Category Archives: rambles

Numbers

As humans we have the tendency to represent ourselves by single labels, numbers, categories, or simple facts.  Common examples of this would be using your career, your age, or your biggest hobby as a catch-all label to represent you and your identity.

Since we love to quantify things, we often attach great meaning to the various numbers that can represent us.

numbers

Below is a short list of numbers that can be used to represent me. Some of these can be pretty variable, but I’ve picked an average or a recent number for this purpose.

32 – Age
5’4″ – Height
165 lbs – Weight
8.5 – Shoe size
8 – Books read in 2014 so far
29% – Body fat
0 – Number of children
10,000-12,000 – Steps taken per day
29 – Jean size I wore yesterday
4 – Average cups of coffee per day
5 – Years I’ve been in my current job
2200-2500 – Calories eaten per day
4 – Years of post-secondary education
12.5″ – Bicep measurement
125 – Facebook friends
225 lbs – Back squat PR
3 – Spartan Races completed
1 – Vehicle in our household
40 – Number of burpees I can do in 3:00

Which number about me is most meaningful to you as an outsider looking at me?  Which number tells you the most about me as a person?

Now thinking about your own list of these numbers (or similar), which of them do you attach the most meaning to?  Is it the same as the one that you thought was most meaningful about me?

I would bet that very few people (if any) reading this would say that my current weight is the most meaningful number on that list.  But how many of us attach great meaning to that particular number in our own minds?  We fixate on it, obsess about it, monitor it constantly, try everything possible to change it, break down when it doesn’t change, have a day ruined by measuring it.  And yet…this particular number holds much less meaning to those around us.

None of these numbers, weight included, tell you whether or not I’m a good person.  Taken individually, these numbers don’t give you a complete picture of who I am and only give a tiny glimpse into part of my identity.  The same is true for your own list of numbers.

We are all so much more than a number, whether that number is our weight, our gym PR, our age, or our pants size.  Maybe the next time you’re negatively impacted by thinking about one of these particular numbers, you’ll think back to this post and this reminder of that fact.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about which numbers you thought were most meaningful for me and for yourself!

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day in the life

I saw this done recently on a blog floating by in Feedly. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which blog that was so this will be an uncredited rip off.

I thought it would be fun to do a “day in the life” through a photo taken during every hour throughout the day.  This turned out to be a pretty mundane day…but it was fun to try and find different ways to photograph the stats and spreadsheets I was working on pretty much all day long.

6 a.m. – Morning coffee and blog reading

7 a.m. – Driving to work. Took this photo after I parked.

8 a.m. – In the middle of eating breakfast at my desk.

9 a.m. – Working on stats.

10 a.m. – More stats.

11 a.m. – Preparing to conduct a job interview.

12 p.m. – Lunch at my desk. Leftover crockpot BBQ chicken and rice. This gave me a flashback to my Whole30 photos.

1 p.m. – Still stats.

2 p.m. – STILL stats.

3 p.m. – Cake with my coworkers for my birthday! A coworker was thoughtful enough to make a homemade gluten free cake so I could enjoy a birthday treat!

4 p.m. – Catching up on email to close out the work week.

5 p.m. – Walk with the dog after work.

6 p.m. – Made and ate dinner.  Pork chops with asian slaw.

7 p.m. – Taking vitamins during a break from watching 30 Rock.

8 p.m. – On the couch watching another episode of 30 Rock.

9 p.m. – Laying on the couch serving as furniture for the dog chewing his bully stick.

10 p.m. – Crawling into bed.

Maybe I’ll do this again in the future!

 

 

 

Maintenance

Maintenance.  I kind of hate this term.  Someone asked me recently if it was great to finally be in maintenance.  I had to reply that I didn’t know because I didn’t consider myself “a maintainer”.

Sure, I’ve kept off the weight that I lost a couple of years ago.  In the weight loss world this makes me a maintainer.  But I’ve hardly maintained anything other than a commitment to keep improving my health and fitness.

Maintenance implies satisfaction with where one is at.  It implies staying static…holding the line…not changing.  I don’t feel like this is my life at all.  I wanted to say that I’m in the opposite of maintenance, but every dictionary I consulted for this opposite gave me words like neglect…disrepair…ignorance.  That’s not right either!

Instead I feel as if there are regularly new challenges and problems to navigate and find solutions for.  When life doesn’t present these to me, I have been forcing myself to seek them out…no matter how small those challenges may be.  It’s through navigating these challenges that I’ve continued to learn, grow and develop.

In addition to seeking out new challenges to face, it’s important to remember that losing weight doesn’t magically make all the issues related to food, weight, body image, exercise, confidence, etc. disappear.  Contrary to promises in popular media, being a smaller size is a not a magic pill for happiness and perfection.  Even at 120 lbs lighter than I once was, I am still constantly working on all of the issues that got me and kept me obese for so long.  Recovery is more than just losing the weight (but that’s a whole other post…).

Maintenance is where I was for 28 years of my life.  Maintenance is what kept me obese and unhealthy.  THAT was neglect…disrepair…ignorance.  As bad as that sounds, I was comfortable there.  Losing weight didn’t get me to “maintenance”.  It took me away from that point and helped me learn how to challenge myself and grow.

Actively work to avoid maintenance.  Seek out challenges and problems to solve, big and small.  Learn from the process of facing those challenges and take that knowledge with you as you keep moving forward and growing.

negative self-talk

I’ve realized recently that it really bothers me when I hear people speak negatively about themselves.  It’s something that I almost always have a reaction to and I have a hard time just letting it go and biting my tongue.  I want to speak up and say something (kind and gentle, of course) to people who are speaking negatively about themselves to hopefully cause them to pause and think critically about why they’re engaging in negative self-talk.

So I’ve started speaking up.  And I think it’s been well-received so far.  I made a post on Facebook this morning (the text of which appears below) and was encouraged by the positive reaction of my friends to expand upon my thoughts here.

I think negative self-talk is one of the most destructive habits that we’ve developed in our society.  In the quest to appear more humble we’ve swung the pendulum to the point where I believe it’s more acceptable to tear yourself down than it is to take a measure of pride in something you’ve accomplished.  How backwards.

Why does it matter?  It matters because by being constantly critical of ourselves and speaking negatively about ourselves we end up truly believing those things we tell ourselves, regardless of what the reality may be.  Negative self-talk can also change how we are perceived by others, with women who engaged in negative talk about their bodies being perceived as less likable by strangers.

Ultimately, it matters because positivity, love, and kindness are going to get us further as individuals and a society than negativity and hate will.

Does this mean that we have to stop wanting to change ourselves?  Absolutely not.  There’s nothing wrong with looking at your current health, fitness, or other circumstance and thinking “I’d like to improve upon this.”  The trouble comes when the motivation for that change is hating where you are now, rather than aspiring to be something awesome.  There’s a massive difference in how we’ll react to a goal of “stop eating crap” vs. “eat more whole, nourishing foods”.  The first (negative) goal is keeping us focused backwards on the “error” or the behaviour we dislike.  The second (positive) goal gives us a productive, forward-thinking action or behaviour to focus on instead.

I know first hand that negative self-talk is a damn hard habit to break.  I still catch myself saying and thinking negative things about myself.  But at least now I have a keen awareness of when I’m doing this and try to stop it and reverse it.  It’s not a change that happens quickly, but I hope that the more we speak up with each other we will encourage our friends to not only stop tearing themselves down, but to take pride in what they accomplish.  We may need to “fake it until we make it” but I hope that some day a positive body image will be the norm rather than the exception it is today.

So try this: next time you’re thinking negatively about yourself, your body, or what you can do I challenge you to stop and imagine yourself saying those things about your best friend. Would you ever think or say those same things? Would you ever tell your best friend that she was fat, weak, slow, or not good enough? And how would you react if you heard your best friend saying those things about herself?

I’m guessing you’d never consider saying those things to someone else. So why is it okay to tell ourselves these things? Only when we stop being our own worst critic can we become our own strongest supporter. Be as kind and loving to yourself as you can be to others and then watch the magic happen.

Behind the After

No, this isn’t going to be like those posts I’ve seen floating around recently exposing what a sham before-and-after photos are when they’re used to sell snake oil weight loss products.  I want to share some of my thoughts on living and being a successful real before-and-after.

I actually still struggle with thinking of myself as a successful “after”.  I don’t always own this new identity that I now have.  Part of the reason for this is that I am still constantly adapting, reflecting and continuing to implement changes in my daily life for continued growth and progress.  There’s also the fact that I lived 28 years as the “before” and I’ve only been living as the after for a couple of years.

So what’s it like to be the after?

It’s awesome.  I’ve achieved a major goal.  I’ve improved all areas of my life.  I’m happier than I ever thought possible.  I’m healthy, strong and fit.

It’s hard work.  There’s no definite end point on this journey.  I’m continually striving to keep improving, keep making healthier choices, keep learning more about my body, and keep getting fitter and stronger.  I have years of practice on all the unhealthy habits I used to have and it’s hard work to keep building new healthy habits.  But that hard work is what got me here and will keep me where I want to be in life.

It can be confusing.  As I mentioned above, I still don’t fully own my new identity.  I still have instances of not recognizing myself in a mirror.  Buying clothing is always time-consuming because my first attempt at grabbing a size to try is almost never right.  My perception of my body is not the same as what I actually have.  I struggle to think of myself as “normal” or “healthy” and don’t self-identify with much of my new self yet.

It can be hurtful.  Thin people are exceptionally judgmental of overweight and obese people.  Hell, everyone is judgmental of overweight and obese people regardless of their own health/weight status.  Because you now look different, you start to be privy to different conversations and start to hear snippets of how people used to talk about YOU.  Those words and judgements have affected me deeply multiple times and made me unable to find my voice to stand up for myself and others.

It can be frustrating to have a body that bears the scars of years of obesity.  At times I’ve been more frustrated and unhappy with my physical appearance after weight loss than I was before.  When you realize that the loose stomach skin you still carry around is negatively impacting your weightlifting form, a lot of frustration can bubble up.  When you want to wear the cute bathing suits or dresses that you’re starting to feel comfortable in, it can reduce you to tears in the change room when you realize that extra skin doesn’t fit inside a particular piece of clothing.  You get regular reminders of how far you’ve come, but you also get regular reminders of the mistakes you made in the past.

You feel the weight of all the people who tell you that you inspire them.  I love knowing that my experiences can provide inspiration to others who may be in desperate need of that inspiration.  I love helping people see that their goals are completely within their reach and especially love helping them in any small way to reach them.  But when you know that people are looking to you as a role model or an inspiration, it can add pressure to live up to their expectations of you; to live authentically and set a good example while not wanting to let others down or negatively impact them.  Being that positive role model has been a difficult thing for me to reconcile within myself.

It can be disheartening to watch others struggle through the same things you’ve struggled through.  When you’ve found a path through those struggles, you want so badly for everyone to be able to just see the clear path through that you know is there.  Watching people now starving themselves on Lean Cuisines and 1200 calories per day in an attempt to lose weight is so difficult.  You know that these people are doing what they’ve been told is right, but you also know that that advice is shit and that they’d be so much happier and healthier if they ignored the mainstream.  But like so many things in life, this is one of those areas where most people need to find that path for themselves.

On reading back it may look like I’ve really taken a negative slant with this post.  I’m only spending more time on the challenges of the “after” simply because I think the interwebs abound with people proclaiming all the great things about having achieved a significant health/weight change.

It’s a no-brainer that I’d never even consider trading where I am now with where I used to be.  But I want to share all these things I did in the hopes of building understanding of all the complexities of the health journey.  It’s never EVER as simple as just lose the weight and everything is great.  I guess I just feel a little misunderstood.

I feel like sharing these things may help others who only ever see/hear the sunshine and rainbows to feel better about the fact that they still get down in the dumps or frustrated, despite being a successful “after”.  I feel like sharing these things may help others who have never undergone a journey such as this to see a little bit more behind that smiling after photo.

Edit to add…

A few hours after publishing this I saw a link to this post come across my newsfeed.  She nailed it in so many ways.  Though not completely parallel to the thoughts I expressed here, the general theme of not being able to fully appreciate someone’s story from the outside looking in rang true and familiar to me.  Perusing the links on that post lead me to another post on “owning your journey” that struck me most of all with the final line

“And next time you may be the one being judged, remember they don’t know your journey.”

I needed to read that for many reasons, but most of all to affirm my challenge to myself to continue opening up and saying what I want to say.  This post is an effort to share some of that journey, and anyone who happens to read these words will hopefully have a little more understanding of how and why I am who I am today.

Fitbit and motivation to move

I recently got a Fitbit and have been wearing it everyday for about a week.  Here’s a glimpse at what yesterday looked like.

fitbit

Since I’ve got this little thing in my pocket counting every step I make, I’ve found myself wanting to “win” by taking more and more steps.  Moving more during the day…good thing!

The other thing that the Fitbit has been helping is keeping me on track with eating more.  The calorie burn estimates based on my movement throughout the day seem a bit more finely tuned than just punching my stats into an online calculator.  Eating food appropriate to my activity level…definitely a good thing.

This whole week I’ve been feeling great.  Clearly moving more and continuing to eat well agrees with me.  Not shocking.

when you have something to say but are too afraid to say it

That’s where I am.  I have this compelling feeling that I have something worthwhile to say, but I’m facing down a big fear of opening up a part of myself and showing vulnerability.

I think we can all quickly point to many times in our lives when we were vulnerable or took risks and somehow got burned.  The pain of those memories can be powerful…remembering one instance where a risk didn’t pay off can keep holding us back for years if we let it.  I do this all the time.

But surely there are times in my past when I took a risk and was greatly rewarded?  Absolutely.  I forced myself to think of three examples and it didn’t take long to come up with these when I made the effort:

  1. I discovered a new local gym last summer and took a chance to check it out during a grand opening open house.  It required me to step outside of my comfort zone not only in meeting new people, but also in going to a place where I didn’t yet feel I belonged.  Fit people and athletes go to gyms, not me, I remember thinking at the time.  Turns out, it was an amazing decision to take the leap.  We’ve been going to classes at that gym ever since and it’s provided the opportunity to connect with some excellent like-minded people and to continually challenge and improve myself physically.
  2. Some time last year I saw a Groupon deal for a tour package to China.  China was never a place I thought I’d visit, but something about the good deal and the late winter stir-craziness I was experiencing at the time pushed me to book the trip.  It’s not that I had never traveled overseas before, but traveling to Asia was a huge leap outside my comfort zone.  Despite minor pre-trip freak outs about facing the unknown and foreign experience, I had one of the best trips of my life.  Experiencing a place and a culture which is so different from my own was enlightening.  I was able to see and do some incredible stuff on that trip and I’ll never forget the entire experience.
  3. I almost didn’t include this one because my first thought when I recalled this experience was remembering the slight negative consequence.  Last summer we went white water rafting in the mountains.  The rafting experience itself wasn’t that unnerving to me.  I have always loved water and felt very comfortable with water and boats (thanks to mom and dad who first took me out on the water when I was 6 months old and continued through my childhood).  However, the day of rafting included an opportunity to jump off a cliff (maybe 15-20 feet).  Falling is my single biggest fear.  But close behind is the fear of missing out, so I drew on all the courage I had and made the jump.  It was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time and I felt a rush of excitement immediately afterward.  That quickly disappeared when I realized I had gotten a significant quantity of water in my ears and could hardly hear.  A few hours later, it had improved slightly, however my ears were still plugged with water and it turned into a painful experience requiring rushed trips to the pharmacy for pain killers and ear de-watering treatments.  The experience of water-logged ears for days almost obscured the victory of facing down my biggest fear and taking a great leap.  Now I can look back and enjoy the pride I feel in having done that.

These are all from the past year or so and their fresh memory is why they were the first to come to mind.  But I’ve also been making an effort to push myself outside my comfort zone more and more, hence this blog renewal.  I’ve been making this push because I’ve experienced that great things happen when you leave your comfort zone.  This is where the big changes in life occur and it’s where the most magical experiences take place.

Opening up and sharing what I have to say is a natural progression in my efforts to step outside of the comfort zone.  I need to remember the examples of great rewards I’ve reaped from taking risks in the past and let these rewards guide and push me towards making more steps towards continuous growth, change, and excitement.

The things I want to say and share are just parts of me.  Anyone who would read these words and react or judge me negatively based on them is probably not someone who I want or need to have approval from anyways.  Who knows….maybe someone else will end up reading these words and finding something worthwhile in them.  Sharing not only helps me, but has the potential to help others too.

So, what will I do when I have something to say but am too afraid to say it?  I’ll remember the great rewards that come from being brave and facing fear.  I’ll remember that sharing my thoughts and experiences benefits me by allowing me to reflect and learn from myself and my experiences.  And I’ll remember that those who should matter to me would never react negatively to me sharing a part of myself.

seuss