You know how on the Biggest Loser when the contestants look at pictures of their bigger selves they say things like “I don’t even know that person.” Or “I don’t like that person.” I don’t feel that way at all when I look at pictures of myself at my heavier weight. I know exactly who I was when I was 237 pounds. Gaining weight was part of my (wait for it) journey (gag, I know!) It is only because of the challenges that I faced through the weight gain and loss that I was able to realize how strong I am. At my heaviest, at my sickest, I didn’t know that I was capable of doing things like handstands or running three miles. But now I do and I am grateful. And maybe just a little bit proud.
I’ve been doing boot camp consistently since September. Six week sessions with one week breaks in between. The last Thursday of each six week session, we do what is called “The Wall Workout.” It’s intense but super fun.
There are four exercises. We do each exercise a total of four times.
At the end of the fourth round, we do something that I have not been able to make myself do.
Every time she says “ready?” I stand there, staring at the wall, telling myself “Just do it!” But I have never found the courage to actually kick my feet up and try it.
I’m scared I won’t make it. I’m scared I will make it halfway and then come crashing down. I’m scared I’ll break my neck or hit my face on the sidewalk and knock my teeth out. I can not bring myself to even try it.
Today wasn’t any different. I said I was going to try it. And then, as everyone headed for the wall and kicked their legs up in the air, I stood there frozen with fear.
I didn’t do it.
And as we were getting ready to cross the street to head back to our workout mats, my instructor said “YOU CAN DO IT, YVONNE!” And all of my Boot Camp Sistah’s chimed in. “You can totally do it!” And then, one of them said “maybe you can do it if we cheer you on and help you.”
And so I agreed to try it with their help.
I took a deep breath. I walked quickly towards the wall. I put my hands on the ground while I kicked my feet up. One of the ladies held onto my legs to help me get set against the wall. Then, she let go and they all counted down from ten while I held myself up.
I felt a lump in my throat and couldn’t stop myself from crying just a little bit.
These women who I work out with every day were there for me. They believed in me and helped me believe in myself. THIS is what I love and value about boot camp. When I don’t think I can, they are there to remind me that I am stronger than I think and that yes, YES I CAN.
People have asked me what kind of diet I’m on. Here’s my answer: I’m not nor will I ever be on a “diet” ever again. I never say “I can’t eat that.” Or “I’m not allowed to have that.” I can and will eat whatever I want. I am insulin resistant, I struggle with thyroid disease, so I know what foods are good for my body and what foods I should avoid. I make healthy choices that will allow my body to function in the best way possible, However, I also allow myself to splurge every once in a while. There is only *one* thing that I have chosen to not eat and have not touched since I started boot camp in September– Caramel cheesecake bites from Del Taco. Because… oh my God. Those things. Amazing. Want 4 of them at a time.
The past few weeks, I definitely haven’t been eating the healthiest food for my body but instead eating things that were comforting in times of stress. Here’s the thing: I won’t beat myself up about it or feel guilty about it. I just keep making better choices and kicking butt at boot camp.
I’m not perfect. Life is short. Chili cheese fries are good. So is ice cream. So I’m not going to say I CAN’T EVER HAVE THEM. I can and sometimes I do. So there.
This morning I read a post I had written in 2007. You may be familiar with the post– I read it at live the first BlogHer Keynote in 2008.
As I read it again this morning, I marveled at how much I’ve changed. “What is the answer?” I asked in the post.
I never thought I’d find the answer. I truly believed that I would always feel that way about myself, my body.
Six years later, I can honestly say that I no longer allow my weight or the way that I view my body to negatively affect the way that I live my life. Turns out that for me, the answer was to change my behavior. I began to take care of myself, to treat myself with the same respect that I treat others in my life.
I work out daily. I make healthy food choices, but don’t deprive myself. I never turn down an invitation to spend time with family or friends because of my weight. I don’t feel guilty for spending money on taking care of myself. Boot camp is not cheap, but I’m worth the expense. It keeps me active, healthy and motivated.
I’ve been doing boot camp since September of last year and I still weigh 184 pounds. I still wear a size 14. I still have bumps and lumps on my chubby legs. I have sagging skin from the weight loss. I still struggle with the way my body looks at times, I would be lying if I said I didn’t. But here’s the difference– I no longer focus on those things. I focus on how strong I feel, I focus on the joy that I feel when I’m spending time with family and friends. I focus on love, laughter, on living my life. I allow myself to feel proud of my accomplishments, no matter how small they may be. Did you know there was a time where I couldn’t run for five minutes without feeling like I was dying? But now, I can run (slowly) for three miles and feel TOTALLY GREAT when I’m done? I am proud of that. I CELEBRATE THAT.
For me, that has been the answer to stop the self hatred and to start enjoying life and loving who I am, in this imperfect but perfect for ME body.
I didn’t take any “before” photos when I returned to boot camp in September. I wanted my focus to be on getting healthy, not on the size of my body. I didn’t want to waste energy stressing about weight, instead, I wanted to use all of my energy to get stronger and faster and perhaps hate running a little bit less.
People have started making comments that they can see changes in my body, but I’ve not been able to tell much. What I have noticed is that I have more endurance, that I’m stronger, that I no longer feel like I’m going to die when I run. I can do more sit-ups, I no longer have to do the “modified” version of exercises. Those are the changes I notice. So, this morning, when my husband made yet another comment about how much fitter my body is looking, I asked him to take a few photos with my phone.
He took this one as I was about to leave for my workout.
I didn’t have anything to compare it to, but I thought “not loving the belly roll, but my face looks a bit thinner.”
When I returned home from the workout, I asked him to take a few more. This time without the long t-shirt.
Then, I searched my cell phone, looking for a photo taken before I started boot camp. I found one that was taken at the end of August. It wasn’t until I saw that photo that I thought “My hard work *is* starting to show.”
I’m still overweight, my body is far from perfect, but you guys, I feel so good. I don’t feel ashamed about anything I see there. I feel proud that I have worked so hard. I feel motivated to keep working hard to get stronger, faster, healthier. What is that thing that they say? Strong is the new sexy? Yeah, that.
Twenty year old me could have never imagined feeling this way about my body was ever possible. I love 41 year old me.
Guess what? I’ve gained 20 pounds.
I’m not happy about it, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I could write a long, thoughtful post about why I gained the weight, but I’ll spare you the excuses. I gained weight because I’ve not been eating healthy food and I’ve not been working out. (And maybe, just maybe I stopped taking metf*rmin without my doctor telling me to do so and well, I probably shouldn’t have done that.)
Today, I’m putting a stop to being unhealthy and unkind to my body. Today, I stop focusing on the “how I got here’s” and put all of my energy into “how I’ll change going forward.”
Here’s the plan.
I want to lose the 20 pounds I gained over the next 3 months.
How do I plan on doing that?
I’m going to put spiders in all of my food and drinks. Just kidding. Although, not my worst idea ever.
It’s simple, really.
A liiiiiiiiiittle less caramel cheesecake bites and a lot more fruit and vegetables.
A liiiiiiiiiittle less sitting on the couch watching Real Housewives of Everywhere and a lot more running, squats, sit-ups and push-ups.
Also? I will take all medications that have been prescribed to me by my endocrinologist until I am told it’s okay to stop taking them.
Dealing with Hashimotos and insulin resistance and my other health problems makes losing weight complicated, but I’ve done it before, I can do it again.
I will do it again.
Yeah hear me? I’ve got this.
Yesterday was the last day of boot camp. We tested out in the morning. I could not be happier with my results.
I lost 6 pounds.
I lost a total of 11.25 inches, 4 of those inches in my hips, 2 1/2 in my waist.
I improved my mile time by 1 minute 1 second.
I improved my push-ups by 15.
I improved my sit-ups by 14.
I improved my attitude by 100%.
This time around I learned that I don’t like to be uncomfortable and the second things get tough, I want to quit. Because it hurts. Because I’m scared.. This session I learned to push myself– push past the pain, past the insecurity, past the fear. I did things I didn’t think I could do, things I didn’t want to do. I wasn’t always happy about it. In fact, sometimes I was downright PISSED OFF. But I did it and I got results.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Truth.
I’m excited to do another six weeks. To get stronger, hopefully faster, maybe a bit smaller, but mostly healthier.
Every time that I tell my boys about boot camp, they kind of roll their eyes and say “doesn’t sound that hard.” You see, Ethan is an athlete who does intensive training for basketball and Andrew attends physical training weekly at the Marine recruiting station. What I do at fitness boot camp couldn’t possibly compare to the intensity of their workouts. “You think it’s so easy, then I challenge you to join me for a class!” Ethan promised me he would come to a class during spring break. Today was the day that he agreed to get up early to come with me. Oh boy did he pick a good day.
Today we did a “1,000 rep challenge.”
Ten different exercises, ten times each, for ten rounds. We would have forty minutes to try to complete all 1,000 reps. My first thought as she was explaining how it would work was “I will never complete all 1,000 reps. No way.” Followed by “my son is going to kick my butt.” He’s young, he’s fit, he’s an athlete. I’m forty and not in very good shape.
To be honest, I was terrified. I didn’t want to fail. I wanted to complete it, I wanted to kick ass, but one thing I struggle with is believing in myself, in my ability to succeed. I decided I would do my best and that I would push myself as hard as I possibly could.
The challenge started. I hit it hard. So did my son. He quickly got ahead of me, just like I knew he would. I was okay with that. This wasn’t about me wanting to beat him. It was about me wanting to do something I didn’t think I could do. This was about me not wanting to fail. This was about me believing that I had it in me to complete this challenge.
I completed round one, then round two, then round three, then four. Things got a little difficult. My legs were burning, I was out of breath, everything in me said “take a break! Stop!” But I didn’t. I pushed through the pain, through the discomfort. I completed round five, then six, then seven, eight and nine.
And then, at the 37 minute mark, I finished the last round– round ten.
I did it. I did something I didn’t think I was capable of doing.
I laid on my mat, I moaned for a minute and then I got up and walked around with a smile on my face.
“You’re stronger than you think you are.” I whispered to myself.
At the beginning of the class, our instructor said there would be a gift card handed out to the winner of the challenge. She said this person wouldn’t necessarily be the first person to finish, but the one who worked the hardest. After the challenge was over, she congratulated everyone on their hard work. “There is one person who really stood out today.” I waited to hear which one of my incredible boot campers would be named. “That person is Yvonne.”
My fellow campers clapped and agreed with her choice. “Great job!” They said. “You kicked butt!!”
She handed me the gift card and told me she was proud of me. As corny as this sounds, I wanted to cry. I felt proud of myself and I rarely feel the way.
Any time I feel like I am not capable of doing something, I will think back to this challenge and I will tell myself “Yes. Yes you can.”
As an aside, because it’s totally not important at all, I finished before my son. My young, fit, athletic son.
The last time I wrote about my health I had just completed six weeks of boot camp. (One of the best things I’ve ever done for myself!) I was feeling strong, fit, capable of doing anything I put my mind to! I was on my way to my goal weight and to being my healthiest self.
I was so proud of myself, not for the weight loss, but for my dedication and hard work. For making my health– myself-- a priority.
Just after I finished up boot camp, life got a bit complicated. There was a new job with new hours that caused a shift in our daily schedules, making it difficult for me to find time for exercise. I dealt with the emotional trauma of watching my Grandmother die from Asshole Cancer. The time issue caused a grocery shopping issue which caused a Eating Too Much Fast Food Issue, which caused a Feel Like Crap and Gained Sixteen Pounds Issue.
Sixteen pounds is a lot of weight. The weight gain is evident, clothes don’t fit, my body looks different. But more importantly, and the thing that bothers me the most is how unhealthy I feel physically.
Why did I allow this to happen to myself? I have an auto-immune disease. Eating right and staying physically active are both vital to my overall well being. I know this and yet?
I’m struggling to rebound from this personal health set back. I feel shame for failing, for letting this happen. I know that getting back on track will be a matter of taking small, practical steps (going grocery shopping weekly, planning meals, setting a specific time to workout every day.) And yet, I feel so overwhelmed, questioning whether it’s possible to get back to that Good Place of health and happiness again.
One day at a time, I tell myself. One day at a time.
Last month, Lands’ End sent me a free swimsuit. The only thing I was asked in return was to take a photo of myself in that swimsuit and to post that photo on Curvy Girl Guide as a part of National Swimsuit Confidence Week. However, I loved the suit so much, I wanted to tell you about it.
I usually buy swimsuits from places like Target or Kohls or anywhere I can a) find one that covers my thighs b) doesn’t cost a lot of money. Last summer, I found this one. It’s cute, yes? But, here’s the thing. It did not have good support in The Boob Department. When you have Big (saggy) Boobs, it is important that one’s swimsuit has proper support. That is where the Land’s End suit completely won me over.(The same can be said for the belly area, which is another probably area for me.) It held the boobs, it lifted and separated the boobs and most importantly, it kept the boobs in place. (I jumped up and down to test it. Scientific testing at it’s finest!) Before having actually tried this swimsuit on, I most likely would not have felt comfortable spending $109 (now $89.00!) on it. However, after wearing (jumping) in it and feeling the difference from the suit I wore last summer, I think it’s worth every penny. And from what I’ve heard from friends and readers who wear Land’s End suits, this one will last longer than one summer.
Now, look. I know my body isn’t perfect. I know you see the cellulite, the lumps, the chunk. I have spent many summers hiding those legs. I spent summer after summer denying myself fun (trips to the beach, swimming with friends, etc) because of the shame I felt about my body. Last summer was the first time in years that I bought and wore a swimsuit and I did it for my children, especially for my daughter. How could I teach her to love herself, to live life to the fullest and enjoy every minute when I was letting fear and shame keep me from enjoying MY life? This year, I chose to put on this swimsuit and be a part of National Swimsuit Confidence Week for myself. I may not be entirely happy with my body, but I most certainly will not spend another summer feeling ashamed of it.
I want to thank Lands’ End for letting me be a part this amazing project. I can only hope that doing this helps other women in some small way to be confident with who they are and the body that they live in.
(Lands’ End has created a “Swimsuit Confidence Week” photo album on their Facebook page. Go look, go like, so support the women who were brave enough to be a part of this!)