Dear me, shut up and stay focused.

Allow me to begin this long overdue post with what I have come to affectionately refer to as “The Saddest Photo Ever Taken of Me.”

Tough Mudder

My awesome Tough Mudder teammates, getting pumped.

Wait, why is this sad? These are some badass women, getting ready to crush the Tough Mudder. And I’m not even in this picture, am I? What gives?

Maybe you caught it, but just in case, let’s take a closer look.

Oh. There I am. Pathetic.

Oh. There I am. Pathetic.

Yep, that’s me. Sidelined at the Tough Mudder and, to be completely honest, fighting back tears but trying to look supportive and excited for my friends. Because they really did kick ass.

As for me, I kicked no ass whatsoever on that August day in Vermont thanks to my injured Achilles (officially diagnosed: Achilles tendinitis). I kept wearing the boot for a week or so following my last post, and then got the clear to gradually stop sporting that sexy look and just move into a long, long, LONG journey of modified workouts, physical therapy, and slow improvement.

But I won’t say “I couldn’t run the Tough Mudder.” I will instead tell you, “I chose not to run the Tough Mudder.” Why is this distinction important to me? Because I’m a grown ass woman, and no one said “You can’t do it, Stephanie.”

Several people, whose opinions I value because of their expertise (eg, my trainers and physical therapists) advised me not to run the Mudder because, well, dicking around with an Achilles injury is a super shitty idea, and I chose to take this oh-so-wise advice seriously. (Look at me! Taking sound advice and listening to my body! Woohoo!)

I’d like to say that I was proud of my decision and it wasn’t a big deal to miss the Mudder because I knew it was the right thing to do, but that would be a bold-faced lie.

I’d like to say that I was super psyched to go to Vermont anyway and support my girls, but that would be another big fat stinking not-so-true statement.

Going there and not being able to participate, putting on my happy encouraging face, go girls go!, etc etc, was really effing hard.

Standing there in the background, watching them hold hands and get psyched up, and then take off on the course, well, it sucked.

It sucked so much ass that I had to go to the ladies’ room and take about 15 minutes to compose myself. (Not to mention the fact that their heat left around 9:20 and Tough Mudder folks did not see fit to start serving beer til 11am. A big WTF? to that.)

I wish I had a different story to tell about that day.

A selfless story that paints me as somewhat saintlike in my acceptance of being left out/left behind instead of someone who spent five hours wandering around alone and feeling sorry for herself while they ran the course.

An uplifting story that shows me cheering triumphantly as I watched my friends cross the finish line instead of swallowing over a huge lump in my throat, silently, as they hugged each other in victory and relief, having formed a bond that can only come from facing the challenges they had faced together on that course.

A bond that, even though I was technically “there,” I wasn’t a part of.

But apparently, I am not selfless, and so far, this is not that uplifting of a story.

Shit.

While I’m detailing depressing things, I may as well let you know that I also bowed out of dance crew for the October performance. This, also, makes me want to cry a little.

Ok, a lot.

Ok, I have already cried several times over this decision.

Dance crew is something I do purely for my own personal joy and happiness and nothing else, so taking a break from it and missing a performance so I can heal is just…crappy. Miserable. Sucky.

I’m also only working out 3x a week at the gym, with no jumping or explosive movements (buh-bye, box jumps, high knees, tabata rounds, jump squats…I could go on, but I’ll stop there because I think you get the picture).

So, in a matter of 2 months, I’ve gone from crushing 4-5 workouts a week, plus 1-2 dance rehearsals, to 3 workouts a week with my feet firmly planted on the floor.

I’m still putting up heavy weights, but my metabolic is significantly curtailed. And given my work to develop a healthier relationship with food by working towards intuitive eating (another long, painful process), this whole thing feels like a backslide.

My clothes are too tight.

I know I’m losing my explosive power.

I worry that when I am fully healed, I’ll be starting over, re-conquering fears of jumping on a wooden box, re-building the stamina to do 12+ burpees in a 20 second interval, re-starting my journey to do a set of 25 perfect pushups. (With this injury, just being in the plank position has been painful because of the flexion required of my ankle to hold a plank. I’ve been doing pushups one-legged on a box and it’s not going well.)

So now that I’ve gotten the bitching, the whining, the self-pity and the worrying out of the way, what now?

What she said.

What she said.

It’s time to shut the hell up, and just keep working. Do the best I can to stay focused on what I CAN do the progress I CAN make during this recovery period.

OK, maybe I will have to start over with pushups, and maybe I didn’t kick a bit of ass on Mt. Snow on August 10. Maybe my jeans are too tight and maybe I’ll have to build back up to jumping on a box when the time comes.

Who cares? Really, why would I let this bring me down? I’ll admit that I did for awhile. A pretty long while. A long while in which I alternated between pretending I didn’t care (I did), beating myself up, and throwing pity parties for myself at which I was the only attendee.

But now it’s time to just move on and adjust my expectations and my focus. It is what it is, and I have to find ways to be awesome in my current context and capabilities.

I have to see this not as a backslide, but as another opportunity to become the most kickass version of Steph that I can possibly be.

Another way to learn the lesson that being awesome IS NOT AFFECTED BY WHAT SIZE PANTS I WEAR. (*note, I am not yelling at you, I am yelling at me. In case that was unclear.*)

Right now, I have to focus on setting goals related to where I am and what I can do right now with what I have…and what I can do is keep lifting heavy shit.

For example, last week I squatted 200. I wasn’t even up to 200 yet in my plan, but I had that number in my mind as kind of a goal and I just wanted to see if I can do it. Damned if I didn’t duck under that bar and squat 200 THREE TIMES. Like a boss.

And it’s pretty awesome, when someone annoys me at work or some rude person at the airport cuts past me in the boarding line (I remember you, man in Detroit…) to just look at them and think to myself, “Go ahead, be a jerk. I could totally squat you.” It really helps, and I recommend this strategy to be able to deal with assholes with utter serenity.

So where do I go from here?

Well, I may not be selfless, and I will likely have some more moments of self-pity here and there. I may not be society’s vision of what  fit person should look like, and I may not be able to do a set of pain-free mountain climbers. At least not today.

But I am strong, inside and out.

Injury or no, I’m going to find a way to keep moving forward. It may not be the path I choose or prefer, but I’ll just create a new path and keep working to be the awesomest version of myself that I can be.

As awesome as these two little turkey are, every day:

Random picture of my awesome and badass kids to end this post.

Random picture of my awesome and badass kids to end this post.

 

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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.

Life. Love. Kindness. Joy.

I’ve had some opportunities to think about death lately. Lots of them, actually. And I’ve been wavering about whether or not I should actually write this post, because it’s a bit off the beaten path of my usual schtick. (And it’s loooooong.)

But that’s ok. It’s my blog, and I’m going for it.

So we spent some time with my husband’s 96 year old grandfather recently. With no disrespect, he has never been the kindest man, so we were quite surprised to see a very different side of him after a year alone following the passing of his wife of 72 years.

He was looking back, voicing regrets, dispensing wisdom. We listened. The voice of a man facing the end of his days, with everyone else gone before him, is not to be ignored or taken for granted. I saw it as a gift that I’d like to share with you.

Here’s the thing, peeps. Not a single one of us is getting out of this thing alive. I don’t say this to be morbid or make you sad or fearful, and this is by no means a YOLO kinda thing, because that’s just not my bag, baby.

I say it simply because it is true. It is one of the essential facts of our existence, but one that we are uncomfortable talking about openly. Like if we all keep real quiet about death, we can somehow manage to outsmart the powers of the universe and LIVE FOREVER!

Oh wait, I forgot–that actually totally worked for…uh…yeah, right, NO ONE, EVER.

So why not embrace this essential truth instead of skirting around it?

Let me help: We’re all going to die someday. I am. You are. Each and every one of us.

Even if we are pictures of health and safety…even if we always wear our bike helmets…even if we never, ever drink too much or smoke cigarettes…even if we are strong swimmers, change the batteries in our smoke detectors regularly, drive cars with side impact airbags and Anti-lock brakes, and work out regularly and eat whole, clean, organic foods most of the time.

Before you start to think this is a “Life is short, eat cupcakes all day, bitches!!!” type of post, Imma stop you right there.

Everything I’ve noted above is an important practice that we should keep doing to be as healthy and happy as we can during our time here. I’m going to keep doing all those things.

But in the end…well, it ends. No matter what. No matter who. No matter what.

Think of it, mull it for a bit…like I’ve been doing.

Now before you get all mad at me for making you think about your inevitable death and stop reading the blog all together because you don’t know what the hell happened to that sassy, snarky fat girl that USED to write this not-so-serious blog about how much she could push press, take a second to realize that accepting the reality of death is actually quite freeing.

Because once you’ve accepted the dying, you can get on with the living. The REAL living.

tragedy of lifeAnd the LIVING, people, is what this post is about. (Read the title, yo!)

The more I’ve thought about this lately, the more excited I’ve been to LIVE. I was heading down this thought path already in my efforts in the recent past to be more in the moment, show gratitude for the people I love, and work on loving myself more and caring what others thought less.

But this face to face encounter with someone contemplating so intently the end of his days–and having lost more than enough people near and dear to me far before the ripe old age of 96–it’s given me a bit of a shove.

I’m 39 years old, and I still feel like I’m 20 something. I feel like I have many, many long years ahead of me with the people I love. I certainly hope I do, but there are no guarantees.

ca9f3010ea8e03c2644a69ec86ee7d0bSo what do I want to do with my limited-time life? What do I want to accomplish before my unknown expiration date? How do I want to be remembered?

If that goddamned proverbial bus cracks me in the ass TODAY, would I have regrets other than the sadness I’ll leave behind in the lives of the people who love me?

And lest you think me cliche, let me say that I’m not talking about creating a bucket list, either. Help me out, here, Thoreau old buddy:

a4fff66b2a003e846467c690b7bac9b2OK, well I’m not exactly talking about going into the woods. But the rest is so right on. Living deliberately. Getting at the essence of life, my life. And LIVING it while I’m here.

For me, this is a deeply personal thing. I’ve been soul searching. What ARE the essential components of my life? My world? My existence? What do I stand for? (Most nights, I don’t know…)

Here’s what I’ve boiled it down to: Love, Kindness, and Joy. With INTENTIONAL caps. Word.

Let me elaborate. (Because I always do.)

LOVE: I want to love fiercely, and be fiercely loved. I want to feel it oozing from my pores. I want to feel love and gratitude spilling out of me like baubles in a too-full jewelry box. I think I’ve been afraid to say and live this in such an unabashed way before. Why is that? Why would I want to hide the passionate love I feel for my life, my family, my friends, and the beauty in the world around me? Why wouldn’t I want to gush with gratitude for all I am and all I have, to let it bubble up and overflow, touching every person I come into contact with every day of my life?

stop lookingWell, I do want to do that, but frankly it’s hard not to focus on the negative, the annoying, the everyday stupid BS. So I’m not saying I’ll be a perfect picture of love and gratitude at any given moment of any given day. Most assuredly not when some jackass cuts me off on the highway, for example, or when my kids leave the friggin crayons out AGAIN and the dog eats them AGAIN and I’m cleaning up multi-colored turds in the yard for a week.

I’m saying I plan to practice loving with passion and ferocity as often as I can, including loving myself. And I have a sense that the more I practice, the better I will get.

KINDNESS: I just finished reading another amazing book by Khaled Hosseini called And the Mountains EchoedI recommend this book–and any of his books, for that matter. His writing is gorgeous and the stories he tells are so rich and authentic.

So in the book one of the characters said something that’s been sitting in my heart ever since (where I hope it will take up permanent residence, at least most of the time). Reflecting on her own life, she says: “I should have been more kind. That is something a person will never regret. You will never say to yourself when you are old, Ah, I wish I was not good to that person. You will never think that…It would not have been that difficult…I should have been more kind.”

This line sticks in my throat. It is NOT that difficult to be kind. What does it cost me, but perhaps my pride sometimes? Big deal.

Listen, everyone has their faults, and people can be incredibly annoying. I often find myself incredibly annoyed by people, most especially the ones I love. I acknowledge as I write this that it is unfair, but here I am admitting on the Interwebz.

(Sidebar: if you are someone I love, this is me admitting that you have probably annoyed the shit out of me at one point or another. But I am just as aware that I have probably annoyed the shit out of you just as–if not more–often. So let’s just acknowledge our individual annoying qualities, be kinder to each other, and move on with our lives. Love ya!)

See? Acknowledging that people are flawed, human, prone to bad choices and idiosyncrasies, bound to hurt each other sometimes–sometimes hurt each other deeply–does not indicate that they are any less deserving of kindness. (Note to self: It really doesn’t make them any less deserving of your kindness. Stop being a bitch sometimes.)

And like the character in the book notes, kindness is something I have never regretted giving, when I have chosen to bestow it upon people. When I have (rarely, but ever more frequently of late) chosen to bestow it upon myself.

I commit to choosing kindness more often, so that eventually I will become a characteristically kind person, both to myself and others.

JOY: Here we are, the big finish. Joy. What brings me joy? So many things. Hugging my son, and feeling his sharp bony ribs when I squeeze him. Marveling at the fact that this boy that I once carried in me now has a tiny boy-mustache growing. Hearing my daughter belly laugh. Seeing her admire herself, unabashed, in the mirror. Dancing. The sound of my husband’s car pulling in the driveway. The wide smile he sometimes flashes, not nearly often enough. The feel of his arms around me. DisneyWorld. Lifting heavy weights. Setting out on a road trip at the crack of dawn with a car full of people and snacks. Writing this blog. Coffee on a quiet morning. Reading a great book. Friends who get me. Watching my kids work together on something, and speak kindly to each other while doing it. My dog. A sunrise as I drive to an early morning workout.

The list could go on, but I think you get it. The point is that living, to me, means recognizing all these things as sources of pure joy and adding more of them to my life…or at the very least, recognizing and acknowledging them when they are in front of me.

And dumping all the crap that doesn’t bring me joy.

Now listen, we all have to have some crap in our life. Responsibilities. Obligatory STUFF that is decidedly non-joyful. Cleaning the cat box comes to mind.

The reality is that we can’t necessarily “front only the essential facts of life” as Thoreau did. Well, technically Thoreau didn’t have to front ANYTHING–he had a rich aunt who took care of him or something like that so he could afford to just laze around at Walden Pond for a couple of years and write about icicles and whatnot. Me? I got billz and such. And you probably do, too.

So, practically speaking, we can’t just run around all the time doing only the things that bring us joy. (“Cupcakes! Spending sprees! YOLO, bitches!” Uhhhh, no.)

But when we’re 96, what will our legacy be? I mean, I definitely don’t want my legacy to be, “She didn’t pay her bills or clean her toilet because she was too busy eating cupcakes/loving people/being kind and joyful.” The thing is this: I’m just a regular person, so I’ll have to have a job and scrub the floors and be a respectable member of society. I don’t expect to have to get out of doing those things.

I don’t expect or need to be famous or widely renowned or anything.

I don’t care if I win any races, and I’m all set if I never have the body of a fitness model…because I am probably just as fit as most of them already and I’m committed to the idea that what a body can DO is more important than what a body looks like.

No, those things aren’t of critical, 96 year old end of life importance to me personally.

When that bus of doom knocks me into the afterlife, or whatever comes after this, I want my kids and my husband to know that they were loved, and loved fiercely.

I want my friends to know how utterly grateful I was for their joyful presence in my life.

I want someone, somewhere, to have been brightened, even in some small way, by a kind act from me.

I want to be remembered as someone who was passionate, loving and kind, and full of life, laughter and joy.

Oh, and I want to squat 250. That would be pretty cool too.

Your turn.

Apples to oranges, and silencing the evil voice.

They say comparison is the thief of joy. (Who are “they,” anyway? And where do “they” come up with all these clever sayings? I digress…already. Typical.)

The point is, I agree. (Well, somewhat…but more on that later.) I agree in theory, but, as with most of “their” clever sayings, this one is so much easier to say and think about than to actually believe and live into it.

I KNOW…I know, I know, I know that I’m not supposed to compare myself to others. My rational, logical brain repeats the phrase to me regularly in an annoying old schoolmarm voice.

But there’s another voice, too. An insidious, evil little bitch of a voice in my head that sometimes just won’t shut the hell up.

“You’re the fattest person in the room. No one is going to like you here,” she whispers into my ear at a party.

“That Tuff Girl can do dead hang pull ups! You’ll never be able to do those. You’re too heavy. You’ll ALWAYS be too heavy,” she scoffs during a workout.

“Look how ‘together’ that other mom is! She’s not running around from one place to the next like a crazy person, always five minutes late. SHE didn’t forget to turn in the money for the teacher’s gift. SHE sent in the permission slip on time,” she taunts me when I arrive, breathless and with metaphorically windblown hair to a school function.

(I told you she was an evil bitch.)

So yes, in all these instances, comparison IS stealing my joy by shifting my focus to negative and spotlighting the things I see as my weaknesses instead of strengths.

And today’s message has a story, of course. If you’ve been hanging around the FFG FB page, you might have noticed some new photos. I did something that terrified me and signed up for fitness shoot, and the pictures came back yesterday. I shared a few over there and will be doing some updating around here with the rest of them.

As I reviewed the photos, I got super excited. I saw progress in those photos. I saw confidence and empowerment and general badassery in myself. I was proud.

Two of my amazing friends also did the photo shoot and I was absolutely bowled over by their photos. Strong, confident, kickass women who I am so very lucky to call my friends.

But I did it, guys. I did that thing that I am not supposed to do. I compared. I compared my pictures to my friend Samantha’s, and in doing so, I lost some of the initial joy I felt at seeing my own pics.

Me and Samm push press Me and Samm planks

Me: Wow, Samantha looks amazing!

Evil Bitch Voice in My Head: Better than you! Who were you kidding taking these pictures in the first place, fat girl?

Me: Shut up. We’ve both worked hard to make the progress we’ve made. We both deserve to feel awesome about these pictures.

Evil Bitch Voice in My Head: OK, sweetheart. You keep telling yourself that. But I’ll be HONEST…nobody wants to see your pictures when they could look at someone like Samantha.

Sigh.

And on goes the battle. I fight this battle every day, sometimes every minute. And it’s a hard battle, for sure, with casualties on my heart that are tough to overcome.

But I’m not giving up on it. I’m going to keep fighting until I silence that noxious little bitch for good.

And here’s something else I’m working toward: a type of comparison that ADDS joy instead of stealing it…because there are some kinds of comparisons that can do that, which is why I only somewhat agree with the statement I opened this post with.

What I mean by that (incredibly convoluted) idea is this: when I compare who I am today with who I used to be, I can draw confidence, strength and joy from how far I’ve come, instead of a cancerous focus on how far I still have to go.

Comparisons like this one:

very heavy me StephLowRes-13This comparison shows the difference three years makes. My guesstimate would be about 45lbs of fat lost (including, apparently, an entire chin), and a ton of muscle and self-confidence gained.

But beyond that piece, more subtle–but to me, far more important–differences shine through in my posture, my expression, and my attitude in each picture.

The first one shows me leaning forward a little, with my shoulders raised up a little bit…clearly uncomfortable with having my picture taken. My smile seems to be trying to overcompensate for my utter lack of confidence. I distinctly remember having this photo taken, and the discomfort I felt at that moment about the way I looked. I hated being in pictures. I hated being in my body, and it showed.

In fact, at one point I showed that old photo to my friend Samantha. I also distinctly remember her response when she saw it: “That is not the same person I know today. I don’t know who that person is.”

Compared to this new picture, she is absolutely right. It is me, but a completely different version of me who had no idea how awesome she was and could be.

By contrast, the current photo shows my unwavering gaze, my firm, confident posture–chest out, shoulders back–and how at-home I feel with some heavy weights in my hands (those are 25# apiece).

THIS is the me of today. THIS is the kind of comparison I need to be making, and the kind of comparison I am going to keep bringing myself back to, no matter how hard it is.

So take THAT, evil bitch voice in my head! You are going down.

——————–

*Special thanks to Samantha for letting me share her pictures and talk about how amazing she looks in a very public forum. I continue to be so grateful to have you in my life for so many reasons. Heart.

*All fitness shoot photos (ie, all the pics here except for my hideous “before” shot) are credited to the very amazing Eric Brushett. Any weird stretching or photographic wonkiness should be entirely blamed upon my amateurish attempts to create collages, and not Eric’s mad photography skills.

Choices.

choices So nearly two months ago, I got a pretty awesome freelance opportunity plunked down in front of me. Reputable client, work I was digging on, and the potential for some sweet gravy on the budget. And while our budget isn’t hurting, who doesn’t salivate over a little gravy once in awhile?

I chewed on it for three days. Tried to brainstorm “solutions” for how I was going to fit in the work in addition to the rest of my life.

Of course, this opportunity came just after I had written this, so I was definitely feeling the heat of keeping up with all my shit already.

But, the choice seemed clear: I should definitely take the job. The money would be great, and I’m good at what I do, so I could easily make it work.

The choice seemed (also) clear: I should definitely not take the job. I had no business adding more stuff to my ever-expanding plate, even stuff I really like.

I’ll cut the suspense. I didn’t take the job.

I mourned the loss of an interesting freelance job (and the gravy) for a day or so. Or maybe a week. I spent that extra money in my head. A new car was involved, obviously. (But more on that later.)

Here’s where I’m going with this: choices sometimes suck, and you may or may not know if you’ve made the right one. I agonized over this one but ultimately I knew it was right because it was in line with the values and goals I was setting for myself:

Stop adding. Love my people. Work on myself. Focus on what’s here.

I also got a nice little karmic victory a week later when my boss sat me down and awarded me a promotion and a fat (phat?) raise…about the equivalent of what the freelance job I passed on might have been worth.

It’s nice when the universe sends us a neon sign telling us we’ve made the right choice.

But of course, that’s not always how it works.

Sometimes, we make a decision and second guess it. Sometimes, we have to make and stick to a decision over and over and over and over and over even though it makes us wonder if we’re really taking the right path.

Which brings me to this:

VW Jetta

Behold the anatomy of my embarrassing car

This is my car. My 10 year old, broken down, beat up, dented and dinged, dirty with cat paw prints, somewhat humiliating car.

Sometimes I call it the babysitter car, because it looks like something a college nanny would drive.

I can’t really blame my kids for throwing their trash all over it.

It’s been a good car for 10 years, got me where I needed to go, made 2 trips to Florida and back (or was it 3?) and I really loved it before it turned into a cringe-worthy piece of crap.

Much of what’s wrong with it could be fixed, creating a slightly more respectable form of transportation for me, if we didn’t keep saying we were going to get a new one “soon,” so might as well just leave it.

I could probably clean it a bit more often, but you know…I’m getting a new car “soon,” so what’s the point?

(I WILL get a new car this year. You know, soon.)

So why am I still driving around in the shame-mobile? Technically, we could afford a new car. Like any other family, we could afford lots of things, but not everything, so we make choices.

For the last couple of years, I have traded the excitement of getting a new car for a healthier lifestyle.

Working out at a reputable studio like Bodyology with amazing trainers costs money. Eating whole, unprocessed, mostly organic/nitrite-free/free range/grass-fed foods is not as cheap as Hamburger Helper from Walmart.

For the last year (almost exactly), our family has spent $350 a month on a fitness membership. By my calculations, that’s a monthly payment for a pretty sweet new ride.

When I think about that, sometimes it does make me second-guess this decision I keep making.

Maybe I could scale back my workout schedule and work out by myself a couple of times a week. (Yeah, THAT would happen.)

Maybe we don’t need to spend so much extra money on these fancy-schmancy “whole” foods. (Sure, great idea. Extra helpings of hormones, chemicals, and GMO’s, please!)

And when I really think about it, although I’m totally psyched to get a new car (soon, I swear) and not feel like a broke-ass 20-something everywhere I go, it’s also not nearly as important to me as our healthful lifestyle.

harry potter choices

This post would not be complete without one of my favorite Dumbledore quotes.

Choices show our character and indicate our values.

I’m not saying I’m suddenly proud to be driving my crappy old car or anything. I’m just saying that when I think of my ongoing car-shame as part of the price I pay to keep moving forward with my goals, I can keep on living with it.

(But seriously, not that much longer.)

So, what choices are you making, and what do they say about you?

 

Tightrope

Oh, life balance. Why do you elude me?

This is not me...because I am not a mannequin. But I do wish I had a purse like that.

This is not me…because I am not a mannequin. But I do wish I had a purse like that.

Because seriously, I am trying. This journey to badassery is just one piece of the somewhat absurd juggling act I call my life.

I’ve been trying to determine what it looks like to me to create balance with respect to my fitness journey, especially in the last few months following a little eye opening ” incident” I had.

Let me take you back to October…Sunday, October 14, to be exact.

I was at dance crew rehearsal, just shy of a week short of our first performance. I was definitely anxious about the performance, what with all my monumental “fat girl on the stage” fears.

As we were talking about expectations for the day of the performance–when to arrive, how everything would flow, etc.–Karin mentioned that we shouldn’t train on the day of the show. And then I did something I’m not proud of.

I kinda flipped out.

In my head, I frantically ran through my week’s schedule, trying to figure out when I would fit in a fifth training session if not Saturday morning, and coming up with nothing. The resulting panic I started to experience, and the way I behaved because of it, kind of embarrasses me now.

In a shrill voice, I questioned Karin. “Why? Why can’t I train in the morning? It’s hours and hours before the show! Why can’t I? When will I work out otherwise?”

Even as I sit here typing, recalling the way I interrogated my beloved trainer and friend in such a crazy and desperate way, I’m cringing.

I went on to alternate between anger and mounting panic for the rest of the rehearsal. I didn’t have any fun at rehearsal that night, which is just plain stupid, because dance crew rehearsal is my one thing that I do just for me because it brings me joy. That night, I wasted it.

This, my friends, is not indicative of balance.

Must...stay...on...

Must…stay…on…

Yes, I want and need to be committed to a consistent training schedule. But panicking, freaking out, and generally acting like a big fat crazyass because one week I trained four times instead of five? Not cool.

Balance in all aspects of my life is a huge issue for me. I am passionate about so many things, but struggle to find that perfect mix. And, as you may already have realized if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I ask a lot of myself, so that kinda adds to the pressure.

On any given day, there are a gazillion and one demands and questions vying for attention in my oft-addled brain. Here’s a sample, just off the top of my head:

  • Am I eating too much? Am I eating enough? Am I eating the right foods? I know they’re not the right foods, but why the hell are nachos and Oreos so delicious? I mean, really?
  • Why is my house such a disaster? Will I ever be able to keep it regularly clean? Or possibly afford a housekeeper?
  • How can I be a better mom/wife/sister/friend/daughter/member of my church community/co-worker/human being? Am I raising good kids? Am I making a difference for my family/in the community/in the world?
  • Seriously, why does my daughter throw her shit all over the house? (Oh, I think I just answered my second question…)
  • I wish I didn’t have so many commitments.
  • I wish I didn’t have so many pets. Wait, that’s a lie. I really do like my pets, but GOD, there are just so MANY of them!
  • Maybe I’ll ask my co-worker to train me in Photoshop. That would be a good skill.
  • Shit, I have to make a dentist appointment. I freakin hate the dentist.
  • Oh, that reminds me that my son needs braces. Better get those in the budget.
  • Did I turn the damned crock pot on this morning?
  • Did I pay the cable bill yet? Didn’t we say we were going to drop to basic and get rid of our land line? Are we still doing that?
  • Did I work out hard enough today? I felt like I was dying, and I kinda still do, but now I’m wondering if I could have done more.
  • How can I better support my husband at his new job?
  • Speaking of my husband, we haven’t had a date night in like forever. I wonder if I can get a sitter this weekend. Oh, wait, we can’t this weekend. Next weekend? Nope, not gonna work either. UGH!
  • Oh, hell, the hamper is overflowing again.
  • Am I stunting my children’s social lives by not making more playdates? Should I examine the possibility that I don’t make more playdates simply because of my utter loathing of the word “playdate”? Oh, God, I’m a terrible mother.
  • I should call my dad today.
  • I should call my mom today.
  • How can I be more organized? How can I teach my kids to be more organized?
  • Maybe I should start a Pinterest page for the Fit Fat Girl.
  • Maybe I’ll just watch Castle now.
  • Maybe I’ll clean up a little.
  • No, I really should be working!
  • Sonofabitch, I forgot to send the wrapped shoe box with a hole cut in the top for my daughter’s class Valentines. Along with additional materials for her to decorate it with. Why was that supposed to be in TODAY when Valentine’s Day is more than a week from now?!? Now she also needs 2 bags of mini marshmallows and “a hundred of something” by Friday. BLURG!
  • MUST. FINISH. BLOG.

I definitely could have gone on for awhile, but I’ll spare you more of my madness. I’m pretty sure you get the point, and it’s definitely NOT that I have ADD. What I do have is a set of overly high expectations for myself and a very full plate…just like most of the awesome women I know. (Holla if you feel me!)

So this journey to badassery is a lifestyle–a lifestyle of doing the best I can with what I have where I am. And the fitness piece of the journey is just one aspect for me–a very important aspect, but just one.

If there are weeks when I can only work out four times, it’s not going to make or break anything. It just is.

If there are weeks when my nutrition is not optimal because of life madness or bad choices, ok. I’ll pick up and move on.

If the house isn’t “drop-by visitor ready” at every moment, so be it. (Please don’t drop by. Like, ever. I need at least 1 hours’ notice before any visitors arrive.)

This is life, peeps. And I’ve gotta make sure I’m actually LIVING it, not just enslaving myself to some absurd set of standards I’ve created in my head.

Balance, Daniel-san.

So going back to my no-workout-on-performance-day freakout…in the end, it was no big thang that I missed a workout on the day of the performance. (Duh, the outcome any reasonable person could have expected.)

In fact, by the end of the day, I had no recollection of even being concerned about missing a workout. I was on a total high from the performance itself…and the amazing unexpected outcome was my six-year-old daughter’s undying admiration after seeing me out on that dance floor. She was absolutely amazed and awed, and couldn’t believe that her mom was so cool (and neither could I, to be honest!) THAT was way better than any workout.

So I may forget stuff, I may not always have time for everything I want to do, and sometimes I may have to change my expectations.

I may teeter and stumble along this tightrope walk that I call my life’s journey.

I am far from perfect.

But as I struggle to meet all of my obligations, check off my to-dos, and work towards my goals, I must remember to enjoy it.

I can’t get caught up in the details when life offers me a chance to just live.

And I’m pretty sure THAT’s my definition of balance.

Yup.

Yup.

 

 

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.