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

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

 

 

 

 

 

It’s About Time You Be You

You probably hate being called “fat”. Or even a little overweight. Well, you know what I hate? I hate being called “skinny”. I hated it back in school and I hated it when I first started working out and was losing too much weight. Yea. There is such a thing. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. No one body type is superior to the other.

Then there is the body sculpted with muscle, and women get criticized, “it looks too manly”, “gross” and “unnatural”.  I remember I encountered a man who told me not to “lift too much more weight, you don’t want to look like a man” or the man who told me to “not lift heavy, I’m a girl…” Ok. Well, I was hurt. What did they know? That’s when I realized no one is ever going to be happy with how I look, so why should I care? I need to do it for me. Do what makes me feel great.  

There are so many diets, exercise techniques, training methods and theories out there; you just have to find what works for your body type, and not what someone else thinks your body type should be.

Find someone you could trust to help you.

I’ve spent my time at both ends of the scale; I never really focused on a “body type” until I got to the gym, and then I kind of let others decide that for me; with their unwanted criticism of course. 

When I first started working out, and hearing people tell me I was “too skinny,” I’d get anxious,  and I’d go on a binge; eating anything and everything. Then I would feel guilty, which made me restrict my calories even more for the next week or so, and workout even more. It took me awhile to discover what I truly wanted to look like and what I needed to do to achieve it. It took me awhile to come into my own skin, and I’m not going to lie and say that I have it all figured out yet. There are some days where I look in the mirror and like what is happening with my body, and then there are times where I want to gain more muscle, or get leaner.

It’s a swinging pendulum and it never stops.

And that’s why I feel it inside and out of me to help other people overcome their “body issues”; their insecurities that make them afraid to walk into a weight room or even a gym because they are afraid people are judging them…

Or that the mirrors that line the walls of every gym make them feel mocked and ridiculed…

Or that “someone” who’s already made you self-conscious of yourself; defined who you ought to be, and now you can no longer see through all that smoke to see just how capable you really are.  

We’ve all been there.

I want everyone to know that you’re in their somewhere; the real you, and everyone else is waiting for you to reveal yourself, and they’re just as scared as you are. It’s your best kept secret and by holding it in, you’re holding yourself back, and allowing everyone else to keep marching on. Without you of course.

There are so many people around you that see your true potential and they may just be threatened. So they make you feel sad. They define you, condemn you, and make you lie awake at night searching for the answers so that you can finally win the battle that is going on inside your head. It’s you versus them. But it’s affecting YOU not THEM. No one else. And it’s time that you made it about you.

It’s time for, YOU versus YOU.  Don’t allow yourself to be someone else; don’t allow yourself to be their reflection in the mirror. It’s all you baby. Let’s do this together.

Make Goals; Not Excuses

Dedicated to my father, who passed away eight years ago (8-14-2005) as of today…

Lately, I often hear the question, “So when’s your next show” and then I have to go into a long story as to whether or not I am, and if so, when, and if not, the reasons and so on. Small talk? Maybe. But, I can’t help but feel like every time I get asked that question, a piece of me gets shaved off; a piece that gets thicker and thicker each time threatening to unveil the most vulnerable part of me; my core.

 You see, I am not defined by one thing. There are many components of me. I am complex, neurotic, and definitely a nonconformist; I don’t choose to be this way, it’s just who I am. When someone asks that question, to some it may seem like they are expressing interest, but to me, I feel like they are shoving me in a box and stifling my potential for growth. I am not done growing. I don’t have everything all figured out. My entire life, I have tried to run the other direction from being defined as any one particular thing. I believe a lot of the anxiety I feel stems from the fear that I have to be “something” in order to well, just BE.

I strive to be healthy, fit, and perhaps, compete in a show when the time is right—for me. Not just because I need to be defined. Living healthy doesn’t mean, you have to focus on doing a fitness competition; it doesn’t mean that you’re weak if you don’t choose that path. The important thing is to know and remember that you just have to find the purpose in what you’re doing if you want to be successful at it. And if you don’t have a goal, then the outcome will be far more difficult to reach. Not impossible, just more difficult.

When you set a goal, you have to break it down into smaller components. You may have an idea in your mind as to how you’re going to reach that goal, and you may even envision in your mind the sweet reward at the end. Unfortunately, if you don’t break it down into smaller feats and follow the steps that are aligned with your goal, the sweet reward can quickly become sour, or just simply farther to reach.

 How many of you just want to be healthy, active individuals, capable of living a fulfilling life without a lot of limitations? What you don’t realize is the limitations that you place on yourself by not taking the action necessary to complete the goals that can open up new doors. You know, those limitations that are disguised as little excuses that manage to catch you every time you fall???

Excuses tend to keep you right in your comfort zone.

You see, a goal doesn’t have to be as dramatic as a fitness competition; maybe you just want to be able to walk more than a few feet or jog; or maybe you just want to run around and play with your kids a little bit more…

 I get mad at myself when I stray from my usual ‘healthy way of living’.  For example, if I take a break from exercise or the lifestyle/diet, I worry and allow the anxiety to creep in to pollute my mind with the idea that if I take time off from exercise or my ‘diet’, I have somehow lost my passion. Crazy. I know. But sometimes, something that you can be so passionate about can also consume you.

That’s when it’s time for a rest; mentally, physically and emotionally.

There have been times where I have felt like even rest is a sign of weakness, but then, I get upset for being so hard on myself. Sooner or later though, I realize that what’s most important is that you always get back up. After all,  weakness is lying down for good and never reaching for the courage to get back up.

 My father’s health issues gave him a reason to just sit and do nothing. His health issues were a great excuse to let go, but he never did. Never. And he never allowed them to slow him down. When my father was holed up in a hospital room or even a hospital bed in our living room, as soon as he would get better, rather than let it deter him from living his life, he just kept going; just kept living.

 And each time he had a set back, he’d recover and go back at it more determined, powerful, and stronger.

My dad never made me think that a setback means that you’ve surrendered; he never made me feel that it was okay to whip out the party hats and toot the horns once you are able to find a ‘valid’ excuse to throw in the towel. No. He made me realize that each day is a day to propel towards your goal;  that you shouldn’t waste time trying to seek out reasons to justify why you should just give up. It’s important that you always get back up; and if you’re still breathing, then there are no valid excuses.  

He made me realize that no one should have to take their last breath, until they have realized the value of all of their breaths that came before.

His goal was to take each day, treasure it, live it, and love the best to his ability, and he did just that. With every health issue that had arisen, it became a tool rather than a crutch; a tool in his quest to live an extremely fulfilling life. To move forward and yell, well, “Check Mate”

 Decide on a goal. Remember, if you fall during the journey, get up, and plow through, stronger than before. Plow through and yell, “Check Mate” each and every single time.

Anything is possible. Anything.

And to answer the question: I do not know when my next show is, but I do plan on competing in the near future, I just haven’t decided on a show yet.

“A setback is a setup for a comeback” -T.D. Jakes

Don’t let a setback become an excuse, and don’t let an excuse become a setback.

 

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.

 

Stream of Consciousness

 

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Isn’t it funny how much people change? And in a matter of time, you can resolve to be this horrible, rotten person, but just be so damn beautiful and valuable and not even realize it? We all have been there. Come on. I know I’m not the only one. You know where you’ve done some things in your past, hell, maybe even yesterday, that you weren’t so proud of. That you’re ashamed of even. Things that you question why you made that decision or took that path, only to figure out that you have no real clue, so maybe you were hopeless all along. Or maybe you want to blame it on someone, make someone else carry the weight of that burden, but to no avail, you don’t feel better about yourself. In fact, you just feel worse. It doesn’t matter how you try to justify it, you still feel like crap about it. Is that guilt? Or is that just a path of self destruction that you had no idea you were on, you know because no one was waving any red flags at you along the way. And just like that, you’ve realized how you just kept making one bad decision after another, until you’ve woven together this long thread of insanity. And now you absolutely can’t stand who you have become. You try to move on, but why are those red flags waving at you now? Where were they before? What the hell? Why are you even here?   

 Which brings me to this:

 I had an interesting conversation today with a good friend of mine. I’ve known her since High school, and as expected, time moves whether you want it to or not. We have our families now, marriage, kids, and we live in different states, so we don’t get to see each other (in fact, the last time I saw her was about four years ago, give or take?) Anyway,   we seldom, if at all, have a chance to talk to one another on the phone. Luckily, for technology we are able to stay connected to each other through pictures, a quick hello via instant message, or a comment here and there on a Facebook post. We do, however, talk on the phone, but as I said, life’s quick pace and our own interests more than often leave limited time to actually sit and chat for any length of time.

 Today, however, I was fortunate to have some time, in fact, we both were. We were able to catch up and get a chance to see how time has changed our life; simply because with each passing day, every years that flies by, we’ve grown up a little bit more whether we wanted to or not. And our mindset now, our conversations, are based on experiences and the limited chances we get to reflect on who we are and what made us that way. Well, the word guilt came up. At first, the we, okay I, tossed the word back and forth, because regardless of knowing each other for about twenty years, we have had different experiences, and I guess that includes, having a different perspective of what exactly ‘guilt’ is; whether or not guilt drives us to do certain things; how, if at all, does it challenge us.

 Do we feel guilty and then act out in an aggressive manner?

 Or do we just ‘hate’ the things that we have done and therefore, hate who we’ve become, which in turn, causes us to react on impulse?

 Is guilt and hate for our past the same?

 If we don’t like who we’ve become, then we think we don’t deserve anything better? Or is it that we know that we deserve better, but don’t deserve going after it? Is that guilt?

 However, she was making sense, and I was making sense, we held different opinions, and remember, I said limited time. We could have gone on all night. She claiming that it was because we do things in our past, which causes us to feel ‘shitty’ about ourselves. It sunk in after the fourth or fifth time she said it, and so I retracted my opinion on the term, ‘guilt’, and decided that her perspective carried a bit of weight to it, and maybe there was something else at work, driving us to wrongfully imprison our souls and make us act out.  But now, I sit here and think about it further. What if it is guilt that drives us to do certain things?  Can’t guilt drive us to do better; be better? It doesn’t always have to lead to negative consequences, right?  Claiming that you don’t like yourself, or that you feel shitty about yourself, can be coined as guilt; can’t it? Or maybe she had a point. Maybe guilt and “hating yourself because of things you may have done” are, in fact, completely different. Or maybe, guilt is the right term, but feelings and pain are so loaded to most; they don’t want to attach an abstract meaning to it.

 Defining someone’s behaviors or feelings for them, can be received pretty poorly. Hell, I can even admit to that. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said or heard, “I/You don’t understand how I feel”.  But truthfully, it is pretty simple. Stop living in the past.  And as I write that, quotes of how everyone has a past, pop up in my mind. If you feel stuck in a place that you don’t really want to be, ask yourself? Why are you there? What is one thing that I can do, or have done that made me different from that person who I was yesterday? Five minutes ago? Maybe you look at your child and validate your reason for being here. Or you just talked to an old friend, like I did and had a meaningful, thoughtful conversation. Or maybe just happen to catch a quick glimpse of yourself in the mirror and realize that you are somebody’s everything. You are someone to somebody; someone who doesn’t know your past; doesn’t even care.  Or how about just stop and listen to your heart beat, and let that be enough to validate your reason for being here.  Why should you let your past hold you back and eat you up inside to make you feel like shit about yourself? I’m not preaching about perfection. I am far from that neck of the woods, I’ve done some things I’m not so proud of myself, and I too, think about that on a daily basis.  I wake up with that shit every single day and feel that twinge of hatred for myself, or I hear someone else’s success story, and get an extra dose of insecurity, feeling of worthlessness, self-hatred, and/or depression. You name it. I’m right there with you. I fight those battles in my damn head every single day, but I keep going; I keep fighting. Challenging myself to reclaim my sanity; to be stronger, clearer, better. I go to the gym, bust my ass, and breathe so heavily that my skin starts to cry and I fog up that ole’  rear view mirror. 

 However way you want to describe it; whether or not you agree with the use of the word, “guilt” (Hell, I’ve even had people get offended when I’ve used the word, “regret”),  but those are all abstract words, they don’t really define your soul; your existence; and they shouldn’t determine which direction you should take, or the choices that you make for a better tomorrow, or a better five minutes. We are made up of many facets, not just our past. If you look back, you’ll see, more often than not, the choices that you’ve made simultaneously have caused a response from you. Stop giving away a part of who you could be right now for the person who nestles down deep inside of you. For that person who once was.

 If you could do all the crazy shit and make it through all of that while still breathing, then you have a reason to be here; stop taking that away from yourself. I tell myself that every single night before I close my eyes. 

Strike a pose at Red Rock Canyon

Once I plugged in the words, photo shoot, photographer, Las Vegas, in Google, it was the beginning of the something that I knew I wanted to do so badly.  Besides, for the longest time, I had wanted to meet Fitness Model/Writer, Jamie Eason as well as a few other influential people that have guided me on this journey of getting in shape and providing me the opportunity to grasp onto a newly found confidence. My husband and I have been saying for years, that instead of going to Las Vegas in July/August like we normally do,  we should attend the Olympia Fitness Expo that is usually in late September. However, things happen that take precedence over going to Las Vegas to a fitness expo, and we just kept putting it off. Not only did I enjoy going to Vegas in July/August, the kids had off from school, and well, it just worked better that way. But this was 2012!  It was the year to get shit done, so we made the decision to just go for it. Besides, I had just competed in my first ever figure competition, and I thought why not? Why not now? It was on my “anxiety” bucket list, so I felt that I had to definitely check that off my list.

I do not really know what made me start looking for photographers in Las Vegas, but I did, and came across Natalie Minh, a well-known photographer, who was from California, but was going to be in Vegas for the Olympia and had set up a location for photo shoots. I don’t remember sending her the email; I think my body and mind went numb in a “what are you thinking” kind of way, and even when I received the response to let me know that there was one day open for a shoot left and that I could take it, I was ready to bite not just my nails, but my fingers off too! But I was also super psyched! I submitted my photos as requested, and followed my competition diet with a few tweaks here and there; I didn’t want to get as low in body fat as I did for the figure competition I did 2 ½ months earlier.  I had 2 months to prep for it, and during that time, I tracked my calories, weighed and measured my food using measuring cups and a food scale, and worked hard in the gym. For some reason, prepping for the photo shoot was much less stressful than prepping for a competition.  Maybe, it was because I was just so excited about finally being able to attend the Olympia fitness expo, and being in Vegas always makes me happy! I guess stepping in front of a photographer whom I have never met before, wasn’t quite resonating with me at that time! Also, I was so excited about the trip and being in a place where everyone carries food around in little plastic baggies and Tupperware containers, that I kind of let the nerves fall by the wayside.

September 26, 2012….Vegas time!!!! We had arranged for my mother in law to come up from NYC to stay with the kids so that we wouldn’t have to take them out of school. It literally took my husband and me 2 whole days to prep all of my food and supplements; he did the cooking and I did the packing. I didn’t want to have to add another carry on bag to our load because I knew that if I did, the airline would charge me more moolah, so I did away with the Tupperware, and found another way to pack my food! I came across Eco-Zip bags while at the grocery store one day, and turns out that they were actually quite convenient and practical! I was able to separate my meals, attach labels to indicate which meal they were for and what day, and they didn’t take a lot of space!

Eco-Zip bags

Eco-Zip bags

24 meals packed and placed into my small blue cooler, which I was able to carry onto the plane with no problems.

My awesome cooler!

My awesome cooler!

Once I arrived at the hotel, I placed all of my food into the refrigerator I had requested weeks earlier.  Carrying my food around in a bag was a lot easier than carrying around a few Tupperware coolers or even the entire cooler. I could just take how many meals I would need and on the go I went!

We have arrived!

We have arrived!

The first two days were the Expo, I stood in line for 3 hours to meet Jamie Eason and I was so happy! She really is the most genuine, sincere person I have ever met! She took the time to chat with me and take a photo

Jamie Eason

Jamie Eason

We also got to meet some other fitness models, high-level pro competitors that have been featured on many of my countless fitness magazines.

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Nicole Wilkins

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My husband with MMA fighter, Forrest Griffin

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Adela Garcia

Adela Garcia

Amanda Latona

Amanda Latona

We also collected free supplements and samples “trick or treat” style. It was awesome! I also got a chance to attend a seminar, which was basically a Q&A with another awesome knowledgeable person in the fitness industry, Jim Stoppani.  As you can see, apparently I have a clothing mishap everywhere I go, my boobs must have a mind of there own. It’s just that the first day I went to the expo, I kind of felt overdressed. A Lot of the people there were walking around in sports bras, tight booty shorts, muscles showing, so the next day, I wanted to fit in just a tad. First of all, I was so anxious to get back to the expo, that I left wearing sandals not sneakers like I originally had planned. I felt like an idiot among all those fitness pros! Plus, I’m not even going to go there with how my crotch looks with the waist of my pants rolled down! hehe whaddya gonna do now?

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My husband striking a pose with all our goodies and my little lunch tote! He’s such a good husband!

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I still shamelessly struck a pose in front of the Muscle&Fitness Hers sign!

It’s actually quite funny that I was so worried about what I should wear! If you ever get a chance to go, you will find the most down to earth, dedicated, nonjudgmental people I’ve had the pleasure of being around!

Unfortunately, we had to cut the second day of the Expo short because I had to hurry back for my spray tanning appointment. Yep, another one of those! (If you haven’t yet, to find out how my previous spray tanning experience went, read the my previous blog post about my journey to my first figure competition) This time, however, I didn’t have to stand naked to dry off for any length of time, only when the tan was applied! Not to mention, I didn’t have to get as dark for the photo shoot as I did for the competition.  After that was over, we had to head over to Walgreens on the strip because my husband developed a severe sinus infection and my right ear was beginning to hurt really badly.

Beast Mode and pink piggy neck rest

Beast Mode and pink piggy neck rest

In hindsight, I think it was from all the gum chewing I was doing to curb cravings! hehe.. “Hi, my name is Megan, and I’m a hypochondriac!”  Unfortunately, no one was there to help and we were advised to come back the next day.  We were both exhausted and ready for bed at that point, so we headed back to the hotel to call it an early night.  Besides, I was meeting the photographer at 9 am, and  I needed to make sure that I gave myself enough time to get to the eat and get to the location on time. I had already tried on a couple of things to wear for the photo shoot so I was ready to go!

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One of the choices that I was taking to the photo shoot! (And wore)

Awwww shit! We were late. It turns out that not all cab drivers in Las Vegas know where to go. Thankfully, we were only late by a couple minutes, but I still felt horrible. But my nerves and regrets of being late were soon squashed when I met Natalie Minh, she was just so nice and made me feel extremely comfortable. And even though I did drink a bottle of red wine to calm my nerves and loosen up, it really did help that I chose an amazing photographer who put me at ease and was really professional.

Four hours, white backdrop, beautiful scenery I’ve never had the chance to see before, hot desert, and hearing someone who was just there to climb Red Rock Canyon, that I must be a fitness model was an amazing feeling and compliment to say the least. I was on an incredible high, well that plus a slight buzz from the bottle of red wine and rockstar energy drink I had a few sips from! And somewhere in the mixture of wine, Rockstar, desert heat, beautiful Red Rock Canyon, and Natalie Minh, I’m pretty sure there was a girl who had a ton of insecurities and little confidence, but that day pure happiness was driving me, and it was one of the greatest days of my life!

Down time! Just for a few minutes though! too much to see and do!

Down time! Just for a few minutes though! too much to see and do!

The rest of the day and time spent in Vegas was just walking around, and enjoying the rest of my time there. I never went to the gym because just walking around the hotels and Vegas strip is enough to wear you out and get a good calorie burn; there are literally stairs everywhere! However, I didn’t do a lot of walking prior to the photo shoot because overuse of your legs could cause water retention, and I certainly didn’t want that to happen. It’s actually quite challenging trying to avoid the unavoidable; walking. Not to mention, I had only a limited amount of water that I could intake; so just being out in the hot blazing sun for any length of time was also a risk. I was however, happy that my husband was finally able to get a prescription for the sinus infection he had. Sinus infection+ cigarette smoke+ desert heat= Not the best time! He did make the most out of it though! I also found out that my ear was just fine. Of course it was…

Sadly, as with any vacation, the day to leave came….

Sadly, it was time to leave

Sadly, it was time to leave

walking up stairs, down stairs, one side of the hotel to another, at the airport,  it was quite the workout! You can seriously find a place to get some exercise in wherever you go! Besides, it doesn’t hurt just to add a tiny challenge along the way. You’ll feel better for it. Trust me.

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stairs in our hotel!

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stairs at the airport! Bye Vegas! I’ll be back someday!