Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Let's take a walk...

...down memory lane, shall we?
When I first started blogging about this new, healthy lifestyle change journey that I was embarking upon, I couldn't wait until I had some content.  I mean, it's fun to start a blog and to do the introduction and first few posts, but I wanted my blog to be into the nitty gritty already.  I couldn't WAIT to post after pictures and celebrate anniversaries.  Getting to those milestones proved that I had stuck with it and that I was seeing results.
October 2nd was my official anniversary date - or as I've seen some people refer to it: Fitaversary.  The actual intent to make the change to adopt a healthier lifestyle actually came a couple weeks before that, but October 2nd was also when I joined the gym and had a "BLOG POST: memorable encounter", so it was easier to use that date as a starting off-point.
I had wanted to do a celebratory fitaversary post for quite some time, but a couple things seem to have gotten in the way:
  1. I kind of totally forgot all about it
  2. On that anniversary date, I wasn't exactly in the place I imagined I would be for my "triumphant" one year story that was going to inspire the universe into joining me on the healthy lifestyle change journey
Don't get me wrong, just because I'm not where I imagined I would be doesn't mean that I don't love where I am now.  As I type, I am currently celebrating a "milestone" (or so my E-Mail reminder tells me): today marks my 39th week of pregnancy.  What that generally means is that technically, I have one week to go until I hit my official due date, but realistically, I could go into labour and meet the little miss at any time.

38 Weeks • Source: Instagram

CONFESSION: I'm pretty sure she's going to go by way of her mama and show up "Filipino Time" which is to say LATE

Anywho, despite those two points that delayed my taking the time to look back and reflect on the past year, I've decided that it will be worth it for me to think back - especially at this time when I'm hoping that in a few weeks (or six), I can start to resume some kind of fitness schedule to pick back up where I left off.

I guess for many people, there usually has to be a why in order to do something.  Even though I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was overweight, my why wasn't because I wanted to get skinny.  I like to think that I was fortunate enough not to have my self-esteem and self-worth attached to my weight.  There was no desire for me to get skinny in order to love myself or feel confident or whatnot.  Instead it was almost a rock-bottom situation.  It was sitting there eating my lunch of McDonald's sandwich ordered with extra mayo on it and on the side for my super-sized fries (and it had to be McDonald's because the day before I ate lunch at Wendy's and the day before that it was Harvey's and we would be going out somewhere else for dinner that night, too) and finally realizing that THIS cannot be my whole life.  Finally realizing that I can't spend my whole life (and Bart's) trying to decide which fast food restaurant to go to and basing the decision on whether we were already there that week.  It was trying to see a future with kids and wondering how I was going to feed them and if it was going to be like THIS.

More than anything else, above all those inspirational moments where other people say it's because they want to change for this and that reason, for me, it was just looking at what my life was like and how it revolved around where I would eat next and not being able to stomach another day like it.  It was just really finally being able to see that I couldn't let it stay like this and I wasn't going to wait for anything more dramatic to happen to let that be my why.

I think what was working for me (I can't stress this enough so I'm going to italicize it: for me, but I'm going to mention things in the hopes that you will also find them useful) was before jumping into anything any making promises and brash decisions was knowing myself in order to clarify a few things.  And I think what I mean by this is by being brutally honest with yourself.  It's nice to have hopes and aspirations of things that you wish you are or hope to become, but when setting out to make a healthy lifestyle change, you have to start first by acknowledging who or what you already are.

This includes knowing, owning up to, admitting/acknowledging your faults and weaknesses in order to come up with a plan to help you get the best possible results.

CONFESSION: I think another thing that also made the change successful for me (well, up until I gave myself over to the preggo cravings and began to #eatALLthethings) is that it was made after a lot of thought and NOT at a standard point in time, for example: New Year's.  While I know that people can be successful in keeping new year's resolutions, knowing myself and acknowledging who I was, it meant that any resolutions I made were more likely to have been made as "following the masses" as opposed to something I was honestly wanting to do for myself.

So when I first really started thinking seriously about making changes, I had to think first of the things about myself that would sabotage what I was about to undertake so that I could make plans to combat it.

First was FOOD.  I could have sat there and resolved to run a marathon or work on being the next ultimate frisbee superstar (is there even such a thing? Hopefully not, so maybe I could be it!) but what I had already heard was that exercise wasn't all there was to it.  I don't know the exact starts or anything, but from my own experience, I feel like, exercise, while it's important and most definitely always goes hand-in-hand with a healthy diet, only attributes to about 20% of health.

CONFESSION: Yes, I totally pulled that number out of my butt.  I have no actual basis for it besides my own observations

For me, my enemy was FOOD. I guess I shouldn't generalize.  It was actually FAST food.  Deep fried food.  Fatty food.  Salty food.  Back then, all encompassed under one description: DELICIOUS food.  If it wasn't fast, fried, fatty or salty, it wasn't good and I didn't want it.

And I'm not talking about every once in a while treats.  This - on an ALMOST daily basis - was a reality for me every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner - if I bothered to eat breakfast at all.

Unfortunately for me, Shaun T, Fryday was all day, errryday back then!

Looking back, I'm a little bit shocked and a lot ashamed at the fact that I allowed myself to do that and that I didn't suffer anything serious (and the fear is there that I may still suffer the ramifications of what I allowed myself to eat in the future)

So in knowing one aspect of myself, I was able to identify an enemy.  But just like in those Mario Brothers video games, you don't just get to battle the big bad right away.  You have to go through his minions first.  Little enemies.  Once I identified the ultimate enemy, I had to know what he would be throwing at me and that involved knowing myself in order to identify my tendencies and habits even more.  It wasn't enough for me to just say: "Okay people, from now on, I'm going to eat healthy!"  Half-hearted intentions were not going to get me where I wanted to go.

HOW would I eat healthy!  HOW would I sabotage myself and therefore HOW can I avoid that?

First, I didn't eat breakfast.  So, step one: eat breakfast!  This took a while to really get down and it was a lot of trial and error and it also involved becoming knowledgeable.  First I had cereal.  Then once I had acquired sufficient knowledge to ascertain that cereal (well, at least the kind I was eating) was definitely not in line with the goals I had in mind, I changed things up.

Second, I ate out at lunch and almost all dinners.  So, step two: stop doing that.  How?  MAKE MY OWN FOOD.  PACK MY OWN FOOD.  Within this, there was more identifying and planning.  Again, it's not just enough to up and announce "I'm going to PACK MY LUNCH!" it doesn't mean anything if you're not prepared and don't have a plan.  It involved planning in advance, grocery shopping, taking the time to prep and then putting all that into action. 

Even with all these plans, preparations and knowledge in place.  It's not to say that everything always went swimmingly.  Once you've discovered the solid things you can tackle, ie. food, fitness/exercise, there's the things to address that are harder.

That almost every day, you have to admit that you're human.  And that if you've been brutally honest with yourself, that sometimes - more often than not - you're lazy.  You're tired.  You're a procrastinator.  And that sometimes, the best laid plans don't really go as planned.  The next part (for me, at least) was harder.  It's telling myself multiple times a day that it's not going to be easy.  It was trying to make myself understand every day that it was going to take TIME.  It was KNOWING that I was going to fail more than ONCE (heck, in a DAY) but that I have to keep GOING.  Which means I will be required to find that very fine line between being tough on myself and being able to forgive myself. 

Next up for me was accountability.  Again, how many times did I know myself to post those New Year's resolutions and then have them go to the wayside without even a hint of regret.

This time was going to be different in that I had to really tell myself that I can post things and say things all I want to everyone else, but there'd be no fooling anyone but myself if I didn't actually put in the effort, willpower and work.

First step to really start change, as many self help groups have proclaimed - it's admitting you have a problem.  Or facing it head on.  In the back of my head (and forefront of my closet), I knew that I was overweight - and not just to the point where I'd gained a few pounds, but obese.  I found a lot of ways in order to deal with that on a daily basis by wearing clothes that I felt comfortable in or "flattered" my body shape, but in order to undertake the "healthy lifestyle change" I had to really make myself see that I was unhealthy.

While I didn't SPECIFICALLY set out to lose weight or to "get skinny", one of the most tangible ways to gauge your health is your body (or you know, if you had a heart attack or whatever, that would work too...)  So I finally had to face mine.  In all its glorified...mass.

CONFESSION: One of the most unhealthy things I used to do (besides stuff my face with crap) was to see myself and to compare myself to someone bigger.  Once that was done, I would be able to rationalize that in comparison, I wasn't that bad, or promise myself that I wouldn't let myself get worse than that person.  Not acknowledging the fact that the people I compared myself to were taller or who carried their weight different and that if I had just looked at myself and myself ALONE, I would have known that at 5'0" and weighing in at over 202 lbs (that was when I first weighed myself after starting the lifestyle change - so I don't think I'll ever really know how heavy I ever got) was NOT good compared to anybody.  (Also, I am aware that this was such an asshole tactic).

Once I also learned that things that sound healthy may not necessarily be healthy, the next step was to be honest with myself about what I was eating.

For this, I turned to MyFitnessPal.

I had used this online tool a few years back in order to help me lose a small amount of weight (the minimum amount of weight I needed to lose in order to fit into the largest size bridesmaid dress I could order) and so I went back.

For the longest time, it became my steady rock.  My anchor on which I could hang my healthy food choice dreams on.  It reminded me to eat throughout the day and it became my bargaining chip / negotiation standpoint when coupled with exercise and calories burned.

It helped me keep things in order, stay in control and established a routine for me.  But I am also a creature of habit with food so after a while of inputting the same meals every day, there had to come a time when I needed to let go.  I was also beginning to realize that I was developing a kind of dependency on it and it was making me scared of and a slave to calories.  While I appreciated what it had been doing for me, I didn't want my healthy lifestyle change to be based solely on this.  Of counting calories and adjusting my day and schedule in order to be "able" to eat certain types of food in exchange for an extra amount of exercise in order to burn off additional calories.

While it helped me understand the basic principle that in order to maintain a health weight, a person had to expend more calories than they took in, it was still so much more than that since I was also learning that not all calories are the same.  There's empty calories and healthy fats and things weren't always so black and white. 

Eventually, I stopped tracking my calories and logging everything that went into my mouth in order to give myself a chance to trust in my newfound ability to make healthier food choices.

While I didn't blackmail myself or barter with extra exercise time, I always did try to keep conscious of what I was choosing to eat and then making some additional choices based on that.  For example, if I knew I was going to a party, I didn't irritate the hosts and guests by whining about the things I couldn't eat and I ate what I wanted and enjoyed spending time with friends and family.  But in addition to this, I made sure that I gave myself a chance to put in some physical activity as well.  It wasn't always clear whether or not I burned "enough" to "earn" the things I chose to eat, but I was trying to give myself the room and leniency to know that I could still have things that I enjoyed without it being the end of the world.  In my journey to GET healthy, I also wanted a healthy relationship with my food.

So while I mentioned that in getting healthy, I felt exercise had a smaller role to play compared to diet, it still goes without saying that exercise is important.  Earlier on, I had an epiphany about this as well.  I didn't want to exercise to get skinny.  I wanted to exercise to make my body stronger.  It did not escape my notice that during my fitness evaluation at the gym (that every new member apparently has to take before they can officially join), I could do a total of ZERO push ups.  I understood that even skinny people can't necessarily do push-ups and that became my little mini goal.  I wanted to exercise in order to ensure that my body was strong enough to do things.  And at that time, what I wanted it to be able to do was push-ups.  The REAL kind. 

I don't have any inspirational stories where one day I realized how much I LOVE to work out and sweat - more often than not it was a struggle more than a joy to get myself to change into workout clothes after a long, mentally hard day at the office.  It was torture more than it was fun to lace up my shoes to go for a run.

In order to counter that (see, there's ALWAYS a time where you have to know yourself to know your enemy!) I chose activities or things that worked with my personality.  I liked charts and graphs and "rewards".  While I'm not saying the Insanity program is the only way to go, for ME, it was a good choice because of the chart it provided and the schedule it gave.  My motivation is founded on little check marks and stars and graphs.  The program came with a huge poster calendar that was FULL of all these blank little squares that I needed to check off to show I did it.  I was strict with myself in that if I didn't complete the exercise for that day in full, or if I didn't do it to the best of my ability, I didn't award myself a check mark.  And it killed me to walk by the chart and know that I hadn't earned a check mark.  This was what I knew I needed and this was what provided me the motivation to get moving even though I would rather do anything BUT.

But it was worse at the beginning.  Even though I never really found the JOY in working out, there was a sense of pride when I started noticing changes and improvements.  I may not LOVE push-ups, but I was LOVING how I could now do them when before the mere action was non-existant to me.  I took up running again and while I loved having new running "toys" that made the activity more enjoyable, there were still times where I wouldn't mind being hit by a car just so I had a reason to stop running.  Then again, there were also those AWESOME times when I found myself running faster/farther than I had the day/week/month/year before and there's a whole lot of SOMETHING in that.  So while I wasn't ever addicted to WORKING OUT, I was sure getting addicted to achievements and quantifiable results and improvements.

While I'm not saying go out and get a program that gives you a calendar, if my motivation sort of sounds like your motivation, find a way to push.  I made my own running calendar.  I use apps that show me my time and effort and heart rate and heart beat and almost any other kind of stat that I can possibly want.  I had a training journal, a running journal, a blog, I posted status updates.  It's all about "knowing you" and knowing the ways that will motivate you as well as the ways that could sabotage you.

I'm aware that the length of this is enough to scare enough off the second the see all the writing.  If you've made it this far: *HUGS*

But it seems anticlimactic when I say that that's pretty much it.

A lot of people used to ask "what's your secret?" I'm not sure if it was because it was a good lead in to open up conversation about weight-loss or as a way to give a compliment or if they legitimately wanted to know if there was a secret to weight-loss.  I used to be one of those people who would demand to know what the person did in order for them to lose weight.  More often than not, I would lose interest if they didn't mention something that I had to buy.  Because people, like myself, more often than not don't want to hear the sheer, intense amount of actual work that's put into first starting out in getting healthy and losing weight.  The secret is that there is no secret.  Everyone knows it, but the problem is that not everyone wants to do it.  Because you know what they say, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

It took me forever to get to this point and I'm not naive enough to assume that this point is all there is.  It's ever changing and I backtrack more than I move forward.  Currently, I guess you could say I'm on the backtracking part or at a stand still.  But while I may be disappointed in where I've allowed myself to be (yes, sometimes I have the understanding that just because I'm pregnant doesn't mean that I get to #eatALLthethings) I'm optimistically okay with it because I know that here isn't always where I will be.  At times, I'm scared that I won't be able to push myself to get back to where I was, but again, it's starting back at the beginning and identifying my why and knowing myself and the "enemy" because those are constantly changing as I am constantly changing.

Cady there has hit the nail right on the head.  There is no limit to this journey I've embarked upon. That's why I am CONSTANTLY calling it a healthy lifestyle change.  Because I want to consistently remind myself that there will not be a time where I will stop and say to myself "Okay, self! This is as healthy as I'll ever get!  It's time to stop now!"  I'm in this journey for the long haul and I am hoping that there will not come a time where I can't think of a way to improve or think of new ways to find achievements.  With the coming of a new little person in our lives, I can only think that the limit - if there ever was a horizon - has been extended because it now goes beyond myself and my own body.  I want to be able to impart this healthy lifestyle (minus the change now because I'm hoping she's in it from the begining) onto her and anyone else we might bring into this world.  I'm hoping that with the start of my change, that for my daughter, it won't seem so difficult because she won't know any different because I have been able to impart in her mindset of healthy choices, healthy relationship with food and a genuine love of being active and doing her best to find a balance of that that works for her.

Again, if you've stuck around with me for my meander through this past year's journey, thank you so much and I hope I didn't repeat myself too often!  While I am hoping that this post will serve to help and remind the me that will come into existence in the next few weeks, it can't go without saying that I also hope that any of my non-original lessons learned and observations made may help you in whatever part of the healthy lifestyle journey you're on!

Q: What is your why?
Q: Have you identified your enemy?

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