Saturday, March 16, 2013

Musings on Muscles

I do not expect this to shock anyone, but like Janet Weiss before me, I'm a muscle fan.

I find human musculature fascinating.

I like watching the really muscular people move. I like wondering how certain muscles were built and why the same muscle can look different -- covered by skin as it is -- on different people.

There is absolutely no sexual attraction in this.

Sometimes even the opposite, truth be told.

So, attraction? No. Fascination? Oh hell yes.

I stick to a pretty regular schedule at the gym through the week, but on the weekends, I land there when I land there. The faces are, therefore, not as familiar. Neither are the muscles. More on that later. 

Sometimes on Saturday morning, a few of the cardio machines are not turned on. I assume this has to do with late night/early morning vacuuming by folks who are not the regular weekday morning staff. Anyway, it's happened to me often enough that I know how to do the easy fix. (Um, find the switch and turn it on...) So this woman I'd never seen before was there today. She was attractive and nicely muscled; I took notice of that in a positive way. She got on the machine in front of me and poked and poked then gave up and got off to try the one next to it. It didn't work either. Obviously I knew what the problem was, so when she gave up on that, too and walked past me I said, "Excuse me," then, getting her attention, "you just have to..." She cut me off with a backwards wave of her hand and went to another machine. She didn't say, "Hey, fat girl, you don't have ANYthing to tell ME on my turf." but her look of disdain and dismissal did.

She became extraordinarily unattractive very quickly.

Later in the morning, she executed a longer series of pull-ups than most women can handle and I found myself grudgingly admiring her. 

But I still didn't think she was attractive. 

I'm pretty sure that my flip-flopping opinions, if she were privy to them, would have had absolutely no effect on her mood and certainly none on her self-esteem.

And then there was another unfamiliar face.

She was cute and trim and appeared confident. I watched as she did a lot of the same things that I do. She was pretty consistently pushing around about 1/3 of the weight I push around for about 1/2 as many sets. And I thought -- there it is. This certainly backs up the we're all different and there is no one-size-fits-all plan theory. Because she was not working as hard as I do. I mean not even nearly. Not even in the same ball park. But if you saw the two of us walking side by side, you would surely peg her as the more fit. And I'll bet that if you complimented her figure she'd thank you and tell you that she works hard for it. She might even think -- privately or not so privately -- that anyone who is NOT as fit as her just isn't putting the effort in. And such a small effort it is, really. Why, anyone could do it. But some people are too fat and lazy...

Oh my.

She just as easily might not think any of those things. Projection is pretty high on the list of my personality flaws.

But that's what's been running all around in my brain this fine Saturday morning, week leventy-leven of my great weight plateau.

Oh, that and an immense amount of pride in the fact that I didn't eat chips at the Mexican restaurant last night. Avoiding them was miserable. I'm not exaggerating -- there may have been real tears. But the pride in having managed it has lasted for hours. 

Yay me.

Score one for the fat girl.

Monday, March 11, 2013


I think I might be giving up.

I feel it all slipping away.

What is the point?

I can't find motivation anywhere.

I am so unhappy.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Reality Check

What a day yesterday was. I am still recovering physically and emotionally. High highs, low lows, but most importantly: a reality check.

It wasn't brutal or disheartening, as reality checks sometimes are. I simply came to some realizations that I should have come to months ago. That's not how it generally works, though.

I stepped way out of my league yesterday.

The Survivor Race was not intended for middle-aged fat chicks -- no matter how fit they fancy themselves to be. I am glad I did it. I rose to every challenge and only ultimately failed one. I felt a little bit like Seegar in An Officer and a Gentleman when she just couldn't make it over the climbing wall. As I hung there -- right at the top, but unable to make it over -- I actually flashed to that. It didn't ultimately defeat her, but she had a little more time than I did to conquer it. Tom played the Mayo role, offering encouragement and help and not allowing me to judge myself too harshly when I ultimately failed.

Tom was amazing.

He took every challenge easily and helped me when I struggled.

When the two of us hit the finish line last, he stepped back and let me cross it first.

We had talked about it going in. His goal was to complete every obstacle. My goal was the same as it is in every race: Not last and not lost. For the first time in my life it looked like I wasn't going to reach that goal. But he didn't allow it. He stepped back and crossed behind me -- claiming last for himself and allowing me to hit my goal.

I do not have any words to describe how loved I felt in that moment.

I've been grunting and howling and posing like I'm some sort of fitness success story.

I am very very very much not.

That realization could have been tearful and painful, but he transformed it into a moment of unselfish love. My smiles at the finish line were genuine. Not because I'd finished. Not because I'd attempted every obstacle and failed only one, but because I felt, in that moment, the depth of my husbands love. This race wasn't important to him, but he knew it was important to me. He didn't allow me to fail.

I am overwhelmed.

I win.

I have worked so hard in the past year. Tom, who does nothing fitness-wise, met every challenge. I struggled. There are just genetics and other circumstances at play here that cannot be denied. Am I in better shape than I was a year ago? Indubitably. Am I in good shape? Not even close.

Our visit to the Arnold Classic Fitness Expo sealed the deal. It was huge and crowded and loud. The energy was high. It is THE expo for fitness -- my thing, right? -- in the US. And I didn't belong there. I anticipated that moment Liv had when the Chicago TARDIS convention hit its stride. She was home. She was with her people. She nearly wept with joy. That didn't happen for me. Not even close.

I imagine I'm the only one who was even mildly surprised by that.

I will keep lifting. I love lifting. And maybe now I can get back to the love of it and away from the weight and fitness goals. I'm not going to be thin. I'm not going to be fit. I'm not going to be hot. But damned if I can't push heavy things around.

I have strayed from the low-carb lifestyle, but I will get back to it.

I am not an athlete, though.

No more competitions.

Just for fun races and events, maybe. 

Because fun is fun.

But no competitions.

I didn't cross the finish line last, but I earned last place.

Not fun.

I am not an athlete.

I could fill a book with all of the things that I am not, and that makes me sad.

I'm fifty years old. I should have figured out what I am by now.

I do know one thing that I am, though. 

I am loved.

I really am.

And maybe that is enough. It's more than many folks ever get to experience. In the long run, it's more important than finding a niche.

I write a little.

I knit a lot.

I lift.

And I am loved.

That's not so bad.

That's not bad at all.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bi's, Tri's and Sighs

Biceps and triceps day is not my favorite.

I don't mind tricep work -- I think my tri's are actually becoming sort of strong. But my biceps are weak, weak, weak. I know that just means I need to work them more -- and I DO -- but it is not my favorite. It makes me feel weak and feeling weak makes me feel angry and feeling weak and angry inevitably leads to me questioning my motivation towards the whole thing.

So I'm doing cable bicep curls -- with an embarrassingly low weight and what must have been a nasty grimace on my face -- when a gym acquaintance touched me on the shoulder to get my attention then started a slow clap. Annoyed, and sure that he was making fun of me (believe me -- he's not using low weights on ANY move) because of the pussy weights I was lifting, I popped out one ear plug and said, "Seriously? I don't deserve clapping on bicep day. Stop it."

Ever the cheerleader, he said, "Yes you do! You're doing great!" I still felt a little bad, and then a little worse because I realized that I may have inadvertently fished for a compliment (which he cheerfully provided, but...) He continued, "You are here. On this REALLY cold day. You don't have to be, but you are. You are here and you are working on the body part you least enjoy working on and that, my friend, deserves applause."

God damn.

He was right.

I could have been in the warmth of my home, wrapped in a blanket and eating pancakes, but I wasn't.

I was there, because to be anywhere else would've felt wrong.

I think I can safely say that the workouts have become a habit. A routine. Something that is just done.

And that makes me feel kind of strong.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Do Unto Yourself As You Do Unto Others

Last night I ran into one of my daughter's friend's moms. I hadn't seen her in quite some time. She had lost weight (though she was still not what anyone would call svelte). Her hair looked pretty. She looked 10-15 years younger. She looked lovely.

I spoke to my daughter about her this morning. She said that she had been experimenting with dressing better and wearing make-up because of a new career opportunity.

I think her experiment was a success.

And then I wondered -- why can't I cut myself the same break?

Like I said -- she was thinner, but not thin.

She was considerably less frumpy, but not glamorous.

She was so happy that she glowed.

She. Looked. Great.

I qualified it above, but only for the sake of comparison.

Because I, too, am thinner but not thin. And I can't forgive myself or the powers that be for that. I gave up all of the things! I work hard! I deserve to be hot, not slightly less gross!

I would have never said or even thought those things about her. I simply thought she looked great.

I, too, have been playing with make-up and hair and it makes me feel better about myself. But I beat myself up because I'm not beautiful.

I have been told that my happiness shines through. Or did, until quite recently anyway. I hear that as "she ain't much to look at, but she's got a good heart".

Isn't that stupid?

That is not what I thought of her at all.

I thought she looked great.

No qualifiers.

Not:  She looked great for her.

Not: She looked better than she used to.

Just: She looked great.

I need to work hard on cutting myself the breaks that I instinctively cut her.

Why is that so much harder? Do we hold ourselves to higher standards than we hold the rest of the world to? Is that fair?

It's not.

I think I'm going to tell the mirror it looks great today.

I'll try not to laugh (or cry) when I do so.

It will be a step in the right direction.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


It was inevitable.

I was flying pretty high.

People were feeding me compliments and I was eating them up.

I was feeding myself, too.

I saw a lot of change this week and I felt great about it.

I was caught up in how far I'd come and I forgot about how far I had to go.

I really forgot.

Every now and then I'd get a little reminder -- a little glimpse in a mirror -- but it was easily dismissed by whatever positivity was going on at the time.

All the exercise -- I think -- was releasing so many endorphins that I was able to dismiss the little glimpses of how very disgusting I still am.

I speak proudly of losing 60 pounds -- but I lose track of the fact that I have a good hundred -- ninety, anyway -- left to lose. I'm not even half way there.

I'm gross.

And worse -- I'm gross and I've been feeling and acting like I'm not.

How repulsive.

This mood will pass. It needs to.

Tom reminded me last night that it's not about the weight. It was never supposed to be about the weight.

I'm healthy -- way, way healthier than I was, anyway.

That should be enough.

That was supposed to be enough.

I'll get over it. I'll be back at the gym tomorrow, hitting it hard.

But maybe I'll have the good sense to go back to dressing like the fat chick that I am instead of the buff chick that I want to be. Maybe life would make more sense if I went back to living like her, too. Eating, drinking, knowing how the fuck to handle myself in social situations...

I feel better now -- there is no doubt. I guess I look better, but I don't look good. I remain an AWFUL lot of pounds away from looking good. An insurmountable amount. An almost unfathomable amount. It has taken me almost a year to lose 60 pounds -- and that was the beginning -- it always comes off more quickly in the beginning. I need to face facts -- I am never going to lose enough weight to look good, or normal. 


It is an unreasonable goal.

So I've given up my social life and foods and drinks (sigh) that made me happy for the chance to be slightly less disgusting.

AND to feel better physically than I have in years. I can't let this little mood dive obliterate that fact.

Worth it? 

I just don't fucking know right now.

In a few weeks, I'll take the first bike ride of the spring. That should help to clear up my priorities.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Intuitive Eating

Before the doc pronounced my carb sensitivity in a way which I was open to hear, I would have told you that I was practicing Intuitive Eating. I would not have been lying to you, not consciously at least. When I started eating low-carb, I moved thoughts of Intuitive Eating to the back of my mind. But I realized this week that I am following it more closely now than I was when I actually claimed to be following it. I have really tuned in to the needs of my body. I do pay more attention to when I'm hungry and when I'm not. It does not follow the same path every day. 

It seems like eating low-carb goes against the tenants of principle 3:

Make Peace with Food. Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can't or shouldn't have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.

But in retrospect, I don't think it really does. I have indeed experienced that intense overeating -- usually at a Mexican restaurant -- I just can't resist a basket of warm chips and a bowl of fresh salsa. A bag of tortilla chips from the grocery store? Pfffft. That has no power over me. My family has chips at home all the time. Doesn't tempt me a bit. But those warm tortilla chips in a Mexican restaurant? Forget about it. They are my Kryptonite. Knowing this helps a little bit. I try to stay away from them when I can and when I can't I give myself permission to indulge without guilt. But you know what? I feel like hell when I do! Not guilt -- I don't beat myself up for being "weak" or "bad" because I am neither of those things -- I feel really physically bad. The tummy ache that you might expect after a person who generally eats moderately eats without inhibition, sure -- but more than that -- I feel sluggish and exhausted and generally gross.

Sometimes it's worth it, though...

It's a conscious decision.

I find that I just know when it's time for me to get some carbs into my system. And it's usually -- surprise, surprise -- every 7-10 days, just like the doctor ordered. Sometimes it is a little sooner than 7 days -- and I listen to that message when my body sends it. Sometimes I actually go longer than 10 days and I listen to that message as well.

Principle 5 is one I'm still working on, too:

Respect Your Fullness. Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you're comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?

Man, that one seems like it ought to be easy, doesn't it? But sometimes the food is just too delicious to stop when the belly holds up its hand and I just keep eating until it waves a white flag. Lifetime member of the Clean Plate Club. I'm working on it. I'm trying to undo 5 decades of abuse, here -- it doesn't happen overnight.

I am much more in tune than I ever have been before. My body never wanted all of those carbs -- they always made me feel sluggish and -- gross. But I didn't make the association. I just thought that was the way I was supposed to feel. That was my normal. 

The new normal is better.

My body speaks.  I listen.