Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear....

So, it has been almost a month since I last posted. For some reason, I haven't had much to say. To be honest, I think I've been taking it a bit easy -- that is, I haven't been in my head too much about losing weight. I've been spending more time trying to make a big mind-shift. Knowing that I've got some big goals in the year ahead, I want to kick off this year in a good frame of mind.

Easier said than done.

The Christmas holiday break was a bit stressful. I loved seeing my family -- but I realized that 24 days was not only a long time for me to be away from home, but it was also a really long time to be away from my life. I managed to have some great workouts while I was in BC -- I found a rickety old spinning bike at the Rec Centre, and cranked out some of my own routines. I broke through my 5km limit on my runs, and ran a few 10km routes, which felt amazing. I spent an amazing afternoon with my Dad, niece and nephew, tubing down some runs at Mount Washington ski resort -- feeling a level of joy, elation, and speed that I haven't felt before. It was pretty spectacular, and liberating, all at the same time. But I missed my gym. I missed my spin bike. I missed my peeps. However, since I've been home for the past few weeks, I've been spending some time re-calibrating my workouts and figuring out my action plan for the year ahead. Sebastien and I have hammered out some solid goals, and 2010 is going to be a big year...

In the next 11 months, I will:
  • Weigh 200 pounds by July 25th -- the day when my friends Jonathan, Andrew and I set out for a 600km charity bike ride to Montreal
  • Bench press 250 pounds
  • Leg press 900 pounds
  • Deadlift 315 pounds
  • And.. do the splits.
All before my 37th birthday (September 18).

Furthermore, I will celebrate my birthday one week later on September 26th, by running the Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon, that's 13.1 miles or 21 kilometers... and hoping to do it in under 2 hours.

I'll also be going for my Schwinn indoor cycling instructor certification, my lifestyle fitness coaching certificate, and plan to make progress on my PhD.
Yes, 2010 will be a BIG year. And I'm starting to feel a bit of pressure.

All self-imposed... of course!

And I think one of the reasons why I'm feeling a bit of pressure is because I know that I need to change my mindset. Losing 200 pounds before Christmas was huge. And even though I knew I wasn't 'done' with my weight loss, there is something in me that seems to have leveled a bit. I still want to lose about 35-40 pounds (taking me under the 200 mark for the first time since probably the 8th grade), but there's a bit of me that also feels pretty damn content with where I'm at right now. Could I live the rest of my life happily at 235 pounds? Hell yes. But for what I want to accomplish, for the person I want to become, there is still work left to do.
And balancing that idea of 'contentment' with still wanting to make progress is a bit challenging.

In order to accomplish all of this, my motivation has to be monumental. Not only is it going to require a lot of dedicated training, but it's also going to require me to settle into a new way of seeing myself in the world. And I think that's what is leaving me a bit unsettled more than anything.

For months, Sebastien has been telling me that I'm an athlete. I train hard. I work hard. I am determined. I do things that I know my trainer can't do. And I do things that professional athletes do. I have boundless energy and unlimited determination. Once I'm in 'the zone', I have the unshakeable focus of a pro. That I know. But I still haven't accepted the fact that I'm 'an athlete'.

Until this past weekend.

About 10 months ago, I cleaned out my closet. I packed up all of my 'fat' clothes, and put them in my spare bedroom. The pile grew each and every day as I got dressed each morning...not removing an article of clothing because it was too small, but instead, because it was too damn big. At one point, all I had left in my closet was a couple of golf shirts. And shopping for new clothes has been both joyous and traumatic, but even the jeans that I wrote about here are now too big. In fact, over Christmas, I tried on my letterman sweater from high school. It hasn't fit me since the 10th grade. It fits me now.
So even though I did this monumental purge of clothing, I didn't throw them away. I was convinced that I was going to sell them on-line or donate them. I had some shirts that were worth about $150... and even a few pieces that still had tags on them. What I realized this past weekend, was that I was hanging on to all of these clothes because deep down inside of me, I am afraid that I might need them again.

But I don't want to need them again. Ever.

That said, many of my friends have offered to come over and help me get rid of the clothes. Some have even threatened to come into my house while I was away for Christmas and clear them out for me. I made them promise not to do so, because I knew that off-loading that much clothing was something I needed to do myself. Just as I was the only one who could lose over 200 pounds, I was the one who had to do the work of getting rid of these clothes. And after doing so this weekend, I now understand why that was the case.

My friend Patsy was visiting, and we were going through some of the clothes that she thought she could give to someone she knew. I was more than happy to give away a few items, and before I knew it, she had talked me into getting rid of all of it. She challenged me on my excuses (I have no garbage bags to carry them in... the donation centre might be closed... I'm not ready yet....) and I finally gave in.
We quickly loaded all of the clothes into bags, and before I knew it, the pile was gone. The pile was once close to 6-feet high. And it was loaded up in garbage bags.


Before we cleared everything out, Patsy held up a pair of my old jeans, and looked at me in amazement. She started to giggle, because it was amazing to see the change in who I am as a person. When she held up the jeans, I was shocked. I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to stop packing everything up.
And I realize why. For so many years, I had fooled myself into thinking that I didn't have a problem. I had such a dysmorphic view of who I was physically -- I used to see other morbidly obese men on the street, and quietly say to myself "Please God, tell me I'm not that big."

But I was.

And when Patsy held up the pair of jeans, I realized....I was huge.
And that hurt. It made me sad for a moment. I never really acknowledged just how bad things really were.

And those pants weren't even the biggest pair in the pile.

So for fun, she had me try them on... and we quickly realized that the 235 pound Chris can now fit into one leg of the 435-pound Chris. The proof is in the picture. I can now fit into ONE LEG of my old jeans. And it took 2 hands to keep the pants up.


So we laughed, packed up the rest of the clothes, and drove them to the donation centre. It was closed, so we left them outside, and off we went.

And the clothes were finally gone.

I could erase them from my mind, and getting rid of them could create space for new things. New clothes. New identity. New me.
But it didn't end up being that easy. As we were dragging the bags to the car, we remarked how heavy they were. And tried to estimate how much they weighed. I guessed over 200 pounds... but the Type A person in me had to know for sure. I realized at that moment that I hadn' t had my final good-bye to those clothes. I wasn't done yet.

So, after Patsy dropped me off at my house, I went inside and found my bathroom scales. I hopped into my car, and drove to the donation centre, where the garbage bags filled with the artifacts of the 'old' me were still there. I quickly placed each bag on the scale, and after the quick math, I laughed out loud, and then began to cry a little...

I just off-loaded 218 pounds of clothing.

One month ago, I had lost 202 pounds of body weight.

This month, I lost 218 pounds of clothing.

That's 420 pounds of loss.

And I'm only now starting to feel like I've lost the 'old' me. All 420 pounds of him. I realized that even though I was losing body weight, I was still hanging on to pounds and pounds of objects that represented the security, fear, anxiety, and sadness of the person I used to be. And to think that it was possible to find even the slightest degree of comfort in who that person once was, has put me a bit off my game. Until I started to connect the dots a few days ago.

Late last week, as Andy at Legacy and I were talking about the upcoming instructor training, he said to me, "I wish I could have talked to you a year ago." I didn't understand why he said that. But I quickly realized that it would have been amazing for him to have tried, last January, to convince me that I was about to do the things I plan to do in the year ahead. A year ago, I would have never imagined that I would be planning on being a spinning instructor. A year ago, I would have never imagined that I would have lost 200 pounds. A year ago, I would have never imagined that feeling this much happiness was possible.

And all of it was possible.
It is possible.
It is.

Fast forward to Monday morning, when Andy gave me the stage for a short while, and allowed me to teach the spinning segment of his Monday morning boot camp. I had done lots of preparation, and gave Andy a dry run of the music for my set two days prior. Admittedly, I was nervous... because in order to do my 'thing' on Monday morning, I needed to see myself differently. I had to let go of my identity as a 'participant' and take on the role of being a 'coach'. This wasn't my workout. This was a workout for the people who were there to work hard. And as I saw the participants crank up the dials on their bikes at 6:45am, sweat dripping from their brows, it felt incredible. It felt amazing. It felt... a bit like home.

And I don't mean 'home' in the sense that I could live there. But I felt 'home' like the same sense of comfort and security that my excess weight, sadness, and anxiety used to provide. In other words, I was settling into the 'new me'. Not only did I feel that comfort and security, but I also felt challenged, excited, invigorated... and proud. Not only proud of what I was doing in that moment in time, but also so proud of the participants who showed up to do the hard work it takes to make a change in their lives.

And I had fun.

A year ago, I wouldn't have imagined that I would be saying that. But I did. I had a riot. Having the opportunity to engage with other people in that way felt pretty spectacular. And it has helped me to see myself differently.

Now I guess many people might not understand why I struggle to see myself differently. Admittedly, I look in the mirror, and in spite of having lost 200+ pounds, I still see myself as 'me'. I don't always see the change. People always ask me how different it feels... and what it's like to see myself in such a different way. But I have a difficult time actually responding sometimes.

Because for so many years, one of the ways that I coped with my morbid obesity was by completely dissociating myself from my body. My mind and my soul were so disconnected from my body, that I didn't even know what I felt like. It's easy not to 'feel' your body when there is close to 8 feet of body fat between your body and your soul.


There's no other way to say it. I was so out of touch with who I was as a person -- physically, emotionally, cognitively. And only now do I see myself differently.
And seeing myself that way -- visually, and in my mind -- feels pretty damn spectacular.

I see the 'skinny bitch' (as Jonathan and Andrew call me) who fits into one leg of his old pair of jeans.

I see the guy who works out harder than his own trainer.

I see the guy who, in spite of still having 35 pounds to lose, can do things that most people are physically incapable of.
I see an athlete who can.. and WILL...accomplish everything that awaits him in the year ahead.

Quite simply, I see...

I was there all along. Even though I used to think the idea of the person I wanted to become was so far away, it wasn't. It was real. It was possible. It was achievable. And now, I can't stop looking in the mirror. LOL!

Apparently, the object in the mirror WAS closer than it appeared.

Kia kaha.

Stay strong.