Don’t Call it a Comeback (No, Seriously, Don’t)

This was a bizarre week. It was awful on most discernible levels and, yet, at the end of it, I’ve lost a couple of pounds.

THE BAD (AND–WHY THE HECK NOT?–THE UGLY)

(See how I like to start things out positively?)

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“Allergies”

I am one of those people with chronic allergies. You know, the ones who never know (read: accept) when they are actually sick and not just suffering from seasonal allergies? Hence, I’d been strolling about (coughing, sneezing, fatigued), late last week, claiming, “Oh, no, I’m fine. Don’t move away. Just allergies, you know.”

This continued up until Monday afternoon, when my coworkers and boss basically told me in the kindest way possible to “GTFO” before I infected them with whatever plague I was carrying.

It was an awful, weird feeling. (And I’m still not completely sure what I had, since, due to it ‘only be allergies’ and believing I ‘just needed to sleep it off’, I never went to the doctor). I felt like I was simultaneous high and sick at the same time. Just yucky and darn, darn tired. I’m pretty sure I slept for 28 hours on Tuesday. Yes, you read correctly: my fatigue defied the laws of time and physics.

Honestly, even though I’ve been back at work part time since yesterday, I’m still a bit weak. So, needless to say, I haven’t exactly been ‘killing it’ at the gym/bike path this week. It’s left me with an odd sense of loss. I actually miss working out.

Yeah, I know, don’t look at me like that.

I did not intend on becoming one of those obnoxious Work Out people, but I feel it slowly coming on. I’ve been trying to walk every other day, just to keep my body from atrophying under tissues and bed sheets. And, on Wednesday night, in probably an ill advised move, I got on my bike for a leisurely (is there another way to emphasize the word ‘leisurely’) ride around the neighborhood. It was exhilarating, to be honest. I missed my bike, whom I’ve affectionately named “Buffy”, after my favorite childhood character. I missed the feel of wind blowing across me.I missed breaking a sweat–that wasn’t due to odd body temperature shifts.

Of course, while I felt excited after returning, I did feel week the next day. So, I’ve been forcing myself to keep it easy. (Weight lifting? What is weight lifting?!)

“Health Screening”

They say that you’re only as old as you feel. That’s actually false. According to the health specialists I saw yesterday, you’re actually only as young as your crippling health conditions dictate. Yay!

So, as you may have guessed by ‘cleverly though-out-‘ subheading, there was a free health screening at my job yesterday. After putting it off for as long as possible (literally, I was the last person to enter the bus before my office closed down), I entered. I don’t hate doctors or anything, I just hate that shame feeling of going to doctor. You know, when they give you that utterly patronizing look, sigh, and explain to you how you need to lose weight and lower, well, everything?

I was, however, feeling somewhat confident in the fact that I’ve lost considerable weight since my last physical. So, I figured, how bad could it be? Well, bad, apparently!

At the ‘ripe, old age’ of 27, I have a body age of 55.

Yeah, take a moment to let that sink it.

The health aid, whom I had been chatting amicably with before getting my results, seemed to backtrack at my (understandably) startled reaction. “Oh, well, it’s not scientific, exactly, it’s just, you know, to kind of, you know, scare people into being healthier.”

Riiight.

In all seriousness, I kind of laughed it off. Honestly, when you’ve lost 25 plus pounds (to be discussed later!) and changed your life around, you can’t really sweat those things. I mean, I guess my body age would have been about 101 a few months ago! On the somewhat brighter side, my cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure were all significantly down. Which really encouraged my elderly self me.

THE GOOD

See, I’m not a complete pessimist. Probably in large part to being sick as a dog–and probably about as attractive as one!–this week, I still managed to lose weight despite not exercising. That in of itself is not that exciting–most people lose a little weight when they are sick. But, I realized in getting those freebie pounds, that I’d reached a significant milestone! I’ve crossed past the 200 pound threshold into the glorious 100s and am less than three pounds away from my birthday goal weight!

In case you suffer from temporary blindness upon entering my blog hadn’t noticed the glaring Countdown bar on my sidebar, I’ve been hoping to have lost 28 pounds total by my 28th / 56th (depending on the health specialist!) birthday on June 13th. I was also hoping to be in a size 14 by then. But, as you may have read in a previous post (::crickets::), I’m already wearing a size 14 and now am extremely close to my goal weight! I would say I’m sorry for all the exclamations points….! Or the ungodly length of this post….! But that would be a lie! I’m excited! ::insert more exclamation points!::

…And, yet still exhausted. But, hey, don’t worry, the fatigue’s probably just from my “allergies” 😉

Big Girl’s Guide to Useful (and Useless) Workout Gear

Part of the fun (or futility) of a more active lifestyle is the gear. Even before I began working out, I remember looking longingly at those Super Fit people strolling about. You know, the ones that are so fit and important that they don’t even have time to change from their exercise clothes before going to the grocery store, bank, etc. (You can usually find the biggest culprits in the sports nutrition aisle of the grocery store, staring scientifically at exercise bars). I promised myself a while back while looking at one such Super Fit person at Whole Foods, that I, too, would be super obvious about my fitness one day. Maybe even on days I wasn’t working out, I’d still just strut around in spandex and stare at PowerBars in the grocery store.

All this goes to say that I really like fitness gear of all types (e.g. clothing, gadgets, stretchy band-like concoctions with no discernible purposes). Accordingly, this quasi-useful post will center around my misadventures with exercise gear.

CLOTHING

All Big People know the frustration of trying to find workout apparel that fits you. Especially, when I first began working out, I often felt like this when I tried to squeeze slip into trendy outfits I saw other exercisers wearing:

And don’t even get me started on the perils of finding cycling apparel for Big People! (Seriously, don’t, I hadn’t planned on going into detail about that in this particular post).

Here are some useful and useless tips I’ve picked up:

Oversized Larger Clothing

Perhaps one of most important things about working out when you’re a Big Person is finding clothing that makes you comfortable. This is huge, because if you feel overly self-conscious, you are not likely to leave your front door, let alone jog or bike in front of others. You will probably have to get a little creative with your options if you–like I did–have a lot of weight to shed at first.

For instance, I remember strutting into the women’s fitness section in Target and staring glassily into the sea of booty shorts workout shorts and tanks. It doesn’t matter how many “XXs” are in front of the label when the shorts only come down to your hip bone–you won’t be comfortable! I finally sucked up my pride and ventured into the men’s fitness section. (You can pretend you’re shopping for your fabulous, Shemar-Moore-shaped hubby, if that makes you feel better  ;)). They may not have been the most fashionable, but they were functional.

One of my favorite options are the oversized tanks that somehow manage to swallow me whole and yet still be somewhat indecent at the same time!

oversizedtank

(More astute readers will notice my toe, another gradual clue to my super-secret identity, in the bottom corner).

DIY (Destroy it Yourself)  

Of course, you can always get even more creative and spruce up your own apparel. For example, instead of the odd-fitting tanks, I tried to just cut out the sleeves on a tee that I found generally comfortable:

destroyityourselftee

(The shredded remains of a former workout tee after I ‘fixed’ it)

Needless to say, ‘results may vary’ at first; but keep at it. With some patience and cheap tees, you can find fun ways to make yourself feel cuter in workout clothes.

GADGETS

I love gadgets. Which is a bit unfortunate since I’m not currently fit enough to justify purchasing some of those ridiculous, over-priced ones on the market (e.g. the invisible, underwater, gold-encrusted heart rate monitors). In the mean time, I entertain myself with cheap to mid-range gadgets that both amuse and/or help me out.

ipodmini

(I-pod mini shuffle–perpetually tangled headphones not included)

You can get one of these for less than 40 bucks a pop and they’re super convenient. Just clip it to your over sized tank and go for a jog.

hitechwaterbottle
(‘Super Hi-tech’ Water Bottle that may or may not Filter Water for You)
 

kidbikebell

(Child Bike Bell)

To be honest, I’ve still yet to determine how useful these are, as they seem to either shock or mystify pedestrians on bike trails. But, at least it makes my bike look ‘super kewt’.

NUTRITION

gatorade prime

(Tasty, but probably unnecessary ‘fuel’ for a leisurely 10 minute stroll and then nap)

I’ll go into this more in a later post, but to suffice to say there are TONS of delightful ways to waste money (and calories!) on super-scientific sports supplements. Maybe it’s just me, but, for some reason, when I started working out, I assumed I should suddenly start eating like an elite athlete. You know, all the trendy sports gels and bars without giving up the french fries, etc.

What I’ve learned, however, is that unless you are working out for hours or doing some serious weight training, there’s really no need for anything besides a bottle of water and a light, healthy, snack afterwards. Even now, after a really tough (for me!) workout session at the gym, I’ll just grab 8 ounces of chocolate milk and some fruit afterwards. No need to get fancy…yet.

Maybe one day, after I really am Super Fit and running marathons (psyche!) or something I’ll update this with actual hi-tech gadgets, etc. But, for the Average Jo/anna, all you really need is a smile and/or grimace, some water, and some determination to make it through.

Happy Trekking!

Big Girls Do Cry

So today I, a grown woman, cried in a clothing store changing room. But, not for the reasons you may be expecting. As many Big People can relate to, trying on clothing when you are overweight can be a painful experience. My mother has always accused me of hating shopping. Yet, really, what I truly hated was that feeling of pain and shame and embarrassment of watching my clothing size go ‘Up, Up, and Away‘.

Today, for the first time in years, I was positively jazzed to try on clothes. Instead of the haunting dread that used to follow me about the clothing aisles, I felt hope. I was praying that I might be able to perhaps squeeze into that size fourteen I’ve been aiming to wear by my birthday (June 13th). Not only could I squeeze into the jeans, some of them were even too large!

This may be dramatic, this may be crazy; but, I literally fell to my knees and cried. Yes, real, big tears…of JOY.

These past few years have been incredibly trying–and often incredibly dark. I’ve suffered through weight gain, depression, anxiety, sleepless nights, and having to make a huge, unexpected career change. There were times over the last year or so, where I’d truly given up on life.

It’ll will always be this way, I thought, You’ll always be fat and worthless and depressed.

Yeah, you can imagine what a ‘joy’ I was to be around!

In that moment, standing in a size fourteen for the first time in over three years, I just felt this huge burst of relief. And gratefulness. And joy. When you’ve gone through truly dark times, you can really appreciate the light when it returns to your life.

So to the store clerks outside (and my mother, in whose lap I was crying!), it probably did seem melodramatic–maybe even a little crazy. Yet, for me, it was a moment of pure liberation.

I still have a while to go before I reach all my goals. But, to even have made it this far, is a triumph.

 

 

Dream a Little Dream

As a Big Girl, it’s important to lose weight–obviously. The “Oh, it must be muscle weight” arguments can only get you so far.

Yet, at the same time, there are going to be times in your fitness journey when you won’t lose weight. Eating four slices of pizza (read: me), plateaus, or, indeed, sometimes actually muscle weight can slow down the progress on the scale. And, as many of you know, there are few things more frustrating than following your weight loss plan, exercising frequently, and then seeing the same weight at the end of the week.

This was the case for me this previous week, when I strongly suspect that the new introduction of weightlifting in addition to a fun visit from (cover your eyes, males!) Aunt Flow kept my weight exactly the same. I was pretty bummed, to say the least. For a moment, I was downright discouraged. But a little pep talk from my big sister helped me view things in a new light. It was from this moment of temporary discouragement that this post topic was born: “Other Ways to Measure Progress besides the Scale.”

1) Measurements / Clothes Size

This is somewhat obvious, and yet at the same time, often overshadowed by scale-obsession. I am friends with a fitness instructor, for instance, who weighs about fifteen pounds more than her friends who look the same size as her. I was honestly shocked when she told me her weight, because she looks so fit. But, that’s the point. In her words, “I’d pick being lean and fit over the smaller weight any day.”

So, when you’re feeling a little discouraged about your weight on any particular week, try focusing on the old jeans that don’t fit anymore or the that ‘tight-fitting’ shirt that’s hanging off of you.Then, you can confidently strike a pose:

2) Fitness Tests/ Markers

There are two main points to be made here. One, fitness tests are another way, in addition to weight loss, to track improvement of your physical health. For instance, I can only do about three pushups now–but considering I could do exactly ZERO pushups a few weeks ago, I know my upper body strength is improving. Similarly, when I first got my road bike a couple of weeks ago, I could barely make it fifteen minutes on the bike before giving in. Today, I just road 40 minutes without feeling the same aches in my arms, bum, lungs, that I felt at first. These are important ways to stay encouraged and mark your progress.

Secondly, I find it really enjoyable to challenge myself during workouts. I compete against myself and plot throughout afternoon lulls ways that I can improve my next workout. It’s a really fun, healthy distraction that helps keep you from fixating on food.

3) General Health Improvements

One of the (read: many) red flags for me before I started my fitness program was the fact that walking a few flights of stairs would leave me winded. The other day, I realized that I could not remember the last time I felt worn out by the steps in my school, or even had given the walk a thought. What used to be an embarrassing obstacle for me is now nothing but an afterthought.

Also, as I mentioned in my last posts, I’ve seen improvements in my general mood and happiness. These changes would be worth the exercise on their own.

4) Personal Goals

Last, but not least, set goals for yourself. Small and Big. Here are some of my personal ones for example:

Short Term Goals

a) 28 for 28: I want to lose 28 pounds total (including what I’ve lost before, of course) before my 28th birthday in June and/or be in a size 14 again.

b) Riding my bike for an hour: I may actually accomplish this this weekend–we’ll see!

c) I’m currently searching for a (very short) fun ride for cycling to motivate me during workouts.

Longer Term Goals

a) I want to feel comfortable in a bathing suit for the first time in years.

b) I’d like to ride a century race (i.e. 100 miles)

Grander (Ridiculous) Goals

a) Have Shemar Moore and Justin Chambers duel for my love.

b) End World Hunger (have to throw in an altruistic one, I guess).

All I do is ‘Spin’

All is well in Big Girl land.

Yesterday, I discovered that there was an entrance to the Shelby Farms Greenline merely miles from my home. [For those of you who, like me, weren’t born in Memphis, the SFG is a wonderful multi-use path that spans six miles and then connects to the largest urban park in the country. So, yeah, it’s kind of a ‘thing’.]

In large part due to being a Memphis ‘noob’, I hadn’t realized that I could access the Greenline so easily. Accordingly, I had been planning on making the approximately 25/30 minute drive on the weekends to Shelby Farms, and then spending the rest of my cycling days playing a thrilling, yet somewhat horrifying, version of Frogger on the downtown Memphis roads.

Frogger

(actual footage of my past morning rides*)

(*okay, not really)

So, needless to say, I was a wee bit excited when I made this discovery. Exhibit A: I despise mornings–yet, I still only slightly grumbled bounced out of bed excited to go check out the path this morning.

It did not disappoint. I have to give a lot of credit to the Shelby Farms foundation, because they’ve done a wonderful job of putting together a beautiful path. It’s not just a basic slab of concrete haphazardly paved through a disaster area. Quite the opposite, the path is well-kept, spacious, surrounded by shade and sometimes breathtaking scenery. Further–as I hinted at before–it leads to the even more beautiful Shelby Farms park. And, of course, I totally rode the whole path and back*

(*Not an accurate depiction of the morning’s events)

Another fun part about riding the Greenline was seeing my fellow fitness comrades. Seeing the cyclists was, obviously, the best part. I finally got to do that ‘super cool’ mini hand wave to those riding in the opposite direction. And, when a super sporty racer blazed by me passed me, I got to exchange some awkward, quick small talk, too. Also, before he disappeared like lightning before my very eyes, I enjoyed pretending that I was not too far behind him.In all seriousness, it was nice to feel somewhat a part of a greater cycling community. I’m painfully far from being group ride ready, so, for now, it’s a nice treat.

Passing the joggers was also fun, but for different reasons. Let me qualify the following statements by clarifying that I have nothing against runners; I just don’t like running. I’m sure I’d love it if I were super fit already or something. But, I’m currently not a fan (unless I’m being chased by a demon from the pit of the Underworld. Or Jack Nicholson–he just creeps me out and I suspect I’d run from him if  ever our paths crossed).

(How could this face not horrify you?)

So, that being said, I just love speeding past them and remembering how much more I enjoying cycling than trying to suffer through a jog. Plus, considering how slow I am at the moment, they are pretty much the only things I can speed past. Also, I got to try out my shiny, ‘high tec’ bike bell. (Although I’m still debating how useful this is. When I hit it, a few people just seemed slightly startled and/or confused, yet never looked back as if expecting a bike to come from behind them).

Finally, I was also reminded why I feel safer on a bike than jogging/walking on these bike paths. They are safe and well kept, but there are still stretches where conceivably someone could try to jump out and grab you, etc. I feel better knowing I’m moving fast enough to avoid some of that hazard. Also, I passed this crazy looking, wild cat from the forest and was incredibly glad I was spinning away on two wheels instead of jogging at the time.

Basically, it was just  a wonderful, breathtaking (in both senses of the word) experience. It made me even gladder that I chose to get a road bike. And, for some reason–probably because I got caught up in the fun of it all–I was able to ride longer than usual (a ‘whopping’ 30 mins!)

I know, I know, hold your applause! 😉

Here are some (low quality) pics:

shelbyfarmsgreenline2 shelbyfarmsgreenline1

Up Next: Why Big Girls Need to Measure Progress by More than just Weight

Progress, Sweet, Progress

One of the hardest parts about being a Big Person is that, at first, everything is so difficult for you. You can’t fit your clothes. You can’t run. You can’t lift a dumbbell if your very soul depended on it. That’s why, for me, the hardest part of my weight loss journey so far continues to be the first few weeks. While, yes, you may lose a few pounds to start off, it’s rarely quick enough. There’s very few workouts you can do for very long and often you feel self-conscious doing them in front of others. To top it all off, you’re hungry and therefore a raging lunatic a bit crabby.

Besides repeating cliche mantras like ‘One Step at a Time’ , it can be very hard to find the motivation to trek on. Especially since your main source of comfort (read: food) is being limited.

Inspired yet?

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Well, keep reading; because it doesn’t all suck. It turns out that the cliches are true and if you somehow manage to keep your large feet moving one small step at a time, one day you’ll wake up and look in the mirror and go, “Woah!”

That’s my story, at least. I feel that it’s actually only been the last couple of weeks (since starting my weight loss journey around January) that I’ve seen these seemingly sudden and exciting signs of progress. All the months of small steps and small pounds and big, big weights are paying off. And, how dearly I wish I could go back and tell my former, much heftier self in January, “Thanks–keep going–it will be worth it!”

Unfortunately, time travel is still–as far as I’m aware–impossible. So, I’ll settle for trying to encourage others to keep on trekking, because all your work WILL pay off–even when you inevitably if you stumble a bit along the way.

Here are a few of my recent moments of pride from the last month or so:

1) I feel happy! I’ll write more about my previous state of depression/anxiety in another post, but suffice to say, a year ago I was in a dark place. I felt hopeless, plagued with fear and anxiety, like a failure. I used to sleep away days, just to distract myself from the pain I felt inside. Exercise–and, to be quite honest, therapy!–has really changed that for me. I feel energized, invigorated, alive, and happy. I feel like, for the first time in a long time, that I finally get the joy of life again.

2) Confidence: Despite the many few moments of being humbled (e.g. lifting only 10 pounds, failing to do a pushup), my confidence has sky rocketed. I feel good about myself, inside and out. I love weighing in (most weeks!) and I generally have a much sunnier disposition.

3) Weight loss (of course): This is what we’ve all come here for. Like I said, I’ve been losing weight slowly, probably a pound or two a week. So, often it can be hard to notice that I’m making any progress. But lately, I’ve been noticing the change–and so have others! People who haven’t seen me in months are shocked and congratulate me. Old business suits that I used to have to literally force myself into (sometimes with the help of someone else!) are now hanging off of me like sweat pants. It’s a wonderful feeling!

4) Strength and fitness: If you’ve been following my blog (crickets), you may be aware of my epically demoralizing struggles with pushups, dumbells, etc. But, I’ve been seeing progress in these areas as well recently, which is really, really encouraging. Even on my bike, my arms don’t hurt from the strain of supporting my body anymore. I’m breathing easier. And, perhaps most importantly, my bum has adjusted to the seat. (I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not–have some nerves in my rear end died? lol)

So, this post has gotten much longer than I intended it to be. But, honestly it’s a good day, I feel glad to be alive, and it’s nice to see the progress after months of work.

Big Girl and the Exercise Ball of Doom

(Actual Footage of my morning exercise routine)

So, I tried to murder my exercise ball today while it was asleep:

Image

(It never would have seen it coming)

Don’t judge me! First of all, I did not actually go through with my murderous scheme. That has got to count for something. Secondly, She (yes, I’ve decided it’s a mean girl impersonating a purple ball), started it.

It all began innocently enough. I decided to add some more ab workouts to my strength training and wanted to try exercise balls. I mean, everyone’s always going on and on about how great they are. Plus, the people in the ads for them look really fit and happy, so they must work, right?

The first few exercises were clear cut and pretty simple. For example:

Ball Crunch - Legs Elevated

Ball Reverse Crunch

Simple, right? Even I can do this, I thought. But, then it got a wee bit more complex:

Ball Jacknife

Ball Bridge T Fall-Off

What had begun as a fun, easy workout, soon turned into a frantic wrestling match for my life (and perhaps even my soul!) with a tiny, purple ball.

Spoiler alert: I lost.

In all seriousness, while at times mystifying, I genuinely appreciated my time with the exercise ball. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a Big Girl trying to lose weight, it’s that you have to take things slowly.

There are many things I couldn’t do when I first started (e.g. a single pushup!) But, with daily work and persistence, I’ve improved in a lot of areas and even accomplished things I’d never imagined I could (e.g. two whole pushups!).

Part of the purpose of my self-deprecating humor–besides the fact that I have a lot to self-deprecate about–is that it’s a fun way of keeping track of all things I was horrible at when I started. That way, a few months from now, when I’m weight lifting with my new fiance, Shemar Moore, I can look back and appreciate my progress.

Until then, I’m just attempting not to kill myself (or an exercise ball).