Between "Before & After"

I think it's fair to say that our society is pretty fixated on the idea of "improving" things. We love renovations, trash to treasure, corrective surgery, and Transformation Tuesday. Never heard of that last one? Do a Google search and check out the images.

We love that shit. 

Those side-by-side photos of dramatic weight loss do a horrible job at telling the story of the individuals journey. I know, because I am one of those stories. And I've been blessed to be an integral part of so many other people's stories. 

In actuality, my weight loss story would feature a TON of before/after images. Before I started dressing my size and I wore oversized shirts to hide the fact that my pants were unbuttoned and unzipped ( I refused to by jeans in a size 20 so I squeezed into 18s). And after I started dressing my size when I was a teenager shopping at Lane Bryant. Before I binged, after I purged. Before I I hit the gym, after 2 hours on the elliptical. Before depriving myself of energy and nourishment for a full day, after going to bed with an empty stomach and feeling proud and accomplished. And so on. Those are just a few of the small details that reveal the in-between. All the shit a person might endure before and after a substantial weight loss. 

Rarely is it ever as pretty a picture as the one we show. In fact, I deemed my images and writings so ugly that I destroyed them all a long time ago. I was disgusted with myself. Embarrassed, ashamed, and most of all, angry. So I destroyed the evidence; almost everything that linked me to my past. I have almost no photos of me from before about 2006. No journals. No old "big girl" jeans. No artifacts from my inner travels. I'm lucky when I uncover one of these rare relics in my mother's garage or a family storage unit. They make me smile now, whereas they made me sad before. There's another before and after for you.

Besides hiding the story, these images also create a sense of insatiable yearning for some viewers. I'm still, after 5 years in the health and fitness industry, shocked at how many times I receive a message, inquiry, email, or face-to-face exchange about someone wanting to look like someone else. I get it ALL the time. "I want her results!" or "I want to look like him!" It's as if for a brief moment, we forget we are individuals and have our own bodies. You will NEVER look exactly like anybody else. Nor will you EVER share the same story. I happen to think that is amazing and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Of course, that wasn't always the case. I too used to fantasize about other bodies. But most often, an extreme version of my own. I wanted to be thin. Very badly. My weight goal was far below what was healthy for my body but I didn't know that, and I wouldn't have cared anyways. All that mattered to me was the number on the scale and the number on the tag inside of my jeans. And any way I could measure a decrease in those numbers made me happy. Well, a funny thing happened when I would do anything to lose weight: I didn't lose any weight. 

So, why do I share my before and after photos then? Probably for some of the same reasons other people do. To inspire and motivate. To encourage and support. But most importantly, to educate. I share my photos to reveal just a small part of my story. A picture is worth a thousand words. Which means a before and after photo is worth two thousand...at least. My intention is to educate others so that you're not led astray like I was. Yes you can change your body, if that's what you would like to do, but it has nothing to do with buying diet books, fake food, or joining the gym. It has everything to do with being honest and vulnerable; sharing your innermost fears, embarrassments, failures, and feelings with others so that you can empower yourself to WANT to do and be better...however you define that betterment. Share your story with the world. Don't hide. Don't be embarrassed. And most importantly, don't compare yourself to anyone else. 


Why I Chose to Keep My Loose Skin

So there's this one time, and I can't believe I haven't shared this with you already, that I decided I was going to have a tummy tuck. It was just a couple of years ago, but it's something I've thought A LOT about over the past 5 years or so. Blogging about my most personal experiences, dilemmas, challenges, and achievements helps me sort through my own feelings and ride them out with raw honesty and an open-mind. I tell you this story for myself; and hope that is resonates with at least one other person.

I should probably back up and tell you why this all came back to me. I happen to have a very large and passionate interest in human sexuality (and everything about people and the human body that we don't get to learn enough about in school). So, I read a lot of research papers, articles, blogs, etc and I watch a lot of documentaries. About a week ago, I watched a documentary about the shame and secrecy behind intersex births called Intersexion, which I highly recommend. I was fascinated by the stories I heard and felt that I could relate to many of these individuals. Often they used words like "wrong" and "disgusting" when they talked about how others viewed their bodies. The narrator mentioned that when an intersex child is birthed, the standard procedure is to "fix it, shame it, and hide it." That is exactly how I used to (and sometimes, but very rarely, still do) feel about my own body. But, in order for that to be the proper procedure, it would mean something would have to be WRONG in the first place. And there is nothing wrong with my body. 

I've gone back and forth with wanting the surgery, then not wanting it, thinking it was an absolute must, to thinking it was the worse idea in the world. I've felt excited, scared, guilty, ashamed, happy, relieved, anxious, angry, wrong, and happy about the idea of not having loose skin on my body. Yeah, ALL of those feelings. But the one thing I never felt was RIGHT...it just never felt right. 

But, that one time, when it was feeling like a really good decision, I got as close as scheduling a consultation with a plastic surgeon. Mind you, I've done a lot of research about this procedure (get the gist yourself here.) And, I've researched doctors like crazy too. I've watched videos, read blogs and visited forums all about the joys of having a flat, tight, tummy. And, I wanted that joy. Even though the thought of voluntarily and surgically removing a section of my body made me ill. 

So, I submitted my info online for a consultation with a surgeon in Alameda. Within a few hours, I got a call from his office and the person on the other end wanted to confirm my appointment with me. She proceeded to tell me about the procedure from consultation to recovery and even though I already knew EVERYTHING she was talking about, when it was discussed within the context of ME, I suddenly freaked the fuck out. I kept thinking, "What the hell are you doing? This isn't what you want!" But then I argued with myself as she continued with the timeline of events..."Oh you're just being cheap, you do want this, you just don't want to pay for it! Imagine what you'll look like when it's done and you're all healed up, it's a small price to pay! Wait, what the hell?! You're seriously OPTING in to having someone put you under and cut into your body for no good reason? You're not ill, you're not trying to prevent illness, this is totally ridiculous!" 

So, I thanked her for her time, apologized, and asked her to cancel my appointment. I just could not imagine myself going through with it. I didn't want to pay $6,000, that is certainly true. But I also didn't want to be put under. I didn't want to not be able to stand fully upright for weeks. I didn't want to be in pain. I didn't want a fake belly button. I didn't want to put my life on hold. Not for the sake of vanity, at least. And it was then that I realized that having this procedure would go against everything I believed in about myself, my life, and my body. It would go against everything I teach others and work so hard to help them believe. But you know what, that's not even what mattered most to me. I give myself permission to change my mind, to change what I believe, to challenge myself in different ways, to do things I wouldn't normally do, to be different versions of myself. I do. I think that's what makes me the person I am, a self-loving mystical beast. I know no limits when it comes to personal growth and change. I'm all about it. What mattered most to me was that it just. never. felt. right

And so, after all of that was said and done, that's the only conclusion I could come to that made sense to me. And it helped me understand why so many others opt to have these procedures done. Because it felt right for them. Cosmetic surgery is such a personal thing. There truly is no right or wrong answer. It's a means to an end and some of us use it, while others do not. I chose not to. Will I change my mind later and decide to go for it? It's highly unlikely but I guess it's possible...

But for now I am super glad I decided not to do it. Since that day, I've literally changed and shaped my body in ways I never thought possible (see photo timeline below). And it feels amazing to know that all I used was my own power, heart, determination, and commitment. I feel like my body reflects who I am on the inside, and never in my life was I able to say that until now. I'm strong, nonconforming, present, and beautiful both inside and out...naked and clothed. And THAT, feels right!  

P.S. I used to think of my loose skin and stretch marks as sort of "battle wounds" of the body...little snippets of physical evidence of my journey. But, what's funny is that the more comfortable I get with my new body, and the more I accept it as perfect and beautiful exactly how it is, the less I differentiate each part. I am WHOLE, no longer broken. 

 

That One Time I Exceeded My Own Expectations

Actually, I'd be lying if I said that this has only happened to me once. I blow myself away on a regular basis. Dare I even say it happens everyday? Yup, sure does! It's because I have a ton of love and respect for myself. And I take a moment everyday to check in on my badassery and acknowledge myself on the inside and out.

That's usually when "it" happens.

Some days it's as simple as, "Wow, I can't believe I got up and made shit happen at 7am!" or "Damn, I just cooked an insane amount of food in just a few hours!" Other times it's more monumental..."Did I really just toss that cookie simply because I didn't like it and felt not even a smidge of pressure to eat it all?" or "Are you fucking kidding me, I'm at 15% body fat?"

That last one happened two weeks ago, and I'm still a little shocked about it. 

I've never had my body fat measured via hydrostatic testing before. This is also known as a "dunk tank." The last time I had my body fat measured with any accuracy at all was when I was a teenager and it was also the first time I had ever had my body fat measured. I had no idea why it was important or what the numbers meant. I just knew my results (45%) and what the technician told me (you're morbidly obese). Devastation, guilt, and shame set over me and I carried it with me every where I went. 

Am I killing myself? How much bigger am I going to get? What happens now? What am I supposed to do? How did I let this happen? Why did I let this happen?

The only answers I ever seemed to get led me to extremely low-calorie diets, a deep sense of self-hatred, and a neverending cycle of binging and purging. It was the darkest and loneliest time of my life. 

My weight has been a topic of discussion, an issue, a THING for nearly my entire life. I was almost 10lb when I was born...so I've been big since Day 1. From a big baby, to a chubby girl, to a pretty face, to nobody. People seem to get uncomfortable around fat people. Especially fat adults. Because if you're a fat kid, it's not your fault. But if you're a fat adult, you're lazy and pathetic. Even though I was fat, I used to compare myself to other fat bodies and wonder if I looked as grotesque or disgusting. I always came to the same conclusion...no. What I saw and thought never had anything to do with the person I was looking at or thinking about, it had everything to do with me. I felt ugly. My body seemed grotesque. I was disgusting. But deeming others worse off than me made me feel better. I was a bully.

Fast forward to 2006 when I left the country for 14 months and was officially reborn. It took me that entire time away to realize who I was, what I wanted for myself and my life, and why I had become the person I was. A person I was desperate to love and accept. I felt my potential exploding within me and I wanted so bad to let it out. When I finally did, my whole world changed. And it wasn't until that moment, when I just let go and embraced me in my entirety, that I became the person I had always wanted to be. 

When I returned home in late 2007, I was finally ready to reveal my true self to the world. Between now and then I graduated from college, paid off all my student loans and other debts, rekindled some precious relationships within my blood family, came out to my family as a gay woman, got certified as a personal trainer, then as a fitness nutrition specialist, then as a health coach, traveled to 3 different continents and explored more countries than I can list, met the love of my life, moved in with the love of my life, proposed to the love of my life (she said yes), adopted two furry kids, started a business, and have been financially self-sustaining and independent for two full years now. None of any of that would have been possible without my own self-love and acceptance. 

So where does the weightloss come in? Notice I didn't mention that in my grand list of achievements. Why not? Because my weightloss was a byproduct. As a result of me embracing myself in my entirety, I made my health my number one priority. And then, I defined what it meant to be healthy. It was easy for me to do that once I stopped listening to others. Health = happiness. Simple as that. What makes me happy is being outside, helping others, exploring, cooking, eating, traveling, dancing, animals, good people, and love. So, I just cranked up the volume on all of those things and left everything else in the dust. Consequently, I lost 140 lb. But because I stopped focusing on the numbers, how hard I was working, how often I was exercising, how long I was on the treadmill, etc., the weight came off of me like a snakeskin. Slow, bit-by-bit, and revealing a brighter version of the same person underneath. 

I stopped weighing myself, I stopped caring about carbs and sugar, I stopped worrying about calories, I stopped restricting foods from my diet. I ate what I want, when I wanted, and however much I wanted. Nothing was off limits. Nothing was a "bad" choice. I wanted to be free of my abusive relationship with food and that's how I did it. 

And that's why I, again, exceeded my own expectations two weeks ago. I had no idea just how hard I've been working, how strong I've gotten, how much muscle I've built, how much body fat I've lost. No idea because I'm happy as hell about everything in my life, therefore I know I'm healthy! So, fuck numbers and scales! That's not how I measure my success. But, it's an amazing feeling to know what I was/am capable of and to see the physical transformation I've made. Ready to see my results? :) 

 About to go in! We went with  Fitness Wave  for their mobile testing service and they were AMAZING! Highly recommend them. 

About to go in! We went with Fitness Wave for their mobile testing service and they were AMAZING! Highly recommend them. 

 Getting my resting metabolic rate analyzed. Apparently, I have a faster than average metabolism, SWEET! P.S. Breathing through your mouth for 10 minutes, into a tube, while your nose is plugged, is seriously difficult!

Getting my resting metabolic rate analyzed. Apparently, I have a faster than average metabolism, SWEET! P.S. Breathing through your mouth for 10 minutes, into a tube, while your nose is plugged, is seriously difficult!

 Getting weighed, something I stopped doing regularly a long time ago. 168 lbs. A meaningless number to me. 

Getting weighed, something I stopped doing regularly a long time ago. 168 lbs. A meaningless number to me. 

 I'm going in! The water was warm thank god! 

I'm going in! The water was warm thank god! 

 Getting prepared to submerge myself under water and have my water weight measured. 

Getting prepared to submerge myself under water and have my water weight measured. 

 Aeron (dude on my left)  told me that I sink like a stone in the water...which is an indication of someone who has lost a lot of weight and has a low bodyfat percentage. 

Aeron (dude on my left)  told me that I sink like a stone in the water...which is an indication of someone who has lost a lot of weight and has a low bodyfat percentage. 

And now, the numbers:

  • Previous weight: 300+ lb 
  • Current weight: 168lb
  • Previous body fat: 135lb or 45%
  • Current body fat: 26lb or 15.9%

Before the test, Aeron asked me what my body fat goal was. I promised the participants of my current 90-Day Program that I would join them on their journey every step of the way, so I knew I had to have a goal to work towards just as they do. So, I just threw out a random number that I felt was attainable in that time frame given a lot of hard work...

My answer: "20%" 

The comparison trap

It's really cool to think about the fact that no one else on Earth is exactly like you. That's over 7 billion unique souls and bodies. IN-CREDIBLE! And while most people seem to have no issues accepting and embracing this fact, so many of us fall into the comparison trap: "I wish I had _______ like hers," "If only my _______ was like his," etc...indefinitely. 

So what's the problem with this? 

Well for one, this kind of thinking is a total self-love destroyer. When you're focused on what someone else has, or how someone else does something, you quickly minimize your own beauty, talents, and uniqueness. You start to doubt yourself. Now, let's refine this for a moment. There's a difference between downplaying yourself for the likes of someone else, and using another persons success to fuel your own endeavors. We should ALL have people we look up to. Whether you aspire to be courageous like them, open-hearted like them, patient like them, giving like them, etc....is all fine and dandy. You can apply those attributes to your own personal growth and passion. But wanting their body?...not so fine and dandy. And wanting their life?...definitely not the business. 

Your physique is determined by so many unique factors. Even identical twins don't have identical bodies! The way you are shaped is ALL YOU. The way you move about the world is ALL YOU. Your energy and personality is ALL YOU. And there is no other you out there. 

The same can be said about your life in general. No two people will ever share the exact same experiences over a lifetime. Each of us are awarded different opportunities, in different environments, under different circumstances, for different reasons. That's what makes you who you are. Your life is ALL YOU.

So, focus your energy inward and let it expand out onto the world naturally. We are drawn to people who are REAL. We get to know our true self when we are REAL. We love ourselves the most when we are REAL. Don't try to imitate someone one. Embrace the body you were given. Take care of it like you give a damn. Live your life like you give a damn. And fuck what everybody else is doing! 

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A week of new foods: day 4, sparkling probiotic

I asked my sister for some ideas of new foods I should try because I was feeling uninspired. We were grocery shopping at my favorite bay area shop, El Cerrito Natural Grocery, and she asked me, "Do beverages count?" while staring at the chilled beverages section of the store. 

Sure, why not?

I don't buy beverages...so this seemed like an appropriate challenge for the week.

We settled on the "Mojita" flavor of Kevita sparkling probiotic because mint and lime is one of the most refreshing combos and because the only other options were juices, smoothies, or "natural" sodas, or water. Taste-wise, it was good! Better than GT's Kombucha (yuck) for sure. I hate that stuff. GROSS!! I'm not a fan of added flavors or stevia and this beverage contains both. Also, I like drinking water. Just plain, good ole water. I feel like spending money on any other liquid to drink is a waste of money. I already pay for water. Seriously. I guess I prefer probiotics in the form of food. 

If anything this experience has made me want to take a stab at making my own probiotic teas or beverages at home! Anybody got any tips for beginners? :) 

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