PT-64: The lost session (day 21)

Monday morning, training with J.

I unexpectedly and tragically lost a close friend yesterday and feel wrecked about it. But I got up and went to meet fab trainer J this morning anyway, because if I can easily imagine lying on a set of train tracks waiting for a train to run me over I can all too easily find myself canceling sessions, blowing off practices, and returning to a sedentary lifestyle in my grief.

No matter what my circumstances, how crappy I feel today or in the days ahead, I cannot be deterred from my better health quest.

Mercifully, comfort food holds little appeal right now, although I admit I feel the knee-jerk allure of old habits. I have worked so hard to get past that reflexive inclination, and I have new habits and ways to cope.

Life continues, despite a broken heart and wounded spirit.

But I got nothing as far as feedback from this review session. At this point of the day, 12 hours later, I cannot really recall what we did. I know it was review. I know it was upstairs. Beyond that, it all looks and feels like a big blur today. I could look at the List and it will refresh what we did, but nothing stands out other than getting through it without bursting into tears and lying on the floor sobbing and refusing to get back up.

Yeah, I had my fears about that happening.

Since we finished in record time, I know I could care less about rep count or even set count. We could have done one per and I would say it was fine. One low energy, low expectations session matters little to me under the circumstances. Not showing up for it felt terrifying on so many levels.

I’m very fortunate – I have an incredibly caring, supportive tribe that holds my hands and lets me ramble and wander as I stumble along in this haze of grief.

But as I type this – a couple of things do stand out.

I want to be able to climb to my feet from sitting on the floor without having the help of another person or sturdy, immovable object. And right now it does seem to still to require the logistical planning of unsinking the Titantic from the ocean floor, but it will not be like this forever.

The things that influenced and inspired me to get started on my better health quest, those only die if I allow them to die in my heart and mind. Courage, bravery, all those cool-sounding heroic buzz words do not enter into this equation. Discipline, steadfastness, accepting that life continues is the only thing that makes the senseless unlucky sequence of events make sense.

The range of emotions that come with loss are not easy to quantify or describe, and there is no one-size-fits-all patterns to mourning. The amount of anger and rage I feel inside is almost embarrassing, yet who am I actually angry with? God? Some other higher power? Modern medicine? My friend? Myself? I think it normal, healthy, to be upset and full of rage that something I never, ever wanted to happen has happened. It seems yet another side of the complexities of being human and the circle of life.

I learned a long time ago that being a victim is a circumstance, but it does not need to be the defining circumstance. Channeling my anger and my rage has been a driving force to get me past that label and made me make something of myself. While it feels kind of noble to imagine continuing my better health quest for my friend and compadre who means so much to me, it is also a cheap and tawdry self-serving device for which he would gleefully verbally bitch-slap me if he were reading this right now. Always, this has been for and about me and me alone, and to try to twist it into some sort of tribute is both wrong and unsustainable for the long haul. His influence and encouragement does not end because he is no longer walking this earthly plane with me. Perhaps that is the best, finest legacy anyone can provide.

I am so much stronger, more capable, and frankly more physically appealing to my own eye than I was when I started with J. I work hard at my better health quest for myself, for more life in the years I have. But I have new measures of pride and confidence, and I am glad my friend got to see and experience that first hand.

In the throes of grief and loss, I truly remember why I love my life. Because I feel such depths of grief and loss with the passing of a genuine, faithful friend. Eventually I will bear these fresh scars with dignity and pride, and always remember the one who helped me earn them.

Not much of a training recap today, I know. Hopefully our regular programming will return soon.

#august2017, #balance, #better-health, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #friends, #grief, #gym, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #motivation, #sadness

Better health marker (day 16)

I had a jam-packed schedule yesterday and no opportunity to post. But other than telling you of my mostly non-eventful List of the day, not a lot to talk about here. Oh, and I was very tired.

Today I have not yet been to the gym, because I have to get bloodwork done this morning. It’s a fasting test, and I had little desire to go to the lab all sweaty and gross. Seems unsanitary.

But anymore, I am always excited about having blood drawn and receiving the results from my doctor. I am expecting no unpleasant surprises, but still – it is exciting to find out for sure that in the last few months I have not sinned so grandly as to have him contemplating a new round of sugar-controlling drugs.

The scale again seems to be stuck in one place, having traded the same 0.3 pounds back and forth this week. But at least it’s not increasing. Between stress, busy days, and veering off my eating strategy to accommodate the busy days, meals out with clients, and the overall stress, I am happy to go down 0.3 pounds one day and watch it come back up in 0.1 pound increments the next few days.

I also feel a bit stuck in my Lists of the day. I am doing them, I am mostly enjoying the moments. But they are not presently sparking joy for me. My mind is elsewhere much of the time, and while I know it happens, it sucks all the same. I like it when the gym is my universally happy place, where I can forget the rest of the stuff that populates my life and just focus on moving my body and feeling the muscles doing their best work. I am doing well enough; the rest of my stuff is not distracting me to the point of breaking my typical habits. Working out problems while moving from exercise to exercise is usually less prominent than it has been this week.

Yeah, this is tiny cupcakes in the measurement of problems and issues.

Big, huge, giant comfort is that the habit is now ingrained enough that I am almost on autopilot when mapping out my daily schedule and how it all fits together. While I have to go later today (because it’s a fasting blood test, I do not exercise on a completely empty stomach, and that whole sweaty and gross seems unsanitary thing noted above), it never once occurred to me to blow off the gym in favor of work. I just rearranged things so I was up and toiling at 4 a.m. while I keep an eye on the clock for time to prepare to head to the lab. Hopefully it’s not too busy. But even if it is, I am not scheduled for anything else until 11 a.m.

Not always crazy about the way my work-life balance progresses, but I am managing and it is working more than 70% of the time. The other 30% – nights and weekends – it’s an evolving process. Once I recognize that I am at capacity, I will force myself to sort it out better.

Until then, I will just careen along juggling all my stuff and try to get back to a regular sleeping schedule.

#august2017, #better-health, #diabetes, #diet, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #health, #healthy-eating, #lab-tests

PT-62: Negative thinking and realism (day 14)

Monday morning, training with J. We are still on our review, refine, enhance strength-focused Lists, and despite the post title, it was an awesome adventure in learning and working at skill updates. Lots of room for improvement, but if I were good at everything already J would have a client slot to fill.

Key Takeaways

It occurred to me today that I have some (previously) unwritten rules about how I conduct my practices. For the most part, they seem to work. And since I find myself now more capable than before, they are obviously working reasonably well. Specifically: can’t remember how many reps, do at least 15; lost track of where I am in set counts, do another just to be sure; left leg seems weaker, do it first; when it doubt about weights, start lighter. Simple, common sense (to me) type stuff.

Lots of semi-negative thinking going through my head today, ala “I’m an idiot, I’m an idiot, I’m an idiot.” To be fair, though, some simple-looking exercises are complicated and technical (looking at you, hang-and-bang). It’s not so much I am an idiot so much as some things simply do not always make sense, and even if they do make sense intellectually, translating that sensibility into making body do mind’s bidding is another matter entirely.

I probably have more to say on this topic, but a dear friend arrived tonight and I had to cut this section short to finish and get this post published. 

What We Did

Plate Loaded Squat Machine (2 25s/side)
Overhead Press on plate loaded squat machine

1-legged Leg Press
Bench Elevated Pushup

Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Medicine Ball Vertical Chops
Stability Ball Passes

How It Felt

I have not attempted this List on my own since it was introduced, and in some ways it shows, dreadfully. However, I am mostly okay with the plate loaded squat machine. The shape seems to be coming pretty naturally, and once I figure out where to plant my feet, place my hands, and what the lever (releasing the shoulder weight part) does, thing went very well. There is still some confidence building with it, but for the most part, I feel like I am squatting with proper form and technique. The little refinements noted above, with the exception of the weight release latch, are things that will become more natural and more comfortable with practice. Right now, it all feels new and different about what my hands and feet might be doing and impacting the working muscles.

The overhead press on the plate loaded squat machine brought forth an attack of the shoulds. Because I have not practiced these, it felt a little (sometimes a lot) awkward and like we were reinventing the wheel or discovering fire. I get the concept and know how it’s supposed to work and to feel, yet I was struggling mightily with the overall shape of the exercise. It’s different than when doing this with dumbbells, because the arms go up and forward, slightly away from the top of the shoulder where the overhead press with the dumbbells tends to go straight up and over the shoulder. It is not difficult for me to understand, yet for various and sundry reasons it was difficult for me to implement and execute. I did improve. I did get the stance down more completely by the third set. But damn – it should not be as difficult as I was making it this morning.

Rather than walking lunges or Bulgarian split squats, we returned to the favorite leg press and did single 1-legged leg presses. I was pretty pleased with my effort on these, because at 140 lbs. I was doing 20 without much trauma or drama. I forgot that we are in the midst of a strength-focus series right now and just kept going until I reached the typical 20 reps. Then J asks me how that felt – it was fine. So we bumped it to 160 for the next set, went through another 20, after which I finally realized (when J remarked upon it) that I was going for an 8 to 12 rep range, not the usual 15 to 20 or 25 to 30. Oops! Bumping it to 180 toned my enthusiasm for the bigger range, and I went from 20 to 10. J then went to 200 and suggested I do 5, just to see how it went and how it felt. It went, but it did feel challenging and  heavy.

Bench push-ups FINALLY make more sense today. FINALLY. I now seem to have figured out where to place my hands, how wide apart to put them so the working, feeling muscles are actually in the chest and not everywhere else. My range is still mostly 8 to 10, but I have higher hopes to advance past that now that I figured out how to replicate the feeling in multiple sets.

My secondary “you’re an idiot” soundtrack started with the dumbbell lateral raises. I knew these have not been going well lately, but I have been at a loss as to what to do about it. Sometimes they are better, but generally speaking – I feel like super stinky poo whenever I have tried for a variety of reasons. The bobbing up and down. The arms and shoulders and weird-ass feelings in both – not quite pain, but definitely not productive muscle-conditioning work. Yet it is not always or consistently every time, just most of the time. So today J tackled addressing it directly. Or tried, anyway; we may have to revisit to ensure body and mind are in sync about what needs to happen. Lead with the elbows not with the weights in my hands. Stretch arms out with an elbow bend. Kind of like chicken wings flapping is how I finally interpreted it. All day long when I have a free moment I have been sitting or standing and working and leading with my elbows while raising my arms. I think it might be sinking in, without weights in my hands. Next I try these, I’ll go light weights to get the shape nailed down more fully.

My most accomplished with triceps exercises has got to be the lying down dumbbell triceps extensions. I have been stuck on 15 lbs. for months now, but feel no super urgent rush to bump it up right now. Possibly I could sometime soon, but not today.

New pairing starting with the medicine ball vertical chops. I remembered how to do these, and the biggest issue is ensuring I do not go too far with the ball overhead. Putting a package on the shelf is the way J described it, and it makes my stop point far clearer. I’m feeling it in my core.

And finally, the stability ball passes. We have lately been doing a fair amount of regular ab work, and other tribe members are doing things like floor crunches followed by reverse crunches. I realized today that is kinda/sorta what this exercise emulates, only with the a stability ball going back and forth between hands and feet.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

After showering and getting ready for work, I was processing what we did today and how it feels in both body and mind. Part of me feels mind slip sliding back to negative girl territory in my self-assessment of my progress with this List to date. There was a faint “I’m an idiot” echoing in the back of my mind. In complete transparency, I have been gazelle-intense in examining my own motivation, focus, and drive of late anyway, so this was just more data layered into my analysis and equation.

Bottom line: I’m fine.

Rest of the story: I’m very occasionally terribly freaked out about my slo-mo forward progress to the point of breathing-into-paperbag panic over what it all means.

Reality check: It means nothing except a flashback crisis of confidence that will pass. Unfortunately the “very occasionally” description tends to happen in a condensed period of time, say 2 or 3 days in a month, 6-week period. It feels a lot more intense than it would spread out over the course of the entire period of measurement.

Like everyone who has a job and any sort of responsibilities, my life is not centered around the minutes and hours spent in the gym every morning. It is a definitely a big, giant, huge priority chunk of my daily and weekly routines, but it’s not the sole arbitrator of what I think, how I feel, who I am overall as a person. I’m not a person whose livelihood depends on how she looks in or out of clothes (let us all share a small prayer of thanks for that) or how much weight I can move to and fro. Regular person that I am means exercise and fitness is about my health, and while that does include my weight and body fat percentage, neither are a strong enough drivers at this moment in time to make me push hard, with focus and intensity throughout my List of the day. Not. Hardly.

I judge myself harshly, though, and while I do my level best to avoid compare and despair, I’m far from immune to it. But I also know giving myself too much of a free pass on this stuff leads to an easy laziness or lethargy about the work. I do have a strong desire to improve, advance (whatever that truly means to me), progress, be better. Going at 98.9% of maximum intensity (or even 68.9% if I am completely honest) is going to make some difference in my better health quest, but I am content enough at this moment to not feel the need to have to focus that kind of ooomph to make slow and steady results happen.

Maybe I am a “resistance train 2 to 3 times per week person” doing it over the course of 7 days most weeks. They why doesn’t matter much, because I presently cannot come up with a motivating factor, objective, or goal that makes me want to press onward with higher level of intensity most days of the week.

And I need to make myself get back to my happy place of acceptance. I am struggling with a lot of tiny fears and anxieties that are blocking me from getting there because I am allowing them to mushroom into nuclear bomb size clouds.

I am second guessing myself. In the present tense, I am struggling with how to write this, say it, in my usual stream-of-consciousness/unedited for anything style of blogging. My mindset and thinking are genuine examples of small-ball issues right now. In my effort to keep it real, I tell you everything, no matter how ridiculously silly and shallow it makes me sound.

In real life, what I describe here feels different, is very different, than that headspace I occupied for the better part of my start mid-2015 and well into 2016. However, progression forward for me is always part of a 2-step series where I might take 6 good steps forward and then slippy-slide backwards 3, 4, 5 again before hauling myself off my ass and back into proper training posture. I remind myself multiple times per day on a broad spectrum of topics that I am worthy and do work at earning the good stuff in my life. The cruel and unusual punishment I reserve to direct toward myself have toned down in their frequency if not their intensity. Admittedly that part is a ongoing work-in-progress that makes me squirm with discomfort to admit so openly.

I bring that up to frame this accurately in my own world view. Despite the vaguely uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach (aside from the focused core work that now appears on every List) about devolving into a dilettante about exercise and marching backward toward out-of-control blood sugar, I am doing fine. Food, the ongoing daily push-pull battle, is not the end of the world as I desire to know it. Making good food choices and eating healthier meals 75% of the time is better than 74.9% or less of the time, and it is a ginormous improvement from where I started or even a year ago. There is presently a chocolate cake in my kitchen that offers little temptation for me, and while I do imagine a very small scoop of ice cream this week, such things consumed in celebration are exempt from self-flagellation or over-thinking scrutiny (that’s another new rule). I am stronger than I was once and will again impose enough self-discipline to overcome the craving that single taste will trigger.

Self-doubt and negativity towards myself – this is a common thread throughout my life and times. Years of professional help have taught me a lot of tools to cope and battle back against it, but like diabetes or other chronic conditions, I do not believe it is curable. It’s treatable and it’s manageable, but there is no magical day in my future where the scars that shape me are erased and I am completely free. Acceptance of that means developing a more realistic and balanced frame of reference, where everything less than great is 100% my fault and everything else even 40% good is a stroke of good luck or the kindness of others toward me.

J made a curious, off-hand comment today in our post-session chat-fest. He corrected himself from using the “we” to “you” in an instance where discussing the work we were doing today. While technically more accurate – usually it is me doing the bulk of the sets and lying on the floor breathing hard and sweating through my shirt – I tend to think and use the “we” and “our” terms when describing this journey overall. Good coaching has made all the difference for me and for all the progress I have made – a lot of the credit should rest with J and his patience as well as skill.

And speaking of coaching, I get regular email updates from Pat Flynn (chroniclesofstrength.com), another coach that is involved with my fat loss group. He has lately been writing a fair amount about motivation and mindset, and since he’s a pretty down-to-earth and sensible guy, I find much of what he writes and talks about very sensible indeed.

The last couple of emails have been about motivation, how many clients and people he works with talk about needing motivation before getting started with something and his solution is to get started anyway. Makes perfect sense to me now, and it got me wracking my brain if that was one of my excuses for not getting started sooner when the better health quest began. My guess: probably not. With exercise, my “I hate exercise” was the nuclear option (in my opinion) that pretty much covered it. When I hate something, no amount of pep talking pep talks is going to make me want to get up and get going.

Pat’s advice was the same thing M has told me for years and years: Do a little something every day. And when I made my choice to try to be in the gym twice more between sessions with J, that was my first thought: if I do a little something every day for a month, it will be a habit and I will be capable of moderation and coming in twice a week between training sessions. Seems like a simple choice, but it was a Very Big Deal for me at the time.

Am I motivated in the gym? Not always, but I do it anyway. Because I like the healthier, feeling better results. Such is my navel-gazing mindset right now: I am not really feeling the love for my pacing and level of effort, but I’m doing it anyway. Because it’s good for me, and while in slo-mo, I do like the better, healthier feelings that come from any effort expended.

Perhaps rather than turning negative girl loose in the wheelhouse to run amok and ruin my practices, I am being realistic, that I am not all happy-happy-joy-joy energizer bunny girl however many days I am in the gym per year. Maybe I am never energizer bunny level of energy any days I am in the gym each year. Level of effort and intensity could be unique to each of us, and my slo-mo is my best effort at being hyper-focused. I would never judge or be snarky toward another tribe member or anyone else, so I should be a little less judgey and snarky toward myself. I am present and trying my best, and as I continually remind myself, it is good enough.

And with these continual reminders, someday soon I will actually believe it 24/7. Until then, I will continue with my do a little something every day method of progression. In the 2-step dance, it’s working out for me.

#anxiety, #better-health, #confidence, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fear, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health, #negativity, #peace, #positivity

PT-61: Refine, review, improve (day 10)

Thursday morning, training with J. Of late we are doing a lot more review and refinement of the push-pull Lists with an eye toward improving form and technique as well as stay focused on the strength emphasis.

Key Takeaways

I still love review days. We could probably do review days forever and I would not notice much of a difference in how I feel about training sessions. It might get boring for J, but he would figure out a way to cope if that’s the direction we chose. Truth of the matter is I am not the one driving the List creation or what we do on Mondays and Thursdays; I like it all, even the stuff that sucks eggs. There are a lot of things I dislike to the edge of hatred and avoidance, but after I’m all done, I feel so great about having my big girl capris in place and showing that exercise who is in charge here. J is the primary decider in what we’re doing. He suggests a new direction – 100% of the time I say yay, let’s do that. If there is a choice I pick one and we do that. Or not. Sometimes he changes his mind at the last possible second and we do something other than the initially proffered choices. It makes no difference to me; I am a pretty agreeable sort anymore. In the big picture, there are other training days ahead and we will surely pick whatever mild preference I may have had during one of those future sessions.

What I don’t practice, my improvement is slow to stagnant. This is not me being a slacker; this is me being the realist that there are few practice days and a lot of Lists to pursue. But as I have been focused on improving my planking and floor chops/sit-ups, I have another pair to tag onto my daily practice for the next week or so to see if I can nudge that improvement and confidence needle in the positive direction. While I have the time to devote, I should utilize it and just spend an extra 10 to 15 minutes on the 1-leg RDL and stability ball hamstring curls as well.

Individual exercises are like icebergs; what you see above the waterline is a very small portion of the actual mass of the thing. Every week I have this realization about something that just walking by looks so easy. Lat pulldowns? Reach up, pull weight up by pulling down on the bar. I watch people do these things every single day in passing, yet I still have to remember all these little technical cues. Same with seated rows. Pull the weight up by pulling handles back toward the waist, let it draw you back. They look so uncomplicated, until you’re sitting in the seat and trying to refine form to wring the maximum work out of the impacted muscles or muscle groups.

Pacing, pacing, pacing! Weightier weights is only part of the story. Progress comes from how much rest between sets, how much idle time spent glaring at the machine that is not working adequately for me. I confess to frequently being indulgent with myself on my own; I am not necessarily going gung-ho full throttle from exercise to exercise to exercise and working, Working, WORKING at each aspect of my List. Not sure how ambitious I am toward this end; maybe this is where having goals comes into play? My mindset is get into the gym, work as hard as I feel capable of working and call it good. If I were working toward something specific, I might be more gung-ho about always pushing hard at improvement. Or my mindset would be locked-in on its present ho-hum sort of speed and I’d be feeling discouraged, disappointed, despairing, and very negative toward my slacker ways. The seeds are planted in my mind, have been for a while. Maybe it’s time for me to turn also put some focus and give some love to the idea of turning up the intensity.

Still, training of the body and learning exercise happens every training session. So does working on the mindset and nudging it along toward a different outcome. I do not minimize my gains in any area; I have worked hard to get this far. Awareness of the large open space that equals room for improvement is part of the long-term strategy, because ignoring it only makes me unhappy and discouraged. When I feel ready to address it in my practice, I will make it happen. Until then, encouraging myself is an adequate enhancement to what I do in the gym on my own.

I am good enough. The mere thought and understanding of how far I have come in being able to say that and mean it makes me feel really proud of myself. Negative girl and realistic girl have their place in my attitudes and impact on my behaviors, but the happiness I derive from being in the gym is so powerful it is truly life-altering and provide a sense of balance and new sort of satisfaction as to what is possible for me in all aspects of my life and times. I love that. I love the feeling of what healthier means for me and how good it feels inside my body right here, right now. Big win for me. Acceptance of where I am on this journey, happy anticipation of the next milestone to be named later.

What We Did

A1        Barbell RDL (ramp up to 91)
A2        Mini-band Lateral Walks

B1        1-leg DB RDL (25)
B2        SB Hamstring Curl

C1        Seated Low “Tree Hug” Cable Rows
C2        Low Facepull
C3        Horizontal Rope Chops

D1        Lat Pulldown
D2        Straight-Arm Rope Pulldown or DB Pullover

How It Felt

Having just done Romanian deadlifts (RDL) dumbbells in the previous 24 hours, I was in a good place to discern the real or imagined differences between the barbell RDL and those with the dumbbell. It’s the weight distribution, with the plates at the end of the bar and not right in front of my legs. I am getting the general shape and execution of these now. Keep upper body still while hinging at the hips, pretensioning the glutes and hamstrings to do the lift, and then pressing hip joints forward at the top while tightening those abs and glutes. We added another 10 lbs. of plates today, taking me from my prior high of 81 lb. to 91 lbs., so that was something new and exciting. Rep range is 6 to 8 for the strength emphasis exercises, and I went through 2 sets of 10 reps each without much difficulty. I got to use my pink weightlifting straps all the time today, too, so that was another win. I am still amazed what a difference they make for me.

Onto the next exercise, the mini-band lateral walks. Keep the upper body still – no swishy-swashy swaying going on – and go sideways. Back and forth a couple of times until feeling it in those outer hips. I do love my mini-bands, and maybe next I try this I will use the red bad (next resistance up). These are fun, effective on the outer hips, yet they seem to offer me no immediate feedback that legs are tired or hips are working. I am starting to really believe I am growing fitter, because stuff that used to be so exhausting and “is it over yet?” now is just sort of ho-hum and on to the next. Progress.

My worst nightmare: the 1-leg RDL with a 25 lb. dumbbell in hand. *le sigh* Okay, not my worst nightmare in the gym; probably my worst nightmares in the gym have nothing to do with exercise. I console myself that at least it is not getting worse; it is, in fact, improving, just not quickly enough for my impatient self. I am slowly improving at self-diagnosis of why I am weeble-wobbling (and after this much time I am surprised I am not more of an expert), and even more slowly correcting myself and breaking bad habits. Bottom line: more practice. Other than the occasions we have done these on training days, I don’t think I have done a single set of these on my own.

The stability ball hamstring curls – it’s becoming a neurotic exercise that makes me feel crazy. I know I am not doing terrible things with it, yet at the same time I feel like I am slowly backing away from the point of forward progress. Maybe my ambition for the last half-inch is eating me away and eroding my progress with other aspects of it. Thinking about it this afternoon, I have something new to try with the positioning of my feet and elevation of hips and angle of my feet on the ball as I am working. There is a short-circuit in my thinking and/or ability with this and I would like to expose and correct it before it gets to be my next tearful nemesis. I haven’t had a tearful nemesis in over a year and have been enjoying very happy and fulfilling practices in that time span.

In our last outing with the seated cable rows, J has been stressing and really working with me on letting shoulders relax into a stretch without allowing arms to completely straighten and elbows locking out. Part of his job and what makes him really good at his craft is finding lots and lots of different ways to say the same thing until something sticks with each individual client. Today he came up with a new term for me: we now refer to these as seated low “tree hug” cable rows. The visual works very well for me; keep my arms “short” with elbows bent on the stretch while leaning forward with shoulders first, not from waist and upper body, and pulling back with the shoulders and arch, not leaning back at the waist. Such an ongoing challenge for me. I have on 2 occasions owned and utilized regularly a Concept 2 rower, and most of that comes from pulling and leaning back from the waist. With the new “tree hug” cue in mind, I focus more on the position of my arms and leading with the shoulders on the return.

From there we went to the cable machine and a low facepull. Facepulls are usually from a higher position cable setting, but this worked fine for me. It’s the overhand/underhand that typically messes with my thinking, but we haven’t had that distinction in a while. I’m feeling pretty pleased with my efforts with these of late, and J was kind enough to snap a couple of pictures to show my emerging muscle definition. It was quite thrilling to actually see the defining creases in my upper arms and shoulder caps. I mean, I actually have such things now.

While I freely admit to not being much of a chop fan (floor, cable, stretch band – you name it, none of them appear on my favorites list), I do get the greatest return on investment with the horizontal rope chops. For the most part I have the foot positioning down (parallel) and the anchoring arm/hand furthest away from the cable, and the partial rib tuck (to tighten the oblique) and the lead with the hip while pressing out with the rope. I understand the cues and what I should be doing, but the execution is frequently awkward and not quite as I see it happening in my head. With the horizontal version, I feel the closest I get to performing a fluid and controlled chop, versus this sort of hail Mary hopefully-in-the-ballpark-of-mostly-correct. But like the 1-leg RDL, these do not get trotted out for practice much, if any at all. There are other Lists with different challenges that get the lion’s share of my time and attention.

The lat pulldown – I feel like the special needs tribe member with the lat pulldown. We are back to the wide bar, and I am up to my old tricks of not learning to naturally let my shoulders relax into a shrug at the top. We had multiple tries today, and after watching J demonstrate (again), I am closer than I was last week. But my stubborn mind does not seem to want to grasp all the technical details of this all at once. Pulling down with my elbows and releasing up with my shoulders – I continually want to lean back from the waist on the way down (versus using my thoracic arch) and lean forward from the waist and shrug up unnaturally at the top. Yes, there is a shrug at the top, but it’s supposed to be from the shoulders relaxing, not from me leaning in from the waist. Walking by enroute to and from the locker room, people doing these make it look so easy. All that plus retain a bend in the elbow. Maybe next I try this I should pretend I have no arms on the way up? I am not sure it could be any worse than what is already going on with me. And that’s not to say I’m doing horribly with it; my mind believes it should be simpler than it is for me. I also get that J emphasizes what he emphasizes because he wants me to learn to get the maximum work for my effort. My usual solution (more practice) applies here as well.

And finally, the straight-arm rope pulldown. I am undecided if I am happier with the rope or the straight bar, but mostly I’m happy that I long ago grasped that correct form for this version is butt back and back and arms straight while pulling down with the rope and then splitting it at the bottom close to the body. I had observed others doing this with a more rounded back, so of course I wondered and had to ask about it. Those other people – maybe it was accommodation for their bodies or maybe they were doing it wrong. For me, I am doing it correctly as taught by J. That is truly what matters most to me, because I’m doing well and improving as the weeks pass.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

I read this great term – compare and despair – on another blog today. Having never heard that before, I thought it quite brilliant for encapsulating a process I have had to diligently work at abandoning as unhealthy for me. Without thinking I do still fall into that trap, but I do my best to quickly scurry out and away from it.

Comparison is the thief of joy – and self-esteem. I need no help beating the crap out of myself; I have a built-in negative girl locked in a special space for those occasions. It genuinely shocks me when anyone speaks of something I do or have with even the smallest note of covetousness, because I am so invisibly average in my own eyes. Able to lift more? Who me? Have you seen [insert names of numerous ladies far stronger]? Better control of diabetes? It does not appear to be hard-wired into my genetics; everyone in my family similarly afflicted has lifestyle issues that are direct contributors to this condition.

My blindness to any and all attributes I may possess is essentially 99% complete. As an example: in the big boys’ room at the gym this weekend, I was doing bent over rows and looked up to find some guy sitting across from me on a bench and seemingly staring down the neckline of my top. Kind of ewww when I our eyes met and he didn’t even blink, but whatever. Next set he was still sitting there, so I turned my back and decided my ass was much more attractive and he could stare at that instead. By the time I turned to put my weights down, he’d moved on.

But my initial instinct was not that he was staring at my cleavage, and to be completely fair and balanced, he might have simply been staring into space and not seeing me at all. Nope, my initial instinct was what could possibly be so wrong that the man was staring? My hair? Stain on my leggings? Form completely awful? Handling the weights inappropriately? Turning my back and ignoring him was all about me and my stuff; the least disturbing thought to me was that he was looking down my neckline and I would rather not imagine what imperfection he might be laughing on the inside about so I turned my back and forced myself to stop thinking about it.

Since I am 56 years old and do not dress to attract attention in the gym – I buy and wear clothes that are comfortable and please me and my eye – it shocks me when anyone takes any note of any positive thing I might be doing. Always my mind sinks to the worst case scenario. Compliments, kind words, even silence from J when we are training (because no correction or adjustment is needed) are treated in my mind like rare and precious gifts. But comparisons? Only as a cautionary tale of what not to do. Mindset is changing, slowly, because I have some accomplishments worthy of pride. But it has taken a lot of work on my part, and it is hardly a stroke of luck that got me from where I began to where I am right now.

I know other people work very hard as well, and I admire that. But better health is my priority, so that’s also my focus and what gets the lion’s share of my available time and attention. M and I have discussed working out twice per day, something I do once or twice a week right now and primarily for the social aspect of it. However, I also recognize that my weaker intensity, focus, stick-with-it-ness in my own practices does contribute to a desire to do more work. IF I were only more efficient more of the time, I would probably get more done, make faster progress. But I am realistic; I am not to the point where heart and mind want that accelerated progress enough to pump up my intensity and focus. I work longer at my degree of effort, and sometimes it means I have to work a lot more and a lot longer duration than others. I don’t think that makes me wrong. I do think it makes me and my objectives different or on a longer timeline.

Occasionally, I think I need to try harder, be more of a badass who is into her List of the day to the exclusion of everything else. Unless I am in the right frame of mind or playing beat the clock with my gym time, pressuring myself that way only stresses me out and leads to feelings of being a loser. I know I am pretty far from being a loser; I have made significant positive inroads on my better health quest. But my mind can forget those advances in a hot second, and if I cannot maintain my mental discipline and shut off that negative noise, I am going to find myself sledding down my better health iceberg with negative girl at the helm.

Mindset – it’s not something to be blown off, pooh-poohed, or minimized. I take it seriously enough to stay aware of where my head is at while I am at the gym. Many, many, many Monday and Thursday mornings I have not felt like training, yet my hyper-responsible self insists that I go because we have an appointment. Mostly I shrug off the sense of dread by the time I am halfway through my warm-up, my sense of adventure and desire to learn something new kicking into higher gear. While I might be moving sluggishly during transitions or from exercise to exercise, I am giving it my best effort. There have been times when that has not been true, that I felt my best effort was so inadequate why bother trying? Not me, not in a very long time.

I like the gym as a happy place. There are things I dread, groan, bitch, moan, complain about, but I do it anyway. Because it’s good for me. And when everything is said and done, it leaves me feeling great. Still, I reserve my right to dread, groan, bitch, moan, and complain about that which I dislike. It is good for the soul.

With my inchworm forward progress with exercise, I have to be honest about less success and advancement with healthy eating and diet. The struggle with my fork continues and it’s not pretty, uplifting, rainbow-farting unicorns.

For the most part, I do pretty well with healthy food choices. It’s the non-most part – probably 25% of the time – where I falter and gives the most grief. Protein shakes as meal replacements work well for me, as do big-ass salads and eliminating most processed foods has made an enormous difference. Limiting my carbohydrates makes a bigger difference than I ever realized.

It took me more than a year to get to the point where I mustered the ability and discipline and support-related resources to pay attention and work at this effort consistently. As it is, I am imperfect in my efforts. My stress-eating behaviors still rear their ugly heads, and I give up and give in to temptation. It happens more than I want, but it is not the end of the world.

And this is a win for me – that it is not the end of the world. In the two-step dance of lifestyle changes, this is just another of the one-step back in the enduring, life-long process and quest. Being imperfect in my eating strategy this week is not the hill I die on, but a mere molehill on the upward climb through the rest of my life.

I love that simple yet profoundly fundamental change about me, recognizing that I have overcome more than one obstacle over the course of my life and the push-pull in the day-to-day business of living continues despite of all that happened then, or happens today, tomorrow, the rest of my life. Whatever less beneficial choices I may make in the here and now do not mean I lose all my gains to date. My acceptance of that has been a game changer.

And acceptance – for that I have an amazing cast of people who make me want to be better. May we all enjoy happy, healthy lives for a long time to come.

#august2017, #better-health, #confidence, #consistency, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health, #positivity

Another day in paradise (day 8)

I mean the title very genuinely: it was another day in paradise at the gym this morning. A tribe sister and her husband are back from a dream trip to Paris, so it was nice to see them and touch base, catch up a bit. Then I crossed paths with my friend C and got some catch-up time while J put her through her List paces. We were hoping to break bread together on Friday, but C is off to exotic places with old friends on Thursday. We will reschedule.

My List and time spent working went very well. Mini band lateral walks and glute kickbacks, then the 45 degree hyperextensions on the V-shaped stand thing, then the wide bar lat pulldowns. Interesting fact I learned today – the V-shaped stand thing is the only thing probably in the entire gym that is not labeled with what it is or what it is actually used for. Who knew? Now me, after having to ask J what the reverse hyperextension is when there is no stability ball referenced. Typo on his part, admission that I have not pursued this List in a few weeks on mine. And apparently it shows. No finger-pointing condemnation toward me, merely yet another acknowledgment of so many Lists, too few practice days.

Pretty happy with the 45 degree hypers, other than a traitorous right foot that wants to twist with the torso elevation and as a consequence twist ever so slightly and cause unanticipated pain in my knee. Soooo – new note to self about pressing hard on heel and keeping that foot still. And until I get there, I need to watch it from my upside down pose and make the tiny adjustments as needed. The rest of the work went well enough – tighten glutes, partial rib tuck at the top to keep back from arching. Lather, rinse, repeat.

From there I moseyed along to the lying down hamstring curl machine and the TRX trio of rows, Y, and face pulls. This segment goes pretty quickly, yet … not so much. Keeping the straps taut and focusing on the back and shoulder and that whole range of muscles that should be working together and working, period. But I still love the lying (autocorrect had my first misspelling as “lounging”) hamstrings machine. I feel as if I am improving with this set of exercises.

The final block in today’s List was the standing tall straight-arm pulldown, the lean forward straight arm pulldown, and the underhand high row. All I can say – I really need to practice this List more frequently. I can still feel the squeaks in my back and shoulders.

Kind of sends shivers up my spine thinking about the pleasant nature of body squeaks.

Since I had some extra time today, I went upstairs to work on the latest nemesis corral. Bent arm planks and floor chops (crunches and sit-ups), renegade rows, also from the floor with the pair of 10 lb. dumbbells. Since I did not have my phone and headset for music, I’m had to count the breathing and the seconds on the planks. Hopefully I made it at least 10, but who knows? I’ll be better tomorrow. Floor chops – J says MAX as a rep range, and today I made it through a series of 6 in the first set, 5 in the second. Not terrible. Renegade rows – 5 in the first set, 4 in the second. Not great, not terrible. But better than nothing, and more practice should benefit me in the long run.

It is a good day.

I was wandering through the grocery store at today enroute to the deli and my weekly sandwich indulgence. But in my travels up the beverage aisle (to my new favorite flavored seltzer water), I passed a couple of ladies about my age shopping. Snatches of conversation overhead in passing one was lamenting the cost of gastric bypass surgery and the other was talking about the pain in her legs. Twinges of sympathy went through me, because it is so easy to imagine myself in the same place and having the same thoughts and feelings about my body and my health. I certainly do not feel smug or superior for making the choices I have, because I don’t know them at all and am in no position to pronounce judgment on total strangers. Mostly I’m grateful to have the time to still make different choices, that there are still options available to me.

While for the most part I am making better food choices, I am still imperfect in this regard, most definitely a work in progress. But for today, my sandwich was delicious, a nice break from my usual protein shake and piece of fruit. I can tell when I’m not eating a lot of junky food, because I just feel better. I often think that alone should be enough to keep me on the straight and narrow with regard to diet, but I am all too often wrong. There are consequences for every decision I make, and I know that to be true. Sometimes I just feel like eating the junk, and usually there is an unacknowledged emotional component. Changing that behavior, acknowledging that I am eating a cheeseburger because I’m stressed or angry or unhappy about something makes me really tends to put the brakes on what I order.

My weekly meal plan – I include a sandwich day when I’m working at a client’s location, because I like a normal lunch to break up the food boredom. Nothing wrong with meat or with cheese, or sliced sourdough bread. I am striving to learn how to exercise some self-discipline and moderation in my eating, one meal per week at a time.

In all honesty, when it comes to food, that’s about all I can handle right now.

And I am good with that. I’ll be in the gym in the morning and reminding myself that my Lists, even the nemesis list, is more fun now because I am stronger and I am physically lighter. It’s a decent sized carrot dangling in front of me when food temptations begin whispering in my ear.

#august2017, #better-health, #diet, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #weight-loss

PT-60: Sweet spots and happy spaces (day 7)

Monday morning, training with J. And it was way too much fun! I sometimes think that I pack a lot of my fun for the week into the couple of hours of training with J each week. The ranges of our conversation contribute to the sense of accomplishment, and I frequently believe I get more out of our pre- and post-session chitchat than most people get out of the on the floor work.

Key Takeaways

I am getting stronger. This is one of my weird blindness issues in that this small fact continues to surprise me. Not sure why it should, but it always does. From my earliest recollections of an 8 lb. dumbbell being big and heavy to now, goblet squatting with a 50 lb. dumbbell, I have had this continual upward trajectory with weightier weights that confirms the work I do in the gym. Yet I am mostly in denial, until something splendid happens and I realize – wow, I did that!

One of the best aspects of training with J is the experiments in the test kitchen. In the 2 years we have worked together, I have watched him bulk up with muscle, then slowly trim back down, then bulk up again, slowly trim back to “normal” size. Nothing crazy or alarming, but definitely he gets bulkier and then very gradually becomes less so with changes in season or diet and exercise focus. Right now he is in a trim down and retain muscle phase, noticeably losing weight and becoming a more defined V-shape shape. With each of these cycles, though, there has been a dietary change and/or modified exercise focus, sometimes mildly, often wildly. There was the year of veganism – that was interesting. Now he’s working with intermittent fasting and kind of a blander foods diet. Lots of exercise himself, of course, and it sounds to me like more cardio as well. It is pure fun for me to watch and listen to the methods to his madness. But when your job is working with folks trying to reshape their shape, it is good to be aware and to test drive some of the things they/we as clients bring up and question him about.

Older is new again, with skills this time around. I have so much fun training days, and today was like new and off-the-scale fun. If all clients are as happy as I am when we conclude on Mondays and Thursdays, J has the best job in the whole world. Maybe not everyone has this level of fun or are as into training as I am, but it is really great to see and feel measureable forward progress.

What We Did

Today was about both review and layering in some alternative to our existing push List.

A1  Heavy goblet squat
A2  Incline chest press

B1  Bulgarian split squat
B2  1-arm overhead press/1-arm snatch

C1  Tricep rope cable (high, middle, low)
C2  Rope upright row

D1  Bent arm plank
D2  Reach-up + chopper sit-ups

How It Felt

Did I mention the heavy goblet squat with a 50 lb. dumbbell? While I could minimize it and say it was only the final set, I’m not going there. It was a 50 lb. dumbbell! Huge – physically and weightier weight wise. My issues of late with the heavier weights is ensuring form stays good and in place. With the goblet squats, there is this whole subtle hip breaks away first before knees and without too much forward lean. It’s subtle enough that I really have to apply supersize focus to ensure I work the body parts in the appropriate way. Today we warmed up with 30, up to a 40, then a 45, and finally the 50. J explained that trying to extend my strength range, it was fine to try for a few reps with the heavier weight. For whatever reason, I thought we were supposed to start heavier and drop set if necessary.

We did the incline chest press today, and as is our new custom, ramped up the weights. I went from pairs of 20, to 25, to 30 lb. dumbbells and had no issues. In fact, I enjoyed myself far more than is probably appropriate in the gym or legal in the state of California (we’re big on regulating and taxing everything around here). But no, between the new-to-me bench with it’s unused foot rest and feet on the floor or on the tippy toes while pressing, it was a new experience that felt wonderful. If my understanding of the push-pull Lists holds true, we’re still stalking that 6 to 8 range on the heavier weights, and I did well with the 30s. That said, I think there is more to learn and master with them, so in no rush to add more weight. So much fun just to experience the new feels of the my arch and feet on the floor (versus on the bench or foot rest).

Rather than the walking lunges, J put back the Bulgarian split squats. First set was body weight and considered the warm-up, but J noted this tiny little correction: I tend to straighten, push shoulders back, and arch my low back slightly while pushing up. This is not the best for my back, but it also diminishes the work the lead leg is supposed to be doing with the pushing up part. Second 2 sets we added dumbbells – first a pair of 10s, then a pair of 15s. I mostly did okay with the weights in my hands, although I do want to watch and ensure I don’t allow shoulders to sag forward with the weight. For the most part, I’m completely delighted with my efforts with the weights; it’s been months since we added weight, and last I recall it was a single 5 lb. dumbbell offset weight effort. There is still more work to be done with these, but for the most part, I’m super happy with my efforts. Bulgarians are not on my nor anyone else I know favorite’s list, but I have not-so-secret hopes of improving with more focused practice. My good fortune that they appear on several of my Lists and weights can be added and subtracted at will.

Next up was the 1-arm overhead press, a warm-up set with the 15, then a second set with the 20. All good, went well. When J replaced the 20 with the 25, I assumed we were going to up the weights today and try and overhead press with that. Nope, we were switching to 1-arm dumbbell snatches.

Last I recall doing 1-arm dumbbell snatches, it was with a 10 or a12 lb. dumbbell, not a 25 lb. dumbbell, and truthfully it has been awhile since I have pursued those Lists. But here’s the thing about training: I trust fab trainer with absolute faith in his judgment and expertise. If he thinks I can do it with a 25 lb. dumbbell, I am going to give it my best attempts. And the first few, the whole first set – they were ugly. They were tentative, trying to remember how they worked efforts, and there might have been some “holy S**T – what the F**K am I doing?” kind of thoughts flittering through my head. A couple of them got away from me, and rather than elbow bending like an upright row my arm and hand with the weight flew out in front of my like a wildly off-course, uncontrolled front raise. J got out an 80 lb. dumbbell and demonstrated for me once again. He says the weight is not to show off, but what he needs to demonstrate what it’s supposed to look like. My fab trainer is a badass; if he wants to snatch an 80 lb. dumbbell to demonstrate, I am plenty impressed. But I did get the more explosive portion of the movement, the push forward with the hips, and most important cue of the day: lead with the elbow. Not sure what I was doing or thinking the first go-round, but honestly I think if I am doing anything with a weight in my hand mind tends to be focused on it and whatever it takes to keep it under control. Leading with the elbow – cha-ching! Coin drop moment when suddenly it all makes a lot more sense. Still not as pretty or elegant or smooth as J’s demo, but much improved over the first set.

Next up was the cable machine for the rope tricep – high, low, and middle. In my own practices, I will choose one and go through my sets with it. But today, we did a set of each. When next I pursue this List, probably it will be the low setting, if only because I am too lazy to move the cable pulley up and down between exercises. For today it was fun experimenting and doing all of them; on my own, easier to sick with low when paired with the next exercise.

The rope upright rows replaced the rope crunch. Elbows above the hands and shoulders shrug up – these are harder than they appear on paper while actually trying to go through and conduct myself through them. But I am mostly back into the groove, paying attention to the elbows above and the shrugging up part. I can still feel my shoulders and upper back from doing these. Good things.

Planks, always a favorite; the bent arm plank from the floor remain a challenge. But I’m oh-so-slowly rising to that challenge. We have been doing a lot of planking recently, primarily from the bench. My arms tremble and shake, I have to focus, Focus, FOCUS on keeping glutes tight and ribs tucked, not letting shoulders sag, keeping elbows bent. Ugh. On my own in practice, will be using my gym timber to ensure I make my minimum – at least 10 seconds – and keep a watchful eye on my potential for maximums. I was inching closer to 30 seconds off the bench, but the floor changes everything.

The reach up + chopper sit-up – I refer to them as floor chops – resurfaced. I am stronger than I was, and can generally get through 5 or 6 sets of these bad boys. But there’s something about the end of the session, especially when I am aware that I’m in overtime, and I don’t especially want to do more than some spare-bare minimum. Something in my head clicks off and has me stopping, even though I feel pretty confident about form, technique, potential ability to continue.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

No secret that I love training days. I love the learning, the corrections, the tweaks, the old and the new. There is a mind-body connection that I don’t even recognize or really even understand, but it has captured my imagination and the fullness of my attention. Having no other real hobbies (work doesn’t count), I get that this my thing. I love that I improve with practice to the point that even I see and can appreciate that my body is changing, regaining health and gaining strength.

This is my month for labs. I am eager and curious for new measures of my overall health. For the most part I feel really good about my ongoing efforts to keep my blood sugar under good control, drop some weight, and overall feel good in my own body and its abilities.

My mental and emotional health journey continues. There is a sense of disconnect and wonder that there was a 50 lb. dumbbell in my hands this morning and I did not injure myself or others in using it. More than that, sometimes the topics of our discussions while we are training bring to mind other ways and aspects of my life where I am not so normal or traditional and my brand of special needs – I would do a lot to erase that from my history. At the same time, I have grown up into a pretty normal, low-key, non-freaky sort of person. I would even venture so far to say I am pretty bland and boring when contrasted to the proclivities and interests and drama-laden lifestyle of others. And not at all strangely, I really love that about me.

Today was so much fun. My daily check-ins and discussions about exercise and diet leave me with less thought download on training days, although I admit some distraction tonight with other adventures underfoot this week. A weekend road trip may be looming large, and I am so excited I can barely focus on work or anything else this evening.

But I gotta. Such is the life of an entrepreneur with projects and deadlines and meetings ahead.

#august2017, #better-health, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #mental-health, #motivation, #productivitiy, #progress, #weight-loss

Fat empowerment (day 4)

Two events happened on Thursday evening that have me thinking and navel-gazing about my own reactions, actions, behaviors, and impulses. As an aside, my own gym adventures were cut somewhat short today with a hip tweaking pain that made me eliminate a couple of lower body things from the List in order to return and exercise in future days. Not sure what I did or why it was giving me so much grief, but I believe it was the right call. 

Lately I have been particularly focused on the “beautiful at any size” message. It is not something I talk about a lot in casual conversation, but my stronger feelings on the topic came out in discussion with a friend last night.

Having never been a thin or small woman, I remain clueless as to what it’s like to be very slender or have anyone express concern about my not eating enough. Knowing ladies of that particular body type, I understand it can be annoying to be questioned about how much they are eating and if they weigh enough to be healthy. Thin shaming is apparently not the social taboo that fat shaming remains.

I have been overweight, obese, fat, heavy – however you describe weighing more than a realistic ideal weight for my frame, I am it. I have spent several years treating type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol with medication and feeling depressed and helplessly hopeless about the impact my sedentary lifestyle and crappy eating habits had on my health. Having never been someone who identifies as beautiful or with any potential for that standard, my only desire has been to remain invisible to mean people, the casually cruel (but with good intentions) who would suggest that I would be so much prettier if I just lost the weight or some other silly, pointless sentiment. Fuck good intentions – that sort of conversation is and was humiliating to me and everyone else I know who has struggled with maintaining a healthy weight.

If I am being charitable, I can see that there is good intention behind the “beautiful at any size” messages. Again, fuck good intention. Sorry, but beauty is a superficial standard and only skin deep. Putting forth an “empowering” message like that should include the warning labels of all the risks and chronic conditions carrying too much fat and extra weight present.

From this evolving mindset, conversation with a friend last night. Early 40s, divorced, she has gained about 40-plus pounds in the last few years, a combination of aging and hormones, ongoing sedentary lifestyle, food choices. Having never really had much of an issue with her weight, though, she’s having a hard time adjusting to this new reality, where she has to work at maintaining a healthy weight. We have talked about it many, many times through the years, and she has even joked for every pound I lose through exercise and improving my eating habits she picks it up and adds one of her own. Shortly after I started working with J, her physician had just diagnosed type 2 diabetes in addition to high blood pressure and high cholesterol and put her on the first step oral medication in addition to what she was already taking to treat her other preventable conditions. She chalked it up to stress – tax season had just ended, she was eating a lot of crap, now that the stress storm had passed it would level out. The weight gain had started, but it was just a few pounds. Fast forward to now, her medication dosages have steadily increased every few months when her numbers continue to go up instead of down. Diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, treating all with mediation, doing nothing to modify her diet or increase her activity. Her diabetes is advancing quickly enough that her doc is making noise about insulin injections.

I wince every time we discuss it. I talk about my own journey – I can painfully recall pretty much the exact same conversations with my own doctor and the steady increase in medication to treat what I refused to try and help myself with. I have invited her to join me at the gym, introduce her to trainer J to see if she can work with him, talked to her about resources I have found that are helping me with adjusting my own eating habits. No interest at all. I get it; she’s not ready.

Understand I do not do this with the zealotry of the born again; I am not that type of person. However, when she is complaining about limitations to clothing choices – she hates shopping in the plus size department – or pain in her knees/back/body in general, I offer the things that have helped me. I recognize her unwillingness to own her problems, though, and I recognize the limitations of influence and her readiness to hear the harder truths. The matter drops until the next time we’re hanging out and I’m eating a salad and drinking water and she’s having fully loaded pizza and drinking beers. No judgment, but I also grow weary of the whining and am not shy about calling her out on contradictory behavior in a kind and caring manner.

Apparently no one likes to be called out on contradictory behavior, especially by someone who up until recently always outweighed her by at least 20 lbs.

But unlike many other friendships, our relationship has weathered these storms. Last night she called me very upset about a first date experience. While I am sympathetic and sorry to hear it did not go well and left her feeling this upset, I was alarmed by the double standard she was employing based on her recent adoption of “beautiful at any size” empowerment.

No one I know is an outright fat shamer, or we would not be associating much at all. However, I judge no one too harshly for their preferences. The single and dating people I know – each of them has qualities he seeks out in dating partners and physical appearance does play into those choices. People in my tribe tend to be really honest about what is politically incorrect to admit, and I don’t think any of us should have to apologize for desiring a partner that meets our minimum standard requirements. Just don’t be an unnecessarily harsh dick about it when someone you meet falls short.

My friend met this guy through an online dating site and were both seeking a relationship partner. They had been talking and chatting a couple of weeks, had exchanged pictures, seemed to have a lot in common and got along really well. My friend is bright, accomplished, vivacious, and caring; she is a quality person worth knowing and gives her all when she involved with someone. Anyway, last night was their first date, and she says she could tell by his reaction to her appearance when he walked into the restaurant that he was turned off. They had dinner, but there was a lot more formality and distance to their in-person interaction than she perceived when they were talking and chatting online and on the phone. They parted after the meal and she called me shortly after getting home.

In her mind, her weight and appearance should matter less; he had never said a word about seeking “Barbie” or a “Victoria’s Secret model.” I called her out on those very bitter descriptions. Most reasonable men know that Barbie is made or plastic and VS models are less than 1% of the female population and probably not seeking an attorney working for the state of California. I could practially hear  her waving her hand around dismissing my practical reply; point of fact, he didn’t openly state he wanted someone small. I rephrased it: you mean he did not say he wanted a woman who was less fat.

Yep, used the dreaded F word. I am a terrible friend.

Because this is an ongoing problem for me and all such “I am [insert wants to be a protected class of people here] hear me roar.” He was not interviewing her for an accounting job and rejecting her because she’s overweight. IF her weight was the issue – and we do not know for sure that it is – it is well within his right to have that preference. He’s an active, outdoorsy kind of guy that likes to hike and cycle and do all sorts of physical stuff. Probably he would like a height/weight proportional partner to share in such activities with him. The photo she has posted is a few years old; she looks similar but her face (and body) are both 40 lbs. fuller. That in itself is an issue for me, one we have discussed numerous times. If we are talking honesty and truth in advertising, she needs to update her profile and be a lot more realistic about who she is today. She’s still bright and funny and interesting, but she does not hike or cycle or even walk much at all anyone. “Too busy” she says to exercise or pursue a healthier diet. My average client fillability is 50 hours per week and I still make it to the gym nearly every day and have somehow learned to restrain my fork most of the time. Stop making excuses for your lifestyle choices.

Tough love girl was most definitely in the wheelhouse.

My friend is technically part of the BBW ranks now, and I am sorry to be the realist in her life pointing that out. She still thinks and has the same attractiveness preferences as she did when she was lighter, and I do not condemn her for that either. But I think her preference bias has great impact on her level of disappointment when the men she finds attractive do not reciprocate her interest. While in her mind it should not matter, reality is that it does matter. And the men she desires that would prefer a woman that is height/weight proportionate are not necessarily douchebags for having that preference. Unless they are unnecessarily harsh dicks about it, then all bets are off.

Her hereforeto unwillingness to update her profile to reflect present-day reality is telling about that issue as well. Intellectually she understands the disconnect. Emotionally she’s unwilling to accept responsibility for her choices.

Maybe I am the terrible friend to be practical and pragmatic when she was so upset. Perhaps I could have avoided expressing the obvious. But to trash a man who treated you nicely and politely during your time together because he did not seem attracted to you is just plain wrong. When I was single I was rejected more often than not, and yeah, it smarted. But then as now, I would always prefer a guy be honest about it than try to lead me on and fake it.

She agrees I am probably correct in my assessment, then complained that I don’t have her back. I do, but empowering delusions about the evils of the common man because he has his own attraction points for a dating partner is not in my life’s job description.

Now, as I write that, I recognize that when I met M, he was a reigning ultra marathon champion and I outweighed him (at that time 136 lbs. on a 5’11” frame) by at least 40 or 50 lbs. I was not grossly overweight, but I was not fit nor was I slender/skinny. At that time the diabetes had not yet manifested, so I was in pretty good overall health.

Time, marriage, stress, life – I’ve added more weight to my frame and so has he. M has never told me that I need to lose weight or even that I should, but he has known when I have been unhappy and my self-esteem in the toilet and quietly encouraged me in whatever effort I would put forth. He is delighted that I am as active and engaged as I am in my gym pursuits, and he compliments me lavishly (for M) on the evolving shape of my body. Does he like me better, love me more now that I’m in better physical condition? Hardly. But he’s far happier that I am healthier, more confident, more competent physically. While I do not really want to go hiking with him every weekend, I will enjoy it more when we do. Our interests and fitness pursuits are different, and we have long accepted and learned to celebrate and enjoy our differences as well as our commonalities.

I suppose that’s what bothers me most about the fat empowerment movement, its inherent demand that we not only accept obesity as a lifestyle choice but we embrace it and not hold it against those who choose to let it be a ruling priority in their life. Physically and emotionally – it’s unhealthy. Change is hard. I know it and live it every day. But enabling unhealthy choices is not the answer either. Demonizing people of any gender who have different preferences and priorities from your own is wrong as well. I hate to lose another friend to delusional craziness of the only right answer is her poor choices, but I also refuse to try and be someone I am not. We can agree to disagree, or she can grow tired of my pragmatism in the face of her complaints and distance herself. Time will tell.

#august2017, #better-health, #choices, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fat, #fitness, #friends, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health, #obesity, #relationships