Question Time: Readership Questionnaire!


"When life gives you lemons..."

Well how do you complete that phrase?

Are you only thinking of adding the sugar to make the lemonade sweet, and the water to dilute the acidity? 

Do you want to throw the lemons back at life sometimes?

This past weekend it was raining lemons down on me -- lost my wallet (Kenneth Cole clutch with ID, credit cards, check card, health card, hair tie, metro card) on Friday and my cell phone's screen died on me on Sunday.  I did my taxes and that was.... well... depressing.  I have things that I need to be doing in order to prepare for my upcoming vacation (getting my passport renewed, getting clothing that fits me, getting bathing suit ready). I also have the April #GoTheDist challenge to think about, as well as trying to fill the Finding Your Fight: Intro to Boxing class (which is going s l o w l y).  And then there's my complicated-yet-uncomplicated romantic life causing all sorts of undue strife.

Whereas I used to immediately go into a panic and shut down, I find that there's an eerie sense of calm about me.  I know there is only so much I can do.  I know that shoving food in my mouth isn't going to help me. I know that trying to solve every problem all at once will result in me not being able to solve anything.  I am focused on what is in front of me, what I can actually fix, and what is a pressing need.

I am thankful for the lemons.
They remind me I have the ability to handle life as it comes to me.
Let me receive it gently.
Let me receive it gently.

I am thankful for the lemons.
They remind me that struggle is not failure.

Let me rise to the challenge.
Let me overcome.

LA Boxing Post #5: Pat-losophy

It's every bit as important for you to know your trainer as it is for your trainer to know you.

Pat H. was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for my blog:

Q:  I do the "Going the Distance" challenge every month.  What does it mean to you to "Go the Distance"?
A: To me it means setting a goal and following through.  I would say start with the easy stuff first, check that off.  The longer goals should be measured by progress.  "are you closer or further from your goals?"  Does not matter how incremental.  "Go the distance!"

Q:  One of your passions is fighting childhood obesity.  How can parents get more involved with their kids in terms of nutritional education as well as fitness?
A: Parents could lead by example.  There is such a wealth of information and support out there.  It is up to the adult to pursue it and make the effort to find out what they need to find out for the sake of their own health as well as their kid(s).  Here's one thing parents could do; learn how to read food labels and serving sizes.  This one activity has big ramifications over a lifetime.  You do not have to know everything, gain knowledge through effort, your kids will see and learn to appreciate.

Q:  What's one food you think kids/all people should love just a little more?
A:  Oatmeal. Such a great source of fiber and nutrition.  Highly customizable and lowers cholesterol also.

Q:  Is boxing a good activity for families? How?
A:  Sure, Its fun!  If you like to move, dance, and punch,  boxing contains these elements.  When you feel yourself punching faster, getting stronger, or just being able to move around longer without wearing down as fast, its liberating.  Builds self confidence too and a hell of a stress reliever.

Q:  What has boxing taught you that you perhaps might not have learned in a regular gym environment?
A:  Well for the most part, boxing showed me how to move.  A lot of times going to a gym to follow a  particular routine of lifting weights and doing cardio after a while can become stale.  Even when you change routines, over months and years the focus and intensity wanes.  Boxing allowed me to demonstrate my athleticism as well as condition my mind to stay focused on acting and reacting to different stimuli.  Combining both settings gave me more variety to not only become more fit, but athletic.

Q:  Who or what inspires you to be a personal trainer?
A: I have always had a love of sports.  I always wondered what made an athlete exceptional at his/her specific sport.  Down to the most basic levels such as how and what muscles fire in a set of patterns to give the athlete an advantage over their opponents.  I found the way the body works the most interesting aspect of sports.  Being a former amateur and collegiate athlete I developed an understanding of what it took to improve athletic performance.  Personal training allowed me to transfer that understanding to not only improve athletic performance but improve overall fitness. This has a direct impact on improving lives on so many different levels. So if I had to say what inspires me, I would have to say the human body and improving the quality of life of others.

Q:  What should a person look for in a trainer?  In a gym?
A:  In a trainer, one good place to start is credentials. The NCCA (National Commission of Certifying Agencies) lists the most prestigious certs in terms of fitness trainers.  These agencies have a degree of competence that has to be demonstated before receiving certification. There may be others outside of the NCCA but you wouldnt trust your doctor graduating med school in Tahiti would you? No offense to Tahitian trained MD's (LOL).  Experience working with different different populations is a plus.  A biggie is personality.  If there are aspects of a potential trainer that turn you off in the beginning, its only downhill from there when you have to see that person 3x weekly no matter the weather. 

In a gym, strong management would be what I would look for.  It starts there.  Ask yourself some basic questions:  Is this place clean? Do I feel like the staff is attentive to my questions or concerns?  Do the instructors act as the professionals I envision them to be?  If you can answer "YES" to those questions without hesitating, you probably have a decent gym.  REMEMBER: You will be spending a big portion of your time there.  You have to like it, or you are not going to go.

LA Boxing Post 1:  The Risks and Rewards of Change
LA Boxing Post 2:  Showing Up
LA Boxing Post 3:  Finding Your Fight
LA Boxing Post 4:  Belonging
LA Boxing Post 5:  Fight or Flight

Awesome news for anyone interested in taking the FINDING YOUR FIGHT:  Introduction to Boxing!
For anyone attending the class, they're going to offer their group rates (for UNLIMITED classes, and access to all DC area locations) if 5 or more people sign up for the deal that day:

Normal Year-in-Full Rate -- $1128
Group Year-in-Full Rate -- $899

Normal 1-Year agreement -- $199 enrollment + $94/month  (works out to $1327)
Group 1-Year agreement -- $99 enrollment + $74/month (works out to $987)

April #GoTheDist: Finding Your Fight

So... six complete months of #GoTheDist challenges.  As a community we have grown -- we've seen each other through the struggles and been there to celebrate the successes.  Some people have been with #GoTheDist from the beginning, some people are new to it.  But we keep on growing on the inside and losing on the outside (not leprosy, mind you).  We are a force to be reckoned with.

If my previous post was any hint, the April #GoTheDist challenge is about FINDING YOUR FIGHT

Grab the button for yourself (copy and paste HTML into your blog)

What do I mean by Finding Your Fight?  I think at the very core, Finding Your Fight is about taking a moment to address your goals and your obstacles, then asking yourself "how badly do I want it?"  For some people the fight is a mental one -- getting over bad habits, and fears.  For some people the fight is a very physical one of breaking through plateaus.  But for all of us, I think it is a very emotional process -- to be able to address the fears or the obstacles and say "I'm not scared of you anymore." 

I mean, that's what all of this has been leading up to, right?  The more we sweat, the more capable we are about facing our own lives.  We have felt the pain and exhaustion, we have cried the tears and felt the release of each little string holding us down.  We feel the exhilaration of knowing knowing just how capable we are.  We have the bricks (knowledge, determination, support, etc.).  All that's left is showing how much we want it.

 More literally, I'd like April #GoTheDist to be a boxing/fighting challenge.  I will be pledging boxing sessions (at the boxing gym, shadow boxing, Wii boxing) that get my heart rate up.  Consider any discipline, such as boxing, taekwondo, judo, greco-roman wrestling, MMA-style fighting, etc.  I think boxing is the most accessible and wallet-friendly out there.

Please consider a fighting discipline as your second modality.  If you do decide to do this -- send me photos of you in your fight poses! I will be posting these along with other April #GoTheDist / Finding Your Fight updates!

1.  You do NOT need any specific gear to participate in this.  You do need a bit of knowledge though (which I hope to provide).  You can go on the internet (Google, Youtube) and find lots of information about shadowboxing (non-impact; focus on form and rhythm).  Boxing is

2.  You do NOT need to join a boxing gym to participate in this.  However, do consider mentioning this to your current gym or trainer, as they might have some boxing/fighting specific knowledge (or know someone) that might be able to fine-tune your movements.  Also, you've seen me post a lot about LA Boxing.  They are my local boxing gym and where I currently train.  They also are across the US and offer a free class to non-members.  Look around at the gyms (or YMCA) in your area and see if you can take an intro class there.

3.  You do NOT need to hit any other person to participate in this.   You do not need to spar (go for it if you want to).  You can learn many fighting skills (how to throw a punch, evasive maneuvers, etc.) without hurting another person. 

How to Join:

1. Click on the SUMMARY PAGE (bookmarking it would be a good idea as you will be using it often).  If you participated in the March #GoTheDist challenge your name and some info should already be there -- just enter your modalit(ies). If you are not participating in April, DO NOT DELETE YOUR LINE.  Please contact me and I'll remove your line in a manner that does not affect the other spreadsheets.  (And duplicating the sheet wasn't perfect -- my apologies if you need to reformat this. I need a better system -- any programmers out there??)  If you are not already listed on the spreadsheet (from the March challenge) please add your name to the bottom of the SUMMARY PAGE.

2. Fill out a line on the "Summary" spreadsheet (do not use Columns F or G, J or K -- they automatically calculate)

3. Find your correlating individual tab (it should be "@[line number where you entered your info]") -- make sure your information from the "Summary" tab has been pulled onto this sheet (and not someone else's information -- if so, contact me).

4. Rename the tab "@[twitter name]" or if you don't have Twitter "[nickname]"

5. Fill out the sheet as you wish.

6. Update your own individual page as needed (if tracking is too hard, consider printing out your page and filling it out by hand and updating it once a week). The total mileage will automatically be updated on the Summary tab as you report on your individual page.

7. Follow #GoTheDist on Twitter for support if you need it or to support others when they do, to announce achievements, and find new/old friends!

8. PLEASE DO NOT DELETE LINES OR TABS! Do not SORT. If you want to add columns, please add them to the RIGHT of the page. Please do NOT move your page around! You CAN bookmark your individual page using your browser to find it easily.

Something New

On Saturday, my friend Emily reserved us two seats at SoulCycle.  I just want to add right from the start that this was my very first spin class.  Emily is very passionate about SoulCycle (as opposed to just a spin class at a gym):
SoulCycle is indoor cycling at it's craziest.

A hybrid of yoga-mentality and an athleticism I can identify with moreso than with yoga poses, I feel as though my body, mind, and spirit get energized. Ok, and exhausted. Instructors are totally in control of the music, moves, and vibe. You feed off of their energy and the energy of the other riders. It's basically a sweaty party on a bike. This atmosphere is why I choose to ride here so much I may just need an intervention. You're encouraged to dance, sing, cry (yes, I've cried) and push past where you think you're capable of being. Every instructor finds their own special way to shove you out of your comfort zone to change your body and more importantly to show your pesky mind that it needs to shut up because you're capable of anything.
We took a class with Christine D (from her SC bio -- but she's now at Peloton): 
Christine’s cycling classes are a form of 'inner-Olympics'. She guides students to explore a deeper emotional connection to their physical efforts. Christine is a true believer that we create change by stepping outside our comfort zone to cross our personal finish lines.
Emily helped me adjust the seat and clip in (omg, biking shoes are so funny).  Christine chatted us up before the class and found out a little bit about our personal journeys with weight loss.  Christine reassured me that since it was my first time spinning, to really listen and respond to what my body was telling me (we found out afterwards that in one of her previous classes that day someone actually vomited while on the bike... I'm glad she told me this AFTER the class). 

I knew ahead of time that I wouldn't be able to keep up with most of the people in the class (partially as it was my first time, but also because I'm not a natural on a bicycle).  At first things were going really well.  I was able to (reasonably) keep up with not just the speed and resistance on the bike, but the movement of going off the saddle and shifting my weight forward and back.  However, once we increased the resistance to mimic going up a hill, I started to experience two uncomfortable things:  (1) my heart rate skyrocketed (I am normally at a 145-150 while on the elliptical; 160-170 while on the treadmill; this felt around 180 or so) and (2) my sinuses just let it rip and post-nasal drip galore. 

But just like Christine's bio says, we all have our own comfort zones, our own goals, our own finish lines.  I took the time to sit back on the saddle (I decreased the resistance a bit and slowed down) and let my heart find a comfortable (but engaged) rate.  I put my hand (and towel) over my heart and just whispered "Here" over and over again.  It helped me stay with what I was feeling -- the uncomfortable nature of my heart (and mucus) being in my throat, and the desire to persevere.  It was okay that I was uncomfortable.  It reminded me of the first time I was on an elliptical running a 5k, then 10k, then 10 miles, then 13.1 miles.  I wasn't perfect those times either. 

I focused on what Christine was saying.  I focused on Christine (she dismounted and asked if I was okay -- I told her that my heart was racing -- she adjusted the handlebars and then increased the resistance (with a smile and a wink)) and what she was saying about being present while on the bike.  I listened to the music.  I looked deep for the answers to Christine's questions.  Why was I there?  What was I moving toward?  And I stayed with it.  I did what I could do. 

It wasn't the ride that everyone else did. 
But it was my ride.

In my own way, I honored the "Going the Distance" ideaology -- that everyone has their own goals, everyone has their own struggles, but we face the challenge head-on.

I will get on the bike again. I will ride again.  I will condition my heart and mind.
I will make Emily proud.  I will show Christine I'm fit to keep up with her.
I will always go the distance.

(I will also bring padded bike shorts. My poor lady bits!)

**ANNOUNCEMENT** Finding Your Fight, The Class!

YES, this is for every fitness level (men and women are welcome!)  You can do this!

You will need to bring your own hand wraps (though LA Boxing does have some for purchase):
  • City Sports/Everlast Evergel Gloves (faster to put on/off, a little more expensive): In Pink or in Yellow

PS:  if you sweat like me, you might want to bring a towel!

PS2:  For anyone attending the class, they're going to offer their group rates (for UNLIMITED classes, and access to all DC area locations) if 5 or more people sign up for the deal that day:

Normal Year-in-Full Rate -- $1128
Group Year-in-Full Rate -- $899

Normal 1-Year agreement -- $199 enrollment + $94/month  (works out to $1327)
Group 1-Year agreement -- $99 enrollment + $74/month (works out to $987) 

My "Hot Mess Sandwich"

1 Multigrain Arnold Sandwich Thin (100 Calories)

4 Slices Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh Honey Ham (80 calories)

1/8 cup Kraft Shredded Park-Skim Mozzarella (40 calories)

A handful of spinach (2 calories or so)
A few slices of sliced mushroom (2 calorie or so)

(Total:  224 calories)

Toast the sandwich thin.

Microwave the rest in a circular microwavable container for 30 seconds.

Carefully slide sandwich contents onto bread and enjoy!

(also tastes good with a scrambled egg instead of the ham!)

LA Boxing Post #5: Fight or Flight

You've all probably heard about the Australian kid, Casey Heynes who stood up to his bully (although, now the bully says he was the one getting picked on).  It recalled my very own experience with bullying in middle school:  a boy who frequently teased me had finally pushed me too far after the contents of my backpack spilled out in a hallway.  He started calling me names and laughing, and in full view of my shop teacher, I pushed him against a set of lockers and said "this is the last time you will ever laugh at me."  And it was.
(Please know that I do not condone violence at all.  I do believe in protecting and standing up for yourself and that sometimes Newton's Laws (and not the doctrine of nonviolence) govern the response/reaction.)

But all of this (especially in conjunction with my boxing lessons) have made me think about fighting in general.  So many martial arts philosophies and disciplines (such as Aikido, or even taekwondo) begin with the sentiment that fighting is a last resort.  So many religious philosophies believe the same ("turn the other cheek"; even the Koran promotes exhausting all diplomatic means before engaging in violence). 

In other words, just because you possess the ability to fight doesn't mean you're walking down the street picking fights with people just because you can.  Just because I'm learning to box doesn't mean I'm a violent person or that I am looking to fight (though I do love sparring). 

But it does teach you what to do when the fight comes to you.

So my trainer (Pat H.) and I were doing an upper body workout today.  I always look forward to these because it means punchy punchy!  But boxing isn't just about the punchy punchy:  before you ever throw a jab, a right cross, or an upper-cut, you have to know how to square off against your opponent.  It is a way of not just orienting your body for the fight (or to protect yourself), but readying your mind. 

Any type of sparring requires not only focus, but a touch of relaxation, and the ability to adjust.  (There are no fight choreographers in real life.)  When Pat H. calls out a combination, I need to be able to listen to what he is saying, process the information, and then relay it to my body.  This is not a reaction, but a very measured response.  It is a lesson is accuracty and a bit of a restraint. 

Sometimes Pat H. will call out a combination, and I'm still on the last one.  He tells me to slow down.  I catch my mistake, take a quick breath and reset my stance, then proceed.  I don't dwell on the mistake. I move on with what I'm being asked to do.  He rotates around me, making me adjust my stance.  Keep my hands by my chin, elbows in.  He calls the next combination....

We've all had fights come to us.

The weight loss/health gain fight comes to us time and time again.  Sometimes we're fighting against something and sometimes we're fighting for something. 

In the past so many of us have run from the hard things--from going to the gym, from admitting we have disordered eating, from addressing the emotional issues behind our weight.  If we could outpace the fear of truly addressing our health, our fitness, our bodies, it would mean one day in blissful denial/ignorance of just how much our life would have to change.

Then one day, something snapped in us and we decided to put up our fists.  Whether we threw punches or not that day is a minor detail (I didn't run a marathon the first day I decided to change my life, did you?).  But we put up our hands and said "No more."  We found our fight.

It's okay to not fight every fight.  

I don't mean to paint "flight" in a negative way, as it is important to know when something is over your head and beyond your means to deal with.  But it's important to be able to distinguish between these things--that which you are able to take on, and that which you are not able to address--and what separates them. 

A leader of a meditation group I was a member of would often say that it's okay to not "go big" (i.e. deal with what is accessible, immediate, and manageable) until you've got a few of the smaller issues under your belt. 
Have the right people in your corner.

This is just my opinion (and my experience), but I think you need a few kids of people in your corner (and who knows, one person can be in multiple categories): 
  1. the inspiration (the person who has shown you it can be done and who in turn knows you can do it too)
  2. the information (doctors, dietitians, specialists, trainers, etc.)
  3. the motivation (gym buddies, racing peers, #GoTheDist, etc.)
  4. the comfort (the person who's there for you when you struggle)
So I want to end this post with two (rhetorical) questions: 
What is your next fight?
What are you prepared to face off against?


Jack Sh*t Really Sh*tty Meme

A twist on the ABCs of me Meme:  The Jack Sh*t Really Sh*tty Meme

Achilles heel: Men with baby animals
Battle cry: I'm coming to get you!
Casket size:  None -- I plan to donate my body to science and then be cremated.
Deformity: my pinky toe curls under my foot
Embarrassing nickname:  Big Bertha (though if someone were to call me this, I'd show them a thing or two)
Fish I’d most like to be if I were somehow, for some reason, forced to be turned into a fish:  Swordfish, duh.
Getaway route:  Go-Go-Gadget Helicopter
Hillbilly name (click here):  Penny Sue Crow
Inanimate object I most resemble: A playground slide
“Jack”, Favorite blogger named:  I'm blanking on this one...
Knot I have most trouble untying:  Garlic Knots
Last lesson learned:  If the car has diplomat license plates, do yourself a favor and don't jaywalk.
Middle letter of middle name: I
Nearest Chinese restaurant: Meiwah
Oldest person I know:  My grandpa -- there might be older people, but I don't really know them
Pancakes, Favorite topping for:  fresh butter
Quality I wish I had more of:  patience
Rap artist I’d most like to chillax with:  Xhibit
Salad dressing I despise most: A tie between Ranch and Bleu Cheese
TV show I wish would disappear forever: All reality TV programs making celebrities out of idiots
Underwear, Favorite kind/color:  Victorias Secret "The Lacie" Hiphugger
Vice that I wish I could do away with: cursing like a sailor in proper company
Website that I check first every day:
Xerox, Funniest thing I’ve copied on:  my W-2
“Yes,” Dumbest thing to which I’ve answered:  "would you help me give this foal an enema?"
Zombie, Favorite “brain” dish if I ever became a:  probably brain ceviche

Maybe she has a point...

Gigi, from "he's just not that into you
Girls are taught a lot of stuff growing up:  if a boy punches you he likes you; never try to trim your own bangs; and someday you will meet a wonderful guy and get your very own happy ending. 

Every movie we see, every story we're told implores us to wait for it:  the third act twist; the unexpected declaration of love; the exception to the rule. 

But sometimes we're so focused on finding our happy ending we don't learn how to read the signs--how to tell the ones who want us from the ones who don't, the ones who will stay and the ones who will leave.

And maybe a happy ending doesn't include a guy, maybe it's you, on your own, picking up the pieces and starting over, freeing yourself up for something better in the future.

Maybe the happy ending is just moving on. 

Or maybe the happy ending is this:  knowing after all the unreturned phone calls and broken-hearts, through the blunders and misread signals, through all the pain and embarrassment... you never gave up hope.

Question Time: Stranded on a Deserted Island / Infinite Meal / Last Meal

I'm willing to bet you've considered either or both of these scenarios before:
  1. You're stranded on an uninhabited island (it's up to you whether it's desert/tropical or an ice drift) and there's a box of food rations that magically appear.  What three ingredients do you hope are in the box?
  2. If you could only have one meal every day for the rest of our life, what would it be?
  3. You've committed some heinous crime.  You are sentenced to death.  What's your last meal request? 
Hopefully neither are an actual likelihoods (but well.... you never know), but I'm just curious as to what your answers might be.

Mine are:
  • Stranded on a desert island:  Chocolate, pineapple, vine-ripe tomatoes 
  • Infinite Meal: Spinach lasagna
  • Last Meal:  A peanut butter, Fluffernutter, banana, Nutella sandwich on white Wonder Bread with a tall glass of milk

LA Boxing Post #4: Belonging

 In short,  I feel quite at home in a boxing gym.  Pat H. not only counts my reps (something I'm horrible at doing because my mind is always wandering) and encourages me when I'm reaching fatigue, but he reminds me time and time again that I belong in this gym.  I have earned the right to be here.  How?  Showing up each time willing to learn, willing to push myself, willing to walk away feeling like I've given every ounce of strength and determination. 

Boxing is a very good metaphor for the whole weight loss journey.  It's not enough to go through the motions.  You should be mentally present at the same time.  Boxing takes precision and timing.  It takes focus.  I could throw punches haphazardly, or I could aim and execute.  Isn't it the same with diet?  I could graze on food willy-nilly, or I could put forth the mental effort of planning my food.  I sit on a bike and read the newspaper, or I can put the pedal to the metal. 

I keep on going back to the question regarding #GoTheDist -- what does it mean to "Go the Distance" -- and I think that I'm getting closer and closer to the answer.  I told my dietitian almost a year ago that this would be the very last time going down this road.  I would never be that heavy again.  I would never be that unfit again.  For me "go[ing] the distance" means seeing this through to the end.  It's not a goal weight, or a PR time.  There is no finish line for me, except when I'm old and decrepit being able to look back and say "I did what I could."   Going the distance means forging forward without regret or judgment. It means pushing through the mental obstacles and excuses.  It means being committed to myself for the long run.

I am a fighter.  I belong in a boxing gym.  Bring it on.


Emotional [_______]ing

Following #7daychip, one comes to realize that the struggle over emotional eating is not merely day-to-day, but even sometimes minute-to-minute.  Each minute is a chance to address and overcome what's really going on in our life, heart, and/or mind.  And still other times we use the minute to pick ourselves up and start over at square one again.

One also comes to realize that we don't just emotionally eat, but we also emotionally __________.  For some people, it's emotional binging, and perhaps a subsequent purge.  Some people emotionally exercise.

For sixteen years I've been a skin picker (dermatillomania).  This is not an easy admission for me to make, though it's not something I necessarily hide (I've mentioned it a few times in passing).  If you're not familiar with skin picking, you might be familiar with some of its sister disorders such as trichotillomania or other anxiety/self-harm/body dysmorphic disorders such as cutting.

When I was younger, my mother would have me lie down on the living room couch, face-up on a pillow on her lap.  She would scrutinize my face for pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads.  She would use her fingers/nails, tweezers, and occasionally a pin to exorcise the little demons on my face.  Excitedly, she'd show me what she was able to excavate and then tell me to run to the bathroom and wash my face with hot water.  My skin would fade from red to its pasty white before I had to go to school the next morning, but my skin was none-the-less traumatized by what happened.

After my mom died, the habit continued.  Often when I'd feel my anxiety level rise, I'd find myself picking at scabs, or popping pimples.  Over the years, the skin picking would evolve to a point where there wouldn't even need to be something tactile or visible for me to pick at.  I would dig into my face until I was bleeding believing that there was something there that didn't belong.  I would pick at my face, my scalp, my arms.  It has evolved into some aspects of trich as well.  Just anything to feel the pain/release of the action.  (The irony is that I can plunge a safety pin a quarter inch into my own skin without flinching and yet I'm petrified of needles and will often faint.)

I tried to address it on my own -- removing my "tools" from the bathroom, cutting my nails short, wearing gloves to bed, covering my mirrors.  I even tried hypnosis mp3s.  But doing those things never really got to the heart of what was going on.  There was something inside of me (emotions) that were buried under the surface.  The picking was just a coping mechanism for dealing the emotions, or having an emotion (guilt, shame, horror) that was more readily accessible. 

I've been to a cognitive-behavioral therapist to help me stop skin picking.   Though after I first told the story, he told me he had never heard of anything like it (part Munchausen by Proxy, part grooming gone too far).  The first step is that I had to realize (and eventually forgive) that what my mom did was not out of care, but was an extension of her own anxiety disorders (agoraphobia with panic attacks).  The second step was me cultivating the ability to stop, which was threefold:  (a) acknowledging when it happened; (b) wanting to stop; and (c) developing coping mechanisms to help ease the anxiety.

After a year of twice-a-week therapy, the picking had tapered off, but was still present in times of duress.  During one session, I had barely sat down before I started bawling -- saying "I think it's time to talk about medication."  It was the point I didn't want to reach.  The night before I had spent a good hour scrutinizing my face, crying the whole time, wanting to stop but unable.  I hated what I was doing to myself.

I tried a few different SSRIs with a specific purpose:  alleviate the anxiety long enough to deal with the emotions, then get the fuck off the SSRIs.   One kind made me shake constantly.  Another gave me migraines.  One made me lethargic to the point of barely being able to get out of bed.  After discussing it with my doctor (who proscribed the pills) and my psychologist, I ended my foray into medicating my problems (as it was right for me -- though I will not judge people who find relief -- just wish I had been one).

About the same time, I had started reading Thich Nhat Hanh at the recommendation of a coworker.  I started with Being Peace and moved on to other volumes of his (such as Anger).  He often repeats a familiar story, a story I needed to hear:
Thay [Vietnamese for "teacher"] often compares our anger to a small child, crying out to his mother. When the child cries the mother takes him gently in her arms and listens and observes carefully to find out what is wrong. The loving action of holding her child with her tenderness, already soothes the baby’s suffering. Likewise, we can take our anger in our loving arms and right away we will feel a relief. We don’t need to reject our anger. It is a part of us that needs our love and deep listening just as a baby does.

After the baby has calmed down, the mother can feel if the baby has a fever or needs a change of diaper. When we feel calm and cool, we too can look deeply at our anger and see clearly the conditions allowing our anger to rise.

It was the permission I needed to actually feel what I was feeling.  For too long, I had been expressing my anger, hurt, confusion, abandonment by hurting myself -- either with food or with skin picking.  Here, I very clearly understood that all emotions (not just anger, and not just the positive emotions) have their place, have their time, and have their own needs.

What I learned was almost like the difference in Spanish between "soy" and "estoy" -- the former being more about identity and the latter being more transitory (i.e. estoy borracha means "I am drunk"; soy borracha means "I am a drunk").  I learned that I could be angry without being anger itself.  I could feel hurt without being mortally wounded.  I could let those feelings exist and not feel like they were steering the ship.

I still skin pick in times of extreme anxiety, insecurity, or duress.  But I stopped judging myself about it.  I didn't do it because I was weak or lacked control.  Something took me out of the moment, got me off balance.  I stop when I can, and always go back to ask myself "okay, what's really going on here?" All too often I'm looking for something to be wrong, something to pick at as a distraction from feeling negative emotions.

If I can stand at the mirror, catch myself scrutinizing, and say "Insecure" or "Anxious" -- I am practicing the dharma.  I'm inviting Mara to tea.  I'm acknowledging that I see or feel the insecurity, doubt, or anxiety.  I invite those feelings in and hold them a while until they pass.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.  But the journey of a bodhisattva is one of practice and forgiveness.

To quote Jack Kornfield:
In the end, forgiveness simply means never putting another person out of our heart.
 And yes, that means our very own self as well.  We must inhabit our own heart in a meaningful way -- it is vast and accommodating of even your worst mood or emotion.  Jack Kornfield later goes on to suggest a meditation on forgiving one's self:
Just as I have caused suffering to others, there are many ways that I have hurt and harmed myself.  I have betrayed or abandoned myself many times in thought, word, deed, knowingly or unknowingly. 
Feel your own precious body and life.  Let yourself see the ways you have hurt or harmed yourself.  Picture them, remember them.  Feel the sorrow you have carried from this and sense that you can release these burdens [my emphasis]. Extend forgiveness for each act of harm, one by one.  Repeat to yourself:  "For the ways I have hurt myself through action or inaction, out of fear, pain, or confusion, I now extend a full and heartfelt forgiveness. I forgive myself. I forgive myself." 
Or to quote the Buddha himself:

You can search the whole universe
and not find a single being
more worthy of love than yourself.

Since each and every person
is so precious to themselves,
let the self-respecting
harm no other being.

I forgive myself.  I forgive myself......
I am loveable.  I am worthy of love. 

[Side note to all of this -- for as hard as it has been for me to go through this, I personally know of three people now that suffer from this.  I know just how hard it is to put a brave face in light of something that is very misunderstood (no, we don't have acne or rosacea)It breaks my heart to know other people suffer from dermatillomania, especially people I love and care about so much.  But I don't think I could have written this without knowing I'm not alone.  So thank you for being brave enough and trusting enough to share your personal stories with me. <3 <3 <3]


I haven't had a dramatic 100lb weight loss as some of you have had, or some of you plan.  What I have had is a huge change in confidence.  The smile on my face isn't forced.  It is sincere.  I feel sexier than ever.

Watch out, world!

(is it a side-effect of dyeing my hair red??)


I think when you start this journey, you know you're going to have to make a few choices -- such as "put down the potato chips, pick up the dumbbell"  but I've been surprised with some of the other choices I've been making:

It used to be that one of the few "girly" things I really indulged in was getting my hair professionally done -- dyed, highlighted and lowlighted -- to the tune of $300 every few months. 

Now, I spend $9 on a box of dye and the rest of the $291 on better food, gym clothes, sneakers, trainers, gym stuff, etc.

I used to look forward to the weekend as a time to go shopping, drink a bunch with friends, and go man hunting. 

Now, I see the weekend as good times to catch up on sleep (body/muscle repair), get in long runs (10 miles), and prepare my food plan for the week. 

I used to be game for going out for happy hours with coworkers and friends just about any day of the week.

Now, I find myself at the bar wishing I were at the gym, or at the bar drinking one drink/something non-alcoholic so I can make it to the gym the next morning. 

I used to skip breakfast.

Now, I have a breakfast that is easy on my stomach and high in nutrients (raspberry Chobani + half a cup of fiber one + chia seeds + piece of fruit).  I don't have an excuse to skip it.

I used to look in the mirror until all the imperfections came into focus.  I'd pick at my skin until I had exorcised all the demons. 

Now, I still do it in times of anxiety/stress (as it is an anxiety disorder to begin with, and a weird habit now), but I find myself able to look in the mirror until my imperfections fade into all that is right, good, and perfect about me.

I used to hide from going to the gym because of stupid things -- like not having shaved my legs, or thinking that I was an interloper, or that people would judge the fat girl at the gym.

Now, the gym is my sanctuary.  It is my second home.  It is my temple.  It is where I belong.  The people there are my people, my peers.  It is where I found out just who I am and just what I'm made of. 

LA Boxing Post #3: Finding Your Fight

notice my rad purple bike with banana seat? oh yeah....
My father has countless stories that all follow a similar framework:
  • there was something I wanted to do;
  • Dad/mom offered their opinion/guidance;
  • I did it my own way; and
  • Even if I fell or made a few mistakes, I got right back up.
In other words, I had chutzpah and lots of of it.  

Many children are born with a natural fearlessness and confidence that lets them think anything is possible and no harm will come to them.  These children are found in trees, with scraped up knees, dreaming of being the someone rich or important, or both.  You can teach a child to be self-assured and to explore the world, but nothing can ever surpass the innate wild nature and instincts of a child.  However, people and life can damage it. 

Shown the fragility and seriousness of life (as it sometimes is, and as it is sometimes made out to be), babies become children that slowly become teenagers and then adults.  We lose the joy of living in the moment, often too taken with the fear of what is to come in the next.  This is a most lamentable loss, and yet "growing up" is seen as an honor and privilege.

My father asked me once where my chuzpah had gone, saying "You used to be so fearless."  He recognized what I too had seen -- that fear and doubt had crept into my life.  The little girl who had climbed to the top of a Coast Guard cutter became a girl paralyzed with fear.  While on a class trip in middle school, I crawled up (while others hiked) the side of an icy waterfall, crying, saying "I'm going to die" over and over again.

Knock on wood, I've never had to have a serious surgery.  I've never had to stay overnight in a hospital (except for when I was born).  I've never broken a bone.  But suffice it to say, injuring my back scared the shit out of me.  The first surgeon I went to wanted me to have a 4-level spinal fusion right away.  But something in my gut told me to get a second opinion.  The spinal microsurgeon I talked to next told me "the minute I cut into your back, I will cause damage to your muscles, fuse your spine, limit your motion, and that's not counting all the rehab it will take to get you functional.  My best advice is to use it until you lose it."

At first this scared the crap out of me -- that there would be a day when I'd "lose it."  There was a bit of sadness of all the things I might never get to do.  The doctors didn't want me running, doing anything with torque, or added weight.  But then I became angry because all the things I thought I'd never get a chance to do were things I had never done in the first place.  I mourned a life I wasn't living fully.  Why wasn't I living this full life?  Fear.  Doubt.

It took me a long time to snap out of it -- but there was a basic moment of realization and perspective that did it.  I realized that most of life represents itself in a series of binary choices (that we tend to complicate by overthinking).   For example, if you were to ask yourself "Do I want to be governed by fear, doubt, and insecurity?" the answer is either "yes" or "no" ("maybe" being the overthinker/equivocator's answer). 

For me, my answer was a resounding "no." 
I wanted to go down swinging.

The title of this post is "Finding Your Fight."   I don't mean this in terms of picking your battles, but I mean finding the courage to confront your life and make (sometimes tough) choices, to find your voice, to find your commitment to yourself.   It is finding your inner fire and stoking the flames.

While I have always had lots of bravado, I have now moved into a part of my life where there is sincere confidence in myself.  I know just how strong I am.  I know just who I am.  I (usually) know exactly what I want. 

During my fitness assessment with Pat H., he asked why I started the weight loss journey.  He asked if it was because I found my self-esteem.  I replied that it was because I had found my fight.  I had found my will to fight my obesity, my insecurity, and even my back injury.  One by one and with each fight, I've proven to myself that nothing has the power to define me except for myself. 

I am not my obesity. 
I am not my insecurity.
I am not my back injury. 

When I realized this, I felt the grip of those things loosen their hold on me.

This is why I say "Sweat is fear leaving the body." 

I have become fearless. 
I have earned my freedom.

There is something I want to do.  I will do it my own way (wisely accepting support and guidance).  
Even if I fall or make a few mistakes, I will get right back up.
This is what it means to find your fight.  Chutzpah.

On Tuesday, my trainer Pat H. asked me to take Wednesday off completely from running because we would be focusing on my lower body today (Thursday).  I wanted so much to run yesterday.  I felt strong and fast, but I also needed the physical release of hard work.  However, I needed trust that Pat H. was telling me this for my own good.
Today, Pat H. had me doing walking lunges and some other lower body exercises.  They were not easy for me to do.  I had to take my time to find/correct my balance.  I had to ask to break down an exercise in a way that wouldn't strain my lower back (more sets of 5 versus sets of 15, using a foam roller to support my lower back).  While I'm not afraid anymore, I'm not reckless either.  I know the limits of my body.  I know how to manage my injury. 
Training at LA Boxing is the epitome of me finding my fight -- it's outside my comfort zone, it's physically demanding, and it's a new way of testing the dedication I have to myself and my journey.
My dad tried to make a joke and said "I hope you're not thinking of me when you punch the bag."  I had to break it to him that anytime I'm at the gym, I'm thinking about myself, what I am doing, and where it will bring me. 
The more I find my fight, the more devotion I find I have for myself.
The love I have found for myself is both vast and bountiful.

Another "Just How Far I've Come" Post

At my Sweet 16 (sorry for the crappy resolution -- it's a photo of a photo -- scanner crapped out) with my friend Steve:

Boxing Day #2: Showing Up

So apparently I am glutton for punishment -- I went back to LA Boxing for workout number 2 with Trainer, Pat H.

Last night I was only planning on going for a short (5 mile) run on the elliptical, but something Carver said made me want to push for more and dedicate 10 miles to her, their effort and their journey.  And well, if I was going to run 10 miles, I might as well tack on 3.1 more and dedicate them to myself.  My workout with Pat from Saturday was still affecting me -- my arms were sore and for the first 5 miles, I kept my elbows tucked in to my body.  Eventually my pectoralis muscles started to loosen up.  Once that happened, running felt much better.

My appointment today with Pat H. was scheduled for 7 am.  Not being a natural morning person, I made sure to lay out my clothing and pack my bags (work clothing, toiletries, and breakfast) the night before.  I set my alarm for 6 so I would have time to take a shower if I needed it to wake up, toss something in my mouth, and hoof it to the gym.  I guess I was so excited to train with Pat again, that I didn't get to sleep until 1 am and mysteriously woke up at 5.  I lay in bed until 6 cuddling with my cats.

(As a complete aside, I wanted to express the utter love I had for myself and my body this morning.  What a journey it has been.  To be able to wake up, stretch and just love myself to bits is something that wouldn't have happened last year.  I'm thankful for this.  I'm thankful for every good day my body gives me.  And it shows.  Imperfect, and with some work to do, but I love each and every bit of me.)

At 6 am I start getting ready to go to the gym.  I'm out the door by 6:30 and it's a GORGEOUS day.  I stopped at Panera for an egg spinach artichoke souffle thingy (Egads! at 540 calories, I will NOT be eating that again!) and some muffins (apple crunch has 450 calories, carrot walnut has 500! Panera will be avoided in the future at all costs) for Pat H.

Pat H. started me out with some cardio to warm up (I chose the treadmill for kicks) and then we went into an upper body workout.  Having a trainer is great for many reasons -- he makes sure I'm keeping the right form, he counts when I don't, and he helps me push through muscle fatigue.  We did about 45 minutes of alternating between a bunch of exercises.


Yes, this made me very happy.  We did left jab and right cross (I'm right handed).  I do have some experience and practice throwing punches (I studied taekwondo before my back said "no" in college) as well as sparring.  He let me wail on a heavy bag for a little bit (oh so much joy!) and then he brought out the punch mitts and had me moving around while punching (I'm not the most graceful person ever -- will work on that).  However I do have some focus-correction areas to work on:  (1) keeping my hands up; (2) getting my response time faster; and, (3) sticking with the combination even when I don't make a great connection.  

All-in-all a great time!  I can't wait to go again (Thursday at 7 am) (told you I was a glutton for punishment).  

A few words from Pat H:
How did Robby do?
Robby did extremely well today.  Now,  what I want to work on is getting her acclimated to the resistance. Once her body is acclimated then we can really start to push it some more. It has to get sore first.
What what should Robby do until the next time you meet?
Take tomorrow (Wednesday) completely off -- Thursday we're going to attack those legs.  [Legs say "eeep!"]
Any advice for someone someone who might want to take up boxing?
Start conditioning aspects, slow walk outside, or access to a treadmill, work up time and miles.  Focus on getting heart in condition -- and getting a lower resting heart rate.  Boxing is very demanding.

Is boxing a good exercise for people that are overweight or obese? 
Anyone can do it. If you can hold your hands up, you can punch.  Punch and do it again.  It'll be slow at first but it gets faster.
Any general fitness advice? 
Consistency to whatever workout program you start is key.  Just show up.

[Originally, Robby was going to say "show up with a smile and muffins" but after reading the nutrition info on the muffins, just bring the smile and good attitude!]

The ABCs of Me

Stolen from Karen QFeel free to steal it for yourself!

Age: 29

Bed size: Queen with 4 pillows, 2 cats, and 1 bear.

Chore you hate: dusting/cat-hair tumbleweed wrangling

Dogs: None at home, but I volunteer at the Washington Animal Rescue League and prefer working with large unruly dogs.

Essential start of your day: Vitamin D!

Fave color: Cerulean

Gold or silver: Silver

Height: 5'9"

Instruments I play: I used to play flute, a little bassoon, a little piano, but I gave them all up to focus on opera.  I am a dramatic mezzo soprano.

Job title: Legal Administration

Kids: Cats!

Live: Washington, DC

Mom’s name: Amby

Nicknames: Robby

Overnight hospital stays: Random question -- and no.

Pet peeve: people talking about religion at work

Quote from a movie: "I carried a watermelon" -- Baby, "Dirty Dancing"

Right or left handed: Right

Siblings: 1 brother

Time you wake up: if I'm going to the gym early? 6.  If I'm sleeping in? 8.  If it's the weekend?  whenever i feel like it.

Underwear:  Yes please.

Veg you dislike: anything mushy or overcooked

What makes you run late:  myself.

X-rays you have had done:
and a few MRIs that don't scan well...

Yummy food you make:  anything involving flour, sugar, and booze.

Zoo Animal, favorite:  All of the fluffy ones.

The Risks and Rewards of Change

Most of us have been there before -- on the edge of a cliff -- in the moments before we took the leap of faith that ultimately jump-started our life changing journeys (LCJs, to borrow Carver's terminology).  We have felt the terror and panic (no matter how large or small it seemed) of standing on that precipice, not knowing if we could jump and not knowing if we would land.

But we land.  
Time and time again, we land.  

I've been avoiding the edge for a while, and I can see the effect of that in my results.  I hit a plateau and have stayed there for a few months.  It's not that I forgot I could land, it's that just stopped jumping.  I had become complacent with running on the elliptical, doing a little treadmill work, and doing some weights.

On Tuesday, March 1, I jumped.  I marched my butt into LA Boxing, Georgetown.

So, why a boxing gym? Why this gym?

Betsy at the front desk of LA Boxing Georgetown
Three reasons:
  1. I wanted to step outside my comfort zone.  Sure I could join a gym that offered boxing classes, cardioboxing, or MMA-style workouts, but in the end it was just a bunch of people looking to burn calories.  At LA Boxing, they offer gym-style cardioboxing classes and the like, but there are also serious fighters practicing serious skills.  Learning in the same space with these serious fighters is definitely outside of my comfort zone.
  2. While LA Boxing gyms are found all over the country, they have the feel of a small gym (as they are individually franchised).  I went in there unsure if boxing was something my body could do (see any post about my back injury).  Luckily, Betsy (their Membership Consultant) at the front desk was super understanding regarding my trepidation and she let me know that I had a few options:  I could take a free class or meet with a trainer to discuss my particular needs.  In other words, they weren't going to force me into a contract.
  3. I had done my homework and found out that one of their trainers was NASM-certified.  My last experience with a trainer (at a different chain gym here in DC back in 2007) left me a bit wary about trainers.   The trainer at the other gym was a very nice guy, but I am not entirely sure that he was listening to me when I told him I was in pain.  I think it takes a special trainer to be able to work within the constraints of an injury rather than to plow their way through it.  I wanted someone who understood my injury and could show me how to box without hurting myself.  While I do expect some soreness from the muscles I'll be working (and the ice is on standby), I want to avoid causing any damage to my spine.
I returned to work on Tuesday with lots of information to mull over and a big decision on my hands.  Also, I wanted to talk with my prospective trainer first before I made any decisions.   We were able to coordinate a meeting for Saturday, March 5, at 2pm.  I spent the whole week giddy to be starting something new.

My trainer, Pat H.
On Saturday, trainer Pat H. and I spent a while going over my history (exercise, health, injury, food, etc.), I introduced him to the blog (I wanted to make sure it was okay that I mentioned him), and our philosophies (though we differ in our NFL preferences).

As we train together I hope to be able to share some of Pat's wit and wisdom.  He inspires a great deal of confidence even after only meeting once.

However, we didn't chat for long.  He had me on the treadmill to warm up, and then wanted to see just what he was working with (namely, just what did my back do under stress and/or fatigue).  He was cool when I told him that I hit my limit during certain exercises, and was patient with me when I took things slow (I'd rather do something slow and right than fast and sloppy).   The hardest thing he had me do was something many people take for granted:  sit with my knees together! 

As I mentioned in vlog #2, I can run on an elliptical til the cows come home.  I can bike a fairly long time.  I'm even starting to work in the treadmill (something the doctors never thought I'd be able to do).  Half an hour with Pat and I am still sore three days later.  Not a bad sore, but a "oh, yeah... I've been neglecting to do that" type of sore.  I hereby confess that I neglect many of the weight/strength elements of working out mainly because of fear.  I don't want to injure myself, but I know that strength training is just as important as cardio not only to lose the weight, but to improve overall fitness.

So without having even touched a punching bag or thrown a jab, I am very excited for my future as a boxer.  I know I have a lot of fight in me -- I just hope I am able to show Pat and myself how far I can take that fight.

After all, this is why we start LCJs -- because we know we are in the fight of our lives.  No longer are we fighting against ourselves.  We fight for ourselves.

Vlog #2


So... I finally got my iSight camera working again....
And I caught myself in a playful, frisky moment on the way to the shower...

No makeup...
no nothing....

I like feeling this free.

Sit Your Ass Down

I am a desk jockey.  I spend the majority of my working life sitting at a computer typing important (?) things.

I am also affected by a back injury in my lower back. 

I've found that when you put these two things together, how you sit in your chair becomes very important.  I know so many people who complain of back pain, shoulder pain, arm numbness, and headaches.  With a few simple corrections in how they sit, they're able to alleviate the majority of the adverse stress they put on their body while sitting at a desk.

There are many Web sites on the internet that want you to sit a certain way (usually involving a stick up your ass):

The examples above are very passive ways of sitting -- the chair (and gravity) does the work.  You are expending very little effort in those positions.  Subsequently, it is much easier to have bad posture when sitting in such a passive manner.

As a musician, I've been taught a bit differently.  I was taught the Alexander Technique by many of my voice (opera)/choral teachers.  Long story short it was created to help people use their bodies more efficiently (at first for performers, but now even athletes study it).   As a general disclaimer, I don't think Alexander Technique is the be-all, end-all, cure-all to any or all of what ails you as some people believe.  I just like it because it taught me a way of sitting.

In this position, you're using your butt and your abs to sit up straight.  I'll even put my ankles under the chair, underneath my butt and push against the floor to add extra support for my lower back. 

This is active sitting.  Notice there is no chair back?  If you're sitting in an active manner you do not NEED a chair back. 
On days when even sitting in this manner does not help, I'll use a Nada Chair.  It uses the tension between your legs and back to create support.  It's also great when you're going to places with bleachers, or when there are no chairs/benches at all.

So.... the moral of this story is to try a new way of sitting if you're finding the way you're sitting just isn't working out for you.