Whole30 Round 1 Results

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July was a pretty busy month for me, emotionally. I made the decision in late June to put 100% of my energy into changing the way I eat, for good, using Whole30 as my template for kicking things off. This isn’t a post about how awesome the Whole30 is, how it works, or what it can do for you. There’s already a ton of information online about the program, including a great website with all the information you need to undertake the challenge for yourselves. I bought the cookbook, as well, but honestly found that the Whole30 website gave me everything I required to make some serious life changes, and all for free.

The program is 30 days long, and I’ve found that the easiest way to explain it to folks is that it’s paleo’s badass older sister. For 30 days, you make a deal with yourself to kick everything out of your diet that could cause inflammation, encourage overeating, or just not be all that good for helping your body work at its top capacity. This includes alcohol, all sweeteners of any kind (yes, even honey and stevia), grains, dairy, corn, soy, and a host of artificial flavors, colors, preservatives – basically, if it comes in a package and the label has more than a couple of ingredients, you probably can’t eat it. In fact, it’s easiest to just avoid processed and packaged food altogether. The program also advises against snacking and replacing “bad” items with “good” versions – you know how you went paleo and quickly figured out how to make those “healthy” paleo pancakes and muffins? Yup, none of that allowed.

I have a long, sordid history of eating my feelings. If I get bored, angry, happy, sad, pensive, (insert emotion here), I will treat myself to food. If I’m with others, I’ll treat myself to a regularly-sized meal. If I’m alone, I’m prone to eating whole pizzas, buckets of wings, two Big Mac meals, whatever it takes to drown out the feelings for a little while. It’s been an issue since I was a child, but I was pretty good at keeping it under wraps for most of my life. I’m just now getting to the point where I’m willing to take ownership, talk with a therapist, and start making active changes to the way I process what’s happening to me in order to eat what I’d like, but in moderation.

Though I did hope to lose weight on the Whole30 program, my biggest hope was to give my body a break, time to cut out the cravings so I could hear my emotions more clearly and find ways to soothe myself without food or alcohol. My second biggest desire with this program was to kickstart a health change that will snowball as I get closer to my 35th birthday in November. I’ve got some crazy big birthday plans to hike the Grand Canyon and go horseback riding in Monument Valley, and I didn’t want my weight to get in the way of either of those things (especially didn’t want to end up hurting a horse – what kind of jerk wants to do that?). I’m aiming to be back at college weight AND feeling strong and vital come November. Thanks to this program, I think I’m on track for all of my goals.

The biggest surprise to me on this program was that it really wasn’t that difficult. I didn’t have any strong cravings for junk food until around Day 28, and I was able to easily overcome them. I did have some crazy weird food dreams around halfway through (one dream that I was eating garbage bags full of gooey, delicious chocolate croissants, and another dream that I owned a 24-hour brunch spot and had to taste test all the new dishes).

I did start cooking more, and doing meal prep, and though I’ve kept a pretty simple diet on rotation, I’ve gotten a lot better at the things I make, and am ready to start expanding my repertoire a bit. So far I make a pretty mean batch of slow cooker cabbage rolls, and though I hated the last carnitas recipe I tried, I’m ready to give it another go. I also found out that my “allergy” to garlic, something that had plagued me for years any time I had a drop of the stuff anywhere near my food, has suddenly disappeared. I can only think that I don’t do well with garlic when it’s combined with grains or dairy in my meal. Since I can eat it now (and really like it), I’m learning how to cook with it, finally. Made some simple and delicious baked green beans and garlic the other night, in fact.

Many people report that chronic aches and pains tend to go away during the Whole30, since ditching inflammatory foods gives your body time to heal. I’ve suffered from Achilles tendonitis in my right leg for a couple of years now, and it went away by the second week. I also went off of birth control medication about four months ago, and was just starting to see some acne show up just before I went on the Whole30, which is the biggest issue for me in not being on the pill. I generally get really nasty hormonal acne on my neck, chin, and chest, and the only thing that can make it go away again is taking the pill again, which really sucks since the medication makes me feel terrible, otherwise (but I’m so vain, and I do love my clear skin). I’d just gotten my first painful zit, and was steeling myself for more, but it’s been a month now and my skin looks great. I’m chalking that up to my hormones not dealing well with something I was eating. We’ll figure that out at a later date; for now, I will gladly accept the clear skin.

Many people do a program like this and combine it with exercise for best results. For me, this has always been about making a permanent change in my relationship to food, so I didn’t want to make too many changes at once. I wanted to get this to stick, then eventually work into getting more physical again. So no heavy exercise, just biking and walking to work, like usual.

The end result is that I lost almost 11 pounds and quite a few inches (see below), didn’t drink for a month and didn’t miss it, and was able to start rationalizing my way through any occasion where I’d feel like bingeing on unhealthy food. I took the day off on July 31st to eat pizza and ice cream (definitely not part of the plan, but I’m not going to down myself over it), and started Round 2 on August 1st, with a plan to wrap up on August 30th. I’m not completely sure of what I’ll do after this month is up. Since I’ve been eating very well and feeling good this entire time, and not feeling too put out, I’m guessing I’m going to stay Whole30/paleo 99% of the time, and then have a treat every now and then if I feel like it. I might also do what I did this month, and be really strict for 30 days, have one day to eat whatever I please, then back on the wagon again. We’ll see what feels right when I get there. I’m not gonna get too worked up over it just yet.

Here’s what I lost this month. I’ll keep you up to date once Round 2 is over; hoping that with added exercise, I can do as well as I did on the first round.

Start – July 1st, 2016

  • Weight – 193.6 lbs.
  • Waist – 35″
  • Lower Stomach – 44″
  • Hips – 47″
  • Chest – 39″
  • Arm – 16″
  • Thigh – 29″

End – July 30th, 2016

  • Weight – 182.8 lbs. (Loss = 10.8 lbs.)
  • Waist – 33″ (Loss = 2″)
  • Lower Stomach – 42″ (Loss = 2″)
  • Hips – 44.5″ (Loss = 2.5″)
  • Chest – 35″ (Loss = 4″)
  • Arm – 14.5″ (Loss = 1.5″)
  • Thigh – 27.5″ (Loss = 1.5″)

Total Weight Lost – 10.8 lbs.

Total Inches Lost – 13.5″

Limbs for Life – and Mordor?

Great news! I heard back from the Limbs for Life Foundation yesterday, and they’re really excited to work with me on making my 2016 walk “to Mordor and back” into a fundraising opportunity. Even better, it turns out that if I add just a little more distance onto my original plan (3,500 miles instead of 3,404 miles), then aim to raise just $1 a mile, I can raise enough money to buy a full prosthetic for an above-the-knee amputee like my dad! I’ll be putting together my fundraising page this week, and will post more info soon.

In the mean time, if anyone else would like to join up and walk for a cause this year, let me know! All you need is a pedometer, a place to keep track of your mileage, and the interest in helping amputees get back on their feet again (literally).

My interest isn’t in getting other people to walk 3,500 miles in a year – or even 365 miles in a year, which is totally doable, but beside the point – it’s in getting my friends to be active to the best of their abilities, and using that activity to do good for others. I’m going to be reaching out to local businesses to see about getting matching funds or straight donations, and will be campaigning throughout this year to see if we can raise money for at least one leg, but maybe even two. It would be awesome to have the money for two arms and two legs, but let’s just get started with setting up the fundraiser first, and go on from there.

Starting My Own Transformation Challenge

This isn’t so much a post as a reminder to myself. If you’ve been reading along since the new year, you’ll know that from January 5th to February 13th, I was doing a transformation challenge with my gym, Iron Tribe. Long story short, I didn’t win the challenge (bummer – would have really liked that top prize!), but I’m not that upset about it. One of my nicest classmates lost over 5% body fat and ended up with the top prize. Since he has a family, that gift certificate to Whole Foods is really going to come in handy.

As for me, I ended up losing about 13 pounds and 3% body fat, and getting a lot stronger. Plus, the gym does two challenges a year, so there’s always next time. But since I don’t want to wait 6 months to work on seriously getting into shape, I figured that maybe I should take the format of the official challenge and create my own challenge to keep me motivated over the next 40 day cycle.

My actions: work out 5 times a week at Iron Tribe, walk at least 15,000 steps a day, stick to my paleo diet, take PAGG and vitamins/supplements, avoid alcohol and pointless snacking, and keep a detailed daily nutrition/exercise diary.

My goal: Get to 170 pounds, and cut body fat by another 3%

My incentive: A diamond belly button ring that I’ve been eyeing for years now. If I get to 170, I get the ring. If I don’t get to 170, I don’t. If I somehow magically get to the 160’s, I’ll reconsider my decision – maybe I deserve something even nicer, who knows 😀

Starting point(s): The challenge started on Monday, February 23rd, and will last until Friday, April 3rd. My weight has been fluctuating a little bit based on eating everything that came within arm’s reach all last week, but as of today I was 185.7 pounds. I’m thinking I’ll be back to around 182 or so by the weekend, putting me back to where I ended up with the last challenge. Then it’s just staying focused from there!

Belly Button Lent

Can you tell that I like horrible jokes? I’m as corny as they come. Last night, in fact, I spent the better part of an hour reading a website for The Potato Rock Museum, an online collection of rocks that look like potatoes, with arguments that these rocks might actually have been potatoes at some point. I laughed over some of the images until there were tears streaming down my face. I mean, seriously – you can’t possibly tell me this isn’t one of the most amusing things you’ve seen today:

Yum, what a lovely baked potato! Wait a minute, that’s no spud – that’s a ROCK!

Whatever, I thought it was hilarious.

Anyway, I’m just writing this little post because it’s the first day of Lent, and I felt like it deserved some attention. Not for any religious reasons, mind you. I’m decidedly not Catholic. I’m not even celebrating Lent in any official capacity. But since the first day of Lent happens to mark the end of the Mardi Gras season, it’s a useful demarcation for me in other ways.

I didn’t get too crazy over Mardi Gras. In all, I had eight drinks over two weeks. I ate a tiny sliver of king cake, a huge BLT poboy, a slice of pizza, and a decent enough helping of fried foods and snacky things, as is my custom during the season of debauchery. Overall, though, this was a very tame holiday season for me. I didn’t even leave the house on Fat Tuesday. I’m getting old, and as it turns out, I really enjoy being sober and healthy.

That being the case, I’ve decided that this Lent I’m going to go for it. No drinking for the next 40 days. I’m also going back to eating paleo, and even though the Iron Tribe transformation challenge is over, I’m going to keep working out four to five days a week. Right now my loose goal is to get to around 170 lbs by Easter.

Now here’s the kicker. If I can get to my next goal mark of 170 within the next 40 days, I’m going to buy myself the present I’ve wanted for a few years now. I’ve had my eye on this ridiculously trashy diamond belly button ring.

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I’m currently wearing a sterling silver one with swarovski crystals, but if I can keep up the good work, I think I deserve to get something lovely and silly for my good work – a genuine white gold and diamond ring for my naval, perfect for accenting my prized lint collection.

Too bad I can’t find one with potato rock accents…

The First 10 Pounds

Road Map to Weight Loss

If by “diet” you mean “paleo”, then yes, we’re in business.

Today I hit 184.8 lbs. A couple of years ago, had you told me that I’d be this heavy, I would have been appalled. But today, I’m happy. I’m happy because 19 days ago I was 194.8 lbs., and yesterday I fit into jeans I haven’t been able to wear for a few months. Ten easy pounds down – 40 much harder ones to go.

First off, let’s just get this out of the way – weight loss is not magical. Weight loss is not something to be done quickly. It’s totally possible to take diet pills and starve yourself and get skinny (I know this because I’ve done it in the past), but that shit catches up with you in the end (see 1st paragraph). The full extent of my “magic formula” thus far is lifting weights and doing high intensity interval training five days a week, 45 minutes a day, walking between 5 and 8 miles a day, eating paleo, staying hydrated (aiming for my body weight in oz. of water), taking fish oil and PAGG supplements, and keeping track of everything in a food/exercise journal.

All through high school, I was 135 lbs. I ran track and ate whatever I wanted, and I had a decent enough figure. Then I went to college, in the first semester I gained 20 lbs. from sleeping in and eating as much food as a non-body-conscious 18 year old is bound to do on an unlimited meal plan. A few people told me that the weight looked good on me, and rather than take a look and decide for myself, I decided that sounded OK and just went with it. I remained at 155 lbs. throughout college and into my early 20’s, when Hurricane Katrina disrupted my life. For about 5 months after Katrina, I was too broke to eat properly, and I dropped back down to 135 again (still no exercise, just no food). Then I got back to New Orleans and gradually started gaining the weight back, plateauing at 155 until 2007, when I went through a particularly stressful period and went up to around 165. I moved to Chicago, started going to the gym a couple of hours a day, training for a marathon, and doing Bikram yoga, and quickly dropped back down to 145 again, at one point getting as low as 138 while doing a raw cleanse. When I got back to New Orleans again in 2011, I slowly started putting on more weight, passed my normal plateau point of 155, and just kept going until now.

Every single one of the drastic losses have happened as a result of either crazy exercise – hours and hours per day – and/or crazy food restrictions. None of them has been sustainable, or in the least enjoyable. Every time I’ve dieted, I’ve spent pretty much every waking hour craving whatever it was that I wasn’t supposed to be eating (and those ingredients have varied wildly, as I flitted from diet to diet). The exercise has me completely worn out all day. I’m irritable, and frequently experience dizzy spells throughout the day.

So what’s the difference now?

First off, I’ve decided that this is it. This is the heaviest I will ever be, and come hell or high water, I’m going to make the changes that are necessary to get healthy and stay that way. I’m also 19 days into a 40 day challenge period at my gym, Iron Tribe, where I’ve been given the goal of staying as paleo as possible, working out at least 5 times per week, and staying physically active throughout the rest of my day. Not only am I not craving anything (except for brownies, which I’m getting ready to fix tomorrow with this stellar paleo brownie recipe I just found tonight), I’m not feeling tired, sick, or dizzy. I feel HEALTHY. Sturdy. Capable of more if I want to push the limits. Excited to continue to push those limits after this 40 days is up. For the first time in my memory, I feel like I’m getting this weight loss thing right. And it feels so good.

So yeah, I’m still a good 40 lbs. over where I’d like to be, but I have faith that I’m going to get there. The first ten pounds are out of the way, and the rest are going to take considerably longer than 19 days to disappear. But I know that it took me years to put on this weight, and with some faith, I’ll excel in shedding it again. For good this time.

One other thing that I’m really excited about is that I haven’t had a drink in 19 days. During the last year or so of my old relationship, I was drinking a few glasses of wine most days, and sometimes more. In retrospect, I realize that this was extremely unhealthy, physically and emotionally, since I was doing it to make my life bearable. Even after moving into my own place, and transitioning into a much more healthy relationship with my current beau, I was still going out and having a few drinks a couple of days a week. I wasn’t seeing not drinking as an option (as many people here in New Orleans don’t), and to be honest, I hate social engagements when I’m sober. In general, I just don’t like being in big groups of people, or going out to loud, crowded bars or concerts. I’d much rather stay home or hang out with a few people at a time. I was drinking to make talking to people bearable, but in the end, I was experiencing many more negative side effects than positive. Mornings after were never pleasant, and my depression definitely sunk its claws in more on days after I’d had a few drinks.

It was such a relief to have this challenge pop up and, well, challenge me to give up drinking and see how I’d feel without it. I’ve cut down on going out, that’s for sure, so I’m nowhere near as social as I was trying to be. But overall, I don’t care. I don’t miss being out at all, and if knocking booze out of the picture means that I’ll be less sad and start to lose some weight, I call it a fair trade. Even though I’m not addicted to alcohol in a dire sense, I’m glad to be able to address my need to dull the pain of social interaction with substances (including scarfing down bar food to avoid talking). Whether that means I’ll be losing friends in the end still remains to be seen, but overall, everyone’s been really supportive so far.

I could just keep writing on my feelings about this drastic change. Like how excited I am to eat bacon every morning, or how weird and amazing it is to walk past the cheese aisle and not fall to my knees (mentally, at least) with the overwhelming need for a wedge of brie. But it’s time for one of the most important parts of keeping my body healthy – sleep. A glorious 8 hours of it. All mine. Damn, I’m digging being me right now.

The Transformation Challenge

I'm so excited - my gym is actually getting special Mardi Gras shirts made. Totally geeking out over this one :-D

I’m so excited – my gym is actually getting special Mardi Gras shirts made. Totally geeking out over this one 😀

It’s 10 days into the Transformation Challenge at my gym, Iron Tribe, and quite unexpectedly, I’m loving it. The challenge is, well, challenging, but also pretty simply laid out, in my opinion. From January 5th to February 13th, participants eat a strict paleo diet and work out up to 5 times a week at the gym. There are two competitions that are running concurrently: a weight loss division, and a performance division. I’m in the weight loss division, obviously.

There’s a point system for determining the winner. It’s a little complicated, so I won’t break it down entirely, but it includes points for working out in certain amounts, points for keeping a detailed food/water/sleep/exercise journal, points for completing a goal setting course, and points for each .2% of fat lost over the course of the challenge. The prizes are HUGE. First place winner gets a $200 gift certificate to Whole Foods (some of you might recognize it as Whole Paycheck), a free month at the gym, a free week of paleo food from Inner Fire Grill (yum), an entire free outfit from Lululemon, and a free 80 minute massage. Second place gets $150 at Whole Foods, $50 at a nearby restaurant, and a free month at the gym. Third gets $100 at Whole Foods and a great supplements package. I’m in it to win it, so I’m visualizing myself in a brand new Lululemon getup 😀

I'm coveting these awesome Lululemon pants.

I’m coveting these awesome Lululemon pants.

The awful thing: I had my body fat measured (by caliper) at the beginning of the challenge, and it came in at 43.1%. Meaning that at 5’7″ and 194.8 lbs, I was/am obese. I don’t look it – I mean, I know I’ve put on a little weight in my butt and thighs, and my boobs are bigger (how can that be a bad thing, you ask) but overall I don’t look like I weigh what I weigh. I’ve only gone up one pants size, even with all the additional weight I’ve put on over the last year or so – but “obese” put the fear of god in me. So I’ve been taking this thing seriously. And it hasn’t been hard. That’s the part that’s blowing my mind.

I’m at the gym daily, lifting weights or doing whatever the WOD is that day. I walk to and from work/the gym from my house, and then anywhere else I have to go, so I’m typically walking between 5 and 9 miles a day. I ran a 5k on Saturday morning, and went to my first yoga class in ages on Monday night. And I’ve been eating clean – all organic, no processed food, sugar, wheat, dairy, legumes, alcohol or sodas. You’d think I’d be losing my shit by now, not having a single slice of pizza or sip of wine, but overall I just feel…good. Just good. Not great. Not more focused. Not suddenly insightful or whatever it is that people always proclaim when they’ve found the diet to end all diets. Maybe that’s because it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. It’s something that will sustain me for the long term, and the longer I go, the better I’ll feel. I’m pretty certain I’ve still got some thyroid stuff going on, especially with the recent struggle with depression, and that’s definitely going to take some of the “high” out of whatever impact this change is having on me. But overall, “good” is much, much better than what I’d been living with prior to starting this new lifestyle. And it’s easy. For the first time in my life, I’ve found a way to eat that doesn’t have me sad and craving constantly. I think I’ll keep doing it.

It’s having other effects, too. As of today, 10 days in, I’ve lost 7.2 lbs. I’m still too heavy, and I have a LONG way to go to get to my goal weight of 145 lbs, but that’s nothing new. But suddenly I feel like it’s not farfetched to picture myself finally wearing a bikini this summer, or trying out a miniskirt before I get too old to wear one (I’ve been dying to try out a TOS Star Trek uniform – yes, I’m a geek).

That's one nearly non-existent skirt you've got there, Uhura.

That’s one nearly non-existent skirt you’ve got there, Uhura.

I think that maybe part of feeling so relaxed about this is from the work I’ve been doing with that book, Beautiful You. Once I get home tonight, I’ll tackle the next chapter.

So what are you doing lately that makes you proud of yourself, internet friends? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment, or direct me to your latest blog post about your achievements. I’d be more than happy to help you celebrate!

Fixing A Hole

I’m painting a room in a colorful way, and when my mind is wandering, there I will go. – The Beatles, “Fixing A Hole”

For those of you who’re just tuning in, I’m reading a book called Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self Acceptance, and answering the daily questions that the book puts forth. It might look like this is my second post of the day (and technically, it is), but my earlier post was written yesterday. There’s absolutely no reason to explain myself to you, but I’m doing it. So I suppose that’s a great place to start with today’s musings re: how body image has impacted my daily life and outlook…my negative self image has definitely made me much more apologetic about EVERYTHING. I should probably start counting how many times I say “Sorry!” to people who don’t need to hear it throughout the day. If I were to take a broad guess, I’d say it comes out at least once an hour on average.

But what am I doing most of the day? What are the hills and valleys of this issue, as seen throughout a day in the life of this particular Anna? Let’s explore a typical weekday and see if I can figure it out:

I wake up somewhere between 9am and 11am, depending on a variety of factors (working at home? stay up late night before? bed extra comfy? back hurt? cat sleeping on face?). Get out of bed and try to stretch my legs/backs/hips. Sometimes feel disgusted with whatever I wore to bed the night before. I’d prefer something lacy and/or silky, like a 1930s film star in her boudoir – maybe even with maribou feathers, just for shits and giggles – but have never bought anything like that because I feel like I’d just look like a feathered, silky monster. Also, if I’m being honest, because my last bf hated when I’d wear anything long and elegant, and I hated short and slutty, so I eventually just got confused and gave up since nothing I found that made me feel sexy was titillating to him in the least. That’s no excuse for now, but it’s the truth so I’m putting it in here. So I’m wearing a t-shirt or maybe lounge pants or something sloppy and I am comfortable, but instantly tend to be kind of disappointed in myself for looking like trailer trash.

I go to the bathroom, brush teeth, wash face, that kind of thing. I generally don’t do my hair or put on makeup. It depends, really. My hair is really short on purpose – I hate wasting time styling it. I love wearing makeup, but most mornings I just feel like it’s no use putting on warpaint. It’s a combination of the fact that it will melt off during my walk to work, or not be seen at all if I’m working at home, or that I don’t interact with clients at my office, so no one will see it there either. But there’s also an underlying current of displeasure with my face. Plus, I really want to go to Sephora and do their Pantone color matching service and have them teach me how to put my makeup on expertly. I feel like I’m just doing it wrong when I do it, and that’s just not true. My makeup application skills are perfectly adequate, and I don’t look like a clown or anything. I do the “no makeup” look pretty well.

Next up is getting dressed. I hate almost every stitch of clothing in my closet. Even the things that fit right tend to piss me off because they’re two sizes bigger than I want to wear. I’ve gotten rid of everything that’s too small for me, but the stuff that’s my size still doesn’t fit me the way I’d like to. And it’s not even the style I’d like to wear. I really miss getting dressed up for work. Like REALLY miss it. It’s the saddest thing ever to be the only girl in an office of three – even if you adore your coworkers. I also really miss wearing vintage clothing, and it’s hard to find stuff that works for my new shape. So I put on jeans and a shirt. I try to wear pretty shirts, but they all look like crap on me. I feel like a figure-less blob. I feel masculine. I used to have this long-legged strut that people would point out all the time. Now I feel like I’m just dragging myself around like a swamp creature. I grew out of my bras, so I have no beautiful bras anymore, when I used to have at least a few. My underwear fit me perfectly, and are comfortable and cute, but I long to wear lace and satin again. When I’ve tried, just to see if I can pull it off, I feel revolting and ashamed. So I don’t.

I make breakfast – paleo, delicious and energizing – and drink a cup of decaf. It’s the first pleasant thing to happen during my day, because I know that each time I make the conscious effort to eat something that’s good for me, I get stronger, and that eventually my (comparatively) small sacrifices will add up to big changes. I walk to work – 2 miles. By the time I get there, I’m in a great mood.

If I’m wearing jeans, I have to unbutton them if I’m going to be sitting for that long. That puts me back in a shitty mood. If I’m wearing yoga pants, I can feel the bulge of my stomach and that also tends to put me in a shitty mood, but at least I’m more comfortable.

I spend the workday working (obviously), but in the back of my mind I’m always thinking about my body (did I eat the right thing? am I craving something? why am I craving it? am I actually hungry? should I get a snack? have I had enough water? how much weight will I lose this week? do you think I’ll actually gain weight instead? did I have to unbutton my jeans when I was a size 8? are my shoulders fat? do I look fatter with short hair? should I get an under-desk exercise bike thing? will my boobs shrink when I lose weight? did I have more cellulite this morning than I did a week ago? is this deodorant still OK, or am I smelly? why can I not stop shaking my foot? am I that sensitive to decaf now? am I too hairy? i feel like my teeth are shifting back to where they were before Invisalign – can other people see that, too? blah, blah, blah…). It’s exhausting. Too many thoughts swirling in my brain. Too many of them negative. Too many of them all about me.

If I’m at work in my Chicago office (or getting ready for a trip there), I think a lot about the clothes I’m going to wear. The office is all ladies, most of them thin, young and stylish. On top of that, since I’m a senior member of the team, not only should I look more pulled-together than they do, I should also look more in control of myself (read: not fat) than they do. I’m only barely able to hold up my end of the bargain, and I feel uncomfortable. If I’m in Chicago, I’m not eating paleo because there’s nowhere nearby to go for something easy and within my limits. This, plus having caffeinated coffee while I’m there, are probably majorly to blame for not feeling/looking my best. At least in New Orleans I’m sticking with paleo lunches and decaf – they really seem to help.

Assuming I’m at home in New Orleans, after work I go home. Depending on how the day went, and how unhappy I am, I might buy a bottle of wine or some “bad” food on my way home to console myself. Fried catfish filets, mac & cheese, and mashed potatoes & gravy are my favorite treats. Most of the time now I manage to avoid these, though. I go home, drink water, eat a paleo dinner, and spend the night writing, watching TV, or hanging out with my boo. Four nights a week now I go to the gym before heading home. I feel great at the gym. I love lifting weights, I love the people in my class, and I love the feeling of accomplishment during and after the workout. It makes me feel better about eating a healthy dinner when I get home.

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So what I’m seeing (feel free to weigh in, if you’ve made it this far and have alternate views) is that my clothing is a major source of emotional upheaval for me. I have the power to wear pretty things and make myself feel better – maybe I need to get them tailored, or explore wearing more dresses, or make the leap and only wear screen siren nighties – whatever makes me feel good and giggly again. Maybe I should hire a personal stylist to help me out of the slump.

I feel inferior to most other women because I don’t feel pulled together in comparison, but I don’t pull myself together because I feel like it’s pointless because I feel unattractive. But won’t I feel attractive if I pull myself together? So maybe I should just put forth the effort to do the things that make me feel pretty every day. Though to do that requires an attitude of self-worth, and that’s going to be a tough one to scrounge up overnight. But I can certainly try. And I should definitely go to Sephora. Maybe this weekend. I deserve it.

I’m exercising and I’m eating pretty well. I could eat better. But I’m not a fat, disgusting bastard. I’m just a normal girl with a few extra pounds and some pretty big self acceptance issues.

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The other thing that I should talk about is being on stage. I love to sing. Or at least I used to. I mean, I still do. Just not in public. I’ve got a slightly nasty case of stage fright, but I’ve always been able to get over it in time to get up there and do my thing. I’ve been in a number of bands, and people who heard me on stage back in the day tell me that I’ve got a beautiful voice. I don’t know about that – I sound like myself to me, and let’s face it, who really likes hearing themselves talk (or sing)? But people like the way I sound, and I like the way I feel when I’m singing, and that’s really all that matters. I feel powerful on stage. Or at least I did.

But this year for my birthday I went to karaoke with a bunch of friends, and someone took a video of me singing on stage. I was shocked at how big I looked up there. My previously awkward stage delivery looks even worse with another 50 lbs packed on. I looked like an egg doing the hula (and I was singing ABBA, so really, it wasn’t that far of a stretch of the imagination). My secret ambition has been to get my shit together and get back on stage with a real band sometime soon. Now I’m not so sure about the “soon” part. It’s probably the most devastating issue I’m facing, but until now I’ve been facing it alone. Maybe now that it’s out on the blog I’ll be able to work it out in a less stressful manner.

 

Unconditional

I’m writing this from the Dallas airport, on my way back home to New Orleans and a brand new work week. I spent the weekend in Austin and San Antonio with my friends Trinity and Katie. Trin was my college roommate, assigned by the school for the freshman dorm. Despite the odds given our strange pairing, we ended up being best friends. A couple of years later, we moved in with a third roommate, Katie, and our sisterhood has survived so much over the years. They both became architects and moved away – Trinity to Texas, Katie to Croatia. Now they’re both married with small children, and our extremely varied life experiences are adding another dimension to our friendship dynamic.

To me, both of my old roommates/besties have always been so outgoing and fascinating. They have welcoming personalities that attract strange adventures and lots of new friends. You could sum us up pretty easily by watching us walk into a party at 20. Katie, golden hair, tight jeans, big Texas personality, and at least three coats of mascara, heads straight for the keg and conversation, ready to sling a few back and talk shit with the guys. Trin grabs a cocktail, makes her rounds to give everyone at the party her good wishes/seemingly unbroken attention (how does she do it?), turns up the radio, and starts a dance party that magnetizes the room. I walk in behind them and make a beeline to the drinks and the quietest spot at the party. I’m overwhelmed, but interested in dancing, maybe, at some point. As long as no one’s watching; these jeans don’t really fit as well as I’d wish, and my arms are jiggly. You know, let’s just wait for a better song. Or maybe another drink? Eh, we’ll see what happens later. The couch is really nice. Mostly I make my friends by staying in one spot and talking to whoever sits down next to me (it never fails – it’s really the best way to meet people if you’re terrified of the whole introduction process). Eventually Katie gets into dancing mode and comes out to turn the party up a notch with Trin. By then, I’ve had a few drinks and don’t really give a crap what anyone thinks, then we’re all dancing, and the party is golden. But the couch-sitting me has just been put on the back burner for awhile. She’ll be back tomorrow, if not sooner.

When we were younger, even though I felt comfortable in their presence in most ways, and certainly much more than I did with other people, I always felt a little awkward in comparison. It was a little like being the little sister who didn’t quite understand how to fit in with my cooler older sisters, but was still loved and accepted. Maybe it’s my age, or the length and depth of our friendship, but things are different now. I can’t quite place it, but I guess on a base level I’m realizing that everyone has their own issues to handle. Just the same, we each have something special to add to the conversation, as long as we find the people who’re willing to listen.

Gone are the days of getting extravagantly made up, in tallest heels and shortest skirt, and going out to make adventures. We’ve entered an era where we’re older, wiser, and starting to show a little wear and tear. And who knows why – age, maturity, less patience, more acceptance – but we’re also willing to talk about our body insecurities with each other in a little more detail. It’s probably that knowledge that allowed me to begin really contemplating what it would feel like to stop beating myself up about my body, and learn to love it instead. It made this weekend the perfect time to start my journey, since I could officially kick everything off in the company of two people who have always accepted me, flaws and all, without a second thought.

Today’s prompt in Beautiful You is to talk about how I feel about myself and why, and say what I think a healthy sense of self and a healthy life will give to me. Most of all, I want to love and accept myself the same way I love and accept my friends – fully, unconditionally, no questions asked. I have a handful of people in my life for whom I’d lay down my life without a second thought. I might have an uncharitable thought every now and then (who doesn’t?) but I’d never hold on to it for longer than it took to find another way to encounter the situation. Why don’t I do this for myself?

I’m hoping that I can eventually see myself not as an enemy to be corralled and controlled, but a beloved one for whom I wish nothing but the best. If I loved myself the way I love my friends, the way that they love me, I’d constantly be on the lookout for ways to show my love more. I’d ask myself if I’d like some water, carefully consider how my mood would improve with the right sustenance, give myself permission to find a quiet spot to unwind, stop picking on myself for weaknesses, celebrate strengths. I’d have no choice but to shine under my own care.

It’s not about being thin, really. It’s about not feeling constantly under attack, or constantly in need of a scolding for my behavior. It impedes everything. It makes me feel less attractive, which greatly affects my ability to be intentionally playful, powerful, confident, and sexy. My own guilt for not being perfect is the biggest problem in my life right now. I’d love to find a way to work through it. I’m going to. So thanks, Katie and Trin (and Jess and Amy). I might not have said it in so many words, but you’ve helped me kick off something big (yet again).

She’s So…Busy?

If you’re as weird as I am, hopefully you read that title to the tune of “She’s So Heavy” by the Beatles. But you’re probably not that weird. Good for you, you cute little normal person! Nah, just kidding – seriously, go get some Beatles in this morning. It’ll help ease those Monday blues a bit.

So it’s Monday, and I’m behind on blog posts, but I’m not going to get caught up any time soon at the rate everything is happening with work. I’m not going to blab about stuff that’s going on in the office, but let it suffice to say that there are tons of tasks, and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, but it’s getting better all the time. (Ha, see what I did there? Earworm!)

What I will go ahead and do is tell you a little about how Iron Tribe Fitness has been working out for me so far. Right now I’m still in a 101 class that meets three times a week. Each class, we go over two or three new (to me) exercises, and practice correct form, then do a WOD (Workout of the Day) that incorporates several rounds of reps of each exercise. We’ve learned how to do air squats, situps (a different kind than I’d ever done before), dead lifts, strict presses, kettle bell swings, pushups, front squats, ring dips (using those rings that gymnasts use), and double ups, which is a new way to jump rope that I’m still getting figured out. The workouts are broken up in such a way that each day feels challenging, and I’m worn out just enough from the effort, without overexerting myself.

Best of all, if I literally am not able to perform a certain movement, the coaches give options, like reduced weight for lifting, or using a modified movement that still works the muscles but doesn’t require quite as much effort. That’s great for me, since my arms are really weak. I’m able to do about 20 regular pushups before my arms give out completely and won’t push me back up, but if I move on to using a bench to modify the angle of the pushup, I can do a few more. Today during ring dips, I was pretty certain that I wasn’t going to be able to do any, but I got in about 10 before my arms refused to push me back up. Then I moved on to a modified triceps push up, using a bench. Same muscles, slightly less difficult, more reps accomplished in the end. Yay me!

Each day begins with a warmup, then instruction on how to do each exercise, and moves into a WOD, followed by a little lecture on nutrition or health/fitness subjects. The entire class is only an hour, but it feels like I get a lot for my money. Besides arms, the hardest effort thus far has been squatting. My hips and lower back are really out of whack, and have been for years. I can tell that squatting is helping get my glutes and hamstrings back in shape, and my back is benefitting from it, but it’s been years (maybe four or five) since I’ve been able to do a genuine squatting movement, and my hips are so tight that it’s a physical impossibility for me right now. There’s a lot of squatting happening in class (it’s tied in to most of the weight lifting stuff), so I’m constantly getting told to try for a little lower, just a little lower. It’s slow going, though. It almost feels like I’ve got rocks at the tops of my quads, making it impossible to get my hips any lower. But I’ll get there. And it feels good to have faith that that’s a real possibility.

I haven’t lost any weight yet, but it’s only been a week, and I also haven’t been a faithful adherent to the Paleo diet yet. I’m trying not to feel guilty and be mean to myself – that’s how all of my diet plans fail, and I’m tired of beating myself up. I deserve better. I deserve to be nicer to myself. So that’s what I’m doing. Every day I try my best to avoid grain, beans, sugars, sodas, and processed crap as much as possible, and in general I’ve been pretty good compared to before starting to try. Each week I’ll just try a little harder, and we’ll go from there. Eventually I’ll be doing it correctly.

Right now, even when I do mess up, I’m just concentrating on reminding myself that it’s not permanent, and it doesn’t mean I should just give up. It’s a cue to be kind to myself and try a little harder when the next meal rolls around. It really helps that I’ve been trying to note how I feel after meals, and without fail, if there’s any carby or sugary thing involved, I feel pretty bloated, slow, and icky afterwards. Trying to keep that correlation in mind at the beginning of a meal for optimum success.

The coolest thing to me is that there are so many great before and after stories at the gym. Iron Tribe doesn’t make a big deal out of how awesome their transformations tend to be, but I keep meeting people who’re really excited about being members, and have great stories about weight loss, increased stamina, and overall improvement in quality of life. I’m really eager to be one of those people one day. Hopefully before I’m 64. Hehehe…

The Fine Art Of Buckling Down

Iron-Tribe1

I’m starting something new tomorrow, and I’m a little scared. After years of repeated (failed) attempts to eat the right foods and exercise on a regular schedule, I’ve decided it’s time to make the changes I’ve known I should make all along. A few days ago, I took the leap and joined up with a chain gym called Iron Tribe. Those of you who know me well will know that the name doesn’t thrill me, and that the thought of being a person connected to a close-knit team of fitness nuts (as the words “iron tribe” suggest to me, anyway) would have, up until now at least, made me want to puke a little. But I’ve got a friend who’s in the program and making incredible progress, and since our personality types are pretty similar – anxious workaholics with a taste for booze and Italian food – I figured I’d give it a shot.

The first month is a 101 program. My class will always be the same group of people, all newbies, all learning how to lift weights and do exercises and follow a Paleo diet plan. We’ll meet three days a week, and I should (hopefully) “graduate” on the day before my birthday. From what I’ve read, it’s realistic to think that I could be around 10 lbs. lighter by then, and from what I’ve seen in my friend who’s in the course, I’ll also be much calmer, which would be lovely.

After the 101 class, I’ll move into a four day a week program with the people I’m calling “gen pop” – everyone who’s passed 101 in the past. It’s a little like the kind of thing that people generally do in crossfit gyms – weight training and endurance exercises – but with a much stronger relationship between the trainers and members, and very small groups, so there’s lots of one-on-one with the trainers. Best of all, they promise results as long as you work out at least three days a week and stick to their recommended diet. If you haven’t shown improvement in a few months, they’ll let you out of your contract and refund your fees.

So. There we are. As of 7:30 in the morning (so damn early!), I’ll be sweating my butt off at the gym. Man, I really hope this sticks. Wish me luck at this, guys. I need it.