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From Bleak to Chic: Official 2012 Plan

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.

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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GIANTPANDA 1/13/2012 10:40AM

    I love my kickboxing classes, gloves and all, but you definitely take it to a whole new level! Most of the people I work out with are new. I'm hoping that will change one day soon. Of course, I'm only about 10 lessons in, but I love it. I also have found that kickboxing is much easier on me than running at this time. Great blog! You definitely can reach those goals! emoticon emoticon

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CANNIE50 1/6/2012 9:15PM

    Erin, you have done it again. I so enjoyed this blog. I am with you in separating exercise from weight loss - I exercise for strength, eat better for weight loss. "more things right, rather than everything right" - amen to that. Great goal outfit, totally suited to you, your goals, your lifestyle.

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    Loved the blog and the pictures! I hope you have a great year!

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DDOORN 1/5/2012 11:02AM

    Sounds like you're off to the start of another AWESOME year!

Check out my latest blog to links which indicate some degree of compulsiveness seems to be a necessary ingredient to weight loss and maintaining that loss. Although this info could be taken in a dispiriting manner, I found it to be helpful.


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    Erin, you are going to look so hot in that gear! I have no doubt at all that you will be posting a pic of you wearing them and taking down some muscle bound dude .
Can you teach me some of those choke holds to use on my cravings? emoticon

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GEMINIAN1 1/3/2012 12:05PM

for the shout-out.
That is really awesome of you my friend.
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I never set a goal of x pounds by x day either.
However, different goals work for different people and I know you can do it.
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I've never been good at impulsive behaviors.
-Except- for when it comes to my mouth.
I don't have a real good "filter".
Great cravings analogy!
I eat 80%+ 100% USDA Certified Organic Dark Chocolate.
(I make sure it's -not- slave chocolate too.)
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I'm glad to hear that you no longer do exercises that aggravate your arthritis.
Sooo sorry that you're dealing with that.
I really liked the ending paragraphs: patience; dropped black and white; forgiveness; the gym (kick ass environment BTW); support; etc.
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EMRANA 1/3/2012 10:47AM

  You go, Erin!! WOOOOT!

You are my hero ~ arthritis in the spine and still doing all that martial arts work! Granted, I'm missing a disc, but I have arthritis in mine too, and I could never keep up with your workouts! You're amazing!

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JESSICA2140 1/3/2012 10:14AM

    I love how realistic you are about your goals!! Good, solid goals to set for yourself...nothing but success in your future!!

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JSALERNO 1/3/2012 5:29AM


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BITTERSWEET100 1/3/2012 12:28AM

    Martial Arts is such a wonderful sport no matter what form it takes. It is a partner and solo sport all rolled into one and you have so much fun you don't even realize you are working out! It sounds like your group is very supportive.

Congrats on finding you passion and all you hard prep work, you may never see your weight goal since you will be so ripped! but I bet you will be in that outfit.

Good Luck!

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APIRLRAIN888 1/3/2012 12:20AM

    Very proud of u and wow on the pics
I need my personal space hahaha

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MEWHENRYSMAMA 1/2/2012 11:50PM


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SMILINGTREE 1/2/2012 11:44PM

    The thing you said about the mistakes not being made reminded me of a productivity thing I've been experiementing with - instead of making a list of things to do, it is helpful to make a list of things as you do them. Then, at the end of the day you don't feel bad for how much you didn't do, you are amazed by how much you got done. MUSICALLYMINDED's healthy-choice lists are like that, too.

I love following your progress because you are positive, and also honest about the struggles. Through all of it, you carry on and that is inspiring. You are off to a fabulous start (three cheers for working from home and pinning opponents!) and I look forward to "watching" you shrink.

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    I hope to see you at the end of the year in that workout gear! I'd love to see your end-of-year blog with you, looking ripped and lean and awesome in those workout clothes. My blog will have me in my skinny jeans with my hot knee high boots...I can't wear those because my calves are still to big! Man. Ooh and I'd also like one of those 5K blogs for myself with arms raised in victory crossing a finish line. That'd be great too!

I'm daydreaming again! I can't wait to see what we do in 2012! I'm really excited.

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2012 Goal: Hot by the Apocalypse

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Images from

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.
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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:

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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.

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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DOODIE59 1/7/2012 9:27AM

    Just HAD to read a blog with a heading like THAT:)
Your grandma's right -- but a goal's a goal, right? No time like the present to turn yourself into A.P. (Apocalypse Hottie).
You go, girl --

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CANNIE50 1/6/2012 9:25PM

    I am not an authority on the apocalypse or Mayas, but I do know something about grandmothers (and actually, I am an expert on one Maya, my granddaughter), so let me assure you of this: Grandmothers are nearly always right. I vote with your grandmother on this one. PS At least your apocalyptic outfit will be practical and comfortable, all the better to run from whatever...(or in your case, to kick it into submission - I know you aren't running much these days).

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    I personally want to get fit in time for the Zombie apocalypse because if it happened now I would be in a lot of trouble! emoticon
Thanks for the laugh Erin, and I hope your Grandma is right!

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SPOONGIRLDEB 1/3/2012 7:10PM

    Great post! Had me laughing out loud. Going to have to make myself a new "resolution" - "hot by the apocalypse" ;-).

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GEMINIAN1 1/2/2012 12:11PM

    Goals rock!
Love it.
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EMRANA 1/1/2012 8:56PM

  You're such a lot of fun, you know that?

Those are some totally fun goals you have there ~ very cool approach to it all!


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    I mis-read "Portion-control" as "poison-control" heh..

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HIKINGSD 1/1/2012 3:19PM

    Here's to looking AND feeling HOT! emoticon

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    LOL! Love it. Although the thought of the end of the world freaks me out! I can see you really think it's a lot of hooey.

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BECKYSRN 1/1/2012 12:37PM

    Personally, I think your grandma has more on the ball with the Mayans then some random guy off the internet, but they're the ones that sell stuff! Good luck on your quest.

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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO 1/1/2012 12:33PM

    Thank you! Your blog is always a great treat!

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CHAITEAKITTY40 1/1/2012 12:20PM

    Made me smile today! Good Luck this year! I know you will do well!

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EMFRAPPIER 1/1/2012 10:06AM

    I love this post! emoticon

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LINDAJ0621 1/1/2012 8:36AM

    "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. "...I love this!!! Puts those assisted pull-ups I have been doing into perspective. One of my goals is to be able to do them without assistance. The image of molten lava running beneath my feet should help...

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MONPETITCHOU 1/1/2012 4:25AM

    LOL love this! Thanks for the smiles :)

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ASHERAH123 1/1/2012 3:21AM

    This post made me giggle. Or it may have been the champagne. I wish you the best for the new year (or at least the next 354 days depending).

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The Year of Open Doors: 2011 in Review

Saturday, December 31, 2011

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”
-Joseph Campbell

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.

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“A small key opens big doors.”
-Turkish Proverb

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.

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"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us."
-Hal Borland

I wish you a joyful New Year's Eve, SparkFriends, and hope you are reveling in your successes! Peace and Love!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ADAGIO_CON_BRIO 1/1/2012 12:36PM

    What a year for you! I am really impressed and in nothing but stark and splendid admiration for all that you have accomplished financially in a back-breaking time. Your music, your writing, your animals, your gym--you've done so many wonderful things this year. It's a real pleasure to read your writing--always. You are very talented in so many ways.

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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO 1/1/2012 12:36PM

    What a year for you! I am really impressed and in nothing but stark and splendid admiration for all that you have accomplished financially in a back-breaking time. Your music, your writing, your animals, your gym--you've done so many wonderful things this year. It's a real pleasure to read your writing--always. You are very talented in so many ways.

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SPOONGIRLDEB 1/1/2012 8:46AM

    I loved your blog. The idea of not just opening doors but creating them is a fantastic one. I'm going to use you as inspiration to not only make but open some of those doors that I've been afraid of. Happy New Year!

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HIKINGSD 12/31/2011 11:34PM

    You have turned 2011 into your year to succeed!

Please give your pets a huge hug for me. Without them we may have missed out on your greatness.

You are an inspiration and I am so proud of you.


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APED7969 12/31/2011 7:58PM

    So happy to see what a great year you've had. I appreciate your advice, veterinary understanding, inspiring blogs, and your honesty. I'm so happy to see your athletic success and also your financial chanages for the better. Money and fitness were my two biggest challenges at the start of 2011 as well and I am inspired seeing someone else succeed :-)

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JITZUROE 12/31/2011 7:38PM

    What an inspirational piece. This is just bursting with so much beauty; and a consistent thread of perseverance woven within -and how it has paid off for you - and continues to do so. SOOOOOOOO AMAZING.
You are such a talented writer! It is truly awesome how you not only refused to let the walls fall in on you, but you built new bridges, to new adventures (somersaults!) and finding passion in an old love (MUSIC!). And the lbs seem to be taking care of themselves, am I right? That's just icing on the cake (the sugar free, fat free kind of course).

Next year will be even better.....jut you watch.

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    You put things into words so well. I wish I had your flair for writing. Beautiful blog. I think many of us have gone through changes this year, overcoming so many fears. I know I have! I think I have you to thank for some of that. You have inspired me to think like an athlete over the past few months. Yes, we may be over 200 pounds but we can do things other thin people don't even attempt! Especially you with all of your martial arts training. What a great year. I'm so happy that life is finally going your way, with fitness, eating and your budget. You deserve it!

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CANNIE50 12/31/2011 4:48PM

    Another beautiful blog. Your writing is such a gift and I am grateful you share it with us. I hope lots of people read this blog, it is very powerful, as are you. You have worked so hard for so long and I am glad you are reaping tangible rewards. I am truly happy for you.

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HIPPICHICK1 12/31/2011 2:24PM

    I've thoroughly enjoyed walking through the year with you on your personal journey. All the very best in 2012, my friend!!
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ANGELWENDYMAMA 12/31/2011 1:18PM

    Wow, very very inspiring! Go you!!!!!

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JSALERNO 12/31/2011 12:54PM


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GEMINIAN1 12/31/2011 12:44PM

    From 'Bleak' to Chic
I love it Erin.
... "There was no aspect of my life that went untouched over this past year."
I am sooooo proud of you.
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MEWHENRYSMAMA 12/31/2011 12:39PM


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NORAB52GOOD 12/31/2011 12:00PM


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ALISHAB3 12/31/2011 11:58AM

    What an inspiration you are!!!! I have greatly enjoyed reading your blogs, keep up the good work. emoticon

Interesting side note: Learning to somersault as a child saved my life once upon time. I was working on a film in Los Angeles forest (not much of a forest, more like a desert with a few trees.) I was sitting on a chair at the top of a little ravine. Then the ground shook, flung me up in the air (8 ft. or so.) and because I had been taught to somersault, I tucked and rolled, instinctively, I flipped in the air (I know, it sounds like a movie, but it wasn't in that script.) and landed in the ravine on a culvert, on my feet. I didn't even skin my hands. Its funny what things we learned as children come back to save our lives later. If I hadn't had a whole crew of witnesses, I wouldn't have believed it myself.

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MORTICIAADDAMS 12/31/2011 11:40AM

    great blog! You've had a fantastic year. And you know who the biggest winners are in this? Your pets. They still have you but now they have a new an improved you. They told me to thank you for getting it together and saving their home and way of life. emoticon

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SAVANNAHZMOMMA1 12/31/2011 11:05AM

    Wow... What a year! What a wonderful year! You make me want to go and have this kind of year.

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My first submission in Jiu Jitsu!

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.

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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GEMINIAN1 12/31/2011 12:24PM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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ALISHAB3 12/31/2011 11:43AM

    What an amazing accomplishment!!! Way to go!!!!!

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CHAOSTHEORY635 12/31/2011 3:41AM

    Congrats! Way to kick ass, girl!

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MEWHENRYSMAMA 12/31/2011 12:17AM

MARY emoticon

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SUNFLOWERSAVAGE 12/30/2011 10:04PM

    That's the way to do it Mistress Erin, whip those boys into shape! ooops, wrong sport emoticon

Seriously though, you are my super hero!

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EMRANA 12/30/2011 7:52PM


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MUGGLE_MOM 12/30/2011 6:40PM

    Whoooo Hoooooo!

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JSALERNO 12/30/2011 6:02PM


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BITTERSWEET100 12/30/2011 5:15PM

    Congrats. It is awesome when you work so hard and things pay off.

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EMFRAPPIER 12/30/2011 4:39PM


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FREESIA15 12/30/2011 3:00PM

    Woo hoo!! emoticon

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KITTYKATGIRL7 12/30/2011 2:51PM

    You're going into the new year with that under your belt, and now you KNOW that you can do it. Perfect way to end one year and begin the new one... emoticon

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KKINNEA 12/30/2011 2:31PM


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    How exciting! I am so happy for you. There's nothing like a big accomplishment to get you psyched up for 2012.

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Martial Arts, Bullying, and Self-Confidence

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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DEC2DEC 12/28/2011 12:08PM

    That's a great idea!

I love martial arts too, but I haven't taken the step to get started. That's one of those things I'm planning to do as a reward when I get rid of a chunk of this weight.

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EMFRAPPIER 12/28/2011 9:24AM

    This is such a wonderful blog. I can totally relate to the early years and the bullying. I've always been interested in martial arts but too nervous to try. My daughter has recently started doing tae kwon do, and my interest is piqued again. I may have to find an adult class! I'm so glad my daughter enjoys it. I want her to keep her happy, confident personality.

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BAZOOKABOBCAT 12/28/2011 8:58AM

    This blog is so beautiful and amazing. It is incredible what martial arts has done for you and so inspiring.

Keep going strong, mama. You are an inspiration.

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SAVANNAHZMOMMA1 12/27/2011 9:28PM

    I believe that this is an incredibly important blog. I've been looking into Martial Arts for my daughter (and maybe me). I was bullied, too, and suffered greatly. I'm sure that I've accepted less in my grown-up life because of the rough start. I loved your statement about being willing to stick up for yourself, and the philosophy behind your practice.

Thank you for posting a blog generously meant to direct others to this potentially self-saving path.

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EMRANA 12/27/2011 4:54PM

  Awesome! I'm a kitten loving, vegan, pacifist hippie ~ no wonder I like you so much! emoticon

You're very right about the martial arts with kids. Same would go for things like yoga and tai chi. I very much relate to your story, except I always wanted to do gymnastics, not martial arts. I'm sorry you went through it too.


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JSALERNO 12/27/2011 4:11PM

    Great idea! I was picked on as a kid but never bullied. I did get in trouble for sticking up for myself alot.

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    Very cool idea. It's sad that you had to endure bullying for so long. Me, I did get bullied, but I ended up being the "mean girl" who developed this way of making fun of others before they made fun of me. It got me through. It was rough, though...I was overweight and very poor so I also got made fun of for wearing the wrong clothes and sneakers, too. School is hard! I'm not one of those people who thinks that high school was the best time of my life. It definitely was NOT. I feel like right now is the happiest time of my life. Finally I can wear what I want, look how I want, and not worry about keeping under the bully radar.

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