Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Binary

I hope you all know that I have a certain amount of contempt for The Biggest Loser. I don't think their methods are safe, nor are they transparent.  For instance, on the show they often talk about how many calories they are taking in but their expenditure is always talked about in vague terms: "reach[ed] their burn."  It is their dirty little secret. They don't want to show just how high the burn target is. They must be running huge deficits.

But I digress...

So anyways, new season and new trainers equal new blog fodder.  New trainer Jen said that people operate out of "fear OR love." I disagree.

It isnt binary (one or the other). It is a spectrum that we are always on--fear AND love. The trouble we get ourselves into is when there is more fear, anxiety, or apprehension than love, confidence or courage. We just need 51% of the latter to conquer the former.

That, dear readers, is the mental and emptional aspect of weight loss--to manage and negotiate that spectrum, not to deny that it exists. It is especially evident for those who can't rely on exercise to muffle those voices or to remind us how strong we are.

The anticipatory steps that lead up to a life change are often very exciting. Something or someone has shown us a different path. But there is often fear lurking behind. If we change our behaviors and mental processes, do we change who we are? Do we have to give up the things we love and that make us uniquely our own self? Well... sometimes yes and that is okay. That is evolution: a response to our environment.

Fear tries to tell us that we are losing control.  Love always says "Take a risk; I've got your back."
For the past few months, I have been running on fear and with good reason to do so. I had a few good years and thought my back problems were behind me. Falling in the shower in February and landing in the hospital in May shook me up more than I had anticipated.

The fear didn't prevent me from moving. I have been walking A LOT in the past few months, but it did prevent me from even going to the gym. The mental block was wanting to do exactly what I did last year: five miles or more on the elliptical and an hour of weights. I couldn't get around it.
Until this morning.

I ran 2 miles on the elliptical.  They were slow, but my legs remembered what to do. Did 5 miles on the bike. Did some weights. Came home to my kitteh and ate a peach.

Was it the most grueling workout? No. But it was one of the most challenging. Today, fear was no match for the love I have for myself.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September, I'll remember.

A few months before my mother passed away a photographer friend of my mother's asked if we would help them test out the new backdrop at their studio.  It was my first turn at modeling, and I was very bad at it -- very self aware and uncomfortable.  My mother was a natural.  She always has been a bit of a cheesecake in front of the camera.


I hadn't thought twice about the photography session until years after my mom died.  I went to the photo shop to have some pictures developed (remember when you used to have to do that all the time?).  The shop owners had found the developed photos from that test shoot and were hoping to give them to me when they saw me next.


Inside the envelope were a dozen unexpected treasures. If you look at our family photo albums you can see when my mom got her Pentax K1000:  the photos go from family outings and special occasions to hundreds of photos of flowers and sunsets and the occasional family photo. After mom died, I searched for photos of the two of us (versus group photos), and there just weren't any.  


I'm so thankful to have a photo like this to be among my last with my mother.  Despite all the angst (oh my goodness, so much pubescent angst) and arguments, the frustration and fights, I have these photos that remind me of the love we had for each other (and the love my mom had of coffee).  

This last photo of my mom looking at me really just gets to me.  In all the other photos, she's looking at the camera or making funny faces (talking?), but in this one she looks at me so lovingly and I'm so completely unaware of it. Sometimes I close my eyes and insert myself at different stages of my life -- such as graduations, or a future wedding, etc. -- and I imagine this is how my mom would look at me.  It makes me sad that I didn't and won't have that chance, but also so thankful that for the moments I did have a mother that loved and adored me.  It's more than many kids get. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Resistance, Relinquishment, and Acceptance

Buddhists have a term -- dukkha -- that often gets translated as "suffering." But the term dukkha is much more complex than just the sensation of suffering:  Dukkha is the dissonance between what is (the present moment) and that which was (the past) and/or that which we want (the next moment).  Quite often the dukkha comes from the desire to control what happens in the next moment -- controlling a situation, an outcome, and even our own self.  Buddhists hope to end or mitigate dukkha by focusing on what is true and real in the present moment.

Show me one person trying to lose weight/gain health that hasn't experience dukkha. 

I've yet to find someone looking to lose weight/gain health that isn't suffering.  I see it in their eyes and I hear it in their words.  They suffer the past unhappiness and trauma that lead them to gaining the weight.  They suffer the present moment of having to carry the physical and emotional weight.  They suffer the anxiety and fear of having to live the rest of their life on a diet or in a gym.

Past:  So many people who are looking to lose weight are held back by their feelings about the past (disclaimer:  in the case of trauma, any investigation into the past should be done in a safe and moderated environment such as a psychologist's office so as to not cause further trauma).   In my opinion, it is next to impossible to change your life until you address the past and untangle yourself from its influence.  It's not about denying that your past happened, it's about saying that you're no longer going to let it dictate your present and future. Understanding one's past is much different than being held hostage by it.

Present:  The present is the only part in your timeline where you have any control, any say, any choice. In order to truly be in the present moment, you need to forgive yourself for any missteps that you may have made in the past and then let it metamorphose into the love you have for yourself today. Believe it or not, this is the way to enjoy the weight loss/health gain process.  Transformation cannot come from a place of shame, deprivation, anger, fear, or outside influence. It comes with having your mind and heart connected to your body in this very moment. You will have good days and bad, and moments that are hard, but you will find the strength to endure because this is a process of love.  Be a part of the the process; not apart from it.

Future:  The future is anything that has not already occurred and is not happening at the present moment. It's a place of endless possibilities.  When we try to control situations, outcomes, people, we restrict those possibilities of what could be.  Who knows, maybe the universe has something better for us than we could have ever imagined with our limited point of view.  The magic happens here.  When we learn to let go of our anxiety and fear in the present, we open a door to the future.  It's the ultimate act of relinquishment -- to give in to the process and say "let this path take me on a journey" versus "I know where I am going."

Now... just because I understand these concepts doesn't mean I'm a good practitioner of these things all the time.  I know that I hold on to the past; a past defined in loss. I find myself so focused on trying to get through things in the future that I have blinders to the present moment.  I forget that I can make healthy choices even while I feel inundated.  And I'm so very bad at trusting a future based on present actions.

BUT, I'm able to practice awareness of these things. I can catch myself in moments where I'm stuck in the past, or where I'm trying to architect a future. I feel the dissonance in my body when I'm trying too hard to control things that are not within my purview to control.

Shotover River, South Island, NZ
Sometimes I just close my eyes and imagine myself in a stream, and instead of trying to swim upstream, I just accept the flow, relinquish control, stop resisting, and enjoy being a part of the flow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

You can't spell team without BACON.


Bawlmer!
Asheville!
So, I play this game called Ingress (it's a geocaching game, an always-
changing worldwide game of capture the flags where there are many flags).  I belong to the Resistance (we are nicknamed Smurfs, and we believe that our minds should be free from alien influence (okay, some weird backstory stuff...)). It has enabled me to meet people from all across the U.S. as well as across the world (*waves to her new friends*).

A very wide range of people play (all different ages and fitness levels), and the game is flexible to allow for all sorts of gameplay. We have people who play 10 minutes a day, we have people who play for much longer. People play on foot and by bike (and sometimes by car, but I think that is silly).  And it's a great way to learn about your local area cause there are portals EVERYWHERE (even in Ukiah, CA, Chris!).
  
Richmond Resistance
Quite often we get together and do these things called anomalies (large scale cross-faction events with rapid, real-time gameplay). My first anomaly was in Asheville, NC on June 7 (Resistance won!).  After that it was Gettysburg on June 21 (Resistance won the city, the day (multiple cities across the globe) and the whole Interitus series!), Richmond on August 9 (Resistance lost the city), and most recently Baltimore on August 23 (Resistance won Helios 6!).  


In Baltimore, I took my first turn as a team lead -- and my team did AWESOMELY.  Super proud of all of them.  There's no I in team, but "team" is an anagram for meat.  And well, bacon is awesome.  And just like bacon, my team was awesome.  Not only did we play well, but we had a lot of fun doing it.  My team was silly, supportive, and I'd work with them again any time.

Okay, so why am I talking about Ingress in my fitness/weightloss blog?  Well... I started playing Ingress in December 2013.  It helped get me out of the house during some of the worst weather DC had to offer (ahem, ice storms!?).  But most importantly it helped stave off a large part of my depression/isolationism after injuring my lower back in February and again in May (one of my Ingress buddies visited me in the hospital). It kept me moving.  There were days I could only walk around my block, and there were days I spent 3 hours walking.  When I was most depressed about not being able to run or go to the gym, I knew I could at least walk.

There's also a very strong social aspect to the game.  More than just anomalies, we often get together to work on various operations/initiatives.  For instance, brunch.  In DC we love our brunch.  We'll often plan Ingress activities around brunching. We will go to different neighborhoods for "unique hacks" (i.e., going places we've never been before) and often unique restaurants.

Anyways... I just wanted to introduce you (my health gain/weight loss family) to my other family (my Ingress team).  I'm not sure I've really ever introduced you all before, so play nice! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

(Centered) Self (Centered)

It's been almost a month, I know.  A little birdie reminded me that I'm due for a blog post and that I tend to go radio silent when stressed or overwhelmed or inundated.

I could rehash everything that's been going on and that's ongoing but I'm exasperated with it all.  The endorphin levels of a constant fight-or-flight means I don't get to spend that time and energy taking care of myself, looking forward to new adventures, or even focusing on what I want versus what must be taken care of.

In other words, sometimes when you're underwater all you think about is keeping your head above water and not what it's like on the shore.  I'm getting to the point where I can stop struggling (a large part of that has to do with being in my new apartment), but I'm not quite to the shore.

What's ahead of me?  
September 27, 2014.

The 20-year anniversary of my mom dying. 

I read the book "Letters from Motherless Daughters" women wrote in to say that the pain of losing your mother stays with you, but changes over time and as you grow as a person.  I've found that to be quite true.  I don't feel the sting of it as much anymore, but I feel the pang of it.  

Lately I've been thinking about all those big landmarks in my life that I've yet to experience (love, marriage, kids, etc.) and I can't help but wonder that I'm not running straight at those things because I won'get get to call her up and giggle my way through telling her the details. 

And well... I want this for myself.  

my nephew, AV

What's on my shore?  Love.  Family.  Silliness.  Belonging.
And someone I love kissing me goodnight, saying "Let's do this again tomorrow."