It's All the Shame

Lately I've been reading on the subject of shame. It's not something we really talk about much but we all have it. When we think back to something stupid we said or did and think "God, what was I thinking? That was so stupid!" That is shame. When we look at our children sleeping and call ourselves bad parents for not just sitting down and playing legos with them (like they kept asking us to) instead of cleaning, or losing our cool when they were running around the house being too loud, that is shame. Ladies, when we can't relax and clear our mind enough to enjoy sex because we are too concerned about how we appear to our partner, that too is shame.

The tricky thing about shame is that the causes of it are actually based in reality. Something someone said to us, something humiliating that happened to us in the 8th grade that still haunts us 20 years later. Over time, these little doses of shame turn into black pits of shame that cripple us and make us unable to fully embrace ourselves. Why should we? We are so flawed and if people only knew....

Growing up, I was always the chubby girl. Kids are cruel and I suffered my fair share of bullying during my school years. As the chubby girl, you never know when the next fat comment will come and ruin your day. On top of being chubby, I was weird. Dramatic, often inside my own head, and a non-conformist which may sound cool but, when you're a kid, it's about as far from cool as you can get. I could fill many, many blogs with these frequent, tiny shaming experiences that led up to my desire to hide from the rest of the world by the time I reached adulthood.

I spent my 20's doing just that. Hiding. And getting bigger. My world was safe. I made sure to fill it with people who loved and embraced me regardless of my size and I began to heal from that shame (although my lifestyle caused new and equally screwed up afflictions...but that's another blog post).

When I finally started to embrace the idea of changing my life, I stepped out into the world 45 pounds lighter than my heaviest post-pregnancy weight of 275. I was tired of hiding. Where had it gotten me? I was ready to live my life and to hell with the bullies I had been hiding from. Besides, I was a grown up now, things would be different.
I met my first boyfriend I'd had since my marriage ended when I was tipping the scales at just under 220. In retrospect, it is obvious to me that I was still obese. But, having lost 55 pounds, I felt pretty and even a little confident. However, during my two year relationship with him, I felt constant shame in the form of small comments, rejection and even, at the very least, emotional infidelity.

I used to blame all of my physical insecurities on what I experienced in that relationship but now I realize it was much more than that. When I was overweight, I could always pretend there was a perfect body, perfect person, lurking underneath all that weight and that one day I would shed it and that perfect person would be revealed. Now that I've basically shed it all, I am left with this normal, flawed person and it's hard to accept after a lifetime of fantasies about what this moment would feel like.
Between this growing awareness of all these imperfections that I was being left with (both mentally and physically) as the weight disappeared, combined with the many shortcomings that I was made aware of by this person I allowed in my life, I began to stifle so much of who I was, even things I had previously been proud of (like my musical taste or my ability to bear my heart to others and discuss my feelings openly) for fear of rejection. Not just from him, but from society as a whole.

By the time I became single again, I should have been on top of the world. There I was at 145 pounds, size 8. Not perfect but better than I'd ever looked. But I was broken. I still am. I used to have fantasies when I was fat about being the thin girl in the cute dress & heels that turns the guys heads and, when I go out, I am that girl now. But they don't know what I know. I often feel like I'm somehow tricking people. The attention from men that I thought I always wanted, now makes me unconfortable because, when they're staring, they're more likely to see what's wrong with me. For this reason, there are times when I wish to be, once again, "invisible".

I've fixed many of the mental short-comings I once felt, but the physical ones are harder. Why? Because I own a mirror. And I see my body for what it is. Imperfect. I feel shame when I look at it. I feel shame admitting that I feel shame over it.

How do I heal? Well, I've started. Partly because of the time and energy I've invested in myself and partly because of an amazing man in my life that makes me feel beautiful every day. Each day I embrace more what I see in the mirror.

So, here I am, 35 years old and back to playing the shame game. What I healed in my 20s came right back when I allowed myself to be bullied into believing I was not good enough. But now I realize bullies are everywhere and most of them aren't even bad people, they just have their own issues. Almost always, when someone takes great issue with a certain subject (such as overweight people, homosexuality, race, etc) it is often because they are hiding some sort of shame within themselves that directly relates to that topic. Their hatred for others actually stems from their hatred for themselves. When we begin to perceive people's actions this way, this can also be healing. People generally are not born mean spirited. Nor are people usually completely mean spirited. We never know what kind of shame they are pushing deep down within themselves. Besides, these are not the types of bullies we should fear the most because, when we feel worthy, we do not allow these bullies to penetrate our lives in such a way. Instead, the biggest bully we will ever face in our lives is ourselves. That's why we have to learn to acknowledge and accept our imperfections as part of who we are and not shamefully hide them away. That is when shame becomes the cancer.

Another word for shame is guilt. Wayne Dyer recently posted something on his Facebook page about guilt that I saved to my computer because it moved me so much:

"Releasing guilt is like removing a huge weight from your shoulders. Guilt is released through the empowering thought of love and respect for yourself. Let go of standards of perfection and refuse to use up the precious currency of your life, the now, with thoughts that continue to frustrate and weaken you. Instead, vow to be better than you used to be, which is the true test of nobility."

This message really speaks to me because I find myself constantly holding myself to certain "ideal" standards. I have become aware of the effect this has on me because when I compare myself to others, it's as if I can actually feel my energy drain from my body. Or, if I do feel good or superior because I feel that I come out on top in that certain comparison, it's so superficial and short lived because it is not energy that can be sustained. When I remember to stop doing this and compare myself to MYSELF, I often feel good so deep down inside and am nearly always instantly energized.

I can't be the best mom. Or the most successful. Or the thinnest. Or (more and more as time passes) the youngest. I can only be the me that remains true to myself and, really, to everyone. One of the scariest things we can do is let down our guard and just be vulnerable. Because, the truth is, someone WILL, at some point, judge us, laugh at us or try to take advantage of us when we do. But, what we receive in exchange is soul-changing.

Not only do we live our lives in a way that is authentic and true to ourselves (the job we love vs. the house everyone else loves; the occasional head-tilting, eye-closing indulgence in gooey deliciousness or glass of wine that gives you the warm cozies vs. the head-turning rock hard six pack...although I'm still working on how to have both!!) , but we also allow others to relax their guard and be their more authentic selves because, when we make ourselves vulnerable, it is nearly impossible to judge others and people just inherently sense this in other people.

And we need to talk about our shame! Because, in doing so, we not only take away the power it has over us but it also lets others know that the shameful things they try so desperately to hide are, in fact, common, even normal.

We are taught about divine love and acceptance but how do we even begin to accomplish this? Well, I think the best place to start is with ourselves.

I will never be perfect. I will probably never be the girl who walks around naked with confidence. BUT I am becoming the girl who looks at her body lovingly and tenderly and doesn't shame herself for the body that she has worked so, so unbelievably hard to have. The body that gave birth to her son. The body that will carry her through this great adventure called life.
If you'd like to learn more about shame, I recommend these resources. They have helped me immensely.
"I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't)" by Brene Brown (book)
"The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown (book)
"The Shadow Effect" (movie)

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My Christmas Gift To....Me!

I'm about to work out...on Christmas. Why? Not because I'm compulsive. It's, instead, the same reason I didn't wake up to a Christmas breakfast of ham biscuits and cookies (like I used to every year). I love myself so much that I want to give myself the best Christmas gift possible. The gift of health, energy and happiness.

In the past, I would arrive into Christmas evening feeling absolutely miserable after eating horrible and sitting around all day. This year I feel so inspired, motivated and full of energy.

In the past, I would muddle through the last week of the year feeling even worse and waiting until January 1st to make the infamous New Year's resolutions. This year, I keep thinking "I still have one week left in 2012. Wonder what I can accomplish by 2013".
It's amazing how little shifts can make huge change over time. When you love and value yourself, you don't find excuses to abuse yourself. You, instead, find every excuse to do great things for yourself because you are worth it. And you ARE worth it. We ALL are worth it.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas full of love and happiness.

Living in Between the Pain

This picture is a theme that keeps coming at me lately. I heard a song the other day that I hadn't heard in ages, it's called "The Dance" by Garth Brooks. And I've been thinking about it a lot since then. It's about how he is glad he didn't know the pain that would come from a relationship ending because he might not have taken that leap and he would "have had to miss the dance".

One thing is certain, our lives will end tragically (in that we will leave this earth, and the people we love, behind in the end). And, whether it be death or otherwise, almost every relationship we have will also end tragically. And there will surely be other forms of suffering along the way. But we should never take for granted the magical and wonder filled "dances" in our lives.

When I look back on some of the most painful things in my life, they often marked the end of some of the most wonderful things in my life. I am so glad I couldn't look into the future and see the pain that would come at the end because, just like old Garth, I might have sat a couple of dances out myself. And I would have missed out on some pretty amazing moments.

I have faced much of my life with fear of loss. Sometimes it felt as though it would suffocate me, it was so strong. No more. I now face life with a watchful eye on the future (in a responsible, rational manner) but I try very hard to not dwell on suffering that may lie ahead. I, instead, try to remain very mindful of the moment I am in and take in every amazing, breath taking moment I can find to grasp onto because I finally realize that those are the exact moments that will comfort me in the times of suffering. And a wonderful side-effect with this kind of mindful living is that I only have to experience the dreaded tragedies one time (when they actually happen) instead of over and over again in my mind in the form of "what ifs".

Whether it be watching your children play on the floor at your feet or a head spinning first kiss with a new love...or anything in between, THESE are the moments that fill us up and make the inevitable pains in life bearable and worth it all! Recognize and embrace every opportunity life gives you to smile. We WILL suffer, that is life. But what we do with the times in between the suffering, THAT is living!

The Case For Morning Exercise

For as far back as I can remember, I was NEVER a morning person. I was seriously the snooze button queen. If I could milk five more minutes out of a morning, then I could milk six. Early risers were, quite honestly, freaks to me. Evidently, robots with no souls.

Then, a year or two ago, my boyfriend at the time started rising early each morning to work out. He kept singing the praises of early morning workouts and trying to talk me into trying it. By this point, I was working out on a very consistent basis which, in and of itself, was something I never thought I could do. But it was always later in the day, after I had quite a few hours to shake off the morning fog.

Well, partly out of curiosity, and partly because he would not let it die, I finally agreed to try it one morning when I had stayed at his house. Then I didn't. I promised to do it the next time I stayed with him....and I didn't. I buried myself under the covers (and a little bit of shame) and went back to sleep. Finally, on the third morning, I knew I HAD to do it just to save face and shut him up if nothing else. That first morning, driving to the gym, I was absolutely miserable! It was soooo hard to get moving. I kept trying to think of excuses to turn around and go back to bed. Then something amazing happened. I was halfway through my workout and beginning to wake up! Before most people had even awoken, I was done with my workout! I felt so amazing for the rest of the day.

So, I went home with the resolve to get up on my own the next morning and work out.....and I didn't. I can't remember how many mornings passed before I was finally able to get myself up and down into the workout room that early, but it was quite a while. The problem is, when I would wake up and realize that, for any reason, I could go back to sleep, I would. I honestly think that is one of the BEST feelings in life. Turning back over, snuggling down and falling back asleep. But eventually, through pure will-power sprinkled with misery, I made a habit of it and discovered a feeling better than the aforementioned. Morning workouts!

Here's my list of reasons why morning workouts absolutely ROCK:
  • Before the sun rises, I have checked off one of the most important items on that day's "to-do" list.
  • So many things can happen during the day to get in the way of working out. Very few of these things happen at 4:45am.
  • More energy to put into my workout! After a long, stressful day, even if I could muster the energy and motivation to work out, I only had so much energy left to give.
  • More energy after my workout! No more morning fog! I come up from my workouts absolutely invigorated and much better prepared for the day.
  • I don't have the "good hair day dilemma". Sometimes I would seriously skip a workout that was scheduled in the early afternoon if I was having a particularly good hair day or had on a cute outfit because I didn't want it to end yet. I would never say that was why I was skipping it but it would help persuade me to find another excuse to do so. The great thing about morning workouts is that I ALWAYS look like crap!
  • It's much easier for me to make good food choices when I've already laid a foundation for a healthy day with morning exercise.
  • Because it impresses people to tell them what time I get up every morning to work out.
  • Because it impresses ME to know that I get up so early every morning to work out. I feel more in control of my life and more capable of doing anything I set my mind to.
  • I fall asleep earlier and easier at night.
So, do I miss turning over and snuggling down? Yes. Do I miss waking up regretful of how I spent that last 1/2 hour or hour sleeping? No. Do I miss dragging through a fog half the morning? Of course not. Do I miss having to get all stinky and sweaty in the middle of the evening? Well, I still do that on Zumba nights, actually.

Bottom line, getting up early sucks....for a while. But you will be absolutely amazed at what you can adjust to. And you will be even more amazed at how one change, like a morning workout, can spill over into all other areas of your life and spark change in those as well.

My suggestion for your first morning workout:
  • Have an early riser friend call or text you to make sure you're up.
  • Call or text someone when you're done to brag (and so that they can hold you accountable). Pick a friend who is supportive but not TOO supportive. Supportive enough where they will remember and question you if you don't contact them but not so supportive they will say "Awe, well that's okay" if you don't follow through.
  • Lay out all your workout clothes the night before. Better yet, go to sleep in them.
  • Plan your workout the night before. Nothing sets you up for failure like not having a plan. It can be what makes hitting the snooze button just that much easier. Likewise, in the beginning, don't make it something that you just hate doing. I would never have scheduled lower body in those early days.
  • Get to bed at a decent time the night before. And go to sleep with the vision of going through your workout and how you will feel after.
  • Have a morning routine. I get up, drink a big glass of water, have a pre-workout drink (which I do/don't recommend, it's not the healthiest thing in the world but it sure helps me face my workouts a lot better) then I sit for a few minutes to get a little awake. This may work for some and not for others. For some it may be easier to head straight into the workout but I need those few minutes to wake up, personally.
  • Don't make it all or nothing. If you fail to get up for a few mornings, don't say "oh well, I tried". Habits aren't only formed from consistency. They are formed each and every time we do a task. Even if there is "down time" in between.
  • Put a Dixie cup over your snooze button!!! I actually learned this trick years ago. If you can hit snooze in your sleep, as I could, the cup will stop you. Some suggest putting your alarm clock across the room. This might work for some but I would sleep right through my alarm.
  • As with everything else, figure out what works for YOU. What will make you want to get up and do it?

When You Fall Off the Wagon

It's Sunday morning. You've ate like total crap all weekend. You promised yourself you were NOT going to repeat the same weekend patterns this time. But here you are. Stomach bloated, guilt ridden and craving sugar/carbs/fried stuff again.

The problem with falling off the wagon is that this junk is truly addictive! On top of that, you feel tired, possibly depressed and maybe even a little sick after eating enough of it. I am all too familiar with this feeling.

Fridays are my "cheat days". I never go crazy with them because I don't want to undo 6 days of hard work and dedication but, at the same time, I want to enjoy those yummy foods I've been craving all week.

Well, this Friday I ate my normal, healthy breakfast (because there's just something about starting my day with the proper fuel that's too important to me to start eating the yummy naughties that early in the day).

However, for lunch, I had a tamale and some chips and salsa. It was soooo good.

I got in a 2nd workout (because I like to do lower body in between two cheat meals for various reasons-extra fuel from carbs, to burn up some of those calories, to not feel like crap the next day), chugged a protein shake & ate an apple, then I headed out with my girls to a local bar for some karaoke and fried pickles. Two PBRs and more fried pickles than I care to admit later, I was feeling pretty nasty. I called it a night kind of early, guzzled a bunch of water on the way home and collapsed into bed a little after midnight.

I woke up the next morning feeling pretty rough. Honestly, a little too rough for what I had done the night before (by last night I realized it was because I was coming down with a cold). When I wake up feeling that way, the last thing I want to do is eat my egg whites and fruit. It makes my barfy just thinking about it.

So, instead, I drank some water, did some light yoga and waited for my belly to feel a little better. Now, a lot of people will argue that you should eat breakfast soon after waking. I somewhat agree with this notion but not always. I think it's more important to listen to your body. So I waited until my body told me it was hungry. When it finally did tell me it was hungry, it told me it wanted Mexican food again! Well, I knew that my body was in no condition to be making the decisions so I went on autopilot.

I still didn't want my egg whites so I thought, "what is the yummiest healthy food I can think of that would make me okay with not having Mexican right now?", for my late breakfast, I had shrimp and strawberries. :)

This might seem random and pointless to share this but, trust me, little tricks like this have made all the difference in the world to me. Once you learn your own little tricks, a fall off the wagon is quick and relatively painless instead of a month-long span of struggling and weight gain before you finally, and half-heartedly, get back on the wagon.

So, here's my random list of ways I get back on the wagon:

After I've eaten too much, something I shouldn't, etc. I wait 10 minutes (so my food can begin to digest without diluting stomach acids) and I drink a butt load of water. This is not only physically cleansing but psychologically cleansing as well. It's almost like an internal baptism. It marks the end of my "mistake".

If I've eaten sugar and I'm craving it like crazy, I have just a little sugar in some kind of bulked up form. My personal favorite is low sugar oatmeal with natural peanut butter. I use one that has about 10g of sugar and  I eat half the packet. If I am not craving sugar enough to warrant this, I'll have a piece (or sometimes 2 pieces) of the sweetest fruit I can find, like a super sweet orange. These options never used to be satisfying enough for me and I started out eating a not so healthy protein bar (my faves are Cliff White Macadamia or Zone Perfect Fudge Graham). Again, these are not healthy choices (especially the Zone bars) but they at least have some protein in them which will slow the rate that the body absorbs the sugar.

I read or listen to something health related. This, without fail, gets me pumped up and back on track.

I force myself to have a good, hard, cleansing workout. When we work out, especially high intensity cardio, we stimulate our lymphatic systems which physically begins to push out all those yucky toxins we've been gorging on. Not to mention it elevates our moods and decreases our appetites.

Often, after eating junk and laying around for a while, the last thing you feel like doing is working out. Well, just as I chose shrimp and strawberries as my wagon-reboarding meal, I sometimes choose the funnest form of exercise I can to get me back on track. Whether it be Zumba, dancing around the house, a walk in the park on a beautiful day, something that doesn't make me turn my nose up at the thought of moving my butt off the couch and back into motion.
I do something that makes me feel in control. Something as simple as organizing my closet or making my meals for the week, puts me back in the driver's seat and makes me feel like I am in control of the situation.

Three Deep Breaths. This almost sounds too simple to work! But deep breathing produces feel good hormones that lowers your cortisol levels (which will, in turn, reduce belly fat storing capacity) and gives you a better sense of well-being. Smiling and laughing can also have the same effect. Fake it til you make.


Happy Music.

Protein. High enough levels of protein with your first post-binge meal, will help increase levels of satiety and regulate your blood sugar.

Bottom line, getting back on track is the hardest part. Once you do it, you create momentum and it becomes easier and easier to stick with it, especially when you really start feeling good again. And I'm happy to report that, after a day of dragging, a couple of weird meals, a super hard workout and a ton of water later, I bounced out of bed this morning re-energized and feeling great.

You really CAN do this forever! It's not as bleak and hard as it seems when you've backslid. So get on auto-pilot and back on the wagon today!

To Answer the Question "How Long Did it Take You to Lose the Weight?"

People constantly ask me questions like "when did you start losing weight?" "How long did it take you to lose it?" While I understand these questions, I can't really offer an answer that makes them happy. So here's my best try at it....

Q: When did I start losing weight?

A: When I was 8 years old. That's the first time I went on a diet and lost weight.

Q: How long did it take me to lose it?

A: Since I was 8 (now I'm 34, you do the math). And I don't consider myself done yet because, I want to get down to about 10-15% body fat. I don't know exactly where in that equation I will fall or how much I will weigh when I get there but I'll know it when I see it.

Here's the bottom line. As soon as we stop looking at this journey as a block of time in our lives and start looking at it, instead, as a permanent change in our behaviors that will impact all aspects of our health including our weight, there is an immediate shift in our attitudes.

No longer do we start our new diet on Mondays or give up when we're just too stressed out. When our new goal is to be as healthy as we can be, change and success are inevitable.

Not convincing enough? Okay, for you guys who are still in the "I need to know when and how I'm going to look good": If you lose weight in an improper way, you will be saggy and your skin will look like crap (unless if you're 18 and don't have much to lose, in which case you will probably gain it all back and then some and you'll be saggy and blotchy when you lose it again when you're older). We really ARE what we eat. Muscle really DOES make everything look better.

If you think good health just means having a strong heart and no cancer (in which case, if you haven't been diagnosed with any conditions, you believe you're healthy) you are flat out wrong! Good health also means good mental health AAAAND for those of us who just started this journey because we wanna look hot, good health also shows up on the outside in the form of skin elasticity, nice hair, a clean, glowing complexion and about anything else that you're missing right now.

So stop figuring out what day your latest weight loss regimine is going to begin and, instead, DECIDE today that your new healthy lifestyle starts NOW. Right now! Not next Monday, not tomorrow morning. If you've eaten like crap already today, all the more reason to eat healthy the rest of the day and get some exercise in because your body doesn't stop suffering from your poor choices until you decide to "get back on track".

Also, when you approach things with this new, healthy attitude, there is no going "off track". There are yummy, not-so-healthy meals that you will savor and that will add to your mental well being because of it, and there are workouts you will miss because you're sick or just need to rest, but these will just be part of your healthy lifestyle because, once you feel this good (and you can't even imagine how good this feels if you've never been there), you will automatically be on track all the time with tiny little pit stops here and there that you will just call...."life".


Giving up something that makes you feel good because you know it's not good for you is one of the hardest and most liberating things you can do! I've given up so many such things in the past couple of years, things that brought me comfort, happiness, excitement and all those other great feelings we are always chasing after. Well, giving them up wasn't easy, I will never make light of the struggles that have come with some of the sacrifices that I have made in the name of good health (physically AND mentally). However, not only have making these sacrifices made me feel more in control of my life but I find it becomes easier and easier to recognize those toxic things sooner and to eliminate them with less of a struggle.

I have been really meditating on this in the past couple of days because I had to give up one of the hardest things a person can give up....another person. It was hard, it is hard, but I am shocked by how easy a decision it was once I saw things for what they were. Where I once struggled with denying myself a second bowl of ice cream, there was suddenly no struggle with such a big decision. Once I truly knew that having that person in my life was no longer a healthy, constructive choice, it was the same as if the decision was made for me and I just had to suffer through the hurt. Are there times when I'm tempted to say "nevermind! just kidding! come back!" Sure! But at those moments a loving voice tells me gently that it's not conducive to the kind of life I want (and deserve) to live. The loving voice, of course, is my own.

It all boils down to loving yourself. People always say that and it's great advice but what the hell are you supposed to do if you can't stand the sight of yourself in the mirror? I remember asking a psychologist this once when she stated simply "You just have to love yourself." To which I replied, "If I hate myself, how can I just start loving myself?" She looked at me in silence and I could see she had never been challenged on this point before. Finally, she stopped searching the archives of her pre-programmed responses and said with a shrug, "I guess you just have to pretend."

So you don't love yourself enough to do what's right instead of what feels good in the moment?

Fake it til you make it baby!

Since you hate yourself anyway, don't be afraid of how stupid you will sound every morning when you wake up, look in the mirror and say "I love you very much and I am going to treat you with respect and dignity today."

Affirmations are not just for Oprah and self-help books anymore. Words are powerful! They truly are. Our brains are computers and are programmed by the thoughts we think, the words we say and everything we observe in the world around us. So protect your computer and don't allow a virus to infect it.  

Every time you hear that voice in the back of your head say, "I have no will power", you will instantly and deliberately restate "I have complete control over myself and my actions."

Stop focusing on everything you did wrong and focus on everything you did right. Every time you eat a healthy meal or even a piece of fruit after eating badly all day, say to yourself, "I am feeding you this way because I love you and you deserve it" or "I didn't eat that cake because I don't want to hurt you."

Suddenly, yet so gradually you might not even notice, you will wake up one morning to discover you don't loath the sight of yourself. And, as you go through the day, you might notice that you have a quiet, calm confidence that commands respect from others (because you respect yourself). You will wake up and find that you are in love with the best person in the world. Yourself.

Once this happens, it's all gravy from there. Where you once struggled sacrificing something bad for you that you just never thought you could live without, you will find that vice becoming a distant memory and wondering why it was ever so hard to give up.

I know all this from very personal experience. I have given up everything from greasy, happy foods to cigarettes to television to chemical filled energy drinks. I was once the reigning queen of instant gratification!

Because, here's the thing, once you finally love yourself, any love you thought you felt for any of those other things pales in comparison. Just as you would never knowingly hurt your child, your granny or your puppy dog, you would now never knowingly hurt yourself. You'll now be on the list of people you love....hopefully extremely close to the top. And, I'll add this, if you're not somewhere near the top of the "people I love" list of those whom you love, I would suggest you seriously evaluate having that person in your life because part of loving yourself is making sure that those people who you give your love and energy to are giving you the same in return, because you deserve no less.


You know what you need to do, it's Monday morning and you got a ton of healthy food from the grocery store yesterday, your healthy meals for the day are prepared and waiting in the fridge. You are ready to start your new life!

But somehow you shut off your alarm clock in your sleep, you've overslept and don't have time to eat breakfast. That's okay, you've got your healthy meals packed! You'll just eat when you get to work.

While you are rushing around to get ready, you knock a vase off the shelf and it shatters all over the floor. Your coworker texts you to say that her son is sick and she won't be in today. You can't find your keys and then, when you finally do, you slam your finger in the door when you get in the car to leave. You are now officially late!

Halfway to work it hits you. CRAP! You left all your meals sitting out in the kitchen. So now you're starving, late to work and your new healthy life is at home rotting on the counter....then you see it....those golden arches. What other choice do you have? And honestly, with the kind of morning you've had, you kinda deserve a sausage biscuit....or two (after all, you might not get to eat for the rest of the day now).

Ten minutes later you arrive to work, your sausage biscuit is gone and so is your resolve. You eat out of the vending machine all day. By the time you collapse in your car to go home that evening, you are exhausted. You text your workout buddy to tell them you can't make it to the gym. Honestly, with the kind of day you've had, all you want to do is grab some Chinese and plop down in front of the television. It feels so comforting to even think about it.

By the time to go to bed that night, you are depressed and disappointed in yourself. You'll do better tomorrow. No, wait, tomorrow is that meeting and lunch is being catered by your favorite deli and there's gonna be cheesecake for dessert. Honestly, with the kind of week you have ahead of you, this isn't the time to even think about starting a lifestyle change. You are just going to enjoy this week, eat what you want and next Monday is going to be YOUR week! The week when everything changes! Oh! And next Monday is the first day of a new month! How perfect! This comforts you enough to fall asleep....

In a fast paced, stressful, unfair world, excuses are bountiful and motivation sometimes seemingly scarce. There truly is always very legitimate stressors swirling around you, helping you to justify one more day of bad habits. Food might have been my example here but it can take many other forms such as video game addictions, drug or alcohol dependency, or any other habit that doesn't contribute to your well being and usually detracts from it.

It's a vicious cycle, one I lived in for many years and it felt endless. However, somewhere along the way, I was lucky enough to discover something within myself that changed everything. I honestly can't pinpoint the exact moment when the change took place within me because it was all very gradual but I do know when I began to deal with stress by exercising.

My son was about 9 months old and I was suffering from post-partum depression, badly. There were days I could barely motivate myself off the couch to move. Even food and t.v. (my "friends" for years) had abandoned me, they were no longer providing the comfort or escape they always had. I felt like I was suffocating. I was 275 pounds and unbelievably miserable under this heavy weight. I decided to start Body for Life, not to get healthy, just because I was fatter than I'd ever been and the pictures of the people in the book motivated me. The first few days were absolutely horrible and I honestly don't know why I stuck with it.

However, day after day, I found myself struggling to find a way to work out again. Sometimes I would leave my son screaming in his baby swing for the last ten minutes just to finish my workout. After a lifetime of obesity and quitting, WHERE was this motivation coming from?

After a couple months, I started losing a little weight and feeling a little better. After 12 years of being in a marriage that I (nor my ex-husband) had any business still being in, we called it quits and my son and I moved in with my parents.

I really expected things to just become wonderful at this point but I was in for a rude, RUDE awakening! Almost a year into my post-partum, I still was struggling with almost paralyzing depression. The worst time of all was when I put my son to bed for the night because I would just sit awake, unable to sleep, and feel so alone and so depressed. I started heading down into my parents' basement at some point and exercising when I felt just completely out of control. Again, I couldn't even identify quite why I was doing this but I would find myself again and again in the basement, sometimes at 1am, doing pilates or Hip Hop abs instead of binging on junk in front of the television. What had happen to my ability to make excuses?

Well, it turns out, I WAS making excuses. However, my new excuses were for reasons that I should NOT follow through with these old behaviors. Somehow it had finally sunk in that these things were not comforting me, they were making it worse.

When I finally added healthy eating to the mix, the fog in my brain really started to lift and I was able to see things much clearer. That's the thing about bad behaviors, they make excuses so easy, not just because they feel so good in the short run (and they do!) but because they poison our bodies and our brains and cloud or judgement.

Now, a couple of years later, I am using my power for good. When I don't feel so great or I'm having a stressful day, I put those years of practice in excuse making and time manipulation to use and find a reason and a way to squeeze a workout in. Where I used to justify hitting the snooze button just one more time I now justify waking up before 5am every morning to work out, my excuse being that my son will be up shortly after that and I'd rather wake up on my terms, not his and be exercised, energized and ready to go when he wakes up an hour later. Maybe even showered if he "sleeps in" until 6:30am! When I'm feeling stressed out and out of control I turn to....lists! I make a list of everything I DO have control over and I start ticking things off this list because I've learned this makes me feel back in control of my life.

Where I used to justify eating poorly when I had a stressful day ahead of me, I now justify eating extra healthy because I know (and truly understand--knowledge is power!) the importance of the right fuel for my body and brain to be able to deal with the stresses of the day.

Excuses do not have to be bad, it depends on what kind of excuses we are making. Just realize that the power lies in your hands. That might not sound like much but it's HUGE in a world where we can control so little. When you get to the end of your day today, you can either look back and think "Oh well, at least I got through this stressful day and I'll do better tomorrow" and try to make yourself feel okay with the decisions you made. OR, you can look back and say, "Oh well, it was a stressful day but at least I'm a little healthier today than I was yesterday and tomorrow I'll do even better!"

Random Tips

-FIRST THINGS FIRST!!!! I had to realize that I could keep justifying just ONE MORE DAY of eating like crap and/or not working out. It was easy! I was an expert at it. INSTEAD I started arguing with myself when I came up with those excuses. And I also thought about how I would feel AFTER I ate all the junk food or when I woke up the next morning. Would I be proud or ashamed. Would I be glad I laid around eating pizza and cake or would I regret it? What would make me hate myself a little less when I saw myself in the mirror the next morning???

-Binge eating is a learned response to stimulus (usually anxiety)...nothing less, nothing more. Our minds have subconcious "go to" actions based on what has worked for us in the past. That means, if you have alievated stress in the past by binge eating, when stress arises, your brain says "oh that's easy, stress=binge eating" and it pretty much overrides the rational part of yourself and "makes" you overeat. Your subconcious brain takes over because your concious mind needs to focus on new problems. So binge eating has now become a reflex. However, once you start intercepting this message and redirecting your brain to other alternatives (exercise, meditation, etc.), your subconcious mind's tendency to use binging as it's "go to" action will start to subside and these new "go to" methods will start to pop in your head. Sounds crazy, I know! But when I get stressed out, I often now find myself just CRAVING the feeling of running as fast as I can...and sometimes I still just crave pizza lol. But the signal is so much weaker now that I have control over it and can say no...or occasionally yes if I so choose! :-)

-Drink lots of water, especially early in the day and around your workouts. You hear it all the time but that's because it's so important. Dehydration can cause energy loss and increase in appetite. There's arguments popping up lately that water isn't as important as previously thought. I DON'T CARE WHAT THEY SAY! I know from experience what not drinking enough water does to my energy level and my muscles when I'm working out. That's ALL the proof I need!

-Eat 5-6 protein/complex carb rich meals per day. This has probaby been the #1 key to my success. I have so much more energy and SOOO much more control over my cravings when I do this. As a general rule of thumb, your carb count should not exceed 2-3x the protein count. It could be even less for some people who are more sensitive to carbs. This helps to regulate your blood sugar which gives you more energy, keeps you fuller longer and helps prevent cravings that you feel like you have no control over.

-While we are on the subject of carbs. CARBS ARE VITAL TO YOUR SUCCESS! I'm not saying that extremely low carb diets don't work in the short term but your brain needs carbs to function! Women especially need carbs to regulate a whole mess of things in their bodies. Healthy, complex carbs are the key though!

-This leads me to my next point. Eating a candy bar will NOT get you through your afternoon will make it WORSE! Donuts are not brain food! They will give you energy for about 10-30 minutes then you will crash and burn. Try a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit and some cheese for an afternoon snack. If those don't work, keep trying but stop eating junk when you're tired. It is sooo counterproductive! Side note: I understand that a handful of nuts does not sound like an appealing alternative to something like a Nutty Bar. So, if you just NEED something sweet in the afternoon, start out by switching to an energy bar. These are NOT health food (as a general rule) but are better than candy bars in most cases. I transitioned over eating Zone Bars (smores are sooo good) and then Cliff White Macadamia bars. They both are, in my opinion, just as tasty as any candy bar out there. Just remember, this is a TEMPORARY TRANSITION food! These are not ideal for your blood sugar or overall health in the long term.

-Always eat before you feel really hungry. If you were to rate your hunger on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being stuffed full, 10 being starving) you want to eat when you reach about a 5 or a 6. This would be when you’re just starting to feel that empty feeling. This also helps combat the cravings that take over your body and MAKE you eat naughty things.

-Don't ever do a workout that you hate more than once! There are too many awesome, fun things out there for you to settle on something boring or, worse, something you despise. My faves are Zumba, trail running (which I never would've guessed), yoga, pilates, kickboxing and dancing around with my son. However, I do suggest going back to forms of exercise you've previous hated and giving them another try when you're in better shape. You may find that you previously hated them because you weren't in good enough shape to do them. Also, you may now love that exercise simply because you CAN do it now and couldn't before. It will make you feel powerful and successful.

-The same rule applies to food. There are too many delicious, sinfully good tasting healthy foods to be choking down nastiness for the sake of health. Some of my personal yummy health foods: blackened chicken or fish, shrimp cocktail, strawberries, gala apples w/ natural peanut butter, morningstar black bean burgers (with lettuce, tomato, salsa, ff sour cream & avocado on top...mmmmm), mushrooms, crab cakes (emphasis on the crab, not the cake), asparagus, and Crockpot Chicken Taco Stew. These might not be YOUR favorites but, that's the point, you have to find a list of things that are. Oh and I've replaced mayo with horseradish sauce, it's soooooooo good!

-Set goals for yourself. It's another thing everyone says but, again, it's because it's so important. Personally, weight and clothing size goals never worked for me. Fitness goals have! I challenge myself to do so many pushups or my current goal is to do a pull up. I have the general goal in mind during each workout that I want to increase my overall cardio endurance so I can run longer. I also used to hate working my quads until I started hiking and now I jump at the chance to work them cause I know it will help me scale those rocks and endure those tough inclines up a mountain. Whatever your goal is it has to mean enough to make you push yourself out of your comfort zone.

-Sleep!!! Sleep has probably been the #2 biggest influence over my success. I used to stay up half the night just because I felt like that was my only "me time" after my son came. I would, on numerous occassions, end up eating at some point late at night as well. Now that I'm getting a full night's sleep I have more energy, less cravings and, overall, a more positive attitude so I don't need as much "me time" as I thought I did.

-Kick the diet soda habit. I had a dirty dirty addiction to Lo Carb Monster drinks. Just typing the name makes me salivate and want to crack open a can right now and feel that sweet, bubbly nectar sliding down my throat. I was drinking 3 PER DAY EVERY DAY and was having horrible side effects. I read something that really stuck with me and began my desire to quit: "how many thin people do you see drinking diet drinks?" Not a lot! The stuff is not natural, has been shown to assist your body in retaining fat and the artificial sweetener actually makes you crave sugar and I know it's true cause I've lived it! If you are addicted to aspertame (and YES it IS addictive, especially to women) educate yourself on the reasons why it's addictive and it will empower you to stop.

-Which brings me to my next point. KNOWLEDGE=POWER!!! If you want to quit a habit whether it be junk food, sitting around being lazy, cigarettes...whatever! EDUCATE YOURSELF on the subject. I don't mean do an internet search and spend 5 minutes skimming the topic. I mean READ IT! BREATH IT! SLEEP IT! I have found that WITHOUT FAIL if I continue to educate myself on a topic, I will naturally pull away from that addiction just because I am so acutely aware of what's going to happen when that substance enters my body. Here's an example. The other day I was at the grocery store & STARVING. I saw a box of Nutty Bars in front of me and I SOOOOO wanted one! INSTANTLY the following calculation went through my head:
"If I eat this Nutty Bar, it will taste sooo good and make me feel good....but then a few minutes later, right after I take that last bite, I will regret it....then a few minutes after my blood sugar has spiked I will start to get a sugar headache...then by the time I get home I won't want to unload the groceries, I'll want to take a nap because my blood sugar will be so low. And then I'll have the rest of the box sitting on the counter when I wake up and I'll probably eat another one because I'll have introduced simple sugars back into my body and will be craving them. And my workout will suck tonight because I won't feel energetic either mental or physically. It might take me a week or even a month to get back on the wagon and I wonder how much weight I'll gain and muscle I'll lose....PASS on the Nutty Bars!"

-Take pride in yourself RIGHT NOW! Even if you don't feel attractive, take the time to fix your hair, find outfits that flatter your figure no matter what your current size, hold your shoulders back and be proud of who you are right this second because you take much better care of someone you love than someone you hate. Treat yourself how you would treat your mother or your child. If you don't learn to love yourself, even if you find a way to reach our ideal body weight, you won't maintain it. Loving yourself is not something you decide to do, it's a process. Fake it til you make it if necessary. Pay attention to your internal thoughts. When you say something negative about yourself, replace it with something positive. Eventually it will become a habit, and one day you'll accidentally start loving yourself.

-Realize that EVERYTHING counts. Every day, every meal, every workout really does count. I didn’t lose 88 pounds in 10 months. I lost an average of 8.8 pounds per month and an average of 0.28 pounds per day! Any day I cheated the number was a little less, any day I worked a little harder, ate a little better, it was more.

-Last but CERTAINLY not least, notice how things make you feel RIGHT NOW. It's like the Nutty Bar scenario I mentioned, notice how everything from the food you eat, the fluid you drink, the exercise you do and the sleep you get affects you because these are IMMEDIATE results you can see instantly. Junk food cravings suck! But when you have that first good bowel movement in years or get through the evening without needing to snack or wake up one morning with no lower back pain, these little things will help keep you on track when you can't see results for all your hard work in the mirror. Learn to love the process and you'll learn how to lose weight and keep it off forever.

Two a Day Challenge!

I am a firm believer in making tiny changes instead of big life overhauls. Why? Because you have to work new things into your life, things you can live with forever. So, if you're addicted to fast food and chain smoking, it's unrealistic to put down the cigs and start eating a 100% organic, clean diet. Instead, you analyze your current situation and ask yourself what tiny step you could take to be a little better tomorrow than you are today. That's what I did this morning.

I eat good, I work out hard, I closing in on bikini season with confidence, but I always want to do something better. I'm challenging myself (and you) to add one fruit and one veggie to my diet each day. For me, I already eat a lot of fruits and veggies so working a couple more in won't be a big thing. If your diet is similiar to mine, this change won't be hard for you either. However, if you're not eating any fruits and veggies right now, just add one of each a day. Or even just a fruit if veggies turn your stomach.That's it. "For how long?" you ask....forever! Of course! One simple change is a first step toward a better you. Who's with me?

Calories are not equal

If you're having trouble sticking to your meal plan. Or you're somehow sticking to it and still not losing weight, this video is a MUST SEE! Very VERY informative!

Antioxidants! Oh Yeah!

So, for a while there, my skin was looking amazing. Dewy & fresh! At 34, I find it harder and harder to naturally accomplish this look as time goes on. But, here I was, with a bright face that looked years younger than it did when I was in my late 20s. Then, in the past couple of weeks, poof! It was gone. Suddenly and without warning.

What happened?

Being a little on the shallow side at times, I mourned the loss of my fresh, dewy skin while desperately analyzing what I was doing different to so quickly lose it. I'm still doing my HIIT cardio which I am a firm believer in, not just for the metabolic effects but for how it increase cell turnover which improves skin quality among less vapid health benefits. I was taking time to thoroughly rub in my moisturizer which also helps with the dewy look. Drinking enough water? check. Getting enough sleep. check. Taking my vitamins and omega-3 supplement? check, check.

I had pretty much decided that nature had caught up with me and this was my new face. And I had come to terms with it because my skin still looked good, just no longer great.

While planning my menus for the rest of the week, lightening struck! A couple weeks ago I decided to really buckle down and see what I could do with this body before bikini season. I upped my protein count and, without thinking, reduced my fruit and veggie intake. I had traded my oranges and organic apples for protein shakes. My spinach and broccoli for...well, protein shakes. Shame on me! I knew better!

To say that I knew better is actually an understatement. I have long preached the importance of antioxidants to anyone who would listen. I knew that they were, in essence, life itself. Now, here is the proof, clear as the dull looking nose on my face.

Ironically, I made myself less attractive in an effort to make myself more attractive. More importantly, I lost sight of what is important opposed to just what looks good. So, I still hope to don a bikini in a hard, doughless body by summer but my new goal is to do it in a way that is true to what I know to be the most important goal of all, being as healthy as I can possibly be.

I choose to feel good for the rest of my life, opposed to looking good in a bikini this summer. But, with a little luck, some tweaking and a lot of dedication, hopefully I can have both!

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Time for a New Challenge-Bikini Time Baby!

I love to constantly set new fitness challenges for myself so I have something for which to strive. I generally set goals that involve noble things like more endurance, ability to do a pull up, etc. Well, this one is purely shallow baby! I have never, once, in my whole life, felt good in a bikini. Or a bathing suit at all for that matter. This is my year!! I'm close enough to a bikini body for the first time that I really think I can pull it off by summer with a lot of dedication. I will post pics on here on June 20th (the first day of summer) either way so here's hoping I can pull it off! 64 days and counting!

My plan....

Well, it's still in the works but here's my basic outline and I will be updating this with lots more detail in the next couple of days:

Here is my meal plan.

I need to continue to tone while probably losing about 3-5 pounds of body fat (notice I said FAT not WEIGHT, there's a huge difference) to really reveal the muscles I've been working so hard on, especially those abs. I keep seeing them occasionally peeking through this layer of, let's call it, padding on my belly and I'm anxious to see what they actually look like!

My Workouts

Zumba in the p.m.

Upper Body

Cardio/Abs a.m.
Zumba in the p.m.

Lower Body


30 Day Shred (awesome total body workout)

I'm gonna measure myself today and post a beginning picture as well as my beginning measurements.
Wish me luck and, please, anyone feel free to join me with your own program that works for you! This is gonna be OUR summer!!!

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Learn to Love Exercise

I used to hate, I mean HATE exercise. As soon as I would become short of breath I would start to feel a panic rising within me and my body and mind would be screaming "STOP!" in unison. So I would. For years my workout routine consisted of the first five minutes of workout DVDs, maybe 2 minutes on a stationary bike, 10 seconds get the idea.

I never understood how in the world some people could exercise the way they did and decided that my body just wasn't made for exercise or I wouldn't feel that way. 

Well, what I didn't realize at the time was at the exact moment I felt the overwhelming need to stop was when change was starting to take place in my body. Change is uncomfortable. We don't like to be uncomfortable. It is in our nature to resist this discomfort. However, this resistance is simply a reflex that can be reprogrammed simply by becoming aware of the process.

By now we most all know how muscles tear down and build back up stronger. But there's not a lot of talk about the other type of discomfort that may cause you to stop or back off in the middle of your workout because, if you are new to exercise, you feel a scary, unfamiliar feeling. This feeling is lack of oxygen, or breathlessness.

When you push your body past its previous comfort zone, you become out of breath. The reason for this is because your body does not have enough oxygen to supply all of your muscles with the energy it needs to perform this new task. But if you push anyway, and get out of breath (if only for 30 seconds at a time) your body says "Oh crap! I better get more efficient if I'm gonna have to start doing this!" Your heart and lungs, as a result, become stronger. Your lungs are able to send more oxygen to your heart with each breath. Your heart beats slower because it is able to pump more blood with a single beat. Your cells are able to better extract oxygen from the blood. Your body becomes a more efficient machine.

This improvement happens every time you become out of breath! How exciting! 

So the next time you feel that panicky feeling (which will subside after time) and you think it's time to stop, just recognize that this is your body's pre-programmed response to change and that you know, at that very moment, you have started to change and improve.

Hungry Again?!

I have a big appetite. Always have. Guessing I always will. Even with the elimination of wheat (which drastically reduced my appetite), I still, on some days, find myself in a bit of a "calorie crunch" by the afternoon. Meaning, I'm close to my calorie limit and still starving. So, here's a bit of an "inventory" that I take when I find myself with a bottomless belly:

  • Have I drank enough water? We probably all know this one by now, sometimes "hunger" is actually "thirst".
  • Have I gotten enough sleep? Lack of sleep causes an imbalance of hormone levels which can increase appetite.
  • Have I eaten enough protein? If you are not meeting your protein needs, your body will keep telling you you're hungry even if you've eaten a whole bag of potato chips.
  • Have I eaten enough fat? Good, healthy fats are not only very satisfying but help maintain hormone balance which affects appetite.
  • Have I eaten too many carbs? Too many carbs (and/or sugar) can screw up your blood sugar and cause the famous "sugar let down" where you stay hungry and crave carbs for the rest of the day. Remember, carbs, especially simple carbs, are metabolized the same as sugar in your body. Don't look at sugar content, look at carb content.
  • Have I eaten too little carbs? Likewise, you don't want to eat too little carbs either because your body needs carbs to function. How much? It depends. This is where my rule #1 for lifestyle change comes into play. Educate yourself about yourself.
  • Have I had a good cardio session lately? Cardio temporarily reduces most people's appetites.
  • Have I strength trained extra hard lately? Sometimes you really do need extra calories if you're building muscle.
  • Am I eating enough calories? You never want to reduce your calorie intake too low and, likewise, you don't want to remain in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time. Its best to have days in which you "re-feed" yourself by eating at your calorie limit. How often should be determined on how your energy & hunger levels are during your deficit.
  • Have I eaten enough (literally) filling foods today? If you are surviving on protein shakes and bars (sometimes a necessity, I agree), you are taking in concentrated calories in the form of "small" food. Your belly is still pretty much, literally, empty. Sometimes a big bowl of soup, a plate full of veggies or even a bigger protein shake can provide all you need to finally feel full.
  • Is my hunger physical or emotional? If your belly isn't hungry, its probably your brain which means you have some stuff to deal with. Step away from the cookies and deal with it!
  • Am I eating frequently enough? One of the biggest things I started doing to eliminate binges is to eat frequently. Some days that means eating something every hour! Excessive? Hmmm, I'm gonna say, judging by my results, no. Just remember, I'm not eating cake every hour. I might have 5 egg whites the first hour, a serving of nuts an hour later and so on. Low calorie, high quality.
  • Have I consumed artificial sweeteners? Artificial sweeteners make you feel hungry and trigger cravings because when your tongue tastes something sweet it tells your body that sugar is on the way. Your body does everything that your body does when this is truly the case then it waits. When the sugar doesn't gets pissed.
  • Am I doing something that I associate with eating? Sometimes if I'm watching t.v., going to the movies, driving by McDonalds, etc., I "think" that I need to eat. When I really analyze this I often realize that there is some sort of "trigger" in my midst (t.v. is my biggest trigger which is one of the many reasons I don't really watch it anymore).
So you've gone through the list, tried everything, and you're still hungry? Eat! And eat now before you get any hungrier and lose control. While you're still rational, fill your plate with quality, low calorie, whole foods (as in, single ingredient foods: lean meat, fruit, veggies, etc.), chew slowly and give your body what it obviously needs.

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It's the First Day

I did it a million times. Whether it was the first day of the month, the first day of the week or, the big one, the first day of the year. I was convinced THAT was my day!

However, you will never suddenly wake up one day and change everything about your life that needs changing and never look back. So instead, stop waiting the first day of something and realize that every day is the first day! Every single day is an opportunity to make a little, tiny, itty bitty change that will snowball one day into a new life.

So, it's April 1st. Go ahead, make a change. But decide it's going to be a small, controllable change that you can live with for the rest of your life.

I Don't Accept Myself the Way I Am

You know, a lot of people remain confused about why I dated a guy for so long who was so brutally and unbelievably honest about my body (and other various, nonphysical, flaws) that he would often reduce me to tears with this honesty. I'll never claim that this was necessarily a healthy relationship. In fact, I'll come right out and say that it wasn't much more than it was.

However, the fact that I would suddenly subject myself to such ridicule was indicative that something within me had recently changed because, up until that point, I had spent my adult life trying to avoid people who would say anything negative about my appearance.

After years of getting picked on in school, I found solace in a very small group of loving and accepting people in my life. The rest of the world, I hid from for years. My family, of course, loved me unconditionally and they became, and still are, my very best friends. My husband at the time thought I was the most beautiful thing on earth.

So what's the problem?

While it's EXTREMELY important to have these people around who love you unconditionally, I've recently come to realize that unconditional acceptance from others can sometimes lead to unconditional acceptance of ones own self. Don't get me wrong, you should love yourself unconditionally, but you should not necessarily accept yourself unconditionally. Especially when doing so means ignoring the fact that you are obese and sick and just simply not living your fullest life.

When I met my, now, ex-boyfriend I learned what being accepted conditionally was all about. And I related to this quite well because I was in the middle of a life transformation that included not accepting myself unconditionally anymore. I had already started taking a hard, long look at my life, my mind and my body and saying, "NO!!! This is NOT good enough! *I* am NOT good enough!" Both of us had something in common, we both loved me, but we both didn't accept a lot of stuff about me.

In the age of self-love and BBWs, it's probably not politically correct for me to claim this. However, if we truly DO love ourselves unconditionally, WHY would we settle for whatever we happen to fall into in this life? "Food tastes yummy. I got fat. That's okay, I accept myself unconditionally." BULLSHIT! It wasn't just my physical appearance though, many aspects of myself were lacking and I was sick of pretending I was okay and enough.

So, when my ex would say something like "I am kind of physically attracted to you but I just can't get past how big you are," I would first break down and cry, of course. Then I would lash out at him and consider ending it. But, contrary to how it might appear, I was not a victim and he was not an abuser, he was just honest (after I would spend a half hour trying to drag it out of him).

After the tears dried and the anger subsided, something new would take it's place. Resolution. Not because I wanted to be more attractive for him (trust me, I'm the type of person who would almost get fatter just to say "screw you") but because I felt the same exact way about myself. In those early days, he never once said anything about my body that I hadn't already thought for a long time. Something about hearing it out loud and having it confirmed that I wasn't really thin and just seeing an obese girl in the mirror like I had hoped, would completely change my mindset. I began to thrive from these episodes. The tears were largely over finally acknowledging these things about myself and much less about the fact that they were coming from a guy that I knew was, by nature, dissatisfied with basically everything and everyone in life. Also, I was facing a big fear. The fear of rejection. The one I had hidden from for all those years. And here I was coming back for more, again and again. From this, I also thrived.

When I finally ended this relationship of two years that was, while so SO good and constructive at times, also dysfunctional and not constructive at other times, I wondered if I'd miss the "motivation" that he provided.
However, I quickly realized I didn't need a painfully honest boyfriend to push me (and it reached a point where I no longer agreed with his continued criticisms). I only needed the one thing that I had been doing since the moment I left my husband, my job and almost every other comfort in my life. I just needed to make myself uncomfortable!

The more this concept developed in my mind, the more I realize just how little he actually did to help and how much of it came from the things I decided to do. It just so happened that a lot of them took place while I was with him.

Every time I pushed myself up a mountain that I didn't think I could make it up, every time I walked into a social situation I had avoided for years because of my physical insecurities, every time I kept running even though it felt like I was breathing through a straw, every time I befriended someone that I felt intimidated by, every single time I made myself uncomfortable, physically or mentally...I grew.

That's it. 

So, do I accept myself as I am now? Hell no! Never! I love myself! I'm friggin awesome! But I will never ever accept myself because I will never ever stop growing.
Now, it's your turn. Go out there and make yourself REALLY uncomfortable!

Audio Book Suggestions

After documentaries, the possibly easiest way to educate and/or change yourself is with audiobooks. Especially if you drive a lot! I am going to add more detail (and I'm sure more books) to this list as time allows but here's some great audiobook suggestions. I use for most of my audios and, when you first sign up, you even get some free credits I believe.

I have split them up by general category:

Weight Loss/Nutrition/Exercise

The Body Fat Solution: Five Principles for Burning Fat, Building Lean Muscle, Ending Emotional Eating, and Maintaining Your Perfect Weight by Tom Venuto

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
This isn't so much an educational book as it is a collection of stories about different types of runners. More than anything, it reminded me of the strength of the human spirit, the body and how much potential we have. Very inspirational!

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
What foods we should and shouldn't eat and why.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey
If you experience trouble with having enough motivation to exercise, this book could seriously change your life. He teaches you WHY exercise is so important and the science behind it's effects. I've listened to it several times and it really helped me internalize the importance of exercise. I have ZERO trouble with motivation now (aside from the occasional under the weather day) and I sincerely believe that this book has played a HUGE part in it!

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis

The Mars and Venus Diet and Exercise Solution by John Gray, Ph.D.
Don't let the name fool you. This is not a chick book. This offers sound information about how men and women's bodies respond to certain types of food and exercise. This book has been one of the most helpful I've ever "read"!

Change Your Brain, Change Your Body by Daniel G. Amen


Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
If you find yourself always attracted to people who need help and you're always the one who thinks you can change them. This is a GREAT book!

Mars and Venus on a Date by John Gray, Ph.D.
Gives insight into the dating world for both sexes. VERY HELPFUL!

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
This book can benefit men as much as it can women. It helps is "break the code" and finally gain a little insight into what's going on in the opposite sex's brain!

He's Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt. Maybe you're just not his cup of tea. And, if not, you deserve better.

It's Called a Break-Up Because It's Broken by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt. This book honestly helped me break a horrible break-up/get back together loop I was stuck in. When I would get lonely at night, this audiobook would be that friend that made me laugh and talked me out of calling him.
The Tao of Dating by Ali Binazir. Learn how to be the goddess you are and attract the right man.


Positive Discipline Birth to Five by Dr. Jane Nelsen
Super short and extremely Helpful!!

Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy child from Zero to Five by John Medina

ScreamFree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool by Hal Edward Runkel
BY FAR the best parenting book I've read so far!! It's not just about not screaming, almost any parent could benefit from this book. It has been truly priceless in my own life, I just can't recommend it enough!
Scientific Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive by The Courses. This is an amazing (and LONG) series of lectures, all backed up by sound science, about various topics of child rearing.

Mental Health/Inspirational/General Self-Help 

Excuses BeGone! How to Change Lifelong, Self-Defeating Thinking Habits by Wayne Dyer
Learn how to overcome the roadblocks in your head that tell you that you can't do something.

The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D.
Why women think the way they do.

The Law of Success From the Master Mind to the Golden Rule (in Sixteen Lessons) by Napoleon Hill
This book is really good and reeeeallllly long. I can only take it in small doses because it's a little dry but definitely chock full of information and worth the listen!

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
I just can't recommend this book enough! Every single person should listen to this. Everyone can greatly benefit from it!!!
The Toltec Way by Susan Gregg. The three Toltec Masteries (Awareness, Transformation and Intent) are explained as the key to transcending your limitations and experiencing yourself as the creator of your life.

Images Provided by

The Secret to Getting a 6 Pack with Obi Obadike

This is a really great article (although the grammar is horrible at times lol). It really helps to explain how to get abs and about the misconception of how people think they can get them.

Kicking the Habit--My Addiction to a Man

I recently got out of a 2-year relationship with a guy that I was absolutely crazy for....problem was, when I say "crazy", I mean that quite literally. I think most females (or maybe most people) can relate to this feeling at some time or another. The feeling of no longer being a rational human being the moment you come into contact with, or even think about, a certain someone. Well, that was definitely the nth degree. Part of it was, no doubt, because he was an intelligent, unbelievably funny, exciting and passionate man who I just couldn't keep my hands off of and still, after two years, managed to give me butterflies. Unfortunately, enough bad stuff happened in our relationship that the butterflies turned more into bats. I don't blame our relationship for my crazy, unbalanced bouts, I blame my unbalanced bouts for, well, about half of the problems that we had in our relationship anyway.

We met online and, when I looked at his pictures, quite honestly he didn't really do anything for me. When I talked to him on the phone we instantly clicked but I still worried about the lack of physical connection. (Actually, on both our ends, but that's a story for another time.) But, with every late night phone conversation, I I fell harder for this guy. I had never had a connection like this with a man (I wasn't related to) before. 

The first time we met face to face I instantly learned that a picture is not always worth a thousand words. One miserable frozen morning in January '10 I pulled up in the parking lot where we were meeting and there he stood. I thought, "wow, he's a lot cuter than his pictures." Then he smiled's all kind of fuzzy from there. From that moment on this dude made my head spin every time he kissed me, hugged me, and sometimes just looked at me.

I was fresh out of my marriage (a little TOO fresh many would say) and here was this fun, adventurous guy so full of life and showing me all these new, exciting things that I had never experienced in all the years I spent parked in front of a t.v. But our relationship was bumpy, to say the least. The exact details don't really matter at this point but it was definitely one of those romances that, when it was good, it was so SO good. And when it was bad...well, you get the idea.

To say I was unbalanced during this time could imply that I had a cute quirk here and there that made me a little kooky and unpredictable (again, in a cute, quirky, romantic comedy kinda way). This was, sadly, not the case. I was a hot mess. I would cry over everything. I was insecure and paranoid and, although there were some times when I was completely justified to be those things, most of the time I was coming up with crazy notions in my head that just had no foundation in reality. I was full on crazy at times and sometimes I think he must be full on crazy to have put up with it but, underneath all the dysfunction, I really do believe we both did (and still do) love each other very much.

Problem was, I wasn't just in love with this guy, I was addicted to him. I mean that literally. Yeah, you can be addicted to a person. When someone makes you feel a certain way it is due to chemicals that are being released within you and when those chemicals make you feel good, you want more. And when you're depressed and unbalanced, you really REALLY want more and you'll put yourself through just about anything to get it.

I can't pinpoint one exact cause of my imbalance but, over time and with work, I started to become more stable and began see things more rationally. That's the thing about being imbalanced, it's not always cut and dry as in "don't do this anymore" or "do this one thing" or "take this one pill and everything will be okay." Quite often we have different things in our lives that are contributing to the lack of well being we are experiencing.

I'm still trying to sort through all the things that caused my mental instability to assure it doesn't happen again. Very recently I gained some insight into this by almost slipping back into my role as crazy girl. I was staying with a friend for the weekend and my ex came to visit for part of that time. By the end of the weekend I felt myself feeling irrational, unhealthy feelings toward him again even though I've spent time with him since the breakup, talk to him on a very regular basis and had felt like I was really starting to move on with my life. So what gives?

Then it hit me!!! When I first started seeing him, I was not sleeping well. And, when I say "I was not sleeping well," what I mean is that I was staying up until 4am a lot of nights and getting awakened for the day by my son an hour or two later. I basically wasn't sleeping at all. I had started dabbling in exercise a little before this but nothing nearly intense enough and not frequently enough. When I really started working out hard and consistently, this did 2 things for me. First, it greatly improved my mental stability. Second, it helped me fall asleep earlier at night. As a result of sleeping like a normal person should, I saw an even more drastic improvement in my mental stability.

So how does this relate to my weekend brush with crazy? Well, that Friday night we had stayed up late watching a movie. I didn't get to sleep until about 1:30-2am and my son woke me up at 5am. Saturday, basically the same thing. In case this wasn't enough to push me back into "I'll die without him" land, I also didn't work out the whole weekend.

By the time I went to bed (early!) Sunday night I had eaten foods that ordinarily would never pass my lips now because I know the science behind just how bad they are for me and I wanted to get back with a guy who I also knew just how bad he was for me.

When I woke up Monday morning at 4:30am, I was feeling a bit better, still sad but more manageable. I drug on my workout clothes and headed downstairs. Something in me knew I needed to push hard and really work up a sweat. An hour and fifteen minutes later I semi-crawled back up the stairs feeling like my old self again. Yes, I still missed him but he was back in his "compartment" in my mind where he belonged.

Sleep and exercise (along with nutrition) are tools that we have at our disposal that can greatly improve our lives. Not just how we look but how we feel physically AND mentally. When we aren't utilizing these tools, it's much easier to give in to our addictions (and we all have them) whether they be food, people, alcohol, whatever. Now, I'm not saying "exercise and get a good night's sleep and it'll fix all your problems" but what I am saying is that by controlling what you eat, how you exercise and how much you sleep, you will be much better equipped to make rational, healthy decisions when you are faced with problems.

I also want to add, when it comes to exercise and eating healthy, I think that it's more than just hormonal balance. There is so little we actually have control over in our lives but these are a couple things in which we do! I spent my weekend away from my house, my stuff, my priorities, my life!! When we don't have a firm grip on what we want and are actively doing everything we can to achieve our best life, we feel out of control and that makes us more vulnerable to allowing external things to control us instead.