Category Archives: Uncategorized

There Has Always Been Music

Music has been one of the most important sources of joy and creativity in my life. My dad was a lost soul, an alcoholic, a person who saw darkness in every corner, but in music… in music, my dad created light. My father’s only moments of carelessness and weightlessness came while fishing and while playing the guitar.

Music has always been there for him and for me when other pleasant things were lacking.

My dad named me Melody because he was a musician, and he was a hell of a musician at that. My dad could look at a stringed instrument and give it a few strums, all of a sudden an expert. He played the acoustic guitar by ear, tuned it by ear, and taught himself completely. He played the mandolin, and I remember loving to hear “Amy” from those 12 strings.

As he got older, the singing became quieter, more ragged, and hoarse, but it was the most beautiful sound to me. It was real. It was raw. His voice and his music were the essence of his beautiful soul troubled by a life of restlessness and toil.

Music was always there for us.

I remember the many times that he played “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” on his guitar to entertain me, and I remember a LOT of the Eagles. “Witchy Woman” might not be a piece of appropriate music in the repertoire of any regular young girl, but it was in my collection of songs to which I knew all the words. My dad was always real with me. He was always honest.

He was honest when he told me that he’d been out drinking or fighting or selling things he ought not to be selling. He was always honest when he told me about our family’s history or why I couldn’t come to live with him. He was most honest when he played music for me. His guitar reminded him of his drinking days. He’d buy a guitar and sell it a few years later, haunted by the memories the chords evoked for him.

My dad bought me a guitar and let me decorate it with paint markers and stickers, a cheap little $50 Rogue that didn’t stay tuned all that well. He’d tune it for me and watch me learn, correcting my fingers. Once I knew a few chords, I played repetitive country songs while he’d ad lib over it and accompany me. I was never wrong to him, and my notes were never sour. He loved my voice. He was the best teacher.

We didn’t always know how to talk about serious things, my dad and I. Sometimes, you just stay quiet and play. That was our way. As long as the music was still there, we were still tight, no matter the circumstances. We could be angry, he could be disappointed, and we could still make music.

At his graveside, I sang for him. I was so hurt, so insulted, that he’d relapse into alcoholism. I was even more hurt and guilty that he’d killed someone and himself while drinking and driving. Everything was so hopeless and negative during that time. I did the best I could to keep sane and function like a normal person. I didn’t know how to say what I wanted to say. I didn’t know how to put things like these into words, so I sang.

I sang because I knew that he was finally free from his torture. I sang for him, not for the people attending. I sang because we have always sang. I make music when I don’t know how to do anything else.

My life has never been simple or normal or without discord, but my life has always had music. For me, music has always been the anchor keeping me steady in an unforgiving sea.

When all else has failed, there has always been music. There will always be music. Thank you, dad, for the music. Thank you for my sanity.

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A Desk Job Does Not Equal an Excuse to be Lazy

Lately, I’ve been struggling to get in enough activity and steps with my desk job. We’ve been really behind on closing out classes and distributing credits to parents. (I work for an organization that trains adoptive/foster parents.) I’ve spent a copious amount of time at my desk, and it’s really been bumming me out. It affects my moods and my disposition. Today, everyone left the office early, so I am taking the last 30 minutes of my day to do a combination of the following office workouts: 

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I’m usually alone by 4:30 on a daily basis, so I’m thinking about working this in every afternoon. Why not, right?! Let’s just hope that no one walks in on me doing inclined desk push ups and has to report me for misuse of company property. 

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I encourage you, if you have a desk job, to get up and be active sometime throughout the day. Whether you walk during lunch, visit the gym, get up each hour and do 10 squats, or you find some alone time to exercise on your office equipment, staying active is so important for your mood, energy levels, and your general overall happiness! 

Get up and move! 

Transformation Tuesday!

I’m kind of jumping on the Transformation Tuesday band wagon, but mostly because I’ve got a mega NSV (non-scale victory) today. A pair of pants I’ve been kind of sagging in but have been reluctant to get rid of are finally just too far gone. 

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This is always a major victory for me. 1.) I like shopping, and this gives me an excuse to do that. 2.) It encourages me to work even harder toward my goals! I went through my facebook photos and gathered every progress photo I’ve taken since I started losing weight. Check out the very first one of me at 21 lbs down! 

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I was pretty proud of that little gem! This was during the summer when I didn’t have any equipment or gym to work out in, so I was beaming at this progress. It did take me from March to June to lose 21 lbs, so you can tell I was doing little other than watching my food and walking. This is when I finally got serious about losing weight. Check me out just a few months later: 

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This is from December of 2011. That pair of pants is a size 22, I believe, and I’m usually sporting an 18 around this point at 56 lbs down. The fun doesn’t stop there! 

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Here I am about 65lbs down. I got REALLY confident and sported some Lelu Fifth Element hair. It was super fun but way hard to take care of. Plus, I lit up the gym all on my own. It afforded me a lot of attention. Thank goodness it’s gone! 

Then there’s me today, holding my size 17 pants way out from my body and proud to finally be shopping in the “normal” side of the store at a size 13/14. Sizes don’t mean ALL that much to me, but I know that I have an idea of how I’d like to look and what I’d like to fit into. I’m pretty convinced that I might not be able to get much smaller than a 9 because I have hips for DAYS, dude. Seriously, I wear a size medium pretty much anywhere up top, but my bottom half is just now crossing into juniors’ size territory. 

Today, I’m just proud of my progress and happy to be where I am. I forget where I’ve been and how proud I should be to have come from there. 

In other news, I’m debating going back to school to be a nutrition major.More news on that later as I research my options. 

Happy Tuesday! 

Hula Hooping as an Art and Exercise

I’ve been researching fun ways to work out in my upstairs apartment that will torch calories and tone my body, especially my middle. The fact that I’ve lost 75lbs and went from a size 22 to a 12/14 is amazing, but it left with me some belly fat and loose skin that is extremely hard to deal with! Trust me, it’s no fun being in plank and looking down at your loose tummy skin. I will stop there, for your sake. 

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Yeah, that’s me, mid-push up. Trust me, I picked the most flattering view! 

I’ve been looking into hula hooping with a weighted hoop. There are plenty of collapsible types of hoops that you can buy already made, and there are handmade options as well. Considering that shipping can get expensive for such a large package weighing over 2 lbs (not much more than 2 lbs is recommended for this as it can cause spine injuries), shipping gets astronomical when ordering this online. I’ve decided to make my own at home, but I haven’t gotten my materials yet. 

You start with this plastic, black tubing from the local Home Depot or Lowe’s, yet there are websites for hoop supplies that will sell it to you in the size you need for your height. I’m told that you measure your waist and multiply that number by 1.2 to get your hoop size. 

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Once you have it cut to the desired length, you can insert a connector like this: 

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You do this by warming the ends of the tubing by using a hair dryer or hot water, then you insert and connect the hoop while it’s still warm. Once it dries, it’s very unlikely to budge, even when hooping. Once you get it all connected, it looks something like this: 

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Picture taken from a blog called “In Johnna’s Kitchen.” She has a good tutorial as well! You can view it by clicking here.

Once you get all the pieces connected, you’re ready to tape your hoop. This adds weight and creates friction so you get a faster hoop and a better workout. You can use duct tape, gaffer’s tape, or even ribbon around the hoop. You can use as many colors as you like. 

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I can’t wait to get started this weekend on making my first hoop! I’ll definitely be posting a blog about my experiences with it and the methods that work the best. I’ve also heard that Hoopnotica DVDs are pretty good for learning how to use your hoops! You can make smaller hoops for your arms as well. It seems like hooping could become a passion and an art, as well as a form of fitness, for me. I’m excited to learn! 

Be Thankful and Love Yourself

In any journey to a destination, such as a weight loss journey to an ultimate goal weight and fitness level, it is difficult to keep from looking back at mistakes when we see how far we’ve come. We should have done it faster, better, more efficiently. We could have saved time, money, or regrets. There can be a ton of negative self-talk in relation to weight loss.

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I am guilty of, more than ten times a day, adjusting my clothes so I don’t look fat, sitting a certain way to cover my tummy, and wearing only long sleeves to hide extra skin and sagging flesh. My inner voice accuses me of being fat, and I see that girl in the mirror every day. I see her stretch marks, evidence of a self-loathing and self-deprecating lifestyle. I see her extra fat, about 30 lbs too much, holding on to hips, belly, arms, and thighs with desperation. I see how much farther I have to travel until I meet this goal and all the roadblocks I’ve encountered in the process, and I feel defeated.

I am inside myself, watching my brain, my own personal drill sergeant, screaming at me to go faster, harder, stop jiggling, tight core… Go, go, GO!

There is one concept that I forget to remember every day. I am worth it. I am worth more than my body fat percentage. I am worth more than my pant size. I am worth more than my caloric count. I am me. I am something precious, a human being, with unique thoughts, dreams, ambitions, goals, and emotions. My body is a work of art that the universe proudly displays. My form is artful. Every hair on my head, every fleck of color in my eyes, every pore of my skin is a testament to the miracle of life. I am worth it.

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That is why I should be working so hard to meet my goals. I should be fit and healthy because my body demands it. My soul is living in this body, and I was gifted with a body that can do anything it is conditioned to do. My body is adaptable enough to transform from something that can barely move to a graceful and determined runner. I can be changed, and those changes are remarkable. I was given this body and did nothing to deserve it, but I will live up to it. 

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I am thankful to have legs that work so that I can run. I am thankful to have arms that reach so I can lift. I am thankful to have a working immune system, functioning internal organs, and eyes that see all the beautiful colors in the world. There is always something for which to be thankful. 

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On Binging and Getting Over It

I ate the entire kitchen yesterday. Literally. I’m pretty sure, anyway. I had a huge breakfast sandwich first thing in the morning, McDonald’s for lunch (yuck!), a Twix, two doughnuts, half of a stuffed crust pizza, and nearly half a roll of cookie dough. I even drank soda yesterday, which I haven’t had in three months. I ate until I was nearly ill, and I felt awful about it. There was absolutely nothing of nutritional value in my day yesterday. It was Jason’s funeral. I thought I wasn’t letting his death bother me, but it seems that when you try to contain emotions, they end up lashing out in some way. I’m not blaming the binge on Jason. I know it’s my fault and that what I put into my mouth is my choice. I even chose to not wear my fitbit yesterday. Outrageous. 

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I had been doing SO well. I was taking at least 10,000 steps a day, burning 2500 – 3000 calories in total from midnight to midnight, and coming in at about 750 calories under to lose a total of 1.5 lbs a week. Well, I gained two pounds, got mad at life, got angry with my current situation, and ate. 

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Normally, I would feel really bad about this and go on a three day spree of eating every piece of junk food I can purchase. I woke up this morning and felt awful. I definitely had a binge hangover. I needed water, and lots of it (40oz down at 10 a.m., to be precise). I’ve decided to take control of the situation and make it into something better. I had oatmeal for breakfast, will have a protein bar for a snack, am going to get in some time on the bike and some reading during my lunch, another snack of peanut butter and some sort of fruit for another snack, 45 minutes on the elliptical and a fitness blender when I get home, a protein shake, and a nice baked fish with red pepper quinoa will be for dinner. 

I feel like I need help with this situation and my obsession with the food I put in my mouth. I’m either eating uncontrollably or netting 1200 EXACTLY. I feel like that’s a problem. I think my attitude about it is a problem as well. I’ve actually decided to see a therapist, someone I can trust to know how I’m thinking or feeling without worrying. I feel like this will give me a much more positive outlook on life and my lifestyle. 

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In my opinion, a healthy mind will produce a healthy body. I have been feeling much better since I started this blog, but maybe I need a little extra room for my thoughts. We’ll see how it turns out. 

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Avoiding or Lessening Emotional Eating in the Face of Death

Folks, this weekend has been rough.. Really rough. My cousin, Jason, has been in and out of the hospital recently with pancreatitis, and it finally took his life on Sunday night around 7 p.m. The pancreas, inflamed and filled with cysts, began releasing enzymes into Jason’s body that broke down all of his internal organs. He lived only and hour and a half after they pulled the plug. Jason was 36, the oldest son of my most cheerful and happy-go-lucky uncle. He was just as much of a jokester as my uncle. The point I’m getting to is that Jason was too young, and my family is completely distraught. I arrived at the hospital with my dad, sister, and step mother only a few minutes after Jason passed, and I was able to visit the room as he laid there. I kept watching his chest, sure that he was just playing, waiting for it to rise and fall. It never did. 

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Jason leaves behind several siblings, a father, a mother, step parents… His father, my uncle, was the most upset. He didn’t cry, but he wanted to. He didn’t act sorry for himself, but he wanted to. You could see in his eyes the hopelessness that comes with the realization that yet another life is extinguished from the face of the planet. He was angry. Who could blame him? He said, “I’m a little mad at the man upstairs right now. It’s kinda one of them things that I want to know why or what the plan is.” Something to that extent. He said he’d like to hurt someone, not anyone he knows, but he’d walk into a bar and pick a fight with the baddest dude in there. My poor, sweet uncle. He does not deserve this. No person should ever have to bury a child whether he’s 6 or 36. This should not have happened. 

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This event has been heavy on my mind lately, and I’ve admitted before that I’m an emotional eater. I eat my stress and my sadness. Sugar is the comfort of choice. The day I found out they’d be taking Jason off of the ventilator, I was on a walk with my dogs on the river. I opened that text message, processed its information, and ran. I ran for Jason; I ran long and hard until my lungs burned and my breath caught. I turned my emotions into the energy I needed to fuel my body for my run. I focused, and I really saw. I looked with clarity at the river, the sun shining off of the tiny waves caused by the stark wind, and I saw. I saw life being short, I saw love as a state of being, and I saw that stupid, trivial things in life are just not what they seem. 

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I wanted to eat, but I ran. When I did eat, I burned it off. Yesterday, I went to a gas station and bought a maple frosted cinnamon roll. It was 520 calories of sugar and fat that definitely didn’t need to be in my body. I ate it, and I immediately felt remorse. I know better than that. I ended up going to the gym later to burn it off, and I did; I burned nearly 700 calories. During the past couple of days, anytime I hear a song that reminds me of Jason or if I think about it, which is way too often, I push harder. I put extra energy into everything that I do because I still have life, love, and my health; I treasure that. 

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Love your body, keep it healthy, live with purpose. Keep yourself healthy so that no one ever has to worry about burying you too early. Fitness and health isn’t just so you can look good or feel good… This is about your life. This is about keeping your heart in shape and your body in good enough condition to LIVE. 

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This is your LIFE. Please, treasure it. 

Low Impact Exercises for Upstairs Apartment Life

Living in the city without a gym membership can put a damper on your fitness plans, especially if your employer does not have a gym. Luckily, I’m able to divide my workouts into two every day; I do the cardio on my lunch at work and I handle the rest at home. I live in an upstairs apartment, and even though there is no one currently living below me, I’ve had to modify a lot of workout videos and routines to fit my lifestyle. I’ve also had to search for fun workouts with low impact but high burning power. 

My first go-to when I need a low impact exercise that I KNOW will get me sore is FitnessBlender. They have a big handful of low impact exercises with cardio that really do get you sweating. I especially love the kettlebell videos. I can’t say enough about kettlebell, but I’ll probably make a blog post about the benefits of kettlebell later! 

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Here is one of the most-viewed and liked low impact videos that Daniel and Kelli from FitnessBlender have put together:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcN37TxBE_s

They really know how to write an accessible routine for people of all fitness levels, and that is why I keep going back. They also emphasize the importance of form, not just for your safety, but for maximizing your calorie burn and muscle tone. 

Other days, when I feel like I want something I can tailor or repeat as many times as possible, I look up “bodyweight exercise circuit” on Google and find images with routines that other people have made up. 

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I have no idea who made that one, but I did it yesterday a couple times through and loved it! 

The advantage here is that you can look at the whole circuit up front, adjust exercises, add more weight, and repeat it as many times as you need to in order to get a better burn. I can’t tell you guys how many times I started a workout video to have my dreams crushed in the middle as I realized that jumping jacks were going to be recurring and I would have to replace those with jogging in place or knee highs. 

Yet another way to avoid rocking the boat in an upstairs apartment would be to try yoga. I know yoga is supposed to be relaxing and full of fluffy bunnies and rainbows, but that stuff is mega hard. It requires a lot of control. For this reason, yoga is a wonderful toning and stretching exercise. It also won’t have your downstairs neighbors beating a broomstick against the ceiling in protest. 

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Trust me, yoga is definitely enough to get you good and sore. There are plenty of free videos online, but I have done Yoga with Adrienne on Youtube before. I love her because she’s genuine and quirky. There are plenty of free yoga videos online, and I hear there are plenty of yoga podcasts as well. Check them out! 

One exercise that I haven’t yet tried but really want to try is to use a weighted hula hoop for cardio. I’ve been researching prices, reviews, and effectiveness on this one, and I’d really appreciate some feedback! 

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If you’re not willing to give up your plyometrics, there are at least some options for you to decrease your chances of disturbing your neighbors while you rip through those squat jacks. 

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There are plenty of designs, colors, and features on flooring such as this, but the idea is what I’m getting after. Many retailers offer flooring that snaps together and absorbs the impact from your workout. This keeps your neighbor from looking up at their shaking light fixtures in disgust and saves you from having to modify your routine. I definitely recommend this if you’re just completely unwilling to modify your routine, especially for those using INSANITY. Those plyometrics are fundamental! 

Do you have more ideas for decreasing impact in an upstairs apartment? Feel free to comment and tell me about it! 

Remember, modifying your routine is nothing to be ashamed of whether its due to your living circumstances, an injury, or your fitness levels. Just remember that getting up and doing anything at all is the first, best, and most important step there is to becoming healthier! 

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Happy Friday! 

5 Best Ways to Surround Your Weight Loss Journey with Positivity

It’s extremely easy to become negative when it comes to losing weight. It can take up to 4 weeks to even see any changes in our bodies even if we are doing just about everything right. That can become discouraging, and when the numbers increase or stay stagnant on the scale, we might become discouraged. There are many ways to combat the feeling that we would rather be happy and eat than have to work ourselves to the bone for the dream body we want. I’ve come up with a list of methods that have been extremely effective for me in losing weight and sticking with it, even through the tough stuff. 

1.) Make a dream board/motivation wall. 

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You can do this in many ways. You can use a poster board with magazine clippings, the wall with a bunch of post-its, or a shadow box with items that depict your weight loss goals. The dream board serves as your visual depiction of your weight loss journey. Why did you start? Were you tired of being fat and tired? Did you want to set a better example for your kids and family? Why will you continue? Do you want a bikini body? Are you trying to join the armed services by meeting a weight/endurance goal? Do you just want to feel like the strong/fit person you feel is inside you somewhere? Brainstorm on all of these things and find pictures to give you a visual representation of these feelings. If you get discouraged, check out the board and remember why you started and why you should keep going. If you’re extra discouraged, maybe it’s time to add to your board some of the things that motivate you so that you can turn this negativity into a positive outlook. 

2.) Join an online community for support.

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MyFitnessPal has been instrumental throughout my entire weight loss journey. Here, you can use the food journal, exercise log, and you can post status messages just like Facebook, only it’s fitness-related. Your friends can comment on your exercise logged, your food diary completions, and your status messages. They also just recently implemented a “like” button! In addition, there are groups and online forums where you can post to the larger MFP community and get feedback on your goals/decisions. 

Another option would be to establish your own community in a group page on Facebook. I am the member of a group with over 200 people. Constantly, all day long, we are posting inspirational quotes, results, non-scale victories, and venting about issues with making healthy choices. This particular group is BeachBody affiliated (you know, P90X, INSANITY, Shakeology, those guys), but anyone can make a private group at any time. Establish the group, invite friends with the same goals, and post daily. This has been extremely helpful for me since none of my friends or family has to be bombarded with fitness/health posts at any time, yet I’m still able to go brag on myself or ask for help whenever I need it without them seeing. 

3.) Get a fitness buddy. 

This is one of the most common suggestions for successful weight loss. The concept is simple: if you have a friend who keeps you accountable, you’re more likely to stick with this healthy lifestyle. I have had a few fitness buddies, and I still do have a few. Some of them are friends, and one of them is my wonderful significant other who has been ridiculously dedicated to helping me in my goals throughout the past two years. I am so very thankful for my support system. 

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At one point, this beautiful lady and I had lost a whole person together, 140lbs combined! She’s had a kid since then and has gained some, but she’s back at it. I am so very proud of this mommy of two, wife, and she was a student at the time! She’s superwoman! 

4.) Make an interactive representation of your weight loss.

Here’s one of my favorites:

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There are tons of ways to make interactive weight loss trackers. You can use money in a jar, adding a dollar every time you lose a pound. Once you meet your next mini-goal (I usually space these out every 10-15lbs), use the money to buy yourself something fitness related. This brings me to my next topic! 

5.) Reward yourself often for your success.

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Do no, I repeat DO NOT, reward yourself with chocolates or a nice dinner. That is definitely not an effective way to reward oneself for not eating food. I usually go for things like sports bras, workout tops, headbands, and other fitness supplies. Heck, I think I even bought myself a blender for shakes and smoothies once as a reward. I have also rewarded myself with new clothes for my new body, piercings, and there is a tattoo on the list for the day that I meet my ultimate goal weight. What is your passion? Do you love books? Buy yourself that novel you’ve been DYING to read but can’t justify spending $25 on in a hardback, or buy yourself a Kindle when you build up reward money. Do you love movies? Maybe every 5 lbs you lose, you can add a new DVD to your collection at home. Are you a music buff? Buy yourself a $99 cent song download each time you lose a pound. (It would help to make it a good song for working out!) There are so many ways to make sure that, even though you’re giving up some of the things you used to love, you don’t have to feel any deprivation in this process. 

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Nail biting, finger tapping, chocolate eating…

I’ve been pretty stressed the last few days because my financial aid hasn’t yet been processed through the college where I’m taking a few classes sort of for fun and sort of to keep my brain functioning in an academic way while I wait to get my masters and PhD (that stuff is expensive, you know?). Anyway, I nearly missed the deadline, and I’ve really been sweating getting everything figured out in time for classes to start. Well, today is the first day of classes, and I’m kind of going nuts. I’m missing funding for two books and some very expensive materials for a black and white film photography class. 

I’m a pretty emotional eater, and this is usually the point where I order a double cheeseburger with bacon, barbecue sauce, and haystack onions. Yum! Within hours, I’m probably staring at fast food wrappers and the bottom of a very large gallon of ice cream, right?

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Wrong. Part of this healthy lifestyle thing is learning to make that lifestyle a fundamental part of who you are as a person. Instead of reacting to stress in an unhealthy way by binge eating or getting chocolate wasted, I am learning to immediately respond by getting up off my butt and releasing stress-fighting endorphins.  

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I don’t usually respond in that way. Something tells me that I am actually beginning (yeah, after 3 years of health and fitness boot camp) to understand that this is my life now. I will always, ALWAYS struggle with weight, eating right, and exercising regularly. I will always have to fight those demons. I will always have emotional problems and environmental stress. The correct response is to combat that anxiety with natural medicine. From now on, I am making myself a promise to do some kind of physical activity for a few minutes every time I get so stressed that I feel like binge eating due to stress or emotional turmoil. It can be anything: jump rope, hula hooping, walking, jogging in place, squats… 

During the past few years, I’ve found ways to trick my brain into thinking I’ve gotten to eat a TON of food. 

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But really, I usually like to grab popcorn if I want that absent-minded, zoning out in front of the computer/tv robot eating feeling. Flavor shakers are a great alternative to butter, and it’s not always bad to turn it into a kind of trail mix with nuts and dark chocolate chips. =P  I also really love Sensible Portions’ Veggie Chips because they only have 130 calories for 38 chips! Usually, with your regular joe potato chip, you’re getting about 12 chips for 160 calories, so it’s a go-to snack!

I just want to feel like I’m owning this. I am owning this. Yeah, I got this. 

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