Category Archives: weight loss

I Resolve Not To Make Resolutions. Or Do I?

It’s a New Year! Time for a new YOU! Rah-rah-rah! Buy this, do that, be this! Go, go, go! Team awesome, here we come! Resolutions for EVERYONE!

HURRAY!

Holy shit. Are you ready to punch someone yet? You could include it in your exercise accounting. “Punched out Bob. 15 calories.”

I’m not paying attention to any of it because I don’t have the time to be awesome this month. I have the time to be “pretty good.” Maybe “above average.” Awesome’s a bit of a reach for me. Ask me in June.

However, there’s a big year ahead of me. I’m working up to Awesome.

As of this morning, I’ve survived one week without butter or margarine. This has meant I’ve eaten less bread. And because I’ve had less bread, I’ve had less cheese. It’s this whole crazy domino effect thing. Have I lost weight? Who fucking knows?

I’ll tell you what I know — my pants didn’t fit last week. I mean, collectively.

This week, things are better. And they fit again.

Still, I know what I should feel like and look like, and right now I’m not it. But I also know I need to stay sane. I’m moving in a few weeks, I have to respect my back injury and proceed cautiously, and I’m packing as much as I can on a slow-and-steady basis. Gotta tell ya: I feel it in every single muscle and I know I’m already getting fitter. I’m not sure piling on the gym-bunny visits would be smart thinking right now. More walking, sure, less butter, better bending/lifting form, and I’m doing all that.

And that’s a great start. No butter, and a zillion squats and hefted boxes, that’s a good start.

The last time I started a “diet” with a month of no butter, I lost 18 pounds in the first 5 weeks, and went on to lose 65, because I added something new to my changes monthly and had a constantly-growing mentality about the new lifestyle.

I want to have a good start on Doing New Things For a Better Me now, and not wait until I’ve moved to be smarter.

There’s only two goals I have this year; if you break it all down to its simplest terms, there’s two. One is, Be Better. The second is, Be Honest.

There are a lot of areas in my life that need improvement. To “be better” gives me a wide berth of where to go, what to do. If I improve one thing, great. There’s something else that can get tweaked. As far as being honest goes, I’ve been unhappy in Vancouver for a couple of years now and wasn’t being honest with myself about it. My life got away from me as a result. That’s what happens when you lie to yourself daily — whether it’s about a job, home, or your life.

I want to be more aware of the moment, more open about truths, and live that way. It’s better for writing, it’s better for communication and relationships.

So, honesty and betterment, in all their forms, are the goals for my year.

Oh, come on. There’s more, right?

Now, there’re a lot of things I want to do with my life this year, and I’ll be writing those goals out for myself — from weight goals and health ambitions, to money aspirations, writing benchmarks, and more — but you don’t need to know what my plans are there.

I don’t believe in that. I think as much as we can get help and support from others by way of sharing our “goals,” we can get shat upon as well.

Self-belief isn’t some unalterable force in my life. My confidence is often akin to a leaf in the wind. It goes where it blows. I don’t need people’s doubts, questions, or concerns clouding my horizon. And I can’t be finding my strength in their support or my sense of self in some fan club who rallies around me.

One way or the other, it’s on me, right?

It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way it goes.

I commented on The Twitter last night that I think I’m finding my mojo, and that’s sort of what I was talking about. For a long time, I’ve been feeling sort of uncomfortable in my own skin. I didn’t feel like I had control over my life or my own actions. It was just… unright. I was unright. Maybe even wrong.

A week into 2012, and that feeling’s largely dissipating. Sometimes life just needs A Decision. Once you make the choice and go all-in, it’s amazing how much it can transform your mentality.

Of course, the fact that I’m taking my vitamins and eating better and getting a lot of physical work in the way of moving, well, THAT couldn’t be helping my mentality at ALL, right?

It’s that Domino Effect, I guess. Positive change is coming, so I’ve put other positive changes into play, and thus the Snowballing Of Awesome has begun.

Be better. It’s a start. Next month, I’ll have a new normal in my betterness, then I’ll have to be even betterer.

The best thing about having “Be Better” as the resolution is that it gives a bit of a softer focus on goals met/not. If you fall short, but you’ve still done more and been better than before, well, you met the “real” resolution. We need a kinder, gentler marker to measure against sometimes.

I hope your year is off to a similarly promising and exciting start. We could all use a little “up” in our lives, I suspect.

Happy New Year, and happy Monday, then.

Food: The Battle That Never Ends

One of my weekly addictions now, pun intended, is Extreme Makeover: Weight Edition.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: A person is ideally supposed to go from morbidly obese to, well, much less.

The most “extreme” episode I’ve seen spent the year with a man named James who began at 651 pounds and lost 313 pounds in 12 months. The first three months, the trainer, Chris Powell, lives with the show’s focus person. After that, the “contestant” is on their own but for the equipment they’ve been left, quarterly check-ins, and emails/phonecalls.

[Spoiler ahead.]

This week’s episode had 9 months invested in one morbidly obese man, who began at 490 pounds, lost 110 in three months, then 21, then gained 60 in the third quarter.

His food addiction came back stronger than ever.

The end of the episode had him checking into rehab 70 pounds below where he started, but 60 pounds over where he was after 4 months — and emotionally broken.

This is something I wish would shut all the cynics up who see weight-loss success on TV and go “Oh, but they had professional help, of course they lost weight.”

You know what? I don’t buy that. It works for a while, sure, but a show like this, it conveys that, left to our own devices, even with all the tools and means at our disposal, failure can find us because we’re our own worst enemies. Every person goes to bed alone in their heads.

Many people regain all their weight back, and even more, when life gets hard, because we’re usually heavy through unhealthy eating addictions that involve masking emotions or failed communications.

Enough About Them, Let’s Talk About Me

I’ve always been food-addicted, but I’m considerably less so in my old age. It’s still a problem. It probably always will be.

That I’m a pretty fucking confident cook sure as hell doesn’t help, but my ability to research and learn the science, well, that does help — a lot. I educate myself from time to time as well. Being a good cook means I take control, and I do so in an often-satisfying way with foods that are ultimately less addictive than fast food and commercial preparations.

Luckily, I somewhat like being active. If I weren’t so goddamned injured so often, I’d be unstoppable, and I’d probably get to keep eating the way I love but would continually lose weight doing it. Fortunately, I eventually battle past my distractions and usually maintain.

That’s me. And I know it’ll be a lifelong struggle. Fortunately, every year I get a little smarter about it, and have done that recently in the face of times that might’ve taken me down a more personally-destructive path in the past.

An Environment Created for Failure

The thing is, food’s an incredible struggle. It’s the hardest addiction in the world to overcome. It’s everywhere. Even skinny people drool over pictures like it’s porn. We even talk about the sexual ways we satisfy our hunger, we have “food orgasms,” we celebrate every holiday around a table, we communicate over tables, we have a national bacon dependency, and now we have sharing apps for cellphones that are all pictures of high-falutin’ drool-inducing food, and everywhere we turn is advertising showing the most sinful burgers and cookies and pastas and pizza (but read this about the dirty tricks photographers use to make that food look so yummy).

In this highly food-pornified world, losing 10 pounds is a massive achievement for some. Losing 313 in a year, no matter who’s helping you, even on a TV show, that’s absolutely mind-boggling — if done through weight and healthy eating, that is.

Add In Being Affected by Life’s Demands…

And putting a few pounds on in any given month or year, well, that’s human. Failing utterly? Also sadly human.

For me of late, I’ve not really been worrying about food, exercise, or whatever. I’m rehabilitating a back injury that scared me more than anything has in years. I had a week in April that was the darkest of my life. All I care about is NOT BEING THAT, and paying my rent. I’m rehabbing, getting my life under control, and that’s all the achievement I require right now.

In saying that, the last 10 months has included enough chaos that all I want to do is get into a routine where being active truly IS my lifestyle, and eating reasonably IS my way. That’s it. I want something I can follow for the rest of my life. I lost 70 pounds in a year doing it that way, I know I can get back to it, too, once my routine’s back.

Anyone who says weight-loss is easy during unemployment isn’t a stress-eater.

During my year of being often under-employed, I had pneumonia followed by a cancer scare that turned into a “dunno what that was, but it ain’t cancer” dealio, followed by blowing out my back. That I only gained eight pounds in two years since my drastic loss is fucking awesome, given my history of overeating for emotional reasons.

It is an addiction, and this has been the hardest year for fighting it. Have I won? No, but if this were a fairytale and the Big Bad Wolf was trying to get into grandma’s house, then I’ve been fighting that fucker back with a big-ass stick. He hasn’t gotten in, but I haven’t gotten around to doing much else with my time, either, time-consuming as fighting wolves tends to be, and all.

It Doesn’t Need to Stay That Way: Ebb & Flow

I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks, as my stress has gone down, as my back injury has finally gotten to a livable place, that my tendency to eat excessively, and too often, has just naturally slowed down, as have my cravings. I’ve not been eating GREAT all the time, but I’ve really not had too much on the average day, either. I also find myself avoiding sweets or feeling compelled for pastries.

The effort now is to simply be more active in my food choices– making more effort in cooking it so I’m not just eating food but, if I overeat, I’m wasting my time and money. Instead of buying bread, the plan now is to make my own for a while instead of buying huge baguettes to indulge in. Every meal needs some kind of veggies with it, preferably more than half the meal being veggies. Using less fat again, I’ve cut back on cheeses, there’s no cheddar in my house (fact: “cheddar” is Canadian for “crack”). I had chocolate during my “girl time” but haven’t felt cravings outside of that.

I don’t care who might think I could’ve done more or I’ve somehow failed myself because I put a little weight back on instead of continually taking it off. I don’t think of it like that. I think of it as “success interrupted.”

What I know about myself today is, I can get through everything that’s happened in the last year (and that short “pneumonia-blah-blah” point there barely skims the surface, as we all know life’s more complicated than big talking points), and gain back only 12% of the weight I’d lost up till 2009, well, that’s not too shabby for an emotional-eating food addict when the odds are better that I should have gained it all back. I kept 88% off, yo!

I’ve been more aware, even in my failings. Now I need greater awareness. Thankfully, it seems to be rising in me, and the stressors seem to be falling.

That’s the ebb-and-flow of life. Like Rocky Balboa says, it’s about getting hit and knocked down, but keepin’ on moving forward.

When I see a man, in life or even a show like that, reduced to tears in his failures, knowing he’s let down his beautiful little girl and wife, checking into rehab and facing all those demons… well, for me, being knocked down but moving forward feels like it’s as good an accomplishment as I need.

We should all remember that. Setbacks are great, if we learn from them and treat them as practice against being defeated in the future. Welcome to life, where we don’t always get it right, but we almost always get a second shot.

Failure photo from Mindthis.ca.
Hand photo from Haley Bell Photography.

RIP, Isabelle Caro. Damn you, Anorexia.

Isabelle Caro passed away a month ago, but it’s only being reported now.

You likely know her… she’s become the face of what we perceive anorexia as. Here’s a disturbing photo array.

I want us to remember her for her bravery in speaking out against an industry that virtually encourages anorexia, even now. Remember her for the struggle she waged and her ability to be profoundly public in her vulnerability.

Most of all, I want us to remember that there was no motherfucking reason a beautiful woman like she once was should be dead before 30. And why? Because she was pressured to keep her weight at an unrealistic level.

Sure, the fashion industry has stopped using quite as thin models, but let’s not kid ourselves — we still expect women to be thin to be beautiful, because Vogue and Cosmo and FHM and every other magazine insists on perpetuating that image.

Whether it’s hearing about a 13-year-old who’s gone temporarily blind from dehydration and starvation, because she doesn’t want to be “fat” like her mother (like a contestant on The Biggest Loser), or an amazingly beautiful woman who dies because she simply won’t eat, we need to accept that we’re fucked up as a society when it comes to food.

From morbidly obese citizens to deathly-thin models, what the hell are we thinking?

What happened to just living normally?

As the diet ads fire up and the media obsesses about “taking off that holiday weight”, remember that loving ourselves might be the first step to improving, as we decide we’re worth the effort and time it takes to live a reasonable life.

Remember that self-hate and loathing of one’s actions are what drives the extremes we see killing our obese family members and even beautiful women like this — or Brittany Murphy.

Dieting is dangerous. Instead, live more accountably.

RIP, Isabelle Caro. We hardly knew ye. Thank you for your bravery.

Of Fitness and Depression: My World at Present

I should edit this more. It’s over 2,000 words. But it’s about depression, and I’m too depressed to care about editing it down. Chuckle, chuckle. Besides, I’d rather go work out than stay stuck here, thinking about this shit for another hour. Please ignore errors and redundancies. Thanks.

___

Depression can be like a refrigerator’s hum, so quietly ever-present you forget it’s there.

I have been battling it off and on for years. It’ll probably be a lifelong thing. I’m not medicated, and I’m steadfastly wanting to avoid going to Pill-Taking-Land.

This week, I’m slowly accepting that I’ve been back in the throes of depression for quite some time now. Some of it situational, the existential equivalent of “duh, OBVIOUSLY,” but some just… there.

Part of my desperation in this return to fitness and health is that I’m hoping it solves the depression.

Ironically, depression makes you want to do less. It’s an interesting challenge. You know, in case I thought my life needed any more challenges.

Bernd Nies' 1999 eclipse is a fantastic image of what depression's like; there's light but it's controlled by the dark.

I want a “healthy life” to be my solution, but it’s probably a bit of a pipe dream. Still, I don’t want to medicate until I know I’ve done what I needed to do.

I took down yesterday’s posting because I realize it’s more depressed in tone than it is of “I’m achieving!”

Part of the problem comes from feeling forced (through my own actions, naturally) to make the journey public. You know what? Some struggles need to be private.

Some people’s struggles feel harder and take more to get past than the same struggles might for others.

When it comes to getting fit, that’s my reality.

I was under the mistaken impression that, because I’ve achieved so much athletically, and rehabbed so many injuries, that this “return” would be a lot easier.

I’ve been going through weeks of pain. The irony is, I’m trying to undo years of pain through creating more pain. It’s frustrating. And when you’re depressed, frustration isn’t really a great thing to throw into pot.

Some alchemy has results no one wants to be around for.

Fortunately, I’m not morbidly depressed. Just ever-presently so, in a mild and intrusive way, but not anywhere near debilitating.

I’m not that worried about the depression yet… just, well, depressed about being depressed. It makes me feel like a failure. I hate feeling this way, feeling like nothing’s ever really right or fun enough or good enough. I hate snapping at friends or being anti-social. I hate, hate, hate this feeling, and hating it just makes me more depressed.

But those things aren’t Horrible. It’s not like I’ve got a collection of wrist-cutting razors nearby or anything. I’m not even remotely on the likely-to-self-harm scale. No need to fear such things, kiddies.

The worst this depression is doing to me is the eating-too-much thing, and making me way too fond of wine and gives me a penchant for wanting to hear songs like Swag’s “I’ll Get By” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I’ll Survive”.

The trouble with depression, though, is that moods are so easily influenced by other factors around us, and a mild depression can plummet quickly. That’s ScaryTime, baby.

So, I worry about that, the ever impending “what-if” possible-doom scenario. And, naturally, that doesn’t help much.

“Don’t worry,” then, you say.

Well, that’s a pretty skookum idea. Why didn’t I think of that?

Oh, because I did. Depression isn’t a do/don’t scenario. You don’t decide to “do” something and then just have it work. If you could, depression probably wouldn’t be one of the more pervasive problems society faces or the largest medical expense faced by corporate America today.

I’ve been trying to do the standard things to fight depression. Sometimes I get ’em done. Sometimes I don’t. Resolve isn’t really the depressed person’s best friend. Neither are dark Canadian winters. You need a whole lot of faith and confidence to fight serious depressions, and some days those just can’t be mustered.

Fortunately, I’ve been to this dance. I know one just gets up and does their thing and one day it improves or it doesn’t. Then there are pills, if that improvement day doesn’t come.

But that’s why this return-to-fitness thing has been so hard for me.

And why it’s so important to me that I overcome it. I hate pills. Pills brought me close to suicide, so as much as they can solve problems, they can be destruction in capsule form, too.

This getting-fit desire been crushing me because I want so much from it. I’ve so much hope pinned to it. And when I’m willing to put in the work but the only payment I receive is more pain, well, how does one really just swallow that and put on a happy face?

They don’t.

I don’t. I can’t. I hurt. I’m not “sore.” I’m not “stiff.” I hurt.

I hurt on the outside, and I hurt inside, and sometimes it’s really hard when you just can’t find a happy place in between all that.

So, yesterday, when I posted a long “what it’s been like” thing about my start in this return-to-fitness quest, and it mostly focused on how hard it’s been, a lot of that turned out to be me writing for myself — explaining, “Well, yeah, it SHOULD hurt, look what you’ve been through.”

Then someone left a comment that essentially said “Shut up and stop whining,” and that was a pretty intense breaking point for me yesterday morning, and left me really emotionally fucked-up for the rest of the day, while I tried to process two very different truths:

1) The reason I blog AT ALL is so that I can talk about what I’m enduring and what my life experience is — not so I can write what other people want to hear, solve their life, shed universal truths, or do the whole rah-rah self-actualization type posts. Enough people do that kinda blogging. If I wanted to appease others and write for everyone’s happy-point, I’d be being more commercial and would mack this shit up with affiliate ads and everything else that has money attached.

2) They’re right: Shutting up and doing it works, and often. But when you’re depressed and the return to fitness is your attempt to right what’s wrong in your life, and you’re daily going through pains that really make it seem pointless, but you know you need to battle through it — writing about how hard it is, but why you keep fighting that hardship because you know you NEED the results, well… that’s pretty much my only tether to sanity during a time that I’m finding really fucking hard.

I don’t WANT to share my depression with anyone. I don’t want this blog to be an active record of this thing I feel or these times I’m enduring. I want it to be snapshots at best.

Why I write about how fucking HARD the experience is, is because I think others go through this, but they quit — just like I stopped halfway through my journey.

I don’t want others to go off their roads and have the same struggles I’m having while I’m trying to return to mine.

And I don’t think I should apologise for not being Miss Sunshine about it, either.

I need to get fit. I don’t need to be happy about it. I don’t need to appease anyone. I just need to survive this, then thrive, and then not look back. Getting fit will probably improve my body chemistry, it will likely help me better deal with these moods.

I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing. If I’m not textbook about it, and don’t have the “Go, Team” attitude about it, then I think it’s even more fuckin’ awesome that I’m still trying to make it happen.

The commenter, which I haven’t “approved” since I took the posting down, also chastised me for dwelling in the past of late.

But, I’m not.

My past is DEFINING my present to the extent that the daily pains I feel are kind of this confrontation between what I’m trying to make my present into but its parameters are still being controlled by aspects from the past. Like, back issues, etc.

The injury happened in the past. It took me a YEAR to get past. REMEBERING THAT YEAR makes these six weeks a lot easier to swallow.

That’s MY mental process. That HELPS me.

If YOU think it’s whining or “dwelling,” then that’s your worldview. Not my problem.

So, my anger about how I feel when workouts come with backlash is more easily mitigated when I remind myself of how long and hard the back injury was, that this residual stuff makes sense, that all these pains and injuries I’ve been through have LARGELY been rehabilitated, and this is the last of what I need to endure — the legacy of those times, if you will.

While I’m doing this fitness-battle thing, I often pretend like I’m in hand-to-hand combat with my past. Sure, it’s still making my life a struggle on a daily basis right now by way of “injury legacy,” but ignoring that never helped me any.

Yes, I need to do the work. Yes, “shutting up” is useful.

Right now, I just can’t be positive, sell the Kool-aid, or get anyone else on board. I just can’t.

I thought I could. But I can’t.

Again, that feeling of failure just exacerbates the accepting of such limitations. That’s depression for you.

I do need to just get through this. And I’m not so depressed that I don’t think I can get through it, either — thank god. I expect I will succeed. I don’t have a lot of faith it’ll be soon, and that’s probably where I’m going wrong. It’ll likely be sooner than I think.

Either way, it needs dedication.

All I can do right now, the only battle I feel equipped to fight, is that of ending these legacy pains and creating the fitness I desire.

But don’t kid yourself if you think I can stop writing about it, and don’t delude yourself into thinking I can be Miss Sunshine-and-Rainbows when I do.

I write about my experience, my worldview. I leave a lot out that I don’t want to give to you. I don’t want to put my innermost fears, angers, losses, etc, into your hands. I don’t want those words here.

That’s not for you.

So, I try to write about it in a skating-the-surface kind of way. Allusions and hints, a biographical writer’s best friends.

When I do that, sometimes it sounds erudite and poetic in its subtle references to things I’m experiencing or perceptions I have, and sometimes it sounds bleak as fuck because you don’t see the subtleties that I’ve convinced myself are there, tempering the content.

Ideas are always whole in my head yet filled with holes on the page.

Shit happens. What can I tell you?

My writing isn’t always good. It doesn’t always capture my thoughts.

And, fact? I usually write with the assumption that people who’re reading me might be here for the first time, andI’ll rehash details because I’m too lazy to find a blog link that explains that same crap, so it seems like I’m “dwelling” in my past, but, actually, I’m just lazy.

I don’t know what to really say to wrap this up. I’ve been slowly coming to terms with the reality that I’m depressed. At least now I know that I am.

And all I need to try to feel today?

Proud.

Because, despite how badly I’m left feeling most days, how hard I find this journey, I find moments of victory, snippets of accomplishments, and even when it gets bad enough that I take a day off, I get back to it the next day.

For the most part, I keep improving. Some things are holding me back, but, like an elastic band, if I keep pulling away, I think those bonds will eventually snap.

I’ll get past this.

But I won’t pretend I’m enjoying the experience. That’s the least of where my energies need to be.

I know today, now, here, this THING I’m experiencing — everything from trying to find a new career, solving my depression, dealing with financial struggles, watching my family’s strife, trying to lose 50 pounds, the added stress of Christmas — is probably going to be the period I look back on in 30 years, when I say “That Defined Who I Became For The REST of My Life.”

And that is why I get the fuck up and I do my thing.

If I whine a little?

My fuckin’ prerogative. Especially when, every week, I’m accomplishing more than I did the week before.

I’l write about whatever I want. And slowly I’ll get what I need to get done, done. Sometimes I’ll tell you about it, sometimes I won’t.

MFP, baby. My fuckin’ prerogative.

If that’s what the depressed lady can take to the bank, then so be it. Cash that fucker.

Building Blocks: Mastering Less as More

It’s been a long week and you’re probably wondering how it went, given my dreaded Month of Suck admission last week.

I’ve spent this past week slowly recalibrating myself, lowering my expectations, ditching my guilt, and focusing on the individual steps to take rather than being overwhelmed by the bigness of my journey…

Found on SciFiTV.com.And it’s been much, much better.

My workout with Le Physique’s Nik Yamanaka last Monday was really an empowering start to my week. She was empathetic, didn’t dwell on my admitted failings, changed the game up a little, challenged me, and provided great positivity, support, and encouragement during the workout. She also brought The Funny, and we like The Funny.

It wasn’t that she was babying me, not by a long shot. She pushed me enough, and god knows I felt it the next night as the Screaming Thighs of Fury set in a day after the epic “Let’s try some lunges” experiment, but she didn’t push me past what I could take.

Who cares about the Screaming Thighs of Fury, though?

Face it, anyone who doesn’t have killer-sore legs after doing their first-ever triple-set of lunges is probably immortal. We don’t like those people.

We really, really don’t like those people. But I digress.

Aside from letting me ditch my guilt and shame by playing me her version of the “everyone has reversals” record, Nik also provided a lightbulb moment when it came to stretching.

I think I know better than most people the profound difference that can come from tweaking a stretch angle by a few degrees, so I was really surprised to find that, a) I’m still being uber-overzealous in my hamstring stretching, b) it’s probably a huge part of why my hamstrings never stretch out, and c) it’s likely instrumental in why I have recurring back issues on a small scale all the time.

Nik drove the point home that the hamstring is a very gentle stretch, and one of the most important ones we can do. She said to wait while the hamstring naturally extends itself. Stretch the leg to the point of feeling it, hold, as it releases and resistance lessens, extend slightly further, hold, repeat, etc.

Okay, whoa, hold them technique-horses a moment.

This needs saying: I’m not a licensed kinesiologist, I’m not edumacatin’ you on stretching, and you shouldn’t be doing anything by way of my limited explanations here. This was a trained professional explaining the best way of stretching for MY body. Your body is a whole ‘nother thang, and this is why certified personal trainers are a wise idea for anyone embarking on a new life of fitness: Because every body responds a little differently.

(But if you’re like most people, you probably should be stretching those hamstrings more, honey.)

Anyhow, that slight adjustment, less-kamikaze approach has been making a difference in my legs and back this week, but there’s another stretch that’s proven monumentally important to me, now that I’ve been hearing Nik’s voice in my head all the time: “Drop your shoulders. Drop your shoulders.”

I’ve always had my shoulders up too high during stretches — and now I realize my stretches are probably largely responsible for the “tension headaches” I get, or at least as responsible as other things, like carrying too many groceries or wearing heavy shoulder bags.

By keeping my shoulders down during the stretches, I’ve greatly reduced the headaches that were seriously cramping my style. Whew. Fantastic.

So, where didn’t my week go as ideally?

Well, everywhere, of course.

But “perfect” wasn’t my goal.

Sure, I didn’t exercise the “Full Nik Yamanaka Kicking-Ass-And-Taking-Names” routine, but I decided to cut myself slack and instead just focusing on Doing it Right and Feeling Good Later. Nik seems to approve.

I still haven’t stretched often enough, eaten as well as I would like, but I really don’t care.

I really don’t — because I’ve done everything better, I feel better, and I know I can still do better.

The difference is, this time I feel like doing better isn’t going to kill me. I don’t feel the dread and fear I was feeling for a while, when I kept paying for my efforts with negative fall-out (thanks to the trifecta of overdoing it, poor sleep, and bad stretching.)

Now I think “doing better” might even have me feeling better overall.

Working out through my pneumonia recovery has proven challenging, but I’m finally at the point where pushing cardio may still have me spent and asleep on the sofa by 8:30, but a good night’s sleep recharges that battery, and I find myself with more to give the next day.

That’s a new thing — having more to give — and a good thing.

Will I manage the Full Nik Yamanaka Kicking-Ass-And-Taking-Names program this week?

No, probably not, but I can get closer, do it better, feel stronger, and have the feeling that I’m adding to success rather than kicking myself when I’m down.

I’m listening to my body with exercise, and soon I know I’ll be listening to it for food, too. That’s always a 1-2 thing for me — I get the exercise sorted, then figure out the food.

All in all, it feels like the pieces are falling into place — or, rather, that I’m kicking ass and throwing them into place.

This week, less has been more.

By doing less and feeling like I’ve executed it better, or more well, or more promisingly, the emotional gains and the confidence I now have in going forward is both a pivotal and welcomed change in my life.

I knew I’d get here, but it was just such a rocky road with so many obstacles, and me with my lack of objectivity at the time.

Recalibrating, lowering expectations, and focusing on technique but working through obvious pains while trying to reduce unnecessary pain, have been a key in my week of regrouping.

Going into this week with a little less fear and a little more confidence will be a nice change, provided I remember that it’s doing less, but doing it better, that’s being my “more” right now.

Baby steps, baby.

Le Physique is in Leg-And-Boot Square, in Vancouver’s False Creek. Nik Yamanaka is co-owner, and was the BCRPA Personal Trainer of the Year for 2008. Le Physique tailors a program to meet your abilities, goals, and lifestyle. They can’t do the work for you, but they can tell you the tweaks that will help you meet your best performance and give you the mental tools and simple practices that might help you attain the success you need. You can listen to Nik talking about training in this radio interview here. You can follow her/them on Twitter, too, by clicking here.

Bouncing Back from The Month of Suck

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October was My Month of Suck.

Things went badly at the end — personally, financially, physically, spiritually.

Times like that, my struggle is with Emotional Eating. Growing up, if there was something we’d celebrate or mourn, we’d do it with food.

At 37, it’s still my battle.

Another struggle is the pressure I put on myself and the self-damning I do when I don’t meet those lofty standards.

What happens when I get angry or disappointed in myself? I eat.

When I eat, what happens? I get fat or feel like it — equally dangerous to morale.

My first mistake in October was not saying sooner that I’d bitten off too much, regarding my post-pneumonia recovery.

The problems with me getting something like pneumonia is, it’s easy to think the pneumonia’s just some “thing” I’ve created to get out of shit, regardless of how sick I actually was.

As a kid, yeah, I was in and out of hospitals, but I was also a lazy kid who loved the excuse of illness — I hated exercise. When it came to exercise, I was happy to play the “I’m too sick” card.

The last five years, the greatest “getting fit” struggle I’ve faced was overcoming “I Can’t” and those old excuses.

In so doing, when I thought I couldn’t do something, I often did better than I expected. When I thought I was too weak, I was strong. If I wanted to improve my time in how long it took to cycle someplace, I did. When I thought I was too tired or too sore, I proved I wasn’t. That’s how I lost 70 pounds on my own.

Sure, I beat “I can’t,” but I’m still not an “I Can” girl — and that’s what I want to be, via my work with Nik Yamanaka from Le Physique.

I want say “Sure, I can do that!” without blinking. Now? Not so much, more like “Maybe?”

A lot has to do with the “I Can’t” Girl legacy.

In October, when I first thought I was doing too much too soon, I didn’t take a break — I didn’t want to use the “I’m not well” excuse or to make allowances for being sick or recovering. I didn’t want to admit I’m weaker or less strong.

Now I’ve paid for it through too sore muscles, too tired body, and the emotional fatigue that comes from the too-much-too-soon lethargy one suffers after trying to bounce back post-illness or injury.

***

Today I see Nik for the first time in two weeks. She knows I’ve been ass-kicked by both life and myself of late. I think I really need a session to get my head from Where I Was last month to where I’d rather be now.

For me, returning to anything after injury or illness is a struggle. The longer I’m out of the game, the harder it is to get back — especially when my body doesn’t like the pace I set, since I normally like to take my angst out on a workout, but my body doesn’t like that approach.

That said, almost every time I “return,” I do too much too soon.

I warned Nik that a former chiro labelled my tactics as “KAMIKAZE”. I mean, I know I do this shit.  I told her, “I know this about myself, I’m gonna be careful”, but, boom, there it is: History repeating.

This time, my bounce-back wipeout coincided with Heavy personal stuff on a few levels, and a bout of food poisoning, all within 10 days. I got knocked on my ass — hard.

Coupled with emotional baggage and the caloric hell that is Halloween, it’s been a doozy of a three-week stint in which I’ve been visiting all manner of feeling like a Failure.

We’ve all been there.

Still, I know my abilities and what I’ve learned about my food relationships, and my physical accomplishments with cardio and strength-training over time.

Believe me, I know. That’s why it’s so hard to accept such a rocky return.

Up side? Nik’s got a crash course in Steff’s Fitness Foibles 101 — my determination, roadblocks, how connected food is to my emotions, how I pay for my stubbornness.

Down side? It’s a disheartening start to what I hoped would resonate with awesomeness from the get-go. I have to recalibrate my expectations, and I will.

The I’ll-take-it side? I’m reminded I’m not God, I’m not even immortal, and while deities might allegedly be able to create whole worlds in seven days, we take longer to create what we dream, and more realistic aspirations make the road less arduous.

***

I’ve had a hard time writing this piece. I’ve started it six times now.

Why? I despise admitting that I’ve failed myself, but it’s more disheartening that it came after I tried too hard and hit the wall, only to fall back into old habits just ‘cos I emotionally roll that way.

That’s what I had a hard time with: feeling like I was being punished for working too hard. It’s tough to swallow that you’ve achieved what you wanted to do, but then suffered consequences as a result — and then revisited bad habits of old out of weakness.

To whatever end, it all comes back to listening to the trainer when he/she says “Listen to your body.”

They don’t say “Listen to your neuroses.”

Woefully, my neuroses speak loud and clear. Listening to that’s hard not to do.

And sometimes we don’t understand our bodies. Don’t understand? Or maybe we just don’t listen. Success usually isn’t a switch we can flick on overnight.

Some learn these lessons harder than others.

My lesson is in finding a middle ground between what I want to be Tomorrow and what I’m able to be Today, and for me it can be the hardest part of fitness.

Part of a trainer-trainee relationship comes from learning where you’re at with each other, and the trainer knowing when you’re really trying or when you’re just phoning it in. This is a tough beginning, and I know Nik’s being challenged with having to interpret that about me. I can respect that.

Still, my journey’s not just the physical roadblocks I have to contend with. I know I’ll be in a difficult place emotionally for a while, so my food struggle will be tough. That’s when training will be good, and social media/blogging also helpful, so I can get advice, support, friendly prodding, and experience accountability to others.

Because I can’t work out at 100 per cent, I’m learning I never overcame my food demons, despite having lost 70 pounds.

I didn’t. Food’s the devil, always was. This is the reality check I needed.

Waiter, there’s a fly in my aspiration soup. Check, please.

Yet, Food Demons can be beaten into submission. People do it all the time.

And, pneumonia can only hamper my efforts for so long. I’ll get there a little more each week. I’m just impatient.

***

So, today? Training looms.

My Catholic upbringing makes me dread facing people after I feel like I’ve failed them or myself, so showing up to see Nik will be a bit heavy at the beginning, but another part of me can’t wait to just get in there, see her, and turn the page on my October.

Something I’ve learned in recovery/rehab, and forgot until now: It’s best that I do cardio at the end of the day so I can recover after, rather than early in the morning, when it might take a lot out of me, since, frankly, post-pneumonic life isn’t brimming with energy just yet.

Sometimes we need to find new normals.

I’m finding mine.

***

Failure happens. We don’t choose when. Life’s tough, we deal where we can, and sometimes fall down elsewhere.

At the end, know what matters?

Not that I ate badly or didn’t exercise sometimes, but that I’ve been more honest with myself about food than I have in months, and that I’ve been active more regularly than I have in a while.

I’ve improved. That’s the point.

I haven’t improved as much as I’d wanted, as quickly as I’d hoped, but I know why I haven’t, where I can improve still, and now I’ll do better than I did last time.

In the end, sometimes just continuing to improve is the best result we can hope for.

For now? I’ll take it.

Le Physique is in Leg-And-Boot Square, in Vancouver’s False Creek. Nik Yamanaka is co-owner, and was the BCRPA Personal Trainer of the Year for 2008. Le Physique tailors a program to meet your abilities, goals, and lifestyle. They can’t do the work for you, but they can tell you the tweaks that will help you meet your best performance and give you the mental tools and simple practices that might help you attain the success you need. You can listen to Nik talking about training in this radio interview here. You can follow her/them on Twitter, too, by clicking here.