You Know What They Say About Assumptions

If you’ve known me at all over the past decade, you know one thing for sure. Whether we’ve worked together, been close friends, or even just friends on social media, one thing is clear. My weight has fluctuated, A LOT.

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Me at 22, Levi at about 8 months

From school, job changes, having babies, crash diets, and finally lifestyle changes, it’s been a roller coaster for my poor body.

If there’s one standout, positive thing that my weight fluctuations have given me, I’d say it’s perspective.

Over the past 10 years, I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to experience life in so many different body types. From sedentary to active. To morbidly obese, to “skinny fat”, to lean. From a size 22+, to a size 4, and everywhere in between.

Embarrassing Thoughts

I know the thoughts that can go through your mind in each of these bodies, and one thing that I’ve come to realize lately, is how much we can judge people at the other end of the spectrum. It’s easy to look at a stranger at face value, and assume all kinds of things about them when you’ve never lived life in their body, or in their shoes.

When I was obese, I assumed that the thin people of the world made all kinds of judgments about me. But honestly, I had a lot of opinions about them too.

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Me after many crash diets, at 25, Levi at 3

I figured that they were just genetically lucky. They didn’t have to work for their body, or think about what they ate. If I saw a thin girl at a restaurant scarfing down a plate of nachos, my mind would subconsciously jump to conclusions right away.

“Must be nice!”

“I bet she won’t look like that after she has kids.”

“I wish I could eat whatever I felt like and not gain weight, but I wasn’t blessed with her metabolism.”

These types of things would race through my mind about her, and then I would start on myself:

“You were just destined to be overweight.”

“You’ve ruined your body, you’ll never look like that.”

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Age 28, about 5 months postpartum with Tyson

“You’re lazy, and not disciplined enough to ever look like that.”

The way we compare ourselves to each other, and the things we say to ourselves can be awful. But I didn’t just limit my judgmental thoughts to eating interactions…oh no! If ever there was a time when I was disgusted with myself enough to actually try to go to the gym and lose weight, I would automatically start judging those dang skinny girls at the gym too.

“You can’t seriously enjoy this, and clearly you don’t need to lose weight, you must be here to meet a man.”

And then to myself:

“Why are you even bothering? This is awful and you’re not going to be able to keep this up for as long as it’s going to take to lose weight.”

“You’re wasting your time.”

I judged “fit” people, and I assumed that they were judging me too. All of these things I told myself, I just assumed were the things that they were thinking too.

Switching Seats

Over time I learned to turn those thought off.

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Age 29, Thanksgiving Day, the day before I started pulling myself out of the hole.

I pushed those thoughts to the side, because my need to accomplish my goal, was bigger than what other people might be thinking. I had to quit caring what other people thought, and learn to keep my eyes on my own paper.

One day, I finally looked up, and realized I had somehow changed seats. I looked in the mirror, and aside from a little loose skin and some pretty gnarly stretch marks, I was starting to kind of look “fit”. I was starting to be able to actually see my muscles in places, and I truly enjoyed my time spent in the gym. I had a whole new perspective, that I had never had before.

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Age 30, down 114 pounds tracking macros and lifestyle changes

I didn’t worry anymore about what people thought about me in the gym, and I began to notice how I wasn’t spending as much time comparing my body or my eating habits to img_3294others either.

Now when I see a “skinny” girl at a restaurant shoveling down a cheeseburger, I don’t think, “must be nice!” Now I think, “Yes! Cheat meal!” I realize that I always just assumed that she was just one of the lucky ones…one of those blessed few who could eat whatever they wanted and have the perfect body. Now I have enough knowledge about nutrition to realize, she probably doesn’t. She probably doesn’t eat that way all of the time like I used to. Because if she did, her body probably wouldn’t be able to keep up with all of those extra calories either. Maybe she’s been tracking her macros all week, just waiting for this special “cheat meal”. Or maybe she has far worse issues with food, and that’s the only thing she’s eaten today. You just never know.

Maybe that “fit mom” at the gym is just like me too. Maybe she didn’t always look that way, and maybe she truly enjoys that little bit of alone time she steals for herself each day. Maybe she really needs that time to focus, unwind, and feel good about herself before she goes home and has to wipe snot and poop for the rest of the day.

Now that I’m on the other end of the spectrum, I feel like I have a unique perspective, not on either extreme, but from somewhere in the middle. I understand why that thin mom loves the gym and how she balances her diet. But I also remember being in that other body, feeling judged, and tired, and like I was chasing my tail…caring so much about how my body looked to other people, but trying to pretend I didn’t.

I Totally Get It

I see that gym-lover, and I think, “Good for her. I totally get it, I’ve got a long day ahead too. Blast that music girl, forget that to-do list for an hour! You’re a beast!”

And when I see that person, just at the beginning of their weight loss or fitness journey, I make no assumptions about their lifestyle, why they gained weight, their eating habits, and especially not about what they’re capable of. The only thing I’m thinking is, “Good for her. I totally get it. I hope you find a way to feel comfortable here, your body is just as capable as anyone in here, and I hope you keep going. The way you feel right now will pass, just give it some time.”

You Know the Saying

You know that saying about assumptions? It’s true! We should never, ever assume that we know another person’s lifestyle, or body, or motives.

I can without a doubt tell you, that my current lifestyle and body type are my favorite so far. But shockingly, I can say now, that I do feel lucky to have had the experience of living in my body, in so many different stages. I feel like it’s given me the gift of perspective, and I hope that I can use my perspective to help some else realize how capable they are, and that they can view their life from a different seat whenever they choose to.

How Did I Get Myself Here?

Let’s start off by saying, that my first experience in a gym, was not a positive one. When my eight year old Levi, was one or two, and I was in the throws of crash dieting, I decided that it would be a good idea to actually join a gym. I didn’t join the gym because I was really concerned about my health or level of fitness. I, like a lot of people, only joined the gym because I was trying to lose weight as rapidly as possible, and thought that’s just what you were supposed to do to speed things up.

I knew how to use the cardio equipment, but I had no idea how to use any of the other machines. img_2445So I decided to use the free personal training session they were offering when I signed up for my new membership. To say it wasn’t a pleasant experience would be an understatement. I went in, hoping to learn how to use some equipment and get some sort of plan for a workout routine, and ended up puking my guts out in the kidcare bathroom.

When I walked in that day, we went over all of the usual assessments. Height, weight, measurements, and medical history were all recorded, and then it was time to get down to business. We began the workout, and I quickly realized she had no intentions of putting me on any machines. img_7399We spent the entire session, doing body weight exercises. All I got for my free session was a bunch of wall sits, lunges, and body weight squats. I was dying, but I was also irritated. I now know, that she was totally doing what she was supposed to be doing with a brand new, sedentary client. But this wasn’t what I had in mind, and I felt like this was all stuff I could have done at my house. What was the point of even going to the gym if this was all we were going to do? I could do this for free at my house!

So we wrapped up the session. She told me to do about 15 minutes on the elliptical, and then the good Lord above sent me an angel, in the form of a childcare worker. This angel appeared before me, in a beam of flourescent light, and informed me that Levi was crying, or pooped his pants, or something. I don’t know that I even heard what was wrong, I just know that it meant my torture was over, and I was glad to jump right off of that elliptical and go get my baby. Help is on the way, Deary!

The second I got off the treadmill, the wave of nausea hit me. I hurried into the childcare area, grabbed Levi, calmly asked if they had a bathroom, and let it rip. I puked from body weight exercises and five whole minutes on the elliptical. I think it’s safe to say that I was not in the best shape. It’s also safe to say that I had a bad taste in my mouth (figuratively and literally) about the gym and exercise for a long time after that. How could anybody actually enjoy putting themselves through that on the regular? I didn’t have high hopes that I would ever reach my weight loss goals if it meant I was going to be slogging it out like that 4-5 times a week.

Needless to say, things have changed a lot since that day. I still wouldn’t consider myself extremely in shape as far as endurance is concerned, but I am definitely leaps and bounds ahead of where I was at 23 years old, barfing in the kidcare bathroom. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know this change didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen by doing any crazy strict diets or “sweat til you puke” workouts. I lost all 114 pounds, by choosing to change my eating and lifestyle habits a little at a time. I started chipping away at all of my bad habits, like drinking a gallon of sweet tea a week. I just kept making adjustments here and there until I found the meals and workout routines, that were sustainable for me long-term.img_2459 I found a maintainable system of doing things that gave me consistent results, but didn’t make me feel like ripping my hair out.

Now that I’m at a healthy weight, I’ve been realizing how important it is to have goals other than just weight loss. I decided that I wanted to still continue the way that I’ve been eating, but I want to focus on being more well-rounded in my fitness as well. Meaning, keeping my workouts mainly focused on strength training, but also incorporating more flexibility training and the dreaded cardio. I want to really start dialing in my fitness, the way I have my food.

So in March of this year, I got a wild hair. I decided that if I was going to try to educate myself on fitness, that I might as well do it in a strategic way, that gave me something to show for it at the end. I began studying in March, in between being mom, work, and the gym. Tuesday, I had that familiar nauseuos feeling again and I took and passed my National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer Certification. Wow…that was a mouthful, but yo girl is a trainer!img_2483

Life is so funny! If anyone had told me, when I walked out of the gym 6 years ago, after that trainer absolutely crushed me with wall sits, that one day would be a personal trainer, I would’ve peed my stretchy pants laughing. If you had told me 2 years ago, when I was 9 months pregnant and 247 pounds, that I would even want to learn how to be a trainer, I would’ve thought you were insane.

The older I’m getting, the more I’m realizing that I have way more control over how my life looks than I once thought. This doesn’t just go for weight loss or fitness. If there’s something making you unhappy, life is too short, and you’re the only one that can change it. I’m not saying, “Sell everything you own and move to Bali!” Unless that’s really what you want to do! Drastic change can be scary. But I am saying, that taking small steps to move you closer to the person you want to be, are totally possible and within your power.

Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in the end goal, that we forget to focus on the small little goals along the way. Those small achievable goals, are the little breadcrumbs that move you closer and closer, until you finally look up and realize how far you’ve come. Over the last couple of years, that kind of how it’s felt for me. I felt like I’ve just had my head down, following the breadcrumbs. I was focused on each workout, each week of meal prep, over and overIMG_8004. Only since starting my Instagram and this blog, have I started to look around me and realize how far I’ve come, and how many other people are wanting to know how to get from there to here. When I looked up, things looked so much different, and I really wasn’t 100% sure how I got here.

So now I feel like my job is to try to replace the breadcrumbs. To think back and try to remember how I got here, so that hopefully I can help someone else find their way too. It may take time, but it doesn’t have to be miserable, and it’s totally doable. When you’re feeling like it’s taking too long, or life starts to get you off course, just remember to keep focusing and following the little breadcrumbs.

When Self-Care Feels Selfish

If you’ve ever watched any amount of Oprah or Dr. Phil, and come on, we all have at some point, you’re familiar with the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” I get it. It totally makes sense, that it’s going to be really hard to do all of the things I need to do to take care of everyone else, if I’m run down and exhausted. Nevertheless, there are still days, almost two years into my weight loss journey, when taking care of myself feels selfish.

This has been on my mind a lot more lately with the arrival of summer break. During the school year, life falls into a routine. The older boys go to school during the day, and Tyson is fine doing whatever, as long as he’s with Mommy, or Grandma, or Nana.img_1911 He’s just happy to be around one of his favorite ladies. Everyone knows we get up, we go to school, and then we go to the gym.

However, now the carefree, unscheduled days of summer have arrived, and everybody is making adjustments. One adjustment Levi is making this summer, is trudging his way to the gym with Mom in the morning. If I don’t go to the gym first thing, the day always seems to get away from me. I get tired, and I’m afraid I’ll talk myself out of going. This shouldn’t be an issue, because my boys have been early risers from the moments they entered this world. A startling adjustment that I had to make, I might add. I don’t think either one of them has ever slept past 9 a.m. However, this summer, I’ve quickly realized that just because Levi is awake, it doesn’t mean he’s ready to do things.

The Struggle

So every morning that he’s at my house and not with his Dad, we have the same conversation:

Levi: “I hate going there, the three year olds jump on me!

Me: “It’s only for an hour, you’ll be fine.”

Levi: “Why can’t I just go to Grandma’s house while you go!”

Me: “I don’t know what Grandma is doing right now and it’s only for an hour. You’ll be fine.”

Levi: “I’m tired! It’s boring!”

On and on, until even though he’s the one complaining and being a turd, I start to feel bad, like I’m being selfish making him go. I start saying things in my head like, “It is his summer break, maybe I should just let him lay around and watch TV for a few hours instead of dragging him out of the house. Maybe he could just go to my mom’s house for an hour while I workout.” I start convincing myself he’s right, and that I’m the one being selfish.

Let Me Explain

I finally had to decide to stop arguing with him about it and explain why I do what I do. I had to remind us both why it’s so important that I spend a little bit of time taking care of me too. The last time this came up, I explained to him, that going to the gym is a very big priority of mine. Exercising keeps me healthy, so that I’m better able to take care of him.img_0822 I had to explain, that adults don’t usually get to go outside and play and run around, so going to places like the gym help us move our bodies and keep us healthy. And I had to point out, that the whole rest of my day revolves around what he and Tyson need or want to do, but that going to the gym is one hour out of the day, when I get to do something by myself that’s good for me and fun.

Does he get it at eight years old? Absolutely not. He doesn’t understand why it’s so important to me. He just wants to watch kids open toys on YouTube or some crap, swim, and jump on the trampoline. He doesn’t get how hard I’ve worked to change my lifestyle, so that I can be the kind of mom that I want him to have. He can’t comprehend how much time I’ve invested to make this stick, and how I’m sometimes still afraid to loosen the reigns for fear that I’ll fall back into my old habits. He doesn’t get it now, but I hope one day he will appreciate how much I’ve worked to be the happy, healthy, active mom that I want him to have. I don’t want him to look back and remember that his mom was always too tired to take him to do fun things or participate in activities.

Squeezing In Me Time

As moms, so much of our lives center around other people. Even the most minute decisions revolve around our children and family. We schedule almost everything we do around nap times, meal times, cranky times, baseball practice, music lessons, you name it. We do it without question, because of course we love them so much, and they are our number one priority. I know someday it will happen, but right now I can’t imagine a time, when my life won’t revolve around my children’s day to day activities. But as I get further into my weight loss journey, img_2089I’m also realizing that squeezing little bits of time out of the day to do things by myself, that make me happy, are vital to my health and my mood. It’s important to me mentally, physically, and emotionally, to have that time to recharge so that I can be more present for them, for the rest of the day. It’s not only important to me that I find those moments, it’s also important to me that my boys know about them.

I want them to know that I value my personal time. I want them to know me as their mom, but also know that I’m a real person, with interests and hobbies. I don’t want to just tell them it’s important to take care of their bodies, I want to show them, by taking care of mine. I want to show them what a strong, happy woman is, so that they will hopefully one day, a super long time from now, they’ll be able to spot one for themselves!

Putting It Into Practice

So far this summer, I’m making a conscious effort to get out and do fun things with my boys, instead of just getting stuck in another routine. I tend to be a creature of habit if I’m not actively planning different activities. This summer, I’ve decided that we’re going to have a blast, and we can get back to routines in August. Right now we have memories to make!

So far, we’ve gone rock-climbing, trampoline jumping, hiking, swimming, we’ve gone to the zoo, and strawberry-picking, and mom has a whole list of other ideas to fill our time together. I want to help my boys experience life and do fun things that they’ll always remember, even if it’s just in pictures. I want to give them the green light to try new things, and to find places and hobbies they love, and it starts with giving myself permission to do the same.

Finding Balance: Being a Mom While Still Being Me

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a moment. I really wanted to express to my sons how much they mean to me, and I needed to write them a sort of love letter. img_7960I hope they always will know how much I am truly obsessed with them. With that said, today I wanted to address a different side of motherhood. Something that I’ve learned in my eight years of motherhood that I feel is extremely important and adds value to their lives, as well as mine.

As moms, it’s crazy how much of our days and our minds are constantly consumed by our babies. Even now, I’m scribbling away, trying to wrangle my thoughts, in between trying to feed my toddler macaroni and cheese that I’ve already had to reheat twice. If I seem like I’m a little all over the place, I probably am. Everyday, from the moment they open their little eyes, my brain is a never-ending, and never completed to do list. Change the baby, get Levi in the shower, take him to school, feed the baby breakfast, start a load of laundry, remember to put it in the dryer. What bills did I need to pay today? What did I need at the store? When was his dentist appointment? When was it I was supposed to send marshmallows to school? Do we have baseball practice tonight?img_7961 I’ll spare you more, but these are just some of the daily checklists that I go through before 9 a.m. Our mom brains are always going in a million directions, and we manage to control the overwhelm to the best of our ability, because of the massive amount of love we have for our kids.

I’ve been managing the mom chaos for over eight years now, and most days I still can’t believe I’m legally allowed to be in charge of other human beings. I’m absolutely positive that there are many, many things I still have yet to learn. I’m sure at this point, I’ve not seen the best or the worst of motherhood. But one thing I’m trying to remind myself of everyday, is that while it’s natural for my life to mostly revolve around my kids, it’s still important to remember that I’m a person, not just a mom.

Before those precious little boys came into this world, bloody and screaming, I was a real person. I had friends, and hobbies, and things that made me, me. I don’t know how it happened, but I suspect like most things, it was a slow erosion over time. At some point, I became so wrapped up in my new role, that I eventually just pushed the things that I liked to the side, because I just “didn’t have time.” Or I, “didn’t have the energy.” Or I felt guilty for not spending every possible second with my boys. Curse you mom guilt. The first time I realized that I was losing sight of who I was, was after my divorce. My days had been filled with Levi and work for the past 3 years.img_7959 During the week, Levi would go to be with his dad on the days I was working, since I worked twelve hour shifts, and then every other weekend. It was those weekends that were the worst! I had no idea what to do with myself. I would sit at home, by myself, in my quiet little apartment. For a while I would catch up on movies or scroll through Facebook, but after a few months, I was completely lost. I had forgotten in those short three years what I used to do for fun, and I was bored to tears.

I remember when I first started going to the gym, a few months after my almost 2 year old, Tyson, was born. I was going to Planet Fitness, which was the perfect price, but also meant no child care. That wasn’t a problem with Levi, because he was in school, but I had to find somebody to watch the little guy. Thank God for my mom during this time, or I don’t know how I ever would’ve made it. Even though my mom was happy to help, the inevitable mom guilt would still creep in from time to time. I would tell myself, “You’ve been at work for the past two days, you should really be home with him,” or, “you really don’t have time for this, you’ve got so much laundry to do when you get home.” Even though every other second of my day would revolve around someone needing their butt wiped, or someone screaming for milk, or someone chucking a ball at the side of my head, I still felt like taking this one hour out of my day for myself was somehow selfish.

I really had to train myself to look at things objectively and realistically. I had to remind myself over and over that I needed to have that time for myself, not only because I was obese and physically hurting my body, but also because I needed that mental reset to be a happier, less stressed out me for them. And really one hour out of twenty four is still pretty heavily in their favor.

I want my boys to grow up knowing that their mom as a real person, that I’m not just their mom. I want them to know that although they and their dad make me extremely happy, so do other things. I want them to know that I like watching funny movies, and movies based on true stories. I love writing, reading the classics and random personal development books. I love spending my free time going to the gym, img_7875and learning how to make things. I want them to see me accomplish things and set new goals, so that they can take that as permission to do the same when they grow up.

The further I get into motherhood, the busier life gets, and the more I have to make an actual conscious effort to make those things that make me happy a priority. If I don’t find a few minutes to go to the gym or learn about something I’m interested in, the day can so easily get away from me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about going out clubbing every weekend or getting plastered at a bar somewhere. I’m talking about making time for the things that you do by yourself, for yourself.

If you’ve found yourself just kind of slogging through the day, moving from one task to the next, until you throw your unwashed greasy head into bed at night, I totally get it. It amazes me how we can be so busy, stressed, devoted, and bored all at the same time. But I think it happens a lot. I really encourage you to figure out how to steal little bits of time for yourself. Whatever it is that makes you lose track of time, or forget to check your phone, do that! If it’s been so long you can’t even remember, maybe think about the things you enjoyed doing when you were a kid. For me it’s reading and writing. I loved reading when I was a little girl, and used to write little stories with illustrations for my mom to read. If I can remember correctly, mysteries were a favorite of mine to write. I also, like many other little girls, loved to color. Why do you think adult coloring books are so popular now? Even if you can only find twenty minutes to read a book while you’re sitting in the school pickup line, kudos to you for making time for being you!

Going to the gym has also become one of those things that helps me feel like myself. I go in with greasy hair, covered in someone else’s snot and slobber. But I put in my headphones, blast my non kid-friendly playlist,img_7962 and walk out feeling like Wonder Woman. Even though I’m still covered in oil and saliva, I convince myself it’s sweat and walk out of there like I’m The Rock. That is, if The Rock had a baby on his hip. Details.

So please by all means keep being the awesome mom and caregiver you are, but really try to find small moments to remember that you’re also a person, a woman, a friend, a writer, a reader, a painter, a poet, a knitter, a lifter, a yogi, a hiker, a photographer, a gardener, a baker, or a candlestick maker.