Posts Tagged With: self esteem

Reaching New Goals: My First 10K

Okay, so I haven’t posted in a while — but with good reason, I swear! I finally went ahead and contacted a web designer who could help make my blog a bit more user-friendly (and, let’s face it, prettier) — thanks again, Shannon! And then I disappeared on a 10-day getaway to my happy place: Walt Disney World (and Universal and Sea World, too), to celebrate Halloween with my favorite Disney pals at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and stuff my face at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

As you may know, I’ve been dabbling in the world of half-marathon training since July, and I decided that before jumping from community 5Ks right into the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February, I’d try my hand (or feet, as it were) in a 10K.

That’s right. I ran my first 10K — Brian’s Run in Wayne, NJ — the day before I left for vacation (not a smart idea, by the way…walking for miles and miles all over the Disney World resort with stiff, achy legs was not fun). The event raises money for Tomorrow’s Children’s Fund (TCF) at Hackensack University Medical Center, which benefits pediatric cancer patients — I’m always thrilled to know my entry fees are being used for a great cause.

I had been following my own unique blend of a 10K and half marathon training program for weeks, altering workouts slightly to accommodate my robust martial arts training schedule (I recently signed up for Tae Kwon Do in addition to my Muay Thai kickboxing, but more on that later). However, during my training runs, I had been doing a lot more walking than I cared to admit, taking breaks in between each mile or two. I expected to do the same during my 10K.

Still, I went into the race feeling fairly confident that my training would push me through all 6.1 miles…but gave myself full permission to stop for a leisurely stroll if I needed the rest. And, as per my usual MO, instead of allowing myself to actually set a goal — because heaven forbid I “fail” — I tried to ignore my secret desire to complete the race in less than an hour. In fact, didn’t even allow myself to say it out loud. I was so sure I couldn’t do it.

Once I began the course, I had decided it was going to be impossible to meet my super secret goal, anyway, given that there was an enormous hill to climb every quarter mile! Don’t get me wrong, I knew the area was somewhat mountainous, and it was a lovely scenic route to take on a crisp early fall morning, but I never could have imagined that I would be running up and down countless hills, many of which were so steep I couldn’t see over the top. No exaggeration! After the third or fourth hill (which, admittedly, I don’t train on consistently enough), I decided I’d be lucky to cross the finish line in an upright position.

But then something amazing happened. I ran the first mile, and then the second, and then I finished a 5K and still didn’t feel the need to stop to walk. I just kept running. Though going uphill slowed my pace down a bit, a quick glance at my Garmin now and then (which I try not to stare at incessantly, because it drives me crazy) indicated that I was still maintaining my average race pace (9:30/mile).

And then there were miles 4, 5, and 6, which I had been having nightmares about for weeks. I’ve participated in my share of 5Ks, and I know how tired I am when I cross the finish line…so I couldn’t help but wonder how well I’d fare running two 5Ks back-to-back. You can imagine how many nightmares I’ve had about running a half marathon.

Guess what? I ran all three of those remaining miles…and still did not stop. Not once. I jogged through the water stops, ignored my burning quads on those hills, and just kept going.

Was I tired? Absolutely. Was I mentally writing a letter to the race day organizers requesting that, in the future, they should please describe the course as RIDICULOUSLY HILLY? Yes.

But for the first time, I actually heard my mental dialogue during a race transform from “you’re so slow, give it up” to “you’ve got this, keep it up.” I was doing something I never thought possible, and I was utterly astonished to find that, yes, all of my hard work was actually paying off.

Crossing the finish line of that 10K made all of the training runs I had done in the rain, or when it was 90+ degrees outside, or when my legs were sore, or when I was tired, or when I had all sorts of better things to do, so incredibly worth it.

The cherry on top of it all?

115    59:18.8 0039 JENNIFER NELSON          CRANFORD             NJ F 27  09:32

I actually did it — I finished in under 60 minutes!

I have to stop being too afraid of failure — or assuming I’m just not good enough — to set and reach a goal.

To some of the runners that day, it was just a 6.2 mile run. But for me, I will always remember it as the day I accomplished something I never thought possible…and all because I finally allowed myself to believe that I could.

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Appreciating The Body You Have…Right Now

For as long as I can remember, I hated the body I saw when I looked into the mirror.

Everyone has their body hang-ups. I believe you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who couldn’t name at least one part of their body that they wished were different…bigger, smaller, more shapely, perkier, rounder, tighter, flatter, whatever.

For me, I always had one wish. Just one.

I wanted to be skinny.

To me, being “skinny” was the be all and end all of my time on this Earth. It was my life’s dream. It was the culmination of so many of my most innermost desires…from walking into any clothing store and zipping a pair of jeans without having to lie on the dirty dressing room floor to wearing a spaghetti-strapped dress like all the other girls to my eighth grade dance (I ended up in a size 20 gown that was surely designed for a 50+ year old woman).

To me, being skinny meant I might actually be able to make — and keep — a close circle of friends, and stop assuming they were embarrassed to be seen with “the fat girl.” All throughout my childhood, I fantasized about how being skinny might finally put a stop to the bullying and humiliation I faced on a daily basis.

I really did think that being skinny would be my key to happiness…and that it would solve every problem I could ever have in my life. Some people dream of scoring high-paying jobs, falling in love, starting a family. All I ever cared about was what it would be like to wear a size 4.

Lately I’ve been thinking about my wish, and how, even after a 90-pound weight loss, it never did come true. I am not skinny. I am confident now that I never will be. No matter how much more weight I lose, I will never be the kind of woman who can strip down at the beach wearing little more than a washcloth. I will never be able to leave the house in a short skirt. I will never be able to emanate that inner confidence of someone who hasn’t suffered from extreme body image issues for the majority of her life. It’s just not in the cards for me.

But I’ve come to a realization. I really, truly, do not care about being skinny anymore. And I think that has a lot to do with how I finally managed to lose — and maintain — my weight loss (which, as an aside, has not solved all of my life’s problems).

Truth be told, I’m ashamed and saddened that for so many years I allowed my entire sense of self-worth to be wrapped up in the number stitched into the tag on my jeans, or what my romanticized ideal of a skinny, “perfect” body looked like. I’m also ashamed for the way I abused and mistreated myself — I had such low self-esteem that I essentially poisoned my body with milkshakes and bacon cheeseburgers for years. I like to tell myself that at age 12, or 15, or 21, I didn’t know any better…but, let’s face it, I knew exactly what I was doing.

It took 26 years to realize that there is no such thing as a perfect body (for those of us who aren’t celebrities or Victoria’s Secret models, anyway), and in order for me to achieve something that even comes close to the “skinny” physique I coveted, I’d probably have to consume 800 calories a day and spend three hours in the gym every night. Oh, and that’s not to mention that pesky tummy tuck and loose skin removal surgery I’d need to rid my body of any evidence that I used to weigh 260 pounds.

Today, I can look at the mirror and see my imperfections — the stretch marks, the loose skin, the cellulite and all — and be content. I can see myself in photos — even when I’m wearing little more than a flimsy cotton dress — and feel pride. I’m pretty okay with the person I see staring back at me these days. Honestly, I would be tickled to remain a size 8/10 for the rest of my life.

I’m not saying I love every inch of my body, but what I have come to realize is that I’ve finally reached a place where I can appreciate my body…and what it’s capable of doing. I may not have the perfect body, but what I do have is my body — and I’ll be damned if I ever take it for granted again.

I see people all the time who are disabled or ill, or I read about former athletes who sustained one injury and are now relegated to the sidelines forever. It forces me to put things in perspective: how could I hate a body that is healthy? A body that is whole? A body that is strong? I can run 5Ks and go for 10-mile bike rides whenever the urge strikes. I can walk all over Walt Disney World (my happy place!) for days and experience little more than sore feet. I know now that I am one of the lucky ones — I escaped a lifetime of obesity without diabetes or heart problems or any of the long list of diseases associated with being overweight. I feel blessed and fortunate for every day that I can climb a flight of stairs or walk my dog or lift groceries or do any of the things I can do as a healthy, average-sized person.

While I appreciate the “you look great!” compliments I still get every now and then, I am genuinely overwhelmed with emotion when I cross the finish line of a race, or am complimented by classmates for my “bad-ass” roundhouse in my Muay Thai kickboxing class. To me, discovering something that I love to do, and recognizing how my body — exactly the way it is — allows me to do it has forced me to realize that maybe having larger-than-average thighs isn’t really the end of the world.

I truly believe that’s the key to body acceptance: realizing how your body allows you to do the things you love, and understanding that there’s more to you than a number on a scale or an idealized dress size. If you have the ability to chase your kids around the backyard or practice yoga or lace up your sneakers and go for a walk whenever you feel like it, I’d say that’s something to celebrate.

So I’ll continue to eat as healthy as possible, and take vitamins, and exercise daily, and slather on sunscreen, and drink plenty of water, and avoid smoking (always) and drinking (most of the time)…and I’ll never take my body for granted again.

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Seeing Yourself as Others Do

One of the (many) things about myself that I’ve been trying to “work on” lately is my inability to accept a compliment.

From the “you look amazing!” screeches from friends and family when I started losing weight to the occassional compliments I receive on my wardrobe, I have never been able to look someone in the eye and genuinely believe their positive words. I’ll spare you the sob stories of how I was ridiculed by everyone for my appearance as a child and teenager — including my parents — but I’m sure it has a heck of a lot to do with why I can’t accept that someone legitimately has something nice to say about me today, more than a decade later.

Why is it that I still carry around 15-year-old memories of my classmates calling me “fat” and “ugly,”  but when someone says they like my haircut or that my arms are really starting to tone up, it’s almost immediately forgotten?

While I’ve slowly been learning to appreciate my new body and graciously accept any praise with regards to my weight loss accomplishments, it still pains me to realize that when someone offers a compliment that goes beyond my physical appearance or choice of shoes and relates to who I am on a deeper level — my intellect, my talent, my strength — I find it impossible to accept their words as fact.

I’m one of the lucky few that’s found a man who is quick to offer his encouragement and praise. But any time my boyfriend is regaling me with compliments, I can’t help but argue with him. I can’t remember the last time he told me I looked nice, and I offered him a simple “thanks” in return. Instead, I usually suggest he go get his eyes checked.

And yesterday, when he went on and on about how proud he is of me for working so hard at pursuing my writing dream, I not-so-gently informed him that, in fact, I’m a total failure. Because, after all, I haven’t yet published a bestseller or landed bylines in all of my favorite newsstand magazines…at the ripe old age of 25.

If I could look in the mirror and see the woman he sees, I would never again suffer from lack of self-esteem. I’d never again ridicule the way my thighs look in shorts, I wouldn’t hold myself back from pitching my dream magazines for fear of not being good enough, and I definitely wouldn’t walk around thinking that I’m a failure just because I’ve managed to lose 90 pounds and not 100 pounds.

If we could treat ourselves with the same kindness, respect, and understanding that our loved ones do, and learn to recognize all of our positive attributes instead of constantly focusing on the bad, could you imagine how much happier we’d be? And how far we could go?

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Worthy of Weight Loss

Anyone who has ever carried around more than, say, five or 10 extra pounds knows that years of hiding behind excess weight can take a huge toll on your psyche. Tune in for just one episode of The Biggest Loser and it becomes abundantly clear that there’s a reason why these folks have ballooned to twice or even triple the size they should be…and it’s not because they simply have a larger appetite or slower metabolism than the average person.

It’s because there’s an endless list of emotional issues that go hand-in-hand with gaining and losing significant amounts of weight, and this week I think I may have just uncovered one of mine.

In my first year on Weight Watchers, I shed 80 pounds. Just like that. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy — I followed the program religiously and worked out at least five times a week — but the weight was falling off my body and I was enjoying the ride. I was basking in the compliments and delighting in smaller, cuter clothes, and it seemed like everything in my new healthy, active life was falling into place.

But then in my second year on the program, everything stopped working. The scale stopped moving, I became bored with my go-to meals, and there were days when heading to the gym was just another ho-hum chore on my To-Do. As my weight first began to plateau, all of the emotional issues that had fallen by the wayside in my first exciting, life-changing year of weight loss starting to resurface.  My old fears and insecurities came flooding back, and I knew there had to be reason I hit a wall the second my mind started playing catch-up with all the physical changes to my body.

I don’t feel worthy of success.

And, more specifically, I don’t feel worthy of weight loss.

My self-deprecating thoughts don’t end there. I don’t believe I’m good enough, talented enough, or smart enough to build a lucrative career, and I still, after nine years with my boyfriend, don’t feel worthy of his love. I know it’s ridiculous, but these nagging feelings of inadequacy are a side effect of 20 years of being the fat girl hiding in the corner, trying to remain unnoticed and genuinely believing that I wasn’t as good as everyone else.

I was fat, and they were not. They deserved happiness, and I did not.

But no more. I’m tired of brushing off compliments and assuming I’m not good enough to do anything. Being my own worst enemy has become absolutely exhausting, and frankly, I’m tired of finding new ways to make myself feel inadequate.

In the last couple of months, something has changed. I have a newfound motivation and commitment to finally achieve my personal weight loss goal (100 pounds) and start landing assignments in my favorite magazines, and the best part is that I am finally acknowledging just how hard I work, just how far I’ve come, and just how much I deserve to succeed.

Every time a negative thought creeps in — I won’t be able to finish my first 5K, I’m not talented enough to write for newsstand magazines — I’m making the conscious decision to ignore it. If I can make the effort to live a healthy lifestyle, then surely I can make the effort to tell myself when I’m being stupid.

I credit all of this with the fact that the scale is moving again. Well, that, and the fact that I am officially in love with PointsPlus!  I’m averaging a little less than a pound per week, and as of last weekend’s weigh-in, I am just shy of once again being within 10 pounds of my goal. The last time I reached this point, I ended up gaining about eight pounds back…and then gaining and losing those eight pounds over and over again for a year.  The time before that, the same thing happened.  I get thisclose to my goal, realize just how close I am to — gasp! — actually being successful, and immediately let my efforts start slipping.

Clearly I am more than capable of losing weight, and I’ve come this far already…so it’s pretty obvious that there has been something else standing in the way of losing the last 10 pounds.

And I think her name is Jennifer Nelson.

Whatever your goal is — lose 20 pounds, fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans, run a 5K, or finally try that Zumba or Spinning class — you have to realize that it’s going to be hard work. I know everyone’s looking for shortcuts and instant gratification these days, but unfortunately, when it comes to your health and physical fitness (or anything else for that matter), there is just no such thing as a quick fix.

But guess what? You are worth the effort.

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Become Your Own Cheerleader

When I first started losing weight, the compliments just kept on comin’. Friends and family — especially the ones who don’t see me every day — were constantly making a fuss about my shrinking body, showering me with “you look so great!” compliments and incredulously questioning: “how much weight have you lost?!”

But when my weight loss began to plateau, slowly but surely the compliments stopped. It’s only natural — everyone got used to seeing me at my current size, and really, how many times can you tell a person that he or she looks “amazing?”

To be perfectly honest, all of the attention made me a little uncomfortable at first. I wasn’t used to people ogling my body, and for the first time in my life, I was daring to show some skin in tank tops, (slightly) skimpier bathing suits, and — for the first time since I was old enough to buy my own clothes  — even girly little sundresses.

Still, when all of the excitement surrounding my drastic weight loss began to die down, I couldn’t help but admit to myself that I missed that adoration from others. Eating well and exercising had officially become just a regular part of my everyday life, and the pounds I had lost were old news.

I didn’t realize how much the constant praise from friends and family was truly motivating me to keep dropping pounds and look even better for the next time I saw them in person. Despite my headstrong, independent, “I don’t care what anyone else says” facade, I recently realized  just how much I do rely on others for validation — in my weight loss efforts, in my career, and in any new endeavor I take on…even kickboxing.

If an editor doesn’t call or e-mail to offer their accolades on how well-written my article was, I automatically assume it was a piece of garbage. If my Muay Thai instructors don’t say “nice kick” every five seconds,  I take that to mean I’m not progressing and and I’m undeserving of my next belt.

Thinking back, I can’t help but wonder if the sudden lack of “oohing” and “aahing” about my slimmer physique had something to do with my suddenly waning weight loss efforts.

It might explain why my perfectionist, Type A personality does so well in group exercise classes where there’s always the potential for positive feedback from instructors and classmates, and yet I often have a hard time motivating myself to hit the basement and crank out 100 crunches or lace up my sneakers and go for a run. For me, it’s a whole lot easier hearing a trainer at the gym tell me how fast I run than it is to congratulate myself for beating my own personal 5K time.

In fact, my boyfriend — who, thankfully, is never afraid to call me out on my issues — recently asked me why I care so much if other people think I’m good enough.

“Why can’t you ever just tell yourself that you’re doing a good job?” he asked.

Can we say…light bulb moment?

Why do I need someone else to tell me how great I look, how well I write, or how powerful my roundhouse kicks are? Why can’t I just look at myself in the mirror and confirm that I am, in fact, working really hard and — gasp! — acknowledge my own accomplishments?

So now I’m trying to become more aware of the negative thoughts that creep in when someone else doesn’t immediately pat me on the back for something I’m doing. Once I started tuning in to all the times I doubt myself or question my own abilities throughout any given day, I was amazed to discover just how often I’m making myself feel like a failure.

Instead of waiting for others to validate my efforts, I’m working on becoming my own cheerleader. I’m going to pat my own back, give myself a thumbs up, and root myself on as I hit the park for a run, make a healthy choice at a restaurant, or yank myself out of bed at 8am on a Saturday to go to Weight Watchers.

Don’t get me wrong — having the support of your friends and family is so important, and I will always owe a debt of gratitude to all of those who offered their encouragement along the way. But I also need to learn how to give myself credit and not rely solely on the passing compliments of others to boost me up.

I may not be at my goal weight (yet), and I may not be making big bucks as a freelance writer (yet), but what’s most important is that I am never, ever giving up…and I will get there.

Go me. :-D

What are some ways you act as your own “cheerleader?”

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The Winds of Change

(I thought this title was appropriate given the 55 mph gusts we’re experiencing here in New Jersey this morning).

Thanks to my efforts to acknowledge (and face) my fears, I’ve finally started making some changes that — believe it or not — may actually be making the scale move! I’m proud to report that I’ve lost 1.2 lbs at my weigh-in for the last two weeks in a row, after several weeks of gains or .4 pound losses. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but for me, it’s huge: I’m back down to a total loss of 86.4 pounds, and for the first time in over a year, I’m confident that I can (and will) reach my goal of losing 100 pounds. I’m determined to break out of my rut and do whatever it takes to realize this goal, and now I see just how easy this whole process could have been all along.

I needed to shake things up. It’s that simple.

Here’s how I’m doing it.

1.) I signed up for my first 5K. FINALLY! I have acknowledged my ability to run 3.1 miles, and am ready to prove to myself and to others that I can do this. Thinking of my treadmill sessions and runs in the park as “training” as opposed to “calorie burning” is truly motivating me to go faster and farther. Best of all, it’s a race to benefit childhood obesity, a cause that couldn’t be closer to my heart. The only problem is I hastily registered for the event (because I didn’t want to give myself time to change my mind!) before realizing that May 1st is the day I’ll be returning from a week-long vacation to celebrate my boyfriend’s 25th birthday in Vegas…on a flight that lands at 6am. Yikes. On the one hand, having a 5K looming over my conscience while I’m whooping it up on the Strip might just help keep me on track, but either way, I know that I’ll be exhausted and jet lagged upon my arrival home. Regardless, I have my mind made up to run this race, and I know that if my time isn’t that great…well, there’s always the next one!

2.) I switched my weigh-in day. I’ve been weighing-in on Sunday mornings at 8:30am since I started my weight loss journey in November 2007. I’d go out to dinner on Friday night and (usually) Saturday night, weigh in the following morning, and then make the remainder of Sunday my free-for-all day, chock full of mindless binge eating. Because, you know, I had the whole week ahead to make up for it. Well, no more. For the past two weeks I’ve weighed in on Saturday morning at 8:30, right before my Muy Thai Kickboxing class. And guess what? I’ve lost more than a pound both weeks. Guess what else? I’ve magically stopped feeling the need for a “cheat” day, and — brace yourselves — I’m even tracking all weekend! Yes, that’s right. Without that “end of the weekend” weigh-in day mentality, I’ve started looking at my Friday night dinner out with my boyfriend as my last chance to stay on track before my weigh-in, and the weekend has suddenly become just two regular on-plan days. Who knew something so simple would make such a huge difference in my mindset, and my ability to start tackling my weekend eating issues once and for all?

3.) I’ve made protein my new best friend. I’ll be the first to admit that while I eat whole foods most of the time, before the PointsPlus program was launched, I was snacking on empty carbs just a bit too often. Who doesn’t love munching on baked chips with a sandwich, grabbing a handful of whole grain crackers on the go, or enjoying yummy whole wheat pasta dishes for dinner? I didn’t want to admit how much I relied on carbs — albeit “healthy” carbs — until the higher POINTS values forced me to start cutting back. Now I’m eating much smaller portions of cereal and brown rice, I won’t touch processed, ready-made meals with a ten-foot pole, and I’m committed to finding new ways to incorporate more lean protein, nuts, beans, and — of course — fruits and veggies into my diet. (Now I just wish I could learn a strategy to choke down fish without gagging). And you know what? I’m not feeling so hungry all the time, and I have more energy. I know I have some body fat to shed before I can truly admire some of these muscles I’ve been working so hard to build, and I think I finally figured out what has to be done.

4.) I fell in love with my new workout. I’ve already written about my Muy Thai Kickboxing class, but I cannot even express how much having a workout to look forward to — as opposed to mindlessly pounding the treadmill every day — has made all the difference. I leave that class three times each week feeling strong, powerful, and ready to take on the world. I’m torching major calories, I’m watching muscles sprout up everywhere, and I don’t even realize how hard I’m working out because I’m having so much fun. I’m now convinced that once you start looking at a physical activity as “training” as opposed to simply “exercising,” it really can boost your motivation to keep going to class and working towards your next goal (in this case, my yellow belt).

5.) I’m inspiring others. Okay, okay, so this last one doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with a change I made, per se’…but I like to think I had some influence on my boyfriend, who recently started eating healthier and exercising 4+ times a week. Truth be told, his newfound commitment to eat well, work out, and, as he says, “not die in 10 years,” has had more of an impact on me than he knows. I’m beyond thrilled to have a workout partner (yes, he even joined my gym!), but even more importantly, it means so much to me that I’ve been able to inspire him on his journey to better health. I know he hasn’t been feeling so great about himself, and I’ve worried about his health for years. But in the last couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of watching him completely change his life — he’s eating fruits and vegetables, for crying out loud! — and I couldn’t be more proud. Plus, now I feel like I have to set a good example for him, so it motivates me to keep making the right choices. He has always pushed me to be my best, and now I’m so glad that I can do the same for him.

What are some of the things you’ve done to “shake things up” when the scale stalls? I’ll take all the ideas I can get!

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Fighting Fear

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve started to realize just how much fear has been holding me back. In my weight loss, in my career, in my relationships…in my life in general.

Last night I earned my orange belt in Muy Thai kickboxing. For two weeks I fretted about not being able to remember the form we had to memorize to “graduate” to the next belt, about not being able to throw a proper left hook or right elbow, and — most of all — I was terrified of failing to break a wooden board with a knee strike.

After it was all over and I was presented with my new belt, it occurred to me that I’ve become so used to doubting myself and assuming that I’m not good enough that I actually lost sleep over losing a battle with…a 16 inch piece of wood.

How did I let myself become so hard-wired for fear that even the most minor step I take out of my comfort zone causes such extreme anxiety? Why is it so difficult for me to tell myself that I can, in fact, accomplish something…and that I’m worth the effort?

For the past two years, I’ve allowed myself to fall into a rut in my writing career. I’m sitting back and letting the same editors come to me with assignments, because I’ve been too afraid to pitch the editors at my “dream” publications. Don’t get me wrong — I appreciate my regular editors and I absolutely love working with them, but all this time I’ve been riddled with fear that editors at other publications will laugh at my ideas or tell me I’m not a good enough writer to contribute to their magazine. So I just haven’t bothered trying to introduce myself or to pitch them new ideas.

That’s why I recently signed up for an on-line course about generating new ideas and pitching magazines held by a very successful freelance writer, and a big part of the first week’s lesson focused on fear: how easy it is to let the fear that your ideas are “stupid” stand in the way of getting your writing published, landing new clients, and building a lucrative freelance career. Once I started tackling the class assignments — which actually required me to silence the “I won’t succeed, so why bother trying?” thoughts that are constantly rolling around in my mind — I realized that it all boils down to one word. Fear.

I now have a list of more than 300 potential article ideas, I have seven new queries in the works, and I’m getting ready to send them out to a few of the magazines I’ve always wanted to write for. Because, after all, what’s the worst that could happen? They don’t like my idea?  I’ll just try again.

For the past year and a half, I’ve gained and lost the five pounds over and over again, and let myself fall into the same eating and exercise routines. I’ve convinced myself that I simply “can’t” lose any more weight, and started to believe that I’d never reach my goal of losing 100 pounds. I’ve been trying to break this plateau for so long, but have I really been doing everything I absolutely can to get the scale to budge? In hindsight, I’m not so sure. I’m proud that I’ve been maintaining my weight loss, but for the most part, I’ve been afraid to radically change my eating habits or workout routines because…well…what if I still fail to lose any more weight?

I dreaded the launch of the new Weight Watchers PointsPlus, because it meant re-learning a new program and a different way of thinking about the food I eat. And, yes, it meant forcing myself to abandon some of my old ways (like snacking on baked chips all the time or eating heaping servings of brown rice at dinner). But guess what? I’m eating “cleaner” than ever; my entire family has stopped nuking processed meals for dinner on busy weekdays, and I’m no longer craving carbs all the time. In fact, I look forward to my 3pm banana break every day. Who knew?

It took every ounce of courage I could muster to walk into that karate studio and try something new. I was afraid I’d never be able to keep up, or that I wouldn’t fit in with the other students, or that the instructor would laugh at my pathetic excuse for a roundhouse kick. In fact, if a friend hadn’t given me a gift certificate to the karate studio, I might never have brought myself to sign up. It was new, it was scary, and — let’s face it — martial artists can be big and tough and intimidating.

But I did it. I’m having a blast, the scale is moving again (slightly), my muscles are tighter, I feel strong and powerful and confident, I’m actually going up to people and introducing myself…

And I can’t believe my fear almost stood in the way of it all.

In a few short weeks, my mantra has transformed from “I can’t” to “why not?” What the heck have I been so afraid of?

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Eat More to Lose More?

Is there anything more infuriating than stepping on the scale after what you thought was a perfect week on your diet and exercise plan…only to see the number move in the wrong direction?

On the other hand, how do you react when you end up dining out four nights in a row, weigh-in in the following morning, and discover that you’ve actually lost two pounds?

You start eating more. That’s what you do.

I’ve had more than a few comments posted here (thank you all!) about the possibility that the scale got stuck because I’m not eating enough. And as much as I advocate Weight Watchers’ traditional “everything in moderation” approach — and I’ve always eaten all of my daily allotment of POINTS — I still tend to get nervous when I’m in danger of exceeding my target value for the day, or when I start jonesing for something that’s not especially POINTS-friendly.

I’m hesitant to dip into my Activity POINTS unless I’m feeling famished, and all this time I’ve been hoarding my now 49 Weekly POINTS for my usual weekend shenanigans: a couple of dinners out, a glass or two of wine, and maybe even a shared dessert. Calories are much more difficult to count when you’re not the one preparing the food, but based on my rough POINT estimates, I assumed I’ve been maxing myself out.

It’s no secret to any of you that while I was able to successfully drop 90 pounds doing this, my system hasn’t exactly been working for me as of late. So then when I step on the scale and lose a significant amount of weight (for me) after eating far more than I normally do throughout the week — granted, I do make the healthiest choices possible while dining out, but still! — it makes me wonder if it might just be time to pull my head out of my rear and revaluate my current weight loss plan.

My activity levels have increased exponentially since I first began working out, so while I don’t see myself competing in the Olympics anytime soon, the fact that I can now run for miles without stopping and endure intense Thai Kickboxing workouts three times a week suggests that my inner athlete might just require a bit more fuel.

And now that I’m eating “cleaner” than ever thanks to the new Weight Watchers PointsPlus program, there’s absolutely no reason why I should feel guilty for eating a few more ounces of chicken at dinner (as I did when I was enjoying the delicious Santa Fe Chicken recipe HAMILTONMKA so graciously shared!), or, god forbid, grabbing an extra snack when I feel my energy levels waning at 3pm.

Maybe my two-pound loss on the scale this weekend was a fluke, or maybe it was a message from the weight loss gods telling me that I should stop trying to restrict myself so much during the week just so that I can whoop it up on Friday and Saturday nights. Not only is that mentality not getting me the results I want, but it’s only feeding into my dangerous habit of bingeing on the weekends.

I’ll keep you posted on how this week goes. Bon Appetit!

So, do you guys find that you lose more if you eat more?  Fellow Weight Watchers, do you typically “save” your extra POINTS for meals out or special treats, or do you dip into them throughout the week as needed?


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Committing to New Habits

We’re less than three weeks into the new year. Raise your hand if you’re already struggling to stick to your resolutions, and find yourself slipping back into some old habits.

(Me me me)!

The good news? I’ve already started accomplishing at least some of my goals for this year: I’ve found a new workout that I absolutely love. I signed a one-year contract at my local karate studio for Muy Thai kickboxing. And anyone who knows my tightwad ways knows there’s nothing that motivates me more than the thought of not getting “my money’s worth.” No matter, though — I’m already addicted. I think it’s a riot that this season of The Biggest Loser is incorporating two new trainers: one is a martial arts expert, and the other a professional boxer. As I’m watching the contestants release all their stress, anger, and frustration by punching and kicking and pretty much fighting their trainers to the death, I’m feeling more and more confident that I’ve found the workout for me.

I’m also completely obsessed with the Nike+ Sportband I got for Christmas (thanks, Mom!) You tuck a little sensor into your Nike+ sneakers, and then a watch displays your time, miles, calories, and pace. I finally have an idea of how far I’m running — and how fast I’m actually going — while I’m exercising outdoors.

The watch also features a removable USB you can plug into your computer, and then track and share that day’s running stats with others. I love, love, love it, and despite the frigid, wet, icy weather here in the Northeast, I’m opting to skip the boring treadmill and brave the outdoors at least twice a week. Well, when I’m not throwing elbows and performing roundhouse kicks, that is.

Best of all, I realized that I’ve actually been clocking a pretty respectable time while running at least a 5K all these months. I’m thisclose to being confident enough to enter a group race; I’m already looking around for 5K runs in my area.

In other news, I’m having some mixed feelings about Weight Watchers’ new PointsPlus program. On one hand, I absolutely adore the fact that it’s forcing me to stop obsessively counting calories, and instead evaluate a food in terms of its actual nutritional value. I love fruit, and now that it’s “free,” I’m eating pears, oranges, and grapes like it’s my job. Finally, I can eat bananas without worrying about “wasting” 2-4 POINTs! I’m still chipping away at my holiday weight gain, but nevertheless, I already feel lighter, less bloated, and more energized now that I’ve essentially banished many of the carb-heavy packaged snacks and processed foods from the house.

But does anyone else find themselves craving carbs even more? I never realized how much I relied on pasta and cereal and granola bars, and now that they count for a whole lot more (the POINTs for my Kashi GoLean Crunch have almost doubled), I’m reluctant to grab a Fiber One bar on my way out the door or snack on popcorn in front of the TV. I know I can still eat these foods, of course, and I do — it’s just more difficult to work them into my 29-POINT day, is all.

Meanwhile, I’m reading yet another writing book, The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen, and I started thinking about how the advice that’s meant to boost my success as a freelance writer (read: stop procrastinating) also applies to my somewhat lackluster approach to my continued weight loss. It lists some of the top productivity busters as: fear (yep); lack of short-term goals (correct); and perfectionism (is she writing about me, or what?)

I’m terrified of failing as a writer, and I’ve always been afraid of the unknown: life as a thin person. In my 25 years of life, I’ve never not been overweight. I stopped setting specific goals (like lose 15 pounds by my birthday) because I beat myself up if I don’t meet them, and my incessant need to be perfect is keeping me from sending article ideas to editors and leading to eating binges when I don’t adhere to every single aspect of the Weight Watchers program every single day.

Lately, that saying keeps rolling around in my head:

If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

I hate obnoxious cliches, but this one pretty much sums up every facet of my life that isn’t going the way I’d like it. I’m not making enough money as a freelance writer because I’m not actively seeking new outlets, and my weight loss has stalled because I’m not actively trying to change what I’m eat and the way I’m exercising.

It’s time to re-commit…to both my career and my weight loss efforts.

How are you all doing with your resolutions?

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2011 Resolutions

#1. To blog more.

Okay, so beyond my genuine promises to spend more time writing on this blog (and to update that two-year-old banner photo of myself once and for all), I’ve assembled a list of ambitious — yet, I think, still realistic — health and fitness goals for this year.

I recently posted a blog for CafeMom on this very topic, and I decided to heed my own advice when it comes to not declaring any more vague “lose weight” resolutions and calling it a year. I’ve been stuck at my current weight and my current fitness level for far too long, and now that Weight Watchers has rolled out it’s new PointsPlus program (more on that next time!), I’m determined to make this the year I finish what I started. It’s time to get to my goal weight, and tackle the following list of lofty health-related New Year’s Resolutions:

1.) Run a 5K. And I do mean “run.” This year I will prove to myself that somewhere deep down inside of me lies a real live runner who is more than capable of eking out 3.1 measly miles. I run almost every day — with the intention to burn calories and earn Activity POINTS, of course — but now I need to start making measurable time and distance goals…because I still have a hard time seeing myself as anything more than a fat girl in jogging tights. I have a feeling that the more I impress myself with my ability to run faster and farther, the more I’ll be motivated to improve — and, with any luck, I’ll finally develop the confidence I need to compete in a group race.

2.) Stop Binge Eating. I can almost guarantee that I routinely undo a week of hard work over the weekend, all thanks to my “I just weighed in this morning so now it’s time to gorge myself on pancakes, Chinese food, and Frappuccinos” attitude on Sundays. As much fun as it is to grant myself that one “cheat” day each week — for lack of a better term — I’m not doing myself any favors, and it has to stop. But instead of trying to quit my binge eating habit cold turkey (which clearly hasn’t worked for me yet), I’ll try planning for just one indulgence on Sundays: that way, I still get my “treat,” but I won’t completely ruin my progress that week and risk giving in to one of my oldest, most dangerous eating habits.

3.) Find New Workouts. A good friend of mine was kind enough to grant me a gift certificate for a month of kickboxing at my hometown karate studio for Christmas. I fully intend on using it for the Muy Thai kickboxing classes I tried a couple weeks ago. It’s an incredible workout, and what could possibly be more fun than releasing all that pent up frustration by punching the crap out of things? Just kidding. (Maybe). In other news, the YMCA I work for just opened a brand new, state-of-the-art wellness center and gym. It’s a huge facility, and I foresee spending lots of time testing out new equipment and getting back into spinning, yoga, step aerobics, and other classes I used to take when I first started losing weight.

4.) Learn to Cook. No more relying on the microwave as my predominant cooking tool. The new Weight Watchers program frowns upon anything that comes in a bag, box, or can (carbs are now calculated for POINTS values, and we’re supposed to keep tabs on sodium). If I truly intend to commit to my healthy lifestyle for the long run, I can no longer rely on convenience foods — or, as is more often the case, getting someone else to cook for me. I’m a fairly intelligent person, I would say, so there’s absolutely no excuse not to invest in a few basic healthy cookbooks, or spend some time scouring weightwatchers.com for recipes, and teach myself some easy recipes and healthy cooking techniques. I know it’s what I need to do to jumpstart my weight loss again — and, more importantly, learn how to sustain my healthy habits for life.

5.) Be a Leader. A Weight Watchers leader, that is. I have a burning desire to help others take that first step on the road to weight loss. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for the Weight Watchers leaders and members who encouraged and pushed and inspired me along the way. I know there are so many people who feel the way I used to: completely hopeless and “destined” to be overweight and miserable. But I’m living proof that it can be done — and I want to do my part to help others realize that. Plus, I think Weight Watchers rocks.

So, what are some of your health and wellness resolutions for 2011? Please share!

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