Sunday, May 17, 2015

My Own Biggest Loser Week

I just got back from a week long fitness convention in Florida.  This is the third one that I have attended but definitely the most positive experience that I have ever had.  There is nothing more motivating than a few thousand fitness professionals and the best instructors in the world at a beautiful destination resort.  

I lost 3 pounds during the past week.  To those of you who are dedicated to your diet and exercise and lose 3-5 lbs every week this might not seem like a lot.  But to someone like me whose weight plateaued a long time ago, this is amazing.  

I know that working out several hours a day and eating lots of small meals between my workouts was key.  This along with the variety of workouts that I was doing and the fact that I was getting a good night of sleep every night.  These are all things that seem like they could be modified to fit into my real life. Because I had a large dinner out with dessert and a glass of wine every night.  I didn't feel deprived.  My digestive issues were better.  My energy still had dips in the afternoon but it was definitely more stable.  

I am terrified that those 3 pounds will be right back next Sunday when I weigh myself.  But there is a little voice in my head that tells me that this could be my jump start.  This could be my biggest loser week.  I spent a week at the ranch and learned what works for me.  Now I just have to figure out how to make things work now that I'm back home with all the responsibility and stress that come with work and family.  

I think its also important to point out that my attitude was much better than it normally is.  I was surrounded by people of all races, ages and sizes.  Sure, there were plenty of size 2 "fitness models" walking around but there were just as many curvy (or dare I say fat) fit folks walking around.  And no one said anything bad to them.  Everyone accepted that they were instructors and had just as much right to be there as everyone else.  

I found myself walking around in my swimsuit top and shorts or in my swimsuit and a t-shirt.   I would never do that at home.  The moment I am out of the pool, I am wrapped from head to toe in a beach towel and hustling my way into the locker room.  Maybe I need to stop doing that.  Maybe if I pretend to be confident and comfortable in my own skin, I'll start to feel like it. Maybe this is the beginning of me loving me just a little more than I care about what other people think about me.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Big Dream in the Sky

Fleet Feet has been advertising for new employees for a while now.  And every time I see the post I think about it.  Why not me?  I started running track in middle school.  I've been doing road races since high school.  I am a runner.  But then reality sets in and I know that would never happen. 

That I would never be able to stand beside these sub-7 minute milers with their 5% body fat and feel like their equal.  I know that elite runners would not trust me to be an expert.  That the same people that assume I'm a walker when I come in the store to get fitted for shoes would not take my advice or want my help.  The assholes who say with shock "You're running the half?" when I go to pick up my race number and there is a shorter race on the same day.  Like it is just unfathomable that someone that looks like me could be a runner.  That the hundreds of people that look like me at races are an allusion.

I could coordinate group runs.  I could teach fitness classes.  I could make people like me feel good.  I would try not to make assumptions and treat people with respect.  I would be the healthiest me ever because I would be surrounded by healthy people.  A little color and a little curvyness are exactly what Fleet Feet needs.  

But the reality is that no matter how many life affirming groups that I am a part of online I will never be fully accepted by some runners.  I will always be judged.  And I will always feel self conscious because of that.  I could never be confident enough to fit some elite high school athlete for shoes and discuss his mechanics and give him tips on how to be better.  And that makes me sad.  

Maybe if I lived in a more diverse area but to be the only non-white person and the only thick runner would be too much for me.  I could put on the bravado and fake it but inside I would be constantly on edge and I know that's not a life I want to live. But I can fantasize about a world where it could happen.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Reality Bites

About a year and a half ago I cut back on the dairy and gluten in my diet at the recommendation of a naturopath.  She looked at my medical history and my list of symptoms and said that inflammation was at the root of all my problems and that both dairy and gluten could contribute to that.  

As a general rule in the south you have a biscuit with most meals.  Even if you already have potatoes, rice, pizza, etc on your plate you should also have a couple pieces of bread.  Since both my husband and I are from the south we have proudly continued this tradition.  My inner voice screamed no when I thought about given up all my favorites.  But I was desperate for relief and tired of traditional doctors telling me that I had a number of "syndromes" which may or may not be responsive to medication (in my case no medications have been useful to date).  So I jumped into the gluten and dairy free pool with both feet.  

I rarely do anything in moderation.  The moment I hear about a new fitness craze, shoe, diet book, fashion trend, artist I immediately sign up for or buy everything that I can.  My diet no different.  So I bring a box of food to the break room at work so that I don't have the temptation in my house.  I spend $250 at the whole foods store and create a binder of limited ingredient recipes that will keep my foodie heart happy.  

I didn't want it to work but it did.  I felt better.  I slept better.  My bathroom trips were better and less frequent.  All of my syndromes improved.  I was ecstatic.  I told everyone I knew that I was on a limited ingredient diet.  I started frequenting the restaurants that could accommodate my new lifestyle.  

After about 2 months I plateaued.  My syndromes were taking over again.  I was frustrated.  So I did what any irrational, overreacting person would do.  I started bringing all the crap back in my diet. 

I had never gone 100% gluten/dairy free.  I had settled on a place where about 60-75% of what I ate was on my diet.  But once I stopped feeling good I stopped monitoring what I ate.  I stopped trying.  Of course then I had to tell everyone that I had only had moderate success with my limited ingredient diet so I was going back to my old ways.  

A rational person would have visited their medical doctor and tried some of those prescriptions again to see if they worked better when combined with a limited ingredient diet.  Or maybe follow up with the naturopath to see if there were supplements or additional changes that she recommended.  Hell, maybe even checked out an online community and checked for tips from other folks suffering from the same problems.    

Fast forward to a few months later.  My husband and I went on a trip to a bed and breakfast in Vermont.  The trip was amazing.  It was a foodie's dream vacation.  Amazing dishes that felt indulgent and healthy at the same time.  The chef at the bed and breakfast made all of her food from locally sourced ingredients.  Most of the restaurants that we visited did the same.  I was eating gluten free without effort because it was everywhere.  There were no dairy free options in Vermont but there was an amazing selection of organic/raw options.  So of course you know what happened:  I felt better.  I slept better. My bathroom trips were better and less frequent.

So here I am again.  With a pantry full of selections from the whole foods store and my trusty recipe binder dusted off.  Just in time for Christmas and the New Year I am getting back on the wagon.  Not everyone quits smoking the first time but eventually it usually takes.  So here goes nothing.  


Monday, October 20, 2014

Moving to a Better Me

Today after 10 years in the suburbs we are packing up and moving to the country.  Not off-the-grid, banjo playing country.   But 5 acres of land, private driveway and rural post office route country. 

This is the beginning of a new chapter for my hubby and I.  This is the first house that we have bought together (he moved into my place before).  We are a moving to a new town that neither of us have ever lived in.  

The beauty of moving is leaving behind all the crap from this house.  The bad neighbors.  The annoying traffic.  The unruly kids.  The loose dogs.  

But maybe it can be a chance to leave behind some other unwanted baggage as well.  The unhealthy attitude. The inconsistent exercise and diet.  

Maybe it's a good time to welcome in some new habits.  Better dog training.  Better communication.  Following through on projects.  Planning better.  

Maybe I can stop beating myself up for the mistakes and missed opportunities of the past and focus on the potential for the future.  No, I don't think this move is a magic bullet but I work better with goals and plans and this move seems to be the perfect opportunity to reset myself.  

My husband has acknowledged that he needs a reset as well so we're in this together.  This new chapter will undoubtedly be better than the last.  The new me won't be all that different from the old me.  I think she will just live up to the person that she wants to be and like herself a little more.   

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Spanking vs. Beating

 Every summer when school let out, my parents dropped me off to spend the summer with my grandmother and extended family.  I loved the summers with my grandmother.  We did something different every day and my parents, babysitters and brother weren't around to bother me.  

Both of my parents believed in spanking as a form of discipline.  They both had abusive, alcoholic fathers who had disciplined them.  They hated their fathers and were estranged from them.  But, like their fathers, they often went to far with discipline and spankings quickly turned to beatings.  

Our two primary babysitters were also very abusive.  The private school we attended was authorized to spank us.  It seemed like everywhere we went some adult had the right to beat us and we just had to take it.  I don't know what it was like in other places but this was the norm in the south in the 70's and 80's.  

These summers with my grandmother were a welcome relief from being beaten.  She spanked me on occasion but not with the frequency or intensity of my parents or sitters.  When my grandmother spanked me I knew it was in response to something I did wrong.  At home it was generally because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and they needed someone to let out their frustrations on.  

My extended family also believed in spanking.  I frequently witnessed my cousins getting beaten with a switch.  These beatings were painful to watch but I knew from my home life that I should keep my distance.  My mother would often lose control when beating my brother and start hitting me as well because I was in the same room.  

Most beatings left bruises.  Occasionally there was blood if the skin was broken.  Wooden spoons, leather belts with metal buckles and switches each had the potential to break the skin.  No one ever told them what they were doing was abuse.  My brother and I frequently threatened to call child protective services on my mother but we never did.  She knew they were idol threats and had no reason to do anything different. 

No one at school every questioned the bruises and we never went to a teacher or other adult for help. We thought this was how all parents treated their children.  Most of our friends were covered in bruises and scars just from rough housing and being kids.  I'm sure if we had black eyes or burn marks an adult would have stepped in but I'm not sure.   

The Adrian Peterson story is shocking to the public because there are pictures of a 4 year old with bruises.  The use of a switch to beat the child seemed barbaric to many people.  Peterson's only defense is that this was how he was disciplined and he saw no reason not to discipline his child in the same way. 

I have vivid memories of being beaten from the time I was 3 years old.  I didn't start to forgive my mother until I was well into my 20's.  I still resented my father when he died.  

One of my babysitters died from cancer 10 years ago.  Even though I had not seen her for many years I felt a strange sense of relief after she died.  

A couple of my cousins have been arrested for assault.  My brother has struggled with controlling his temper and has been arrested as well.  For a number of years he was medicated but he has learned to control his anger as he has gotten older.  He works in a very physical job which helps him relax.   

I often find myself so angry that I feel like my entire body is going to explode.  Exercise is generally my refuge.  After a good workout my anger subsides.  But there are still times when I think extremely violent thoughts.  I am proud of myself for being strong enough to never act on these thoughts but the fact that I have them concerns me.  I wish my parents had given me other tools to deal with conflict.  I wish my first instinct wasn't to fight.  

Maybe other people will see themselves in Adrian Peterson.  Maybe they will recognize that what they are doing is abuse and seek help.  Maybe they will learn how to discipline their children without violence.  Maybe some other little girl in the south won't grow up resenting her parents and terrified of having children of her own and continuing the cycle of abuse.  

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Relationship with Food

I have always had an unhealthy relationship with food.  I use it as a reward after a long workout or a hard day.  I use it as a crutch when I'm in a situation that makes me nervous.  I eat when I'm bored.  I eat when I'm sad.  I eat when I'm happy.  I'm definitely an emotional eater. 

Due to potential allergic reactions, I've been forced to clean up my diet over the past year.  Dairy and gluten are a much smaller part of my diet than they used to be.  I eat more veggies and less sweets.  I still allow myself indulgences but nothing like how I used to eat.  I definitely feel better when I eat better. 

I still have moments of weakness when I'm craving the really bad stuff that I used to eat.  I eat it and within minutes I start to feel sick.  My body is getting used to the healthier choices.  It is not taking the bad food.  

I'd love to say that the solution is curing my unhealthy relationship with food but I don't think that is realistic.  I think that I need to find new indulgences that aren't going to make me sick.  I'm never going to sit down with a bag of carrots and hummus instead of a bowl of ice cream but there has to be something in the middle.  

I recently met someone who lost half of herself on Weight Watchers.  She used to be 300+ lbs and is now a very trim 150 lbs.  When we go out to dinner she is extremely disciplined.  She never gets the items with heavy sauce.  Nothing fried.  No desserts.  I asked her what her food indulgences were.  She said that she craved nuts.  That in uncontrollable moments she could eat an entire jar of peanuts.  I looked at her like she was crazy.  She talked about peanuts like I talk about ice cream and Chinese buffet.  

Clearly that wasn't her splurge when she weighed 300 lbs.  How did she make that switch?  How come people have to become morbidly obese to make major life changes that stick?  Why can't those of us who need to drop 30 lbs go through the same transformation?

When I'm craving something bad I need to remember how I feel now.  Dizzy, noxious, bloated, tired, etc.  I need to remind myself that no piece of pizza is worth being sick for the next 12 hours.  That a long workout might burn 2000+ calories but that doesn't give me an excuse to indulge in double that afterwards.  Sigh.  I might have just eaten my last egg roll.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Life Change

I have known that it was time for a career change for a while now.  I don't have any passion for my job any more.  What my job used to be and what I thought it could become are no longer possibilities.  If it weren't for fitness I think I would have quit years ago.  Teaching fitness has feed my soul and kept me from losing my mind.  After a miserable day at work all I want to do is eat a pint of ice cream and watch reality TV.  But I can't because there is a group of people depending on me to give them a good workout. 

So I drag my cranky ass to the gym.  Sometimes I have a sour look on my face when I walk in the door because I'm still thinking about my work day.  But once I see one of my students it erases all the crap from the day.  And once the class gets going and the music is pumping and I'm starting to sweat it's like the rest of the day never happened.  It is an amazing feeling. 

Am I person who enjoys being the center of attention? Absolutely, if it's for the right reason.  I don't want to be on the Jumbotron at a sporting event.  I would hate for someone to throw me a surprise party.  I can't think of anything worse than being on any of the shows that I love to watch (What Not to Wear, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Dog Whisperer, House Hunters, etc).  I love to watch reality TV.  I would hate to be a part of it.  I hate having people in my personal space if I didn't invite them there. 

I have always been an overachiever.  Professionally, I have been successful at most things that I have attempted.  These achievements have earned me recognition that I enjoy receiving.  I love tackling difficult problems.  I love picking things apart and discovering issues that some one else overlooked.  I thrive on finding new and innovative ways to solve old problems.  This is at it's core what an engineer is to me.  A problem solver.  An innovator. 

Unfortunately many large corporations employ engineers as people managers, legal consultants, real estate advisers, community liaisons and a number of other unsavory tasks that don't require engineering skills.  I'm okay with these tasks being a component of my job as long but they have become 90% of what I do on a daily basis.  Many engineers are okay with this.  As they move deeper into their careers they no longer want to deal with the daily grind of site management and problem solving.  They like being in the office and dealing with the business side of things.  In my 14 year professional career it seems that this transition is expected if you work for large corporations as I have.

I started my new job search 2 weeks ago.  I have been searching for engineering/project management jobs.  Demanding, high pressure jobs that are commensurate with my experience.  Jobs where a lot will be expected of me.  As I look over my resume and the jobs that I think I am qualified for I don't think it will be difficult for me to a find another job that is similar to the one that I have now. But do I really want that job?  Do I want to go down that path again if I know where it's likely to end up?

When I was in college I was at my happiest.  I had a full course load, did a lot of volunteer work, had an awesome social life and participated in numerous extracurricular activities.  I was very busy but I was never bored.  When I got my first engineering job it was difficult to maintain all of my hobbies and still work full time.  Slowly, as the demands from work increased, my extracurricular activities decreased.  Add in a few pets and a husband and it's nearly impossible to manage everything without major sacrifices in some, if not all, areas. 

I have been teaching fitness for 4 years.  I teach an average of 10 hours a week but those 10 hours of teaching equal about 20 hours of preparation.  It is a part time job.  Even though it is fun it requires a lot of work.  When I think back to when I first started my engineering career I was working long hours.  60+ hours a week for several weeks at a time.  If I'm going into another situation where I'm expected to be a problem solver, this initial time commitment will be a must.  I have no desire to go through that again at this stage in my life.  My fitness and my family are too important to me. 

It struck me that what I need is a part-time job.  A job where I can have the flexibility to teach fitness classes on the side.  A job with a social component to it but not one where I am spending 40 hours a week in an office with a bunch of people.  I recognize that even though I may be solving problems, I probably won't be a senior member on staff.  I will not be in the spotlight.  But I'm in the spotlight with fitness and maybe that's enough.

To have the time to dedicate to my hobbies.  To not have to carry my cell phone at all times just in case there is an emergency and I'm needed.  To stop checking my e-mails once I sign off for the day.  To truly put in my hours and then leave work at work. 

Assuming my ego can handle me being just another member of the team, can it handle me making significantly less money?  As my husband moves into a position in his career where he is the go to person.  The person who has to check his phone at all times.  The person who can't leave work at work.  The guy in the spotlight.  His salary has increased dramatically during this time.  I still make more money than him but I don't think that would be true for very long.  Maybe it's time to let him take the lead financially.  He is only 2 years into his career.  I am 14 years into mine.  He made a career change 2 years ago to do something that he loved. I need to do the same thing. 

Recently my husband and I have clashed over his lack of contribution to the household.  The maintenance of the house, meals, shopping, the pets, projects, setting up appointments, etc are all my responsibility.  I have always taken the lead with things but he used to be around more to offer assistance and appreciation.  At this point it seems like there is the assumption that I will handle everything.  That I am the housewife.  Maybe that's okay.

If no one is making huge demands on me at work I don't know if I would mind this transition.  I enjoy being the "house manager".  I take pride in all of the things that I do with the house and the pets.  I like taking care of my man.  Maybe that's an old fashioned way to think of things but it's absolutely how I feel. 

So I need to start looking for part time jobs.  Financially, we will probably have to go through a period where I'm working 2 jobs so we can pay down debt and set up a nice emergency fund.  So that my husband can take over the role of primary bread winner and I can find a new career path that will make me happy.  Somehow just acknowledging that this is the change that needs to happen makes me feel better.  I'm ready.