All Hail The Workout Buddy

CancuuunTwo roads diverged in a wood.

And, I…

I took the road that led me straight to the gym, with a friend.

And that has made all the difference.

My idea of exercising was going to yoga once a week (yay), doing the treadmill once or twice a week while I read magazines (meh), or trying to incorporate exercise into caring for my three-year-old,  Alistair, such as chasing him down  supermarket aisles when he’d try to run away or doing the vertigo-inducing game of swinging him by his arms (or armpits, I’m aware there is something potentially wrong with swinging him by his arms for too long).

But these feeble attempts at an exercise routine weren’t getting me any results. I felt great after yoga, accomplished after the treadmill, and almost always tired after taking care of Alistair all day. But it wasn’t igniting anything in me to get physically active.

And then, I had Lauren.

Well, I’ve had Lauren for half of a decade. We first bonded over growing up in Colorado and our mutual love of modge podge crafts. We did a lot of those while we served together in a church calling with pre-teen girls. Those were the days when neither of us had kids, and I’d stress over things like learning to crochet (I failed, she excelled).

She and I recently took a trip to Cancun together, when I won Fan of the Week on the TODAY Show. During this trip, my phone tracked our steps. We were walking SEVEN MILES A DAY on our luxury vacation. The resort was just so darn huge (first world problems) and we wanted to see all of it.  We were also swimming, and lounging in the sun. But we came back exhausted and ill, even though it was sooooooooooo totally worth it.

It was during these days of post -vacation blues we decided to be gym buddies.

This change has made the biggest difference to my workout routine!  We keep each other accountable, we push each other to go further, and the time just flies by.  I used to do a slow mile on the treadmill and call it quits. Now we are training for a 5k and yesterday managed 6 miles (on the bikes) as well as strength training.

One of the highlights of my week was when Lauren and I did one hour of hydro conditioning.  We were sweating to the oldies WITH the oldies (including a super fit elderly instructor), and pool noodles, in a very surreal swim class.

Burning calories, building muscle, getting healthy AND girl bonding time. It’s a win all the way around.

PS. Until I get a banner……here’s the link to my new venture in health and wellness….

https://us.nyrorganic.com/shop/alanatempest-mitchell/area/about-me/?fromlinkarea=1

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BEFORE (My Saturn Return)

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The Before Picture:  Me, with Bitchy Resting Face.

Before. Before what, exactly? Before I change my life? My habits? Before I look differently? Won’t I always look like Alana? Thinking about it, before is an endless state. Before I die, before I’m born, before tomorrow, before I’m too old, before time runs out.

The world runs on before and after.

I’ve been on a quest for the present for some time, and I’m slowly finding it.

I’m trying to lose the weight I’ve gained since pregnancy and childbirth. I’m wanting to be healthy to avoid diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and yes, to love clothes again.

I’ve learned that, for me, the motivation to engage in healthy behaviors is both intrinsic and extrinsic. I’m wanting tangible results, yes, but I seriously get off on self-discovery and enlightenment.

It is important to get a handle on my ‘Before’ if I’m ever going to able to recognize any ‘After.’

If there is such a thing (body-wise).

It’s wholly subjective and I’m not entirely sure at this point what I want my after to look like, or if I have any desire to recognize it as such.

Because my ‘Before’ has been thirty years in the making, and I’m only just getting a handle it.

Tetris of Life?

I’ve spent much of the past month playing a game of Tetris with myself. I’ve been stacking up the different parts of me  so they all fit together. It’s not tidy, and I’m still a novice.

The pieces have different shapes, weights and quantities. I’ve been stacking Tetris pieces of faith,  motherhood, nuclear family, extended family, career ambitions, educational goals, writing, friendship, feminism, fantasy, cultural identity, role in others’ lives, liberalism, moral obligations, anxiety disorder, passion, sources of pleasure, how my body prefers to move in activity, how my palate effects my food choices.

The above are merely a few of the things that make up my ‘Before.’

And I have strong ties to each aspect- I don’t want any of them to disappear when I lose thirty pounds.

Last year’s Special K slogan was ‘What will you gain when you lose?’

I liked it at the time. It appealed to me. But  I never ‘lost’ weight last year. Does that mean I didn’t ‘gain’ anything?

Hardly.

I think I’ll look back on 2013 as the year that I finally ‘grew up.’ So many things changed within me. I worked out so many inner demons….which I think we all grapple with in our  twenties. I threw away so many ‘what ifs.’ I became less selfish, I think.  It’s not to say turning thirty brought magical wisdom. But it brought me to grips  with my ‘Before.’

And I don’t think anyone losing weight should shed their Before. It’s you, and you are wonderful.

——

Tonal Shift:  If  the above post were to be summarized in quick astrological terminology- I had my Saturn Return and I came out the other side.

Soon: I had my Saturn Return and I came out the other size.

Knowing Your Naked Body (and Naked Face)

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Selfies with the 7x magnifying mirror

I recently had the opportunity to experience that most rare and exotic of situations: solitude.

Not the kind of alone time you get when your toddler is napping and you finally collapse on the couch and look at your emails, and not the kind of alone time you get when you’re driving between errands or managed a solo trip to Target to pick up diapers. No, this was real solitude, or at least the winter 2014 version of it (It was more ‘fireplace suite for one’ than Thoreau’s ‘Into the Woods’).

I drove four hours one way to visit my mom last Sunday. My husband and I agreed I would go alone since I was going to do the return trip the same day, and our two-year old wouldn’t enjoy over eight hours in the car. I knew a snow storm was coming, but I still decided to give in to temptation and make an IKEA run…and late that night, while I was still 175 miles from home, I grew incredibly sleepy and started driving over ice patches. I decided to be sensible, and I checked into a roadside motel in a tiny town off the interstate.

I woke up the next morning to nearly a foot of snow. The entire hotel was abuzz at breakfast, talking about how no one was going anywhere that day. I dug my car out and took a test drive to the grocery store. I had to help a lady push her car out of a snow bank which had formed while she was shopping.

I quickly returned to the hotel after stocking up on food and checked in for another night while the storm raged outside. For the first time, it hit me. I was totally alone with nothing to do. No errands to run. No people to talk to. I sprawled out in the bed and ate Cheetos (bad, I know). I went down to the pool and sat in the hot tub in my pajama shorts and a tank top, hoping no one would tell me off. I went back up to my room and showered and as I hung my pajamas in front of the fire I realized I had nothing clean to wear. Oh well, I thought. I’ll just be naked for now.

This hotel room had a lot of mirrors all of a sudden. A LOT.  There was even 7x magnifying mirror above the sink.  I realized I was audibly going ‘Ahh!’ when I caught sight of myself.

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The endless, makeup-less face. The 7x magnifying mirror strikes again.

I hadn’t looked at my body in a long, long time. I loved my body while pregnant, but as soon as I gave birth I felt uncomfortable with it. So much of my shape had changed. My stomach had a new, looser jiggle, and my midriff harbored stretch marks over what used to be smooth, youthful skin. I’d read all of the memes about being a tiger who earned my stripes- but I still didn’t want to look at them.

I breastfed for 11 months and my breasts became something else to me. Beautiful, but in a different way. They were functional. That was it. I only saw them in the context of feeding, or pumping, or trying to fit into new bras, unsuccessfully.

And maybe that’s how I came to see my post- baby body. Different, functional.

Ignored.

My husband says I wander around naked, but that’s just because I can never find  clothes I’m happy with to cover  this new body of mine. When I find them, I cover up and certainly don’t do what I used to do- preen, change outfits, compare how my butt looks in certain jeans.

All of a sudden, in this hotel room, I was faced with something I’d been avoiding: what I really looked like naked.

I didn’t stand around naked all day– that 7x magnifying facial mirror was my next project. Whoa!  The pores. The unplucked eyebrows. The nose hair. I could see it all, so so clearly.

I took the above photos in the magnifying mirror as this blog post took shape in my mind. I was getting to know my body, my face.  And why hadn’t I done it earlier?

I love my son. He is absolutely worth every mark, scar, tear, stretch, and hormonal shift. He is my world.

But my body is mine alone. My face is unique to me; it tells my story.

I feel we need to honor ourselves more, inside and out. My body deserves more than the shameful covering I’ve been quick to toss on while never acknowledging  what’s under those clothes. My face deserves a closer look.

I need to learn to love my body again- to nourish it, to know it, to treat it how it deserves.

The Struggle is Real

ILOVEYOUWhen I was studying creative writing, we learned about something called ‘tonal lurching.’ It’s pretty self-explanatory. If the tone of your writing is inconsistent, and you fall into the trap of tonal lurches, you quickly confuse the reader.

This blog doesn’t have a set tone yet. It hasn’t quite developed it’s identity. It’s a baby blog, if you will.

Just as I’m in the baby stages of making so many major lifestyle changes.

Ahh, synchronicity.

So What is this blog?

The aims of this blog are to:

– Empower others while sharing my own struggles and successes
– Provide meaningful dialogue in the areas of diet, nutrition, lifestyle and mind/body health
– Entertain and engage the reader and myself with light-hearted anecdotes, recipes, etc.

From this point on I’m going to stop numbering my posts in the titles (just tags). I will weigh-in every Thursday as promised. I won’t post every day unless I have something good to write (and I will be taking a two week vacation while I go receive my diploma in Scotland)

The brings me to the meat of this post:

The Struggle is Real

Last weekend I struggled with expectations of myself compared to others. I was honest about it in my blog.

But then the week started and I realized it wasn’t any different than the weekend, just busier. Monday I had my mindfulness group, then I had an exam to do for my freelance analyst job. I had homework and doctor’s appointments and on top of it all, my two year old, Alistair, was sick the entire week off and on. As is usual for me, I overthought it, and I kept him home under quarantine instead of taking him to the doctor. When I finally brought him in last night, I learned he had strep throat! And he was suffering all week with it while I had no idea and was busy calibrating body fat percentage and trying to book plane tickets and hotels for segments of our trip.

I’d been with Alistair all week (with help from his father, of course). I watched countless episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and made him all of his go-to foods and liquids. I snuggled with him, kept watch of his fever, and at one point slept on the floor of his room. Another night it was the two of us on the couch for many hours. And then finally one night he and I were awake in my bed from 3 to 6 am, just tossing and turning and snuggling and talking. That’s when it dawned on me. I was so busy wanting to AVOID germs, I hadn’t brought him to the doctor. But what if he had an ear infection? I mean, he was sick for five days.
So I brought him, and I’m so glad I did.

But the point is that my mind was in so many different places, it took ages for me to realize something obvious. While I was sacrificing sleep and doing intricate things like get-well-tea-parties, I could have just gotten him to the doctor.

My heart was in the right place, but my brain was just all over the place.

And that sums me up pretty well! Haha.

So.

I have had a lot of positive messages and feedback from this blog. I’ve had a lot of people ask questions about long-term strategy. And I just don’t have one. Yet.

Right now my plan is the same as stated before:

-Eat 1500 calories and chart them on My Fitness Pal
-Go to Zumba once a week and Yoga once a week an another class once a week. Walk Weasley, our dog.
-Drink 100 oz of water a day
-Do mindfulness and meditation every day, as part of prayer or separately
– Weigh in on my blog every Thursday

But I think I need to add some caveats.

-When family is sick, or you’re sick, be kind to yourself and take care of yourself
-Understand it’s all change, and even the simplest plan won’t be easy right away
-Taking breaks, like for graduation, is okay, because life is short

Some readers may think my approach is too relaxed. If I find that this relaxed approach doesn’t heed results, I will do something more strict. It’s all part of the journey. The struggle. And while I still do not advocate fat- acceptance movements, I AM going to  try to love myself as a person a little more.

Day Six: Mindfulness

yogarantsandraves credit
credit: yogarantsandraves

I am currently in the middle of a six-week mindfulness seminar. Every Monday night, I sit around a boardroom table with five strangers and a therapist while we practice breathing, meditation and yoga and learn all about the power of the brain and the power of breath. And wow, is there power in both!

I don’t think any of us in the group are taking the seminar for weight loss, but the principles of mindfulness apply well to all areas of life. I’ve learned so much each week, it’s hard to keep track of it all. I’m hoping by improving my inner self, I can learn and adopt behaviors which will translate to how I treat my body as well.

Here are some of the takeaways I’ve gotten from class so far:

1. Our minds are so often racing ahead into the future (such as worrying and planning, two things I do a lot of) and reflecting on the past (and not always in a reliable fashion), that it’s often hard for us to keep our minds in the present. Too little of our time is spent in the present, and that’s what life is made of – a bunch of little slices of the present, moments which fade quickly into memories.

We were tasked with focusing on deriving pleasure from moments this week, and really focusing on what the moment was doing for us. I had my most ‘mindful’ moment today after giving my son his bath. It’s usually loud and chaotic to get him dressed and dry, but today he let me scoop him up in his towel and lay him on the carpet of his room. He stared up at me with the sweetest smile while I spoke to him and dried him off, focusing on rubbing his legs and feet and enjoying how he looked up into my eyes as we spoke. Our conversation was about peeing dinosaurs – his toy dinosaur was dripping water – but the content wasn’t important. In that moment, my little boy and I were connecting and touching and smiling and focusing on each other. And I’m grateful I knew to be mindful of that.

2. Why do we believe the thoughts our minds present to us? It’s automatic to do this. We take our thoughts literally, and either agree with them or argue with them. And how hard is it to fight off a thought?! It’s nearly impossible to just will a thought away. But really, our thoughts are just part of an ongoing process of relating and reacting. They are neither true or false. They are just thoughts as we relate to them.

I feel this knowledge is important because we experience so much in our minds that is never actually reality. I’m talking about worry, guilt, shame, self-doubt – all which invade our thoughts and block out the real experience of NOW. And how much of those feelings are just projections of a reality that only you inhabit?

This can be applied to weight loss. I’ve yet to learn the secret to will power (and if someone has it, please tell me), but I do know I let negative thoughts interrupt my attempts at healthy habits.

3. Breathe is powerful. My husband knows I’m a fan of deep breathing. I’ve taken enough yoga and CBT and done enough stress reduction research to have felt I was already a deep breathing guru. I was wrong! There is so much more to breathing than I knew. Did you know that taking a really deep belly breath does something to your vasovagal nerve which then sends out serotonin? I knew that taking a deep breath was relaxing, but now I understand the actual science behind how it works and I’m amazed. Breathing is a mini anti-depressant. I also love how deep breathing blocks out anxiety and anger (for the duration of the breath) because your body can’t breathe rapidly and shallowly while you’re doing deep breathing. It literally cancels out the stress response.

I used to lie in bed at night and do the one nostril breathing technique to relax me before sleep. I’m sure my husband will love the addition of center point breathing, etc. Ha. Well, with any luck, I can get him to join me in some heavy breathing before bed….

(Haha)

Day Four: Boobs

My boobs were bigger than my son's entire head. And this is when they were 'smaller.'
My boobs were bigger than my son’s entire head. And this is when they were ‘smaller.’

Note: This post is about breasts.

America. Land of the free and the home of the uniboob.  And double boob. And under boob. And side boob. And back rolls caused by ill-fitting bra straps.

Because American bra-makers (if there is such a thing- it’s probably more like American bra-decision makers) seem to think A through D cup is enough. And if that’s not working for you, just go up in inches. Spilling out of a 36D? You’re probably just a 38D in disguise!

These bra-decision makers sit in their ivory towers,  and most of them are probably men. The women who ARE there have worked hard, so they probably don’t have time to eat and are resting comfortably on their thrones in teeny tiny sexy lacey bras; sensible B cups.

But down here in the real world, boobs don’t stop at D. And for some of us, not even DDD.

Not me.

I’m picking on America for a reason. I worked at a lingerie chain in Scotland as a holiday temp one year, and I fitted many women’s bras. It was very common for a woman to be a 34E or a 36F. This main stream lingerie brand, known to every Britain I’m sure, didn’t hide their higher cups on a shelf of shame.  The Es, the Fs, the Gs…they were all right there, with the cute bras!  In every single size!

And every single Scottish co-worker said to me, “Americans are terrible with their bra sizes! They’re all in the wrong size!”

I quickly learned this was true.

So what’s a girl to do? There’s a lovely shop in Edinburgh which carries bras AND clothes for the large busted woman. It’s amazing. But now I’m wandering like a lost sheep through bra sections in American shops and I’m coming up empty handed.

Just this week I went to a store which should specialize in selling to larger chested women. The highest size I found was DDD, so I tried on a ton of styles hoping one would fit. No luck.

Finally the saleswoman pointed me to the little shelf in the corner which sold F-H cups. I was running late at that point, so I grabbed two in a cup size F and went home.

They’re still too small!

I may truly just be a freak of nature. I’ve always had super large breasts. But now not even an ‘F’ fits me and I have to imagine if I lost weight my cup size may go down as well.

I(nterestingly, the smallest my boobs have ever been is the year I was breastfeeding. I loved it! They were so…manageable. To me. It’s all about perspective, I suppose.  But I prayed to be one of those women whose boobs changed forever after childbirth.

Well, they certainly aren’t as perky, so that change remained.

But as soon as I stopped nursing, they got bigger again! I asked my doctor, who just shrugged and said ‘Yep.’

So. If there’s one thing I’m really looking forward to with losing weight, it’s being able to fit nicely into a bra. It’s being able to wear shirts that don’t automatically show cleavage,  even when they aren’t designed to. It will be the luxury of being able to bend over without worrying about who is seeing what.

Not that it should really matter.  Breasts are wonderful. And for now the only solution is to start wearing turtlenecks, and I don’t think I’m quite ready for that.