Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sometimes you just need a break...

Last week, Sebastien went on vacation. A while back, when we had missed a session, I realized that when I miss a training session, I tend to have a pretty crappy week. So, anticipating this week away, Seb arranged for me to train with another trainer at the gym -- John. Last Wednesday, John put me through my regular leg routine, and helped me to fine-tune my technique on a few resistance exercises that resulted in me having the most extreme leg workout I've had in a long time. For the two days that followed, my quads and my glutes were very tight, and I walked around like some old geezer who had just soiled himself. Needless to say, I didn't stretch as much as I should have following my session with John, and I paid for it. So, for those two days, I decided to not go to the gym. I take Thursdays off already, and I am scheduled to do a full body resistance session plus some cardio on a Friday -- and Friday was the worst day for muscle pain. So I decided to take a break.

And it seems like a break is exactly what I need.

This past week officially marks one year since I started training regularly with Sebastien. Yes, I've accomplished a tremendous amount, but that has not happened without sacrifice, and an incredible amount of focus. But after going full throttle for so long, it's really easy to get burnt out. And I think that's exactly how I've been feeling for the past week or so. Those two days when I didn't train because my legs were too tight and I needed to let my muscles rest helped me to realize that it's not just my muscles that need a break.

All of me does.

So, I've spent the past few days relaxing and enjoying the weekend. I've been out for dinner with friends, and I haven't been a regimented as I normally am when it comes to what I've eaten. People who follow me on Twitter or Facebook will note that I've not posted my status in the last few days with specific references to my workouts and calorie burns. It's because I've taken the time to sit on a patio and enjoy a great burger and sip a refreshing beer; dine on some veal parmagiana, and celebrate with a slice of coconut cream pie that made me tremble with delight. Sure, I've had a number of other balanced meals, have gone for long strolls with the dog (not walks, leisurely strolls) and sat on patios drinking coffee and chatting with friends. I went to the movies and munched on a bag of peanut M&Ms. I washed my car. I cleaned out my trunk. I'm going to help a friend landscape his front yard this afternoon. Hell, I read the newspaper for the first time in ages.

And I slept. My body needed rest and some time to heal. And so does my brain.

Doing this much work on myself in the past year has not only take physical endurance to crank out the series of workouts Sebastien has given me, but it has also taken an intense level of focus and in some ways, emotional fortitude to keep myself in line. Battling the bulge and the demons that come along with it is no easy task. I've written a lot about that in this blog over the past year. And sometimes all that work takes its toll. For me, it's taken its toll and I'm pooped.

So, this is the first weekend in a year when I haven't spent any time in the gym. In fact, today marks the fourth day in a row when I haven't cranked out a 1200-2000 calorie workout. And how do I feel about it? Not bad at all. I can't say that I'm totally thrilled with the fact that I've skipped four days of my workout. But what I can say is that the time away from it all has been good. I'm not completely rested and totally refreshed yet, and yes, I'll be back at the gym tomorrow evening after work. But these few days away from my regimen to live life without worrying about how many calories I'm burning, or how many calories I'm consuming has been a welcome change of pace, if only for a few days. I have no worries about getting back on the wagon -- in fact, I'm really looking forward to my workout tomorrow night, my kickboxing class on Tuesday night, and my training session with Seb on Wednesday night when I can show him my progress on my squats and my power cleans. I'm also looking forward to being totally okay with the fact that I haven't dropped any weight in the past week. In fact, I won't be totally surprised if, on Wednesday when I weigh in, that I've gained a few pounds. That's life. That's living. I made a conscious choice to indulge on beer, M&Ms, and coconut cream pie. And I enjoyed every last bit of it. I also made a conscious choice to accept the outcomes of a number of days of inactivity and indulgence. What made the choice easy is that I know I have the tools... hell, it's more like ammunition... in my pocket to get back in gear and keep on truckin.

But the break has been nice. Really really nice.

So when all is said and done, I've learned to not be afraid to fall off the wagon. Hell, I've learned how to stop the wagon, put it in park, and simply enjoy some things that I was missing. I learned that I was really missing spending time with friends drinking rich coffee (with cream and sugar) and catching up over a piece of coconut cream pie. Yes, I spend time with my friends doing other things, and my friendships are less defined by the context of dining out, and more by finding ways to spend meaningful time with one another. But every once in a while, I know I will indulge a little more than I normally do. I'll have a few more drinks. I'll eat a bit more than usual. I'll make choices that I used to consider 'bad' but now I consider necessary to maintain a level of healthy balance and perspective on all of this.

And nothing helps with perpsective quite like a piece of coconut cream pie from Teddy's Diner in Oshawa. It's worth it.

Kia kaha.
Stay strong.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Once Born or Twice Born?

When I lived in BC from 1999-2002, I met a wonderful friend through work. Liisa worked at another university, and I knew from the moment I met her that there was something very special about her. She has such an incredible spirit, and offers an extraordinary energy to those around her, that I feel lucky to now call her a friend, even though we connect only through virtual means. We have reconnected via Facebook, and as a reader of this blog, she is a wonderful support to me in my transformation. Having the support of wonderful friends who read my story is such a powerful and important part of this experience for me -- so much so that I really want to make sure what I'm putting out here is meaningful, and thought provoking, and dare I say, even a bit inspiring for me and you both! But I've been struggling a bit in the past week with what to write about. I've got lots of 'noise' going on in my head these days, and I don't have much clarity about things. So, I began to wonder what I should post on my blog. And then I came upon this note on Liisa's Facebook profile. Today, she offered a piece from a book she is reading that I wanted to share with you. It's from a book called Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser. This passage makes a lot of sense to me. And in some ways, it captures, much more eloquently, just a fraction of the 'noise' that I've got going on inside. So, I offer it to my readers with the hope that it resonates or illuminates something within you. Thanks for sharing it with me, Liisa.

Kia Kaha.
Stay strong.

There are two kinds of people in this world- the Once-Born and the Twice-Born. Once-Born people do not stray from the familiar territory of who they think they are and what they think is expected of them. If fate pushes them to the edge of Dante’s famous dark woods – where the straight way is lost – they turn back. They don’t want to learn something new from life’s darkest lessons. They stay with what seems safe and what is acceptable to their family and society. They stick to what they already know but don’t necessarily want. Once-born people may go through life and never even know what lies beyond the woods or that there are woods at all.

Perhaps a Once-born person awakens one morning and feels the beckoning finger of fate loosening disturbing questions “is this all there is to life? will I always fill the same? do I not have some purpose to fulfill, some greater kindness to give, some inner freedom to taste?” And then he gets out of bed and dresses for work and he doesn’t attend to the soul’s questions. The next morning and all the next mornings he lives as if the soul was a figment of a flighty imagination. This inattention makes him confused, or numb, or sad or angry.


A Twice-Born person pays attention when the soul pokes its head through the clouds of a half lived life. Whether through choice or calamity, the Twice-Born person goes into the woods, looses the straight way, makes mistakes, suffers loss, and confronts that which needs to change within himself in order to live a more genuine and radiant life.

But let’s be careful here, sweeping distinctions like Once-Born and Twice-Born are often misleading. They can make you feel like a failure if you perceive yourself as a stuck in the mud Once-Born or they can inflate the ego if you fancy yourself a white knight swashbuckling your way through the boring landscape of everyday life. They journey into the woods of change and transformation is an inner one. The outer story line need not be a soap opera since the real drama is being carried out in the heart of the traveller. The most ordinary looking lives are often being lived by the most extraordinary spiritual warriors - People who have chosen the road less taken, the road of self reflection. Twice-Born people use the difficult changes in their outer lives to make the harder changes within. While Once-Born people avoid or deny or bitterly accept the unpredictable changes of real life, Twice-Born people use adversity for awakening. Betrayal, illness, divorce, the demise of a dream, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one- all of these can function can function as initiation into inner life.


The journey from Once-Born to Twice-Born brings us to a crossroads where the old ways of doing things are no longer working but a better way lies somewhere at the far edge of the woods. We are afraid to step into those woods, but even more afraid to step back. To turn back is one kind of death, to go forward is another. The first kind of death ends in ashes, the second leads towards rebirth. For some of us, the day arrives when we step willingly into the woods. A longing to wake up, to feel more alive, to feel something spurs us beyond our fear. Some of us resist like hell until the forces of fate deliver a crisis. Some of us get sick and tired of filling an inner emptiness with drugs or drink or food and we turn and face our real hunger, our soul hunger.


Twice-Born people trade the safety of the known for the power of the unknown. Something calls them into the woods where the straight path vanishes and there is no turning back, only going through. This is not easy. It is not an made up fairy tale. It is very real and very difficult. To face our shadow – the dragons and hags that we have spent a lifetime running away from – is perhaps the most difficult journey we will take, but it is there, in the shadows, that we retrieve our hidden parts, learn our lessons, and give birth to the wise and mature self. From my personal experience, and from the work I have done with the men and women in my workshops, I know that the difficulty of the dark journey is matched only by its rewards. I also know that every single person in this whole wide world is offered, over and over, the chance to take the voyage from Once-Born innocence to Twice-Born wisdom.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Energy Bar Recipe

There are a lot of pre-packaged energy bars out there. Many of them are loaded with chemicals, fat, and refined sugar. For the high-performance athlete, these ingredients may be easily processed, but for those of us who are really trying to watch what we're eating, these bars can be worse for you than a lot of the things on fast-food restaurant menus. So I surfed the internet for various recipes, and didn't really find one I liked. That said, I took the best features of many and came up with this. I tested them with the staff at my gym, and everyone who I spoke to seemed to like them. Well, I like them, so I guess that's all that matters. So, if you're so inclined, try this one out. (Nutritional info at the end of the recipe).

Ingredients
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups instant rolled oats
  • 1 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup pitted dried dates
  • 1 cup powdered nonfat instant milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup pure maple syrup (or unsweetened apple sauce)
  • 4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and lightly spray the paper with the cooking spray.

Process all of the ingredients except the flour, milk powder, cinnamon, syrup and eggs in the food processor. Be sure to pulse it so that everything gets well chopped, and is nicely mixed. Try to make sure there are no big chunks in the mixture. Then add the flour, milk powder, and cinnamon, and pulse the mixture until well blended. Finally, gently whip the eggs in a cup, and add them along with the syrup to the mixture until it is well combined. It should resemble really thick sand -- very granular. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to split the recipe into two batches, mixing each thoroughly and then taking a few minutes to combine them in a bowl with a good strong wooden spoon and some elbow grease.

Pour out the mixture to the cookie sheet, and press it evenly into the pan. Lightly wet your hands, and press it into the corners, etc. Bake the bars in the oven for about 20 minutes. Upon removing the tray, leave it to cool for a few minutes, and then transfer the slab of bars by lifting the parchment paper onto a cooling rack. Let them cool for about an hour before cutting into approximately 30 bars. They can be individually wrapped, or stored in an air-tight container. Either way, keep them in the fridge, and and they'll be nice and chewy when you need them!

If you want to increase the amount of protein, you could substitute the milk powder with the equivalent amount of protein powder. Just remember that doing so will up increase the calories significantly, and will also likely add some sugar to the mix. In order to add more protein, I smeared one of my bars with a tablespoon or so of natural peanut butter.

Nutritional Data (per serving, approximately 50 grams)

Calories 190
Total fat 7 g
Saturated fat 1 g
Trans fat 0 g
Cholesterol 13 mg
Sodium 21 mg
Carbohydrates 28 g
Dietary Fiber 4 g
Sugars 14 g
Protein 7 g

From the early morning calm emerges a loud voice...

There's something very calming about the early morning. And I've only grown to realize this in the past year or so. Growing up, I was a nightmare to be around first thing in the morning. I loved my sleep. During my university years, it got worse, and I recall my bed in residence at the University of Waterloo as being among the most comfortable I've ever slept in... which is astonishing considering it was a twin-sized foam mattress, and I certainly wasn't a twin-sized guy back then!

Part of why I th
ink I loved sleeping so much (and don't get me wrong, I still enjoy a mid-afternoon disco-nap) is because I didn't have much energy. I would go to school, do my work, eat, hang out, and sleep. A long life of inactivity led to a lot of time in bed. And as time rolls on, trying to drag your butt out of "the scratcher" (as my Dad calls it) first thing in the morning becomes more and more difficult.

Well, since I've started exercising, I find I have much better quality sleep and oddly enough find getting out of bed much easier every day. And this morning, it occurred to me as to why getting up early is such a wonderful thing.

Each day, I wake u
p somewhere between 6 and 6:30am to the same sound -- it's my dog Rosie (an Airedale Terrier), shaking her head and making noise with her collar to let me know that she has to go outside for a pee. Ironically, I normally have to do the same -- not outside, though. So, I get up, open the back door, trudge into the loo, do my business and bring Rosie back inside. In the winter, when it's still pitch-black dark outside, it's still really easy to bring her in and crawl right back into my bed for a bit more sleep. But as spring is now upon us, the birds are chirping, and the sun starts to shine earlier and stronger each day, I notice how much more energy even Rosie has as she bounds out the door to chase the squirrels who torment her from the roof of the neighbour's garage, or to sniff around the backyard in search of something new and exciting to dig up.

There's something special about her energy. So this morning, like many others, I let her play outside while I put on some gear, grabbed my baseball hat, a toonie for coffee, and her leash to head outside for an early morning stroll. The fact that the weather forecast was calling for thunderstorms and rain all morning was great motivation, because an un-walked dog makes for a bit of a disaster inside the house later in the day. I had to take advantate of the opportunity to get her out for some exercise while I could.

We headed out the door, me still a little groggy from my sleep, but Rosie prancing along like the little princess that she is. She has an amazing spring in her step, and as she sniffs around, stretches to the sun, and leaps along beside me, I realize that it's not just the weather but also the excitement of being outside that gives her this much pep.

In one of his early blogposts, my trainer Sebastien called walking the dog a bit of a spiritual experience. And it really is. While I live in the heart of the country's largest city, there's not a lot of noise at 7am. The only thing I heard as we walked along Queen Street this morning was the sound of Rosie's collar jingling, and the occasional whir of a passing streetcar. People who passed by us were friendly. Dogs who trotted by stopped for a sniff. There was something fresh in the air as the sun peeked through the clouds and those sounds of early morning that you read of in poetry and in stories really did fill the air.

We made our way along Queen Street, and eventually arrived at one of my favourite early morning destinations: Red Rocket Coffee Shop. They have great coffee, an amazing sun deck that is dog-friendly, and free wireless!!! I love spending time sitting outside on a warm sunny morning with a coffee in my hand, the morning paper on the table and a very content terrier by my side. Everyone there is friendly. There's no pretense like some of the larger chain coffee shops, and many people (most of whom live in the neighbourhood) pop over to say hello, pet Rosie, and talk about the weather (we're in Canada, it's what we talk about). Rosie's veterinarian, Dr. Clifford Mardinger is often there, where in fact, he also has some of his artwork on display. There's just something very calming, warm, and welcoming to enjoying a good coffee and a bit of sun at that time of day -- especially amid the hustle of what is normally a very busy city.

So, all that sun and calm considered, walking the dog each morning brings with it tremendous opportunities to think, to reflect, to contemplate. There are no interruptions, very few distractions.... just me, my dog, and whatever is on my mind. Indeed, it is a spiritual experience. It's a time when I have the uninterrupted opportunity to be fully inside my head and think about anything and everything. And this morning, I thought a lot about privilege.

I thought about all of the things that I have accomplished in the past year. I've lost a lot of weight. I've lost a lot of inches. And in some ways, I've lost a part of who I am. And yes, I have found that to be very unsettling. A few weeks ago, I talked about having a lot of balls in the air, and how this life-changing transformation has caused me to question so much about who I am and where I stand in the world. And no, my walk with the dog this morning didn't provide any epiphanous answers. But it did clarify for me just how lucky I am to be in a place in my life and in the world where I can even ask these questions of myself.

Inevitably, we all struggle with something in our lives. Deep down inside, beyond the veneer of calm and ease, we all have something that eats away at who we are. And it's completely okay that some of us choose to ignore it. Some of us choose to acknowledge it. Some of us choose to do something about it, and even blog about it in a very public domain. But choosing to do something isn't always as easy as it seems. Many people I've encountered in the health and fitness profession talk a lot about simply making a choice to take action -- that tackling weight loss is about putting one foot in front of the other, moving your butt, and eating right. I don't discount that philosophy one bit. It's what has worked for me. But I also realize what a privileged philosophy that is. It takes a hell of a lot for a morbidly obese, gay man in his mid-thirties who feels like an outsider to make that choice. I sometimes have to call out Sebastien during our sessions where he doesn't fully realize what it's like to move through the world as a fat man. Yes, I'm sure he's had his own battles to fight, but in terms of physical health and fitness, the world is a much easier and friendlier place to a good-looking straight guy, who is athletic and can do pretty much anything he puts his mind to. And I don't begrudge him that. However, one of the issues I have with the fitness industry is that it lacks empathy in a lot of ways. It lacks a complete understanding of how multi-dimensional this battle is for so many people, and that it's not as easy as simply waking up one morning to take action and change your life. Quite simply, it's not easy at all.

I think that in marketing health and fitness as 'easy', or as something that can be accomplished by taking just a few pills, or sweating for 15 minutes a day to a video, is highly irresponsible.
In another of his blogs, and in his response to my comments, Sebastien used the line, "All is fair in diet and exercise." This opinion or way of thinking still troubles me to the core. Yes, we live in a capitalist society, and yes, the fitness industry is guided by the power of the almighty dollar. But the fact that the health and wellbeing (physical and emotional) of the people who need the help most from the industry that is the most well-resourced to provide it, is secondary to the drive to make a profit, is fundamentally disturbing to me. It angers me. I have yet to encounter any piece of marketing that tells the truth about how unbelievably difficult this journey really is -- about how it takes an unimaginable amount of self-determination and faith to succeed, that no video or pill can ever provide. No program I have ever participated in, or seen promotions for, have ever been able to address the tremendous psychological transformation and paradigm shift that in some ways is so completely necessary to nurture and support the physical transformation to which so many people aspire. The closest I have come to the 'truth' in this transformation is Bob Harper's work -- he's one of the trainers from TV's The Biggest Loser. His book is a great read, but unfortunately a lot of his messaging gets lost at the hands of clever television editing and programmatic marketing of the Biggest Loser brand.

This work also takes a lot of sacrifice. Many people over the past few months have asked me how I've managed to accomplish so much -- how I managed to achieve a goal four months ahead of schedule. I acknowledge that I'm in the privileged position to be able to make my fitness and my health my absolute number one priority. Yes, I'm a busy guy. I've got a demanding job, but I also work with people and in an environment that is so completely supportive of what I'm doing. I working on a PhD, but I can afford to take a break from my studies to focus on my health. I've got a dog, who enjoys the attention that comes with a long early morning walk in the sun My obligations are also opportunities. But beyond that, I don't have a lot of other commitments in my life. I don't have a mortgage to worry about (I'm an eternal renter!). I don't have kids or a spouse to make time for. I can choose to be quite self-indulgent and selfish at this point in my life, and make this journey and this process simply all about me. And I never want to lose sight of that reality. I want to make sure that, amid all of the success I've had and will continue to experience, that I never forget the fact that I am in a position where external obligations are minimal, and that I can choose to focus exclusively on me. Do I feel guilty about that? A bit. But it is what it is. I don't mind taking advantage of this privilege I have, as long as I continue to acknowledge that it's there, and that it's not somethat that everyone has.

So, as I walked throughout my neighbourhood this morning, and thought more about this idea of how narrow-minded the fitness industry can be, and about how privileged I have been to have the emotional, intellectual, physical, and financial
('cause this hasn't been cheap, folks!) resources to make this change, I began to have a bit of a moment of clarity. Maybe one of the things that can emerge from the multi-dimensional chaos that accompanies my transformation is some sort of advocacy in the fitness industry that helps people understand that reality to all of these success stories -- that it's more than just a glossy photo in a magazine, or clever editing on weight-loss show on TV. With my privilege comes a level of responsiblity. A responsibility to let everyone know that there is a very real, very complex, very important story to tell here. And there's tremendous power in that story. Power that I think has the potential to truly help transform some of the ways people think about and interface with this confusing industry. Unfortunately, at this point in time the voice of that story is either silent or tragically under-represented in the multi-million dollar fitness industry.

Hmm... maybe my voice is loud enough. I think I've got an interesting story to tell. More to think about. What do you think???

Kia kaha.
Stay strong.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Two words.

So, it didn't happen last week. But it happened tonight.

I set a goal for September 18, and when Sebastien weighed me for the first time tonight , I hit it right on the nose.

Talk about precision. How very 'Virgo' of me!

He then had me step on the scale for a second time, so that I could get a copy of the printout for myself. And on the second weigh in, I passed the goal by almost another pound.

I'll take either one.


So how do I feel?

Fan-freakin'-tastic!!!

And so I should. I worked my ass off to get to this place. And even though I've arrived at this amazing milestone -- I haven't weighed this much since my second year of university (1993... that's 15 years ago) -- I've got so much more ahead of me. But I'm not going to worry too much about that right now. I'm going to bask in the glow of my accomplishment. I'm going to savour the feelings of pride, satisfaction, and elation. Almost a year to the day that I first met Sebastien for my consultation, I've shattered my own expectations. I'm pretty sure I blew his out of the water too.

So here's the progress I've made.

I've lost 137 pounds since I weighed my heaviest (January 07-ish)
I've lost 125 pounds since I made the choice to take control and get healthy (December 07)

Since the time that I started letting Sebastien weigh and measure me for progress, I've lost:
  • 100 pounds of fat (since June 08)
  • 51 inches of fat from my body (since October 08)
  • The feeling that I don't have control of my own life.

Since that same time, I've gained:
  • An unmeasured amount of muscle.
  • The admiration of my friends and people around me.
  • The ability to look at myself in the mirror and like what I see.
  • A renewed sense of pride and love for who I am in this crazy crazy world.
And to celebrate all I've accomplished, I'm gonna have a beer. And I want you to have one, too. One of the best things about all this hard work, is that I've never completely deprived myself of anything. One night a week (normally the night I train with Sebastien), I indulge. I eat pizza. Or, I have a burger (from Square Boy on Danforth... they deep fry the bacon!!! Grrrr....) I always give myself the opportunity and the permission to indulge, and enjoy the things I crave. Ironically, giving in for that one night a week makes me crave those bad things less and less.

So, tonight, I'm having a beer.
And it has never tasted sweeter.

And that's pretty much all I have to say right now. Words cannot describe how I feel.

Actually, they can. Two words do it. Plain and simple:

Kia kaha.

These words have never meant more to me than they do right now. Love and gratitude to my sister for giving me the gift of the knowledge and power of these two words.

Love and props to the folks at Riverdale Fitness who make me feel incredible and supported every time I walk through the door for my workouts 6 days a week.

Love and admiration to friends, family, co-workers, and random blog readers for support and encouragement.

Love and respect to Sebastien for helping me to find the immeasurable strength and determination to conquer my greatest challenge, face my biggest fear, and be my best possible self.

That said, I'm gonna go enjoy my beer.

Stay strong, dear friends. Stay strong.

PS. Added on May 7 -- the beer might have been a bit stale, as it has been in my fridge for almost a year. LOL! But the fried chicken (NOT KFC) I had afterwards more than made up for it.... Back to the grind!!!

PPS. Some of you have asked what Seb thinks about my blog. He started his own a while back, and click here for his thoughts on me hitting my goal.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

GooooooaaaaaaaaLLLLLL!!!!!

That's supposed to be my interpretation of how to spell "goal" when the commentator yells it out at a soccer game. Why do I have soccer on the brain??? Just got a Twitter update (I'm @phd2011into) from my Uncle Marty in Pennsylvania this morning -- apparently he's up early watching soccer. Or football. Or basketball. What sport does Man United play??? Ladies' Over 60 Bocce Ball??? Yeah, that's it. LOL!

Anyhoo, reading a quick soccer update got me thinking more about goals. This whole journey for me has been characterized by many of them. I started working with Sebastien almost a year ago (it's our manniversary in just a few weeks, May 19, LOL!!!) and had some very unquantifiable things in mind. I remember telling him things like: "I want to feel better about myself. I want to be able to walk up a flight of stairs without gasping for breath. I want to hop on a bike and go for a ride." I also had many other things running around in my head as goals which would be markers of achievement (see the Egg-zaw-sted entry) I had these behavioural goals in mind which, if I achieved them, would be tremendous markers of my progress and success. Now many people who venture down the path of better health and weight loss set a series of actual numerical goals: the weight, measurements, etc. that will be clear indicators of success. And for the first six months that Seb and I worked together, I wouldn't talk numbers. I wouldn't do measurements. I would barely let him take my weight. I was afraid of the quantifiable.

Allow me to revert into my inner-geek PhD mode for a moment here. When I do research, I don't have much time for quantiative data. I don't like numbers. Numbers, although certain and in some ways undisputable, don't take into account individual experience, context, and circumstance to explain how numbers are derived. For example, if a researcher were to conclude that, in a group of 20 people, that an average of 3 hours per day of exercise over the course of a two-week period will yield an average weight loss of five pounds per week, it is difficult to argue the certainty of that data. The way my brain works is such that I intuitively question the circumstances surrounding the experiences of the 20 people being studied -- what's going on in their lives? what are the barriers that inhibit their ability to exercise for 3 hours a day? what are the ways in which they understand themselves as being 'unhealthy'? -- and how do those questions and factors impact the overall outcome of 5 pounds per week of weight loss. It's the social scientist in me, and has always caused me to question, unequivocally, the absolutist claims of pure and modern science. I digress.

All that said, given how I've been trained academically, and how my mind tends to work, it is completely natural to understand my apprehension towards being measured in any way whatsoever. I am also averse to measurement because I'm not only afraid of what the numbers say, I'm also naturally afraid of what they mean, and the judgement that often accompanies that meaning. So, submitting once a week to my assessment, where Seb measures my weight, body measurements, and strength measurements, is a pretty daunting experience. And even though I continue to make phenomenal progress, once a month, I get extremely anxious about this whole experience

Why?

I have incredibly high expectations of myself. So much so that I project those expectations unto others. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing, because I think it challenges those people around me to rise and perform to a standard that they may not have otherwise set for themselves. But, it can also be really problematic. Take this past week's assessment for example.

In the days and nights coming into my training session on Wednesday, I was having difficulty focusing, relaxing, and sleeping. Why? Because this past week was the day when I could have shattered one of my most significant numerical goals thus far. In January, Seb and I sat down to discuss some short- and long-term weight loss goals. As a short-term goal, I wanted to lose 20 pounds before the end of March. Seb thought that this was a lot, given the average of 1-2 pounds per week being reasonable for weight loss. So we compromised, and decided that a range of 15-20 pounds in three months would be good. At the same time, I declared that I wanted to have lost 60 pounds before my 36th birthday (September 18, mark your calendars, please... LOL!). Again, 60 pounds seemed like a lot in 9 months so we agreed to a range of 50-60 pounds. All good. Full steam ahead.

On February 18, I hit my 20-pound goal. Not after 3 months, but after a month and a half. And last Wednesday was the first moment when my 60-pound goal was within reach. I had 5 pounds to lose and I would have hit it. And for the first time since 1993, my weight would have begun with a number that didn't make me sad or sick to my stomach (that number is a '2' by the way). 5 pounds in one week is a lot. But I've done it before.

What's interesting about this is that I didn't necessarily put an extraordinary amount of extra pressure to work extra hard to achieve that 5-pound goal on my shoulders. Instead, I daydreamd, sat awake at night, and otherwised obsessed about finally seeing that '2' on the scale. I even began to envision what that moment would look like. How would it feel? How would I react? Would I really be as happy as I think I would be???

On Tuesday night, I stepped onto my own scales at home and realized that I wouldn't hit the goal the next day. At first I was really bummed out. But then I sat back and realized that although I had set this one-week target for myself, I hadn't necessarily done an extraordinary amount of work to reach this extraordinary goal. So what was I expecting? Magic? Divine intervention? Too much of myself? There you have it. I expect too much of myself sometimes. And again, not always a bad thing, but when those expectations move me into a space of anxiety and self-questioning, the they become less of a goal and grow more counterproductive.

So, in spite of my original apprehension, I've come around to the fact that goals are a good thing. And even though I started off fearing the numbers and focusing more on the qualitative goals, I've now made a bit of a paradigm shift. I now understand how the numbers mean something. I enjoyed noting this past week at my assessment that I've lost over 50-inches of body fat since October 2008 (when I first let Seb come near me with a measuring tape)! And given that we had our first workout in May 2008, I know I've lost so much more. But what is now causing me a bit of fear and apprehension is beginning to address the 'other' goals. I now have to spend some good time (and some with the help of a psychologist), thinking through my goals around understanding what it's like to exist in the world as a 'new me'. Even though I get amazing reactions from people I meet (like the one I got last night from my friend Jennifer who I haven't seen in almost a year), I still can't wrap my head around the fact that the new me is something to fully celebrate and in some ways 'show off'. Don't get me wrong, I love flashing my legs at the gym -- they're fabulous, by the way. But moving from a place where my weight brought negative attention to me, to a place where my weight (even though it's weight loss) is bringing positive attention and energy to me, is still a struggle. I'll get there though. Maybe I'll make that a goal.

All that said, last Wednesday, I didn't hit the 60-pound goal. If I don't hit it this week, I'll hit it the next week for sure. And when I get there, it'll be freakin' fantastic. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. And yes, I'll celebrate. And I think Sebastien will have to take me out to BeerBistro for a celebratory meal (hint! hint!). But I'll also take a moment to remember that this is a process. It's a journey. Each goal is only an end unto itself, and an opportunity to set a new one. Because, as one of my heroes, Bob Harper (of Biggest Loser fame) said in his blog this week in response to Kirstie Alley's appearance on Oprah, where she revealed that she's gained back the 75 pounds she lost on Jenny Craig:
"There is NO FINISH LINE HERE!!!! That is the biggest and toughest pill to swallow when you embark on this new lifestyle of losing weight and getting healthy. I tell people that you are making a lifestyle change not changing things temporarily until you have reached your “goal”. And don't get me started about goals. This guy today on Oprah, Michael said that he wanted to get below 200lbs and when he reached 198lbs, he went out to celebrate by binging on hotdogs and french fries. So many people get so focused on the end result that as soon as they have practically killed themselves to get there, some number in their head, they have nothing else to motivate them and then all of a sudden the weight starts creeping back on.... So many people fall into this same trap so what I'm begging everyone that is reading this to do is look at is differently today.... You are getting healthy. You are getting back on track. You are taking charge of your life. You are making lifestyle changes and divorcing yourself from the bad habits that made you unhealthy and overweight and it is a DAY to DAY thought patternIt is something that we all have to look at forever and learn how to live and cope with it….and guess what??? It can be done. It is up to you to take charge and look at every day like a new day."
So, I leave you with that to consider. Treat every day like a new day. There is no finish line. And most importantly:

Kia Kaha.
Stay Strong.