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.

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Dear me, shut up and stay focused.

Allow me to begin this long overdue post with what I have come to affectionately refer to as “The Saddest Photo Ever Taken of Me.”

Tough Mudder
My awesome Tough Mudder teammates, getting pumped.

Wait, why is this sad? These are some badass women, getting ready to crush the Tough Mudder. And I’m not even in this picture, am I? What gives?

Maybe you caught it, but just in case, let’s take a closer look.

Oh. There I am. Pathetic.
Oh. There I am. Pathetic.

Yep, that’s me. Sidelined at the Tough Mudder and, to be completely honest, fighting back tears but trying to look supportive and excited for my friends. Because they really did kick ass.

As for me, I kicked no ass whatsoever on that August day in Vermont thanks to my injured Achilles (officially diagnosed: Achilles tendinitis). I kept wearing the boot for a week or so following my last post, and then got the clear to gradually stop sporting that sexy look and just move into a long, long, LONG journey of modified workouts, physical therapy, and slow improvement.

But I won’t say “I couldn’t run the Tough Mudder.” I will instead tell you, “I chose not to run the Tough Mudder.” Why is this distinction important to me? Because I’m a grown ass woman, and no one said “You can’t do it, Stephanie.”

Several people, whose opinions I value because of their expertise (eg, my trainers and physical therapists) advised me not to run the Mudder because, well, dicking around with an Achilles injury is a super shitty idea, and I chose to take this oh-so-wise advice seriously. (Look at me! Taking sound advice and listening to my body! Woohoo!)

I’d like to say that I was proud of my decision and it wasn’t a big deal to miss the Mudder because I knew it was the right thing to do, but that would be a bold-faced lie.

I’d like to say that I was super psyched to go to Vermont anyway and support my girls, but that would be another big fat stinking not-so-true statement.

Going there and not being able to participate, putting on my happy encouraging face, go girls go!, etc etc, was really effing hard.

Standing there in the background, watching them hold hands and get psyched up, and then take off on the course, well, it sucked.

It sucked so much ass that I had to go to the ladies’ room and take about 15 minutes to compose myself. (Not to mention the fact that their heat left around 9:20 and Tough Mudder folks did not see fit to start serving beer til 11am. A big WTF? to that.)

I wish I had a different story to tell about that day.

A selfless story that paints me as somewhat saintlike in my acceptance of being left out/left behind instead of someone who spent five hours wandering around alone and feeling sorry for herself while they ran the course.

An uplifting story that shows me cheering triumphantly as I watched my friends cross the finish line instead of swallowing over a huge lump in my throat, silently, as they hugged each other in victory and relief, having formed a bond that can only come from facing the challenges they had faced together on that course.

A bond that, even though I was technically “there,” I wasn’t a part of.

But apparently, I am not selfless, and so far, this is not that uplifting of a story.

Shit.

While I’m detailing depressing things, I may as well let you know that I also bowed out of dance crew for the October performance. This, also, makes me want to cry a little.

Ok, a lot.

Ok, I have already cried several times over this decision.

Dance crew is something I do purely for my own personal joy and happiness and nothing else, so taking a break from it and missing a performance so I can heal is just…crappy. Miserable. Sucky.

I’m also only working out 3x a week at the gym, with no jumping or explosive movements (buh-bye, box jumps, high knees, tabata rounds, jump squats…I could go on, but I’ll stop there because I think you get the picture).

So, in a matter of 2 months, I’ve gone from crushing 4-5 workouts a week, plus 1-2 dance rehearsals, to 3 workouts a week with my feet firmly planted on the floor.

I’m still putting up heavy weights, but my metabolic is significantly curtailed. And given my work to develop a healthier relationship with food by working towards intuitive eating (another long, painful process), this whole thing feels like a backslide.

My clothes are too tight.

I know I’m losing my explosive power.

I worry that when I am fully healed, I’ll be starting over, re-conquering fears of jumping on a wooden box, re-building the stamina to do 12+ burpees in a 20 second interval, re-starting my journey to do a set of 25 perfect pushups. (With this injury, just being in the plank position has been painful because of the flexion required of my ankle to hold a plank. I’ve been doing pushups one-legged on a box and it’s not going well.)

So now that I’ve gotten the bitching, the whining, the self-pity and the worrying out of the way, what now?

What she said.
What she said.

It’s time to shut the hell up, and just keep working. Do the best I can to stay focused on what I CAN do the progress I CAN make during this recovery period.

OK, maybe I will have to start over with pushups, and maybe I didn’t kick a bit of ass on Mt. Snow on August 10. Maybe my jeans are too tight and maybe I’ll have to build back up to jumping on a box when the time comes.

Who cares? Really, why would I let this bring me down? I’ll admit that I did for awhile. A pretty long while. A long while in which I alternated between pretending I didn’t care (I did), beating myself up, and throwing pity parties for myself at which I was the only attendee.

But now it’s time to just move on and adjust my expectations and my focus. It is what it is, and I have to find ways to be awesome in my current context and capabilities.

I have to see this not as a backslide, but as another opportunity to become the most kickass version of Steph that I can possibly be.

Another way to learn the lesson that being awesome IS NOT AFFECTED BY WHAT SIZE PANTS I WEAR. (*note, I am not yelling at you, I am yelling at me. In case that was unclear.*)

Right now, I have to focus on setting goals related to where I am and what I can do right now with what I have…and what I can do is keep lifting heavy shit.

For example, last week I squatted 200. I wasn’t even up to 200 yet in my plan, but I had that number in my mind as kind of a goal and I just wanted to see if I can do it. Damned if I didn’t duck under that bar and squat 200 THREE TIMES. Like a boss.

And it’s pretty awesome, when someone annoys me at work or some rude person at the airport cuts past me in the boarding line (I remember you, man in Detroit…) to just look at them and think to myself, “Go ahead, be a jerk. I could totally squat you.” It really helps, and I recommend this strategy to be able to deal with assholes with utter serenity.

So where do I go from here?

Well, I may not be selfless, and I will likely have some more moments of self-pity here and there. I may not be society’s vision of what  fit person should look like, and I may not be able to do a set of pain-free mountain climbers. At least not today.

But I am strong, inside and out.

Injury or no, I’m going to find a way to keep moving forward. It may not be the path I choose or prefer, but I’ll just create a new path and keep working to be the awesomest version of myself that I can be.

As awesome as these two little turkey are, every day:

Random picture of my awesome and badass kids to end this post.
Random picture of my awesome and badass kids to end this post.

 

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.