Tag Archives: motivation

10 Years Aboard the Treadmill of Sisyphus Later…

My weight loss collage, showing my body from 2003 to 2013, lumps and all.

My weight loss collage, showing my body from 2003 to 2013, lumps and all.

I recently posted this image on my social media pages. It showcases my history over the last two years, as well as gives me a clear-eyed view of how my body has looked in the past and how far I have come since I completely changed my diet. Here is the text I put with it:

For most of my life, I’ve struggled with my weight. I’ve been winning the war these last two years, and it’s still a bit strange to see my wish outside of myself at long last. Most of my friends here in Kentucky only know me as the more svelte, healthy-eating person they see today instead of the person I was during my college years in Memphis and my decade of grown-up life in Dallas. I worked hard to get where I am today, and I’m grateful to have had the right circumstances to make my commitment easier, the ability to afford to eat the way I do, the push from my doctor in the right direction, and the unwavering support of my boyfriend to help me get here. There is a part of me that will always be that insecure, overweight person who was always worried about the numbers on the scale and how well jackets worked at disguising abdominal fat. I have a history that informs who I am today, just like everyone else does, and this is my tale, told in photos taken over the last decade.

I took pains to not try to fat-shame myself in the past or anyone who looks like me. I am glad that I shed weight, as I much better like my health, my appearance, and the way the world treats me since I got thinner, but I don’t want to disparage who I was in the past, paint my life as perfect now (your problems don’t magically get better as you weigh less), or put down anyone who is still going through their own body struggle. Not everyone is me, the same methods won’t work for everyone, not everybody is the same. And I didn’t lose weight *at* anybody. I lost it for me, for the sake of my health and to help my boyfriend’s insomnia.

It was work giving up foods that I love that weren’t always healthy, and it is work now trying to pass up sugary sweets and justify to myself eating food that’s not on my diet. I’m not perfect, and I’ve definitely hit my roadblocks along the way, be they motivational, related to family tragedy, or health-related.

But I’m still going strong. I’m still happy as a participant and moderator of a Reddit community based around fitness, health, and life goal achievement. I’m happy making nutritious soups from scratch that fit closely within my dietary parameters. I’m very happy putting on my shoes and running as often as my body and the weather allow me to run.

Inclement Clothing

Northern hemisphere snow party! Whoo!

It’s around the darkest days of the year with the least sunshine, and it’s not so bad, to be honest. Yeah, it’s in the 20s F in the morning with highs rising all the way to the 30s F by the middle of the day, but as long as it doesn’t rain and get all damp and gross outside, that’s not so bad!

Unfortunately, it’s been damp and gross – the wet kind of cold weather that isn’t pretty and doesn’t have the decency to not soak through every layer you have on – for a lot of the last couple of weeks. Snow flurries fell over the weekend, though, and didn’t stick to much, melting and refreezing almost as soon as they hit most earthbound surfaces. This morning, it was cold, clear, and dazzlingly sunny.

As I’ve said several times before, I’ve put together a cold weather wardrobe. It proved to be inadequate the other night when it was just above freezing and started to rain very hard as the dogs stood in the back yard, alternating between finding things to eat in the bushes and pulling away from me toward the house without having used the potty, which was the entire reason we were out there. I have a rain coat, but I wasn’t wearing anything warmer under it than a sweater. I don’t have waterproof boots or pants that resist rain. My flannel pajama pants I’d worn out into the rain got pretty damp, and I let my shoes dry out for a day before I took the dogs out for a long walk again. So basically, those things are next on my list of winter-wear gear. I’ve got being warm enough down, now I just have to stay dry as well.

Rain hasn’t been much of a problem for me for years. Texas doesn’t get a lot of rain, and the last two summers have been phenomenally dry and included a record-breaking drought. Now that I’m in Kentucky at the foothills of Appalachia, it’s a different story. We’re not quite far north enough to get snow, and we’re not quite far south enough to have a warm winter. We get a wet, damp January, leaf-stripped forests for three months, occasional snow. It seemed worse when I was young and didn’t always have adequate protection from the elements. But now, I’ve grown up, accessorized with fleece and a dozen different garments, and I’m good to go when it’s snowing in my face.

This is what I wore last night on a circuit around the neighborhood across the hard gravel road, around frozen puddles, into the murky night lit via light pollution caught by low-hanging clouds. I was so toasty.

A woman's leg clothed in hiking boots, argyle knee-high socks, black tights, and purple pants

Pants layers – long socks, tights, yoga pants, and boots.

A woman in a leather jacket, fleece hat, and two sets of gloves giving the thumbs-up

Gloves and face layers.

A woman in winter clothing wearing four shirts.

Shirt layers – tank, thermal sweater, fleece pullover, and leather jacket.

Next on my shopping list are rainproof pants and boots. I could probably apply some water resistance to the boots I have now, but it might be easier to upgrade to another pair at some point.

The ability to be comfortable as I go out into the world is the only thing that makes it tolerable going out. I went into the cold woefully underdressed a few nights ago and didn’t really get almost comfortable until about 20 minutes in, when I’d warmed up from the exertion. By that time, my hands were frozen, and we were almost back at the house. Lesson learned.

Stability and Existentialism on the Treadmill

Welcome to a very word-vomity post that got a little philosophy-ish. Finally, I’m putting my college major to use!

Back in February 2012, my doctor gave me a goal of losing 26 pounds to get myself down from “obese” to “overweight” status. When I went back to see him in the early summer, he didn’t remember that he’d asked me to lose all the weight he recommended (which I did!) and given me a diet plan to follow.

I don’t expect him to perfectly remember everyone he sees, much less a woman he’s seen in his office perhaps 3 times over the course of a year. But it amazed me that he didn’t remember me at all after he’d so drastically changed my life. He also seemed amazed that someone had taken his habit-changing advice to heart. I don’t know that I saw his advice as a choice; I saw it as a prescription, and my mind was made up to do whatever he told me to do.

My goal has been to lose even more weight since that visit. With that idea in mind, I try very hard to stick to the diet he prescribed to me – lower carb, lower sugar, skip things like potatoes and corn. Temptations are all over the place, though. And there are times I score what feels like a major victory (“I will have the green beans and no bread, please”), only to cave in and deliberately eat things that he advised against, sometimes later in the same day. It’s times like these that I ask, “Is it really worth it to try to eat well if this is what I’m going to end up doing anyway?”

As the title of my blog insinuates, getting healthy and improving your fitness is an ongoing process, and it can feel like futility dressed up as an eternal curse. Like Sisyphus, we have no finish line, but unlike him, our work is circumscribed by our mortality and the fallibility of the human body. We wonder sometimes if we’ll ever be able to do “enough,” and if we can’t do enough, then why bother in the first place.

“Why am I even pursuing health and fitness? Why should I bother working on this body or this weight when I am unloved and lonely, beloved and popular,  have so many other things going on for me in my life, have nothing to live for, am perfectly fit, have injuries or disabilities, have no time to work out, can’t put on weight for anything, can’t lose weight for anything, am depressed, feel fantastic all the time, know that ultimately, trying to improve my health won’t stop every disease and won’t keep me alive forever?”

These are a lot of doubts to have echoing in your brain when you’re someplace that allows you meditation, like driving, taking a walk, easy exercise, or repetitive physical labor. I got a lot of thinking done the summer I spent loading inky bundles of advertisement inserts into a sorting machine in the printing press building of a newspaper.

There are many opportunities for self-doubt and despair of compulsion: when you’ve hit a plateau, when you’ve hit your goal, when you feel like you’re treading water instead of making progress, and when you’re not in a great mental place.

I hit my weight goal this summer, and I’ve stayed close to it for several months. My 2012 has been rife with upheaval. Despite the chaos, I’ve striven to stay at my goal and limbo under it, but I’ve self-sabotaged more times than I can count and chalked it up to various disasters and a lack of true stability. My main support structure, my boyfriend, is still there to be my voice of reason and my conscience, but he’s not my babysitter, nor should he be held to that responsibility. I’ve tried to rebuild other routines for myself since I’ve been here, particularly when it comes to food. I provide a regular influx of fruit and healthier options than candy and carbs for snacks, hunt down foods to be my new favorites at a new grocery, and pick out vegetable options at the local diner. I also walk the dogs often and for decently long distances to give us all an exercise boost.

While I believe I’m at a fitness barrier at this point in my life (still having a little abdominal trouble when I exert myself too much), I could be doing more to lose weight by really reining in my food intake. I tracked my food for several days last week before losing patience with the exact accounting required versus my imprecise measurements, and how the hell do you account for a breakfast burrito at Sonic when you scrape out the inside and throw away the tortilla? And why am I eating at Sonic when I know it’s not an ideal food provider? Why the hell do I even bother?

 

I could cite the benefits of being healthier and thinner. I love smaller clothes, I’ll admit. I like being ambulatory and having the hope of retaining my mobility as I age. It’s a joy not having breathing problems, working on my snoring so I don’t disturb my boyfriend’s sleep, not having high blood pressure, not having type II diabetes.

Sometimes, it’s just keeping on with what I’m doing that helps me cope when life is less than ideal, or when I’ve made myself so busy that I can’t concentrate on figuring out what really makes me happy. Exercise can be a great meditative tool and is one of my favorites. Going out with the dogs or going for a walk or stretching my arm because I don’t know what else to do with myself has helped my anxiety in the past. When things are going to hell, there’s something comforting in knowing that I’ve got a gorgeous apple and some carrots waiting for me in my lunch bag, and that if I keep eating the same healthy, nutritious, filling, calorically-appropriate portioned foods every day, I’ll get to my goals so much more quickly, and these methods have worked before and will work again.

You have to put your faith in the method and the routine. Maybe your existential despair is only related to your current mood. Don’t wallow. Be pragmatic about your routine. “Well, maybe things suck, or maybe there isn’t a burning desire for me to hit the gym tonight, or maybe it feels like everything I do is a gesture in futility… but I might as well do this healthy habit anyway to keep my routine stable.”

I’m a creature of habit. Most of us are creatures of habit. We have the ability to take wanted behaviors and build habits out of them, then reinforce them, without giving into the despair that causes us to throw up our hands and stare blankly at the bottom of a bag of powdered donuts or the blinking cursor in an empty browser address window.

Inertia and relapse into damaging behaviors are habits, too. Practice your wanted behaviors and make them habits.

You are the only true agent of change in your own life, and choices you make, actively or passively, shape your destiny. And that can be daunting and seem scary at times.  Now that I’m out from under my doctor’s care, I don’t have someone telling me exactly what to do or to offer guidance. But I do have the vast resources of the internet at my fingertips (as well as its disinformation and trolls, but also helpfulness and humor). I do have family and friends who are health and fitness-minded who are cheering me on, reinforcing my good decisions, marveling at my results, and reminding me to live a little if I see fit to do so. I have a sense of self-preservation nurtured by my choices to take better care of myself both physically and emotionally.

 

There is no one reason for changing your body and health. There is no magic fitness form that is attainable through a single push of hard work that allows you to then coast on autopilot and stay at the same peak. There is no body that will not eventually break down and die. Eventually, all this work we do on ourselves is futile – on a long enough timeline.

But with rare exception, there is no one who cannot actively choose to take steps to change their lives for the better through food choices, fitness routines, medical consultation and care as needed for mental and physical illnesses, and self care. You still have to live in your body.

The beautiful and frightening thing about freedom is that it is perpetual. Every day is a new opportunity to screw up everything. But every day is also a new opportunity to rise to the responsibility of choice.

Wrap Dresses Are Forever

Even when you’re shrinking, the wrap dress is one of the few items in your wardrobe that can come with you on your adventure little worse for wear.

A woman in a blue floral wrap dress at three weight stages.

Wrap dress on three versions of me.

The third image is from this last week. I don’t look as radiant as I mentally feel because I was much under the weather. It’s hard to practically prance around as if reenacting “The Sound of Music” when you’re weakened and in constant discomfort. But science is fixing me, and I’ve felt much better for several days. I may have to postpone my plan to do a pilates-to-c25k program, pending doctor’s treatment and approval.

Yes, this was all done with moderate exercise for the first year, then lower carb, paleo-ish food choices from February 2012 onward. It wasn’t fast, but it happened. And I can still wear one of my favorite outfits! Halleljuah.

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Progress Photo: Belt Edition

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I picked up this fashion belt a few years back when I weighed 200 pounds. I’ve been wearing it off and on for years as i slip between sizes and need an assist keeping my butt covered. The quarter on the left marks the hole I used at my heaviest. Note the creased leather.

The last hole on the right is marked with a quarter, and this is the hole I’ve been using. I found today that this hole will soon not be enough; the belt is getting too loose. I can’t make a new hole thanks to all the metal studs and crap.

When I am too small for the belt, I will have to buy new pants at last. The old ones are ill-fitting on my more slender frame as it is.

Tomorrow: weights!

Walk for a Cause, Walk at Random, But Hey, Walk

My knee’s been old and busted ever since I tore my meniscus in my early twenties, so it’s been difficult for me to run for any length of time for a little over a decade. Days of remorse usually follow a lengthy jog. I gave up on Couch to 5K in the second week because it hurt so much. I will run to chase after an escaped dog, which happens more often than you’d think (looking at you, boy dog).

Walking, however, is completely all right, given I’m wearing my knee brace and my ankle sleeve. One of my favorite things in the world is to get kitted up and go wandering around my neighborhood in the spring and autumn. Music is completely optional. I’ve usually got my cell phone; I send out occasional tweets, I take pictures of the sky, and I keep it on me to make it easier to track my whereabouts if I disappear into the back of a windowless white van or space ship or whatever. Long walks are one of the few opportunities I have to listen to music in a fairly quiet setting, given how loud my old sedan is getting. I love the wind in my face, seeing the moon if I’m walking at night (which I used to do quite a bit), enjoying the nature around me. I’m glad that I’ve found such a low impact sport that’s good for my joint health and that I enjoy. When I get to be a little old lady, as much as I can stand to, I’m taking myself and my little fluffy, yappy dogs to the park every day for walkies.

Because I am an aspiring (if usually broke) philanthropist, eager to offer information, money, and effort to the causes I support, I completely get behind races and walks for charity organizations. I’m not really great at fundraising, but I try to contribute most of my fundraising goal myself and concentrate on enjoying the event. I’ve participated in two events yearly for the last two years. In 2012, I plan to double the number of walk participations I’ve done and perhaps add more. Because the heat in Dallas is so awful during the summer, I’ve tried to stick to events in non-summer and non-summer-adjoining months.

The events I’ve done:
Komen for the Cure for breast cancer screening/research

A woman in outdoor walking gear wearing a race number for the Komen Race for the Cure.

Dallas Komen for the Cure 2010

 

Give Thanks. Walk for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Close-up of a woman outdoors wearing a t-shirt for a St. Jude Children's Hospital charity walk.

Dallas Give Thanks Walk 2011

 

The walks I plan to do for the first time this year:

  • Get Your Rear in Gear, a colon cancer event. I’m participating, perhaps against my better judgment, in the June 23rd Dallas/Fort Worth event in Fort Worth. The heat will probably be completely miserable, but I’ll deal with getting myself into that situation come June. Other events in the U.S. are listed in the right sidebar.
  • Twitter Road Race, an event this coming Saturday, January 21st. It is a self-motivated 5K without a cause, open to Twitter users around the world.

At this point, I hope you’re not rolling your eyes and thinking, “Ooh, look at me, I’m Eve with her stupid fitness blog self-promotion, I go OUTSIDE and do THINGS that are more important than anything anyone else has going on!” I really don’t want to be that person, rubbing my participation in charity events or fitness events in other people’s faces. I am not better than anyone else for doing these things, nor do I want to come off that way. I just get excited about being helpful, because I’m a dork, and I get exuberant about exercise, because I love being active. These are things that make me glad to be alive.

A cartoon of Twitter's Fail Whale in red sneakers mid-air.

Twitter Road Race unofficial fan art. (Please don't sue me, Twitter.)

I know a couple of people in meatspace who are doing the Twitter Road Race, which is an event that has no cause, has no entry fee, gives no t-shirt, and has no official ribbon color. Its mascot may be a sneaker-clad Fail Whale, for all I know. The event doesn’t mean much, perhaps, except to the participant, who takes away a sense of accomplishment at having fulfilled a commitment to themselves to be active. But it does have its own cause to support. The blog writer who started the Twitter Road Race asks his readers why we run. Here’s my answer:

If I could run, I would. Injury has made me know how important it is to keep the machine that is the human body working correctly and how much I took it for granted in the past. I walk and exercise in order to improve my health and to keep myself as fit as possible for as long as I’m on this earth. I participate in these walking events because my life has been touched in important ways by the diseases they fight and by the people fighting them, be they friends or strangers. I walk alone on dark week nights or sunny Sunday afternoons and with strangers on the other side of an internet connection because each of us is our own caretaker; we’re investing in our own long-term health.

We can’t predict, control, or stop every awful thing that time, disease, and accident do to our bodies, but we can fight the good fight as long as we are able. Allons-y.

Happy Post-Weights Workout

Those moments when I am at my computer or on the couch putting off my workout, I need to be reminded of how awesome I feel when I’m done exerting myself.

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Happy post-workout face: December 28, 2011.

I always feel cheerful and strong after a weights workout. I want to capture those moments post-workout to give me inspiration when I don’t have it, and what better way than with a photo? Here’s to remembering why it’s worth it to push yourself: the feeling of accomplishment as you wipe the sweat off your brow and take a long drink of cold water before heading home.