Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Weight Loss Wednesday: Don't forget about Before.

A few days ago, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about one of my before and after pictures. Looking at my "before" picture, I said something like "Yeah, I don't even know who that girl is anymore".

But is that really true? I don't think so.

I've changed, I've grown, and I've evolved, but at the end of the day, the girl in the before pictures is still ME. And I think I need to embrace that a little bit more. I love being thinner, healthier, and more confident, but I also need to remember to love me and my past. Some of the best times of my life happened the "bigger body" of mine, but it was still MY BODY. My legs are the same ones that once walked a half marathon. My hands are the same ones that wiped tears away from countless teenagers when I worked in Southwest Detroit. My eyes are the same ones that have seen beautiful things. I am still me.

I'm so quick to say "Yeah, the old me was pretty sad and miserable and that's not me anymore so let's just forget it". But without that part of me, I wouldn't be sitting here right now. Everything in my life led me to where I am right now, in this very moment. Just because I WAS overweight, and battled sadness and anxiety, does not mean I was not a strong person then. It doesn't mean I was nothing, or someone to be forgotten.

Besides the occasional rude comment, I was not terrorized or bullied when I was overweight. So why was I so mean to myself then, and why am I mean now? I isolated myself then, afraid to face people, ashamed of my body. And I hated it. Yet even now, ignore and isolate those years of my life as if they did not matter. They do matter, because that was me. You can't have one without the other. You can't just skip over a part of your life and pretend it didn't happen.

I'm not sure if anything I'm writing in here makes sense, I guess I just felt like the "before" me deserves a little credit, too. She was pretty cool. I mean, she's the one who graduated from college despite some serious challenges along the way, who lived with three strangers while volunteering at a high school in Detroit, who walked a 1/2 marathon. She's the one Tom fell in love with. And I'm sure Tom doesn't like me hating on her.

So from now on instead of gasping at my before pictures or shaking it off as if I have no idea who that person was, I'm going to express my gratitude to my before. My before has led to my now.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dear Subway Girl

Dear Subway Employee,

I saw the cuts on your arms immediately. I was in the back of the long line during a busy lunch rush, and as I was surveying the menu, I peeked at you and noticed the cuts and the scars. As I stood in line I debated if I should say something to you. And then I debated WHAT I would say to you.  "You're beautiful" seemed to cliche or fake. "You shouldn't do that" seemed too much.

When it was my turn to order, you switched out with your coworker. You weren't serving me. But still, you were behind the counter, cashing people out. I kept debating.

And yet again when it came time for me to pay for my meal, you swapped out again. 

I sat in the restaurant and ate my salad, again debating whether or not I should speak up.

I didn't. I finished my salad and walked out the door.

I feel very ashamed and guilty. What was I so afraid of? I shouldn't have remained silent. What if everyone around you is remaining silent? What if no one is speaking up?

I still am not sure what I would have said to you, should I have had the courage to actually say something. Which is strange, because I've had talks like this to teenagers before. The difference is that I knew those teenagers. So, I imagine that if I did actually know you, I would have said something like this:

Whatever it is going on in your life, it's clear that it is giving you great anxiety. And to quiet that anxiety, you find relief in cutting yourself. You aren't alone. You are surrounded by people who are challenged by anxiety, depression, anger, self esteem issues. Some turn to destructive behavior- drugs, alcohol, self harm. But harming yourself does nothing. Maybe for a moment or two, you feel better, or relieved. But it is not a permanent fix, and you are not doing yourself any good. The battles going on in your mind will not be put to rest by hurting yourself.

There is a future for you, whether you can see it now or not. I can't tell you what that future looks like or where your life will take you, but I can tell you that if you keep harming yourself, you are going to miss out on so much. You can't fight this alone- there are people who can help you. Therapists, counselors, doctors- they all want to see you have a future. And your future self well thank you, too, for putting down the weapons and taking care of yourself.

Who am I to tell you these things? Why do I care so much about a random teenage girl who works at Subway? I once thought that  things like "life is so beautiful!" and "one day you will find peace" were loads of crap. I didn't believe it. I couldn't imagine a future for myself. I just assumed that I would always be miserable.

I was wrong. I overcame it. And boy, am I glad that I did, because life is pretty fabulous. It's a shame I spent so many years fighting against it, and being afraid of it. I can't take back those years. You can. You can stop now. You can beat this, you can overcome, and you can survive.

I'm sorry that I didn't say anything that day. I pray that someone does, and that you listen. I pray that you find your peace. 


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Weight Loss Wednesday

Ever since hitting the 100 lbs mark, I've had crazy ups and downs with the weight loss. There were weeks where I was working over 40 hours and driving crazy distances, so my focus slipped. There were a couple weeks where I was sick. There was a week of vacation.

I am pretty surprised, and thankful, that I did not gain weight on vacation. I went for a couple runs, and I was fairly careful with my meals and snacking, but I was not as strict as I was last year and was pretty convinced I'd come back with a gain. Glad that my body worked with me.

So now I'm back, healthy, and working a normal schedule. Things should begin to kick into gear. I have a doctor's appointment next week, and she and I can hash out a goal weight for me and then it will be time to plan the maintenance phase. For now, I'm pushing myself to work harder, run faster, burn more calories, turn away from temptation and stay motivated.

Last night I took a pretty intense cardio kickboxing class. It's a full 60 minutes of cardio. Between punching the bag with different combinations, you do jumping jacks, squats, burpees, etc. There's no stopping. The last time I took a class like this was a little over a year ago, and I had to stop early because I couldn't finish. This time, I completed the entire class and was almost surprised at how good I was feeling. Sweaty, tired, but good. My friend Donna calls things like that "non scale victories": celebrating positive changes that do not involve the scale. I plan on doing more of those classes. My kickboxing class at the Y is great, and my favorite class that I take, but it's not the same level of intensity. It does a better job with technique and skill, though.

At the end of the class last night, the instructor gave us some inspiration. He said that he pushes us (and trust me, he does push) because he knows it's what we want, otherwise we would not have come. He also said that this is the best time to get in the best shape of our lives, because time does not care about us and if we don't do it now, if we keep pushing it off, we will regret it.

It really got me thinking, as I was drenched in sweat, about my whole journey. I think one of the biggest changes my weight loss journey has brought for me is my DESIRE to be healthier. I now see my body as a vessel. Although my mind and my heart make up who I am, I need my body to be healthy in order to accomplish my dreams- heck, I need my healthy body to accomplish my daily tasks. And now that I so clearly see and feel what a difference it makes to be healthy, it is imperative that I STAY healthy.

One of my beliefs is that we were each created for a very unique reason. Cliche as it may seem, I do believe that God has a plan for each of us. And in order to live out that plan, I need to treat my body with the love and care that it deserves, and that it needs to thrive. Am I perfect? No. I make mistakes every day. But my overall attitude and practice is that health comes first.

Another big change? I've forgotten what it feels like to be sad. Like, really, truly sad. 2 years ago, it was the opposite. I had forgotten how to be happy. But now I can't imagine that feeling of sadness taking over and paralyzing you, like it did so many times before. I have my moments, of course. But I no longer feel like sadness is constantly weighing on me.

Sending so much love to all of you this week.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dear Taylor

Editors Note: Taylor Swift recently revealed that her mother has cancer. You can read a full article here:

Dear Taylor,
When my dad was first diagnosed with cancer, the hardest words for me to say out loud were "my dad has cancer". I didn't want it to be real, and each time I said it, it felt like another piece of my heart was breaking. I had to hold back tears every single time I said it. And I'm just me- a normal, 20 something year old girl in Michigan. So I applaud you for having the bravery to share your mom's diagnosis with the world.

Your mom's cancer journey is unique. Your reaction as a caregiver is unique. There is no comparing your story, or your mom, to anyone else. That is not my intent of this open letter. Although my dad  has cancer, I cannot feel what you feel, you cannot feel what I feel, my dad will have different experiences than your mom, and vice versa.

But your mom is now a survivor. And you are now a caregiver. And my heart goes out to both of you, as well as to your dad and your brother.

Although each story is different, and although I cannot predict what will happen in your case, I want to tell you a few things I have learned.

  •  Everyone around you will react differently. Some may look at you with sad eyes and a frown...their voices will get quieter as they gently ask you how you are doing.  Others will carry on as if everything is normal. Some won't say anything at all. Some will send you random "check in" messages. Others will totally swoop in, prepare meals, do the dry cleaning, check the mail. LET THEM. 
  • There will be times when you won't know what to say to your mom. Things like "it will be okay" and "stay strong" seem so cliche, but you won't have the words. That's okay. A simple tap, hug, or hand squeeze go a very long way.
  • Give yourself time. The ups and downs can be exhausting. The fear of the unkown will be your worst enemy. It's okay to unplug, escape for a while. In your case, I recognize how near impossible this may be. Find the quiet moments when you can and use them to take care of yourself.
  • It's okay to cry. It's okay to laugh. It's okay to punch someone- or something. I took up kickboxing during my dad's cancer journey and it's been one of the best decisions of my life.
  • Ask questions. Get clarifications. Know the plan. Know that sometimes the plan changes.
  • You are not alone. Sometimes it might feel like you are, even if you KNOW you aren't. Sometimes you won't care if other people are suffering because all you want is your mom to get better. That's not selfish. That's normal. This is your mom. 
  • "Shake It Off" is one of the best songs to play on repeat after a long day of doctor appointments and tears. Trust me. 
  • As gut wrenching as some days can be, when you begin to live your life to the fullest, the world becomes even more beautiful.
A lot of people are going to tell you to "be brave" or "be strong" or "be positive". I'm just gonna tell you to be you. Whatever emotion you feel, be it, and don't apologize. You have permission to feel. You've already shown us how brave you are- by letting us hear the songs you write, by taking risks in your music, by sharing your mom's diagnosis with us. It's okay to break down. It does not make you weak. It doesn't mean you are giving up. It simply means you are human. And if there is anything I know about you, Taylor, it's that you undoubtedly love humans and our interaction with one another. 

It's been 1 year, 6 months. and 21 days since my dad was diagnosed with cancer. There have been bumps in the road along with moments of victory and celebrating. Each doctor appointment brings on waves of anxiety. But each moment I get with my dad is special, and I treat it as as such. This cancer thing thinks that it can just come in and tear us apart, but it can't. No matter what, it will not break us. We just keep on moving. We'll kick cancer's ass, together.

My family sends our love right to your family. 

Love, Megan