I’m Ready To Start…But Where Do I Begin?

Have you ever changed?  I mean really changed something about yourself so drastically that it essentially took your entire life in a completely different direction?  If you haven’t, you are in the majority.  I can say this with confidence because of my own unscientific studies of the people I come in contact with.  There is something that happens to you when you are able to take hold of a life-changing shift.  All of a sudden, your path is littered with people who want what you have.  It’s a bit strange at first, to be completely honest.  I dragged myself out of the proverbial gutter.  Why would anyone look to me, of all people, for help?  It’s not because I went from fat to thin.  It’s not because I went from smoker to non-smoker.  It’s not because I went from drunk to sober.  It is because all of these things were only possible because of a profound shift in thinking.

It is interesting how we, as a culture, treat each other.  A woman who dresses provocatively or has a tattoo on her lower back must be ‘easy’.  A man with a belly must enjoy beer and barbecue and probably hides from his nagging wife in his man cave.  A person who decides to go to the gym in January is just going to quit in 2 weeks because they are weak willed.  A man who body builds must be at the pinnacle of health because his body is so fit.  All of these are examples of false correlations.  We judge each other by what we think we know, but in reality, we don’t know anything about anyone other than ourselves.  Since we are all guilty of creating these often false storylines in our minds, it only makes sense that we would have a fear of the storylines others will create about us.  This fear often paralyzes us into inaction.

When I finally surrendered to all of these things that ailed me, it was difficult to know where to begin.  I spoke wth my doctor, and his advice was to stop smoking first.  Of course, me being me, I didn’t follow his advice.  I had already quit drinking, and started to lose some weight.  I had convinced myself that if I was to quit smoking, I would gain the weight back, and be too upset to try to lose it again, because it would just be another failure.  The simple answer here is that you have to take the path that you choose.  If you only have one major issue to deal with, consider yourself very lucky!  You have only one decision to make.  No matter what direction you take, if you are making a positive change, in the scheme if things, it isn’t going to matter what you do first.  What matters is that you choose to make change and commit to the change.

What I want to talk about today is getting started with exercise.  It is always advisable to talk with your doctor to make sure that you are ok to begin exercising.  Just a reminder, I am not a medical professional.  I am only sharing with you my experience to help you to formulate your own roadmap to change.  I will always advise that you get your team of medical professionals (Physician, Chiropractor, Massage Therapist, ETC) on your side, and working for you.  Make sure that they are invested in you.  The first thing I discuss with anyone I consider bringing on my team is that I do not want to be prescribed an array of medications.  If I have an issue, I want to work together to find the cause, not treat the symptoms.  I am not interested in pumping myself full of medications for the rest of my life.  Mind you, there are things that are unavoidable.  I have no way to control my testosterone levels, and I need medical intervention to help me with that. However, I am able to make changes in my diet to control much of what many people just prefer to not deal with.  For example, when I was 20, I was diagnosed with IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Basically, stomach aches, indigestion, severe constipation, followed by severe…not constipation.  The cure?  Take these pills.  They will help maybe with pain.  Never once was it suggested that the things I eat could be causing a problem, and making simple changes in my dietary lifestyle could cure me.  After many years, I decided on a whim to get tested for food sensitivities.  Turns out, I’m sensitive to many things, including black pepper, eggs, casein (protein in cow’s milk), and pineapple.  Guess what I was eating for lunch every day?  Cottage cheese with pineapple and pepper, and a hard boiled egg.  Once I stopped, the ‘IBS’ disappeared.  You can see how a shift in my perspective changed my life here.  I had always put my medical fate in the hands of doctors.  Once I took over control, everything changed.  Remember, their job is to give you suggestions, and help you to make informed decisions.  Often, we find ourselves leaving those decisions in their hands.  It is now time for you to take your life off of auto pilot, and take back control of your medical destiny.

Past-future
Ok, ok…you came here to figure out how you can start an exercise program, and stick with it.  Let’s talk about that.  If you are overweight or out of shape, going to a gym may be something that is completely out of the question for you. It was for me.  Even though I had lost weight, I didn’t want anyone to look at me, or judge me.  I wasn’t comfortable asking questions, and I didn’t feel like I deserved to be there.  I knew, however, that my body needed to be challenged to repair the damage I had done through years of mistreatment.  I decided that it was ok for me to go to a thrift shop andpurchase used exercise DVD’s and do them in the privacy of my home.  You can now purchase apps, like ‘Daily Burn’ or ‘Gaia’ that will provide different work outs directly to your smart tv, phone, computer, or tablet, so you can begin your journey privately and with some dignity.  I understand that there are some truly amazing people who are able to go to a gym and not care what other people think.  I admire that courage.  I was unable to overcome that fear, so I started with home work outs.  

Walking-for-health
I know that one of my most frequent excuses to myself was that I don’t have time.  That was simply not true.  I decided that if I needed this change badly enough, I should be able to wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual to devote to my health.  So, I would rise at 5:30am, with the rest of the house still fast asleep, and do my exercise DVD without anyone watching and laughing.  I told myself that I can do anything for 30 days, and did not give myself any way out of it.  Something interesting started to happen immediately.  Even though I was getting 30 minutes less sleep, my energy level was through the roof.  I work upstairs in a building with only two floors. Believe it or not, I would always take the elevator to my desk.  Once I started my exercise program, it occurred to me that I should take the stairs.  It never even crossed my mind that that was an option before.  Once I started taking the stairs, I decided that parking as close to the building as possible maybe was too easy.  I started parking at the back of the lot.  Once I started parking at the back, I started to wonder if I was getting the 10,000 steps a day that are recommended to maintain good health, so I bought a $5 pedometer.  The pedometer showed that I was getting about 4,000 steps a day, so I decided that I could do better.

It was after a few months of this new found activity that my sister invited me to join her and my brother in law to do “Pat’s Run”. At the time, I had no idea what this even was.  I went to the internet to educate myself.  Once I read about Pat Tillman, with tears running down my cheeks, I immediately signed up.  Mind you, I had never run a full mile in my life.  I played sports as a kid, and I had convinced myself that I was a sprinter.  I HATED RUNNING.  I refused to run in PE.  However, I found inspiration in the story of Pat Tillman, and the tragedy of his life cut short was fuel enough for me to run.  I knew that I had a propensity to be overwhelmed and give up, so I started with around the block.  If I can run around the block the whole way, then I can go farther next time.  So, around the block I went, which my trusty pedometer told me was 1/4 mile.  I did it!  I didn’t even die!  The next day, around the block and then half way.  Again, Success!  I kept increasing the distance, settling into running on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  It was at this point that I felt worthy to join a gym.


I joined our local YMCA, which happened to be just a few miles from the house.  I signed up the whole family, hoping that others would be inspired by the new fire for life I had discovered.  I started taking Zumba once a week and would bring along anyone interested to join me.  I started lifting weights and using machines.  I rekindled my love for swimming, and started swimming laps in the pool for an hour at a time.  The more I tried, the more I loved it.  I do not know if people made snide comments about me not belonging there, but I never saw that.  People may not have been overly friendly, but they did start to give the approving nod to me, silently acknowledging that I, too, belonged.  It appears that my fears were once again proven unreasonable.

I do understand that not every gym has a welcoming environment.   I have seen the news story of the former Playboy Model who took nude pictures of an unsuspecting gym member and shamed her on social media.  I was also glad to see the outrage that she provoked, and was eventually brought up on charges for her malicious and truly inhumane behhavior.  I have hopes that this is a sign of the end of this ridiculous body shaming trend that we have seen for far too long.  I am also beyond thrilled to see the calling out of airbrushing and photo shopping of models on magazine covers and in movies, which have for years provided us with images of bodies that are unrealistic and unattainable.  

Let’s break this down in to easy to commit to bullet points:

  • Get yourself a pedometer.  It doesn’t need to be anything that is beyond $10.  Just something that can give you an idea of how many steps you are walking.  Get your base number, and try to increase it every week by 500-1000 steps a day until you are walking 10,000 steps a day.
  • Decide what you are willing to do.  Are you willing to ride a bike?  Are you willing to work out at home?  Are you willing to get up 30 minutes early?  
  • Understand that exercise will not necessarily facilitate weight loss.  You might see weight loss, but you certainly shouldn’t rely on exercise to manage your weight.  If you haven’t already read my blog post on “What is the fastest way I can lose weight…”, read it. Exercise will help strengthen your bones and muscles, and is wonderful for the health of your organs.  Mindfulness and healthy eating will have the biggest impact on weight management.  Both are important.
  • Start small.  Set attainable goals.  It is dangerous to set a goal of “I’m going to run the Boston Marathon” if you are pretty sedentary.  Start with “I will walk 5,000 steps every day this week, no exceptions!”  And then do it!  Don’t allow yourself to make an excuse.  If you have a busy week, get up early and walk before the day starts.
  • Don’t restrict yourself on attainable goals.  If you know in your heart that one day you do want to run a marathon, start with a mile.  Educate yourself on what you are interested in.  Think you want to hike?  Learn about hiking, get the proper gear, read about successful hikers, and formulate your goals to push you along the path to your ultimate goal of hiking the Grand Canyon.  If you want to do it, then first work on convincing yourself that you can without a doubt do it.  Visualize the achievement.  Then set small, strategic goals to get there.  (On a personal note, this is where I am at with running a marathon.  More on this in a future blog.)
  • Think about what you loved as a kid.  What was fun on the playground?  Remember that exhilarating feeling of playing?  Try to revive that feeling with exercise.  It doesn’t have to be awful and hard.  You will often catch Wave and I on the playground on the monkey bars, or running around the track, or climbing on equipment.  Obey your local park rules for sure, but also, HAVE FUN!  
  • Keep challenging yourself.  Your body is highly adaptable.  If you do the same thing everyday, you won’t see any changes.  Keep your body guessing.
  • Balance is important!  Not just metaphorical balance, but actually being able to balance your body while standing on one foot is very important.  It signifies core strength and muscle balance.  For instance, I have almost comically weak hips, and you might too!!  Many of us sit all day at work, which really messes with your core.  (Core meaning middle, low back and hips.  We tend to think of abs when we reference our core, but that is just one component). Try this:  In front of a mirror, do a squat.  The bottom of your squat should have your knees at a 90 degree angle.  Are your knees inline with your feet, or does one or both fold in?  It’s not a bad idea to take that free personal trainer session that gyms usually offer and ask them to evaluate you for muscle imbalances and cardiovascular health.  The internet, and especially YouTube, is fantastic to learn more about muscle imbalances and how to correct them.  THIS IS IMPORTANT!  I am a Personal Trainer, and I suffer from imbalances!  In fact, I’ve been in rehab for months now on an injury caused by weak hips that I knew about and decided to keep running anyway and not address them.
  • Surround yourself with encouraging people.  Get a work out buddy if you feel like you need the accountability.  Don’t listen to the people who want to put your down, or the back handed compliments.  Take the good things, leave the bad.  Believe in yourself, and the negative comments won’t determine your future.  Know that your mind may be looking for ways to keep you from changing as a protective mechanism.  Fight against it!  Time for you to take control of your destiny!

I feel like this post is all over the place, so I apologize if you have whiplash after reading this.  I am always here for you.  You can submit questions or comments through the ‘Contact Me’ form, and I will get right back with you.  Take courage, and remember…you can’t start on your amazing journey without taking that first step.  Be courageous!

Oh, and remember this…you are probably not crazy!!

Fly-to-freedom

“What is the fastest way I can lose weight?” “I work out, therefore I can eat whatever I want” …and other unicorn chasing ideas.

There I was.  Lying on my back on a vinyl covered exam table with needles sticking out of my shins, doing my best to lie still and let the dry needling do its work without damaging the tender tissues beneath them.  The receptionist asked my Physical Therapist, “Are there any bacon donuts left?”  “There is one”, he replied, “…and I will fight you for it!”  As much as I was charged with lying still, my head popped up, showcasing the look of confusion that draped over my face.  “Is this not an office of healthcare professionals?  And you are arguing over bacon covered donuts?”  My Physical Therapist, who actually turned out to be a decent guy, but highly skilled at mansplaining and letting me know that he indeed has a Master’s Degree, and my Personal Training certification is laughable, noted to me that they work out enough, so they can eat whatever they want.  I laughed, “I work out enough to know that you can’t shovel garbage in your mouth regardless of the amount of time you spend working out.”

So what makes me so smart?  It’s ok, I’m used to having to demonstrate that I’m not actually just full of opinions.  When I was in high school, I was 5’8″ and 115 lbs, or about 52 kg.  I was somewhat active, ate what my parents put in front of me, snacked on celery and ice burg lettuce, which I always called “watery goodness” because I loved them both.  As soon as I started working, I ate Taco Bell, Burgers, Fries, Shakes, and stopped activity.  By the time I was 31 years old, I was up to 265 lbs, or 120kg.  I had been asked, whilst purchasing a package of cigarettes, why I’m still smoking since I was pregnant, when I was not pregnant.  I was asked to join a group in my employers inagural ‘Biggest Loser’ challenge, because they needed someone on their team who could really stand to lose a lot and help the team win.  My chiropractor fired me as a patient (though to this day, he argues he didn’t fire me, he just told me he couldn’t help me if I wasn’t willing to make some changes.  As it turns out, I have been rehired as a patient).  It took me 13 months to lose 125 lbs.  I never quite got back to my high school weight, but that never mattered to me and still doesn’t.  

Since I went through this very public change, many of my work aquaintances felt like they went through the change with me.  I have heard everything from, “You have lost too much weight, and you look too skinny” to overly excited male co-workers who were convinced that I lost weight for their benefit, and began to pay me unwanted attention to the point of inappropriate behavior.  People who had always scoffed at me, and treated me like I was less than human suddenly wanted to be friends and go out to lunch.  People I thought were friends were suddenly so overcome with jealousy because I was now receiving attention, that they could no longer be my friend anymore.  Unconsciously, people still watch what I eat and judge everything I consume and weigh in on whether or not I should be eating this or that, even though it’s been almost 10 years since I completed the weight loss journey.  Interestingly enough, I did not win the ‘Biggest Loser’ challenge.  However, I am the only participant that has kept the weight off.  I am a legend amongst my peers.  When new people come to work there, I am introduced as the person “…who lost half of her body weight”.

Now, this is not a Trump-style bragging party.  I just want for you, dear reader, to know the point of view from which I have gained first hand knowledge of food, weight, exercise, and general health, and what each can and can’t accomplish.  

Before-and-after-Christina-Coates
Yes…these are my before and afters (you can see more of my story here: https://www.oxygenmag.com/fat-loss/head-games-11222

I generally need to plan on interruptions to my daily routine for the quiet question that always comes.  “Chris, what is the fastest way I can lose weight?”  I do not receive this question with an eye roll or a sigh.  I am immediately taken to that place of complete desperation.  I know that I have a problem, but I have no idea what to do.  I will admit that usually I will laugh at the question itself, not to put the asker down, but because the question is related 100% to the story I started with.  We have a massive problem as a society.  If I want something, I can go on the mystical interwebs, tell my friend Amazon that I NEED to have a robot vacuum cleaner, and I can have it to my door in 2 hours.  Not only that, but we put so much faith into our health care providers, that they know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING, when in reality, doctors are not required to have any education in diet or exercise.  I don’t mean to pick on my Physical Therapist, but his comment demonstrates my point beautifully.

So let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the deal, shall we?  Losing weight is not as simple as calories in less than calories out.  Side note: Everytime I hear someone spew this as fact, I want to punch them in the throat.  If our bodies were that simple and that predictable, then we wouldn’t have any problems with losing weight.  If you say this, do me a favor..don’t.  It’s not that simple.  There are many factors that play in, but the best place to start is always in the beginning.  My first bit of advice is to look at what you eat.  When I ask this question, 100% response is “I don’t eat very much, that’s why don’t understand why I’m so big!”  Then I ask them to take me through breakfast.  “I eat oatmeal!  Oatmeal is good for your cholesterol!”  So I dig deeper.  What kind of oatmeal?  Homemade or packaged?  I have actually been asked how it is possible to make homemade oatmeal.  I don’t blame people.  I blame convenience food companies.  Then we get to talking about lunch, “I only eat a frozen Mac and Cheese meal!”  So, you start to see the pattern.  “Hear me now, and believe me later”(Hanz and Franz): 

You can’t put garbage in your body and expect it to react well.

You need protein.  You NEED carbohydrates.  YOU NEED FAT.  Your body is like a Ferrari.  When you feed it quality fuels, you will see results.  Protein sources need to be quality.  Hot dogs, processed meats, highly salted meats are not quality.  Beans, nuts, vegetables (yes vegetables do have protein), quinoa, fish, chicken, turkey.  Seasoned but not heavily salted.  Grilled, roasted, steamed…not fried.  If you choose to rock a protein shake, and I do this for breakfast, find one that’s not full of sugar and garbage.  I like Sun Warrior products.  I can’t speak to whey protein, as I have no experience here.  READ INGREDIENTS!  If you don’t know what it is, question it.  

Good-foods-are-greater-than-fast-food
Stay away from as much packaged/convenience foods as possible.  This is where I usually get the most resistance.  “Chris, I don’t have the time to make meals!”  Listen to yourself. You absolutely do have time.  I don’t have any more time in my day than anyone else.  In fact, I may have less because I go to bed by 8pm every night.  Every time you are on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Hulu, etc, ask youself if you have time then.  Even I get caught up in time wasters!  It’s our nature.  Somehow, though, I can still exercise every day, walk my dogs, make dinner, clean and do laundry, work full time, plan meals, pack lunches, blog, take French lessons with Duolingo, and more!  We all have the same tick-tock.  

Losing weight takes a lot of self exploration, examination, and above all, honesty.  You are going to have to call yourself out on your own bull puckey.  I tend to waste a lot of time on news shows.  I try to keep my political leanings at bay, but the state of the world really gets me in a tizzy.  I often have to have a stearn conversation with myself.  “Chris…are you going to change the state of things by watching hours of this, or are you going to change things by talking to other people, getting people excited about voting and the future, being kind, talking about common ground so people with a differing opinion might see that we are all just people, not the enemy?”  I limit my intake now to NPR in the car to and from work, and one national nightly news.  OK, two.  I like Vice.  I will post more on organization strategies in a future blog.  I know you are on the edge of your seat!

Journal-your-food
So, my advice to you is this.  

  • Journal what you eat for two weeks, and don’t cheat.  Every single thing that goes in your mouth, beverages included, gets logged. 
  • Pay attention to ingredients.  Even items that tout ‘Only five ingredients’ can have two piles of crap contained in the 5. Fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and meats are always better than convenience foods.  
  • Know what is considered a serving size, and use that information to reduce your intake to what is acceptable.  A serving of ice cream is 1/2 a cup.  Not 1/2 a carton.  Live by it!  Measure it out!  Get a scale and weigh it.  You don’t have to do it forever, because after a while, you will instinctively know.
  • Don’t think that your doctor knows.  I’m not advising you to ignore your doctor’s advice, and I am in no way educated as a doctor.  What I am saying is, get a Registered Dietician involved in the fight!  You are the only person who has lived in your body for your whole life.  Guidelines are guidelines.  But what I know is that every single BODY is different.  Learn what works for you and what doesn’t and go with that.  If you have stomach aches, what you are doing isn’t working for you.  Learn to recognize and listen to the language of your body.
  • Plan it and stick to it.  If you are going to lose weight, stick with it!  If you screw up on a meal, move on and do better.  
  • Know that you can’t just exercise bad choices away.  Once you put the garbage in, your body isn’t going to forgive you just because you walked an extra mile.  That’s nonsense.  Know that food choices are totally independent of exercise.
  • DRINK WATER.
  • GIVE UP SODA.  What is soda anyway.  Read the can.  Still sure you want that in your Ferrari?  (Hint: IT IS GARBAGE)
  • Acknowledge a job well done.  Learn to reward yourself with things other than food.  Do good on your eating plan?  Allow yourself some alone time, take a walk, get a new top…treats do not have to equal sweets!
  • Sleep.  Yes, you heard me.  Sleep 7-8 hours a night.  Your body needs it.  Don’t sleep all day.  Just 7-8 hours should do the trick. 
  • Talk to people who have actually been though weight loss SUCCESSFULLY.  Everyone has an opinion.  Surround yourself with people who will guide you, encourage you, and have actual experience.  Don’t listen to all the noise coming your way.  Focus on the facts from people who have been through it and fight the good fight DAILY! 

I am here for you.  You can reach out to me in the ‘Contact’ form, and I will always respond.  You are worth every sacrifice.  It is never to late!  If there is one thing that I have learned, through all of my ups and downs, it is this…

You’re probably not crazy!

FEAR: That OTHER 4-letter F-word

Have you ever met someone that is an adrenaline junkie?  “Man, all I want to do is jump out of a plane and pretend like I am falling to my death, and at the last minute, deploy a parachute!”  “Base jumping is life!”  Though I respect and applaud these people, I do not relate, even one iota.  Why?  As it turns out, a natural driving force behind much of what ails the addictive mind is fear.  Not healthy fear, which I would personally define as respecting the fragility of our existence.  I’m talking about an unnatural fear of driving, because you might get in a crash.  Or that my spouse is going to cheat on me just because.  Or that I’m going to lose my job, even though I’ve never had less than a stellar performance review.  When I made the conscientious decision to change my life and recover from all that ailed me, I discovered that I was nothing more that a million unreasonable fears packaged in a human form.

I have to ask myself why?  Why was I so consumed by all of these ‘what if’s’?  How did I go from a kid who would ride my bike across town by myself to procure a slushee from the gas station with no fear of cars, strangers, or anything nefarious, to being an adult afraid every single day to drive on the freeway because someone might hit me?  Some of this was certainly from past experiences.  I had been in a few accidents on the freeway.  I had been fired from a job once before.  However, in my quest to find answers, I have only come up with this.  I had created this boogie man.  This monster was of my making.  All of my years of drinking, smoking, and treating my body like a trash can had reduced my logical mind to a bottom feeding, gossip spewing, gutter.  Instead of seeing a beautiful day, I could only complain about how hot it was.  Instead of celebrating a child being born, I moaned about having to go visit the parents and offer my congratulations.  I had gone from a bright, sweet, and caring person to a dark, angry, fearful jerk face.

The thing about unreasonable fear, is that it paralyzes you from action.  I was afraid of failure.  I didn’t want anyone to know that I was trying to lose weight, because if I didn’t succeed, then it would be just another failure. “Sure Chris…this time will be different, right?”  I have to imagine that the addictive behavior in me creates this in me.  The longer I don’t take action, the longer I can keep treating myself like a dumpster fire.  I often vascilate between giving my addictive mind life, and reducing it to science.  There is, after all, scientific proof that shows alcoholics and addicts are lacking in serotonin in the brain, and have a greater amount of receptors in their brain, hence the unreasonable and maniacal response to alcohol, drugs, and sugar.  (See: Potatoes Not Prozac by Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D). 


Ok, great!  So how do you get out of the paralyzation stage and get rid of all of this empty baggage?  I am not a doctor, but what I can say is that even doctors often don’t know what to do. What I do know, and what I can tell you is what worked for me.  The first thing I needed to do was write down (yes, LITERALLY write down) all of the fears that had me pinned in a corner.  

    • I’m afraid I’m going to lose my job.
    • I’m afraid to drive on a winding road, because I will lose control and die in crash.
    • My husband is unhappy and will have an afair and leave me.

    Next, dissect each fear.  Why do I think I am going to lose my job?  Is it because I have been showing up 10-15 minutes late every day?  Is it because my boss has warned me that my performance has become troublesome?    Am I calling in sick for reasons that are not valid?  Is there a real threat here?  Or is it made up ‘what ifs’ in my head.  When I am active in my addictions, I become very paranoid.  Is it paranoia?  Or is there an actual foundation to the fear?

    Finally, what is the fear really rooted in?  When I looked at everything that ailed me, my actual fears all stemmed from fear of losing financial security and fear of death.  Fear of financial instability is an issue for many of us, as is fear of death.  Realizing this, somehow, was comforting.  I am not so different from everyone else!  However, my fears are unreasonably amplified and causing me to create self fulfilling prophecies.  If I was going to survive mentally, I had to reel these fears in and get them ‘right sized’ in my life.

    There is something magical about calling out the monsters in the closet.  Once I acknowledged these unreasonable thoughts and brought them out, front and center, they shrunk.  If I drive on a winding mountain road, I can slow down and go at a speed that I feel safe at.  If the people behind me don’t like it, they can pass.  BOOM!  How about that?  I can secure my financial future by showing up on time, going to work and not calling in because I have a mild head ache or a stomach ache.  I have control over my thoughts, words, and actions.  I can be sure that I am giving an honest day’s work every day.  So long as the company I work for is healthy, I can ensure my longevity.  

    You may be at a fork in the road right now.  You can choose to stop blaming others and start to look introspectively, or you can continue to let your fear paralyze you.  The choice is always yours.

    As a fun side note, I recently faced a GIGANTIC fear of mine (fear of heights) and zip lined through Hawaii.  It wasn’t jumping out of a plane, but it was one of the most fun times I have ever had facing a fear!

    Oh, and I’m pretty sure, even as much as you don’t believe me, you’re probably not crazy!

    -ism’s and me

    Hello, my name is Chris, and I am a recovering alcoholic. What makes an alcoholic? Am I an alcoholic? Am I ready to know if I am an alcoholic??

    Chances are, you don’t know me. You may see my pictures on instagram (@healthierverrsionofchris) or see my tweets (@OlFthfulFitness), but that’s just the side of me that I carefully craft.  The pieces of me that I’m not afraid to show the world.  My natural instinct is to hide the darker reaches.  To conceal the very things that make the bright side of me so brilliant. Inside of me lurks the frightful -ism.  Alcoholism.  Addict.  Reject.  Mental.  Stigma.

    I am not what you might picture as an alcoholic.  I have a home, a family, dogs, gainful employment.  I was never homeless, on the street, brown bag in hand, begging for change.  In fact, I was terminated from a pretty great job during the height of my active alcoholism by a boss who would go out drinking with me.  I was deemed ‘unreliable’, which really irritated me at the time, but years later, I feel that he did the right thing.  He helped to save my life.  Interestingly enough, many people are still surprised that women can also be alcoholics.  Maybe they are just shocked to learn that I am an alcoholic.  

    According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 60% of women have at least one drink a year…HAPPY NEW YEAR (right??).  Of those, 13% have more than 7 drinks a week.  In the United States alone 5.3 million women drink in a manner that threatens their health.  So, when does it turn from HAPPY NEW YEAR to OH MY GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE?  That is not easily answered.

                                                           
    Just as with everything else it seems, every body is different.  Any person who has been in the rooms of AA, NA, GA, etc… will tell you that only YOU can decide if you have a problem.  That then begs the question…if you are neck deep in addiction, how can you have the clarity of thought to decide if you are on the wrong side of the fence?  Let me share with you my abbreviated story, maybe it will help.

    I had my first drink at 12 years old.  It was. a wine cooler.  I had a ‘cool’ older sister who let me drink.  Mind you, I went to church every Sunday, sat in the front of the church, knew my scriptures, and had a family that was straight laced and decently successful.  I may have had one or two more, then guilt consumed me, I confessed to my church leader, and was back on the ‘right’ path.  Forward eight years to age 20.  I started drinking to defy my parents and the church, and show everyone that I was my OWN person.  Once I was legal, I was off to the races!  I was drinking every night.  I was young.  I was having fun!  I got married, had a baby, got divorced, got remarried to a fellow alcoholic, led an insane life with his three kids and my one, was involved in things I swore I would never do, gained 130 lbs, and stopped having fun.  At 3 o’clock every day, my mouth would start watering for my next drink.  Every morning was a hangover, every night was hair of the dog.  I got up for work and was on time every day.  I managed people.  I had successful teams.  I met deadlines.  And I was barely hanging on by a thread.  

    Unrelated, or so I thought, I committed to a ‘Biggest Loser’ challenge at work (more on this story in a future post), and drinking was keeping me from losing weight, so I quit.  I was angry and self righteous.  I decided that my husband had a problem, so to show him that I was more powerful than him, I very publicly went to an Al-Anon meeting.  Well, I thought it was an Al-Anon meeting.  I took a wrong turn, and ended up in an AA meeting instead.  As I sat in the back, I realized that I was sitting among my people.  In a moment, I saw the wreckage of my life flashing in front of me.  I knew that I was done, and it was time for me to face this.

    In a review of my past, I realized that I had a problem when I recognized all of these behaviors:

    • Drinking every night.  Even if I was trying to cut back I was scheduling my drinking.  (I am only going to drink on the weekends, I am not drinking on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Sundays-because that’s a holy day).
    • Inability to take any responsibility.  Nothing was my fault.  I was not the problem, I was the VICTIM!
    • Paranoia.  EVERYONE was against me.  No one cares about me.  
    • Powerless over alcohol.  Powerless over my destiny.
    • My kids begged me to please just not drink today.
    • Other people joked that I was an alcoholic, because what makes jokes funny?  (Answer:  because they are true).
    • Thinking that harming myself was a good way to control the people around me.  (If you leave me, I am going to kill myself).
    • Committing wreck less behavior with little thought of consequences (drunk driving is a big one here).

    While it is true, only you can decide if you have a problem, chances are, if you are wondering if you have a problem, you probably do.  HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: there is help.  There is a way.  I’m not preaching one form of recovery over another.  What I know is that I was a hopeless cuss back then.  Today, I haven’t had a drink in over 8 years.  The more I learn, the more I understand that certain brain chemistry causes a predisposition to addiction.  It’s not your fault.  But though it is not your fault, you can only get into recovery by accepting that this is your life and that you are the only one that can take steps to recover.  Ain’t no one gonna do it for you, kiddo!

    On the same note, if you have a family member who suffers from addiction, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT EITHER!  There is help for you, too!  You can still love these people, and not contribute to their addiction.  In fact, the more you hold them up and prevent them from hitting the bottom, the longer they will drain the life out of you.  Remember, these are not BAD people.  These are SICK people.  
    If you need immediate help, please reach out to your local Alcoholics Anoynomous chapter (for the alcoholic) OR Al-Anon (for family members of the alcoholic).  There are many resources available to you.  If AA isn’t your deal (a lot of people get hung up on the ‘Higher Power’ concept, because once you are at the point of no return, you’re kind of done with God for a while or maybe forever, and that is OK!), find something that does work.  But don’t give up.  And just don’t drink.  

    I promise you…you’re probably not crazy!!

    What the What???

    Hello, and welcome to my first post!  I’m glad you’re here!  So, let’s address the elephant in the room, namely, Why in the name of Super Chicken am I writing a blog?  The answer is simple: why wouldn’t I?  Just like many people, I have distinct and severe sections of my life.  Childhood (eek!), young adulthood (ugh!), mature adulting (yay!).  The thing about my experiences, is that I have been able to keep coming back, meaning, I get knocked down.  But I get up again.  You know,  you’re never gonna keep me down.  Sorry, it will be in my head all day now too (it’s a ’90’s song that was pretty epic if you don’t get it).  Seriously, though.  At one point in my life, I weighed 265 lbs, smoked, drank until I was drunk every night, and completely hopeless.  I was on all kinds of medications for depression, mania, and insomnia.  I was fired from my job.  On my second marriage.  No friends.  No Prospects.  No life.  But then I changed.  People often ask me for help.  “What’s the easiest way to lose weight?”  “How can I quit Drinking/Smoking/Eating?”  “How can I do what you did?”  <— This.  This is why I decided to write a blog.

    There is so much more than that though.  Years ago, just before I quit drinking, I started writing a novel.  I mean, I decided I was going to do it, and wrote it in 2 weeks.  Not a novella, an actual novel.  I wrote it, and then put it in a drawer, and there it has been for 10 years.  I actually carry around an electronic copy on an old thumb drive in my purse.  I don’t know why.  I forgot it was even there until this morning.  So, my husband (third time is a charm, for anyone who is counting) got me an iPad for my 40th birthday, solely for the purpose of editing and submitting my novel.  I think it was a ‘no more excuses’ move on his part.  It was amazing…and terrifying.

    I am not big on putting myself out there.  I am the person that you work with that isn’t flamboyant or loud, but is a work horse.  I’m quiet, a chameleon.  I like to blend in.  The prospect of taking characters that formed in my head, that talked to me and took on their own life, being rejected countless times by faceless people makes me want to hide behind a rock.  Writers have all of my respect.  Who else can just say, “Here are my deepest thoughts!  Please critique me!”  Although, I will say that I really enjoy my annual performance reviews at work, but that’s just because I know I do a great job, and I like to see if my boss can get creative whilst basically saying the same thing every year.

    So, I’m sitting at the kitchen table this morning, and I decide to run the idea of a blog by Wave (my husband…heretofore known as ‘Wave’).  I expected him to say, “Why in the name of Super Chicken would you write a blog?”  but instead, he said “Why wouldn’t you?”

    My intention is to write a weekly article and post it up on Monday for your consideration.  Of course I will talk about the things people ask me most about, but I will also talk about other things…like being a child of divorce, and surviving 2 of my own, losing my boyfriend to Hodgkin’s Disease at the age of 16, becoming a medical mystery for most of my adult life, and finding true love after trying so many times.

    What I can tell you for sure, is that you’re probably not crazy… Continue reading “What the What???”