Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Be Divine

So, it's New Year's Eve, and I've come to realize something important. This is the first year, for as long as I can remember, when I'm NOT going to head to bed tonight trying to convince myself that, starting tomorrow, I'm going to get healthy. I'm not making any resolutions that I can't achieve. I'm not going to put all my hope in the closing of the year to bring me the change I know I am capable of.

I had coffee with Seb the other day to catch up and plan a bit for the months ahead. They're going to be busy, that's for sure. I'll be back to work (after a month off), starting two more classes in my PhD program, and I've also signed on to be part of a research team for two months. Oh yeah, plus I'm still looking after my dog, trying to keep my life organized, and spending at least an hour a day at the gym. Phew! I'm tired just thinking about it all. But I'm confident that I'll be able to make it happen. With that in mind, we set some new goals for the weeks, months and year ahead:
  • lose 15-20 pounds every three months. I had to convince Seb of this one...I've been on par with 15 pounds every three months, and I'd like to crank it up a bit. I'm certain that there's more I can be doing to get the results I want. Deep down, there's part of me that thinks that Seb agreed to this goal to help me realize that 20 pounds per month is quite aggressive, and that if I don't achieve that goal, then he'll have taught me a valuable lesson about being realistic in my expectations. However, I'm going to give it a try, just to see what I can do when I really put my mind to it. I say that because I'm convinced that I can do better to focus on my goals and make sure that they happen. That said, my next goal is to:
  • be more consistent. Over the past six months, when I've had weeks where I haven't seen any change, I know that there are things that I could have done differently -- things that I could have done to ensure greater success. I'm striving for consistency because I want to make the same mistakes fewer times. Yes, I would like to see more consistent results, and Seb of course reminds me that this whole thing is about realizing that weight loss runs in highs and lows. I get that. I'm willing to accept the highs and lows only at those times when I know that I've done everything I can to try to succeed. But I don't think I've necessarily done that in the past. Am I striving for my typical Type-A personality perfection? Sure. But I also have to navigate my way through this journey on my own terms, testing my own beliefs, making my own mistakes, and finding my own new directions. Sebastien is there to play the devil's advocate, but I know that in order to make this healthy lifestyle truly a lifestyle, I have to figure out a lot of it on my own.
  • strive to achieve balance. I work full time. I go to school full time. I do research. I spend upwards of 10 hours per week at the gym. I function at full throttle... I need to figure out how to function further away from the edge of the tipping point, or figure out what to do if and when things do tip over...
So there you have it. Not necessarily a resolution, but a new set of goals to carry me through the weeks and months ahead. I'm looking forward to the next steps in the journey, and to sharing more of my experience with whomever is reading this stream of consciousness that is my blog. And for those out there making new years' resolutions, make sure you decide something that's going to work for you... and most importantly, from a text message my sister in New Zealand sent me this morning as they rang in the new year:

Happy New Year.
Bring on a successful 2009.
Love harder.
Be true to yourself and your passion.
Honour those not here through your actions.
Be divine in 2009.

Kia Kaha.
Stay Strong.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Reflections....

I'm sitting here in the first class lounge at YYZ awaiting my flight to Vancouver and Comox for Christmas. I've got a 10-day break ahead of me with friends and my parents, and am looking forward to some relaxation after what has been a very very busy six months. In fact, it's been a pretty intense year. Between taking on my PhD, entering year 2 of a new job, and taking a leap of faith into better health, I've had quite a busy 12 months. And it seems appropriate, in that "Top 10 of 2008" type of fashion given the time of year, that I reflect a bit on where I've been in the past year, where I've come to, and where I'm going in the years ahead. It's also a good idea because Seb sent me a text message last night telling me to do so. Since I opened up my blog and made it public, he's turned into my blog-pimp. Lucky this thing doesn't make me any coin (yet) or he might ask me for a cut... LOL!

So, I had my last workout with Sebastien yesterday before the Christmas break, and my monthly assessment. We weren't able to do the whole assessment because I've got a problem with my sub-talar joint (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subtalar_joint) in my left foot making it difficult to do pushups and planks. But I did what I could and I continue to make progress. We then proceeded to do more kickboxing (the oddly cathartic sport which I am really enjoying) and took out some aggression for a good 25 minutes. Then onto some core work and streching to round out my day. All in all a good workout.

While I was doing a set of 100 crunches (normally I do 400.. and my capacity for crunches rates in the 'excellent' range for a 35 year old man), Sebastien asked me what I was most proud of over the past year. I wasn't able to respond right away. First of all, because it's hard to talk while you're doing crunches... I don't know why he insists on asking me questions while I'm grunting and panting... but I digress. I also didn't answer right away because I really didn't know. I know that I've said to myself (and on here) that I'm proud of myself... but talking about pride out loud is a totally different ball game. In fact, talking about any of my journey out loud is difficult. It's difficult because it's so personal. Difficult because it's emotional. Difficult because, well, it's difficult.

But I did eventually come to a revelation. Even though I am indeed proud of the fact that getting to the gym each day is now a good habit and part of my lifestyle, and that I feel more and more at home in that space which used to scare the shit out of me, there's something that I am proud of much more.

The journey towards health and losing weight is not a simple path. Even though diets that tout themselves as 'lifestyle programs' try to sell a very simplistic equation to get people to buy into their formula for better health, it's not at all that easy. I always knew in the back of my head that this would be just as intense a journey emotionally, as it is physically. But it is only now, in doing some good, thoughtful reflection, that I truly realize how important it is to get your head and heart healthy so that your body can follow suit.

Basically, what I am most proud of is that over the past 12 months, I've learned to deal with my baggage. I have lots of reasons as to why I think I'm fat. I have 10 fingers, each of which can point in a different direction and to a different person or event that I can blame for why I ended up this way. At the end of it all though, I'm the only one who can truly change any of this. I'm the one who is in control. I have to be the one in control. And allowing any of the people or experiences or whatever, to whom any one of my fingers is pointed, have control over me, is to admit defeat off the start and set myself up for inevitable failure.

In other words, I've learned to let go.

And it's not easy. Not only have I carried around extra physical weight all of these years, but I have also carried intense amounts of emotional baggage and crap that always weighed me down. Literally. I could feel it bearing down on my shoulders. On my limbs. On my heart. On my soul. Some of it has simply disappeared without me even realizing it. Some of it has been left on the floor of the gym in sweat and tears (no blood). And some of it, I've chosen to address head on. I've taken the time to try to hold myself accountable (even though it's still a struggle) for my shit, and for making things happen for myself. It's not easy. I'm my own worst enemy. I'm also my own strongest ally. And accepting the help that others can give me, but most importantly, the help that I can provide for myself, is a significant step along this curvy, bumpy path.

So, in spite of the fact that:
  • I've dropped 60 pounds in the last year.
  • I go to the gym every day.
  • I've conquered my fear of the elliptical machine.
  • I do 300-400 crunches a day.
  • I eat well, and have learned to not beat myself up for the times that I don't.
  • I've never felt healthier.
  • I've made a new friend... his name is Sebastien the trainer.
I'm most proud of the fact that I no longer carry all of that baggage with me. Don't get me wrong... there's still some stuff packed away in backpacks, shoulder bags, and the occasional rolling suitcase (but never a fanny-pack... they should be illegal), there's nowhere near as much as there used to be. That's what I'm most proud of.

And I guess, it's not totally fair to say 'in spite of' all of those things that I listed above. It's more 'because of' that list of accomplishments that I've been able to let go and move on. And boy am I movin' on....

So my friends, there you have it. Thank you for sharing in the past six months of my 12 month journey. But it's not over yet. I've got some solid goals in mind, and will continue, without a doubt, to transform myself into the person I've always dreamt I could become. So, stay tuned for year 2... and I will soon overcome my aversion to cameras and post some pictures on this thing.... I remember the first week that I actually started running on the treadmill, Sebastien told me I should post a video of me running on this blog. I told him he was fu**ing crazy.

I don't think he's so crazy anymore.

So, I must fly. Literally. It's time for me to get on the plane and enjoy 5 hours of in-flight entertainment in my lie-flat bed executive suite seat (thanks to my Dad's Aeroplan points...). Thanks for reading... and I look forward to sharing more with you in 2009.

Kia kaha.
Stay strong.

Friday, December 12, 2008

58th and goal... 33rd and goal... a touchdown overall.

Well, that was my best attempt at a sports analogy... I think it has something to do with football. Who really cares what it's from. More importantly....

This time last year, I made a decision to start looking after myself -- to start getting healthy. I gave myself some deadlines. I set many small goals. I have overcome many fears. I have shrunk in many ways (physically). I have grown emotionally in so many more.

All that said, 12 months after I made the most important decision in my life, I've met my goal goal. This time last year, I was 58 pounds heavier than what I am right now. At that time, I gave myself permission to start getting healthy, and six months later, made another important decision Six months ago, I met Sebastien and hired him as my trainer. He helped me overcome so many of my fears, and see the very real possibilities of what I could accomplish. He helped me to set some realistic goals. Off the start, they were:
  • to get more comfortable with being active;
  • to find some physical activity that I enjoyed doing;
  • to not be so hard on myself;
  • to lose 30 pounds in six months.
Well, since I hired Sebastien six months ago, I've lost 33 pounds. Goal surpassed by 3 pounds. In some ways, I'm starting to lap myself -- hey, look at that, another sports analogy. How very butch of me.... LOL!!!!

So, I'm happy to report that:
My girth measurements are shrinking. We're doing measurements next week -- I'll be sure to let folks know where I'm at then.
My confidence and sense of self are growing -- I now no longer worry if people are looking at me because I'm big. I just assume that now they see someone who's happy, confident, and healthy. Screw them if they think anything other than that.
I can't remember the last time I was in a bad mood -- and my relationships with friends and family are so much more fulfilling.
This is the first time that I can ever recall saying, with absolute honesty, that I'm happy with who I am -- and my relationship with myself has never been better.

Pretty f**king cool, eh???
Not much more to say than that.


Kia kaha.
Stay strong.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The success equation....

So I have had an interesting few weeks. If you've been reading my posts latelly, you'll get a sense of the fact that I'm feeling pretty burnt out. It has been a very busy semester at work, and the school work I had this term was pretty demanding. All that said, I'm pretty pleased with the fact that I'm still standing, and managing to balance the many priorities I've put at the top of my list.

That said, the past few weeks have indeed been interesting. Over the past four weeks I think I've met with Sebastien only twice -- we've each had scheduling conflicts that have made having our sessions. And admittedly, I'm jealous of the fact that he's taking a week off and is currently sunning himself on the beach in the Dominican Republic -- yes, he's entitled to take time off, and he works hard... he deserves it. He puts up with me every week -- he definitely deserves it.

But what I've started to learn is just how much I actually need my trainer. Having time every week to work out together, check-in, talk about where my head's at, and simply hang out has become very sacred for me. I even remember a few months ago when Seb was telling me about a client who wanted to buy up all of his time -- meaning he'd have to think about referring some of his clients. That freaked me out. And I didn't really figure out why until this past week.

I realize that I still don't trust myself. As much as I've worked hard on all of this, and as wonderful as my results have been, I still don't have confidence in my own strength to persevere and do what I need to do to keep on track. And that's understandable. I'm making a huge life change, and it will take time to build the complete strength and determination I need to go it on my own. Even though I'm blogging about it, and talking to my friends about it, the experience is still pretty solitary, and the one person who knows absolutely everything about what I'm going through and how I'm progressing is Sebastien. I really rely on him. Yes, I'm a pretty closed up person - and the degree of disclosure that I've given myself still makes me feel very vulnerable. So much so that I still don't trust myself to catch myself when I fall... because I don't think I've really surrounded myself with the safety net I think I would need. I'm not saying that my friends and family wouldn't ever be that net for me -- without a doubt they would all be there in a snap. Without question. The point is that I don't think I trust myself enough to:
a) to fall;
b) to catch myself, or;
c) ask for someone else to help catch me and pick me up.
Even as much trust and faith as I have in my trainer, I don't know if my own ego would even allow me to let go of my control issues (shocking, I know) enough to let him be what I might need if I truly screw things up.

So, what leads me to this conclusion??? Well, while Seb is sunning himself in the Dominican (I'm not bitter... really), I find myself not holding myself accountable to the same standards as I would if I knew I had to meet up with him in a few days. Indeed we're reconnecting next Wednesday and getting back on schedule, but when we're not going to meet up, I realize I kind of let things slide. Why is that???? Well, I don't think I need to pay a therapist $150 to figure that out....

Essentially, it boils down to the fact that without Sebastien as my safety net (to the extent that I would ever allow him to be) and my external accountability, and in many ways a source of strength, I'm not sure that I could hold myself accountable for my progress in the same way that he can right now. I've been working really hard at all of this, but I'm still not convinced deep down inside that I'm capable of doing it totally, completely, and unequivocally by myself and for myself. Because of that, I can't really hold myself ultimately accountable for when I succeed and when I fail. And it's that risk of not being accountable, of not being able to pull my shit together when I fail, that is creating my fear of succeeding. So what do I do?

Without even thinking about it, I find I let things slide just enough to maintain some semblance of keeping it together, without completely throwing it all by the wayside. In other words, I don't eat as 'cleanly' as I would like. I don't workout as intensely as I would if I had an appointment with Sebastien looming on the horizon. "Looming" is not the best word, because the training sessions I have are by far some of the best time I have each week. But I think you get what I mean. Essentially, I give myself the space to fail. Because if I'm afraid of succeeding, the alternative -- and default option given the numerous different ways I've attempted to get at this -- is through failure. It's classic self-sabotage. I've read about it. I've heard people talk about it. But I've never truly understood it until now.

All that said, I don't think it's as bad as I think... or as bad as it could be. Why? All of the other times in my life, when I self-sabotage and choose failure over confronting the possibility of success, I would eat my face off. And remember... I'm a foodie. So 'eating my face off' didn't necessarily mean gorging at a drive-thru. I would cook up a storm... eat lots of indulgent and decadent things... not "a whole lot of crap" (as my Mom would say), but a lot of rich, savoury, carb-heavy food. Picture plates of homemade pasta.... steaming hot with homemade meatballs and sauce... loaded with mushrooms and cheese. Okay.... I need a moment. Kidding. And then I'd lay down on the couch, watch TV and be completely desensitized to the fact that I had just totally binged on food to somehow make myself feel better and deal with the fear of success.

So, what do I do now?

Well, I won't work out as vigorously. But I still work out.
I won't eat as cleanly as I would like. But I still eat well.
I don't numb myself with food.
I sit back.
I reflect.
I figure things out.
I blog.

Instead of filling my face with pasta, I take advantage of the opportunity to think, reflect, and write. And from this important blogging exercise, I figure out that I don't totally trust myself, and that I need to learn how to do that. I don't know exactly how to do that, but I'll figure it out. I realize that I don't need to do this on my own -- I can turn to my friends and family for strength, because I don't have all the strength I need to do this... and it's okay not to.

And I have to have faith in the fact that I can succeed.

I am determined to succeed.

I will succeed.

Or to think about it mathematically...

(trust + strength + faith) - fear = SUCCESS

So there you have it.
A big brain purge.
A big brain fart.
A big brain.
A big heart.

And in that heart,
I know how truly fortunate I am to have my friends and family... and one helluva trainer.... peace, love and thanks to all.

Kia kaha. Stay strong.

PS. Tonight's work out....
60 minutes at level 11 on the elliptical trainer = 1275 calories burned
100 ball squats = more calories burned and legs that are like buttah
400 crunches = abs of steel? In due time....
Overall, a good night and a spring back in my step...


Saturday, November 22, 2008

The crazy cycle of success... and screwing up.

So, it feels like it has been a while since I've blogged. The truth of the matter is that school and work are in high gear right now, and making it through a day of a pile of work, some studying, and convincing myself that I need to spend time in the gym is pretty much all I can do right now. Work is starting to make me feel really burnt out, and I'm thrilled to say that I've got only two more weeks of work before I'm off for a month. I've not had vacation time since early summer, so let's just say that I'll be taking advantage of a well-deserved break.

One thing that I'm really looking forward to is spending some good refreshing and renewing time in the gym. With the weather being so very cold, and snow on the ground, it could be really easy to curl up and stay in bed in the morning, but I'm excited about the propsect of spending my break from work looking after myself. I feel like I'm getting into a bit of a rut -- I don't know how else to describe it. I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm unmotivated. I'm just feeling kind of slow and lathargic. Maybe it's the time change from a few weeks ago. Maybe it's the weather. It's likely the intense pace of work and school that i've been dealing with. Regardless, I feel like I need a bit of a boost; like I need to go back to that place I was in earlier in July where I was so very excited about kicking things into high gear.

So, how do I make it through the next two weeks? My focus isn't so much on what I can do to dramatically change, but instead, what I can do to maintain thegood healthy patterns that I've learned in order to help me be resilient amid the stress and challenges of the weeks ahead. I need to remember that I've made a significant lifestyle change -- that this new way of thinking, being, and living in the world isn't just a one-time thing. This is unlike every other attempt I've ever made at getting healthy. It's not a one-off. It's not a quick and easy solution. It's a mind shift of hard work and dedication that's giving me results that don't necessarily find their permanence in themselves, but find instead find their permanence in my renewed sense of confidence, and sense of self. This isn't something that I can decide to no longer do anymore because going back to my 'old ways is easier. The thought of doing so actually makes me feel nauseous. Falling back into negative patterns is no longer an option. Instead, maintaining decent healthy patterns is the way to cope with difficulty. I guess what I'm trying to articulate is the fact that a healthy, balanced lifestyle is my new baseline, and my focus for the next two weeks is on maintaining the baseline. And if I don't see decreases in the numbers, I'm okay with that. I just don't want to see increases...but if I do, I'll deal with it. I've learned to allow myself to screw up at this -- knowing that in the past when I've made mistakes like not counting calories properly, not drinking the requisite 8 glasses of water a day, or not following the prescribed 'program' to the letter, I've given up out of despair and the inability to forgive myself for not being 'perfect'. The perfectionistic Type A is in my nature. I'm a Virgo. But just because it's my nature, doesn't mean I have to accept it as my only reality. I can choose to change it. Essentially, I want to do what I can to maintain what I've already accomplished, and reward myself at the end of the rocky road by indulging in some intensive, focused, accelerated behaviour that is going to generate and motivate more change. "Treating" myself now means indulging in a well-paced 2 hour workout instead of indulging in a well-paced 2 hour dinner out. It's kind of interesting how the mind shifts....

The other thing I am trying to make sense of is that I've recently begun to realize that I'm not necessarily afraid of failing at this. I'm actually kind of afraid of succeeding. The small victories I've celebrated in the past few months are indeed worthy of being called much more than 'small'. I'm beginning to see that. On Friday, my friend Alison told me that the fact that I can now drive my car with a winter coat fully done up (instead of having to take it off because I'm too big), and that the pair of 'skinny' pants (skinny being a relative term) that I bought 3 years ago finally fit aren't 'small victories'. They're a big deal. But it's really easy for me to downplay my successes... because deep down inside, I think I'm afraid of celebrating those successes in the way that I deserve. I also acknowledge that in celebrating my success, I admit that I'm inherently capable of screwing up (see previous paragraph about perfectionism). It's kind of a crazy cycle. I'm working on it, though.

That said, another friend recently sent me this quote, which I once attributed to Nelson Mandela -- a visionary who imagined the impossible and saw change happen in a culture and a part of the world where change seemed impossible...kind of the same way I used to think about myself, that being 'big', 'obese', 'fat' (whatever you call it), was my lot in life. However, I recenly learned they are the words of Marianne Williamson (www.marianne.com), a writer and spiritul activist who founded Project Angel Food -- a non-profit organization in LA that delivers meals to home-bound people living with HIV/AIDS (www.angelfood.org). The message is clear and really resonates with me... and I'll close this entry off with her words:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously
give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."


Kia Kaha

Stay Strong.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

All things just keep getting better...

So, dear friends, it has been a while since i last blogged. Work and school have indeed been kicking my ass, and I had to cancel my training session with Seb last week because I had a late meeting with the city council... needless to say, an hour of training would have been far less painful. Seriously.

Onto brighter moments...

I had a bit of a rough go of it in the past two weeks... busy schedules make for challenges in being prepared...and one of my keys to success is making sure that my food and planning is all in order so that I have a successful week. But, the other demands on my time made it really easy to forget to do good grocery shopping, and get stuff together. But, it made it really difficult to make good and well-informed food choices that week. Let's just say I survived on Tim Horton's Bagels and coffee and hot chocolate... and did you know how many calories and sugar are in that stuff? If not, check it out at http://www.timhortons.com/en/menu/nutrition-calculator.html. And when I didn't get to the Tim's for limited sustenance, I simply didn't eat... Deprivation gets you no further in this game -- and my weight increased... lesson learned.

So I worked hard to get back down to where I was two weeks ago, and my assessment tonight was a testament to that possibility. My weight is a bit lower than it was two weeks ago... which I'm happy about. But there's a bunch of other cool stuff that makes me even happier. My strength is increasing significantly. My grip strength, reach, and flexibility are going in the right direction. My cardio capacity is on the rise as well (the 1000-calorie burn on the elliptical this week is a fine example...). And I'm noticing changes in my body that feel good too... the belt continues to get tighter, the shirts are starting to get tucked in, I see the changes in my face, my energy is up, and the evidence is really starting to show in my measurements.

Every month, Seb does an assessment, which includes a series of girth measurements that are good indicators of progress. While the pounds are coming off, they're not falling off as much as I would like... but at the end of the day, the pounds are the only indicator of good things. My measurements this month show an overall reduction of 13" in my girth measurements since last month-- most significantly in my chest. There's only one way to describe that -- 'Man boobs be gone!' LOL!!! But seriously, I'm losing inches where I need to and gaining in good places (my quads are growing.... not sure how I feel about that, but they're growing because they're likely 'jacked' from a lot of leg work this weekend... ha! "Jacked" Whatever... LOL!

Anyway, all is well, and as one of my favourite songs says "All Things Just Keep Getting Better". Aches and pains are pretty much non-existent. I'm feeling better than ever, and even though the pounds aren't dropping in number as much as I would like, I know that strength and muscle-building are making up the difference. All good... all so very very good.

Kia kaha.
Stay Strong.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Egg-zaw-sted.

So, I haven't blogged for two weeks.... work life and school life have been extremely busy. A while ago, I used to talk about how bored I was at work, and how some days, I used to just sit in the office and stare at the wall. Well, be careful what you wish for..... work has been extremely busy -- dealing with a lot of different issues, some complex student mental health stuff that takes up a lot of time, and also trying to launch a few new programs and partnerships. It's all very exciting and invigorating stuff, but it takes heaps of time... both in terms of real hours and mental/emotional time in the off-hours.

School has been picking up steam. Even though a while back I was feeling like I was losing confidence with my 'academic' self... I am really invigorated by the content (have a bit of a crush on my professor, to be honest) and am feeling like I'm working at a level of academic rigor that one would expect from a PhD-level program. At the end of my Tuesday night class, I have to admit... I feel completely brain dead. The class is intellectually challenging and mentally exhausting, but it's all good at the same time.

In fact, last night, I was completely wiped after class. But I also had a heap of work to do after I got home, and realized that I hadn't yet made it to the gym. Sebastien has given me the new kettle bell workout, which is incredibly challenging (sometimes a bit too much so), and the 'newness' is reinvigorating, both in terms of my spirit and my body. You need to shock your body out of older routines and into new ways of doing things -- it keeps it fresh and forces your body to respond, luckily in a way that results in good changes. Even though I had a pile of work to do, I still managed to get to the gym last night and cranked out close to 800 calories on the elliptical machine. It was a good night.

The kettle bell workout, as I said, is challenging. I think we started off a bit heavy on it, and I was worried on Saturday that I was overdoing it. So, I slowed down, got Sebastien's thoughts, and we've agreed to lower the weight and reps, but still keep the format. That's a relief. We talked tonight about how Sebastien feels confident in my ability to push myself in terms of my capacity for cardiovascular work (which the kettle bells does incredibly), but I reminded him that his confidence is only one part of he puzzle. I have to have that same trust and confidence... but we're getting there. It's a new way of doing things, so I need a little bit of time to work through the pains and kinks, and eventually feel better about how we're doing things.

Tonight we dove back into kettle bell hell (adjusted weights and reps) and threw in some pushups for good measure. At one point, I offered to lift heavier weight instead of doing the pushups... but Seb didn't buy it. He asked why I didn't like the pushups... well, it's true that they're challenging, but I don't like the fact that the floor is dirty.... yes, dirt and germs are one of my little OCD-issues. So, he laughed and told me to hit the floor. I'm glad he's so forgiving... HA!

So after kettle bell hell, we (read: me) hopped back on the treadmill for some interval jogging, and it was at that point that I realized I had no more energy left in me. Because of my crazy work schedule (a few late nights, VERY full days, and some very early mornings), I think I'm functioning at full-tilt. Throw in my regular workouts, and I'm probably overdoing it altogether. And I felt it tonight. As I was on the treadmill, I felt so exhausted... so tired. And began to feel like I did four months ago when I first started working out. So, we stopped there, and dove into the core-work. 300 crunches a day.... normally manageable. But tonight, at about number 75, Seb noticed that I didn't have much fuel left in the tank. I did another 75 and then we called it a night... after some amazing hamstring stretches, of course... ;)

I realize as I'm sitting here that as much as I have this renewed focus on health and wellness, and that we've achieved the goal of making physical activity a part of my daily life, that I still need to pay close attention to balance. Yes, I've been working and studying at full tilt. Yes, i've been working out, full steam ahead. But it dawned on me a few moments ago, that part of why I was so egg-zaw-sted tonight was that I'm pretty sure I was completely dehydrated when I got to the gym. I didn't drink as much water as I should have today.... and I really did feel it. Let's just say, lesson learned.

So, I continue to find tremendous strength and fun in working out. It has become a spiritual experience of sorts... that last night as I was hammering out the 800-odd calories on the elliptical trainer, that I began to tear up at the sheer sense of accomplishment. Four months ago, I could barely do a 10-minute stint on the treadmill. Now, I can go for an hour on the elliptical (my former nemesis) on top of a full strength routine and followed by 300 ball crunches. It's pretty freakin' cool, if you ask me. Here are some other cool things....

  • I drilled another hole in my belt this morning... I'm my father's son, why buy a new belt when you have a perfectly good Makita that can do the trick for you, right?
  • When I put on my pants this morning, before tightening my belt, I sucked in my belly, and the pants fell to the floor. All good...I just have to make sure that doesn't happen in public.
  • My light-weight winter coat, which I couldn't do up last year, has now been resurrected, and there's a comfortable amount of room in it, buttons closed, and all.
  • My black blazer, which last September was tight when I did up the button, now has to be altered. It's too big.
  • My watch, which used to tighten only to 2 notches, is now on notch #5.
  • And, most significantly.... I've embraced 'the numbers'. I weigh in with Seb every week, and we do a more comprehensive assessment once a month. Tonight at my weigh-in, the first two digits on the scale (and I'm not telling you what they are, 'cause it's not polite to ask a lady such personal questions..... ha!) are numbers that I haven't seen since the turn of the new millennium. Literally.
Seb told me to make sure I celebrate these moments... so, I'm sitting here with a bowl full of strawberries and a big ol' mug of green tea. I know it's not particularly indulgent, but it feels good, and treating myself like gold is a great way to celebrate.

So there you have it... It's all good. I'm feeling great, and learning lots along the way. Thanks to all of you for your support. Knowing that some of you are religious readers of this blog means the world to me.

Kia kaha.


PS. I'm pooping regularly again. Thanks for asking... oh you didn't ask??? you know you wanted to... !

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kettle Bells


This... is a kettle bell. It is a Russian instrument of torture, er, I mean, strength training that has become popular in North America -- particularly with those people who do mixed martial arts (and that would be my trainer). That said, it is also Sebastien's instrument of torture. The 16kg bell is know as one 'pood'.. and ironically, an intense kettle bell workout last night actually helped me poo. But I'll get to that later.

I was introduced to the kettle bell last week during my traning session. Basically, I stand with the bell in both hands, squat to the ground, swing the bell between my legs (taking great care to not hit myself with it), and then swing it upward over my head. Rinse and repeat. 30 times. And then take a water break. And then do dumbell curls. And then do 30 more kettle bell swings. And then more dumbell curls. And what's that again? Yeah right, more kettle bell swings, but this time with one arm. But, Sebastien's being nice now and making me swing the damn thing only 15 times... per arm. Oh yeah, with a dumbell curl break inbetween another set or two.

And I wonder why my blood pumps when I do it.

Basically, it's like doing close to 200 squats, holding weights, while activating every muscle group in my body. So after doing this last week, I was on a bit of an adrenaline high. So high, that I wrote my 'thankful' blog entry... (see last week).

Well, on Friday morning, I wasn't so thankful.

My legs were so sore I had to crawl up the stairs from my bedroom to go pee (don't worry Dad, we're not at the poo part yet). My quads have never been that sore. My hamstrings felt tighter than a frog's ass underwater. My hip flexors were so sore that I walked around the office on Friday like had just shat my pants (don't worry, still not the poo part). :)

After some soaking in an Epsom salt bath, and more stretching and more exercise, things loosened up. My muscles... not the poop. So much so that on Tuesday night this week, I cranked out my full 45 minute elliptical session, followed by 300 crunches (non-stop). I was on my high again!!!

But I hadn't pooped in 2 days. Something wasn't working with my system. And for those of you who know me well, you know that I can set my watch by how regular I am. Literally. About 7:15am and about 6:00pm each day. All good.

But not so much the other day. So, I went to my training session last night, ready to brag about my 300 crunches -- I think I subliminally thought that the more crunches I did, I might actually squeeze the poop out. It obviously didn't work. I told Seb about my kettle bell pain -- and I haven't seen him smile that big in a while. It's like he took some sick pleasure in my pain. At that moment, I knew I shouldn't have told him how much it hurt. Why? Cause he made me do it all over again last night. Same cycle. Same blood-pumping workout. And this time, I didn't accidentally hit myself in the 'nads. One word -- ouch.

So, my workouts continue to invigorate me. I'm still getting good results, and I've started letting Sebastien do a weigh-in every week. I've come to accept the fact that in order to measure my progress, that I need to do the numbers thing sooner or later. So, I decided sooner rather than later. I'm happy to say that the numbers are moving in the right direction and I continue to lose where it counts and gain where it matters. And I still managed to drop weight this week in spite of not pooping for 2 days.

All that said, you'll all be thrilled to know that I had a breakthrough this afternoon. Literally. I had a very satisfying poop. It was at about 2:30pm, so a bit off schedule, but I'm looking forward to getting back on cycle in the next day or so.

And that my friends, is how I'm doing these days. Loving my workouts. Suffering (in the best way possible) at the hands of my trainer and his kettle bells of torture. And I'm back on the path to regularity.

What else could a guy ask for???

Until next week.....

Kia kaha.

PS. See, Dad -- the 'poop' part wasn't so bad after all, right? ;)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

And for these things....

Doesn't the prayer at the Thanksgiving table typically end with something like "...and for these things we are truly thankful"???

I think it does.

That said, I've been taking the time to think about what I'm thankful for. Here goes...

My family.
They've never left my side. They always have been there, and they always will.

My friends.
They treat me like gold and help me to believe that I am wonderful just as I am.

My trainer.
He has undying confidence in my potential, and sometimes more faith than I do for what I will accomplish in the future.

My co-workers.
They respect the fact that I'm on a new path, and give me the time, space and understanding I need to navigate it.

The people who work at my gym.
They greet me enthusiastically every time I walk through the door each day and make me feel more and more like I belong there.

The people who work out at my gym.
They put up with my 'boy smell'.

The sales person at The Running Room.
I think she finally figured out what is the best shoe for me. For $150, she better have figured it out.

My dog.
She gives me a reason to get up at 5:45 every morning and go on a 4-5 km power walk.

My TiVo.
He (yes, he) records all of the shows that I miss while I'm at the gym or out walking the dog -- making my TV watching more purposeful.

The people who invented this blogger.
Because their invention gave me the catalyst to do one of the scariest things I've ever had to do -- share my thoughts and feelings with those people who care about me the most.

And the creators of "Will & Grace"
Because when I'm feeling crappy, nothing makes me feel better than a W&G marathon. Seriously, how can you not laugh at that shit!

And so, during this season of thanks... and giving... I share with all of you my thanks and my love.

Kia Kaha.

PS. I'm back on track.... have had pretty awesome results in the past two weeks...


Saturday, October 4, 2008

How Chris Got His Groove Back....

Okay, so I had a funky two weeks... but I feel like I'm getting my groove back... and it didn't take a week-long romp on an island with Taye Diggs to do it... although, I wouldn't turn it down as a possibility.... !

Focus, Christopher, focus.

I feel like I'm getting back into the swing of things. Accepting the reality of how long all of this is going to take, and also the fact that any effort I put in is going to yield progress is an important first step. And I feel like I'm getting to that point.

Also, setting some smaller goals have helped. Today's goal was conquering my fear of the elliptical trainer. Sebastien has got me doing a cycle of three two-hour workouts once each per week -- a cardio warmup, some strength training on major muscle groups, 45 minutes of more intense cardio, and some core work. Oh, yeah and some stretching, rest periods and lots of water for good measure. So today, I did legs and shoulders today. Legs are fun. Because they're my strength. So I feel good when I do leg work. After a full leg workout, I was supposed to hop on the treadmill for 45 minutes of more intense cardio (walking and light jogging), but alas, all of the treadmills were taken. I have a particular treadmill I like to use, and someone had just hopped onto it, looking like he was there for the long haul.

Ironically, the elliptical machines were all free. My nemesis. I've tried it a few times in the past, but just feel unbalanced, uncoordinated, and like I'm not grounded -- especially because, well, I'm not on the ground. I know, the logic is baffling. So, I hopped on and set myself a 10-minute goal. I would try to find a resistance level, hand position (I don't like those handles that move back and forth -- I have short arms) and pace that I liked. I found it quite easily, in fact. Don't know what made this attempt different than the others, but it felt okay.... for the first few minutes.

After about 3 minutes, I started to hate it again. Felt uncoordinated. Felt awkward. Didn't feel grounded. So, I took a few deep breaths, found a spot out through the window to focus on, and talked myself through it. Before I knew it, I was at the five-minute mark, and was feeling like I was back on pace again. 5 minutes later, I hit the ten minute mark, and happily hopped off the machine to grab a sip of water. 10 minutes... goal achieved... gold star for me.

But the treadmills were still occupied, and it didn't seem like anyone was going to be done anytime soon.

So, I decided I'd try to do at least half of my 45-minute cardio session on the elliptical. That meant I'd need to do another 12 minutes or so. I did another 15 instead. 25 minutes down, 20 to go, and still no treadmill. Oy.

I went through a series of negotiations in my head, and debated about calling it quits and heading home for the day. But the goal of completing my whole workout was too important. Giving up was not an option. Treadmills were not available. Recumbent bikes are even more awkward than the elliptical. So back on I went for another 20 minutes.

Sebastien has been persistent in trying to convince me that the elliptical machine will help me see some good results. Many of his clients in the past have had some of their greatest success because of cardio work on those machines. I wasn't totally convinced. But now I kind of get it.

After 45 minutes on the elliptical, I kept a very consistent heart rate, and burned about 400 calories -- not a bad finish to a full 2-hour workout. Once I got into the groove of it all, it felt really good. Minimal leg strain, didn't have to stop half way and stretch out my calves (like I normally do after walking/jogging on the treadmill), and hopped off that machine feeling like I had one of the best cardio workouts I've had in a long time.

So, I conquered the beast. For now. The true test will be if I hop back on the elliptical tomorrow when I go back to the gym. But for now, I feel good about it, and am enjoying the afterglow of my accomplishment. And again, Taye Diggs had nothing to do with my afterglow. LOL!!!!!

Kia kaha.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

On the upswing...

Well, for the past few weeks, I've been in a bit of a funk. I've had a few easy 'excuses' for falling into a bit of a rut -- work has been moving at an unusually fast pace. School has been a bit more intense and intimidating than I had originally planned, shaking my sense of intellectual confidence in a way that I haven't felt in a while. And I've had a series of birthday and wedding celebrations that have provided many easy reasons for not sticking to my plan. But those are all just excuses at this point. -- excuses that have made it really easy to doubt myself. To doubt my trainer. To feel really let down and disappointed that I've not had as much progress as I would have liked. Or as much progress as other people I see (on TV) who are fighting the same demons that I am on a daily basis. That's why I haven't blogged in a while... it's difficult to put words out there in cyberspace when you're feeling like shit.

But, over the past few days, I've been reflecting upon what has brought me to this place -- a space of discouragement, uncertainty and well, funk, that initially worried me, but now I'm learning to live in and move through -- for a short while, at least.

As I map out the events and sequences of the past few weeks, I've come to realize what triggered my drop in motivation. Two months ago, I was preparing for my friend's wedding, and had bought a beautiful new summer-weight grey v-neck sweater to wear to the event. I had this fantastic picture in my head of what I would be wearing -- grey flat front dress pants, a crisp pink dress shirt, a chunky black tie, and a light grey sweater that would take away any chill in the air during the outdoor wedding. Matched with a pair of sunglasses and sharp shoes, it was all style, full speed ahead.

So, I bought this sweater. I tried it on in the store. And it was a tight fit. But I bought it anyway... because for the first time in a very long time, I was able to at least buy a piece of clothing that didn't come from a specialty store for 'big & tall' men. I remember hesitating about the purchase, but ended up paying far too much for the sweater, thinking that it might be a bit of subliminal motivation. I got home, tried the whole ensemble on, and envisioned that with two months of hard work, that I'd be able to pull it off. Well, I mean, put it on, really. I tucked the sweater away in the corner of my closet, and proceeded confidently through the two following months not fixated on that goal, but instead trying to remained tuned into how I was doing and feeling at that moment in time.

Well, shortly before the wedding (about 2 1/2 weeks ago), I pulled the sweater out of the closet, and.... it didn't fit. It didn't fit any differently than it did that first day I tried it on in the 'normal' store. I was confused. I was pissed off. I was crushed. So, I quickly had to come up with a Plan B for the wedding, and put myself through the shame of returning the sweater to the store... handing it back to the same salesperson who sold it to me in the first place, dreading that moment when I would have to tell him that I was returning it because it didn't fit. Big fucking surprise, I told myself. Who was I kidding.

So, I think that's what triggered it. I've been working hard for two months. Yes, I could have been working harder, but I've done better than I ever thought I would. I've never felt better. People have noticed that I'm looking different. And it feels good to have people, who haven't seen me in a while, tell me that I'm looking really great. It's a huge difference from just a few months ago when people were more likely to tell me that I was looking tired and run down. So, things were improving, but the sweater didn't fit. And that sucked.

Losing weight and getting in shape is, as I've said before, a tricky balancing act between making significant changes in one's behaviours as they relate to food and fitness, and one's thinking about well, pretty much everything. And as I sit here and reflect upon this sweater... this $100 tool of torture... I realize just how much of this battle has to be fought in my head. I've got a closet full of clothes that once fit, and which I've not let go in hopes that one day that they'll fit once again. Why would I subject myself to the judgement and scrutiny of trying to put on a piece of clothing that didn't even fit in the first place?

Well, I think it comes down to the fact that the sweater was from a 'normal' store. I don't know how else to describe it. But I bought the sweater at a store that I've never before been able to shop at. And for that moment in time, I started to feel more 'normal' than I have in a long time. I mean, since I started down this path, I've been feeling better and better about myself, feeling more and more like I'm part of the 'exclusive club' of people who are fit and healthy. Like I was 'fitting in' like I haven't in a long time, instead of being noticed for all the wrong reasons.

And the sweater reminded me that I still live on the fringe. That I'm still an outsider looking into a world where the margins are heavily populated with people like me who, for one reason or another, don't 'fit'. We don't fit because we're not thin. We're not straight. We're not wealthy. We're not smart. And as I think about it, the sweater not fitting came at the same time when I was feeling like my school work was really challenging. And for most of my life, when other people have drawn their confidence from their athletic accomplishments (which, in many ways defined success through most of my school years), I drew mine from being smart and having academic achievement come pretty easily. It was the one thing I knew I could always do well, and for the past few weeks, I've actually been a bit afraid of and intimidated by the work that lays ahead. So, I'm not feeling academically confident. The sweater didn't fit. What did I have to hang on to? I guess I began to question why I was doing all this in the first place.

I know it's a bit of an extreme question.. I mean, it was just a friggin' sweater. It's just a class. But I don't give myself much space to screw up. I don't provide myself with either the self-understanding to acknowledge that I've not done as well as I could have, or the self-forgiveness to accept the fact that I might have failed at something. Failure isn't really an option. And I suppose that's why I've avoided tackling weight loss for so long. I've failed at it so many times before, that I don't even want to come near that devastation again.

I need to learn to be patient. I need to learn to trust. I need to learn to forgive.

So, I dumped most of this on Sebastien last Wednesday as I was stomping through my warm up on the treadmill. And I know I threw him for a loop. He wasn't expecting me to be in this 'bad space'. And God bless him, he tried to encourage me to get out of it. But no matter what he said, no matter what he did...at that point, not much was going to make me feel better. I didn't know what was going to make me feel better either. I just had to 'be' in my funk.

So, I 'was'. I continued my workout, in spite of my pissy mood, and consider myself blessed that Seb stayed by my side through the funk last week. It would have been easy for him to digress into a bunch of 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' platitudes to try to make me feel better. But I think he got the sense that the best thing he could do to get me through the funk was to simply let me be there... but do 50 crunches, a bunch of weight work, and cardio while I was there. I guess if I'm going to be in a bad space, I may as well make it productive.

All this said, I'm starting to feel better. Over the past two weeks I have felt sad. I've felt like I'm failing. I've felt alone. It was really easy for me to throw a pity party for one. But, thanks to the love and support of wonderful friends and family, my party got bigger... and it wasn't about pity.

It was my 35th birthday two weeks ago. And because of the wedding (where I was to wear the fated sweater that didn't fit), I didn't really celebrate the occasion. Instead, I planned a dinner for last night to celebrate. Yeah, it seems a bit self-indulgent to plan and throw my own birthday party... but it is what it is.

And last night, as I sat at dinner, surrounded by 16 fantastic friends, all of whom love and support me, I realized that I'm not alone. That I'm not failing. That I'm actually pretty damn happy (the gin and tonics helped!). I've got wonderful people in my life who are here to get me through the funks. To help me wallow in the bad times. To help me celebrate the accomplishments and victories -- big and small. People who love me not in spite of my deficiencies, but because of them. I'm loved because I'm not perfect. If I were... frankly, I just wouldn't be that interesting. And that even though I felt like I didn't fit in.. that I was stuck living life in the margins.. my friends and family remind me that that is not the case. I belong. I fit in. I fit.

So, at the end of this convoluded stream of consciousness blog, rest assured that I'm starting to feel better. My dear friend Liza and I had a wonderful conversation the other day, and she helped me to see things a bit more clearly. She helped me realize that even though I'm feeling like I'm not making as much progress as I would like (or would dream of having, no thanks to the extremes presented in the media -- like the people on the Biggest Loser who lose 23 pounds in one week 'cause they work out 5 hours a day)... even though things don't seem to be moving as fast... at least they're moving. And she helped me remember that I have a choice. I can continue to do what I'm doing and make positive changes in my life, knowing that in 6 months, I will be better off than I was 6 months before. Or, I can do nothing, and nothing changes.

I think I'll go for the change.

I need to remember that this is going to be a long journey. Sebastien estimates 5 years... I think he's crazy... but he's probably right. But I hope you can see how telling me that this is a 5 year adventure is going to not only scare the crap out of me, but also throw me for a bit of a loop. Either way, it took me a long time to get here... change isn't going to happen overnight.

Patience I will have to learn.
Trust I will have to have.
Forgiveness I will need to figure out.

Amid it all, I will need to remember one thing:

Kia Kaha.
Stay strong.

PS. Liza also helped me remember that at work, we get killer benefits for psychotherapy... I think it's time to look after my brain again as much as I'm trying to look after my body.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Something's got to give... or can I have it all?

I'm beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed these days. I've just been through a very nutty first week at work, started two classes as part of my PhD program, and continue to try to work out every day. Emphasis is on 'try' there, 'cause I've had a hard time convincing myself to get up and get moving. I suppose it's completely natural to be in a bit of a funk or a lull, but I'm starting to question whether or not I can handle it all. I've got a lot on the go, and I'm wondering if I've taken on too much. But I better make up my mind soon, 'cause if something's got to give, it's going to have to happen in the next little while.

I guess where I'm feeling the most overwhelmed right now is with my school work. I've undertaken a pretty ambitious course load this year -- no different than last year in terms of number of classes, but it feels like the rigor of what I'm doing now it a bit more intense. Also, last year, I hadn't made a new commitment to my health, and I had also conveniently hired a day care to look after my dog. That made life easy. But things are different now. Rosie needs to be walked every day, and I'm managing to do that. Just as my health is a priority, so is hers. I need to have my hour in the gym every day -- that's my time to sweat, think, and feel good. But I also have a job. And school work. And laundry. And a dishwasher that I keep breaking. And the list goes on....

So what's got to give? Or do I have to sacrifice anything at all???

I'm thinking that if I dive into the next four months at this pace, that I'm going to get completely overwhelmed, and I'm going to have to let something drop. Well, not looking after the dog isn't an option. Once I've hit October, dropping a class isn't an option. Quitting work isn't an option. I fear that when I really get into the thick of it all, that it's going to be really really easy for me to stop working out. When all is said and done, giving up the one thing that is perhaps of the greatest importance to me right now is going to be the easiest thing to give up. And that kind of freaks me out a bit.

So what would the consequences be...

If I drop a class now, I feel like I'll be able to breathe a bit more easily. I know which one I'd let go, and I can pick it up again in January. And yes, I've got two classes scheduled for January again, and I might find myself in the same predicament. However, I feel like doing only one class now, on top of everything else I have committed myself to, is a reasonable and manageable addition to my 'to do' list. And doing one class now might actually make it easier to take two in January. I suppose that makes sense... doesn't it???

Aside from over-thinking things as I always do, I've had a bit of a slow week in terms of working out. The intensity of my work has been increasing, accompanied by increased aches and pains. And it's time for a bit of a body break (and not the type with Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod on CBC... remember them???). So, I took it easy on Friday -- i mean, REALLY easy... picture an exciting evening of me, the couch, the dog and week's worth of TiVo. Yesterday was miserable in terms of weather, and it didn't make it easy to get up and do much, although I ended up at work for a few hours to take care of something I had committed to a while back. And today, well, I was at the gym at 8:45 this morning and just got home. So, once again, I have shown myself that even when I'm feeling the funkiest and most lethargic, getting to the gym is actually a good thing.

The other thing I'm doing this week to give my body a bit of a break is I'm finally going for a massage. I've put my body through a bit of the ringer in the past few weeks, and as I said, I'm starting to get achy again. So, on Thursday, September 18 (my birthday, ahem, ahem), I'll happily be laid out on a table with a massage therapist working out all the knots and kinks. Can't wait.

And on the note of September 18.... one of my goals this past year was to be well on my way towards better health by the time I'm 35. This week marks that important day, and I feel like I'm definitely headed in the right direction. Check mark, gold star, snaps all around.

Kia kaha.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Proud

Here I sit on a dull Saturday afternoon in Toronto... I've just come home from the gym, and my landlord is running his dishwasher -- meaning, it's sucking up all the hot water, and I can't take a shower. Yet. So, I've decided to spend a few moments reflecting on the past few weeks of my new journey in life.

I feel like I've made some breakthroughs along the way. I've gotten a lot more comfortable in the gym, so much so that I go almost every day. I'm not as moody and tired as I used to be. I can now leg press 450 pounds (roughly the weight of 1 and a half refrigerators!). I can bench-press 130 pounds (that's two big plates, a descriptor that is apparently supposed to feed my male, testosterone-driven ego... it's working). I've grown comfortable with myself as a 'sweater'... not the one you wear, but as in 'one who sweats'. And I've accepted the fact that after sweating for an hour in the gym, yes, I smell.

The biggest breakthrough of all I believe occurred to me today. I was in the middle of doing a full body workout, meaning I did a bit of cardio and then spent the bulk of my time lifting weights in various configurations using various equipment. It's amazing how much doing strength training actually keeps your heart pumping, and I'm feeling WAY more comfortable in that part of the gym. I remember the first few days when I used to just stick to the treadmill, my comfort zone, and look over to the weight area wondering what it was like over there. Well, I'm at home there. But today, I realized part of what made me uncomfortable there. Mirrors.

Now, I know very few people in my world who enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror. I am not the exception. When you get to a point in your life when you don't like the physical person you see in your reflection, a mirror quickly becomes your worst enemy. I have three mirrors in my house -- and rarely use them (except for the one in the bathroom to shave, etc.). I have mirrors in my car, and they serve a very utilitarian purpose. Occasionally, I'll catch my reflection in a window on campus, functioning as a mirror, and quickly turn my head away, not liking what I see.

But today, as I stood by the free weights, and finished of a set of something that involved 2 30-pound dumbbells and some mild grunting, I took a moment to catch my breath and look in the mirror. Now, you may wonder how I've managed to not look at my reflection at the gym all this time. It's quite easy. Very quickly after I get myself into position doing whatever exercise I need to do, I blur my eyes so that I see only the outline of the person before me. You know, kind of how you blur your eyes at those posters of weird patterns from which sub-visual images of dolphins are supposed to emerge. It's very easy. But today I caught myself. I didn't blur.

I was standing there, in a very unusual moment, realizing that I was taking a good close look at myself. Yep, that was sweat dripping down my neck. My yellow 'Long Island StickBall Team' baseball hat was soaked. So was my grey t-shirt. My legs were.... well, I've recently fallen in love with my legs... they're something special, I think... LOL!!!! I was starting to show definition in my quadricep muscle. I also noticed, in a very homo way, that my outfit matched... LOL!!!! I can't help it... colour coordination comes naturally. When God was giving out genes, all the other boys got the athletic one, and I got the gene to choose and coordinate colours. But I digress.

So, after scanning the sweaty beast before me, I took a long hard look at my face. And though to myself, 'Yes, I am shrinking.' I say this, because my friend Liza saw me yesterday for the first time in a few weeks, and she told me the same thing. I didn't totally believe it until today. I think my face looks thinner. My skin is clear as a bell. My eyes are brighter. And for the first time in a long time... staring at my reflection in a full-length mirror... sweat, stink and all... I smiled at myself.

I'm proud of me.

Those are tough words to write. They're even more difficult to say (haven't quite mastered that yet). But I am indeed proud of myself. I've already come a long way... and have a long way yet to go. But I think that the more often I take the time to look at myself in the mirror, smile, and enjoy the reflection I see before me, the easier the path ahead will be. Losing weight and getting in shape is by no means a simple game of caloric input and output. That's why I think so many people struggle and/or fail at doing it. I know that's why I did. There's a whole psychology to all of this that mainstream, popular (read: million-dollar making diet industry) programs don't address. They don't address the psychology of weight because if they did, they wouldn't get the return business. Think about it. I can count on two hands the number of times I have been a member of Weight Watchers. I can count the same number of times I failed at it. But their gig is a simple game of input and output. Count calories. Count points. Count whatever. But what they don't count is the number of times a person, who is suffering and sad on the inside, turns his/her head away from a mirror in disgust and fear... they don't count the number of breaths that same person has to take in order to build up the courage to head to the gym... they don't count the number of tears that roll down that person's cheek when they finally look in the mirror, smile and realize for the first time in a very long long time, that they're proud of themselves. That's why diets suck.

All that said, I know that this is THE path for me. Again, I've tried it all. Weight Watchers. Sure Slim. Nutri System. Jenny Craig. LA Weight Loss. 'Medical' clinics. Nutrionists at hospitals. But this is working. Healthy eating. Healthy exercise. And a growing healthy sense of self are all finally converging to work in synergy to help me overcome easily the most significant hurdle I've ever faced in my life. Coming out as a gay man is nothing compared to this, let me tell you. But the power of three are working in my favour... and I'm proud of me.

So, indulge me for another few minutes, and enjoy this video clip. As many of you know, I see and experience the world not only through my eyes, but also through my 'inner soundtrack'. Through music. I guess it's due to the fact that while a lot of other kids were out playing sports, I was playing piano, or listening to ABBA records and musical theatre soundtracks (I know... enjoy the stereotype). So, you'll understand why I wanted to share this video with you.

It's of a song that I first heard when the City of London was bidding for the 2012 Olympic Games. I remember hearing the lyrics and seeing the bid video and still very vividly recall the goosebumps that came over me. The same song has since become the opening theme song of the TV show, 'The Biggest Loser' (http://www.nbc.com/The_Biggest_Loser/), a reality show which, over the past three years, helped me get my butt of the couch and get this all started. Listen to the lyrics. Enjoy the music. The song has a powerful message. And ask yourself, 'what have you done today to make YOU feel proud?'. I know what I've done....

Kia kaha.

video

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Elvis has left the building....

Ok, so Elvis has left the building... and my feet have left the ground. Literally.

Had my training session this past Thursday, and was more than happy to show off the fact that I've taken up slogging (slow+jogging=slogging). Basically, you get to a certain point where increasing the incline and speed on the treadmill can be only so challenging, so I've taken to increasing the speed more than before, thereby forcing my feet off the ground into a slow jog. I don't think Sebastien believed what he was seeing, but indeed, I was jogging.

A 5 minute slog with a 45 second rest followed by another 5 minute slog, followed by a minute rest, finishing with another 5 minute slog seems to be working well. Oddly enough, the running feels easier as it goes on... that is, at minute 12-15, it feels great. In fact, minutes 4-6 are the hardest... so, if I make it beyond that point, I'm gold.

I'm also increasing my strength, and apparently my form and flexibility are improving as well. My assessments are positive, and things are moving in the right direction. I've lost an inch off each of my chest, waist, hips and arms... the thighs haven't gotten any smaller. And since I seem to have inherited my father's legs (98% muscle), they likely won't get any smaller. So, I'm wrapping my head around living with 28" thighs... yes... my quadricep is larger than a lot of women's waists... but I guess c'est la vie! I'll take them... better than chicken legs. Mmmmm... chicken. LOL!

I'm taking this weekend 'off' from the gym. Sebastien's orders. This isn't an entirely bad thing because it's the busiest time of year for work, and I've been working every day. Once I hit Wednesday at 2:00pm, I'll be a happy boy... but until then, I'm just getting out with the dog for a good long walk (the weather is fan-friggin-tastic!) and having good meals.... this apparently should give my body some rest and the muscles some time to heal -- gearing up for more exciting stuff and challenges in the weeks ahead. My classes start again next Tuesday, so I'm looking forward to testing myself, and my ability to keep all of this going -- work, school, working out, eating well, walking Rosie... but I'm confident that I've got the solid base of good habits that will make the challenging weeks ahead only that much easier!

So, that's the scoop. Still feeling like a million bucks, and happy that my feet are off the ground!!!

Kia kaha.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

So this is what a million bux feels like....

Nope, I didn't win the lottery.... you'd all know about that earlier than now... although I do still play the 6-49 every week, and fall asleep on Saturday nights planning how I'm going to spend my millions.... well, if I win this week, of course, I'll share my wealth... but I'd also probably quit my job and hire Sebastien for more than a week... this week's workout was fantastic... and I feel like a million bucks!

So, I had a bit of a slow week the week prior... a little disorganized... a bunch of stuff came up... didn't do as much physical activity as I would have liked. My computer hard drive fried (hence the lack of a blog last week) and work has started to kick into high gear as we anticipate the start of the new school year at the university. But that's life. I realize that I've had a pretty charmed few weeks where I've been able to focus exclusively on eating well and being active... knowing that I'm forming all the right habits. But last week was a bit of a test... and I didn't do as well as I would have liked, but I still prevailed.

I had my training session on Thursday evening instead of Wednesday -- Tony, Steve and I went to see Avenue Q at the Elgin Theatre... an amazing musical that was just a delight to watch. Now, as most of you know, nothing lifts my spirits and fills my heart more than a good 2 hours of top-notch musical theatre. So after a cruddy week, the show was incredible, and I was in a much better mindset to face my training session on Thursday.

Got to the gym and we didn't waste any time getting started -- ended up doing about 1 1/2 hours worth of work and I really could have kept going for an extra 30 minutes or so -- without a doubt. Did a great combo of cardio and strength training and quickly realized how much progress I've made in terms of my overall strength. I've also realized just how much going to see a trainer has been like therapy. Sure, it helps that Sebastien is working on becoming a life coach as well, so it's a good fit. But my sessions aren't just about lifting weights and doing cardio -- I get a good chunk of time to process my thinking about this new journey and how I'm feeling about it all.

So, as a short-list... here's how I'm feeling.

  • I feel stronger. Especially in my arms. I've got good strong McGrath legs, but chicken arms. They're getting better -- without a doubt.
  • I have no more pain in my legs when I do cardio -- flexibility is way up and I've got much more stability in my movement, making me feel much more confident to try new things. In fact, today, I faced my nemesis, and hammered out 10 minutes on the elliptical trainer. It felt amazing to conquer that fear, and the buttery feeling in my legs as I hopped back on the treadmill to do intervals of speed walking and slogging (slow jogging) felt even better. Yes, that's right... I'm slogging.
  • I climb the big flights of stairs to my office every day without feeling completely winded. In fact, the other day, I went back down and up again one more time... just for fun.
  • I'm sleeping a lot better.
  • I'm sweating less -- last week I wore a sweater at work... I've never worn a sweater in the middle of the summer
  • And all in all... when I get home at night, after having done a full day at work, walked the dog, and then put in at least an hour at the gym, I'm exhausted. But it's a good exhaustion. It's the type of fatigue that makes me smile -- makes me feel great about the fact that I've done something good and worthwhile to make me feel this tired. And that, is SO satisfying.
So, that's the update for now. I have another assessment coming next week. And I really don't care what the numbers say. I know what my mind, body and soul are telling me right now, and no set of body measurements could make me feel like the million bucks that I feel like right now.

Thanks to you all for your ongoing support... the fact that I know some of you are eagerly reading this each week means the world to me.

Kia kaha,
Chris

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Last Lecture...


Randy Pausch recently passed away. He was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who quickly became famous for his 'last lecture'. These lectures are given by faculty to new students or as part of a lecture series, through which they are encouraged to give their last lecture -- to craft a thoughtful, inspired and powerful lecture as if it were their very last. Professor Pausch's lecture has nothing to do with engineering or his research. It is about achieving your childhood dreams. Consider taking an hour to sit back, relax, listen, and reflect. It's definitely worth it. The lecture is also available in print, under the title 'The Last Lecture".

Check out all the links at: http://www.cmu.edu/randyslecture/

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Boys smell and slipping up.

So my most recent revelation... brace yourselves for this one... is that boys smell. Yes, indeed. After working out for an hour and dripping with sweat... boys smell -- really bad sometimes. It's kind of gross... kind of disturbing. What's even more disturbing is that.... I smell too. WHOA! The other day I was on the treadmill working out, and was wondering what in God's name that stink was... I looked around and there was no one else around me. That's when it hit me. I stunk! Well, not so much me, but one of the numerous baseball hats I've been sporting while I work out. And I need to wear a hat to keep all of my hair out of my face (a problem easily solved by getting a haircut, but we'll reserve that debate for a future blog). And hats tend to stink over time. And you can't wash hats every time otherwise they can lose their structure. So I have a dilemma... destroy a perfectly good hat??? Or shatter a perfect dillusion that somehow, I don't stink after working out. You're probably overwhelmed with the depth and profoundness of my commentary... but that's what's in my head.

I guess it goes back a bit to the first meeting I had with Sebastien, my trainer. During his interview he was trying to get a sense of what activities I did and didn't like to do. He started with 'likes'. Of course, I'm bull headed and difficult, and told him it would be easier to start with 'dislikes'. He indulged me... he's new, forgive him. HA! My response was... "I hate to sweat." He laughed. I laughed. He moved on. But I was serious. I hate sweating. I hate being messy. I hate my clothes sticking to me 'cause they're wet. I hate the fact that sweating means you can't re-wear a piece of clothing. This then results in more laundry. And for those among you who have ever stepped foot into my bedroom, y'all know how much I HATE doing laundry. In spite of not liking being messy. I know... I'm a complex, complex man... and good luck to the poor sucker who has to figure me out.

And that poor sucker is Sebastien. LOL! I'm feeling ever more confident with my choice to hire a trainer -- especially one who indulges my stubbornness, my circular and verbalized thought process, my bitchy sense of humour. He gets me. Well, he kind of has to... isn't that what I pay him for??? All kidding aside... this all seems to be clicking. And I'm learning a lot from my sessions with Seb (I've just decided it's easier to just type the first three letters of his name. I've also realized that I'm kind of talking about him like he's not here... but he is in a way. He's probably going to read this very shortly.) I digress....

I guess what I'm trying to put out there is that I feel like I'm in a good groove. Making positive changes about one's health is in a large part due to forming good behavioural patterns, and thinking about those changes realistically. I'm taking my time on this one. I've been at it for about two months... and I don't really know how 'the numbers' shape up. I don't really want to know. All I do know is that I feel amazing. My skin has cleared up (finally). I'm eating for fuel and am starting to tune into what it feels like to nourish my body -- knowing that the goal is to have good energy levels to hammer out a good work out at the gym every day. Yep, every day -- except for my one day off a week. But I'm now at the point where sweating and stinking aside, I'm really looking forward to going to work out and am not really willing to give up that slice of 'me time' for much of anything. It feels good to treat myself to this daily pleasure.

I'm also learning how to not punish myself for 'slipping up'... knowing that 'slipping up' should be a part of life. From the numerous times I've sat in Weight Watchers sessions and other programs, I recall the sense of guilt that gets put on your shoulders (voluntarily or involuntarily) when you've 'had a bad week'. Or how you can feel like if you don't follow 'the program' to the letter, that you won't have the results you want on the scale, and ultimately won't get your gold star for losing 10 pounds. What Seb is teaching me in a round about way, is that I should plan to slip up. I need to allow myself those moments where I go out and have a good time and don't obsess about what I'm putting into my system. Because my workouts and good work leading up to that point create a condition where my body can deal with it. And my mind too.

So last night, I had one hell of a 'slip up' night. My friend Paul and I went out for a drink. 'A drink' with Paul starts with a beer at 8:00 and we leave the pub at 1:00am. Stella Artois is a lovely lady... HA! I went to the gym before hand, and I wnt to the gym this morning (it's amazing how an hour long workout clears up a hangover!) But I don't feel one lick of guilt for having a great time last night. I had some wings. I had a great salad, too. And we had our fair share of beer. And I'm cool with that. What's interesting to me now, is that I'm now on my own new 'program' (if I can call it that), and I don't feel like crap for slipping up. But previously, when I wasn't on any program whatsoever, I felt like shit if I did slip up.. and I slipped up often. I know.. my brain is a complex beast... and I'm still trying to figure out how my dysfunctional thinking works. But in doing so, Seb and I are chipping away at the psychology of making this life change, and I feel like we're making progress.

It's a good thing.

A quick note... before I slipped up with Paul last night, I made a quick stop en route at a pub in Toronto called 'McVeigh's'. It is an Irish pub (an authentic one.. not one of those 'Firkin' chains) where my aunt Majella met her partner of many many years, Liam. Liam loved McVeighs. He loved the atmosphere. The pints. The meatloaf special. Liam passed away yesterday morning in Ireland where he and Majella moved a few years back.. He had a fairly short battle with cancer.. and passed on with Majella at his side and, I know, all of us in his heart. He was a man who knew how to eat well and drink well... a fine meal and a great glass of wine followed by a few pints were the markers of an evening well spent with Liam. But more importantly, he was a man who lived and loved even better. A huge heart. An open mind. An open home. Liam was always so very supportive of me... my career... my education... my coming out. Every step I took in my life since I've known him, he always helped me see as a positive thing -- as yet another thing we do in our live to expand our minds and stretch the boundaries of our perceived limitations. I know in my heart, that he would see my new path towards health in the very same way. So I took a moment last night at McVeigh's..grabbed a quiet table and a pint, and toasted a man who touched the lives of all who had the privilege and honour of sharing in his wonderful, joy-filled, world of optimism and opportunity. He will be missed. He already is.

Slainte, Liam!

and Kia Kaha, my friends.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Feelin' groovy..

So, I had my monthly check-in with my trainer today -- which basically means he makes me stand on some machine that takes a bunch of measurements including weight, BMI, yaddah yaddah yaddah... you can't eat for 3 hours before the assessment, so I was absolutely ravenous by the time I got to the gym at 6:30. So, I stuck to my guns and didn't want to know the numbers... but Sebastien did tell me that he was really happy and pleased with my progress -- not only based upon the assessment, but also in terms of my ability to crank up my cardio and strength training. That said, I'm going to continue to stick by my rule of not fixating on numbers, but instead I'm really trying to tune into how I feel physically and emotionally about my progress. And just as Sebastien is happy with the numbers, I'm equally happy with how I feel tonight. I made it to the gym 6 out of the past 7 days -- which was easy to start doing considering I was on vacation for two weeks prior. But getting into a good routine of going every night after work is taking shape, so I'm happy with that. I've got good energy, am sleeping well, and eating regularly -- and fueling myself with things that are good for me. Raw broccoli is my new best friend (although it makes me VERY gassy), and having my new dishwasher is really helping to keep the kitchen clean thereby making it easier to cook at home. If that at all makes sense... (part of the thing about blogging is that it can be a stream of consciousness type thing, so bear with me). I guess what I'm saying is it feels like things are falling into place nicely.

Back to feeling groovy... as I said, I've got good energy, having good sleeps and am generally feeling more rested. But for some reason, I've started breaking out with pimples!!!! I've never had pimples like this before.. but I guess that's what sweat pouring down your face for an hour every night will do to you. And yes, I realize the remedy is to give my face a good scrub... don't think I haven't loaded up on lots of fancy products with scrubbers and bubbles and fizzles to get the dirt out....

So that's the scoop for now. Off to bed shortly,and another day back at the office... capped off with a visit to the gym for my hour of solitude... it really is kind of relaxing in a bizarre sort of way. Throw on a headset, and all i have to tune into is my own breathing and myself for an hour... a neat feeling.

Kia kaha

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Shoes Make the Man...


So, the workouts are going very well... I've spent the past two weeks trying to get to the gym every day, except for Thursdays... I give myself Thursday off because I work out with Sebastien on Wednesday nights, and frankly, I need the break. Getting to the gym every day during my two weeks vacation has been great for forming habits... so we'll see how next week goes when I head back to work -- planning to squeeze in a workout each night around 6:30.

Now that I'm feeling more confident about being in the gym and doing my thing, I feel like I can really focus on bringing everything into sync so that I can be successful. Past attempts at getting healthy have failed, I think, because it's too overwhelming to do a complete 180 and change everything all at once. By contrast, I've spent the past six weeks getting confident in the gym, figuring out the food side of things, and also tuning into my easily divergent thinking around how to maintain focus and keep exercise and diet in line. Heading into this next week at work, I feel like my feet are firmly planted and I'm focused on what I came here to do. About 4 weeks ago, Sebastien did an assessment (weight, BMI, etc.), which I had no desire to see -- it's too easy for me to get obsessed with numbers and caught up on the psychology of weight loss. He's going to do another assessment this coming week, and while I'm not wanting to see the numbers then either, I'm not necessarily holding out for huge changes. My goal for the past month has been to realistically think about and take steps towards changing my behaviours, without feeling extreme pressure to yield numerical results. I feel like patterns are changing and I can now start setting some achievable goals in the short and long term. Again, feet firmly planted and pointed in the right direction.

Speaking of shoes... I got new ones. I was working out with a new pair of Adidas trainers... tons of support, etc., but in the past week or so, I've had pain in my shins and my back because I'm supinating in my shoes (i.e. walking on the outside of my foot). As I increased the intensity of my cardio work, the shoes weren't doing me any favours and I was planting my foot and rolling out onto the side... which proved to be pretty painful, requiring me to take frequent breaks in my 45-minute cardio sessions. So, today I went to the Running Room (www.runningroom.com) and had them do a gait analysis, etc. Turns out the Adidas were good shoes, but not the best ones for me. So after trying out about 5 different pair, we landed on a pair of New Balance Trainers with a nice wide base and the right kind of support for a supinator like me. I just took them for a test drive, and was able to do 50 minutes straight on the treadmill, taking breaks only for sips of water and pulse checks. Didn't need to stop to stretch out my legs and my back... so the new kicks were definitely a good choice. And in this case, they make the man. LOL!

Kia Kaha. Signing off for today...