I can’t seem to find the origin of this quote. I didn’t say it first (oh, I wish I had!); but it seems well worth keeping.
Four years ago I lost 42 lbs. I went from a size 14 to a size 6. Great, right? The problem is that I lost all of this weight during a maximally stressful time in my life. I lost it because I was living on Marlboro Lights and Coke Zero–not exactly a healthy diet plan. So I found myself skinny for the first time in 13 years, but with no real way to manage it. Within six months I was a size 8, but I was fine with that. I was making better food choices and that was working for me, but I was fairly sedentary.
A year after I lost the weight, still at a size 8, I quit smoking. I had been working from home for a decade, so my schedule had a lot of flexibility. I joined the Y and started working out some and swimming. I managed to stay in my size 8’s, though they got a little more snug. Some big life changes happened and I went back to the world of working 40 hours (at least!) every week outside my home. Then I enrolled in college, and promptly slowed down and then stopped working out and swimming. The next year wasn’t too bad, I was so busy that I didn’t really have time to eat much. But I became increasingly more sedentary as I began to spend all of my spare time studying.
March 29, 2013 marked 3 years out from my last cigarette. The only size 8’s I can still wear have a lot of Lycra or spandex mixed in. The first warm day came last month and I tried to put on something from my summer wardrobe–nothin’ doin’. Not one single thing in my summer wardrobe fit me. I could still button a couple of my jeans, but the “muffin top” was enough to make me cry and I was so uncomfortable.
The biggest obstacle I face in weight management is that I cannot eat gluten. Don’t ask me to tell you what foods I cannot have, because the list of foods I CAN have is much, much shorter. So there is not a weight loss plan out there that I can follow. Even Weight Watchers would not give me enough food choices to make it possible for me to stick to the diet–I looked into it. I only have one size of clothing in my closet. Part of no longer being a size 14 is getting rid of your size 14 clothing, which I did 4 years ago. I have no budget for a new wardrobe. Now what?
Enter Jillian Michaels. I have never been much on exercise classes. I don’t like slamming into other people while I’m trying to workout, and I don’t like having to learn a bunch of fancy dance moves made up by the instructor of the week. I don’t have much time to throw at my workouts, so I need maximum results for a minimum investment of time. I started doing Internet research and I found really great user reviews on the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. There are 3 levels of workouts. This is not because Jillian doesn’t want you to get bored. You have to do Level 1 until you’re strong enough to move on to Level 2. If you’re looking to be entertained, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for fancy dancing and chatting with a friend while you’re doing this, look elsewhere. This is a SERIOUS workout. For the first week I screamed curse words at the television, but I hung in there. You only work out for 25 minutes including warm-up and cool down, but you work. You get out of it what you put into it. If you stop and rest, you might as well look elsewhere. You won’t get the results you want. She has someone doing lower impact, modified versions of all the moves behind her at all times. If you can’t do the full move, do the modified version but don’t stop moving.
Today is day 18 for me. I did level 1 for a week, level 2 for a week, and I’ve been on level 3 for 4 days. By the end of the first week my strength and endurance had increased drastically. I was blown away at what had happened in only 7 days. I stopped screaming curse words at the television. All I did was keep on moving through the whole 25 minutes every day. Some interesting things had begun to happen; I had started to crave this workout. The endorphin boost is addictive. I also started making better choices about what I eat. I’m not dieting. Gluten free is all the diet I can ever do. I just make better choices. After I hump and sweat through this routine, I don’t really want to chow on some fattening empty calories. But, Friday night is pizza night at my house. I go down to Monical’s Pizza and get myself a gluten free sausage and mushroom individual pizza, and I eat it. My husband is a meat and potatoes guy, so I choose lower carb lower calorie foods during the day and eat what my family eats at dinner. 18 days into this I’ve lost about an 1 1/2 inches off my waist and off each of my thighs. My arms are slimmer and have more definition. There is no more cellulite in my armpits. I can now wear about half of the cloths I could not wear 3 weeks ago. My muffin top from hell is not gone but it’s down to one small roll and getting smaller every day. Today I was able to do things in the level 3 workout that I could not do 3 days ago. I feel better than I’ve felt in years.
It’s pretty basic calisthenics. Jillian is an expert in how to burn the most calories, work the most muscle groups simultaneously, and keep it simple enough for even someone with “two left feet”. This is not for the weak-willed. You have to push through the pain. There weren’t really any negative reviews on this workout, but the few negative things I read were people who got bored of doing the same routine every day for a week or 10 days. Or people who didn’t like how hard they had to work so they cheated and then wondered why they didn’t get results. I was just happy when I could finally do what Jillian and Natalie were doing! I’m not here to be entertained. I’m here to be healthy, and skinny! And that’s happening. One caveat: don’t expect massive weight loss. A gallon of fat only weighs 5 pounds. This routine turns your fat into muscle and muscle weighs more than fat. So worry more about how your cloths fit and how your body looks, and stay off the scale. I haven’t weighed myself at all. I don’t have a weight goal. I have a clothing size goal. So if I fit into my cloths and they look nice on me, I really don’t care what the scale says.
You don’t even have to go out and buy the DVD. All of the workouts are on YouTube. I get YouTube through my DirecTV satellite service so I do these workouts for free right in my living room. You only need about a 3′ x 6′ space. You can get YouTube on your computer, tablet, or smartphone for free. If you need to buy the DVD, it’s only $10 at Walmart. While you’re there, grab some cheap hand weights. I have a set of 3lb and 5lb. They’re about $4 to $5 each. It was 5 days before I could even use the weights in the routine. I recommend watching each video once before you start the level so you know exactly what to do and can concentrate on just doing it. You don’t want to be looking at the television while doing some of these exercises–it’s very bad for the neck. That’s why she keeps it simple. If you’ve watched it once or twice you know what to do. I watched the level 3 video 10 days ago and thought “no way am I ever going to be able to do that!” 10 days later, I’m doing it. This works if you work it.
To your health!
Today my friend, Jill Shea, posted this to her Facebook page:
“Everybody is going to want you to do what is convenient for them. Learn how to say the most anointed word ever created: “NO”.
This is an area that has been an enormous challenge to me throughout my entire life. “No” is not a simple two-letter word. In fact, it is a huge source of stress and confusion in the lives of almost everyone. We don’t like to hear it; we don’t like to say it, even though it holds an enormous amount of power. We don’t say it when we probably should; we do say it when we probably shouldn’t. Wars are fought. Relationships are destroyed. Jobs are lost. Money is squandered. Health is compromised. Lives are lost. All at the hands of that one little word. REALLY? Really…
Can’t say no to food? It’s likely that you wrestle with obesity and serious health issues. Can’t say no sex? It’s likely your personal life is a mess. Can’t say no to cigarettes, booze, or drugs? Can’t say no to a salesperson? Is it starting to sink in?
I have a theory. Our struggle with “no” begins when our life begins. It is innocent and very well-intentioned. When we were kids we were taught to eat everything that was served to us. Regardless of whether we were hungry or liked it, we were forced to leave our plates clean. If not, there were consequences and they could be severe. That’s how our parents were raised, and their parents, and their parents…all the way back to when we killed what we ate and ate what we killed. There were no leftovers. You ate it or you threw it away. But as the world changed, this life practice did not. And look us now. We are the most gluttonous, obese, and unhealthy society on earth. No blame here; I’m just stating facts.
When my oldest son turned one, I took him off formula and handed him a sippy cup filled with milk. He took one drink, scrunched up his face, cried out, and threw the cup on the floor. For months I was wringing my hands, trying over and over to get him to drink the milk. My family and friends would call from all over the country to see if I’d forced him to drink the milk yet. I was strongly encouraged to thirst him out. To literally give him nothing else until he drank it. Children MUST DRINK MILK, right? Wrong!! It was his pediatrician who gave me permission to trust my instinct. Everything in me was screaming that I should not force something that was clearly undesirable. I didn’t like the message that sent to my child. Nobody in my life agreed with me but they finally let it go. Guess what; he’s nearly 13 and he’s fine–healthy and thriving without ever consuming another drop of milk. 7 years of elementary school they forced him to take, and me to pay for, milk every day because I refused to sign a paper saying he’s allergic. I refused to coach him to lie.
As we grow into a world where “no” is rarely an option for us, we begin to use it inappropriately. Think about a two-year old child. What is typically their favorite word? It holds a lot of power–that which they have quickly learned they possess very little. And so it begins. And as we grow it becomes ever more confusing and complicated. Can you count how many ways your life might be different if you’d just said “no”–to that last drink, to those credit card offers, to that come-on, that cigarette, that cupcake…
We can’t change anything in our past, we can only learn from it. Please don’t play the blame game; it is useless and so very destructive. We can use our past as a tool to move ahead with better habits, rich in the knowledge gained at The School Of Hard Knocks. Careful now, over-use of “no” is not better than under-use. The key is in balance. Tune in to yourself, to your life, and to those who matter to you. When you start saying “no” to the things that are truly negative you will see your life change in amazing ways you never imagined. We are all going to do some things we don’t necessarily love doing, but we learn when to say “yes” because it serves a greater purpose. We feel better about stepping outside our comfort zone–about saying “yes” when we should, when we might have said “no” in the past.
So far I’ve said “no” to food that was making me sick and keeping me overweight. My health has improved drastically and I’ve lost 40 pounds. I’ve said “no” to cigarettes and I’m 17 months free from their hold on me. I’ve said “no” to people who use me shamelessly but don’t appreciate me, and my stress level has dropped immeasurably. These were not the easy habits to break. I still do lots of things I don’t want to do, but I do them with a much better attitude. I do many things I never did before that I really enjoy. I give of myself because I want to, not because someone demands it. I take pride in my accomplishments, work hard to keep changing the negatives, and live in better balance by using (not abusing!) the power of “no”.
Lately I’ve noticed that a lot of people in my life are amid some pretty major life changes. Big things like triple digit weight-loss goals, career changes, trying to find the right anti-depressant, trying to wean off anti-depressants, ending a long-term relationship.
There is a common factor in all of these things that I believe very few of us recognize; a serious lack of love for ourselves, and belief that we are not worthy. Not a simple topic.
One friend’s current goal is to stop focusing on what she believes to be her own shortcomings. I don’t get to see or talk to her very often, but she shared this particular goal recently, rather publicly. I was inspired by the her ability to find within herself the courage to let friends know–to admit something pretty huge about her own thoughts, and reach out for support in making a change. I found myself wondering if anyone would have the courage to reach back; to offer any kind of meaningful support.
And so I write…
The not-so-simple fact is that it is easiest to believe the negative things about ourselves. If 5 people tell you that you’re doing something really well, and 1 person tells you that what you’re doing is worthless, most of us will focus heavily on the 1 negative while giving little or no credit to the 5 positives. A simple example of a very complicated part of human nature; self-deprecation.
I believe that the courage to make real change in our lives is born of the willingness to embrace our fears; of fully acknowledging that we have fears and that makes us human. There are countless thousands of self-help books written on just about every human weakness. Precious few actually attempt to teach the reader where to look to find the real answer to the real problem. So many of us go through the motions without truly understanding how we’ve arrived where we now find ourselves. Hence, true change proves frustratingly illusive. We find ourselves stuck in the cycle of feeling like failures, wallowing in the very self-deprecation that caused the problem we’re trying to change.
I don’t pretend to have a short answer to my own problems, or anyone else’s. I have spent the last year or so taking a pretty hard look at my life. There are some things in which I take a great deal of pride. There are some things I want desperately to change; things I’ve tried in the past to change, yet they are still here. Why have I tried and failed? Did I really try?
And so I have begun to explore how real change in my life is going to happen. I solemnly believe that by embracing my fear I take away its power over my life. I’m doing it right now, this very second. Please say it with me; “I am worthy of a better life. My fears do not own me.”