Before I started working out, I’d look at pictures of bodybuilders and figure competitors and cringe. How on Earth could someone do that to his body? Who could find the tight skin, bulging muscles, and prominent veins attractive?
Jay Cutler, Mr. Olympia
After I started my own fitness journey, I started to understand just how much work it took to get to that point. It requires discipline, dedication, and a boat load of patience to get yourself to the point where you can compete, to say nothing of win a bodybuilding competition. Dropping your body down to single digit body fat percentages is incredibly hard. I grew to admire the tenacity of the person who could push her body to that point.
Yet when I say this to people outside of the fitness world, I get a look that says, “Girl you cray cray.” It’s hard for people to understand that you can respect and admire the work, without wanting to push yourself to that extreme level.
As I walk the path of a returned to the fold Catholic, I get much of the same vibe. From my non religious friends I get incredulous looks, and scathing comments. How can I participate in something that sucks the brains out of normally intelligent people? How can I condone the actions of the Catholic Church hierarchy regarding abuse, gays, women’s rights, and the list goes on. How can I as a sane, rational person listen to the tripe spewed out on Sundays?
Change it around and the questions are remarkably similar to questions I got while losing weight. It boils down to a discussion of faith. When you start a weight loss journey, it’s an act of faith. The research shows that there’s no predicting who will maintain weight loss over time. Almost 90% of the folks who lose weight, regain it within five years. So stepping out and making the changes is an act of faith. You believe, without concrete proof, that you will be successful. It’s really not that different from a willingness to believe in a higher power without concrete proof of existence.
Faith is an exercise in fidelity to your own promises, and that’s something that is vital when you are working to improve fitness or lose weight. There are many different ways to lose weight. In the same way, there are multiple ways to look at the world around you. At some point in time, you select systems of weight loss and fitness which work with your lifestyle and personal values. Religious faith is similar.
In both cases there are things you may not like or agree with. I don’t have to like the fact that cardio is an element of my fitness program. However if I want to do a half marathon, I do need to accept it. I may not like parts of Catholic doctrine, but I do need to accept that it’s part of the system. In both cases I struggle with integrating various elements into my life.
Notice how both religion and fitness talk about practice? I can look at a bodybuilder and admire the work it takes to get there. I can look at a religious and admire the oath of obedience, even if it’s something I’m not at a point where I’m willing to tackle it.
Life isn’t perfect. If you look to live a perfect life in any aspect, you will be let down. Fitness and religious faith are good reminders that life is not perfect, and that you can be perfectly happy learning to live with that imperfection. Learning to let go of a constant desire for perfection is one of the keys to finding a happy life.
Admire those who have skills and strengths you don’t. Accept that you don’t have to have those skills and strengths to be happy.
To marks the feast day of Saint Therese of Liseaux, a Carmilite nun from France who lived during the turn of the century and died from turberculosis at age 24. Therese is often considered the originator of the idea of the Little Way. She believed that she was never destined for great things in her life. She focused on doing small things and doing them well. She was the inspiration for Mother Teresa’s idea of doing small things with great love.
A lifetime of small things ironically set Therese up for a legacy of greatness. She’s inspired millions around the world through her actions and writings. In a day and age where we are bombarded by people looking to make a big impact, it’s a valuable thing to be reminded that small steps have just as significant an impact.
When I try to go for big, grand gestures, I often land flat on my face. Yet when I focus on small steps, small acts, I make greater progress. I don’t go out every day looking to change the world. I look to make a positive impact on the life of one person, just one. If I’ve done that, it’s a good day.
What small things do you do every day which make a big impact on the world around you?
“It’s easy for you.”
That’s a refrain I’ve gotten a lot over the years. I’ve been told that I can’t understand the difficulty others face. It was obviously easy for me to drop weight and keep it off. What I did can’t possibly work for others, somehow I’m special.
Really? It’s easy is it? I wish I’d known that at the time. At the time I had 60 pounds to drop it was anything but easy. Breaking a lifetime of habits doesn’t happen overnight. It happens one brutally difficult day at a time. Making a decision to walk past the comforting foods, and pick vegetables I didn’t like was not easy. Eating those vegetables and not leaving them to rot in the fridge wasn’t easy. Telling my friends “no thank you” when they offered me fresh kettle corn was not easy.
Getting up an hour earlier every morning to workout was not easy. On more than one occasion I ended up in tears because I was so frustrated. All I wanted was a donut and a Pepsi to make all the stress go away. I didn’t want to eat spinach, or drink protein shakes. I didn’t want to eat salmon every time I went out to eat.
What I really didn’t want was to go backwards. I didn’t want to go back to being fat. I didn’t want to split my pants again. I didn’t want to look at fit people with envy and mutter, “I could do that if I really wanted to.” So I kept fighting. Every single day I made decisions that took me forward, even when it was easier to go back. If it was a hard decision, odds were good it was the right one.
Walk past a fast food place when hungry:
Easy way- go in and grab something “healthy”, which probably wasn’t actually healthy.
Hard way- keep walking past and get a protein bar out of my car.
Go out to dinner with friends:
Easy way- go wherever they want and hope I could find something okay to eat.
Hard way- tell them “this is where we are going”, then bail on the event if they refused.
Miss a morning workout:
Easy way- call the day a miss and try to make it up the next day.
Hard way- turn off the tv, and do the workout at 11 at night knowing I needed to be up again at 5:30am.
Gradually it did get easier. By forcing myself to do hard things, day in and day out, they got less hard. I learned how to make those hard things easy. That’s how this process works. You force yourself to do hard things until they get easier. It takes time, and it’s not fun.
The rewards at the end of the day? Having people look at you and say, “man you have it easy.”
I smile and say, “yes, yes I do. I got there the hard way.”
So the new year is rocking and rolling along. I’ve got good traffic going to my fitness business at In Your Space Fitness. My fostering blog is also rocking along. I’ve gotten asked what all I am aiming to do for the new year. Like anyone I’ve got a couple things I’d like to tackle.
1) Master the pistol squat. This is a move that combines excellent strength AND balance. It’s a tough one.
2) Run the stairs at Red Rocks in Denver, Colorado. These legendary stairs test you because of the altitude. It’s on the “stairs” list.
3) Travel internationally. Cause really, who doesn’t like to travel?
These are just some of the things I’m aiming at this year. How about you?
People talk about the key ingredient for a successful transformation. They talk about desire, motivation, planning, equipment, suppliments. There’s one thing I don’t see mentioned nearly often enough.
Now I’m not talking about religious faith, though that’s something that I know many successful BFLers have. I’m talking about a deep, profound belief that this transformation is actually possible. A belief so deep, so true, that when things get dark, you KNOW that if you just hang on a second longer, you can make this happen.
BFlers have a great gift before us. We have living proof that amazing transformations can and do happen to ordinary people. People just like us. These people show us that by putting away our fears, by believing in the process 100% that you can make a 180 degree turn in your life.
You have living, breathing proof. Every single successful transformee stood where you are. They were upset by how they looked, and how they felt. They stood at the abyss. Then they did something truly scary. They stepped off the edge. They committed 110 percent to the process. When they made that step, they never looked back.
This is week three. I know that some of you out there still haven’t crossed the Abyss. In the back of your mind, you know this can’t actually work. Somewhere between now and week 12- you are going to find a way to prove yourself right. That big, black hole is scary, dark, the wind howls up at you. It’s trying to suck you in. Nobody is going to blame you for backing away from the edge. I mean come on. It’s scary, you can’t see what’s at the bottom, you can’t see how far it is. Back away. Afterall, you don’t want to fall.
That’s the easy choice.
You can look at the black void in front of you. You can’t see the bottom. It’s dark, empty, the wind is blowing. Your hair stirrs in the breeze. Close your eyes. No, trust me. Close them. Feel the wind. Listen to the sounds. Do you hear that. That tiny breath of heaven, that small voice saying “can” You have to strain to hear it. Step closer. Listen to it. “can”. It’s just out of reach. Step closer. No, it’s okay- trust me. Take that step. Let the wind catch you, support you.
Step. Keep your eyes closed, don’t worry about falling. Step. Listen to a fallen champion, let her carry you forward. Step.
Listen to the voices telling you- CAN
Trust me. This journey never ends. You won’t fall. Believe. When all else fails you- Believe that you can keep taking that next small step.
Crossing the Abyss is all about faith. Those of us who’ve crossed are there to keep you from falling.
Trust us, believe.
Close your eyes…
National Public Radio ran an item today called “Why Doctors and Patients Talk Around Our Growing Waistlines.” Doctors have not been taught the best ways to approach weight loss in medical school. A study at Yale Medical School found that many health professionals view the obese as lazy and unmotivated.
This leads to push back from obese members of society saying, “my doctor doesn’t understand and doesn’t listen.” Then both sides stomp off in a huff. This morning there’s some discussion going around the ‘net about things doctors don’t do. One point in particular caught my attention.
People complain that the process isn’t fun.
Fitness isn’t always a party. Can it be fun? Absolutely. As your fitness level improves, the fun factor goes up. In the beginning, it’s just not going to be fun. The more limits you have, the less fun it is. If you struggle to take 15 steps without gasping for air, there’s a limit to the fun you will have. Until your base fitness improves beyond a snail level, there will be a lack of fun.
You will not find a single obese individual who is now in shape who found the first stages of the process fun. The morning alarm would go off and it was a struggle to get out of bed and do one more stupid day of cardio. I would growl in frustration as I looked at my tub of cottage cheese and a coworker was chowing down on a chocolate bar. People would wave pizza and popcorn under my nose to tempt me.
The fun came later. It came when I was dropping weight and my friends stayed fat. It came when I could sprint for Metro and others would miss the train. It came as I realized how much power and control I possessed.
There are real limits people face when trying to get in shape. It’s tough to know what you need to eat. Cost of a gym and food is a factor. As a trainer one thing I do is go shopping with clients to show them what to get. I’ll work within the confines of the house and show them ways to get things jump started. The thing is, I can’t make this fun for you. I can’t make it exciting to eat the right foods starting out. I can’t make it a barrel of monkeys to go out and walk around the block. I freely confess that beginning fitness is not always going to be fun.
You need to make a decision.Do you want this? Do you want this badly enough to deal with doing boring soup can curls because you can’t afford a gym membership? Are you willing to march in place in front of a mirror because you can’t walk outside? Will you eat food you don’t like now, for the promise of a healthier body tomorrow?
Brushing your teeth isn’t fun. You still do it. Fitness is no different.
In a world which at times seems focused on weight loss, there are those who are so desperate to lose weight that they chose to gain it first.
Gastric bypass surgery and less invasive options like Lap-Band can seem like magic bullets. The weight loss post surgery is drastic. You may even hear a recipient of the surgery call it a miracle. As the push for surgery as an option grows, the companies providing the technology have pushed for changes in the regulations. Earlier this year, the FDA changed the requirements for Lap-Band surgery and lowered the Body Mass Index (BMi) requirement. By changing the BMI needed for surgery to between 30-35, more people are eligible to receive insurance coverage to pay for the surgery.
This means you find more people looking for ways to gain enough weight to qualify for the surgery. By engaging in binge eating, potential candidates hope they will gain the few needed pounds that will qualify them for surgery.
I’ve had friends over the past few years who’ve expressed similar interest. If they gain enough weight, they may qualify for surgery. It always boggles my mind. I had to work darned hard to get my weight off. I’ve had to work hard to keep it off. I know the process isn’t easy. I know that you’ve got to fail in order to lose and keep it off.
There are no magic solutions. There’s no easy path. My heart breaks a bit when I see people who think the only way to get the weight off is to make things worse.
One of the easiest ways to start cutting unwanted calories from your diet is to reduce sugar. This is a no-brainer for most of us. Sugar is a treat food, plain and simple. It’s not something the human body is used to consuming in bulk, it’s designed as a source of quick energy, and bottom line is we eat way too much of in the US.
Thing is, the manufacturers are sneaky. They know sweet is a trigger for higher consumption. So they hide sugar in a variety of ways by changing the type. Take a look at some of the types of sugar out there.
- Barley malt
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Buttered syrup
- Cane juice crystals
- Cane sugar
- Corn syrup
- Corn syrup solids
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Carob syrup
- Castor sugar
- Date sugar
- Demerara sugar
- Diastatic malt
- Ethyl maltol
- Fruit juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Glucose solids
- Golden sugar
- Golden syrup
- Grape sugar
- High fructose corn syrup
- Icing sugar
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Muscovado sugar
- Raw sugar
- Refiner’s syrup
- Rice syrup
- Sorghum syrup
- Turbinado sugar
- Yellow sugar
I imagine some of those caught your attention. Take a look at the boxes you have in the house again. Do you see rice syrup listed in the first three ingredients for a child breakfast cereal? Guess what, that’s sugar. Yes it’s “healthy”, yes it’s organic. It’s still sugar. If you are looking to reduce calories then this is something you can look at cutting back on.
As you start looking more, you’ll find sugars in all kinds of products from ketchup to breads. Take a look in your pantry. How many sugars can you find right now? Let me know.