Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mind over matter ain't no joke, son!

I tried to find something to rhyme with "mind over matter" but all I could come up with was something involving a mad hatter, which didn't seem quite right. For any that are offended, I also deeply apologize for my incorrect grammar using the word "ain't" in my title. The words just come to me and I must obey their wishes....haha, that sounded appropriately pretentious and artsy.

Anyway, back on topic. Mind over matter. What the heck does that mean? Is it just some phrase people put on inspirational sports posters or does it actually have meaning? It has a lot of meaning to me, especially these past few weeks when I have been driving myself particularly hard. It's about not giving up even when every cell of your being screams at you that you should just stop already. Chris Powell once wrote to me (name drop alert lol) that my mind will try to get me to stop long before my body actually will give out. That is so true. Yet, your mind tries to continually trick you. It tries to tell you that you really can't handle any more. That it's okay to quit this one time. And even though my quitting that one time will not make a difference really in how much weight I lose, it sets a precedent. A precedent that says it's okay to to flake on a promise you made to yourself.

For the past couple of months, in addition to my regular gym workouts, I have been getting up at 4:30 am to run and do a strength-training circuit. I would say the first example of mind over matter here is actually managing to get up out of bed at that ungodly hour. I do my best to ignore the clock as it is just too painful to see the numbers. And then having to face 8 miles of running? My willpower and persistence is not really in peak form at 4:30 in the morning. I have to rely on a combination of being half awake and knowing that I have never once regretted a morning workout once it was done in order to get me through.

I do a one mile loop around my apartment complex that consists of running short distances between strength training stations. At each station, I alternate between burpees, sit-ups, push-ups, leg raises, lunges, and side leg-raises. Then I run out on the road 3 miles and then run back 3 miles, before completing another strength-training circuit. It's a lot. I'm drenched in sweat and have to physically wring my hair out when I'm done. Even now, after doing this for 2 months, it seems daunting every morning. So I use a lesson I learned at the very beginning of this journey. Don't look at the big picture. It seems almost counter-intuitive, as we are all usually told again and again to look at the big picture. But I know when I started this journey, I couldn't even think about the fact that I needed to lose almost 200 lbs. It was way too overwhelming. I focused on losing 10 lbs, or 5 lbs, or whatever amount of weight seemed manageable to me. And that's exactly what I do on these runs. I don't think about the fact that I need to run 8 miles. I break it up. Some mornings I'm more motivated and can think about 1 mile at a time. Some mornings it's all I can do to focus on passing one streetlight at a time. But it gets done. I very literally accomplish it one step at a time. And if I set my goal at 8 miles, I do 8 miles. I don't do 6 or 7 or even 7.99 miles. I do 8 because that is what I promised myself I would do. I finish what I start every single time. That means something to me because in the past I wouldn't have thought twice about quitting early. I didn't think twice about cheating myself.

Many people think that working out is primarily about the physical. And obviously, that plays a role. But I think the act of pushing your body beyond what you thought it was capable of is a mental game first and foremost. It's all about the mental strength and fortitude. I've seen day after day that my body is capable of running 8 miles. And yet, my mind still tries to tell me that this day is different, that my body just can't do it today. My mind can sometimes simultaneously be both my worst enemy and biggest strength. Because even when part of it tells me that I can't do this, that my body just can't take it, there is another part that tells me I can do this because I've done it before. That I have strength, both physically and mentally, beyond what I ever thought I was capable of.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Just call me Pharrell (minus the stupid hat)

I feel like I need to have the Pharrell Williams' song "Happy" as the theme song to this post. You know, if I had accompanying theme songs to my posts. Things could not be better for me right now. It's just amazing to me how loosening up the reins a little both in my head and nutrition and exercise-wise has resulted in a pretty dramatic breaking of my freakishly long plateau. I'm steadily losing weight again (except of course when I had to be on prednisone), but more than that my body is undergoing the most noticeable changes I've seen in about a year now. It's pretty wild! I even had this woman in the gym today come up to me in the locker room and say, "I just want to let you know that I've been coming here 3 months now and seen you here all the time, and you have had a big change. You look really fantastic." And then she wanted to know what I was doing to accomplish it. That just kind of blows my mind to have someone say they noticed a change in me, not from the time I started all of this (which, duh, of course that's a big change), but just from the beginning of this summer. It's nice to know that others can see it and I'm not imagining change where there is none. I've been pushing myself beyond what I thought I could do all summer, both with running and strength training, and is immensely satisfying to see it pay off on both the scale and in the mirror.

Seeing the nutritionist has definitely made a huge difference. Increasing my calories is still kind of an ongoing internal battle for me (even knowing the science behind how metabolism works, my brain just still wants to tell me that the less you eat, the more weight you will lose), but I make myself do what is right for my body. I can't put in the amount of running I have been doing and not properly fuel my body.

But honestly, I think the main thing behind breaking my plateau was me getting out of my own way. The longer I stayed on a plateau, the more it drove me crazy and the more I obsessed over every bite taken and every calorie burned. If I wasn't losing weight, I thought I should cut calories and exercise more. I rationalized that if was going to get to my goal weight, it would take sacrifice. And yes, it's true I do make little sacrifices every day. I sacrifice extra sleep by getting up to run. I pass up cupcakes at work. That's okay. But sacrifice should not be the main byword here. In my desire to "finish" losing weight, I inadvertently forgot that there is no finish. That this can't be about sacrifice because I am on this journey for the rest of my life, and you can't sacrifice for the rest of your life. Life is for living.

I still push myself hard at the gym and on my runs. I've never run farther before and I don't think I've ever sweated as much (seriously, I have to wring my hair out after work-outs). The difference now is that the purpose is not to lose weight. I mean, of course that's great and I obviously I want that to happen. But I work out now because I like to work out (which in itself is a miracle from where I started). I like to get up before the sun and see it rise. I like to get into the zone with nothing but the quiet of the early morning and my feet hitting the pavement (well, and of course my iPod). I like to smash personal records at the gym. I am even starting to find a certain satisfaction in strength training.

I also think some part of my plateau was due to some unconscious part of my brain not being quite ready to take those final steps towards maintenance (yes, we're getting all deep and psychological here). On the outside, I was doing everything I could to lose the weight, but on the inside, I think I knew that a little part of me was scared to death of hitting my goal weight. Sounds kind of crazy, but after all, I have no experience with being anywhere near my goal weight before now. Me, be a normal weight and not have to try week after week to lose weight? That's totally outside of my comfort zone. So I think the plateau was kind of my brain's way of telling me I needed to take a step back and be truly mentally ready. From what I've heard, maintenance has its own challenges and I am going to need to work through them just like I worked through the challenges of losing weight. I am ready to do this now, and I think my brain and body both know that. It's an adventure that I will welcome. I hope to lose this last 20 or so pounds by the end of this year, and welcome 2015 and most of my 30th year ready to tackle this next phase of my life. And ready to rock it!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why you gotta be so rude?

Ah, a title tribute to that dang song I can't get out of my head. But besides that, it is also an appropriate title. I got my first (and hopefully last) mean message on OkCupid. Now, this site has been going much better for me than eHarmony as a whole. I'm talking to a few guys and they've been very complimentary. And look, I know you have to love yourself first and all that jazz, I really do, but show me a woman whose self-confidence is not  helped out by a man telling her she's beautiful. She doesn't exist. So anyway, I was feeling pretty good. Fast forward to me messaging this guy who likes to work out a lot. Obviously, I do too. I get a reply back saying, "You're fat. Don't talk to me." So basically kind of like the fears inside my head coming true. A year ago, honestly maybe even a few months ago, this would have totally devastated me. I've always been super sensitive to criticism. I had no self-esteem, so I just basically believed any bad stuff said about me, true or not. I would have accepted what that jerk said as fact, and it probably would have been a very long time before I ever went on OkCupid or any dating site again. I would have completely obsessed over it.

But I'm very proud to say that I am not that girl anymore. Did that comment sting? Yes, it did. I'm human. It hurt, and the particular area of weight will probably always be a sore spot with me. No one wants to have lost 170 lbs and still be told they're fat. But then (maybe because I'm a cornball or maybe just because it seemed like the right thing to do), I looked at myself in the mirror, and said out loud, "You are not fat. You are normal. That guy doesn't know jack shit. Just because he may believe that anybody bigger than a size 2 is fat doesn't mean that you have to buy into it." And you know what? I actually believed it. Like really believed it. After all, was I really going to let one insignificant, sad man-child (because really, that comment was more appropriate from a mean 10-year-old, not a 34-year-old) influence my beliefs about myself more than the many people who have told me that I look great, that I am beautiful? Or more than the guys I'm talking with that have no problem at all with how I look? No way in hell. I'm happy to say that his comment made me pissed off more than anything, much more so than it hurt me. I personally think it's a sign of growth.

So my first thought was that I should just ignore his message because he wasn't worth anything more. But then I changed my mind. I used to let myself be a doormat all the time. I let people treat me however they wanted, even if it was terribly, mainly because I thought that I didn't deserve better. I wanted to stand up for myself this time, and let him know what I thought of him. I knew that most likely it wouldn't matter to him, but this was more for me than him. So I sent him back the following message: "Actually, I'm not fat. But even if that were true, I can always change my weight, while you, however, are stuck being an asshole forever." And then I blocked him. Let me tell you, it felt good. Really good. So while this experience could have been profoundly negative, it had actually been mostly positive. Because when I think about it, my first thought is that I really have changed emotionally. Any doubts I may have about my weight are actually pretty far down the list there. And I have that poor excuse for a human being to thank for it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Size 8 and feeling great: A title that seems surreal to write

So it's been kind of a rough summer for me health-wise. Two kidney stones earlier in the summer, and last week I wound up in the hospital with a pretty severe asthma attack. Four whole days of IV steroids, breathing treatments, and oxygen. It was super fun...not. I was kind of terrified that with the IV steroids and the week of oral steroids that followed, I would put on weight. I mean, obviously I know treating my asthma is much more important than weight, but I've just worked too hard to see my progress derailed by medication. I have pictures in the past where I can tell exactly when I was on prednisone because my face was blown up like a balloon. Luckily, my fears were for nothing. I lost weight this past week even with the steroids and my work-outs not being 100% quite yet. Yay!

Moving on...I decided the time had come for new jeans. I had put this off for a while because I was in a size 10, and I wanted to be pretty sure I could fit in the next size down before I tried jeans on. Because the next size down is a size 8. Size 8. That is just insane to me. I have never, ever been that size before and it would be a major milestone, so the last thing I wanted was to try a size 8 on and have them not fit. However, my size 10's were starting to look like maybe I was trying to imitate Justin Beiber. They were hanging pretty low. It just goes to show that sometimes you don't necessarily have to drop weight to lose inches. I've maybe only lost about 4 lbs since my size 10's fit well, but I've lost 4 inches around my waist. I know that the strength training I started has made all the difference. In the past month or so, I can actually start to see noticeable differences in my body for the first time in what feels like a very long time.

I go in Old Navy yesterday and head for the skinny jeans. Yes, the skinny jeans. I don't know why, but I just got it in my head that I wanted skinny jeans, even though I would be more likely to fit in a size 8 wearing a looser cut jean. I grabbed a size 8 with some trepidation. They looked small. Really small. No way was I that small. So then I grabbed a size 10 and added on a size 12, because they were skinny jeans and who knew what size I would be? I have a bad habit of trying on stuff that is way too big because I still don't seem to have a accurate perception of what size I actually am. I tried on the 10's just so I could know that at least something fit. Hmmm, they were...loose, even without having worn them for awhile and getting them stretched out. I picked up the size 8's and put them on. They slid all the way up my legs, over my hips, and buttoned around my waist without me even having to suck in. I looked in the mirror, and I saw someone normal. Somebody with a shape, not just a gigantic blob. I stood there in those size 8's and grinned like a crazy person. But I also had some tears rolling down my face (also maybe like a crazy person, because who cries about jeans?) Because they weren't just jeans to me. I have vivid memories of standing in that same dressing room struggling to button size 20's, the largest size they carry in Old Navy stores. I even laid on the floor trying to get them to zip. Eventually, I had to accept that they just didn't fit. I had to order jeans online. Back then, when I eventually ended up a size 26, I  would have killed just to fit in a size that didn't start with a 2. Fitting in a single digit size seemed about as likely as me landing on the moon. That's why it is just so incredible to me that I fit in those size 8 jeans. That's a normal size. A size right in the middle of the jean stack. Until recently, I've had to dig down to the bottom of the jean sizes my entire life.

I get that a size isn't everything. I get that it varies among companies, and that you could drive yourself crazy obsessing over that one single number. But sometimes, just for a little while, a size does get to be important. Especially when it's a size you never actually really thought you would fit into. I mean, it's not like I was a size 4 or something when I was a teenager and already knew what it felt like to be this size. I have never ever been this size. It makes all those 4:30 morning runs and little sacrifices I make every single day seem all the more worth it. Let me tell you, it feels pretty damn fabulous.