Monday, January 02, 2012
Thanks to Diana (GEMINIS1) for the title--loved from "bleak" to chic! I had written that 2011 started off as a bleak year, but it ended up being wonderful. This year has begun on a much more positive note, and thanks to the groundwork I laid in 2011, I am ready to seriously focus on weight loss. I wrote my semi-joking blog yesterday about becoming a hottie before the predicted end of the world on December 21st, 2012. I was serious about aiming to lose 60 pounds by that day. The year 2011 was all about getting ready and straightening out several areas of my life. Now I am a much more grounded person and am ready to put a lot of effort specifically into weight loss.
I am not normally a fan of "I want to lose X pounds by X day," but I believe that losing 60 pounds by December 21st is a reasonable goal. I can lose 60 pounds without going crazy or depriving myself of food. I already exercise a lot with doing Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, yoga, and weightlifting, but I need to clean up my eating act. Food triggers impulsive tendencies for me (as does money), but I spent 2011 getting in touch with and taming my impulsive tendencies. The impulsiveness is not gone (and never will be completely), but I have improved more over the past year with my impulsive tendencies than ever before in my life. Music and martial arts have provided the discipline I have needed to help tame these tendencies, especially Jiu Jitsu.
I have always been pretty impulsive. Whether it is food or money, or just blurting something out without thinking first, I have been prone to acting first, thinking later (if at all). When I am impulsive with food or money, it leads to an uncontrolled binge. There is nothing wrong with pizza, chocolate, ice cream, cake, cookies, etc. The problem comes with overeating these foods. Granted, I used to be able to pack away a large pizza, a pound of M&Ms, a family-sized bag of chips, and possibly more, and I am physically incapable of doing that now. Cravings certainly still hit and I give in sometimes, but my eyes are usually much bigger than my stomach. Now that I know some chokes from Jiu Jitsu, I am going to imagine putting my cravings in a choke when they hit. Needless to say, I won't give them the option of tapping out.
My relationship with food improved as a whole during 2011. I generally eat healthfully, and moreover, enjoy eating mainly healthy foods. If I go a day without eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, I feel like I'm missing out. I've come up with some pretty tasty and simple staple recipes that I can make in large batches and eat throughout the week. I aim to eat less dairy, if not eliminate it altogether again, because so many of my trigger foods are dairy foods like cheese, chocolate, and baked goods. My food plan for 2012 is pretty simple, and that is to track every day, preferably before I eat anything that day, and to stick to it. *POOF*--easy, right?
I also eat some kind of treat every day, and on most days I find my piece of chocolate or whatever treat I have to be perfectly satisfying. I also do eat some junky meals, but as long as I plan ahead for them I do fine. It is the grazing on foods at work in particular that has gotten me into trouble (and this will no longer be an issue as I will be working from home from now on).
Exercise has always (thankfully) been a strong point for me. I think I have been good with exercise because impulsiveness can't really play into it. Sure, we can "impulsively" decide not to exercise, but that just leads to inaction. Now, people can certainly be COMpulsive with exercise, and I have been there. I used to be obsessive about missing workouts and would exercise for hours every day. I am back to exercising for hours on most days, but it is greatly tamed compared to before. Ironically enough, my body used to get much more beat up (figuratively). I used to become really neurotic if I missed a workout or if the workout did not go as planned. Then I was diagnosed with arthritis in my spine. I continued to push it and kept getting injured. Now I have the balance between knowing when it is fine to go to the gym and get in a solid 3 hours and when I should stay home and rest. Now exercise is my stress relief and my main source of fun; I've found that exercise is quite separate from weight loss for me. If it is a good day to work hard, I do it. If it is an off-day and I need a break, I take it. I will also no longer do exercise that aggravates my arthritis. I miss running, but I was always in incredible pain. Martial arts does not seem to put that same kind of ballistic stress on my joints. Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu have also made me much more flexible, thus helping overall with day-to-day joint pain. Despite having several bruises on my body at all times, doing martial arts is a healthy choice for what my body is able to do. The basis of my fitness program is Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu, with doing yoga, weightlifting, Pilates, and cardio conditioning workouts to support the martial arts training.
Martial arts has also helped with mental focus and discipline. One of the first things that I learned in Jiu Jitsu is that making an impulsive decision will get my ass kicked. If I make an impulsive decision, I make it easy for my opponent to get in a dominant position. Jiu Jitsu is an art of subtlety and one of the best improvements that I have made is to sometimes just sit there and think about what would really be the best choice. I have tried to transfer this patience to making day-to-day decisions. Whether it is the weight of an opponent or the weight of a decision on top of me, I benefit from backing off for a moment to think about what direction I want to go.
I am also starting to learn that even when I don't make all the right choices, I am making a lot less mistakes. Eventually, those little mistakes that are not being made really add up. I've found that at some point the right choice comes naturally. I have essentially dropped my black-and-white thinking and have started paying attention to when I do MORE things right, rather than doing EVERYTHING right. I also get a lot less frustrated with making mistakes now. I had spent so much of my life beating myself up (now I let other people do it--ha!) that I did not know how to forgive myself. Not being able to forgive myself also fed into impulsiveness, because I could never just let anything go and it fed negativity that fueled bad habits. I now give myself credit for making less mistakes, making any good choice, and if all does not go well, forgiving myself immediately and moving on.
Of course, all of the groundwork in 2011 would not have happened without my awesome support systems. I have learned an incredible amount from my SparkFriends over the past year. I am amazed by the transformations I have seen. The love and support from the SparkPeople community is amazing and I am grateful to have found the best people around.
My gym has become my best in-person support system. I see the same guys several times a week in training. They have applauded my athletic abilities and have been very encouraging. Not only is it one big supportive community, some of the guys and I work out together outside of classes, too. A couple of the guys have been especially helpful in taking time to review techniques. I've also been doing weightlifting workouts with one of the guys; it's nice to be able to chat with someone during the workouts.
One of our guys wearing our school's rash guard.
My fitspiration: some of the guys from Jiu Jitsu.
My main trainer Nate (in the sweatshirt, watching) and my life-long friend Josh (kicking), who recommended my new gym to me.
Nate and student John (on the bottom) rolling. John is awesome at Jiu Jitsu and has taken extra time outside of class to help me--he has been pivotal to my training.
A couple of the guys goofing around outside of class. I'm chatting with John in the background.
My weightlifting/workout buddy Nick (on the left) after a win in December.
Tim, Jiu Jitsu instructor, overseeing rolling.
As you can see from the pictures above, these are some of the fittest dudes around. Yet they have welcomed me, worked with me, and even asked me for help with their training given my knowledge of exercise science. They treat me like they would any other fighter and don't seem to think one way or another about my weight. I look forward to getting to know these guys even better over the next year and working as a team to become more fit.
A lot of people also have a goal outfit or some outfit in mind for motivation. Honestly, I've always wanted to feel like I look really good in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. I've never been terribly concerned with fancy clothes, but yes, it would be nice to have more choices for dressing up, too. But since I spend a lot of my time around other people in workout gear, I really want to look good in my workout clothes. By the end of the year I will look good in real Jiu Jitsu gear (hah, pictures are a little disproportionate):
Between the hard work I put in over the past year and the awesome support system under my belt, I know I can reach my weight loss goal this year. I will be rocking my martial arts gear with my muscles bulging in no time. I didn't set specific New Year's resolutions because I already have plenty of resolve. Now that I am in a good mental and physical spot, I am prepared to focus on really specific goals and be successful.
Sunday, January 01, 2012
Images from idearapper.com
The year 2011 was pretty good--I lost almost 40 pounds, I picked up my saxophone again, I returned to kickboxing, and I started a new sport (Jiu Jitsu). I learned a lot about myself and have gained valuable skills for leading a more healthful lifestyle. My approach has been balanced and reasonable (although some people may question the "reasonableness" of 8-12 hours of martial arts training a week on top of other workouts). Although I lost nearly 40 pounds, my main focus has not been weight loss. This year, I will be focusing on very clean eating and fat loss.
Of course the problem is that the Apocalypse is coming (again). The end of times will be here on December 21st, 2012. Dammit, I am going out in style. I have a goal to lose 60 pounds by the end of the world. That is roughly 5 pounds per month, a reasonable goal. That will put me in Onederland. I know, I know, what is the point? I should just have a free-for-all until December 21st. It's cool, I'll still have plenty of treats, but it is fortunate that I mostly enjoy healthy eating. I just need to work on preparation and portion control a little more. I don't have a problem getting in enough exercise; I need to transfer some of that drive and discipline into my eating habits. I have a goal to plan my food each day before I start eating and actually stick to it. There is usually not a reason to veer from my food plan. If I know I'll be having a special meal, I can account for that ahead of time. Planning ahead puts the kibosh on the unplanned snacks and the forgotten grazed-upon foods.
Hey, it may be the end of world, but there's no reason I can't look GOOD.
Image from flash-screen.com
I can see myself hot in my head. I have never been hot before, but I will be by December 21st. As a matter of fact, I will turn heads. My arms, legs, and abs will be ripped from all of the mixed martial arts and Olympic weightlifting training. My face will be slimmer and reveal the brightness in my eyes even more. My butt will fit perfectly into...into whatever size jeans me best at about 200 pounds, I don't have a "goal size." Not only will I be hot, I'll be ultra fit. You never know, it might be handy to be able to do pull-ups to hoist myself above the pools of lava on December 21st.
Yep, only 12 short months away:
Image from idearapper.com
My grandmother tells me that the Mayas did not predict the apocalypse at the end of their calendar, but I'm not sure that she knows what she is talking about. She's just an anthropologist who has studied the Mayas. I'm going off the theories from some random guy's internet theories instead. In the off-chance that my grandmother is correct and December 21st ends up being just another day, then I'll wake up on December 22nd and get on with my healthier and fitter life. If my grandmother is wrong, then at least I will be hot by the Apocalypse.
Image from www.rainbowgryphon.com
Saturday, December 31, 2011
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”
The year 2011 did not start out looking particularly promising. Actually, the word "bleak" might be a better term. I had rapidly gained weight over the preceding several months and topped out on the scale at 298 pounds. My home loan was in default and I wasn't sure if I would be able to fix it. I had a large amount of credit card debt because of the cut in my work hours, with insufficient income to pay them. I wasn't exercising, primarily because my right knee was so painful that I could barely walk or get in and out of the shower. I had just completed my Bachelor's degree, a 17 year journey, but was left so broke in the process that I could not consider grad school. I hated my job and felt trapped, despite just completing a degree. In general, I felt trapped. I was so aimless, though, that being trapped was a blessing in some ways.
In all seriousness, I considered abandoning my house, giving away my possessions, and wandering the country. I didn't want anything to do with this life. What stopped me? My pets. I knew it was not fair to them to re-home them just because I couldn't get my act together. So I knew that I owed them a home and I had to fight for it. I also felt ashamed because my family had helped get me into this house, and I did not want to let them down. Abandonment was not an option. I had to find a way to turn my life around before I spiraled into a deeper mental health crisis.
Considering its beginnings, I would not have thought on January 1st, 2011, that I would be sitting here writing about one of the best years of my life. Of course, SparkPeople was the life-changing force behind turning this year around. I had been logging onto SparkPeople frequently and doing some of the activities, but I was not tracking consistently. Nonetheless, those small activities added up quickly. My main goals in the beginning were to track and increase the amount of sleep I was getting and to deal with my finances. I used the tools on SparkPeople to track sleep and then to create and follow a budget. I felt more in control with those actions. By February, I was doing pretty well tracking my food. SparkPeople provided building blocks from which I could slowly expand upon good habits. Then, in February, a fire lit inside of me. I wanted my life back. Actually, I wanted a better life. Yes, I wanted to lose weight, but I wanted something more profound than just seeing dwindling numbers on the scale. Those numbers on the scale would not reveal who I really am. I set out to not find myself again, but to find the person I could be.
The doors that have been opened in 2011 have taught me that I can do anything I set out to do. I walked up to some of them and I created some of them myself. Now, the doors may not have opened the way I thought they would, nor have they always panned out, but I had the nerve to walk through them. I walked up to the door with a plan in place and was willing to pave the path once I opened them. I don't get discouraged by things not going "according to plan" as often. If it didn't go "according to plan," then maybe it wasn't the best plan in the first place. I accept the learning process now and am willing to open new doors if needed.
Image from http://robotmafia.com/opening-door-by-arza
“A small key opens big doors.”
Writing has been a powerful force for me over the past year. I have always been a writer and this past year is not the first time that writing has saved me. Instead of writing imaginary stories, though, I have focused on blogging to help sort out my problems on paper (or on the screen). I will sit down to write about something in particular, and then I will get an idea and my fingers will start flying across the keyboard. Writing blogs has been a way to journal my thought processes, but has also created them. Writing has created many of the doors that I have opened this past year. It has also helped guide my way once the door has been opened. I have learned how all areas of my life are interconnected by writing down the details.
Of course, my beautiful SparkFriends have been my inspiration and rock throughout the year. I am so happy about the connections I have made. It has been amazing to watch people change, both physically and mentally. It seems that my SparkFriends always seem to have the right words, whether I need to light a fire under me or need words of comfort. Sometimes I am moved to tears. I am so grateful for the wonderful community here and the camaraderie amongst those of us who are sharing in this journey. My SparkFriends have ingrained in my head that change is possible as long as we are willing to open those new doors.
There was no aspect of my life that went untouched over this past year. Fixing my financial crisis was my first major accomplishment that taught me that hell-bent determination can truly solve problems. I was able to turn my finances around with careful budgeting and demanding that my work give the full-time hours I was supposed to be getting. I did not accept "no" for an answer. I haggled with the credit card companies and my home loan lender. By June, my home loan was out of default and I got rid of over $10,000 in credit card debt. Finances were still tight, but much more manageable. Actually, I had enough money to start pursuing some interests again.
I had been thinking about picking up my saxophone again after a 13 year hiatus. In July, I finally contacted the music shop where I had taken lessons as a kid to start lessons again. My old teacher no longer taught lessons, but there was another teacher with openings, a well-known local saxophonist. I was very nervous showing up to my first lesson with my teacher Jeff, heart pounding as I reached for the door, and feeling more at ease once I walked through it. Jeff has changed me with his creative power and uncanny way of tricking me into finding new ways to look at things and solve problems. Both intimidating and gentle in spirit, Jeff has helped me rediscover the power of music to help heal and teach. Fumbling through re-learning things and then being pushed by Jeff to challenge myself has provided a great creative outlet. Playing has spilled over into other areas and helped me learn that exercise, cooking, and other areas of healthy living can be creative, too. Finally, I have found someone to play duets with, and I look forward to expanding this creative outlet.
Besides reconnecting with my musical roots, my gym has been the other life-changing force this past year. My old gym served its purpose of getting me moving again and my knee was slowly getting better. However, I was very unhappy there. I walked out of the door of my other gym for the last time in September after several years of being treated with coldness and disrespect. I blogged about how I was nervous to start at a new gym and that I had allowed my fear of being treated badly stop me for long enough. I committed in writing to going to my new gym. I walked up to the glass door with the metal handle, swung it open, and marched in. I was prepared to defend myself, not physically, but mentally. I was prepared to be treated like a fat girl. Instead, I was welcomed and respected as an athlete.
I showed up to start doing Thai kickboxing (Muay Thai) again, and for a couple of months did Muay Thai and boxing. I watched the guys doing Jiu Jitsu before my Muay Thai class and became curious. I hesitated to try it, though. Would these guys be okay with a woman doing Jiu Jitsu? Would they be okay with having to touch a fat girl? Would I even be capable of doing it? I came up with every excuse not to try it.
The thing that probably caught me the most off-guard this year was my sudden undying urge to try Jiu Jitsu. I had a dream one night about Jiu Jitsu and woke up with an overwhelming urge to do it. I asked the Jiu Jitsu instructor Nate about attending Jiu Jitsu and he told to come on in and give it a try. I remember the first day I attended Jiu Jitsu class and being terrified watching them do forward and backward rolls. They look like somersaults. I couldn't even remember being willing to do somersaults as a kid. I asked my mother a few days ago if I had ever done them. She told me I had, but when I was 4 years old, I landed incorrectly on my neck and developed torticollis for almost a week. I couldn't move my neck. She told me I never tried them again. Yet here I am, at 33 years old and 250+ pounds, doing somersaults again. I have learned a lot about subtlety and patience by doing Jiu Jitsu. I have made new friends who have been very willing to take extra time to help me learn. I got my first submission yesterday and I was ecstatic. What a fitting end to a great year to have an athletic accomplishment. I never would have learned that I was capable of overpowering a guy who was bigger and stronger than me if I had not been willing to walk through that door for the first time a few months ago. I started the year 2011 unsure if I even wanted to live, yet ended it fighting for my life.
And finally, I have lost about 40 pounds total this year, a number I find very satisfying. Weight loss has not been my primary focus this past year (actually, I realized I had forgotten to mention it and came back to edit this blog). The weight has come off naturally, meaning I have not done anything drastic to lose it. It's pretty simple: when I track my food and eat within my calorie ranges, and when I don't, I don't lose. I also don't beat myself up for not tracking perfectly or eating perfectly. My relationship with food is the best it has ever been. Even when I am not tracking, I eat well most of the time. If I choose to have a treat, I enjoy it fully without any guilt. I have the healthiest relationship with food that I have ever had. Then again, my relationship with myself is healthier than it has ever been, so that makes sense.
The past year was about so much more than weight loss. It was my second chance at life, and for the first time, I am proving to myself what I can accomplish when I set my mind to it. I have proven to myself that I can get through adversity and come out the other side stronger than I was before. I walked up to doors having no idea what was behind them, opened them, and marched right in. Every door that I opened taught me that I am about so much more than my weight, and that this journey has so much to show me beyond the number on the scale. I no longer hesitate to open a new door, although I might be a little nervous at first. Despite being nervous, I still get the biggest grin as I reach for that door.
Image from http://yinvsyang.com/
"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us."
I wish you a joyful New Year's Eve, SparkFriends, and hope you are reveling in your successes! Peace and Love!
Friday, December 30, 2011
I woke up today in a bad mood. I had miscalculated my paycheck and also forgot that my house payment was over $100 more than usual this month. I would have been okay if it weren't for my impulsive spending (more on that later), but once again I put myself in a predicament. I woke up early this morning to go to the gym, but ended up spending over an hour on the phone with banks. It got to the point where I thought, "Screw it, I'm in a bad mood now, I'm crying, I'm not going to the gym." I decided to suck it up, put on my big girl panties, and go to the gym even though I was late for Jiu Jitsu.
I got there at the same time as one of my favorite training partners, and we went through the warm-up drills together. Then we started rolling (grappling) and I was in a better mood already (hmmm, funny how the combination of cool people and exercise has that effect). I felt strong during rolling. I had told my coach Nate that I was going to get my first submission this week. I just felt like I could do it; it was a matter of time.
I was rolling with one of the guys I've been training with from the start, and I know my technique has come a little further than his because I come more often. I figured I would be able to catch him off-guard with something. I have a strong side mount (side control) and thought I might be able to get him to tap out by doing something from that position. He left a little bit of space and I swung him around and got him into side mount. When he extended his arm to come around my head I caught it. From there, I swept one of my arms over his head and weaved my arms into position to do an Americana arm lock, which puts a lot of pressure on the shoulder. It's a great submission position. I was in a pretty good position and started to put pressure on his arm. I could see his hand raising and he was thinking about tapping out, and then he did.
Of course I did a celebratory dance; I couldn't help it, I was excited. I've been feeling a little discouraged over the past couple of weeks, so the confidence boost of my first submission was spot on.
Jiu Jitsu side control.
Here is the Americana arm lock (images are from this website):
Finishing the Americana arm lock.
Of course my coach Nate, who teases all the time, teased me about "humiliating" my partner by being excited about my first submission. So of course I started asking the other guys if I had done something wrong. They laughed and told me Nate was just giving me crap. And hey, if those guys can't handle losing to a woman, then they need to man up.
What a way to end 2011, with a major accomplishment in my new sport. I hope this is a sign of the awesomeness that 2012 beholds.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
I was always the quiet fat girl in my school. I was subject to bullying from about 2nd grade until I dropped out of traditional high school in 11th grade. I was bullied both about my weight as well as about being depressed and recovering from PTSD in grade school (making me "the weird kid"). Like most kids who are bullied, I quietly took the verbal abuse, internalizing the words, allowing them to whittle my self-confidence. I became suicidal in my teens due to the years of abuse. I gradually started to recover after being away from a traditional high school, for the first time not being subject to bullying. I still did not have any real self-confidence to speak of.
Part of the problem with being overweight is that a lot of us feel awkward with movement. I remember feeling out of place even walking around, let alone participating in gym class. I would try everything to hide my body (what CANNIE50 terms "fat girl camo"), which usually just draws more attention to the body. Movement was often uncomfortable and it often felt like I drew snickers no matter how I moved. I had an interest in martial arts from a very young age (that's right, I grew up watching "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"), but never seriously asked my parents about doing it. This was primarily because the thought of having to move in specific ways terrified me. I imagined on one hand being very fit and strong, and on the other, the snickers, glares, and giggles from other kids doing martial arts. I now know that type of behavior would probably never be tolerated in the context of a martial arts class (at least not a reputable one), but I guess we live and learn. I finally bit the bullet when I was 25 and registered for a Tae Kwon Do class at my college. The first time I threw a kick, something woke up inside of me. There was another person fighting to come out, to be heard, and to be seen. I learned that my body, even with being overweight, was capable of a lot. I was finally learning how to move. There were no snickers or giggles, just support and camaraderie. I enjoyed the class, but when it was over, I did not continue. It was about a year later that I accidentally showed up to a Muay Thai class, thinking it was a Tae Kwon Do class. Then began my journey with my life-changing teacher, Mike X. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was myself and was able to work towards becoming the person I could be.
There is nothing in my life that has changed me the way martial arts has. What I appreciate about learning martial arts is not so much that I can defend myself, but rather that I am willing to stand up for myself now. Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu have provided an outlet for frustration, a way to learn patience, have given me self-confidence, and yes, a way to defend myself if it were ever necessary. The typical reaction from people when they find out that I do martial arts is, "Wow, you don't take any sh!t from anyone, do you!" (what a guy at the gas station actually said to me last week). The truth is, I am still a kitten-loving, gardening, pacifist hippy. I have never had an inclination to harm or fight anyone, and even if I had to defend myself, I would rather not have to cause any major damage.What I have appreciated about learning Jiu Jitsu (in which I have a long way to go before I am proficient in any way) is that it is a way to stop an opponent in a way that is unlikely to cause major damage. One of my co-workers asked me the other day, "So if someone messed with you, you would just beat the crap out of them, huh?" I explained that if I ever had to defend myself, my goal would be to simply stop them from what they were doing. I would never try to harm anyone for simply "messing with me." I diffuse those people by ignoring them.
I wish I could have learned these lessons at a younger age and perhaps put a stop to the bullying. When I was a kid, martial arts weren't as widespread as they are now. Bullying has also become a major focus in recent years. I came across an article about a program started by the Gracie family (the inventors of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) that is specifically targeted to help diffuse bullies. They advocate first trying to talk to the bully and to communicate with parents and teachers, but to fight back if the bully became physical. I think programs like this one will help children immensely, not because they learn to become fighters, but because the act of martial arts builds self-confidence in and of itself. I have actually been thinking about ways that I could become involved in anti-bullying programs, and I guess the answer is obvious. I should start one myself. Between my background in psychology, child psychology, and exercise science, running a program for kids would be rewarding. I am going to look into starting a free program run by volunteers; I am sure a lot of the guys at my gym would be game. Even if parents were aware of the benefits of martial arts, cost often becomes an issue. I also know a few school teachers, so they could help advocate and organize the program. I am going to brainstorm about this and start talking to people about it--hopefully it will go somewhere. Every kid deserves to have their childhood, and bullies often take a lot of it away. Martial arts could help turn it around.
Rener Gracie with students.
As for me nowadays, people can stare all they want. I walk with confidence now, knowing that I am in control. It isn't a matter of knowing that I have learned how to defend my body, but that I have built my mind. I hope I can help others learn these principles, too.
Here is the article:
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