“Me, too”: A note on shame.

I am now two weeks into this fitness and lifestyle overhaul. We are falling into a more comfortable routine. I am no longer panic stricken wondering how the screamer will react. Actually, she has NOT cried on more days than she has cried while I’m gone. I will take that as a win!

I want to give another nod to my village. I cannot stress enough the importance of creating a village in parenthood: find your people, find your tribe. Parenting is SO HARD, so isolating, and near impossible if you live in a silo. We recently moved to a new town and while it may take some effort and stepping out of your comfort zone, it is worth it to put out some feelers and meet people. Exchange numbers, add people to Facebook, plan play dates, wine nights, park meet ups, whatever you like! It is also way easier to find a mom interested in a play date than to find a babysitter…cheaper too!  Just be sure to give as much, or more, than you receive! (Thank you, Village… for all your support, both practical and emotional!)

In just 2 weeks of strength training, I feel stronger, tighter, and less sore. In week one, I quickly realized just how “muscular” I really am! By muscular, I mean I have muscles….many muscles! I know this because every. single. one. hurt! It is a good hurt though, a strong hurt, a productive hurt! It hurts so good! 😉

The scale? It has not budged. At all. That is discouraging because I really have been good about my diet. It is so much work cooking family meals and eating on plan. Not to mention drinking all the water. So much water. I thought the weight would come off more quickly, especially in the beginning. Not so. “Trust the process”. “You’re building muscle to burn the fat”. “Your measurements will tell a different story”. I know all this…I really do. But anyone who knows me knows I am not a patient person. So there’s that.

The main thing I wanted to write about today is really important to me. It’s been a revelation, and is definitely a huge hurdle in personal growth and personal “gains”. I touched on it in one of my initial posts. Mirrors. I mentioned that I hate mirrors at the gym because I don’t like to see myself struggling, sweaty, no make-up. I hate looking at this body I fail to recognize. For the most part, this new gym has minimal mirrors and it is easy enough to avert my gaze to the floor, the wall, the equipment.

But there I stood, face to face with this new me, with nothing but a barbell between us. “You have to look at yourself to see your form; you have to see what you are doing so you don’t hurt yourself.” Locking eyes with myself in the mirror, seeing the disheveled, sweating, mass in front of me, I have never felt more embarrassed or ashamed. I was there, and had a plan, and I take pride in the journey I am on. But in that moment, all I felt was shame. Shame that I had allowed myself to get here, that I look like this. I felt like I was drowning.

I’ve done a lot of contemplating and research on shame in preparation for writing this post. Brené Brown (2013) defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection”. Yup. That’s the one.

If you have never heard of Brené Brown, you are missing out. She is a shame and vulnerability researcher. She is amazing and her TedTalks are extremely thought-provoking.

In processing these intense feelings of shame I felt at the gym that day, I watched a couple videos on guilt versus shame. Guilt is about behaviour, shame about the person. Guilt is external actions, shame is internal identification. I did something bad, versus I AM bad; I made a mistake, versus I AM a mistake (Brown, 2012). Shame is not productive, motivating, or helpful. Shame is extremely harmful and dangerous, and causes people to withdraw, disconnect, and spiral downward.

I thought hard about my feelings of shame as I looked at the woman in the mirror. Is that me? Am I a failure? Is the person I have become physically so unrecognizable and awful that even I won’t connect with her? This has to change.

The truth is, I don’t think I am a failure. I don’t think I am a mistake. I also don’t think I am a fat person. It is my actions, not my being, that have gotten me to this point. I have to reframe my self-talk to move from unproductive feelings of shame and helplessness to productive, vulnerable, self-accepting but change-provoking, guilt.

I am guilty of over eating and making poor food choices. I am guilty of not being active. I am guilty of not loving myself through it all. I am guilty of questioning and doubting the connections I have with others based on my physical appearance. I am guilty of withdrawing from many social situations because I put my worth in my physical appearance. I am guilty, but I am not ashamed (see what I did there??….just keep telling myself that!). I am not ashamed. My actions did this and my actions can undo it. I can grow from this. I am not ashamed.

Related to the gym, (because that is why you’re reading this, right?); only when you accept and recognize where you are, will you later see and appreciate how far you have come. So, today I opened my eyes. I looked at the woman in the mirror with a little more grace, a little less judgement, and a little more pride.

“Shame is an epidemic in our culture, and to get out from underneath it, to find our way back to each other, we have to understand how it affects us, and how it affects the way we are parenting, the way we’re working, the way we are looking at each other” (Brown, 2012, at 18:00). Shame needs secrecy, silence, and judgement to survive and grow exponentially; empathy is the antidote to shame.

The two most powerful words when faced with a struggle are “me, too” (Brown, 2012). So, to my village of supporters, friends, family, (and now, blog readers…who would have thought?!): thank you for reaching out. I hope as you read this, you are hearing me screaming, “ME, TOO!” at you.

No more silence, secrecy, or judgement. No more shame.

 

 

 

 

Seriously, watch the TedTalks. They’ll change your life.

 

References:

Brown, B. (2012). Brené Brown: Listening to shame. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame

OWN (2013). Dr. Brené Brown: Why Guilt Is Better Than Shame. Retrieved from http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/dr-brene-brown-why-guilt-is-better-than-shame-video

Brown, B. (2013). Shame v. Guilt. Retrieved from http://brenebrown.com/2013/01/14/2013114shame-v-guilt-html/

“Krista’s Torture Chamber”

This week I started my “Beast” challenge group. I feel like I was conducting an orchestra in order to make it happen. Alas, the stars aligned: one kid in school, one in preschool for 2 hours, and a heavenly saint of a friend willing to watch the baby who would likely scream the whole time…she did.

On Sunday we had an introduction to meet the trainers, take “before” photos and measurements, and talk about nutrition. I fancy myself a pretty educated momma, I took a university class on nutrition, I can “math the shit out of those numbers” and totally understand macros, g, kg, kcal….if energy burned is greater than energy ingested, you lose weight. Simple as that. But, wow, did I need those reminders. WTF are you putting in your body? And why?

It is amazing the eye opener you get by just simply tracking your food. I eat pretty good, but way too big of portions with certain things. 6 almonds, that’s a serving? 6! Not to mention I had slowly allowed a lot of added sugar to creep into my diet (ah hem….double double coffee creamer??). So, one of the biggest first steps was tracking my food intake on MyFitnessPal, and paying attention to my macros (Protein 136g, Carbs 180 g, and Fat 59g, 1800 cal/day). I am exclusively breastfeeding so have a slightly higher calorie requirement. Yeah, remember when I said “F-you” to those saying “Just breast feed and the weight will slide right off!”. Apparently my daily ingestion of coffee creamer, peanut butter, and kids’ leftovers negated that effect. Noted.

So, food prep, eating, and documenting has pretty much become a full time job around these parts. My kids even ate “cottage cheese pancakes” this morning. Covered in syrup, everything tastes good! Smoothies for lunch, and plain air-popped popcorn for snack. Dieting…I mean, lifestyle changes…are a family affair! 🙂 So far, so good! (Full disclosure: we made Easter treats for their classes tonight. I didn’t even eat one…but I did lick the spoon!).

Monday morning I had my first work out. I had so much anxiety between the workout itself, and leaving the screamer with my friend, that I was so nauseous. I felt like I had eaten a rock and couldn’t fathom eating a pre-work out carb snack. I didn’t know what to wear. I didn’t want to be the “biggest girl there” and I was already assuming I would be the most out of shape!  I was scared.

“Krista’s Torture Chamber”, a sign inside read. Perfect.

The challenge group in my time slot is a mix of mostly women who had completed the program before. But, there is another woman just starting that I feel is at a similar level as me. This made me feel better…even though I know it shouldn’t. Me against Me…but moral support is also nice!

I worked out. During the warm up, I started to get lost in my head space. A familiar dialogue spinning in my mind: “What am I doing? I can’t do this. This is way too hard. I look like an idiot.” But then the warm up ended. I had similar thoughts through the remaining intervals but kept reminding myself: “You have to start somewhere. No matter how bad you are at this, it is better than sitting unhappily on the couch. You can only get better! You can do anything for 40 seconds (or 40 minutes!)”.

And then, it was over. I survived! My “bad back” was sore, but not overly so. My feet hurt for some reason. My arms and legs felt like jello. But, I did it. It felt good, and I can do it again!

Was it the best work out? Probably not. But it was certainly better than sitting on the couch. I can only get better from here!

And the baby? I’m sure she screamed the whole time,  but my beautiful friend said “She had a couple tears, but it wasn’t so bad!”. Find your village ladies, they are worth their weight in gold!  I could not, at all, do this journey alone. Find your people.

 

Baby gains…carrying an extra toddler around all day ‘er day!

I am not active. I never have been particularly active.  I did some recreational sports growing up, the usual childhood soccer, baseball, and gymnastics classes. I was a cheerleader for most of elementary school and high school, which was as active as I have ever been.

When I went to university I managed to avoid the “freshman 15” thanks to a stellar diet of shooters, chicken wings, and empty cupboards. I likely had a decent metabolism on my side. But I always felt fat. At 5 feet 9.5 inches tall and 145 pounds, I wore hooded sweatshirts and jeans to be comfy. I wore loose fitting, empire waist shirts to “hide my love handles”. For fuck’s sake…what I wouldn’t give to be THAT kind of fat again!

Before having kids, I didn’t need to work out to maintain my weight. I cooked nutritious meals mostly because I like cooking, and I like eating good food. But, I never really dieted. When I got married, I took it as my “wifely duty” to make meals…more meals than I ever ate before. Gradually my portion sizes grew to match my husband’s (my large, fit, very active husband). And then I got pregnant. So long adolescent, “fat”, body….

So I “gained” a beautiful baby girl…and 45 pounds.  I lost 30 pounds fairly easily after I had her and thought “Ha! I’m one of those blessed people who can pop out babies and go home in my normal jeans!” (not quite, but you know the type I’m referring to…bitches). I stayed about 10 pounds heavier, rationalizing “Why bother losing all the weight now, I’m just going to get pregnant again??”. Which is exactly what I did, and gained another 45 pounds. “It’ll all fall off again, and I will have my whole life to lose the rest!”. Nope.

I got down to 185 pounds and was stuck. I panicked. I did not have a clue how to lose weight. I already thought I ate healthily. I can’t run, I can’t jog, I have a baby and toddler at home, what the hell am I going to do?! In my utter desperation, I joined a ladies strength boot camp type work out program. It was fucking awful…and awesome. I did the work outs with my eyes closed because I couldn’t handle seeing myself in the mirrors on the walls. In my head I was bawling, ‘I can’t do this, there is no way, one more set and I’m walking out, I’ll say I have to get somewhere, I’ll run outside and puke, I’ll just finish this last interval….’. This literally went on EVERY day for the entire workout. But I finished, and I saw FAST results (apparently doing NOTHING active, then going hard really shocks the system!). I was diligent with the nutritional aspect and made the program my job. I felt so proud of myself, so confident, and SO ALIVE!

But, once I got to a place I was comfortable, I slowly scaled back the intensity of my workouts, was skipping days, and letting myself have more cheat days. I had gotten down to 153 pounds, but quickly gained 10 pounds when I fell off the wagon. “If I can be 160-165 doing nothing but enjoying my family with no sacrifices then that works for me!”.

I maintained that weight but lost muscle tone, gained fat, lost my pride and my confidence. I got lost in a new job, new commitments, on top of a busy family life. I was coasting. Then came a previously unanticipated baby #3. More weight gain.

So, here I am. Mom to 3 awesome kids: 6 years old, almost 4 years old, and 5 months old. Stuck at 185 pounds once again, scale hasn’t budged in 5 months despite VERY aggressive breastfeeding (“Oh, just breastfeed and the baby weight will melt right off!” – Fuck you.) Again, the panic has set in. Now, I have 3 kids to juggle! The littlest a boob-leach that has yet be un-tethered from my milk-makers for longer that 45 waking minutes, and not longer than 10 waking minutes without screaming bloody murder! How am I ever going to lose this weight??

I am overweight (I actually am, I calculated my BMI today and I am officially overweight!). That is not ok. But, more importantly, I am self-conscious, my body hurts because I am carrying too much weight on a weak frame and bad back, I can’t keep up with my kids because of it, and my damn jeans don’t fit. I actually back out of plans and avoid making plans because I don’t have anything to wear and I refuse to indulge this grotesque body with new clothes.

I know, I know: “You just had a baby, give yourself a break!”, “Your body has grown 3 healthy humans!”, trust me…I have made these my mantras for the past 6 months! But, I also sit on the couch watching pvr’d episodes of Big Brother and Chicago Fire (and Chicago PD, Med, and Justice) while my kids nap instead of working out. I sneak chocolate chips and mini-eggs, and grab a snack the instant my kids go to bed. I’m still eating husband-sized portions (because I’m a damn good cook, why shouldn’t I enjoy it?!). This body I’ve created isn’t all baby weight. It is lazy lifestyle weight. It is not ok.

So, desperate once again, I reached out to my village and formulated a plan! I joined a 12-week ladies strength and nutritional coaching program in town. I found a mom-friend that will watch my kids for an hour 2 times a week, and my husband once a week when he is home. I am actively trying to sleep train the baby and get her stranger anxiety under control so she doesn’t scream the entire hour, 3 times a week.

I have a plan. I am terrified at how hard it is going to be, but so excited about getting my weight and my health under control again. I filled out a questionnaire today for the gym. It asked me to describe my goals and what I am willing to sacrifice to achieve them.

I would like to ultimately lose 30 pounds. I think I can realistically lose 20 during this 12 week program. I want to get out of my damn maternity pants and lulus I currently live in!

I have a really unstable, bad, lower back so while that will likely slow me down in the beginning, strengthening my core should help.  That is another huge goal for me as right now, I am so limited in my mobility; it really affects my quality of life. I want to play with my kids, be able to lift them onto the monkey bars, help them learn to ride their bikes, water slide, and run with them! My back, self-consciousness, and fitness level really prevent all of this!

I also want to feel more attractive, and more like the person I used to be.  I know these are lofty goals for only 3 months but these are all ultimate goals I am working toward! It took 9 months….times three!…6 years, really….to gain the weight, bad habits, and negative self-image…I am realistic that it will take longer than 3 months to fix everything!

I will sacrifice whatever it takes. I NEED THIS.

It’s time to own it; to own where I am right now and where I want to be. But I’m still going to close my eyes at the gym (in case you see me, you’ll know why my eyes are closed!)….maybe that’s another goal: work out with my eyes open and be proud of what I see!

Here I go!

Lady Gains & The Littles

So, I’m starting a blog. I figured that I have a lot to say, about a lot of things, that not everyone on Facebook needs, or wants, to read. Also, because my Facebook is joint with my husband, it is not necessarily fair to express my opinions on behalf of us both!

Mostly, I am starting a blog to document my post babies weight loss journey. I think sharing the journey with like-minded people will help to keep me motivated, accountable, and…well…peer pressure is a mighty thing!

I named my site “Lady Gains & Life With Littles” because it is not all about weight loss, but what we, as women, gain in becoming mothers. It is a bit of a spoof on fitness “gains”, but I am referring to that as well. I also anticipate talking about my kids and the trials and tribulations of motherhood.

In the past 6 years, I have “gained” 3 beautiful children, many wonderful memories, MANY grey hairs, and 40 pounds. Actually, I have gained 45, lost 30, gained 45, lost 50, gained 10, gained 40, lost 20, and now sit 40 pounds heavier than when I started. Got all that?  It doesn’t matter.  I had 3 kids, gained weight with each, and am now stuck in a body I don’t recognize. More on that in the next post.

Welcome to my blog!

Mandy aka “Lady Gains”