Ironwoman Dreams

If I can do this, anyone can.


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If The Image Fits: A Body Image Story

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for almost five years now. For the majority of that time, I’ve been single, and in the 30-something dating pool, which, as it is, is a veritable Chex party mix of losers, overachievers, crazies, the emotionally damaged, and, then, people like me, who have happened to make a series of bad choices in their 20s that have left them in the category of “never marrieds.”

In this day and age, we all find ourselves converging in the same mixed bowl that is Internet dating, and we have to sift through hundreds, even thousands of completely wrong matches to find a few promising faces to talk with.

One day, as I was rooting through the thugs, goths, hippies, jocks, and closet s&m freaks, I came across a handsome smiling face. He seemed to have a lot in common with me: a similar taste in movies and music, a decent sense of humor, very into charity work, and athletic. He’d also lived in London, as had I. At the end of his profile, he mentioned that, as he was very athletic himself, that he wanted to date someone fit as well. Perfect, right?

I sent a little note, asking him where he’d lived in London, and mentioning that I fundraise and volunteer for various charities. He wrote back promptly, but, when I read his reply, he’d provided where he’d lived in London, as a polite answer to my question, but he added, “Good luck finding your man.”

Normally, I would have just let it go and not given this much of a second thought, but for some reason, I was curious to know why he had shut me down so immediately. So, I asked, politely, what about my profile was un-appealing to him,

It took him a full day to reply. Maybe he was hesitant to tell the truth, or maybe he was just busy. I got the reply after spending all day dancing and riding a spin bike at a charity event In Santa Monica.

“Well, for those who read my profile all the way to the bottom you can see that I prefer a certain physical type: fit.”

Be careful when you ask for the truth, folks. You just might get it. My blood boiled.

“I’M AN IRONWOMAN!” I wanted to scream at him. “Fit? Ha! Don’t you mean anorexic?”

I didn’t say those things, but only politely thanked him for his candor. Immediately I started to wonder if this is what most men wanted: “fit”, as in size zero slim, not as in 5’7″ and a size 10. It made me want to hate my body because it wasn’t “good enough.”

I’ve been here almost five years, like I said. While some of us find it easy to fit into that bowl of snack mix, others of us are just the odd pieces out. You wrestle all of the time with what kind of body that everyone tells you that you “should” have, versus the one that you do have. Maybe it’s normal to feel odd and awkward, and even low sometimes because you aren’t an acceptable shape or size, but it’s better to accept that you are who you are, and that, just like a sesame stick In a bowl of cereal, you’ll be picked from the bunch by someone who has different taste.

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The Mind of a Lifelong Fat Person: A Weight Loss Story

So, this post is going to be brutally honest. I’m setting aside all of my insecurities about revealing my insecurities, mainly because I hope to both shed some light on the inner workings of someone with a lifelong weight issue, and also to let other people who think like me feel like they aren’t alone.

If you were to see my weight on a graph throughout my life, it’d look something like this:

 

From Age 8 to Age 34

From Age 8 to Age 34

 

As you can see, I’ve had my ups and downs. And now, at 20-25 lbs more than my ideal, it’s definitely not the heaviest I’ve ever been, but it certainly makes me feel nervous. Nervous because I remember vividly what it’s like to be unquestionably obese, and I never want to be there again.

 

For much of my adolescent life, as a middle-class, Franco-American white kid, I internalized all of the prescribed standards of beauty. I never felt confident because I was awkward, clumsy, without the lithe, lean form of my peers. I had no friends in middle school. I secretly thought that, if I could just be “thin” that all of my social problems would melt away, along with the layers of fat that kept me relegated to sit alone in the cafeteria. I thought that it was my body that made me unlovable. Yet, in a twisted way, food became this comfort for me.

 

Every ice cream sundae, or doughnut, or chocolate bar became a treasure trove of delight, and the more my body expanded, the more adults commented on how I “should not be eating” something or another. My babysitter attempted to put me on a diet at age 8. My first official diet was Weight Watchers, at age 13, where I finally felt in control, after earning my “25 lbs” ribbon, a trophy that marked the dawn of a lifelong, arduous battle, fueled by self-loathing and attributing self worth to the numbers on the scale.

 

While, as an adult, I’ve gained more confidence and wisdom than that 13-year-old me, specters of the old me still haunt my life, and the mental habits of a lifelong dieter are tough to kill.

 

For instance, at every meal, I mentally tabulate all of the calories in my food before taking a bite. I often strategize how I’m going to eat said meal (start with veggies, eat half of the meat, drink lots of water). If I’m dining with others, I instantly silently compare not only what they’re eating, but how much of it they eat. I make doubly sure never to eat more than the other person (don’t want to look like a pig, right?).

At every exercise class, if there’s a mirror, I find myself looking at me and comparing my body with everyone else around me. Actually, I compare myself everywhere to other people. Why? Just to see if I’m the biggest one there. If I’m not, it’s a slight relief. If I am, there’s a small prickle of anxiety and discomfort with being the fatty in the room.

Every time I look in the mirror in the morning, I lift up my t-shirt to look at my stomach and hips. I turn to various angles to see if, possibly, by some miracle, my body has changed. When I’m making progress with weight loss and getting down to my goal weight, I can see definition in my abs and I can see my ribcage when I suck in. Before leaving the house, I make sure that I look at myself from every angle, ensuring that my clothing hides all of my “problem” areas. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten keener at what works for my body, so, typically I don’t have to change.

I may even leave the house with the idea, “Hey, I’m looking pretty good today!”

That belief is often shattered when I see a picture of myself, particularly in group shots, where the clothes I thought were flattering really do reveal all of my lumps and bumps, and, further, my 5’7”, size 10 frame hulks over other folks in the shot.

In which I look way fatter than I thought I looked in the morning.

In which I look way fatter than I thought I looked in the morning.

Seeing myself on camera is the only time when all of my sensible adult self-affirmation does no good. In rare cases, I panic slightly. Seeing the video version of myself giving a presentation from last week, here were my exact thoughts:

Omg, I’m fat.

Everything jiggles when I move around.

Where did that terrible posture come from?

Omg, I have a lower belly pooch.

I don’t even have a waist from the side, I’m just a big lump.

Wow, I had no idea I was THIS fat.

OMG, am I waddling?

 

 

It sounds insane, given that, really, compared to lots of Americans, I’m not THAT fat. I’m smaller than the average size 14 woman. I sound insane.

More insanity for you: When I ask friends if they think I’m fat, they squirm uncomfortably and say, “That’s not something I even notice about my friends.” Or, “No, you’re not fat.” In my head, I think, Liars. They might be lying, but they’re doing it to be nice.

On the other hand, when they are truthful, like my friend, who said, “Well, you’re on the heavier side, obviously…” Wait. What do you MEAN, “obviously”? Does that mean I’m unquestionably, undeniably fat? I never win with this question, but, still, I’m insecure enough to ask it when I’m struggling with my weight.

My mind is always churning, trying to figure out how to slay this unslayable beast, this fat monster who has not only affected, but undoubtedly altered my entire life. What would I have accomplished, what would I have said or done, if I hadn’t let my weight hold me back, undermine my confidence, and make me believe that I was less of a person, unworthy of love and friendship, because of it.

To so many of us, the state of being fat is a loaded one. Sure, the outside world may judge us based on our outer appearance, assuming sloth, low willpower, overindulgence, ugliness, messiness, bad habits, and more. The state of being fat is scary to everyone. We are afraid of losing control.

Every time I struggle to lose weight, in spite of my best efforts, the panic sets in. Every time, I have to talk myself down, reaffirm patience, and reaffirm that my body is healthy, in spite of a few extra pounds. I have to reassure myself that fat is not a value judgment of me. Every time I talk myself down, it gets easier.

The truth is, in life, sometimes we take giant broad jumps forward, only be dragged back a few feet by our old habits and insecurities. The only way to slay the monsters that set us back is to keep moving toward them, with less fear, every time.


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Push It: A Strength Training Story

The more I learn about fitness and my body, the more I realize that I went into this whole Ironman thing all wrong. While, yes, some of my IronTeammates had never competed in a triathlon prior to starting last season, and most of them finished their first Ironman several months later, it was kind of a long shot to imagine that a person with no base or foundation in a sport could compete in and finish the highest level of the sport nine months later.

As someone who grew up with her head in the clouds, nose in a book, and to whom sports (besides horseback riding) were a primitive and unnecessary activity, my body had learned to adapt to using the least amount of muscle to do anything. A smooshy endomorph, no matter how active I became in later years, I was never REALLY strong.

Strength training, to me, was never something I loved. Although I would spend some obligatory time on weight machines, and, at one time, worked my way up to being able to do 15 knee push-ups, I found the repetitive motions boring, unexciting, and pointless. I always lost weight primarily by running and other cardio.

When Beth told me that, to lean out, I would need to stop the long, slow cardio, and rev up my metabolism with strength training, I wasn’t thrilled, nor was I sure if I’d achieve the same fast-acting results that I did with running my booty off, but, seeing as I was dealing with tendinitis at the moment, I figured that I might as well try.

Results are coming. Not as quickly as they did with running, but I’m getting stronger, and starting to see my weight slide back down the scale. Phew!

And I have new goals. For example, jumping. Being airborne and bottom-heavy are things that do not mix. I’m lucky if I can get six inches off the ground, and that’s trying my very best. I know it’s going to take some time to be able to box jump like a pro, but I’m sticking with it.

My road to becoming a real IronWoman is long, but I hope to reach superhero status, and to do it the right way!


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Booty Kickin’ Fun!: A Training Story

Training for an Ironman, I always imagined that being in the best shape of my life would mean that I would also be the thinnest I’d ever been. I imagined a lean, mean, ripped body, and thought of it as a great bonus to challenging my mind and body to do things I never thought possible. What I got was an added 20 lbs, and a bonus 5 lbs afterward.

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I thought I’d look like her after the Ironman. “Ha” and “Ha.”

Apparently, it’s pretty common for endurance athletes, especially women, to pile on added layers of fat as they train long hours. The body knows how to protect itself. Come to think of it, the most weight I actually lost during my journey was during the beginning stages of training for the half marathon, when we were running no more than 8 miles, and revving up the strength training and speed during the week. 

When I came to my friend, Beth Bishop, a personal trainer at Mansion Fitness in Hollywood, CA, with my weight gain woes, she told me in her no-nonsense manner, “stop with the long, slow distance.” Instead, she recommended I partake in a strength training regimen, that I record everything I eat, and that I partake in swimming for cardio (for now), and yoga for mobility. 

Here’s where I insert whining, because, for most of my life, strength training has been boring, and difficult, and I’ve hated it with a passion. Beth convinced me to attend her bootcamp on Wednesday night with promises of “it’s so much fun!”  I guess that, if I wanted even a fraction of that IronWoman body I’d once imagined, I should start here.

During the week, I diligently continued to do my morning smoothies. Keeping tabs of what I was putting into my body made me feel more accountable for measuring everything, and also for staying “honest” in terms of the items I chose. I kept my goals on the fridge and wrote them on the chalkboard contact paper on my cabinets.

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Staying honest with my food made me feel more alive and healthy. I attended yoga on Saturday, actually got back on my bike with my amazing triathlete friend, Michelle, for just under 20 miles (on the Malibu PCH rolling hills even) on Sunday, and took another yoga class Monday night. During yoga on Monday, I noticed my tendons around my shins and ankles burning more than usual. When I woke up, I had Peroneal Tendinitis (inflammation around the tendon that runs under the ankle bone, and through the foot). I decided to skip yoga that evening, and plunged my foot into a bowl of ice water.

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The best cure for tendinitis.

By Wednesday, the inflammation was pretty much gone, and, by evening time, I was ready to rock and roll with this bootcamp thing. Thankfully, my friend and fellow IronTeam-er, Tiffany, was there as well, and we buddied up to go through a circuit of stations, which included a wide array of challenging exercises, like, step-ups, army crawls, butterfly sit-ups, ball crunches, bench rows, chest press, weighted squats, kettle bell swings, treadmill intervals, and lateral Bosu ball squats. We made our way around each exercise, while house music pumped through the speakers, and Beth made her rounds, correcting our form or encouraging our hard work. By the end of the hour, my inner thighs felt cooked, and my arms could not push nor pull to save their life, but I was smiling, laughing, and, yes, having fun!

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Tiffany and I smiling after our sweat session!

So, maybe, this strength training thing doesn’t have to be boring. It pushes me to do things I’m afraid to do because I think I’m not strong enough. I know that this is good for me in many ways.

Because she knows that I’m pretty tough on myself, another thing that Beth had me do, daily, was to write down one thing I’m grateful for. I utilized another chalkboard cabinet for this purpose, just as a reminder, to keep putting “gratitude in my attitude” even when my pants feel tight or I can’t quite “get” and exercise, or tendinitis creeps up to bite my ankle–it’s something I always have, and no one can take that away from me.

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That being said, I think we’re off to a pretty good start here. 🙂


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Shorter Is Sweeter?: A Training Story

When you lose a big amount of weight through training for endurance sports, you tend to think that the only way you can maintain that weight loss is through continuing to do endurance sports. However, like anything, the body can get “used to” doing longer, slower distances, and mine, with its miraculous endomorphic properties, quickly learned to store more fat, whether or not I was burning up 15,000 calories in a single weekend. I loaded on 20 lbs over the course of the year training for an Ironman, and, while some of that might have been actual muscle, most of it was not, and, when I slowed things down to a crawl afterward, I loaded on at least another five. 

I thought I could get back there with more running, but, as I kept upping the distance of my runs, my body stubbornly resisted dropping any weight, even when i was hyperthyroid (which makes everyone else in the world lose weight, except me). My muscles fatigued and I overtrained. I was getting really frustrated. 

The doctor told me to scale back on my running, to really keep my diet limited to 1500 calories/day, and to watch my carbs. I began making protein smoothies in the morning, eating 10-15 nuts as a snack, and sticking to salads, cooked veggies & protein (meat) as meals, trying to avoid bread and pasta, except for Sunday, my “carbs if I want to” day, where I could have some kind of pasta or bread dish for dinner. Still, I felt sore and unrecovered, so I went to my personal trainer friend, Beth Bishop, for advice.

Beth advised that I cut the whole endurance routine, and start strength training if I wanted to lean out and drop those stubborn lbs. She told me to lay off running altogether for a few weeks to let myself heal, and she recommended I get myself back in the pool. Tomorrow, I’m going in to have a fitness evaluation with her to see where I am and what I need to do, and I’ll probably join her bootcamp on Wednesday nights. 

It’s going to be a lot of change for me, but I think that my body needs a new challenge. So, for now I’m going to see where this adventure in strength training takes me: I’ll be a “Pumping Iron”Woman! 

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Fear my guns! (Not really, but…)


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One More Day: A Hero Story

Hey all,

I have another great story for you coming soon after an epic-ly tough weekend (including the infamous 5/3 brick)!

Just a reminder that I’m going to be swimming, biking and running in my first Ironman in TWO WEEKS in order to raise money to fight cancer!

I’m still miles away from my fundraising goals and I could really use your help. Please become MY superhero and donate what you can to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society here:

http://pages.teamintraining.org/los/VineFIrn13/SDIronWoman

Thank you in advance for being awesome! 🙂


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Help Save Lives, Win FREE Airfare!

Hi Everyone,

As many of my readers already know, I’m not just swimming, biking and running 140.6 miles straight for my own amusement (what a hoot it has been–ha!), I am doing so to help raise money to fight cancer and support those who are going through very difficult treatment right now.

Here’s the deal: I have a goal to raise almost $6K by July. I’m only 32% of the way there, and it’s already May. I really could use your support.

What’s in it for you if you donate from now until July 1:

If I reach:

34%– one randomly selected donor wins a $50 Visa gift card

43% — One randomly selected donor wins a $100 gift card to his or her airline of choice

60% — Two randomly selected donors will win $200 for their airline of choice

90%+ — One randomly selected donor will win a grand prize package!

$10 donation= one entry. Drawing held July 2, 2013

Donate here: http://pages.teamintraining.org/los/VineFIrn13/SDIronWoman

Instead of ordering pizza tonight, consider putting that money toward making a difference in the lives of many.

Spread the word, inspire others to do something awesome today!

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! ❤ ❤ ❤

 

Kick A$$!

I’m kicking cancer’s a$$!

——-

Leukemia And Lymphoma Society “Fast Facts” 

WHO: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services. Founded in 1949, we are relentless in pursuit of our mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

WHAT:  Investing in blood cancer research: LLS has invested more than $750 million in research, approximately $72 million in fiscal year 2010 alone. Programs like the Specialized Center of Research (SCOR), which brings together teams of scientists from different disciplines and our Translational Research Program, which funds research with a high probability of producing innovative patient treatments in an accelerated time frame, have directly contributed to many breakthrough cancer treatments.

Research funded by LLS has led or contributed to advances such as chemotherapy, bone marrow and stem cell transplantation and new, targeted oral therapies such as Gleevec®, Rituxan®, Velcade®, Thalidomid®, Revlimid®, Dacogen® and Vidaza®.

Providing critical information and support for patients and their families:

We made 4.7 million contacts with patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals in fiscal year 2010, through our Information Resource Center (IRC), our award winning Web site and community-based patient service programs. We put people together with experts through Web-casts and teleconferences, and provided professional education through seminars, to extend the latest findings to a broader professional audience.

Advocating for issues impacting blood cancer patients: With more than 50,000 advocacy volunteers throughout the country, our voice is being heard by those responsible for legislation to fund blood cancer research and educational programs.

WHY: The need is critical: An estimated 957,902 people in the United States are living with, or are in remission from, leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma or myeloma. Every four minutes, someone new is diagnosed with blood cancer. Every 10 minutes, someone dies.

Leukemia causes more deaths than any other cancer among children under the age of 20. Lymphomas are the most common blood cancers and incidence increases with age. The survival rate for myeloma is only 38.5 percent. Incidence is nearly twice as high among African Americans as for all other races.

HOW:  As a nonprofit, we rely on the generosity of individuals, corporations and foundations. Seventy-five percent of our total expenses support cancer research, education, advocacy and patient services. Major, annual fundraising campaigns include Team In Training®, Light The Night® Walk, School & Youth ProgramsSM, Man & Woman of the Year and The Leukemia Cup Regatta.

WHERE: In addition to our national headquarters in White Plains, NY, we have a network of 59 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Information on blood cancers and support is available through our IRC and at http://www.LLS.org.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Information Resource Center: (800) 955-4572

Media: Andrea Greif, director of public relations  (914) 821-8958

Research grant information: Rick Winneker, SVP Research (914) 821-8310

To volunteer or donate: (888) HELP-LLS