Courtney. But I thought I would share my closing paragraph because I think it says a lot about how much I have grown.

As I get closer and closer to my goal weight, I find myself focusing less and less on the scale. And I think that is a healthy thing because when I finally get to that goal weight, I will not have weight loss to motivate me anymore. I have to find other things. I find something new every day to enjoy as a result of my weight loss. Now I focus on my new personal bests in my workouts. I focus on being able to go in any store and pick anything I want off the rack. I focus on helping the people who come to me for advice. I focus on the fact that I can look in the mirror now and not be disgusted by the person I see there.  And I focus on the fact that I honestly believe I can do anything I set my mind to now. Other people see the changes in my body, but I see the changes in my mind. I see myself as a strong, determined, and beautiful woman now, and that is worth more than any number on the scale. 

The truth is that I used to be obsessed with the scale. For evidence of that, you can refer back to an early entry of mine called Holding my scale hostage under the bathroom sink. While entertaining, it is also kind of disturbing. And I won't lie and say that number doesn't matter to me anymore. It does.  But I don't live and die by that number anymore. My worthiness does not hinge on one single number anymore. I am a lot more than that number, and I have faith that as long as I keep on doing what I need to do, the pounds will eventually all fall off. 

I'll let you know when my interview with Courtney is published! It will probably be in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself...and swimming caps

Let me just say that I have almost had a heart attack twice this morning while writing this entry. My computer decided that it needed to update (and therefore have to restart with no warning) not once, but TWICE, while I was in the middle of writing this. Luckily, I guess the entries get saved automatically. 

I went into this little weight loss adventure of mine with a lot of expectations. I did indeed expect to lose weight (shocker), although the amount has been an awesome surprise. I expected to get in a lot better shape. I expected to be hungry a lot, which has fortunately not been true. What I did not expect was all the different emotions that would come into play as I dropped the pounds. Seriously, sometimes I feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It's a rollercoaster a lot of the time, but I wouldn't trade this ride for anything.

One of the emotions I was really surprised about was fear. I had no idea how much I let fear rule my life before. I let the "what ifs" completely control the decisions I made. At 328 lbs, I aspired to be invisible. I feared other people's judgments about my weight if I allowed myself to be seen. People can be so cruel. Even they did not say anything to me, I could see the judgment in their eyes. So anything that even could remotely cast attention on me was out. I lived in the background of my own life.

Even though weight loss is generally a positive experience, I have had to face a lot of fears now too. I was terrified of the treadmill at first, both because I feared running and because my foot was run over by a treadmill when I was little (yeah, weird story). I think I also feared the treadmill because it made me feel out of control when I was going fast. But I hopped on anyway, and now the treadmill has become a dear frenemy (because we all know that machine can be a little evil sometimes). I was pretty scared of putting myself out there with this blog too. My struggle with weight has been such a secret shame before, and the thought of just putting everything out there for the world to see was frankly terrifying. I mean, duh, I did just tell you that my aspiration before was to be invisible. But I did it anyway, and it has been so rewarding and cathartic for me. I'm still pretty scared about attempting a triathlon. It's no easy task. But I'm thinking about that the same way I've thought about losing weight; I'm breaking it down into smaller pieces. It's not so scary then. The sight of me in a swimming cap and goggles however, remains terrifying. This is mainly because I honestly look like a big-headed alien. It may sound weird, but it is also kind of scary for me to think about getting below 170 lbs. I have never been smaller than that as an adult. It's uncharted territory. But it's a good kind of scary, if you know what I mean. I'm ready to go someplace I have never been before.

In the beginning, I would scold myself for being scared. I thought the best way to overcome a fear was to not acknowledge that I was afraid in the first place. It was like I equated being afraid with being weak. But I think I had that all wrong. I have found that the best way to overcome fear is to let yourself feel that fear. Give yourself permission to be afraid. And then just do whatever it is that you're scared of doing. Actually doing it is almost never as bad as what you imagined it would be. Hey, it's worked for me. It's like a Nike commericial: "Just do it!" I actively challenge myself to face some fear of mine all the time.

Like I could even think of ending this entry without an inspirational quote!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Now here's some scary math

I don't know what's with the weekend writing urges lately. I guess my writing genius just cannot be contained to only once a week anymore. Just kidding! Anyway, in the back of my mind I had kind of planned to write about this on Wednesday like normal, but I guess I felt like I needed to get it out now.

I went to Ruby Tuesday's last night and I was a very good girl. I kept my calorie count at a perfectly reasonable 450 calories. That's not what was groundbreaking. Happily, it's no longer news when I am able to exercise control over any food temptations I have. But when I got home, I got to thinking about what I USED to eat at Ruby Tuesday's. Some may call the following behavior masochistic, but I call it morbid curiosity. I decided to add up the calories of my typical meal at Ruby Tuesday's this time last year. Math at its most frightening. It may have been better not to know, but I was honestly curious. My typical meal would begin at the salad bar. The word "salad" is used only in the very loosest sense here because most of that plate would be filled with pasta and potato salad. I would then have some actual lettuce on the very edge, but that would be drenched in ranch dressing and cheese. I would then move on to the triple prime cheddar burger with a side of mac 'n cheese and a loaded baked potato. I would wash all that down with around 3 glasses of strawberry lemonade. Yeah, I could really throw down then. Homegirl could eat (haha, I'm not sure why I ended up writing that sentence)! All of that added up to....over 3500 calories. Yes, 3500 calories. That is insane. That one meal has more calories than I eat in 2 whole days now. And while I wasn't so far gone as to call all of that health food back then, I also didn't really think of it as the health and calorie disaster I know it to be today. Actually, the thought of counting calories didn't even cross my mind. I could go off on a tangent about how serving sizes and restaurant food in general is greatly contributing to this country's obesity epidemic, but I think that is better left for another post.

Maybe I'm a freak, but it really horrifies me now that I ate like that on a pretty regular basis. I mean, it wasn't every day, but it definitely wasn't once in a blue moon either. How could I not see what that was doing to my body? To my poor arteries, I now issue you a most sincere apology. I guess it really is true that we only see what we want to see. My eyes are wide open now though (except for the occasional blink). At the same time, I'm not going to pretend like I'm Jillian Michaels (sometimes I do like to pretend I have her abs though) or someone who looks at junk food and is honestly disgusted by it. I saw some mac 'n cheese last night at a nearby table, and it looked oh so delicious. Saturated fat in cheese form never looked so good. So yes, while I am disgusted by the fact that I consumed "food" like that on a far too regular basis, I am still a regular person. I mean, mac 'n cheese is popular for a reason; namely that it tastes freaking delicious! Rest assured, I have not yet turned into some kind of health cyborg.

I guess the take-away message here is once again one of moderation. I will not go my whole life never eating mac 'n cheese again. But I can say with equal assurance that I will never eat that 3500 calorie meal again either. There's just no reason that needs to happen. Each of the foods in that meal would be fine once in a while, eaten separately. But it never needs to be all together, if for no other reason than because I'm fairly certain all that fat and sugar at once would make me extremely sick now. Random entry, but just another example of how I've done a complete 180 in the past 8 months.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

You just never know when hoarding will pay off

So this week was makeover week on The Biggest Loser. I freely indulge in all the inspirational corniness that comprises makeover week every single season. I just can't get enough of it. What can I say? It's moving to me to see people finally really see the results of all their hard work. And yes, I know parts are probably manufactured by producers and blah, blah, blah, but the fact remains that these people have changed their lives and they are celebrating it. It also made me supremely happy that for the first time, I am not just applauding their success while wishing I could have my own. I have my own success!

Naturally, seeing makeover week also made me want to go out and buy lots of new clothes. Sadly, since I am not rich (and it would be stupid since I grow out of clothes so fast), a shopping spree was not in the cards. But then I remembered the untapped trove of treasure in the form of clothes that I have buried away. Where is this treasure trove you ask? Is it on a desert island under a huge letter X? Although that would be kind of awesome (despite the lack of desert islands in my immediate vicinity), my treasure trove is buried closet. Please note that scary music should really follow this sentence. Ah, my closet. It gets cleaned out and then somehow fills up again. While I am not on reality TV hoarder level, I do admit to being somewhat of a hoarder. But in this case, my hoarding tendency has paid off. When I lost weight before, I bought tons of clothes. Some of them are not even worn because sadly, some of the weight came back on pretty quickly. Unsurprising, since I took it off in such an unsustainable way that time. But because I am an optimist in addition to being a hoarder, I kept all of those clothes in the hopes that I would one day fit into them again. Anyway, I have finally reached that size again (never could have imagined saying that when I was 328 lbs)! My closet has become kind of a crazy mess since I started losing weight because when I outgrow clothes, I just toss them in there with the intention of going to a consignment shop with the barely worn ones. After 141 lbs of outgrown clothes, it has naturally become somewhat of a mess. I bravely dug in that closet and pulled out all those smaller clothes.

Trying on those outfits, I really understood why the people on Biggest Loser get so emotional when trying on new clothes. After all, on one hand, you could kind of be like, "What's the big deal? It's just clothes!" But as anyone who has had weight problems can tell you, it's not "just" clothes. When you're big, clothes are not fun. They just bring to mind millions of dressing room mirrors that showcase the fact that you don't look good in anything. It can honestly be kind of traumatizing at times. So to actually enjoy trying on these clothes, I can tell you that that was a major thing for me. It was really awesome to look in the mirror and think that I looked pretty.  It is so good for me to see the physical manifestation of the gigantic changes I have made inside and out. I have been thinking of a quote all week that my favorite Biggest Loser contestant, Tara Costa, said at her finale, that she was "becoming someone I wanted to be, but just never was." That's exactly how I feel too, that I am finally becoming the person that I have always felt like I was meant to be, the kind of person who not only is proud of how she looks, but a person who goes after what she wants and has the inner strength to make it happen. For one reason or another, I could just never seem to make it happen before.

However, what was not so awesome was the gigantic pile of outgrown clothes still lurking in that closet. I was hoping maybe a magical spring cleaning fairy would fold them up and sell them for me while I was trying on all the smaller stuff. Guess I will have to tackle that project today!