Walking to the Bus

I flung my wrist up and the time appeared in purple text on my black Apple Watch.

7:52.

I got this, I said to myself as I swung my well-worn orange and gray messenger bag over my head. The strap fell into place on my shoulder as I grabbed my keys and headed out the door. My bus would arrive in thirteen minutes and I had to hussle my way down six city blocks.

I pulled my phone out of my coat pocket, headphones already in my ears and thumbed through Spotify as I walked down the hallway towards the elevator in the building where I live. I chose something acoustic, as I usually do, and pulled my wool hat onto my head before busting through the doors into the winter air.

I smiled as I made my way through the morning city chaos. Crisp air filled my lungs and my heart rate accelerated slightly as I upped my pace. Every step was familiar. The same pair of broken black ear buds were smashed into the asphalt of the parking lot I cut through as I rounded the corner to my bus stop.

I could see the double-length metro transit bus approaching just moments after I reached the corner. I let out a sigh of releif and pulled my bus pass out of my pocket, finally able to relax.

After Whole 30

The sky was gray and there was a chill in the air as we hit the road this past Thursday morning. My girlfriend and I were making our annual trek to the north shore of Lake Superior to take in the fall colors and disconnect from the city for a few days.

It was also day 31… the first day after completing a Whole 30. We were set to re-introduce a food group that had been banned during the previous thirty days. I had chosen gluten grains, because we would be going past our favorite spot to grab lunch and….pie! I had been dreaming about the amazing turkey sandwich with cranberry wild rice bread and a slice of apple pie. The pies are made right there, every day, and it’s probably some of the best pie I’ve ever had. I couldn’t wait to devour a slice.

But something strange happened. The bread….the pie… it wasn’t as amazing as I anticipated. It was good, but it wasn’t oh-my-god-just-give-me-the-entire-pie-and-a-fork good that I remembered from years past. There wasn’t this overwhelming feeling of needing more.

For 30 days on Whole 30, we didn’t eat anything that had any added anything. We made 99% of our meals at home, with just two meals from a restaurant that we know is Whole30 compliant. No added anything means no added sugar. And sugar is in everything. Every. Thing. If you start looking at labels while you’re at the grocery store, I guarantee you will be shocked at what has sugar in it.

Sugar is highly addictive. You eat it in everything and it fuels this need for more. During the first week and a half of Whole30, I went through wicked sugar withdrawls. I had no idea how intense it would be. As I stopped giving my body chemicals and sugar for fuel, it didn’t know what to do. I would get so tired by the end of the work day, that I wanted to go to bed by 7pm every night. I slept… a lot.

Then, something amazing happened. My body learned how to consume energy from good, whole food choices… instead of a quick fix from processed ingredients. I am more alert, I sleep a million times better, I wake up easier… and overall I just feel better.

I didn’t lose a lot of weight during the Whole 30, it’s fluctuated quite a bit. But my body feels different and it is definitely changing. I feel stronger, I feel in control. I still have habits to correct and adjustments to make, but I know I have laid a foundation for optimal health. This isn’t about racing to lose weight, this is about being healthy and feeling good. It’s about being okay with where I’m at. It’s only then, that I can push myself to be even better.

Starting Whole 30

I’ve been planning on restarting my blog the day after Labor Day for a little while now and just noticed that tomorrow happens to be exactly one-year since my last post.  Completely unintentional, but I like how that lines up.

This past year and a half has been an absolute roller coaster.  I’ve changed jobs – twice.  I went through a really tough break-up, then eventual reunion with the love of my life.  We both sold houses and moved in together.  I’ve studied and delayed and studied more for a professional exam that I’m finally taking in two weeks.  I’ve enrolled in classes to further my career development.  Long story longer: life happened in some big ways, and brought about 30 pounds along with it.

I know how I gained weight.  I know what I need to do to get back into shape.  But knowing what to do and actually doing has literally felt impossible.

It’s the eve before I start my second attempt at completing a Whole 30.  When I tried this last Fall, I wasn’t ready mentally.  I dove in with zero preparation, ignoring everything I had learned about the emotions of weight loss when I lost 132 pounds three years ago.  I only made it 18 days.  I blamed everything but myself for why it didn’t work for me, when in reality I never really tried with my whole self.

This time, it feels different.  The past couple of months, I have been working towards better health one thing at a time rather than trying to change everything all at once.  I’ve kicked my soda and caffeine habit completely (4 weeks “clean” and counting!).  I’ve returned to working out regularly and continue to increase the amount and intensity.  I’ve been walking to and from work every day. And now it’s time to address the biggest component of all:  what I fuel my body with.

I feel nervous, anxious, but also really excited.  Really, really excited.  I feel prepared for the mental challenge of letting my body detox itself from all the processed foods, added sugar and crap I’ve been feeding it for years.  When I lost 132 pounds, I did it with Weight Watchers (WW).  What I liked about WW was that it taught me portion control.  What I didn’t like about WW is that it let me lose weight while still eating processed/convenient food – although I didn’t realize it at the time.  I wasn’t sitting down with traditional “junk” food (i.e. what we’ve been taught is junk food), but I wasn’t fueling my body with good food either.   So much so that my hair started falling out because I wasn’t eating enough fat (WW counts fat against you, even good fats, so you’re encouraged to avoid it).

I anticipate the hardest thing for me in completing this Whole30 journey, is getting out of the WW mindset of ONLY controlling portion sizes.  I need to remind myself that the QUALITY of what I’m eating is so much more important and that my body will take care of the rest.

 

Reigniting a Flame

Six hours after I laid my head down on my pillow, my alarm went off at 5:15 a.m. this morning.  I groaned as I swiped my thumb across the screen to mute it.  I’ve been having a hard time getting up in the morning for the past several weeks, my motivation dwindling like a candle that’s about to burn out.

I used to get excited about my workouts and making progress in my strength training.  Skipping a workout was rarely an option, as I loved it so much.  But, like a lot of things we get excited about, the daily grind and routine became… boring.   I still loved workouts and how I felt following a good sweat, but at the same time I started looking at them like a chore.  Coupled with a major job change, the effects are visible to the tune of twelve-ish pounds around my middle.  It’s made me uncomfortable and I’ve felt myself slowly slipping back into old, bad habits.

I’ve been sort of going through the motions, but haven’t really been “into” my workouts.  It became easier to skip a couple sessions here and there and soon my usual six hours per week in the gym turned into two or three.  It’s been enough to keep those twelve pounds from turning into fifty, but I’m uncomfortable.  I’ve needed to find that passion again.

Enter: boxing.  Following my first workout at a boxing gym six weeks ago, I started to feel a spark in my gut again.  I still felt uncomfortable and lethargic, but I was looking at something I loved in a new way and it gave me hope that I’d find that passion again.  Over the past month and a half I’ve gone up and down in my motivation, but I’m feeling ready to run back up that hill to happiness and determination again.

My eating habits are slowly returning to what they were when I felt my best and my workouts are feeling more like accomplishments than chores.  I used to see weight loss and healthful living as just an end goal, to just lose that specific number of pounds.  But it really, truly is a life change that I will be working on for the rest of my life.  I’ve hit my first real speed bump after dropping 130 pounds. I face planted into the pavement.  And after weeks of self-doubt, I finally decided to get up and keep running.

 

Life Time Triathlon

“Run with me,” said a voice behind me as I limped along the third leg of my very first triathlon.

A woman around my age hit my shoulder encouragingly and I jogged alongside her as we made our way around the lake.  My left IT band, which has a history for giving me problems, was insanely tight and my knee just couldn’t stand a lot of pressure.  But still I pressed on alongside her as we reached mile mark one.

I had to slow down and walk several times during the start of the run portion.   But about halfway through, I found my groove and ignored the searing pain in my left knee.  I was determined to race across that finish line.

“Don’t you dare quit,” I said to myself as I rounded that last turn, my knee ready to give out at what felt like any moment.  Two young kids stood up from the bench they were sharing with, who I assume , were their parents and stuck their tiny hands out towards me as I approached the end of the course.

“Good job!” said one, smacking my hand as I passed by

“You got this!” said their dad, as I high-fived the other kid.

Strangers clapped, cheered and rang cowbells as my name was announced over the loud speaker while I ran across the finish line.  As the finisher’s medal was hung around my neck, I had to contain my emotions.  I wasn’t fast, but I finished.  I freakin’ finished.

It was an emotional moment for me, because there was a time when I believed finishing something like a triathlon was impossible for me.  I did this race for the the nearly 300 pound girl I used to be.  The girl who looked on and watched other people participate in these kinds of events.  The girl who didn’t believe in herself for so many years.  The girl who watched other people live their life while she convinced herself she was content on the sidelines.

It was humbling and motivating.  And proved to me that anything is possible.

 

Improvement

The sun was setting as I slipped my feet into my black yoga mat sandals after my meditation class last night.  I felt very much at peace as I walked slowly to my car.  Ninety  minutes of sitting in tranquility will do that, I’ve found.

I turned my radio off as I started my car; I’ve come to appreciate the quiet.  I sent a couple of texts and started making my way back to my corner of the city.  I made several stops on my way and I felt a sense of uneasiness taking over again.  It’s something I haven’t been able to shake over the last couple of days.  I would describe it as feeling… unsettled.  Anxious.  And I don’t know WHY, so it also makes me feel frustrated.  Because I feel like I need something, but I don’t know what it is exactly.

It’s kind of like being starving, but not knowing what you’re hungry for.

So how do we move past that?  How do we “settle” ourselves… even when dealing with uncertainty?   How do we turn off the noise in our heads and just let ourselves feel what we’re feeling?  How do we talk about what we’re feeling, freely?

These are answers I seek.  These are things I’m practicing.  It’s hard and uncomfortable, but with time, I know it will become a part of me.  It will eventually be easy and natural.  But right now, the path to get there has little rocks that I keep stepping on that make me wince.  Yet I know I have to keep walking it.  I want to keep walking it.

There’s an illusion of comfort when holding on tight to our feelings.  We think we’re protecting ourselves and others.  But is it comfortable?  Isn’t it a burden?  In talking with a friend today about how I’ve been feeling, I said I wished I didn’t feel things so intensely.   That I wished I didn’t pick-up on the emotions and feelings of others so easily, that I wasn’t so sensitive to those things, because it’s always affected how I react, speak and behave.  I’ve always been extremely conscious of how my actions and words affect others reactions and I’ve always tried to be strategic in how I interact with the intention of lessening any assumed burdens on others.  I always thought that was a strength of mine…. but IS IT?  It’s an exhausting way to live.  Absolutely exhausting.

I’ve been practicing how to STOP doing that…to learn how to better use those traits.  Because I still believe my sensitivity and empathetic nature are positive traits to possess.  They allow me to connect with others where words and actions cannot.   And if I can free my words and actions, not let them be confined by the reactions of others, it will  deepen my connection with the people in my life even further.  It will deepen all of my relationships, old and new.

In anything we do in life, anything that’s worth doing, the early steps are always the hardest.   Always.  But we have to keep trying, we have to keep going, we cannot give up.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”  –Benjamin Franklin

 

 

Open

I ran across the video below today and the conversation between P!nk and Oprah, two incredible women, speaks to a lot of what I’m feeling lately.

Particularly: “You learn more about yourself within the context of a relationship than you can outside of it […] That’s what spiritual partnership is.”

I’ve recently started practicing Mindful Meditation. During tonight’s sit, we talked about being intimate within ourselves so we can let ourselves be intimate with others. It means listening without an agenda and really connecting on a spiritual level. My journey with meditation is just beginning, but already it’s enlightened my life in an incredibly personal way. More on that in future posts.

For now, a beautifully vulnerable song…