A Letter to myself on the eve of returning to Bootcamp…

Peel back the layers

Dear Me,

It’s been 7 months since you’ve donned that workout gear and headed bravely into Bootcamp.  Only one more sleep until you go back, only this time you’ll be sporting a clunky hinged knee brace.  This will guarantee to make you feel even more ungraceful and foreign in a class of athletic girls.  Sorry about that self.  Your bones are getting older and there’s only so much torque you can put on a leg.

Tonight you will gather that old familiar outfit, pull out those runners and head to bed early so you can face tomorrow’s reality rested.  You’ve been in this moment many times before.  Recommitting to getting healthier.  What makes you think this time will be any different?  Well, this time you are scared, scared to death.  Things have gotten way out of hand on the scale and in your closet.  Sure, you can try and blame the fractured leg for inactivity, but that was 7 months ago!  Get over it.  That’s like saying you are carrying baby weight when the baby is already 9 years old!

So self…What are you afraid of?  That you’re too young to feel this old? That you’ve started avoiding certain activities with the kids cause you can’t keep up?  That event the ‘fat’ clothes in your closet are snug? Maybe it’s because no matter how seductive the candlelight might make things look, you don’t feel sexy anymore? Or are you mostly scared because your body isn’t working for you in life…your body has become the enemy? When you move your body, you lose your breath.  This is situation CRITICAL.

A year ago you could have called yourself a Fit Fat Girl.  Run up a couple flights of stairs? No problem.  Play soccer with the kid?  No problem.  Do burpees? Challenging, but no problem.  Walk the dogs? Definitely, no problem.  So what’s the issue here?

Dig deep here girl…You know what it is.  There is a dark enemy trying to defeat you.  It is vicious, it is all consuming, it is relentless and it’s judgement is severe and harsh.  Society does a great job shaming women for their looks, but critic is the most dangerous one of all.

The enemy is the inner voice that you are hearing right now.   It’s you.

Tommorrow morning you will rise, you put on your armour and gather the strength to slay your worst enemy.

You’ve got this.

Love from me, The Fit Fat Girl.

rEvolution. (A not-so-short story in which I tell a secret and inexplicably use a metric ton of quotation marks.)

So I’ve been keeping a little (okay, big) secret from you, and it’s time to have an open and honest conversation about food and my new philosophy. And the meaning of life. (haha, just kidding. That was my last post.)

Without further ado, here is my shocking reveal:

I stopped giving a crap about what I eat about three months ago.

Gasp!!

Here’s another one that might make your head spin:

Not giving a crap about what I eat is one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.

I appreciate that this may be quite scandalous to you. You may have a case of the vapors over it. I’ll give you a moment, and then I’ll explain.

(Insert telephone hold music for 30 seconds; I’ll eat a piece of cheese, or maybe a chocolate, while I wait.)

First of all, lemme backtrack for a sec. I may have exaggerated a teensy bit for shock value when I said I didn’t give a crap about what I ate anymore. (I understand that the thought of me exaggerating may also be a shock to you. Please recover from this shock quickly so we can continue moving forward.)

What actually happened three months(ish) ago is that I reached a critical point in my journey, a turning point. I have been evolving steadily for the last two years, in my body and my mindset, and this turning point, I think, is one of the most important ones I’ve experienced thus far.

The end-all be-all of this journey for me when I started was LOOKING the part of a badass…having people know, by looking at me, that I was a strong, fit person.

Hell, I’ll say it outright, I wanted to be thin and look jacked. I wanted to be a size 6 again, and until I was, there was no good reason for me to buy any nice clothes, to really spend time trying to look good or feel good about myself, because I wouldn’t until I met those goals. THEN, I was REALLY going to be awesome.

So to achieve this awesomeness-through-looking-thin-and-jacked goal, I set out on a strict clean-eating regime, eating clean 100% of the time for a full 2 months. After that initial super strict period, I scheduled one splurge meal a week. Sometimes, when schedules got busy, I would have more than 1 splurge but I stayed on track with these eating habits for several months.

While doing this, I missed a lot. I turned down a few invitations and I missed several social events at my work (pizza truck, ice cream sundae truck…why do delicious treat foods come on trucks? I digress…)

At the time, I was okay with missing these things. I felt that I was making a choice to prioritize my long term goals over what I wanted in the moment. They were the right choices for me at the time.

I could have gone to these events and just avoided the pizza/cake, and I fully acknowledge that I made the conscious choice NOT to do this. I was so embroiled in managing my food, and I didn’t trust myself enough to abstain from “bad” foods, so I chose to miss the entire experience instead.

At that time, I felt awesome about these choices. I also felt–and I am somewhat ashamed to admit this–a little bit smug and superior to all those people who were down there snarfing pizza and ice cream while I worked at my computer and chastely snacked on carrots and almonds.

As for my progress, I was doing ok. I was “losing weight” as they say. People were saying nice things to me, I was generally kicking ass in my progress.

And then some evolution happened. LIFE happened.

In November, I went on a splendiferous vacation where I happily overindulged every meal, every day, and halfway through the vacation was so backed up and bloated that I couldn’t button my triumphantly purchased one-size-down jean shorts. I still enjoyed every minute, and every bite, of that vacation. (Thank you, drawstring sweat shorts, for being there for me on the best vacation ever.)

After that vacation, through the holidays, through to mid February I struggled mightily to “get back on track.” I would go a few days of clean eating, then I would binge. I would try again. I was determined, as always, not to give up. To fall down 80 times and stand up 81.

At the same time, I started to gain steam with some heavy lifting in my training. I was loving the lifting, but suddenly I started to feel weak and tired. I wasn’t excited about my workouts anymore. I felt like I had lost my mojo, especially since I was freaking obsessed with getting my fat ass back “on the wagon,” but just couldn’t seem to do it.

I am sure some poor food choices were responsible for some of my fatigue, but as I did some reading and I talked to my trainers,  I ultimately concluded that I was overtraining and not eating well enough to support my training.

I was pushing too hard on too little fuel, and it was hitting me hard.

Now, you might think that this would launch me back into another bout of holier-than-thou clean eating. But, given my yo-yo patterns of the last few months, I decided to try something different, since I was looking for different results besides the super-clean-eating-alternating-with-super-awful-binges pattern I had recently gotten into.

I took a long hard look at my goals and my life, and this was my catharsis (pay attention! It’s exciting!):

Although my journey is not over–and won’t be until my heart stops beating–I am a badass RIGHT. NOW. Without “losing any more weight” or fitting into a certain size or bypassing every pizza party or slice of cake. Before I reach my squat goal or have a day where I feel like pull-ups haven’t completely defeated me (does that day exist?), I am STRAIGHT UP AWESOME, TODAY.

I am strong and fit. I am kind. I am funny. I make people happy. I love fiercely (no matter who makes fun of me for saying so), and I give a lot, in a lot of different ways. In my own small way, I make the world a better place. And what I eat, weigh or look like has no bearing whatsoever on any of that.

I decided that day I didn’t want my life to be about logging food choices and keeping to a breakneck workout schedule that exhausted me for all the other great things I wanted to do.

I didn’t want my life to be about measuring every ounce of food that passes my lips, and I REFUSE to measure myself and my worth by what I ate, looked like, or what the stupid ass scale or measuring tape said.

I realized that food had continued to control my life. Sure, it was clean food, but it was controlling me nonetheless. And I’d had enough. I had too much living to do to let food control me anymore.

From that day on, I stopped paying attention to what I eat. No food log, no measuring cup. And to my shock, I have not gone on a no-holds-barred indulgence spree. Quite the opposite, actually.

Here’s the thing, peeps: three years of being an “off and on” clean eater, and I know what it means to eat clean. I know how to gauge my body’s response to food and I now prefer to eat real, whole foods. They make me feel good. Fast food and processed foods continue to straight up gross me out, so I don’t touch them and probably won’t anytime soon.

But dairy is delicious and good for me, and it doesn’t bother my stomach, so every day I eat my Fage yogurt with raisins and almonds, or banana almond granola, or sometimes with cocoa powder, and sometimes with Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter (amazeballs).

I eat steak and chicken and barbecue pork. I eat peppers and squash and spinach. I eat a crap ton of bacon (mostly turkey bacon from Trader Joe’s. It is magical.)

I also eat chips and pasta and cheesecake when I have a mind to, and at least twice a week I eat a grilled cheese for lunch when I work from home, because it’s delicious. I take the kids out for ice cream when I feel like it. I drink good beer and sweet iced tea sometimes. Last week, I attended this year’s pizza truck gathering and I ate 5 a-mah-zing slices, thankyouverymuch. And enjoyed the hilarious company of one of my favorite co-workers while doing so.

On average, I would say I am “splurging” or “cheating” about the same percentage, possibly a little more (it’s hard to say) than I was with my yo-yo habits of before.

Here’s a major difference though: I’m not calling them “cheats” or even “splurges” anymore. I am calling them “food.” I am calling it “eating.” Because that’s what the hell it is.

The general sum up is that I am much of the time eating whole, unprocessed foods without too much sugar. That’s basically what I eat because of the habits I’ve formed over the last couple of years, so I needed to go through those strict times to create those preferences. And I’m grateful for that.

What I am ditching are two very specific “rules” I once held myself to:

1) that there are certain “off limits” foods that must be avoided until a pre-determined “splurge” period

2) that I need to carefully monitor ever single ever-loving thing I put in my mouth, and keep my calories lower so I can “lose weight”

As a former anorexic and bulimic, I am no stranger to food rules, and they are dangerous and toxic. So they can get the hell out of my life.

And without the food rules, I feel free. I trust myself, and I feel amazing. I feel strong in my workouts (which I have cut back to 4, maybe 5 a week depending upon how I feel) and I am listening to my body…what it wants and needs to be fueled properly, and how I need to balance work and rest to continue to get stronger.

I could give two craps about “losing weight.” Or what the “right” foods are before and after training, or on the days I don’t train, or if I should eat dairy, or if there are too many grams of sugar in something. I check labels for HFCS or any gross chemicals that are not good for me and my family, and I buy organic produce most of the time.

Other than that, I eat. I eat because I’m hungry, I eat because my body needs fuel, I eat because I enjoy it. Sometimes, I forget to eat when I’m busy and sometimes, I eat too much and my belly lets me know…and it’s all good. I haven’t weighed or measured myself recently and have no plans to, but I can tell you all my clothes fit just fine, and I continue to be awesome in general, and to kick ass and make major strength gains at my workouts. My guess is that my body will continue to change over time, and that’s cool, too.

Food is good, and so is life. Eat, people.

A squishy belly miracle.

Sometimes, when it’s been awhile since I posted, it’s because my life gets insane on me. I love writing this blog, but it’s always the first thing to get dropped when I have too much on my plate.

Sometimes, though, I don’t post because I’m just not sure what to say.

A lot of times, a dry spell means some combination of the above two factors. Which happens to be the case in regard to the last two weeks of blog-less-ness.

A lot of stuff has been swirling around in this noggin of mine, and I’m trying hard to wade through the chaff and get at the hard little nuggets of wheat and wisdom. No easy chore.

Sometimes, I catch myself asking, “When will things slow down? When will I have a chance to catch my breath?” And then I remember my favorite quote (which I’ve posted before but will surely post again):

  • “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” — Fr. Alfred D’Souza

So that’s the thing. This IS my life. The life that I’ve created. The harried madness that I call my day to day existence. And I like it; it’s a good life, but I’m always wondering how to not miss it. How to keep from letting it all rush past like a subway train while I am left, swaying on my feet, in its wake.

I look at my kids and see that they are, inconceivably, 6 and (almost) 11. BIG kids. School kids. My son can rightly be called a pre-teen, and that is fairly astounding news to me. I’m not quite sure how that happened, and I’m even less sure how to–if not slow it down–make sure I don’t wake up one day to an empty nest and say, WTF just happened?

Maybe that’s an inevitable part of parenting.

But this post wasn’t supposed to be about parenting, per se.

The thing is this…I love those kids beyond reason but, by God, am I doing this right? Am I present for them? How much of my time is the right amount to give them when I’m trying to balance it with everything else I want? With myself? What about my husband? My job? My friends and extended family?

This feels a lot like the last post I wrote, but it’s different somehow in my head, and I’m not sure I’m explaining it right.

I guess what I’m struggling with is how to balance this at times fun and at times excruciating fitness journey with the rest of my life. Because while I am on a fitness journey, I don’t want the fitness journey to define me, my life, or my family’s life.

I am not a trainer. I am not a fitness or nutrition expert. I don’t have an overwhelming desire to make any of those my profession in the future.

But I do want to be a fit person, and LOOK like a fit person, and promote and encourage fitness and healthful living with my family.

I want to send a message to my daughter that a woman’s body can be strong and powerful.

Mine is.

But society tells me that my strong and powerful body is not pretty or ideal, and I agree. I hate on it. Wish it to be different. Think things like, “Life will be better when I’m not fat.” (I recognize the objective ridiculousness of this statement, and yet I still believe it applies to my life.)

So what message am I sending my six year old daughter by my constant and open struggles to change how my strong and powerful body looks?

It’s a question that keeps me up at night, because I’m pretty sure what I’m teaching her is that how a body LOOKS is far more important than what a body can do.

Luckily, she doesn’t believe this yet.

Just this morning, she came to me as I getting dressed, and lovingly cupped my belly in her hands. “I love you, Mommy,” she said. “When I’m a Mommy am I going to have a squishy belly like yours?”

She looked up at me with bright, eager eyes that said, “I hope so!”

In that moment, I felt the pure and uncapped love of a six year old for her mother.

She was completely unaware of the shame I felt about my “squishy belly.” Blissfully ignorant of the ways in which that shame claimed so much of my daily mental real estate.

To her, it just meant it was me. No inherent judgment, just love for me as I am.

It was kind of a miracle.

In that moment, I wondered what the hell I was doing with my life. What was it all for, this concentrated dedication to making my body LOOK strong and powerful instead of having it just be enough that it IS strong and powerful?

Don’t mistake me…I love working out and the way it makes me feel. I know that clean foods make me feel and perform better, and I have no plans to abandon them any time soon. Our eating habits as a family have changed in a radical and sustainable way in the last year and a half, and that’s been a very, very good thing.

What I’m talking about is the intense energy and focus I’ve expended on which foods to eat, and how much, and how often, and which are “good” and which are “bad” and which give me gas and which ones so-and-so says I should eat and which ones so-and-so says I shouldn’t eat and which ones make me poop often enough and which ones trigger a binge and which ones fill me up the most and which ones to eat directly after a workout and which ones NEVER to eat on a rest day…it just all gets to be too effing much sometimes.

Sometimes it feels just as disordered to me as my days of gagging myself over the toilet bowl, or chewing every bite of a carrot 100 times to make it last the entire lunch period.

If I stopped thinking about food so much, maybe I’d be showing my daughter that food does not have to rule her life like it’s ruled mine.

If I stopped thinking about food so much, maybe my life wouldn’t feel so harried and stressful sometimes.

If I stopped thinking about food so much, maybe I’d have more mental energy to focus on my family, those people who obviously love me more than I love myself, before this part of my life slips through my fingers.

Because in the end, life is good right now. It’s not without it’s challenges and obstacles, but despite my squishy belly, at this moment, my life is lovely and wonderful…and that should be enough.