Sunday, May 26, 2013

Spend It

"When you get to the last set, if you feel like you have anything left, I want you to give it everything you have.  You leave everything in the gym."  That's what He-who-trains said yesterday, as he was taking me through my new, total body (i.e. "You'll be so sore you can't move tomorrow, and so tired, you'll go to bed before the sun sets") weight lifting program.

The last several months, I've been doing workouts that have target 2-3 muscle groups.  For compound motions (the ones that involve more than one joint moving), I've generally been doing 6 reps.  But yesterday, He-who-trains instructed me to move up to 12 reps (or 20 on a few exercises.)  My body had gotten pretty comfortable with the "old" way of doing things, but He-who-trains reminded me that that's what the body does.  It adapts.  In order to change, it continually needs to be challenged and kept off balance.  And challenged it was.  By time I finished my warm up rotation, my muscles were already quivering-- and I knew that after another four rotations, I was going to be toast.  On the last rotation, everything was a struggle.  It was a struggle, sometimes, to even move the weight to the starting position. But I wasn't going to quit.  I knew that I still had it in me, even if I had to dig pretty deep to find it.

He-who-trains happened to be standing behind me on one of these last exercises and saw me fighting to finish.  He said, "Get mad, Kim.  Get mad." I was tired enough that I may be making this last part up, but what I heard is "Use it. Use your anger to push you through." In a slow motion nanosecond as I held the weight, I saw my frustration at not losing for the last ten weeks.  I saw my anger at my body for throwing a temper fit.  I saw my need to conquer.   In the end, I was one rep short of my goal.  But I knew I had given everything I had to give.  I know that next time, I'll push until I make it.  I now know the meaning of the saying on my well-worn Tae Kwon Do shirt: Go Hard or Go Home.

But in a world that says, "Play it safe" and "Take it easy" and "Don't overdo it" and "Save some for later" that seems counterintuitive.  You never know what you may need to do the rest of the day-- doesn't it make some sense to reserve some energy? That's what we do with our finances, the love we have to give, our wisdom and even our very selves.  We save some, just in case we need it.

Several years ago, I had a preaching professor quote this from Annie Dillard.

“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”
 She was talking about writing sermons, about saving that "brilliant" illustration for later, but the quote has always stuck with me--because it applies to so much.

Whatever it is I have-- whatever gifts and passions and energies I have-- I want to use them all, boldly and fearlessly, without regard for what I might need later. Newspaper columnest Erma Bombeck said, "When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say 'I used everything you gave me.'"

I've learned a lot of life lessons in the gym, and here's a new one for the list:  Spend it.  Energy and fire do no good sitting in reserve.  Use them to fuel your drive to achieve.

Friday, May 24, 2013


"Your tests all look normal.  Your total cholesterol looks great, and your trigylcerides are really low." I think these are words that most people pray to hear from their doctor-- to be affirmed that they are well and healthy.

These, however, are not the words I wanted to hear.  Because after ten or so weeks of being positively and maddeningly plateaued in the weight loss department, I wanted there to be a reason.  A cause.  An explanation.  Anything other than my body just adamantly refusing to cooperate.  I know that's sheer stupidity on my part, because being well and healthy is, after all, really the goal. (The 135 lb body being a VERY close second.) There are some things that may help, but there is nothing pinpointable. It could well be my lack of stress management showing up again. (Uh.  Note to self.  Time to get that under control. Seriously.)

I spent a long time talking to He-who-trains about the results.  And he is awesome--he's a veritable fount of information and new ways to do things.  He is always ready to adapt and change as necessary.  So... he revamped everything.  I'm going back to five days at the gym, but dropping the morning workouts, and instead of primarily doing resistance training, I'll be adding in several days of high intensity cardio. He's redone the nutrition end of things, so I'm back to eating 1600 calories (which is close to my Basal Metabolic Rate), only I'm dropping the carbs in favor of something that more closely resembles an Atkins diet. I'm great with all of that.  But when he started talking about how hard I was going to have to push myself in order to break through this, my first thought was "I just don't know that I have it in me. I've been pushing-- and hard. I've been giving it everything."
He-who-trains, and his "Push so hard your face looks like you're pushing out a cactus" face.

I'll be honest.  I threw myself a perfectly lovely pity party last night-- complete with that uncontrollable and unexplainable thing-- tears. (I'm gonna blame that on the fact that I really must've needed a good cry, and not the fact that I was lamenting the fact that my tests came back normal.) It's a good thing I don't keep oreos and ice cream in the house, because last night I would've caved.  I've been hearing mean voices in my head saying "It doesn't matter.  It's not working.  Might as well have fun and eat what you want." I've been trying the "Get thee behind me, Satan" line and it's kept the voices shut up.  But last night I would've listened.  My determination tanked. For the first time in months, I felt defeated.  Like my goal was completely beyond my reach.

And of course that's where DH piped in and reminded me of what I have achieved--the pounds I have lost, the inches that have evaporated.   And gave me a pep talk about not quitting. And told me that just the other night that someone who hadn't seen me in a few months came up and told me how wonderful I looked.  When I whined, "But I haven't seen any changes in ten weeks, he "helpfully" reminded me of the article I had written, No Buts -- in which I made a pledge to myself that I would elimate whiny and limiting "but" from my vernacular.  Yeah, about that...

Today I'm done pitying myself and have a ferocious need to push through, to own this thing.  To not be normal.  Because normal, to both me and to our society, has become quitting when things become tough and frustrating and inconvenient. Despite the "good" news the test results hailed, I'm not normal. I won't quit or be beaten.  I will find a way to dig deeper and push harder.  I will silence the destructive voice and I will quit whining "But" at the process. I will break through brick walls that tell me I can't.  I will refuse to settle for "normal." (And I, too, will make the Ugly Cactus face... )

Sunday, May 12, 2013

That Person...

It appears I've become that person... the one that a few weeks ago, I would've deemed fanatical or some  other such derrogatory name.  The one that drives every one else crazy with so strickly sticking to a diet and exercise plan.

For several weeks now, I've not eaten at all during any church gatherings-- only drinking water so I'm doing something.  But now, as I prepare to head out of town for a conference that will last all week, I've taken the crazy a step farther.  I've packaged 11 servings of protein powder in individual baggies.  And I've cooked enough meat that I will able to do lunch and dinner with only a microwave.  (Lemon Rosemary Chicken Breasts, Spaghetti Sauce, and Garlic Soy Sauce Pork Chops.)  A few steamer bags of vegetables and small box of pasta and some milk and I'm set for the week.  I've already researched enough to know that there is a Y close to the hotel, and that they open at 5:30.  I've not only packed professional clothes, but gym clothes for every day. I'm sure I'll have to do one fast food meal on each end of the trip, but I can plan for that...and do it guiltlessly. Maybe it's the whole "Failure to plan is a plan to fail" thing has finally made sense.

Or maybe it's something else.  He-who-trains told me that in order to succeed I had to learn to unapologetically say to myself and anyone else, "This is who I am." I've finally reached the point where those words are easy for me.  When someone asks me to cheat a little bit, I can happily say, "I don't need that."  And it's true.  It's not about the calories because I know I could splurge every now and then.  It's finally become about the mindset.  Because I know that once I start eating things I don't need, all I want to do is eat things I don't need.  At 1200 calories a day, there's not a lot of wiggle room.  And I like that right now. I'm no longer eating food because it's there or someone fixed or even because it tastes good-- I eat what I need for my body to do what it needs to do.

So, yeah.  I'm that person.  I'm ok with that.  Because that person is the one that will succeed when the other versions of me have failed.  That person is the best person to be right now.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Coveting Koinonia

I wish I could remember who said this, but I love it even if I can't correctly attribute it. Speaking on what is good about the church, she (whomever she is...) said, "Your yoga teacher won't bring you a casserole when your mom dies." She was talking about the community that is at the heart of who the church is.  Don't get me wrong, sometimes the church blows it. Sometimes we become gossipy and self-interested, but that happens within any organization. Yet, a church can be a very valuable gift when you need someone to be in your corner.

I've been interested to see this unfold as I've become public with my journey of losing weight. I was kind of nervous about being so open, but especially as a leader.  I wondered if people would frown when I let them know that I would be making time for the gym and that it was a priority.  I wondered how many I would upset when I hit the point of no longer eating at church dinners. (Which has actually been a gift-- now I'm free to talk and listen and make eye contact, knowing that I'll eat my 200 carefully measured calories at home.) I made a game plan for defending myself, saying that if I wasn't healthy, then I couldn't be a healthy pastor for them.  But I've never needed to defend myself.  No one questions it when I go to the gym mid afternoon if I have an evening meeting.  Aside from curiousity, no one seems to mind my lack of food consumption at meals.

And more than not needing to defend myself, I've actually found myself on the receiving end of lots of support.  I have an elder who calls me "Slim." ( I tell him that his elder status is not in question and that he doesn't need brownie points, but we both know he gets them!) I had a lady who used to work for weight watchers offer to make some low calorie things just for me so I wouldn't feel left out.  And when I told another lady that I had some questions as to whether I needed to see a doctor to rule out some medical issues, she not only gave me a recommendation, but is faithfully following up with me every time she sees me to make sure that I do it.  Someone once told me that "a real friend is one who loves you into being accountable for the intentions you set for yourself."

But maybe that's more than friendship.  Maybe that's Koinonia.  Koinonia is the greek word that loosely means "fellowship" or "common life." But in classical Greek, it also means partner or companion. The idea denotes a unity of purpose in some ways. In other words, because my health matters to me, it matters to them.  They see themselves as partners in what I would have described as a completely individual journey. Maybe that's why Weight Watchers is so popular-- because anyone who has ever done this knows that it's easier to have a community.  I'm grateful for the ways my congregation teaches me about Koinonia-- and for the ways they love me enough to help me love myself.

Friday, May 3, 2013


After several weeks of the scale either steadfastly refusing to say I'd lost, or stubbornly saying that I'd actually gained-- finally we're seeing eye to eye! Down almost two pounds yesterday, and another .7 lbs today. It doesn't exactly make me bikini ready, but maybe it means I've broken through the stuck spot.

I'll take it!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


The very first time I worked out with He-who-trains, and I thought I was going to die, He made me a promise.  He said, "A few months from now, you will look back at this workout and just laugh. It will seem so easy to you."

Not that I doubted him, of course. But the it was kind of hard to think about, you know, while frantically sucking in air.

But today as I was cleaning up some accumulated clutter, I found it: the first workout.  Stiff-legged deadlifts: 10 reps, 8 lbs.  Now I do 12 reps at 35 lbs.  That's the only exercise still in my routine from those early days (lovely, wonderful days) of being trained at the house.  But even though I'm not still doing those exercises, I know that they'd be a joke to me now.  Pretty much the only thing I use 10lb dumbbells for now is warming up (and that was the heavy weight at first.)

So much has changed since then. Not just the weights and rotations, but the way I look at things.  Food is no longer a source of pleasure, though the conversation often is.  Hunger is no longer a nuisance, but a sign that my body is working hard to get rid of the fat.  I feed my body only what it needs to make it through the day and the workout.  I eat at the same time every day.  And while I'm not exactly a weight room expert, I no longer feel out of place. I don't dread working out, but instead (still) growl at off days. I'm fine when my heart rate stays in the 180's, and have learned to push when I'm mentally ready to stop. I no longer guess at my calories because I measure.

That makes this (slightly less) Pudgy Parson happy.  Five months, well spent...