Losing 91 Pounds It’s Not What You Think (Or At Least What I Thought)

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Chloe’s expression is my internal life when ever something good happens to me

I have a hard time believing things. I started a new job about a month ago and I refused to believe I actually had the job until then end of my first day. That came and went and I still refused to believe I had it until I got paid. Pretty much every time I walk in I’m surprised someone doesn’t say, “Didn’t so-and-so talk to you yesterday about not coming in any more?”

When I started this latest round of the weight loss merry-go-round, I didn’t really believe the numbers on the scale as they went down. Every week I’d weigh in and sarcastically record the numbers. “Minus 5 pounds. If you say so.” But over time, it became hard to deny that it wasn’t the scale playing an elaborate joke on me. It was actually happening. Then the day came when I not only weighed what my driver’s license claimed, but that’s when my bad at math self realized that meant I lost a grand total of 91 pounds off my highest weight.

Maybe it’s my reluctance to believe things, but I didn’t celebrate. I thought, “We’ll see what the scale says next week.” Like it was going to change it’s stupid scale mind and I’d say, “I knew it!” But I think I had all these wrong ideas about losing weight, like my life would fall into place (ha!), I’d get the ideal job (still working on it) be anxiety free (did you read the first paragraph?), be making millions (I’d settle for hundreds), and Ray LaMontagne would release his hit song, Beth (keep hope alive). But I just lost weight. That’s it.

Don’t get me wrong, being smaller is great! Going from a size 22 to a 12 is something I can’t even explain. I can walk into almost any store and buy something off the rack now. I’ll curl up in a chair and I’ll realize I couldn’t have done that while heavier. Several times I haven’t recognized myself in photos. But they’re all fleeting victories in the grand scheme of things.

You know that saying, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”? Maybe it’s because I”m not skinny (I’m still a good 15-25 pounds away from where I’d like to be and I still won’t be skinny), but let me tell you, that saying is pure, unadulterated, first class bullshit. Being a healthy weight is a good thing, but as good as really gooey pizza on a fall day? As good as a big plate of cheese fries? Nachos? Caramel apples???

hellno

Food is DAMN GOOD. When you lose weight, it’s still DAMN GOOD. There’s this misconception that all thinner people are health nuts and desire nothing but salads and fruit at all times. Wrong. They’ve just decided they want that healthy weight more then they want those cheese fries. All the healthier weight people are shaking their heads or thinking, ‘Well, no shit.” Yeah, trust me, it’s not that obvious to everyone. At least it wasn’t to me. I always thought that if I dieted long enough, that a switch would flip and I would instantly be purified from wanting less healthy foods. If that happens, I will totally tell you, but I’m not holding my breath anymore.

Cheese fries in a taco shell bowl! Where can I get this deliciousness???

Cheese fries in a taco shell bowl! Where can I get this deliciousness???

Being very overweight you get drafted into a club you don’t even know you’re in. When you see another overweight person, you automatically know at least a portion of their struggles and have this unspoken link. Going somewhere new, I would always think, “I hope there is another big person there.” Why? It’s not like we were going to hang out. Maybe if the healthy weight people decided to form a shame circle Twilight Zone style or stage an impromptu intervention, I’d have someone to go through it with? Being a part of that club was a huge part of my identity and I didn’t realize it until, just like I got drafted in, I got quietly booted out. I have this urge to tell people that I used to be heavier, to say something in a hushed conspiratorial tone. “You know, I get it. I’m down with the struggle, man.” If they didn’t think I was trying to sell them drugs and actually managed to figure out what I was talking about, they’d think I was a braggy dick. So this is one area I generally keep my big yapper shut unless it comes up and it usually doesn’t. I’m not even sure how it would come up. “Hey, did you used to be fatter?” is generally not something you ask people.

There Is No Switch

lightbulbOccasionally I think the alternate name for this blog could be, “Sometimes I’m an idiot,” because I share a lot of things that are new or revelations to me and imagine people thinking, “Yeah, no shit, dumb ass.” This is one of those weeks. It starts out weight/fitness related, but it it applies to everything in the end.

So the other day I was logging my exercise and reading a fitness/nutrition forum. I can’t even remember exactly what I read, but it was something like, “Of course I want junk food, too, but I want health more.” I could feel the lightbulb over my head. I guess I thought that there were Healthy Eaters and Everyone Else. The Healthy Eaters didn’t even want Doritos or cookies and were content with their sprouts and whatever the hell else they eat and were just born that way. I think I also thought if I forced myself into that Healthy Eater box, that eventually a switch would flip, (this is starting to sound like a particularly odd Twilight Zone episode), I wouldn’t crave junk and healthy eating would be effortless. Honestly, it just never occurred to me that the Healthy Eaters would want junk, too. Oh, I’m sure there are those freaks who are like, “Oh, no! Not me! I would rather have this big bowl of cinnamon flavored air then that big plate of nachos!” But they are the exception.

I don’t think this is solely an issue related to fitness and is true of all goals. We go around thinking a magic switch is going to flip that is going to keep us constantly motivated, give us unwavering commitment, and make us laugh in the face of obstacles. When that doesn’t happen and it’s still a struggle, we figure something is wrong with us and give up. But there is no switch. There is no big moment where we stop wanting to take the easier path. The only difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t is that those who achieve have figured this out already. They know the road that leads to the final destination is not flat, perfect pavement, but full of potholes, cracks, u-turns, construction, “bridge out” and “slippery pavement” signs.

It kind of sounds like bad news, but it’s really not. It takes away any invisible barriers we have put up that hinders up from becoming a goal achiever. There’s no difference between us and them. There isn’t really an us and them- it’s everyone. We’ll still crave Doritos, the hardest part of working out will still be putting on our shoes, and it will always be easier stay with the familiar then to venture into the unknown. It doesn’t make us defective or destined for failure. It just makes us human. Keep your eye on the prize, keep moving forward, and realize you’re stronger then almost anything that can come your way.

It’s The Little Things

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Drawing in progress

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I kept whining about not having an internship? Well, guess who just finished her first two weeks at her shiny new internship? I don’t want to give out too many details, because while I know all my readers are as sane as they are good looking and smart, there may be a few lurking crazies. But what I can tell you is it’s at a non-profit (yea!), unpaid (boo!), and I get to do a little bit of everything (yea!). I think it’s going to be great.

Throughout this whole internship search, I kept running across the quote by Joseph Campbell:

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

I know that should have told me something, but far be it from me to actually pay attention to the signs around me. You know how I live for coincidence? Now you do. Well, in a previous post I told you about how my friend who passed away inspired me to go back to school. When we wouldn’t want to tell customers our real names, we would give them fake ones (I have a tendency to bring out the silly in people). My friend’s fake name is my new bosses real name. It wouldn’t be weird if her name was Mary or Brenda, but it’s something not at all common. Weird, right? Okay, just humor me.

Speaking of inspiring people, whenever I write these posts I’m pretty much writing them for me. I figure if they make me laugh, motivate me, kick me in the drawers, what have you, that they will probably do that for someone else, too. Plus it’s really powerful when you are at a low point to go back and read your own words. But I never think of myself as inspirational. Trust me, if you saw the stack of junk on the coffee table, the sink full of dishes, or the laundry that needs to be put away, the only thing it might inspire you to do is clean your house. So the other day someone sent me a message on My Fitness Pal that said something like, “Your story is so inspirational! I hope to get to where you are someday,” I seriously thought she sent it to the wrong person. It didn’t help that I had just got back from the gym and was sitting on the couch in my underwear eating cheese while watching Dr. Phil (sadly, no part of that is made up, it was super hot and I was hungry).

But it made me think about who we admire and why. We tend to put those we admire on a pedestal and think everything they do should be inspirational. “They way they took out the trash was a triumph of the human spirit!” That’s where the saying, “Don’t meet those you admire” comes in. People rarely act like we expect. I follow artist and author Austin Kleon on Twitter and one day he posted something like, “Is there any great artist who WASN’T a philandering douchebag? #disappointed” I’ve heard rumblings that Ray LaMontagne had a particularly disappointing meeting with his inspiration, Bob Dylan. We have to give each other room to be human and realize that our inspirations, just like us, don’t always have it together. We all fall short of our own expectations at one point or another. But I think we also cannot forget that it’s the small acts of kindness that sometimes mean the most to people. You never know how a smile or hug or some sincere words will effect someone.

Wouldn't this look awesome on a t-shirt?

Wouldn’t this look awesome on a t-shirt?

Okay, so you know how the Mumford & Sons song, “The Cave” has inspired me over and over throughout the last few years? Well, they are having a contest to design a t-shirt for their summer tour. Now, I know as a designer I’m supposed to be all against spec work and blah blah blah, but, hey, MUMFORD & SONS! In addition to getting your design on a shirt, you get $1000 and I am poor so that would be awesome. I was so excited when I first saw this contest, but then I totally forgot about it and had to repurpose a design and format some type quickly. Allegedly voting starts sometime today (5/31) and is open only for a week. You don’t have to register for anything, because it looks like you can only vote using Facebook and Twitter. If you could spare a moment and vote for me once voting opens,  I would so appreciate it. There are some excellent designs and competition is going to be fierce. Vote here

UPDATE! Voting is now open and you can use Facebook, Twitter, or text 9S88MZ to 75572.  

Beth’s Guide to Weight Loss…or Something

underweight

I realized I’ve lost 70 pounds. You would think that would be a little hard to miss, but if you’ve read here before then you know I’m not always on speaking terms with obvious. What made it less obvious is that it was slowly over a lot of years and had many stalls and restarts and twists and turns and jumping off one path and on to another…and I’m still not done. I’ve got about 30-40 pounds to go. But slowly is better then never and time is going to pass regardless.

I’ve always been somewhere between chubby and sideshow fat lady (with my Greek genes I’m just glad I’m not the bearded lady) and have tried just about every weight loss plan known to man, both healthy and not so healthy. Really, if you want to know how to lose weight, ask a fat person, because we’ve tried them all- for a few hours at least.

If I could impart one bit of wisdom to those who want to eat healthier or lose weight it would be this:

WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU ARE EATING. 

Most of us are eating way more and way more junk then we realize. When I first started this whole thing, I went to Weight Watchers (which is a great program) and the weeks that I had the biggest losses were weeks that I religiously wrote down every single bite that went in my mouth.

I’ve recently been using My Fitness Pal, which is a website and app that helps you record your exercise and calories/food to achieve your fitness goals. I was only using it to track my exercise and one day thought, “Hmm…I should put my food for a few days just to see.” Dear God! No wonder I haven’t lost any weight lately! Low carb/high protein works best for me and I was hardly getting any protein and my carbs were TWICE what I thought they were. Now I’m trying to kick my 2 a day Kind Bar habit because I was getting a ridiculous amount of carbs from that alone. I guess it shouldn’t be shocking- the good ones are all coated in chocolate. See what I mean about me and obvious not always getting together?

Another little bit of wisdom I wish someone would have told me years ago:

Just because you are working out, don’t expect to lose more weight. 

Maybe it’s just me, but when I exercise my weight loss slows to a crawl. I have no idea why, but it happens to me every single time. But take heart! There is a way to still see some progress without using the scale. Take measurements! Waist, hips, chest, calf, arm and thigh- or any part you are interested in and measure every one or two weeks. Since I’ve started doing the weight machines, I’ve already lost an inch off my waist and a half inch off my hips. Considering I don’t have much of a waist, that is huge for me.

My last little bit of wisdom:

You can only get what you want by moving outside of your comfort zone.

I am so guilty of this and I know I am not alone, because I see it all the time in the gym and life in general. We only go so far and then it’s like we hit an invisible barrier. “Eh…that’s good enough” and stop. Some book I read said something like the most effective leaders are the ones who are comfortable going into the unknown. Because that’s what it’s about really, isn’t it? That fear that we might fail or, God forbid, succeed and then what? Will people cheer us? Or abandon us? Or maybe they’ll expect us to always succeed and what if we can’t live up to our own new standard? So it seems easier to remain where we are. But if you really want something, the only way to get it is to tell those voices to cram it, push forward into that unknown and take it. It’s hard, scary and takes commitment, but if you want it bad enough then that’s what it takes. It is the rare person who is handed everything they want with no work. Besides, you don’t want to be that person, because everyone hates those people and we like you!

Have a great week!

The Gym Is Not Always Torture (But It Sorta Is)

Juvenile-Harrys-Ladder-to-Learning-66I love my gym. Oh, I still hate working out about 75% of the time,  but my gym is non-stop entertainment. It’s as if Wal-Mart had a gym. In general I try to keep my head down, avoid eye contact  and be as completely unassuming as possible. I figure I don’t want to anyone judging me, so I try not to judge anyone else. We’re all there for the same reason, because we want to workout and are poor and/or cheap. But sometimes it’s hard not to notice the, um, “eccentricities” of the other exercisers.

I always wonder if the world is full of weirdos, if I just notice all the weirdos, or if eventually we are all the weirdos. Yesterday when I was using the torture chamber known as the overhead tricep extension machine (seriously, look at this thing, why did I think it was a good idea?) and repeatedly hitting myself in the head with the handles while trying to adjust the weights, I’m pretty sure I was the weirdo. But at least I wasn’t the guy who never uses any equipment, wanders the entire perimeter of the gym (in jeans) over and over while swinging his arms like a windmill on the loose during category 5 hurricane. I can’t take my eyes off him because I keep trying to figure out if there is a pattern to his flailings and he’s on to some new super arm workout that the rest of us haven’t caught on to yet. I don’t know how he hasn’t knocked anyone unconscious.

My gym is divided up into four sections, which I’m guessing is probably the same as most gyms: the cardio area (treadmills, ellipticals, etc.), strength training machines (lat pull, thigh abductor, etc.), free weights (dumbbells, weight benches), and a big open area for things like kettle bells, those big stability bouncy ball things, and whatever other lunacy personal trainers are inflicting on people these days.

Until recently I never ventured out of the cardio area, which has it’s own form of crazy. Like the girl who runs on the treadmill in flip flops, the guy who randomly yells out, “WHOOOOOOO!!!!” on the elliptical machine (and looks like a forgotten member of an 80’s glamrock band), or the guy who cranks the treadmill speed up to 15 mph, lifts himself up on to the side rails and just touches the belt with his tippy toes. Closely related to him is  the 75 year old lady who puts the incline up to 900% (approximately), the speed up to 88 mph (approximately) and then hangs on for dear life like she is going to shoot off through a hole in time and space. I wouldn’t even have noticed her except for the fact that she glares at everyone like we were trying to steal her man. I accidentally made eye contact with her once on the way to the locker room and she gave me such a, “Bitch, what is your problem?” look that I was both horrified and impressed.
workout-gym-losing-weight-breasts-cry-for-help-ecards-someecards
I’ve lost over 50 pounds (it’s not as impressive as it sounds, I’m still chunky) and need to firm up. So, I broke out of my cardio comfort zone and into the strength training machine area. This doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but if you’ve been reading here for any length of time, then you know that I am scared of everything new. But I psyched myself up and did it and actually love it (I blame all the blows to the head from the tricep extension machine). I’m an Amazon who puts muscle on fast. In old-timey days, I would have been prized on the farm (my parents could have got 6 cows, a spinning wheel AND a goat in exchange for me) and if I were born on the East Coast or was smart enough to go to an Ivy League school, I’d have been perfect for a rowing team. I guess strength training should have been an obvious fit, but sometimes it takes me and obvious a while to hook up.

In the process of venturing into a new area, there’s a whole other world of odd. Like the man who does one rep on every single machine or the lady who wore a full prairie skirt, poncho, Olivia Newton-John “Let’s Get Physical” headband, and metallic silver high tops on the thigh abductor. By the way, how absolutely awesome a name is “thigh abductor”? It’s like it’s going to steal your flabby thighs and leave nice toned ones in their place, like a super fit Santa from Heaven.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that this strange phenomenon of people sitting on the machines. I don’t mean resting between sets, I mean just sitting there like it’s a loveseat at Costco. If it were only one person I’d think they needed a longer rest, but over the last few days I’ve seen about 6 people, who, unless we are working out at exactly the same pace, are just sitting at the machines, not using them at all. What are they doing? I can only check Facebook and fake text so many times and after about 8 seconds I’m out of things to do between sets.  Nothing that calls itself a “seat” at the gym is comfortable (they all seem to be designed to go up your crack and/or correct spinal alignment), so I can’t imagine sitting there when I don’t have to. There is no view of the TVs or even really anything except other machines.

We can see the free weight area a little, but if there is any spot I try to avoid even looking at, it’s the free weight area or as I call it, “The Yard.” There are a few guys who I am pretty sure honed their physiques at the finest correctional institutions and, based on the faces and noises they make, should add more fiber and water to their diets.  On the rare chance I see a woman over there I think she is either a super tough chick like in a Quentin Tarantino movie and could kick all our asses five ways till Sunday or needs to be rescued and I should secure a safe house. So, barring anymore strength training machine blows to the head or daring rescue attempts, I’ll be staying out of The Yard.

The Harder I Work The Luckier I Get or, “Congratulations. I Suck.”

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Lately I’ve been thinking about that saying, “The harder I work the luckier I get.” Trying to decide if it’s truth or a crock. I know many, many hard working people who can’t break through to a level they consider successful and others who seem to glide through life getting nothing but green lights, good parking spaces, hot partners and people waiting to throw cash at them.

I was talking with some classmates when one brought up the website of an artist he personally knew. He saw that this other artist’s career had kind of taken off in a way he didn’t realize and his words were something to the effect of, “What the….? Sonnofabitch!” Even though he respected her talents, seemed to personally like her, and was happy for her success it still made him a bit jealous and sad. Now, you have to know that my classmate is someone I, my classmates and teachers are universally jealous of his talents and who also works extremely hard. During critiques the comment he gets most is, “Wow! How did you do that?” So, it kind of caught me off guard. All I could say was that I understood. It’s that sick feeling of being happy for their success, disappointment with yourself, puzzlement, and a healthy dose of guilt for being a jealous douchebag to a friend you sincerely do want good things for. Things seem to come incredibly easy to some people.

But situations look so different from the inside. We don’t always get to see how hard someone works behind the scenes. From our point of view, it could just look like they are breezing through life collecting accolades with a four-leaf clover, rabbit’s foot, horseshoe, pot o’gold and three 7’s tattooed on their charmed butts. BUT we don’t see the hours of work they put in or the sacrifices they make so that make their successes appears effortless. We aren’t privy to the times they may have thought, “When is it my turn?” when everyone else around them seemed to have everything going their way.

I guess in the end, I have to believe that, “The harder I work the luckier I get” is truth, because, well…I just have to. It’s putting every single ounce of faith into yourself, knowing those hard days caused you to grow in ways you wouldn’t have otherwise and not stopping until you can look around and say, “See? I knew I could.”

Coming up on Friday, the thrilling conclusion to the work in progress a few weeks ago. Tantalizing teaser, it came out a billion times better then I imagined and it’s probably my most favorite thing I’ve created. Til then, enjoy this super depressing Ray LaMontagne song, Let It Be Me, that sums up those feelings when your faith seems to shake a little.

One For The Ladies

butterflyladycollageBeing a woman is awesome. We get to  wear pretty clothes, do fun things with our hair, and rarely have to lift anything heavy or kill our own bugs. Don’t get me wrong, I love men a lot, but with the exception of making slightly more money, I wouldn’t want to be one.

Aside from the whole money thing, there is one area where I am a little jealous of men- the fact that it takes about 10 minutes for them to get ready to walk out the door. I’m not any shade of cute or pretty and there is still a ton of upkeep. Plus, I’ve got Greek genes, so approximately three quarters of my grooming is hair removal. The hair and make up are fun, but sometimes you just want to, you know, leave quickly, but still look presentable.

Anyway, I thought I would share some of my favorite time and money saving tips. Because that’s the other thing-beauty things are EXPENSIVE! The fact that they are expensive doesn’t even guarantee they are going to work well or even do half of what they promise. I am poor as hell and can’t spend a ton of money on crap that doesn’t work. Anyway, without further ado…

Make your own leave-in conditioner/detangler: take an empty spray bottle and about 1-2 tablespoons of regular conditioner from your shower (experiment with the amount to see how much is good for your hair) and fill the rest of the bottle with water. Shake well before each use.

Rosewater: I’m all about multipurpose things and rosewater can be used for everything beauty related. Use it on your hair to detangle, increase shine, or freshen between washes. Spritz it lightly on your face after applying mineral make up to make it last longer and give a nice fresh look. Spritz it on your sheets or clothes for a nice light rose scent. I get it at the health food store for about $4-6 for a 4 ounce bottle.

Vinegar: Did I mention that I love multipurpose products? Because vinegar is their king! You can clean your house with it, add it to laundry, remove household odors, color Easter eggs (the smell alway reminds me of PAAS egg dye), and use it to degunk your hair. Take about a  quarter to a half cup of vinegar and a cup of water and pour it over your hair in the shower. Leave it on for about 2 minutes and then rinse. Follow with your normal shampoo and conditioner. It gets rid of all the built up junk on your scalp and hair. You can also do it with apple cider vinegar. WARNING: Be very careful of your eyes! Vinegar stings and is super painful when it gets in your eyes even when diluted (not that I would know about it firsthand or anything).

Make your own body scrub: Dump some olive oil and some sea salt in a bowl and stir it up. Yeah, that’s the recipe spas are charging you a fortune for. You can also make your own brown sugar scrub the same way. If you want, add some honey and/or vanilla. The vanilla doesn’t do anything, but who doesn’t love the smell of vanilla? Plus, when you’re done with your scrub, you’ll be completely irresistible because you’ll smell like fresh baked cookies.

Vaseline: I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I love multipurpose products. A tub of Vaseline cost like $5 and last you so long that you probably have to will it to someone. Yes, it’s nothing but chemicals, but it’s old-timey chemicals, so I’m pretty sure it’s okay. Slap some on your feet, put some socks on, go to bed, wake up with smooth feet! Put a little on your lips before bed to keep your lips soft (I get extremely dry lips in the winter and this is the only thing that helps). I have very sensitive skin and I swear looking at me hard dries out under my eyes to the point of peeling. The only thing that helps is a tiny, tiny amount of Vaseline patted lightly around my eyes. Put it on your nose if you’ve got a cold to keep your nose from peeling from all the blowing and wiping. Again, with the exception of the feet, we’re talking about teeny tiny amounts. You don’t want to look like you’re melting, slide off your pillowcase, or frighten your loved ones.

My hair is pretty long (about 3-4 inches below my shoulders) and as much as I love it, it’s a pain in the ass when I am in a hurry. Here are two great tutorials for a sock bun and a quick twist. Both are super easy with a little practice you can do either in under 2 minutes.

I cut my own hair. Horrible, I know! To those who know me, it explains why my hair looks like a 3 year old with a case of the shakes cut my hair with safety scissors in a dark room. I wouldn’t recommend it if your hair is above shoulder length or you are making a drastic change, but if your hair is long, you’re just looking to trim it, and feeling adventurous -go for it. Go slow and remember you can take it off, but you can’t put it back on. But here is where I do recommend spending a little cash- get some nice scissors specifically for cutting your hair. Guard them like a secret bank account! Let no one else use them to cut anything other then hair. Otherwise they will dull and if you’ve ever used a dull razor, you know how well that works out. Here’s a very easy method for cutting your own hair, with lots of pictures:

The U-Shaped Trim

Here is the best video I’ve found for cutting your own long hair into layers:

Oh I almost forgot! If you’re looking for excellent style advice, check out Tim Gunn’s A Guide To Quality, Taste and Style. I’m only about halfway through it, but I LOVE it. I always thought I had great posture until I read the section on posture and realized what I was doing wrong. He explained it in a very tangible way and it was easy to correct. Seriously, the quickest way to lose 10 pounds is to fix your posture. Also, forget about the size of your clothes and just wear what fits properly! So simple, but so many people get stuck on the number on the tag instead of buying what fits well. He gave great advice on cleaning out your closet and dresser and I was so inspired that I’ve got 2 huge lawn and leaf bags full of clothes ready to go to Goodwill. I was surprised to find out Tim Gunn was a three dimensional design teacher before he got involved in fashion and he wasn’t always the fashionista we know him as today. So far it’s a fabulous book and I recommend it if you are looking for style advice, because, trust me, a book recommendation is all you want from me in that department.

Have a great week! 🙂