Welcome to another round of Fitness Friday!
Today is an EXTRA special day because I have my first guest post!
Today’s post comes from an amazingly vibrant young woman who I met through AmeriCorps. This girl has one of the most awe-inspiring spirits I have ever encountered. Her inner beauty is unreal, but I identify with her more and more as I read her story because we are both on a similar beautiful journey: a journey where identifying with and pursuing the inner beauty of our spirits is leading us to an outward body that we identify with and pursue just as strongly.
That being said, read on to hear from Anna!
Welcome, welcome to the guest blog post by Anna!
(Though I really am in the position to be thanking Annie for welcoming me to her wonderful web space)! To give the briefest introduction of myself as possible, I wandered into studying Folklore in college. Being that itʼs expanded academic term encompasses the discovery of shared humanity of expressed culture, you, reader, will hopefully find in my story below little bits of truth to relate to yourself, just as I found in Annieʼs blog. Her evolving story sparked many truths for me, and I am honored that she is sharing her platform so that I may share with you mine.
At the beginning of this story I am a goofy, carefree lady in Paris.
It is my first day on a two week visit where the plan is to walk to as many parks and try as many tasty treats as possible. I am 300 lbs (though I am down from the 355 I was in college) and well aware that I fall into the stereotype of the obese American, but that will not stop me from seeing anything.
I have been big my whole life (I was 5ʼ9” and over 200lbs in 5th grade), and mentally I have translated that fact into me being strong and impenetrable (never broken a bone, though I should have). I have survived years of judgment of my character based on my weight, and though Paris is a hub of the beautiful and fashionable, I am ready to explore, despite my appearances.
On the first day my travel buddy and I decide that we would like to see the Seine, the winding river at the heart of the city, and we walk to the Pont Neuf. Like all things European, there is an air of ancient culture, which just so happens to translate in this story into a set of extremely old-school stairs down to the rivers edge. I begin the descent and half way down, step onto one of the time worn crookedy crazy steps and *pop* *pop*, both of my ankles roll. Luckily I am really strong (weightlifting for track and field practice had me benching 225), and managed to pull myself up by the handrail, and when I get back to the top I have the largest wave of nausea I had ever experienced (keeping in mind that my appendix burst, this is a very strong statement). But the nausea is not from the pain in my ankles (which you can see by the picture I found a bag of ice for). The nausea came from the realization that my body was not doing what I wanted it to. I wanted to walk everywhere for the next 14 days, and here I had injured my walking sticks on the first day in.
Fortunately for you, you do not have to wait through a year and a half of living to really understand the lesson of the nausea. I am a Taurus (just for fun), and really exhibit the tell-tale stubbornness of the Bull. My entire life I understood my weight in a near-sighted way.
I am a person with a tortoise speed metabolism, a zest for delicious Dionysian feasting, and frame and personality of a Viking warrioress that was meant to be larger than life (anyone who has met me will witness to the fact that this translates to my voice, opinions and attention grabbing silliness). I saw these as weaknesses.
I loathed my metabolism. A dietician once told me that if I didn’t move, my body would only need a single grape a day to fuel itself (this, of course, is abominably unhealthy, but she was trying to make a point). It is so slow that when my appendix burst and I couldn’t eat for 21 days, I still gained weight.
I ate whatever I wanted. I grew up with friends that could eat seven bags of Flaminʼ Hot Cheetos and three plates of dinner. My home never had junk food and soda, the sweetest thing being the Quaker Oatmeal Squares that I had for breakfast everyday. I have always loved being active, dancing, climbing around nature, competing in sports, but at a certain point in my teenage years I became so frustrated that I was doing all same the activities my peers were, but still gaining weight, and gave up.
You will always be fat, is what I resigned myself to. With that as my mantra, I stopped caring about what I put in my body. I ate ice cream whenever I wanted. So what if I drink 5 Coca Colas with this meal? Who cared if I needed another serving of the entree?
I hid my unwanted body behind my humor, my intellect, my creativity, and my kindness.
In elementary school, we took a lengthy quiz that would analyze our strengths and values and then suggested possible career paths. My result was Clergy. What the quiz really grasped was that I was stuck in my mind, but wanted with my whole being to connect with the world. I was an avid young Christian, and used the religion to justify that the only true salvation came from within, in correct thought, and thoughtful action. Although all religions have similar tenants, in my religiosity the need to separate myself from my body. I developed my sense of humor, because I love people laughing. I devoured information and concepts to best understand the world. I played music every day, danced at every party, made art with friends, and acted in many plays. I practiced kindness from a place where I empathized with people that I perceived as having similar internal struggles (this also translated to rejecting people who seemed to have it all, thin bodies, money, friends galore). All this was so people would look at me and see an ugly fat girl, but would maybe be able to like me because I was personality rich. (At the same time all these activities allow me to be really happy and expressive, so these aren’t really bad things, but I framed them in a self-deprecating light.)
I took these perspectives to be truths for 26 years. It made me bitter and self-hating.
When you resign yourself to being out of your own control, bad things happen. You loose your courage. You loose your mindfulness. You hurt those around you with your belief in the inevitable. These are horrible self-fulfilling prophecies that set you adrift in the sea of the world with no anchor.
But being a Bull I needed to get stuck in a corner before I could see it was time to turn around. Last fall I lost my job after just moving to Chicago, and in my 3 months of unemployment I gained 25 lbs. putting myself over the 300 lbs. mark I told myself I would never surpass after I had dropped 80 lbs the first two times I lost weight (which had happened because of situations I was put in, not by my will, so the weight always came back). Halloween came around and so did the pictures of me in costume. I was getting huge again.
I was fed up. I realized I needed a mental reset. I wanted to live the life I wanted, not a one that dragged me along. I wrote a post-it and stuck it to the wall above my desk. Youʼve always wanted to. Just Do It. (Sorry Nike, but these words belong to everyone.)
A friend offered me a job as a dog walker, and I decided this was the time I was going to choose my situation, my environment. I started biking to each house and walking dogs all day long, and making a living with plenty of time to think. At this time Annie started blogging things she was learning on her journey to fitness, and I took her words to heart. I opened myself to encountering all of the tools I would need to make my goal reality.
P.S. My goal is to maintain a body that will allow me to live the life Iʼve dreamed of.
Beyond the Avocado Athlete blog, I used a calorie counter for a few days, getting into the habit of thinking about the fuel my body was going to need that day. I also calculated the calories I was burning in my 7-8 hours of exercise each day. I started asking friends who had better physical education than I did to give me some tips on how to challenge my muscles and joints in healthy ways. I researched what womens’ bodies need to operate at their peak.
But most importantly I started to believe that I could do it.
And that belief turned into a new perspective of my reality.
That I loved living an intentional life. I would no longer be swept away by the whim of the moment when it came to food (and so many other things). I now recognize that my body is an integral part of my experience of the world, and I am responsible for supporting it so it is ready for the adventure. I saw my metabolism for what it truly was, a hyper efficient engine, and that I was the only mechanic, so I better learn what I needed to do to keep it running. I came to the understanding that using my positive qualities as a defense against others’ judgment was selling myself short. If I really wanted to engage the world, I would have to let it engage me too.
Through this journey I have seen so many changes that I wanted for years, but now I understand that wanting is different than striving. Strength is what I’m going for, in my body, mind, and spirit. One of the best tools I have received is the outlook that even though I am going for the big picture, it is the choices I make each day that paint the grand canvas. So I must be intentional each day.
The results so far have been staggering.
I am now 205 lbs (95lbs taken off in 9 months), but I know that I still have a ways to go until I reach my goal of somewhere under 170. I look forward to the challenge. I can engage my body in ways I never could, from jogging, to yoga, aerobics and biking like a champ (I challenge myself to pass every single bicyclist on the Lake Shore Path. I call it Workouts for the Passively Competitive.) My joints have more room to move and I my muscles have more space to exert their strength. I can now gauge what food my body needs (which is sometimes bit of ice cream, but more often than not spinach). I feel as though I am feeling life more clearly, and I love it more ardently than ever.
Thank you for taking a moment to reflect on your own story in relation to mine. One of the major lessons I learned in my study of Folklore was that by sharing our stories we become connected to the world. It takes courage to be open, and love to know how we best encounter others. And I am more excited than a cat at a string factory that I was able to share with you.
Ciao for now!
(ps2) I asked Anna to include an easy go-to recipe that she loves, and she provided me with the following gem :)
In her words, “Recipe wise, I am totally a “what is in my cupboard that I can add mustard or curry to?” sorta lady. Here is an easy recipe that happens quite often.”
- 2 cups spinach
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt & pepper to taste
- add either
- 2 tbs mustard (dijon or whole grain)
- 2 tsp curry (powder or paste)
- Saute garlic, spices and curry or mustard in oil til lightly browned. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Serve on top of quinoa or brown rice.