One fantastic thing about teaching high school is that I get to cover the same material over and over each class period, and at about the same time each year. Some people might think that sounds boring, however I have come to learn it makes me a more successful teacher as well as a lifelong learner. I am constantly looking for new ways to teach the same topics and skills to keep things current and interesting, while reinforcing the core purpose and content for myself. And in the process, I make new discoveries about both the content I am teaching but also the ways my students learn and apply knowledge.
Just like getting to revisit a time period in history or a component of American government, as a student retaking the HMR Core class, I am getting a chance to revisit information and practice skills in new and old ways, reinforcing behaviors and expanding my knowledge base both about health and nutrition, but also about myself. And in the process, I get to make new connections.
Last night’s HMR Core class was a perfect example. One of the slides presented demonstrated how a person could “cheat” and go out of the HMR “box” of foods, while still losing weight. This could potentially reinforce bad behaviors because “hey I still lost even after I had that one handful of chips” or “I can add a Snickers bar and can still lose weight because the math shows that.” However our instructor continued on, showing that even if that math works sometimes, it will take significantly longer to lose the weight because it will be slower. And once the floodgates are open to outside foods, all bets are off on how long you can continually follow the program and stay motivated.
The first time I learned this information in 2013, it compelled me to stay in my Decision Free Box. I was paying too much to not be successful and wanted to lose fast. And I stayed in the box for the entire time I was in Decision Free (over 9 months)!
However last night I took away a different lesson. I already know that staying in the box in Phase One works. I know how motivating it is to lose quickly and how that success continues to build upon itself to some serious big weight loss. I watched people over my tenure make choices to leave their HMR box in Phase One, and I have said goodbye to some as they lost the motivation to continue.
Last night I realized that “cheating” can also happen in Phase Two where the world is my oyster. And that I allowed those unnecessary choices corrupt my box and disrupt my success cycle. By allowing lots of small extras, I lost my calorie balance needed to maintain my weight. But for the longest time, those gains were small. A half of a pound or a tenth of a pound, or “just a pound but I can lose that by tightening up my diet this week.” Except once you make exceptions a habit, they are no longer an exception. And nibbles outside of my Phase Two box became a part of an unsupportive open world while my box fell to the wayside until eventually those small gains became an overwhelming large gain, and I struggled to stay motivated to maintain or to begin the process of losing weight again.
As I relearn those habits that made me successful in Phase One Decision Free in 2013-2014, I am also learning to apply them to how my world will be once I transition to Phase Two again. My first time in Phase One my head was in the sand. My only goal was getting the weight off. But this time I realize how that’s the easy part. I need to create positive behaviors that support my health beyond just this phase. Which means I need to stop allowing exceptions to be the norm in my diet.
Sure I could make excuses and leave my box, or I could recognize my need for consistent positive weight management behaviors. #InTheBox #HMRStrong
As the semester wraps up at the school where I teach, and I enter final exams into the grade book, I notice some familiar occurrences. Students figuring out the minimum work they need to do in order to maintain their current grade in the class and those who worked extra hard on the final in order to compensate for missing work earlier in the semester.
I used to be one of those students. In middle and high school, I hated turning in homework for many of my classes. It wasn’t that I didn’t love learning, it’s just that the process of doing homework seemed silly to me and I felt like my time was better spent in other areas like extracurriculars or reading some non-course literature. I always attempted to learn the material, often scoring incredibly well on exams, which balanced my grades much to the chagrin of my teachers and parents.
However over time those bad habits began to take their toll. Now as a teacher, I have come to realize that homework is an important component of learning, providing continuing opportunities to strengthen your knowledge and skills in an area. And I learned that lesson the hard way, when in one high school class I fell so far behind that I eventually needed a tutor to help me learn the material so I could pass the final exam.
Why did it take getting to near failure before I caught myself? It wasn’t until a recent HMR class, when an instructor said something relating to weight management, that I made the connection. I had become complacent in my success. With every slip in my grade, I would readjust my goals, lowering the bar to make the falling grade more acceptable. Until eventually it got so low, I couldn’t figure out how to do the work by myself to bring my grade back up to where it needed to be to pass the class.
As a teacher, I have made it a goal to ensure students I work with don’t fall into these same bad habits. And as a student entering the HMR program in 2013, I was determined not to let myself slip. I did every homework assignment. I studied my own behaviors as well as paying close attention to every lesson my teachers and fellow classmates shared. And I found myself excelling at something I had failed at so many times in my adult life. I lost weight. And a lot of it.
I had successfully practiced the behaviors of the Decision Free Diet to the point it had become second-nature. My brain learned to appreciate and thrive in this structured environment full of homework and accountability. And I eventually “graduated” to the next step, Phase Two. Managing my weight and maintaining my new lighter body.
It was in Phase Two where I met my own personal nemesis again. I found myself slacking off on healthy behaviors, choosing to skip a serving of vegetables and having a an unmeasured serving of fried rice instead. And as I saw small gains on the scale, I kept readjusting my healthy weight range. When I got worried about the gains, I found myself holding “cram sessions” where I would jump headfirst into weight loss behaviors in an attempt to adjust for gains, without making a plan to sustain that loss (much like a student crams for a test and then forgets all of the material the day after). And over time, I became complacent. Until I had gained so much of my lost weight back, that I felt like a failure.
This has not been an easy post to write. Nor has it been an easy lesson to come to terms with. Through my complacency with the ever-upward creeping scale and my desire to focus on “extracurriculars” instead of foundational lessons, I have found myself failing in weight management. I made choices to ignore the lessons I learned in Phase One and Phase Two classes that would allow me to be successful, and instead I felt shame and a loss of so many health benefits I had worked hard to earn, like climbing stairs without feeling winded or sleeping without feeling acid climbing up the back of my throat.
Maintaining weight loss is a course you cannot graduate from. It is a course you are enrolled in for the rest of your life. There isn’t a final exam you can hire a tutor to prepare you for, where you only need X% in order to pass your class and maintain your weight on your permanent record. And this has been a difficult lesson for me to come to terms with. In order to be successful in this lifelong lesson, I will need to be consistent in practicing my healthy behaviors. I will need to stop adjusting up what is a “passing grade” for a healthy weight range to justify continued weight gain. And I will need to stop being complacent in the world of the gap.
Much like a student who struggles in an advanced academic class, I am going back to my foundational coursework. I have accepted that I need to work on my relationship with fruits and vegetables. And I need to lose the weight that I have allowed myself to put back on my body. So I have started again as a student in the Core classes of Phase One, enrolled in Healthy Solutions this time from the beginning. I know this means I will be faced with making more decisions during weight loss, which I found difficult in my transition to Phase Two. So this will be important for me to focus on during the weight loss phase. It also will mean I am eating a higher calorie minimum prescription, which will mean I lose at a slower rate, but will also mean more time to practice these behaviors during weight loss. I am back in my late night Wednesday classes and surrounded by a number of new and returning HMR students. I am determined to be successful again, this time not just in weight loss but also in the lifelong class of managing that loss. I know the HMR Diet works. I just need to make sure I am also doing the work.
With this in mind – I’d love to hear your favorite HMR Phase One recipes. Decision Free and Healthy Solutions. Please share or link in the comments!
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post talking about gaining weight over the last 16 or so months while training for three different marathons. I kept jumping into cycles of trying to lose weight during these months, only to end up gaining, as I would find myself needing more nutrition during training, but rather than control the needed increase, I would just eat whenever I wanted. It wasn’t planned nutrition, it was just eating to eat. And this failure to plan meant the scale just kept going up.
The NYC Marathon is over. I finished and will write more about that amazing adventure later. But as I promised myself weeks ago, I hit the reset button on November 9. And I will be sharing this journey with you in an effort to hold myself publicly accountable.
One of the realizations I have had over the last 18 months is that I did not have a system in place to track my food that worked for me. There are dozens of ways of keeping a food diary and I had tried many of them – from various apps on my phone to paper logs. I loved the HMR Program application for my phone, but it became difficult to track outside foods, and so I would only track the meal replacements and fruits/veggies. Which meant lots of outside foods would creep in. With other applications that tracked calories, I would find myself looking for the lowest calorie options, and not the most nutritious or filling options. And with paper, I would forget it at home or wouldn’t take it when I went to social events because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself (and would inevitably forget to log). But I loved the paper log because it allowed me the freedom to just write everything I consumed, and not have calorie anxiety or the judgement of many of the free trackers to causing me to avoid logging.
You will find a new tab on the top of this blog that is a page with a Google document embedded in it. I have this linked on my phone, where I can have the ease of electronically logging, while having the freedom of my paper log. And I have chosen to make it public – because I think sharing food logs is helpful for accountability but also to share ideas with each other about what works and what doesn’t work.
I am taking this reset in stages, recognizing going cold turkey doesn’t always turn out well for me. So the public log is part of this first week’s steps. And I will continue to add in healthy behaviors each week and share them with you as I commit to them. Most of the nutrition based will revolve around the healthy behaviors I have learned in my time with the HMR Program, because they work.
The second goal of this first week is to work on crowding out calorically-dense foods by intentionally increasing my fruits and veggies. I am shooting for nine servings (using HMR measurements) of fruits and vegetables per day, every day this week.
I will also be adding in new physical activity programming in the coming weeks and can’t wait to tell you more about it along with the dietary changes. Step-by-step, day-by-day, week-by-week – using what I have learned along my journey to get rid of this excess weight while also recognizing and celebrating the significant weight loss I have managed to maintain. I also promise to try to post some pictures here (although you can also follow me on Instagram where I definitely love to share pictures!)
What works for you to maintain your weight loss? Do you have a secret strategy for success? And if you are struggling to lose weight, what is something that you are finding difficult? I’d love to hear from others about your successes and struggles!
It’s been awhile since I have written a lengthy thoughtful post, and with Back-to-School Day just around the corner and a pile of tests to grade, I can’t promise this will be long. But it will be thoughtful.
Earlier this year INKnBURN, a small art-focused activewear company that I love, selected me to be an ambassador for their clothing. I wrote about it earlier this year, and am still pinching myself over the honor. I never imagined someone might think I was worthy to be a face of “activewear” and wearing this clothing makes me feel like a badass, so it meant even more to me that I could share my love of their work as an official ambassador.
One of the parts of this company that I have appreciated is their response to their customers and helping to spread the physical activity love by showing all shapes and sizes in their social media communications. No, they may not be able to provide clothing that is perfect for everyone, but they are working incredibly hard to try (especially considering how they are a small company that does all of their production in-house here in the United States). INKnBURN recently released a fit chart and I am proud to have been included. No, it doesn’t include every size – that chart would be never-ending – but it does show women of various heights and weights and shapes, many of whom are wearing the SAME size.
This picture means a lot to me. It helps to communicate that a size number on a tag shouldn’t be your end goal. It tells me that it’s about wearing what fits and how you feel in what you wear. It’s that awesome activewear makes you look and feel like a badass! And that keeps you active!
I am not 150lbs any more. I have struggled in the process of weight management to balance the high-calorie foods with the high-volume foods. I have had weeks where I have thrown in the towel and then spent four weeks trying to correct it. Weight management is rough, but I know it’s a lifelong process and the secret is not to give up.
However, I am proud of my journey. And while I may not be my lightest weight, I am still more active and more health-focused than I ever was before my HMR journey. I lift weights, I run, I do yoga, and I play. Yes, I would like to be lighter and yes I know this will require me to put my nose back to the proverbial grindstone. But I am also working to find a manageable balance in my Phase Two world.
And I am a lot stronger mentally than I was before HMR. I am realizing this as random strangers comment on the size of my body and the fit of my clothes in a public space. From women who said there were no bigger girls pictured (I am the heaviest person on the picture, so I guess I am not a big girl) to women who appreciated the bigger girls pictured (now I guess I am a big girl) to the women who specifically tried to pinpoint how I could wear the same size as a woman 55 pounds lighter than me (including one who said I was just wearing the wrong size – funny because it seems to fit wonderfully – worked out in those shorts this morning!). Reading some of the less sensitive comments (people who may have forgotten we are real people who have also commented on the thread), hurt at first. But then I realized I was okay with it. I know my body. I know what fits comfortably when I go punch a heavy bag or run 13 miles. What I like to wear for 90 minutes of hot yoga or an hour of OrangeTheory. And that’s what matters!
When I was 150lbs, I wore a pair of size 2 petite skinny jeans and had a body fat % of under 20. Even at that weight, I would still have been heavier than several of the amazing athlete who I was being compared with in the fit guide. They are rockstars and so am I. We wear what we want to wear and we all look good.
I have learned along my journey that I am more than just the number of the scale or the number on the tag in my shorts. I also have learned it’s easy to judge others without knowing them or their stories. And it’s easy to judge or make comparisons about those lighter or heavier, bigger or smaller, but in the end what does that really do for you?
Not that many of the comments were negative – and that is important to note. Many women saw themselves in the picture and that is fantastic. That women who feel however they may feel about themselves could see themselves rocking cool workout attire and getting their fitness on. That makes me happier than I could ever explain. Because I love how I feel in my INKnBURN. It inspires me to get out and get active. And I want others to feel like physical fitness badasses too regardless of your scale or shorts size!
Last week I wrote about my new favorite travel tool, and even offered one up as a thank you in my post. This thank you giveaway has ended, and I wanted to congratulate Mary S. from Wisconsin as well as thank her for reading my blog. I will be sending her a new Crockpot Lunch Pot this week!
Today, I want to share a double-entree comfort food that MANY of you may already be familiar with, that I have prepped in my Lunch Pot recently. The HMR Program Turkey Chili and Chicken Pasta Parm! I throw them both in the Lunch Pot along with some Sriracha and let it warm for a massive bowl of comfort.
Here’s why I am really sharing this HMR Decision-Free favorite. Because I think in Phase Two, it’s easy to shy away from double-entrees. We are integrating outside foods in our diets, double-entrees seem so high in calories, and maybe we think we are tired of HMR entrees! But two entrees is still fewer calories than many of the GAP foods out there, and what worked in Phase One (i.e. super-filling, higher-volume, nutritionally-packed meals) still works in Phase Two to crowd out GAP foods and keep you full — more bang for your caloric buck! And yes, fruit and veggies and double-shakes will do the same. But the double-entree is adds some extra oomph after a hard workout or before a big event (especially on the road!) that you might not find with some of the other high-volume choices.
As I recommitted to increasing my meal replacements this summer, I am finding reflecting on what I did during Phase One to be invaluable in my continued journey to manage my weight. What is (was) your favorite double entree combo? Have you revisited it lately?
I have had a lot of ideas flying through my head the last few months and have had difficulty putting any of them down in words. But I read a post this morning that was discussing a study about “Biggest Loser” participants having difficulty maintaining their weight loss and a part of that article resonated with me:
“If you want to succeed with long-term weight loss, it’s crucial that you embrace both reality and imperfection. Remember, too, that your best efforts will vary. Your best when facing a challenging time in life will be different from your best when everything is hunky-dory, just as your best on your birthday, or on a vacation, or at a holiday meal will require indulgence.”
The article hit a place in my gut that really isolated a lot of what I have been juggling in my head. I have struggled with weight management in my first year teaching new subjects and dealing with some personal stresses, and I have felt like I am constantly hitting the “reset” button. Like I wasn’t giving my best effort to maintain what I had worked so hard to accomplish.
My health educator recently told our class that we always check-in to tell him what we are doing wrong. That we often fail to celebrate what we have done right. And reflecting on my own check-ins, I can see what he means. I can easily pinpoint when I have succumbed to the GAP and eaten everything in my purview. I know when I have skipped a workout. I know when I have decided to eat a high calorie food when a veggie or fruit would have worked just as well. I have seen my weight go up and down over the last 18 or so months since I transitioned out of the Phase One HMR classes. I have beaten myself up for the gains, and when I have had a loss, I have beaten myself up that I even needed to lose in the first place.
It’s hard to define what your best effort it, especially when we live in a world of comparatives. I struggle daily when I look at people successfully maintaining their weight and want to be like them but then I see others around me who don’t have to count every calorie and I want to be like them as well. I want to be free of managing my health but I want my health managed. I want to be a social butterfly but I also want to have the body of someone who lives at the gym and never eats a gram of fat. I know I can’t have all of these things as some of them operate on completely contradictory orbits. And I know this.
Everyone is different. Everyone’s “best effort” will be different. And everyone’s definition of a “tough time” will be different. The secret is figuring out what my own personal definition is – figuring out what is maintainable, what is my push-effort, and when I am not giving it my all.
We discussed the Biggest Loser study in health class last week and while many focused on the negatives, I wanted to learn more about the success story. The woman who not only kept it off, she continued to lose weight. Erin Egbert was quoted as saying she continues to struggle daily, but somehow she has found success. However, there isn’t much in the news about how she has managed to do it. The popular media instead chose to also focus on the failures, and not the successes.
So where does that leave me and my mental struggles?
First, I must continue to embrace the reality that weight management is really an EVERYDAY responsibility. I won’t make the comparison to brushing my teeth because I think that’s too simplistic. Instead, let’s compare it to sleeping. I could choose to not sleep – and I have done so in the past – but the implications of not giving myself ample time to sleep are magnified with each hour I shave off in a week. I can try to “catch up” on sleep but it isn’t the same, similar to crash dieting after a few weeks of ignoring weight management.
Second, I must realize that my best efforts need to be in relation to my own experiences and not the experiences of others. Just because some people can abstain from comfort eating easily, can deny themselves of food groups by just saying no over and over, I may still struggle with this, especially in times of stress. But I need a clearer definition of what a challenging time looks like, or when I am just making excuses. It’s like the sleep analogy. Choosing not to sleep so I can watch one more episode of a television series is not a responsible method of managing my sleep patterns. However, not being able to sleep due to nightmares or stress would be a challenge I might have less control over.
The reality that I need to accept is that this will be something I will struggle with my whole life. Weight loss was the easy part, but keeping it off will be with me forever. Some day it might get easier, but just like getting a regular and consistent amount of sleep (and forsaking a late night social event or television marathon), it will still be something I will need to be consciously aware of. I need to continue to celebrate my successes while acknowledging when I slip up, so I can keep myself on track.
I want to be the success story. I *will* be the success story. And I won’t let my journey be reframed to focus on the negative storyline.
It’s been almost a month since I landed in Little Rock and yet it feels like it was just last weekend. I still can’t believe I finished my first marathon. After months of training and years of dreaming, it’s over. But before too much time passes, I wanted to write out my “race report” of the 2016 Little Rock Marathon because this blog has been my place to record my struggles and success and this was a lot of both. However, I am warning you, this post is LONG and I didn’t want to break it into parts.
I spent almost the entire training season in physical therapy working on a muscle imbalance in my left hip/glute area. And I was definitely getting stronger as time went on. My training runs were going great and I was feeling better every time I laced up my shoes.
About six weeks before the marathon, I drove to Los Angeles for a half marathon I was helping at. It was a drop-down week in terms of miles, so after running 18 the weekend before, I would be running 10 to 13 miles, with some intermittent stops during the race. I had a great time that weekend, but what I hadn’t predicted was how driving solo 6+ hours each direction plus running a half marathon would do to my right calf/Achilles. My right calf was where I had injured myself in 2009 the week after the Los Vegas half (in a Zumba class!) – due in part to the tightness and shortness of the muscle. And while I had been caring for it ever since, I didn’t think about how tight it would get driving so far.
After the weekend in Los Angeles, I spent the next four weeks struggling with ankle pain – my Achilles was giving my trouble whenever it was cool. However, as soon as it warned up, it was totally fine! So I worked on stretching and rolling and increasing the flexibility of the region while icing the Achilles and heel whenever I had the opportunity. And then I ceased all exercise a week before the marathon to allow it to rest.
But the damage was already there, and in order to ensure I could finish the race, I told my sister (who I would be running side-by-side with) that I would need to run the race at our training pace instead of a faster pace. We had been training on opposite coasts but had kept a similar training pace in anticipation of running together. She had started experiencing shin pain in the last few weeks of training and was happy to drop our pace back.
Flying into Little Rock, I saw at least a half dozen passengers with various race shirts. I was pumped! Landing in Little Rock, I was excited to see even more runners in the small airport. My sister and I united in the baggage claim area and headed straight to our hotel, which also happened to be the location of the race expo (and finish area!). The expo had opened just a few hours earlier and was one of the larger expos I have been to. While not attracting any major sponsors like a Disney or Rock’n’Roll series expo, it was quite large. I’d venture to say somewhere between the San Francisco Marathon and Disneyland Half expos. Lots of regional races and running stores had booths, and the official race store had all sorts of adorable gear. But we wouldn’t allow ourselves to purchase a finisher’s shirt until we had passed that finish line. I refused to jinx anything less than 48 hours before the race.
A couple of days of light play and lots of rest and on race morning I was pumped and ready to run. We walked from our hotel to the starting line (by the way, after early morning race calls, this California girl was excited to wake up at a semi-reasonable hour for what I considered to be a late start).
The corrals were crowded if you stayed up near the front, so we lingered in the back and chatted with runners around us. Lots of half marathoners in the mix and tons of people who had run the race before surrounded us. After the wheelchair athletes started, there was a couple of minutes and then everyone else started to cross the starting line. There wasn’t a staggered start, which was surprising and meant we were off a lot quicker than I had anticipated.
The first few miles were incredibly crowded as we headed over the bridge into North Little Rock. Lots of people were along the streets cheering and a brewery was handing our beer less than two miles in! My sister grabbed a sip, but I was definitely not taking anything in other than my planned race fuel. We kept our planned pace, sometimes getting a little quicker to get ahead of a crowd. Because it’s a popular local race, there were a lot of groups running together who unfortunately would run four and five people wide. But we had run Disney races together and had our own way of communicating to each other to maneuver through the crowds. I was feeling awesome, like we couldn’t be stopped!
The weather started out cooler, so we were both bundled up. But by mile 7 or so, all the layers were off. It was heating up quickly and we were beginning to feel it.
We were still in the first half, so the hills were small and just rolled together. We were conservative in our pacing, but with stops and walk breaks were averaging about a 5:35-5:40 finish time. However, as the heat and hills picked up, we struggled a bit, and decided playing leapfrog with the 5:45 pacers was in our best interest since we were beginning to learn that we had some differences in our training programs and terrains that meant some irregularities in our planned pacing. So we would run our pace and if one of us needed a quick break to fuel, etc then we would use the 5:45 pacers passing us as an indication to get back to our pace (where we would pass them again since we were slightly faster in our training pace).
We continued to chatter as we approached the split between the half and the full. I had been at this split many races prior and for the first time, I would be taking the less populated route – we split off from the half marathoners (and the audible finish line somewhere in the opposite direction) and headed up the hill to the state capitol building. At this point we were ahead of the 5:45 pacers by a few minutes. Only after leaving the Capitol Hill and seeing the balloon arch ahead up us indicating the halfway point did we see what we were truly up against. Instead of small rolling hills, we were looking up at the incline the “What Hills?” training shirts had warned us about.
The inclines were hurting my sister’s legs and so we slowed our pace and waved at the 5:45 pacers as they passed us for the final time. She wasn’t feeling well and we kept hearing that the first big climb was brutal but short. While it wasn’t as brutal as some of the training I had been doing in anticipation, it also wasn’t over quickly and it seemed to stretch on forever. And it was heating up. By mile 15 I was dumping water over my head instead of in my mouth.
We would start to hit our pace again in the flats but just as we would get in a groove, there was another incline and we would need to slow again. All of the slowing would cool my Achilles and I found myself in a lot of pain by the time we began the downhill segment. We were less than 17 miles in and both struggling with our respective injuries. But a flat stretch was in site and we started to pick up the pace again. Although damage had already been done to our bodies, and some of it I wasn’t even aware of yet.
Passing the mile 19 marker, I started to feel a little funny. My body started cramping up in a way I hadn’t felt before and I started to feel nauseous. We slowed our pace to a jog and kept moving forward (up the barely visible but definitely existent incline). As we approached the mile 20 marker, I started to feel dizzy and my body felt like it was locking up. I bent over, holding my knees, trying to assess what was going on. I was hot, tired, and a little disoriented. I thought maybe some stretching would help and so we moved to the side of the road where I spent a significant amount of time stretching everything on a metal railing. I told my sister that I needed to make it to the next aid station to figure out what was going on, but by this point I was beginning to realize that I had been so focused on her injuries and on my Achilles that I had probably not been following my hydration and fueling plan. So something was off with my blood sugar or hydration or electrolytes. Something I could fix at the aid station.
Bless the biking groups who had a party going at the next aid station. They were handing out towels in ice-cold water, they had Cocacola, cookies, pretzels and trail mix. And water. I am sure they had other items as well, but I had a bite of a cookie, a couple pretzels and peanuts, and a couple of swigs of cola along with water. After signing their “Wall” and waiting for my sister to use the loo, I felt a thousand times better. I felt like I could run the last six miles at our planned race pace – I wasn’t going to attempt it but that’s how good I felt!
Unfortunately, after we tried to pick it up and get back to our planned pace, we discovered that in the two miles I pretty much brought us to a halt, my sister’s legs had all but seized up and even fast walking was hurting her. But she pushed through and would run when she could and would walk as quickly as she could bear the rest of the time. We made lots of friends in those last six miles from all over the country. We were told we were “crazy” for picking this race as our first, learned where all the “flat” races are and I started making a mental list of all of the races I wanted to run. We cheered on other runners and had a lot of time to connect with each other because we weren’t worried about pace at all at this point (aside from staying ahead of the 7 hour pacers which we managed to avoid). I was frustrated and upset with myself for allowing my body to break down, but I also realized that this was my first marathon and things don’t always go as planned and it wasn’t just about the race but the entire journey to get to this point that was important.
Somewhere in the last six miles, I saw something that made me mad. A woman, who must have passed us during my two miles of hell, had something on the back of her shirt:
“If you are behind me then you didn’t train either.”
My sister was my rock at this point. I could rationalize that this runner was probably being self-deprecating. But in the process she was diminishing all of the hard work everyone behind her had put into preparing for this race. Including me. So I looked at my sister and told her that if I wasn’t allowed to give this woman a piece of my mind for making me feel like shit, then we weren’t going to allow her to run in front of us. And despite the pain she was feeling, my sister picked up the pace and I did everything I could to hold my tongue and to try to shake off the negativity I was holding toward this woman and her evil shirt because all I wanted to do was run next to her and tell her ALL about the hours of training my sister and I had put in to prepare for this race.
With less than two miles left, I grabbed a cold beer from a spectator and gulped the Dixie cup down. Best. Beer. Ever. It was cold and carbonated and perfect as the sun beat down on us. It was the best thing ever… for the next couple blocks at least. Then the stomach revolted and I thanked the race gods that we had less than a mile to go. And in that last mile my sister and I talked about our finish. We had super cute finishing photos from our two half marathons we had run together but we had always run it in strong. My sister said she would let me know how she was feeling but she wanted to try to run it in again. And as we rounded the corner, with the finish line in sight, she gave me the signal and we began to run toward the finish.
The finish line and everything after is still a bit of a blur. I was crying and laughing all at once. I wanted to be inside in a chair but I also wanted to stay and savor the finish. We rang the PR bell and accepted our gigantic medals (which after the race we had, the medals almost tipped us off balance). Posed for a photo with water still in our hands and then hobbled toward the finish area to get that finisher gear we could finally don.
By the time we made it to the merchandise booth (we totally missed the free beer and food, not sure where it was), everything was 50% off! Score! So we shopped a bit while my legs seized up and by the time my sister was done, I was laying on the floor with my legs elevated trying to convince my body it could make it upstairs to our hotel room.
We found the finisher food area where we were rushed through and dragged our tired and beaten bodies up for our first ever ice baths. I had never felt more tortured and relieved in a 15 second bath (because that’s about all I could stand). And after a real shower and some stretching and rolling (and wine), it hit me. The marathon was over. I had done it.
It wasn’t how I planned my race when I dreamt about my first marathon. I knew it would be hard. I knew I would hurt. But I had trained for a much better finish time. I knew I wasn’t supposed to have a “goal time” for my first full, but I never anticipated taking almost seven hours to finish the race. But then I remember everything I learned during my experience. Lessons that will make me stronger. And everything I fought through. Struggles where I might not have had the cleanest victory over but where I still succeeded.
Upon seeing the medal in my classroom, a student asked me if I won the race. I laughed and then realized I really had won. Maybe I didn’t come in first, qualify to Boston, or even run close to my planned finish. But there was a lesson I could share with my students. That you can practice and train and work your absolute hardest and not have the conclusion you want. But it is still a finish you can and should be proud of. Less than 48 hours after finishing my first marathon, I was paying for my second. New York City, I am coming for you in November. And I am bringing all my newfound lessons with me!
It wasn’t the race I wanted. But it is a race I am proud of. Little Rock Marathon 2016 is in the books. And I not only made it to the starting line of this 26.2 mile race… I finished it.
Rewind. I want to focus this blog post on my marathon history… Because this was not my first attempt at a marathon. And that’s just one reason this finish was so important to me.
December 2009. I had just finished my second half marathon ever. I was on a new runner high. I had shaved over 30 minutes off my previous half and under 3 hours and 20 minutes. I felt invincible. Like I could accomplish anything. And so I signed up for the 2010 Portland Marathon. There’s more to signing up for this particular race than needs to be detailed here but in short, I was going to train to complete my first full marathon the following year. And less than two weeks after signing up, I injured myself in what would be almost 8 months of time in rehab. Needless to say, while I was at the Portland Marathon for my friends in 2010, I was not a participant. My first DNS (did not start).
Being overweight had significantly contributed to the severity of the injury and inhibited my recovery. I was crestfallen and my desire to ever pick up running again was dampened. I’d attempt to try a shorter race here or there the next couple of years but never really trained, never really felt that love again.
So in 2013, when I started the HMR Diet, I wondered if I could find that passion for running in the process of losing weight. I was so scared of injuring myself again. So I vowed I wouldn’t attempt to run at first. But I walked my first 5k in December (after starting the program only a month before) and felt the same rush I had felt in 2009. I knew I would be back. And so I signed up for some target races in 2014, and as I lost weight, I ran longer distances. Building slowly as to avoid injury because I was still scared of ending up on the D/L and going through the depression and frustration I had felt in 2010.
I grew stronger. I got faster. I ran further. I was on top of the world.
In 2015, after spending 2014 in the gym, the pool, and on the road, I felt ready to try again. Five years later, I would conquer this beast called the marathon and I wanted to try my hand at Portland. This was my year. I would finish my first marathon.
Well I love running and had some serious FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when it comes to races. So when friends would invite me to do a race with them, I signed up! Only slowly my training became primarily running. I did less and less of the cross-training I had been doing and so as I increased races, I decreased my work on muscular balance.
You can guess what happened.
It started small. I had 12 or 13 miles on my Portland training calendar in mid-June and was in Dallas, so I signed up and ran an awesome half marathon there. I took it slow, running at my training speed and not racing the event. But in the last couple of miles, my knee started to hurt. I chalked it up to the hills, heat and humidity. But later that day, I had trouble getting out of the hotel tub (I had been doing 13 miles without issue for months at that point) and so I iced and wrapped it and decided I would take a few days off training to let it rest. But five days later, while out running with a friend, my leg seized so badly that we had to Uber back to the hotel. I knew something was wrong.
I received a diagnosis at the Urgent Care clinic when I returned home that was basically “rest for two weeks” — so I did. But immeadiately went back to training. Starting with a low milage run which grounded me for another two weeks. But I figured I just needed to increase my cross-training again right? Nope, as I struggled to finish two half marathons in July (two of my worst times on record), I realized I was not okay. And in early August, I accepted that Portland 2015 was another DNS.
I finished (slowly) the half in August that I had fundraised for, walking significant parts, but otherwise ceased all activity other than hitting up some rehab exercises I still had from 2010 after consulting with a specialist. However, I had made a deal with my sister that we would run Little Rock. And I refused to let her down.
So in early October, the day of the 2015 Portland Marathon, I went out for my first run in over six weeks. It was a very slow, very easy two miles. And I felt alive. But I also found a new pain in a totally different part of my body. And unlike previous training cycles, I went to the doctor immeadiately. Got a referral to a PT once the doctor (who is a runner) figured out what was going on. And for the entirety of my marathon training, I have been working with this physical therapist to ensure I didn’t have another DNS.
After two failed attempts to run a marathon. I had so much riding on Little Rock. I knew that if I couldn’t toe the starting line for this race, I would probably never attempt another full marathon training again. I had built it up for so long. Had put so much of my heart (and energy) into training. And my sister and I had made a deal we would start together and would stay with the other through the whole race. So I needed to make that starting line.
Growing up with weight issues and no desire to run, I had finally found something that motivated me. That lit a fire under my rear end. The idea of completing something so big. So difficult. I needed to prove to myself that this was not a pipe dream. That I could achieve this. And while finishing time mattered to me (more than I was probably willing to admit), it was finishing what I had started that mattered most.
One summer, I was reading a novel about a woman who only felt powerful in specially tailored suit. She excelled in her job and in life when she rocked that special suit. And that novel supported everything I had learned in my college and graduate school studies. When you feel powerful, you communicate with that same power. Confidence can be manipulated by how you feel and what you wear can change how you act. And this is backed up by studies in multiple academic arenas. Even in the fields of athletic performance and weight management.
When I was in my weight loss classes at HMR, I remember constant conversations about getting rid of larger clothing so you don’t have an excuse to go back to them. About wearing slightly tighter clothing when you are going to be faced with food temptations so you can stay focused on your health goals. And about always having a gym bag packed in the car so you never have the excuse of not having anything to wear. Clothing can be a total motivator and not feeling good what we are wearing can definitely reduce our positive motivations.
Which is why I didn’t think twice when we were sitting outside of health class on Thursday and a classmate complimented me on my newest pair of INKnBURN capris which prompted a whole line of conversation about workout attire. My Rose capris looked like denim which meant I could just wear them to class straight from the gym (where I had spent the previous hour on the foam roller). And I broke out my phone and started sharing photos of a number of other INKnBURN favorites.
I joked that ever since starting HMR, my wardrobe budget for work has shrunk to make room for my expanding athletic clothing collection. But I was also 100% serious.
I learned early in weight loss, that when I felt amazing in my athletic attire, I wanted to spend more time in it! Which encouraged me to get out and move. Maybe it was just walking at first, but eventually it was everything from running to boxing to lifting heavy weights and putting them back down again.
It seems silly to say, but when I put on my first INKnBURN piece, I felt like a total badass. Like I can accomplish anything! The INKnBURN line is made entirely in America and by hand. It’s a small company located in Southern California that does incredibly intricate designs (which are all limited production) which are hand applied to the fabric. And their clothing is tested by ultra runners (the beasts who run races even longer than marathons!!!). Needless to say, the company is pretty awesome and they know the fitness world. And knowing an ultra runner will rock similar attire for 50 or more miles? I secretly imagine I can do the same 😉
But seriously, the intricate artwork and the flattering cuts make me feel invincible. I remember when I didn’t want to stand out. I wanted to blend in with the crowd. But now I feel empowered. And that doesn’t shock me. But that feeling is exactly why I am in love with this company’s clothing.
Sometimes I hear friends say they are in love with a certain INKnBURN piece, but don’t want to buy “anything expensive” until they get to a smaller size. But I think that’s missing the point. I don’t feel the same mentally in my generic black capris and plain tech shirt that I do rocking out in my INKnBURN gear. Which means I don’t approach my workout the same and thus don’t achieve my best effort. Why wait to find that motivation until I can fit in a size 2? Why not push myself to be my best now!
And it’s because of how INKnBURN makes me feel when I am wearing it, the feeling I can achieve any fitness goal I set my mind on, that inspired me to apply to their ambassadorship program. I am super excited to share with you that they selected me as an ambassador – which blows my mind! The former 280-lb me cannot wrap my head around a fitness company being interested in me. But the girl decked out in INKnBURN apparel feeling like a total badass can understand. And is gosh darned proud of herself and super excited to share the incredible way she feels. Because if I can give myself an edge in being the best possible me? I’m going to seize it and look good in the process!
Six weeks ago, I began a weight loss challenge with my OrangeTheory Fitness studio. I paid my $25, took weight and waist measurements, as well as “before” photos. Today, at 4:30 in the morning, I returned for the six week final results. Here are the photos…
You can TOTALLY see the difference, right? The progress is OBVIOUS, right?
To be honest, I couldn’t initially. I looked at them this morning and felt a rush of disappointment. I knew the results on the scale were minimal – I hadn’t really entered the challenge to lose weight. I was entering the height of marathon training with the knowledge I had gained some weight early in my training due to family stresses, and I wanted to finish my training strong (and maybe a couple of pounds lighter).
So when I stepped on the scale this morning and I was a couple pounds heavier than I was at the 3 week midpoint, I missed the joy of being lighter than I was six weeks ago. And I missed an even bigger change.
It’s not always about our weight.
In the last six weeks, I ran my first 18 mile long run. And my first 20 mile run. I did several sets of goblet squats using a 70-pound dumbbell (the heaviest weight my OTF studio has!). I have added modifications to basic core work to make it harder. I have, ultimately, grown stronger and more confident in my physical capabilities. And I am ready for this marathon (even if tapering is making me a little crazy).
It’s really easy to measure progress on the scale. You are rewarded by hard, clear data. You can physically see the difference as the numbers on the scale go down.
But you can’t always clearly measure confidence. You can’t get hard, clear data on inner strength.
And sometimes it’s important to see beyond the hard data and recognize the progress you have made that’s not as easy to measure.
I have been sitting on this post for about a week. I wrote it in my head and then rewrote it about 60 more times before I finally opened up my computer and started writing. So what you are getting now is a stream of conscious thought that has been overthought. And that’s about where I am with this topic right now.
I had a very stressful series of incidents occur recently in my life. Without going into detail, I will leave it as one of the more stressful moments in recent history. And now, in the aftermath of the initial fallout, I am left reflecting on what I did well and where I need to continue to work on my stress management strategies.
First, a good practice, is that I exercised. A LOT. I worked out every day for at least an hour and on top of that took long hikes several days with friends. This physical activity helped me to relieve a lot of the physical anxiety I was feeling about the events that had unfolded. For an hour, I could just run, bike, row, kick, jump, sing loudly to music and leave my stress at the gym door.
I also tried to ensure I met my minimum intake of vegetables and fruit each day. I didn’t alway make it. But I kept it in the front of my mind and would opt for produce if it was available and in front of me.
But then there was the bad. And if you have been reading my posts for awhile, you can guess where I am going with this. I ate and drank just about everything in front of me after consuming that produce. I didn’t shovel food nonstop, but I did not make conscious choices about what I ate or when I ate it. I ate to comfort myself from the emotional and mental stress that I was facing. I would go out with friends to avoid facing the stress and would drink (in mostly restrained quantities) but this loosened my inhibitions which resulted in even less restraint about food choices. And it was a holiday week which meant those bad choices were everywhere around me.
I didn’t stop to think. I didn’t stop to evaluate how those food choices would impact my weight management. I didn’t consciously, in most cases, even realize I was making decisions about food. And now in hindsight, I can see where I didn’t use my other tools to manage my emotional and mental stress.
I am trying to regroup. I have meal plans and have food prepped. I am preplanning in order to reduce my choices about food. Which will help me continue to work through the current stress factors in my life. But I want to continue to build my stress management toolbox. And I think there are some pretty awesome people reading my ramblings. So I am throwing it out to you.
If you are still reading this post, please take one minute to reply. Share one way you manage stress. Or one way you combat emotional eating. What’s in your Stress Management/Weight Management toolbox?
During my journey through Core and Phase One on the HMR Diet, I nourished my body with packaged entrees, shakes, soups, and oatmeal. I lost a significant amount of weight. And during all of my classes, I would be reminded how important it would be to use these and other variations of “meal replacements” to continue to maintain weight loss once I transitioned to Phase Two.
It makes logical sense. These are pre-portioned, nutritionally-balanced, lower-calorie options to keep you satiated and nourished. You could have two HMR entrees and an HMR shake for the calories in a lot of fast food kids meals. And you would be much fuller for a lot longer!
However, as good a student as I was during the weight-loss process, I harnessed my inner teenager and rebelled a bit once I transitioned. I eschewed “meal replacements” in favor of “real food.” And I fought a battle of what is normal and “got tired” of tracking and other habits I had created during the previous year. And I did it all during the busiest months of the debate season where I was on the road almost every weekend.
From November to early April, I regained 20 of the 130 pounds I had fought so hard to lose. I had let the Gap push “meal replacements” out of my life meal by meal instead of embracing “meal replacements” and the role they play to maintain a reasonable calorie intake.
Over the last six weeks, as the debate season has wound to a close, I have struggled to embrace the habits I know will help me maintain my weight loss. But I realized that one of the hardest habits I have had is this notion of a “meal replacement” replacing a “meal” and during a recent health class, I realized why.
Another student who had transitioned from Phase One was complaining about the idea of consuming “meal replacements” and how she thought it was only temporary. She didn’t want to continue to make them a part of her life. She wanted to eat real meals. I knew exactly how she felt. But I also knew exactly why she shouldn’t kick them to the curb.
I have drastically increased the number of “meal replacements” over the last six weeks. But I have taken a new approach.
They aren’t “meal replacements.”
They are “decision-free meals.”
Not to be confused with the Decision Free portion of the HMR Diet, I have spent a significant time reflecting on why these 300-calorie or less meals that have 10 grams or more of protein are such a vital part of weight management.
It’s because you don’t have to make a decision! You can add veggies and/or fruit to these otherwise complete meals and you don’t have to portion things out or ensure there is a balance of protein/carbs/fat. The balance is there for satiety while the portion-control helps keep the over daily calorie consumption down.
However it’s the notion that these decision-free meals replace a meal that I have struggled with. Calling these complete meals a “meal replacement” triggered two things for me:
- I am missing out on something. When I am “replacing” a meal with a “meal replacement” then I am not getting an “actual meal.”
- I am on a diet and not embracing a lifestyle. Using the same technical terms I used in weight loss to describe my portion-controlled decision-free meals now makes me feel regimented in a way that doesn’t feel sustainable.
However, I am having real meals and it is sustainable. It’s all a matter of mindset and language shaping reality. When I did my post-graduate work on media reporting descriptors and the impact on female politicians credibility and electability, I found that subtle variations in something as minor as using the word “said” versus “argued” had an impact on voters. Language is powerful! An article in Slate Magazine explores just how powerful language can be in the justice system and policy making.
Thus, I will continue to embrace these decision-free complete-meals as a part of my fight against the Gap. They will be where I turn for a significant number of my meals because they are portion controlled and nutritionally balanced. But they will not replace anything. They are not substitutes. Because I am not missing out on anything anymore. I am embracing life in the best way possible.
As another year comes to a close, I surf my Facebook feed and read through emails attempting to digest and reflect on all that has happened in 2014. Everything that was lost and all that was gained.
I wanted to write that “this is a year that will go down in my history as a special year” but then I stopped myself. Because every year should probably be a special year. In fact writing that sentence reminded me of a short post in 2011 that I wrote when this blog was just a collection of randomness (oh wait, it’s still sort of that way, only more consistent!).
The fact that we highlight a specific timeframe. That we measure things based on a calendar. It’s always bothered me and yet motivated me.
Health class yesterday centered around this idea of timeframe. And more specifically about resolutions. About setting S.M.A.R.T. goals to help accomplish what we set out to do in the coming year. Goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound.
I set my goals for 2015. I want to run a full marathon (Portland look out!). I want to get under 150 pounds and stay there (the plan is to stick with a Healthy Solutions based diet). I want to journal at least once a week as writing has and will continue to be a release for me. I want to continue to raise money for community organizations. And I want to continue to strive for a better work-nonwork life balance which I will begin to accomplish through continuing to ensure I have “me time” through fitness and journaling.
As I set those 2015 goals out for the Internet to digest, my mind wanders back over everything 2014 brought to the table. I honestly don’t think I had any resolutions for this year. I just knew I needed to stick to the HMR Diet (I was still in the first months of Core) and that I just needed to continue to take small steps that would build upon each other towards the “yellow brick road to Oz” (sorry I just giggled and imagined an HMR class linking arms and skipping down a path to the Emerald City of Healthy and couldn’t resist sharing).
In January of 2014, I took a rare weekend off work. I traveled with friends. And I learned to put my needs out publicly rather than giving in to those who pushed back. Oh and on a whim, I signed up for the Disneyland Half-Marathon in August. I should probably note I had never run a full mile at this point.
In February of 2014, I ran my first mile (hmmm was there a motivation connection to the previous month? lol). It was at 4.0 mph on the treadmill. I stopped after one mile. But I ran a full mile without stopping. I also tried out every single group exercise class my gym offered at least once. And the ones I hated, I forced myself to revisit again later in the year, just to make sure I really didn’t like them.
In March of 2014, I celebrated my birthday at the gym. I invited all of my friends and we did BodyCombat and Zumba and it was so much fun!
In April of 2014, I ran a 10k. And I loved it. I felt strong. I felt empowered. I felt alive.
In May of 2014, I ran two 5ks with friends and learned how social running could be. I hit the 90 pounds lost mark after 6 months on HMR and blogged about it.
In June of 2014, I ran my first sub-30 5k. A number I had only dreamed about. And in a tutu! I also finished in first place in my Boxing Fundamentals class final exam. I LOVE boxing! Oh and I hit the magic 100 pounds lost.
In July of 2014, I introduced my mother to her first 5k. And she finished under her goal time. I ran a 6-mile race with my husband (the self-proclaimed “non-runner” in the family) by my side. I also ran through the streets of New Orleans after an impulsive race-day sign-up. And I stayed in the Decision Free box the entire time I traveled.
In August of 2014, I RAN TWO HALF-MARATHONS and finished both in under two hours and thirty minutes – one of which was the Disneyland Half. What?!?!?!? No but really… WHAT?!?!?! I also transitioned to Healthy Solutions.
In September of 2014, I ran a sub-60 10k. Can you tell how freakishly proud I am of my running? Probably because it’s super easy to measure compared to so many of my other accomplishments and because it’s something I used to try to get out of doing in high school gym class. I also transitioned to Phase Two.
In November of 2014, I hit my one year anniversary since starting HMR. And I ran with friends on Thanksgiving and scored a new 10k PR!
In December of 2014, I shaved some more time off my 5k (post coming in January) at the Santa Run. And I learned a LOT about myself. I spent the holiday season fighting in the gap. And I survived without too many bruises.
I am leaving 2014 on a high note. I know I have a lot of self-improvement still to do. A lot of goals I want to accomplish. But a renewed sense of self-determination and body full of energy (despite today’s 5:15am OrangeTheory class).
So in short, 2014, thank you for everything you taught me about myself and about the world around me. I am truly blessed to have gotten a chance to experience everything you contained and I look forward to jumping feet first into what 2015 has in store!
Last Fall, I wandered into a 6am gym class with motivation to get fit. To lose weight.
I left less than 20 minutes into the class in tears. I couldn’t keep up. I felt like I was dying. I was embarrassed and I swore I would never go back.
Before anyone blames the teacher, it wasn’t him. He was awesome. It was me. I was ashamed at how heavy and how out of shape I had let myself become.
I did this to myself.
No one made me fat. Yes, life happened. Shitty things have happened in my life. Things that motivated me to stuff my face full of fatty foods. But no one sat there force feeding me except me. Wonderful things also have happened in my life. Things I had celebrated by, you guessed it, stuffing rich fatty foods in my mouth. And I had all the reasons in the book why I couldn’t work out. Hello I teach six classes a day, coach after school, and work at tournaments at least half the weekends during the calendar year (many of which require travel). I obviously had no time… except the time I was sitting on a couch stuffing my face or at a bar drinking and (you guessed again) stuffing my face.
So I was ashamed. And guess what I did?
Bought myself a high calorie beverage from Starbucks and drove myself through the McDonald’s drive-thru for TWO sausage McMuffins (with cheese!) and TWO hash browns. And a full sugar soda. You know, to wash the candy coffee drink down.
Here’s the deal. I know someone reading this is judging me. And that’s fine. I am putting myself out there and expect to be judged. It’s the Internet for heaven’s sake.
I know there are people who are out there who think that obviously if we just stop eating like what I described, we would all be thin. But for those who know me, or who have struggled with their weight, once you start packing on pounds, even if you switch to healthier choices, it is still incredibly difficult to shave off enough calories to start the scale moving down. I didn’t eat every meal at McDonald’s. In fact, I ate a relatively balanced diet most days out of the week. But between the amount of healthy food (portion control) combined with the comfort food combined with a lack of activity, my scale just kept climbing.
I was ashamed when I left that fitness class. And I never went back.
November 13, 2013 — I left work and took myself out for sushi. It would be my last meal where I would stuff my face freely and not worry about the consequences. I enjoyed and savored all the foods I knew I would be leaving behind. I was bloated and uncomfortable when I left the restaurant and I drove across the street to the HMR health class.
Nine months into HMR, I transitioned from Decision Free to Healthy Solutions. And six weeks after that I began the transition to Phase Two. I have spent the last six weeks battling life in the real world. And I won’t lie and say it’s been easy. It has been two of the hardest months I have had in a long time.
Losing weight in HMR, if you stick with the plan and don’t give yourself excuses to cheat, is incredibly easy. You are isolating yourself from the real world of choice. It’s safe. It’s easy. And throughout the process, the classes prepare you for life in the real world.
Some people have made judgey comments about HMR because they feel as though they are “better than that” and people should be able to lose weight on “real foods” and you “don’t learn how to manage life” and “the weight will just come back on.”
Here’s my take on those who judge.
Wow. I have been wanting to say that for years. Because I have struggled with my weight since I was a teenager. And I listened to those judgey people for almost that long. And every time I attempted to “just eat healthier” and failed, I would spiral further and the scale would climb higher.
Maybe preparing all of your own food from scratch and choosing healthy options on every menu works for you. That’s awesome! I am not judging your lifestyle so please stop judging those who make the choice to seek outside help in getting weight off and learning to manage that weight.
But I live in the real world of balancing an 80 hour a week job. And I don’t have the luxury of just “finding a new job” or “taking some time for myself.” I have to work. I actually LOVE my work. I am changing lives. I LOVE being a teacher and a debate coach. And that’s not going to change.
So let’s stop the judging and the diet shaming. Because I want to tell you something.
I got the pounds off quickly. I learned a lot about myself and the real world in the process.
And although I alluded earlier in this post that the last six weeks have been a struggle, it’s not because of HMR. It’s because the real world is full of choices and I am battling between the person I was and the person I have become.
I am healthier. I am stronger. But there is still a part of me that wants to override the healthy choice machine and pick the worst item on the menu. So every meal is an internal struggle. But in reality, it has always been that way. Now the healthier side is winning more of those battles and the unhealthy side is protesting.
I will continue to attend the HMR Phase Two classes for at least 17 more months. They hold me accountable. They offer me support. And they continue to teach me valuable lessons about myself and about the world around me. Last night I tried to talk myself out of attending this “Total Athletic Conditioning” class. I needed sleep. I have been incredibly run down as I have not had a day off without teaching, coaching, or traveling with students since the first weekend of October. But then I remembered how I have empowered myself. How amazing I feel after getting in a workout. And how I wanted to celebrate life and not make excuses.
So I woke up and went to this 6am class described as combining “athletic sports drills, weight training and other techniques that are specifically designed to improve your speed, agility, quickness, balance and muscle definition. Start with a cardio warmup – progress into active stretching – move into strength and endurance – then some speed and agility – balance and core and added PLYO… You will enhance your cardio anaerobic threshold.”
Scary description right?
I was scared.
I remember running out of that studio. I remember hiding in the bathroom. I remember crying.
I looked in the mirror and began to follow the instructor’s direction. I felt strong. I felt empowered. I felt alive.
After the class, one of the regulars (who had been there when I ran out last year) approached me and complimented me on how well I kept up for my first class.
I mentioned I had tried it once before over a year ago. But I didn’t mention running out. I didn’t mention the tears. I just ended by saying I planned on coming back.
And I do.
Now that you have had a chance to flashback with me to my first half marathon in 2009, let’s talk about taking this race back and owning it!
First, a quick side-by-side that I posted shortly before the race started. My Instagram post proclaimed:
Some races are about setting records. In 2009 I ran the #SJRnR half and finished the last three miles with ice Saran-wrapped to my back. Today isn’t about a PR (although that would be a nice bonus) — it’s about taking on a journey I started in 2009 and finishing it strong!
Let’s be honest, I still wanted that PR! The San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon course is know as one of the flattest and fastest courses out there. And it was my hometown which meant I could fuel the way I needed and sleep in my own bed. In other words, it should be perfect conditions.
What I didn’t anticipate was how hot it would get on race day. It was predicted to be unseasonably warm which meant extra hydration and the possibility of needing to slow down.
When I originally signed up for the race I predicted my time to be 2:45. In September I had already proven I could run a sub-2:30, so when I went to the expo I requested a corral change. And on race morning, after spending some time with coworkers and some of my students, I went to my new corral.
Now at the expo they had a booth for the PacWest pacers who would be pacing the course. They had pacers for 2:30, but I knew I could do that on my own. The next pacing group would be 2:15 which would mean shaving over 11 minutes off my Disneyland PR. I thanked the runner working the pacing table and said “maybe next year.”
However, when I got in my corral, I apparently entered the one in front of my new corral by mistake. And I ended up directly behind the 2:15 pacers. I did some quick mental math. I had run a 10k at a pace that was almost a minute faster than the time I would need to hold for a 2:15 finish. Could I really keep the necessary pace to finish in 2:15? I knew I had issues holding a steady pace, going out too fast for many of my races this year. So maybe I would just *try* to stay with these pacers, no shame if I ended up falling behind. It would just be fun to see what it was like to run with a pace group for awhile!
The two women pacing the 2:15 group were super nice. A number of people talked to them during the first couple miles but I held back, right behind them, not wanting to commit to getting to know them since I didn’t know how long I would be with them. However, as we passed the four mile mark, I began to realize I could stay with them. And after the 10k mark, I was embarrassed at the thought of falling behind.
By mile 8, I really wanted to slow down. It was getting hot and I knew I could still PR even if I added a couple minutes to each remaining mile. But then I did a mental and physical check. It was all mental. Physically I was doing fine. And I took a moment to reframe — did I want to see what I could really accomplish? Or did I just want to shave a few seconds off my time.
I began to reflect on my journey to get here. From 2009 when I initially attempted this race. To the 130 pounds I have shed over the past year. I have become so much stronger physically and mentally. I pushed through and when we hit mile 10, I knew I had more energy in the tank.
So I pushed ahead of the lovely pacers who had prevented me from going out too fast and who served as a motivation not to slow down when I wanted to back off.
I began to pick up my pace, not wanting to burn out but knowing I could go faster. Miles eleven and twelve were two of my fastest miles during the race! But it was getting hotter and I was feeling the burn. Mile 13 was hard. The quicker pace got my lungs a little cranky and mentally I was struggling as I remembered how much pain I was in during this mile in 2009.
Then my trainer showed up alongside me! She was there running the 10k and stayed to run me (and her husband) in for the half finish. She started yelling motivational chants and telling me to kick it. I pushed so hard for that last tenth of a mile and finished smiling!
Confession: This is not my first health & running blog.
In 2009 & 2010, I kept a blog where I thought I was anonymous. I was clearly naive. And I shut it down when I found out people I knew were reading it. I was embarrassed. I was slow. I was overweight. Who was I to write about health. My writing wasn’t me, it was a facade I was attempting to create. Which is why when I started Healthy Academic, I knew it had to be different. I had to be okay with being public. And I had to write from the heart.
But the funny thing about the Internet is that you can’t escape your past. And as I began to write my 2014 San Jose Rock and Roll Half recap, I wondered if those previous posts included a recap from 2009. I opened Pandora’s box and uncovered over 200 posts. And while I won’t bore you with many of them… I wanted to flashback to my first half. Forgive me for the writing. And for the choppy transitions. This was multiple posts I have edited to become one:
Oh I completed my first half marathon last weekend… no big deal…
Yeah I am lying…
IT WAS A HUGE FREAKIN’ DEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you have followed my blog, before my writing blocks the last couple months, you know I was training for this run. You also know I was told I would never run. So my goal this year was to complete a half marathon. Unlike NY resolutions that you have less control over, a half marathon was a concrete goal to work towards.
When I fell down the stairs in August, I lost motivation to blog, to cook and to take care of myself. I felt like I sucked. I couldn’t even walk down stairs for heavens sake! But I had already paid for this half marathon… so with the support of my friends, I started walking. My doctor had told me I was not allowed to jog at all or even walk long distances, especially if I wanted to make it through the 13.1 miles in October. So I spent September NOT training for my half marathon.
Sane people I want you to know that you shouldn’t attempt to walk a half marathon when your doctor says you will only be able to complete it if you DON’T train. I recognize this is not something that makes sense. I did some aqua jogging and lots of strength training that wouldn’t affect my lower body that was still resting.
But how did I make it through 13.1 miles (and that .1 becomes VERY important in this story)???
I set my original finish time at 3:15. That would be a little less than a 15 minute mile which is almost three minutes slower per mile than my latest 5k time but was a reasonable time for me since I hadn’t done one before. But after falling down the stairs, I forgave myself for the knowledge that I couldn’t perform at my best and I accepted a time of 3:30 as my goal. The maximum time allowed for the half is four hours and I was hoping I wouldn’t be bringing up the rear.
When the race started that morning, I had my intervals set at 1 minute jogging and 2 minutes walking. I figured that even though I hadn’t been allowed to really work out for the previous weeks, this was a starter interval so I should be okay.
And I actually felt like I was moving so slow! It was weird to force myself to walk in the beginning (I actually ran for a good five minutes before starting the intervals because I was embarrassed to be seen walking near the start). However, despite feeling slow, my body has improved over time. At mile 3, I was well under my 46:30 pace time if I was trying for a 15 minute mile, like my original goal (I was at about a 14 minute mile).
I felt amazing. Yes people were passing me for those three miles, but I was way ahead of where I thought I would be. AND I WAS GOING SLOW! Or at least I thought I was.
At the 10k check point I had slowed down to a 14:45 minute mile. However, despite slowing down and keeping those beginner intervals (and stopping for a bathroom break at mile 5), I was only about two minutes slower than my 10k in July. Seriously?!?!?! At this point I felt both amazing but also frustrated. I knew I would have to stay consistent in order to make it under my 3:30 time. I had also secretly gotten my hope up between miles 3 and 6 that I could come in at 3:15 or less. Silly overenthusiastic me!
Mile 7 came and went and I felt myself starting to slow more. I had the beginning of a couple blisters on the bottom of my right foot (right under my big toe) and I had stepped down funny on the left foot at some point. My feet were just starting to tell me they were sore and I wondered how I would make it 5+ more miles. Out of no where, a woman came up beside me and commented that we were running a similar pace. I suggested right away that we should stick together for awhile for encouragement.
It turns out it was her first half and she also hadn’t done a full 13.1 miles before coming to the race. We were both having trouble staying motivated and were experiencing pain in areas we hadn’t before (for example, I have never had a blister under my toe!). We stuck together and motivated each other to run when the interval clock beeped and to count down the last ten seconds of some of those minutes that seemed to never end. It felt good to have someone to run with and to keep me going. I felt like if I slowed down I was letting her down and she said she felt the same.
Mile 8 went pretty quickly, and I was feeling motivated. Which is why when I saw the medic tent, I didn’t want to stop and get either foot checked out despite the pain that was increasing.
At this point I will let you in on a secret. I still wanted to quit. I hurt and the idea of another 4 miles made me want to cry. But we kept pushing and pushing and pushing. At mile 10, I was at a 15:30 minute mile… not too shabby! If I kept that up, I would finish at about 3:23. That would be pretty awesome since I had hurt my back pretty badly such a short time before…
Ah yes. The back injury…
So I hit the ten mile mark and my feet and back were dying. I kept trying to remember that it was only a 5k left, but that wasn’t helping. I would have cried but my new running buddy was still with me, although it seemed like the slower I got, the faster she was getting.
At mile 11, I saw the medic. I didn’t want to stop but I needed to make sure I would be able to finish. The previous mile had taken forever and every step was painful. So I waved goodbye to my new running buddy and sidelined myself. Hopefully not for the day…
The medic asked me a number of questions and gave me an ice pack for my back. I was so focused on my back and also subconsciously didn’t want to be sidelined, that I forgot to ask about my foot pain. After sitting for ten minutes, I assured the medic I could indeed finish (in almost a tearful begging sort of way) and she told me I would be on my own as she thought I should probably not be finishing the last 2.1 miles.
She was probably right in hindsight. Those two miles were the most painful period I can remember in a long time. I cried almost the entire distance, continually stopping to stretch for the pain in my left foot, and to take weight off my blistery right food. The ice pack that I had to hold to my back while I walked also made for delicious ice chips to chew on. Walkers were passing me left and right and I felt like I was all alone.
Luckily my friend Zara was at the finish line with her family waiting for me. She had sent me a couple texts while I was with the medic and knowing she had stuck around long after she had finished the race just to be there for me was what kept me going. I couldn’t quit at that point!
At mile 13 as I wiped tears from my eyes, I saw Zara waiting to hug me. She walked with me part of that last .1 until we got to the fenced in finish area where she had to step off the course. With only a couple hundred feet in front of me, I was both embarrassed to be seen hobbling towards the finish and excited to be so close to the end. A woman came up behind me and mentioned she too was hurting and had been behind me the whole last two miles. She said that she knew if I could keep going then so could she. With ten feet left before the finish, I asked if she wanted to jog across the finish line. She agreed and we sprinted to the finish!
When we crossed the finish line we both winced in pain, gave each other props and dragged ourselves to the waiting medic tent. A medic then used saran wrap to attach an ice pack to my back before I headed off to get my medal. I pulled my shirt over the wrap and smiled!
I would go on to set a new PR in Vegas only 8 weeks later that would be my personal best until 2014. I would go on to volunteer at the San Jose Half at the finish line and for two years I made signs to cheer on runners, staying until the last athlete passed my signs. But I would never forget the way I felt during that 2009 San Jose half.
Processing Phase Two: An Academic Exploration of Life Outside “The Box” and the Creation of a “New Box”
I lived inside of a bubble for almost a whole year.
It wasn’t a real bubble. That would be a little bit strange. But it was a world where I had protection in the form of a very strict diet called HMR Decision Free. For those who have been reading for awhile, you probably already figured that out. But it still amazes me that for a whole nine months, I lived in such a confined world of food choices and after so long inside my bubble, I think I had forgotten what existed outside of that world.
As I transition from my bubble world to the real world, I have found that a lot of academic texts that were shared with us in health class have become much more salient for me. I wanted to use my journal (blog) today as an opportunity to explore my transition while linking some of these texts as well as next texts to help me connect my personal experiences with broader research. Because I have learned a lot in the last several months but it helps me know that I am not alone in this world full of food that we call “The Gap.”
Cornell researchers Brian Wansink & Jeffery Sobal found that we make more than 200 decisions about food every day. While we learned about this study in our HMR health classes, I dismissed it at the time, because those were not choices I needed to make at that moment. My choices were much more limited. Did I meet my daily minimum of shakes and entrees? Which of the limited selection was I eating next? Since everything was tasty and nutritionally calculated, it was rare I really felt compelled to make a clear decision.
When I transitioned to Healthy Solutions, the number of decisions increased. Suddenly I needed to decide how to get my fruits and veggies in. I needed to go into grocery stores to acquire said produce. I needed to prepare them and write them down and it became more complicated that just jotting down the same several items in my journal each day.
And because I thought I missed variety, I quickly delved into produce diversification. However, perhaps I should have stuck with buying only what I needed each day to minimize choice and over-consumption. Pierre Chandon and Brian Wansink found, in the Journal of Marketing Research, that stockpiling food leads to over-consumption. And so while I thought I was saving money and time in buying in bulk, I have since realized that I consumed even more produce just because it was there, not because I was hungry.
Fruits and vegetables are not the worst things in the world to overeat. However, the habits created could possibly transfer to other items. And so by discovering this in Healthy Solutions, I was able to minimize the total amount of food in the house and as I transitioned to Phase Two, I had to keep this in mind. Because even frozen dinners, that would soon supplement my HMR meal replacements, could be abused.
As I have transitioned to Phase Two, I have worked hard to keep my home environment and work environment as clean as possible. But I have learned a lot in the transition.
I learned quickly that I couldn’t be trusted to just show up in the school cafeteria to select a meal on the fly. The temptations of everything around me would add up. And even if I grabbed small portions of lots of healthier options, it would still add up to way more calories than I needed in a meal. And because I was now socializing at lunch instead of eating in my classroom, I found that I consume far more despite the fact I could have done with less. And I am not alone. According to John M. De Castro, a professor at Georgia State University, in the British Journal of Nutrition, “Simply eating with one other person increases the average amount ingested in meals by 44% and with more people present the average meal size grows even larger.” And so I either have a shake about an hour beforehand and strategically plan which stations I will go to and which I will avoid, or I bring my own meal and bypass the cafeteria entirely.
The social pressures to consume “normal food” have led me to stray from guidelines we are encouraged to follow in Phase Two of HMR. While traveling, I worked to fill my plate with mostly vegetables. I used shakes and produce and entrees to offset hunger, and I walked when I could. But eventually, I found myself caving to the pressure to consume the “special homemade meals” that were offered near where we were sitting. The food was free and the families were so eager to share. And it was delicious. But I have struggled to pull myself back into real life day to day living. It is so easy to justify everything as something special. And yet I lived for nine months where nothing was special enough to eat and I had a few events that probably were once in a lifetime events where I resisted!
I know it is easy to justify my choices. Not just because I teach debate, but also because in the Gap we are handed justifications to make bad food choices every day. However, although I may have had trouble with defining my life after Phase One, I am able to bring myself full circle. Brian Wansink writes in Physiology & Behavior:
“This Laboratory of Life experience – trying to change mindless eating in the real world – brings lessons of both discouragement and encouragement for those of us interested in helping change eating behaviors. On one hand, some results are discouraging because they show how some of our most robust academic findings are often not implemented by people because they do not recognize their relevance, they lack the motivation to make them work, or they lack the step-by- step encouragement and direction they might need. If we fear we are often talking only to other academics, perhaps we initially are.”
While I had some trouble with motivation during some of my initial weeks in Phase Two, I think my health educator helped me assess what a bigger problem was for me. I still hadn’t figured out what my new box was. I had done so much work to stay in the HMR defined box, and now that I “could have” things, I was having them because there wasn’t a box I had clearly laid out.
In the past few weeks, I have figured out my triggers. I also know that severely limiting myself forever won’t work, and I do need to eventually allow for life events to happen. But I also need to write out a box for myself that I can stick with day to day.
I am writing out my Phase Two box here. In published form. To hold myself accountable. While I know that eventually it may change, this is how it need to be for the moment. In order to continue my weight loss efforts and prevent the Gap from consuming me.
I will continue to allow shakes and entrees be a part of my life. The definition of a meal replacement being 300 or fewer calories with more than ten grams of protein. I will allow myself one bar a day but bars must be under 200 calories with at least ten grams of protein and cannot be consumed in my house (in other words, bars should be used as portable meal replacements when necessary, not a daily requirement). I will continue to enjoy fruits and vegetables as these are important for my nutritional health but also to practice “more is better” with. And I will limit myself to no more than one serving of lean protein outside of prepared meal replacements each day. Finally, I will allow myself no more than 200 “other” calories. This might be popcorn. It might be a small cookies. It doesn’t have to be limited in scope (variety) but it does have to be limited in magnitude (calories) and I must ask myself “is this worth it? will it keep me full? if it won’t, why am I eating it?” and if I am satisfied with the answers, I can have it.
I was asked as I transitioned where I saw myself in five years. What is my five year plan. And the truth is, I am still thinking about it. But I know I don’t want to regress. I want to move forward. To better understand and support my health with healthy behaviors. And I will continue to contemplate this as I learn to live inside the box again. The white board has returned. And I look forward to building up those numbers because I am #HMRStrong!
I have a number of things I want to write about. But I promised myself I would write about this first. And I clearly didn’t want to write it. So I didn’t write.
But a quotation from the 90’s TV series Dawson’s Creek kept running through my mind these last two weeks as I contemplated what I would write.
“The reason why I was unfaithful is preposterous. I have no reason. I woke up one day a few months ago and I realized that my life was perfect. Everything I’ve ever wanted from the time I was six, has been realized. I’ve discovered that perfection obtained is a discomforting state. And I got restless. What do you do when everything in your life is right? When everything is just what you wanted it to be? I have the perfect home, career, the most gifted child, a husband who stimulates me mind, body, and soul every day of my life. I wanted more for nothing. And I guess that made me feel empty not wanting. I justed wanted to “want” again. Anything out of life. So, I set out to achive it. And… oh boy oh boy, did I succeed. But what I want now, I want back everything I’ve lost.”
And while that quotation may not exactly fit, it does a decent job summarizing what occurred after 312 days of being “in the box” on the HMR Diet. That’s right, I went out of the box.
I could make a dozen excuses. For example, I was beginning the transition to Phase Two and introducing outside foods already. But after two weeks, I have come to realize, I was just tired of doing it right. And there really isn’t an excuse for it. But there is a lesson.
I was in New Haven for a debate trip and had done everything right all weekend. My students went to Shake Shack, and I went to Subway for a veggie lover salad. I met with some coaches at Buffalo Wild Wings and ordered a plain garden salad w FF dressing on the side. I made myself run in the middle of the day around campus while my debaters were in a round so I could fit in PA. And I had even planned team dinner at a place I could find supportive food at and had something to eat before we went so I wasn’t starving.
What I didn’t predict was a special event at the restaurant that would force us to alter our plans. And while we walked past several pubs and fried food joints, my mind was racing. So when we happened upon an Ethiopian restaurant, all I could think about was the fact I knew they would have vegetarian dishes.
After explaining to the kids what various dishes were and making recommendations, I went to order my own. I got the vegetarian combination and selected three items that seemed to only have lentils and vegetables and spices. I asked for no butter but clearly forgot to say no oil and no bread. The waitress said “oh don’t worry, it’s vegan” and I didn’t respond. I didn’t explain my diet like I had been doing so carefully. I was tired. Tired of explaining things. Tired physically because of travel and chaperoning. And honestly tired of feeling constrained. I was a negative nancy if ever there was one.
And so when the dish came out clearly cooked in oil and served on the injera bread, I ate it. I savored it. And later that evening, I got really sick.
Am I sorry I left the box? In short, yes. Not because the whiteboard would be erased. But because I knew better and I chose to leave the box and eat unsupportive food.
Diet fatigue is real. But knowing I can make choices is also real. And as I have transitioned into Phase Two, I am forced to make more and more choices. Most have been good but some have not. This is going to be a long process but I can take the lessons I have learned in Decision Free and Healthy Solutions and apply those in Phase Two.
So what would I have done differently in New Haven now that I have had time to reflect.
First, I would have stopped outside of the original restaurant and asked the kids what they wanted. Most of them would have probably been okay ordering a couple of pizzas and hanging in the lobby. Which would have allowed me to just have another shake and some fruit that was in my hotel room.
Had they wanted to go out, I could use the mobile apps I had used to find the first place to find a new one that would be just as supportive. A couple of minutes of thoughtful planning could set me up for success.
Third, I should have consumed a glass of water at the restaurant and reflected and just taken some deep breathes. I was tired and stressed and anxious all at once which left my judgement cloudy.
Fourth, I should have ordered off menu. Some steamed vegetables would have been tasty without the stomach ache. And thoughtfully explaining my diet might have allowed the server to make suggestions.
Finally, since I have transitioned, if I had wanted a special meal that was a little more indulgent, I could have planned ahead for it. Maybe a small indulgence would prevent a larger one in a world where boundaries are becoming less strict with an even higher level of self-accountability.
I am proud of myself for the 312 days I stayed in the box. It is proof to me that I can stick with something. It is also something that will keep me in check because I know how hard it was. I lost a lot of weight very quickly which has been hard to process sometimes. But every day was a struggle and I know it will continue to be a struggle. But learning from those struggles is the only way I can recover from the mistakes I make. Then I just have to stand up, dust myself off, and get back in my own Phase Two box.
Wow. Today is September 13th and I went to my very first class on November 13th. Ten complete months on the HMR Diet. I have a bajillion (it’s a real number in my world) thoughts running through my head about the past ten months and what the future holds. But I will try to contain my ramblings and keep this post somewhat focused.
Today I saw many of my students’ parents for the first time this school year and for many parents I hadn’t touched base in person since our conferences last November. Many were very open about their surprise and open happiness for my improved health, including one or two who thought I was a different teacher and they had come to the wrong room. In light of the many questions I answered throughout the day about my journey, I thought I would select ten common questions I get now in order to celebrate the ten months since I started this incredible journey.
1. What did you do to lose all this weight?
Well this one is easy for those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile. I started on the Decision Free diet with HMR which is a medically supervised diet where I was prescribed a minimum of two entrees and three shakes/cereals/soups a day. Yes I could only eat the HMR food but between the balancing of the meals themselves plus additional vitamins, I stayed healthy – in fact I had the fewest amount of sick days in a school year that I can remember! I could also eat more than my minimum if I wanted and I would still lose weight (due to the high volume and low calorie make-up of the HMR meals).
On my nine month anniversary, I transitioned to Healthy Solutions where I began introducing a minimum of five vegetable/fruit servings a day, again embracing the more is better mindset. While the weight loss slowed, I have still continued to lose most weeks. It has been more difficult to make decisions because now the outside world is open but it’s also great to have the additional options.
This week I began the transition to Phase Two by each day introducing one outside meal replacement of 300 calories or less with ten grams of protein or more. This has been an interesting week as I explore foods I really missed like eggs and while I will write more on this transition later, in short I realize I haven’t been missing much over the last ten months.
2. Don’t you get tired of the same food all the time?
Yes and no. I have obviously been very limited in my choices however I have mixed it up with various condiments and preparation methods. My weekly homework assignments have challenged me to be creative and this has kept me engaged. During the ten months, I didn’t allow outside foods into my life. I learned many valuable lessons from my classmates about how to handle stressful situations and manage life should I find myself slipping off course.
3. What does it taste like?
Food. So here’s the deal. I know it’s all packaged. And the thought of consuming it made me gag a little a first. I almost threw up after my first couple of bites of a cold entree in an airport during my second week on the diet. But it was all in my head. I had to reframe in the first couple of weeks to think of it as a prescription and separate the word “food” from the equation. Once I got over the mental hurdle and actually tasted the food, it was quite tasty! Yes, the barbecue chicken, for example, doesn’t have the same texture as a commercially plumped chicken breast because it is vacuum-sealed. But everything has good flavor and you can change them up with the dozens of allowed condiments and spices.
4. Do you plan on losing more?
I am still above my BMI range for normal. I would love to be within that range. But I also know my body and mind are tired focusing on losing weight. I fit in a size small in most tops and a size six petite (sometimes four!) in pants. While my numbers-focused brain is still catching up with this realization, I logically know that I am at a reasonable weight for my size. I would like to lose ten to fifteen more pounds, especially from my stomach, to get to my “half-my-size” weight but I am choosing to transition now because I know I need to learn how to incorporate outside foods “safely” in my life and wanting to lose a little bit more would help me to avoid going hog-wild in the outside world. I am probably at the top of my happy weight range, a range I want to develop and to try to live within after recognizing that a single goal number isn’t practical (thanks to my health educator).
5. How many hours do you exercise a week?
This is where some people I know call me crazy. To be honest, when I started this diet I maybe did two to three hours a week broken down into much smaller bits. It was all low intensity.
Now I do six to twelve hours most weeks and it’s usually 30 to 60 minutes a block multiple times a day. But it’s not because I have to do it… it’s because I LOVE doing it. I was sidelined earlier this week for a day and missed my training session and boxing class and I was super cranky.
I know I may have to dial back during the debate season but even my most conservative schedules have at least six hours. I can’t imagine doing less. I feel amazing when I work out and the feeling extends past the actual sweat session.
6. What exercises do you do?
In short – I do a LOT of things. I get bored easy.
When I started HMR, I walked. A lot. I used the elliptical on the easiest setting. I did spin class without a ton of resistance. And I started swim class. I am still taking swim lessons and my teacher encouraged me to go to masters swim sessions, so I try to include one a week when I can (although I am still no where near as fast as those guys, it’s a fun way to structure a swim workout!).
A month into HMR I gathered up courage to ask a trainer about the free session that came with my membership. I met Eliana and the rest was history. I have been working out with her for one to two days a week since. She started with building small muscles to help stabilize weaknesses and we have worked our way through her program and she has helped tailor my workouts based on my needs and abilities.
I have also tried almost every class our gym offers — I know what I like and what I don’t like. And if I didn’t like a class, I made myself go again a month later to make sure I really didn’t like it. I discovered in some cases I didn’t. But in some it was that I either wasn’t ready for it yet or it was just an off day for the class the first time around or in some cases I just needed the chance to adjust to the type of activity it was and learn some of the basics.
When I had lost about 60 or 70lbs, I took my walking to running. I ran my first full mile in late February and worked my way up to running 13.1 miles. I learned I hate running on a treadmill and I actually prefer running without music most days. Some days I run fast and some days I run slow. I also love races because of the challenge and also the community of runners I get to run with.
A few months ago my gym offered a small group (3-5) boxing fundamentals class and I fell in love. I wish I could keep this one up during the school year but once this session’s final happens, I will have to take a break because I will miss too many classes with my travels. However between the technique and conditioning, I get a ridiculous workout.
In late June I also tried a free OrangeTheory class and decided it would be a great supplement to my running by giving me speed and hill workouts during these classes.
7. How do you fit it all in?
My health classes are non-negotiable. They are once a week and unless I am gone for a full week, they can’t be missed. I need that accountability and built it into my schedule.
I plan more workouts than I can practically do. Some are set in stone and I treat like doctor’s appointments like boxing classes and my workouts with Eliana. Others I am more flexible with. By scheduling extras on my calendar, I don’t feel guilty if I have to cancel one or two. As long as I get in the majority, I am having a good week.
I try to prep lots of fruits and veggies in one bout and portion them out to grab all week. And I have HMR entrees and shakes in my classroom and car and purses so I am never without and thus have no excuse to not stick with my eating plan.
And honestly I have had to let some things go. My apartment is probably not as clean as it could be but my husband is luckily super amazing and he takes on a lot of the dirty work. I also don’t spend as much time randomly surfing the web or other time sucks.
I have also found I have more energy and am more focused which means I get a lot more done in the day than I used to.
Finally, I don’t let myself make excuses any more. When I don’t want to do something, I ask what excuse I am trying to use. If there is a legitimate reason and not an excuse, it’s fine. But if I can counter it with a solid response, it’s an excuse and I need to suck it up and get over it. I deserve the best I can give myself and that means not getting lazy and countering all my hard work because of some lame excuse.
8. How do you keep up with work travel while doing this diet?
Super easy! Lots of planning ahead by making sure I have enough HMR food packed. I have written a number of blog posts here about traveling on HMR that you can find for more details using the tags to the right of this post.
9. How much better do you feel now?
Honestly I can’t even begin to explain this one. I feel like I have my life back. Actually scratch that. I feel like I have more life back than I ever had before. It is absolutely unquantifiable!
10. Is it expensive?
Yes and no. For someone like me who ate out a lot? I probably saved money the last ten months. The meals range in price from $2 to $4 and you consume 5 or more a day. So it does add up. Plus health classes and medical tests depending on whether you do Healthy Solutions or Decision Free and your insurance may or may not cover those things.
However most diets are expensive. And none of the others worked for me. So it was a bunch of wasted money. I knew this would be an investment going into it. However in some ways the investment also was a disincentive to cheat. I have spent so much on diets over the years – I needed to stop flushing money down the drain.
Plus, I can’t begin to quantify how much better my quality of life is. How more productive I am and how much I have saved myself in future weight-related medical costs. How positive my outlook is (yes someone told me to “shut up Pollyanna this week and I beamed). I can’t even begin to think of how many years I have gained back in my life. And these things are truly priceless.
Apologies on the delay! The race was fabulous and then it was back home to teach all week followed by another weekend of races. But more on those later.
First the spoiler… I FINISHED THE RACE! And I finished in under two hours and twenty-seven minutes!
That’s the short version. Below is a much longer accounting of my experience of the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon weekend.
I spent a lot of time anticipating this race. I signed up for it in January, before I could even run a mile. And then spent seven long months learning to love running.
For those of you who may not know, I attempted this whole “running” thing in 2009. I made it a goal to finish a half-marathon. I worked a little but never really committed to training. I did intervals, which was necessary for my body at the time. I was about 60 pounds heavier than I was for this race when I set my personal best in December of 2009. My time to beat would become 3:19:50 and it would stay that way until August 2014. Shortly after the half in 2009, I injured myself. And spent most of 2010 recovering from multiple injuries which spiraled into never really getting into running again.
Until I signed up for this race.
The race was at 5:30am on the Sunday morning of Labor Day Weekend. I had been preparing for the early start by going to bed earlier and waking up earlier all week. I even continued the trend by waking up early on Saturday and cheering on the 10k runners as they ran past my hotel!
We spent the Saturday in the park. I had read you should try to stay off your feet the day before a long race but I wanted to enjoy all the weekend had to offer. Which included riding Cars for the first time and doing multiple trips on California Screamin!
As the sun rose overhead and things started to get extra hot in the park, we headed back to our hotel where I enjoyed some HMR Chicken Pasta Parm and bananas. I ate a LOT of bananas over the weekend and not just the free ones in the concierge lounge! Then I took a nap. Which ended up happening until about 8pm when I woke up, laid out everything for race morning, and went back to sleep!
It’s a good thing I went to bed early because I was awake before my 2am alarm even sounded! I got dressed in my finery and ate my HMR oatmeal and drank 8 ounces of Via coffee at room temp because, well, the water in my water bottle was room temp?
After nervously dancing quietly around the room and making sure I had everything I needed, I woke up my husband to drive over to the Disneyland Hotel where we would park the car and head to the start. It was 3:15am and parking opened at 3:30 and I am never one to be late! My husband had not gone to bed early so he was probably a bit cranky but I don’t think I even noticed!
We got to the hotel, hit up the lobby bathrooms, and then wandered around near the finish line. I met up with some Team #runDisney folks for a group photo and at about 4:40am, headed to my starting corral (with a quick portapotty stop on the way!).
Once I got to corral H, I knew I was in for a wait. We had about 30 minutes at that point until the sent the first corral off, but my corral wouldn’t start until 33 minutes later. I was a bit cranky with my corral placement going into the race because all of the earlier corrals had finishing times no greater than 15 minutes apart. Corral H had finishing times from 2:30 to 3:15 and of course my 10k in late May had me finishing right at 2:31. The secret I learned is that everyone pushes to the front of the corral, especially if you are anticipating being slower, so you can stop for photos without being swept. I had no desire to stop for photos (they have professionals!) and I could do character stops at some of my later Disney races — my goal was to stay strong and give the race my best, and I was worried I would spend forever dodging folks (I would later make peace with the dodging as I started at the front of corral H only to catch up to and dodge folks from earlier corrals).
While waiting in the corral, I got my last bit of pre-race fuel in! That’s right. I stayed in the Healthy Solutions box all weekend, including my race fuel!
The start was less thrilling than I imagined. I had read so much about Disney races where they set fireworks off for each corral. But that didn’t happen at Disneyland. And there was so much chatter from the hosts, I didn’t have time to get excited. Instead I just wanted the host to stop talking and let me run already!
Finally my corral started and I was off! I kept repeating “go out slow, you have a long way to go. start strong but slow.” and while I was slower than my 10k pace is now, I was still faster than my planned pace by over a minute! I was one of the leaders coming out of our corral and quickly caught up with corral G within the first mile. Oh and speaking of that first mile, there were TONS of spectators. It was super cool to see so many people supporting the runners. Except for maybe the guy who yelled “you’re almost there!” in mile one. I didn’t like him so much ;o)
The course itself ran outside the perimeter of California Adventure before turning into the back driveway of the park. It was there I saw the mile 12 sign. I joked out loud that we only had one more mile. Yeah that went over really well. I blame the “almost there” guy hehe.
There were bands all along the course, including in the back lots of California Adventure. I love the live music – never needed my headphones (which stayed tucked away for the whole race) between the attractions, spectators, and live music!
From the back road we entered the park. I expected it to be crowded through the whole race and I was not let down by that expectation. I have no photos from California Adventure because runners without manners were running crazy diagonals and hopping in front of all of the cameras. Literally jumping. Like stopping suddenly and jumping in the air. Next time I am just running into them. I saw someone else run into people stopping suddenly to pose for cameras. It’s not safe! I am all about walkers and I am all about people having fun. I get it. But it’s absolutely inconsiderate and UNSAFE to stop suddenly without looking around or to dart in front of people just to mug for the camera.
We ran through most of California Adventure which was super cool since I had been there with my husband the day before. My arms were starting to get warm as the sun rose and I knew my husband would be cheering along Main Street USA, so I took of my arm sleeves which were dripping wet at that point.
The area between the two parks was a super narrow path and both sides were slammed with spectators. It was crazy! I remembered reading the pacer guide which warned runners to not speed up from the thrill of the experience in those first miles and so I kept reminding myself to SLOW DOWN, enjoy the experience, run negative splits later when the course opened up more.
Seeing my husband along the course gave me a whole new shot of energy. I ran over, gave him a kiss, and handed off my dripping arm sleeves to a confused yet amused husband who would wander around after I passed and pick up a couple thousand steps during the race.
Disneyland itself was a neat experience. Although I had run through it for the 5k in 2009, it was still a fun experience. This is the part most people enjoy the most. However there weren’t many spectators outside of the employees (who were very very sweet) and I didn’t feel the same energy I feel running the city streets or along nature trails. It was a little weird but not in a bad way. I also think I still had a bad taste in my mouth from the negative experiences running in California Adventure which I tried to shake off for the next couple of miles.
Once we hit the streets of Anaheim, I felt myself getting my groove back. The streets opened up and there were still so many people along the course. It was super cool to see locals and tourists turn out with signs both for specific people but also for runners-at-large!
One of the highlights for me was running through the stadium where the Anaheim Angels play. I had been there for a game with my husband a few years ago, so I was somewhat familiar with the park. But it was a whole new experience to get to run the field and even cooler that the stands were filled with cheering spectators!
I purchase videos from MarathonFoto which included one of my running past the first base dugout. However I wish it included the audio when I was exiting. The announcer was saying that when we exited the stadium we only had… and then the entire audience in the stadium yelled “THREE MORE MILES!!!!!” I WAS PUMPED!
The last three miles were probably the hardest. I had stuck to my pacing and fueling plans and was on target to beat my practice half time which was slightly over 2:28. I hadn’t gone into this race with the intention of beating the practice time because I knew the course would be crowded and I just wanted to enjoy the race. But with three miles left and open streets ahead, I knew I no longer had an excuse. But those last few miles is where the crowds thinned and my energy wained. I took my third banana-squash Gerber (fourth for the day if you count the one in the corral) and allowed myself to walk the water stations a little longer than before.
That last mile seemed to go on forever. Part of it was a repeat of the back lot of California Adventure and then through Downtown Disney. The crowds picked up again and my energy picked up as well.
When I could finally see the finish line, I picked up my pace. I lengthen my stride and really pushed that finishing kick. I knew I could beat my goal and now there was an incentive to get that time as low as I could. The crowds were cheering and apparently I still had fuel in the tank!
Remember how I mentioned people should look behind them? Well I crossed that finish line pushing my legs as hard and as fast as I could. Except now I needed room to slow down… so I shot for the opening I saw along the finish.
Except the two people in red shirts did not need time to slow down. The young boy walked in front of me and I had a choice of hitting the boy, the photographer taking this picture or applying the brakes as I went the opposite way. Where the woman in the red shirt would slow immediately to a walk. So I tripped over her and apologized. She didn’t seem happy with me touching her but I had no choice. I stumbled between them and managed to regain control without falling on the pavement. I laugh about it now but one of us could have gotten really hurt. But it’s funny in hindsight. And since I bought the videos…
In the end, I finished. I finished faster and stronger than I ever dreamed. I am a runner. I am strong. I am healthy. And I have never been more grateful in my life of all of those who have supported me through this journey.
On November 13, 2013, I started the HMR Diet. Walking quickly left me out of breath and running was out of the question.
On January 28th, 2014, I logged on to Facebook during my lunch break and saw on Facebook that the Disneyland Half Marathon was 90% full after only opening a couple of hours earlier.
I signed up.
I had not yet run a full mile.
On February 20th, 2014, I sent the following email to my health coach:
“I arrived early for a class and thought… Wonder if I could run a mile before class?
I did it! It was “only” at 4.0mph but I don’t care. I didn’t walk at all!!!!I am stupid excited and just had to share. Thank you for the motivation!”
I swore I wasn’t ever going to post progress pictures on my blog. When I first started writing about the HMR Diet, I wanted my experience to be anonymous. I just needed a place where I could explore what I was learning, thinking, and feeling. However I realize now that I can’t be anonymous at this point. Not because so many people I know read this blog now, but because it would be selfish of me.
When I started HMR, I craved success stories. I wanted to see progress pictures. Even now I buy magazines like People touting normal people losing weight because it inspires me and shows me we can all do it. So at the end of this post I will share my nine month pictures.
First, I want to explore my thoughts. I am officially down 122 pounds at nine months and one week. I have also begun my transition to Healthy Solutions (started last week at the nine month mark). When I started this program I gave myself one year to be on Decision Free. My mental framing that it would take this long kept me going — knowing there would be an eventual end. However a year seemed too long so I think the desire to transition earlier motivated me to stay in the box and to seize every fitness opportunity I could.
I have been in the box every day since starting the program. I have had a few emotional eating days but used meal replacements when other tools like journaling or exercise weren’t cutting it. I have had two or three weeks where I didn’t lose weight (also didn’t gain) and I missed two weeks of weigh ins for travel (one week in June and one a couple weeks later in July). I can say from experience that being away from class made it harder to stay on the program because those in person accountability points aren’t just to keep up in check but also have me leaving class feeling refreshed and motivated.
When I started this diet walking at 3.0 on the treadmill was fast and there were days where walking at 2.0 for 40 minutes while watching an episode of Scandal was a big workout. I swam laps but only a couple and very slowly.
This past Sunday, just a couple of days after my nine month anniversary, I ran my first half marathon since starting HMR. And by ran, I actually ran and killed my previous PR by over 50 minutes! Super proud of this picture because I feel like it captures how far I have come:
Was it easy? Never. But did it become habit? Yes. When you reframe away from what you can’t have and focus on what you can, it makes it so much easier to manage Decision Free. When you focus on each day as becoming the best person you can be, the days pile up into making you an awesome person. When you seize every opportunity for fitness and give it everything you have rather than make excuses then you find yourself seeing physical results even when the scale moves slowly or not at all.
You can make excuses or you can make your move. I had ALL the injuries. Bad knees. Sciatica. Lower back pain. Asthma. I work 40+ hours during the week and 20+ weekends a year. I am traveling ALL the time. I am not wealthy. I don’t live alone. I spend time around temptation EVERY day. And I HAVE found success but it wasn’t handed to me. I had to fight for every single pound and while I have had people tell me I “make it look easy” — it hasn’t been. But nothing amazing is easy.
Now I am transitioning to Healthy Solutions and although I am loving the produce and I am trying to take it slowly, I won’t lie that I am also scared. I have confidence in myself but I am anxious and I can’t articulate why, other than I am constantly entering new territory and that keeps me on my toes.
I teach public speaking – it’s one of the biggest fears in America. Thus I understand having unexplained anxiety and trying to manage and overcome to the best of our abilities. I practice positive visualization (ordering a Healthy Solutions option at a restaurant when I inevitably go out) and I carry a touchstone to keep me grounded when I need to make a decision. I journal my food and exercise. I practice tricks like always keeping a zero calorie beverage in my hand in social settings. And I expel the rest of the nervousness through exercise. I will manage my anxiety like I will manage my weight. One day at a time with mindfulness and positive energy. And no excuses.
A rather lengthy post. And I feel like I have so much more to say. But tomorrow we meet up with our students for the first time this school year so I am off to bed. But as promised, here are my nine month progress pictures. I am proud of my hard work and continue to motivate myself every day to excel so that the work I have done is honored and not destroyed.
This has been a hard post to write and I have been mulling about it for a couple of days. I am currently in New Orleans aka “The Big Easy” aka Food Culture Lives Here aka a really tough trip to be on while on the Decision Free HMR Diet. However, I needed to work some things out and since that’s why I started this blog, I need to get it all out here.
I have been on Decision Free for 35 weeks and am currently in week 36. I have not slipped outside of the box once. Knowing my history with diets, I knew when I started that I couldn’t have a cheat meal and not risk derailing like so many diets before.
I am now at my lightest weight ever. Heck, I showed up on Saturday morning on a red-eye and decided to sign up for a 5k in downtown New Orleans that evening and ran it in under 31 minutes! I am so much healthier than I was in November when I started. (And crazier… do you know how hot and humid it is here?!?)
The problem with getting lighter and healthier is that I am finding it harder and harder to stay HMRStrong and inside the box. I have been on the road for most of July between personal and professional travel – I have survived three red-eyes, a week in Disney World, hours upon hours of stressful travel delays, revisiting old eating haunts in Boston… so much temptation. It’s becoming ridiculously hard to say no to temptations because I feel so much better than I ever have. My willpower is weakening by the day.
My health instructor has this demonstration that he does when he talks about willpower. He holds a pencil up in the air and tells us that eventually that arm will give out. Willpower isn’t enough – it can only take you so far. And my arm definitely wants to drop the pencil.
So I am in one of the most food-centric cities in the world and trying not to eat everything around me. Instead I am practicing more is better but second guessing after the ninth meal replacement if maybe that one bite of duck sausage or crawfish wouldn’t have been easier. Yet knowing full-well it wouldn’t have been “just one bite.”
What isn’t helping is that my weight loss has slowed down to about a pound a week for the last couple of weeks. I knew it would probably slow eventually. I also know how water math works and that I might see a bigger loss in the future. Additionally I have been weighing in right after returning from trips and I know that travel fundamentally messes with my routine and body. But the slowdown has me second-guessing if it isn’t time to stop. Rationally, I know I have a ways to go. I am still overweight and still have so much to do to make myself healthier.
The siren call of food will continue to beckon for the rest of my life. I know this. It will beckon whether I am “Decision Free” or in “Healthy Solutions” or fully transitioned into “Phase Two.” I know that the time I live “in the box” allows me the time to evaluate “The Gap” and learn how to handle these tough situations while still holding a barrier to protect myself from making those decisions now.
This is going to be a tough week. I will continue to be tested. I planned ahead and made HMR muffins and biscuits to carry at all times (like last night in the French Quarter) and brought bars and extra shakes and entrees. I have fitness plans in place. And I have work to throw myself into during the weekdays to keep me away from food. I have worked way too hard for way too long to not see this to the end. I want to be as successful as I can be. I want to do this the right way. I just needed to talk myself through my thoughts and remind myself that I can do it. It will be hard. Life is hard. As I tell my seniors going into their last debates – “Give it everything you have. Leave it all on the table. Do your absolute best. Because win or lose this debate, you want to look back and have no regrets about the choices you made. You’ve got this.”
Cut off an arm!
But on a serious note, I have recently learned from friends that a few acquaintances have been overheard saying I am losing weight “the easy way” and my only wish is that I had heard them say it.
I am not big on confrontation, but I do think this is an issue that needs confronting. There is not an “easy” way to lose weight and I am so sick of all of the judgement that exists about various diet and health choices. From the stigma of weight loss surgery to the negative attitudes about meal replacements, I just don’t understand why people feel they have the right to label one method or another “easy.”
I have been on the HMR Diet for 227 days. That is 227 days where I have had to say no to all the delicious food out there in the world. It’s 227 days of eating the same general meals. It’s 227 days of dragging my butt to do some sort of exercise. It’s 227 days of mental and physical battles.
And yes, I have lost over 100 pounds in those 227 days. And yes, that seems fast. But to me those 227 days seem like years and years of struggling.
In truth, it has been years of struggle. My first attempt at a diet was in high school when I went with my mother to a Weight Watchers meeting. And I have been dieting in some form ever since.
I know how hard it is to count calories, points, carbs, vegetables, meal replacements, cups of juice, glasses of water, grams of protein and more. None of it is easy.
The difference this time is that I have found success because I have found something I can manage. Which makes it look easy.
However, I still have to fight to get every pound off. I have to take notes and learn in every health class so I can continue to form habits to keep the weight off once it is gone. I will have to continue my health education when I begin the long process of transitioning from Phase One Decision Free to Healthy Solutions and eventually to Phase Two. It is a long and time consuming process but it is what I need to do to be successful.
Ultimately when I hear someone say someone took the “easy way out” to lose weight, what I hear is jealousy. It is the same jealousy I could hear coming from my mouth years ago when I watched someone else be successful in their weight loss journey taking a different route than the diet I had prescribed myself to. I wasn’t successful. She was. Clearly her path was easier.
I was wrong about her path. And if you think my path has been easy, you are also wrong.
It sure as hell hasn’t been easy. But it does work for me. And I am healthier because of it. You are welcome to join me.