rEvolution. (A not-so-short story in which I tell a secret and inexplicably use a metric ton of quotation marks.)

So I’ve been keeping a little (okay, big) secret from you, and it’s time to have an open and honest conversation about food and my new philosophy. And the meaning of life. (haha, just kidding. That was my last post.)

Without further ado, here is my shocking reveal:

I stopped giving a crap about what I eat about three months ago.

Gasp!!

Here’s another one that might make your head spin:

Not giving a crap about what I eat is one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.

I appreciate that this may be quite scandalous to you. You may have a case of the vapors over it. I’ll give you a moment, and then I’ll explain.

(Insert telephone hold music for 30 seconds; I’ll eat a piece of cheese, or maybe a chocolate, while I wait.)

First of all, lemme backtrack for a sec. I may have exaggerated a teensy bit for shock value when I said I didn’t give a crap about what I ate anymore. (I understand that the thought of me exaggerating may also be a shock to you. Please recover from this shock quickly so we can continue moving forward.)

What actually happened three months(ish) ago is that I reached a critical point in my journey, a turning point. I have been evolving steadily for the last two years, in my body and my mindset, and this turning point, I think, is one of the most important ones I’ve experienced thus far.

The end-all be-all of this journey for me when I started was LOOKING the part of a badass…having people know, by looking at me, that I was a strong, fit person.

Hell, I’ll say it outright, I wanted to be thin and look jacked. I wanted to be a size 6 again, and until I was, there was no good reason for me to buy any nice clothes, to really spend time trying to look good or feel good about myself, because I wouldn’t until I met those goals. THEN, I was REALLY going to be awesome.

So to achieve this awesomeness-through-looking-thin-and-jacked goal, I set out on a strict clean-eating regime, eating clean 100% of the time for a full 2 months. After that initial super strict period, I scheduled one splurge meal a week. Sometimes, when schedules got busy, I would have more than 1 splurge but I stayed on track with these eating habits for several months.

While doing this, I missed a lot. I turned down a few invitations and I missed several social events at my work (pizza truck, ice cream sundae truck…why do delicious treat foods come on trucks? I digress…)

At the time, I was okay with missing these things. I felt that I was making a choice to prioritize my long term goals over what I wanted in the moment. They were the right choices for me at the time.

I could have gone to these events and just avoided the pizza/cake, and I fully acknowledge that I made the conscious choice NOT to do this. I was so embroiled in managing my food, and I didn’t trust myself enough to abstain from “bad” foods, so I chose to miss the entire experience instead.

At that time, I felt awesome about these choices. I also felt–and I am somewhat ashamed to admit this–a little bit smug and superior to all those people who were down there snarfing pizza and ice cream while I worked at my computer and chastely snacked on carrots and almonds.

As for my progress, I was doing ok. I was “losing weight” as they say. People were saying nice things to me, I was generally kicking ass in my progress.

And then some evolution happened. LIFE happened.

In November, I went on a splendiferous vacation where I happily overindulged every meal, every day, and halfway through the vacation was so backed up and bloated that I couldn’t button my triumphantly purchased one-size-down jean shorts. I still enjoyed every minute, and every bite, of that vacation. (Thank you, drawstring sweat shorts, for being there for me on the best vacation ever.)

After that vacation, through the holidays, through to mid February I struggled mightily to “get back on track.” I would go a few days of clean eating, then I would binge. I would try again. I was determined, as always, not to give up. To fall down 80 times and stand up 81.

At the same time, I started to gain steam with some heavy lifting in my training. I was loving the lifting, but suddenly I started to feel weak and tired. I wasn’t excited about my workouts anymore. I felt like I had lost my mojo, especially since I was freaking obsessed with getting my fat ass back “on the wagon,” but just couldn’t seem to do it.

I am sure some poor food choices were responsible for some of my fatigue, but as I did some reading and I talked to my trainers,  I ultimately concluded that I was overtraining and not eating well enough to support my training.

I was pushing too hard on too little fuel, and it was hitting me hard.

Now, you might think that this would launch me back into another bout of holier-than-thou clean eating. But, given my yo-yo patterns of the last few months, I decided to try something different, since I was looking for different results besides the super-clean-eating-alternating-with-super-awful-binges pattern I had recently gotten into.

I took a long hard look at my goals and my life, and this was my catharsis (pay attention! It’s exciting!):

Although my journey is not over–and won’t be until my heart stops beating–I am a badass RIGHT. NOW. Without “losing any more weight” or fitting into a certain size or bypassing every pizza party or slice of cake. Before I reach my squat goal or have a day where I feel like pull-ups haven’t completely defeated me (does that day exist?), I am STRAIGHT UP AWESOME, TODAY.

I am strong and fit. I am kind. I am funny. I make people happy. I love fiercely (no matter who makes fun of me for saying so), and I give a lot, in a lot of different ways. In my own small way, I make the world a better place. And what I eat, weigh or look like has no bearing whatsoever on any of that.

I decided that day I didn’t want my life to be about logging food choices and keeping to a breakneck workout schedule that exhausted me for all the other great things I wanted to do.

I didn’t want my life to be about measuring every ounce of food that passes my lips, and I REFUSE to measure myself and my worth by what I ate, looked like, or what the stupid ass scale or measuring tape said.

I realized that food had continued to control my life. Sure, it was clean food, but it was controlling me nonetheless. And I’d had enough. I had too much living to do to let food control me anymore.

From that day on, I stopped paying attention to what I eat. No food log, no measuring cup. And to my shock, I have not gone on a no-holds-barred indulgence spree. Quite the opposite, actually.

Here’s the thing, peeps: three years of being an “off and on” clean eater, and I know what it means to eat clean. I know how to gauge my body’s response to food and I now prefer to eat real, whole foods. They make me feel good. Fast food and processed foods continue to straight up gross me out, so I don’t touch them and probably won’t anytime soon.

But dairy is delicious and good for me, and it doesn’t bother my stomach, so every day I eat my Fage yogurt with raisins and almonds, or banana almond granola, or sometimes with cocoa powder, and sometimes with Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter (amazeballs).

I eat steak and chicken and barbecue pork. I eat peppers and squash and spinach. I eat a crap ton of bacon (mostly turkey bacon from Trader Joe’s. It is magical.)

I also eat chips and pasta and cheesecake when I have a mind to, and at least twice a week I eat a grilled cheese for lunch when I work from home, because it’s delicious. I take the kids out for ice cream when I feel like it. I drink good beer and sweet iced tea sometimes. Last week, I attended this year’s pizza truck gathering and I ate 5 a-mah-zing slices, thankyouverymuch. And enjoyed the hilarious company of one of my favorite co-workers while doing so.

On average, I would say I am “splurging” or “cheating” about the same percentage, possibly a little more (it’s hard to say) than I was with my yo-yo habits of before.

Here’s a major difference though: I’m not calling them “cheats” or even “splurges” anymore. I am calling them “food.” I am calling it “eating.” Because that’s what the hell it is.

The general sum up is that I am much of the time eating whole, unprocessed foods without too much sugar. That’s basically what I eat because of the habits I’ve formed over the last couple of years, so I needed to go through those strict times to create those preferences. And I’m grateful for that.

What I am ditching are two very specific “rules” I once held myself to:

1) that there are certain “off limits” foods that must be avoided until a pre-determined “splurge” period

2) that I need to carefully monitor ever single ever-loving thing I put in my mouth, and keep my calories lower so I can “lose weight”

As a former anorexic and bulimic, I am no stranger to food rules, and they are dangerous and toxic. So they can get the hell out of my life.

And without the food rules, I feel free. I trust myself, and I feel amazing. I feel strong in my workouts (which I have cut back to 4, maybe 5 a week depending upon how I feel) and I am listening to my body…what it wants and needs to be fueled properly, and how I need to balance work and rest to continue to get stronger.

I could give two craps about “losing weight.” Or what the “right” foods are before and after training, or on the days I don’t train, or if I should eat dairy, or if there are too many grams of sugar in something. I check labels for HFCS or any gross chemicals that are not good for me and my family, and I buy organic produce most of the time.

Other than that, I eat. I eat because I’m hungry, I eat because my body needs fuel, I eat because I enjoy it. Sometimes, I forget to eat when I’m busy and sometimes, I eat too much and my belly lets me know…and it’s all good. I haven’t weighed or measured myself recently and have no plans to, but I can tell you all my clothes fit just fine, and I continue to be awesome in general, and to kick ass and make major strength gains at my workouts. My guess is that my body will continue to change over time, and that’s cool, too.

Food is good, and so is life. Eat, people.

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Put on the suit.

Fun fact: I am a huge Avengers fan. So when I title a post “Put on the suit,” there’s really no excuse for me NOT to include this photo:

avengers

Oh, hello.

But this post isn’t necessarily about superheroes. Well it sort of is. But anyway, on with it.

So it’s been a crazy week. (“What else is new, Steph?” you ask.) The school play is tomorrow night so we’ve been running to dress rehearsals, and preparing for shows tonight and Saturday night. But before we GET to Saturday night, we also have a big children’s event at church on Saturday morning, followed by lacrosse practice, then my son’s birthday party on Sunday.

Not to mention the fact that I have family members arriving tonight at 6pm to go over to the school with us to see the play, and the house is a mess and I have no conceivable time between now and 6pm when I could actually clean it. Well, I guess I could be doing it now but I’m pretty sure my husband and kids wouldn’t appreciate my running the vacuum at 5:03am. So yeah, dirty house + impending company=more stress.

My blood pressure just rose writing those two paragraphs.

But in the midst of this week, I had a very cool epiphany on Tuesday.

Tuesday was a kind of “meh” day. After a school delay because of MORE WINTER WEATHER (I can’t even talk about it) I worked from home for most of the day. I also had to miss my date with the iron at 6am because of the aforementioned weather.

I had a ton of work to do but couldn’t seem to get focused.

I tried to focus on cleaning up around the house but still felt so “off.” So I told myself I was too busy (not) working to clean.

I accomplished very little that day except eating a bunch of crap that was in my house for no good reason. You know, just because it was there and I couldn’t put my finger on why I was so stressed and unproductive. So obviously, eating some shitty food was the right answer.

sarcasmI tried to cut my losses by planning a work out date with Mr. Badass at 6pm. But I couldn’t find a sitter.

General malaise ensued. More food was eaten. I figured it was a wasted day and got on with it.

Then I decided to stop being an asshole and signed myself up for the 7pm class to do the ole “kid switcheroo” as my husband came out of the 6pm class.

At 6:20, I (rather reluctantly, in full disclosure) went upstairs to get ready for my 7pm tabata workout.

Again, full disclosure, I tried to think of some excuses that would make it okay for me not to go.

And then it happened.

I pulled on my sports bra and workout gear, and I immediately felt better.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but it was somehow true. As soon as I was in those black pants with my sweet ass blue training sneaks on, I felt like myself again.

The bad day was left behind. The crappy food. The sense of general wrongness.

I was ready to go kick some ass. (And I did.)

For me on Tuesday, those workout clothes were my equivalent of Ironman putting on the suit.

Ironman

It felt wrong to choose a photo that did NOT include RDJ’s face.

So what’s your suit? Put it on, and kick some ass.

***update: At 7am, I managed to clean up my house a touch, with the help of a handsome husband. I wouldn’t call it “clean and pretty,” but at least  it is “vaguely presentable.”***

A squishy belly miracle.

Sometimes, when it’s been awhile since I posted, it’s because my life gets insane on me. I love writing this blog, but it’s always the first thing to get dropped when I have too much on my plate.

Sometimes, though, I don’t post because I’m just not sure what to say.

A lot of times, a dry spell means some combination of the above two factors. Which happens to be the case in regard to the last two weeks of blog-less-ness.

A lot of stuff has been swirling around in this noggin of mine, and I’m trying hard to wade through the chaff and get at the hard little nuggets of wheat and wisdom. No easy chore.

Sometimes, I catch myself asking, “When will things slow down? When will I have a chance to catch my breath?” And then I remember my favorite quote (which I’ve posted before but will surely post again):

  • “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” — Fr. Alfred D’Souza

So that’s the thing. This IS my life. The life that I’ve created. The harried madness that I call my day to day existence. And I like it; it’s a good life, but I’m always wondering how to not miss it. How to keep from letting it all rush past like a subway train while I am left, swaying on my feet, in its wake.

I look at my kids and see that they are, inconceivably, 6 and (almost) 11. BIG kids. School kids. My son can rightly be called a pre-teen, and that is fairly astounding news to me. I’m not quite sure how that happened, and I’m even less sure how to–if not slow it down–make sure I don’t wake up one day to an empty nest and say, WTF just happened?

Maybe that’s an inevitable part of parenting.

But this post wasn’t supposed to be about parenting, per se.

The thing is this…I love those kids beyond reason but, by God, am I doing this right? Am I present for them? How much of my time is the right amount to give them when I’m trying to balance it with everything else I want? With myself? What about my husband? My job? My friends and extended family?

This feels a lot like the last post I wrote, but it’s different somehow in my head, and I’m not sure I’m explaining it right.

I guess what I’m struggling with is how to balance this at times fun and at times excruciating fitness journey with the rest of my life. Because while I am on a fitness journey, I don’t want the fitness journey to define me, my life, or my family’s life.

I am not a trainer. I am not a fitness or nutrition expert. I don’t have an overwhelming desire to make any of those my profession in the future.

But I do want to be a fit person, and LOOK like a fit person, and promote and encourage fitness and healthful living with my family.

I want to send a message to my daughter that a woman’s body can be strong and powerful.

Mine is.

But society tells me that my strong and powerful body is not pretty or ideal, and I agree. I hate on it. Wish it to be different. Think things like, “Life will be better when I’m not fat.” (I recognize the objective ridiculousness of this statement, and yet I still believe it applies to my life.)

So what message am I sending my six year old daughter by my constant and open struggles to change how my strong and powerful body looks?

It’s a question that keeps me up at night, because I’m pretty sure what I’m teaching her is that how a body LOOKS is far more important than what a body can do.

Luckily, she doesn’t believe this yet.

Just this morning, she came to me as I getting dressed, and lovingly cupped my belly in her hands. “I love you, Mommy,” she said. “When I’m a Mommy am I going to have a squishy belly like yours?”

She looked up at me with bright, eager eyes that said, “I hope so!”

In that moment, I felt the pure and uncapped love of a six year old for her mother.

She was completely unaware of the shame I felt about my “squishy belly.” Blissfully ignorant of the ways in which that shame claimed so much of my daily mental real estate.

To her, it just meant it was me. No inherent judgment, just love for me as I am.

It was kind of a miracle.

In that moment, I wondered what the hell I was doing with my life. What was it all for, this concentrated dedication to making my body LOOK strong and powerful instead of having it just be enough that it IS strong and powerful?

Don’t mistake me…I love working out and the way it makes me feel. I know that clean foods make me feel and perform better, and I have no plans to abandon them any time soon. Our eating habits as a family have changed in a radical and sustainable way in the last year and a half, and that’s been a very, very good thing.

What I’m talking about is the intense energy and focus I’ve expended on which foods to eat, and how much, and how often, and which are “good” and which are “bad” and which give me gas and which ones so-and-so says I should eat and which ones so-and-so says I shouldn’t eat and which ones make me poop often enough and which ones trigger a binge and which ones fill me up the most and which ones to eat directly after a workout and which ones NEVER to eat on a rest day…it just all gets to be too effing much sometimes.

Sometimes it feels just as disordered to me as my days of gagging myself over the toilet bowl, or chewing every bite of a carrot 100 times to make it last the entire lunch period.

If I stopped thinking about food so much, maybe I’d be showing my daughter that food does not have to rule her life like it’s ruled mine.

If I stopped thinking about food so much, maybe my life wouldn’t feel so harried and stressful sometimes.

If I stopped thinking about food so much, maybe I’d have more mental energy to focus on my family, those people who obviously love me more than I love myself, before this part of my life slips through my fingers.

Because in the end, life is good right now. It’s not without it’s challenges and obstacles, but despite my squishy belly, at this moment, my life is lovely and wonderful…and that should be enough.

WAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! In which I figure some shit out. Sort of. And whine a bit.

So I’m sick. And that sucks.

Let’s pause for this:

This is me. I am under a blanket, too. But I definitely don't look quite as adorable when I cry. Anyway.

This is me. I am under a blanket, too. But I definitely don’t look quite as adorable when I cry. Anyway.

What I have is kind of like the flu “lite.” My whole body aches and going up the stairs kinda makes me feel like I ran a marathon. I finally gave up trying to “work from home” again (like I did on Monday and Tuesday…barely) and just took a sick day today.

Why am I sick? Is that even a question people ask? I used to get sick a lot, but in the last 2 years I have gotten sick far less frequently–I say from being in better shape and making better food choices. So I DO want to know what the hell is going on.

But when I tried to figure out what brought me down this time, I saw a general kind of decline since Saturday morning. I had pushed really hard at workouts for several days, but that’s not a unique circumstance for me. So I thought some more.

Frankly, I don’t think I’m eating enough. I don’t think I’m giving my body enough fuel to–in the words of my awesome trainer Karin–“support the amount of weight I throw around in the gym.” (word)

I also have consistently been told by docs that I have low red blood counts and should be on iron supplements. No matter how much red meat and dark leafy greens I have eaten, I can’t seem to make up for the deficiency. I need to find and STAY ON a quality iron supplement.

Continuing to work with my diet and get it right so my body can handle all I ask of it is a new goal for me. It’s a critical one, because I’m not making ANY progress towards my other goals while I’m sick.

So, I’m working hard to accept the reality that I am not an impervious superhero who never gets sick. (Good thing I don’t have unrealistic expectations for myself.)

But there’s another problem that comes with being sick, and all you moms will understand.

Ya catch my drift?

Ya catch my drift?

Right. It’s close to impossible to “rest” when you have kids running amok, with lunches to be made and science projects to do involving the creation of a cross section of the human eye out of household objects. And play rehearsal. And a band concert. And an eye doctor appointment that I couldn’t possibly put off because we had waited two months to be scheduled, and at which my 6 year old daughter screamed as though being murdered (just like every other time) while I pinned her to the chair and held her thrashing and screeching little self so they could put those infernal drops in her eyes. She could not be reasoned with. That shit is fight or flight for her, and holy crap does she fight.

So, yeah, I haven’t done much in the way of “resting,” and yet I haven’t really gotten much done. I look around my pigsty of a house and feel depressed at my lameness. At my inability to carry a load of laundry without gasping for breath afterward. At my reluctance to go pick the kids up at school right now–even though I miss them dearly–because I know it will exhaust me. At my conflict over whether I should go to dance crew rehearsal tonight–even just to watch–because I miss my awesome girls so much and would like to do SOMETHING that feels like my real life.

Because slobbing around in pajama pants, shivering under a big blanket and watching Secret Life of the American Teenager on Netflix is definitely NOT my real life.

I friggin hate being sick.

Whining Fat Girl, out.

The Horse’s Mouth, Apple Carts, and Other Stupid Metaphors

Well, hey there. Life has taken a bit of a hectic turn–as it tends to do just when things start to feel like smooth sailing–and we’re in a period of transition over here as my husband settles into his great new job with the not-so-great commute. Of course, more commute time=a much longer day for him, and a lot of added stress on both of us as I have to man the ship here at home and do all the kid-related running around, most of the cooking, etc. Like so many worthwhile things in life, this new job for him has given us new challenges, but it’s worth it.

And as you know from my last few posts, I’m not quitting, but I am struggling to find a balance between the hectic-ness and continuing my forward motion on this journey into badassery.

I’ve written about 10 blog posts (in my head, of course, where they’re not as interesting to you) but by the time I get a minute to sit down in front of the computer, I draw a blank. What was that fabulous phrase I had in mind while I was driving to class at 5:20 the other morning? Or the gem I came up with just before I drifted off to a dead sleep last Tuesday night?

So I came up with a fairly brilliant idea and started using the voice recorder on my phone. It helps while I’m driving, as I usually tend to be the most inspired on my way to or from workouts. I’ve had this one recording I thought had some good ideas in it for about three days and kept trying to get to working it into a post. And it just hasn’t happened.

So then I came up with a possibly even more brilliant idea but semi-terrifying idea to just give you the straight recording…why don’t I just transcribe that shit for you so you can get the crazy thoughts straight from the horse’s–er, my–mouth? I’m not going to edit it or try to make it make sense. I’m just going to give it to you. Talk about getting real. I am not thrilled about doing this but it’s in line with my stepping further and further out of my comfort zone, and giving you a birds’ eye view into my struggles.

Here goes (please let me type fast):

“I’ve been trying to figure things out. I’ve been trying to figure out what my problem is…why my attitude is so bad…(insert sound of blinker clicking…) I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m so grouchy when a couple of weeks ago I was so excited about what I was doing and how I was progressing. My progress didn’t stop. So what was the problem? Why did I lost my excitement for my journey, including writing in the blog?

I was waiting. I was waiting for…no, I wasn’t waiting. That’s bullshit. Let’s be honest. I was putting off. I was putting off writing another post until I had it all figured out. Ha! Yeah, right.

And then I remembered. People that read this blog…that like to read this blog…don’t need me to have it all figured out. Part of what I wanted to do on this blog was share my ‘figuring out’ process. I definitely don’t have it figured out yet, but here is what I know:

  • I like waking up at 4:30am. I like sipping my coffee and having some quiet time in the morning.
  • What I like even better is going to the gym after my coffee-sipping, working my ass off and coming out feeling like a f**king rock star.

But after that morning high, why am I so up and down throughout the day? That’s what I don’t know. Why do I let the fact that we’re in a time of transition affect me so much?

Because I’m a human being, that’s why. Duh.

So here we are in another time of transition and uncertainty, and I’m worrying. About a lot of things. I’m worrying about my family, I’m worrying about money, I’m worrying about…why am I worrying so much? What are my expectations? What am I trying to make happen that I can’t control? Because that’s what makes me worry. When I can’t control stuff.

Here’s another thing I know…what I can control is my own choices. And when I start to feel out of control with other things in my life, I start to let control of my food go. That’s stupid! That’s counterintuitive. Why would I do that? Why wouldn’t I take control over the things I CAN control? I don’t know. Human nature? At least, my human nature.

So you see I’m still figuring it out, but I have to hold onto the things I know.

  • When things feel out of control, I can control my own choices.
  • Endorphins are good, and I especially love them after morning workouts.
  • When I eat a brownie that I mixed out of a box, it tastes like shit, and gives me a headache later on. And doing that is f**king stupid.

The end.”

(At this point, I had turned off the recorder and kept driving. Then, I had some more thoughts pop into my head and turned it back on.)

“You know what? Maybe, maybe what I’m rebelling against is expectations. My own expectations of myself–which we all know are ridiculously high–everyone else’s expectations of me, YOUR expectations of me…my readers. Maybe even though I love hearing positive feedback (who doesn’t?) it puts additional pressure on me to meet those expectations, to be who everyone thinks I am.

What if I’m not that person? (pause) Am I really that person? (longer pause) I want to be that person. (REALLLLLLLLY long pause).

This is what happens when my apple cart gets upset. Everything in my life that I’ve ordered so nicely gets turned over. And I have to reshuffle it. But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe there’s something really cool at the bottom of the apple cart and I never would have known it was there if it didn’t get turned over.

That’s the f***ing stupidest metaphor I’ve ever heard. Seriously lame. (longest pause ever).

Okay. That’s it.”

So, okay, there you go. And this reminds me of a quote that I have on my personal FB page and try to live by:

This “transition time” is not just something to be gotten through. Life is a series of transitions, and I’m going to keep working to figure it out, control what I can, and, in the meantime, enjoy the ride as much as possible.

Reflections on Perseverance.

I read a book a couple of years ago about this awesome woman who went from over 300lbs to being a seriously fit and trim marathon runner. It was a pretty inspirational read.

But once I finished it, a couple of things just didn’t ring true to me. I have no doubt that this woman wrote truthfully about her own experiences, but these things just didn’t jive with mine.

Here’s the first thing: She wrote about her “aha” moment, which was cool, and basically woke up the next morning and changed her life. Also cool. She adopted better eating habits and committed to doing some sort of physical activity 30 minutes a day, every single day, even if it meant walking her cul-de-sac at 10:30pm at night…which she says she did a number of times. I had a lot of respect for her commitment.

Then she went on to say things like, “It was so liberating knowing I never had to go back to my old lifestyle,” and “I never missed a day, no matter what it took.” (These are definitely not direct quotes; I am generalizing from a book I read 2 years ago. You know how committed I am to complete and utter accuracy.)

My deal is this: I believe her in fact, but I don’t believe her in my heart. I get what she was saying about her liberating new lifestyle, but it just sounded too easy. Like anyone could just wake up and DO IT (true) and never have a doubt or struggle with it (serious bullshit).

Maybe she did write about struggles, but I don’t remember. They weren’t highlighted enough in her book for them to have stuck with me.

And for me, it’s all about the struggle. I struggle with my journey every single day. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I feel amazing about my fit lifestyle and choices, but just as often I want to eat whatever the hell I want and not have to work my ass off 5+ times a week. I don’t give in to that, but I do want it. A lot.

So how could this chick not miss the chocolate chip cookies that she wrote about baking almost daily before she changed her life? How could she make it sound like a total piece of cake? This is some hard shit to do, people!

I agree with her 100% that anyone can wake up, decide to change their life and DO IT. But…to do it, you have to work your ass off every single day, every single hour, every single minute. Especially when your journey might stretch into years…because that is a LOOOOOONG time to persevere. It’s worth it, but it is seriously friggin hard.

You mess up along the way, you hate the journey sometimes, you have your “screw it” moments, you really REALLY crave a big honkin piece of pepperoni pizza–or two or three or seven–and you might just kill your mother to get it some days (sorry, Mom). That’s the reality of my journey.

Strength and persistence

That’s one of my trainers, Christa Doran, the original Tuff Girl. She is pretty amazing, and is a true testament to the power of perseverance.

So look at the guns on my trainer Christa. And the quads, and the perfect form. She is such a badass, but she will say time and again that achieving this amazing body was not easy. She had to sacrifice again, and again, and again, and again, even when she didn’t want to.

For a full year, she ate clean and worked her ass off, and she’s still doing it to maintain this awesomeness. THAT’S what it takes, and she’s had her share of struggles along the way. But she kept going.

Perseverance pays off.

So back to the book: I mentioned this woman ultimately ran a marathon. But I’m not sure how, because one second she was walking on the treadmill or riding the recumbent bike for a half hour a day, and all of a sudden she said, “oh, and BTW, I ran a marathon, too!” There was like a huge middle piece missing there…and it was the piece I really, really wanted to hear about. THE HARDEST PIECE!

I trained for a sprint triathlon: swim 1/4 mile, bike 12, and run 3.1 miles. My time was god-awful (well over 2 hours) but my goal was to finish, and I did.

Training SUCKED. I hated nearly every minute of it. There were a few seconds of joy, sometimes when I was coasting down a hill on my bike with the wind flying at my face, but mostly, it sucked. I was a big fat girl in a dorky helmet on a bike. Or a big fat girl flopping around in a pool trying desperately to do that breathing thing without panicking. Or a big fat girl clomping around on a treadmill.

During my training, I was exhausted. And discouraged. And terrified. But I kept going. I started it, and I was determined to finish.

I had to drag my kids along most of the time because my husband was on a travel assignment during my 3 months of training. Sometimes they had to sit on the bench in the aquatic center while I swam laps. Sometimes they were sitting in the middle of the track with snacks and toys while I ran/walked laps, and they were not always well behaved (hellooooo, understatement). My son used to sit on the rock wall at the edge of our yard and read his book while I biked the .45 mile circuit that is our block about 20+ times. Once, I fell off my bike for no apparent reason near the corner of a major road, making a complete ass of myself as cars went by. I got back on.

That’s the stuff that I want to hear about, and that’s what I missed from this woman’s story. The nitty gritty. The details. The sweat and tears. The scraped knees and crying kids. The determination that moves you to grind your way past all those things and Just. Keep. Going.

So what are your struggles? Your nitty gritty details? And how do you push through them and persevere?

Remember: Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged people who kept on working.

Keep fighting, peeps! It’s going to be worth it.

Hey Steph, What is Clean Eating?

Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or a personal trainer. I am only sharing the practices I am adopting at the advice of nutritionists and trainers to lose fat, become more fit, and feel healthy, and it’s working. Do your own research and consult your own peeps if you want to undertake a similar journey.

Disclaimer #2: What I write below is what I am aim to eat MOST OF THE TIME. It is not easy, and I struggle with it just about every friggin day. I don’t always get it right, but I keep coming back to it because, when I stick with it, it works for me.

So, I’ve written a few posts and talked a lot about clean eating but never really explained it. I’m sure there is a fancy pants explanation for it somewhere, but I’m going to give it to you in Steph-Talk. Clean eating is not eating crap: not processed crap, not sugary crap, not fake-food crap. Eating real friggin’ foods. Something that grew from the ground or used to make noises like “moo” or “cluck” or “glub” (that’s a FISH, for Pete’s sake! Don’t judge my animal noises!!!)

My diet consists of mainly lean, high quality meats (I shop largely at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and buy meats without antibiotics, hormones, etc.), fresh fruits and veggies (organic and/or local whenever possible), legumes, and whole grains.These shopping choices support both my nutritional and environmental goals.

I am fairly judicious about my grains: I hardly ever eat pasta, even the whole wheat kind, which is very sad, but ultimately more doable than I imagined it would be. I eat sprouted grain bread (the brand name is Ezekiel bread), quinoa, and whole grain rice.

I don’t eat a whole lot of dairy, with the exception of Fage 2% greek yogurt, which I eat every day mixed with peanut butter.

CUT THE SUGAR, PEOPLE!!! By and large, sugar is the root of all diet evil. Read labels–so many things have sugar that you would not even expect. I don’t use or add sugar to anything, and I only eat 1 fruit per day because, even though fruit is delicious and packed with vitamins, it still contains sugar. Since I still have much fat to lose, I choose to cut my sugar down to the bare minimum. I don’t use sugar in my coffee. I don’t eat “no fat” foods because there is always something chemical-y added in to make up for the taste, and lots of times it’s sugar…which is FAR worse than fat. Lollipops are fat free, dammit, and we sure as hell shouldn’t be eating those!!!

I have two different “phases” of clean eating. Sometimes–especially after a week like this–I will go super strict for a week or two. No alcohol, no cheese, no splurges whatsoever. It hurts for a day or two, but it’s worth it to kick my sorry ass back into clean eating shape. Generally speaking, though, I allow myself a beer or glass of wine twice a week, and I have an itty-bitty serving of cheese twice a week.

But cheese is technically clean, Steph! Yes, I know it is, as long as it’s not one of the not-of-this-earth low-fat or fat-free varieties. However, cheese is also calorie dense and happens to be one of the most delicious foods ever to get in my gut. This presents a huge problem for me, because I will go cheese-crazy if given the opportunity. So, not only do I try to limit it to keep my cals in check, but I limit it because I know my weaknesses.

I also aim for one splurge meal a week, which (when I’m on my best behavior), I plan in advance and try to coordinate with birthdays, celebrations, other food-eating extravaganzas that appear on my calendar. In this meal, I eat pretty much anything I want. And then I’m done. Theoretically speaking.

Sometimes, the calendar screws with me and I have to make choices. Will I splurge at this party or that one? Sometimes, I fall of the wagon completely. As you know if you’ve read any other blogs or if you’ve read about me, you know I believe that it’s not the falling down but the staying down that makes us fail. So I keep climbing back on.

I haven’t mentioned portions yet, and I should because they’ll get ya every time. I have been amazed at how small I can make my portions and still feel satisfied. Note: I did not say “feel full”–I said, “feel satisfied.” This is a key difference, because I think many of us have gotten very used to feeling that we’re not done eating until we’re “full.” Not true. Eat enough to not feel hungry anymore. You have to do it to know the difference.

So, I usually start with about a 1 cup serving–no need to go crazy measuring, but measure once so you get a good idea of what a cup serving looks like in your bowl or on your plate and can eyeball it from there–and then I wait a few minutes. I drink some water. I wait a little longer. 90% of the time, I’m fine. But sometimes, when I’ve worked out very hard and my metabolism is firing like crazy, I’ll need another half cup or so to feel satisfied. I realize that in the past, even when I was eating clean foods, I was eating about twice as much as my body actually needed.

Here’s a sample daily menu:

Breakfast:

  • Ezekiel bread with peanut butter (natural, no sugar or other crap added…ingredients only read “peanuts, salt”) and 1/2 sliced banana

Mid-morning snack:

  • 2% Fage greek yogurt (about 3/4c) with one tbsp dollop peanut butter mixed in

Lunch

  • 1 cup serving leftover chicken sausage, beans, and broccoli rabe

Afternoon Snack

  • raw carrots
  • about 1/4c raw organic almonds

Dinner

  • marinated grilled chicken breast with grilled veggies and a baked sweet potato

Regarding Beverages:

  • So many people drink their calories without even realizing it. Make sure you’re not unwittingly doing this. When there’s whipped cream, chocolate sauce, or vanilla syrup in it, it doesn’t STOP being full of sugar because it’s a drink! You might as well be eating a big honkin’ piece of red velvet cake.
  • I aim to drink a gallon of water or more a day. The rule of thumb I’ve heard from my trainers is to drink at least half your weight in ounces of water a day.
  • I also drink coffee with half and half in it, and nothing else. And I’m a girl who used to muck up her coffee with FIVE SPLENDA PACKETS (really!). So don’t go saying, “I could NEVER have my coffee with no sugar!” Because you could, if you decided you wanted to. And if you do want to, I suggest gradually cutting back the sugar, one teaspoon or packetful a week. It took me a little over a month to go from that much sweetener to none.
  • Sometimes I’ll have unsweetened iced green tea with dinner, or get myself an unsweetened iced passion tea from Starbuck’s. SOOOO good.

It’s a pretty common sense approach to eating. No measuring, no counting points or calories, no weird food combinations or whatever. Just eating real food in small portions to fuel your body right. Of all people, I know it’s easier said than done, but my point is that it’s not knowing what to eat that’s difficult; it’s actually eating that stuff–and that stuff only–most of the time.