Posts Tagged With: martial arts

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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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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Redefining Myself

Over the weekend, I took the first of three trial classes of Muay Thai kickboxing at a local karate studio. I’ve been looking for ways to shake things up for quite some time — not only in an effort to get the scale to budge, but also to ensure that I never get bored enough with my running-and-strength-training-six-times-a-week routine to lose interest and stop exercising.

This is something I’ve wanted to try for awhile…and I had a blast. I can’t wait to do it again. In fact, I’m already stressing about how I might even begin to make room in my budget for more classes.

In my conversations with the kickboxing instructor after class, I realized that I still have not fully embraced my new body or what it can do.

He referred to me as an athlete. He marveled at my ability to effortlessly complete 75 push-ups and 200 crunches with the rest of the class. He even complimented my arms — the body part of which I’ve always been the most self-conscious, and as such, the one I spend the most time sculpting each time I hunker down in the basement with my resistance band, kettlebell, and free weights.

He also insisted that I must have done this before (I assured him that I most certainly have not, beyond some watered-down cardio kickboxing classes at the YMCA). The intimidating tough-as-nails woman I was practicing punching and kicking drills with in class said the same thing. She called me a natural, and said I was ready to try much more than what the instructor allows newbies to do.

It was all tough for me to swallow. Of course I was thrilled by the compliments — and I have to say I was pretty proud of myself for holding my own in a class full of black belts and women who had been training for years.

But then there was another part of me that had trouble believing any of it. When the instructor started talking about how he “loves turning athletes into martial artists,” I convinced myself that surely he wasn’t talking about me. He’s complimenting my form and how well I did in my first class, and I’m telling myself that he’s just trying to sell me on paying for more classes. It’s his job to say those things. Right?

I may wear smaller jeans now, but in my mind, I’m still obese. I’m still sedentary. It’s a perception of myself that I can’t seem to shake. I’ve always been fat, and I spent my entire life assuming that I always would be fat.

I know it’s the reason why I can’t give myself credit for any of the physical feats my body can now accomplish.

When I beat my own time for a mile — I can finally do it in just under 10 minutes — I ridicule my big fat thunder thighs for holding me back. And when a ripped martial arts instructor comments on how muscular my arms are, all I can think about as is how much my loose arm skin flaps when I throw a punch. I’m just a fattie who’s trying to lose weight.

Meanwhile, nothing brings me greater pleasure than working up a sweat, and I’m thrilled when I wake up with sore muscles from the previous day’s workout. I run 8.0 speed sprints on a treadmill on at least a 5.0 incline, I regularly go on 8+ mile bike rides, and I’ve more than doubled the weight I’m lifting on the machines at the gym since I started working out.

I’ve tackled nearly every type of group fitness class, from spinning to Zumba to yoga. I collect new workout moves from my countless fitness magazine subscriptions like it’s my job. I have muscles bulging in places I didn’t know could have muscles.

I pound the pavement or hit the gym six times a week. My Christmas list this year consists of medicine balls and gliding discs, and new sports bras, sneakers, and running gadgets that can track my distance, speed, and calories burned.

I go out of my way to research and eat the foods that will help me burn fat and build muscle more efficiently, and that won’t weigh me down before a workout.

But an athlete?  No, not me.

Not yet.

*I’m the new Biggest Loser blogger for CafeMom, and I’ll also be writing “Healthy Living” posts on weight loss for CafeMom’s blog, “The Stir.”  You can find my stuff here.

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