June 16, 2011.
That's the day I started logging my food on MFP. In hindsight, this was a momentous day though I didn't realize it at the time. I didn't expect this little game to go anywhere. I expected to lose interest but not actually lose much, if any, weight. None of my half-hearted efforts had worked before, why should this one?
But this time was different, because MFP was different. Instead of vague ideas about "eating better," I had a way to quantify it. Instead of following a weird program that told me what to eat and when, I just had a calorie goal to stick to and I could fill it with anything. I had a ticker that would display my weight loss to date so I could see the results of my effort.
But first, I had to weigh myself to see where I started. 308.5. That was enough to make me want to quit before I even got started. I didn't even know what my goal weight should have been, but I knew I had more than a hundred pounds to lose. I couldn't face that; I was embarassed to even have that amount of weight listed on my profile. So I told MFP I wanted to weigh 275. I thought I could probably do that.
So I got to business. It wasn't long before I hit 275, and I kept on going.
On June 16, 2012 - one year later - I weighed 188.5. I lost exactly 120 pounds in one year.
On September 23, 2012, 18 months after starting, I hit my goal weight of 175. [My success story post from the forums is here]
Today, exactly three years from day one, I weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 173-178, the range I refer to as my maintenance weight. Sometimes I'm a little above, sometimes (rarely! ha) a little below, but this is where I hang out most of the time; a happy, healthy weight.
On this three-year anniversary, I want to share a couple things I've learned that helped me. [my 1000 day post is here.]
1. If you have a lot of weight to lose, don't set out to lose a lot of weight.
Instead, aim to lose 20 pounds. Even if that's all you lose, you will still be 20 pounds lighter and that will make a big difference. I didn't set out to lose 130 pounds, I set out to weigh 275. Then I changed my goal to 250. Then it was 225. Then it was 208.5. Then 199, then 185 - well, you get the picture. Set a series of small, obtainable goals; it's not so hardto eat an elephant if you go one bite at a time.
I know people say you don't need exercise to lose weight, and they're right. So don't exercise to lose weight. Instead, exercise to change your relationship with your body and with food. If the only reason you are exercising is to eat more, I think you're doing it wrong. I exercise because I enjoy it, first and foremost. I've learned to love it and I simply feel better when I do it. Running is a mediation; weight lifting is a challenge. Exercise has shown me that I'm an athlete, that I can be graceful, that I am strong and capable. It gives me a place to vent stress. It gives me time in my head in peace. It means that no matter what else is going on in my life, this hour is for me - purely for me. Find what you love and do it, whether it's walking or lifting or swimming. Move your body, and I guarantee that your relationship with it - and the food you eat to fuel it - will change. [See also - Why I Run.]
3. Love Yourself Now.
When I hit goal weight, I'll be happier. I'll love my body. Life will be perfect.
Sorry, that's not gonna happen. Nothing magic happen when you reach an arbitrary goal on the scale.
You have to get right with yourself now. If you don't love yourself - including your body, even if it's fat, even if you aren't happy in it now - it isn't going to *snap!* be better you reach your goal.
I've tried to lose weight out of disgust and it didn't work. It didn't last. It didn't click. This time, my decision to lose weight was not motivated out of self-hatred, it was because I was uncomfortable in my own skin and felt that my body was holding me back from the adventures I wanted to have. I felt like I deserved more.
So work - now - to make peace with who you are. If you're not happy with things, change them, but motivate it from love for yourself and a desire to live a happier life, not to obliterate who you are. You're beautiful now. It's okay to strive for more; that is downright required to make change in my opinion. But know that you're good enough already. [Related post - Donating Clothes, Sorting Emotions.]
4. Don't Get Lost in the Details.
Those MFP forums can sure get....intense, huh? Low carb, high protein, weigh everything you eat, eschew artificial sweeteners, only lift weights, do this, don't do that.
I'll let you in on a secret: most of that doesn't matter all that much.
The most important thing you can do is start. Then don't stop. Starting for you might mean simply logging your food regardless of a calorie goal, or sticking to a calorie goal, or trying to get in 10,000 steps a day. Making a series of small changes, and then sticking with them, makes all the difference.
Here's a little story. Way back in the summer of 2011, I had a couple MFP friends who were having amazing success, but they'd do things like eat 1200 and burn 1500 from a ton of exercise. Or they'd insist that a fruit salad was what they wanted for dessert instead of a slice of cake on their birthday. They'd stick to super rigid calorie restrictions, and eat the same thing every day.
That didn't sound fun, but despite that, I was aching with jealousy. They were losing more than I was. I thought about changing how I was doing things, exercising more, eating less. But then I remembered Dr. Yoni Freedhoff's advice - "live the healthiest life you can ENJOY." I stuck with my plan - tracking calories, exercising, and not much else in the way of details.
Well, three years later, guess how many of those MFPers I'm referring to hit their goal weight at all, let alone are still maintaining it like I am? Spoiler alert: None.
My point is - perseverance is what will make you successful. You can play with macroratios and meal timing and fasted cardio. That might affect how quickly you lose, or how easy it is to stick to your plan.
But the most important thing is simply to start.
5. Don't Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good.
There is a lot of chatter on the forums about how you need a food scale and MUST weigh everything that goes in your mouth, and to never use generic database entries, and that you absolutely have to have a heart rate monitor to record exercise and if you're not doing things perfectly, you might as well not be doing them.
Wrong. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.
I do use a food scale most of the time. I log really accurately whenever I can. But sometimes I eyeball portions. I do not bring a food scale to restaurants or friend's house. I simply log the best I can.
And that's okay. If you're at a place where you're not losing as much as you'd like, that's the time to buckle down and work on more accurate logging. But you don't have to log 100% precisely to lose weight.
Similarly, you don't have to stick to your calorie goal EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Fit, thin, healthy people indulge on a holiday...then they go back to normal eating. Fit, thin, healthy people do not feel guilty for having a slice of homemade cake on their birthday, or going to a special restaurant to celebrate a special occasion.
I bring this up because it was such a sticking point for me and kept me from starting. I don't want to be perfect! I want to go on vacation and eat what I want! I want to eat at amazing restaurants sometimes! I don't want to log every morsel I eat forever and ever!
I let the idea that I must be perfect stop me from simply being....better.
Another trap we fall into is striving so hard for perfection that we let little slip-ups derail us. If you make a choice you wish you hadn't for breakfast, go off the plan for lunch, do you have a tendency to just throw in the towel and think "I'll do better tomorrow/Monday/next week?" I know I do. But if I remind myself that a few less than stellar choices cannot undo an entire week of great ones, it's much easier to stick with my plan going forward. I don't let a bad day turn into a bad week. [Related post - Eat badly yesteday? Miss a Workout? Get over it.]
You don't have to be perfect, okay? If you stick to your amazing plan 50 weeks a year, two weeks of eating a little too much is not going to make a difference. I'm living proof of this as I maintain. I feel like I've uncovered a big secret: Be awesome most of the time, and it's okay to have fun the rest of the time :)
6. Make MFP friends.
The social aspects of MFP have been a lifesaver. Some of my friends have been with me since month 1. I am consistently uplifted by their support and love. We share recipes, tips, cheer each other on. I feel like I have another family. Without this support net, things would have been harder...and less fun. Use the resources here, including the amazing community - people who will watch your back and make you laugh. Thanks, friends - I love you all.
That's it for now. My life has improved by leaps and bounds since I signed up for MFP three years ago. I'm more driven, confident, and adventurous. Sure, I wear a smaller size, but the scale does not reflect the most important changes in me.
Thanks for reading :)
I suppose I should add a picture since that is usually what people want to see!
(old after picture from last year, but the beauty of maintaining is that I still look the same. Just with longer hair).
Posted on 6/16/2014 by ShannonMpls
I've had two huge bags of clothes in the basement waiting to be sorted and donated, and I finally got on that task over the weekend.
I went through shirts and sweaters I wore all the time that looked, to me, like tents. I picked up a pair of jeans and felt ill over how large they were. And they were just 18s, not even my highest size. In fact, I remember buying those 18s and how downright giddy I was to be in a size that didn't start with 2.
I got to skirts and pants in my largest size - 22s and 24s. I literally felt sick to my stomach and started tearing up. My body fit in these clothes? How is that possible? How could I have let myself get to that size? How did my husband love me? How did friends want to be around me, a person who was so large that this skirt fit? How did I convince myself that I "carried my weight well" since I was tall? What lies was I willing to believe to stay in denial? How could I face myself in the mirror each morning, pulling these clothes out of the closet?
I was not expecting this visceral - painful, unwelcome - reaction.
It wasn't until the next day that I finally sorted out what was going on. I felt happy about donating the clothes because I know these sizes are hard to come by secondhand. I thought about the women who will find these clothes while sorting through the few plus-size racks at the thrift store.
Are they loved?
Are they worthy?
Do they have friends?
Are they beautiful?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Of course!
Putting these judgments on the body I once wore is no different than putting them on others - and I am not that person.
This blog entry is an exercise is reaffirming my love for myself - fat or thin - and my core belief that we all have intrinsic worth that goes beyond our bodies. That, for whatever reason we may gain weight, our shell does not define who we are. That though I look at these clothes with disdain, I will never speak poorly of the woman I was when I wore them. It's still me. It's always been me.
This skirt. The look on my face says it all. sidenote: shjkdakjshd my arms are coming AROUND ya'll and also someday I'll remember to clear finger smudges off my mirror before taking selfies.
These capris - I wore them often. (I'm smiling because you're supposed to smile in this kind of picture, right?):
And how about these jeans?
But here is me wearing that skirt:
And here I am wearing the capris:
And that's me in the jeans:
I can look those at these photos and be disgusted with what I see, or I can see what's really there: a happy, adorable woman spending time with her baby boy and having fun with friends. A woman who was (is) loved and smart and accomplished and valuable. A woman whose size does not define her worth.
I sometimes say that I'm a better version of me than I was before I joined MFP and I stand by that. I am more driven. I have more goals. I can have more fun with my family. My life was good before but it's better now. I simply enjoy it more now, because little - mental or physical - holds me back anymore.
This better me, however, is not because I can squeeze my butt into size 6 jeans now. It's because I've come to understand the woman in those photos above, and what happened to lead me to that size. I've worked on healing the hurt parts so that the armor of fat is no longer needed.
I didn't start losing weight because I hated who I was but because I was ready to see who I could be, and that motivation came from love. I am a better version of me not because I can step on a scale and see a healthy BMI, but because I am not afraid anymore. I used to self-limit, but now I set goals and meet challenges.
I feel whole for maybe the first time in my life.
It's complicated to sort through conflicting and ambivalent thoughts on feminism, weight loss, health-at-any-size, fat-acceptance and fat-shaming. But I can make that less complicated by stopping, right now, any shame directed at the body I had three years ago. And I can also acknowledge that I prefer my life now without framing that as a rejection of who I was.
Because, after all, it's still me. Just a different version.
So, this weekend I'll drag my bags over to the thrift store and hope the clothes end up in the hands of someone who needs them.
I'm going to keep that skirt, though; it's always good to remember where we've been, because it reminds us of where we're going.
Posted on 5/06/2014 by ShannonMpls
Just something on my mind today:
On more than one occasion, I've thought to myself - or told someone - "If I can do it, anyone can."
But that's not true. In fact, its downright arrogant. My success at losing 130 pounds, and almost two years of maintenance, is the result of a lot of things including hard work and dedication. However, perhaps the most important thing in that equation? Privilege. I was simply at a place in my life where everything came together.
Let me make a list of things that helped me achieve my goals that I have because of privilege, or just plain luck:
- A healthy body with no physical limitations or illness, no metabolic concerns.
- Money to join a gym and buy some sessions with a trainer.
- Enough in the food budget to: make healthy, filling meals; snack on almonds, Greek yogurt, and other more expensive food; eat 130g of protein a day; eschew processed, but cheap options; buy pastured meat and organic produce.
- A job flexible enough to work out over lunch instead of having to go early in the morning or late at night.
- A supportive, loving, and all-around awesome spouse, who loved me when I weighed 300 pounds and loves me now, and never belittled my efforts or complained about me weighing and logging and carefully planning our meals, who watches our son and rarely complain about my workouts (the 13 mile training runs were rough on us both...), who loves to be active with me.
- An expensive jogging stroller so when I bring my son with, I can still hit my training goals.
- A safe neighborhood to run and walk in, living in a city that values parks and trails.
- Mental stability and self-esteem; that's not to say that I don't have issues, but I've had the resources to cope with and heal from those problems so that I can move beyond them.
- A lifestyle with easy access to smartphones and the internet, funds to use to buy tools that motivate and assist.
- The ability to register for races and buy running shoes and $15/pair socks.
Of course, none of these things matter without the decision to get healthy; I had this all before I got my act together too. And, of course, many people have been successful at getting heathy without these things.
But I'm done with "If I can do it, so can you." I acknowledge that I had a headstart, and some people have a much harder hill to climb.
To the single parent working two jobs; those from developing countries; the wives with unsupportive husbands; the mobility impaired; the women with PCOS; MFPers living in poverty; older people struggling with a changed metabolism ....but still waking up everyday and using what you have to change your health - you are my heroes.
That's all :)
Posted on 4/29/2014 by ShannonMpls
It's June of 2011, I weigh more than 300 pounds, and I've joined the gym. What's more, I've actually started going. I'm grateful that the cardio machines where I initially make my home face windows, not mirrors. In fact, I don't go near the mirrors on purpose. This is how I look - I'm painfully aware that this is how I look. I don't need the gym mirror to remind me of it.
My first week at the gym, I literally worked out in pajama pants and old ratty tshirts. When I knew it would stick, I invested in baggy workout shirts and pants. And I never, ever looked at myself in the mirror if I could help it.
Then I started venturing to the free weight area, surrounded in mirrors. I couldn't actually figure out WHY there were so many mirrors. I often wished they would remove them all. I might have even filled out a comment card requesting it. It seemed like needless torture.
I lifted with my back to the mirrors whenever possible. I could not stand the sight of myself, looking like a poser, like an imposter, in my ill-fitting clothes (on my ill-fitting body...) lifting weights next to those who belonged. The way my stomach hung, my flabby arms doing a lateral raise. I hated those mirrors.
Those mirrors kept me from taking a group exercise class for months. When I finally did, I hid in the corner opposite the mirrors. I felt stupid doing zumba, I can't imagine how stupid I looked.
But regardless of those mirrors, I kept going. I kept lifting, and I started taking more group exercise classes. Slowly, without even realizing it, I stopped avoiding my reflection. I was far from perfect and I still felt out of place, but the self-consciousness was evaporating.
One day in a tabata group exercise class, I watched myself instead of averting my eyes or carefully positioning myself away from the mirrors.
I realized: I'd become an athlete. And I looked like one.
To understand the impact of this, you need to understand where I came from. I've never been thought of as an athlete. I've never been *good* at anything physical, unless bocce ball counts and I don't think it does (I have an uncanny bocce ability. Let's play sometime). I've never excelled at basketball, despite my height, or running. I couldn't keep up with my husband while biking or hiking. I've always felt awkward and silly exercising. It was easier - mentally, physically - to simply opt out.
Now I've changed this. I haven't set any running records, but I have run a half marathon, something no one in my family has come close to. I'm not a powerlifter, but I can pull and press more weight than most people I know, male or female. I'm not the most athletic person in a class, but I'm not in the middle of the pack either.
And what's the most brilliant about this? I'm so much better at all that than I was in June of 2011. I'm better at it than I was a month ago. Every training session is a chance to improve just a bit.
It's December of 2013. I'm down 130+ pounds. I've been maintaining it for 15 months. I've found strength and dedication and power I didn't know I could develop. The gym mirror isn't my enemy anymore. I don't dislike what I see, flaws and all.
So excuse me if you catch me looking at myself in those mirrors. I just sometimes literally cannot believe this is me - my body, my mind, my results. So much about weight loss has been wonderful, but shedding self-consciousness, self-hate, shame...it's downright liberating. I like how I Iook, and even better, I like who I have become. Weight loss was really just a side effect of a drastic life change that enabled me to be happier and healthier.
I'm pretty excited for 2014.
Posted on 12/18/2013 by ShannonMpls
What's better than losing 134 pounds?
On September 23, I hit a milestone more important than the day I lost 100 pounds, or the day I met my "goal" weight, or the second anniversary of the day I joined MFP.
In fact, to me, having maintained my weight for one full year is more important than any other day in this whole "new life" thing, with the exception of the day I started.
Spend a few minutes on the MFP boards and you'll learn that maintenance is hard, harder than losing.
Here's my secret, though: it's actually been kinda easy for me (so far, at least). And that's probably because I maintain doing pretty much what I while losing, only with a little more wiggle room.
The fact is that most people who lose weight, especially as much as I have, start to gain it all back (and then some) during this first year. Truthfully, I'd wager that most dieters enjoy their goal weight for a couple months, then they fall into old habits and the gradual weight creep begins.
How have I not fallen into that trap? I guess because I never went on a diet, so I never went off a diet. Instead, I made a series of changes, big and small, and stuck with them for 15 months while I lost weight. And I continue to stick with them now.
My weight has certainly fluctuated during the last year. But that's normal. There is no magic number we hit and then stick to, and trying would be futile and frustrating. Our bodies are pretty amazing, really - they hold onto water when they need to. We may pop up 5 pounds after an indulgent meal, but it won't stick around if you return to good habits. I set a five pound range around my goal weight. I've been below it once, above it once, but the rest of the time I've settled in this healthy range.
I still pre-log my days most of the time and eat at a slight deficit on work days. Lately, Saturdays are "fuel" day for my long runs on Sunday and I don't bother logging them; I definitely eat well above maintenance. Sundays I log but eat to my hunger, which might mean above, below, or at maintanenace. A slight deficit overall means that holidays, vacations, and two week jury trials fueled by Jimmy John's and Starbucks don't result in lasting weight gain. Calorie-counting is easy for me now and it works. Though I do not log religiously, I do log regularly and I believe that for me, it's important to maintenance.
I exercise, not to earn "exercise calories" but to earn health, satisfaction, and pride. I exercise because I love it. You won't find me reading a magazine on an elliptical for an hour; you'll find me training. I train because I get a lot of joy out of lifting more or running farther than I could last month. I don't exercise because I have to. I exercise because I get to.
This is a weird place to be in, honestly. I still feel like a fat person sometimes. I will take a size large into the dressing room with me thinking it looks like it will fit only to try it on and look like a girl in her dad's jacket. I'll forget that I simply take up less space than I used to. I sometimes feel out of place, like an outsider, in a new gym class, so it's unsettling when I get mistaken for the instructor. Strangers are nicer to me, and I feel this odd ambivalence about my own choice to leave the painful world of obesity to others who are still there. When I get too tired or stressed, I'll revert to those old, nasty habits that supported 300 pounds on me but are incompatible with this new version; I'll eat too much and sleep too little and start slip-sliding down a path I turned away from in June of 2011.
But those moments are short-lived, and my physical and mental reactions to those times leave no doubt in my mind: I am, simply, happier where I am than where I used to be. I choose to pack my lunch while others eat out because I feel better when I do. I exercise instead of watching TV because I enjoy it. When my work or family obligations require me to make different choices, I don't de-rail or let rigidity get in the way of life - I roll with it, and get everything back in order once I can.
I am not posting this to be smug, or to brag. I'm writing this because I'm just really astounded with who I have become. I know I'm going to have setbacks, but I also know that as long as I stick with the fundamentals of what got me to this place, I will stay here. This is my commitment.
Hitting my goal weight felt amazing.
Maintaining my weight loss, though, is something different altogether. There aren't the same big successes, the constant compliments, the new sizes. But settling into new habits that feel effortless? It's even better.
Here's to one year of this new normal, the first of many.
(This is the best "before" shot I could find; I wasn't so camera-happy back then, ha.)
Posted on 10/08/2013 by ShannonMpls
Let me tell you about the time in my life when I felt most beautiful, aside from my wedding day.
I was pampered like a star, starting in New York where a stylist came to my hotel room with oodles of clothes for me to try on and choose from (with my best buddy @lobsterrific, who brought the cocktails). Then I flew to LA and checked into the Beverly Hills Hotel in an enormous suite, all to myself, and I stayed up until 2am reading in the equally enormous bathtub. The next morning I ordered room service and two more stylists came up to do my hair and makeup. I put on my dress and jewelry, grabbed my handbag (all provided by someone else!), and headed downstairs to meet my entourage, who directed me to the red carpet I'd walk with cameras snapping.
In that ballroom, I sat next to the truly wonderful Kerry Washington. At the next table over, Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise sat. Amy Adams and Mark Wahlberg were nearby. The entire room was full of celebrities. Hollywood women were being honored that day for their philanthropic work.
Oh yeah, and I was being honored too.
After hearing speeches from Jennifer Garner and John Malkovich, the lovely Ms. Washington took the stage and said words about me so kind I teared up. I stood to deliver my speech, cheering myself on as I walked on stage ("You can do this, Shannon. You are not a celebrity. This crowd is expecting you to be horrible. Just be mediocre and they'll be impressed.")
I delivered my speech, using a teleprompter, having to stop mid-way for applause <!!!!>. I was quite grateful I couldn't see the audience because of the lights, because who can speak clearly when looking at Eva Mendes? It turns out that I wasn't mediocre; Kerry said I was great, one of the best.
After the event, I chatted with my fellow honorees - that's weird to say - Katie Holmes, Jennifer Garner, and Amy Adams. Then I got the shock of my life when Anne Hathaway came up to ME to introduce herself - "Hi, I'm Annie!" Later, Eva Mendes (is there anyone more stunning?) introduced herself to me too.
The day was a whirlwind, and I felt amazing and absolutely gorgeous and glamorous.
And I was probably at the heaviest weight of my life.
Here are some photos from the event.
On the red carpet:
Delivering my speech:
With all the honorees:
With the lovely Annie Hathaway:
Someone asked me a few weeks ago if I wish I could re-do that event now that I've lost so much weight. I actually find the question a little offensive. I was not there because of my body, I was there to speak about the nonprofit I founded. It was my work that mattered, not my appearance.
At the time, I did not care that I weighed 300 pounds and was twice as big as the other women who were honored. I did not care that the clothing the stylist brought for me was size 20. I felt beautiful. I *was* beautiful.
This is me now.
In my happy place:
Figured my "movie star" photo is appropriate for this post:
My body is pretty sweet. I can wear almost anything I want, and I never have problems finding cute things that fit. I can do really tremendous things. I squatted 155 today, and bench pressed 145 last week. I am not far from doing a real pull-up. I have run a 10 mile race. I can hike and bike and walk all day long.
What troubles me, and why I'm posting this, is a disturbing pattern of thoughts I've had for the past couple days. Laying on the couch the other night I was looking at my thighs and admiring the muscle definition in them. Leg day is paying off! But when I stand up, it's gone - you can't see it. The skin on my legs is not taut and those gorgeous muscles are obscured.
Shaving my legs sitting on the ledge of the bathtub this morning, I saw my calf muscle, strong and big and popping out. But it was just how I was sitting - normally my calves just look...fat.
My shoulders and upper arms are toned and I absolutely love them. But near my elbow, there is this little lip of fat that I don't like, that hangs a bit because of some loose skin.
I will never see ab definition; after a baby and huge weight loss, it's just not in the cards.
I want to be able to post, "but I don't care! I love my body and what it can do. Everything is perfect!" And truthfully, I usually do feel that way. I can normally focus on the awesome and accept the flaws.
But lately, that hasn't been the case. I have never - ever - been this picky about my body. I do not understand it, and it is not welcome.
I was never motivated to start losing weight by hatred of my body. It came from all kinds of places (perhaps most strongly boredom, and I'm not joking) but I did not hate myself.
So why am I now, when I'm at the healthiest I've been, when I fit in the smallest size I've ever worn, feeling this way toward my body? Has all this hyper-focus on fitness (something I love and brings me a lot of joy and discipline and accomplishment) changed my body image and my relationship with myself?
Why am I letting a desire to be strong and lean become license to criticize?
I hope this is passing, due to mood or heat or jealously at seeing girls wearing short shorts that I wish I could wear <well, I mean, I could wear them, I just wouldn't like how I looked>. It's not welcome. My goal is to be whole and healthy.
Perfection is not the end of this journey; it's strength and acceptance I'm seeking.
I'm not trying to lose weight anymore, but I'm not done yet either.
Posted on 7/18/2013 by ShannonMpls
Today was one of those days. I didn't get enough sleep during the weekend and woke up still tired and with a headache. When 11:30 rolled around, I thought about skipping my regular lunch-hour workout, getting back to it tomorrow instead. I thought about getting a slice of pizza for lunch and extending the weekend by another day. What harm could it do, really?
But I have to work out. So instead I grabbed my bag and headed to the gym.
I walk to the gym through the skyways (I love Minneapolis) and while I'm walking I see people getting lunch from these great little restaurants and stands. I see friends leisurely walking and chatting. I see a coworker grabbing Mexican food and I say hi - and I'm hungry and want to join her. I see people eating ice cream, reading their kindles or playing on their iPads. Oh, how I'd rather do that...
But I have to work out.
I get to the gym, change, and head up to the weight room. I'm supersetting today, my least favorite way to lift, but it's my program this week, so I have to do it. I take care of chest and think about leaving. Next up is shoulders and if there's anything I hate more than supersetting, it's supersetting shoulders. I could just call it good and leave.
But I have to work out.
I forge ahead and finish my program. I feel a little better, and I'm glad I did it, but my day isn't transformed (like it sometimes is after exercising) and I mostly went through the motions.
I had to work out, so I did.
I get cleaned up and changed, then look at myself in the mirror on my way out of the locker room. And then it hits me.
I did not have to work out. I chose to work out.
I chose to leave my desk and walk to the gym, passing by the people who either do not work out or give up their mornings and nights to do it. I chose to lift weights and work through my program even though my heart wasn't in it today.
One skipped workout has a tendency to become two, then more, then eventually you're vowing to "get back on track Monday" but there is always an excuse to push it back further. It took me 15 months to lose weight and get to my goal. I was not perfect during those months and I certainly had bad days, but I never let them become bad weeks - ever. I did not let a little slip become a full-on downhill slide.
You don't lose 135 pounds and change your life by giving into the "I don't feel like it today" whim. Instead you learn what dedication means: choosing to do something you don't want to do today so that you are proud of yourself tomorrow.
I worked out because:
- I love and respect the person in both photos below, but I prefer how I feel as the "after" photo
- I like how my shoulders look in tank tops now - makes those overhead presses worth it.
- Last weekend I fit into a size six skirt, the smallest size I've ever worn; I bought it, of course, and I intend to wear it if winter ever ends
- I will run a half marathon in the fall, and consider a full marathon for 2014
- I like being stronger than some of the men lifting in my gym
- I have energy to keep up and I don't want to lose that
- I like being in photos with my son instead of hiding from a camera
- I can hike now, with a 30 pound kid on my back, and we have more state parks to explore this summer
- I get to feel a little superior and smug if I spend my lunch hour working out and that's fun ;)
- It's almost time to break out the skirts and shorts
- It's liberating to be able to shop in any store and like how the clothes fit
- I don't dread going to the doctor because it will mean standing on the scale
- I have confidence I never had before
- I simply feel better when I exercise and eat well
- I am the one people come to for nutrition and fitness advice, and I've literally never been that person before
- There is nothing better than the rush after a good run, when this black-hearted girl actually feels weepy with the pure joy of feeling utterly connected and grounded
- I am proud of myself, and choose to continue to be
- I've cleared out "too-big" clothes from my closet dozens of times, and I'm not about to move them back in
- I am lucky to be healthy and happy; it's a privilege to have the ability to work out
- I have maintained my weight loss for 6 months, and I have a lifetime to go
- I choose to be a success story
I didn't want to work out, but I did. It was worth it.
It is always worth it.
Thanks in advance for your votes and comments - they make me irrationally happy and I read every single one and reply if I can.
Posted on 4/09/2013 by ShannonMpls
On Saturday, I woke up feeling under the weather but knowing a blizzard was potentially on its way I decided to run my planned run anyway, just a slightly shorter version of it.
I headed out with my dog on a 5-miler, and when I finished, I found myself in tears.
I'm not an emotional person, but there was something about the joy of this run that put me in a place of utter contentment and gratitude.
Two years ago, I weighed more than 300 pounds. I doubt I could have run a block.
About a year ago, after losing 75 pounds, I decided I wanted to be a runner and registered for a 7k. It wasn't just that I wanted to be a runner, but I figured that running is what fit people do. I also thought that any fit person should be able to run a 5k, and since I wanted to be a fit person, I decided to start to run.
It was awful. Seriously. Couch to 5k was misery. I felt out of breath. It's hard to adequately describe how much I hated it and how frustrated I'd get at my mental and physical limitations. I couldn't imagine ever running longer than 5 minutes at a time.
Then, I ran a full mile and the sense of accomplishment was pretty intense. The next time I ran twenty straight minutes. I couldn't believe it.
Still, I didn't like running. I ran the 7k, every step of it, but the whole time I was wondering why people do this. It wasn't enjoyable, even if the medal at the end made it worth it. I stopped running for awhile, then slowly got back into it with no goal in mind.
One day I decided to do a longer run and set out to run 5 miles, my longest ever distance. I did it! And that was the beginning.
I was slow, mind you, 12-minute miles. But I started feeling it. You know what I mean. That euphoria, joy, contentment that runners say they feel and you respond by thinking "you are an insane fool; no one enjoys running."
But I did, honestly. After the first mile or two, I become a yogi, a monk, a runner. I cannot think about the mundane, the needless worry of the day that seems to sneak in with no warning. I am focused. How is my stride? Am I striking on the forefront of my foot? My shoulder is tight, how can I improve that? How is my breathing? I can't worry about work or finances or car problems or the shopping list. All I can do is focus on finishing my run.
And then there are the glorious days, the ones where running is almost an otherworldly experience, where my body is moving independent of my mind, where I am merely along for the ride. I listen to my music, or the music of my feet hitting the trail, and all I feel is pure bliss.
Well, bliss and gratitude.
To be able to run is a gift. I am so grateful that I earned it.
Nothing has made me more at one with my body, more accepting of its intricacies. Nothing has made me prouder of losing 135 pounds than the feeling of smooth strides on pavement - of knowing that I could run a half marathon tomorrow, that a 4 mile run is a quick short workout for fun.
I'm a little faster now, running sub-10 minute miles regularly. But the pace doesn't matter. The second I realized that running isn't about calorie burn or mileage accrued, but contentment and meditation and accomplishment, I was a runner.
Sometimes I feel like this whole process, of losing weight and learning to eat properly and accepting my body, was just to learn the beauty of a run.
I'm cool with that.
Easy, light, smooth, fast, my friends, in that order.
So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say
Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be
And I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck
And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again
- The Cave, Mumford & Sons
Right before my first race:
Second race, a 5k - my son ran a kid's 1/4 miler as well:
My longest race, a 10 mile - a reminder that you can do awesome things with a goal in mind and consistent training. And coincidentally, the morning of this race I was greeted here with "ShannonMpls has logged on for 500 consecutive days!"
The cold New Year's Day 10k
(on an aside, this is the race I am proudest of. It was a little below 0, I hadn't trained properly, and all I wanted to do was stay in bed. But I got out there and was rewarded with an incredible moment a couple miles from the finish line. I just caught my first glimpse of downtown Minneapolis over the river on this out-and-back course, a view I always love, when Atmosphere's secret song dedicated to Minnesota came on my shuffle. It was one of those moments of serendipity that reminded me that I was right where I belonged)
Posted on 2/11/2013 by ShannonMpls
This is from a gchat conversation with a friend on July 2, 2011. I weighed 130 pounds more than I do today. I hadn't been to a gym in years. I hadn't done a plank in my life. The week before, I'd had my first session with my trainer, and he introduced me to the exercise that threatened to break me.
me: They seriously make me want to cry. I can't do them so it feels fruitless. I'm supposed to do three sets of 25 seconds I can barely make it to 10 I also hate side lunges, but that comes from laziness not inability. so that's the difference in my mind. I HATE doing them, they kick my a--, but i CAN do them planks...i just can't. not YET.
I remember this so clearly, being literally in tears because I couldn't hold that plank for 25 seconds, not even close. I'd hold it for 10, drop down, get back up for another 5, lather rinse repeat. It was horrible and I felt inadequate.
Well, today I held a front plank for four minutes. And the only reason I dropped it was because I was getting really bored.
See, the key to that whiny gchat quote above was the last line.
We can make this so complicated. Macro ratios, TDEE, how heavy should I lift, HIIT vs steady-state, calorie cycling, etc. In the end, though, I am absolutely convinced that the only vital component to reaching your fitness and weight loss goals is perseverance. Those who are successful simply never gave up. They didn't let a bad day become a bad week then a bad month. They didn't skip their workouts regularly. They had rough days but vowed to make the next one better. Bumpy roads are nothing but a new course to conquer.
My first personal training session was hard. Repeating the program he gave me was harder. I hurt. I was weak. I was frustrated.
But I didn't give up. Somehow, through all that disappointment, I fought the desire to admit defeat. So I couldn't do the planks. But in the back of my mind, I knew I was only just beginning. Somehow, I had a vision of who and what I wanted to be in the future.
I didn't know then that I'd reach my goal of losing 134.5 pounds on September 23, 2012. I didn't know how fit I'd be and how much I'd love my body. I didn't know that my entire outlook on life and health would change, that I'd have a confidence and joy in my step.
I just had a hope that the hard work would be worth something, and I didn't give up. I couldn't hold that plank no matter how hard I tried, but in all that frustration, I was optimistic enough to remind myself: not YET.
When goals seem too far away, when you're disappointed with the fact that you're not there, when you can't yet run that first mile or press the olympic bar or hold a plank for 25 seconds, you're not a failure.
You're just not quite there - not YET.
Keep striving forward. Goals are supposed to be hard to achieve, don't you think? If they're easy, there's not much sense of accomplishment when you reach them. The pride you feel in yourself when you do will be worth it. I promise.
Posted on 10/05/2012 by ShannonMpls
Sometimes I miss how things used to be. Those moments are rare and fleeting, but they're there. I miss never saying no to dessert or beer or a dinner out. I miss ice cream before bed and cake at a coworker's birthday. I miss lazy lunches at work instead of hustling to the gym every day. I get overwhelmed with the knowledge that to maintain the results earned through my hard work, I'm going to need to be thoughtful about food and exercise for the rest of my life.
Something always snaps me out of that line of thinking, and I remember that the rewards are absolutely worth it.
Today I read this article about one mom's struggle with not wanting to be in pictures with her kids:
"When I look at pictures of my own mother, I don't look at cellulite or hair debacles. I just see her -- her kind eyes, her open-mouthed, joyful smile, her familiar clothes. That's the mother I remember. My mother's body is the vessel that carries all the memories of my childhood. I always loved that her stomach was soft, her skin freckled, her fingers long. I didn't care that she didn't look like a model. She was my mama.
So when all is said and done, if I can't do it for myself, I want to do it for my kids. I want to be in the picture, to give them that visual memory of me. I want them to see how much I am here, how my body looks wrapped around them in a hug, how loved they are."
Well, that hit me like a ton of bricks. I have blogged about this before, but I don't look at the former version of me as anything less than beautiful, worthy, and wonderful. I can't.
But I need to be honest with myself.
I avoided social events. I avoided trying new things. I avoided activities that involved more than going out to eat and a movie. I didn't have energy to keep up, and I didn't have the confidence or the desire to.
Now I'm a parent, and for a year of my son's life, I avoided being in photos with him. I did the 'newborn baby' pics and then I shifted behind the camera. There are tons of photos of him as a toddler with his daddy, but few with me.
I let my life with my family go undocumented because I didn't like how I looked. And along with that, I let it go not quite unlived, but not lived to its full potential either.
I deleted photos of me and my precious child with more frequency than I want to even think about. It's hard for me to find "before" pics because I made sure they weren't taken.
I took myself out of the picture, literally and figuratively.
And now I'm incredibly grateful that I'm back in it. This isn't just because I like how I look now. What I've experienced goes far beyond a physical change. I'm confident and happy in a way I haven't been in a long time. I want to really live my life, every moment of it. I want to experience it and I want to document it.
My iPhone and computer are now filled with photos of my family - me included! - having adventures or just hanging out at home. When my son is older, he'll see his mommy in photos with him, where she's dirty while camping, sweaty from hiking, in pajamas at home. Not looking perfect, but looking happy and present and enjoying spending time with the people who matter most.
I hope he doesn't notice that the photos of me during the first year or so of his life are minimal. I cannot get that time back, and for those of you reading this who feel like you look too fat to be in pictures with your kids, please reconsider and remember that it's for them, not for you. They need to see you. Give them reminders that you were there, that you were present, that you aren't perfect and it doesn't matter.
Yesterday, if you'd asked me who I did this for I would have said "me." Now it's so much clearer. Though I thought taking time for myself in the gym was an exercise in self-care, and I suppose in many ways it was, it wasn't really about me at all.
It was for my son, my sweet, sassy, clever little boy. I refuse to waste another minute of my life with him, and when he's an adult, I want him to see what we did together. I hope those moments matter to him as much as they do to me.
And now I shall bombard you with photos :)
And I have to share this one - My husband was trying to take a progress pic for me to share and look who photobombed :)
Posted on 10/03/2012 by ShannonMpls
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