Opening for Business : A New Life

Hey all of the three people who follow my Tumblr! You are in for a long read this time around (actually when is it not?). Every six months or so, I post on Tumblr about how I will post more, with a life update, but I feel like I actually have something to blog about now, and hopefully that will maintain a consistency. The primary focus : a healthy lifestyle (and then whatever else that seems great). For this post, I will follow through the inner workings of the last year and a half of my life, how I have lost 60 lbs. so far, and on my way to a whole lot more!

How It All Started

Growing up, I ate anything and everything that I wanted to. Several factors afforded me to have completely poor nutrition. (1) We didn’t have a lot of money, so when my mother cooked a giant meal, we got a giant portion to keep us fed. At the time, I don’t think that was present in anyones mind, but through retrospect and just other experiences, I can see this is sometimes an unconscious way of life for those who struggle. (2) Education about food and diet – This is a huge piece of the puzzle, and connects to not having a lot of money. My mother and father both graduated high school, but soon after my father started working for the transfer station (nice way to say, “the dump”), and my mother stayed at home. They both came from large, impoverished families as well, so their education about eating right was not anywhere near nutritious either, and nowhere along the way was health concerns a focus despite the amount of heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems in both families. Also, growing up, I was bullied, had very few friends, and felt isolated; both physically and mentally. The town I grew up in was very small, being healthy wasn’t really a focus in my education, at my home, or within my social circles. My parents had their fair share on unhealthy choices they made that luckily I have not made in my life, but all of theses factors come together in a way that doesn’t allow a full attention on the health of your physical body.

TL:DR // Poor family growing up, huge portions, no education about nutrition and history of family health problems, but no focus on being healthy.

When I was 14, my mother moved away and I moved in with my father. His repertoire of recipes was rather limited. Whereas my mother was a fantastic cook and we ate a ton, my dad only knew a few (unhealthy things) such as french bread pizza, shepard’s pies, pizza, etc. So, for the next 4 years I didn’t eat well either, and often times ate frozen dinners high in all the bad macronutrients. This is not to mention, even left to my own devices, at friend’s houses, I would eat ice cream, candy, and soda as if it were an actual meal. I can remember being an even younger child and bringing my own bag lunch (probably a sandwich, chips, soda, and snack), but in school often times lunch is rather early. I would eat another small meal when I came home (“after school snack”) , and then a huge dinner. Needless to say, this was far too many calories, carbs, and fat for the day.

TL:DR // Moved in with dad, even more limited food choices, lots of frozen crap. Ate lots of junk food at friends and after school.

My self-esteem has never been great in my life through all of the experiences I had growing up, my academics were the only thing that really tied me to any sort of confidence. At this point in my life, I am extremely happy that I focused on academics. Step one of living in certain unhealthy situations is to escape it however you can. My physical environment was the first obstacle to overcome before working on my physical body. When I went to college, I worked, and now I have a BA in New Media, MFA in Intermedia, and working on my MEd in Higher Education. I am extremely proud that I was able to escape the clutches of poverty myself, and this is primarily due to the Upward Bound program, who taught me so very much about the world, being a social person, escaping my isolation, and becoming a citizen on the planet. They did try to teach health, but again, in high school, I was not ready for this transformation to happen before I moved outside into a healthier overall environment. I now work with the program and with students who were in my situation and a wide gamut of other situations. I feel purposeful and great about the work. I only mention this because as a student and now a staff, this program is one of the great things that has given me a source of pride and confidence in my lifetime. With that said, the confidence battery had only just been created and still needed a lot of charging.

TL:DR // Esteem, confidence always low. Upward Bound helped give me some of that, still had a long way to go.

When I went to college, an opportune time to make some of the changes in my life, my life changed quite dramatically. My first year of college, I took pretty sick in a rather vile way. I survived off of powerade for 9 months as I couldn’t actually handle solid foods. I ended up losing about 75 lbs. (in a very unhealthy way). In the spring semester, when I started to feel better, my craving for food was unnaturally strong. Looking back at this time in my life, I wish I had decided to focus on health and nutrition. I was already down 60 lbs. – given not in a healthy way or in a sustainable way, but I could have started making changes that would have lasted at this point in my life. I can’t remember exactly what I weighed during “the sickness”, but at one point, I remember the scale reading just about 212 lbs. (this wasn’t at the end of it, so not sure what my total smallest was – probably under 200 lbs.). Again, health was not a part of my education, and having just journeyed to college (and had a very rough first year), not much changed. I started eating the same way; fast food, candy, soda, junk food, etc. All of the stuff I loved eating before “the sickness”. I gained the weight back over the next 6 years. Sometimes it was a bit better, sometimes at it’s very worse.

TL:DR // Fell deathly ill during freshman year of college – lost over 60 lbs. from the lack of being able to physically eat for 9 months. After I recovered, still didn’t focus on health, gained weight back.

Tried, Failed, Pick Yourself Back Up Again

In 2007, my roommate and I caught wind of a program at the gym called Big Bears to Little Bears. This program emulated (as best as it could) the hit TV show “The Biggest Loser”. The program is called this because our school team is the Maine Black Bears. We decided that it might be a good idea, neither of us were in very good shape, we ate crappy food, and figured it could help us lose a bit of weight. We joined with a couple of friends. The program affords you the opportunity to meet with a personal trainer (as a group) 2 x’s a week, attend group fitness classes, and participate in challenges for points. Teams gain points for a variety of activities and the team at the end wins a prize package. We mostly wanted to do it in order to motivate ourselves to lose a bit of weight. I can’t remember what I weighed at this point in time at the beginning or the end of the program, but I remember I lost 12 lbs. (I think I was right around 229 lbs at the end of the semester). I felt great, I had lost weight for the first time in my life (in a healthy way), and it was a great feeling. The biggest thing I think about in reflection to that time is that I still didn’t actually fully breathe in what a healthy lifestyle was about. Sure, I watched what I ate, tried to eat a bit healthier, drank diet instead, went to the gym sometimes outside of sessions, but knowing what I know now, I still know there was a disconnect for me – it was something outside of my life I was doing for the inside of my life. This discconect, I know now, cannot happen. At the end of the program, we both felt good, we figured we could do it at home, so we did not join the program for the spring semester. “We know how to do it now, we can just save the money and go on our own”. What a grave quote from 2007. We went to the gym exactly 0 times that semester. Gained all the weight and a whole lot more back.

TL:DR // Joined a program at the gym to lose weight with a friend. Lost about 12 lbs. and felt great, decided to “do it on our own” for the next semester and failed at it big time. gained the weight back.

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Me in summer 2010, after a couple of failed attempts / ~260 lbs.

Finding a Way to Internalize

In January of 2011, I felt like it was time to make my way back to the gym through the Big Bears program. I felt very large. Like I noted before, my esteem and confidence was never very good – at this point, I know that I was just going through the motions. Even though it didn’t feel like it, it was almost like I was just watching myself live my life. I wasn’t depressed (despite that sounding depressive). I felt very accomplished by what was happening in school, my friends, my overall life was extremely better than it had ever been before, but feeling how I feel today, I know there was something missing (that esteem and confidence). It is funny how when I was growing up my focus was on college in order to get out of my hometown and live my own life, but there was still so much change and growth that needed to happen!

TL:DR // Time to go back to the gym because I was not feeling great about my self-image and physical self despite feeling accomplished in other areas of life.

So, it was time to go back to the gym. January 2011, several friends and I embarked on the journey once again, and once again, there was a disconnect for me at that point in time (when making the decision). I would say things like “man, I am fat, I need to do this”, and did it because I know I should, but the thoughts felt external. When we did our first weigh in, I weighed in at 265.9 lbs. I was devastated by the number. Although it isn’t actually as close to 300 that I felt it was, I felt like if I kept it up, in a matter of months I could easily be at 300 lbs. I was hoping for the highest numbers to be in the lower 50s. I already knew I had to lose weight at what I felt my maximum was, but being over 15 lbs. above that (and knowing last time I embarked on this journey I lost 12 lbs), it felt overwhelming. Again though, I know there was an external feeling about it, and although I felt negative about it, I hadn’t fully internalized the feeling of what I was about to embark on.

TL:DR // Rejoined Big Bears to Little Bears (BBLB), weighed in at 265.9, the highest weight of my life. Still not completely internalizing what needed to be done.

The Click

In December 2011, I had that moment. I say moment, but I cannot pinpoint what happened or when exactly it was. I had done BBLB two times – once in the spring of 2011 with a total weight loss of 8lbs. Then summer break came, and my awesome trainer met with another member and I at the gym to train us on Wednesday mornings. this was completely on her own time and money and I appreciate the dedication she gave to us. Over summer and into the next BBLB, I was down to 239.8 (so a total of 10 months) and a loss of 24.1 lbs. Knowing what I know now, that is not a great progress. I am not being hard on myself, but i know that I was capable of a lot more, and although I was going to the gym and altering my diet slightly, that the changes were not happening at the rate they should have been. At my final BBLB weigh in December, I had lost another another .2 lbs and thus started winter break.

TL:DR // Had 11 months of BBLB lost about 25 lbs, but knew I could be doing a lot better. Made incremental loses, but still didn’t take completely to heart the transition I needed to make.

After that first week of winter break, I was bored as hell. Everyone was gone for the most part, including my current roommate (who had done BBLB with me, along with my old roommate, her fiance, 2 other friends, and my now roommate). No one else was really making strides to go out and be proactive, eat crazy healthy, so it never made a huge difference whether or not I did. I joined the program with my friends and let the responsibility for motivation and inspiration fall upon them and not myself, this was one of my biggest mistakes, and I feel like it took way too long to realize it. If you are reading this and thinking about your own journey – my advice is to find that reason for you, deep, deep inside, of why you want it, and pull it out, put it on a case on a high shelf, and lock it up there, because at the end of the day, you are the one running the laps and eating the oatmeal for yourself and by yourself. Everything I read talks about having a gym buddy, and honestly, in the beginning, I don’t know if I would have even stepped INTO a gym without a friend going with me, but they can only be a crutch for so long, and if they do not buy into the journey the same way, it can be demotivating. With that said, I am extremely happy to have had all of the people and friends in my groups because they made workouts fun and comfortable, I am just saying there is a line there that be shaky.

TL:DR // Winter break begins, not a lot of health support outside of the gym program, some advice about gym buddies – good to begin with, but you need to be strong and be able to do it yourself as well – through the intimidation.

The Click : The Gym

So, back to December (oh god, Taylor Swift just came in my head, ugh) – I was feeling out of touch, feeling like I should have lost more weight (but still happy I was down to where I was when I first did it in 2007). There was a day in December, rather cold as it is in Maine in December that I just felt particularly low. This was a day that I got out of my own way for two minutes to see the reason I was feeling low is because I wasn’t making the progress I wanted, but it was also because I wasn’t working hard for it. My diet was still not GREAT, I was going to the gym only when “required”, and relied too heavily on others to motivate me. I decided to go to the gym on my own. I had only been to the gym BY MYSELF a couple of times in this past month (first time in my life), so that intimidation was still creeping up on me. I went for the elliptical because I feel as if people cannot do it wrong, I felt comfortable with it, and that is what felt good.

TL:DR // Decided to stop wallowing and actually work for what I wanted, went to the gym on my own and headed for what was comfortable to begin with : The elliptical.

After that first workout, I felt amazing. I did about 2 miles, it felt great. For the next 4 weeks, I almost exclusively did the elliptical. I started doing the 5k track on it and tried to beat my time. I ended up getting to a best time of 18:28 for a time. I started doing 10ks on it, taking about 40:00. I figured I should workout longer instead of doing the 5k as a goal and leaving. I did this until the next BBLB which started in late January, my 1 year anniversary. From the time BBLB ended and BBLB started I lost 9.3 lbs. I lost 1/3 in a month of what I had lost in an entire year. I was completely impressed with myself. It felt amazing that I was able to achieve this. I spent 6 days a week at the gym, doing the workouts, and I saw results.

TL:DR // I went to the gym 6 x a week, only doing the elliptical – competing with myself

The Click : The Food

If you have been reading this entire blog (first of all you could do marathons, this thing is giant), you know that junk food has been a part of my history. Even when working out, I was eating pizza, non-whole grains, sugar, etc. Only within the last 2 months have I been kicking the ass of the nutrition. I have been doing a ton of research lately about best plans. I have learned a lot about Intermediate Fasting (IF), but mostly I count calories. If you are reading this and wondering where to start, this was the biggest thing for me : www.MyFitnessPal.com keeps you accountable. Keep the tab open in your browser, and log every morsel you eat. Some disagree with it, but for someone who would eat way beyond their limit and had no concept of nutrition, this is where you need to start. When they say it is 80% diet / 20% gym, they are 100% correct.

TL:DR // Use myfitnesspal.com , through working out I was still eating like crap

In the last couple of months here are some things that I have been doing that have helped with the food changes.

  • 99% Turkey Meat – it’s more expensive, but it’s worth your health
  • Greek Yogurt – use this to make shakes or just eat, high in protein
  • V8 Fusion Light – if you HATE vegetables like I do, its a way to get some nutrients. I will work on the vegetable intake at some point
  • Whey – for protein shakes
  • Skim Milk – I used to hate it, now I love it

For a while when I was counting calories, I was looking solely at calories, so I would get Goldfish for a low cal snack, problem is the sodium and the carb intake on those babies are quite high. If you are reading and looking for advice – I said start with changes like that, and then you can progress. Instead of that chocolate bar, get some crackers that may be low carb. I’ve been cutting down on carbs significantly and sodium as of the last month and trying to eat even healthier.

Fruits and vegetables are always free – just remember that! So if you like them, go for it.

TL:DR // What i’ve been doing listed above in bullets for some food suggestions.

Eating out for awhile was the hardest thing. Just 2 weeks ago when our newest BBLB ended we went to the local bar for dinner. I had a pizza, and although my cravings for junk food has been extremely low since I have made these changes, if I EAT something I used to love, it becomes hard to resist overeating. With that said, I got pizza, and I indulged myself. People say it is okay to have a cheat day, and I agree with this, but it depends on what it does for you. For me, I felt like shit afterwards, it didn’t feel worth it, and so now I have another lesson in my toolbox.

Honestly, “the journey” is about a series of lessons – finding out what works for you, and when it does, stick to it, then advance it. Don’t let it sit there, if I did, i’d still be doing the elliptical and eating goldfish.

TL:DR // goldfish and pizza are good, but only occasionally and you need to find resistance within yourself – it becomes easier over time.

Okay, I feel as if things are becoming a bit unfocused and i’m becoming scattered, so let’s focus on the now. I just gave an update on the food. My daily usually looks something like this

  1. Breakfast – Eggs or a whole grain oatmeal
  2. Lunch – low carb wrap with tuna and low fat mayo (or greek yogurt mixed)
  3. Dinner – lean turkey or chicken
  4. Snacks / Meals – whey protein shakes with fresh fruit and yogurt, kashi granola bars (not the very best, but one thing im hanging on to for now)

Finding What I Was Missing

In the last month, I have done several things I never thought was even possible. Only April 20th, I ran my first 5k race. My trainer, who I told you was amazing, met with me outside of BBLB because one of my goals for the semester was to run a 5k, and she said she’d train me. Mind you in January, I could not run 1 complete mile, and my asthma and allergies made outside running difficult. We worked at it, and I am so thankful to her for working with me, she has been a great motivator and I am so happy that she has been there for me. If you can, I would hire a trainer – this person will be there for you and know what you need. I know it can be expensive, but if you can spare the money instead of something else, I would recommend it. SO — The 5k. It was the University of Maine’s Healthy High 5k (4/20). My goal, knowing my ability and extremely doubting myself as well was to just finish the race in 40 minutes. The week before the race, my trainer and I ran the route and I got just about 35:00, so that was my new goal.

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Running my first 5k! 

TL:DR // Trainers are great, mine worked with me to run my first 5k and I beat my goal time by 10 minutes.

This is a card I made for my trainer, it gives a bit more background about my feelings on some of my changes 

I ran the race, I got 29:54. I have NEVER (not even when I graduated from my first masters) felt that accomplished in my life. Mostly because I never thought I could do something like this. It was such a great moment in my life, and I will never forget it, and it will keep me going on for a long time to come.

Then I ran my second race the week later for the Old Town Animal Orphanage, and got 28:42.

I am running my third race, tomorrow.

I went night running the other night because the gym was closed, and I was not going to make excuses as to why I could not work out. I went 3.6 miles – longest distance ran, and with a 5k pace of 25:56. I was amazed!

TL:DR // I’ve been running a lot

What’s Next

Well, I feel like I am at the midpoint in my journey, which seems why doing this now is a good spot. I wish I had started and took photos at the beginning of this all, but what can you do! Part of the reason I wanted to do this is because the last couple days I have been really down that I am not where I want to be despite the progress, so I thought writing out what i’ve accomplished would help a bit. I am extremely proud of myself. My last weigh-in was 205 lbs. so I have lost 60 lbs. – the healthy way. I have about 40 lbs. more to go. I am introducing weight lifting soon, and really focusing on my diet.

I may try the programs Leangains and Starting Strength. The goal is to do a lot or running this summer, and a lot of lifting. One of my NSV (non-scale victories) is to feel comfortable going to the beach shirtless – something I have never felt comfortable doing in my entire life.

Roadblocks

It’s not all fun and games. Some days, I do not want to go to the gym, I do not want to eat another piece of chicken, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

  • Other people : Like I said, at a certain point you cannot rely on other people to get you to the gym or eat healthier. Other people can tempt you to sit at home or eat something bad – your willpower will define who you become.
  • Myself – We all can get in our own way, and this is our biggest obstacle. If you don’t remember why you are doing what you are doing, you will fall victim to your own devices. This happened to me my whole life – they are all excuses, and excuses are fabrications that block progress.
  • Misinformation – Research, Research, Research – I understand nutrition about 100% better now, and only know about 5% of what there is to know. It’s a complex science, but the best thing you can do it join some sites (down below) and get some info

What Has Helped

Like I said, some days are super discouraging. Looking in the mirror is both a hazard and a blessing. I can see the changes I have made, but still see the changes I want to, it’s an odd dynamic, but worthwhile to explore.

  • My trainer – I have relied on her for so much of my running accomplishment, but she texted me earlier and said she cannot do the race tomorrow, but I am going anyways. It is good to have people to rely on, but like I said before, you are your number one motivator.
  • Independence – This one is a bit odd, but being away from people from time to time has helped me – esp. with diet. I have gotten to the point where I am not easily influenced to eat something I don’t want to, but there are still certain times, people, and places that tempt me. When it’s just me preparing meals and going to the gym, I can do what I need to do.
  • NSV – Non-Scale Victories. The biggest accomplishment has been clothing. When I started last January I was at a 42/44 pant size, and now I am down to a 36, and I think I am in the middle to go down to 34 soon. I no longer wear an XL, and I tried on a M last week, and I know I can be there in a couple of months (it fit, but not well haha). NSVs are way more important than any scale victory you will have, esp. in times of plateau, which I am on right now, so I understand!
  • Counting Calories : Do it, everyone I know who has done it, it has worked.
  • DO SOMETHING YOU LOVE : Since I started my more active lifestyle, I have been playing racquetball, doing zumba, and skating. All of these things are physically active and will help you with cardio, which in the beginning will be the biggest things – but at some point you may want to think about lifting (but I am just starting after a year). Regardless, if working out isn’t somewhat fun, you will not do it. I LOVE GOING TO THE GYM NOW, I love running (tell me that 2 months ago, i’d laugh in your face)
  • Compliments : As much as I have done this to get healthy, anyone would be lying if they said there wasn’t a degree of vanity to the decisions to lose weight. When people who I haven’t seen in a while compliment me, it makes it all worth it, and affirms the work that I have done.
  • Water – I used to HATE water, I never drank it, now I only drink that and skim milk. We are made of it, it helps us, it cures us, it burns fat easier, just do it.
  • The Biggest Loser / Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition – These two shows have changed how I view the weight loss process and has given me inspiration – you WILL need inspiration – these are on Hulu. BL shows the loss over a 7 month period for people in shows for 4 months. EM shows a 1 year transformation in 1 show and makes you cry a lot. Both are amazingly inspiring – people getting their lives back!
  • Music – this has always gotten me through the toughest times in life – and it’s the biggest crutch in all of my workouts. Making the perfect playlist for a run makes all the difference, i’ll post some (or you can check out my spotify) at some point.

Online Help

  • MyFitnessPal – Used to calculate calories, most helpful tool!
  • Fitocracy – Online, social, gaming, fitness, community – just check it out, my new favorite site – super supportive, full of info and great people, ideas, suggestions, and ways to get started
  • Reddit/r/loseit – just recently found this, lots of great stories
  • Starting Strength, Leangains – google them, programs I may start soon

WELL – I suppose I will end on that, there is still so much more that goes through my head, but I will try to update this more often. If you are looking for inspiration, know that it will be hard as well, there will be days you want to give up, days you will cheat, days you will sit in bed and do nothing, and it is about changing how you view the world. Getting in shape will extend your life, and change how you view yourself. For me, someone who hides behind sarcasm and judgement, I feel as if I have become more accepting (although just as sarcastic haha) – the more you accept yourself the more you accept others. Anyone can do it.

At this point, I will update more often so it doesn’t take you 40 hours to read one post!

Watch me as I keep getting fit, and some other random things going on in my life.

I still have a long ways to go, but I know I can do it if I have already gotten this far

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