Getting started

The last time I was in Ghana, everyone commented on how much weight I had gained. Most people hadn't seen me in years and immediately noticed that I was carrying some extra...ahem.."curves". I took this in stride though I had myself been having internal battles about my weight and resolved that something had to be done pronto.

My first time on the treadmill, I started a brisk walk at 3.5 mph; shortly after I had to take that down to 2.0 mph. I breathlessly stayed on there for about 15 minutes before giving up. A friend had started instructing a class called Zumba Fitness and had asked me to come to the class to support her. I had never heard of it but was delighted to be there at her debut. After the warm up song, I thought my heart was going to beat itself out of my chest and plop onto the floor. I hung in there, completely convinced that it would just take the next song to get me closer to my demise. It was a wonderful experience that had me wishing I could come back the next day for more!  I took my first yoga class shortly after Zumba. I was amazed that the instructor's gut stretched out further past mine; how could she be the instructor. I had to pick my face off the floor when she folded herself into a nice pretzel shortly afterwards...I had clearly misjudged that book by the cover! I struggled through the poses and noticed that I was the youngest in the class and the least flexible!

It took a few false starts for me to get to working out. Other than Zumba, I had a hard time getting to the gym. I would get home from work "exhausted", eat and sit in front of the TV for a few minutes which would quickly stretch into an hour and then two and then wow, the gym is closing in 30 minutes, I'll just have to wake up really early tomorrow so that I can go before work. Or other times I'll get home, change and eat something and then "let the food digest a bit". This digestion process would generally take about 2 hours and by the time I realized it was too late. Or sometimes it would rain...who wants to walk 20 brief seconds in the rain, drive 5 minutes and then take another brief 20 second walk in the rain, anyhow.

Many other times I would actually get into the gym, start working out only to experience a cramp, or my chest might start to hurt, or shin hurt or something else would flare up, like the heartburn that only showed up when I was working out...and well  I couldn't work out through any of that, so my run would slow into a walk and I would abandon the workout all together.

I soon realized that I wasn't going to get anywhere with this inconsistency at the gym. I was able to figure out all the self-placed obstacles/ excusese and worked on removing them. I prepped my food for the day to include a snack that I could eat shortly before my workout. I can't quite remember what I would eat during that beginning stage, but my pre-workout snacks have included a banana and peanuts/peanut butter, 8 oz chocolate milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, yogurt with pineapple, cereal with milk, trail mix, and a granola bar. I also started watching my spicy food intake: I realized that I could eat spicy foods until about 1pm after which I would need some kind of antacid to combat the heartburn. I learned breathing exercises that would help me through the side cramps and learned to ignore the pain anywhere else. I also organized my workout clothes separately so that I didn't have to spend time digging through to find something decent to wear.

As my workouts increased I subscribed to anything that had to do with weight loss. I read all those articles, you know which ones...10 things you must do at the gym, 10 other things you should be doing, Are you sabotaging your workout, 50 ways to eat fruit, 50 more ways to eat fruit, 10 superfoods of 2009, new superfoods of 2010, the superfoods of the future you should be eating now! Supplements, are they for you? Your 21 day workout plan, Your 21 day total body work plan, Your 21 day abs workout plan, Did you stretch your booty today?
What? Ok, i'm making them up, but I have read a lot of articles about health and fitness since 2009. I also signed up for various online journal sources, or health vaults and trackers and food diaries etc.

So with my new found dedication, my new knowledge about how to lose weight, I plowed ahead expecting pounds to fall off as easily as I'd gained them. After about a month of getting into my groove, I stepped on the scale to find that I had lost 0 pounds! I was completely shattered. It didn't work! I was eating like they said, I was working out....I was in the gym as much as those working there for goodness sakes!

Once I calmed down, well after I binged on some chocolate in response, I pulled out one of those articles...it promised that I would "Lose 10 pounds in 6 weeks". What? Sign me up! The program would meet me at whatever speed I could run, which by this time had climbed up to about 4.0mph or a 15 min mile pace on the treadmill. I started the 6 week challenge and by the end of the year run for 5 miles at 5.0mph or a 12 min mile. And the scale, she moved! Not quite 10 pounds, but I saw my first significant change.

Lessons learned.
1. Start where you are most comfortable; the beginning of your new lifestyle should not be when you try something new.
2. If you're not enjoying your workout, you will not be consistent
3. Spending time working out does not automatically result in change; effort is just as important as showing up
4. It's easy to make excuses as to why we don't do something, and it's easy to talk ourselves into believing the excuse
5. Some of us need a program to stay on course: for me the running program allowed me to try harder each day
6. Motivation is important and oftentimes in life, we have to learn how to motivate ourselves.

In the first few months of starting my new lifestyle, I learned that there was much work to be done. It wasn't as easy as it had been in the past and I had a lot to learn about myself and my body. I truly thought at the time that it wouldn't take me very long to get the weight off, but have since learned that like many other aspects of our life, weight loss requires finding the right formula for our individual situation. It has taken me about 4 years to find that formula and I certainly hope it takes you much less time than that.

Half-stepping diva