Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Journaling/Blogging Your Journey

When I started this blog I honestly thought I will have nothing to talk about, but apparently i've filled up almost a year of nothing to talk about so far. For me, writing has kept me accountable to my weight loss, it has given me a place to reflect on my achievements and motivate others to do the same. I never thought that I would be that person that other people look up to, I guess I always felt like a follower in every aspect of my life instead of a leader. I always felt like the one being left behind and now I don't feel like that for the most part anymore. Now I just have so much I want to do that I don't have enough free spots in my day to fit it all.

A fellow Biggest Winner participant, Laura, has also been journaling for some time as a means to reflect. Whether you journal or blog, writing can be an excellent outlet for you to get out some pent out frustration or feelings. I asked Laura to answer a few questions for me concerning her journaling.

How often do you journal?

Over the past five years, anywhere between a few times a day to once in 3 months. I go in spurts. I find that I get lax with it when I’m feeling alright, too busy or disconnected to identify what I’m feeling. I journal most often when I’m very distressed about something (especially about interpersonal conflicts or major life decisions), or when I’m on a conscious path to make sense of or resolve a personal issue. I also journal when I’m aware that I’m moving through a very important time in my life and I want to track that event and my reactions.

Do you follow any format or do you just write freely?

Generally I just write freely. Instinctively my style involves an abundance of sentence fragments, hyphens, commas and synonyms. I don’t tend to “tell a story” in most of my journaling – it’s more a free flow of words that I put down almost as a means of trying them out as a fit with my feelings. As the words come out I wait for my body or emotions to give me a clue to what was the best fit. And when the word stumbles out that I connect to the most, I sometimes write it again and again, circling and underlining. My truest, most authentic journal entries are a stylistic mess; perhaps it’s more like impressionist art!

Now, as a Biggest Winners participant I find myself more often journaling in response to a specific question or series of questions to help me overcome hurdles. For example, the other night while working a night shift I noticed for the 3rd time in two weeks that around midnight I compulsively consumed some of the cookies, cake and bread that was in our staff lounge. Unique about this was that leading up to this I had been feeling this very physical sensation of “losing weight” – as though I could literally feel the pounds falling right off. For someone on a quest for a 48 lbs weight loss, you’d think that would be motivating. But it was really distressing. I watched myself play out this scene on three separate occasions – feeling a sense of weight loss and then going hard and fast to the junk food to avoid it. The next day I started working through some of that with the question, “Why do I compulsively eat at work at night?” I’ve included some of that entry at the end of this.

What benefits have you found journaling has on your weight loss journey?

There is the benefit of connecting my thoughts and behaviours to actual feelings. I mean, I know I think things, and I certainly do things but until the past year or two I’d say, I had no idea at all what I felt pretty much ever. I’m a fairly ‘steady’ person and I’d just clock along eating too much, gaining weight, trying to exercise it off, and thinking “what the hell is wrong with me?” and “I’m disgusting, I’m bad, I’m weak.” As for what I felt leading up to eating, while eating and afterwards? No clue. Journaling is a medium for practicing bringing forth and identifying emotion. It has also allowed me to sort out and quiet many loud, sometimes conflicting conversations that go on in my head about my motivation, resistance, frustration, anger and sense of loss around the topics of my own overweight-ness and weight loss. It helps me to stay clearer and steadier by keeping me engaged and authentic to my experience and my needs on this rocky, challenging journey.

Do you have any recommendations for someone who wants to start journaling but isn't sure where to start?

I do have some humble recommendations. The first is to at least hear me out on this! I’ve encouraged other close people in my life to consider journaling as a means for working through life changes, making big decisions, and overcoming obstacles but I’m often met with skepticism. They usually say, “But I don’t know what to write”. Remember, journaling is not an essay project that is for someone or something. Moving your thoughts and feelings from inside of your body onto paper in the form of words, drawings, sentences, stories or whatever is for you. And not only is it for you, but it actually is you. There is nothing more personal than that – so give yourself the freedom to keep it really yours in whatever style suits you. These days I use scrap paper, text messages to myself, email or a word doc on the computer – whatever is convenient at the time. And I rarely re-read it and rarely share entries. It’s just me in the moment in print form.

I’ve also heard from someone that she doesn’t want to journal because it’s too hard to confront her truth in writing. It’s as though putting the thoughts and feelings into written word renders them real. I appreciate that it will be intense. Or scary. Or saddening. To deal with this resistance I think of one of my favorite quotes, “The only way out is through.”

Can you share a journal entry that you have written during your weight loss journey that you feel has helped you?

Sure – this is about that night-shift binge situation I’ve been tackling. Every week or so I get the same “losing weight” physical sensation but I’ve only really self-sabotaged at work at night. Jeez, when I read it, it is awfully intense – but I’m sharing this because for me validates how extremely emotional our journey really is. Whether you have 30 or 300 lbs to lose – the emotions aren’t necessarily proportionate to the weight loss goal. And I know, it may seem to your average person like a few cookies on a night shift, but underneath it’s about lots more. It’s important to acknowledge that. Here are some reflections…

I’m standing in a body that feels like it’s melting right off of me. My skin feels thin, my bones feel shaky. The fat in between is falling to the floor. I’m going to be left with thin skin and shaking bones? And nothing more. I tell myself that I’m not that girl anymore. I’m not that girl anymore.
This is when it feels the scariest. It used to feel like weight loss was power over something – and in this moment it feels like all-consuming power over me. It’s taking me.
It’s late. I’m tired. I’m alone. I’m working very hard. Life is short and unfair right behind that door. And that one too. It is not safe right now to leave myself vulnerable and I feel that I need to save myself. Eat.
If I’m feeling vulnerable, tired, alone then why would I make things worse by infuriating myself with self-sabotage like this? If I were home, I’d get a warm hug, I’d have warm tea, I’d put on warm clothes, I’d have a warm bath, I’d be in a warm bed. Here I feel cold and dying. How can weight loss be life giving and death all in one? And if it is, well then it is. But how do I negotiate both? Maybe in the same way that me living overweight is life giving and death all in one – I just do. Being overweight for most of my life has felt like living half dead. But in this moment, it feels like a safer, cushier, softer, warmer, gentler death.

Thank You Laura for being so open and honest and sharing your personal experience with me. I know it has helped me in looking deeper into certain questions that I ask myself. I think your answers will help others who may have wanted to start journaling their progress but just weren't sure where to start. I know for me blogging my experience has been a means of staying accountable not only to myself but to everyone who reads this. It keeps me going towards my goal to know that other people have an expectation for me to succeed and I will.

‎"Never give up on a dream just because of the length of time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Recognizing Achievements

How many days to do just live our life and forget to be grateful for what we have and what we have accomplished? Sometimes it is hard to remember to celebrate those achievements when we are working towards a big goal. I am fully guilty of that - I admit it. I lost 3 lbs this week, 1/2 of the weight I gained in Vegas, and the first thing that came to my head was "that's not enough". Then I reminded myself that 3 lbs is lots and 3 lbs next week will mean i'm right back on track. I reminded myself that this is a process, and it will take time. I had a great week of workouts and on track with my food, my only guilty was giving into an easter chocolate at work. I am proud of 3 lbs, I am happy with that number, but that thought still goes through your head. Its about changing your inner dialog to recognize that regardless of what the scale says it is about how do you feel. Did you put in 100%? Did you eat clean? Did you get your water? if you did everything you were supposed to do then be proud, if you didn't then you know what to change. Losing weight is about being consistent and focused, and it doesn't happen overnight.

Losing weight is also about recognizing your achievements that have absolutely nothing to do with the number on the scale. Today we did side planks in class and only a month ago I couldn't hold a side plank for 30 seconds. Today I held a side plank on both sides for the full 30 seconds without dropping. That is an achievement that has nothing to do with the scale. What did you achieve this week? or this month? Write down your achievements and reflect on them, it will allow you to recognize how strong you are getting.

In 2011 I have achieved..
-Holding a side plank on both sides for 30 seconds
-Improving my 10K run time
-Fitting into clothes that didn't fit me a month ago
-Feeling good about my body in more revealing clothes

Remember, this is not a race with anyone, you are only competing with yourself to get stronger, faster and more confident every day. Recognize your little achievements and celebrate your milestones.

"Too many people miss the silver lining because they're expecting gold." - Maurice Setter

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Don't aim to be perfect, aim to be consistent

Home sweet home!! We got back yesterday from Vegas and it's nice to be home and back in my routine. I felt like I was pretty much on track with my food for the whole week, I made the best choices I could given the circumstances but I know I wasn't eating every 3 hours and was not getting enough water and the food probably had tons of salt in it. I worked out in the hotel gym and walked at least 5KM per day. It was the alcohol that did me in though. Alcohol + Sodium = Deadly for weight loss. I thought I would probably gain a couple pounds coming back, but at the weigh in today I was up 6. It is so frustrating because that is almost a pound a day and I for sure did not eat/drink 3500 calories over and above my normal burn of 2500 every day. I had maybe 2 drinks per day and only had two sugary drinks the whole time, the rest was basically gin and tonic or vodka, but not Bellinis. My body just does not react well to the sugar, it's saying "what the hell are you putting in me???" and just hangs on to it all. I think I wouldn't be as frustrated if I had just ate whatever I wanted and drank whatever I wanted all week and not worked out but I made a conscious effort to be on track and to work out and to see a +6 is devastating for me. I'm just hoping that most of that is me retaining water from all the high sodium food and that I can get fully back on track this week.

I know that in life it must be about balance and that I can't be in a controlled environment 100% of the time and it's just about finding ways to work around it. It will take me two weeks probably to take off the weight I gained, and that's a big set back for me, but I will do it. It means super strict food and extra workouts. I know that losing weight is 90% what you eat so given that I didn't have the best possible food choices this last week that is a huge contribution to it. But on a positive not I had an awesome vacation and some much needed time away :).

I have learned though that life is not about being perfect, it is about being consistent. I cannot live my life eating perfectly forever, but I can consistently make good choices. After feeling pretty down on myself for my gain I reminded myself with some help from my supportive group, that I will take it off, I will get back on track, i'm back on track right now. Just because I had a slip up doesn't undo all the hard work I've done.

I'm still proud of myself for making good choices while I was away. I took the stairs instead of the escalator every time. I chose water over free booze at the gambling tables. I got up and went to the gym instead of getting that extra hour of sleep. I always chose salad instead of fries. I made all possible substitutions that I could to ensure I was getting a healthy meal.

Here's to an awesome weigh in next week!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Canyon, my bootcamp headquarters!

I'm in the land of temptation, the city of sin, VEGAS BABY!! Which I love, I love Vegas and everything that goes along with it. Blackjack and Craps are my games. But other than gambling there is just so much to do here and so much to see. I was slightly worried about this trip and staying on track. Given I have only been here for 1 day but so far so good.

Finding a healthy meal in this city is like trying to find a needle in a haystack - seriously! Last night when I got in I walked the strip searching for a restaurant that looked relatively okay to go into but for the most part it was pretty much deep fried city everywhere. I settled for somewhere and ordered a salad but forgot about those extra things they add to salads that they neglect to put on the menu, ie. extra cheese and croutons oh and probably a whole bottle of dressing. So with my massive plate of salad that could feed like 3 people I picked around the croutons and bacon bits and ate as much of the salad that looked edible as I could.

Today was much better, John arrived late last night and we got up early this morning to head out to Hoover Dam and the Canyon. First stop Hoover Dam where we walked the dam and took some photos. Also did a bunch of stairs - yes Lovisa I did singles and doubles!! Grabbed a bite to eat in the cafe which again was an expedition in finding something healthy, turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread without any condiments and a fruit salad. Not really appetizing or good but the best I could do with what they offered.

Next stop Grand Canyon! So I was slightly surprised to find out that it was going to cost us $100 for both of us to do a self guided tour and walk around; however, at the end of the day I have to say it was worth every penny. We were there for a good 4 hours at different locations. So I fit in my workout for the day while many other tourists laughed at me, I think they just thought I was insane but whatever it was kinda funny.

Now that i've completed one full day in Vegas without giving into really any temptations, well apart from the glass of wine im drinking, I have to say that's pretty good. Wonder what my odds are of this happening every day...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A letter to my current self

Those of you who know me, know how hard it is for me to accept compliments and praise. Why is this? I guess part of is I feel sometimes like I haven't reached my final goal yet so i'm not ready to fully accept it as a success. But on the other hand I know I must celebrate every single success and remember the milestones. Part of me is afraid that if I fail then i'm letting everyone down. But realistically i'm only letting myself down if I fail. It's scary to fail, i'm such a perfectionist and have this need to be good at everything I do. But I realize and I know that I can never fail as long as I am giving 100% each and every day.

I had a rough day at work yesterday and reached a breaking point. I could feel the food demon creeping up inside me urging me to eat those candies and chips and treats that were in the office. I was strong enough to stop myself and tell myself "NO" and for that I am proud. I walked away.

Last week I wrote a letter to myself 10 years ago. Today I am writing a letter to me today as an outsider. I watch all these amazing people in my Biggest Winners group and I am so proud of all of them for various reasons, so it is important for me to be proud of myself too. It's important to remind myself of where I came from so when i'm faced with these situations where I am frustrated and am looking for some fast satisfaction (ie. food) then I can refer to this.

What would you say to yourself if you were looking in from the outside?

Dear Brianna,

I want you to know how very proud I am of everything you have accomplished. You have been persistent and determined over the last 1190 days. You never give up. You have grown into a strong, independent and beautiful woman.

Never forget where you came from. I want you to remember what it felt like to be 360 pounds. Remember how hard it was to just walk one kilometer. Remember how much you hated your body. Remember how sluggish and weak you felt. Now look at where you are - you can run 10 kilometers without stopping, you can buy clothes in a regular store, you are happy, you are in control. DO NOT GO BACK!

The next time you feel frustrated, don't give up. Remember that food does not control you, food does not make you feel better. Use your support system, reach out. Exercise - it makes you feel better every time and you know that.

You are beautiful, you are a good friend and you are an inspiration to many people. Remember that you are the most important person and you must put yourself first in order to be a good friend, wife, aunt, daughter and sister. It's okay to say no sometimes, you can't do everything.

Above all remember that you are worthy. Keep going, never give up because you reach every goal you set for yourself. YOU CAN DO THIS!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Day 1 Again

Today was day 1 all over again. That is day 1 of another Biggest Winner session - everyone was revamped and ready to go to meet some big goals. It was great to see another set of new people in the group, though everyone looked a little stunned at the level of commitment that is expected.

Speaking to the new people - trust me the reward from this commitment is something that I wouldn't give up for anything and at the end of 12 weeks you will be so grateful that you did this. It's not easy, it requires preparation and thought and a willingness to give up time where you may have enjoyed other things. But you will learn to love the feeling of being in control of your food and your life that it will become second nature to you.

Today was prep day - I haven't "prepped" in the last couple weeks because I've been away for a few weekends and busy so I haven't been organized during the week like I like to be. I did a costco shop, grabbed some veggies for the week and the other little odds and ends. Then it was home to make spinach dip, tuna, ground turkey with veggies and chicken wings. All of coarse clean proteins - and the wings are not real wings they are chicken thighs. I would normally want to use chicken breast since that's leaner but chicken thighs is what was in my freezer and i'm trying to use it all up. My general prep plan for most weeks is to make my proteins and then I just add veggies to those for each meal.

My treat was my dinner which was protein pancakes - normally it's no complex carbs after 4PM for me but given I had a big workout this morning and was pretty much go go go all day I let it slide today. Nicki, a fellow Biggest Winner participant, gave me this recipe that is so simple that it makes me want to make pancakes for every meal. Protein pancakes are 1/3 cup cottage cheese, 1/3 cup oatmeal and 1/3 cup egg whites blended to make the batter - so just 1 part of each so you can make as much as you want. That is the base of the pancake then you can add whatever you want. I added cinnamon and then put 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter on top and some blackberries. But really you could put on it whatever you like. It seriously feels like i'm cheating eating these but i'm not which is the best part!!

I'm looking forward to session number 4 for me being one where I get very close to my final goal. I had initially set my goal for this session to be 34 lbs which is how much more weight I need to lose to get to my 200 lb lost mark. But I realize that is a bit of a stretch considering i'm coming to the end and don't have that much more to go. So i've revised my goal to be 25 lbs. 25 lbs will put me at 169, I will be in the 160's which will be huge. That is at least 2 lbs per week that I need to lose and that is feasible, what it means is I have to be 100% on track with my food though and be prepared week to week. I have to commit my Sundays to planning and preparing.

So here are my intentions for session #4:

1. I will do a minimum of 7 workouts per week. For the most part I do more as I double up on a lot of classes, but a minimum of 7.
2. I will drink 3 liters of water each and every day. I do this already, but it is a continuing that that must remain on my radar.
3. I will eat clean at every meal. Perhaps there will be a "rogue" meal or two in Vegas - but I will do my best to be completely on track.
4. I will be prepared every week for my meals and ensure I have healthy food options on hand

So what are your intentions? Whether you are in the Biggest Winners program or not, think about what your intentions are? Maybe 12 weeks is too big a span, but what about this next week. Can you commit to making one small change? Maybe this means walking up the stairs at work instead of taking the elevator, or saying no to the Tim Hortons in the lunch room, whatever it is set your intention. It will feel so good when you make it through the week and you have fulfilled your commitment.

Remember this: "There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs"