Bit the Bullet

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I finally gave in. I had been trying to get fit by 40 without spending copious amounts of money. This was partly due to the fact that I didn’t want to feed the “diet industry,” and partly due to the fact that I don’t have a lot of money to spend. But, about a week and a half ago, I finally joined a gym.

My decision was spurned by a Facebook friend. She posted something about joining a local gym and getting a discount because she’s a school board employee. It sounded like a pretty good deal – $15 month, and you can workout at any of their locations. Throw into the mix that my best friend works for this company and can train me at any location, and I was sold. I joined on January 31.

Upon joining, they require you to do a fitness evaluation. I kind of dreaded this, as it meant stepping on the scale. As suspected, I had gained more weight than I care to mention. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but I’m a lot closer to my heaviest weight than I’d like to be.

I must admit: I’m not convinced I can stick with this. I’m not sure I can do it. I don’t think it’s going to work. I’m feeling fat and don’t have the time or energy to fully embrace this. But if I don’t do this, I’m just going to gain more weight and my health will deteriorate even more. This is something I need to do, even if it’s not something I want to do.

So I’ve done it. I’ve joined a gym. And I’ve worked out three times in the last 6 days. I am trying to be gentle on myself, and not push myself so hard that I end up feeling sore and discouraged. Today, I did 35 minutes on the treadmill, and really worked up a sweat. It wasn’t much, but it’s a start. I did my best without pushing myself toward defeat. I was hoping to do 40 minutes, but my back was starting to bother me, and I decided that, today, 35 minutes was my best.

I am trying hard to focus on this concept of “my best.” My best is different than your best, and it’s different than that skinny 20-something I see running effortlessly (not just walking like I do) on the treadmill. It’s difficult for me to not compare myself for others. I am such a competitive perfectionist: I need to be the best. But I cannot be successful with this endeavor if I’m comparing myself to other women. I need to compare myself to me.

I am looking forward to getting together with my best friend later this week. She is putting together a workout for me and is going to help me reach my goals. I love her dearly, and am going to try to do my best with whatever she puts together for me.

Excuses, excuses.

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Okay, okay. I know: I haven’t posted in a long time. I have some really good excuses though!

Excuse #1: My laptop is dead. My son fried it. I’m writing this on my iPhone, which is incredibly inconvenient.

Excuse #2: He’s probably going to hate this, but my boyfriend is the second excuse. But it’s not what you think! I’m not saying that I’m too busy being utterly in love to write a blog post. Quite frankly, being single and looking for love was much more time consuming.

No, this is a different type of excuse. My boyfriend has this amazing way of making me feel beautiful. For the first time in my life, I feel physically desired and desirable. Which is totally unheard of for a woman with serious body image issues.

I’ve been deliriously happy these past four and a half months. I’ve also been ignoring taking care of myself. Truth be told, I have been enjoying having someone else take care of me…. Not so much in a literal way, but in an emotionally supportive kind of way. However, I will openly admit that I have ceased to take good care of myself.

I’ve been eating like crap. I haven’t been exercising. I’ve gained weight. How much, I’m not sure, as I’m loathe to step on the scale. All I know is that my fat clothes have started to get tight. My skin looks dull and worn. I’m tired most of the time. I feel physically gross.

The good news is that the back pain that had been plaguing me has improved. I no longer have crippling sciatica pain down my right leg.

The bad news? I have done nothing to work towards my goal. And I’m really mad at myself.

I’ve realized that I started this goal wanting to be thinner and healthier to find love. I truly thought that no one could possibly love me when I look like this. I was, thank the lord, completely wrong. But now I’m lacking the motivation that came from self-loathing.

Late this past summer, I had started eating clean. It felt great. I had more energy, my skin looked great, and I felt younger. Then, the stress of work hit. I have a very difficult group of kids in my class this year. At the end of the day, I am worn out, stressed and tired. More often than not, I stop somewhere for a coffee and a pastry of some sort. Or even just a chocolate bar.

That was the start of the downward decline. A cookie after work slowly became bad lunches, quick dinners and McDonald’s drive-thru for breakfast.

I have to turn things around. I know, from experience, if I try to do it all at once, I will fall flat on my face. Baby steps. They work.

My first baby step is to cut out the after school visit to Starbucks and Timmies. This I can do. I need to plan for being tired and worn out after work. That means packing a healthy, energizing snack for after school.

Today, I had an apple and a snack/cereal type bar in the car on the way home. The apple was a good choice. The bar? Not so much. I was rather proud of myself for bypassing Tim Hortons, but then promptly had a stack of Oreos when I got home.

Perhaps I also need to look at why I’m so tired at the end of the day. Yes, work is hard and exhausting. But am I properly fueling my body? Nope. I know I’m not staying hydrated. And I’m not eating in a way that will keep me energized.

Definitely something to think about. However, for the next week, I will focus on not stopping for sugary snacks on the way home.

Back in the saddle again

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Recently, someone complimented me on a certain body part. I did not believe him. But, that’s his opinion, and who am I to argue (said while silently disagreeing with his point of view). I would dearly like to believe him, I really would. I’ve been focusing on the mental and emotional aspects of my body image issues, trying to find a way to believe him when he compliments me on my body.

It hasn’t been working all that well.

Sure, I can accept that he has an opinion about how he views my body. I get that part. I just don’t agree with his opinion. Quite frankly, because I so vehemently disagree with his opinion, it is oftentimes a huge struggle for me to accept it as fact and not just a nicety. And so, I sit here, mulling over it, trying to come to terms with it, pouring my heart out in my journal…. to no avail. I simply cannot accept the fact that someone could be physically attracted to me.

Tonight, I had a bit of a revelation. I was mulling over different blog ideas in my head, sussing them out, gauging my thoughts and opinions, when it hit me:

No amount of thinking or trying to change my beliefs is going to help me accept his opinion. The only way I can possibly agree with how he sees me is to actually have a great (insert body part here).

When someone tells me that I have a nice smile or beautiful eyes, I believe them. Why? Because I can look at myself in the mirror and see that I do, indeed, have nice eyes and a great smile. The eyes I have my mother to thank, and the teeth? A great orthodontist. But the rest of me? Yeah. Not so much.

I can psychoanalyze the heck out of my body image issues. I can try different types of therapy and counseling. I can buy fancy clothes and wear great accessories: none of it is going to help.

The only way I will ever be able to believe my boyfriend when he comments on my body is if I work hard to create a body that I can love.

I read a great blog post today by the KnowledgeMaven about filling yourself up with love. She writes:

Every now and again, though, we need to turn the mirror of veracity on ourselves and provide the same love and support that we provide to others to ourselves. For me, the truth is that I often found it easier to have enough faith for everyone else.

Upon reading this, I realized that I don’t love my body, and I definitely don’t treat it in a loving way. That’s why I have such a hard time accepting my boyfriend’s opinion of me. And, that’s why I often feel uncomfortable when he treats me in loving ways.

Confession time: I haven’t truly exercised in months. In the last two months, I’ve been using baked goods to deal with stress. My pants are getting tight and I haven’t stepped on the scale in a long time. In short, I’ve been neglecting myself. In the last few weeks, my body has been trying to send me this message; aches & pains, stiffness, digestion ailments, and general moodiness have prevailed. I really don’t like the way I feel.

So, I’m setting some goals for the week ahead:

1. Eat clean 50-75% of the time.
2. Reduce my coffee intake and swap it for green tea.
3. Drink more water (aiming for 2 litres/day)
4. Morning yoga 3x this week.

My reward will be a spa night for myself, including a bubble bath, mud mask, candle light and maybe a glass of wine. I like how this reward focuses on treating my body with love!

The truth we tell ourselves

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My friend Jodi commented tonight on how I hadn’t written a blog post in a while. It’s been over 2 1/2 months since I’ve written anything. In that time, I have really fallen off the wagon. I’ve stopped exercising (unless you count two or three sessions of my once-beloved 5am yoga as exercise), fallen back into terrible eating habits, and, honestly?, stopped trying.

It wasn’t intentional. It was very gradual. It all started when I started my new job teaching grade 2. To say I have a challenging class would be an understatement. Combine that with my relative lack of experience as a teacher, and my stress levels have been pretty high. And, true to form, I’ve reverted to sugary, fat-laden carbs to cope.

This weekend, I had a wake up call. Severe pain. My back is getting really bad again, and I have a pretty much constant pain in my leg from the nerves that are being pinched. The only time it doesn’t hurt is when I’ve been on my feet all day, teaching. I’ve been down this path before, and I know just how bad it can get. I can see that my self-neglect is having some very concrete, extremely painful consequences.

I’ve been mulling over this for a few days now. Asking myself some very pointed questions. Trying really hard to not beat myself up. I’m mad at myself for not sticking to all the great changes I had been making. I’m mad at myself for allowing myself to feel like crap. But mostly, I’m frustrated by the way I can’t seem to stick to the lifestyle changes I so desperately want to make.

I’m made a very important discovery: I’ve been lying to myself. When I started this blog, I had convinced myself that I was doing this for me. I did an excellent job of lying to everyone around me, and an even better job of lying to myself.

You see, if there is one thing that I wanted as badly as I want to be thin and healthy, it was love. Somewhere in my past, I learned to equate being loved with being thin. It became such a deeply ingrained message that it was a truth for me. I was truly convinced that no one would ever love me if I wasn’t thin. Hell, if I couldn’t look in the mirror and love what I saw, how could any man ever love me.

Y’know what? I was wrong.

So gloriously wrong. Entirely, completely wrong.

I was reading over my past entries, and recalled the conversation I had with my dearest girl friend this summer. She said, “Do you really hate your body that much that you cannot accept that a man may actually like you for you?” I remember answering quickly with an emphatic “yes!”

I am so SO SO glad I was wrong. I honestly thought that no man could ever love me and accept me for who I am. I have found the most amazing man who not only accepts me for who I am, he adores me, cherishes me, and loves me and (get this!!!!!) my body. Seriously. I couldn’t make this stuff up. I still have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

But, as amazing as it feels to be in love with and be loved by a great guy, I still struggle with body image. The thing is, I can see now that I’ve been lying to myself: someone can (and does!!) love me without being the perfect weight. I don’t need to lose weight to be loved. Wow.

So this is what I’ve been mulling over lately: for decades, my “truth” was that no one could ever love me if I wasn’t thin. That “truth” has been utterly blown out of the water and exposed for what it really is: a lie.

Yes, I will admit it. I started this blog because I wasn’t happy with my physical appearance or health, but it was all in relation to being loved. Now that I am loved (more than I ever dreamed possible!) I have a very difficult truth to face: I am worthy of being healthy. Believe it or not, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this – it’s a complete shift in thinking.

I don’t need to lose weight to be loved, that has been proven in a way that absolutely blows my mind. Admittedly, I’m still trying to get used to it. Now, to wrap my head around the fact that I actually deserve to be healthy and feel vibrant, energetic and full of life.

When 50% is a Good Thing

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If you don’t already know, I’m a school teacher. I spend a lot of my time marking and grading. When I was a kid, if you got 50% on a test, it was a bad thing (I can’t remember, but I seem to think it earned you a “D”) Nowadays, a 50% is a C- (which means “not yet meeting expectations”). Grades are a big thing for me – not only professionally, but personally. I have spent pretty much all of my life around this idea of being graded. In elementary and secondary school, I brought home decent enough grades to keep my parents happy without having to do too much work. Now that my own children are entering high school, we talk about the importance of a good GPA as it pertains to getting into post-secondary programs.  As a music student, I took Royal Conservatory Exams, and remember the thrill of getting a “First Class Honours with Distinction” on a few theory exams…. and, I remember the devastation of failing my grade 10 practical exam the first time I took it (a pass, in that instance, was 70%). When I recently returned to university, I decided that this was my time to shine, and I pushed myself to get straight As. Each essay I got back with a lovely red “A” on the last page brought me joy. Those A+s were cause for celebration. When I was doing my teaching practicum, which was a pass/fail program, a friend and I resolved to give each other As at the end of the term, because we were both so driven by letter grades.  And, I’ve been known to brag about graduation from my B.Ed program with straight A+s. Grades are omnipresent in my life.

Today, however, I realized something very important: 50% is good enough.

Wow – I could hear my friends gasping at reading me say that!!! But, it’s true.

This week, I started following the Eat-Clean Diet (which isn’t really a diet as much as it is a lifestyle change for me). Typically, when I start a new “diet” it’s an all-or-nothing thing for me. If I couldn’t give myself a grade of “A” (or better) after a couple of days, I’d get so discouraged, and quit. Which would often lead to me feeling depressed and thereby eating more (usually in the form of chocolate).

Last Friday, during my counselling appointment, my counsellor had me set some goals. I decided that I’d eat clean for breakfast and lunch, which, a few days later, turned into “eat clean for two meals/snacks per day.” I know it sounds like a simple goal, but for me to not strive for perfection is very, very difficult.

You know what? It’s working! In striving for this partial goal, this ‘not-quite-perfect’ goal, I am actually feeling successful!! Sure, I’ve had a few “dirty meals” (um, Burger King isn’t ‘clean eating’ last time I checked), but, because my goal is two meals/day clean, I’m not beating myself up when I have one unhealthy meal. Ok, so I had that piece of cake and a can of pop at lunch today… who cares?!? It was one meal, and I didn’t let it ruin my day! I had a very healthy breakfast, and my dinner was really clean…. and tonight, when I was having a major sugar craving, I waited it out, reminding myself that this is just my body’s way of getting used to a new lifestyle, one that doesn’t depend on refined sugars for energy.

How cool is that?!?!

Even though yesterday I had Burger King for lunch, and today I splurged a bit, I don’t feel like a failure. I am able to focus on my success because I met my goal. And I can do it again tomorrow, and the day after that. Then, once I get used to eating 50% clean, I can increase it to 75% clean.

When I went to search for an image for this post, the first thing I typed into the search engine was “50%.” Do you know what came up? A bunch of 50% Off sale signs. That made me chuckle… maybe this 50% approach will help me take pounds off!!

I’ve never been one for baby steps. No siree. I’ve always been an ‘all or nothing’ type gal. However, I’m learning to be kinder to myself, to love myself, and to forgive myself. I’ve said it before that we treat our pets better than we treat ourselves. As I get ready to embark on a new year of teaching (and grading!) I need to remember something very, very important:

I am a great teacher who treats her students with love, compassion, empathy, kindness, respect and dignity (as every good teacher does): it’s time I started treating myself as well as I treat my students.

When a student fails a spelling test, I don’t tell them they should just quit school! When a student feels discouraged by an assignment that seems too difficult, I help them work through it, step by step. My goal as an educator is to help my students believe in themselves and feel proud of a job well done. I have come to learn that one student’s amazing achievement may be another student’s worst work; I work hard to help my kids recognize their strengths and improve their weaknesses. I encourage them to keep trying, over and over again, until they learn.

Why should I be any different with myself? Why can’t I encourage myself to keep trying and trying until I learn a new way of living? Because, really, it isn’t about the grade. Ask any teacher: grades are not as important as the lessons learned.

I am learning. I am learning a new way of being. It won’t always come easy, but as long as I try my best, I will succeed.

So, yeah, 50% is a good thing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oven Roasted Brown Rice Pilaf

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I took this recipe and modified it, as I didn’t have tomatoes on hand.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/3 – 1/2 c finely chopped mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped.
  • 2 cups brown basmati rice
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano or thyme
  • 4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, heated (you can use vegetable broth to make it a vegetarian dish)
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy ovenproof saucepan with a lid. Add the onion & garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and red pepper, saute until soft.
  3. Add rice and chopped oregano. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is shiny, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in hot stock. Cover pot and bring to a boil.
  6. Transfer to oven and continue to cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed – about 40 to 45 minutes.
  7. Remove the rice from the oven and fluff with a fork. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl.

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The original recipe called for 4 1/4 cups of broth, but I misread the recipe while making it and used 4 1/2 cups – the rice was nice and soft. All three boys said they liked it – and they don’t normally eat brown rice.

Eating Clean

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Today, I am starting something new: Clean Eating. It’s a term I’ve been hearing over and over again since starting this journey. The way I see it is that if the universe keeps presenting you with an idea, perhaps you should listen. There are hundreds and hundreds of diet books, programs, pills, magic potions, on which you can spend money. Those of you who have been following my blog know that I’m trying to become fit and healthy without giving into the propaganda of the diet industry (and without giving them a ton of money!)

Well, I have to admit, I gave in the other day and bought a “diet book”. Actually, I bought three diet books, costing me a total of $33. Which really isn’t that bad.

What books, you ask?

From the research I’ve been doing, this approach seems to make sense to me. Eat more of the healthy stuff – protein, complex carbs, healthy oils; Eat less of the unhealthy stuff – sugars, refined foods, calorie-dense/nutrient poor, prepackaged foods. Sure, I could probably figure this out all on my own, but I love learning, and knowledge is power, right?

Tosca Reno, the author, states that our physiques are 10% genetics, 10% training and 80% nutrition.  I cannot control genetics (which, in reality, I’ve been somewhat blessed with! My dad is a very trim man. From my mother, I am blessed with amazing skin!). The thought of training freaks me out – I still don’t see myself as a ‘exerciser’. But I love to eat. And, I can control food!! And if 80% of how I look is determined by what I eat, that means I can control how I look! That’s great news.

This past week, I have felt tired, depressed, unmotivated, lazy, listless, and have sat around on the couch like a blob.  I’m not surprised: I’ve been filling up on simple carbs and sugary food. I really don’t recall eating much fruit and veggies in the last week. And once you feel that way, it is really hard to be motived out of it.

Fortunately, I have help. My darling friend Jenn and I went grocery shopping together this morning. She’s doing the Eat-Clean thing too (albeit for slightly different reasons than I). She’s helping me with grocery lists and menu plans, which is a godsend. It was nice to go shopping with someone else – I felt far less tempted to buy junky stuff (although, I did buy some not-so-healthy choices for my kids, but it’s things that I generally don’t eat, so I’m not tempted to eat it).

I had my first Eat-Clean lunch today:

2 pc. sprout grain bread

1/2 avocado

1 tomato slice

1 oz. reduced fat cheese

A bit of sprouts

1 c. strawberries

I am SO full, and feel great. I am looking forward to seeing what heath benefits I can notice in the next few days. I’m a bit worried that it will be hard to give up sugar entirely, wondering what type of withdrawal symptoms I may experience. I am looking forward to having more energy, feeling more clear-headed and emotionally stable (less mood swings), having healthier looking skin and, of course, losing weight.

I was reading in Tosca’s book that you can expect to lose 3 lbs a week. I’m not sure if that will happen to me, because I’m not focusing on going “all or nothing” with this. I know myself well enough to know that if I do go all gung-ho on this, and try my best to follow it perfectly, the minute I mess up, I’ll give up. I’m trying to see this as a lifestyle change, taking it one day at a time. I was talking with my therapist yesterday, and she was helping me set some  goals. This week’s goal that I came up with in counselling is to eat clean for breakfast and lunch.  I think I’m going to tweak that a bit: Aim to eat clean for two main meals and snacks/day. I have menu plans and a fully stocked fridge with healthy food. I think I can do this!