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The Week (and Month) in Review: Tournament Time! (with pics)

Monday, July 02, 2012

"There is no losing in Jiu-Jitsu. You either win or you learn."
-Carlos Gracie Jr.

Me vs. "Smashlee" in the Advanced Women's division.

The above quote by Carlos Gracie Jr. hit home with me because it actually sums up a lot of this journey for me. I stopped viewing myself as a failure, and began seeing learning opportunities in mistakes that have been made. Choosing to learn instead of seeing a setback at every corner has been the key to changing my life--the way I eat, the way I move, the people I choose to have in my life--everything. Choosing to learn has made me see that my weight is truly just a number and that I need not let my life pass me by as I wait to get to my "goal."

I was going to wait until I was closer to my goal weight to compete in martial arts, but decided to go for it now. My goal was to not have any expectations, just to train hard and get to the competition and have fun, and if I did well, it would just be a bonus. The feeling I got before doing the tournament was very different from when I had done triathlons and running races. There was no hiding in the crowd. This time, I needed the confidence to focus while a roomful of people stared at me while wearing tight-fitting clothes.

For this tournament, we had a 10 minute time limit, and it was "submission only." We just had to get the other person to tap out, instead of worrying about racking up points. I earned 2 medals (2nd place); the 1st place winner was a woman who was a blue belt with 2 years of experience and who has won several tournaments, so needless to say, she deserved to win. I really believe there is no shame in losing to someone who is significantly better.

Needless to say, I had a great experience with my first Jiu Jitsu tournament. It was one of the best days I've ever had, just taking into consideration everything that lead up to it. It took getting over body image problems, developing self-esteem, and taking control of my life. I was surprised that I never got particularly nervous in the days leading up to the tournament, or even on the day of when I got there.

I admit, I was not looking forward to weighing in at the event, but it was not like the old days in gym class where my weight was shouted out, followed by snickers. They just weighed me and wrote it down. Once all of the women got there, they realized that all of the women had less than a year of experience, except for one of them. I had heard about Smashlee (her name is actually Ashlee, but she is called Smashlee for a reason), who has dominated several tournaments and has a reputation in the region for being one of the best female martial artists. She did not have an opponent to compete in the Women's Advanced division, because she was the only advanced woman. I was asked if I would be willing to go against her. So, nothing like trial by fire--I agreed to do the Women's Advanced division against Smashlee.

I did not know what to expect since I had never met Smashlee. We had our first match almost right away, since the advanced people got to go first. Well--yeah, she was really good. All I could do was try to defend against what she was doing, and every time I tried to get to an offensive position, I made it worse for myself. This is usually how it goes when I roll (spar) with blue belts. They have earned a blue belt for a reason. She got me to tap by getting me with an arm bar. We hugged afterwards and I congratulated her. Now she has another first place medal for an advanced division, which is good for her future as a mixed martial artist, so I am happy for her.

The second division I did was the Women's Absolute, in which all of the women competed. I was told I would go against someone other than Smashlee for as long as possible. The first woman I went against tried everything she could to get into an offensive position, but I was making her play my game. When I got around to side mount (controlling from the side), I heard the whole room go "Ooooh!" I knew she could not win. I got her with a submission called Americana, which is a crank on the shoulder. I was ecstatic to win.

My next match was, unfortunately, against my own teammate. I won by getting a submission called Kimura (another type of crank on the shoulder), but was not thrilled about beating her.

Then, after all of the women competed, it came back down to me and Smashlee for first place. I felt a lot more warmed up at this time and was hopeful to do a bit better. The match started and it took her much longer to get into a really good position. We battled it out for quite a while, but I could not get her off of me. She finally got me with another arm bar. She said I did not make it easy for her at all, so that in itself is a little bit of a win. Smashlee was very gracious and actually gave me the rash guard that she had won, which was very sweet (she also won a raffle, so I thought it was very nice of her to share the wealth).

Smashlee got first place, and I was second. Considering she was the only blue belt woman there, I felt good that I had beat out the other women (although I really wanted my teammate to do well; she did not earn any medals). I consider earning 2 medals to be a very successful first tournament. My coaches were proud of me. My parents and brother were there, and I was happy I could share the moment with them.

Me being asked if I would go against Smashlee in the Advanced Women's division so she could have an opponent. Oh sure, why not, I make a good punching bag.

Getting smashed by Smashlee.

My second match, which I won.

After my first win.

Getting a hug from Dad after my first win.

My third match, the second match that I won. I felt a little bad because she is my teammate.

Smashlee winning by arm bar for first place.

Getting my 2nd place medal for the Women's Absolute division.

When I saw the picture of me hugging my dad, tears welled up in my eyes. I don't know that I have ever seen myself look that happy. It was way beyond winning that made me that happy; it was that I had the nerve to show up and find out what I'm made of. I have really nailed in that my weight does not determine how I live my life nor how I feel about myself. I was going to wait until I was closer to my goal weight to buy a tight-fitting rash guard. I bought one a few weeks ago. I was going to wait until I was closer to goal to buy Gi pants (traditional martial arts pants). I bought some over the weekend. I was going to wait to compete. I am glad I didn't because I discovered that not only can I show up and do it, I can do well. I kept thinking of all of the things I would do when I reached my "goal"...and then I realized I am already living it. If you think, train, and act like an athlete, then you are a real athlete.

"You miss 100% of the shots you never take."
-Wayne Gretzky

I have been doing Jiu Jitsu for about 7 months now, and the moves are finally starting to come together. My teammates have been an invaluable source of support. I never would have competed if they hadn't encouraged me and told me I had talent. I guess I had to hold a medal in my hand to learn that I am actually good, not just some chick who is showing up and being humored. Now I want to up my game a bit. Smashlee was very nice, but next time, it is on.

June was a pretty good month. I was pretty focused on getting ready for this tournament, so I did well with eating for the most part, and trained hard. I lost 7 pounds in June, one of the bigger weight loss months I have had in a while. The weight loss was pretty painless--okay, Jiu Jitsu is not painless...but you know what I mean emoticon--because I just aimed to eat reasonably and work out a lot. I finally feel settled into my "new" way of eating and have adjusted to my new appetite (that is, a self-regulated appetite).

I have also adjusted my workout regime. I truly love exercise, but there are just not enough hours in the week to get in everything I want to do. I decided to pick one thing--Jiu Jitsu--and focus on it. Fortunately, Jiu Jitsu hits everything--strength, power, cardio, and flexibility. I try to squeeze in a couple of strength training and/or kettlebell sessions and get in some other cross-training, like running, Muay Thai, or other cardio a few times a week. If I skip a run to walk and have lunch with a friend, then so be it--exercise is supposed to be fun, not overtake my life. Following this schedule has been great this month because I didn't overdo the exercise and it felt much more laid back despite the intense training for competition.

The other news is that it is over between my boyfriend and me. I had been thinking about breaking up with him because I felt like there were some lying and manipulation issues, and something was just really "off" about the guy. Family and some friends kept saying I wasn't giving him a fair chance, and of course in retrospect I should have trusted my gut, ignored the people telling me I was expecting too much, and broken up with him. It really sank in how much he was playing my emotions and how I have been duped for the past 6 months. He was just using me to get through his divorce (and of course, I should have dumped him the moment that I realized he had lied about being divorced, but he had turned it around to make it seem like I had misunderstood him in the first place. Ugh--manipulation). He knew just what to say when I brought up issues to keep stringing me along. Well, I finally decided I was going to break up with him a little over a week ago; I had not said anything to him about it. I guess he did the work for me because I have not heard from him at all in over a week. Although he seemed to come across as withdrawn or depressed, I believe he knew exactly what he was doing. Everything he did was calculated and he molded a "relationship" to suit his needs. I believe he moved on when he realized he couldn't get his hooks into me. There are no condolences needed, I knew he was a jerk and kept him at bay, so I did not have any feelings for him. While I should have trusted my gut, I am not hurt from not hearing from him. I just hope he stays away. So, even smart tough chicks get duped sometimes. I got duped, but at least I was not blinded. Fortunately I stayed level-headed enough to know something wasn't right and while I gave him beyond a fair chance, I had the self-respect necessary to dump the loser.

So I did not mean to end this blog on a bad note. I am not upset over breaking up with him, so no worries. I am very satisfied with how things are going in my life. I know myself well enough now to know what I am capable of and to know how I deserve to be treated. I am going to keep training hard, eating well, and surrounding myself with awesome people. July had better be ready.

Because it's hard to have a bad day when you have a handful of kittens...

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

IMSOOZEEQ 8/22/2012 2:23AM

    I am completely speechless! This blog was emoticon and I am glad that my mom sent me the link to it! You have really inspired me! Okay, so I ...I am crying to much now to even type so I am going to leave it at that.

You ROCK!!! I salute you! Congrats on your first competition!

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EATVEGAN 8/22/2012 12:04AM

    I am so happy for you. That at such a young age you have so much wisdom boggles my mind. As one who has been fooled into the "when I lose wt." thing for way too long, I salute you. I want to be an athlete, even though I've waited a long time, but I am listening to the advice in your blog. Thanks! And congratulations on being true to yourself about the ex-boyfriend. emoticon

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    "If you think, train, and act like an athlete, then you are a real athlete. "

That is going on my page, because I freakin' love it.

I loved the photo of you and your dad. That's why we DO this! That photo is full of pure joy, the kind that comes at the end of REALLY HARD WORK! We have to go through hard times to get to that. It's hard to remember that sometimes. I think a lot of people think happiness is a state of mind. I think it's the trophy we get if we work our a$$es off and push through all the hard sh!t.

Comment edited on: 7/5/2012 1:38:51 AM

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ALISHAB3 7/4/2012 8:34PM

    You are such an inspiration!!!!! emoticon emoticon

I love kittenss!!! emoticon emoticon

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    emoticon Congratulations on your wins! And even on Smashlee's wins because you learned from your bouts with her. I'm sure the next time she won't have it quite so easy.

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    You did awesome!! Your team mates are right. You are talented.

It sounds like you are moving on to better things.

Love the photos!!

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    So many good points in this blog. Thanks so much for sharing.
I got to admit that I had tears in my eyes, even before the part of the blog where you said that you had tears in yours. I am so happy for you.

Please keep us posted on all your victories............there were so many listed in this blog. I include the second place. Yes, it is a victory to do well against Smashlee.

To me, you have mentally processed all the recent events, including your break-up, with so much wisdom and insight. Good riddance to bad rubbish on that one.

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    Great job on your first tournament! Two medals, WOW! You did awesome!!
And congrats on getting out of a bad relationship. That takes courage.
Yay kittens!

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APED7969 7/2/2012 5:09PM

    Awesome job in your tournament! That is really exciting to come in 2nd place in your first one. Sounds like Smashlee with definitely have some competition next time! And you're right, hard to have a bad day when you have a handful of kittens. A puppy vx appointment will often almost fix a bad day for me :-)

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PAMELA6289 7/2/2012 5:09PM

  Congrats, sweetie! You are an inspiration! You have come so far and I am so very proud of you! I love your healthy approach to eating and exercise, I hope that someday it'll be as automatic for me as it seems to be for you these days!

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JENNIFERH625 7/2/2012 4:52PM

    Congratulations on your amazing accomplishment! Keep up the great work!

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KKINNEA 7/2/2012 3:23PM

    Your confidence is just the best - love it!! Also, jealous of your handful of kittens.

Congrats on your great competition performance!

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JILLYBEAN25 7/2/2012 2:26PM

    KITTENS!!!!!!!! Also, way to go on the tourney! WOO! You'll have to come up with an awesome nickname to call yourself on the tournament circuit, too.

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KTISFOCUSED 7/2/2012 2:20PM

    What an awesome blog and an awesome accomplishment. You have definitely found your passion and for that I am so happy for you. And as for the handful of kittens, yep that would make me happy too. You go, girl!!!! The sky is the limit!

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JSALERNO 7/2/2012 2:14PM


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SPOONGIRLDEB 7/2/2012 11:40AM

    Great blog and AWESOME job on the tournament!!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

And I totally know what you mean about kittens...LOL.

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ROJAKHAN 7/2/2012 11:09AM


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ARCHIMEDESII 7/2/2012 11:06AM

    Fantastic ! I miss going to tournaments. Those were always so much fun. Congratulations on your first win and your second place medal. Sorry to hear about your break up, you do what's best for you.

A snuggle with a couple of cute kittens fixes most unpleasant situations.

emoticon emoticon


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SMILINGTREE 7/2/2012 10:52AM

    Congratulations on your win. It does not surprise me that the only woman in the tournament who could beat you had much more experience. One day - soon! - you will smash Smashlee and it will feel amazing.

It's not a bad note to end by saying a not-good-for-Erin relationship is over. I rather think that is a positive note :)

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GREENTRAILS 7/2/2012 10:41AM

    Thank you for sharing your life and thoughts! Do you know what an amazing gift it is to be able to read others' stories? How straight forward it seems to figure out other peoples' lives when they lay it out for you! How difficult it is to see my own! But seeing your path helps me to revisit my choices with clearer insight.

How about a new name for you? Cats Pow!?!


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VALERIEMAHA 7/2/2012 10:23AM

    You are really amazing.

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EMFRAPPIER 7/2/2012 10:17AM

    You totally rock!!! Congrats on the tournament! It's so great that you didn't wait to compete. I felt the same way running a marathon - I was definitely one of the only "obese" runners, but why wait until things are perfect? Congrats on getting rid of the boyfriend, too. No point in keeping negative relationships around. Way to kick a** emoticon

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The Week in Review: Competition Countdown

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Picture of some of the Jiu Jitsu guys after class last week. I'm behind the guy in the "Aloha" shirt.

I am participating in my first Jiu Jitsu competition next Saturday. I have never actually competed in a sport before. I have done numerous triathlons, duathlons, and running events, but it is fair to say I wasn't competing against anyone except for myself. This time, it will be just another person and me on the mat. One will win and one will lose. I hope to have fair competition, that is, not to be against someone who is significantly worse or better than me. It is likely that all of the women will just be lumped together regardless of weight or skill level. At least my weight serves as an advantage in this case. I have been working hard, the guys have been doing extra training with me, and I feel as ready as possible.

I have decided I am going to stay at my current gym. I have a lot of friendships there and we are a team. After talking to some of the guys, if I feel like someone is being unnecessarily rough and is going to cause an injury, then I will get up and walk away. One of my instructors felt bad that I have ever felt unsafe. Until I can really stick it to them on the mats, I guess I will have to open my mouth more.

I had a good training week. I did Jiu Jitsu 5 times for 90-120 minutes each session. For the first time, I handled that level of training without feeling really sore. However, I have also been avoiding overdoing exercise otherwise. I did Muay Thai class on Tuesday, have done some walking, and did a power lifting session.

In Jiu Jitsu, I was also happy because I got a submission on a guy who is a blue belt (in other words, way better than me) and on another guy who is significantly more experienced than me. I was especially happy to get a submission by Rear Naked Choke, because it can be difficult to get, and I got it on someone who is really good. I don't do Jiu Jitsu just to get people to tap out, and I don't feel all that great about getting submissions on people who are newer than me. However, if I get a submission on someone a lot better than me, then it means that my skills are really improving.

Rear Naked Choke. Image from

This week was pretty good eating wise. I didn't go overboard on any days and tracked every day. I have made more of an effort to avoid wheat and dairy--I kind of got off track with that for a few weeks--and I definitely feel less bloated again. I haven't lost anything in a couple of weeks, but my body feels the strongest it has in a while (if not ever). I'll just keep on keepin' on.

I am not feeling nervous about the competition, at least not yet. It is what it is and it will be a learning experience. I am looking forward to bonding with the Jiu Jitsu guys more outside of class, too. In any case, this week I will be training hard and eating clean! Now if I could just get some of this fat to tap out...

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DARKTHOR 6/30/2012 10:35AM

    I hope your match goes great today!

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SMILINGTREE 6/26/2012 1:47PM

    "Strongest it has been" must be a really nice phrase to use in describing one's body. Good luck in your competition - but I don't think you need it :)

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DDOORN 6/25/2012 11:53AM

    I just KNOW you are going to be SO pleased with the results of your competition!

Looking forward to hearing all about it!


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ALISHAB3 6/25/2012 10:13AM

    I love that idea: 'get that fat to tap out' emoticon

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HIKINGSD 6/25/2012 5:09AM


For me, eliminating dairy has been wonderful!

I am going to try a week experiment with wheat in the near future to see if that improves the aches and pains I have been having lately.

Keep on doing the fabulous work you have been doing!

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CHAOSTHEORY635 6/24/2012 9:44PM

    Glad the JJ is still going well. IME, life without wheat is much better...

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    Good luck in the competition. I hope you are successful.

I need to watch the wheat and dairy too.

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NSTARSMITH 6/24/2012 8:43PM

    What an excellent discipline you have found! I like your attitude - it is what it is - and I am sure you will lose the fat as you keep on Sparking!

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VALERIEMAHA 6/24/2012 7:18PM

    Submission by Rear Naked Choke....

I'm more and more convinced that I'm from Neptune, and was somehow dropped here by mistake.

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JENNIFERH625 6/24/2012 6:51PM

    It sounds like this has been a really rewarding activity and experience for you. Keep up the awesome work!

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The Week in Review: Jeff

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"When he worked, he really worked. But when he played, he really PLAYED."
-Dr. Seuss

Jeff. As my boyfriend said when he posted this, "I wish you could hear this picture."

I had been thinking about quitting my sax lessons. I hadn't been putting in the practice time, yet have been getting frustrated that I am not improving a lot. I convinced myself that I didn't like my teacher Jeff all that much, but oddly enough, that feeling only came when I wasn't putting in the work and he had the audacity to point it out. While Jeff can seem like a bit of a hard-ass, I realize I have blown off every compliment he has ever given me. Jeff is not a guy who gives compliments without merit, but he does praise a lot of my playing. I have been so down on myself about my sax playing that all I have heard are the critiques. I concentrate so hard on every mistake I make while playing that I hardly hear any semblance of a song.

Last Sunday, my boyfriend and I went to see my teacher Jeff's blues/rock band (Kurt Jorgensen Band) play. I had never seen Jeff perform before. It was great show. When Jeff started his part in the song, all eyes turned to him. When he played his solos, the crowd roared, hooted, and hollered. One might look at Jeff and think, "Wow, what a naturally-talented guy!" He makes it look so easy. The truth is, Jeff was not naturally talented. Jeff started playing in his teens, and he was told that he stunk. He drove his teachers nuts. He was not someone who picked up a sax and heard, "Wow, you should pursue this!" What one hears in listening to Jeff play is the result of someone who outright refused to give up. He was going to be a professional saxophonist, and that was that. It didn't matter how treacherous the journey, come hell or high water, he was going to be good.

I knew bits of Jeff's story, but I never really appreciated what his story meant until I really saw Jeff play. Seeing and hearing the passion in his playing was intense. It was like listening to his soul. Seeing him play made me want to work harder. The next time I practiced, I psyched myself up to have more fun. I wanted to let go of criticism so I could more objectively hear what I was doing well and what needed work. "Just do what Jeff does...c'mon, loosen, all this trying to loosen up is making me a little tense...bah, stop it, PLAY!" So, I played. And it sounded like someone else was playing. Sometimes the noises I make sound vaguely like music, but it was not until I listened to a recording of a duet I played that I realized how "tense" I sound. I'm not sure if it was so much that I was playing different sounds, but rather that I was hearing with different ears.

So, needless to say, I am not going to quit. I am going to stop whining and carve out more practice time. I made an effort to practice every day. I dropped the, "Man, this is haaaaaaard..." attitude and remembered that we are not all naturally talented. Deep down, I have just expected the music to come to me, not for me to make the music. Like anything else (changing habits, making music, playing a sport...whatever), a pro makes it look easy. But behind that "easy," there are thousands of mistakes. There were doubts from within and doubts from others. That "easy" required countless hours of hard work. Even the "easy" part continues to be challenging. I have made playing more difficult than it needs to be because I haven't been putting forth enough effort. I know how "easy" things can be once I get into a rhythm, whether it be playing, working out, or eating right. So, I just need to get in a groove of practicing more, while also not being so hard on myself about my playing.

Kurt Jorgensen Band.
Listen to songs at

"Luck is what you have leftover after you give 100 percent."
-Langston Coleman

Onto other stuff...this week was an okay workout week, but I only did Jiu Jitsu twice. On Wednesday, some new guy landed on my spine and then started bending me backwards. I yelled at him to stop. My friend who was a few feet away heard my spine crack. Needless to say, I was not very happy. This guy really laid into me and was unnecessarily rough. I have been getting that a lot recently and my coach Nate does not say anything to these guys. Actually, he kind of pokes fun at me for not being tough enough. Since I did not know better at first, I did try to "toughen up." Some of my closer Jiu Jitsu pals have commented on how rough some of the guys are with me and that they probably have an ego problem about rolling with a women and not wanting to get submitted. Luckily this time I just have a slightly sore back, but I am worried enough about permanent injury that I am going to check out another Jiu Jitsu school. Admittedly, I became a little gun-shy and I skipped Friday. I don't want to worry about permanent debilitating injuries from martial arts.

I will be checking out the Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu program. Gracie Barra is renowned and has locations all over the place. I am planning to move to the Seattle area over the next few years, and I could simply switch to the Gracie Barra school there. I thought about giving my current gym more time, but I have repeatedly pointed out overly-rough situations and nothing is done about it. I will miss my Muay Thai coach Eric, but I have been so intensely focused on Jiu Jitsu that I haven't even been doing much Muay Thai. The Gracie Barra school does have Muay Thai classes, so if I really want to, I can check that out. I have 2 Jiu Jitsu teachers at my current gym; I am usually in Nate's classes (the one who doesn't react to potential serious injuries) simply due to the class times. My other teacher is Tim, and he is an excellent coach. I try to make it to his classes when I can, but I don't work with him nearly enough. Fortunately, he is one of the teachers at the Gracie Barra school that I will be checking out. I am going to talk to him this week about the pros and cons and make a decision from there.

I do need to up the workouts a bit this upcoming week. I need to get in some running time and do some strength training. It has been about 2 weeks since I have done a formal strength training session. I am somewhat okay with this because Jiu Jitsu really doubles as strength training--I will go from holding a side plank while squeezing somebody with my legs to pretty much bench pressing them. Still, I should be doing some power lifting and hypertrophy workouts to assist in my training.

I had planned on registering for belly dance this week, but unfortunately I just can't afford it right now. I will still be doing some classes with Cassandra, as you can pay a per-class fee. I know I won't progress as much, but I will be doing some dance. Hopefully I can work regular classes into my budget soon.

I have been good about food tracking, although I overate some on a couple of days. I am more okay with overeating when I am actually following my workout plan (actually, I NEED the extra fuel), but I feel a bit puffy right now. I have some foods ready to prepare some batches so I have healthy meals readily available.

I am excited because the time has started where I can forage in my yard for food! Right now I have an abundance of cherries and raspberries. I thought the raspberries were blackberries because they were so dark, but it turns out they are actually black raspberries. In any case, they are delicious! I have been eating a bowlful every day. My cherries are very tart and are probably better suited for cooking, but I still like to eat them as is. My veggies are looking good and I have some peppers ripening and lots of flowers on my tomato and pepper plants. I also cooked with some fresh basil and oregano this week. I have a large chocolate mint plant and have been adding the mint to my green tea--delicious! There is just nothing like having the food that comes from your own yard.

The cherry tree.

Cherries and black raspberries.

Hope everyone has a great week!

"Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb, but how well you bounce." -Vivian Komori

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CHRISTINA791 6/22/2012 1:56PM

    Love the pictures and the story about Jeff. Thanks for sharing him with us! It's amazing how easy it is to just write someone off as naturally talented - I don't think that gives people enough credit. I've caught myself doing that before with natural athletes (and I think we've all grumbled at the naturally trim person who can eat anything they want without thinking that maybe they put a lot of effort into controlling their lifestyle). It's a great reminder!

I am so envious of your fruit! That bowl looks amazing!

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    I think it would be fun to play the saxophone. My son always wanted to play one.

I agree that someone needs to tell these men to be careful. This is not meant to injure someone but learn how to protect yourself.

I love berries. We just picked a bunch of blueberries from our blueberry cage.

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FANGFACEKITTY 6/21/2012 8:30AM

    I'm glad you're not giving up on the sax. Being able to make music is one of life's greatest pleasures and accomplishments. I was fortunate when training in ju jitsu that none of the men had a problem with randori with the women. Looking into a new place (or going to the other coach) is something you should probably do, your health and safety is more important than feeding the insecurities of a bunch of overgrown boys.

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CATDUG19 6/19/2012 9:49AM

    Great Blog!! Sorry to hear you have a problem at Jitsitu. I love the beautiful picture of your cherries and berries looked so so tasty.

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CHEEKY1000 6/19/2012 1:19AM

    While I'm sure I'd like to hear the picture of Jeff playing, I'd KNOW I'd like to taste the picture of the fruit bowl! LOL Yum!

How do you manage your time? Holy crap! I got tired just reading all of the things you do.

Keep up the amazing work! Focus on the positive (attitude is everything). I like to call it "positude." It's a noun. You need a positude. emoticon

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DDOORN 6/18/2012 3:57PM

    Cool to hear you're sticking with the sax! Don't know an instrument that seems as expressive as the it! (and this from a guitar

Super to have fresh fruit in your yard! Yum!


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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO 6/18/2012 2:32PM

    The sax prevails! emoticon

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    Your comments about your sax player remind me of interviews I saw recently with a couple US Olympic gymnasts. One young woman talked about training every day of the year.........she was the only gymnast at the gymn on Christmas and some other holidays. A young man talked about his Mom driving him 3 hours one way for gymnastic practice. Later I saw the national competition and this young man was in second place for the first couple rotations. It looked like he couldn't pull it off but he gave it his all in the last couple rotations. The look on his face when they totalled the scores was priceless. He won first place by .05 of a point. Both gymnasts talked about not having much of a social life or activities that many young people have, but they felt it was worth it. I know we're not talking Olympics here, but it does show what all goes into becoming really great at something.

I know some people have natural talent, but even those blessed with good genes and supportive parents put in tremendous number of hours of intense effort. They've got focus and are willing to make the sacrifice. They feel it's all worth it.

As far as those big oafs trying to hurt you..........get the heck out of there.
You don't have to be abused by insecure males!!!

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SCHWINNER! 6/18/2012 1:41PM

    Oooh I love the fruit in your pics!!! Our neighbors gave us a big bough off of their cherry tree (it fell down from the weight of the fruit!!). We cooked it down and made a compote out of it - sooo delicious!

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JSALERNO 6/18/2012 6:10AM


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APED7969 6/18/2012 6:04AM

    I love raspberries!! Very jealous of your garden. I hope the recommitment to sax playing pays off, great you got to see your teacher play.

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    Love the saxophone photo... I get what you mean about "loosening up". Listening to yourself is the best way to improve. I used to use a recorder when I practiced and play it back. It's amazing how much better I got from doing that. I would even listen to my scales/warm ups and that did a world of good. It also helped to listen to tons of recordings of players I wanted to emulate.

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SMILINGTREE 6/17/2012 10:31PM are doing martial arts, running, playing sax, writing, gardening, and taking belly dance...oh, AND you have a full time job. Once again, I'm floored by your seemingly endless energy. Good luck with the music, I hope you can have some fun with it.

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BLUE42DOWN 6/17/2012 8:23PM

    What a great attitude toward learning the saxophone - both Jeff's and yours.

Good luck with the decisions on the Jiu Jitsu classes.

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DOODIE59 6/17/2012 7:58PM

    What struck me again and again as I read this, was that I wanted to interrupt and say, "You are doing these things for YOU and only you. All these activities are acts of betterment. Why waste one moment of energy finding the negative in them? You want to play the sax? Play the sax! Instead of focusing on ridding your play of the negatives, work on the parts that sound good. In the process of making them sound GREAT, your weaker parts will catch up. Or fall away. If you fill the voids in your life with your talents -- and you have many -- there won't be much room for the negatives. From a point of positivity, you can go from strength to strength, and the more you believe in yourself the better your life gets. This is not about ego, but about the right to be, fully and completely (to borrow three words from a Tragically Hip song).

All power to you:)

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The Impossible (Part II): Breaking my lifelong addiction to food

Friday, June 15, 2012

"Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that's real power."
-Clint Eastwood

This post is Part II to a previous blog entry, "The Impossible":

When I was 11 years old, my mother took us to Michigan to visit a friend of hers. We were eating dinner one night and he commented on how much I was able to eat. "Aren't you full?" he asked me.

"I never feel full."

I remember that answer to this day. At the time, I did not know that was abnormal. I guess I just assumed that everyone ate as much as possible when they could, snuck food from the fridge and from cupboards, and even resorting to stealing food from stores. Nothing stopped me from overeating. The hunger gnawed at me constantly and was never satisfied. Eating rich foods only made things worse; I wanted more and more. Even feeling physically sick did not stop me from continuing to eat. My body and mind were always in a food crisis and I thought about food at virtually every waking moment.

I could not just change my "diet," I had to really ask myself, "Why?" Why do I overeat? The question may have wisped across my brain at times, but I never really thought about it. The simplistic answer was that I overate because I was sad. I was sad because I overate. The vicious cycle ruled my life. I finally realized that I had to become a different person. I did not want to fake being a changed person (kind of like what I did when I lost weight on WeightWatchers a few years ago), but I needed to become a different person who was true to myself. I would never be able to change as long as food ruled my life, so I had to break my addiction to food.

It is possible to overcome food addiction. I am about 80 pounds from my goal weight, but I have achieved the most important part of the journey: breaking food addiction. I never thought I would break free of my food addiction. It was a long road and the road ahead will undoubtedly prove challenging. I ended up (somewhat inadvertently) doing the opposite of what most people do. I had tried the road of mustering willpower to eat more healthfully, then lose weight, and THEN expect to feel better about myself. That backfired. This time, I concentrated less on food at first and more on stress, my emotional reactions to food, and the physical sensations in my body created by food. These steps helped to create a body-mind connection from which I could start to eat more healthfully. Of course there is some discipline involved, but the self-discipline came more naturally with learning about myself.

Of course, I have always liked (if not been obsessed with) food, but I don't think something can be truly enjoyed if it is such a major cause of stress. Eating almost never used to have anything to do with hunger. I would say food also did not have a lot to do with actual pleasure. I did not find binges to be pleasant. My body was so numb to the food that I barely tasted the food my brain was demanding. When my appetite started to change, I started to have actual pleasure from food. After a hard workout, a hearty and balanced meal actually tasted satisfying. I am able to eat a square of dark chocolate and be satisfied with it. My brain now knows why I'm eating and whether it is for fuel, for pure pleasure, or a little bit of both.

Denial was at the root of my food addiction. Primarily, I denied my feelings, focusing instead on food. With food, I could always tell myself I would "start over" again tomorrow. I was never sure when I would actually feel okay again, though. I could not grasp control of my emotions, but because eating was a physical manifestation of my feelings I could feign control. I had to break the deep emotional connection to food. This blog is about some of the steps I took to do that. It is hard to write separately about food, exercise, stress management, etc., as no part of our lives is isolated from the other. Diet cannot be isolated from everything else, which is why I believe that most people have difficulty losing weight and maintaining weight loss. The root of any successful dietary change leading to weight loss is to learn why we eat the way we do. I really don't think weight loss can last in most cases if this is not explored. Here, I share part of the journey of breaking food addiction and offer some advice that hopefully proves useful to some.

First and foremost, don't fight yourself; work with yourself. As soon as I stopped viewing myself as the enemy, I was able to stop using food as a drug. Food is not the enemy. YOU are not the enemy. Don't confuse overeating with being a bad person. You are not bad if you overeat. The mistake is easy to make. For many of us, food has become a part of our identity, therefore feeling out of control with eating makes us believe that we are a failure. Nor does eating within a planned calorie range make you a good person. Your food choices have absolutely nothing to do with being a good or bad person. This was the first thing I had to accept in changing my relationship with food. It is okay to associate eating healthy foods and eating reasonably with feeling good, but I think it is as important to understand why that makes us feel good as it is to understand why overeating can make us feel so bad. I think it goes beyond the fact that eating a certain number of calories will help us lose weight and eating over that amount will prevent weight loss or cause weight gain. Plenty of lean people have struggles with food, too. Healthy and lean people can also know the difference between what it feels like to eat the way that is right for the body and how it feels to veer from that. It sounds odd, but I had to disconnect my food from weight loss to learn to eat normally. I had to develop the mindset of how I wanted to eat on a permanent basis, not just to lose weight. At first, changing the way I ate in order to lose weight would have just traded one neurosis (obsessing over food by binging) for another (obsessing over food by trying to avoid overeating). I had to learn the basis of my emotional eating or I would never break free from the prison of food obsession.

"Tell me what you eat, I'll tell you who you are."
-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

From there, I started to work on separating food from "good" or "bad" feelings. We all know what it is like to experience a certain feeling (whether related to happiness or sadness) and to have an automatic craving for particular foods. I think we tend to associate certain foods with positive emotions and some with negative emotions. These foods will be very different for everyone and both will include some "healthy" foods and "unhealthy" foods. Because foods are unconsciously divided into "good" and "bad" emotional categories, we associate ourselves and our moods with those foods. I think this is why people feel bad if they eat foods that they associate with "bad" feelings, even once they are eating them in appropriate portions. I started to pay attention to what foods I was craving at particular times so that I could start to separate that food from the emotion I was feeling at the time.

Another thing I had to accept is that I would still overeat sometimes. Why would someone plan for that? Well, because that is how someone who has never had a dysfunctional relationship with food eats. I have lean friends who have never had a weight problem nor a dysfunctional relationship with food eating a meal, saying, "I want to stop, it's just too good!" and then giggling at how full they are afterwards. Sometimes overeating may be planned, and sometimes it will still be stress-induced. I made an effort to avoid planned overeating at first. My first goal had to be identifying and reducing emotional eating. Once I started to link particular emotions to wanting particular foods, I made a point to a neutral response to the craving. I tried to react by saying in my mind, "I do not have to react to this craving." This is a principle I learned from meditation.

At first, I just did my best to avoid binging, but of course there were still very frequent binges. I was still running from something. The emotional connection between food and myself was so deep-seated, I needed to figure out exactly what this "drug" was doing to my body. I started paying attention to the feelings in my body that came from eating. Not the emotions, but the physical sensations in my body. How did my stomach feel? How did my head feel? How was my heart beat? How did it affect my breathing? How did it feel to walk around? I tried to ask myself these questions every time I ate, whether it was a snack, a healthy meal, or a binge. How did each eating situation make my body feel? Over time, even though I would still binge, they became much less frequent and I could not (physically could not) eat as much as I used to. My brain was now aware of what I was putting in my mouth and the physical sensations in my body connected to my mind. Whereas I used to be able to finish off a large pizza, a pasta dish, a bag of chips, a pound of chocolate, and then some, I could eat maybe half of what I used to be able to eat. The amount eaten during binges eventually (over the course of about 2 years) lessened significantly. One day I almost heard a whisper in my brain during a binge: "Enough..." I looked down at the unfinished pizza. I went in the kitchen and put the rest away. I had never not finished a pizza once I got started. It used to feel physically impossible to stop. Now it is physically impossible for me to finish.

I also tried to pay attention to the sensations in my body when I actually felt hungry. How did I feel after a workout? How did I feel when I first woke up? Right before eating? Immediately after eating? I then started working on identifying what emotions seemed to be connected to those physical sensations. From there, I became better at identifying why I wanted to eat and if it was hunger or emotions. Don't get me wrong, sometimes, especially after a hard workout, I am famished and can't wait to stuff my face with a meal. But, that type of hunger is true hunger, hunger because my body needs some fuel. The other difference is that even though I may feel famished in my body, I don't have an emotional reaction to the feeling of being hungry. I know I will eat again soon, it's not a big deal.

The other thing I had to learn was how to actually taste food and slow down a bit. No, I'm not talking about the slow eating where you chew food methodically while staring at the rest of the food on the plate, wanting to finish it off right then and there. I actually started this process by learning to smell my food. Food and taste are intricately related. We already know this; the smell of some foods makes us salivate and others make us gag. Aromatherapy is used for physical and emotional healing. Our sense of smell works in ways that we cannot even begin to understand, even without having the keen sense of smell like a dog. I wondered if I could use the relationship between smell and taste to my advantage. I would inhale deeply while cooking, trying to identify individual odors as well as try to figure out how the odors interacted with each other. Rather than paying attention to the feeling of wanting to eat, I changed my focus to identifying how the smells made me feel. What sensations arose in my body? Was the smell of the food energizing or relaxing? What memories did the smells evoke? What emotions surfaced?

Smelling my food really made me pay attention to it. I had to be aware of the food because my body was already interacting with it before I ever put a bite in my mouth. I started to pay attention to how the smell and taste interacted. I paid attention to how the food felt in my mouth and the sensations created by swallowing it. Was it warm in my stomach? Did it send a cool sensation through my body? When did I start to feel full? Because I was focused on the sensations created by the food, the tastes became stronger. Food became more satisfying because I was aware of what I was eating.

I know that focusing on smell may sound funny, but I think it was pivotal in learning to eat conscientiously. It also had the unintended side effect of being able to learn to actually enjoy food. I figured if I ever was able to break my addiction to food, I was in for a lifelong struggle, an argument in my head at all times over whether or not I wanted to eat or whether I should eat this or that. Now, I actually enjoy my food. Most of the time I enjoy my food in appropriate portions. Even if I do overeat at a meal, I tend to even it out throughout the day. Before, I used to feel hungry immediately after eating. Even after a binge, I still had a desire to eat. Now, if I have a large meal earlier in the day, I may have a small snack a few hours later, then another small meal a few hours after that. On a typical day, I have 6-7 small meals that are about equally0sized. As you can see, I eat frequently and I eat well. I really love that this comes naturally now.

For example, a friend of mine and I went out for lunch last week. I got a veggie sloppy joe sandwich. We also shared some chips and salsa. They had malts, and at first that sounded really good. I thought for a moment whether I wanted one or not. I decided against it because it would have been too much food for me to finish. That is not "diet" thinking. I didn't skip it because I am trying to lose weight, I skipped it because my brain naturally told me, "Nah, you won't be able to eat that much. It won't taste good if you feel too full." There was no willpower involved. The old me would have practically been in a cold sweat deciding whether or not to get the malt, and then would have ordered it because I would have felt like I was missing out if I didn't get it, even if it made me physically ill to eat all of that food. Sure enough, I was satisfied with my meal as it was (didn't quite finish it, actually). It was a very good meal and I enjoyed every bite, but emotions did not dictate why or what I was eating. I continued to eat normally for the rest of the day, without the desire for a binge being triggered.

I will not say I don't get tempted to stress eat. However, the feelings are usually not as intense as they used to be. It amazes me that I can be having a stressful day at work and be hungry, and still avoid emotional eating most of the time. Sometimes I will be stressed and think, "Man, I want some (X) food right now." The thought is typically gone as fast as it had come. The constant obsessive thinking is gone.

Now, as you can see, this took some time--about two years. Two years of trial and error. Two years of soul-searching. Our habits and the emotions connected to them took some time to develop and will take an equal amount of time, if not longer, to change. A habit develops because on some level our body and mind feels the habit is a necessity. We have to teach ourselves first off that the habit is not necessary, and that other healthier habits can be equally pleasurable. It takes time for hunger signals on the neural and hormonal level to change. It takes time for our body to physically adjust to the new habit. The powers of patience and forgiveness have fueled my ability to overcome food addiction. I have no special super powers, though. If I can break a 30-year habit, you can, too.

I wrote about my food addiction for the second part of this five-part blog series, because it has been a lifelong issue. The next "The Impossible" blog post will be about my journey with exercise, including some basics on the exercise physiology of weight loss.

"In yourself right now is all the place you've got."
-Flannery O'Connor

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

PAMELA6289 6/19/2012 11:30AM

  Wow, thank you for detailing out how you did it, Erin. You are so wise and I love the 'kinder, gentler' way you're treating yourself.

You inspire me!

I will come back again and again to this post because I really want to implement some of the things you did here and because it just makes so much sense!

XO Pam

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02SERENE 6/18/2012 10:10PM

    "This time, I concentrated less on food at first and more on stress, my emotional reactions to food, and the physical sensations in my body created by food. These steps helped to create a body-mind connection from which I could start to eat more healthfully. Of course there is some discipline involved, but the self-discipline came more naturally with learning about myself."

I couldn't have said it better than what you said. I call it my inside out program. And it is hard walking away from a meal that could have been more of what I wanted and I have to say to myself, wait until your "snack time" that was the meal! Then, I do what I can to bolster myself until the next time.

I am going to go back to this writing of yours again for tips and inspiration. Thank you for taking the time to write it!

I am going to try to major tip of fragrance and smelling the food! I read about it but I love how you explained it more in detail. emoticon

Comment edited on: 6/18/2012 10:18:47 PM

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KANSASROSE67 6/16/2012 4:24PM

    Lots of "Food for Thought" in this blog...thanks!

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CANNIE50 6/16/2012 4:09PM

    " A habit develops because on some level our body and mind feels the habit is a necessity. We have to teach ourselves first off that the habit is not necessary, and that other healthier habits can be equally pleasurable. It takes time for hunger signals on the neural and hormonal level to change. It takes time for our body to physically adjust to the new habit. The powers of patience and forgiveness have fueled my ability to overcome food addiction. I have no special super powers, though. If I can break a 30-year habit, you can, too." Erin, I cannot thank you enough for posting this well-thought out, well-written (of course) heartfelt blog. The sentences that I quoted above hit me particularly hard. After a high-anxiety, low-energy week, I was feeling so discouraged about ever breaking free of this exhausting compulsion around food. You have supplied me with food for thought, and with hope, and I am very grateful for both, and for you.

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SWTHNY- 6/16/2012 1:25PM

    It's amazing to me how the smelling and thinking of the way you will enjoy the food can be so life changing. I will be doing these things as I cook and get foods ready to eat. So far its more get it fast and eat a lot like somehow it was going to go away if I didn't eat it as quickly as I could.
thanks for taking the time and writing these blogs I will be reading and learning.

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DOODIE59 6/15/2012 10:22PM

    We all benefit from your diligent efforts, Erin. Thank you for writing out your thought process re food. I will try to smell my food and slow things down -- I have a strong sense of smell -- I'm sure I could learn a lot if I stopped to think about my food instead of wolfing it down. I am always the first person finished at our table -- I know that's not right.

Congratulations on your journey of self discovery,

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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO 6/15/2012 5:32PM

    What remarkable insights you have. I'll need to reread this very carefully because I'm certain that I can learn a lot.
Thank you so much!

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NSTARSMITH 6/15/2012 5:26PM

    There is a lot in your blogs I identify with - not all, but a lot - and I especially liked the bit about automatically knowing something might be "too much" and would not end up enjoyable as a result. I have had that experience a couple times lately and I think a real shift is occuring from the cognitive disciplines in which I have been engaging. I am also mega-inspired by your diligence over 2 years to keep experimenting and practicing and learning. Not giving up - no matter what - because on a journey there is no failure, just travel. Thanks so much for a truly thought-provoking blog!

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BETHS60 6/15/2012 2:34PM

    Lots of good stuff here. The bit about smelling the food is very interesting. I think I will try that. I was very impressed with the part where you decided not to get the malt because it would make you feel too full.

Good job on the blog. Clearly a lot of thought went into it. And congratulations on your successes.

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    I'm sure this will really help a lot of people.

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EVERSTEPH 6/15/2012 1:51PM

    "At first, changing the way I ate in order to lose weight would have just traded one neurosis (obsessing over food by binging) for another (obsessing over food by trying to avoid overeating)." I can relate to this well.

A few monthes ago, I heard the quote "RESTRICTION IS ITS OWN COMPULSION" and it really hit home. Yes, it is its own compulsion!

Thanks for reminding me there is hope and opportunities to rewire the brain and break the addiction! :)

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JENNIFERH625 6/15/2012 12:51PM

    Thank you for sharing. You are very well spoken and it is indeed an obstacle. When I look at what I was eating - I would always think I was not eating 'that much' but now that I monitor and have been making so many changes - yes, I really was eating 'that much' plus the quality of the food was so poor. Keep up the fabulous work!

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SYZYGY922 6/15/2012 12:05PM

    This is wonderfully written. I have struggled with many of these same issues. I've overcome a lot but I still mess up a lot. I used to overeat as a child, too -- eating a whole bag of chips in one sitting, sneaking brownies, things like that. I thought it was all behind me but occasionally these issues pop back up! It'll be a long struggle for sure.

You are awesome, lady. emoticon

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ALIHIKES 6/15/2012 11:32AM

    Wow, this is a great blog! It is really amazing that you have had success on your journey to overcoming food addition. emoticon

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What does it mean to have a "positive attitude"?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
-Winston Churchill

I was given the honor of being voted a SparkPeople Motivator this week...I had to read and reread the notification e-mail. I was shocked. Then I realized that I do deserve such an honor for sharing my journey in an open and honest way. I have lost 50 of the 136 pounds I have set out to lose. It has taken me a year and a half to lose those 50 pounds. While some may consider that a "slow" pace, I am happy with it. I haven't been very specifically focused on weight loss. The weight doesn't mean everything to me. Don't get me wrong, it feels good to hit weight milestones, but my happiness from the weight loss is that the mental changes are working. I am now more satisfied with myself and my life, so now the weight can come off. This did require a massive attitude and outlook overhaul.

I found out that my "category" of motivation is "Positive Attitude." Anyone who knew me 2 years ago probably would not have thought of me as a positive thinker. I saw doom and gloom in every moment. Sure, I had some hard knocks, I was a survivor...but surviving was all I was doing. I saw an impending disaster in every venture and I sabotaged myself at every turn. As long as I avoided succeeding at anything, I proved to myself that success is impossible. I have struggled with depression throughout most of my life, but a lot of that was wallowing in misery I created for myself. I did not know how to find the "bright side" until a couple of years ago.

Being elected a Motivator got me thinking, "What does it mean to be someone who has a positive attitude?" I tried to think about the first word that jumped to mind with having a positive attitude, and that word was "objectivity." Objective thinking has been the root of my success in changing myself and my way of thinking. Being objective means that I have learned to avoid the all-or-nothing thinking, not just about diet, but about life. When it comes to weight loss specifically, I do not believe that our "diet" can change without really deeply changing our overall thinking about everything. Sure, we may be able to muster the "willpower" to go on a strict diet and lose weight, only for it to all come back.

"Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose."
-Bill Gates

I lost 95 pounds with WeightWatchers in 2005. It took me about 6 months to lose that amount and the weight just melted off. I wasn't intentionally crash-dieting, but knowing what I know now, I was not eating enough. WeightWatchers changed my "diet" and started changing my "lifestyle," but that lifestyle was not truly my life. There was too much disconnect between my mind and body. Because I did not really have objective thinking, I still fell into disaster mode when the slightest thing went wrong and euphoria mode when something good happened. What is wrong with being euphoric, you ask? Well, nothing. Not when something really IS a big deal. But constantly seeking that "high" is exhausting. Once I started struggling, I felt I had "failed" and did not implement the proper tools to pick myself back up. Hence, the weight crept back on. I stayed at almost 300 pounds until I started using SparkPeople about 2 years ago. I knew the first thing that needed to change was my outlook. I was at rock bottom. I was in physical pain because of my weight. My life spiraled into chaos. The first thing I decided to acknowledge was that struggling was not going to stop just because I decided I wanted to change. Actually, I realized that I would probably have increased struggling in the course of changing, so I decided to arm myself with a more positive attitude.

To me, positive thinking does not mean never struggling. It does not mean telling myself, "WOOT, everything's fine!" and stuffing my struggles down without addressing them. Positive thinking means that I approach struggles without the disastrous thinking. If a challenge arises, I try to look at it objectively and without thinking it reflects on me as a person. It means approaching and solving problems without turning to unhealthy options like binging, exercising too much, or berating myself. Positive thinking is being able to find the learning experience in the struggle. Positive thinking means having enough self-esteem to not let people trample over me and to have the strength to set strict boundaries with toxic people. Positive thinking means embracing that I am not perfect and being able to find joy anyways. I am not looking for happiness; I decided to open my eyes and see that it is already there. For me, that has been the power of objectivity. I have realistic expectations of what it means to have a happy life, only to finally find that my happy life existed all along.

I'm just going to say it: having some negative thoughts does not mean that you have failed at positive thinking. It is the REACTION to the negative thoughts that reflect how "negative" they really are. If the negative thoughts lead to self-defeat and giving up, then some more objective positive thinking is in order. If after reflecting about the thoughts you realize they are not true and work through them, then you are succeeding. Having a positive attitude means knowing that you can achieve the goals that are realistic to achieve (like weight loss, becoming more active, achieving fitness goals, improving diet, managing money, dealing with stress). A "can-do" attitude is long as it is something we can do. A large part of success is simply not setting ourselves up for failure.

Since embarking on this journey, I have never said that I am "starting over." This is my one life and my one journey. If I made a mistake, I did not start over. The lessons I learned from the mistakes fed into future successes. I have treated weight loss as something that comes once other things in my life have fallen into place, including food, exercise, stress management, finances...everything. If we don't work on ourselves as a whole, then we are treating our weight as something that is separate from ourselves, something that can be isolated from the rest of our being. At whatever weight, we are who we are, and we may as well make an effort to find love for ourselves so our life can be richer. Losing weight in and of itself does not make life better. It may provide a temporary thrill, and some of the physical changes will certainly make us feel better, but as I experienced, it is unlikely to last without deep-seated changes in our very being.

There are several tools that I have used to change my way of thinking. I have done a lot of writing and blogging. Writing has been a tool that helps me sort through challenges and provide insight. Meditation has provided methods for me to stay level-headed in most situations. I take a lot of chances and try new things whenever possible, especially if it scares me. I have learned the anticipation is the most scary part. If I didn't take a chance, I never would have picked up my saxophone again, walked into a new kickboxing gym at 250+ pounds, tried Jiu Jitsu (a sport for which I seem to have a talent), work on writing a novel, or found the nerve to stand up for myself.

Most of all, I decided to have a sense of humor about the whole process of change. I have always been a humorous person, but a lot of my dark humor worked against me. I still have a dark sense of humor, but I have used it as a tool to get over fears rather than create them.

"I was going to buy a copy of 'The Power of Positive Thinking', and then I thought: What the hell good would that do?"
-Ronnie Shakes, comedian

Positive does not mean perfection. Overall, having a positive attitude means having the power to forgive. Forgive myself for not eating perfectly, or for accidentally letting someone down, or for not working out like I mean to. Forgiving myself for not fulfilling all of the "shoulds" for the day. Forgiving others for their wrong-doings, while being able to decide how much that person should be let into my life. If we overeat for a day, week, or month, we need to find the power to forgive ourselves and move on. Approach the little mistakes with objectivity, and forgiveness will quickly come easily. Having a positive attitude may not be pleasant 100% of the time, but it certainly provides the tools to pick yourself up and press on. Hopefully most of the time that will happen with a grin.

"If you don't like something, change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it."
-Mary Engelbreit

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CATDUG19 6/19/2012 9:54AM

    FAntastic view point!! I truely connected with what a real and truthful positive attitude is. It is so easy to get caught up in the motions of acting positive without ever address what is going on in your head. Good for you in all your hard work. 50 pounds is a great success, be proud!

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DDOORN 6/16/2012 10:48AM

    Great post! You've been such a SUPER motivator...WONDERFUL to hear that you were chosen!

Re:..."change the way you think about it"...that for me is one of the biggest challenges!!

Thank you for all your support along the way! :-)


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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO 6/15/2012 10:54AM

    Erin, thank you for this profound and very significant blog entry. You really are wise!

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MRSSCHENCK 6/13/2012 9:32PM

    "Optimism. The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them."

Thanks for sharing that particular bit of information. I really needed to read that and will be using it as my mantra for awhile.

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FANGFACEKITTY 6/13/2012 3:13PM

    Awesome & Congratulations! I always look forward to your blogs, you put the things I'm thinking into very eloquent words.

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SPOONGIRLDEB 6/13/2012 1:54PM

    Great blog! You are definitely an inspiration to me, and I'm glad I can vicariously be a part of your Spark Journey :-). I struggle with trying to have a positive attitude sometimes, and blogs like yours help me put it all in perspective, so emoticon

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HOLLI3MW 6/13/2012 11:45AM

  Thank you for sharing your experience. You are a great and honest motivator! Your inspiration is very appreciated. emoticon

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APED7969 6/13/2012 12:24AM

    You are one of the most deserving people on here for sparkpeople motivator and this wonderful blog is a prime example as to why. Your blogs always give me something to think about and I love to see the positive changes you make as a person and how that creates your success. I take a lot of inspiration in your life changes and how you stretch your creative side as well as your fitness goals.

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JSALERNO 6/12/2012 5:06PM

    emoticon emoticon

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MPLANE37 6/12/2012 4:49PM

    That is quite right. "Looking beyond the imperfection" is very right. Congrats.

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JENNIFERH625 6/12/2012 2:54PM

    Very well written. You are indeed a positive motivator. Congratulations for the accomplishment. Those things that you least expect can make a huge impact. Congratulations on your success thusfar. You will continue to do well and I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

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MEWHENRYSMAMA 6/12/2012 2:04PM

MARY emoticon
IT IS THE LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE: emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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DOODIE59 6/12/2012 1:58PM

    I suspect this blog speaks to many of us, but for me it is boggling, and has given me much to think about. Your efforts to uncover your best self are a gift to the rest of us. Your intelligence is clear, and I would argue that objectivity IS one of your best traits -- and the one that will set you free:) Just what can't you do once you set your stellar mind to it? I, for one, can't wait to find out.

All power to you!

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    Losing 50 pounds is a big deal and you are always challenging yourself in unique ways. It's very inspiring to others.

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DOGSTARDADDY 6/12/2012 1:41PM

    Congrats for being chosen. It means you have made a difference somewhere to someone. That is something to be proud of..

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