Coping With Pain and Worry

I wrote this staring at this white blank space on wordpress, and I didn’t really worry about editing it….In fact, I couldn’t even come up with a title and I’m going to bed to try to at least fall asleep….

“You look like you lift…” (I heard this in the gym a few times)
Really? Well, I do…
Can you see the pain; the bruises, the deep nest that anxiety and most recently, depression, has burrowed itself into?
You look like you lift
Thank you, because underneath I feel like I have to lift this burden off my body every single day
It feels so heavy, and I’m so tired so battered tethered and worn
Oh you were talking about weights
Weren’t you?
Every day I struggle to lift; to carry the pain that recklessly pulls at my core
As I desperately try to cover up and hide
(I’m) Not willing to unveil the demons that fuse the flames between the angst and desperation that wrestles inside of me
I lift in my sleep
I lift the pain, I lift the emptiness;
The chaos that corrupts my entire being
I lift when I awaken and when I am dreaming
There is no calm there is no storm
It’s all in mind, but then again it’s really not
It’s physical and I keep lifting
I keep fighting
I keep lifting
Internally; externally my body won’t even let me shut down
I fear the worst, I fear the least
I fear FEAR
But the fear is deeper than me
Damn It
It’s a curse
But every day
I lift
Every moment of every second
I lift
And therefore
I become stronger
I become able
I become willing
I can lift more, I can see more, do more, live more
So yes, you say, “you look like you lift”
And physically, emotionally, mentally
Yes I do. I do lift
My body reflects my fight

I give it all I got, I leave all of me behind…

I grasp the iron, contract the muscle, divert the mind

reaching for something that weighs heavier than what’s inside of me; heavier than what’s trying to suffocate me; something that reminds me that I’m still alive; vulnerable, yet in control…

Tonight, I was sitting on the floor with a barbell weighing 275 pounds preparing to do hip thrusts, when I awkwardly made eye contact with a girl who was obviously talking about me to her friend. At that point, I was exhausted, but still wanted to push that amount of weight, but I just couldn’t; my mind unraveled the worst….

She was probably seeing the weakness in my eyes, or that the fight in me was fading…

I did feel broken and detached, and with that barbell hovering over my hips, I just couldn’t seem to make my mental and physical self connect.

I sat there feeling like I was no longer in control.

I decided to at least unload the bar down to 205 and completed a set. 8 reps and I was done. I couldn’t stop sweating, I was burning up, and my heart was pounding hard. After putting the weight back (of course), I was leaving the gym, and the girl who had been watching me, made eye contact with me and quietly said, “Every time you’re in here, you’re always killing it in the gym”…..

That made me smile. That made me feel vulnerable, but only for a little while.

Tomorrow is my doctor’s appointment with the endocrinologist….

Are You Just Going To Give Up?

We all have the opportunity to just give up. Quit. Just walk away.

Insecurity pools in the pit of our stomach, regret breeds off of our every breath, panic spooks our hearts and fire burns in through our eyes deep within our souls.

We quit. We feel bad. We can’t stop thinking about it. It was at one point a moment; an experience that you gave life to even if you didn’t see it through. You gave it purpose and then just let it go.

Once you give up, you dismiss a piece of yourself and most likely will belittle yourself every single day after that.

Simply put: It will forever change you.

Giving up is easy, especially when you have nothing to lose.

Or so you think…

Because you always forget the most important piece that risks becoming lost: You.

Remember when the vision first sparked in your mind? There had to have been a reason why you started. You felt the passion and drive; the fire burning deep within your heart, each beat racing to create the vision you had woven in your mind some time ago.

If you’re anything like me, you probably pull that steel armor over you and protect yourself from the world when the reality speaks for itself; the pain and threat is buried inside of you.

But you wear that steel well. Your body clings to it naturally. You think that if you don’t take a risk; if you don’t pursue anything, you’ll just stand still for a little while and the feeling will go away, the pain might disappear and you can go back to “normal”.

Because that’s what you believe, isn’t it?

What happens if you are never given the option to quit?

Two facts that I know are true:

  1. When we have the option to quit, failing becomes that much scarier and unspeakable.
  1. When we give up our chance to fail, we give up our chance to grow and move onto something bigger, better and quite possibly happier. (corny but hey, we can either blossom into a flower or transform into a weed)

Which one are you going to choose for today?

Is Fear Suffocating You?

Be okay with who you are and what you see in the mirror. Your imperfections are only seen by you and no one else…

You’re pushed up against the wall. The grip around your neck is getting tighter and tighter. You want to move your arms, your legs, something, anything to remind you that you’re alive; that you got this. You got this.

You’re trying to make yourself fit a mold that doesn’t belong to you; doesn’t exist into your realm of desire; a vision you have falsely envisioned. Created. It’s a fallacy; you feel drugged, poisoned, toxic. How do you stop the suffering? Simple. Stop thinking of it as suffering. It’s a chance for you to start over; to share your experience and witness determination and your will to succeed. You will make it because you ache; something is missing and you won’t be able to let go so easily this time. You’re alive. You got this.

Why are you allowing FEAR to establish control? What has it done to you to become so powerful? What happened to you? What happened that has made you so willing to praise FEAR and hand over your entire being so that you can continue to worship it. Every night you lay awake, does it come to you? Does it reveal the face it hides behind the mask it wears to control you? And you are under its spell….

Laugh in its face. Don’t be afraid to embrace fear as part of the process. You’re alive. Fear doesn’t have to be.

Remember, You got this.

 When you make a mental transformation, you also make a physical transformation. And slowly, you grow, right in front of your eyes. Right in front of the mirror.

Your physical transformation will challenge you mentally and vice versa. It’ll call on fear to come and “rescue you” but you’ll remember that piercing pain that gripped your neck and you’ll remember that, you’re alive. You got this.

When you make the decision to let go of fear, it’ll still haunt you. It’ll tempt you and plead with you daily to come back; to serve once again. Remind yourself that it’s a process; the transformation you make mentally is an ongoing process, there is no finalization, no dotted line to sign, it’s constantly evolving, overcoming, processing, capturing, it’s telling you and reminding you that you’re alive. It’s telling you that you got this….

Mentally AND Physically.

You got this.

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.

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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How to Make the Most of the Life You Were Dealt.

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The gym; your workouts, your lifts, your latest cardio session, Mirror your life.

It’s a reflection of how you view yourself.

It’s what you’re willing to allow yourself to give and/or take.

How you overcome and conquer a challenge in life is a lot like determining what you’re going to do when a heavy ass barbell is hovering over your chest during a bench press or weighing you down in a squat position. Are you going to buckle? Probably not. Do you feel like it? Sure. But are you going to? No, you’re going to lift that shit right up off of you, you’re going to push like hell to overcome that weight; to overcome the feeling that is a consequence of defeat.

And that’s exactly the attitude that you need to have with you at every moment, every opportunity in life.

It’s not a matter of just “giving up” it’s a fight for your life. Right now, maybe you don’t think you matter. Maybe life seems fucked up right now and you want to escape. You feel hopeless, worthless and lost. But I tell you, when you’re in that gym with some heavy ass weight trying to call you out, trying to force you down, you fight like hell to win, to conquer it. And you will struggle, you will quiver; waver until you feel badly bruised and beaten.

Your knees will want to buckle.
Your breath will feel stifled.
Your heart will pound in your ears; in your chest.
Your palms will slip.

But that’s your mind. It’s all in your mind. You got this.

I guarantee you that you will make sure you don’t let that weight keep you down. It will be in that moment that you will realize the risk if you just give in.

You’ve been doing it for so long… thinking your life is meaningless and questioning its purpose, but you’ll finally recognize that strength that you’re capable of; how powerful you are. You’ll finally figure out that life has been calling your bluff way too many times; your mind; your depression, your anxiety, your struggles have been weighing you down making you feel physically weak, making you feel dead inside, and you’ll suddenly realize that the weight is on you and the mirror is just there, and you come alive…

You feel alive… the passion, the future, the present it all awakens inside of you. It sparks something furious inside of you that you haven’t felt in a long ass time you feel it and nothing, not anyone can take that away from you.

That power; that feeling, may seem temporary at first but then it’ll become part of you and then it’ll become who you are.

When you feel down or feel like you shouldn’t lift your head off that pillow one more day, allow yourself to feel. Go workout. Reclaim your power. >Allow yourself to feel

Most people feel depressed and question what our purpose is and what is the meaning of life. Nothing challenges you, it’s the same day in and day out, you don’t feel appreciated, you’re missing something, and don’t know what so you feel depressed. Stress alone that is caused from personal and/or professional matters, can make you feel weak and powerless; vulnerable, and can force you into depression.

I know. I’ve been there.

If I can find my way to the gym so can you. For as minimum as even 30 min, you can reap the benefits of exercise. You’ll feel in control.

Don’t compare yourself to others, you don’t know how long it took them to get there, or as I always say, “you don’t know that person’s story” so just keep going. Plan to go to the gym with a purpose. Don’t allow yourself to surrender your power before you even start. Reflect on what you were able to achieve in that session and as you progress you will notice subtle changes in strength, endurance, more confidence, more independence.

Ultimately, you grow. It’s inevitable. It’s what life is about, GROWTH–becoming greater than our obstacles.

It’s all just lightweight, baby.

Just One More Piece To My Puzzle

So here it is, I’m at a hockey game, eating my chicken breast thinking about pancakes, AND of course scrolling through Instagram, when obviously an image catches my eye.

I click on it.

I read the caption.

And just like that… I learned how to pose for a figure competition.

I mean I haven’t competed in forever because I was struggling; I was fighting demons and shit; trying to just “find the road back to fitness”, you can read about that here but once you get the blood pumping, it kind of never really stops running through your veins.

Literally and metaphorically speaking.

So like I said, (and excuse me I’m excited about this and my adrenaline is pumping from the amount of carbs I’ve had about two hours ago or I’m just water drunk. Either way I’m pretty fucking hyper) there I was, stuck in an Instagram trance, going through the umpteenth photo of someone posing half naked (I did say I was on Instagram hehe), when suddenly I was stuck on this photo of a figure competitor in the shape of a perfect V. Symmetrical, beautiful lines, definition, but that taper (as in V taper) though….

yea that’s what she said..

I’ve heard about the “V taper” when I was in the process of competition prep, and I knew what it was, but I never really “got it”…I mean, I may have been developing it physically, but mentally, um, yeah, null and void.

No connections made. Whatsoever.

I just never really understood why in the hell I had to stand up on stage and pose that way. Obviously, as you can see from my first figure competition in 2012:

Proud I made it that/this far though

Proud I made it that/this far though

(you could also check out more about my first competition here

But right then, her picture, her caption in that one photo undid all of that. Those few words; stinging my eyes, stimulating my thoughts, and the blood in my veins were burning with adrenaline.

I sat there, like a black puck in the center of the ice, being slapped with a hockey stick into the goal. That was me. And that’s how I felt.

I finally connected the dots. I connected another piece to my puzzle. I finally understood.

No matter how much I practiced those poses, I just felt awkward, shy and uncomfortable. No matter how much I twisted, bended, turned, I couldn’t get it right. Simply put, I was like a newborn calf encountering ice for the first time. Yeah, envision that.

And that just turned into yet another addition to my constant mind fuck during competition prep…

The whole, “I can’t even pose, why the fuck am I doing this” or “I can’t pose, I’m not good enough…at well, anything”
Or the, “someone is already doing this, why bother anymore…”

You know….How even just one thought can seem like complete and utter despair? Been there?

If only I was just told:

“For front, back, and side pose, focus on creating that “V taper” with your body; to show off the lines of your well sculpted physique.”

Or basically, “create the best fucking “V” you can.” More simply put: Contort your body into the shape of a V…like you’re at a wedding and the chorus from “YMCA” from “The Village People” comes on. Ok maybe not EXACTLY like that.

But seriously, you should check out this beautiful figure competitor who just made a difference in my life.

Because it’s always the little things that you don’t think are going to mean a whole lot when you simply hit “post” or “share”. All of the thoughts, experiences and memories are just pieces to one huge, amazing puzzle that you get to seize and grab hold of to make it complete one day.

And please don’t NOT visit her Instagram page because you don’t compete… if you listen to her 2 year transformation story on her Youtube channel, I’m certain you’ll take something away from it.

Instagram: @fit_tiff

What Are You Willing to Sacrifice For Your Ideal Body?

You see the toned, sleek bodies glistening with sweat at the gym, and in a selfie posted to Instagram or Facebook you wonder why you can’t look like that….and you ask over and over, “how do I look like that”.

I haven’t written a post in awhile. I guess I have just been trying to find the right words to put all these feelings and thoughts I’ve been having into a somewhat legible post. I started with the above, but then I decided that it’s just not what I want this post to be about. But everytime I try to put it into the right words, I get scared. I get scared that someone will just point out that I’m trying to defend my stance on fitness competitions and will scream “hater” or “she didn’t make it, that’s why she’s saying all of this…” but then I can’t help but feel defensive. Maybe because I made the choice to give other people power by watching their videos and reading their posts on social media sites and allowing them to make me feel like my struggle with a competition prep was merely a matter of being too weak and I couldn’t help. It was getting to me. It was becoming toxic. As a matter of fact, it was beginning to feel like everything that was once discussed between us was being used to help them “seem more real”. And I hate fake people. Ah, there I go again, letting them have power over me….

All in all, it could just be me overanalyzing and being paranoid again. So I’ll leave it alone and try to formulate a somewhat comprehendible blog post….

There seems to be this thought process that contest prep for a fitness competition is a nightmare; you are going to suffer, and it’ll break you down and force you to back down and almost quit, and if you actually do throw in the towel, then you are not strong enough. Breathe Megan, Breathee That is….mentally.

Again, deep breath …

There’s the mentality that if just striving to be fit and healthy, that’s simply not good enough. It’s just not enough if you don’t compete. You must compete to be completely relevant. But a majority of this particular “fitness culture” has become an obsession. (It’s literally can swallow you whole and spit you back out)

We spend time taking selfies that we save on our phone, filter the shit out of them a majority of the time, post them to social media that there becomes a fine line between obsession or just plain vain or desperate for attention.

Or just as easily as “all of the above”.

Then there’s this word, “sacrifice” that keeps being thrown out. What are you willing to sacrifice to get the body you want? I’ve heard it, and I’ve seen the captions along with the posts. I believe in making sacrifices to keep you from falling on your face; to achieving what you need. But when that sacrifice is just that; for what you want rather than what you need, than you have to decide what’s more important; what you want or the sacrifice you have to make, be careful what you choose….

When deciding to endure competition prep, how you fit your cardio in so it doesn’t rob time with your kids, but means you only get 4 hours versus 6 hours of sleep doesn’t really come close to being much of a sacrifice. Once you made the decision to compete, you need to be prepared to sacrifice candid moments with your kids. Yes, because you can’t turn off competition prep ; even when you’re with your kids, you’re still thinking and breathing contest prep; thinking about food, wishing you can have a bite of your kids ice cream cone, or hell just a little more oatmeal, getting anxious about getting your gym time in, your workout in, spending hours upon hours at the gym running on the same cardio machine, complaining about how “hard” contest prep is and making that the sole focus of your posts and videos on social media sites just so you can say your “just being real”.

No. The sacrifice is, trading one disorder for another one in, or just simply adding to it. The sacrifice is, giving up candid moments, living in the moment because you are now on a “schedule” that revolves around your body. And by the way, anyone who says it’s for health, is full of shit.

Oh. And apparently peanut butter. You must sacrifice peanut butter. That’s your ultimate ticket into earning the right to even use the hashtag #fitness. That hashtag alone will generate more attention than Kim Kardashian’s latest wardrobe.

Sacrifices need to be made to keep food on the table, a roof over our heads, time with our children, not to achieve this insane belief that if we want whatever is considered an ideal body for this decade or screw it- month, that we need to ask ourselves what we need to sacrifice in order to achieve it. Yea, because that’s important. A ripped set of abs, with a nice ass, always hold much more weight over my sanity, my family, me, my life any day. And I’m sure if I don’t make those sacrifices and I just keep walking into restaurants or cooking up recipes that grandmother’s used to make, making memories with my children by actually being in the here and now rather than a walking space er cardio er fitness competitor cadet, I can seriously start hashtagging “nof—clue”, “eatclean” “iifymgirls” because I’m confused as to what term is acceptable in the current fitness culture that has formed. Or worse the, “do you even lift” or “do you even flexible diet” Seriously. Because lifting and counting macros are much more superior to….look at me, projecting…Damn it…it looks like I take this shit too seriously.

But I did warn you, you could never ever go back. You can never turn it off. There is no fucking switch.

Look, bottom line is,

I love lifting heavy ass shit (weights) and maybe a kid or two if I have to, and no I won’t hesitate to pick my 17 year old daughter up like a baby), finding healthier options, eating healthy, I love fitness, I love spending hours upon hours researching it, but I couldn’t find a balance. Sorry. There was no such thing as balance in my future. I had-like many do- a distorted sense of what balance actually meant.

I mean come on, we post photos and caption them with “my favorite shirt” but with the most awkward pose in an obvious attempt to draw attention on your glutes followed by the hashtag, #squats. And we’ll caption a more provocative one with a deep quote stolen from another author or just some deep thought to say what really is going on (but no one will really outright admit it): I’ll sum it up…as a woman, we hate that we have to constantly struggle to look a certain way, that the ideal image is forever evolving and we will never, can never be happy just being in our own skin regardless of what Dove’s commercial or magazine article has to say. Mirrors and pictures on social media do not lie. We are women. We must compete with one another albeit secretly and at the same time, pretend that we are ecstatic when another woman gets more attention or you think looks better than you…and you actually hate her for it…or just simply hate yourself MORE for not being her. I should know..I’m guilty of that.

We all want to be the inspiration, yet we truly can’t even remember what exactly the real meaning of “inspiration is. We create posts that don’t let in on the pain we feel deep within, we can’t let on that it all sucks and really you just want to be able to go to the gym and remember what is was to just feel proud that you made it to the gym, and you didn’t feel at odds with food or your reflection all the time. That you can just go back to the time where you were able to actually feel yourself, feel a moment aside from what is going to make or break you on this journey to a stage designed to take what’s going on in social media, live and up close.

We pretend to be positive but it shows with all our obsessive posts of plates upon plates of food or a picture showing you taking a bite of something that you may not have thought twice about since you stumbled upon the hashtag #fitness. Subconsciously it’s our attempt to detail our struggle with food or our attempt to remind those who aren’t in the game or are thinking about walking away and hanging up the shoes and competition tan, that this is the norm and it requires a great deal of mental strength. And sadly, our own mental pain is what got us here in the first place and will also be what will walk us off the path completely or just down the wrong way continuously. I should know. I did all that.

We’ll post so much to show how strong we are, when we’re probably falling apart.

We’ll have said, “I can’t do this anymore” or “I give up” s or “what am I doing this for anyway” many times At this point, you don’t even see yourself as anything more than just developed muscles and attaining an aesthetic appearance. Your self worth can become extremely jaded.

It’ll cause anxiety or stress to just go longer than a few hours without tracking our caloric intake, or if we didn’t make it to the gym to get your workout in.

But we’ll have the “Whatever it takes” attitude because we are at least feeling something. I should know. I was that person. Kinda/Sorta still am. And while I hesitantly admit to that, I will not deny the steps I had to climb just to get to that point. Hey, just keepin’ it real (wink wink)

A competition does not define me. I said before that I’m not going to allow anything to define me, but I take that back. My role of being a mother, a wife, and a woman define who I am. We are so determined to achieve this supposed ideal image that some of us overlook the entire picture.

Deciding to compete in a fitness competition has the potential to destroy relationships. Once you start losing friends and break ups begin to follow suit, you start isolating yourself away from them. After all, no one, and I mean no one understands your new life, and everyone just wants to be unhealthy anyway…

All we think about is eating. When are we going to eat next, what are we going to eat. Even when we’re eating, we’re still thinking about the next time we have to eat. It turns into an obsession.

**Side note: I hear girls all the time as they’re putting in hours on the elliptical or treadmill complain and say things like, “I just can’t wait to go back to ‘normal’; I can’t wait to just eat ___” AND that’s all they talk about.

It becomes life. 24/7. Eat, breathe, sleep. You don’t remember anything else. Well, except for #transformationtuesdays or #Throwbackthursdays when we have to demonstrate how clueless, miserable and unhealthy we were “back then” even though we’re holding a beer, a big cheesy ass smile, and some friends…everybody needs friends…sigh..

We will say we’re “taking a break” or we’re in an “off season” because after the show, we’ll struggle even more with our body image. And no matter what, it never fails, when we finally made the conscious effort to not at least prep your meals, we’ll make a mental note that we don’t look so lean, and the lines and definition from all the extra food you choked down have faded, there will always be someone who is prepping for a show and regardless if we know that it’s not possible to stay that way all the time, we can’t help but compare ourselves to her and feel guilty that we no longer look as hard and lean as we once did. And alas, continues our love/hate relationship with food…and the scale.

From personal experience, I know this. And, yes, I know not everyone out there is like me. We’re all different and motivated by different factors, but one thing is for certain, stop right away if you find yourself becoming too obsessive.

It doesn’t make us weak person if you’re miserable doing it. If you set out to do a competition, you should love it. And love/passion and obsession is NOT the same thing.

That was me. And it could be you. Could be…(just saying)

If you have anxiety or panic attacks, this isn’t going to cure you. It’s not going to fix you or reverse an eating disorder. It’s not going to fix you mentally. It just won’t. It’ll give you control, but not power. If you’re looking for help, exercise will help to some extent, but not the obsessive kind. I should know, I tried it. Exercise will release endorphins that’ll give you a boost in mood, but if you exercise too much, it will impact you negatively.

Besides, it’s not so much mental strength, it’s our hormones that screw us up and our body’s way of telling us that something is imbalanced. But we’re supposed to ignore it and just keep going…fight through it. We might just become more mentally fit for it.

Bottom line: Listen to your body before you listen to your mind or some post on social media.

At least try to. I know I am.

Twenty-one. Been There, Done That.

I’ve been struggling with being 35. I’ve been reflecting a lot, and comparing my life experiences now to when I was 21. I can’t help it. Last weekend I slipped on my 6 inch heels, a short skirt and a fitted black top, makeup applied, a touch of bronzer, and I was ready for the night.

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It has been awhile that I have actually got dressed up and gone out with some girl friends, let alone without my husband. However, a couple new spots were opening up and they seemed like there was a perfect opportunity to get dressed up and have some laughs with my sister and another girl; a younger girl. Unfortunately, the girl was 21 and I mean, I don’t blame her for her behavior because I remember at the age, I was pretty similar and had an, “I-don’t-give-a-shit-attitude”, but I was sober.

I don’t drink; by choice, of course. I was just going to go as the designated driver. So yeah, I felt like a mother hen.  I know sounds like so much fun, right? Well, I actually did enjoy myself, but I couldn’t shake the blatant fact that I was older than this carefree girl who was now stumbling and couldn’t hold her liquor.

I found myself taking on the role of a mother. She kept wandering off, and while I wanted to keep her safe and not get taken advantage of, I wondered where I was supposed to draw the line. I mean, was it when I kept catching her kissing random guys, and then security kept having me chase her down to bait and hook her so that I could reel her back in to have a seat, drink some water and just mellow out. Perhaps if I would’ve drank, maybe I’d be falling all over myself.  I mean I certainly had my fair share of those moments, yea, back in the day. But it’s not exactly a sign of fun times when you have to pry someone else away from another guy’s lips.

To make things clear, it was my older sister’s friend/coworker, and I just couldn’t bring myself to abandon this fragile girl who an hour or two before showed her vulnerable side to me as she discussed all of her “issues”. She suffers from an eating disorder, she is bipolar, oh the list goes on. Overall, she was a nice, sweet girl, but she definitely made me feel my age. I didn’t feel like I was dressed up in my 6 inch heels, mini skirt and a fitted shirt, anymore. Instead, I felt like I was responsible for taking care of this girl; I felt like I was in my pajamas, pacing and waiting for my little girl to come home.  At one point she took my hand, and she felt so frail and tiny. Almost breakable. My sister, on the other hand, was sharing drinks with some new friends that she had met at one of the new bars that opened up the night before and therefore was completely oblivious to what was unfolding.

Still, it remained that I was the designated driver and I was ready to haul ass out of there. Fortunately, they followed me. Sort of. The one girl informed me that she was getting picked up by a friend, showed me the text, and assured me she was fine. So it was just my sister, who passed out in the passenger seat of my car, and me driving home in silence. I didn’t feel the need to turn on the radio because I couldn’t shake the feeling that I felt so different; grown up, matured. I mean, I was no longer a 21 year old. 

Hanging out as a designated driver, surrounding myself around drunken men and women in their early twenties, really opened up my eyes to what’s important to me. I love the gym, lifting weights, and building a physique; that’s my challenge. At 21? My challenge was exactly what the girl I kept a watchful eye on all night long was doing. Nothing. Getting drunk and kissing random guys. Waking up the next morning, feeling remorse, regret, and loneliness. Going to the gym may not be glamorous and may not require 6 inch heels with a short mini skirt, but it’s a new phase in my life. Not to mention, it doesn’t make me have regret, or flood that powerless feeling throughout my veins.

I only wish that all of the things I know now, I knew when I was 21. And I only wish that the girl who drank so much that she could barely walk; the girl with the fragile hands; the girl who seemed so breakable in that particular moment; the girl who went looking for any kind of attention, approval, or validation, could know what I know now at 35. 

Oh by the way, I would never, ever, trade in my six inch heels permanently. They stay right next to my training shoes. I don’t give a shit how old I am. I’ll always be old (or young) enough to wear them. Ha.

 

Ouch! My joints hurt!

When it comes to medication or supplements, I’m extremely careful in what I decide to take. I try to rely on the standard symptoms of stress, but add anxiety, hormones or (for men) testosterone to the mix and it becomes extremely difficult to decipher whether it’s all in your head or if it really is physical.  I know I’m not the only one.

Not everyone who is beginning an exercise regime embrace the idea of taking supplements.  With merit, of course, after all, most supplements are not approved by the FDA and have very little information about side effects, interactions with any medications that your doctor may have prescribed, or any real science behind its claims.  For a long time, I was apprehensive about supplements as well. In fact, I’ve always been a bit reluctant to take any medication for a cold or something that could be cured with just time and some rest. I never liked the drowsy induced state or other potential side effects that accompanied most medications.

When I started exercising, like any ‘newbie’,  I just knew I wanted to lose some weight and that was that.  I did some cardio, lifted weights and thought I was making progress.   Fortunately, losing weight and exercising wasn’t the hard part for me; growing up, I was always a replica of a stick figure carelessly drawn on scratch paper.  Unfortunately, however, at the same time, there I was, I had put my time in at the gym, sweated every calorie, every morsel of food that went into my mouth, was doing every exercise I knew, until people were starting to mention how thin I was getting; was I doing it on purpose? Was I sick?  It was then that I knew I had to take a step back and evaluate my nutrition and my time spent in vain at the gym.  I thought I would just eat more and train harder/differently.  However, as my strength increased and my endurance improved, and I started to achieve my goal in adding muscle, my joints from head to toe started to ache.  Frustrated and discouraged; knowing that I had the potential to go further, I knew that I had to give certain supplements a closer look so that I could continue to support the active lifestyle I was quickly immersing myself into. If I just ignored the signs from the stress that I was placing my body under,  I would eventually end up with an injury or the inability to achieve any of my fitness goals.  After some researching, I came across Fish oil and Glucosamine/Chondroitin, and have been taking it for about 3 years now.  It has helped with my training, and I can honestly say that my joints are in a much happier state right now!

I’m not saying supplements are for everyone, I’m just telling you to slowly place your body under the stress you (and your doctor) know that it can handle physically.  Eventually, as you continue to challenge yourself physically, you will eventually find yourself engulfed in a mental warfare. However, you will eventually grow stronger-more mentally than physically- and your mind will try to outdo your body. You’ll start to challenge yourself a little harder, but your body may start to signal that it’s tired or even resist your efforts entirely.  And then there will be that time when you’ll feel let down; hopeless even.  But rather than give up and watch your hard work unravel because you’re mind starts to get the best of you, maybe supplements would be something you might want to consider? Not because you’re too weak or not good enough, but because your body is telling you that it needs support.  Ultimately, your mind won’t give up, unless you first allow your body to.

Listen to your body; it’s your house and you’re in charge!