Vulnerability is not my strong suit. At least, it hasn’t been for a while. There was no room for vulnerability the latter half of 2018. Four days. Four days was all it took in the middle of a bright but mildly warm July to shift my life. As I watched the folks from the funeral home drive down the street, my father in tow, I had to laugh. Mind you, I laughed… a lot. It’s how I cope with death. They were moving slowly. So slowly down the street where I learned how to ride a bike, drive a car, and was a general hell raiser on, as if they knew the minute my father was out of my sight, my life would shift. Whenever I’d opt to drive home instead of fly, I would turn into our neighborhood, and speed down our street so I could get home a tad bit more quickly, just to have a few seconds more with my Dad. Foolish really. It was the thought that mattered though. They turned the corner and he was gone. You’re wondering what in the world this has to do with anything, I’m sure. Be patient with me.
Despite the fact that I am far from the eldest, the task fell to me to be a counselor, teacher, sober driver, decision maker, an executor, truth teller, co-matriarch, and sometimes pseudo patriarch of the family. I felt like my life had switched gears from cruising down the street, to the fast and the furious. My gym routine took a hit, my eating habits once again went out the door, and by September 2018, I gained back 20lbs of the 90lbs I had lost since June 2016. Instead of being vulnerable and talking about my grief, I shut down and shut a lot of people out. Much like Cher Horowitz, I needed somewhere I could go to clear my head and gather my strength (*that’s a Clueless reference*). So, I checked the chip on my shoulder, packed a bag, and entered into the sanctuary that never failed me, that would always be waiting for me, and that embraced my vulnerability: the gym.
A plethora of folks have DMd me on social media and sent emails asking about my journey. And although I have shared a few things privately and sometimes publicly here and there on Twitter and Instagram, like a gym selfie or a recipe, I’ve never felt confident enough to share too much about my journey overall. So, here I am giving you a little peek behind the curtain.
The Build Up
In high school and college, my best friends were athletes, members of the armed forces, and teammates from various sports. For me, it literally took zero effort to keep my 5’5” figure thick but slim, muscular but soft. However, after some unfortunate experiences in college, I coped with my emotions by eating for comfort. When I moved for grad school, the stress of a new place where I knew zero people, combined with the PTSD from recent and unresolved trauma exacerbated the situation. By the time I moved to Texas, I was shocked at how different my body was. The woman that used to get up at 5:30am for daily workouts had been replaced by someone that I didn’t recognize. What still intrigues me to this day is that I never hated my body. No- not at all. I loved how plush I was, how soft I felt. What made me look at myself differently was that I could no longer do the things I loved to do.
It was a random summer morning in June 2016 when I woke up to get ready for brunch with my friends. It was at the Social House in Uptown Dallas. One of my favorite spots. When we were there, we were dancing, laughing, having a good time but I noticed how easily I was short of breath. We all ended up walking around Uptown and Deep Ellum all afternoon and I just felt so unfit. That wasn’t me. I was always the one running around, my friends having to pick up their pace to keep up. However, the nail in the coffin was when we went to Six Flags later that evening.
I love rollercoasters. Although, it normally takes at least one ride where I’m screaming and digging my nails into my seatmate’s arm for me to get comfortable. After that, it’s over because I am ready! The moment I knew I wanted a change, that I needed a change, was the moment I had to walk away from a coaster. The harness wouldn’t close and I had to gather what was left of my shattered pride, and walk to the exit. I told my friends to stay and enjoy the ride. But one by one, they all silently followed me out and embraced me as I clenched my jaw, and held back my tears and sobs. I’ve never told anyone that story. I suppose I feel comfortable writing it here because I do not have to physically face any of you and say it out loud.
The Lifestyle Change
The next day (it’s still June 2016), I signed up for the nearest gym- a chain so I could have the access even when traveling. My insurance had an agreement with the franchise to cover half of my membership dues every month so I could afford a trainer. We started with an intense cleanse. We dropped my carb intake to below 60 grams a day, and I was in the gym once in the morning and in the evening just walking on the treadmill. After two weeks, we added strength workouts. Slowly but surely, I increased my weights and my cardio to an hour. All the while, my pants sizes were dropping.
I started having healthier breakfasts and meal prepping every Sunday. I purchased Six Pack Fitness containers and bags so I’d have something to carry my food in. I went from drinking a couple of glasses of water a day to close to 1.5 gallons. My carb intake went from close 300grams a day to following a cyclical carb schedule to aid my body on heavy lifting days. But after July 2018, things changed.
By August 2018, when the scale slowly crept upward for a few weeks, I knew why. I was still working out, not as often, definitely not enough to counter the emotional eating I was doing to deal with my grief of losing my father and helping family members manage theirs. Recognizing my triggers and learning about my relationship with food helped me determine how to pick myself back up.
I ended up reconnecting with my old trainer from Dallas and we started working together long distance. In late November is when we really hit it hard. I’ve been strength training my upper body three times a week, and my lower body twice a week, alternating between light and heavy days. My cardio is more varied as I alternate between HIIT and steady state cardio. In the meantime, I’ve signed up for a 10K for April and am training for that. My relationship with food has improved immensely and I know how to balance things out so I can enjoy an indulgent meal here and there. My body is showing the progress, to the extent that many of you have noticed my abs coming through in my photos on Twitter and Instagram. When I saw that, I did my little happy dance, possibly cried, and have been on a high ever since.
Most days start with a solid 32oz of water and a quick workout just to get the blood flowing. In the evenings, I return to complete my weight lifting routine, abs (usually five days a week), and finish it off with a touch of cardio. Either way, I feel like a BOSS every time I leave the gym. To me that is a reward. But I’m sure you’re more interested in the stats. Since starting this journey, I have lost 110lbs, approximately 10” from my waist, nearly 12” from my hips, and 19.5% body fat. Yeah… I’m kind of a bad ass.
The reward for me isn’t about having the “perfect/dream” body. That is truly towards the end of my list of hopeful rewards. My reward has been the ability to run for miles without being out of breath, to challenge my body and win, to be more happy thanks to those endorphins (here’s to you Elle Woods). And yeah, it makes me feel sexy. My body is not where I want it to be; there are challenges I want to take on and crush but slow progress is still progress.
And frankly, my personal happiness and self-confidence is in the ability to set a goal and achieve it, not a dream body.
Hmmm. Who knows, maybe vulnerability really is sexy?
N.B. Take a look at the progress and let me know what you think! Also, if you’re feeling a little sweet on me, my Amazon wishlist has tons of practical items for meal prepping and working out. Also, I’m a huge fan of Lululemon workout gear, especially the pants that make my butt look phenomenal.