Posts Tagged With: gym

Letting Go of the “Old Me”

I have a confession to make. Prior to this weekend, I hadn’t weighed myself since before the holidays. And by holidays, I mean Thanksgiving.

These past few months have included some of the the most defining moments of my life — not the least of which was finally moving out of my parents’ house.

For years I have struggled with self-doubt when it came to both my weight loss and my writing career. I think it’s a fair claim to make that living under your parents’ roof in the post-college years somehow intensifies the inner turmoil that’s typically associated with the quarter-life crisis. But for me, self-confidence and the belief that I am actually capable of success — whether in the form of reaching my weight loss goals or landing assignments in my dream magazines — have always seemed just out of reach.

I have dreamed of being a writer since I was in the second grade. Interestingly enough, that was also the year when I suddenly found myself at the receiving end of the bullying that would continue until the day I received my high school diploma. In an era where my cruelest high school foes are just a click away on Facebook, I tend to avoid writing about my painful childhood years here, but I feel as though I can’t fully express the victory I experienced this weekend without at least a mention of my past.

Of course, I was teased and tormented because I happened to weigh more than just about everyone else in my class, and to this day I attribute my constant need to drown my emotions in food — and my inability to see myself as worthy of success — to my years of being bullied by my classmates…and, on many occasions, even those I considered my closest friends.

This weekend, I returned to a Weight Watchers meeting and stepped on the scale for the first time in months — and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was showing a loss of .4 pounds.

After over a decade of gaining and losing 20 pounds here or 60 pounds there, or having to sneak to the mall to buy bigger pants every couple of months, I realized that after months of holiday hooplah, a Florida vacation, and a move to my first apartment, I am actually succeeding at maintaining my weight.

For the first time in my life, I felt…cured.

I could have easily emerged from these past few months carrying around an extra 20 pounds, but instead, I realized that I have finally learned the secret to maintaining my weight loss…and that I have genuinely achieved what I once thought impossible. I am a healthy, active person now.

As my own worst critic, it’s often hard for me to recognize my own accomplishments, but to continue following my usual eating and workout routine despite weeks of skipped weigh-ins and the overwhelming task of having to pack 26 years of my belongings (and all the not-so-good memories associated with them) into boxes — and to come out in the end of it all maintaining almost the exact same weight — forced me to realize once and for all that while the old Jen still lives inside of me somewhere, I am, truly, an entirely different person. I no longer need the specter of a weekly weigh-in to keep me in check. I am enough.

I know I’ll have to work hard for the rest of my life not to give in to my old ways. I’ve accepted that the struggles with my weight aren’t going anywhere. I definitely succumbed to some of my former habits this weekend, as I was surrounded by hearty St. Patrick’s Day fare and festive green cocktails, but the difference now is that I know a day or two of not-so-great food choices or skipped workouts are not going to be enough to bring me down.

I no longer let the slip-ups that would have once completely derailed whatever diet I was on at the time make me feel like a failure. I’m living proof that allowing one mistake — like, say, avoiding the scale for weeks on end — to undo all of your hard work is all you need to send you right back to where you started.

I’ve even been pitching my dream magazines lately, and though I’m often faced with rejections — or, worse, a wall of complete silence — I’m starting to acknowledge myself as someone who can succeed as a writer. All I have to do is not give up.

I may not be at my goal weight, and I may not have bylines in all the newsstand magazines, but I’m slowly but surely starting to believe that I can reach my goals.

I’ve finally learned how to pick myself up when I fall, and not let my past dictate my future. The holiday season, family vacations, paying rent for the first time (not to mention having to cook all of my own meals!), and other life events are no longer powerful enough to send me to the refrigerator. I am finally in control.

And that, I believe, is truly the key to losing weight…and keeping it off.

 

 

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Oh, Gym, How I Loathe Thee. Let Me Count the Ways.

Recently in my journey to optimal health and fitness, I have discovered a shocking new development.

I absolutely, positively hate the gym.

When I first began losing weight, if I wasn’t at home or at work, I was on the elliptical at my local YMCA. As a result of juggling two jobs, my only available workout time was 5:30am — and that’s precisely when I would arrive at the gym, every single weekday morning.

While at first I was intimidated and insecure about how I, a 265-pound young woman, would look to others as I sweated and grunted my way through 30 minutes on the cross trainer, it wasn’t long before the gym became my second home.

If I missed a day, everyone wanted to know where I had been. As the pounds began melting off my body, I became the subject of admiration. People wanted to know how I was losing the weight, and — believe it or not — some women even began asking me for diet and exercise advice.

The gym had become a place that I associated with success, so it was no wonder that I did everything in my power to squeeze in a workout at least five times a week — at one point, I even belonged to two gyms at once!

Suddenly, my identity had transformed from an obese, lonely couch potato to a fit, healthy gym rat — and I was loving every second of it.

I really can’t pinpoint when my hot-and-heavy love affair with the gym began to fizzle out. Maybe it was after I signed up for my first 5K, and found running outdoors far better preparation for tackling a 3.1 mile road race than pounding a treadmill. Possibly it was after I began plunking down a significant portion of my monthly income to join a local karate studio and participate in Muay Thai-style kickboxing classes three times a week. Or perhaps it was when I received a truckload of fitness accoutrement, from kettle bells to a BOSU ball, for my birthday and Christmas and assembled my own makeshift workout studio in the basement.

Whatever the reason, in recent months I’ve been finding myself dreading my sessions with the treadmill. For weeks I’ve been falling victim to the evil Excuses Monster whenever it comes time to hop in my car and hit the gym.

I just don’t want to go, and I’ll do anything I can to substitute 40 minutes of pedaling my way through a ho-hum elliptical workout with another form of physical activity for the day — yes, even housecleaning!

Now, before you get a mental picture of me spending my afternoons lounging on the couch in my sweats, let me assure you that I am continuing to exercise just as often — and just as intensely — as ever. I still work out 5-6 days per week, and typically for at least 45 minutes. Sometimes I’m taking my kickboxing class, and sometimes I’m eking out lunges or experimenting with new kettle bell routines from my favorite fitness magazines in the basement.

(And yes, I do, of course, still have a gym membership.)

The only difference is that I’m now harboring a new love interest: the Great Outdoors. Even in the midst of frigid New Jersey winter temperatures, my second home has become the local park and biking trails.

I absolutely love lacing up my sneakers and giving myself an opportunity to enjoy some fresh air as I head out for a run around the neighborhood, or a bike ride to the park with the help of my favorite 2011 Christmas present: a Trek 7.3 hybrid.

Exercising outdoors has a way of making me feel energetic and invigorated in a way that watching the clock as I jog mindlessly on a treadmill never has. Better yet, I know for a fact that I get a more vigorous full-body workout from running or biking outdoors than one on a treadmill or stationary bike — I can tell you that it’s a heck of a lot harder pushing myself through a four-mile run on the sidewalk than on a treadmill that does a lot of the work for me!

The best part of all is knowing that I have lots of options for getting in my workout, even if the desire to pump iron in a stuffy gym packed with New Year’s Resolutioners just isn’t striking.

I know many people take cover and hibernate their way through these bitterly cold winter months, but for anyone who feels that they have to solely get their sweat on at the gym until April, I can assure you that all you need is the right attitude — okay, and the appropriate winter workout wear — to experience some of the best outdoor workouts of 2012 right now!

What are some of the ways you exercise outdoors — even in the winter?

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I am Runner, Hear Me Roar.

When it comes to our diets, there are a few hard and fast rules that will help just about everyone drop a dress size. You know, like eat more celery and less Cheetos.

But when it comes to the day-to-day decision to break a sweat — because, let’s face it, there is no lasting weight loss without physical activity — I believe that every person is a little different.

For example, I have trouble mustering the energy to exercise in the evenings, while others wouldn’t dream of rolling out of bed at 5:30am to hit the gym. Some people like to tone up with yoga or Pilates, while I prefer to pant through a run or a grueling kickboxing session. While some can push through several hours of strength training at the gym (insane Biggest Loser contenders, I’m looking at you), it may not work for all of us. I’m lucky to be able to carve out 45 minutes for a sweat session 5-6 times a week, and some people get away with far less. And that’s perfectly fine.

That being said, I think there is one workout rule that applies to every single person looking to lose the weight and keep it off. And that is this: you must make fitness a part of your identity. If you want to truly commit to a regular exercise routine, I don’t think you can just pencil in a 30-minute walk four times a week. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great start — but I think it takes more than a calendar appointment to make exercise a part of your life.

I strongly believe you need to find something that you love to do. It has to be something you can latch onto strongly enough that you won’t let bad weather or family responsibilities or work schedules or anything else stand in your way. I’ve been known to run in the rain, and have attempted to maneuver my car though six inches of snow to make my Muy Thai kickboxing class.

I recently returned from a vacation (Disney World!) where I gave myself permission to eat anything I wanted — ice cream, cookies, cheeseburgers, you name it. While traipsing through theme parks for six days is physically demanding, it was still nothing like my usual running/spinning/kickboxing regimen. So, big surprise here: I returned home to pants that suddenly fit a little more snugly. I was hungry all the time, and feeling way too lethargic to hit the track.

Because of my lack of exercise and unhealthy eating all week, I didn’t feel motivated or energetic…but most surprisingly, I didn’t feel like me.

That’s when I realized how much working out has become part of my identity. It has consumed my life in so many ways that without a daily bout of exercise — even if I miss less than a week — I suddenly start feeling like a completely different person. It’s truly humbling to realize that, before my weight loss, I used to feel this way all the time.

If I were to draft a list of all the qualities that make up who I am, “physically active” would be  right at the top. My being can no longer be summed up by my gender or what I do for a living. I’m also a runner and a purple belt.

I think my overzealousness at the gym in my earliest weeks of weight loss paid off in more ways than a scale could ever show. I quickly became a fixture on that elliptical machine, and it wasn’t long before people started calling me by name…and asking about me when I didn’t show up. That’s when I realized that others saw me as something of a gym rat, and that fueled me with the motivation to get stronger and tougher and fitter. I wanted to live up to that new perception of who I was.

When I started running, at first I considered it nothing more than a fast way to torch as many calories as possible in a short period of time. But it wasn’t long before I got bored with the monotony of pounding a treadmill. When I started looking at running as more than a weight loss technique, that’s when the habit really started to stick. I subscribed to Runner’s World.  I strapped on a Garmin sports watch.  I signed up for 5K races.  Suddenly, I was a “runner.” And now I can’t wait to lace up my Nikes.

I’m often asked to divulge the number of times I work out each week. But an active lifestyle is so much more than the hours you spend on a treadmill. It’s just way too easy to lose interest in working out and return right back to your favorite position on the couch. I should know…I work at a gym.

I tend to shy away from making all-knowing proclamations on this blog, but I truly believe that the only way to make fitness a lasting part of your life is to make it part of who you are.

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When Life Gets in the Way

Contrary to popular belief, my life doesn’t revolve around weight loss.

While my newfound commitment to healthy eating and exercise has radically transformed the way I live my life, there are times when work, family, friends, vacations, sleep, special occasions, and a long list of other responsibilities and daily demands can throw even the best-intentioned person slightly off course.

Yes, that includes someone who has already lost a significant amount of weight, and purports to have it all figured out (ahem, yours truly).

In the past three weeks alone, I have traipsed up and down Las Vegas Boulevard on a week-long vacation trip in celebration of my boyfriend’s 25th birthday, spent Easter Sunday with his (very Italian) food-pushing family, sipped martinis with my sister on her 22nd birthday, and accompanied my mom to a delectable buffet brunch on Mother’s Day.

Up next: a weekend getaway to Atlantic City in celebration of my sister’s college graduation. Yikes.

There are times when I’m on my best behavior, and I truly embody the monikers of “health nut” or “gym rat” that friends have so kindly bestowed upon me. The scale is moving because I’m monitoring every morsel that passes my lips, and I’m on a first-name basis with everyone at the gym. I have a specific objective in mind (e.g. lose the last 10 pounds by the end of the year), and everything I do seems to be motivated by that goal.

But then there are other times when once-in-a-lifetime special occasions like a loved one’s graduation or wedding, or a long-anticipated (and much-deserved) vacation, temporarily seem more important than weighing X number of pounds or slipping into a certain dress size.

Meanwhile, there’s no avoiding the daily responsibilities that can interfere with anyone’s best efforts to eat well and hit the gym regularly, from long hours at the office to mountains of dirty laundry. Sometimes the need to meet a work deadline or squeeze in a few extra minutes with your kids before bed can prevent you from preparing a nutritious dinner or making it to the gym.

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in the past three years, it’s that there is nothing that’s more important than my health. However, when you’re committed to living as healthfully as possible 99.9 percent of the time (okay, okay, more like 75 percent) I see no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy a slice of cake on your significant other’s birthday.

My little sister is only going to graduate from college once, and while there are certainly more important aspects of this special milestone than a post-ceremony lunch (and cocktails!) together as a family, we live in a society where food is an integral element of just about every occasion — whether it’s a wedding or a funeral.

While it’s unfortunate that special occasions and the many demands of daily life have a way of piling up all at once, and it seems I’m currently “off” my Weight Watchers program as much as I’m “on,” I still think giving into the occasional indulgence or skipping a workout is better than being the person who nibbles on salad while everyone else enjoys a holiday feast, or who forgoes the entree you really want at an incredible restaurant on vacation for fear that you might tote an extra pound or two back home.

Sometimes it’s okay to let life push you ever-so-slightly off the wagon…just as long as you eventually hop back on.

How do you deal with special occasions or daily responsibilities getting in the way of your weight loss efforts?

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Taking the First Step

When talking to friends, family, and other acquaintances, as soon as the subject of weight loss comes up — which, I must say, happens almost daily in my life — I’m usually faced with the following confessions:

“My jeans are tight.”

“I haven’t been to the gym in weeks.”

“I eat too much take-out.”

“I work late and don’t have time to cook.”

“I finish the food off my kids’ plates.”

“I’m too tired to exercise.”

“I’m wearing my old maternity clothes.”

“I feel sluggish all the time.”

The conversation almost always ends the exact same way. After outlining the many causes of the extra pounds they’re carrying, the person will eventually mutter the phrase:

“I really have to do something about my weight.”

And that’s when I’m gripped with the overwhelming urge to reach out, shake their shoulders, and say:

“Then do it, already!”

But, instead, I offer them an understanding nod and change the subject. Because I know that beyond offering a few general tips and pointers about how to lose weight — you know, like eat less and move more — there’s absolutely nothing I can do to help them.

See, the thing is that I was that person once. In fact, I was that person for many years. And throughout all of the “my pants don’t fit” whining I did, nobody ever just looked me in the eye and said:

“Then just lose some weight.”

You know why? Well, for starters, that’s a surefire way to lose friends. But it’s also because I know from firsthand experience that nothing I can say or do can force someone else to take that first step on the path to a healthier lifestyle. None of the dozens of doctors, nutritionists, or physiologists I visited throughout my childhood and adolescence could make me lose weight, and even my parents’ and grandparents’ desperate pleas to stop eating everything in sight had no effect on me.

I gained over 100 pounds in five years, and it wasn’t until I woke up one morning and decided that I had to do something RIGHT NOW that I managed to take my first step: joining Weight Watchers.

You have to make the decision to change your life, and then you just have to take that first step. It’s that simple.

I know there are so many people who are desperate to reap the rewards of a healthier lifestyle, but they just can’t seem to figure out how to get started. For me, my “a-ha” moment occurred when I stepped on a scale and was slapped in the face by the cold, hard fact that I was well on my way to being 300 pounds. Other people begin their weight loss journey because they’re trying to get pregnant, or because they already have children who are starting to adopt poor eating habits. Some women do it to fit into their high school jeans or look svelte for an upcoming vacation or reunion, while others are motivated by a desire for more energy and fewer doctor’s appointments.

Whatever their motivation, when someone confides how miserable they’re feeling about their current weight, and talks about needing to do “something,” what I’d like to suggest is doing just ONE something. The first step will be enough to get you started, and it’ll make that next “something” so much easier.

Maybe that means trying to drink less soda and more water one week, then swapping one not-so-healthy snack per day with a banana or an apple the following week, and then gradually cutting back on microwave dinners and Chinese take-out. I recently advised a self-proclaimed “chocoholic” to limit her consumption to once or twice a week, and to swap Snickers bars for small portions of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. I urged someone else to stop thinking she had to eat nothing but salads and grilled chicken to lose weight — instead, I told her to make healthier choices most of the time, and enjoy her favorite indulgences in moderation.

It sounds like a no-brainer, but the truth is that when it comes to beginning your weight loss journey, it really doesn’t have to be complicated. You make the decision to lose weight, you possibly set a goal (lose 40 pounds, wear a size 8), and from that point on, it’s all about baby steps. Take it one day at a time, and make the small changes that will help you uphold that commitment to yourself and ultimately reach your goal.

Even if you have 100+ pounds to lose like I did, it can be done. One step at a time.

Now, tell me — what was the “first step” on your personal weight loss journey?

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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. 😀

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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