How to Age the Right Way

I’m 37 years old. My joints ache more than they should. The anxiety is still present, but somewhat controlled (still, some days are better than others), asthma is under control, and I still push myself further and further at the gym. I aim for high standards, and there are times I get discouraged because I can’t ignore the fact that if I were in my twenties, I wouldn’t experience half the pain as I do now.

Admittedly, I imagine what it would have been like if I had started earlier, like in my twenties. But you know what? The gym just wasn’t where I was supposed to be at that time in my life…

And so I quickly jump back into reality; to the present, and stay informed through research as well as personal experience (what’s worked for me and what hasn’t),  so that I can continue to drive my passion of fitness and health to the max. After all, I want to look good, but I also don’t want to deprive myself of the opportunity to maintain my independence as well as the ability to demonstrate an insane amount of strength and endurance as I get older.

Medicine and science has come so far that the average life expectancy has increased dramatically from what it used to be. But even though medicine and science are much more advanced, more and more people become too reliant on it and therefore, leave it to such advancements in medicine and science to treat them for high blood pressure, diabetes type II, etc, rather than becoming proactive in their own healthcare.

I want to be as full of life and energy as I am now, if not better as I age, rather than have my age be a deterrent for what I hope to achieve. And it won’t.

I mean check out 62 year old Andreas Cahling out on his Facebook page.

This is a quote from two of his recent Facebook posts:

“At 62 – as a master’s bodybuilder it is about getting the job done with a minimum of wear and tear while paying attention to restorative possibilities. Avoid toxic commercial hormone disrupting, estrogenizing skin products. Stay strong. Many things raise or decrease your testosterone levels and receptor capacity.”-Andreas Cahling

“At 62 – Exercising and eating natural foods while maintaining adequate testosterone levels are among the keys to staying in shape for life. So is the avoidance of hormone disrupting commercial skin products.”- Andreas Cahling

And here’s an inspiring photo of him found doing a quick Google search:

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His philosophy on aging and maintaining performance and the ability to continue his passion (at his age..because age is nothing but a number), touches on nutrition as one way to achieve/maintain results and longevity….

And while many (I’m pretty much open) have different approaches and/or viewpoints as regards to nutrition, (I mean it’s a huge debate) it does really come down to:

1) Finding what meets your needs/goals. In other words, what is sustainable to keep YOU on track to meet those goals? And…

2) Finding a manageable balance between aesthetics and overall health as we get older… “you’re not as young as you once were”.

Because, let’s face it, What good is a nutritional approach, if you’re just going to hem and haw and feel absolutely miserable? What will happen?

Simple. You will fail. You will feel discouraged and disgusted. And then it begins….

What’s going to make you look better? What’s going to make you feel better? What’s going to make you perform better? However and unfortunately, I think it’s safe to make the claim that aesthetics blows any and all rationale out of the water.

Aesthetics allow one to look visually appealing, but has no bearing on an individual’s health status.

Do you agree?

It’s not always the “quality” of food that you are eating that determines health, but simply making adjustments that will make sure that you are getting the proper nutrients/ breakdown of protein, carbohydrates and fats rather than ultimately discovering that you are deficient in any of those components to the degree in which it could potentially stifle your overall  performance, energy, independence, among others.

For example, if you choose to follow the infamous “flexible dieting” approach, (however, this can apply to any nutritional approach), it would be wise that you don’t solely rely on one or two food sources ( I am not going to identify those food choices because it just causes stress as well as alter your relationship with food in general). In other words, it is important for whatever approach you choose to help assist you in your goals to choose from a vast selection of foods that will provide adequate nutrition (vitamins, protein, fat, and carbs).

While I will be pursuing a nutrition certification beginning in March, I am not a registered dietician or a nutritionist, therefore these are not meant to be recommendations or to diagnose/cure anything. This is just an observation touching on the various, ongoing debates about the “diets” (I even hate the use of that word) circulating the Internet (among other places).

It pains me to see people who are just determined to lose weight, gain muscle, improve performance, focus on longevity so much so that they will innocently attach themselves to a diet approach that may or may not be aligned with their goals or just simply not right for them ultimately experiencing side effects other than making progress towards their actual goals. Most are steered away from their actual needs, which then can become a limiting factor, preventing them from reaching their maximal potential in becoming the best version of themselves over the long run.

Getting proper nutrition also needs to be a resource for optimizing performance and health in spite of age. When we lack certain components of nutrition, we are allowing ourselves to age faster and it shows. Bottom line: Nutrition=the ability to be more mobile therefore achieve more (or just continue to do what we used to to some degree) as we age.

Always do your homework and consult with a trusted professional to make the most out of your journey, and not just for aesthetics, but also for longevity, health and prosperity.

Nobody is going to give a shit how old you are if you’re showing up with results, a positive attitude, realistic expectations, and your continuous pursuit of a dream. They will see passion and drive, not age.

What Motivates You?

I often wonder what motivates someone…

What’s their story?

What makes them want to make a change?

When do they reach “rock bottom”?

What prevents them from reaching “rock bottom”?

Things that motivate you constantly change. If it didn’t, wouldn’t our flame just quietly burn out?  and all we would be holding is a bunch of hardened wax.

Unfortunately, frustration, desperation, resentment, hurt are the feelings that we give into a lot more and seek out ways to sabotage ourselves. You find “comfort” in doing things that you’re familiar with; comfortable with, vices that make you numb. (i.e., food, drugs, alcohol, etc) yet only damages you mentally, physically and emotionally when it becomes the only thing that you turn to in search of comfort and escape from reality.

We always go back to what hurts us rather than reassessing our plan and reminding ourselves that we’re training for a long term goal, and we owe it to ourselves to stick it out and push that much harder just to get that much further. Don’t we?

Instead, we continue to remain in a comfortable, familiar time and space that is controlled by fear, self doubt and very little confidence. We resort right back to what our bodies our accustomed to and let our mind control us. Let our problems dictate how numb we want to be.

What if we just used those “negative” feelings as a driving force to make us do better?

What makes some people fight for their life, and other choose to just watch their life pass them by? It’s never a simple answer….

Fighting for your life requires a willingness to face change and for you to allow yourself to become vulnerable to the unknown.

Fighting requires faith and to allow yourself to believe you’re worth enough to go out and find the answers to become better than you were yesterday.

A quick story…

Tonight, while out grocery shopping, I encountered an obese man walking back to his cart with a gigantic jug of vegetable oil. He was breathing heavily, struggling to walk the short distance where his cart was waiting about 5 feet away from him.

I wanted to walk up to him and share a piece of knowledge; a better option to cook with, but the next time I saw him, he was paying for a huge bag of cooked fried chicken at the food kiosk before walking out the door.

Maybe you think I was judging him. I wasn’t. I swear. I felt concerned and I was just observing him trying desperately to figure him out.  I just couldn’t help but wonder what his life was like; what his back-story was. You see, I didn’t just see an obese man, I envisioned someone who cared for him and loved him, having to live without him.

And I wondered what would motivate him?

I’ve been that way for the past week. Observing and asking questions; praying that more people could find the strength or motivation to fight adversity, hardships and obstacles that get in the way of making healthier choices.

These past few days, I couldn’t help but feel anxious. A lot has been going through my mind and it’s followed by a feeling of despair and hopelessness. It’s that feeling you are trying to fight, but your hands are tied and there is a deep sadness felt in my heart so much so that it aches.

And I wish I didn’t care so damn much.

But I do. I want my friend of 17 years to be okay. I want her to experience life the way I do on one of my happiest days. I want her to be able to go out to lunch and talk with me over coffee. I want all of these selfish things that really sound like they have to do with me, not her. Because right now, I’m sure she just wishes that she could feel better once and for all. I’m sure that she just prays that they will find a way to help her heart heal so that it will stop destroying her kidneys and liver.

I wish for that too. But to wish for those out loud would be to acknowledge things have changed and time has passed.

I pray that my stepfather could heal and not have his quality of life disrupted by spinal stenosis. That would mean everything could go back to the way it was before. I’m not naïve. We’re getting older. But I just wish I could be granted a little bit of that innocence that left me the day my father passed away in 2005.

I try to stay focused on my long term goal so that I don’t unravel when life throws curveballs at you one after another. That pain I feel is what keeps me pushing and fighting…

When life opens up into a huge slippery slope, I go to the gym to and just focus on the weight on the bar, and to replace the pain with a different type of struggle.

I want to feel uncomfortable by something that I can actually control and conquer.

Megan Web (2 of 11)

When I train, I feel alive. I feel all of the venom in my veins being lifted from that bar. I feel strong; I feel angry too, but mostly, I feel strong.

I train because it makes me feel disconnected from that ache in my heart.

When I train, I’m not just training for myself. I’m training because someone else can’t. Or someone else won’t.

I train because I feel as I get stronger, they’ll get stronger through me as I’m able to lift the pain and frustration that burdens them.

Why do you train? How has training helped you deal with issues in your life? Let me know in the comments below.

The Truth About Binging (My Perspective)

Binging. Many experience it. Many wait until they’re all alone before they binge. Some do it out in the open. You just can’t stop eating. And eating. And eating. And even though you’re out of control, you actually feel very much in control. 

Food is a social experience; it is at the center of social gatherings, relationships and communication.

Many have suggested binging comes after following a restricted diet for so long; denying or looking at food as “unhealthy” and No I can’t eat that or that or that….

But I don’t think that’s the entire story. I believe that because we already have an established relationship with food, when we “go on a diet” it can feel like a loss and we experience grief.

And I believe once our relationship with food is questioned or altered, it becomes one of the major battles to confront.  It impairs us mentally and emotionally.

Why?

Because food is more than just food. It’s our way to connect and forge relationships with others. It’s our way to prevent feeling like a social pariah.

And a lot of memories and experiences culminate around food. Food can bring back a memory of a loved one who has passed on, and can make us feel more connected to them.

It’s a way for us to carry our relationship with us well after they are gone.

I remember, every Sunday, my father and stepmother would take that day off from work and we’d drive an hour or so away for a fun afternoon of jet-skiing and a picnic. I yearn for those days of eating together at an old rustic picnic table, flies swarming our food, my father cracking jokes, and my family and I just laughing and spending time together before hopping back on the jet-skis.

I remember my grandmother’s delicious hamburgers every Thursday afternoon. Even when I grew older, I could always visit grandma and she’d insist on making me a cup of tea with milk and sugar, and something to eat. We would sit in the kitchen, and I would talk her ear off for hours.

Moments like those made me feel connected. When you “diet” you essentially are denying yourself a relationship and disconnecting yourself from that relationship. And I wouldn’t change anything.

If only I could have those moments back.

Just this past Thanksgiving, I broke down and cried when I tried to make a recipe of hers and it all just fell apart.

A diet, while often necessary to achieve a desired result along with exercise, is not just a restriction of food to aid in weight loss, it’s not just a caloric deficit, or cutting out carbohydrates, fats, or gluten even, it’s a break up; a detachment from memories, old and new, past and present with family, friends, laughter, and comfort.

A diet becomes a grieving process; it’s not sustainable long term because you feel isolated from friends and family, so more than likely, for the sake of reestablishing those familiar feelings and memories, you binge to find those emotions again; to try to reconnect and feel somewhat kind of “normal” again.

Binging doesn’t have to be an option. It’s a hard habit to break. I know, I’ve been there. Over and over again.

But I also know that no matter how challenging it is, it’s also not impossible. I can still create new memories that still align me with my goals, while not giving up my memories entirely with flexible dieting.

Flexible dieting is an alternative to the old standard “diet”, it’s not the solution, but it’s a much better approach from a psychological point of view.  With flexible dieting you aren’t restricting yourself from any particular food groups and therefore, allowing yourself to have more freedom and control.

With “clean eating”, the idea behind it is to eliminate processed foods, eliminate sugar, eat small meals throughout the day, and you limit or don’t allow yourself to have “junk food”.

The idea behind Flexible dieting is to get you to count macros such as carbs, proteins, and fat. It focuses on getting a nutrient based diet from whole foods, but allows you to treat everyday if you want. It makes  “dieting ” a little bit more sane, however, it’s equally as challenging from the standpoint that you still have to make sacrifices. It’s still a diet, you’re still committing the act of restricting yourself, so it still fucks with you mentally because the mind will always want what it cannot have.

Keep in mind, this approach has its challenges as well. For example, it’s impossible to not develop or hone your OCD tendencies with either approach. Counting calories, macros, weighing food, it’s impossible to NOT develop a more direct, focused relationship with food; to be more cognizant of what you would like to eat vs what you’re actually able to “fit within your macros” for the day.

But the overall objective is to develop a positive relationship with food as well as with your body.

(Because of course, micromanaging your meals when you suffer from an extremely low body image is only going to make it that more mentally destructive and damaging.)

As I said, I’m a “recovering” binge eater, so I have recently started following a macro counting approach (Again) to combat my binging and to provide more structure and accountability. The benefits of a more structured plan, after taken into account past experiences definitely outweighs the risks; mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Trying to control my body from a healthy, physical aspect, is extremely challenging and takes just as many years if not more to undo the relationship that we previously had with food while we were growing up. But I realized, binging isn’t acceptable either. Not in this society. You’re either an addict or your not. And it’s a slippery slope that anyone can stumble onto if not careful. The relationship that we have with our physical being doesn’t always align with our mental being. Binging is only going to be self destructive and following a structured approach has more potential to guide you away from the beaten path.

While you may discover some OCD behaviors, structure is sometimes what is necessary to establish so that we don’t become a menace to ourselves in the long run.

I’d also like to note that I have an extremely addictive personality, and come from a family that has suffered from addictions as well (I’ve been there at a point in my life as well) so I need some kind of “rehab” if you will….

I need structure and accountability or else I’m going to just keep binging; I’m going to keep self- destructing. I want to keep my memories, but I also want to achieve my fitness goals as well.

And I aim to achieve that by striving to establish a positive relationship with food.

Admittedly, the feelings I have of beginning a macro counting “lifestyle” again, makes me crave things that I can’t have. So you see, there is some degree of restrictiveness there. Once I hit my macros, I’m done for the night. No more food. Regardless if my stomach is growling and my mind is trying to convince me to just have a midnight snack, or an afternoon snack. But I still have my sanity. I still have my memories. I still feel connected.

I feel cranky because I’m hungry and I can’t just eat. I want to binge, I want to raid the kitchen, but I’m staying strong and telling myself this is only temporary. It’s like a detox anyone with a drug addiction or really any type of addiction goes through.

See, the training part is the easy part. You clap yourself on the back when you are able to increase your strength, run a bit faster, your mind is there. Your mind is there cheering you on and your focused ready to tackle the weight, the run; you’re driven, you’re focused, but as soon as your mind drifts over to thinking about food and, “how many macros do I have left,” it wants to fail and shut you down. It wants to tell you to just eat, it wants to make you feel weak and vulnerable. And you’ll realize you can’t stop thinking about food. You’ll eat one meal and then anxiously await your next meal.
But in the gym, when your lifting weights, your mind is ready to take on a challenge because there are no limitations , the goal is to become stronger, faster, the goal is to do MORE….NOT LESS.

But then again, it’s possible to overdo it in the gym, and I know that there are times when I should lighten the load and/or take a rest, but I don’t want to because I just want to keep pushing.

The mind is constantly playing devil’s advocate.

If you can remember that, you will succeed.

And never do something that is going to bring you down. Find a way to fight back while still allowing you the opportunity to achieve your goals while maintaining a positive relationship with food and your body.

In memory of my grandmother and father….

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Finding The Road Back To Fitness

It seems so long ago. But really, it was just within the past 14 weeks that I’ve discovered a lot about myself. I had an epiphany.

One might say that, I’ve come so far. But really it was just an awakening. Euphoric and I feel like I’m in a much better place. Finally.

Finally I can focus on me. The real me. No more denying who I am. Like I said in my previous post, I will not allow myself to be defined.

And it all started like this…

Before I just did a figure competition because I thought that would make me seem raw and a lot stronger. It would make me seem like I have this anxiety down to a science, that I was the one in control. But that was all just a lie. I thought if I competed, I would be perceived as courageous and demonstrating exemplary strength, unfortunately, behind the scenes, I was breaking. I was crumbling. I was allowing it to define me. Define my self worth. I was becoming obsessed and felt as if I didn’t do it; if I ate one thing that wasn’t on the diet I was a failure. If the scale didn’t read a certain number, I was a failure; that it would just prove that I was weak; that I was what I had felt all along…nothing. I was a failure. At that point, I would allow guilt to binge at my conscience, which by now had somehow turned into my own worst enemy. In turn, I would then sabotage myself by binging and sleeping long hours. Depressed. Anxious. Guilty. Defined. Lost and confused. I couldn’t sort out which one I felt the most and which one I hated the least. I would “check out”. I would lie in bed and imagine myself not here; somewhere else. Somewhere where it would all make sense; where it would all just seem “much easier than this” but that’s just it, I didn’t even have any idea of what “this” actually was. Everyone around me seemed to be doing a fitness competition, and I couldn’t help but feel hatred and resentment. Why couldn’t that be me? Stupid anxiety I would utter all the time. I would shut down and give up. The self- hatred grew so much that I could barely see my own achievements because they never seemed enough. I never seemed good enough.

And over and over again, I set out to put myself in the most uncomfortable place again; in contest prep. It was, at that moment, what I felt I had to do to feel a sense of purpose. But deep down I wasn’t looking at it is an experience, it was becoming my ENTIRE life.

Prepping for a fitness competition only made old wounds reappear, and new ones hastily emerge….

I would go through the prep, struggling, sacrificing, sinking lower and lower, telling myself that if I didn’t do it, I was basically nothing special. But for some reason, as I went through it, the deeper involved I’d get, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I couldn’t possibly imagine going back to not counting macros on a scale; weighing my food, myself and skipping the gym, even for just one workout…the mere thought of any of that scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t be a failure again. I couldn’t just quit. For some reason, the pain and struggle made me feel alive. Not normal, not really living, just alive. And all too real. I was starting to realize that I was trading one disorder for another; I was using all of these obsessive tendencies, these unhealthy behaviors I was adapting to and clinging to, to replace the anxiety that had me feel so out of control at times. Unfortunately, it wasn’t helping, it was only nurturing those toxic weeds to grow more furious and wild inside of me until I couldn’t control it anymore, in fact, I didn’t have control at all. Ever.

I forgot how to enjoy and love fitness and health and instead trapped myself in a web of self-hatred, lack of self-worth and didn’t even know where I belonged anymore.

Comparing my life to others; my worth to others, only made the anger and bitterness deepen. I spent so much time trying to conjure up an image of who I thought I could be, and instead of being proud of who I’ve become; how far I’ve come, I lost focus, and I was throwing myself into hot burning coals before the fire even had a chance to ignite.

If someone gave me a compliment, I’d thank them for the compliment, but in my mind I’d rehearse all of the things that they don’t see. Like maybe the cellulite on the back of thighs. Or that tiny little bit of fat that makes you feel self conscious in a pair of short shorts. The list may go on; it’s different for everybody. I know I’m not alone. I even found myself considering breast implants because I didn’t think I was good enough just being me.

I kept trying to walk away, but once it gets a hold of you, it’s extremely difficult to walk away; it latches on and doesn’t let go…

It wasn’t until I realized that it’s no different that any other addictive behavior; you need time to heal and recover. You need time to get your shit together; your mind right, and that requires just as much strength, if not more, to fight the urge to be honest with yourself. To not let anyone or anything get inside your head and weigh you down.

Each time I was beginning competition prep, I was only unleashing a whole new beast; I felt as though if I didn’t compete, I just wasn’t strong enough; or put in the words of a fellow gym-goer, “it was too tough for me to handle.”

But they didn’t know me. Nobody really knows the true me. And how could anyone if I even lost sight of who I was? It wasn’t that it was too tough; it was the fact that my cortisol levels are already chronically elevated most of the time, and all of the dieting and cardio was exacerbating the issue. It went from being obsessive and getting anxiety at the mere thought of having to eat something that was processed to having anxiety about sodium levels, fiber, carbohydrates etc., anxiety about cardio, or just being able to get to the gym. It was all I could think about from the moment I opened my eyes to the moment I closed my eyes. The program I was on was designed so that I would have to weigh myself everyday, and depending on the number, my macros would decrease or increase. To avoid that, I wouldn’t drink or eat anything until it read what if felt it needed to say before sending anything to my coach. I didn’t want him to lower my calories, I could have easily just lied, but I wouldn’t feel good about myself doing that.

I still can’t help but weigh my food still or fixate on the scale.

Like I said, I felt like a failure. And yes, all of the time. Even though I was hitting my macros right in point and doing all the cardio prescribed to me if the scale even fluctuated by an ounce I’d still feel like a failure.  I still felt fat. I felt that I was never going to be good enough. That’s what I thought…constantly.

 I felt so much anxiety going to my mother in laws home five hours away because I didn’t know how I was going to make it to the gym since after all she was having a heart procedure. I had no energy, no life, no memory, anxiety, sleepless nights, I loved food but I also hated food. I hated the thought of not being able to see my abs. I’d pick everything wrong with my body; I even contemplated getting breast implants. I wanted to fit in so badly. But I was not even fitting in with my own family anymore. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I needed to make a decision. I struggled with it. The inner voice told me I was a failure, I wasn’t worth anything… who the hell am I without this? I felt depressed and even suicidal. I thought maybe that was my only way out of this mess.

For the past 4 years, I have severed relationships, missed a lot of awesome moments, and restricted not just my diet but also my life. I have 3 kids, 11, 13, and 17, and if they weren’t my kids they’d probably choose to walk away from me. I was angry, moody and obsessed all the time. I just became so intolerable of everything; and isolated myself as well as neglected anything that might have been important. If it didn’t fit around a way for me to think, talk, or breathe fitness, I wasn’t interested. I didn’t enjoy functions because I didn’t want to be around other people laughing and enjoying themselves without eyeing a plate of food trying to calculate the macros or calories it had before actually eating it. Each time I saw that, I would either feel envious or just felt the need to inform them of the physical change they could undergo if they were just to make “better choices”.

I longed for the days where I could just have control. I missed the passion; the spark I had found in fitness and nutrition. I missed the way it helped me find my way out of the darkness and thrusted me into this new dimension of life…this whole other territory that made me feel alive, more normal than anything I’ve ever encountered. I wanted that back….

This process that I’ve been on has really been quite the experience. Each and every single time. Even the two times I actually managed to make it to the stage. But this time, this time it has been way more than just a physical change. It has forced me to ask questions that I pushed away before. It has forced me to seek answers to those questions and many other questions that I had allowed myself to drown in and play dead. I was forced to seek answers that maybe I wasn’t even really ready for or had even expected to discover. And this time, well, this time I know what I really want. I want to be happy. In my own skin, my own body; I want to be happy. I think back to a time when I was the happiest and the most confident, and it wasn’t how others saw me. It wasn’t about finding myself where I didn’t really want to be. It wasn’t about living someone else’s story line to make me feel important or give me a sense of purpose. I don’t need to compete in fitness competitions to validate me; it’s just not the direction where I want to go. It may seem crazy to some how something that is so capable of strengthening the body can have the exact opposite effect on the mind. It may seem like I’m not “tough enough” because I choose not to compete, but I really don’t need a competition or validation from anyone or anything to undergo a testament of my true self. I’m not just a wanderer, I’m becoming free; free from the walls in which my mind has placed the key.

To some people, competing gives them validation for all the hard work that they put themselves through. And the number of people, whether or not they belong on stage or not, is growing immensely. I only wish more people could realize that it doesn’t take a competition, or even contest prep, to solidify the accomplishment of getting into shape. I wish more people would recognize that fitness can be a lifestyle without all of the sacrifice; without driving yourself into the ground, sacrificing relationships, missing out on events or memories that can never be relived.

Bottom line is this: there’s nothing wrong with competing, but if you’re going to do it, do it for you. Do it because you want to. Not because you want to spend hours on the elliptical dreaming of the day you can, “go back to being normal”. The process is a real mind fuck, and it has somewhat of a permanent residual effect, which requires time to heal and recover, especially to get back to a good place mentally; to unravel all of the obsessive tendencies and unhealthy habits that develop, which are pretty much inevitable. And when you’re not even competing, you’re still competing. You’re still thinking about food; thinking about what that number on the scale really means. Still studying yourself in the mirror, still taking selfies, still pointing out flaws, still getting plastic surgery, still trying to “feel better” or “waiting for normal to happen again”. It can be an unhealthy transition from contest shape to coming to terms that you can’t walk around depleted, on a low calorie deficit, doing massive amounts of cardio. You just can’t. And that’s a real head twister too. Even the slightest amount of water weight can make you feel all twisted inside; make you feel “fat”.

I want to be in control for once, so instead of giving in, or exerting all of my energy to combat the anxiety, I’m going to say that I’m no longer going to even waste my energy on it. It’s not helping towards my goals so why mess with it. I want to enjoy being fit and healthy. I don’t want to place myself in a box where I’m cornered in and have no say. Simply put, I don’t want to be controlled by fitness, I want to control it. For me, that just works best for my anxious mind. That makes me happy. And what’s better than to do it on my own terms?

When I feel anxious, I want to get annoyed and get pissed off. Like what the fuck are you even doing here? When I’m on the treadmill running my heart out, beads of sweat dripping, my heart pounding, and my adrenaline surging and a panic attack happens, I want to take control and ask it, “what the hell, can’t you see I’m running here?” And I want to run harder to keep pushing it away, burning it so that it drips like sweat from my pores. And if I feel like I’m drifting, like I’m losing the fight, I want to be able to say, “ okay fine you win” without feeling defeated. Yes, I want to be able to have those painful thoughts just so I can remember that I’m being tested; each and every time, I’m being tried and tested. And I’m growing. And I want to feel that pain; feel that growth burning in my lungs, burning throughout my veins. Right there on that treadmill, right there with the weights right above my head; I want to feel like I’m growing and fighting back. And for that, I will be thankful.

 Thankful for my arrival to a place where everything around me will feel different; still scary, yet, new and inviting…

True value and worth have both come to mean something entirely different now. As I stated in my last post, I will not allow anything or anyone to define me. And a fitness competition defines me. It controls me and steers me away from what truly matters, family, faith and overall fitness, health and my wellbeing. Those are what is most important to me.

I’ve said it in previous posts, but I’ll say it again, I’m never going to be fully healed; it’s a battle every single day. Every single time something arises; a new situation, a new journey, I’m always going to be presented with change and uncertainty. I’m always going to have to face this anxiety head on. Yes, even when I’m not looking. This massacre of feelings that keeps me constantly on edge, teaches me something every day. Something new I’ve realized is that I feel anxiety because I long for purpose, or anything really that will allow me to experience fulfillment and value. I need to stop fighting and just ride the wave. The more I resist, the more I doubt myself, the larger the wave becomes. I’m not sinking, but I am almost always close to obscurity from even my own eyes. I need to just take action and quiet that frail and fragile, broken voice from within; to restore and redefine not so much myself, but the importance and purpose of my own life.

And I’m going to do it for me.

 “You are my armor and my sword, my faith and my treasure; everything I’m fighting for.”

-Alice Hoffman

I Cannot Be Defined

I spent the last 4 years in an anxiety-panic driven mind. It’s been hell. Slowly, I’m seeing the light. I’m seeing possibilities. I’m seeking to stretch the limits, push past boundaries from which I’ve enslaved myself in for so long. I’m finding out how to emerge as a more confident and strong woman who has no toes nearing her down. It’s time to swim. And swim hard. No more treading water or fear of sinking. For so long I’ve allowed myself to watch others achieve what I’ve always wanted. I became bitter and resentful but it was my own fault my own entrapment. I hated the world and I hated myself. I looked in the mirror and saw an image. Just an image. Expressionless. Hopeless and fragile. But it was nothing that could actually be broken . I’m fact, to be fixed, it needed to be broken. I needed to feel the damage that had long held me hostage. I needed to break if I wanted to stand tall. If I wanted to be put back together. I didn’t think I could do it. I lived two separate lives. I lived the life where I said don’t allow your anxiety to define you, you are not your anxiety. But then I lived through the guilt, the pain, and sat back and let it suffocate me and take the life out of me and give it to others to have control over. I was angry and felt like dying. I felt like I wasn’t worth anything; I didn’t deserve anything. I was fragile and breakable. I didn’t want to see myself as anything but. I carried around my shackles that were invisible to everyone else but me. I was my own darkness and I made sure to keep my eternal flame from burning too bright. I would always say, “here you win”, and it became something I would say much too often; more than I should have.
I’m not fully healed. But I’m no longer breakable. These feelings of inadequacy will never truly fade, but all I can do is chip away and hope for the day they just completely shatter. So, that’s what I’m doing. Finding myself. Finding out what in the hell I’m so afraid of. Why am I so afraid of it. Searching for a light that isn’t dimmer than me and one day burning brighter than even I can see.
I’ve now just realized that this journey is a redirect away from using the words, anxiety, panic disorder, weak, guilt, and pain; words that I’ve allowed to define me and to consume me. No. I am done. I am a woman who cannot be defined. A woman who is unstoppable and freely taking each breath, each moment and really truly experiencing it all for the first time.

Dust Yourself Off and Try Again.

Last week, I felt so destroyed and so damaged. When is it okay to get fed up? When is it okay to say that you’ve had enough? I mean, why can’t I just surrender and accept that this is how I was created; it’s who I am?  I do realize that when I try to fight it, I am actually denying a huge part of who I am, and yet, I still can’t surrender to this fight that actually gets off on antagonizing me. And while I’m defending myself against the pain that grows deeper and deeper inside of me, I struggle to not feel like a failure. I also struggle to understand and make sense of why I try so hard to convince myself that I have total control over it, when, in fact, over and over, I am actually proven wrong. No, I cannot just rip it out of me like one would rip a weed out of a garden to make room for a growth that’s much more beautiful and serene. So, while it constantly tries to break me down and get me to surrender to it, I get back up and keep fighting. I can recall many moments where I have even struggled to recognize the person standing in front of the mirror, and there are times that I question the shadow that glides alongside my every stride on a day where the sun shines the least in my heart.

But as long as that shadow is there, I know that all of this is very, very real.

At first, I felt failure starting to set in (I fear that the most.).  Then I felt an insurmountable amount of guilt that would go on to rip through my body all day long.

 Panic. More anxiety. Panic. I tried to brush it off.

 With every calorie burned, with every ounce of sweat that dripped from my forehead burning my eyes, I carried on. The anxiety spread and the panic pulsated through my veins, and I couldn’t seem to push it back; I didn’t know how to make it stop. I thought, it’s just how I’m supposed to feel, this is what contest prep is all about. I’ve done it twice before and felt this same exact way, so it was normal.

I wasn’t sleeping; I’d lie awake and cry in pain, and in horror. It felt like I was being shredded to pieces; my insides screamed for mercy. I was jumping out of bed and pacing because in moments where I feel out of control, it somehow seems to be the only logical solution, followed by nights spent crying and waking my husband up, trying to seek reassurance somehow that I wasn’t failing or losing myself. I didn’t want to feel like I was becoming too weak to overcome it. I mean, what reason did I have to complain, give up, or even take a break. People suffered through much more than contest prep and anxiety. What was anxiety anyway? Just another scapegoat ; a crutch; a pass to be let out of the game early? Oh, but it pissed me off. I couldn’t even sit still without feeling restless. And one day to the next, as my cortisol levels were at an all time high, the scale didn’t budge, I mean, it fluctuated, but never any lower than the week before. I was beginning to feel desperate, but not desperate enough to say anything to my coach because I didn’t want to let my guard down. I didn’t want to seem weak. But after a week with no improvement, the email from my coach was out of concern:

 Why wasn’t I losing weight?

Was I being precise with my macros?

 I sat. Staring at it. Taking it all in. The words on the computer started to fade. Cortisol and adrenaline rushing through my body like a reflex. I knew why the scale wasn’t moving, I knew why, but I just didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want it to be real. But as I stared at that email, I knew that if I was going to continue to make progress, now was the time to conquer the demon head on. I had to be honest, and not just with my coach, but with myself.

 True success doesn’t happen from being dishonest.

 I clicked the reply button and began to slowly type out how I have been feeling to my coach. I didn’t want any sympathy, I just wanted a solution.
Still….I thought if I wasn’t struggling and suffering; if I wasn’t feeling miserable, anxious and hungry than I wasn’t working hard enough. I wasn’t being strong enough.

 Okay, Megan…enough is enough. I have to get out of this funk. When you feel sorry for yourself, you dismiss all of the parts that make you who you are. That’s giving up; that’s letting failure come out on top.

 I hit the send button. I’m not one to give up. I’m not one to not finish something, especially if I feel passionate enough about it. When you really, truly want something, you will fight like hell for it.

 Hey, we’re all suffering here. We’re all trying to become better than who we once were…who we currently are. We all have our demons, our moments when we’re not feeling our best. Heck, maybe you smile all the time, but the only thing you truly feel inside is a clenched fist wrapped around your heart. I urge you to address it. To write about it, talk about it, share it because the truth is, if you hold it all inside of you, it’s only dimming the light that has the potential to shine and reflect so bright inside and out of you.

The great thing about life, is that you always have an opportunity to start over; the choices you made yesterday, the guilt that might have consumed you before you said goodnight and crawled into bed to stare at the ceiling or laid in bed to subconsciously listen to the faint sound of the ceiling fan, the hurt you might have endured from not feeling good enough or at the expense of others who may not be happy with themselves, all have to succumb to the darkness of nightfall. And it’s all up to you to either let it all go or carry the burden with you into the light of a brand new day.

Your choice. Always.

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Catch Me If You Can

My heart.

Pounding.

My head.

Crawling with hopelessness.

Rejection.

Fear.

Anxiety….there it is again…grabbing a hold of me; endearing, nurturing, yet so..so…stifling. And I needed to get rid of it.

I laced up my running shoes, tightening them, squeezing the top of my foot. I wanted everything tight. Extremely tight. Because that’s how I felt. My neck ached, my arms and legs wanted to sever themselves from my body and leave me vacant. I took a sip of my water and prepared to run. My mind taunted me. Antagonized me. Laughed at me. And I felt it. Every last whisper. But I was determined. I headed over to the bleachers, and slowly jogged up and down until my legs lit up and lifted me two stairs, three stairs at a time. My heart rate was skyrocketing, beads of sweat stung my eyes, burning them; I squeezed them shut. And I ran. And I ran. I was out of breath, but I kept going. I looked at my watch. Five minutes. That’s it? Discouraged, I took off towards the high school track and broke into a sprint. My heart climbing with very leap and stroke of my foot scratching the surface of the track. I heard voices and laughter. What the fuck. Shit. I didn’t realize the time. School was over. A group of high school boys broke into a slow jog. I almost left, but I needed this; I needed to overcome this anxiety building up inside of me. Approaching them, I felt my legs slowing down, my feet pounding the track; I felt tense.  Them just being there. I started to feel like I didn’t belong. And in a sense, I didn’t. It was right after school; their running time. Their track. Not mine. But I inhaled the fumes from my anxious mind, shut out their locker room humor and darted past them, pumping my legs until I felt like I was on a tarmac ready for take off; sprinting until my legs burned hotter than the sun; hotter than the air in my lungs, and the fire inside of my mind. Suddenly, from the distance, I saw a team of high school girls approaching the track. What the fuck. No. I’m not going to leave. Not now. Not yet anyway. I pushed harder. I jogged and then I ran. Hard. Balls to the wall. I was a jet in flight. A freight train. I passed them. I passed everyone. I wasn’t part of their track team, but I came to beat something; to fight for something. And then my gym boss timer went off. I was done. Done. And I had beat it. Beat the anxiety right out of me. It was over. It was time to go home.

There’s a story in each and everyone of us, you just have to have the will to stay part of it. 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Get Off Our Ass and Let’s Be Honest With Ourselves.

 

I resist change. I can’t help it. I’m pretty sure that you’re all aware that I’m human by now. I swear the older that I get, the more structure I need. I guess now I understand why my grandmother started eating dinner at 2 in the afternoon and staying in the kitchen with her cup of tea before retreating to the living room to watch tv until it was time for bed. Yep. Like clockwork. Every single day.

I’ve realized that I spend too much time or a lack thereof, thinking about how I can make things that seem challenging much more simple. I think about how I can take the fear away and just overcome the challenge…and then once I find the way, I keep doing it over and over again, but unfortunately, since the challenge is no longer in the way and fear no longer exists, anything new that comes along to change what I now have deemed comfortable, causes me anxiety and irrational behavior. But I went into this with determination and the will to want a stronger body and stronger mind, and I know that in order to continue to change this body that I’ve been given; to change this mind that I’ve been given, I need to erase the fear and see any challenge as an opportunity to grow and to allow myself to exceed my original belief of what I considered was my potential. To continue to ignore the fact that in order to grow; in order to make progress, I need to seek change rather than to sit and wait for someone or something to change me is only to continue to be dishonest with myself and to live in fear and a state of unhappiness. I need to be honest with myself and figure out what I could do to become better than I was yesterday. Better than I was a year ago; in body and in mind. And no one is going to do it for me.

So this week, I promised myself to approach my workouts at the gym differently. You see, the fear I have is that if I make a change in my diet or workout plan, even if it’s not drastic, I am going to lose what I have spent time building since the beginning. And even though I have the knowledge, it’s often hard to be objective with myself. It just is. And hey, if you have that power or ability, kudos to you, but I fear that I will end up looking like that skinny girl who people came up to and asked, “Are you okay, you’re so skinny…” I get upset if I wake up in the morning and don’t look as full as I did the day before. I think “shit, my muscles are smaller” when I know the truth from competing in fitness competitions; from experience, mine and others. I knew the why; I just didn’t want to give it any merit or attention. We are, after all talking about my own reflection; what it is that I see in the mirror. I’ve been on a “bulk” for ages now. Every time I would look in the mirror, I didn’t like what I saw, I would pull back from my diet and binge just so I could maintain the fullness in the muscle. I knew that I couldn’t lose muscle that quickly, but for some reason, I couldn’t convince my own mind.

I was obviously still living in my early thirties, where my metabolism was a lot faster than it is at the ripe age of 36! Haha. So I was training and eating like I was when I first started, ignoring the fact that I didn’t even have the body that I did when I first started training. So, I took Sunday off and thought about how I can get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself further; step out of my box and face some more fears. (even though changing things up was challenge enough); I promised myself that I was going to let go of any fears and anxiety that I may have and just do it. Change something. My workout. It’ll just be for the week, I reminded myself, just for one week. I’m used to doing legs, shoulders, etc, a 6 day split with a little bit of cardio mixed in. This week, however, I wanted to focus on strength and the workouts this week have been focusing on NOT overloading the same muscle group all in one day. Well, it’s killing me. I mean, killlllinnnggg me. Like I said, it’s like a whole separate battle to fight. But, I know I need a change if I want to get stronger and better; to see the results I want; to progress further. It’s hard work, mentally and physically, and requires a lot of patience and faith, but I know that with challenge comes change.

I guess we all get in a routine because we all become too afraid to deviate from a program that we have become comfortable with, and any workout is better than none at all, right? I guess we all need someone to walk around to slap us to remind us that we need to change what we’re doing in order to progress and continue to make changes. But we’re creatures of habit; we crave direction and a routine, and yes, oddly enough, even if that means staying in one place.

We have to remind ourselves that we went into this seeking a change with sheer determination and a fight that existed in us so deep that we were willing to do what it took to make our fitness goals happen? Remember how it felt when you saw that first small change? Remember how great you felt, how alive you felt and how you craved more? Well, when did we just stop craving more? What happened? What the hell happened? I mean, why should we just come to a complete stop when everyone and everything else is still moving along? Come on, we’re more than that, we deserve more, much more than just a ticket on a one stop train. I know we just can’t help ourselves; once we’re in it, it’s hard to see what we might be neglecting or in need of because we think we have it all, and as long as we’re happy with our current state, that’s all that matters. I know because I live it. We always find a way to compare ourselves to others and we ask the same questions over and over again, expecting the answer to be, “keep doing whatever it is that you’re doing.” But that’s not the truth and deep down we know that, but are afraid to leap and take a chance.

For the week coming up, I ask you to reflect on what you’ve been doing and really ask yourself what you could work on and make that your goal. I promise that you can go back to what you were doing before, but you probably won’t want to. I’d like to hear what you’re going to do to challenge yourself this week. Let me know in the comments section!

Post from my Instagram account @meglifts

Post from my Instagram account @meglifts

 

 

 

 

 

How to Eat Better; the Affordable Way.

With so little time on our hands these days, it’s hard to be the exact epitome of health. With so much going on, and so little downtime, we’re often overtired, overstressed, and just plain overwhelmed to even consider the thought of carefully selecting healthier options by reading labels more carefully. No instead, we’re usually just waiting for the microwave or oven timer to beep to deliver a prepackaged meal or waiting in the drive thru frantically checking the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if on most days you spend learning (and struggling) with the new common core curriculum that’s eased its way into schools around the country. Or you probably just have to rush right out the door as soon as your child gets home from school, have them complete their homework later, and try to make it to sports practice or dance rehearsals or maybe even just a school function.

Long gone are the days of having cookies and milk after school was considered the only processed food you might have had, which in that case, wasn’t so bad. But even as we’re forced to acknowledge the ever growing rate of obesity in this nation, more and more meals are rolling out of the microwave and into our mouths.

People think they can’t afford “healthy” and why shouldn’t they?  They feel overwhelmed when they walk into a grocery store and are quickly discouraged when the have filled up their grocery carts with what looks to be enough for only a couple meals, but for an entire family, only to find out the total comes to well over their budget. Then they realize that they actually have less for the same budget they had before they made the choice to “eat healthy”, which results in people doing what they can afford; eating less calories, skipping meals, or just not doing it at all. Ever notice that it’s easier to find a coupon for a processed dinner such as “Weight Watchers” or “Healthy Choice”, rather than any other staple that would be more than likely a far better choice.  People do want to lose weight, they do want to look better, feel better, live better, but they’re stuck not with lack of information but with limited resources to make that change.

So I’m going to dispel a few of what I consider “myths” and just society being, well, self-absorbed and what is often said, “Keeping up with the Jones”.

You may have heard all the hype circling in health and fitness communities about Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, but that’s what it is; Hype. Don’t walk away from getting fit and healthy because you can’t even afford to just lurk around at those grocery stores without feeling like you need a guest pass.

A membership to BJ’s or other wholesale club is extremely helpful. Or if you don’t have one close to you, Wal-Mart is just as good as any to find healthy, inexpensive food. BJ’s even offers coupons for healthier options. I have a membership at BJ’s and I have literally knocked $400-$500 off of my grocery bill each month. They normally offer coupons for top brands such as Eggland’s Best Egg Whites, Greek Yogurt, Chicken, Fish etc.

Healthy doesn’t only equate to organic foods. No, it’s doing the best you can, with what you know and more importantly, what you can afford. It also doesn’t equate to bland and boring meals either. I’m not going to claim I’m Martha Stewart in the kitchen or that I deserve my own cooking show, no, that’ll go to my husband, but I know there’s a lot of you who know how to work the kitchen. In fact, you may even discover or rediscover the passion of cooking and creating meals. You never know.

But for me, I don’t enjoy cooking. I just want to eat. I love to eat. So, spices are my friend. And you can find spices at the Dollar Store. And at BJ’s or Wal-mart.Okay so look I know that fresh vegetables and fruit are what some consider to be the best choices, but buying them are expensive enough, so to buy them, bring them home and have them spoil too soon can be frustrating. Makes me want to scream actually… Especially if you’re struggling to pay bills and eat healthy, the last thing you want to do is see your hard earned money go in the garbage.  I know various nutritional sources will inform you that frozen and canned may lack the same nutritional value, but there are also some that will tell you the opposite, so I go with what I can afford for my entire family. (Besides, according to those same sources, if you purchase fresh vegetables and boil as opposed to steam them, you lose the nutrients anyway.)

As for fruit, I do buy fresh bananas, but only what I know will be consumed. I usually purchase frozen fruit such as blueberries and other kinds of berries. (They just last longer that way.)  And if you’re wondering what to do with frozen fruit? Try heating them up and putting them in your oatmeal or cereal, or you can even add the frozen fruit to plain Greek yogurt, freeze it, and enjoy as a frozen dessert!

For water and the environment, I take advantage of Primo, the water cooler system. I buy the 5 gallon water jug and once it runs out, I just recycle and get a new one! I have a couple of those shaker bottles as well as flip-top water bottles to carry around with me. Believe me, drinking bottled water can become very expensive!

Now, I’m not going to pretend that I’m the World’s Healthiest Mom and that I deserve an award for feeding my kids all organic, all natural foods. Please! I still buy my kids snacks, but I try to choose snacks that are only minimally processed, and don’t have 10 different ingredients that sound more like a science experiment gone bad. I do try to stick to just buying chicken, fish in bulk, but for the kids, I will keep pizza rolls, hot dogs, and frozen pierogies in the freezer to have once in awhile. It is okay, to still live after all.

Besides, I’m not going to preach to you about restriction, I’m going to tell you that if you want to reach a goal, or just feel better; improve your health, you can do it. There are plenty of fad diets most are willing to follow for a pretty hefty price, mostly because there is so much misinformation about what you have to do to look and feel better.

Choose you. All day, every day; for a life time. Always.

Images Speak Louder Than Words…

Has anyone read this father’s letter to his daughter written by, Dr. Kelly Flanagan, a clinical psychologist?

First, I would like to point out that I thoroughly enjoy his writing (his letters to his daughter). His letters provide insight to a world that he has already discovered, and he wishes to protect and warn his daughter about all of the deep dark secrets of the world that we now live in before she becomes tainted.

I do admire his intention of trying to make his daughter learn that “it’s on the inside that counts”. In fact, I applaud him for giving a damn. I understand the message behind it and I congratulate him on instilling a solid foundation of self worth and self respect within his little girl.

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Author: Samantha Towle

 Book: Trouble

In a recent article circling the Internet, Dr. Kelly Flanagan, writes about the powerful impact that the words and phrases that grace the cover of magazines have on how women define their worth. “Words have power…” he states. It’s a good read with some great points, however, aside from the obvious fact that these are just target words that marketers use to persuade the consumer to buy the magazine. From my experience, actions and images have a much more powerful meaning than words can ever have.

In fact, I’m even more than willing to state that images alone have the most powerful impact when it comes down to how a woman makes her choices or how a woman begins to desire and strive for a certain degree of success in career, health, fitness, family, and in LIFE.

What motivates women to become successful is not the words on the cover of a magazine, but the images. Those words have to be far less abstract than what he has listed to garner any “power”.  Yes, sure does it make us hurl insults off of our tongue or curse in our minds because that woman is probably a whore or a slut when she puts on makeup, offers beauty tips, flaunts a body that she has worked hard for, all on the cover of a magazine. Those are not abstract words. Those have power. Imagine those magazines that he has taken a photo of and replace the phrases with words like, “whore, slut, etc”  How would a woman react then? Simply the same way as if they were to have the word, “fat, fake, or ugly” on them. It would sting. Now, that, would be powerful. 

And he is right, women are intelligent, beautiful creatures inside and out, thus it takes more than just abstract words/phrases for women to buy into the so -called power printed on the cover of a magazine in some bold sans serif or serif typeface. Images are promoted front and center, whether they are age that has been altered; airbrushed and painted over; they are what screams out at you, and makes you pay attention. At least that’s the first thing I see.

It’s stimulation of our senses that are provoked when an image is flashed in front of our eyes.  It is an attraction, admiration, envy that connects me to a magazine. It is not abstract words/phrases, it is not ONE thing that can be controlled, or that we can be immune to, or forewarned; it is our environment, our society that has long before print media defined its ideal standard of “beauty” that lives in us; breathes for us. Through social media, the internet, inside and outside of our home; around the clock.

We strive for independence, confidence, a career, family, friends, but we want to look good doing it. We all want to be the woman that someone looks at and is inspired or motivated by.  Most people cannot be reached verbally, especially through abstractions.  Actions, images, carry a far more profound effect than any abstract phrase being displayed on a supermarket shelf.

Self worth and self respect comes from within. None of us are truly weak; we are strong, so strong in fact, that we go so far as to mutilate ourselves just to find perfection. But that mutilation, that sad little girl existing in a powerful, somewhat tragic world, is reaching out for help; there’s something inside of her that hurts and I can guarantee the pain is not from a magazine.

We are all capable of strong; it’s what you have to be strong for that matters.  

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What are your thoughts on this letter?