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Fears

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Sometimes I eat my feelings. Do you do this too?

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A few weeks ago, I opened the free Michelangelo Challenge. We have a super group of exciting, vibrant ladies (and a few gents) who are using effective workouts, healthy yet somehow delicious food, offbeat challenges, and a great support network to make some positive changes.

It's been a pleasure having everyone there, and they're all doing such a great job!

However, as it turns out, occasionally there's a bump in the road.

And sometimes that bump leads to self-soothing in the form of quesadillas, beer, chocolate, or some other tasty food. 

It would be awesome if food solved life's problems but surprise, pizza doesn't alleviate loneliness.

Especially when you trap the delivery guy and force an awkward conversation with him (not from personal experience). 

When you're eating because you're sad, you might look into addressing the issue differently.

We had a really good discussion about this - I asked everyone in the group what their hardest struggle was, and then brainstormed with John (my sidekick in the MC). Together we came up with some suggestions we personally use to check our emotions when we feel like a pizza would def solve all our problems. 

I felt it was important to share this beyond the warm, fuzzy embrace of our group. After struggling with depression for nearly a year, I know how devastating it can be and I want you to know we're in this together. 

Without further ado, here's what we wrote.

I've blanked out the participants' names - but maybe you have the same issues. Could I have written one of those answers to YOU?

If the answer's yes, please leave a comment below or email me to let me know which one you struggle with. It's important that you know you're not alone in this!



 

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Cue the Parade, It's the 2nd Anniversary of Beginning My Journey

I don’t really “do” New Year’s Resolutions.

That’s why you’re getting this post today – two years ago, on 9/22/2014, I started the journey that led me to where I am right now.

You know the photos on the front cover of me? The “before shot”? Yeah, that was two years ago.

Every time I look at those pictures I can’t help but cringe. I viscerally feel the emotions that were running through me at that moment. I mean, look at my face – I’m not even trying to hide them.

Unhappiness – I had just moved back to Indiana after years in Vegas that had not been kind to me, either physically or mentally.

Embarrassment – How did I get to 190-ish pounds? For crying out loud, I was an ATHLETE. I had competed with the best in the country just a few years prior – and now, I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.

Exhaustion – More than anything, I was tired. Tired of feeling like going back to bed as soon as I woke up. Tired of exercising more and more just to see no impact on the scale. Tired of not owning myself. Allowing other people and events steer me instead of me choosing my own path.

Hope – Ah yes, hope. You can’t see it in my face, but I had the tiniest sliver of hope that I clung to. It said that maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to do this. And I wouldn’t know if I didn’t try.

While I had a lot of negativity running through me, I never lost hope. I chose to recognize my doubts and fears but not let them dictate my actions. I clung to that little spark of hope; I let my imagination take hold. I steadied myself as I started walking down an unfamiliar path.

In my imagination, I saw myself as the fittest version of myself. I had no idea what I would look like but I thought I knew what I would FEEL like.

Confident. Graceful. Strong. Poised. Composed.

Unstoppable.

As the days and weeks went by, the physical changes started to appear. And I began to dream bigger. What if I could do what I’d dreamed of… what if I competed in a figure competition? Could I do it? Well, I figured, why the hell not.

After three months of accumulating confidence and audacity, I set my sights on training for a figure competition. Stepping onstage at my first figure competition several months later was a rush of emotion and euphoria like I’d never experienced.

My outward appearance was a direct representation of what I’d worked hardest to conquer – not my body, but my mind.

I didn’t need to say a word as I posed in front of the judges and the crowd. I let my flexed muscles and stupid-wide smile do the talking for me. The quiet hopes and dreams of that unhappy woman shone through.

I’d done it.

Sometimes it’s best to take a pause and look back to where you started. It’s easy to lose track of how far you’ve come when you focus on putting one foot ahead of the other and making sure you’re doing the little things right, consistently.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. How everyone has a story. Everyone has a path. Everyone is somewhere in the middle of what we call life – struggling, succeeding, failing, thriving, flailing – all at once.

I’m no exception.

But if you’ll allow me, I’d like to share some lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1. Being scared to try something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

My Mom has a saying – you should do things that make you nervous, but not things that depress you. Though I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, I make it a goal to do one thing each year that scares the shit out of me. Last year’s goal was the figure competitions.

Being scared or nervous is common. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something. If it makes you nervous, examine what kind of nervous it is.

Are you afraid of failure? Or of success?

What’s the absolute WORST that will happen – a non-exaggerated version that weighs the real-life pros and cons. We tend to take the worst-case scenario of an event that makes us uneasy. Is the doomsday prediction accurate, or is it your mind keeping you safe and sound by drowning out the flipside: the joy of success?

Pause and reflect before you decide. Too often we kill our own dreams before anyone else does.

Don’t let your future be a casualty. 

2. Choose who to ignore.

This sounds mean. Sometimes, it is mean. People will always have an opinion about what you should do or say or think. But we all have the precious gift to act and speak and think for ourselves.

People often have the best intentions for you, but it will never fully take your life into account. But you are the person who is the most interested party in your future. And you have the final say.

Sometimes you need to listen for the signal amid the noise and cling to that beacon. Choose to listen to the people who empower you, who cheer you on. Listen to the people who pick you up when you are down. Listen to those who give you courage to keep fighting when your intentions waver, and ignore everyone else, no matter how good their intention.

When you stand up for your dream and achieve it…. That’s the sweetest victory of all.  

3. I can’t be a perfectionist.

There is nothing more harrowing than putting yourself on a stage clearly intending to be judged by your looks. No one, except perhaps a few select people sitting in the audience, has seen you bleed, sweat, and cry for months in preparation. They just see you flex for 17 seconds, turn you around a couple of times and make you switch positions with a few other women, and then award trophies based on semi-arbitrary guidelines.

It’s gratifying to win trophies and have tangible markers of success. I’d be lying if I said I’d be incredibly disappointed if I hadn’t placed.
But I also know that a trophy doesn’t make me a winner, just like not placing wouldn’t have made me a loser. Every competitor on that stage deserved the biggest fucking trophy for slogging through the same shit for the past few months and being brave enough to stand alongside me. 

Every. Single. One.

Walking home with hardware didn’t make me better than anyone. But I had to remember that not placing higher didn’t make me worse than anyone, either.

Those expensive moments cost me literal blood, sweat and tears. I couldn’t let that price include my mental health.

Fighting the mental battle afterward took a lot of energy. Did I not place higher because of my posing? Were my shoulders too narrow? I had the best abs out there, why didn’t they see that? Did I include too much cardio the last few weeks? Shit, I had pumped up too early before judging – maybe that’s why I didn’t do better.

Those thoughts, and more, flew through my brain in rapid succession. Playing whack-a-mole to beat them back and not let them dictate my self-worth exhausted me.

I realized that by coming as close to “perfection” (whatever the hell that looked like for me) as I could and having it nearly destroy my self-esteem wasn’t worth it.

There are all different flavors of awesome, and perfection isn’t one of them.

Revisiting those memories is tough. Those lessons came at a high price. However, those experiences showed me my strength in the rawest form.

It takes a tremendous amount of heat and pressure to create a diamond.

My initials spell GEM.

Coincidence?

Absolutely, but I think in this case it fits quite well. 

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Fit People Can Feel Shitty About Themselves Too

Ugh.

I had a crappy weekend.

It started out good – I’m transitioning out of my diet, I’m feeling strong, and I had a few really cool things happen last Friday that caused a mini dance celebration in the break room and left me grinning like a complete goon most of the afternoon.

I’m working on a Top-Secret New Project (but as my Mom has told me, I’m not really good at keeping secrets – email me at Genevieve@theinertiaproject.org for details!) and had been planning to take some photos for the project this past Sunday.

No big deal – I’ve done shoots before and know how to approach them.

Or rather, I SHOULD know how to approach them.

AND I TOTALLY SCREWED IT UP!!

I psyched myself out.

In an attempt to fill my muscles out like I’ve done for my other shoots, I tried to do an emergency carbo-load on Saturday (read: ate my weight in fun party carbs like fro-yo, cookies, and Pad Thai - mmmmmm) to fill out more, with the thought that not drinking water until the photos were taken on Sunday would get rid of the inevitable carb bloat and I’d look great and tan and happy.

What actually happened was the opposite.

I woke up bloated, my abs were NOT defined, and I felt like I’d eaten a load of mopey antisocial wallflower carbs instead of fun party carbs. Exactly how I DIDN’T want to feel – and DIDN’T WANT TO LOOK!!

I was distraught. And what’s worse is that I had concrete proof my body had changed because I had taken progress photos four days before.

How I looked on Wednesday

 

How I Looked 4 days later - my literal Photo Bomb

Take a look at the difference in these pictures – the one on Wednesday is blurry and I’m pale as all get-out, but you can tell that my abs are better. I’m not retaining water. I look good.

And here’s another confession: I actually took the second set of pictures Monday night because I couldn’t bring myself to do it Sunday – this is what I looked like a full 24 hours later, after my meltdown.

(Note: I realize that my “bloaty and gross” pictures are what a lot of people would kill to have. It goes to show that regardless of your weight, you can still feel bad about yourself. This is not a post to make anyone feel shitty about how they look, or say “look at me, even when I feel bad I look good” – NO. This is about how each and every one of us has struggles with how our body looks, regardless of whether you compete in fitness competitions or avoid mirrors at all costs.)

There was an internal war going on, and it wasn’t pretty.

Here’s what was going through my mind on Sunday:

“Gen, you KNOW how to do this correctly, and that you weren’t doing it right. Why the fuck did you do this? How could you totally let go? Why didn’t you try cleaner carbs like oatmeal? Why did you think you could pull this off? The tan won’t save you, your abs look like complete crap. They are watery and soft and you can’t take pictures like this. They looked better yesterday. Why didn’t you do the photos last week when you looked super cut? What if you look WORSE later this week if you put off the photos?”
(For those who are wondering, if I had eaten no differently than usual, this never would have happened in the first place.)

There was more, but that’s a small sample of what I was saying.

But this isn’t my first rodeo. Basically what happened was I took on too much water too fast thanks to the fun party carbs. All I need to do was go back to eating normally and the bloat will subside in 2-3 days.

In the scheme of things, this is not a big deal AT ALL.

But I know myself, and I know what can happen when I let these thoughts get out of hand. I wrote an article previously about how I had a hard time with self-talk last year. I felt myself ready to fly off the handle and knew that I needed to get my head back on right.

I swallowed my pride, called up a good friend and talked through my thoughts.

This was SO HARD.

As a fitness professional, it’s so hard to admit to myself that I’m not treating my body or mind nicely, much less verbalize it to someone else. And, to be quite candid, writing this for the world to see is pretty terrifying right now!

It’s so hard to explain though – people automatically assume that because I have a six-pack that I am satisfied with how I look all the time.

THAT IS NOT TRUE.

I have good days, and I have bad days, just like everyone else.

I have days when I feel invincible. And I will admit that I do have more of them now that I have changed my body and mindset.

But I, too, still fall prey to ugly thoughts. I too have moments when I look in a mirror and see imperfections. I too struggle to love my body – and to be honest, I don’t think ANYONE fully loves everything about their body.

As I was venting to my friend, I acknowledged that what I was complaining about would seem ludicrous to 98% of the population.

But these feelings are real to me, and learning how to deal with these emotions in a healthy and constructive manner is a battle.

But if I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that while I don’t always have control of what my body is doing (helloooo, carb bloat and hormonal water weight!), I DO always have control of something FAR more important – MY MIND.

After throwing a little more of a pity party, I rolled up my sleeves and started weed-whacking away my invasive thoughts.

I GET TO DECIDE TO STAY CALM.

I GET TO DECIDE THAT THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

I GET TO DECIDE THAT JUST BECAUSE I FUCKED UP THIS PHOTO SHOOT, IT DOESN’T MAKE ME LESS LOVEABLE OR WORTHY.

I GET TO DECIDE THAT I WILL LET THESE THOUGHTS PASS INTO MY MIND, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN I SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO THEM.

I AM IN CONTROL.

I bet you’ve had similar thoughts –

  • You’ve walked past a mirror or caught a glimpse of your reflection in a storefront window and been less than thrilled with what you see.
  • You’ve eaten too much and feel like you need to compensate by not eating for the rest of the day, texting your best friend that you’re “such a fatty”. 
  • You decide that THIS TIME, you’re REALLY going to buckle down and exercise but you give up after three workouts when you’re sore, and label yourself “lazy and unmotivated”.
  • You step on the scale and your confidence is shattered because you’re three pounds heavier than you were yesterday.
  • You have a weak moment and go for that third (and then fourth) slice of pizza and then continue the food fest because you’ve already screwed up and might as well keep going.

Look, these things happen.

It’s easy (and common!) to freak out and beat yourself up.

I clearly struggle with this too.

But always remember that you’re the master of your thoughts. Take a deep breath. Resist the temptation to take your ugly thoughts seriously. Treat them like a troll leaving a stupid comment on a YouTube video and scroll on past.

I have a challenge for you all – this week, I want you to stop yourself when you start that downward spiral and send me a short email telling me the exact thought you had when you caught yourself. I promise it will be better than hating yourself for the next day or two or three.

Chances are you’re blowing things out of proportion.

Practice acknowledging that you are having the thought, but that this particular thought doesn’t define you. This is a toughie but it will get easier with time.  And just to let you know, I’m going to be doing this too – we are in this together.

Now go, stop those negative thoughts, and be a winner.


Have you ever had a meltdown over a fitness mishap that in hindsight wasn’t a big deal? I’d love to hear it - send me an email and share your story. And please feel free to pass this on to a friend who needs to hear this.

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“But I Don’t Want to Look Bulky!” Mythbusters, Part 1.

Ok, stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

“Cello lessons? Forget about that, I don’t want to turn into Yo Yo Ma.”

No? Ok – here’s another:

“I’m afraid of going to spin class because I don’t want to compete in the Tour de France!”

Still nothing? What about now:

 “I don’t want to learn how to sing because I’m afraid I’ll accidentally turn into an opera singer.”

If you think I’m totally nuts right about now, indulge me in just one more:

“I don’t want to lift weights; I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder!”

OOOHHH snap. I bet you’ve heard that one before.

I could go into the logical, rational arguments why that’s not the case. I can wax poetical about how women’s testosterone levels make it difficult for muscle growth, how it takes YEARS of 100% dedicated lifting AND dieting to get to that point, or how lifting generally makes you smaller, not larger (take me as a case study: Pre-lifting Genevieve was a size 10-12; lifting Genevieve is a size 4-6).

Picture time so I can prove it!

But I’m not going to do that.

I’m going to address what I hear when a woman looks me in the eyes with dread and utters those words.

I’m going to dive straight into the fear behind that statement.

Though the tide is (wonderfully!) turning, it’s not yet totally acceptable for women to lift weights. If you look at the popular magazines, the articles on “toning” and “shaping” tell you:

1.       Run on the treadmill and lift 5 pound dumbbells for a fartbillion repetitions.

2.       To be slim and pretty, you should run. Just run. Or elliptical, whatever, just as long as it's cardio.

3.       Stay far, far away from lifting anything over 15 pounds because you’ll turn into the Incredible Hulk and no man will ever want to date you.

They play on the basic fears that all of us have: societal norms, physical attractiveness, social belonging, and feminine ideals of beauty.

The discomfort, in real life, sounds like this: “I don’t want to be bulkier than my boyfriend. He likes me small and soft and petite. What if he stops finding me attractive?" Or “I’m losing weight and one of my guy friends told me that he usually doesn’t find muscular girls attractive, but he likes the way I look. I know he meant it as a compliment, but it made me question the way I look. Am I getting too buff? Is that a thing?”

I have no problem admitting that I, too, was scared when I started lifting. It was embarrassing and I did a ton of things wrong.

But NOT taking the leap would have been worse.

Why is that?

Because I would have been trapped, like so many women are, in a spiral of self-loathing.

We’re taught to hate things about ourselves (like this clip from Mean Girls). Every magazine tells you how to “Lose Those Last 10 Pounds”, as if you’re not already good enough. And the kicker is that their advice SUCKS and WON’T MAKE YOU LOSE THAT WEIGHT!!

So you never lose the weight, you hate yourself more, you tell yourself you’re lazy and why bother, and you give up and eat ice cream in a corner while blasting Adele. (Not from personal experience.)

Lifting weights changed all that for me.

By lifting, I became confident. Yeah, starting out I probably looked like the weight room equivalent of Bambi on ice. But once I started to get stronger and increase my dumbbells from the 10s to the 15s to the 20s and even further, I started to see my body change. I started to have physical, concrete evidence that I was improving. I was reaching my goals by giving Shape Magazine the middle finger and doing everything it said I shouldn’t.

(Actually, I will give the magazines credit. They say to stay away from the 10s and 15s. They’re right. When I loaded up on 25s and 45s, I saw drastic changes.)

But the most drastic change was that I started believing in myself. I saw what happened when I followed conventional wisdom – crying  at the thought of 30 more minutes on the treadmill for the umpteenth day in a row (this one IS from personal experience), and what happened when I took that leap of faith - walking tall with my head held high.

I get the fear behind “I don’t want to be bulky”. I really do.

But the REAL fear is the fear of change.

It’s the fear that we won’t be beautiful in the socially accepted sense.

It’s the fear of your friends making fun of you for eating “rabbit food” while they slam burgers like it’s their job.

It’s the fear of being given the side eye by those three guys piling the plates on the bench press while you’re trying to concentrate on not dropping the bar on your face.

Those fears are the silent fears that are publicly pronounced as “I don’t want to get bulky”.

If you’ve found yourself saying “I don’t want to get bulky”, here’s what I want you to do.

I want you to really think about what this means to you.

What are you actually scared of? Is it how you’ll look? Is it how your friends will react? Is it that your sister doesn’t understand what you’re doing? Is it that you’re realizing you don’t actually know how to lift?

Once you figure out the actual answer, that dragon will be easier to slay. We’ll go more in depth on each one of these topics because dealing with your thoughts is often harder than physically picking up those barbells. But that’s exactly why I’m here. I don’t want you to wallow in misery, chasing those last elusive 5 pounds. I want you to kick ass and take names.

For now, though, take a second and write in the comments below – have you ever said “I don’t want to be bulky”, or heard someone say that to you? What’s the fear behind those words for you? I’m going to base the next few posts on what comes out in the comments, so don’t be shy!

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