Letting Go of the Numbers

Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful

Finding Balance and the Art of Letting Go

Like so many people I am constantly striving to find balance in all aspects of my life.  I challenge my body physically, but try not to push to the point of injury. I strive to eat well, but not obsess over calories and portions. For me it’s a fine line to walk, and I’ve been on both sides. I spent a large portion of my life eating terribly and not being active at all. On my path to losing weight I counted calories and restricted my eating to almost disorder level, while at the same time working out excessively with the scale being my only goal. I spent almost a year stepping on the scale three to four times daily, hoping to see a magic number – so I know I have it in me take a goal and turn it into an obsession.

Where I am now feels so much different, but the challenge is the same, stay focused while staying balanced. Today that means keeping my training, my career, and my family all in line, and not letting one of them fall in favor of the others.

I am about 12 weeks into Ironman training. That means I am working out about 12 hours a week, and that number is going to continue to rise over the next four months. Physically and mentally I have never felt more ready for the challenge ahead of me, but there is no question that it’s a huge time commitment that can leave the people in my life wondering how much longer I’m going to be working out, or whether or not I will be at the gym in the morning.

At the same time (because I am a glutton for punishment) I am in the process of launching a business which is also taking a great deal of time and energy. Between meetings with people, researching programs, and looking at pricing, it is time away from (or at least distracted from) my family and friends. Like the Ironman, this is a challenge I am ready for but the time commitment is huge.

When it comes to my family, the key is communication. I had a conversation with my husband about everything that I am trying to do, and the time and effort it is going to take. I also sat down with my girls and explained to them what I am trying to do, and what the end goal is – spending a lot of time busy now, hopefully will mean more time at home down the road.

To find balance for my family, I do a good portion of my training in my basement so that even when I’m on the bike or treadmill I am available. I try to schedule as many appointments and meetings as I can during times when the kids are at school, that way when I get out of work, I am home for dinner and family time. Most importantly, I let go. Let go of all the expectation that I put on myself to be everything to everyone. Let go of what I think other people expect from me – making sure that I am saying no to things that are outside my availability, and learning to say yes to help when it is offered. Let go of striving for perfection and focus on simply being doing the best I can.

 

Resolutions, Goals, and Plans

 

I’ve never been a fan of resolutions. I don’t like leaving things unfinished, and it seems like people make resolutions with the intention of breaking them. Instead I like to set goals. Early in the new year I start with a blank piece of paper and make a list of everything I want to accomplish.  There are no restrictions to what I write, I don’t limit it by what seems possible or what I have time for, I just make the list. Goals that relate to my family, home, fitness, career, finances everything gets written down.

When I finish my list I let it sit for a day or two, then I start to organize and filter. There is power in writing down your goals, it takes the scattered thoughts and brings them into focus. When you take a fresh look at what you have written brings into focus what you want and what you think you should want.  Every year I set a goal to organize our office, and every year that project gets pushed aside, if it was really that important to me it would be done. If you’re looking at something you have written and all you can think is that you don’t have the time, money, or energy to make it happen, let it go for now. We find the time and money for the things that matter to us, maybe you aren’t there yet.

Sometimes the goals are small like remembering to floss every day.  Sometimes the goals are huge like completing an Ironman. Some of them won’t matter to anyone but you, that doesn’t diminish their importance.

Once you have those goals in mind, it’s time to make a plan, don’t just hope that these goals will fall into place, figure out how you’re going to make it happen. The great thing about fitness goals is a lot of them come with a plan. I have a plan for the next 30 weeks that will get me across the finish line at the Lake Placid Ironman! This year I also have big career goals, I am expanding my private coaching business, and there isn’t a training plan for that. Instead of hoping that a business plan will fall into my lap, I’m researching, expanding my education, forming new relationships, and reigniting old ones.  Putting together a plan that will get me to my goal.

Start by asking yourself what you really want. What areas of your life run smoothly, and where are you pushing against the grain. Don’t be afraid to dream big. The first time I knew I would complete a marathon I was over 200 pounds training for my first 5k. Stop limiting yourself by what seems possible.

Wineglass Marathon

 

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Sometimes you run the race and sometimes the race runs you. This race was the latter. Last Sunday I ran my fourth full marathon. Despite months of planning and preparation when the shoes hit the road it all fell apart.  Running a marathon does funny things to you, out there on the road, feeling so alone surrounded by thousands of people. Everyone has the same goal, but you have to get there by yourself.

I always start a race with a couple goals in mind. First and foremost, finish feeling good. The second goal is a finish time I think I can hit without too much trouble, in this case 4:30. The third goal is a stretch a time I would love to hit, but everything will have to be smooth to get there, on Sunday that time was 4:10.

It started out great, feeling strong, comfortable, and unhurried. I stopped to get band aids for blister I was having trouble ignoring around mile 12.  Somewhere around mile 15 the wheels started to fall off, my legs ached, nothing felt right, the music was wrong, I couldn’t stop my head from spinning with all the mistakes I had made in the last two and a half hours. At mile 16 the 4:30 pace group passed me, who needs them anyway. Somewhere between 17 and 18 the 4:45 group slides by. That’s where it all feel apart on the road, the tears flowed and the swear words flew. When the 5 hour overly cheerful pacer passed my at mile 20 I was ready to quit and call it a day. I’ve thought a lot of things in the midst of a marathon, but this was the first time I actually wondered how bad it would be to just bow out and go home. Instead I sent a message to one of the few people I know who would tell me what I needed to hear in that moment. She answered- Shoulders back, head up, keep moving forward. That is exactly what I did.

Running gives and it takes just as much. Everyone knows, the hardest part of running a marathon is that it all comes down to one day. I can dissect training schedules, shoe issues, sleep patterns, or work schedules but at the end of the day the times I spent between the start line and the finish line, I ran the best race I could, and that’s what matters. I was reminded by a very good friend that we focus on the finish lines, not the finish times.  I didn’t get into running to have record times. I didn’t get into running to run faster than my friends or win in my age group. I run to start my day on my terms. I run to spend time with some of my closest friends in the wee hours of the morning. I run to keep my body strong and balance my love of food. I run to keep my head above the low tide of depression that is always in the shadows. None of that has anything to do with the time on the clock.

Event though the numbers aren’t on the scale, It seems I still have some work to do letting go of them.

What Does “Healthy Eating” Look Like?

Every day I work with people who feel like they need to lose weight. Really, most of us are trying to find some sort of balance between what we are eating and how much we are moving. I think a large part of the frustration is that so many of us are so confused about what healthy eating actually looks like. We have been dieting for so long we don’t know how to be with food anymore.

Imagine you’re driving down the road and you get a flat tire, does it make sense to pull over and slash the other three tires? That’s how most of us deal with food. We count calories and carbs, we weigh and measure, we deny ourselves our favorite, forbidden foods. Once we slip up though its all over, we go off track with our eating just a little bit and we lose our way completely – giving up and going completely off track. We are so stuck in the all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to food.

The answer for me is 80/20, most of the time I eat well, then some days we have pizza and wings for dinner. The thing is though, when I eat something less than healthy or a little decadent, I get over it. I don’t spend the rest of the day beating myself up over a cookie at lunch. More importantly I don’t let one bad meal turn into a bad day of eating which turns into a week of bad decisions because diets can only start on Monday.  Food is good and I’m human. Life is too short to be spent counting calories. At the same time I want to live a healthy life, I want to teach my kids that eating well is not a chore. It’s all about balance. Let go of all the fads and trends. If a certain plan works for you, use it for the accountability, but leave that space in your life for splurges and treats, and know that having them is building a healthy relationship with food.

 

The number one thing I want people to learn is that healthy eating is not about always having healthy food on your plate. Healthy eating is about having a healthy relationship with the food in front of you.

The Power of the Dressing Room Mirror

In the early part of the summer I finally decided it was time to upgrade some of my wardrobe. Between running, training, and my job as a trainer I spend about 70% of my life in gym clothes, every once in a while though an occasion pops up and regular clothes are required, and mine were looking a little shabby. I took advantage of a kid free day off and headed to Marshalls. Like most people trying on clothes is not my favorite thing in the world so after searching through the stacks, I gave myself a little pep talk and headed into the dressing room with my pile of clothes.

When the clothes had all been tried and sorted into purchase or return I stood in the dressing room feeling completely defeated by the scene surrounding me. The mirrors, the mislabeled sizes, how can I be an 8 in one brand and 12 in another, the styles that don’t look good on anyone but the in store mannequins. Its a moment we all share, the harsh light and the unflattering angles showing everything we think is wrong.

Then I had a thought- it is absolutely ridiculous that my body can run a marathon yet a changing room mirror kicks my ass every time.

Our bodies are incredible machines, my body created 2 children. My body can heal broken bones. My body forgave me almost ten years of smoking and allowed me to become a distance runner. I’ve run almost 5000 miles with my own two feet and the power of my legs. At some point we just have to get over the rest of the stuff. Cellulite, stretch marks and chub rub are a part of life. We weren’t designed to be perfect, so why do we keep striving for it in the mirror. Who gets to decide what perfect looks like anyway, if you look at the “perfect” woman for every decade over the last 100 years you will find a vast variety of  shapes and sizes. Our idea of beauty is as varied as we are.

Take a look at the athletes working their butts off these few weeks in Rio. Theses are the best athletes in the world, no one would argue that they are incredibly fit. Look at all the different shapes these bodies take up, compare a swimmer to a marathon runner, then add the gymnast and a rugby player in the mix and you will have incredible diversity in body shapes and sizes, but each is healthy in their own right.

When you’re feeling frustrated because the size on your pants is larger than you wished it was, take stock of all the things your legs can do for you every single day. Stop beating yourself up because you don’t have a perfectly flat stomach, think of the power of the heart and lungs working inside that rib cage. Look at the body you have and appreciate every day what it does for you, instead of spending your time wishing it looked different, and beating it up for letting you down.

A new conversation

Its time to change the conversation that we are having about weight. Everyone is ready and willing to tell you the best way to eat, the only way to exercise, the supplements you need to have in order to achieve success. But no one is talking about why.  Why a person can be the CEO of a fortune 500 company and still not be able to get a handle on their weight. Why so many of our young people are battling eating disorders.  Why our young women, if given a choice, would rather be skinny then smart. We aren’t talking about $5 billion industry that is dedicated to convincing us that we are not good enough.  We aren’t talking about how many of us look in the mirror every day and see nothing but failure.  Before you call me out as a hypocrite, yes I make a living as a personal trainer, and yes I spend every day motivating people to lose weigh.  However this struggle is so much more than a number on the scale. The battles we are facing have so little to do with the food or our weight, and that is what no one is talking about.  Its time to change that conversation.
Here is a little bit about me… It’s not my certification or my years in the field that make me a weight loss expert. What makes me an expert is the years I have spent fighting this beast. The pounds, the diets, the disappointment and self loathing, the short cuts and desperation. The feeling growing up that I was worth less because I weighed more.  When I went to the hospital to have baby number 2, I saw 250 on the scale, and it scared the shit out of me.  I had fallen apart.  Years of depression and that overwhelming feeling of not knowing who I was or what I wanted showed up in the friendly face of someone who would do anything for anyone, but could not control what she was eating.  I now had a choice to make, these two beautiful girls  deserved a mom who had her shit together.  So I made the choice to make a change, one step at a time.  It was and is a long and often ugly process, but I got my physical health under control, and a side effect was getting my mental health at least in check. Every step of this story has been amazing, not always fun, but amazing none the less.  I grew up hating and avoiding physical activity of all kinds, now here I am a personal trainer and wellness coach, runner and triathlete.

 

Its time to let go of what the number on the scale tells you about yourself. Its time to let go of the image of what other people think we should be. It’s time to start recognizing that healthy is not defined by a size or a number. Happy is not found on the scale or at the bottom of a pint of ice cream.

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