Seasonal depression sucks, and Spring is awesome!

Sometimes I forget how to slow down and enjoy the moment. I forget for a long time. And then, suddenly… I remember. And everything feels instantly awesome.

After this past winter (YES I know, I’m still talking about it because I’m still shaking it off) I’m still remembering how to be happy because it’s a day. Such a long time with so much snow, being stuck at home, feeling cold, more dark than light, and the stale air really takes it’s toll. I didn’t realize just how bad it was until the weather got warm yesterday. I have way more energy, I’m happier, and since we changed the clocks I’ve been waking up naturally earlier in the morning when the sun comes up. It’s all around a pretty great time.

Well, yesterday we spent all day outside. It was a truly gorgeous day and we had a fife and drum muster (do I need to do a post explaining what that is? Let me know people… if there is anyone reading this…) so I was all hyped up, all day, because of performing and socializing. The vitamin d didn’t hurt either. Well, the boyfriend and I stayed up late watching movies – ok, we stayed up until about 11:30. We’re old and get up early during the week, we stayed up crazy late last night! – and I still woke up around 7am. That’s not a lot of sleep for me. Usually I’m a 9+ hours girl. But today? I basically annoyed the boyfriend out of bed to make coffee, even though he had been asleep (sorry babe). And we were productive! Usually I hate being productive, but today? Groceries were done and put away by 10:30, I started organizing my closet/getting rid of the huge surplus of clothing I have that I actually hate, we had lunch, I practically took a nap, and we went for a run! It’s been absolutely magical… And I feel more relaxed and well-rested than I did a month ago after a week of full nights of sleep.

All I can do is chalk it up to the weather and sunshine. And maybe my recent return to working out. Endorphins are pretty magical that way.

It makes me sad to think how miserable I was all winter. It scares me to think that the same thing could happen next year. Clearly I need better winter coping skills. I never realized I get seasonal depression… Or maybe this was the first time it got that bad. I’m just so grateful that it’s spring now. I feel absolutely amazing. I feel ALIVE!

I’m finally enjoying daily rituals again. And it feels great. Do you notice these kinds of changes connected to the weather?

Excuse me, I need to go hug my boyfriend again. Because it’s the afternoon, it’s sunny and warm, and I can.


The power of surgery

This post is about working out and my boobs. If that’s going to be weird for you, I’m sorry. However, these are things I care about. If you don’t want to workout I won’t yell at you! That would be rude. And mean. I try not to be a mean person. So I’ll just tell my story and not force my ways on you!

I love working out. Some people think it’s weird, and some people think I am obsessed with workouts or don’t have fun because of them. All I know is that nothing gives me the same feeling of accomplishment as finishing a workout totally out of breath and tomato red in the face. I love that I can push my body to change, and get stronger, and turn into something else. It’s so incredible that we have the power to change our bodies. Some people just want to lose weight, some gain weight, others want to build muscle or stamina… But we have the power to make those things happen!

Two years ago I had breast reduction surgery. Before that I didn’t workout much, I didn’t eat a lot (I subscribed to the 1200 calories a day and low fat ideas of dieting), and I obsessed with the number on the scale. First thing in the morning I would weight about 115. After breakfast was closer to 116. Mid afternoon was usually between 117-118 and after dinner was anywhere between 117-120. Yeah, it wasn’t healthy. I was always concerned about the food I put in my mouth and whether it was going to “show” right away. I felt totally exposed to the world and tried to hide my discomfort with a big smile. It was awful.

Then I had the surgery. It was the best decision I ever made! I went from a quite hefty cup size, especially given my bone structure and height, to a totally manageable (yet still technically “large”) one. It was a super easy recovery, but I did spend a good week lying on the fold out couch in Mum’s family room in front of the TV. And I got bored. And anxious about all the food I was eating while I was just laid up. I started googling things like “tone up abs” and “diet”, and I came across Tone It Up. I read up on Karena and Katrina’s stories. I read their blog posts, found their youtube videos, and discovered there was a nutrition plan. I also discovered that a few days after I was cleared for exercise was their annual Bikini Series! I was hooked. I bought the nutrition plan, a set of 3lb weights, and a new sports bra. I eventually also downloaded the Couch to 5k app (which was huge – I couldn’t run comfortably before the surgery. So much of this is only possible because of that surgery!)

The beauty if the Tone It Up nutrition plan is it actually, you know, lets you eat. It’s not restrictive. It’s a healthy balanced lifestyle, not a diet you do until you get where you want to go. They include recipes laden with chocolate and healthy carbs, and they practice what they preach: Karena has been known to post pictures of carrot cake that she’s refusing to share, and the girls also celebrated the end of their 3 week long filming with belgian waffles.  It’s a totally maintainable lifestyle, you don’t feel deprived of ANYTHING, and the girls provide you with advice on how to bounce back after a rough weekend. You also get the entire Tone It Up community when you start doing their workouts, even if you don’t buy the nutrition plan. This is a group of women all over the world who encourage each other to keep pushing and be their best selves. These women encourage each other to reach their goals, whether it be a 10k, going up in weights in your workouts, or even graduating college.

I’m thinking about all this now for a few reasons. First, I found Karena and Katrina’s website two years ago about now. Second, this past Saturday was my boobs’ second birthday (happy birthday manageable boobs! I love you so much). Third, I am currently finding my fitness again. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I let my fitness slip over the last year. I let habits that make me happy and proud fall to the wayside. I’m disappointed that I stopped working out regularly, but I’m also excited that I’ve started again. I love that I am my own inspiration. I know that I used to be able to run 4 miles, and I will be able to again. I know that I used to be able to do every single workout on the weekly schedule and also add in extras because just the listed routines weren’t enough for me to feel like I’d pushed myself. And I know that I can get to that place again.

Today during my run I pushed really hard. I did week 5 day 1 of C25K, and let me just say that I impressed myself. Today’s run was 5 minutes on, 3 minutes walking, three times. During each 5 minute stretch of running I pushed myself through a 10 minute mile pace. That is really hard for me, especially since I only picked this back up a week ago. But not once did I lower my speed. If that wasn’t enough to make me happy my heart rate was lower than it was a week ago! I pushed harder and didn’t max out as hard. It’s proof of progress, it’s proof that my effort will come back to me in reward, and it’s proof that I’m right. I can get my fitness back where it was. I can’t wait for longer outdoor runs once it gets warmer!

And I’m not worrying about food as much. I’m eating lean, clean, and green. I’m not overloading on carbs. And I’m not over eating. I feel GOOD (aside from the health issues), and I’m starting to sleep properly again too. I’m just over the moon about how this is all starting to work and I’ve only truly recommitted to my chosen lifestyle for a week. It’s incredible how the smallest changes can make the biggest difference! I can’t wait to come back and tell you all about how I ran a full 5k!

On springtime, fitness, and why I don’t care what people think

Today is the third day in a row that I’ve opened the windows in our apartment and let it air out. It’s also the third day in a row that I could practically see the snow shrinking. Maybe that’s hyperbolic, but I just feel so much better about everything because I can see the snow in that grossly melted snow cone stage. The sun is shining, the (rather strong) wind keeps bring damp earth smells in, and I just can’t wait for outdoor runs and tans. I honestly couldn’t tell you how there is so much damp earth smell. On our property alone I think we have about one square foot of exposed ground. I’m enjoying it…

The sunshine and warmer temperatures have totally changed my mental outlook. As much as I hate dealing with changing the clocks for Daylight Savings I am finally alert enough to reap the benefits of a later sunset. Right as my afternoon slump/mope session comes around I realize that I still have several hours of real daylight. And you know what? That’s about all I need to break out of it now. Everything feels good (well, except my body specifically. More on that in a minute) and I can hear kids playing outside. I can also hear their parents walking dogs and frankly I didn’t realize how much it’s been feeling like everyone moved away for the winter. I’m one of those weird people who sits in their bed when they’re not doing stuff around the house, so I watch people out my window. Seeing all the people emerging is like saying hello to long lost friends. I have only almost yelled out the window to greet people a few times. Which is good, because I don’t actually know any of these people and I’m sure they wouldn’t enjoy the creeper upstairs yelling at them and their babies.

Anyway, over the winter and the past year I have totally let my fitness and eating habits lapse. A year ago I exercised several times a week (3 minimum), ate 5 meals a day, and ate mostly “lean clean green” with a lot of fruit and quinoa thrown in. That isn’t to say that was all I ate – I am very big on a balanced diet that allows for enjoying treats and not depriving myself of a glass of wine now and then. My workouts were my stress relief. Sweat made me feel accomplished, and whatever happened that day I knew I’d done at least one thing that made me truly feel good and strong in every way. This past year has involved a lot of life changes and stresses, and somewhere along the way those habits that made me so happy disappeared. That, mixed with moving in with my boyfriend, have totally screwed up my body. While I still eat a technically healthy diet most of the time, the treats have become more numerous and bigger. Instead of a small amount of ice cream occasionally, it’s at least once a week and about a pint every time with all the toppings and whipped cream. Instead of eating a few of the boyfriend’s fries when he has them I get my own huge order and inhale them all. That mixed with stress and now health issues (so few workouts) means I’ve gained 20lbs. Now, don’t go jumping down my throat. This isn’t a “woe is me, I’m fat now” post. I’m not fat. I’m even still within a healthy weight for my body. I still have muscle tone, I’ve only gone up maybe 2 sizes in clothes (depending on the style, let’s be real, women’s clothing is awful to keep track of sizes), and I’m easing back into my old lifestyle. I’m cool with this, it’s a thing that happened. Whatever.

It’s a slow process to regrow those habits because I’m a klutz and have to be gentle with myself. It’s also a slow process because I know that if I don’t think about this in exactly the right way I will slide back into the restrictive habits I developed in college. I always ate, but I ate for a clothing size and not for fuel. At the time I didn’t realize I felt less than good, but now I know that I feel so much better in every single way when I eat according to the Tone It Up plan. I fuel myself, I don’t starve, I eat a variety of foods, and I can run and jump and play in a way that I never could before. However, I also know that I need to not weigh myself because I start to obsess about the numbers. There was a time when I would jump on the scale several times a day, at least 5, just to “check”. So almost a year ago I stopped weighing myself. Ever. I pay attention to my body, I adjust my habits based on my exercise and how my clothes fit. It’s what works for me, it makes me happy. So when I went to the doctor yesterday to start figuring out what has me so fatigued (I think anemia or a flare up of Epstein Barr, I got blood tests this morning to see) and she not only insisted on telling me how much I weighed despite my express request that she not but also gave me a lecture about dieting and how I really need to know the number and how I need to “fix it” by going low sugar paleo (which DEFINITELY is not an eating style that works for me)… I lost it. I’m still mad, but I am calm enough to realize that perhaps she didn’t understand me when I was trying to tell her that knowing the number is damaging to me. Perhaps she didn’t realize that instead of helping me stop what could be a terrible spiral down into obesity she was actually verging on triggering a process that leads to my therapist talking to me about eating disorders. I am willing to bet she had no idea the extent of what I was trying to tell her. Either way, she was not kind in refusing to honor my request. It’s her job to tell me when she’s worried about a health thing, she’s a doctor. But seriously, that was the worst doctor’s appointment I’ve ever had (and I’ve been pinched by a speculum, so that tells you something).

Anyway, in the new light of day and springtime and warmth, I have been thinking about fitness and my habits in particular. And I’ve discovered something wonderful: I don’t care what people think of me. Sure, I’m not as lean as I was. I let my habits fall to the wayside. That’s on me. But I also sure as hell don’t care if someone thinks that I’ve gained weight and I don’t know how to handle it. You know what? I do know how to handle it. I also know that being obsessed with the “ideal weight” for your body isn’t good for you in any way. Frankly, I’m the only one who knows what works best for my body. I’m the one living in it, and I pay attention. If I was diabetic, or had some other condition that was treatable by diet change, that would be different. But for overall living, health, and weight-loss? Ya, I’m going to listen to what I need for myself, thanks. I actually have a lot of experience with healthy weight-loss. I’ve done it before. And it stuck. It’s all about the lifestyle, not the diet. Anyway…

So I’m sitting writing this, glowing with pride. Instead of setting out to sweat myself into oblivion and injury, and instead of restricting all my food…. I went home yesterday, did a quick Piyo workout, and went about my life. And today, instead of working out like mad and restricting… I ate my healthy meals and gave my fatigued body a break because I don’t know what’s wrong with me yet and I’d like to not fall asleep on a treadmill (dear lab, please give us my results so I know if I can take iron to fix this or if I’m dying). I’ve never had this kind of a reaction to criticism and weight issues before. I’m excited because of it, and thrilled that it’s spring and I’m about to get my outside runs again (once I work up to a 5k, because I don’t think I can even run a mile right now. oops).

My plan is to keep with the Piyo calendar for the rest of the 8 weeks (I’m in week 4) and add in Couch to 5k. I’m excited to get back into working out. It makes me strong, it helps my tendinitis (flute player problems, oy), and it’s the best stress relief out there.

And it’s 6pm in Boston and the sun is still shining!