Eleven

Since Thanksgiving, I’ve managed to hit the gym eleven times.  That’s eleven more times than I went all summer long (apart from the one-off from time to time) and eleven more than I was expecting.  While I realize that I still have a long way to go with regards to my fitness, I have been finding myself gaining back lost strength since the last time I was hitting the weights regularly.  I feel my legs and arms swelling, growing muscles yet again.  It feels good.

I’ve also noticed that my body is definitely aging.  I’ve got a creaking right shoulder, stiff neck, and other parts of me that aren’t functioning as they once did.  I am definitely noticing the effects of my sit-down/stress-laden job of bus driving.  I have been reading over and over again just how bad my job is on a person’s body, with repetitive motion injury, stress, constant high levels of cortisol and the like.  The gym, much as it always has been, is a proving ground for all of these things, and also an antidote to it, I hope.  I hope it’s not too late for me to regain what I’d given up the moment my right knee gave out just under a year ago.  I hope I can continue with this streak of going-and-doing the exercise that my body definitely needs.

Movement, as it always has been for me, is a method to sorting out my thoughts.  I still don’t fully understand the chemistry or biology of it all, but I know that once I start putting my body into motion, suddenly, I can feel my thoughts stretching out into palatable lines of comprehension, rather than remaining a lint-ball of cross-purposes within me.  I can take one idea and follow it to a logical and reasonable conclusion.  I can ask myself the questions and do the reasoning that fully thinking something through requires, all while walking a fifteen-minute-mile on the treadmill, or bench pressing a few sets.  I think it’s this dual purpose of exercise – not only to gain strength and stamina, but to also help process my thoughts with an added level of clarity – that keeps me going back.  Sure, I’d like to once again be the skinny pretty man that I have been from time to time, but that might need to just be a by-product of it all, rather than the sole purpose.

It’s nice to be back there, back at the gym, back staring at the weight racks and noticing the fellas around me with the massive chests and multi-faceted arms and legs.  It’s nice to feel my own personal power growing again, to allow myself the surge of endorphins that comes from a set well done.  I’ve already got my eye set on the conditions outside so that I might make a return to running.  I do need to purchase a couple of new pairs of sneakers – one for the gym, one for running outside – so hopefully I can find some good deals once the holidays are over.  I want to get myself some new gym clothes too.  It feels good to have something to focus on that I have complete control over, all while the political world that I find myself now inhabiting seems to be burning down around me.  The gym is a respite from all of that, and I’m realizing that fact more and more these days.

 

 

A Present and Resolution

This time of year is typically dedicated to getting things for others as a way to show appreciation for having them in your life.  It’s also to mark the occasion of the wheel of the year turning yet again, and spinning us back towards bright, sun-filled days (up here in the north, anyway).  It’s often when thoughts about the New Year are filled with promises to one’s self.  This, for me, has always been true, at least.  I know I set personal goals at my birthday (my Personal New Year), but I also set and/or re-set my goals as January approaches.  For me, it’s just a good way to start things.

This year, I gave myself a holiday present.  I bought 12 weeks worth of coaching on Fitocracy.  The plan I paid into – No Cardio Fat Shred – is a foundational reformation of how I approach food and exercise.  The coach, Jason, seems really nice.  He’s started us off on a real back-to-basics training with our relationships to food.  He’s  In the past, I’ve gone whole-hog into calorie counting, or whole-hog into “clean eating” (nothing processed, mostly “paleo”).  Each one of these diets has left me craving, and in the end, I’ve fallen back into old ruts that are doing absolutely nothing for my waistline, or my self-esteem.

This plan that I’m doing now, along with a number of others from all over the place, including my friend Andy from back in Denver, is all about meeting specific nutritional targets, or macronutrients, all while doing moderately intense activity at the gym.  Immediately after reading the intro to the program, and before shelling over any of my money, I realized this was exactly what I needed:  A way back to “eat right and exercise” advice that made sense.

On days that I’m exercising, I have set target macros.  For me, for now, it’s 200g of protein, 175g of carbohydrates, and 40g of fat. On days that I’m not exercising, I cut out the carbs and eat a little more fat.  I get all the “freebies” I want – vegetables of mostly every sort (except the starchier ones like potatoes).  The workouts aren’t too awful.  It’s about 45 mins at the gym three times a week – also very doable, and no cardio, as the name suggests.  That said, when the weather finally clears and I want to go out for a walk, I’m going to do just that.  I don’t need to do it out of punishment, or turn it into a 10-mile run.  I can just enjoy the stroll.  Just like I can enjoy my food in a reasonable and responsible way that nourishes my body.

Today was day one of the twelve weeks.  We had all of last week to get amped up for the program, and to start thinking about the planning and life shifts we all need to make.  For me, with my work schedule being what it is, meeting the exercise and dietary goals shouldn’t be a huge issue during the week.  At the weekends, when I’m behind the wheel of the bus, might prove to be a little more challenging, but I’ve got to figure it out.  I’ve got a team of people holding me accountable, not to mention my coach, and myself.

My biggest reflection today, as I sat down to enjoy some baked chicken and potatoes, was that I’ve always been ashamed of my body.  I’ve always, always, always hated it, and treated it awfully.  Whether overdoing alcohol, or smoking too many cigarettes, or running miles and miles on an empty stomach, to retching into the toilet just to get rid of anything in my belly, or downing a box of laxatives to “clean out” my insides, I’ve had a horrible, horrible attitude towards my body and form.  I need to relearn how to treat my body with dignity.  Now that I’ve cleaned out the nicotine addiction, and now that I’ve got way more control over the food that is available to me, it’s time to be an adult about it all.

I’ve made this promise and resolution to myself far too many times in the past, only to fall off track time and time again.  I’m done with failing.  I’m done with the shame and guilt of a broken promise. I am adult and it’s time I start treating myself like one.

Meeting a Goal

I’ve talked about my finances a few times on here, especially recently, but I wanted to revisit this today because it finally dawned on me what has just happened in my life.

For *years* I’ve been setting a personal goal of getting my fiscal house in order.  Years.  Literally since I’ve had a job and bills, I’ve always been messy about where my money goes.  I don’t know why this was the case, or where my spend-happy-self came from, but it seems that monster, grown out of a desire to be generous to others, and to myself, with limited foresight as to the consequences of spending X dollars here, when I needed to put that currency elsewhere, has finally been caged and tamed.

I have achieved a birthday goal of mine, and right now, it’s just sinking in.  I mean, really – I did this thing I set out to do.  I wanted to reduce the anxiety that money was constantly bringing into my life, and I’ve done it.  (A few pats on my own back).

Of course, I can’t just rest on this.  Not for one second.  I want to analyze how I got here, and what parts of that I can now apply to other goals that I keep setting and failing to meet.

It seems that, while I was paying attention to the small details, the smaller bits of responsibility along the way, the grand goal was playing out before me.  Time, patience, persistence – as well as being willing to allow for setbacks and restarts (many restarts) along the way also seems to be key.

This same principle and focus can also be turned onto my other big goals – especially overall health and fitness.  I know where I want to end up by the time I turn forty years old.  I have an idea of what kinds of things I want to be able to do and have the strength and energy for at that juncture in my life.  Getting there, from where I’m sitting now, seems like an impossibility.  There are so many things to learn and discover along the way that, right now, it’s all a bit overwhelming.  What do I eat, when do I eat it; how much is too much, too little; when should I sleep/rest, and when should I push myself to the limits?  All of these things are questions I don’t have answers to right now, but while I do what feels right today and in this minute – watching my sugars and making sure that I get my ass to the gym at least three or four times a week – might just amount to something.

I do wish, though, that I could set up a long-range fitness calendar – much like I did for my budget – that will give me milestones that I should expect to achieve at various points.  Like, I knew when my first credit card would be paid off because I knew where my budget would be at that point (and that milestone is coming in about a month, which is also pretty awesome).  I don’t know, though, if I’ll be able to bench press a certain amount of weight, or be able to see a weight on the scale that is at a certain place, or be able to bring my BMI down out of the rafters by a certain moment in time.  There isn’t the same sort of permanence and black-and-whiteness about fitness and health.  It’s a continuum, which leaves a lot of grey space, which isn’t exactly the kind of exactness I want.

Maybe I need to meet with a trainer and get help wrapping my head around goals and plan-making to get there.  I know there is a lot of ever-changing science around biochemistry and the effects of exercise on the body, so I could dive head-long into that world and find some real-life applicable things that I can do for myself.  I’m not sure.

Still, right now, I am realizing that it is possible for lumpy, little ol’ me to set a goal and meet it.  Even a big one.  I never really thought this was possible.

Re:Beginning – The Gym

A couple of weeks ago, Ray woke up with gumption.  He and I got in the Mini and took off to his gym, a 24Hour Fitness that’s about two miles from the house.  His intent – to use the membership he is paying for, and in order to achieve this – add me to his plan.  He wanted to use me as a motivator to get him back into his workouts, back into the art of movement, and out of his headspace that was starting to consume him.

We’ve gone a few times now, and today, I’m going to be doing the third workout of a beginner’s 28-day plan that I found online.

What brought me to writing here, besides the fact that I haven’t shared a post here in a while, is that this feels legitimately better than any other gym experience I’ve ever had.  In the past, when I’ve been to the gym, it’s been with a sense of desperation and anxiety.  I went to workout, not only to just lose weight and feel better, but tucked in the recesses of those platitudes was the real reason I was there: control.  I have a long-standing tradition of taking out my control issues upon my own flesh.

Almost twenty years ago, I had fallen into a steep and ugly depression.  It was my sophomore year of college, and I hadn’t come out of the closet.  I had left my family behind me, a situation that was fresh off an ugly divorce of my parents, and taken off to college, where I was surrounded by energetic and enthusiastic people of all stripes, who all seemed to have this joy about them that was missing in my life.  I faked it, for the most part, but something was off with me.  I was heavy, and had used food as a means of coping with anxiety and stress about the things in my life, not least of all was my questionable sexual identity.  Somewhere along the line, though, I had the idea that if I just changed my physical appearance, then things would be better.  Changing like that meant taking control of an aspect of my life that I’d never really paid attention to, apart from when I was actually made fun of for being heavy.  I, in short, stopped eating.  When I did eat, I forced myself to expel most of the food I had put in my body using any means necessary.

At first, it felt weird, but after a week or so, and noticing some of my weight falling off, it became it’s own feedback loop.  The more I starved, the more I lost, the better I felt.  I started to mix in going to the gym as a means of speeding up the weight loss, and as I wasn’t fueling my body at all, apart from an occasional coffee and a few bites of oatmeal, and the weight just kept falling.  For the first few months of this control push, I found myself with new-found confidence.  I was carrying myself around with a head held high, all the while, keeping my eating and fasting and purging habits tucked deeply away so that no one would notice.  I knew what I was doing to myself was wrong, but the results spoke louder, and the starvation addiction grew stronger within me.

Eight months of this was hard on my body.  I lost nearly 100 pounds through starvation, expulsion, and exercise.  I was sick, and it was a lovely young lady in an English Lit class who finally called me out on it.  She suggested I get some help, and I did.  By that point, I was looking really rakish and pale.  I’d been getting the occasional, “How are you doing, Thom?” from people around me, but like always, I remained upbeat and said I was great.  I had become masterful at hiding what was really going on.

I got the help I needed.  I also came out of the closet, and was able to move through my darkness into something better.  Still, along the way, in moments of chaos and crisis, I found myself turning back on my own body as means of regaining control.  After each boyfriend I’ve had prior to Ray, I spent weeks either running or weight training.  It’s how I coped with the loss of my first boyfriend, Thomas.  It’s how I responded to the termination of my marriage with Nathaniel.  It’s how I reacted to the failure of my relationship with Caleb.  Time and time and time again, turning inward and inflicting stress upon my body in order to reshape and reform myself has always come when the world around me is in total chaos and I felt like, somehow, at least being in control of my physical form would re-establish some sort of order out of it all.

Today, though, with this renewed attempt at fitness, and moving towards health, the backdrop for it all is markedly different.  I’m in a loving and stable relationship.  I live in a stable and supportive home.  I’m not having a crisis of identity.  I’m not feeling the pressure to change my form simply to fit in, or to give myself a false sense of power.  Today, with this re-beginning at the gym, it feels better.  It feels honest.  It feels more real?  I’m at a loss for words about it all still because it’s both old and new to me.  I know that I’m doing something good for myself.

Milestone

I stepped on the scale, and registered the number there:  215.

For a couple of days now, I’ve sat with that, putting it on the back burner, and going about my life.  Things are rolling on here at the house. I’m caught up in the settling, the anxiety of a new place, still getting my bearings, and so I really didn’t let the number on the scale really take on any meaning.  That is, until today.

I just got back from a walk/run of about 10k.  While out there, feeling the endorphins and all that comes with elevated heart rate and such, it hit me.  By reaching that number, 215, which is thirty pounds less than the last time I stepped on the scale, I’ve, in fact, reached about half-way to where I want to be in my skin.  I feel my best at around 185 or so, which if you do the math, is about 60 pounds less than where I was at my heaviest this year.  The fact I’m drawing in close to that mark, that midpoint along this journey, means that, actually, I’m doing something right.  I can, for just a moment, be proud of myself, and this morning, while I was putting one foot confidently in front of the other, I felt that emotion: pride.

No, I’m never going to be a skinny little otter thing.  I see plenty of that walking around town here – tall, lanky, barely 150 pounds, able to whip off their shirts at any opportunity, confident in how their flesh sits on their frames.  Typically, this only works to make me grind my teeth and self-loathe even more because, let’s face it, we’re all a little jealous of the pretty people we see.  Today, though, for just a few minutes, I allowed myself the feeling of being among those confident, head-held-high men.  I inhabited my own body, my own flesh, and while there was still plenty of jiggling and such going on under my tee shirt and around my thighs, in a white heat of euphoric endorphins, none of that really mattered.  What mattered, and what continues to matter, is that I’m effecting positive changes in my physicality.

Giving up sugar in my coffee, cutting back on the alcohol, swapping cereal for a green smoothie or scrambled eggs, drinking more water, paying attention to my sleep, getting out for walks when feasible – these are the steps I’ve taken.  Small, incremental, and at the micro-level, barely registering as change-making.  Taking a step back, though, and reflecting on where I was when I began to regain control of my body about five months ago, I’ve come a long way, and today I am proud of that fact.  The journey continues, though.  It is my life on the line here, after all.

 

Eating Differently – An Update

It’s been nearly three weeks now since I started eating differently.  To be honest, this was just going to be a week of a trial-effort.  I never expected it to have lasted this long.  So far, though, I can see this sticking, so long as I make some tweaks sooner rather than later.

Firstly, I’ve lost way more weight than I thought I would by now.  I started off at 240 pounds.  Now, when I step on the scale, I’m down to 225.  That’s a fifteen-pound loss in three weeks, ten of which came off in the first week or so.  Now that my body is adjusting to the way I’m eating, weight loss has slowed up, but is still progressing towards the weight I should be at.  I will admit that it sure feels nicer to step on the scales and see the numbers getting smaller, rather than larger, as they had been for the past year and few months.  More importantly I’m able to fit back into the jeans that Ray bought me last summer, which means I’m about 1.5″ smaller around the waist than I was at the start of this.  Ray also commented that he was seeing weight loss in my face.

Secondly, my housemates and Ray have been super supportive about this dietary shift.  Bil made some off-hand comments to start, but after reporting the results so far to him, I think he’s come around to seeing this as a good thing.  Ray knows of some decent paleo-friendly restaurants around town which I’ve enjoyed trying.  Dick’s Kitchen, for example, will get more of my money.  Grass-fed beef over greens?  Yes please.

Ray has started taking my dietary needs into deeper consideration when we do go out to eat,  which has caused us some nonsensical friction.

At first, I told him not to worry about where we grab a bite – I’m a big boy who can find something to eat pretty much anywhere, and this is not a dietary restriction of his food.  When we went to a new sushi/Japanese place here in our neighborhood, though, I made the mistake of saying “I’m not sure what to order” while we were looking over the menus.  He got quiet, and replied “we can leave,” which is not at all what he wanted to do.  I immediately felt bad, and found two appetizers on the menu that had the least amount of blacklisted food, and proceeded to order them.  Soy sauce is off the menu, but the dishes I had contained some.  Same goes for sesame seeds (a grain).  Still, the bulk of what I did manage to order was fine, and while I did notice an up-tick in bloating and gas the next morning, it wasn’t completely uncomfortable.  Ray got whatever sushi/rice he wanted, and as the meal finished, I told him how sorry I was for making it awkward to go out to eat, apologizing for my diet, and that I never expected him to make any changes to suit my personal needs.  He looked at me, smiled, and explained that he wants me to be able to enjoy a meal with him, and that his only concern was that I wasn’t able to get enough to eat to be satisfied.  I told him that being satisfied with food isn’t why I go out to eat with him – it’s the shared time with him that I most enjoy.  He grinned and blushed, and I thanked him for his concerns about my new diet.  He can see that I’m pleased with the results so far, and he is being supportive in a way I would have never expected from a lacto-ovo-vegetarian who’s diet is based on bread, rice, beans, and milk.  Once again, my boyfriend is amazing.

The biggest hurdle I’m having, though, is what to eat when I finally do get hungry.  Because my cravings for food have changed, I can go hours in between meals unlike ever before.  That said, when I do finally realize it’s time to eat, I find myself searching for something quick to make.  I need to be better about planning and prepping my food for the day.  I’ve got breakfast down pat – eggs and spinach/greens, or a green smoothie.  Lunch is usually a piece of fruit and some nuts (breakfast seems to last a lot longer in my system these days, leaving me full and satisfied for much longer).  At dinnertime, though, is when I falter.  My housemates enjoy all food – “paleo” and not – and as it’s a shared food situation (and they outnumber me 2:1) there is one meal made that is shared.  Sometimes, it’s all things I can eat, like last night’s baked chicken and fresh steamed green beans.  Other times, it’s stuff I have to avoid, like Friday night’s pasta bake.  On those nights when the meal isn’t going to fit me, I need to have more options.  I need to take more initiative there.

I also need to incorporate more exercise into my week.  I typically get about 10,000 steps in a day, with more on my days off, but I need to up that.  Walking, or even running, is going to help me shed even more weight, plus it’s great for my cardiovascular system and fights off a number of bad effects from having a sit-down, sedentary job.

I’m going to nail this down, in time.  I’ve learned that paying attention to the signals my body is sending me is crucial, and now that I’ve cut out the sugar and junk, it feels like I’m hearing the signals a lot clearer.  I am happy with the way things are going, and I know I’m doing the right thing for the body that I’m inhabiting.  I feel like, perhaps, this is the first time I’ve felt like I’m treating my body with the dignity it deserves, and that makes me feel at peace.

Progress?

I weighed myself yesterday.

And yes, before you even start, I can see your eyes roll, and I can hear the words “SCALES ARE AWFUL YOU SAID SO YOURSELF I CAN’T EVEN UGH” coming out of your mouth.  Believe me.  I can hear you.

Over the past year, I’ve put on a hefty amount of weight.  I mean, I’m about twenty pounds less than my most pudgy ever.  Or, at least I was before I started this little walking routine.  It’s only been a week, and I’ve also been incorporating a decent amount of fiber into my diet (read: the volume of ‘waste’ I’m producing is up), but when all is said and done, I apparently lost five pounds.

Five.

In my first week.

Of course, I also know that, with any bump in exercise, or change in diet for the better, the first bit often reveals a lot of weight loss.  Water weight, or whatever, tends to dump quickly.  As the body adjusts, according to what I’ve read, I need to keep changing it up in order to maintain a state of flux (and weight loss/muscle gain) about every couple of weeks or so.  I know that five pounds is a lot to lose in just one week, but just for a minute, I’m going to revel in this.

Please, let me.  Don’t be a Debbie-downer.  Or, better yet, be one, but know I’m sticking my fingers in my ears and ignoring you.

I LOST FIVE GOD DAMNED POUNDS AND IT FEELS SO DAMN GOOD.

This week, I’m paying more attention to the sugars and starches, and while I’m certainly not zero-carb at all, even just being aware and making dietary choices that limit the sugar I do intake seems to be helping.  I managed to get through yesterday without too many bumps in the road – though I did learn that the yoghurt that I like has about 45g of sugar per serving (one cup), so that’s a little shocking.  I also have limited myself with the sugar in my coffee, and I’m trying to navigate lunch in a way that doesn’t involve a sandwich.  Yesterday, I will admit, was tough.  Work was super-stressful, but now that I know my runs for this week, hopefully today will go better.  I can plan better.  I can pack a few pieces of fruit to get me through my six-hour shift of bringing people to a mall at Christmas.

This morning’s walk had me daydreaming about my mother’s visit in March.  I am looking forward to her arrival, and am curious as to what we are going to get up to.  I know she’s a cyclist, so we might rent bikes for the week and get out and about in Portland that way.  I also want to take her to the coast, possibly for a hike.  I really think she’s going to love it here, but I need to get physically fit enough to keep up with her.  She’s super-duper active.  I’ve got three months and a few miles of walking ahead of me, so I think I’ll be alright.  We shall see.  In all, the daydreaming while walking is great.  I can feel my thoughts bubbling up to the surface.  I can wrestle a thought while putting one foot in front of the other, and simply let my mind float.  This was something I loved to do while I was running last year, but those thoughts were often dark and angry.  I’m not dark or angry any more.

I’m loving the newness of all of this.  I love this different aspect of my life.  It is something both old and fresh at the same time.  I’m optimistic, as always, and can’t wait to see where I end up with all of this come this time next year.