Monday, February 28, 2011

Dear Old Me,

I wrote you a letter last night that said that to get the mythical “natural high” from exercise that you needed to get real with yourself and work harder, but I wanted to clarify. In the beginning you just need to do whatever you can to lose weight and exercise may not be possible. For a while you will simply need to watch your food intake and basically lug around the extra 150 lbs you are carrying. Carrying the equivalent of a full grown adult around with all the time will burn the extra calories needed to get the ball rolling. I know that at 320 lbs it is hard to exercise. Your back always hurts and you can only make it through 15-20 minutes of any kind of cardio. You hate every minute of it. At first it will be difficult to even move your body and break a sweat. You may even think that you don’t sweat.  Believe it or not there will come a time when you can literally squeeze the perspiration out of your hair and clothes when you get done with a workout. In the meantime focus on your food intake and do what you can with exercise.

Don’t beat yourself up about the fact that you can’t exercise like everyone else. The hardest part of the weight loss journey is learning how to manage your eating. Because truly, the amount of food/calories you are taking in are enough to feed at least 3 grown adults. There is no wonder that you weigh over 300 lbs. So the first thing I recommend that you do is monitor your food. Learn proper portion control. Follow the guidelines on the labels of food. Stop eating at fast food restaurants. When you get to a healthier weigh it will be okay to occasionally go to that type of place, but it should not happen frequently. You need to lose a lot of weight and those establishments will do nothing but hinder any progress you hope to gain. In the beginning you will lose weight if you focus on your food. Don’t stress too much about the fact that you are not exercising and you are not sweating or working out at the same level as others. 

When you have lost enough weight that you can work out you must find an exercise that works. You have to try all sorts of physical activity. I recommend looking outside the norm. You never know what will happen when you try out a new type of exercise. You may hate it, but you may fall in love with it. When I first decided to try out a Zumba class I had no idea that I would find the one type of exercise that I could stick with. I went to my first class and I really wish that I could describe how hard it was for me. I couldn’t really keep up. My feet were like thousand pound bricks. I could barely lift them when the dance would call for it. I certainly could not jump. Any time it called for a jump I would lift one foot at a time. I hated that I was such a prisoner in my body. There was something about the way the class was put together that made it possible to get through an entire hour. Granted I was looking at the clock every few minutes wondering if I would live until the end. I was surprised when the final song came on and it was time to cool down and stretch. I stretched and moved in the way that the instructor showed us to. I was soaked with sweat. I had never worked so hard for so long. Never in my life had I sustained that level of exertion for any period of time let alone and entire hour. That to me was enough to sell me on returning for a second class. I wanted to see if I could do it again. And truly that is what kept me going for the first couple of months. I wanted to find out if I could do it again and again and again. Each time I expected to fail and hate it and go back to my normal level of total inactivity. I am so grateful that never happened and has not happened yet. When I began to go to Zumba I had already lost about 70 lbs. I couldn’t have gotten through the workout at 320 lbs, but at 250 lbs I was ready to include exercise in my diet plan. 

It was bumpy at first, but each time I did a class I felt stronger. Each time I was able to jump a little higher or do a full dance step combination. I am not sure if it was the music, the dancing, the instructor, the other ladies in the class or exactly what made me keep coming back. I will always be grateful that it did. I have totally fallen in love with Zumba. I may be getting a little ahead of myself, but I really want to become an instructor. I want Zumba in my life as a permanent fixture. I want to help others see the potential in this awesome physical activity. I started going to a second Zumba class after about 2 months of going to just Karine’s class. Jamee, the other instructor was a spunky, cute little thing. I could tell there was some serious ballroom experience in her choreographies. Her dances were so much fun and I soon started doing her class twice a week and Karine’s 3 times per week. Me, working out 5-6 times a week for over an hour each time? It is absolutely insane but it is happening. I crave the feeling I get when I am dancing. I love the feeling of complete happiness that envelopes me when I am done working out. I have to have it. And why not get paid to do it, right. I am a Zumba-nerd and I want to be a Zumba Master-nerd. I hope I am accepted by the other instructors and potential students. I hope I can figure out how to make my feet not look retarded when I dance. I hope I can make my body strong enough that I can lunge further, squat lower and move more fluid than anyone else. The only way I will know if I can do it is by actually doing it. And doing whatever it takes to make it happen. Jamee said she will help me every step of the way. And so did Karine. I have their blessings. I hope I can be ready by the September certification class. I love how Zumba has totally transformed me. I feel like it will turn me into the person I always wanted to be. Happy, healthy, energetic, in love with life. Me and aerobics instructor? Who would have thunk it. Not me, that’s for sure.

So, Old Me, it is possible. Just get started and you will go further than you ever dreamed possible. Start with a manageable food plan and start now!

The New You

Monday Blues

Dear Old Me,

Today is Monday. I hate Mondays. I always feel like I wasted the weekend and now I have a full 5 days of the rat-race we call life. It is a never ending cycle. It seems like I am always running a step behind. I have really done a lot to better myself in so many ways. Losing all this weight has made life so much more enjoyable. At least now when I am running a step behind my back doesn’t hurt, my clothes fit, my heart doesn’t race when I have to run a little harder than normal, and not to mention I just feel happier. So right now, on this crappy Monday morning I am grateful for the progress I have made. I may never be able to consistently be on time, iron my clothes the night before and prepare for the inevitable Monday, but at least now I don’t hate myself while I am doing it (or not doing it, whatever the case may be).

I just wanted to let you know that it will take you a while to get to this point, but I promise losing weight and getting healthy will even make Mondays better. 

The New You

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Turns out it isn't crap...

Dear Old Me,

You know how you think that people are full of crap when they say things like "Exercising gives me a natural high" or "I have more energy because I work out"? Well, I am telling you first hand that it isn't crap. In fact it is the most incredible feeling.

I know that you have tried many times to begin a solid workout routine in hopes of feeling this "high" or getting more energy. Every time you try it seems like you cannot attain what people keep telling you they get when they work out and so you quit. You figure that it is pointless to even try. Is something wrong with you? No. Simply put. I know you will not want to hear this, but the problem is that you aren't working hard enough. You are fooling yourself if you think that you are going to feel some kind of change when your version of working out is barely walking faster than a slow stroll. You'll never get there if you keep doing what you have been. It is painful and sucks to work out. But I promise that when you find the right type of exercise you will be able to find the "high" and the energy that those “crazy” people are talking about.

You need to try different types of exercise programs. Find something you can do that makes you sweat. Really, really sweat. Don't worry what others think of how sweaty you are. If they have a problem with it they can move down to the treadmill at the end of the row. You need to do it and stop making excuses for why you don't sweat when you work out. The truth is you don't work hard enough or long enough. You have to do it for longer than twenty minutes. I know they say that all you need to do is twenty minutes a day to lose weight, but that should be a minimum. You shouldn't settle for bare minimum. Ever. But in the beginning do as much as you can, but try as hard as you can to push past that twenty minute mark. Strive to be soaked with sweat when you are done. Soon you will find that thirty minutes have passed. Then before you know it an hour has gone by. And believe it or not there will come a time when you want to work out. An hour a day will not be enough to satisfy your craving. It will happen, you just have to start really pushing yourself.

As I drove home from my Zumba class this morning I began to cry. I wasn't crying because the work out was hard. Or that I was actually sad. Tears came to my eyes because I know that I am physically able to push myself. When it is too hard instead of quitting I grit my teeth and push through the work out to the end. There have many times, hundreds and hundreds of times when I have wanted to work out and tried only to be frustrated and quit. I have found the strength and determination to get through to the end. I really love the feeling that I get when I am done. I feel like I am floating on air. It's that natural high that I never though I would get. I am happier than I have ever been and it is simply because I found a way to push past the discomfort and go a little harder and faster. The next step I need to get to is to stay solid and strong through my entire workout, but for now I am beyond happy that I can count myself as one of "those" people who say they get a natural high from working out. Turns out they weren't full of crap.

I promise you will find this feeling as well. You have to push yourself to get it. Nothing worth having is ever easy. I know you don't believe that you will ever be an "exercise junkie". I know you wish you were. Start believing that you can. It will happen.


The New You

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Patience is a virtue

Dear Old Me Circa 2000,
It’s all about timing. Be patient. I wish that I could do something to make it happen for you sooner, but it will not happen until you are ready. Your efforts or honestly lack thereof will be wasted. I am sorry that it is so frustrating. I don’t even know the words to use to make you understand. However I can tell you that as you go through the motions of life in a body that feels like a prison that there is a glimmer of hope. When the time is right, when all the planets align, pigs fly, the impossible dream will happen. I am not even sure where the driving force behind your will power will come from, but it will happen. If only I could hop in my Delorean, punch in the date of this picture,  October 28, 2000 and tell you that it WILL happen.

 I see the pain and desperation in your eyes. It breaks my heart just looking at this picture. Tipping the scales at almost 260 pounds there is no way to make you believe it right now. You are smiling through the pain, but I know how desperate you feel. You're uncomfortable and nothing anyone could say will make you feel better. I know it will not make the wait any easier, but I promise that when you are ready it will be better and easier than you could have ever hoped or dreamed. The one piece of advice I can give you is stop beating yourself up. Stop hating yourself. It does no good whatsoever and truthfully you take things way too serious. I wonder if that is the key. I stopped taking the process so seriously. I just let it be a relaxed change, I let it be just the way it is and the weight started to fall off. So that’s my advice for now. Stop being so damn serious. Have some fun, pursue your happiness and your happiness will find you faster than you ever imagined. Enjoy your loved ones and especially your wonderful boys. They need their Mama to be happy and it cannot depend on you losing weight. Take joy where you can, in the kisses and giggles and hugs and baby love. It will carry you through and keep you going and allow your true beauty to shine through.

 I adore this picture because you can see the joy and love he brings you. It's in there and makes you feel lighter than air. You actually weigh more in this picture than the one from 5 years before, but the difference is you are finding your joy (or your joy found you). Be patient and let your heart be light. When the time is right your journey will begin. Who knows, it might just happen sooner than later if you just get happy.
The New You

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Dear 16-year-old Me,
I know you won’t believe me. But here goes anyway. I certainly remember what it felt like to be 16. It was a long time ago (feels like a different lifetime), but I promise I remember. I was moody and overflowing with early nineties angst. The style of the day suited my self image. Baggy Levi’s, size way too big. Huge T-shirt, practically hanging down to my knees layered over a long-sleeve thermal shirt or t-shirt of some kind. All topped off by a grungy flannel shirt which I am sure was a men’s extra-large or bigger. I am not sure why you teen-agers do this. Why did you hide under all those layers? I beg you to please find the smallest size of anything you can. If you don’t have anything smaller than men’s extra-large than go borrow your little sisters shirt or better yet, just take off all those dumb clothes. I implore you to go in front of the mirror and appreciate yourself. Take a good long look at your body. Take it all in. I need you to hear me. Listen carefully. Appreciate your body. Love your body. It may not look like all the other girls, but it belongs to you and only you.

I know it feels like the world is going to  end and life sucks and you are certainly not thinking about the future, but please, please think about the future. You will need your body for the rest of forever. This same body you look at in the mirror will be the same body you see when you are a 33-year-old woman but if you do not begin to appreciate it now it will be scarred and damaged. Your body that you hate so much right now will not let you down if you begin to love and appreciate it. It will forgive you if you ignore it, but there will be reminders of your lack of care. There will be irreparable damage. Your body will do amazing things for you. It will give you the greatest gifts. You will have two beautiful healthy babies. The stretch marks they will give you should be a badge of honor, but if you do not begin to love your body now those stripes of honor will be overshadowed by the scars of weighing 320 lbs. I beg you to take care of yourself now. Make it so the only “imperfection” is the perfect stretch marks from the miracle of your boys.

Get active and stop destroying your beautiful body. I know you hate exercise, but I also know you love dance. You feel awkward and out of place when you try and I am sorry. Unfortunately you will never have the grace and rhythm that others have. But I implore you to forget about your insecurities as hard as it may be. It really doesn’t matter if you are a beat behind the music or your arms flail wildly. Just find a way to dance and keep on doing it. I promise you that if you do you will change the course of your life forever. Be free. Let your body move. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and enjoy the strong, beautiful 16-year-old body that you have. And for god’s sake throw away those darn baggy pants and flannel shirt and give your brother back his t-shirts!
The New You

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Can't you hear me? Do you have fat in your ears?

Dear Old Me,
I certainly don’t want this to sound vain or that I am full of myself, but so many people have been commenting on how good I look lately! There certainly has been a huge influx of “OMG! You look so good!” and “What are you doing? You look fab!” type comments coming my way. Don’t get me wrong. I love it (keep ‘em coming people, I NEED them). I admit that I have always tried to have confidence in myself even when I was at my very biggest. I am grateful that for whatever reason, whether it is my personality, my resiliency or my total lack of social awareness that I have always tried to keep my head up.

But seriously, Old Me, you need to realize now that you are doing a disservice to yourself and absolutely no one else by staying the way you are. The fact of the matter is that you are fully capable of making a change even though you believe that you can’t. Poke your head out of the hole you are in and just make it happen. At first you will be the only one who will know how serious you are. Unfortunately, it will be rough-going. People will not notice and may not even really believe that you are doing something. They will not comment on your weight loss. You will have to keep on telling them that you are in fact losing weight. But you will have to absolutely do more than just talk about it. You will have to actually do something about it. Make it obvious that you are making an effort. Make a big deal about going to the gym or your plans to exercise and then actually do it. Talk about your food choices and what your intentions are. Let people know how you are doing. Ask for help and don’t be afraid to cry and whine about the process. But make sure to also tell them how good you feel that you have taken even small steps. Sooner or later the world will catch on that you’re serious about making a change. Put it out in the universe and don’t be embarrassed. People know you are fat. It is not a secret. It is okay to verbalize how you feel and not just hold it in and wish people would know how bad you want it. I know you don’t ever want people to think you are a failure so the more people you tell about your plan of attack the more you will be accountable and not want to fail. Just make sure you actually do something about it and not just say you are! I know that as soon as you do start telling even the random stranger what your plans are you will keep on losing weight. It will come off. Just keep talking! And don't forget to listen!!!
It feels fantastic to have people notice my progress and feel like they have to tell me. I am curious though if it is a chicken and the egg type of deal. What happened first? I got to a point in my weight loss that I started looking physically better  and people started commenting or did people start commenting and it made me feel better therefore look better simply because I am standing taller, walking stronger, smiling more? It may also be possible that up until I started working again a month ago that no one saw me for months and the bulk of the last 70 pounds came off while I was unemployed and never left my house except to go to Zumba. The people who did see me are the ones that always see me so their perception of the changes have been more constant and not so drastic. Who knows? All I know is that I love it! I know people are going to get used to seeing me this way and the compliments will die down so I really am trying to relish every one. I wish I could bottle every one of them and keep them with me forever. I am trying to really show my deep appreciation to my friends and family who do comment and compliment me. It means so much to me that I have so many people who love me and support me. I know you always have. It is just too bad that when a person is fat and unattractive that they don’t hear the support and love. For me, back when I was always just “talking” about losing weight it would have helped so much if I would have heard the type of outpouring of admiration that I have right now. So it will be my mission in life to tell everyone and anyone that I know who is doing something about their health that even the paltry 2 pounds they have lost so far is phenomenal. It is the first step. If I had not lost that first 2 pounds than I would never be where I am right now. No one will notice those first pounds. No one is going to tell you that you look fantastic because you lost a pound or worked out a couple minutes more than you could before. One by one, two by two is how the weight comes off and each ounce is a feat worth celebrating, even if you have to tell people that it needs to be celebrated! I know I probably received the same amount of love and support back then and didn’t hear it because of all the fat in my ears. So I will make sure to yell it at the top of my lungs so that the recipient of my intended encouragement can hear. Until next time…

The Old Me

P.S. Thank you so, so, so much to everyone that has loved and encouraged me before I lost weight, during the process and even now. It not only builds my confidence, but humbles me more than you will know. I promise I will never get vain or cocky. I know that this weight loss is a gift and I will never take it for granted.

OMG, Is this working?

It has taken me an hour to figure this crap out! Who has this much time?!?!

Well, hello there.

I started what I call my “weight loss journey” on May 28, 2009. That is the day I went to my last first Weight Watchers meeting. I weighed in at 321 lbs. As of today February 22, 2011 I have lost 142 of the 170 lbs that I intend to lose. I had initially gained the biggest portion of weight when I was pregnant with my oldest. He is now 14. I went up and down in weight, but never got below approximately 250 lbs. I felt insecure, miserable, desperate, scared, depressed, uncomfortable, unhappy, despondent, pessimistic, inferior, hopeless and just all around horrible. I tried to lose weight hundreds of times over the last 14 years. 

I talked about it all the time. Almost like talking about it and saying that I was going to lose weight made it okay to live life enveloped by layers and layers of fat and misery. My family and friends have always loved me regardless of my size and even have told me in the past that they didn’t “see” my weight. Or that I didn’t carry myself like I weighed 300 lbs. The problem is that the fat was there and I did weigh 300 lbs. In every social situation I found myself in I knew that I was going to be the very fattest person in the room, store, office, park, gym, club, school… you get the idea. I was the fattest person that I knew. Seriously, it is a total anomaly to weigh that much. To almost anybody 300+ lbs is disgusting and such an impossible amount to weigh that most cannot even comprehend. When you hear that someone weighs that much the inevitable reaction is always “OMG, that much?”  I lived like that for over a decade. Even I do not comprehend the way living like that can affect someone mentally. I believe I had what I call “reverse body dysmorphia” disorder. I was THAT fat and didn’t think I was.  I was in chronic pain. I was listless and lonely. I never went after what I wanted and felt like everything I could ever dream of or want was outside my reach. 

In this blog I will explore the years of pain and suffering that I went through and the incredible transformation to happiness that has happened in my life. I wish I could send myself a wake up call from the future. A letter from the person I am now to the person I was then. So that is what this blog will be. Letters to the old me. I wish I had written or blogged about the process the entire time, but I did not truly believe that I was actually losing ALL of the weight. I have less than 50 of the 176 lbs to lose to get to my ultimate goal weight of 145 lbs. I am only now beginning to realize the huge accomplishment that truly is. I hope I can help someone who is in the spot that I was. I hope they read the letters to the old me and find some comfort and motivation. I welcome any and all comments, encouragement, questions or whatever. I have learned a lot about weight loss and the process and I want all the “fat girls” out there to know what I have learned. I honestly could not tell you what changed that day in May. Why this time it stuck, but it did and I am beyond thrilled. I hope in exploring this in a blog that I discover what in fact did make it stick. Today I am a whole new person. I am a whole new Elly. I am the total and complete opposite of what I was back then. There is one exception, I am still me. The difference is now you can see who that person really is. No more hiding. No more sadness. No more fear. Only peace, love, and life.