So I am incredibly delinquent in following up with my second blog entry about celebrating choices. I chose to enjoy a week with my fiancée and friends and the sun. 🙂
With choices come consequences. Sometimes those consequences rock…and sometimes they have you driving in a 1994 Honda Accord with two cats, five outfits and a scratched up ottoman through the Mohave Desert.
I want to go back in time a little further than my move to L.A. A year prior to moving to L.A., to be exact. Then I’ll jump forward four and a half years to tie it all together. SUPER FUN!
The first choice I want to celebrate (and I should) is my choice to lose weight. I think I began struggling with my eating choices when I was in junior high school, when my life became less about going outside for recess and play time, and more about mulling over boys, doing homework, and hanging out with girlfriends, eating pizza and drinking Coke. I have plenty of delightful memories from 7th grade, but in 8th grade, things changed somehow. I can look back at pictures of me in eighth grade and see the beginnings of hiding under baggy t-shirts.
Things “thinned out” a bit during my freshman year of high school, when I joined the volleyball team and excelled quickly. I fell deeply in love with the sport, and practiced all of the time. My sophomore year of high school saw the end of my volleyball affair, though, when I fractured my hip during a match. After that, working out became difficult and painful. I still hung around with lots of guys (being the tomboy I am) who ate like…well…teenage boys. I adopted their eating habits, scarfing down Burger King meals for lunch every week, tons of candy and Mountain Dew.
As a little girl, I was incredibly active – I played pretty much every sport I could jump into (including wrestling, for a while) – and did not like eating meat. While most of my family craved Midwestern staples like spaghetti, chili, burgers and ribs, I preferred my dad’s farmers market salads with steamed veggies and boiled baby potatoes. I was a vegetarian by preference (unless, as any good parent would insist, they made me eat my meat).
I’m giving you this background so you can understand how I became 55 lbs overweight; it was a combination of inactivity paired with really really poor eating habits.
Once one gets oneself in, it is difficult to break out of this cycle. At first, I felt like I had no problem. I felt active enough, and had a great excuse to not be active when I was sitting around, doing nothing. You do not see yourself gaining weight, because you are always with yourself. So as I was gaining weight – during a time when people are growing anyway (puberty) – I did not truly realize that my growth was a negative kind.
We moved to Alabama in 1997, where I tried (after a year of doing zero exercise) to win a spot on my new school’s volleyball team. When I didn’t make it in, I was crushed, and decided from that point on that pursuing sports was just not what I was meant to do. I focused on art. Music. Writing. I spent the majority of my junior year at around 160 lbs…which for a 5’4″ 17 year-old girl is not good. If my mother had not forced me to get out every day and roller blade, I would have probably gained extreme amounts of weight. I eventually found freedom in rollerblading, and my passion for competition (yes, I compete with myself!) and for pushing my own personal boundaries won over my desire to watch t.v. I pulled myself down to a relatively healthy 138 lbs by the end of my senior year – but only through activity. My eating habits didn’t really change. In fact, I was adopting worse eating habits.
I moved to Memphis for college, and in no-time, as is customary for many young college students, gained my freshman 20. Every once in a while, I would try a crazy diet (ew, Atkins!) and would lose some weight only to gain it back again (and then some) once the diet was over. When I was around 22, I had a terrible rollerblading accident in which I dislocated my hip and tore my entire left hamstring in HALF. This provoked another period of immobility – and no diet change – which resulted in me gaining more weight.
Pretty great story, huh? Let’s skip forward. By the time I was around 26, I weighed around 180 lbs. That’s not terrible terrible…but it was not good. I began to have frequent fainting spells and dizziness, so I dragged myself to my doctor who did not hesitate to tell me what was up: I was a hop, skip and jump away from developing type II diabetes. I needed to change some things…fast.
I think I remember going home not in a state of shock or depression or denial…but in a state of conviction that things needed to change.
At this point, I chose to change – to really change – the way I had been living my life.
It was summertime in Memphis, which if you have lived in Memphis you would know the weather as balmy, super-hot, and full of mosquitoes. Working out outside wasn’t exactly awesome. 😉
For those of you out there who may be thinking about changing your living habits, here is how I changed MINE:
- I went to Target and bought a couple of cute workout outfits, a pair of tennis shoes, and a portable CD player (no iPods yet!) for motivation. This purchasing of new workout-special stuff reminded me of when I participated in team sports; I would start the season with a fresh pair of shoes, a fresh jersey, a new sports bra and some good practice tunes. I looked at this journey as if I were joining a new team: Team ME!
- I made realistic goals which didn’t include procrastination. I didn’t just walk out of my door on day one and run a mile. I literally got dressed up, put on my favorite CD, and walked up and down my block (literally. a block.) a few times. As soon as this small workout became easy, I moved on to walking around the neighborhood a couple of times. Then I walked around a cluster of 4 or 5 neighborhoods, and so on. Sometimes I would jog a couple of blocks, but in general I stuck to walking fast and sweating.
- Adjusting my diet was the difficult part. I knew I wanted to a) decrease my portion size, b) decrease my intake of calories, sodium and sugars, and c) eat more whole foods. My doctor counseled me to begin adjusting my diet by eating only Lean Cuisines and Smart Choice meals for a couple of weeks to get used to portion sizes. She warned me that I shouldn’t eat like this for more than a couple of weeks, as the preservatives/sodium in these meals were out of control and not reflective of a truly healthy diet. I religiously followed her instructions. I also needed to incorporate more fruits into my diet, and less processed sugar. I wasn’t to purchase any canned fruits (which contain preservatives and HFC’s and a whole mess of other chemicals I don’t want to list), but whole fruits from the grocery store. At some point, I discovered Easy Way, which is a chain of farmers markets…of sorts. They are quite small and carry fresh produce, dairy and eggs (and sometimes meat) from mostly local farms. I would stop by after work every night to purchase fruits and vegetables to snack on that evening and the next day. Eventually, when I needed to ween myself off of boxed meals, I purchased most of my food from Easy Ways. I stopped eating red meat, focusing on getting my protein intake from chicken and fish which I purchased from Whole Foods. Although it required a little extra planning, all of these changes were manageable…and eventually became something to look forward to. I became a geeky cook. I explored spices and herbs. I made a game out of having a delicious but healthy dinner.
To recap, I 1) joined my own “Team Kristin”, incentivizing my goals through purchasing some fun stuff I could only use while working out; 2) created realistic workout goals. I didn’t join a gym or pay for a set of workout DVDs. I worked with what I had available to me; and 3) slowly adjusted my diet, with the help of my physician until I found a diet with which I was comfortable.
In one year, I lost around 30 pounds in a controlled and healthy manner. I felt like I had built habits that I could keep forever, which was what was really important to me. When I moved to Los Angeles, life got a little easier: a gym membership can be quite cheap here, as compared to Memphis membership prices (grumble grumble Memphis!); farmers markets are EVERYWHERE; the weather promotes an active lifestyle; and then there’s the little matter of there being GORGEOUS PEOPLE EVERYWHERE (read: motivation). After living for two years in my new environment, I lost an additional 20 pounds and got to a place (finally) where I was mostly comfortable with my body.
The road to losing weight has not been easy. I recently read an article in a magazine wherein a woman talked about her obsession with losing weight. She felt that if she lost weight, her life would change…her problems, solved. But they weren’t. She realized in the end that instead of being a fat woman with problems, she was a skinny woman with problems. Psychology definitely comes into play when losing weight, especially if you are accustomed to the natural defenses you build when you are bigger. After I lost my first 30 pounds, I felt both gratitude and fear. I realized that I associated strength with my weight. I could no longer plow through anyone or anything with a “tank of a body.” I realized I had somehow created an immovable fortress in my fat, and I feared that, should I run into trouble, I would not be able to defend myself. I felt ashamed of my body for different reasons. Losing weight, although originally done to preserve my health, opened up a world of insecurities (that I suspect were always there) that I began to have to face head-on. I couldn’t hide behind my weight. My sarcasm began to lose its shine. More importantly, I still felt like a fat girl trapped in a skinnier body.
My choice to lose weight brought health. My choice to lose weight brought the realization that I had more inner-work to do. I could look back and wonder, “if I hadn’t chosen to lose weight, would I still be unaware of these deeper challenges that I’m now able to work on?”
One could choose regret in this situation, if one wanted to.
Six years ago I chose to begin a journey to better health…to save my health. It has lead me to raw foods, vegetarian foods, a vegan lifestyle, reading food labels, fighting for better food quality in our country, fighting for food accountability in our school systems, inspiring loved ones to think about what they put into their mouths, being inspired by loved ones to think about what I put into my body, learning about protein-rich vegetables, yoga, breathing, surfing, hiking…culinary adventures. I am a work in progress. My physical health is connected with my mental health is connected with my emotional health is connected to my psychological health…is connected with my spiritual health.
We have an entire lifetime to celebrate our full spectrum of health. The journey can begin with a cute workout outfit. 😉
Three Things That Bring Me Happiness In Health!
1.) Discovering new recipes. Marinated raw stuffed mushrooms with cashew cheese and spinach-walnut pesto, anyone?
2.) Getting Sweaty – for a good reason. Krav Maga kicks it into high gear with high impact interval training and good-ol’ bag punching 🙂
3.) Going to the doctor and hearing, “everything’s great!” Music to my ears. ❤