One Year and Seventy Pounds

I did something today I haven’t done in about ten years: I wore a bikini. At a public pool. I bought this bikini in the spring, hoping that I would be able to work up the courage to wear it this summer. A couple days later, I went back to the store and bought a tankini top as a back-up, which is what I have actually been wearing all summer. But it was so hot today, and my tankini needed to be washed after a few days at the cottage, and I really wanted to take Penelope to the pool. So I dusted off that bikini top, and we headed out to cool off with a swim.

Best selfie I could manage. I'm thinking I need a millenial to give me some selfie-taking tips.

Best selfie I could manage. I’m thinking I need a millenial to give me some selfie-taking tips.

I wish I could say that I tore off my tank top and shorts, and jumped into the pool with a victorious, “Look at me now, bitches!” cry. I may have parked us behind a tree because it had lots of “shade” (ie, I could shed my clothes in relative privacy and take a few deep breaths before venturing out to the pool). But I wasn’t as nervous or self-conscious as I thought I would be. Part of that stems from the fact that I’ve lost about seventy pounds over the past year or so, though my body is far from what most women’s magazines would classify as “bikini ready.” Thanks to two pregnancies and multiple cycles of weight gain and loss in my lifetime, my stomach will never be flat again. I have stretch marks and flab and I just love ice cream too much to ever be a size zero. And of course, breast-feeding did a number on my boobs, so I’m no longer as perky as my twenty-something self. I am healthy and strong now, though, and that knowledge gives me the confidence to wear and do what I want.

One year and seventy pounds has made a huge difference in my life. I don’t shy away from activities because I am unfit or ashamed of my body anymore. I used to spend my summers covering my body in as much clothing as I could get away with in the heat. I used to avoid doing things like going to the beach or to the splash pad or even just for a long walk, because I knew I would be sweaty and gross and out of breath and I felt terribly ashamed of myself. It would take me forever to get dressed to leave the house, because I would have to try on many different articles of clothing to figure out what made me feel the least hideous. This has not happened to me even once this summer. I wear tank tops and shorts most days. I have gone to the pool and the park and on many long walks with the girls without even thinking about how I would look or feel during these activities. I can get dressed in about thirty seconds (once I track down whether my clean clothes are still in the dryer or the laundry basket, waiting to be folded). I’m just living my life, without those seventy pounds weighing me down, physically and emotionally.

So yeah, I wore a bikini today. And I know that’s not much of an accomplishment in the grand scheme of things- I mean, I wore a weather-appropriate article of clothing to a local pool, it’s not like I climbed Everest or cured cancer. It just speaks to how much I have changed over the years, and I think it’s a change for the better. I wore a bikini, and I survived. There was no laughing and pointing or “beached whale” comments (at least none that I noticed). Most importantly, Penelope and I had a fun afternoon without my body image hang-ups interfering. And that’s something worth writing about.

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I Did It

My 10k run was yesterday and I am proud to say that I crossed that finish line successfully. I won’t lie- it was hard, mostly because it was really damn hot. The first 6km or so were the worst- once we were closer to the lake, the temperature cooled down a bit and there was a breeze, which was wonderfully refreshing. But those first 6km…within about thirty seconds from the starting line, I was roasting. It was hot and humid and there was no air flow AT ALL. I am not used to running or working out in heat like that (gotta love the temperature-controlled environment at the gym) and so I definitely struggled. I had to slow my pace considerably because I did not want to collapse from heat exhaustion before the finish line. My time ended up at 1:14:15- I was hoping for better, but that’s okay. I am still quite proud of my accomplishment.

I think running is a bit like being in labour- in the moment, it is hell, and you vow never to do it again. But once it’s over, the memory of the pain fades and you contemplate giving it another go. Hours after my run was completed, I was already thinking about next year. Meanwhile, I distinctly remember thinking while I was breathless and wiping sweat out of my eyes, “Why am I doing this? This is awful! I want to die! I am never running EVER AGAIN!” And then I crossed the finish line, high-fiving strangers along the way, and I got my finishers medal and saw my completed time, and I thought, “Huh, this is pretty great! I am definitely going to do this again!”

Thank you to all my supporters- those who donated to the cause and those who sent me messages of encouragement and love. You all helped me push through the pain and keep going. You are awesome and I love you all (yes, I may still have a bit of a runner’s high as I’m writing this). As it was Mother’s Day yesterday, I wished my mom could have been there with me, but I certainly felt her presence as I ran, encouraging me to keep running. Now I need to figure out what my next challenge will be- another 10k? Half marathon? As I have now proven to myself, anything is possible!

Before the race

Before the race

After! Penelope loved my medal!

After! Penelope loved my medal!

Goal: Met

Breathe in. Breathe out. Put one foot in front of the other. Keep moving forward. Don’t give up. These are the phrases I repeated to myself often over this past month (it’s been a tough one). They also came in handy on Sunday, when I decided to test my endurance before my run, which is now less than two weeks away. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a worrier, and I had to get a 10km run under my belt before the day of the race, or else my fear that I wouldn’t be able to complete the course would have gotten the best of me.

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And so, armed with a playlist on my iPhone and a water bottle, I set out to see what I could do. The first 5km were a breeze- I ran that in about 30 minutes, and if I hadn’t been trying to conserve my energy for the final 5km, I could have done it even faster. Kilometres 5-8 were harder, and my pace slowed a bit at that point. The thoughts of “Why the hell am I doing this? What kind of sicko finds this activity enjoyable?” started to creep into my mind. The final two kilometres were the toughest. My breathing was laboured and my legs were tired. I really just wanted a hot shower and my bed. I was determined to finish, though. I thought about everything that my little Penelope has been through- everything she has endured and every obstacle she has overcome. All the testing and therapies and the surgery and this latest hospital stay– she has made it through all of that with a smile on her face. If she can do that, well, then, I can run a measly ten kilometres. Those last two kilometres, I had her face in my mind with every step. And I did it. I ran ten kilometres, and it felt amazing.

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Now that I know that I can actually run 10km, I can rest easy heading into race day. And I have a feeling that running with a bunch of people, with a crowd cheering on the sidelines- it will feel easier than it did on Sunday. I am very close to reaching my fundraising goal for this run- thanks to everyone who has donated! And if you haven’t yet donated and are inclined to do so, you can find my fundraising page here.

I have to admit that I am pretty proud of the progress I have made with my fitness. A year ago, if you had asked me to run ten kilometres, I would have laughed and laughed, and then probably passed out from the exertion of laughing. I just didn’t think it was something I would ever be able to do. In my mind, I was too old, too fat, and too scared to really test myself like that. If that sounds familiar to you, well, listen up: I am proof positive that ANYONE can improve their fitness. Seriously, if I can do it, anyone can- a year ago, I was a sedentary couch potato who regularly gorged on ice cream and cookies. And now I can officially add this to the list of my life’s accomplishments: ran ten kilometres. I may even put that on my tombstone- “Devoted Wife. Loving Mother. Caring Nurse. Ran 10km.” It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

A New Goal

Several months ago, I wrote about setting a fitness goal for myself: to do a 5k run in May. As it turns out, this is not going to happen… because I have signed up to do a 10k run instead! Yes, at the urging of my colleague and friend, Heather (who has a kick-ass crafting blog that you should check out), I have decided to double the distance and am running in the Sporting Life 10k here in Toronto on Mother’s Day.

This is not because I just love running so much that I absolutely had to run further than I had originally planned- quite the opposite, in fact. I do not enjoy running. At all. After setting the 5k goal for myself, I started running on the treadmill at the gym. At first, it was okay. But within a few weeks, my joints were aching, I was on the verge of hobbling around like an old lady, I’d nearly vomited several times from overdoing my water consumption during the run, and I’d had enough. So I stopped the running regimen, and went back to doing cardio activities I actually enjoyed.

I truly don’t understand people who like running. Why? What is the appeal? It is painful and you can’t breathe and you can’t even take a drink of water without choking or having it slosh around in your stomach. My dad is a runner- he regularly runs 20-30 km. At ONE time. And he loves it! And unlike his penchant for sarcasm, I did not inherit that trait from him.

I know I don’t sound all that enthusiastic about doing this run, but I am actually looking forward to it. Well, I’m looking forward to crossing the finish line, at least. I know I have enough endurance for it- I work out frequently, with plenty of intense cardio activities in my gym routine. And it’s only when I run on a regular basis that my joints get achy, so I think for this isolated event, I will be fine. And I’m running with a bunch of nurses, so if I get injured or have a heart attack, I will be surrounded plenty of health care professionals to help me.

Now, the Sporting Life 10k run raises money to send kids with cancer to camp- that’s a pretty great cause! If you able to, please consider donating to this organization. Click here for the link to my fundraising page for the run. Even a $5 donation is appreciated!

IMG_7663So here I am: the fittest I’ve been in about ten years, and ready to run my ass off. Bring it on, 10k!

Separation Anxiety

So last week was a pretty busy week, which you may have surmised from the fact that I didn’t post anything all week. For starters, I was coming off a stretch of evening shifts, so my internal clock was mixed up, and I spent most of Monday in a zombie-like state. As well, there were a lot of appointments to attend last week- a feeding assessment for Penelope, dentist for Charlotte, grooming for Barkley, and doctor for me.

At my doctor’s appointment, I was weighed for the first time since I started my whole healthy-lifestyle/ weight-loss initiative back in July. I was pretty pleased to discover that I have lost over 60 pounds in that time. Even without knowing how much weight I had lost, I knew that I was reaping many rewards from this lifestyle change. I feel great, both physically and mentally; I am less self-conscious and I’m fairly satisfied with how I look (I know “fairly satisfied” isn’t exactly a glowing review of my appearance, but it’s a vast improvement over how I felt 60 pounds ago, which was “want to cover my body in a burlap sack and never go anywhere or see anyone, ever”). So yeah, a definite improvement.

Down sixty pounds and no longer hiding from the camera!

Down sixty pounds and no longer hiding from the camera!

There was one benefit in particular, however, that I was hoping to receive with my fitness regimen that sadly has not come to fruition (and this is where you should stop reading if you are at all squeamish): I really want to get rid of the enormous, hideous hernia that I have as a result of C-section number two.

This particular type of hernia is known as a diastasis recti, and is somewhat common among women who have given birth. Basically, the muscles in my abdomen which hold my internal organs in place have separated, and so when I stand up, it all spills outward. My separation is pretty large- around 7 cm- and despite my focus on core exercises, I haven’t seen any improvement. In fact, it is far more noticeable now that there isn’t a cushion of fat surrounding the area. It isn’t causing me any physical problems- it is completely painless- but I hate the way it looks and I worry that it will cause physical problems in the future.

I spoke with my physician about it at my appointment last week, and she is recommending Pilates-based physiotherapy to help close this separation, as well as an abdominal binder to help keep everything where it should be. (Side note: when my doctor was palpating my abdomen, she commented, “Wow, I could reach all the way to your spine if I wanted!” I am not a squeamish person, but hearing that made me want to vomit a little). So this week, I will be looking further into my physiotherapy options and hopefully coming up with a plan to get rid of my unsightly bulge. Any readers have any experience with this? I would love to hear from you!

Alright, I am off to try and track down my belly binder of choice: the Squeem. Apparently, it is more comfortable and easier to wear under clothes than it’s popular counterpart, the Belly Bandit. The only problem is that is tough to find here in Canada. I will not give up though- if I can lose sixty pounds, I sure as hell can find a way to acquire the belly binder I want, right?

January

Oh, January. It is by far my least favourite month. Most years, January and I are not friends. It is cold and grey and dismal and cold and depressing and cold and there’s the post-holiday letdown to deal with and did I mention that it’s cold? The past few years in particular I have found January to be especially difficult, for all these reasons and more. This year, though, things are different. It’s January, and I actually feel…happy.

It is a strange sensation for me to feel happy in January. Ok, yes, there was a little blip in my mood last week, but that is behind me now. Some days, I get lost in thought, thinking about how well things are going at the moment and about how content I am feeling and then I look at the calendar and can’t believe that I am feeling this way in January. I have attributed my elevated mood to several factors:

1. The back-to-work transition has gone really well. I was very worried about how it would all work out, and it actually couldn’t have gone better. Penelope is happy with our nanny, Mark is dealing with the morning chaos like a champ, and I love being back at work. My part-time position is providing me with a great balance of feeling fulfilled with my career and still enabling me to stay on top of things around the house. I am lucky to have a job that I love, and the support I have received from my coworkers has been incredible.

2. The weather this January has been tolerable. Yes, there have been some very cold days, but there have been warmer days mixed in there. We recently had a thaw, so although it’s cold, there isn’t even much snow or ice here at the moment. This means that I don’t have to worry about trying to finagle the stroller through mounds of snow and ice, which is not an easy feat. Last year was terrible- the sidewalks were so treacherous, even the short walk to drop Charlotte off at preschool was a complicated endeavour.

3. My healthy lifestyle initiative has given me more energy and boosted my self-esteem. I can now fit into clothes that I haven’t been able to wear in years. I have improved my tolerance for high-intensity cardio activities and it feels great to go to a class like Body Attack and be able to keep up with the instructor. This is the longest I have kept up with a fitness regime and I’m proud of the way I have been able to fit this into my busy life.

These three factors add up to something which I haven’t experienced in some time: freedom. I am no longer Penelope’s main care provider. Mark, our nanny, and my in-laws are all very involved in her care now, and I can spend time outside the house without worrying. I am enjoying returning to my role as a nurse- I mean, I have a job where the dress code is basically pajamas and running shoes. It is THE BEST! The nice(er) weather means that I can go outside with the girls fairly easily, and we don’t have to spend days cooped up in the house. And my improved level of fitness has freed me from the feelings of shame and guilt that plagued me before I started trying to get healthy.

Hanging out with Penelope after work

Hanging out with Penelope after work

So right now, I am feeling free and happy and I’m going to enjoy it. I don’t know what is around the corner, but that’s okay. Good or bad, I am able to handle it. And anyway, it won’t be long til it’s spring, and who can’t be happy about that?

How can I not be happy right now?

How can I not be happy right now?

Backslide Prevention

After several doses of antibiotics and handfuls of OTC painkillers, I am feeling a bit better. The pain isn’t as intense as it was on Sunday and Monday, and that helps a lot. This isn’t my first experience in dealing with pain- bringing two children into the world certainly goes hand-in-hand with pain, and I’ve had a pinched nerve in my neck, which was pure agony. The good thing about childbirth-associated pain is that you know that it won’t last forever. During those intense contractions, you may think to yourself that this pain will never end, but it does. In that sense, I found my pain during labour with Penelope easier to deal with than the pinched nerve (while both Charlotte and Penelope were born via C-section, I only laboured with Penelope).

Hmm, I suppose that sweet face was worth all that pain

Hmm, I suppose that sweet face was worth all that pain

Physical pain can have a serious impact on one’s mental health- I was reminded of this once again this week. The first time I experienced the pinched nerve in my neck, the pain lasted for four months. And it happened at a very emotionally trying time of my life- I was entering my last semester of nursing school, Mark was on parental leave with Charlotte, and my mom was dying. There was no opportunity for me to take time off and heal. I had keep moving forward, despite the pain, and it was really hard. It was probably no coincidence that the pain finally eased up as the semester ended. And then when I had a recurrence of this pinched nerve two years ago, I struggled with the fear that I would face another four months of debilitating pain. Fortunately, it “only” lasted four weeks, but that is still a long time to be in constant pain. Four weeks of doctor’s visits, trying to describe the pain, worried that you may be labelled a drug seeker; four weeks of chiropractic treatments and acupuncture and X-rays and pain medications that didn’t do anything to relieve my distress. After three weeks of that, I was worn down and finally my doctor was convinced that I needed stronger pain medication- and that was what finally worked to put an end to the torture once and for all.

Pain messes with your head. You can’t sleep properly. You have trouble concentrating. You start to doubt yourself (“Is the pain really that bad? Maybe I’m overreacting.”). Is it any wonder that people who have chronic pain issues may also suffer from depression? Dealing with this sinus pain this week almost resulted in a derailment of my healthier lifestyle initiative. I’m tired and unhappy and have access to a shitload of Halloween candy and, as I’ve said before, I’m an emotional eater. This is a prime opportunity for a backslide into gluttony. On the way home from one of Penelope’s appointments this week, we drove past a shopping centre with a Bulk Barn and a grocery store and a couple fast food places. I desperately wanted to pull in there and get something- candy, cake, french fries, ice cream- I wanted it all. I wanted that temporary euphoria that comes with eating something deliciously bad for you because I felt like crap. But I stopped myself. I remembered all the other things I want, too- a long, healthy life, without developing diabetes or high blood pressure or high cholesterol or joint and back pain or asthma. I want to go shopping for cute clothes without being too ashamed to look in the mirror. I want to put away my maternity clothes. And so I steered clear of those empty calories that I longed for. I went home, and, believe it or not, I went to the gym. My sinuses were throbbing but I went anyway. It may not have been the best workout I’ve ever had, but it was enough to keep me focused.

Gotta stay in shape to keep up with this wild child

Gotta stay in shape to keep up with this wild child

This isn’t to say that I can’t ever indulge in some unhealthy treats- I can and I do. But I knew on this particular day, that if I gave in to that temptation, it wouldn’t be a mere indulgence. It would be the catalyst to me abandoning my healthy eating and fitness regimen. I have been down this road many times, and I’m grateful that this time, I was able to recognize the potential for a backslide and do something to avoid it.

Now if only this sinus pain would ease up some more, I would be all set.