Let your challenges lead to growth

I’d be lying if I said that this last year has been anything but hard. It’s funny how looking back on times that I felt were hard – were nothing in comparison. While in this year, I have grown a great deal and learned the value of me, I stumbled, bruised, and scarred along the way.

With each stumble, it has been difficult to remember my strengths and endearing qualities.

With each bruise, thoughts, “Is pursuing your dream really fruitful?”

With each scar, a memory to go along.

Stumbles

I stepped away from a position in management – and this did not fair well. It is not that I do not attend to direction, it is that my superiors should be more educated and experienced than I am – whether it be in fitness, nutrition, business, or management. And I do not do well with micro-management.

I gained nearly 15 pounds – ignoring my self-care. I refocused and the weight came off.

Income – in 2012, I fell below the poverty line. Humbling!

Bruises

I had bruises from walking into furniture. I had bruises from dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells.

I had bruises on my heart – from haters and opponents who liked to poke and prod.

The good news, bruises are temporary and they all healed on their good time.

Scars

I am left with scars – physical and mental.

The scars on my knuckles – from taking my anger out on the heavy bag without taking the time to adequately wrap them.

The scar to my heart – losing my best friend and mentor.

The scars to my mind – thoughts of failure and disappointment.

The bottomline

I wouldn’t change any of it. It cultivated me into the woman I am today…and amazing things are happening! I look back at each challenge – and I can see how each and everyone of them led me to grow.

How have your challenges led to growth?

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Learning to love

What has love got to do with it? Yes, my blog is about health and fitness – but with this coincides love. Self love. Accepting love of others. Recognizing love. Feeling as though you are deserving of love – and more. Many of our unhealthy eating and other behaviors are cheap substitutes for love (to learn more, visit Geneen Roth‘s site). And with this, I open my heart.

It was not until I was almost 22 when I decided that I needed to learn what love was, and in turn how to love. Born into a loveless home, I had been raised with no idea what love was. It was something I saw in movies – but I literally believed that it only existed in movies (to the likeness of unicorns and fairies).

We have all heard, you must love yourself before you can expect anyone else to. But it is kind of like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Self-help books and therapists will advise you to draw support from others when you are working on loving yourself. Okay – so what if you do not have others whom you trust and know love you? For those who have never lived it – you may think that I am imagining and exaggerating that no one loved me during that time of my life. You might say that it was only in my delusioned mind. When in fact, it was my perception and very much my reality.

Therapists often guide you to accept that your parents or others loved you the best they knew how. That may be true. Did and do my parents love me? I suppose in their own way. If either of them chose today as the first day to physically say the words to me, I doubt I would believe them.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

NOTE: Nothing about this post is related to a godly or otherwise religious love. This is strictly referencing familial and romantic love between and among humans.

What I thought love was

Having never heard the words. Having never felt the physical components (e.g., hugs and kisses). I thought love was respect and obedience. I thought that love was to submit to another’s demands. When I was 20, I became engaged to a man who made me feel exactly how my mother made me feel – invaluable. This is all I had known. At that time, having been told by ‘professionals’ that my mother had loved me the only way she knew how, I just assumed that this is how he knew how to love me. I in turn generalized it to be how everyone loves.

I did not end up marrying this man – thank goodness! I cannot describe a particular ah-ha moment or epiphany. I just knew that ‘love’ could not possibly make one feel badly about herself.

And so the journey goes

Ten years later, and I am still not sure that I know what love is. I know there are different dimensions of love. I am not sure that I know HOW to love.

Years of therapy taught me that I needed to increase my vulnerability in order to build deep, meaningful (loving) relationships with others (romantic and platonic alike). During my childhood I built up walls. I can remember once telling a brother that he hurt my feelings. His response, “Put your feelings in a Ziploc bag and stick them in the dresser next to your bed because no one cares.” I have no idea how old I was, but I do know that it stuck with me all these years.

Learning to love

Learning to love has not been an easy journey for me. I have loved with all of my heart – and then hurt. I have done it again – and then been hurt. I have loved with patience, obedience, and respect – simply to be abandoned overnight.

And yet I continue to chose love over anger and hate. I could hate the one(s) who abandoned me, but I do not. I choose love.

The bottomline

I have been spending a great deal of time in introspection – asking myself what love is to me. What do I want it to be and what does it look like in my life? I am seeing love in places that I perhaps never saw them before. I am expecting different results. My eyes and heart are more wide open and willing to accept the love that is already there — and love that has never failed —

Today – what did you do for YOU?

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I have goals. I have an abundance of goals. I have life-long goals. I have 10-year and 5-year goals. I have goals for 2013. But most importantly, I have goals for TODAY. Most of my daily goals require me to take care of – ME. They encompass growth in many areas of my life.

What did I do for my mind? I learned new behavior modification methods for use with toddlers. I read – a lot and about various topics.

My body? I taught and participated in a Tabata class. I followed this up with ~20 minutes of back and biceps weight lifting. And important, after the physically busy weekend, I rested my legs as my knees are a little achy. REST, they say, so rest I do.

My spirit? I have been relistening to the Geneen Roth book, Women, Food and God, on my commute. This is good for my spirit and has been a recent remind that I am not what mother led me to believe that I am. I am reminded that the goal of perfection lays a foundation for failure – no one is perfect. Each time I listen, something new resonates.

My relationships? It is hard for me to think about this one – so I have no answer.

My creativity? I played with Play-Doh. I made a road and bridge for a toy cement mixer to use to get to the construction site.

My passion? I taught a class. I trained a client. I practiced a couple of crazy new exercises. I wrote a workout. I read postings from coaches I aspire to live like. I wrote this post.

Today, what did YOU do?

How to build deep, meaningful relationships

I have been thinking about the power of relationships. Friendships. I am not experienced with developing deep, meaningful relationships with others. I tend to prefer keeping others outside arms reach. In recent years, I have focused my personal growth on building deeper relations with others – in an effort to eradicate my feelings that I am alone in this world.

I would say that I have been successful in my efforts. I miss many of the women I had grown close to before leaving Wisconsin. Emily – my daily workout partner, sounding board, and mind of reason. Andrea – an inspiring woman of God, who shared her heart and family with me! JR – accepting me as me and teaching me to prioritize myself. And so many more!!

An unexpected friendship

Any friend & Becca (L to R)

Any friend & Becca (L to R)

Last summer I met my homie. Me – the sheltered Midwesterner. My homie – the NYC cat. If you ask my homie, she would say that I initially freaked her out. I sought her out – something about her reminded me of – well, me! In the last year our friendship has grown and we continue to support one other’s passions, dreams, goals, efforts, etc. Together we have grown, and I now have one of the deepest and most meaningful relationships I have ever had. Unexpected? Yes!

My homie knows me – my insecurities, my vulnerabilities, my weaknesses. She also knows my dreams, my passions, my ambitions. She knows how to make me laugh.

I would be lying if I made this post into a How-To. I do not know how to build deep, meaningful relationships. I am still learning. But here I will share what I have learned.

403What has allowed me to build this deep bond? 

Vulnerability – sharing my heart, mind, and soul.

Respect – for opinions, beliefs, and more.

Trust – with all my heart!

Honesty – with no reason to hide!

Listening – as if I have nothing to say.

Talking – as if I have a wealth of information to share.

The bottomline

I have learned that building relationships means stepping outside of my comfort zone. This requires me to ‘practice what I preach.’ I guide clients out of their comfort zones on a daily basis – I would consider myself an expert at this, particularly in the physical fitness form of a comfort zone. I also leave my physical comfort zone with nearly every workout. That is easy for me.

Leaving my emotional comfort zone – not so easy. It has been a slow, but steady journey. And very much worthwhile.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! ~Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Missing a place called home

I am missing a place I called home. I am missing my gym – the one where my friends and I met each day to kick a$$. The place I worked and loved what I did. The place of learning and teaching – and, most importantly, growing.

This is the place where I met the women who workout like me – push me.

This is the place where the men pushed me to be more like them and challenged me to do more to try and compete with their antics.

It is the place you would find me at 4:30 am working out.

It is the place you could most often still find my at 8:00 pm. I should have had a cot!

It is a place where I sweat, smiled, laughed, and cried.  DSC_0428

It is where I found peace on a crazy day.

It is a place that sometimes created a crazy day.

It was where I felt safe.

It was a place of fellowship – a fellowship I have yet to find anywhere else.

It was where I found passion and heart – and began to find my vulnerability.

This is the place where I found my strength and confidence.

The is the place where I was free to be me.

I am missing a place called home.

The power of a compliment

You never know what a compliment might do!

I will keep this short. I received two powerful compliments in the last two days – during a time of heightened insecurity and self doubt. The first – a compliment from a coworker about how amazing my arms look. The second – a compliment from an older, physically fit gentleman at the gym where I teach and train. He mentioned to the gym owner and staff while pointing at me – “You don’t see a lot of women who can do the full straight leg raises like she was doing. It’s very impressive!

I replied, “Thank you, I train hard and appreciate the compliment.” He said a little more about it, but I was too busy thinking positive thoughts to hear him!

I have been known to be significantly self conscious about my appearance. There was a period when I received a lot of comments like, “Oh, you workout?” Really, I do not look like I workout? That frustrated me – I worked out so hard and yet it was unnoticeable. I was told that only the naive and ignorant would look at me and not know that I workout. But – it has happened a lot!

I have this issue when it comes to my torso. Despite the fact that I can physically perform exercises that most women cannot – I feel that my physical appearance does not display this. How come I do not have washboard abs – like some women I know who are not able to do half of what I can. I sometimes allow myself to become defeated by my physical display of imperfection.

So with this man’s comment – he noticed something that I had felt was unnoticed and unnoticeable. He showed me an error in my thinking.  He validated all of my hard work! And all he had to do was verbalize a compliment – something many people may have thought but never thought to say. And now….all I want to do is go to the gym and do more hanging leg raises.

How can you compliment others today?

Finding more on a weight loss journey

A dear friend shares her journey and her heart.

To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. 
If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now. – Alan Cohen

Often times, when we discuss love, it is in relation to our connections with others.  We give love anthropomorphic tendencies, describing its ability to create harmony, whether through our own personal connections or a universal exchange (that links all persons in a global community).  Discussions regarding self-love are relegated to conversations relating its pertinence in the face of limited self-worth.  The implicit necessity of loving one’s self is paramount in establishing worthwhile connections with others. 

Since this blog is about health & fitness, I will tailor this entry, relating self-love to my weight loss journey.   

Last summer I began a journey towards health & fitness, though my immediate goal revolved around losing a tremendous amount of excess weight, my exigent goal was to learn to love myself.  My excess weight was a reflection of my inner turmoil, my struggle to find acceptance (a struggle I presumed to be externally founded…. thereby, extrinsically resolved).  I assumed that loving myself would be a natural effect of changing the way I looked physically.  By changing my appearance, I would become more acceptable to others, allowing me to become more acceptable to myself.  This change would provide an avenue for me to establish connections with others (at that point I was socially isolated, spending tremendous amounts of time alone with limited social interactions) and increase my self-efficacy (believing I could accomplish the many goals I had set for myself).  To a degree these presumptions were accurate.  I have changed the way I look, I am more appealing to others and have a greater sense of comfort in my physique, but that has not translated itself into increased self-worth. 

There is still a sense of lacking and deficiency.  As I strive towards attaining what I believe to be the “perfect body” (for myself), I constantly have to face the impact of my limited self-worth. I am faced with the unhealthy habits I’ve developed, as I strive to love myself . . .. having formerly “loved” myself with food.  I developed a reliance on food to cope.  In the absence of self-acceptance and social relationships, food became an ally.  In losing weight, the foods I formerly relied on for comfort have become an enemy.  They no longer provide me with the same semblance of peace or “happiness”.  I have come to realize that my perception of myself is highly correlated to all of my struggles, I have to resolve my intrinsic feelings of worth, so that I may find the acceptance I long for.  The lack of connectedness I feel with others is greatly attributed to the lack of connection I feel with myself.  Changing my physiognomy has not changed the pertinence of answering these issues. 

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I have to learn to love myself, to be comfortable in my own skin, to appreciate who I am.  I have to become whole.  I have to learn to live, because I’m tired of feeling dead to myself . . .. not knowing or appreciating the characteristics that make me a worthwhile individual.  It’s exciting, this concept of self-discovery.  But this undertaking is by no means easy.  This process has been laden with valleys and peaks.  It requires changing my mind, literally.  Reframing thoughts, addressing hurts, and examining fears.  Exchanging unhealthy behaviors that were once associated with loving myself for behaviors that truly reflect love for myself.  In doing so, I am hoping to experience the tranquility that comes with loving one’s self.  Partaking in the ubiquity of love, as it connects me to those I care for. 

I am grateful for those who are willing to love me along the way, as I learn to love myself.

What has your journey shown you that you did not expect?

An honest battle with body image

I have to be honest. It is irrational, but I have body image issues. As I mentioned in my post on Phantom Fat, I do not always see an accurate image in my reflection – it is sometimes replaced with what it used to be. More often than not, I simply just see the imperfections. As a fitness professional, I hold myself to a high standard – I must be fit, healthy, and essentially perfect. And despite my inspiring level of fitness and athleticism, I beat myself up for my imperfections. I know many of us are guilty of this. And I find that the more I focus on my fitness, the more I am obsessed with attaining the perfect body and the more frustrated I become with what God has given me to work with. So, I need to reign in my thoughts and refocus on my achievement goals.

I was very careful with my 2013 goal selections – focusing on physical achievements over physical appearances. I become frustrated because my appearance does not always display what I feel my fitness is – for example my lack of 6-pack abs. I am probably most insecure about my torso – and genetics, not my strength or effort – are at fault. I would generally advise against placing blame on your genes, but they do control our bodies structure and nutritional needs to a certain degree. My torso, with my rotated rib cage and protruding left side is a sore sight to my eyes. Can I fix that? It is skeletal, it is structural – it is kind of what it is! I also carry my ‘fat’ in my tummy – this is part genetics (my father will tell you that my mother always had a little tummy, too) and part stress. I will need to become EXTREMELY lean before you will see my rectus abdominus. You can, however, see my transverse abdominus and of that I am quite proud. But I desire those 6-pack abs! This is what we are taught to work towards!

6-pack abs = strong core?

Think again. When I get in this dark place of body image, I need to remind myself of the TRUTH. A 6-pack is not representative of a strong core. A 6-pack will not help me with my heavy bag crunches (and I have decided that I can probably do the crunches – I do not have access to a heavy bag and am training with a roman chair).

Core strength and stability is commonly misunderstood. Typically, the core is associated with the abdominal muscles groups and stability is associated with isometric or static strength or the appearance of the 6-pack. The main core muscles include the transverse abdominus, the internal and external obliques, the quadratus lumborum, and the diaphragm – rectus abdominus is a secondary. These muscles work together to protect the contents of the abdominal cavity and provide support to the spine and pelvis during movement. Most individuals – and trainers – miss training the transverse abdominus. Why? Lack of education and awareness. So I will tell you now – get your rotational exercises into your workouts.

Battling with body image

I do not question my strength. I do not question my physical ability. I DO question my physical appearance. I do not ‘measure up’ to the fitness models that I am bombarded with day in and day out. How do I expect to inspire and motivate? I have to remind myself that I am REAL. Fitness models rarely eat – this is a known fact. Competitors and models spend HOURS in the gym each day – while I only workout ONE hour. Lastly,they take supplements and other things that I do not want to think about. I’m natural. I eat real food and take the normal daily supplements.

I am caught up in a weird place. I am not happy with my body as it is. But I do not want to go through the harmful behaviors required to obtain that ‘perfect fitness body.’ I ask myself, if I do 100 situps per day for a month, adding gradual progressions, will I see the results I desire? Actually – been there and done that and the answer is no. What if I ________? Ideas galore, but they are all crazy – literally.

So what needs to change? Something needs to change. It is my mind.

The bottomline

A negative body image is far too common in our culture. I compare myself with others – why can other woman (particularly frustrating when it is women who are less fit than I am) have flat stomachs and I cannot? Well, God made me this way – and that is the truth, not an excuse. The following is an excerpt from a post by Nicole Hawkins, PhD on www.centerforchange.com:

Seven Ways to Overcome Negative Body Image

1. Fight “Fatism”
Work on accepting people of all sizes and shapes. This will help you appreciate your own body. It may be useful to create a list of people who you admire that do not have “perfect” bodies; does their appearance affect how you feel about them? It is also important to remember that society’s standards have changed significantly over the last 50 years. The women that were considered the “ideal beauties” in the 1940’s and 1950’s like Marilyn Monroe (size 14) and Mae West were full-bodied and truly beautiful women, but they would be considered “overweight” by today’s standards.

2. Fight the Diet Downfall
Ninety percent of all women have dieted at some point in their life, and at any one point in time, 50% of women are dieting. Women are two times more likely to diet than men. To dieters’ dismay, 98% of all dieters gain the weight back in five years. Studies also show that 20-25% of dieters progress to a partial or full-blown eating disorder. Women are foolish if they believe that dieting will make them feel better about themselves. Dieting only helps you lose your self-esteem and energy. Dieting also creates mood swings and feelings of hopelessness. If you feel pressure to lose weight, talk to a friend or loved one or seek professional help.

3. Accept Genetics
It is critical to remember that many aspects of your body cannot be changed. Genetics does play a role in your body and at least 25% to 70% of your body is determined by your genes. While there are many aspects of our bodies we cannot change, you can change or modify your beliefs and attitudes which influence the way you feel about yourself. Change starts with you, it is internal and it starts with self-respect and a positive attitude. It is import to focus on health and not size.

4. Understand that Emotions are Skin Deep
It is important to discover the emotions and feelings that underlie your negative body image. The statement “I feel fat” is never really about fat, even if you are overweight. Each time a woman looks at herself in the mirror and says “Gross, I’m fat and disgusting,” she is really saying “There is something wrong with me or with what I’m feeling.” When we do not know how to deal with our feelings we turn to our bodies and blame our bodies for our feelings. Every time you say “I’m fat” you are betraying your body, and you are betraying and ignoring your underlying feelings. Remember that “fat” is never a feeling, it’s avoidance of feelings. Learn to discover your emotions and feelings and realize that focusing on your body is only distracting you from what is “really” bothering you.

5. Question Messages Portrayed in the Media
The media sends powerful messages to girls and women about the acceptability (or unacceptability) of their bodies. Young girls are thought to compare themselves to women portrayed as successful in the media, assessing how closely they match up to the “ideal” body form. Unfortunately, the majority of girls and women (96%) do not match up to the models and actresses presented in the media. The average model is 5’10” and weighs 110 pounds, whereas the average women is 5’4″ and weighs 142 pounds. This is the largest discrepancy that has ever existed between women and the cultural ideal. This discrepancy leads many women and girls to feel inadequate and negative about their bodies. It is important to realize that only 4% of women genetically have the “ideal” body currently presented in the media and the other 96% of women feel they must go to extreme measures to attempt to reach this unobtainable image. Many of the images presented in the media have been computer enhanced and airbrushed. The models’ hips and waists have often been slimmed and their breasts enlarged through computer photo manipulation. Many of the women presented in the media suffer from an eating disorder or have adopted disordered eating behaviors to maintain such low body weights. It is important to start to question images in the media and question why women should feel compelled to “live up” to these unrealistic standards of beauty and thinness.

6. Recognize the Influence of Body Misperception
Women are prone to more negative feelings about their bodies than men. In general, women are more psychologically invested in their physical appearance. Your body image is central to how you feel about yourself. Research reveals that as much as 1/4 of your self-esteem is the result of how positive or negative your body image is. Unfortunately, many women with eating disorders have a larger percentage of their esteem invested in their bodies. Women with eating disorders often exhibit unequivocal body image misperception, in which they misperceive the size of part, or the entire body. Hence they are “blind” to their own figures. This distortion is real and it is not due to “fat,” but to the eating disorder illness. It is important to recognize this misperception and attribute it to the eating disorder. When you feel fat, remind yourself that you misperceive your shape. Judge your size according the opinions of trusted others until you can trust your new and more accurate self-perceptions.

7. Befriend Your Body
It is important to combat negative body image because it can lead to depression, shyness, social anxiety and self-consciousness in intimate relationships. Negative body imagecan also lead to an eating disorder. It is time that women stop judging their bodies harshly and learn to appreciate their inner being, soul, and spirit. A women’s body is a biological masterpiece; women can menstruate, ovulate and create life. Start to recognize you do not have to compare yourself to other women or women in the media. Begin to challenge images presented in the media and realize that your worth does not depend on how closely you fit these unrealistic images.

We all need somebody to lean on

As a fitness professional and ‘personal trainer’, I find it difficult to train myself. It is difficult to push myself to the point necessary to be uncomfortable. That inability to breathe forces me to stop – when I could likely complete another repetition or two. The burning sensation encourages me to speed up to finish more quickly (more often than not I am training a specific tempo and I through that to the gutter). I frequently want to stop. Often, I do stop.

The funny thing is, I LOVE working out. I love sweating. I love feeling like I accomplished something. I love the physical exhaustion the day of an intense workout. More than anything….I love being the strongest woman in the gym!!! So why is it such a struggle to push myself?

I haven’t always loved all these things. When I began working out, I started with water aerobics and swimming because I could not feel my sweat. It wasn’t until years later that I truly became passionate about exercise. All following my lengthy, frustrating process of recovering from injury. During this time, I leaned on MY personal trainer and mentor to see me through. He provided the human support I needed. Sometimes that meant screaming in my face, but mostly it involved leading me through exercises that I was able to complete – despite my multitude of limitations – allowing me to claim confidence and self-efficacy. I found something that I was good at doing!! I mean, really good!!! For those who have worked with him, he has an ability to help others see in themselves what they may not otherwise see. While primarily in a physical and exercise capacity, there were times conversation would wander to self-worth and purpose. Through leaning on somebody else, I learned to love and appreciate myself in ways I had never known imaginable.

As a result of my upbringing, I am an EXTREMELY independent woman. “If I cannot do it myself, then the chances are it doesn’t need to be done and I can get by without it.” I will meet my own basic, physical, mental, and emotional needs. I have learned in recent years how unrealistic this mentality is. We ALL need somebody to lean on. And one person at a time, I have been able to allow myself to lean on others.

Leaning on another individual requires you to embrace vulnerability. Yes, that ‘V” word. It may mean letting go of insecurities. Releasing pride. Opening your heart. I spent years reading and learning about vulnerability and such – believing it was not for me. You cannot read a self-help book without seeing reference to your need to lean on others to see you through – whether you are suffering or simply desiring to be the best you. I held resistance to this for so long! It wasn’t until I first ‘needed’ someone to help me physically that I learned the true necessity of leaning on somebody else. And slowly but surely, that resistance has been weakening and I can generalize that concrete need to what I view to be more abstract areas (e.g., emotions) of life.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.… Each one should test his own actions.… each one should carry his own load.” Galatians 6:2-5

How do you lean on others? What do you need to let go of, grasp onto?