Sunday, April 29, 2012

I've Been Busy.....

I couldn't believe it when I looked at my blog the other day and noticed I hadn't written anything since September - September! How did that happen? Where did the time go!

Actually, when I thought about it, I have been pretty busy since then.

It was around about then, things started to change direction a little.

You may remember I was getting into the "fun" runs, pushing myself and setting myself new challenges by entering into some runs.

Well, around about September last year, I added swimming to my training regime as cross training. I also decided at this time that the bicycle I had didn't cut it, the granny bike, as lovely as it was, just made it difficult to keep up with hubby when we went out riding - which made me reluctant to go. So I upgraded to a shiny new blue flat bar road bike (also known as a hybrid). My first hit out on it was the 50km Sydney Spring cycle, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Now some of you might have worked out now where I am heading. Whilst I always knew about triathlons, I always felt they were for the "elite", those finely tuned athletes who could just keep going all day. I mean, how many people could swim a couple of kilometres, ride a bike for 180 k's then run a marathon? Not me that's for sure. Then I stumbled across the Womens' Tri-Shave triathlon, an event just for women, with distances anyone could manage.

So I decided to give it a go. I set off to Penrith Regatta Centre, participated in a 350m swim, 15km bike ride and 3.5km run - and finished very tired but with an amazing sense of achievement. I was hooked. I very quickly joined a club, and entered a few more tri's. My aim was to compete in a Sprint triathlon by the end of the season - 750m swim, 20km bike ride and 5 km run.

There have been a few hiccoughs along the way - hubby had an op on his leg which had a 12 week recovery time which hampered the training a bit, one triathlon I was registered for was cancelled as the run course was flooded (I was happy to swim it!) and then I tore my calf muscle 10 days before I was due to compete in my first Sprint distance - bummer!

So, here I am, with my new found "sport". It is something that keeps me motivated, something to constantly aim for. I enjoy the variety of the different elements. I wasn't really cut out for the life of the long distance runner. I was pleased that each time I competed, I improved my time. I am not out to break any records, just do the best I can. I have met some great people, and I constantly amazed at how the other competetors encourage you during a race. I have already registered for my first race next season - the "Triathlon Pink" at Homebush in October, which also caters for the beginner. The long course is only 300m swim, 8km bike and 3km run.

I have also joined a run club, to try and improve my running, which I readily admit is my weak leg - no pun intended.

However, I have neglected to mention, I also upgraded my bike - again - to an awesome, shiny, red, road bike! One of the kids thinks I love the bike more than them! Well, lets see, it doesn't make a mess, it doesn't talk back, it doesn't stay out late, it does as I say........ It makes riding a pleasure, and unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to race on it yet - soon I hope.

Hopefully, in about three weeks, I will be heading up to Port Stephens to compete finally in my first Sprint Triathlon depending on how my calf goes in the next week. This will be my final race for the year, and if I make it, I will have achieved my goal for the season.

Wish me luck!

Photos from a trithlon in Nowra in January, 2012
Swim Leg
Bike Transition

Finally finished!

oh, and this is the racy red bike!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Out of the Comfort Zone.....

“Go to the edge” the voice said

Every day at the school I work at, we are asking the students to go outside their comfort zone. In fact, we pride ourselves on making them just a little bit uncomfortable. For some, it could just be as simple as asking them to speak up in class, or knowing where to start writing on a page. We are asking them to take risks. From where we stand, they are not big risks, they are things we do without even thinking about it, however for some of the students, they are as insurmountable as climbing Mt Everest is for us.

“But I’ll fall”

Camp is a huge “risk” for some of the students. Leaving the comfort, security and familiarity of home and family is almost too much for some to cope with. Once at Camp, some need help with the basics we all take for granted – when and how to shower, when and how to get up and dressed in the morning. Sharing a meal with a large group of people, even sitting down to eat for more than five minutes is a huge leap outside of their comfort zone.

“Go to the edge” the voice said

The students all meet these challenges and largely rise to the occasion, without too many tears (from staff and students alike). The happy, smiling faces and constant laughter is testimony to that.

“But you’ll push me”

When was the last time YOU were truly challenged? When was the last time YOU stepped out of your comfort zone? As adults, we have worked out ways to avoid situations that make us uncomfortable. I know myself, when confronted with the Taipan at Jambaroo, I simply told the students “no, I’m not doing that, I don’t like enclosed spaces”. I can endure their laughter, I can endure their name calling – I can live with that. 

“Go to the edge” the voice said

I like to think I have empathy with those students, that I can remember what it is like to be scared to do something. Often when the students become anxious about stepping outside their comfort zone, we tell them “it’s okay”, “you can do it”, “it’s not a problem”, when inside we are probably thinking “why are they worried about that?” However I think time and logical thinking dulls that fear in most of us. We learn to deal with that fear, we learn to cope or overcome it – or we simply avoid the cause. I decided whilst watching the students on one of the Jambaroo attractions that I needed to “put up or shut up”. I was watching them jump off “The Rock”, a five metre high jump into an equally deep pool. Certainly not for the faint hearted! One student, who had been wanting to do it all day, had jumped once and was hesitating on his second jump. As I watched and sensed his hesitation, I resolved to do it myself. “Okay”, I called, “I’ll do it too!”

So I went

As I ran to the top and saw their looks of disbelief, I tried not to think too much about what I was doing. I went to the edge and looked down (first mistake – long way down!) I endured the giggling behind me, and looked down at the expectant faces below me. I called (begged, pleaded) for silence, stretched my arms out to the side and took a few deep, calming (last?) breaths. With the encouraging words of the lifeguard ringing in my ears (“I’m here to rescue you if anything goes wrong” – thanks for that) I finally took that step off the edge.

I was pushed

Five metres down to the water, with your eyes shut, seems to take an awfully long time – and there is no going back! Silence seemed to descend on the park as I waited to hit the water. The journey up to the top of the water takes a while too! Once I realised I was still in one piece, I began the swim back to the edge – “how was it?” (cold), “was it good?” (I’ll get back to you on that one). I climbed out and put on my brave face. “Do it again – the more you do it the easier it gets” I was advised. No, I think once was enough! I was absolutely terrified – at least I could blame the cold water for the shaking.

And I flew.

I think it is a good thing to challenge yourself like this every once in a while. It has put me back in touch with how it feels to be really scared – to be really uncomfortable. Hopefully it will give me a greater appreciation, understanding and acceptance of the daily struggles of what the students go through.  Whilst I may not jump off any more “mountains”, hopefully it will also allow me to also push myself out of my comfort zone more often.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Difference A Year Makes

This time last year, I was getting ready to go on school camp. I was really worried about what I was going to eat, and whether I was going to blow out.

Next week, I go off on school camp again. This year, I'm not worried. I know I will be able to control my choices, and if the food doesn't exactly suit, well I'll just worry about it when I get home.

One of the teacher's made up a book with photos from last year, and showed it to his year 7 class. They of course weren't at the school last year, so therefore weren't on camp.

When they saw the photo of me, they didn't know who it was! They thought it was one of the other teachers! It took him some convincing to assure them it really was me. Later that day the book was being passed around our staff meeting. Across the room I could hear "look at Melissa, doesn't she look different - how amazing". It was a nice feeling.

It's little reminders like that that make it all worthwhile, and make it easier to stay on track.

I have another run on Sunday, the Sydney Running Festival, 9.2km across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I am really looking forward to this one. Best of all, I am meeting up with a couple of TWD buddies for lunch on Saturday.

Have a good week everyone.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Now, where were we!

September! Can someone tell me how, all of a sudden, it got to September! Last time I blogged it was May, and I swear it was only yesterday!

So, I guess I should fast forward, and catch you up - some of you may be hanging out for the end of the story.

I last left you, before my rant about thoughtless people, with a blog about emotional eating. Since I got that off my chest, I will fill you in on how I went on this study.

After the 12 weeks of the official study, I lost, much to my delight, a little over 12 kilos! I was ecstatic! It had been so easy, and the support I had received from my cyber buddies was amazing. My goal then was to lose 15 kilos by Christmas.

Well, I smashed this, losing 17 kilos by Christmas day. By then, I had gone from a size 16-18 to a size 12! Happy, happy. But most of all, I was happy in myself. I no longer worried about what others said or did - that was their problem. I couldn't control how they acted, but I could control how they reacted - and I chose not to be negative.

This is an extract from a blog I wrote in around October last year:

"So if people don't say "wow you've lost weight", big deal, I'm not doing it for them, I'm doing it for me - not my husband, not my kids - me. My wellbeing, my mental health - me.

I feel a sense of calmness and peace that I haven't for a long time. I don't believe though that I won't have down times - I do believe though that they won't be as bad as before or last as long as before. There is an acceptance of myself for who I am that has taken a long time to come. As I was reading some blogs earlier where others were describing their bad days or weeks or how they were feeling down I almost felt bad for wanting to write this, but in doing so maybe it will help others see that it DOES get better!"
I was right - there are still tough times, but they are easier to get through - usually just mometary flashes, instead of long periods of brooding. I am more able to stand up for myself, more assertive - which has surprised a few people. There are a few people around who still try to bring me down, but again, that's their problem.
This journey has not been without it's humourous moments. There was the time a colleague told me not to lose any more weight as I was making him look like "a fat bastard" - I told him he didn't need me to do that! Then, there was the time I was running around school in board shorts (I teach swimming), and a member of staff called me "sexy legs". I made the mistake of blogging about that one, and that label stuck! There were also the tales of how I wrestled (and lost) with my conscience over whether to induldge in morning tea, and the pure delight of receiving compliements from unexpected sources.
Friday night very quickly became "wine night", the night I consumed my two indulgences for the week, a well earned glass (or two) or wine! The only issue was that my husband was forced to consume the rest of the bottle - but he rose to the challenge!
The 5.30am starts for the gym soon became routine, and amazing, I actually enjoyed (enjoy) it. It did get difficult in winter, but the results make it worthwhile. One instructor dubbed me "the incredible shrinking woman". Don't let anyone tell you you can't lose weight by doing weights - they are wrong! It's the best way - for lots of reasons I won't go into here.
So, in February, I got to my goal weight of 70kgs - and I was happy with that. It was then I decided I needed a new challenge - and started running. I had been doing a little in the gym, but decided to enter the City2Surf for the first time since 1999. I also wanted an exercise that I could do when I was on holidays and away from the gym.
Running had a pleasant, unplanned side effect, helping me lose another 5kgs, bring my weight down to 65kgs. This was the lowest weight I had been for YEARS, and I am quite happy with that! I am now down to a size 8-10, and finding it easy to maintain.
I wrote this blog in November, at the end of the 12 week study - I think the sentiment holds true still:
"I seem to have lost something. Can anyone help me find it? Although I’m not sure I really want to. I had it a few months ago, and I seem to have put it somewhere, and now I don’t know where I put it.
I’ve looked under the bed, with the electric blanket, shoes, spare pillows – no, not there. I’ve looked in the wardrobe, amongst all the clothes, up on the top shelf – no, can’t find it there. I’ve even looked out in the garage, and in the cupboard in the spare room – can’t find it anywhere.
I’m not even sure what it looks like anymore. I guess I would describe it as weighing around 86 kgs, full of insecurities, too timid to stand up for itself, no energy. More content to hide itself at home than get out and do anything. Now, where has it gone?
It seems to have disappeared! In its place is something else. Something that is energetic, jumping out of bed at 5.30am to go to the gym. More confident, able to assert itself. Something that is 12.4kgs lighter, 54cm smaller and seemingly 10 feet tall. Where did this thing come from?
It came from the realisation that it is important. That she is important. That only you can change you. That it doesn’t matter what other people think of you, it is what you think of yourself that matters. That the small stuff doesn’t matter.
It came from knowing that there are a lot of fantastic people out there, although she has never met them, were there to support her. It came from knowing that her journey helped others. That alone was humbling.
I found me.
So, for once I am quite happy to lose something. I really don’t mind if I don’t find it again. I am happy to go on as I am now."
Till next time

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Power of Words Part 2

I can't believe it is over a month since I last blogged! I've been thinking of what to write for ages, just never seemed to "put pen to paper".

I decided on the subject of this blog after a "throw away" comment from a colleague today.

You know, since I got to my goal weight, people have done one of three things: they have been genuinely happy for me, they have made comments that sound like they are happy for me, but are followed with a back-hander, or they don't say anything.

But hey, in my new enlightened state, I can handle anything - well most of the time.

The genuinely happy ones usually leave it at "you look great", or "you've done really well". The second group fall into the "you've done well, but the hardest part is keeping it off" or "you look good but you know if you lose it quickly you'll put it back on. I've lost my weight slowly so I'll keep it off". (Weight regain is the subject for a whole other blog!) As for the third group, they just look you up and down and don't say anything. I don't even bother trying to justify myself to the second group anymore. Didn't anyone tell them you never put "but" in a sentence as when you do, the person you are talking to doesn't hear the first thing you said, only the bit after the "but".

Today, someone walked past with something they were sampling for the school canteen, and were sharing with the staff. As she walked past me she said "you can't have any, you're on a diet." Personally, I thought that was just plain mean. It's up to me whether I eat anything or not, and anyway, I've never said I'm on a diet, I always say I've changed the way I eat. My lifestyle now is all about balance - eating well, enjoying some of the good things in life, and participating in a moderate amount of exercise.

However, you just can't tell some people - and these comments, even when said in a jesting way, usually carry some degree of resentment or jealousy. So, although I know I shouldn't let these comments get to me, quite honestly today it just annoyed me. I don't tell this person how to live her life, so she can just butt out of mine!

There, I feel better now!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Power of Words

About one month into the trial, I decided to take the plunge and address the issue of emotional eating. Up until then, all my blogs had been fairly light hearted, and provided lots of positives to others on the study. They were really just putting on a brave front. It was time to address the real issues. I had been "dipping my toe" in the water, and it hadn't been snapped off by a shark, so I guess now was the time to plunge right in.

So, this was the result. I posted and waited. Will everyone think I'm just a big sook? Will everyone tell me to "get a grip"? Will this be the blog that gets "0 comments"? Only time would tell. As it turned out, it struck a chord with so many people, so many others were feeling the same way, just didn't have the words to voice it. In some respects it opened the floodgates and allowed others to admit where they were failing themselves, acknowledge it, deal with it and move on. Even reading this again now, a little over six months later, I can see how I was using humour as a barrier and a deflection. Mental attitude is such a big part of weight loss, and until you are at peace with yourself, it will be a constant struggle.

"The Power of Words

I’ve been thinking about this blog for a while, whether to write it, and what exactly to say.

It’s about what makes us the way we are, or perhaps, more specifically, why I am the way I am.

There are so many reasons why people are overweight. To some, the overweight are simply gluttons, an easy assumption to make when you look back to the days of the Romans, or even Henry VIII, where the rich feasted and became fat, and the poor, who had little to eat, remained thin. I have had to sit and listen and some people around me have made assumptions about overweight people, and how they got that way, and “all they need to do is watch what they eat and exercise”. There is an assumption that overweight people are “lazy and stupid”, but I think everyone on this site knows THAT is not true!

Sometimes, it is not that simple.

I’ve sat there and listened while a group of people I was lunching with made fun of someone else they knew, who is overweight, and enjoys riding his motorbike and stopping for a snack on the ride (he does it occasionally). It was the source of much amusement for some time – but I didn’t think it was funny at all. All I could think was “what do they say about me when I’m not around”. They interesting thing about that discussion was, at times, some of them weren’t exactly slim either! They probably don’t even remember the discussion taking place – but I do. Never, ever believe that old adage “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Words can be just as if not more destructive.

For me, it all comes down to self esteem. For reasons I won’t go into here, I didn’t have a lot of friends at school. I met my husband when I was 21, and he did a lot in helping me improve my self esteem. However, as time goes on, things change, life gets busy, and your focus shifts. People that you think are your friends turn out not to be, and that is heartbreaking – so you eat. Post-natal depression combined with major house renovations – you eat. You are at home with the kids, no adults to talk to – so you eat. Hubby travels for work, you get lonely – so you eat. You make a really good friend – and they move to the other side of the country – you get the picture! You pick yourself up, lose weight – no-one notices – so you think, why do I bother, no-one even notices me, so the cycle starts again. Or worse, people who didn’t speak to you when you were “fat” start to talk to you when you are “thin”, and you think, “well, what was wrong with me before, I am the same person”. I know that you shouldn’t let what other people think govern what you do, but that is a really hard to do, and it has taken a long time for me to come to the acceptance that I don’t need other people’s approval. I now know that if someone can’t accept you the way you are, then maybe they are unhappy in themselves.

One day a woman nearly ran over my daughter and me on a pedestrian crossing at the entrance to a shopping centre car park. I hit the side of her car with my hand. She chased me down in the shops and yelled at me and called me a “fat bitch”. At the time it left me speechless. Never would I have dreamed of using someone’s physical size as an insult. Oh well, at least I would have left a sizable dent in the car if she hit me! I can always lose weight but she will probably always be ignorant!

The doubts are still there lurking in the background – did I miss out on that job because of my size? Do my some people not talk to me much because they’re skinny and I’m? A throwaway comment here and there that I have to try not to let get to me. These self doubts are so destructive and so hard to silence – but I’m getting there. I want to thank everybody who has given me such fabulous feedback on my previous blogs – you have made me feel 10 feet tall, and given me encouragement to go on! When I am feeling down, I sometimes re-read those blogs and comments. The power of words is amazing.

I thank you all for being with me on this life changing journey.

PS: Out of the mouths of babes – last year, during “The Biggest Loser” one of the students (who I must say, knows no boundaries), said to me “Melissa, maybe you should try out for “The Biggest Loser”, you could do with losing a few kilos”. What could I say? (I didn’t think I was THAT big!)"

29 September 2010

I don't need The Bigges Loser anymore!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Simple Pleasures and a Lesson Learnt

Simple Pleasures and a Lesson Learnt

As some of you know, I work with teenagers with special needs. I am constantly delighted by their ability to take pleasure in the simple things in life. Today, while I was teaching a class swimming, one student was sitting at the side of the pool. She wasn’t swimming, but watching her class mates.

As the class left the pool, she became more animated, pointing to the water.

“Reflection” she kept saying.

“Reflection, reflection. Reflection of the trees.”

This student loves reflections. Reflections in windows, reflections in cars, reflections in boats, reflections in spectacles. She loves to see her reflection in anything but a mirror. She gains huge pleasure from seeing these reflections, and not just her reflection, but if she see a picture which has a reflection in it, she loves that too.

So, as I had my camera with me at the time, I took a photo of the reflection in the water of the trees outside the pool area, showed it to her for approval and promised it to her for next term.

In some respects, I don’t blame her for loving reflections. I have to admit, I do enjoy photographing them and looking at them myself. When you think about it, reflections also convey a sense of calm – you don’t get a reflection in rough water, only smooth, calm water. You don’t get a reflection in a rough surface, only smooth surfaces like glass. To sit and look at a reflection in water early in the morning before the wind builds is very calming.

Which brings me to the mirror. A smooth, flawless (usually) surface, cool to touch. Bright, revealing all. It can give the illusion of space as it reflects the area around it.

So why are we so afraid of what we see in the mirror? How is it we go through life projecting an air of confidence, telling others we are comfortable with who we are, yet if it came down to it, we would admit we don’t like what we see in the mirror? How many of us avoid looking in the mirror? I admit, there have been times I have avoided the mirror – which is hard when you have full length mirror wardrobe doors!

Enter Alice. Alice meant I could write in the third person, and protect myself from criticism – some habits die hard. So, Alice was born.  Her first story, “Through the Looking Glass”, came about six weeks into the study. It detailed Alice’s defining moment when she realised things weren’t “as they appeared.”

“Through The Looking Glass

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Alice. Okay, so her name wasn’t Alice and she wasn’t little, but why let the facts get in the way of a good story. Every morning Alice would look in the mirror and say “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

Now, before you all tell me “that was someone else”, I know, I know, but this is my fairy tale.

So, every morning, Alice would ask mirror this question, and every morning Alice would eagerly await the answer “why of course, it is you young Alice.”

Now, mirror wasn’t the most truthful of mirrors. When Alice looked in the mirror, she thought, “well, I know I’m not the slimmest of princesses out there (did I mention she is a princess?), but I’m not THAT big”, and would go on with her day. She would go off to work, eat and drink what she thought was a pretty good diet, and exercise occasionally.

Then one day, Alice saw something that upset her a lot. A photograph. It was then she realised that mirror was lying to her. She wasn’t “just well proportioned” – she was fat! There was no denying it! Alice just wanted to go and hide away in her tower and never see anyone ever again.

Alice retreated into herself, but went about her daily life as if nothing had happened. The light went out of her eyes, the smile did not appear on her face very often, and she kept to herself as much as possible. She threw herself into looking after her castle.

Now, you have to realise Alice lived in a fairytale land where she was constantly bombarded by the television and magazines with images of slim, beautiful princesses, who seemingly kept their lovely figures with no effort at all. Women who had babies and had their pre-baby bodies back with a wave of their magic wand – those dreaded “yummy mummies”. No matter how much Alice waved her magic wand, and implored her fairy godmother, she just could not lose weight.

Then one day, when Alice was eating dinner, she heard about a magic programme to help people lose weight. It was a trial, to bring people together “virtually”, to support each other, to provide assistance, to provide tools, to help them achieve their goals. Alice by now, was sick of being a fat princess in a thin princess world, so decided to sign up.

As the time came closer to begin, she said goodbye to her old lifestyle. She came to terms with no longer eating all those comforting foods that had become her only friends. Unable to wait any longer, she bought the book, and started a week before the trial started – she was amazed, she lost one kilogram.

Then, amidst much excitement, the trial began. The resources were there – food ideas, recipes, plans – and the much treasured support and understanding. And the realisation that there were so many other princesses out there just like her! She was no longer alone.

As part of Alice’s healing, she joined the gym. Then one day, something magical happened.

One morning as Alice was getting dressed, she caught sight of herself as she was pulling on her top. What’s this? What is this “depression” on my side? My goodness, my body is changing, it is starting to look slimmer, show a bit of definition. So Alice decided to have a good look at herself. Her legs were slimmer, bum a bit smaller – hey, this diet thing really was working.

Alice held herself up tall. The light came back to her eyes. A cheeky smile crept across her face. Then, the words came out – “mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

And the reply – “you are” and this time, she knew mirror meant it.”

10 October 2010

As for my friend at school, I’m not sure why she won’t look at herself in the mirror, but I’m sure we can work on that!