My Body Answered Back

Well my friends, my body answered back. The interesting part is that she found a voice from outside of me! I was fully intending on writing a letter response but the gal who coached and trained Chelle, my nutritionist, wrote this to me. Interesting how life works, isn’t it? When the student is ready, the teacher appears. So I thank you, Tabitha, and so does my body. Thank you for caring enough to take the time to craft this reply, and to share this knowledge on behalf of my body. And now for your reading pleasure, I share with you this excellent treasure…hey! I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it! Lol.

Dear BGitB,

This is your body. I have heard your message loud and clear. While your words sting and hurt, I can understand why you have spewed them forth. Now it is my turn to spew forth words.

First things first, I am on your side. As you already know, change is difficult and that goes double for me. You have to understand that I can’t change on the outside until I get things in order on the inside. Rest assured that with your continued hard work, I have begun to change. Eventually the changes I am making in my deep innermost layers will start to migrate outwards for the entire world to witness. Even though you can’t see them, they are there. I am working to the best of my ability directly proportional to the work that you make me do and the fuel that you feed me to do it. The main point is…what YOU do (workouts and eating) affects me, affects how I change and in turn affects the long term goal that you have set for the both of us. I also dream of the day when we can reach that goal, but we have to do this together. It is not you against me or vice versa. We are a team! We are inseparable! Through good and bad, success and failure, triumph and struggle. This pity party is over! It is time to move past it and start working together again. With that in mind, here is what I need that will help me help you. You ready? Ok, let’s go:

1) I like to be pushed, and pushed hard! -Every time we workout it has to be beyond our comfort zone. We have to jump a little bit outside of our box every time. For example, It is not enough to just complete 12 reps of an exercise. If we are aiming for 12, get there and can keep going…we need to keep going. Because if you can do 12 with good form then you can probably do 13….and so on…maybe up to 15, maybe to 18, maybe even to 22.5! The point is we don’t just stop at a number we stop when we get to our limit and we cannot do even one more rep with good safe form. Maybe we have to increase the weight. You have the control to challenge me. Do not step away from this challenge and do not be afraid of it. It is what I really really need to push past the times when I feel like there is no reason to change. Which brings me to my next tip.

2) Change things up! I am a very adaptable machine. I thrive on adapting to stress. Meaning, if you throw stress at me I am going to adapt to it so that the next time you apply the same stress I am going to be ready to handle it. Let me give you a secret…if you continue to change things up and present new challenges I have to continue to adapt. I have no choice. I have to change to deal with that new stress.

3) Don’t trust that stupid scale! – I get such a bad rap because of that stupid machine. It makes me look lazy and like I am not doing anything. Don’t get on it. Smash it. Throw it out. It does not tell even a FRACTION of the story of what is going on inside here. You have heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”? Well, I have a new one for you “Don’t judge fitness journey by a number on a scale”. You don’t know how much muscle I can or can’t build in a month. If I have been inactive for a long time and there are muscles that I need to build to get those workouts done, you are darn tootin’ that I am going to build it! (1lb, 5lbs, 10lbs) If I need it I need it! And once that muscle is built it will work in both our favors to burn off more calories when we are NOT in the gym. Instead, I want you to focus on how your clothes fit, measurements, personal bests, and photographs. Why use one silly stinking number to tell a whole story when there are so many other resources to paint a clearer picture? I am begging you to use them to our advantage.

4) Clean eating, Challenge, Change, Consistency, Commitment – As you can see my favorite letter in the alphabet is the letter “C”. I must have your word as your bond that you will adhere to all of these “C” words. When you “Blip”, I “Blip”. You admitted in your letter to me that you may not have been 100% committed to our journey together. But, YOU have to be. I need you to be. WE need you to be. OUR GOAL needs you to be. If it helps, write these “C” words down and post them all over the place. I mean EVERYWHERE! Whenever you feel like you are going to stray off the path, try to remember just one of them and repeat it over and over to yourself. Technically all you have to do is remember the letter “C”. You have to make it your favorite letter too! Our goals and our dreams depend on it.

You have to remember that this journey is 90% mental! You control me. I don’t control you. Take ownership of that control and continue to do everything you can…EVERYTHING YOU CAN to leave NOTHING ON THE TABLE! I believe in you and I hope that you still believe in me. Together we are a team. We have to stay that way. Without you, I don’t exist, and without me, you don’t either. I am here for you no matter what, and I will work with you as a team. It is not going to be easy, nothing worthwhile ever is. However, with your mind power and heart added to my physical power and ability we can move mountains! WE have to believe that…our goal depends on it!

Love always,

Your Body

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Dear Body

Dear body,

What the hell is going on?

My heart is broken. I’m a mess and in anguish. I’ve been feeding you cleaner and healthier foods than ever before. I’ve given you supplements, exercise, rest. I’ve lifted weights with you, danced, walked on the stair stepper. The past month you and me have been through a lot and I thought there was progress, real progress. It seems maybe a little easier to do some things, but am I just kidding myself?

Because you see, my mind had a hard time with all this. I’m doing everything I am supposed to do. And listen, we both know I wasn’t ever “perfect.” I did have cheat meals. But damnit, they were more contained and in control than before. The vast majority of the time I’ve been disciplined, regimented.

But you seem dead set against me. I cannot fathom your reaction.

You seem bound and determined to stay fat. You actually seem to want to adapt to carrying all this extra poundage in the form of adipose. You’ll work and change, but only so you can more easily do the activities I ask of you while still staying fat. You won’t give it up. You are not releasing. And I am at my wits end.

I didn’t weigh myself for a month. An entire month! I did this because I understand I’m not looking for instant gratification. I’m in it for the long run. I’m doing it “slowly” and with clean eating and exercise and all that. So I get that things fluctuate week to week. I realized weighing myself weekly got me depressed and wasn’t worth the stress or heartache. I’m walking the walk so there should be progress. Actually, I expect there to be. So fine, I’m willing to let you do what you need to do while I plug away. But there has to be an objective measure of progress at some point in time. A month seemed reasonable. How could I possibly not be better off than I was 30 days ago?

Because you suck that’s why. I don’t understand how I can be 8 pounds heavier than before. When clothes seem looser (but am I delusional?) when I seem to be able to cope with dancing better? I was in utter disbelief with this number. I purposefully chose this long period of time between weighings so I could set myself up for a win. Even after a night of sleep and emptying myself I’m still a good 6 pounds higher than before. WTF?

I take responsibility for less than perfect choices at times but even taking these into account this result just doesn’t make sense to me. There is no way in hell, even with the blips I had, that I should be up weight. And don’t nobody even mention that idea that I’ve gained muscle. I call bullshit. No person in the history of people ever put on over 6 pounds of muscle in 30 days. Especially not a girl.

You make me feel like I am doomed to a life of active obesity. That no matter how hard I work I will still be big. I will never be lean. It just doesn’t seem possible when you pull shit like this. Why are you not on board with this, anyways? It has got to be a better situation for you to be a healthier size and weight, to have better cardiovascular health, clearer lungs, the ability to go out and experience the world.

I totally understand why so many people don’t stick with losing weight. If I was seeing progress, any progress toward becoming a normal weight I’d be thrilled. But every single fucking time I check in I’m no better than I was four months ago in terms of body weight. Pathetic progress I say!

I feel like I do a lot. Yes, I’m getting all indignant and going into victim mode here but just let me get this out. I know I have to pick myself up from the dirt once again damnit and I need to clear this because it sucks to be repeatedly knocked to the floor over and over and over every single time I try to objectively measure progress. I am angry. Angry, do you hear me? I feel like I do more than most people. I thought that combine clean healthy eating with all the activity I was doing and I’d drop weight fast. It wasn’t happening so I INCREASED my activity. I didn’t let it be an excuse but tried a new tactic. AND YOU ARE STILL FUCKING WITH ME! YOU FUCKING BASTARD! So what the hell? I swear to God other people do what I’m doing and they would drop weight. Why will you not? When is enough, enough? Do I have train 6 hours a day or eat 1400 calories a day? I don’t have that kind of time! It would be a ridiculous lifestyle to live. It doesn’t seem like it should require such extremes. Why will you not bend to my will when I take less severe measures? I thought I was being compassionate toward myself but you are not responding. You are a fucking hoarder. Must I put you under a knife to change? Is that the route I should take?

It is going on nigh 3 years and you are still a disgusting obese mass of flesh, jiggly and slow, incapable of doing certain activities. I despise you in so many ways. I have been trying to make peace with you and you betray me at every turn. People say to be grateful for what I do have, and yes, I am. But right now I’m so angry at you I can’t see straight. And I don’t wish on my worst enemy the amount of effort, sweat, tears, and heartache it has taken even to get to this place. They say focus on how far you have come. Blah blah blah. I don’t have time to meander the rest of this path anymore and thought I was kicking it into high gear. And still my goals loom so far away. Have we even gotten any closer?

I feel like You are a taker. You take and take and take and don’t give up anything! You drain my very heart and spirit in this struggle to push your gargantuan mass up a mountain and you fail to pick up your end of the work. I am absolutely disgusted that I am still only 20 pounds lighter than I was than at the beginning of the year. Eight months of work for 20 pounds is absolutely ridiculous. Who in their right mind is going to stick with this? If I stay at the same rate, and oh wait, we don’t know when this plateau will end, so it might be even longer, but if it takes you 8 months to drop 20 pounds than I’m looking at like 3 years to get this done. Holy hell I just want to weigh less than 200 pounds. I just want to be smaller than men.

Is this too much to ask? From your response it seems that it is. It seems that you don’t want to change or that you require me to abuse you. I thought we were going about this sanely and safely and healthfully but you are a stubborn shithead. When you do not budge It feels like you would rather we look like a beached whale. That you would rather stay the same so we feel the need to cover ourself from wrist to ankle in the blistering heat of July in Arizona. You would rather we be relegated to the “woman’s” section in department stores and never wear shorts or shirts with sleeves shorter than 3/4ths. Apparently you don’t mind looking older and homely, or how it is affecting our dancing.

Perhaps you have some thoughts on this situation but the truth is right now I am too angry with you to hear them. Take a few days to meditate on what I have said here and write me back when you are (I am) ready to help me see this from a different perspective. And you better fucking tell me what it is going to take to finally get you to change! Make sure that is part of your answer.

Until then fuck you. If I could divorce you right now I would.

*Dear readers, this letter to my body is part of me processing the way I feel at the moment. I am just as determined as ever to continue on. I will not be going backwards because I have worked too damn hard for every tiny gain and I never want to have to go through this again. When I am calmer and saner and feeling better I will write a response back from my body to me. Kind of like how I did here with food. And reading this I can see that I have very much forged a much, much healthier relationship with food. It does not have the same hold on me as it once did.

It has been a rough couple of days for me emotionally but one thing I have been doing successfully and is new is channelling and transmuting this pain. For instance, yesterday I did some extra cardio and used the pain to push myself. Also, on my dance lesson today Ivan could immediately tell something was wrong but I said, “No talking. Just dancing.” And we had a focused and productive time. Stuffing myself with food wasn’t even an option!! If anything I am more clear and disciplined than ever. So, yeah, I am having a little pitty party for myself, but only because I have the intent of moving through it as quickly as possible and back to neutral so that I can get back to the business of transforming my body as efficiently and effectively as possible. Hopefully soon I will be able to look back on this letter, and the one I write back from my body, and see the same type of growth as I see when re-reading my old letter to food.

It’s Emotional

Sorry no vlog today, ha ha!  The truth is that the past few days have been awesome as well as emotional and I’m feeling the need for some writing therapy.  I need to just “write it out” today….that or it would have been a 90 minute vlog, probably with some whining and crying, and nobody wants to watch that!  lol.

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Photo from Desert Classic – if you want to see more check out my Facebook Page where I uploaded an entire photo album of the trip.

We’ll pick up the story from Thursday when I was feeling pretty darn good.  After my snafu last Sunday, I’ve been more focused and clear and determined than ever.  One thing I’ve learned on the journey so far is how important it is to take advantage of times like this because it’s not always like this!  But for now I have an opportunity to blaze forward productively and so I’m doing just that.  I’m rocking my eating plan, I’ve been dancing and going to the gym.  I even made it there on my own to work my arms and legs on two separate days which has been an intention I’ve had for a while but this week I was finally able to put it into action.

I’ve also been reflecting on how very far I’ve come over the past three years.  And something my husband did made the changes even more recognizable than ever; he got a new digital picture frame at work so he brought the old one home and loaded it with all sorts of images, including photos from trips we took a few years ago.

The woman I see staring back at me looks so completely different.  I can’t believe that it was me, that I was ever that big.  Because I feel so entirely humongous right now.  And right now is 80 pounds or so less than what I used to be.

It made me incredibly, incredibly sad to see these pictures.  My mood changed in an instant from glad, proud, motivated and peppy, to reflective and somber (though still determined, actually, maybe even more determined – like I am NEVER going back there!!! No way, no how).

I am saddened by the reflection of me that I see in the photos.  I am so sad that I felt I was worth so little, that I disliked myself so much, that it somehow became okay to let myself become that woman staring back at me with a smile slapped on just in time for the camera flash.  Because I can see she is unhappy.  She is uncomfortably huge.  She has no fashion sense or sparkle.  She wants to hide.  She looks older.  And she isn’t even that pretty – her loveliness is covered, coated, dampened by the wall of flesh she fashioned from her silent misery as a shield between herself and the world.

It’s so weird because I, this very day, see myself as so very large.  A glance in the mirror confirms that my size dwarfs those beside me.   And let’s face it, I’m still categorized as obese. I cannot wrap my mind around this other way of being, that it was me, that it still is me.  Because even as large as I still am, and as far as I still have to go, there is a vivacity about me when I look in the mirror.  There is a sparkle in my eye, an aliveness, that is absent in those digital photos.

And it is a weird mental game this body image thing – especially when it was so messed up to begin with, and especially because I’m changing my body right now.  I am not entirely in touch, nor was I, with my actual body.  I say this because there is a certain amount of denial that has to happen to become 313 pounds.  I could say in my head that I could dance or jump even if the reflection in the mirror told a different story.  Reality hit when I noticed myself struggling to walk about 200 feet from the car to a building entrance.  It took that particular incident to notice something wasn’t right.  I’m mean, of course I’d noticed I needed larger clothing sizes, that I could barely squeeze into airplane seatbelts, that the rollercoaster safety bar didn’t close properly and that I had to be kicked off the ride.  But it was this event that woke me up.  I thought, “I used to be a dancer.  This isn’t right.  I shouldn’t be having a hard time walking.”

Anyways, here I am, three years later, and there is a lot of progress and growth and weight loss to be proud of.

But I am only halfway up the mountain.  Maybe less.  And this is a sobering reality.

Even as I am in a space to acknowledge my progress, with both my health and my dancing, I am also in a space to be in touch with reality.  I’m in that in-between, and it is truly a bizarre place to be.

All my life, as long as I can remember, the picture in my mind of my body was that it was huge.  Now, looking back at objective evidence in photographs, I was a normal-sized person, if not as lean or thin as I wanted to be.  But I couldn’t see that.  I could only see my cellulite, my bulges, my body which was larger than the other girls next to me in dance class.

So when I began to become bigger, and reality began to match my mental image of myself, I wasn’t surprised.  At first, I fought back.  After gaining the “freshman fifteen” (and then some), I worked my butt off during summer and got down to a lower weight before school began.  But after that things spiraled out of control and I gave up and gave in.  I accepted my role as a fat, frumpy girl.  The one no boys noticed.  The one who faded into the background.  Who was un-special.  And I got bigger and bigger and bigger.

So now, I’m on the other end of this pendulum.  I have a vision of my body in my head that is smaller, leaner, fitter and the reality doesn’t match.  It’s very confusing.  Plus, I still have a lingering vision of my body as it was at its largest and expect physical activities to feel as they did 50 pounds ago.

What do I mean by this?  Well today on my workout with my trainer at the gym she asked me to do some exercises I’ve never done before.  She wanted me to do “mountain climbers” and some half-pushups when all I’ve managed to do recently were on an incline and it took a long time and a lot of struggle to get to the place where those were really do-able.  Anyways, I see her do these exercises and my sensory memory creates a picture for me of what it would be to do these things…but with the body I used to have, not the one I have today.  So I panicked.  I had already told her that I might get emotional, that it just comes up sometimes, especially with physical stuff, and that it is not meant to get her to ease up on me or anything, that I am at the very least open to attempting the things asked of me, but sometimes it just comes up and I can’t control it.  I told her that my first reaction is automatically going to probably be that I can’t do something, but that even so, I will try it, and based on evidence from taking this approach, I think I’ve mentioned it before, I truly do not have a realistic picture of what I can and can’t do.  I have many times been surprised when I am able to do an exercise that in my mind appears impossible.

So anyways, the mountain climbers set off “red alert” alarms, and with that, emotion.  Enter waterworks.  But I gave it a try.  And by God, I was able to do them.  Yes, it was taxing.  Yes, I went pretty slow in places.  Yes I rested.  And, I completed the sets.  I was gobsmacked.

Same thing with the half-pushups and some weirdo planks where I had to put my leg out to the side for 15 reps.  I thought these feats outside of my abilities but they were within my reach.

It feels similar in terms of dancing when it comes to what I think I can do versus what I can actually do, and how I feel inside versus the reflection in the mirror.  But with dancing, it is even more muddied.  I think I’m both better and worse than I actually am.  I truly don’t have an accurate gague of my level or ability, and heck, it is such a subjective thing anyways, I don’t know that my reality will ever agree with anybody else’s!

In any case, I was feeling all good and happy and went to a double lesson Saturday  but then was faced with a reality check.  Basically, I’m really struggling to find the balance between emoting, feeling the dance and the music, and also being on top of all the technical aspects that must be present for excellent dancing.  I also struggle with feeling really good about it on the inside and still needing another person’s approval as validation, or feeling really rotten about it on the inside when I’m getting positive feedback from someone else’s perspective.  In terms of the emotion versus technique, it seems that I’m only able to do one thing or the other, but not both together at the same time, at least, not yet.  And for the other part, I think it comes to trusting myself and knowing my truth rather than looking for answers from the outside, while at the same time recieving feedback, especially from those I respect.

In any case, we got into one particular techincal aspect on our last lesson, namely timing and counting, which continues to be a difficulty.  Where to start about this!?  Really!  I mean, I “know” the counts of my dancing.  I don’t have the habit of counting out loud, which is not the best.  I do count in my head, which is better than nothing.  But still, there are points of confusion. And perhaps I believe the counts are one way when they are different in Ivan’s mind.  For instance, there is one move in Rumba where I thought I would go directly into a spiral but he thought I’d hold and move slowly onto my leg for preparation for four counts.  We were both counting, but we were counting different moves.  It created confusion and frustration.  Our bodies were fighting against each other, me trying to move forward, him holding me back in place.  He told me I wasn’t counting.  But I was!  But, alas, it was still my fault because it was incorrect!  Gah!

And then there is another figure where I was counting it correctly, and I even counted it out loud to Ivan but just flat and he said it was correct. But then I told him how I was saying it in my head…two, Threeeeee, four, and-one, my thinking being to draw out the three to make the four faster (which seemed like it should be right for the step in my silly head even though we all know that the emphasis in Cha Cha is on beats 1 and 3) and so I was counting it correctly, but with the wrong emphasis.  So I looked slower than him and we were not in sync.  It’s one of those little details where I can see something is amiss but it’s not (seemingly) a gross error, and so left to linger while I’m in the process figuring out the big details like which step comes next!  And plus I’m not sure how to fix it even when I do notice things like this.

Anyways, we had big discussions about all this (and more) and it’s awesome.  Maybe not easy, maybe not “fun,” exactly, but I so totally see the value in it and I want to improve my abilities.  Plus, I’m so grateful Ivan is sharing this information with me.  I don’t know that many students get into this level of detail with their pro, and consider myself extremely lucky that Ivan is doing what he can to empower me with the tools I can use to become a better dancer, as well as someone who can more effectively and efficiently practice on my own, much less become a better communicator in terms of the dance routines.

Indeed, I think this has been a huge breakthrough for how I communicate with Ivan.  Now I know that when things aren’t working we can talk about the counting and make sure we have the same understanding of what is supposed to happen.  Instead of seeing the other person as frustrating or wrong we can simply come into alignment, and our bodies will surely follow.  I’m excited that this is possible.

Well, anyways, I had this minor tiff with Ivan for about 30 seconds on our lesson yesterday when I thought I was moving forward and he thought I wasn’t, and though it was resolved and indeed led to a renewed desire to count and be accountable for my dancing, it dampened my mood.  But I focused on all I was grateful for, decided to take it in and not let it get me down, decided to let it be a tool to build me up rather than focusing on what I lack, and I was able to come back to an even keel relatively quickly.  That, and I had a visit with some ballroom friends over coffee and later at a barbecue, and so I was refreshed and motivated than ever for my lesson this morning.

I showed up ready to work and when Ivan said, “We didn’t work on Samba yesterday,” I was like, “Well, I went over my routines with the counts in my head and I have one question about this one area in the Cha Cha.  Before we start in on the Samba can we review that?”

Well, it turned into the entire lesson.  And I think some good work was done.  I was feeling strong and sassy.  I was kind of liking how I was moving in the mirror.  It was good (in my head), and we worked on this one part, adding the details of where, exactly, I’m supposed to look, where I place emphasis, and all that, and Ivan decided he needed to film me.  So I wasn’t thrilled about this, because I don’t like seeing myself in photos or videos, but I obliged, because, well, it is excellent feedback.  So he videoed me and he liked maybe 80% of it, which was an improvement, and all, but when I saw the video, I was so very sad and disappointed in how I was moving.  I went from feeling good about it, to being faced with the reality of it, and in two seconds flat once again felt badly about myself.

To me, I look so big and slow, as if my body moving underwater instead of through the air.  How am I ever going to look fast, to create contrast and dynamic, to become the dancer I wish to be?  I already feel like I’m moving as fast as physics will allow but it is still ridiculously slow in appearance.  Sigh.  The obstacles in front of me see dishearteningly insurmountable but I’m choosing to tell myself that I’m just in the part of the story where the hero seems farthest away from his goal.  It’s this that makes a tale epic, so it just means that I’m on an epic journey lol.

But epic though it may (or may not) be, for me at least, this process is extremely emotional.  I’m weathering highs and lows sometimes moment to moment.  I have a vision and dream for myself when it comes to my body and my dancing in which I’m deeply invested, but sometimes the closer I am to realizing them from where I initially started, the further away they seem.  You know, like when you are climbing a mountain and you think you are just below the summit and it turns out to be a turn in the trail revealing a whole new section you couldn’t see before – it’s like that.  I keep climbing higher and discovering just how much higher the summit is than I thought.  There’s no bones about it – it can be discouraging.  But I remind myself that I am the sky, and these passing moods are the clouds, ever-moving and changing.  The sun will come out soon enough.

Part of that “sun” and part of what has been so awesome over the past few days even amongst my lower moments, has been sharing the journey and connecting with others.  Like I said, I spent part of my weekend in fellowship with other dancers, but something very special has also happened that touched my heart.

Every once in a while I make a connection in real life through the blog and that has been the biggest and most unanticipated blessing of writing about my life experiences. I’ve made a few friends and sometimes receive messages via Facebook or Twitter, and even one letter in the mail (can you believe it!?) but today was the first time I had a phone call conversation with a very special person who reads the blog.  The conversation I had with this courageous and strong individual touched my heart profoundly.  Because this dancer shared with me that the blog had been a kind of “lifeline” during a really difficult time.  That reading it, that me putting myself “out there” and sharing authentically from my heart, had come at just the right time and had been a part of a healing process.  It was, as you might guess, emotional.  Because just like me, this person has been transformed and coaxed back to life through dance, and to have been a part of that is awesome and humbling and so very special.

Indeed, it has been an interesting couple of days, with the emotinal roller coaster only being truly alive can offer.  I’ve had much to reflect upon, I’ve experienced a wide variety of emotional ups and downs, I’ve connected with friends, and my next competition is just weeks away.  It is an interesting space, this “in-between” where I started and where I am going and I have a feeling that I’ve only just begun.  I believe and that more discoveries about myself, and my body, and my dancing are just around the corner.  It’s an exciting time, though I’m tempered with the knowledge that the road stretches long and far before me.

There’s work to do yet, but I am grateful for the people on my team helping me move forward.  Between Ivan, Chelle, and everyone who encourages me along the way, I believe my goals are possible and I’m clear and focused like never before. I am determined to keep plugging along, and so I will, however it looks, emotional and all.