Friday, August 15, 2014
I'm a different person than I was when I started Spark in 2010. In the 4 years that I have spent in and out of this friendly confine I have lost countless pounds, gained some back, run countless miles, moved, changed jobs, changed boyfriends, made new friends, lost a few friends, and lived a full and eventful life in a progressively healthier body and mind. I have grown and I have experienced.
But when setbacks occur - and they always do, the biggest mistake that we tend to make is that we assume that we are the same. That all that life-living hasn't actually happened. And that somehow we are built like machines and that the same things that worked before will work a second time around - that we can pick up right where we left off.
I'm tired of banging my head against the wall of previous experience. Because if there's one thing I know that DOESN'T work, it's repeatedly trying to achieve quick results by jumping straight into the deep end and trying to swim after removing all of your flotation devices. A lot of time has passed since I was last able to execute all the moves properly. I've been flapping around out there trying to make sense of it all for far too long. Thankfully, I found my way back to the beach.
For two weeks now I have eaten like a champion. Counted all my calories. Bemoaned my cold-turkey cut-off of alcohol and diet soda. Screamed out loud when I wanted ice cream and knew that I was neither hungry for it nor had the calories left in my day for it. (But hey - I'd rather the hissy fit than the additional poundage on my hips.) Made healthy recipes. Drank all of my daily cups of water. Substituted low-carb, low-fat, low-sugar wherever I could. Weighed, measured and ate correct serving sizes. And stopped exercising completely.
Seems that the last little tidbit of information there does not compute. But you read that correctly. I stopped exercising. And I stopped feeling guilty about it. Cause guess what? The key to starting over is starting over - NOT picking up where you left off.
Hell if I was running 10 miles a week in April of 2010 when I was just starting out here. Heck, I wasn't even walking 3 miles a week. I didn't start swimming until about 2 months into my weight loss journey. Running was a joke to me until about 6 months in and 40 pounds down. And the key for me has ALWAYS been the FOOD. Exercise on any scale makes me hungry. And I lost my balance back in training for the marathon when I discovered that running an insane number of miles a week means you can eat and drink just about anything you want and not gain weight. The problem with that was that it threw off my equilibrium, my practice, my metabolism, and everything else that I had worked so hard to achieve on the food side of the equation for the whole previous year of my life.
I admit, 2 weeks ago I was out of control. After training for a number of endurance events, the only lasting things that I was left with were a few medals on my wall, some bad habits and an insane appetite. I thought nothing of stopping off at the store on the way home for a pint of ice cream or adding an order of fries to my sandwich instead of soup or salad even though I was no longer running over 6 miles a week - and some weeks not at all. A few times I tried to kick-start my weight loss again by upping my weekly exercise, attempting to train again like I did before without the heart or the mind to actually complete a long run. I'd get mad at myself for not being able to run as far or as fast and get discouraged in a heartbeat. Of course I wasn't taking into account that I'm 40 pounds heavier than I was when I last PRed ANYTHING and my endurance is not at all what it was even a year ago, let alone 2. It made me hate running. I would dread even lacing up my shoes. And when I finally did, I would whine and cry to myself the whole time, having lost the mental battle it takes to keep putting one foot in front of the other before I had even stepped one foot out the door. And I was hungry. Always hungry, and always making excuses for being able to eat more because I was putting myself through the torture of exercising when I didn't want to.
And then a light bulb went on. If hard exercise feels like work, then don't do it. I'm not a lazy person. I live in a city where I walk a lot every day anyway. Sometimes I enjoy swimming. I take the dog out for longer walks a few times a week. I lug 20 pounds of groceries home 3 blocks on a weekly basis. I take the stairs when I have to. I AM getting exercise. Plenty of days more than the allotted 30 minute requirement. So I have to stop stressing about it! If there is anything to stress about, it should be the fact that I've somehow allowed myself to consume upwards of 3000 calories a day on a regular basis, due in no small part to the stress I am feeling about needing to exercise more. What a mess! Let's work on fixing that.
So I have been. For the past 2 weeks I have done nothing in addition to getting my food consumption in check. And I've lost 7 pounds. Yes! And even though I know the scale is going to freeze up again for a week or two (because it ALWAYS does), if I just keep doing this one thing I WILL see success.
As I have lived these past 4 years, my goals have continually changed and I have embraced each and every one of them. Right now my goal is NOT to run a marathon or train for a triathlon or be anything other than a normal person who eats a normal amount of food. Weight loss is once again my top priority, and that means that I will do what it takes to achieve THAT particular goal. I want to be rid of the weight that I have put back on since training for that marathon 2 years ago and be back at my lowest (185lb) by my birthday in December. After I get through the Detroit Half Marathon in October that I paid for back when I had different goals and a different mindset about how to lose weight, I am done training for anything for a good long time. Maybe then I can actually learn to like exercise again. Maybe I won't. In fact, I don't know if I ever did - but doing things that I thought were impossible was rewarding to me. That's how I got sidelined in the first place - my mission to achieve "unachievable" goals. But the "impossible" now seems to be getting to my goal weight, so why not stick with the theme, right?
On that note, back when I first started this life changing thing, I had a simple goal - BALANCE. Over time I have concluded that that goal is not a simple one at all. In fact, it's the most "impossible" goal to achieve as it never has an end point. You never actually have balance but it is threatened again by something else that pops up in life. It is so easy to throw yourself off balance that most of us live on one side of the scale or the other the majority of the time. And if there is ANY scale that matters here, it's that one. Because nothing else moves in the direction you want it to if the life scale is out of whack. So that's really what we're doing here - attempting to achieve moments of balance, walking that fine line. Some of us walk it for days and weeks, some of us for much longer, just adding things to the load as we move along. Sometimes you have your perfect balance and everything is going so well that you don't even realize that something you added to one side of the scale is making you walk funny. That's what happened to me - the thing I added to one side was just too heavy for me to carry. So I dropped everything and started again, even though the first instinct was to pick everything back up and try to carry all of it.
We can only handle exactly what we can handle every day. Give yourself permission to do just that. Even if it seems crazy. Right now, I'm handling food. Eventually, my strength will be rebuilt and I'll be able to take on more. But realizing that we are all only human is half the battle. Drop the load that's making you walk funny. Let it go. Start fresh. And move on from there. The key to starting over, is starting over.
Monday, April 07, 2014
I now know why this site is called SparkPeople. It's because when it's working and you're successfully achieving goals and losing weight, you've got that "thing," that SPARK, that accounts for so much more than just simple motivation. It's a drive to keep going and keep pushing beyond anything else - beyond the small set-backs, or random life happenings that can otherwise derail a person who doesn't have "it." It's the thing that makes you push through the pain, muddle through the negative thoughts, and buoy your triumphs. It's the thing that makes YOU the number one focus in your life and can act as a friend in times of loneliness, can make you feel full even when you're bored or tired or stressed, and can actually suggest appealing alternatives to unhealthy habits that would otherwise sound crazy or like too much work.
This winter absolutely stole my Spark. In fact - I know it stole it from many other people too having talked to them.But I don't think it was just winter for me. I actually think I lost my Spark a long time ago, and I'd give just about anything to have it back right now.
If I really think about it, I lost my Spark before I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K in the fall, I lost it before I started training for the Triathlon last year, I actually lost it long before LAST winter. I lost it the minute I crossed the finish line of the Chicago Marathon in 2012.
I've spent some time today reading through some of my blogs from the Marathon until now and it's like a feeling of foreboding creeping through all of them. My jubilant race report from that day was followed by my Week 27 blog in which I talked about the surreal feeling of having completed this huge thing that took up 9 whole months of my life and the depression that happened after I realized that life goes on without it taking up so much space anymore. That blog was then followed by another talking about how hard it was to get back on track with my eating, followed by a very honest "When Things Fall Apart" www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
A blog in which I basically stated the fact that I had become a changed person, I was - at that point - unable to resurrect the self that I was before taking on the Marathon challenge, and for all intents and purposes I no longer had my Spark. That was November 6, 2012. I've been struggling for a year and a half now without my Spark!
So what do I do? I actually don't know. My life is VASTLY different now than it was in April of 2010 when I was 313 pounds and crying for change. I am a (relatively) healthy individual. Yes, I still have a lot of weight to lose, but there are not many unhealthy 200 pound women who can just go out and run 6 miles without too much thought. My blood pressure is still fine, as are all the rest of my vitals. I have a different work lifestyle that I'm still getting accustomed to, but it's manageable. And I have trained for a number of endurance events.
But therein lies the thing that tipped me off to having lost my Spark, and having lost it a long time ago. I didn't train for the Triathlon like I did for the Marathon. And I'm certainly not training for the Tough Mudder (in 5 weeks!) like I trained for either of those two events. Bottom line - I just don't care! And that's awful. It makes me so sad. I lost the need to prove to myself that I can do anything. I CAN do anything. I already know that. There's no excitement in it anymore, no anticipation. I invested SO much money in Tri gear thinking that it would be a lifelong investment in annual triathlons, possibly even training for a Half Ironman, or more. But to be perfectly honest - at this point, I really don't give a crap about my bike, or my wetsuit, or putting in the effort required to do any of that stuff.
So did the Marathon really ruin me? Was it SO hard and SO taxing on my Spark every single day for 9 months to get to that place of accomplishment that it burnt itself right out? Maybe it did. Maybe I wasn't ready for that challenge just yet. Or maybe I deemed the Marathon to be my ULTIMATE achievement. And when it was over, I just full-out quit. I did what I set out to accomplish - I lost (over) 100 pounds and I ran a Marathon. End of story. But it wasn't the end of the story - it just felt like it was long enough to shock my system and blow out the pilot light. So who has a match? Anyone?
I half-assed my way through the Tri. Sure, I trained for it. And I finished well. But I only did what I absolutely had to, and I stopped running after the second mile because it got hard. I could have finished so much better and I knew it. I felt guilty about it then and I still do today. I knew I had more in the tank and I could have gone further. But my push was gone. That thing that drove me to go one step further, one mile harder. The thing that would have made me persevere through the 6 mile run regardless of the weather or my exhaustion. I just didn't have it anymore. And I don't have it right now. I'm 5 weeks out from a major race and there is NOTHING that will get me out of bed in the morning to work out at all. I'm simultaneously terrified that Mudder might kill me, and not at all scared about any of it. I'm just going to do it like I do everything else. It will hurt and it will suck but I'll still do it. At this rate though, I won't be doing it very well. "As long as you finish" has gone a step too far with me. My drive to compete against myself and to get better and better is broken.
Marathon training also invited the food back. I had to consume so much more every day to match the number of calories that I was burning every week, so away went all my good eating habits and staying in any particular daily range. I discovered quickly that I could consume pretty much anything I wanted and not gain. But I wasn't losing either. I was stalled and had lost all momentum on my original journey to lose the weight, so the Marathon became my one and only focus - the thing that I had to do to feel successful. And when I achieved that success, the training went away and the food stuck around. But my life these days will never involve running over 10 miles a day. I don't like it enough, and I just don't have the time to put in those kinds of hours on the road anymore. But do I have room and time to consume over 2500 calories a day? You bet I do. I have never had a problem going to great lengths to achieve a food fix.
So what do I do? How do I get my Spark back? I'm in a tricky place of knowing exactly what it is that I have lost and what I want to regain. But attempting to "fake it" is not winning me any points with myself and usually ends in self-sabotaging activities because "I should know better." (The quotes are honestly how I'm talking to myself) I just don't really know how I got it to begin with in 2010 - it kind of just happened. And it was the happiest ride that I've ever been on for a solid year and a half. But my priorities have changed. The things that I want to accomplish now are different than the things I wanted to accomplish in then, and I can't take another year and a half of my life to shift the focus back to me and only me like I did before. If I'm going to go on another ride, there are other people and things that need to come with me this time.
I am open to suggestions. I just know that I'm tired of not caring anymore. I want to care! I want to be excited again. I want my damn Spark back!
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Hi Sparkies! I'm BAAAACCCKKK!
Be honest - you missed me, right? :)
This is just a quick note to tell you the reasons that I have returned and just a brief "here's what's up in my life right now" update.
I didn't fall (totally) off the wagon. I've gained about 20 pounds back this winter (a lot of people have - screw you winter!), but for the most part I've actually done a really great job in the past year of maintaining everything that I accomplished with Spark in the first place, not to mention I ran another Half Marathon in New Orleans just over a month ago. Nevertheless, I honestly need a kick in the pants and some of my daily reminders to keep me headed in the right direction right now. I will be damned if I'm going to give up my 100 pounds lost. The additional 30 has waxed and waned, but I'm ready to see it gone and then some this summer. And today is the first day of Spring - so get it!
When I left here, I left a lot of things - including a job that gave me a desk and a computer to be in front of every day. In the world of tracking and blogging, let me tell you how essential a desk job is for me! Despite all the amazing mobile devices, unless I have Spark open on a browser in front of me all day, it's really complicated for me to track and manage. So today I am happy to report that I am back at a desk this week for the first time in MONTHS and I'm feeling like parts of my life are slowly coming back under my control. But here's the best part - it's ALL for me now!
I am living my dream of owning my own company and working for myself one day at a time. I bought the computer I am sitting in front of, and the desk and the chair and the cabinets and heck, this whole office BY MYSELF. (Well, my company did). I am currently working out of the building that will house our theater - construction starts in a couple of weeks. All of this is very exciting and very stressful so I've been binging and stress eating, but I'm managing.
I also moved for the first time in 8 years on March 1st. I am loving my new apartment (there's room in my living room for a bike trainer!) but it's taking me longer than I would have liked to really settle in and make it "home." (Cue more binge eating, stress eating and "McDonalds sounds good cause there's no food in my new house" eating). Mind you - it's also because I'm spending about 4 nights a week with my honey and his honey (his adorable dog Finley - who I think not so secretly gets more excited to see me come through the door than my boyfriend). This guy is the super buff, "sexy nurse" that is pictured with me in my album. Yummy! And heck if it isn't totally motivating to be around a guy who does Crossfit 3 times a week and is training for the Tough Mudder with me in May. And he's motivated by me too. He isn't as much of a runner as I am (or, rather lately, pretend to be). So we have a good system worked out - he helps me in the strength training category and I give him his marching...er, running orders.
But here's what really happens when you take a year away from Spark and the warning signs that say it's time to get back to it. This is a reminder list for me of the feelings that are tough to remember when you're fit and active, but are all too familiar when they start to return:
- I get breathy walking up a couple of flights of stairs.
- My pants are tight and I have a bag of "skinny clothes" again - not cool.
- When I'm shopping for new clothes, I have to remind myself that I am NOT a medium shirt anymore, and that sucks.
- When I do work out - OMG major DOMS!
- My arm flags are starting to fill in again. Either way they suck, but I'd rather flappy skin than flabby arms.
- Belly fat. The muffin top has got to go.
- My skin is hating my poor food choices. I'm always broken out.
- I remember what dehydration feels like. Not great. Feels WAY better to drink all your water every day.
- Also feels way better to have the "success" of being on target and checking off all those little Spark boxes every day. It really is an accomplishment.
- I'm not as surefooted anymore. The more you run and walk and workout and work your core, the more balance you have in general. All of a sudden I feel like I'm fumbly again and can't bound up and down sets of stairs like I could without constantly looking down and checking my footing.
- The post-binge carb hangover SUCKS. Yes, a tub of Ben and Jerry's is delicious, but waking up the next morning with cotton mouth is disgusting.
- I'm making excuses, and I'm DIETING! I'm looking for the quick fix, and lord, what an eye opener that is. I'm going to write a bigger blog post about this, but you know it's time to get back to what works when in one month you try all of the following: eating clean, eating only fruit and veggies until dinner, eating protein bars for breakfast and lunch, changing your calorie range every week when you don't get results on the first week (including setting it to a 1200 calorie starvation diet mode that only lasted for one day), and thinking a million times in your head "maybe if I tried THIS, it would work." It won't. We've all been there. Here's what works - doing what you know works. Spark works. This works. And it's slow. DAMMIT it's slow. But it works. So just commit to it, trust in it, and log in every damn day. Check the boxes, make the schedule, negotiate a healthy life for yourself.
So that's why I'm back! And with that - it's time for me to get back to it!
See you all soon :)
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Yesterday marked another Sparkversary for me. Hard to believe it's been 3 years. But yesterday also marked another anniversary. Yesterday I quit my full-time job. Amidst the bombs in Boston, my heart was racing for oh so many reasons. So many things in my life came full circle yesterday, and so, what better way to commemorate all those changes than with a new blog?
Follow me over here, won't you?
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