Old habits die hard

My introduction to the fitness world came from none other than The King himself, Richard Simmons. I used to grab one of my dad’s “B.U.M. Equipment” t-shirts, a pair of my sister’s gym shorts and prepare to be transported back in time dancing along to ‘Sweatin to the Oldies’ with my mom. The choreography to ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ is burned into my brain to this day. If you’ve never done a Richard Simmons workout video, do yourself a favor and get your hands on a tape (although you’ll probably have to find a VCR first). His energy is contagious, somewhat unsettling, but emphatic nonetheless. Little did I know that this early exposure to fitness was mild compared to how I would act in the future. Over the next twenty years, my yo-yo dieting would range from hilariously naïve to dangerously dumb.

In 6th grade, I read a magazine article that said apple cider vinegar would cause you to drop pounds like magic if you took a shot of it before each meal. A classmate and I had been scheming for weeks on how to lose weight before the 6th grade dance and finally I had our answer. We were convinced drinking the apple cider vinegar had to be done in secret because for some reason this common household drink was only for adults so each morning, I would “steal” some from my kitchen and hide it in my lunch box. When we were supposed to go to lunch we would sneak away to the bathroom, down a shot of the vinegar and hurry to the cafeteria like we just hid a body. This lasted about a week because it tasted disgusting and one time it spilled in my backpack and I smelled like vinegar all day. Eventually I bought a “thank god I’m cute” shirt which really flattered my prepubescent body and went to the dance.

In high school however, things took a dark turn when I watched a Lifetime movie about a bulimic woman struggling to accept her changing body throughout her pregnancy. It was like a playbook on how to develop an eating disorder. I remember feeling almost giddy that I had discovered a way I would be able to lose weight while eating whatever I wanted! All I had to do was make myself throw up afterwards, easy. Well, it wasn’t easy; it was gross. I always smelled like vomit and there was no privacy in my house so I could only do it at school, so I stopped. I know now that I didn’t actually have an eating disorder which is why it was so easy for me to stop. The worst part about this was that I decided to brag to some of my classmates about my new found methods and a few of these girls actually did develop bulimia. I ultimately gave them the idea that led to a much bigger battle they had to fight without me. I think about that a lot.

Most recently, I’ve had a harder time controlling myself from overeating as opposed to extreme weight loss. I moved to a new city 10 months ago to start a job. About 2 weeks after moving I discovered a year round farmer’s market conveniently located on my way home from work. When I harmlessly stopped one day to buy flowers, I discovered what would become my newest obsession and own personal form of kryptonite; homemade oatmeal cream pies. These cookies are brought in from an Amish bakery and taste SO GOOD. One is easily enough to feed 2-3 people, they are soft and crispy all at the same time, the filling is creamy and not too sweet, the ratio of oatmeal cookie to vanilla cream is perfect, I could go on and on. For about 6 months, I stopped and got one EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. They were $1.50 ($1.59 with tax) and if I didn’t have that in cash I found myself buying literally anything they were selling to hit the $10 minimum for a credit card. I couldn’t quit. I would leave work at different times so I wouldn’t have time to stop (I just ended up being late for whatever I was doing), I would call my mom or my sister to distract me, that didn’t work. Finally, I decided to drive a different way home from work. I haven’t driven passed that place in 2 months. That was the only way I could stop myself from eating these cookies. This isn’t willpower. This is some kind of Darwinian survival mode kicking in to save me from myself. Whatever the reason, I’m calling this progress.

I can classify my life into two time periods; times when I was trying to lose weight for an event and times when I was eating like a bear two weeks away from hibernation. I’ve learned a lot about my unstable fitness and nutrition habits since I’ve started writing and really examining myself (which isn’t easy or fun by the way). I think my lifelong mentality that I should only try to get in shape or lose weight because of an upcoming event is a real, fundamental problem. The 6th grade dance, a pool party, dance recital, the prom, a wedding, or a trip to the beach don’t have anything to do with my overall health and what I’ve been doing is unhealthy. I also just want to take this opportunity to remind ya’ll that I know this stuff, I studied it for 7 YEARS AND I SUCCESSFULLY COACH PEOPLE ON WELLNESS EVERY DAY. I wanted to reiterate that because it’s not a lack of knowledge that’s holding me back it’s something else and I’m working to overcome it all the time.

Do you know what happens when you drink a lot of water? You pee a lot, yes, but you also poop a lot! Don’t get all weird about poop either, everybody poops (it’s a book, read it). So like, even if you’re not trying to lose weight you should drink more water to keep yourself regular. Just a thought. I met my goal of drinking half my body weight in water most days over the last week. It wasn’t anything life changing, honestly. Like, yes I went to the bathroom more often and I actually felt less bloated but that was about it. BUT the real victory was the sense of accomplishment I had from meeting my goal. (Side note: if you’re trying to do this and its 10 pm and you didn’t drink enough DO NOT try to chug the remainder before going to bed because you will come dangerously close to peeing the bed even if you are an adult.) I always tell the people I coach to make one change at a time so this week my goal is to wake up an hour earlier. Let me just tell you right now how much I hate getting up early. I HATE IT. However, I just got a second job and if I’m going to work out, it’s going to have to be in the morning. I don’t want to do this but I have goals and you know what they say: “no pain, no gain, a rolling stone gathers no moss, you reap what you sow, grin and bear it, learn to walk before you can run, strike while the iron is hot!’ People say a lot of crap that basically just boils down to if you want to do something, do it.

I have so many questions

All week I’ve been thinking about reasons why people want to lose weight. If you ask someone why they’re doing a new diet/workout plan you’ll usually get a response about an upcoming event they’re preparing for, health issues that would be improved with weight loss, or my personal favorite “I just want to FEEL better.” Rarely does anyone come out and say “I want my body to look hot for my significant other, I want to look good at the beach, I want to feel confident when someone’s hitting on me.” Why don’t we say these things? What’s wrong with wanting to lose weight for these reasons? We spend millions of dollar a year on flattering clothes, makeup, cosmetic procedures, hair extensions, teeth straightening/whitening, breast implants for women, hair plugs for men, the list goes on. But when someone wants to know why we’re losing weight we’re suddenly afraid to admit that vanity plays a role? How you feel in your own skin impacts your entire life. For example, right now I am so uncomfortable. I have zero sex drive, I don’t want to go shopping, or out with my friends, or attend social events. I will be getting ready for some kind of outing and then think to myself “my jeans don’t fit and I’m not wearing leggings again so I’m not going.” This weight gain is literally affecting everything. So, is this the new me? Will I avoid sex for the rest of my life? Will I make excuses to skip birthday parties, weddings, drunken hay rides, and reunions forever? OR, will I just accept that this is my size now and magically be cured of these insecurities? Is that how it works? Will this go away? I need answers.

Every other time I’ve gained weight I’ve found a way to lose it whether it was through diet and exercise or a broken heart, one way or another the pounds came off. Don’t ask me why this time is different, I have no idea. I couldn’t tell you why at 29 yrs old and in the most selfie-obsessed era of our time, I care less about my appearance than I did at any other time in my life. I thought about why I’m not doing anything about this, what’s holding me back, and the only thing I came up with was that I just didn’t want to put in the time and effort and sacrifice that is required to meet my goal. That’s it. I just “don’t want to.” It’s a horrible thing to admit, but it’s true. I don’t have kids, I don’t work 14 hour days, I live alone, I have a big living room and plenty of space to work out. Essentially, I have everything I need I just don’t want to do it.

However, thinking about what I would be giving up to lose the weight made me realize how much of my life I’m ALREADY sacrificing by not doing things I enjoy because of my weight. For instance, I would never take a spontaneous trip to the beach with a group of people (that literally sounds terrifying) and I LOVE the beach. I would also never want to go for a hike with coworkers or friends, or run a 5k, go on a bike ride, or take a Zumba class. Social events like this do not sound fun because I would be embarrassed the entire time. So my question remains, which is worse, avoiding things you love because you hate how you look, or sacrificing donuts and pizza for a year while you work on yourself? Just typing that out makes me feel like a real asshole. Obviously it’s the latter, I just don’t want to admit it.

I think maybe I needed a wake-up call, a real kick in the pants to get me started. Honestly, I thought it would be publishing this blog. It wasn’t. I was convinced I would be instantly motivated because now I had accountability, people were reading what I wrote and hopefully rooting for me to succeed. Well, it turns out, it wasn’t the accountability, it was the horrifying moment that I didn’t even recognize myself in a video this past weekend.

I’ve been in a lot of weddings, I’m sort of a professional bridesmaid if you will. But, I’ll tell you a secret, when someone talks about a wedding I’ve been in, instead of thinking about the wonderful memories I have of supporting my friends on their beautiful day, I think about how fat my arms looked in each and every bridesmaids dress I’ve worn. One of my very best friends has pictures from her wedding day in her dining room and every single time I go to her house and see them I cringe and wonder if everyone else is thinking about my arms when they see the photo. Over the weekend I was in a wedding for a truly wonderful couple. I’ve been friends with the bride my whole life and after my first meeting with the groom I knew they would get married. I’ve known about this wedding for 10 months. I had almost a year to prepare. Well, on Saturday afternoon it took 3 grown women 10 minutes to zip me into my dress and 2 bridesmaids to put my shoes on for me because I couldn’t bend down without busting out of the dress. While riding in the limo the maid of honor was taking videos on her phone and when I saw them later on her Instagram story, I didn’t recognize myself. I did not realize the chubby girl sitting next to the bride was me. That was a rough moment to say the least. I didn’t drink at the reception and I drove myself home with my dress unzipped because my underarms were rubbed raw from my dress being so tight all night. This day was not about me, this was my best friend’s wedding and because I was so uncomfortable in my own skin I didn’t get drunk and grind on a groomsman like every good bridesmaid should.

I spent the next day being really honest with myself about my goals and how I want to live. And I’ve decided I’m just going to try again because what is the alternative, being miserable the rest of my life? I don’t think so. I am a fun person and I love life and I don’t want to stifle my personality because I’m insecure about how I look. Last night my niece and I were playing this game (which is not actually a game at all it’s just 50 cards with questions on them because someone decided that 7 yr old kids don’t ask enough questions already), and one of the questions was “Who is the funniest person you know?” and she said “I would have to say you, Aunt Sandi.” She’s a pretty popular kid, she knows a lot of people and I’M THE FUNNIEST PERSON SHE KNOWS. That was a real self-esteem boost. I thought about how upset she would be if I stopped making her laugh or hanging out with her because I was too worried about my weight. It made me realize that of all the reasons there are to lose weight, the only one that matters is whatever reason means the most to you. It does not matter what anyone else thinks, not your friends, family, coworkers, gym partner, the lady on Facebook trying to sell you weight loss shakes, no one. You are the only one who matters when it comes to this decision. If you are comfortable at your current weight, if you are confident and healthy and happy then there is no reason to change. If you are unhappy, then take the steps you know you need to take to improve your quality of life. It’s that simple and it’s that hard. Deciding is half the battle.

I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone who read this whole post that I did not stick to my water intake goal from my last post. Tomorrow is a new day and that’s what I’m telling myself. I’ve filled up a 20 oz water bottle and it’s sitting beside me and I’m going to drink it first thing in the morning. I’m trying again this week because I want this for myself and no one else. I’m going to fail until I don’t anymore, I think that’s the only thing anyone can do.

Time to practice what I preach

I gained 40 pounds this summer. 40 pounds. In 4 months. Just to put things in perspective, the recommendation for a pregnant woman is to gain around 25 pounds in 9 months (I’m not pregnant). It takes 25 extra pounds to grow a human. APPARENTLY I was training for twins. I am currently the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life but I’m not going to talk about my exact weight because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh. Read that again, it doesn’t matter how much you weigh. Someone who is 120 lbs can feel as uncomfortable in their own skin as someone who is 350 lbs. The number on the scale means nothing. Also, it can be more hurtful than you realize to vocalize what number you think is acceptable. I learned this the hard way a few years ago at Thanksgiving with my family. I was having a not-so-private conversation with my aunt about my weight loss goals when I referenced my current weight with disgust and dismay only to have her uncomfortably admit that my current weight was her goal weight. Actually, her exact words were “f—k you, that’s my goal weight.”

We are not here to shame other people into weight loss, if they have eyes and access to any reflective surface, they are WELL AWARE of their appearance. Don’t get me wrong, your appearance does matter but I’m not talking exclusively about weight I’m talking about how you put yourself together. For example, if ‘person A’ gains 50 lbs, comes to terms with it, buys a new wardrobe, and puts 100% into their appearance on a daily basis then that weight gain means nothing. However, if ‘person B’ gains 10 lbs and decides to live in a pair of Costco sweat pants and stop showering then they’ve just let 10 lbs change their entire outlook on life as well as everyone else’s perception of them. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. That’s a quote from someone in the “person A” category (in full disclosure I am definitely ‘person B’ but my sweatpants would be from Target).

Everyone always says you should write what you know. Well, in theory I should know everything about a healthy, fit lifestyle. I mean, I’m an “expert,” right? I have a master’s degree in exercise science and several years’ experience as a health or wellness coach. I’ve built my education and career around wellness. But what I know, I mean what I REALLY know, is that I’ve hated my body ever since I knew what it meant to hate your body. I can remember the exact moment I started to think I was chubby. I was 12 yrs old helping my dad paint our front porch while wearing a pair of jean shorts and a bathing suit top. One of my neighbors walked by and said something along the lines of “I see you sucking your stomach in, those shorts are a little tight.” That was it, that was my first clear memory of thinking my body was the wrong size.

My freshman year of college also sticks out in my mind because that was the first time in my life I was making totally independent choices about what I ate and how much I exercised. I had an 8 and 9 am class in the same building 5 days a week. I hated getting up early and there was a coffee shop next to my second class so instead of having breakfast before I left I ate in-between classes.  I would order a huge blueberry bagel with butter, cream cheese, AND strawberry jelly then wash this down with a large hot chocolate and add creamer. CREAMER. At this time, I had no clue how many calories I was consuming nor did I care. Now, 10 years and two degrees later, I realize I was eating 1,000 calories for “breakfast” everyday. That is roughly half of what most Americans (on average) should consume per day. As you can see I was really making the most of my new found freedom.

Talking about your weight is not easy. It’s embarrassing and it makes you feel vulnerable in a way you’re not always prepared to handle. Last week I cried before leaving to go out because I couldn’t bend down to tie my shoes without my jeans cutting into my stomach so hard that I couldn’t breathe. SAYING SHIT LIKE THAT IS EMBARRASSING. But, it’s true and I’m hoping it will help other people who are going through the same thing. It’s so easy to feed into the myth that YOU can’t reach your fitness goals but everyone else on the planet is drinking raw eggs at 5 am and hurdling the Art Museum steps like Rocky. It’s not one or the other, there are enough protein shakes for everyone.

I believe the best way to lose weight is to stick to whatever diet/exercise/lifestyle plan works best for you. But you have to stick to it, it’s not the plan it’s the dedication. Everyone is different and in my experience as a health and wellness coach there is no “one right way” to succeed. There are some universal guidelines of course so that’s where I’m going to start, by taking my own advice.

When I begin working with a new client, the first thing I do is have them step on a hydration scale and if their hydration level is below 50% (for women) or 60% (for men) I tell them to start drinking half their body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs you should drink 100 oz of water a day. The fact that this is so hard for most people (myself included) really tells me a lot about humans in general considering the fact that we need water to like, live? Regardless, this will be my first goal. Wish me luck, or don’t, either way I’m doing it!

Let’s Begin…

OK so you want to lose weight? That’s great! It’s going to be so fun and easy and everything will be just like those workout DVDs where everyone does each move perfectly and no one ever has questions or stops because their dog is trying to lick their face or their baby is crying or they have to throw up. Yes. This will be awesome. You are ready. You are serious. You bought Splenda, and spinach, and a food scale! You’ve downloaded a food tracker app and spent hundreds of dollars on an activity watch. You’ve watched the infomercials, you’ve followed the fitness models on Instagram who have all lost 60+ lbs and coincidentally deleted all evidence of their former fat lives but still have a standard 3 “before” photos as proof that they can relate to how you’re feeling. Their posts are so inspirational, their lives began when they lost weight, they were dead before, like you, you’re dead right now you just don’t know it yet. Soon you will be thin and reborn into this magical world of protein, pre-workout, and perfectly round, cellulite free asses.

Actually, that’s all bullshit. Losing weight is hard and in all honestly, it sucks most of the time. You have to count shit, weigh shit, stop eating takeout every night, drink more water than wine in a day, order grilled chicken instead of fried macaroni and cheese; there are real sacrifices. Navigating the world of weight loss is about as easy as online dating. Meaning it’s awful. There are hundreds of programs, diets, pills, shakes, meal plans, everything. There are experts on both sides of the meat vs no meat debate, boys with big muscles telling you 200 grams of protein a day is child’s play, and yogis who claim veganism is the only path to success. Even for someone with a master’s degree in exercise science and several years of experience as a health coach (me), sifting through the fitness bullshit is exhausting.

To be honest, I’m kind of fed up with the social media fitness world. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been so motivated and inspired by an Instagram account only to find out the pictures were edited or the account owner never actually struggled with their weight. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I read this quote once that said “The world is full of nice people. If you can’t find one, be one” well, I’m gonna go ahead and apply that to honest, motivational, social media accounts focused on weight loss. I’m going to be my own inspiration.  My goal for Weight Loss In Real Life is to show everyone the raw, honest truth about weight loss, the highs and the lows, successes and failures, and everything in between. Losing weight is so much more than counting calories or tracking workouts. I think it can be really discouraging to see so many fitness models telling us that we can have the same results when they don’t even have those results because the pictures are photo shopped.

I want Weight Loss In Real Life to be a safe space for anyone who has struggled with their weight or body image issues; I want it to be real, and authentic, and uplifting. I’m going to chronicle my journey in hopes that it will inspire someone to keep going even when you have bad days where you’re crying on the floor because you lost 4 lbs but then you ate an entire box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pies BECAUSE I HAVE DONE THAT AND I GET IT. I promise to never edit my photos or strategically pose to look 10 lbs lighter (still gonna use filters on my face though because I’m a seriously cute snap chat puppy), I will share everything, it won’t always be pretty but it will always be real.