Summer Progress Report

As of this writing, I’m officially down twenty-four pounds since June 21st, 2016.

That’s almost half-way to 200, from the 250 I was at.  It’s been two months.  That’s twelve pounds a month.  If I can keep this up, I will be around my goal weight of 175 pounds, which is where I was when I met Ray, by the end of the year.

I’m really having a moment about this today, and really needed to get it out of me.

I still am not ready to share what I’ve been doing, mostly because I had a bit of a revelatory moment back in June about how I’ve been approaching health and weight loss.  For me, it seems, the more I announce things online, the more I share my gains and goals and plans with those who know me online, the more apt I am to falter and fall off the wagon.  This time around, though, instead of posting about it (though I’ve come *really* close at times), I’m just sharing photos of myself.  I think, in time, the weight loss will become more evident, and if asked about it, I might share my secret.  It’s really no secret – it’s just a better system of eating that works for me – but because I’ve imbued it with a little magic – a little bit of my inner pagan self who finds power in concoctions and potions and recipes – I can’t talk about it.  Doing so will dissipate the magic.  It’s a little like Fight Club in that the first rule is that you don’t talk about Fight Club.  So goes this new journey I’m on.

In any case, I feel a ton better.  I’m feeling way more alive, more energized, and more in tune with the animal-creature-being that I am.  I’m figuring out what cravings actually are, what hunger actually feels like, and how best to respond to these needs.  It’s really a re-learning of the things that have always been inside me – the biofeedback loops we are all born with – that have been muffled by years of eating incorrectly and responding to cravings in a way that is detrimental to the rest of my health.

I’m anxious to start exercise again, especially since I haven’t done much since I had surgery on my knee last February.  I really put myself in a hole after that, afraid of pushing myself, afraid of hurting myself more, and psychologically, it took a massive toll on me.  I found myself justifying the pizza, the beer, the constant naps and lethargy to just compensate for how awful I was feeling about being broken and not being the young and elastic man I once was.  Right now, I can feel those emotions sliding back, dissipating, leaving my body, and what’s replaced it is a new-found confidence.

I still have quite a few milestones to arrive at.  I still have things I’m not quite doing right, but overall, I have to say I’m really, really enjoying this little journey of mine.  Who knows.  I might actually be Fit by Forty.

18 Months

I woke up this morning with the anxiety-laden realization that, as of May 1, I am exactly eighteen months away from turning forty years old.

Sure, I’m anxious about this, which is a mix of social training and pressures from external forces, but in reality, I’m also anxious about it on the inside.  My body is not that of a twenty-year-old anymore, and hasn’t been for exactly that amount of time.  I have been rather abusive towards the flesh I’m in, bouncing up and down in weight and size repeatedly over those years.  I’ve flung myself from calm repose to panicked insanity more times than I can count, and through all of that, my body has taken on the scars – externally and internally.

This morning, as the weight of all of this pressed down on my flabby, fatty, man-boob chest, I decided to face it down with a walk.  I needed to clear the air, clear my mind, and just get out there and press the pavement for a bit.  Walking, as always, seems to have helped me clean out the cobwebs and set me up for some productive thoughts, increasing with each stride and milepost I passed.

I am going to set up a personal fitness challenge for each month.  For the month of May, to mark the start of my eighteen months of crunch time, I’ve set a goal to walk at least 100 miles.  Walk, run, skip, hike, or whatever movement with my feet underneath me – but a 100 miles by May 31.  I did some quick math, and that works out to twenty-five miles a week, and if today’s walk is any indication of the speed and time that will require, I can do a five-mile walk in just over an hour.  I now, as of today, have a loop that is measured out for me, and that I can do, and add in variables such as taking different side-streets, adding in a stop for coffee or the bathroom, or even run at parts.  What I need to do now, though, is commit to doing this five times a week.  My days off, Monday through Thursday, will allow for this to be a morning ritual.  What I do need to do, though, is pick a day during my work period – Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, to complete one more loop.

I can do this.  I can fight back the urge to just collapse at the end of a day and say goodbye to the world in it’s entirety.

Alongside this walking goal, I’m going to pay closer attention to what and how much I eat.  Right now, even though I’ve had spurts of “healthy clean eating,” basically, it all breaks down at least once or twice a week and I reach for the pizza, peanut butter, or beer/liquor.  While I could promise myself that I’m going to not do those things, the reality is I’m not going to give them up.  I enjoy them too much.  What I can do, though, is mitigate them and their caloric grandiosity by countering those richer days with leaner days.

What I don’t need to do, though, is make this whole experiment stressful.  The other night, while Ray and I were having a “reset conversation” about the state of things in our relationship, he called me out on my obsession with my weight and size.  It bugs him that do it.  It bugs him to hear me go on and on about how fat I am or how weak I’ve become.  The fact is, he loves me in all of my various states and shapes.  He is supportive of me and my efforts without castigating me when I slip and fall.  He’s the first person to offer a glass of wine after a long, awful day, and while I know it’s not the most healthy way to deal with that kind of stress, I will not deny the deliciousness that is a fine red wine.

I can do this.  I can find a balance.  I can make the next eighteen months count.  I can make them as enjoyable as I dare.  I can’t wait to see where this takes me.

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.

Control: Money

Any of you who know me personally, and have known me for quite some time, know that I’ve never, ever been good with money.  I usually am broke, and usually am struggling to make ends meet.  For years, especially during my twenties, I maxed out and over-extended myself time and time again in order to acquire things, and what I thought was status, among my peers.  I used money as a means of escape through spending way too much at the bars and clubs, or on clothing and dining out, in order to add meaning and value to my life.

When I was with Nathaniel, I basically turned over all of my income into his hands, and relied on him to pay the bills and tend to the responsibility of making on-time payments to all of our mutual debts, including rent and the utilities, along with groceries and everyday living costs.  I used to just ask him, “Can we afford it?” and he’d tell me yes or no.  I never questioned him or his judgement, but in doing so, I actively removed myself from any fiscal acuity in our relationship, and simply assumed everything was going along smoothly.  For the most part, it did, though I recognize that this meant I lost touch with the cost of things, and how much it really took to sustain a life that was worth living.

After he and I split, suddenly, I was left holding the reins to my own fiscal life.  I had no checking account.  I had no debit card or credit card.  I didn’t even have a phone.  I had a paycheck, but nowhere to put it.  At first, I turned to check-cashing store fronts to convert my income into a form of money accepted everywhere.  It turned out that I had some old bank accounts that had gone into overdraft years ago, and until those were paid off, I couldn’t open another account.  I managed to do that, and for the first time in years, marched my butt into a local bank and opened my first account.  It was a basic checking account.  I got my first debit card, set up my direct deposit from work, and suddenly found myself staring at the requirement to keep myself in check.  It was up to me to pay my own bills, buy my own groceries, keep a roof over my head, and obtain and activate a means of communication.  At the time, it felt like learning to ride a bike again.

Along those first few months, I had a few hiccups.  I overdrew a couple of checks due to my bad math, and quickly learned that $32 in fees per check added up quickly.  I had to come up with a means of organizing my finances that would work for me, and it was then that I first learned the art of creating a budget.  For me, after the debilitating crush of a destroyed relationship, a relocation, and having to find my feet again, gaining some sort of control over an aspect of my life back meant the world to me.  Once I’d set up a plan and could see both how my money was being spent, and how I should be spending it going forward, that rush of adrenaline from a surge of confidence became addictive.  I wasn’t perfect, but I made it work, and over time, it all became natural to me again.

When I moved to Denver, though, it all fell apart.  Suddenly, I was back to my old habits of spending too much on going out and keeping myself distracted, that bills began to pile up again.  I was borrowing – this time, from payday loan lenders – at a rate that was unsustainable.  I fell into the trap of having to borrow from one place to pay off the debts of another.  This went on for a few months, and all I can really recall from that period of my life was a never-ending surge of anxiety that wouldn’t go away.  While, at the time, I saw the necessity of having access to quick money to pay the rent so that I could have a roof over my head, the amount of time – some up to six months – it took to pay off that small debt, was insufferable.  It got to the point where I had to finally just stop, say no more, and reel myself back in.  Phone calls from collectors, setting up payment plans, and the like, was something that became a constant problem in my life, but eventually, I managed to find my way out of that hole, with a vow never to return.  It was ugly, and it was dark, and it was not how I wanted to define myself.

It was a move in with my bestie, Amanda, that helped me come to terms with a lot of that anxiousness.  With her, I was comfortable in the home we shared, and didn’t feel the pressures to go out as much and spend money I really didn’t have just to escape the darkness that was at my previous home.  I also got to have grown-up conversations with her about finances, and it was with her as a guide, that I managed to get back on a budget and get myself back in order.  My credit score had been obliterated, but I still had a bank account, I still had my cell phone, and I still had an income.  I had a means to move forward, and that is what I did.

Being jobless for eight months upon landing here in Portland, Oregon was almost a complete setback for me and my finances.  I’d cashed in a retirement plan from my previous employer, and even though it seemed like more than enough to sustain me, inevitably, it wasn’t.  This time, though, money wasn’t being spent on going out and being dumb.  It was spent on groceries, on home improvement projects that my ex-boyfriend and I were working on.  I bought a bike.  I spent money on some workout clothing.  I did take myself out from time to time for a drink, though rarely, and I did spent an inordinate amount of money on coffee in cafes as a means to not have to be tied to the house so much.  It was a slow drain that, by the time I landed my current job, had wiped me dry.  Somehow, and through the generosity of others around me, I managed to pay my bills, and keep up with most things.  Still, some things slipped, and once again, my credit score took a pummeling.

When I finally did start work again, and secured a very reasonable place to live with Bil and his partner Brandon, things finally were able to turn around again.  Though I was making very little to start (and had just met Ray at that same time), I still was able to pay the rent, and pay my student loans.  Slowly, and over time, I was able to start to feel those glowing embers of satisfaction one gets when stuff gets paid on time.  I relished making payments to my debts, and once again, was able to set up a budget that worked, and that I could see grow and change over time.  I secured a credit card in order to help me rebuild my credit, which has been helping immensely.  Occasionally, I can take Ray out on a date and drop a few coins in that fountain, but not often.  He, for his part, has been super supportive and really patient, as I get my finances back in order.  Now that I’m almost two years into my job, my pay has reached a level where the budget is really starting to look very rosy.

I’m terrible at spreadsheets, but being able to build one that helps me see into the future, including when things get paid off, how much my savings will be able to grow, and how a “snowball” payment plan towards the debts I do have is working, makes me feel insurmountable.  Confidence is oozing through the columns and rows, and for the first time in my life, really, I feel like I have this.  Like, totally, utterly, have this.  I’ve figured it out, and I’m making progress.  I recognize where I’m spending silly still, but I also know how to prioritize my spending in a way that at least ensures all of my obligations are tended to.  It feels good.  It feels grown-up.  It feels like I can trust myself to make the right decision and stick to a promise to myself (at least in the fiscal arena).  It feels like pride and increased self-worth. By the end of the year, my two credit cards will be paid off.  By the end of the year, I will have a savings account for us that should contain at least $1,500 (downpayment on a new apartment).  By the middle of next year, I should be sitting quite nicely on a sum of money that will help me buy something that I’ve always wanted (more on that later).  I’m really, really excited to see this all unfolding before me.

End of October

I spent a little time over this past week looking back at the journal entries I’d been keeping a year ago.  Since turning 37 back on the first, I’ve been meaning to do a bit of reflection, but with work and time out with Ray having taken up a lot of my free time, I hadn’t had the chance until just recently to do just that.  It struck me, even after reading just a few paragraphs, just how far I’ve come in one revolution around the sun.

Last year at this time, I was kind of obsessed with my new friendships with Dan, Yoni, and Alan.  I’d finally found a group of men who I could hang with, who I could make plans and get out of the house and spend time with.  Starting with Dan, and among all of them, I found a path away from the darkness that had surrounded me while I was trying to find my way out of the situation with Cal.  I’d landed a job, but because of a government shut-down, my start had been delayed.  I finally, though, had hope, and a direction forward.  I had a bit more optimism in my life, and though it still felt like I owed the world to everyone who had been so supportive of me (in real life, and across the internet), I felt a timid lean-forward happening.

I was also much thinner and focused on my exercise routine then.  Anxiety was driving me forward, and it was back then that I was doing long runs at least twice a week, sometimes three.  Nowadays, when I end up driving bus routes that take me back over those worn sidewalks, I’m reminded of just how much tension and pent up nervousness I put down with each footfall.  Miles and miles and miles of just running away from the world I was seemingly stuck in had revealed more of my self under my flab, and though I was still not where I wanted to be, the pounds had come off really quickly, and I had reduced my physical size to something I hadn’t seen in a long time.  I looked outwardly better, though I was still shaken and scared on the inside.

I remember being so caught up in my writing, my exercise, and trying to purge myself of the old skeletons I’d been hauling around since I don’t know when.  I’d started to look for help in dealing with the past violence in my life.  I recognized then that I still needed to face those old wounds before I could move forward.  I remember the fear of having to look those old memories in the face and finding a way to make sense of them, finally.

Today, as I am sitting atop a large, comfortable bed, in a home full of warmth, kindness, and support, with Ray in my life, a job that brings me the income I need without taxing my self-worth, and a few extra pounds around my waistline, I recognize just how far I’ve come.  It’s been an amazing 2014, and has balanced off the darkness that was 2013.  I now am looking forward to a visit from an old friend over Thanksgiving, where I’m making a meal for at least four people, possibly more, in my home.  Ray and I have been seriously discussing a potential move-in with each other for 2015.  I’m more confident with work, and find myself doing something I can modestly enjoy.

There are still things I need to work on.  My writing has fallen aside a bit, and I need to pick that back up.  I need to find a way forward creatively.  My fitness plan is a dusty, torn idea thrown in some murky corner of my life that I need to revive and reconfigure.  Sitting in a bus seat for thirty-plus hours a week has taken a number on my body (and hasn’t stopped me from eating too much, sadly), so I know I need to get back on that horse if I’m ever going to make my goals for 40 come true.  I need to be better with the little money I am making, and find way to save the pennies I can in order to have and do the things I want to do.  These are some of my 2015 goals, and I’m sure there’ll be more.

For now, though, I have to admit, I’m happier than I’ve been in a long, long time, and I can still see ways forward that will continue to bring me even more joy into the future.  I am the Eternal Optimist™.  I always will be.

More Fitness Reflections

Last week saw me really diving into the fitness regime I’ve been hoping to get onboard with since obtaining my new job at TriMet.  Because of the way my schedule works, I have the opportunity to do a morning bus run, and am back at the garage by nine in the morning.  From nine till about four in the afternoon, I’ve got my free time.  It’s in this time that I have been taking advantage of the gym at work, or coming home and running.  I’m also able to catch up on my sleep, and eat a good meal, and sometimes – and this is still being figured out – I get to write.

In any regard, today, as I sipped some coffee and got my brain to begin firing on more than a few cylinders, it dawned on me that this whole Fit by Forty idea goes way beyond just what I look like in the mirror.  It starts with the choices I make with the food I put in my body, but it extends all the way to whom I let into my life, and the choices I make towards all-over health and wellbeing in my world.  I have had such a dark past with regards to food, and I’m on the verge of sussing through all of that.  For now, though, realizing how the ways I treat myself and my body are interconnected seems to be important to me.  It’s like taking a more global view on what it is I’m actually doing with this fitness goal and plan.

I get to chose how to respect myself with every action I take.  What I eat, what movements I choose to incorporate into my life, the way I treat myself in terms of sleep, the people I engage with, the social activities I take part in – all of it – seems to feed this whole life transformation.  Fitness is going way beyond the gym.  It’s going way beyond the size of my biceps, or the calories I’ve taken in.  It’s a full-on, total life adjustment.  I knew this was a possibility, but I didn’t expect it to be this all-encompassing.  Realizing this feels a tad overwhelming, but also empowering at the same time.

As an aside, I’m already noticing that I stand up taller.  I’m filling my shirts a bit better.  I can see a different shape when I look in the mirror.  Eating well, and balancing that with a healthy dose of picking up heavy things and putting them down, has already started to serve me well.  If anything, this is feeding my drive to see where all of this takes me.