The Ten-Year Challenge

On the social medias this month, the ten-year challenge is all the rage. The challenge consists of posting photos of oneself in 2009 alongside pictures taken more recently, and I think that the only people who are doing it are the ones who really don’t look any different or the ones who finally figured out the right haircut for their face shape and have stopped wearing eyeliner around their entire eyes and looking like the guys in Good Charlotte and as a result they actually look much better now than they did ten years ago. I have not taken part in this challenge for a few reasons, such as I don’t really have many photos of myself from 2009, and because 2009 was not a good year for me hairstyle-wise, and because I do not think I have any photos of myself from 2019 whatsoever. I don’t really like pictures of myself because my eyes always look tired and squinty like I either just smoked a bowl or haven’t slept for weeks, and because when I smile my left eye forgets how to eye and it will be half-closed and weird-looking and appears much smaller than my right one and then all I can see when I look at photos is my right eye which appears freakishly big but it isn’t, the left one is just being stupid and making the right one look bad. All I can really do to mitigate this is to not smile and hope for the best (and also later be subjected to “you need to smile more” comments from people who do not know the struggle of having an eye that does not know how to eye), or better yet, just not take pictures of myself.

My eye that cannot eye.

To me, the ten-year challenge is a reminder of just how quickly time passes, because in my mind 2009 doesn’t actually feel all that terribly long ago. For the first time in my life, this year I have found myself particularly preoccupied with my age. I think this is because I’m turning thirty-five in July, putting me much closer to mid-thirties than early-thirties, which means that all too soon I’m going to be in my LATE thirties and that shit is a little scary.

This whole worrying-about-being-old thing is new to me, because in my twenties I had an annoying coworker who would constantly remind me of how I looked so young and would exclaim not-helpful things like “How on earth did you convince them to let you work here when you’re only 12?!?” Other people in my life were more subtle about it, but enough people would tell me that I looked so much younger than I was that I felt pretty confident that by the time I was in my forties I would just look like what other people looked like in their twenties. Now though, I rarely see myself in a mirror when I don’t look sleep-deprived and squishy in places that used to be firm, and I would be lying if I said that part of my desire to lose weight this year has nothing to do with a faint hope of recapturing some of my youthful look. I had never thought that I would be using the word “haggard” to describe my appearance, and yet here we are. And this is in spite of the fact that I now a drink a ton of water every day and try to get enough sleep and wear moisturizer and sunscreen and actually take off my makeup every night before I go to bed.

Instead of posting photos of myself ten years ago and now, I would like to instead think about how much more awesome my life is now than it was in 2009. Back then, I still lived in California, I had the afore-mentioned not-great hairstyle, I was working a job I hated, I was in a relationship that didn’t make me feel safe or fulfilled, and I felt rather stuck in life. I threw myself into activities like volunteering so that I could do something to make me feel good and also to fill up my time so I did not have any free moments to contemplate the stuck feelings. If I had actually paused to think about it, I would have had to admit to myself that overall I was pretty unhappy. And so when I finally did pause, I began making major changes. I moved to Washington, got jobs at work that I liked much better, and surrounded myself with people who loved me and cheered me on and helped me feel comfortable just being me. I learned to end relationships that didn’t make me feel good, paving the way to the incredible marriage I now enjoy with my husband. My late twenties and early thirties have been all about figuring out what works for me. I may not look better than I did in 2009, but my life most certainly does.

 

 

Motivation Monday: Celebrate Progress

Happy Monday! I’m going into this new week feeling determined and inspired by the hard work I did over the last seven days. Last week felt particularly long and busy, and I still managed to work out for five out of seven days! I was particularly proud of myself on Wednesday, when it took me nearly two hours to drive the 22 miles home from work, and I still rushed to change my clothes and make it to dance. The old me would’ve blown that class off, for sure, but instead I went and it was the perfect way to shake off the stress of my commute.

I weighed myself this morning and I’m down 1.1lbs from my weight last Monday, which makes me really happy! My eating last week certainly wasn’t perfect, but I did find myself making some changes that I think made the difference. Last night I prepared a pasta dish that Bill and I love, and I cut my usual serving in half. On Thursday night, we went out for dinner, and I ordered no rice and extra veggies with my entrée since we had chips and salsa before our dinners were brought out.

When working toward a long-term goal, I think it’s important to give myself credit for steps I’m taking along the way that will lead to achievement of that goal. When I was working toward my degree, I celebrated each time I completed a class, knowing that finishing all of them was a big task that was going to take me several months to accomplish. Likewise, if I continue on my current pace (which will be just fine with me; losing around a pound a week is healthy for me), it’s going to take me around twenty weeks to get to my goal weight.  And if I factor in that there will probably be some setbacks, like our upcoming trip to the UK, I can reasonably expect that I’ll be hitting my weight-loss goal right around my birthday in July…six months from now.

Six months is a long time to keep sight of a goal. It seems so far away, but I know that time will fly by much faster than I expect it to. Cheering for myself as I hit different milestones along the way will keep me motivated and help me during the times when these changes feel really hard and I want to revert back to my old lifestyle. And so, I’m celebrating my first week completed and my first pound lost, and I have decided to treat myself to something nice and non-food related like a manicure or a massage for each five pounds lost. I’m also going to continue to make note of the small changes, like choosing veggies over rice at dinner, so that I can remember them the next time I’m eating out and hopefully repeat them and make them habits.

 

Motivation Monday: Make a Plan

I know how cliché these types of New Year’s goals are, but…I am determined to lose weight in 2019.

As of New Year’s Day, I am the biggest I have ever been in my life. I am twenty pounds heavier than I was on my wedding day, and thirty pounds heavier than I was at my smallest. I’m just not happy with how I look and feel at this weight – clothes that I love don’t fit, and I don’t feel confident that I can do all of the things I like to do (like 50+ mile bike rides).

Does the extra weight make me feel as though I am not as worthy of love? Not at all; in 2018 I accomplished long-term goals and my achievements made my self-confidence skyrocket. Could I be happy at this new weight for the rest of my life? Honestly, the answer to that question is no. Everyone has their own perceptions of themselves and I feel that I just look better when I’m leaner.

I know that in order to be successful, I need to make a plan. Last August, I wrote a blog post about going back to what worked for me in the past when I lost weight and maintained the loss – counting calories and sticking to a workout routine. Over the last several months I have gotten better about tracking my food and activity in MyFitnessPal, but I would routinely go over my allotted calorie amount and find excuses to skip working out. What did work for me back then is not working for me now. I still think calorie counting is the best approach for me, but decided that my food and workouts needed evaluating. I also strongly believe that I should only make changes that I’m willing to live with forever, with means crash diets are clearly out and I’m looking to instead make more moderate and sustainable changes.  

A lot of diets center around having a variety of food options, so that the dieter doesn’t get bored. The opposite actually works well for me: I typically like to eat the same breakfasts and lunches every day during the week, so that those meals become routine and I don’t have to think about them. I want to continue doing that. But when I really examined my eating habits, I was able to pinpoint some things that were leading to failures. First of all was my attitude toward breakfast. Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight has heard that it’s very important to eat breakfast, and so I do so religiously. But when I started paying attention to my hunger levels, I found that I’m not actually hungry at 5am when I get up for work, and I was eating breakfast merely out of habit. That also meant I was eating a very light breakfast and not staying full for very long. In January, I decided to try switching it up and eating a more hearty breakfast of eggs scrambled with turkey sausage and bell peppers, but not having my first meal until I got to work around 7am. Probably not shockingly, with this new regimen I am actually hungry when it’s time to eat, and the food I’m eating is keeping me full until lunchtime. Since beginning this experiment there hasn’t been a single time that I wanted a mid-morning snack.

Lunch was the next meal I decided to evaluate. In the past, I had success by making a Shakeology shake with almond milk and bringing that for lunch. I don’t remember hunger being an issue in the past, but lately I noticed that I would have my shake and then feel hungry again almost immediately. This would leave me craving snacks, and more often than not I would give into those cravings. Since my shake wasn’t working for me anymore, I decided to swap it out and have been bringing a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread for lunch. The sandwich I make is only 60 calories more than the shake was, but it is SO much more filling and satisfying. I do still find myself feeling hungry by around 3pm, and when that happens I’ll have a snack, usually a Greek yogurt. Bill and I are pretty good about pre-planning weeknight dinners and cooking healthy meals at home, so I am not planning to make changes there.

Honestly, my biggest downfall when it comes to food is on the weekend, when we like to go out for dinners and drinks. I love eating out, and I also love high-calorie snacks like popcorn at the movies. I do not have a lot of willpower or self-control when it comes to these things and I know it. I also know that they should be treats, not habits. My goal for the weekends, at least for right now, is to limit them to one splurge. I’m hoping that the promise of one really nice treat will be the incentive I need to plan healthier food the rest of the weekend.

I can also mitigate some of the weekend splurge damage by working out on Saturday and Sunday, and I am determined to make sure I take full advantage of extra time on my days off to exercise. My gym offers Red Hot Dance classes that I absolutely love on Saturday mornings, as well as on Monday and Wednesday nights. There is rarely a legitimate reason why I can’t go to the classes. During the week, I’m tired when I get home from work so I let myself skip class to stay home, even though I know I’ll feel better if I go. On Saturdays, I rarely get up and moving around in time to be at a dance class or anywhere else at 10am, but that is easy to change. To achieve my best results, I really think I need to be workout out 4-5 times per week. To start out, I am going to set my intention at four days a week. I can attend the three dance classes at the gym, and work out with Bill on Sundays. I don’t want to get discouraged, but once I’m comfortable in that routine I want to add a fifth day and work out for at least thirty minutes one day during the week.

The last part of my plan is to be open and honest with myself about my progress and struggles, which includes writing about them. I know that this process is going to be hard. Forming new habits is hard. Workouts are hard. But achieving my goals will make the hard work oh so very worth it.