Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Do Something, Do Anything

"We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action." 
~ Frank Tibolt

"'Excellence' is not a gift, but a skill that takes practice. We do not act 'rightly' because we are 'excellent', in fact we achieve 'excellence' by acting 'rightly.'" 
~ Plato

"Fake it 'til you make it."
~ Attributed to Alcoholics Anonymous

I'm glad you dropped by today readers, because I've been working on this blog post for a month.  It is probably the most important thing I'll ever write.  When people ask me how I lost over 130 pounds, this is the answer.  I don't know how I made the connection - it was one of those so-called 'Aha! Moments' that so many people talk about.  I had a bona fide epiphany one day as I was sitting in my living room, crying and feeling sorry for myself.  Here is the story, and I hope you find it meaningful to you.

Once I had lost about 90 pounds, and I was no longer in what I kindly refer to as "the 200 Club," meaning I no longer weighed over 200 pounds, I hit the mother of all plateaus.  I couldn't seem to get out of the 190's no matter what I tried.  Everything I had done to lose 90 pounds just wasn't working for me any more - or so it seemed.  And so, I did what any normal human being would - I had a break down.  I was so angry, so frustrated, so desperate I just didn't know what to do with myself.  And suddenly, it became very apparent that I had reached a fork in the road on my journey.  What should I do?  I had two, clear choices: one, I could quit or two, I could forge ahead.

Where would quitting get me?  Well, I could go back to my old habits and slowly but surely undo all of my hard work.  "But," I argued, "at least I wouldn't have to think about eating healthy and making sure I had time to exercise everyday.  In fact, I would never have to think about 'dieting' ever again."  It was a happy thought until I realized that it wasn't true.  Just as I had old eating and exercising habits, I had old thought habits too.  I knew it wouldn't be long before I started beating myself up for being fat and lazy (my apologies to myself, but this is the kind of self-talk I regularly engaged in before I decided to change it) and that I would start feeling miserable and guilty like I did when I weighed 287 pounds.  Then I remembered how physically painful it was to carry around those extra 90 pounds.  So, it didn't take me long to decide that all quitting would buy me was a ticket right back to Square One.

So where exactly could I go if I forged ahead?  At the time, it seemed all I could do was spin my wheels and go no where.  "I'm really trying here, and I'm not making any progress!" I angrily told myself.  But, I suddenly thought that perhaps there was something I was missing.  I asked myself, "How do thin people live?"  And I honestly didn't know the answer.  The only time I was ever thin was in college, and I wasn't a healthy person then.  I could go days without eating a bite.  It's very easy to be thin when you're starving yourself.  I never had a healthy relationship with food or my own self-image.  How could I know how "normal" people behaved?  There was no way for me to know.

Enter Dr. Phil.  I had turned on the TV, just to drown out the sounds of my own misery, and I heard him tell someone, "You gotta fake it 'til you make it."  It was like a lightening bolt hit me square between the eyes.

"Yeah," I told myself, "I'll pretend to be normal until I figure out what that really means."  And I set out to do just that.  I read books like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, 50 Habits of "Naturally Thin" People, and French Women Don't Get Fat.  I watched my thin friends, and asked questions.  And I started to pretend to be thin.  Honest to God I did.  I'd sit down at a restaurant with my family and as I silently perused the menu, I'd ask myself, "What would a skinny person eat?"  And that's what I'd order.  When I was asked if I wanted to try a free week at a Boot Camp class, and my first instinct was fear, I told myself that a person who was really in shape would try it.  I ended up taking the class for 15 months.  The first time I was going to run more than a mile, I told myself, "A skinny girl could do it."  And I did it.  And slowly, but surely, I became the thing I was pretending to be.  I turned living like a skinny person into being a skinny person.  It is now my lifestyle - these are now my habits.

See, the epiphany wasn't that I could be a big phony for the rest of my life.  The epiphany was that I didn't know what to do, but I knew I had to DO something, I had to DO ANYTHING that would help me get further toward my goals.  If I had continued to sit in my living room and cry and say to myself, "This is impossible!  I just can't do it," then that would have become my reality.  So I chose to do something else.

I'm begging you to give it a try.  When you're feeling stuck or stymied, just do something that you think will get you closer to your goal.  Through that one action, you'll be moved to do something else, and then something else until you find you're moving down the road, journeying away from the place where you were stuck.  When you look at that place in your proverbial rear-view mirror, you'll see it isn't as terrible a place as you thought it was.  And if you get stuck again, chose to DO something - don't plan, don't think, just DO.  And if you don't know what to do, fake it.  Pretend you are the person you dream of being.  Next thing you know, you will be.

My best wishes to you.  More soon... 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Baby Steps

"How do you eat an elephant?
  One bite at a time."
                          ~Really old joke

"The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step."
                                                                              ~Lao Tzu

Today, I received a Motivational Memo from ThisTimeIMeanIt.com, a website that I use to help me reach new goals, and one I sometimes cross-post my blogs to.  It was entitled, "Keep Moving" and spoke to the concept of making small changes to move forward, as opposed to large, sweeping changes that are sometimes too difficult to adhere to.
You can read it HERE:   http://thistimeimeanit.com/category/motivation-2/
This was a concept I learned early on in my (latest) quest to lose a large amount of weight.  Yes, like many of you, I tried and failed MANY times before I finally succeeded.  More on that another time...

In my inaugural post on this blog, I discussed my initial visit to the nutritionist.  This post addresses the follow-up.  Because after I learned that I had some mistakes to correct, I had to learn how to correct them.  The nutritionist discussed this in terms of making small changes to what I was doing - changes that I felt I was able to make and stick to.  She even let me pick them myself.  I chose to make one change to WHEN I ate, one change to WHAT I ate, and one change to the amount of physical activity I was getting.

WHEN I ate:  I used to eat all the time except in the morning, but I had read that it was good to eat within 2 hours of waking, and to stop eating at least 2 hours before sleeping.  I really felt with some focus, I could make this a habit and stick to it.  Check.

WHAT I ate:  I love to eat, so I decided that cutting out certain foods, any foods in fact, was not something I was comfortable I could do.  Instead, I decided to allow myself to eat anything I wanted, the only limitation being that I could only have one portion of it.  Second change; no seconds.  Check.

HOW often I got off the couch:  As I mentioned in the last post, I love to be outside, so I decided to make it a goal to get outside everyday for 30 minutes.  Whether it was taking a walk, doing yard work, or gardening, I had to get out of the house for 30 minutes a day.  Check.

Now, the changes each person makes must be personal to HIM/HER.  All I knew was that as I read these changes out to the nutritionist, I felt that I could really do these things - felt it in my bones.  They were simple, but not easy.  No change is ever easy, because it hasn't become a habit yet.  But, I focused all my energy on doing these things consistently, daily, and soon, they did become habitual.  In fact, in the first 5 months of my new life, I'd lost 27 pounds.  But most importantly, by making these small changes and sticking to them, I became confident in my ability to effect real changes in my life.  After the first 30-45 days, I was already searching for other changes I could make to my nutritional/activity habits, and felt confident that as long as I focused on what was immediately in front of me, I could make any change into a habit.  That's major, right?

Allow me to demonstrate how major it was for me, by posting a 'before' picture for you, my friends:

Yes, that's me at pretty near my heaviest weight.  Obviously I had a lot of work ahead of me, but by making small changes, baby steps, I've come a looooooooong way.

Where will your baby steps take you?  As far as you want them to.  Now get to steppin'.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Are We Having Fun Yet?

First, allow me to apologize for not posting for over two weeks!  No excuses, just a new goal to post at least two times per week.  Now for this week's post...

"He who laughs, lasts!"
           ~Mary Pettibone Poole

"I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy!"
            ~Louise Bogan

I began running about 2 1/2 years ago.  I never, ever thought of myself as a runner.  I walked everyday, and I loved it.  An online friend turned me on to fast walking and I got fantastic results from it.  It was low impact and easy and fun to do, so that was my exercise of choice.  Then, one day as I was walking my six-mile course, something snapped like an over-stretched rubber band.  I'd torn a hip flexor muscle and it hurt - a lot.  The short of it is, walking was never the same again.  It hurt, and that sucked all the fun out of it.  In addition, before the injury, I noticed that I had to walk further and further to work up a sweat and get my heart rate up.  I was already walking for 75 minutes a day, and didn't know how I was going to keep carving more and more time out for my walks.  I started looking around for something else to do.  Someone suggested running, and my first thought was, "Only masochists run."

After all, running is painful, and it's really, really hard.  Why would anyone do it unless they are being chased by large, carnivorous animals?  But as I continued to search for a new activity to replace walking, I kept coming back around to running.  I loved my bicycle, but the bike path in this town is fairly short so I was bored with the scenery already, and taking to the streets means taking your life in your hands (please, motorists, be kind to cyclists).  Aerobics?  Please.  Workout tapes and treadmills and ellipticals were out, because I longed to be outdoors and quickly got bored with them.  And suddenly I asked myself, "Just what are you afraid of?"  I immediately came up with a list: I was afraid of injury, of how much pain I'd be in from the impact on my joints, the burning in my lungs, the cramps in my side (I clearly remembered these from gym classes past), the blisters on my feet.  And then, once the list of fears was out there, I decided that none of them was really so terrible, and I was intrigued by the challenge of it.  I was determined not to let fear dictate what I would and wouldn't attempt.  So, I strapped on some shoes and decided to run a mile.

The first time I did it, I hated it.  It took me longer to jog than to fast-walk a mile!  And I was hot and sweaty, my feet hurt, and I felt really out of shape - huffing and puffing down the bike bath like a 100 year-old steam engine.  It took me a while to even attempt it again.  But boredom and a plateau in my weight loss got me pounding the pavement.  When I re-visited running I did it with a goal in mind - a friend had invited me to run a 5K for charity - that's 3.12 miles.  I felt it was do-able with a little training, so I set out to train.  I had 12 weeks, and was determined to do it.  I got myself an iPod, some proper running gear - including cheap, new shoes; I caution you against this.  If you are seriously considering becoming a runner, make shoes your first priority, not your last.  Anyway, in 12 weeks, I learned to love running.  The first 2-3 minutes are miserable, but then your body warms up and gets used to the pace, and you're off!  With my favorite music in my ears, and the endorphins coursing through my veins, I am never happier than when I'm running and I'm in 'the Zone.'  It's bliss.  The only thing to top it is running in a new locale and taking in spectacular scenery.

Me B4 Race Time
Which brings me to what I've been up to lately. I ran in the Presidio10, a 10 K race for the Ashlyn Dyer Foundation, on Sunday, the 17th.  The race is in San Francisco.  You run along Chrissy field, across the Golden Gate Bridge and back.  It was only my second race at this distance, although I run farther in my weekly long-run.  But the course was hilly - there were even stairs! - and I was proud that I finished under my goal time.  It was stunningly beautiful, and I loved every minute of my 62-minute run.  No, I'm not the fastest out there - not even close.  I'm not in the best shape, I don't have the best gear, I don't really even look like a runner.  Do I care?  Not a lick, because I bet you I was the only person out there who smiled from the beginning of that race to the end of it.  I had fun, I mean I really enjoyed myself.  And if you're going to exercise everyday for the rest of your life, as I plan on doing, shouldn't you at least enjoy it?  Now go out there, and find your joy.
Running Across The Bridge

Almost Finished!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Just Don't Quit

"Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful men and women keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit."  -Conrad Hilton

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” ~ Japanese Proverb

I'm in a weird place today, but it was time for a new post so, here I am.   I don't feel like I am in a position to give advice to anyone this morning, so I'm reminding myself of some advice I have taken in the past and by blogging about it, I'm sharing it with you.  Here it is - are you ready?  Just don't quit.

Every one of us has days like this, days when what was possible yesterday seems out of reach today.  We mess up, we make mistakes, we fail utterly.  So?  After such days, it would be easy to just throw in the proverbial towel and forget about all the promises we've made to ourselves about how things will be different, how we won't give up no matter what, how this time will be the time we achieve what we set out to accomplish.  But with long-term goals like losing a lot of weight, or living a healthier lifestyle, the truth is that every day is a starting point.  Maybe you feel, like I do today, that there are 10 times in a day when you have to start over.  That can be daunting and frustrating, but it's also an opportunity.  Just as one successful day of eating right and getting lots of exercise won't translate into losing 100 pounds, neither does one day of eating too much or skipping your workout mean that you've blown all the hard work you've done in the past.  All you have to do is succeed more times than you fail.  All you have to do is stand up one more time than you fall, and you win.

The only time you lose, is when you quit.

Well, I don't know about you, but I've worked WAY too hard to quit now.  So I'm going to stand up, and if I fall again, I'm going to stand up again.  I might cross the finish line last, but damn it, I'm going to cross that line.  Are you in?

Now go out and make it a great day, but if that's not possible, get through today and hope that tomorrow will be a better one.  Because that is always possible and that is what is great about life.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


"People often say that motivation doesn't last.  Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily." - Zig Ziglar

When people hear my story, the first question is inevitably, "How did you do it?"  But, that's not what people really want to know.  They want to know how I kept at it without quitting.  I'll delve more deeply into many of the pitfalls and pratfalls I've suffered along the way, and how I moved beyond them, in other posts.  For today, I'll say that one of the important things I've learned in my quest to lose 140 pounds, which I began 5 years ago this month, is that one needs motivation.  Such a small word for such a vital thing, isn't it?  It's fairy glamour - it's a wisp of golden smoke, at times impossible to perceive, let alone to grasp.  But I have to have it, or I toil in vain.  Period.  I've gained and lost motivation 1000 times over the last 60 months.  But it's what I work hardest for.  With it comes the attainment of my goals.  Without it, I can hold onto the accomplishments of the past, but I don't move forward, I don't accomplish the all-important MORE.

I've also learned that what motivates me can change every day - sometimes every moment.  Am I capricious?  Am I fickle?  I don't see myself that way, but... here's what happened today. 

It's officially spring where I am.  I went out this morning at 5:45 to hit the gym and I could FEEL it - the temperature was a modest 50 degrees, and the air was calm and still.  The sun had begun its ascent and dawn was approaching - earlier than it has in months.  Again I felt it more than saw it.  And I suddenly had a new goal.  With spring comes sleeveless apparel.  So, in the quest for what I call 'tank-top arms' I decided that I need to do some push-ups and set out to do 100 today before I sleep.  I've done two sets of 25 push-ups so  far as I write this; I'm half-way there.  What will motivate me tomorrow?  I'll let you know as soon as I do.

What motivates you?  Whatever it may be, catch it and hold it for as long as you can, because while you have it in you, you have work to do.  Isn't that divine?  When it dissipates - and it will - hunt for the next patch of glamour, and you will know how to proceed.  Just a little advice to you from me.  Make it a great day.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Give thanks for what you are now, and keep fighting for what you want to be tomorrow.  ~Fernanda Miramontes-Landeros

Give thanks for what you are now.  That's not easy when you're not happy with what you are now.  But, you've got to start somewhere, so why not start with exactly who you are today?  That was the first step on my journey towards better health and happiness in my life - getting honest about who I really was, and accepting that as my starting place.  That's something you can do right now.

Here's how I got honest.  I was 287 pounds, in physical and emotional pain and I knew I needed to change things.  I didn't know where to begin, so I asked my doctor.  My doctor had been telling me for years that I needed to drop some weight, and I got angry and resentful every, single time.  It took a lot of nerve for me to walk into his office and say, "Okay, let's say you're right, I do need to lose some weight.  Where do I start?"

He referred me to a nutritionist.  After my first meeting with her, she asked me to start a 'Food Journal.'  In it, I was to write down everything I ate for a week.  She asked me not to edit my food choices yet.  "Just eat what you'd normally eat, and write it down after you're finished," she said.  I bought myself a new notebook on the way home from the appointment, and I was very excited about starting the next day.  Then came the morning, and suddenly I was angry.  I don't know where it came from - this defiance, this rebellion.  Suddenly I was thinking, "I'll show her what I eat everyday!"  And I went off to the doughnut shop and bought six of my favorites and ate them all, with a quart of milk, for breakfast.  And I wrote it all down.  Then for lunch, I was feeling guilty, so I made myself a salad.  It was a large salad, loaded with cheese, beans, and plenty of dressing, but I felt less guilty about that than I did about the doughnuts.  Again, I recorded it all in my journal - this time with measurements.  I had two snacks that afternoon - 18 vanilla wafers and two pudding cups, and "a bag of trail mix." I'm quoting from the journal here.  For dinner, I fixed spaghetti.  I wrote that I ate a "full plate of spaghetti," which was a lot.

The week continued on like this.  Looking back now, even though I seemed to be eating with a vengeance, I don't recall feeling as though I ate more in this particular week than I did most of the time.  Eating a half-dozen doughnuts was nearly a weekly ritual.  I'd just never made note of it before. Two snacks in the afternoon - pretty common for me.  I didn't feel fuller than usual, and I didn't get a stomach ache from eating like this, so the guilt and shame I felt when showing my journal to the nutritionist at our next appointment wasn't as much about what I was eating, as how I was living.

I expected harsh judgment and criticism.  After all, that's what I'd been giving myself a heaping portion of all morning.  What happened instead was that she read my journal, did some calculations, calmly looked up at me and told me that I consumed, on average, 3900 calories a day that week.  Then she said, and I'll never forget this, "Now we know where we are, let's figure out where to go from here."  And she smiled at me.  I swear, I nearly burst into tears.  Because I realized something at that moment.  All the things I'd been saying to myself - all the "I just don't know how I got so big.  I eat healthy most of the time.  How did this happen to me?"-ing that I'd been doing was all delusion.  And that smile of hers was like getting some divine permission to let that all go, and start being honest with myself.  There, in blue ink, right there in that journal, was who I was, what I'd done, and how I'd gotten to that place.  And it was okay.  The Earth did not shift its axis, the sun still shown, and I did not die of embarrassment.

And when I left the sainted nutritionist's office, I was thankful for who I was at that moment.  I was thankful that there was no mystery - that there were lots of things I could change, lots of things I could do better from that point on.  And I set out to do them.

Where are you now?  When will you embrace the truth, and cease to be afraid of it?  Proceed on your journey.