That said, I do appreciate those of you who have started following me ever since my friend Bonnie asked me to do a guest post on her blog. I met Bonnie in college, at the Catholic Newman Center, and she is truly one of the most incredible moms/Catholics/people I have the privilege of knowing. She is amazing and strong in her faith, but she also happens to be really funny. She inspires me every day! So, on that note, I am going to return the favor and recommend that you visit her blog too! (www.aknottedlife.blogspot.com).
Lately, I have been struggling with a few different things. For starters, maintaining this weight loss continues to be a daily battle. Preventing myself from losing control is always on my mind, which is a good thing, but whenever I start to really obsess over it, I try to remember how far I've come, and what I looked like four years ago. Mmm, yeah...not so great, but at least I found a way to use my dog to hide those couple of extra chins on my face. That counts for something, right?
This is when I was at the peak of my weight loss, the night I reached Lifetime at Weight Watchers.
And this is me now.
That last picture was taken about two weeks ago, at our annual Bears tailgating party. I feel fortunate to have kept off most of the pounds, but yes, I have put on a little bit of weight. It's something that I can't afford to get too casual about, because once you give yourself permission to really let go, things can fall apart before you even start to fully realize what's happening. I've been there in the past...but I'm determined not to make that same mistake now.
Weight loss is hard. Maintenance can be even harder. The struggle never goes away. As long as there are pizzas, ice cream sundaes, and Taco Bells in this world, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is going to be a challenge. Sometimes I wish I could be like those Biggest Loser winners who claim that they've "cleansed their bodies" from fast food and all other junk, to the point where they no longer even desire it, and they actually crave fruit instead. I guess when you've achieved fame by losing tons of weight on a television show, and millions of people are looking to you, there is pressure to set a good example. For most of us, though, those comfort foods continue to have a role in our lives, and if we can't eliminate them completely, the least we can do is find a way to live with them.
It's hard for all of us. Really, it is. It's not like when we were kids and could snack on Oreos after school, then burn them off on the swing set without thinking twice. (Those days were fun, weren't they?) The good news is that you can make a choice NOW. A choice that the hundredth potato chip you just ate will officially be your last one for the night, or that you'll skip dessert this time because you're working to get your weight back on track. It's easier said than done, but it's those small decisions along the way that make a difference when you start putting them together.
I'm not perfect. I have bad days. I tend to make poor choices when it comes to food, but there are other times when I make good ones, and again, even when they seem small, I think they add up in the long run...and those good days have prevented me from gaining all the weight back. Well, that and the fact that my mom has promised to kick my butt (in a loving motherly way, of course) if I ever go back to that toxic former life! You're never too far from a support system when you stop and look around!
Then there's the running. Oh, the running. I still love it...a lot...enough to spend money I don't have on registration fees, cute running apparel, and obnoxiously colorful shoes. Right now, my weight isn't exactly where I want it to be, so during a recent run, it felt like I had a big sack of potatoes attached to my ass. It makes the overall jogging experience a little less pleasant when you can literally feel those few extra pounds slowing you down. That's one of the biggest reasons I decided to step back from the running this week and dig out my Tae Bo workout videos. I bought them as a teenager and haven't touched them since high school, but back when I was a senior, that Advanced Tae-Bo Workout helped me lose 50 pounds in a year (which I gained back pretty quickly, but that's a whole other boring story). I always loved it, and when I got back into it this past Sunday, it felt awesome. I noticed a physical difference in just two days, and my mom says she did too. It felt good to try something different, especially after concentrating so much on running over the past few years. I guess the moral of that story is that switching up your routine as much as possible is always a good idea. When you start feeling like you're going in circles around one specific type of exercise, it is that much easier to get bored and start doubting your overall abilities.
Which brings me to another issue I've been struggling with mentally these days. I ran the Fox Valley Marathon a few weeks ago and am looking forward to my third Chicago Marathon this Sunday. I ran my very first marathon in 5:28 (with my sister there to pace me) and hovered under the 6-hour mark for a few marathons after that, but now the goal is to get as close to 6 hours as possible. On the way home from Fox Valley, my mom asked me about my time, and after a long pause, I said "About six hours. Let's just generalize it that way." It was just vague enough to be true, and it felt better than giving out the actual clock time.
My work schedule has prevented me from training the way I know I should, and yet I take any possible opportunity to sign up for a race. I can't help it. I just love them so much. I love the positive energy, the race day excitement, the whole deal....but I know I haven't been training to be anywhere near a competitive level. While thinking of a good way to describe it, I determined that it's kind of like having a job. It's like being a teacher and throwing together a lesson plan, knowing that it could benefit from more time, but it's good enough. It will do. You'll devote more to it next time, and who knows? This one just might turn out okay, and you will have done all that worrying for nothing.
Then you get to work. The lesson isn't completely successful. The day drags. You make it through somehow, but your students aren't connecting with what you're teaching and, as a result, start getting bored/acting out. You're exhausted by the end of the day because you actually made your job even more difficult by coming underprepared.
That's sort of how it feels when you continue participating in races without a strict training plan, and you keep finishing much slower than what you hoped. You can get away with "winging it" for a while, but if your mind keeps saying you can do better, then listening to it is the way to find peace.
Don't get me wrong. I will probably always be a slower runner, and I'm okay with that. I dream about Boston as much as any other runner, but I don't necessarily need to be a 3:30 marathon runner. Can I be better, though? Of course. At this point, finishing in 5 hours--heck, even 5 and a half--would feel like a dream come true. I know I can accept help from some of the many strong, amazing runners that I know, find ways to learn from them, and improve as a runner....if I'm ready for the hard work that comes with it.
Granted, there is a heck of a lot more to life than running. Hobbies are truly the tiniest, most insignificant part of life when you compare them to everything else that's out there. Deep down, I think we all know that, but trying harder and improving ourselves? That's never a waste of time when it can make us better in other areas of life. If it motivates us to be more productive at work, or to give more to the people in our lives, then what could possibly be negative about that?
It just bothers me when slower runners are criticized so much. Personally, I have amazing friends and family who have been nothing but supportive. I am so grateful for their sincere kindness and love, but it's hard not to let the outside world get in your head. When you Google "slow runners are ruining the sport" and get quotes like this, of course it has an impact:
"It's a joke to run a marathon by finishing in six, seven, eight hours."
"Slow runners have disrespected the distance."
"If you're wearing a marathon T-shirt, that doesn't mean much anymore. I always ask these people, what was your time? If it's six hours or more, I say oh, great, that's fine, but you didn't really run it."
But then I see quotes like this, which are so much nicer and more encouraging:
"[A person who criticizes my slow time] is either a running snob and isn't supportive, or has no idea what it takes to complete a 26.2 mile course. They don't get to lessen my accomplishment."
"The majority of the time, [being slow] doesn't bother me. Other times it does, but never so much that I'll stop running."
"If you need some inspiration in your running, go to a race and wait for the runners finishing at the back of the pack. You will see some of the greatest DON'T QUIT attitudes that you will ever see."
It might sound like my thoughts are all over the place, and it's true--they are. I guess that's what happens when you overthink things and get yourself all worked up over negative opinions that just don't matter. Trying to conform to someone else's idea of "successful" wears you out after a while. That doesn't mean we aren't all guilty of it at some point or another, but still...it's exhausting.
It makes me think a lot about whether or not I have the potential to be a faster runner, and if it's worth pursuing. If it is something I want to do, then that's fine, but it can't be because someone else thinks I should. Of course, you can be motivated by others to improve yourself--that's different. It's good to look at how others have succeeded and feel that inspiration to be better. The thing is, when you're focused on a goal that's important to you, the only way it can possibly work the way it's supposed to is if you do it for yourself, period. The same applies to everyone. Being who you are and taking pride in what you've accomplished is what matters, especially when it's contributing to your overall health, happiness, and the way you treat others. If I ever get to the point where I'm turning in a quicker marathon time, it won't be because somebody else made fun of me for being slow, or because they think I'm not good enough. It will be because I can think for myself, and make a decision that I want to make. There are so many things in life that we have no control over, but not when it comes to things like this.
It's an easy thing to write, and one of the absolute hardest pieces of advice to follow, but I'm trying, and I think others should too. You deserve to feel good about yourself and what you can do. For me, it happens to be running, but there are millions of people in this world, and just as many different ways to take your life in a positive direction. Whatever it is, just find it, grab it, and allow it to bring out your very best!
I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend! Get out there, enjoy some time away from your busy schedule, and have fun! It's as good a weekend as any to just be happy! :)
I'll close with this random picture that a friend of mine posted on Facebook, because if this doesn't make you smile, then I'm not sure what will!
Gosh, I hate when that happens...don't you??