Bringing Your Body Into Balance

My 100+ pound weight loss is what grabs people's attention. However, my weight loss was merely a side effect of finally taking my health and happiness into my own hands and finding that perfect balance. Body, mind, spirit. It all matters.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Control Freaking Out

Okay, I will freely admit it. I am a complete control freak. I hate it! But if other people could just be as smart and forward thinking as I am, I wouldn't have to spend all of my time trying to help everyone get it right!

Oddly enough, I never had anyone actually accuse me of being a control freak (that I can recall), until I started dating again after my marriage. Then all of the sudden, the term seemed to start coming from everywhere. 

I look back to my life before that and, briefly wonder, "did I only recently become a control freak? Did something traumatic happen to me that caused me to need to become one"...then I think back to who I was the rest of my life, all the way back to my childhood, and...yup, nope, always a control freak! I guess that when you're younger, your peers, boyfriends, etc. aren't evolved enough to identify these types of characteristics in you. Your parents are probably just hoping you'll grow out of it and convincing themselves that "well, at least she won't be a follower" to feel better about this festering social wart on their daughter's personality. 

So, yeah, I can see why my parent's may not have minded it. And I think my ex-husband liked it. Wait, I know he did! I remember him telling me early on, "I don't want to deal with the bills and the checkbook and all that. Just give me a little money to spend each week and you can have total control of everything else." And he handed his paycheck over to me each week and....OH MY GOD! I really HAVE always been a control freak. Looking back I realize that I was in my glory when he told me that. I forgot until this second how I felt like that showed we were meant to be: that I liked to be in control of everything...and he liked me to be as well.

Men since then haven't appreciated it very much. And I understand why. But I really do feel like I usually know the best way to do something. I'm a plotter and a fixer, and I'm pretty damn good at it. And when Gino's not annoyed with me, he'll usually admit it too. When he is annoyed with my controlling nature it's hard for me to see in that moment why he is upset, because I feel unappreciated. But when I'm not in that low-energy place, I recognize that he is a man and needs to know that I trust his decision making abilities. Fine line. Sometimes we both do great, sometimes not so much. And, while my need to control really helped grease the wheels of my often squeaky marriage, I recognize the importance of having a man now that won't always let me control everything. There is unbelievable comfort in him sometimes wrapping his arms around me and saying "I've got this" and, as scary as it sometimes feels, just letting go of control for a moment and leaning into him.

A few years ago, Brene Brown's book, "The Gifts of Imperfection" really fundamentally changed my perception of myself. She talks about how we label those self-perceived negative parts of ourselves and try to isolate them from the good parts. But the take away is that we can't have the truly good without the bad. We can't fully be our glorious, authentic selves if we are ashamed of big hunks of who we are. 

I wrote in a lot of detail in a blog post from a couple years ago, It's All the Shame, about how I really came to terms with a lot of the shame I used to feel about myself. I've worked through a lot of it but I still have pieces to work through and today I feel I did that again.

Yesterday I received some extremely stressful and upsetting information that will remain unresolved for some time and will require a lot of effort on my part to resolve. I spent the first part of the weekend extremely distracted and just really stressed out. This morning I started literally pacing the floor like a caged animal. It was threatening to become a full on panic attack. I could feel my chest tightening and the irrational anxiety growing. 

What could I do? I felt completely out of control. I looked around the house, yesterday I had decided to take it easy and barely cleaned anything. Now, Sunday morning....dirty dishes, legos in the living room, laundry piling up, it felt like chaos swirling everywhere. I felt an urge to run as fast as I could, away from life.

So I did the only thing I could do. The thing that has gradually replaced binging on garbage food over the years and has become my therapy....Like a woman possessed, I cleaned. And cleaned. And organized. And recycled. And folded and straightened and prepared and....ahhhhh. Peace. It was everywhere. I organized a list of phone numbers to start calling in the morning that will hopefully be a first step toward resolving my stressful situation. My mind finally grew a little quiet. 

It was my control freak. She had been losing it. I was running around trying to ignore her because she's obsessing about how to fix something today that there was NO way to fix today. I'm supposed to be all Zen and "everything will unfold the way it should." She's not allowing me to be Buddha-like. She's stressing me out. She's bad. 

But she's not. 

As I sit here tonight almost completely at peace, I can't help but realize that she doesn't need to control everything. She understands that there's this emotionally and, potentially financially, draining situation looming over our heads and she can't control it. But she needed to be dealt with so that she can try! If chaos is swirling around her, how is she supposed to draw deep from that power that she possesses? To find that determination where she sinks in her heels and doesn't stop until she finds a way. 

So I let her control what she could. She made everything beautiful and an amazingly tasty, healthy dinner. In fact, she made me feed my body healthy food all day because she needed to know that at least she COULD control that! 

I've fully integrated my inner control freak and am officially claiming it as an asset. I am a control freak. When I feel out of control I look around and figure out what I CAN control and I do it. That's not me feeding this negative control freak side of myself. It's me recognizing who I am, way past the socially stigmatized labels, and seeing that this is a need within me that needs to be met in order for me to be my best version of myself. And I meet it. I feed that part of myself that I once labeled bad and forced to live in a dark place, and it makes me grow.

Furthermore, my control freak makes me a great trainer. And it's perfectly balanced with my other (no longer) "negative" trait of being overly sensitive to possibly hurting someone's feelings. So, while I try to have my hand in every aspect of a client's life that they'll allow me to slink into (something SO important for real, sustainable change), I'm not a bulldog about it. I gently and subtly, yet consistently, coax them toward change.

It's not everyone's cup of tea. Some people WANT a bulldog. Some people just want me to work them out and shut my trap. But, as for that little slice that is MY demographic, I am their trainer for life. And I love them for appreciating me so it makes me work extra hard for them and put my heart and soul into it.

My perfect combination of ALL my traits makes me exactly who I am and I am just truly starting to embrace that with no apologies....or very few anyway.

And, in my relationship with Gino, after too long of almost pushing him and "us" away at times, I've also come to fully embrace both our "dark" sides. It's very much the ugly duckling syndrome. While we may completely butt heads on occasion (let's face it, we are both strong-minded Italians, it's going to happen sometimes), we also have so many aspects of ourselves that never quite worked or were even rejected outright by previous partners. But, with each other, it all somehow falls perfectly into place and creates love and friendship like I've never known. I don't just love my "dark" traits, I love his as well. I embrace them as part of who he is and wouldn't have it any other way. 

We are all perfectly beautiful in our own way. We just need to embrace, and be embraced for, our entire selves. Not just the squeaky clean, socially acceptable, admirable things. All it of. Shame is not a useful emotion.

One of my favorite quotes by the late, great Debbie Ford is:

"Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow. The caterpillar will become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you're not. You will no longer have to prove you're good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to live in fear. Find the gifts of your shadow and you will finally revel in all the glory of your true self. Then you will have the freedom to create the life you have always desired.” 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Me Pre-Whole30 vs. Me Post-Whole30

I almost worry that my last post glorified life NOT on Whole30 a little too much! I hate that this could be the message for some people because this is so life changing and it would be a shame for someone to dismiss it based on me saying something like "Whole30 threatened to hurt my relationship with food in new ways." I assure you, this is not a notable risk for most people. Furthermore, I would take the type of dysfunction I may have developed by doing never-ending rounds of whole30 ANY DAY OF THE WEEK over the dysfunctions I had before doing it!

That's why I want to take a few minutes to compare just how different I feel now to before doing it.

First and foremost (although not  most importantly), I lost 12 pounds in 25 days! And I didn't have a lot of weight to lose! I would imagine an obese individual could possibly see even bigger results. However, again, not the most important element. And I don't feel like everything I lost was fat. I think I was carrying around some sludgy toxic fluid that I dropped very early on. I would guess most of us are carrying that around if we're not eating right.

Another huge change is my attitude about certain foods that I considered truly healthy. Such as peanut butter and dairy. These are now moved to the "treat" category and only in their purest forms available....although I will keep lots of ghee and a little grass-fed butter in my "healthy" category.

I used to think beans were extremely healthy. Maybe they are for some people but I learned very quickly that they were causing me a lot of problems. They are GONE forever out of my diet! I didn't even like them that much anyway so no big loss.

The biggest lesson of all is JUST HOW MUCH food affects my energy level. It's something I truly did already know but, after almost a month of basically no afternoon slumps or feeling like I was going to fall asleep on my feet when I was counting a client's set of 12 repetitions for the 100th time that day, I have become acutely aware of it. I feel so completely energized and inspired with each of my clients again. My evenings with my son are much more full of play and movement than before. And I don't have to push myself to do them. My energy feels limitless!

I LOVE giant plates of veggies. I've been a fan for a long time but somehow my veggie portions slowly shrank over the past couple of years. No more! For each and every meal, including breakfast, I love nothing more than big heaping piles of veggies. Not only do I know they are nourishing my inside, making my skin glow and keeping me regular, THEY FILL ME UP!! And they satisfy me because I have to chew, chew, chew them and chewing helps create satiety.

Before the Whole30 I would constantly say "I've never gone a single day in my life without cheating." And that was completely literal! I had never once managed to eat perfectly for an entire day. Even though I could focus on the 5 1/2 days I did not complete on this program, I won't. I, instead, can't help but fixate on the fact that I went almost an entire month sticking to a plan!!! As someone who literally has never stuck to anything religiously for a single day (LITERALLY), this is huge and redefines how I view myself! I am NOT a quitter! I AM dedicated!

Another huge lesson is this: Before the Whole30, I kidded myself into believing that I was setting a good example for my son by eating the way I did. I thought because he saw me eating more veggies and salad than the average parent that I was doing great. I couldn't figure out for the life of me why he was getting more and more picky about healthy food. Since cutting out ALL the treats I was eating in front of him (which was more than I realized), he is so much more open to eating new, healthy things. The other night I gave him a plate with a chicken thigh covered in herbs, roasted SKIN ON red potatoes covered in dill, roasted garlic broccoli and raw carrots and held my breath as he inspected it...he actually said "yay! Potatoes!" And he ate every last thing and then enjoyed a date roll with me (made out of medjool dates and almonds) for dessert. Now, he has since decided that he prefers white meat to chicken thigh BUT it wasn't something he looked at and turned his nose up. It's something he decided after eating it about 4 times and disliking the consistency of the fat in his mouth. Easy fix and I'm totally okay with it because, to me, it's him tuning in to his natural palette and his body telling him what he needs or doesn't need.

I went into this plan kind of haphazardly combing different things I had learned together and kinda sorta making it work. In many ways, that hasn't changed. I've gathered so much diverse information and applied it to this new life and body I've made for myself over the years. However, I would almost apply the label "Paleo" to myself at this point. I will never follow the hard, fast rules of Paleo but this program has made me understand just why it's becoming such a big deal! So you can call me "kinda-sorta Paleo with an occasional side of pizza and beer" from here on out...

Real Life: Day 1??

My first "cheat breakfast".....100% Whole30 compliant!

A LOT has happened since my last post. Thursday afternoon I decided for sure that I was going to start a new Whole30. I talked a little in my last post about why I was doing this. More than anything, I was scared. I was scared to release myself back into the big wide world of CHOICES. While I don't know if fear is necessarily a healthy place to operate from, I still feel like this decision was coming from a healthy place or, rather, a desire to be healthy.

However, my next decision, I'm not sure if it was entirely unhealthy or some old thought pattern that had to be broken. I decided I was going to go off the Whole30 plan completely (on day 25) from Thursday evening until Monday morning when I would start my new Whole30. 

Now, at no point did I intend to completely throw down but I definitely thought I'd have some "food fun" over the weekend. 

So Thursday afternoon, I'm ready to cut loose. I go ahead and eat my Whole30 compliant lunch because I was at work and it was packed. I run home before going to get my son to drop a few things off and walk into the kitchen to grab a snack. I look around the kitchen, realizing I can eat whatever I want! The Beanito chips that have been calling my name for almost 30 days, cheese, one of Gino's Pumpkin Pie protein bars that I really love....I settle on an Apple Pie flavored Larabar (also Whole30 compliant). I just literally couldn't find anything worth not feeling good after I ate it!

That evening I finally have my first "cheat". On the way to Zumba I drink 1/4 of a preworkout drink. I probably missed pre-workouts more than anything. I usually use one that's sweetened with stevia and doesn't have any artificial chemicals in it. However, I couldn't find mine so I just grabbed a tiny serving of one of Gino's.

After Zumba came my happy moment. I would finally get to order one of my gym's AMAZING peanut butter chocolate protein shakes! This has for a long time now been the highlight of my workout. I honestly should've stopped at my first sip. I had Gino taste it to confirm that it didn't taste any different than usual. It was NOT GOOD! I manged to get about half of it down on the drive home because I was starving but couldn't stomach any more. This morning after our workout, I easily, without a second thought, told Gino "no" when he went to order a shake and asked if I wanted one. No more shakes for me....or should I call them, icy cold chemical drinks. Ugh.

The next day was going to be crazy busy so I decided not to eat any Whole30 non-compliant meals because I wanted to be "on" for all my clients. In fact, until last night, my one and only "cheat" all day was a Kevita which is ridiculously healthy and I just couldn't have on the Whole30 because it has stevia listed as the 2nd to last ingredient. It required zero willpower because I just wanted to feel good all day!

Then last night (the infamous Free Friday) arrived. After an entire day of not cheating at all I was ready to do some good ole cheatin! And I did. We went to a local pub and ordered hot wings and fries. I had three hot wings and a half a basket of fries....and a water. That food was soooooo good and I enjoyed every last bite. We ordered a second basket of fries and took almost all of it home. I have had no interest in eating them since. 

Then I finally decided that I would break the seal and have alcohol. I had about 2 shots of rum and I was DONE! It was a pleasant buzz. Ordinarily this would be the portion of the evening where I would want an even better buzz but it, again, required ZERO willpower because I wanted to feel good when I woke up this morning.

Well, jokes on me. I felt like shit! 

I woke up with a horrible headache and my stomach feeling a little funky. Ordinarily I would BS my way through a workout and then somehow justify a greasy "hangover breakfast". However, this time, especially since I didn't feel SO horrible, having stopped at two shots and not gone as overboard as in the past on junk food, I was able to push through and get a pretty decent workout. 

After my workout, I hit a couple health food stores and stocked up on some great meat and such then I called in an order to one of my favorite local fairly healthy places. They make the best pulled pork, grilled cheese, siracha sandwich with avocado....I didn't get that. I ordered a veggie plate. Miso broccoli, maple brussels sprouts and tomato basil soup. My new form of cheating was just being able to ask, "is it real maple syrup and real tomatoes?" (because I suddenly cared about the answer) and then just eat further questions required. And I decided, instead of a side of their amazing pulled pork, I'll be eating my veggies with a free-range chicken thigh I'm reheating as I type. 

I had decided on Thursday that I would take my son out for frozen yogurt this weekend because this is something we've both really loved doing for a while now. Instead I've decided that we are going to make some paleo cookies together using local honey I received in my CSA box this week. 

All of this has come together in a decision that I feel so at peace with. I will NOT be starting another Whole30 on Monday. Doing this program helped me SO SO much and I have no doubt that I will do it again in the future. It forced me to really get back in touch with my emotions surrounding food and find more constructive ways to deal with them. It helped me learn just how good I can feel when I nourish my body properly....instead of getting pretty darn healthy....with a side of chips at most meals. It truly reset my body and my mind.

However, while it helped me fix so many aspects of my relationship with food, it threatened to create new problems if I kept living in my Whole30 bubble. I want to be able to cook and eat paleo cookies with my son. I want to be able to order veggies and not think that it's so horrible that they are prepared in organic, fermented soy (miso) soup. And, on the flip side, I don't want to convince myself I'm somehow being healthy by putting away a couple servings of plantain chips before dinner. 

At this moment in my life, I feel so in control and at peace with my relationship with food. I WANT to eat REAL food! Not because a program is telling me to but because it feel SO AMAZINGLY GOOD! It tastes better than the fake stuff almost always and even when the tastes that were created in a lab for the sole purpose of getting me addicted just happen to fool my taste buds, they can no longer fool my mind! 

OH! And I lost 12 pounds!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Whole30 Reset Day 25....Should I Start Over?

I have something that's really bugging me. I feel like I haven't done the Whole30 the right way. I actually read an article on their website recently about how a lot of people feel this way no matter what they do. While I have not once eaten a "no-no" food, I HAVE weighed....a lot....

I feel like this alone should make me start over because it is strictly against the rules. But the other thing that's really bothering me is I think I'm still eating for reasons other than hunger. I had slowly, so slowly I didn't even realize it right away, replaced chips made out of grains with plantain chips. I replaced sugary desserts with medjool dates. Obviously these are huge improvements but they still feed an emotional craving I'm having, not a physical one.

Plus, I just don't feel done yet! I feel like I need more time with these black and white rules before I release myself back into the wild. Honestly, I don't know that I should give myself that freedom of choice again until the freedom of choice no longer scares me!

So tomorrow's post may well be titled "Whole30, Round 2: Day 1"

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Whole30 Reset Day 24

Well, it's official. Only one week left to go. Seven more days. I am kind of nervous for it to come to an end. I have found comfort in the black and white rules of this program. I have gotten to a point where I am perfectly content with a Medjool date for dessert and where I don't view a sober Friday night as a depressing waste of a free evening....but I still don't feel "done". I feel like I need another 30 days to work through a couple things. 

The alcohol is still an aspect I need to work on. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an alcoholic. But I still find myself viewing alcohol in a less than healthy way. It's the same way that I view junk food. They are things of celebration that will make life better. Yes, I understand that food and spirits can absolutely be these things! But when you've struggled with an addictive personality and you've used these things to cope with life way too much, I think it's very important to always be aware of your attitude towards them.

So I'm thinking that instead of jumping feet first back into another Whole30, I'm going to very gradually reintroduce certain foods back into my diet and see how I feel. Alcohol, chips and sugar will be added dead last and not as a daily fixture.

This last week I am going to remove plantain chips, Epic products and Larabars completely from my diet. They weren't a huge part of it to begin with but I found myself eating them for enjoyment and comfort instead of convenience. Again, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with eating a food for enjoyment but I am on a mission to feel the full spectrum of my emotions as they occur and not to dull them with ANYTHING. And that anything could be anything from alcohol and food to Facebook and T.V. I am working on increasing my self-awareness. 

Now! For my happy non-scale victory! I have a workout shirt that I haven't worn for the last couple of weeks because I didn't like how it had gotten a little snug on me. When I first bought it, it was almost too big but it totally worked! It fell perfectly on my hips and just looked super cute and unique. It had gotten to the point where it just looked odd and made me look a little frumpy. Well, yesterday I wasn't even thinking when I grabbed it and threw it on in a rush. I never even noticed the difference until I got up in front of a class to teach and saw myself in the mirror. It fit correctly again!!!! I can't tell you how much that affected my energy through the rest of the class! It made me aware that I'm feeling so much lighter on my feet now! The heavy feeling is close to being gone. Very close. 

This week I have some decisions to make. I feel like I'm sooooo close to being in a good place with food and alcohol but I just don't quite feel like I'm there yet. I'm hoping this next week of cutting out basically ALL prepackaged foods will help me with this but if it doesn't, I may just have to do this thing over again. I will NOT be ruled by food, alcohol or any other silly unworthy thing or person again! I deserve nothing more than to be liberated from every silly, secular thing in this world that threatens to tear me down and makes my life anything less than amazing, no, magical! We all do!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My Opinion of Loose Skin After Weight Loss and TLC's "Skin Tight"

Okay, I ruffle feathers every time I bring this sort of thing up but I can't help it! It's sooo frustrating!

People ask me constantly if I have loose skin and when I tell them that my skin is just barely loose, they ask me how I managed to pull that off after being morbidly obese for years and years and then losing over 100 pounds. I explain to them that during my weight loss process that my skin was much looser and that proper diet has restored much of my skin elasticity and strength training has helped plump out the difference. I outline all of this in detail along with a more thorough explanation of my opinion on and experience with loose skin after weight loss in this article.

So, in case you don't like clicking links to other posts, let me tell you in a nutshell why I had such loose skin in the middle of my weight loss and almost none now...

Because I still had lots of fat to lose and it was weighing the skin down and not allowing it to shrink back up.

Last night I had TLC on in the other room while I was cooking dinner. There was a show called "Skin Tight" on. Let me start by saying that I don't generally watch this show and this woman's individual case may not reflect other cases on this show. I heard from the other room her talking about how she felt self-conscious to go around the other mom's because she still looked overweight because of the extra skin. I walked into the living room to see what this thin woman with all the extra skin looked like and what I saw was a still very overweight woman whose fat was weighing down her skin. Her arms were large, she had a double chin....she was overweight!

Sure enough, they said they removed THIRTY-NINE POUNDS of "skin"!! Okay, common sense should tell you something is wrong with this picture. Skin is paper thin. They removed FAT! And I know this because when they showed her afterward she looked like an overweight person who had her stomach cut off. Her arms were still large (not flabby, just very large), she still had a double chin, and her breasts were huge...and yes, I understand a thin woman can have large breasts but my point is, she was thin NOWHERE!

I'm not saying all this to be harsh. I'm saying all this to emphasize the point that we shouldn't be so quick to let someone take a knife to us. I think it's great that this woman lost 200 pounds or whatever it was and no doubt drastically improved her health but, quite honestly, she needed to probably lose another 50-75 pounds. THEN she could've seen what she was left with before risking her life for this procedure. If nothing else, the trauma to her body would've been way less if not as much work would've needed to be done to remove so much excess fat in addition to the skin.

Sometimes I have no doubt that people absolutely need skin removal surgery and we are all entitled to that decision but a lot of plastic surgeons are making a lot of money off of our misunderstanding of what is skin and what is fat.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Whole30 Reset Day 22

In order for me to figure out what day I was on, I literally had to go back to my last post and count forward. Why? Because I'm no longer counting down the days. I'm no longer focused on food. I am focused on snowball fights, personal bests in my workouts, building my business, spending time with my know, all the stuff that's way more important than food (and alcohol) but I somehow prioritized wrong. That's the thing with addiction. It makes no sense. It's prioritizing gone wrong. Someone who doesn't struggle can't understand. It may even seem silly. It's anything but.

At least when people struggle with drug addiction, society gets it. They get that drugs can control people and destroy lives. People with food addiction are either the butt of everyone's jokes or it is even dismissed as not an addiction at all. Overeating is looked at as pure gluttony. The obese are viewed as being lazy and lacking self control. People. Just. Don't. Get. It.

I do.

Just like any good addict, I got it in check several years ago. But I would compare where I had gotten to in recent months to that of a "functioning alcoholic." Someone who goes about their daily business and gets by just fine, drinking at night just enough to numb themselves but not so much that it affects the next day...that much anyway. But just like any other functioning addict, it began to creep more and more into my "daytime life" and show up. In my case, visibly on my body. My addiction was starting to show all over my body, which is pretty much impossible to hide.

I've done a lot of crying this month. Oddly enough, not about food. I've cried because I've allowed myself to, once again, feel the full spectrum of my emotions. Without going too much into detail, I've gone through some heavy shit in the last year! There were times when things looked very hopeless. Yet, somehow, I almost never cried. I think I've shed enough tears in the last 21 days to more than make up for that year.

Feelings are meant to be felt. We live in a society where we are told to "fake it til you make it." The "it" usually being "happiness". Post a picture of a cute kitten on Facebook and get 57 likes and 22 comments. Post something about your grandma's funeral and somehow people won't notice your post in their feed. You'll get almost nothing except the occasional "everything happens for a reason" or "she's in a better place." When what we should be saying is "you know what! Life sometimes sucks! Pain sucks! IT HURTS LIKE HELL to lose someone and it's completely normal and OKAY that you are in pain right now!"

We have GOT to acknowledge that pain and suffering are an inevitable part of life or addictions of all kinds will continue to devour our society because, make no mistake, we ARE still feeling the pain. We are just feeling it over and over again every time we feel it rise and run for cover.