Jagged Little Pill

Remember that weight management clinic I mentioned in the last post? I had the mandatory orientation meeting tonight. I was sorely tempted to bail on the whole thing – the WOD tonight at crossfit looked great (rowing! deadlifts! my favorite things!) and I would have much rather been there, but I felt like I had to give the whole thing a fair shot.

WELL.

I walked in and the coordinator handed me a piece of paper. It was a flyer listing all of the possible pharmaceutical treatments to aid weight loss. I took a seat at the table; each place had an array of flyers on it, including weight loss surgery options and a brochure for a medical shakes/prepared food program that restricted calories to 800-1000 calories a day (medically sanctioned Jenny Craig, basically). I immediately felt uncomfortable and knew this was not going to be the place for me.

The program offers two options – 1:1 meetings with a physician (but be ready to wait 2 months for an appointment) or a group meeting (you can get in by next week!). The coordinator went into the group meetings in detail, and it sounded basically like the doctor reviewed your record ahead of time, then went around the room and handed out prescriptions based on your background. What? How is this safe or appropriate?

We then went over the medications in great detail, which entailed the coordinator trying to downplay various side effects while also talking through all the ways to afford the medications if your insurance wouldn’t cover them. I think my favorite part was when she described the black box warning on one drug by saying “It caused thyroid cancer in rats when they gave the rats 10-12 times the normal dose, but there hasn’t been any instances of cancer in humans yet, so it’s probably fine.” Great. Thanks. Where do I sign up?

I felt dirty leaving that room. I made an appointment – for October, mind you – to meet with the physician one on one, but I think I’m going to end up canceling it. If I do follow through, it would be just to get a referral to have my resting metabolic rate assessed, more out of curiosity than anything else. I definitely don’t want anything to do with the pills or the surgery – that’s not for me.

I left that appointment and directed my car to Soul Cycle. I hopped into a 7:30pm ride with a new-to-me instructor (picked solely because he was the most physically appealing option out of the available 7:30 instructors – so what if I like a little eye candy with my workouts?!). Johnny turned out to be amazing and exactly what I needed tonight. The playlist felt like it was pulled straight from my brain – opening with Holidae In set the tone for the ride for sure, but it was right around the Linkin Park “In The End” remix that I finally got my brain to shut down and gave in to the ride. Add in the new Chainsmokers feat. Halsey song, Closer, and my current favorite mashup to come down off of arms – seriously, just give it a listen – and basically I was LIVING for those full 45 minutes.

Also? Don’t take Soul Cycle the day after Crossfit decided to work your abs. Just trust me on this.

Anyway, I have a new favorite SC instructor (on this coast, at least) and I left that studio feeling wrung out and cleansed. Walking back to my car, I couldn’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, I’m being too hard on myself. Bodies are weird, frustrating, stupid things at times – but they’re also pretty goddamn amazing. My body let me push it right up to the edge of my abilities on that bike tonight (standing runs, we’ll get there. Jumps, I SEE YOU, and I’m getting there. Wait for it.) It let me push it through 90 wall balls… and 90 sit ups… and 90 burpees… and 800m of running… all in less than 30 minutes last night (26:29, to be exact, but who’s counting?) and every time I pick up a barbell I feel a little more confident about grabbing a heavier set of plates.

I need to stop being so hard on myself and remember to take these moments to reflect on where I am today versus where I was a year ago, and to be appreciative for all that I’m able to do each and every day. The physical change will come with time, and in the meantime, the mental growth will be enough.

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(Over)thinking things through

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my head recently.

On Sunday, I took a charity yoga class to benefit the Dear Jack Foundation. DJF was founded by Andrew McMahon, aka my favorite musician, to help young adult cancer patients and survivors with support and community outreach. Adolescent and young adult cancer rates have not improved over the past 10-20 years — while survivor rates have improved in every other age range, the 15-39 group has shown no change. There’s a lot of reasons for that. This is the age range where individuals are least likely to be proactive about their health, avoid or discredit any symptoms, and skip their annual physicals, often due to lack of health insurance or the financial means to cover their healthcare. Considering that my $1500 FSA was 80% depleted after the first of four annual Dana Farber dermatology appointments required due to my own history of melanoma and basal cell carcinoma, leaving me wondering how the hell I’m going to pay for my remaining appointments, biopsies, and treatments for the rest of the year, I gotta say, I sympathize. But DJF is also committed to addressing the isolation and feeling of “otherness” that comes from being a young adult cancer patient – that feeling of “I’m too young for this” or “This shouldn’t be happening.” There’s a serious dearth of programs, organizations, and opportunities for YA cancer patients and survivors to seek out support, and DJF strives to address that.

I wasn’t exactly in prime shape going into Sunday’s class. It’s been a rough week for me in a lot of ways, and I was mentally and physically wiped out when I set my mat down in the studio. As the instructor led us through a heart-opening flow, I found myself reflecting back over the past few years. Last Friday marked four years since I received my melanoma diagnosis, and a lot has changed since then. That whole experience was a wake up call that I needed to start being more proactive about my health. It’s what inspired me to join Studio Poise in 2013, and it remains the driving force behind the choices I make when it comes to nutrition and fitness. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about my skin – I use SPF religiously, but there’s no changing genetics, and I know that my future is going to be marked off by one biopsy after another, hoping that I catch any future instances of melanoma early enough to avoid metastasis. Realizing this, I’ve been a lot more proactive about the areas of my health that are within my control. I’m far more mindful about my diet, and I have made exercise not just a habit or something I do because I feel like I need to, but something that is actively contributing to my mental health and sanity. Working out helps me to manage my stress, helps me to sleep better, and also gets me closer to the overall physical health I’m striving for.

That’s why I’m in such a shitty place right now – because nutrition and fitness is something I can control, and so when my body isn’t responding to those efforts, I panic. So much of my health is completely outside of my control, and to feel like now I also can’t control my weight is just more than I can take. I scheduled an appointment with my PCP yesterday to get her thoughts on this, and it was equal parts validating and frustrating. I’m really lucky to have a PCP who trusts me, so when I outlined for her all the steps I’ve taken over the past 8 months with minimal change to my weight, she never once questioned whether I was telling the truth. She affirmed that I’m doing everything right, and seemed just as stumped and frustrated as I am. She did do a blood test to check my thyroid, but it came back completely normal. She basically said that she can think of no medical reason that my body isn’t responding to the work I’m doing, and she thinks maybe I need to try a medication to help the weight along. I’m going to an informational session with the weight management clinic next week, but I’m not wild about the idea of adding a medication into the mix. I feel like these types of drugs have so many risks attached to them, and I’m skeptical of what will happen when I go off them. They’re usually appetite suppressants, and that’s not my issue – I’m doing okay sticking with my nutrition plan from Janie and I very rarely feel like I’m so hungry that I have to go off-plan to eat something. I don’t want to take a pill that will suppress my hunger and end up eating less – that feels like a recipe for long-term metabolic disaster, and short-term shitty performance in the gym.

Basically, everything that’s happening with my health is forcing me to confront my desire to have control wherever I can. So much of the universe is outside of our control, and I get that. I understand that striving to control things that are impossible to change will only drive me crazy in the long run. But the thing is – I should be able to control this. I control what I eat and I control how I workout, and the work I’m putting in should translate to a change on the scale, and it’s not, and that’s really screwing with me right now. So I’m dumping my thoughts here to try to stop them from swirling around in my brain, and I’m hoping that a change will come, sooner rather than later.

Acceptance

Today’s word of the day? Acceptance. It’s something I’m trying to teach myself to be better at – and not exactly succeeding.

What do I mean? Well. There have been a few instances recently where I’ve accepted something in the moment rather than resisting or fighting against it, and I’ve felt all the better for it – and I want to reflect more on why those moments went the way they did, and what I can learn from them. And there are also many examples where I haven’t accepted something, and I look back afterwards and I kick myself for it, or I make myself miserable by actively fighting against something that ultimately is out of my control. So here are just a few of the things I need to accept.

Accept… that schedules are not set in stone. I live and die by my planner. I use the Passion Planner, and every Monday I get to work a little early so I can plot out my whole week, including my work commitments, my meetings, any social engagements, and all of my workouts. It’s a soothing process and I feel ready to tackle my week once it’s done. Nothing irritates me more than when my schedule changes and suddenly my neat, color-coordinated, perfectly structured planner is all thrown off. But here’s the thing: the paper doesn’t matter; my mental and physical health does. Monday night, my planner had 90 minutes blocked off to lift and get in some cardio, but when I got in my car, I immediately knew that there was no way I’d be able to motivate myself through a solo gym workout. I had nothing left in my tank. Rather than forcing myself to try to slog through it and ending up with a sloppy, half-assed workout, and instead of just giving up on the day entirely and heading home, I pulled up the SP schedule and grabbed a spot in the SPiit class that started in an hour, and I felt all the better for it. I pushed the lifting session out to Wednesday, and even though my planner looks terrible, I accepted what my body was telling me and I found a compromise that worked.

Accept… that I cannot control how my body responds to the work I’m putting in. I’m not going to lie. I’ve been feeling REALLY frustrated lately. The scale has. not. moved. in months – literally months, hovering in the same range of 3 pounds – and I’m starting to lose my mind. I full on cried in my office today after I sent Janie my check in for the week, because I’m just feeling so completely down on myself at the moment. I’m eating right 85% of the time, I’m sticking to my workout routines, I can feel myself getting stronger, but my weight won’t move. And that’s driving me crazy. I hate weighing myself and I’ve started to dread my check ins with Janie, because I know that the scale isn’t going to show what I want it to, and I’m frustrated. I’m trying really hard not to let it get to me, but it’s a daily battle. I have to trust in the process and trust that continuing to make the right choices, and continuing to push myself in the gym and get in all of my workouts, will eventually translate to the numbers changing. But it’s hard. And it’s going to take me a long time to get there.

Accept… that people are sincere in their compliments. This is sort of a continuation of the last point. I have serious body dysmorphia issues. I have a really hard time looking at myself in the mirror and seeing the changes that are taking place as a result of all my training. I can’t see it in myself, so my immediate inclination is to shrug people off when they comment on the changes they’re seeing in me. My first instinct is to brush off their compliments, or to immediately respond in protest (“But my ass is still huge!” “But I’m not losing any weight!” “But I can’t find pants that fit me right now!”) I need to learn to be more gracious when people comment on my progress. I need to trust that they really are noticing changes in me, and thank them for their kindness. I need to accept the compliment with grace, and then I need to help myself get to a point where I genuinely do believe them.

It’s a good sign that I know these are all things I need to work on. Rationally, logically, I can reason through all of this. But saying this (or writing about it, as the case may be) and actually living my truth are two different things. It’s a constant battle. It’s hard and it’s frustrating, but I’m working on it. I’m a work in progress and I think maybe I always will be.

Reset. Again.

Oh hey there, blog. You still exist.

I think it’s time to get back to this little blog, but this time I’m doing it for me. 2016 HAS BEEN A YEAR so far, and while there are a lot of great things happening, there are also a lot of not-so-great things that are pulling my focus away from my goals. I’m working really hard to stay on track working toward my targets, and I have some great people in my corner helping me out, but one thing is missing, and that’s a way for me to check in with myself.

Sure, I log my workouts and I track my daily meals. I check in with my amazing coach every week and get feedback from her. But I also need a less structured place to really reflect on where I am and where I want to be. When I was blogging consistently, I could look back over my posts and see where things were going off course, and readjust appropriately. I don’t really have that tool right now, and I need it.

A colleague, someone I respect and trust, told me last week that I need to learn to care a little bit less. I need to know when to say no. I need to realize that my idea of a job well done is usually so far beyond what other people would consider necessary, and sometimes it’s okay not to go that extra mile. That’s really hard for me. It’s in my nature to want to be there for the people in my life, to want to see things through to the end, to give 100% of my effort when I commit to things. The problem with that is that I end up with an empty tank and I forget to reserve the energy, time, and resources to take care of myself. He wasn’t exactly treading new ground here – I’ve known this about myself for years, ever since my very first therapist pointed it out to me in high school. I hated that therapist, for the record. I wasn’t ready to admit that he was right. I’m still not thrilled at the prospect of change.

I have a huge fear of letting people down. I worry that my friendships are based on how much I give to them, and if I start to back off, I could lose those relationships. Logically I know that if that were to happen, then the relationship really wasn’t one I should be trying to preserve in the first place — but I still don’t want to risk that. (This is where I should also interject to say that the people who know me best in the world, the “single name in the cell phone contact list” friends who have been around for more than a decade, have also said this to me, many times, and have been trying to get me to be more selfish for years. This usually ends with me in tears trying to avoid the topic. It’s a long process, okay?)

I’m working on it. The mantra that I’ve been repeating to myself throughout 2016 has been “Self care is not selfish.” If I don’t take care of myself, then I can’t be there for the other people in my life. It’s not selfish to spend time at the gym every day, or to take time out of my weekend to lay in a hammock and reflect on my week. I need to do the things that keep me strong, healthy, and centered if I also want to be able to be a good employee, friend, and daughter.

So what has that looked like lately? Well, I joined Crossfit in May, and that’s been a game changer. It is simultaneously the scariest and most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. I go into practically every workout with the voice in my head saying “um, you can’t do that…” and by the end of it, I’m giddy over what I’ve accomplished. Yes, I’m modifying. A lot. And I’m not as fast or as strong as some of the other people in class. But I’m also completely obsessed with how I feel when I walk out of the gym, and I’m loving the community of people I’ve met there. The coaches are supportive and encouraging, and really take the time to make sure I’m getting things right. Every athlete congratulates every other person after every workout, whether you were the first or the last to finish. No one cares what you look like or what your stats are – you’re all there on an equal playing field and you’re all working toward the same goals.

I also ditched Planet Fitness for a REAL gym, one that has all the equipment I need to continue to push myself in my training. I’m still working with Janie and I’m really excited by the progress I’m making. The number on the scale isn’t my favorite, although I am down 25 pounds since January, but my clothes are fitting better and I’m happy with the changes I see when I look in the mirror. I’m trying to figure things out for a longer term solution and that’s going to take longer than the weight loss efforts I’ve gone through in the past. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes dedication and experimentation. It takes trying things and evaluating how my body responds. It means stumbling and failing a few times along the way, but learning from those failures. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m getting there, and for now, that’s good enough.