Last week was Thanksgiving and it’s the first holiday that I wasn’t eating in a deficit. First real holiday. It was the first time I wasn’t paranoid about what was going on my plate, but I still asked ahead what was on the menu. That’s how I plan and those in my life know that, so it’s not a big deal. JP and I asked what we could bring – pie. We had enough side dishes so bring dessert.
Like many who have gone through many detours on their journey, I’ve developed some sensitivities. Dairy and fatty meats are the two biggest. I can have dairy in small quantities – except goat products, I can eat as much of that as I want. Other dairy products, however, make me sick and sick Cristina isn’t a fun Cristina. I have the same issue with heavily fatty meat such as prosciutto and similar cold cuts, which I learned a few weeks ago and pork butt. These pretty much have the same effect.
Making decisions for my plate wasn’t a problem like it had been in other years. Not just because I wasn’t trying to stay in a deficit, but I think I’m in a better place with how I view my food and the bigger picture. For me, it took 52 months to get my body to a weight that was comfortable when I looked at the scale. I lost some of that comfort when I started fearing the scale was going to shift and that would mean my measurements would too. As I started reading more and reflecting on how I was physically feeling, how my clothes fit and my measurements, the power food once had has been taken away. Don’t get me wrong, some days can be difficult. But I make a plan around things I really want. If I want a cupcake, the rest of the day is built so it works – eat a little “cleaner”, a little more “whole” so I can balance my cupcake. It’s not about being allowed to have it – I’m 27 years old. Who’s going to tell me no? Myself and if I don’t then no one. So it’s about balancing the good times with good for you or better for you food.
Personally, when I think about the holiday’s nothing good comes from it. I don’t like that the times we believe we can enjoy each other need to be surrounded with food. Not just a regular dinner, but a feast to celebrate something that is meaningless today. I’m all for being thankful, I’m thankful or grateful most days, but I don’t believe we need a holiday to show it. Thanksgiving came from overseas with our ancestors and it was to celebrate the harvest. Can someone please tell me the last time a large percentage of our population was wiped out because of failing crops? Anyone? Yeah, no. I think holidays like these allow for an opportunity to enjoy special foods and I’m all for that. JP’s grandmother makes these cookies at Christmas and I swear if he doesn’t have one he’ll cry. Some things have value like that. But if you put a made-from-a-box brownie on the table, I’m going to tell to I’m not interested because I can have it any day I want it.
I think we all place a power on food and a power in things that give us good feelings like working out. I see posts online all the time of people validating why they had a piece of cake. You don’t need to validate it to anyone, but yourself. I’m a culprit of this too. I’m constantly reminding myself that I’m not over 240 pounds anymore, that I’m not losing weight, that having the oatmeal raisin cookie with my latte won’t make me fat. Missing a workout because you’re exhausted won’t reverse progress. It took weeks and months to get to this point, one missed workout doesn’t ruin that. It’s a tool, not a punishment. If you talk to yourself and say “you can’t go out and do ‘x’ until you workout” then you’re going to start hating something that you once loved.
We all do this, but I also think that the more we are mindful about it the better off we are and can take away the power of these things.
So, this post. A few of my clients have develop a better relationship with food in their goals. It’s not worded exactly that way, but it comes down to how they view food and what it means to them. For some it’s about ease. Having a family impacts your goals and some times it’s about figuring out what is easiest to get a family of five fed and on with the day. This gets them thinking that making a plan is hard or will not be helpful for the many mouths that need to be fed. For some, food can be a trigger – it makes them want to consume the whole plate for one reason or another. Maybe it’s a fear – burger and fries. I have a client who ate a burger and fries the other night and enjoyed every bite and said she didn’t care that she ordered that or ate it all. She said that she felt fine the next day. That is a victory for someone who is in the process of shifting their mentality of losing weight and having “bad foods” to maintaining and figuring out how to use food as fuel. Just thinking about how content she was with her decision makes me smile because that’s mental progress and you can’t see clearly unless you hear her story.
Here are three foods that mean something to me and why.
It’s going down every Monday morning. They can be buttermilk, plain, with chocolate, with fruit – it doesn’t matter. Short stack or tall, just pass the peanut butter and the syrup. I’ve been hosting Pancake Monday for over two years now. It’s one of my favorite days of the week and it’s something that JP looks forward to now too. But why is this food important? It was the first thing I learned to make. My older sister taught me when I was 5. My mom didn’t always feed us and my sister learned how to cook pretty fast. Sometimes I got to help. Keep in mind that I’ve shared with you I don’t talk with my family because the relationships were very toxic and for me removing them was the best option, but there’s something about that memory. There were a few years i didn’t eat pancakes at all because it made sad thinking about how I don’t talk to her, but I also know that it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made to continue to make myself healthy – mentally and physically.
These are actually something I’ve grown quite attached to since being on my journey. JP and I met over Labor Day weekend 2014 and the first weekend we spent full days together. We went to dinner – place we go often enough, but definitely for our yearly. We went to brunch – diners are the finest. We drank delicious wine, but more importantly we ate some of the best cupcakes. We bought four cupcakes from Sweet and by we, I mean me. I picked them up because I figured he needed to experience a part of Worcester he hadn’t before. He went to college here and lived her for four years, including an off campus apartment – but most of his explorations of food have been with me… starting at three years post-graduation. I bought four cupcakes from Sweet – our favorite jumbo cupcake place. It’s a restaurant and dessert bar. You can’t go wrong with anything on their menu, but the cupcakes. We split all of them. I was in the last seven weeks of competition prep at the time and I didn’t care because this kid needed to try these. Whenever we go to Sweet, JP always reminds me that it’s our place. It’s out cupcake home. He tells the story as if I seduced him with cupcakes – not the case, at all, by far. But still a good laugh.
This one is tricky because I don’t know if I would call if a trigger food, but it’s certainly the last food that I fully remember binging three years ago. I had just gotten off the phone and had some bad news – the news isn’t important, what is how I reacted. I didn’t know how to react and I found myself crying on the living room floor. I called a local pizza place and ordered my typical – cheese and extra pineapple with white sauce. I ordered an extra large, not a medium like I normally do. I called a friend and she came over to sit with me. The pizza was delivered and then she watched me eat the whole pizza, on my own, in less than 10 minutes. She dragged me to my bed and put me to bed. She got in bed with me and we laid there until we both fell asleep. The next morning we went to a local diner and talked about the news, the reaction and the next steps to handle both.
I don’t order pizza. I don’t like eating pizza at other peoples houses, but what I am capable of handling is the sold by the slice pizza house down the road. I can go up to the counter and order a slice from there 20-something options. I can get one slice and sit down at the table with it. Sometimes JP and I will each pick one we want and then one we want to share and then I’ll have one and a half slices.
It’s not that I believe I will necessarily consume a whole pizza on my own again, but it’s the memory that when I was stressed and sad and angry that I turned to that specifically. It’s not that pizza has a hold on me, but I think about how sad that Cristina was and how out of control I felt in that moment. That’s not a feeling I like and it’s not one I wish on anyone.
I believe reflecting on our thoughts and feelings and how they’re connect to things that create or diminish an action is important. It’s not just about food, but if you recognize that you sleep when your stressed, what about that makes you feel better, what about being in bed makes you feel safe?
Instead of restricting or being completely lax at the holiday with an all or nothing attitude – because trust me you’ll hate everyone account you follow on any social media platform, figure out your plan. Figure out what you want to accomplish and what will make you feel successful. Think about the memories with grandma’s special cookies – maybe you need to have one because you’ve helped her make them before. Enjoy life or least attempt too because you never know the next time you’ll get to try a peanut butter chocolate cupcake filled with peanut butter frosting and topped with Reese’s Pieces – that’s something you want to be prepared for.
This past week was top notch. It was the best week in a while. If I’m going to be honest, it’s probably the best I’ve felt, behaved and went about my day since August.
I’m starting to feel more clear headed and I think I’m finally figuring out my place. I’m figuring out how I’m connected to things around me and trust me that sounds way more hippy dippy than I want it to, but it’s true.
Last week I talked about the trial that I’m working on with a group of people for goal coaching. Goal setting is something I’m good at personally. I have no issue talking to myself about the bigger picture and breaking it down into smaller bites or milestones. I do this in fundraising too – my profession, but assisting someone else is a different story. Instead of just one people making the bet, two people are. They both have to be committed to determining what success is and working as a team to get there.
I have no clue if I’m going to be good at assisting anyone aside from myself and that’s the purpose of the trial. I originally said I would take on five individuals because I didn’t think anyone would have any interest in actually working with me. See there’s that self doubt. Saying I’m inspiring is different than wanting to team up together. After I saw the amount of interest, I reevaluated and decided that I would take on about 10 trial clients. This is the number I believe I want to have when I launch live in January and since the interest was great enough, I believed I could find 10 people that I would want to work with, that I believed actually needed help and that I felt confident in my own abilities to help. I found 12.
I’ll be working with all 12 for the month of December and this means I’ll be assisting them in determining their long term goals and the short term milestones to help achieve or get closer to those larger goals. All 12 have different goals from health to education, but for every person, all of their goals are intertwined. I don’t think many of them realized that, but if you goals are to 1. lose weight 2. find a better outlet for stress that doesn’t involve food and 3. figure out how to give yourself personal time, it’s clear that if you are always on the go and interacting with everyone around you that your stress is going to be high and if you turn to food then your overall health and weight loss goals will go out the window. This will also be cyclical because you will more than likely beat yourself up for overeating, binging or breaking your plan.We are notorious for being assholes to ourselves.
So how do you reach those goals? How do you accomplish goals that don’t necessarily have metrics?
You talk about what a typical day looks like. You think about times that you are stressed out and the factors that are causing it, maybe the feeling or thoughts going through your head at the time. You think about your lifestyle including your relationships and work schedule and figure out what is realistic for you, not Suzy down the street. You think about a timeline that you believe you would be happy with to accomplish your goals. It’s not a race unless you create one. You set goals that are attainable because they are made for you, like going to the gym two to three times a week, not six days when you have a family of five and work a 35 hour week.
This is how I goal set. This is how I figure out my plan for the week or the month or a few months depending on my goals.
This trial means that I’ll get feedback about my approach to overall health and life – that’s a little intimidating, but these people are allowing me into their lives and telling me how I fit, so it only makes sense to talk them along the way about how we create a plan together using my methods and reasoning. My hope is that together they will have their eyes opened wider than before, they will stop seeing doubt and will start seeing and understanding their own capabilities. They will feel like they can learn something new and that if they take a tiny puddle jump then it’s not so scary. I want them to feel empowered and to own this process because it’s their journey and I’m along for the ride. But I also know that some of them may take a little bit of pushing to get there.
I’m also hoping that by working with these people, volunteering my time for December, I’ll gain more clarity and be a slighter brighter, more shiny Cristina. I’m not just helping them with their goals, I’m testing my own.
Six weeks ago I told you that I was going on medical leave to deal with my PTSD and for the past six weeks I’ve been working with my therapist, journaling, eating, lifting, reading and trying to figure out what went wrong. All I know is, I did nothing wrong. I could’ve gone in a million different directions and I still would’ve ended up here. Last week during my therapy session before the holiday, my therapist said he thought I was getting better, but I’m not just there yet. There’s still work to do, so he’s extending my leave until the new year.
At first, I didn’t know how I felt about it. I thought – how can I help these people with their goals if I can’t have my life in order? He told me to think about that statement and what I’m actually saying. I can help these people with their goals because I am good at analyzing situations and resources and goal setting. This is completely in my control. He said that he thought that December would be good for me too because it might just be the reassurance I need.
I’m going to be honest because that’s the best way to be. I’m nervous and scared, but hoping for the best. I’m hoping that this is what JP and I need to get the rest of our relationship where we want it to. Maybe this is what I need so I don’t continue to break from mental exhaustion. My friend Miriam said when we met in August she was nervous for me because she could tell I was always on the go. That’s how I like to be, but it’s different when you are in control versus being pushed by external factors. She also said that she was so happy when I said I was taking leave because I deserved to stop and watch the world spin around me, I deserved a break.
So, for the next five weeks I’m going to keep on journaling and lifting and eating and now developing my own coaching abilities. I’m building on a theory – people are more capable than they know, but they need help figuring out their path and learning where to pull resources from so they go full throttle. I need to remind myself of this all the time and I’m looking forward to December as I work through my goals, set some new ones and help others figure out their own.
No reason to wait until the calendar changes. Today we start doing great things because we are more capable than we know.
Today is a new day.
Today the world feels lighter.
Today the clouds and cold don’t seem burdensome.
Today I can make a difference.
Today I can dream bigger than I ever thought I could.
Today is the day. Tomorrow will be too. And the next day and the next day.
Over the weekend JP and I ate everything good. We yelled at each other. We laughed with each other. We were together, but also accomplished things separately. He worked on his car and I wrote my paper for class.
The paper wasn’t that hard once I got started, but that’s the hardest part about anything. Where do I start? I knew what I wanted to say, but I felt like I was dancing in circles. Maybe I said the same thing in two places, but at least I have different sources backing up what I was writing.
We stayed up past our bed time. We saw friends that we don’t see often. We ate dessert. Dessert was free and that made it taste better.
Saturday, after my paper was written and sent to Samantha for edits and feedback, I did something I never thought I would do. I posted on Instagram that I was interested in helping others achieve their goals.
I told you all that I wanted to start coaching, but that I also wanted tweak my program a bit and to do it effectively I wanted to take on a group of people to test it out. This group will give me feedback and help me develop the program fully so that I can offer it in the new year.
Up until now my whole journey has been about me and my goals. Trust me it still will be that. It’ll be about figuring out my next step and then moving forward, but it’ll be about directly empowering others to do the same.
I am not a fitness account, whether you believe that or not. I’m a life account. I share what’s important in my life – my health is up there with my boyfriend and cupcakes. I like lifting, but I like lattes too. You’ve noticed I’ve been sharing a lot of those lately as well.
I can’t believe the interest I received on Saturday in relation to my announcement. That’s crazy to me! But maybe it’s just some of the assurance I need to move forward.
My plan for my program is to screen clients. I want to know them a little bit before saying yes I can help you because nothing is worse than not being capable of helping someone else when you really want to. For those who showed interest, I sent a client screening information form asking some basic information as well as things that could impact their goals like are the single or married or divorced, do they have kids? These questions are important because a mother of two who has a husband she cooks for may prioritize herself differently than a single guy who just goes to and from work.
I also asked them what their short term and long term goals were and why. They why is more important than the goal. You need to figure out what’s motivating you want to accomplish something specific. Maybe you need a challenge and that goal is going to provide it. Maybe your goals will help develop balance in your life and that’s what you want – to eat your cupcake and run a half marathon.
I asked personality questions like do they make list or do tasks from memory. It gives me an idea how they work, or how they think they work. This is about helping them find the best way to accomplish their goals. The way I do things works for me, but it may not work for Susie down the street. But I want to help Susie figure out how to make her goals and life work with each other, not against each other.
I asked about expectations because I know what I expect when I ask and pay someone for assistance. When I left my coach I was pretty harsh and I made a list of suggestions… some of which I noticed were implemented once I terminated the relationship. I want these individuals to feel supported by me. Support in some form is important especially if you feel defeated some days. Sometimes you need a kick in the ass and other days you need someone to reassure you that you’re making the right or best decisions you possibly can.
I believe in open communication. You’ve seen how I share my life. Honesty is the best policy. Not every day is going to be awesome. Some days are going to bite the big one and to be able to actually help these people they need to feel like they can tell me that. They need to be able to tell me that I got into a fight with a friend and that caused an anxiety attack, which led to over eating and then binge eating. I may not be able to diagnose them, but I can help them find the right person who can. I can be an ear for them when they need it and help them come up with a plan for the next time they feel like they are in a similar situation.
We sabotage ourselves when we believe we are already going downhill. I don’t want someone to feel like they can’t gain control of a situation that is truly in their control.
Today, I screened my first potential client for my trial. My heart was pounding before I called her. Yep, phone or Skype or FaceTime. We all communicate differently, but I believe that kind of communication can be very helpful for some, especially when email seems like a book. I took notes during our talk so she could understand what I wanted to accomplish during the trial and so I could better understand her goals and why she believes she needs help.
Today I feel like the rest of my life is starting.
Today I feel like my sense of purpose is pouring back in.
Today I feel like I can make a difference in someone else’s life by helping them learn to take control and create a plan.
Today I will have passion in one more area of my life, and if there’s passion then what do I have to lose?
I get a number of questions on my posts on Instagram every day. Some I try to answer right away and others I miss. There are a few I ignore, let’s not lie, people want information faster than Google can provide it and that leads to some questions that I believe I don’t need to answer. But, I thought it might be fun to do a post of just Q and A and see what you guys actually want to know.
Here are the questions I’ve received through email, DM and comments.
Have you and JP talked about marriage?
Yes we have. I actually have a promise ring that he got me within the first six months of dating, but it’s too big for my finger so I don’t wear it as much anymore. We need to get it resized. As far as marriage, we didn’t want to get engaged while we were long distance. We started dating in September 2014, but we didn’t live in the same state as each other until two months ago. We don’t have any plans to move forward with an engagement, but we also believe that we act more like a married couple than some of our married friends do. We don’t believe having a legal document is necessary to be committed to each other.
What’s the major change that you made in your lifestyle that helped you lose weight – other than working out everyday?
I don’t work out everyday. I work out five to six days a week because you do need to rest to recover. But more importantly than working out, I changed my eating habits and eventually my nutritional approach. I started with calorie counting because I knew I was consuming TOO MUCH for my body. I was still consuming over 2,000 calories a day when I started, but I was seeing a loss because this was lower than my normal had been. I tried the paleo diet from August-ish 2013 to November 2013, which helped me get out of my comfort zone with vegetables, but I found it out of my price range. I did lose around 20 pounds, but I wasn’t tracking my intake. I went back to calorie counting and being mindful with my eating until June 2014. I started macro counting with a clean eating focus as I prepped for my first bikini competition. I lost 24 pounds over 22 weeks, but I felt too restricted so I switched to macro counting with a flexible focus, which is where I am today. You need to eat for your goals. You can’t outwork a poor diet.
When you’re stuck in a rut and are trying to get out, but nothing seems to be working, how do you keep going?
I continuously evaluate my goals and make changes as necessary. Whenever I was seeking to lose weight, I did. I never truly plateaued unless it was intentional like during my master’s program when I was focusing on work and school over my weightloss. The journey is going to be frustrating, there’s going to be times when it’s hard. You have to be willing to challenge yourself. I’m very Type A and I have a must-do personality, not everyone is like that, but I believe that making lists of a plan to accomplish your goals and taking notes along the way is helpful when progress is stalling.
What’s your favorite statue photo?
How did Bella get her name?
I’m as uncreative as a three year old and Bella came with her name on her tag, but I thought it suited her.
Is it a mindfuck when you think about how many people follow your journey and look forward to your posts?
Yes and no. I ask myself – how did I convince so many people I was doing something extraordinary? Anyone can lose weight, anyone can set a goal. But I guess what people find extraordinary is the follow through. How many people are setting goals, reaching them, creating new ones, developing a plan of attack and being honest about the good and the bad. You see a lot of people talking about social media being the highlight reel. Maybe I haven’t video taped a binge or a dissociative episode, but I do write and photo much of my life to give a better picture – bring more clarity to what a journey of weightloss and living could look like.
Did you ever expect to be “Instagram famous”?
I’m not famous. Please take me down from the pedestal before I fall.
Where do you buy all the fun coffee you drink?
I don’t seek it out at a specific store. I always check the coffee and tea aisle at my local grocery store – we have Price Chopper, Big Y and Shaw’s near me. I also check the food section at TJ Maxx and HomeGoods. You can find some awesome flavors if you just skim through.
Do you eat carbs?
Do you track sugar?
Kind of because I noticed that I break out if I eat too much. My daily sugar goals – both natural and added – is around 60g, I’m usually well under… unless I eat a doughnut or cupcake.
Do you track fiber?
Yes, pooping is important for a healthy body and for weightloss. I follow the CDC guidelines of roughly 14g per 1000 calories consumed. I eat between 22-30g of fiber daily through food.
How did you start getting your eating on track?
It really started with calorie counting. I knew I was eating too much and I needed to reel it in. Like I said in the question above, I was still eating over 2,000 calories daily, but it was such a drastic change in calories that it made a difference. As far as what I was consuming, I looked at what didn’t have nutritional value and what wasn’t needed and stopped buying it. This was mostly soda, chips, pasta and breads. I never went low carb, but I leveled out my consumption. It also saved me a lot financially. I bought what I needed and tried to eat everything so I didn’t have to throw anything out.
What kind of movies, books, music and TV shows are you into?
This is a loaded question. I love political dramas like The West Wing and Scandal – which, sometimes I question if it’s a true political drama. I’m a Law and Order SVU junkie, Stabler and Benson for life! My musical tastes differ with the day. I listen to classic rock and 90s hip hop (JP shocking learned that I know all the words to Gangsta’s Paradise, JP knows most of the words to Amish Paradise), I like country music and I have Sugarland lyrics tattooed on my ribs. Books – mostly young adult fiction. I like stories that could happen in real life, I can connect with the characters; however, Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland are gold. I also have an Alice quote tattooed. Movies are hard because there’s so much variety.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Paris. I love art and history. To see those museums would be amazing. I would also love to experience a city that is so walkable and adventurous like that. Granted, NYC and Boston are walkable, but just like Parisians probably don’t see something magical about Paris, I don’t see as much magic here as there. Also, food.
What interests or hobbies does JP have?
JP loves cars. Everything to do with cars. He owns more motorcycles and cars than a 27-year-old should own, but he also does the work on them. He’s showed me how to change my oil, but I usually leave that to him. He’s changed my breaks and done other handy things that I would’ve paid too much money for as well. We go to car shows in the summer and he hangs out with a group of other guys that are into cars too. His friend Tom has a YouTube channel where all he talks about is cars. These guys are serious.
What surprised you (if anything) about living with JP?
He’s a lot more needy than I thought he would be. I’m joking and I’m serious at the same time. I love spending time with him. I do like cuddling. However, lately, with some of the stress and anxiety flying high, I need space. He doesn’t always understand even if I tell him I need space right now. When he’s sad he likes to be touched or held or snuggled, but sometimes when I’m sad or frustrated I want to be left alone. We’re still working on how we can communicate this to each other effectively. Easier said than done, but we’ve only been living together for just over two months.
I was texting with my friend Ali this morning about our visit yesterday. Yesterday, Ali drove from New Jersey to Sleepy Hollow, NY; I drove from Massachusetts to Sleepy Hollow, NY and Samantha drove from Pennsylvania to Sleepy Hollow, NY. We’ve never met. I’ve been texting separately with both of them for months, but they had never talked to each other. We met through Instagram.
Our plan – check out the farmer’s market, get brunch and do whatever touristy things we possibly could.
What happened was a lot more.
Yesterday left my heart full and this morning I felt different. This past week was a pretty good. It wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t expecting it to be. I just wanted it to be better than previous weeks. I wanted to feel a little happier, a little less tired and more like myself. I’ve been saying that for weeks – I want to feel like myself. I think part of it is, I want the old me, the before all this crap happened me, but the truth is, I can’t go back to that me. So now it’s figuring out how I can be a newer, maybe more sparkly me.
This week, I met some amazing people – some for the first time and some for more adventures. It took me to three different states. I drove through five states. I ate doughnuts and burgers and had excellent coffee and walked and talked and lifted and laughed.
On Tuesday, I met Kolbie. She lives an hour and half away from me in New Hampshire. She’s a full-time law student and we share a passion for lifting and bettering ourselves. She has a take no shit attitude and clearly said, “I will decide when I’m too skinny” when talking about a family member who said she was getting too thin because she was getting to a healthy weight that her family hadn’t seen her at before. She has big goals and a plan to accomplish them. I got the chance to meet her at her gym – no, we didn’t workout together, but checked in while going our own routines. Again, we have different journey’s and different plans, but we can still throw some iron around in the same room.
She told me about her coach and how he supports her and how working with him was the best decision she’s made. We talked about our goals for the upcoming year and there’s a chance our paths could cross on the stage.
We went out for coffee after our lift and we sat there for almost three hours. I didn’t leave until dinner time and it was pitch black. I still had to drive home and I had never been more thankful for packing a protein bar. On the drive home I thought about how happy I was that her and I got to connect in person. We’ve been following each other online all year and only recently started talking to each more regularly. I left New Hampshire thinking about how much I wanted to connect with more people. Get to know them better than the photos they post online. Hear their stories and someone help them figure out their paths.
I met with my therapist on Wednesday and I told him about meeting Kolbie. I told him how the weekend went (wedding weekend) and how I hoped the rest of the week would go. We talked about a plan for when I get back to work at the end of the month – what I can do to keep my focus. I felt good about what we discussed and I think it helped set me up for the rest of the week.
On Thursday, Liz and I got together to lift in the morning and then adventure down to Providence, Rhode Island. We found out that there’s a new doughnut shop there and we figured we could build a day in the city. Liz and I usually have solid adventures when we get together, but checking out the exhibits at RISD, showed me that how we interpret is very similar. Art’s purpose is to give you a feeling. Everyone is impacted differently by different pieces of art. How I feel about impressionism is different than how someone else feels about watercolor. The conversations we had throughout the museum made me so much more excited to know Liz.
We have fitness in common and we love trying crazy food – I mean, doughnut adventures are a must, but Liz has been a huge part of my life, especially the past few weeks. We connected through Instagram in the winter/spring as I was in competition prep for the Cutler. We talked about the at the time upcoming surgery – she’s had a tummy tuck before. We talked about lifting and goals, but we also talked about our boyfriends and work and our personal lives. But we didn’t meet until this summer. I remember JP asking me who she was and then he just declared that she’s going to be Holyoke Liz – even though that’s not really where she lives, but I guess it’s close enough. There’s an hour distance between us, but only a few seconds via phone. Liz’s background is in psychology, and there have been a few times that I’ve found myself calling her to be talked down from an attack. She has experience working with clients who have anxiety and her patience has been key more times than I want to admit.
I’m just glad that her boyfriend, Dan, let’s me steal her sometimes.
My Friday plans were changed a bit, but only for the better. Because that brings me to Saturday. Samantha and I had been planning to get together for a few weeks. She’s about 40 minutes outside of Philadelphia and we figured out that Sleepy Hollow is our half way point. It’s about a two and a half hour drive for each of us each way. Well, on Friday, I was talking to Ali on the phone and I told her about getting together with Samantha on Saturday. Ali and I were going to meet for lunch on Friday on her way to Boston, but her Boston plans fell through. I told her Sleepy Hollow was only an hour and a half away from her and I could ask Samantha to see if she could join us. She said she didn’t want to crash, but I told her not to worry and I would ask. Samantha said that was fine, but she may need to warm up.
Well. I do believe there was no concern of warming up to each other.
We met at the farmer’s market and managed to drink both wine or gin before 10 am. We found ALL OF THE CARBS and each bought a treat to bring home. I found a black and white cookie, just the white with sprinkles – of course I did. We split a Belguim chocolate and coconut almond brownie three ways because it was the size of my face.
Our second stop was brunch and it was amazing. However, I don’t think I’ve ever had bad brunch. We sat there for two hours and Samantha convinced us to have a second round of mimosas because we parked our cars and were walking around the town anyway. Burgers and muffins and bacon and booze, all before noon. There was more than just eating. We celebrated Samantha’s engagement and meeting new friends. We laughed and talked loudly. If you were walking by us, you wouldn’t have ever guessed that it was the first time we’d me in person.
We did what all good tourists do – hung out in the cemetery. The weather was perfect and the Old Dutch Church sits on a ridiculous hill that can oversee the town. We walked through headstones and looked at the years. So many pre-date 1900, and there were some that had been so weathered that they had nothing on them at all. While we were walking through we passed a few crypts and Samantha decided to knock to see if anyone was home. I think we all were nervous that someone would knock back. Thankfully, the dead were asleep.
We took a bunch of photos, mostly cheesy, but all excellent. There’s a photo of the three of us and I said to Ali that she looked so happy in. Her smile is so big. She said she was genuinely happy. I think we all were. There was something about the day – it was cold when we met up at first, but as the sun got higher and it got warmer, there were more laughs and it felt like we knew each other forever. There was so much building up to meet Samantha and Ali – originally separately, but then even more build up knowing we would all get to hang out all together. Samantha and I had been going back and forth on brunch places, but our conversations date back to my surgery when we played wayyy too many rounds of Words with Friends. Ali and I have recently exchanged numbers, but we’ve been emailing for what seems like forever. Both are hilarious and open minded and tell stories in the best ways possible. Driving home all I could think about was how great the day was, I didn’t want the feeling end.
My heart was full from the day and from the week, really.
Last week brought some clarity, it brought some personal heartache as JP and I are still navigating life living together and making decisions together. But overall, it brought a full heart.
Maybe it’s because it’s November and that we’re going to be stuffing our faces soon and pulling thankfulness out of the air, but I feel grateful for those who I’ve had the chance to meet while I’ve been on leave. I’m grateful for those who have helped me fill my time in between journaling and therapy appointments. I’m grateful for those who were willing to share their stories with me and trusted me enough to share them with all of you as well. At a time where I felt I lost my purpose, so many have helped me find it and create a path for myself.
Every day I receive messages saying that I inspire you, but I don’t think you realize that so many of you inspire me, encourage me.
Trust me, I’m sure you’ve seen my annoyances, but the bigger picture is that there is something that connects us all and brings us together. Whether it’s making friends over peanut butter – I’m looking at Sarah and Alicia. Or having common ground in our views – hi there Ali. Finding out that you have made a friend who is willing to be weird with you and not judge you – I love you Samantha. A friend who will invite you to their home and sit for hours talking – Oh Jen. Lifting and coffee and adventures and doughnuts – Lori and Liz and Kolbie. I really could list a bunch of people.
This is my fifth week of leave, fourth week of my lifting program and JP is gone on business. I have therapy like normal, I’m working on a paper for class and Jen and I have lunch plans tomorrow with her husband. I imagine that my heart will stay full and my belly will be happy, but maybe not as happy as this past week.
I can’t wait to take you on my adventures and continue this ride.
I’ve talked about Alicia before. She’s younger than me. She’s a junior in college and I’m 27. Without social media our paths would have never crossed. Without peanut butter we would’ve never started talking. Without talking we would’ve never seen past the social media posts and learned that we are more alike than we could’ve ever imagined. At the beginning of the summer, Alicia was struggling with mental health and I suggested she use resources on her college campus. I had used these resources as a student and at my last job, I knew students who had also used them. After many conversations and her sharing her experience, I bit the bullet myself and went back to therapy in July as well.
We push each other in positive ways and this semester Alicia has had to be an advocate for herself, especially when she was being pushed to the aside when seeking help for her anxiety. Her story isn’t very unique, but it’s a perspective that people brush aside.
Her story dabbles in her own blogging series I’ve let her write here and the It’s Your Turn Series. I think it fits both perfectly. So her post makes the IYT Series a perfect dozen, just cupcakes and doughnuts and sugar cookies.
Being a student and trying to juggling life is not easy, being a student is not easy in general. These past couple of weeks have honestly been the most difficult time I’ve ever had in my school career, between the mental breakdowns, anxiety attacks and all of the stress of the school work. Actually, I might be able to say that this has been the most difficult semester that I have had while in college. It’s at that point in the semester where there is only 2 weeks until Thanksgiving and every professor is trying to get all of the last tests, quizzes and assignments in before the week break. After Thanksgiving there is only one week left of the semester. Obviously there has been a lot of stuff going on in my life in general, my boyfriend moved out of state, I moved out of my parents house, officially decided on a major (even though I am still doubting it), applied for internships, and picked up another job – as you can see life has been crazy.
As I have said in previous posts in this series, I suffer from severe anxiety, trying to juggle life and school is not easy, but my anxiety skyrockets during school. The moment I get to school I feel anxious and as classes go on it begins to hit its peak. I can’t even count the amount of times that I came home and had a mental breakdown because of all of the homework and studying I had to for the following day. Even the slightest bit of work makes me anxious because I want everything done right and I want to do well. Tests make me anxious, I can honestly say that I have not gotten above an 80% on a test yet this semester. When I go into a test I blank, when I say I blank on everything I studied i mean sometimes I just sit there and stare at the test for a while before it actually comes to me. During tests I suffer from the physical symptoms of anxiety too, I mainly get the chest and muscle pains/ cramps, there are times I get muscle twitches or eye twitches too.
This is what I’ve been working on this semester to help me balance my mental health and school work as well as life in general because we know that gets in the way too.
- Being brave and seeking help, if you find yourself struggling with anxiety or depression or some type of mental illness don’t be afraid to get help. Most schools have a well-being center with free counseling, take advantage of it, it will help in the long run.
I started seeing a counselor on campus this year and while they are busy, they want to help. Recently, I followed my counselor to her own private practice off campus so I have access to more flexible hours. This is helpful for my situation since I not only go to school full-time, but I work part-time off campus at a retail job.
- Learning to take study breaks, if you find yourself studying for hours at a time take a break, you can’t just sit there and study all day, you do need to take a break, go for a run or go to the gym or even just sit outside for a few minutes. Anything will help you just need to give yourself a moment to relax.
This is something that I’ve truly had to come terms with. Sometimes, studying for extended periods of time makes me question or doubt my knowledge of the course. Taking a break to walk across campus or get a cup of coffee has allowed me to clear my head and come back with new perspective.
- Deciding to cut down on caffeine, trust me, I know I am a college student and most college student survive on coffee, but if you become anxious sometimes caffeine makes it worse. I am not saying to cut out caffeine completely just cut back
I still get my latte every now and then, but I’ve noticed that for me at least, cutting back has given me a clear head and taken away some of the jitters. It’s not a perfect science, but I’ve been drinking more tea (decaf) and water to fill in the void that was once a higher coffee consumption.
Finding balance between mental health and school work is not always easy. Not all people understand it either. It’s important to find balance because without it you, might not succeed in school. If you are a college student, tuition is expensive and you don’t want to waste that money or time to not be successful. GPA does not always matter, sometimes you need a break from school work, especially if you’ve been studying for days. I actually have a professor who allows you to take “mental days off” if needed. Mentally you need a break, taking on too much at once may not actually be effective in the long run and may hurt you. Talk to your faculty about this, they understand more than you know. Don’t be ashamed to get help, you have to understand that it will get better, but remember that you have to do something to make it better. Going to therapy is one of the greatest things I have done, trust me at first I was a little on the edge about going, but it ended up working out very well and I really enjoy going. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and know that you are not the only one who is going through this, there are plenty of other people who are going through the same thing.
This week is going to be rated about 7.7. I had an anxiety attack and crying fit, but I also ate the most amazing burger too. Maybe that’s the balance. There’s good days and bad days. Sometimes you brush off the comments and some days they get to you because YOU ARE HUMAN.
So this post. It’s going to be different, but at the same time it’s really not. I’ve said before that I am you. That I had a starting point. I set a goal, then another and then another. I was consistent and I made changes when necessary. Then was consistent with those changes. I continue to challenge myself and never settle. I don’t believe in the best self. I believe in a better than I was yesterday self. There’s always room to improve – mentally and physically. Anyone can lose weight, it’s not honorable. What’s honorable is the willingness to make a change, to stand by it and work hard for it. Not everyone wants to work hard. I am you, I’m am still seeking a better self.
Bodybuilding.com is currently running their spokesmodel search for the upcoming year. This isn’t new, it happens every year around this time. They receive tons of applications and then narrow it down. Then there’s voting. They want a male and a female who are energetic and motivating, and have super fit physiques – and with that point I’m out.
When I first saw the search this year, I thought about how cool it could be to enter because when I made the decision to start lifting, bodybuilding.com was how I got started. It’s where I educated myself about nutrition and lifting. I read through articles and utilized the exercise database to develop my own routines. It’s also how I came across the current lifting program I’m using now, PH3 by Layne Norton. The site as a whole is a place where I felt comfortable going to find answers to my questions and it’s where I point people to when they reach out. It’s the best coach that I could never afford.
I am the average person who utilizes Bodybuilding.com.
I started my weightloss journey when I was over 240 pounds, but I started my lifting journey when I was 174 pounds and was preparing myself for my first bikini competition – 2014 New England Championship. I get asked all the time how I started with lifting – this post is for you.
I had never stepped into a weight room before, I mean maybe for a 5 pound dumbbell, but to really step in and step up to the equipment isn’t something I ever considered doing. However, at this point, I knew that for more change to occur in my journey I needed to make another change to my routine. Cardiovascular exercise and adjusting my nutrition wasn’t enough anymore. When I decided I wanted to compete, Bodybuilding.com gave me a place to go and learn before I entered the weight room. As I watched videos exhibiting form and explaining the muscle groups activated, I felt more comfortable about stepping into that room and executing those same movements. I started squatting with a 25 pound pre-weighted barbell and a bench and now my 1RM is 180. It’s taken a while to get there, but we all have our own pace. Because goals can change and so can methods. Again, still seeking a better self.
To me, Bodybuilding.com is a resource when I need expert advice or I want a different perspective. It’s a place where I learned about cardio variations, lifting variations; it’s a place where you can find a program that fits your goals today. It’s a place to connect to others that have similar and very different goals than you. It’s a place for people of all levels to become a better version, a healthier version of their physical self.
I completely understand why they want the best physique representing them. They are a brand that promotes fitness, but at the same time I believe in a society where people idolize perfection we need to show a more clear picture. It’s not always vascularity and abdominals, even though we would love that and a burger too.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, it’s great to say this, but you compete in body competitions so it’s hypocritical to say this at the same time. Yes, I do compete in body competitions. I love the discipline and the structure that leads up to stage. I love working on myself and figuring out how much more weight I can lift, how I can sculpt myself, striving to be better – not perfect. You don’t look like that year round and that’s a conversation that should be had. I compete in a setting where it’s 100% subjective and based on who shows up that day, but internally, it’s not about the women beside me, it’s about how much better I am that time around. So many competitors will agree with that because if only go into it to hit center stage and you miss, your ego will sorely be bruised.
Life isn’t perfect. Your weightloss, your bulking, your health or fitness journey isn’t going to be perfect either. It’s going look like a heart beat monitor, with drastic spikes and then drastic downs. You’re going to have to change your routine over and over. You’re going to have to change how you think about food and lifting. When the goal changes, it changes you mentally not just physically. I don’t believe health and fitness should be represented as such.
Life is about setting goals and reaching them, changing them, failing at them. Having a great day and having a bad day, but learning what to do when you an all time low. It’s about trying your best in the moment, and waking up and saying today I will try to be better. I will try to never stop reaching or dreaming. I will always continue learning. If I inspire someone it’s by accident and because I’m actually doing something admirable, not something average.
I’ve watched some of the entry videos of people that I follow on social media, people that I look to for my own inspiration. They are all strong and goal driven individuals. They are beautiful inside and out, and are seeking to inspire the world around them. They all have amazing entries and I could see them all becoming a spokesmodel winner, but they aren’t the only ones that inspire me to push on my down days. I guess, sometimes, I see them as superhuman. I know for some fitness started as a hobby and transformed into something more, for some it’s now their career. But those who have kept it as a hobby and figure out how to be a mom and a lifter or a lawyer and a figure competitor inspire me the most. They’re exhibiting a balance that I strive for every day.
I believe that is the better self. Constantly seeking the balance of physical and mental change. The barbell and cupcake, or doughnut – whatever your preference.