Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Used to Disappointment

I am 23 lbs away from my body weight goal of 124 lbs. Not as close to my lifting goals, but I'm getting there. The only reason I chose 124 lbs, by the way, is that my heaviest recorded weight was 194 lbs and it will amuse me to be able to say some day, nonchalantly, "I lost 70lbs".

I'm calm about this forced out-of-the-gym time. I haven't always been this calm about non-gym time. In fact, I've previously approached it with resignation, with an "it's all over, may as well give up and hit the food" attitude. Over and over, I got myself used to disappointment.

So what changed?

In April 2004, when I found out I'd been accepted to the MA program and that I'd be in Israel for two years, I weighed 187 lbs. I decided that by the time I graduated I would be strong and healthy. No way was I was going into a teaching career fat and weak. I believe that teachers must be role models on multiple levels; my future students deserve a teacher who is eating healthy and exercising daily, not a desk slug.

Fortuitously, John Berardi, whose articles I have been reading since the first one showed up on the t-mag web site back in 2000 or so, chose the spring of 2004 to open a company in TO. My initial reaction was, why TO?. My subsequent reaction was, who the hell cares? E-mail and find out more. So I did. Shortly thereafter I met Trainer #3.

I had worked out with personal trainers before. Around 1998-9 I worked out with Trainer #1. It was not a successful endeavor; I thought T1 was good at the time, even wrote him a letter of recommendation at one point, but in retrospect, I didn't know enough to recognize what was good and what was not, and he had a set program in his head and didn't really listen to what I wanted to accomplish. In the interest of fairness I should say that I was not as clear and insistent as I could have been, and personal trainers, just like doctors or hairstylists, are not mind readers.

In 2001-2002 I worked out with Trainer #2. He knew his stuff, and he listened when I told him I wanted to squat and deadlift and get stronger, and that I didn't care about my weight. In retrospect, his programs could have been better designed. We did squats, but no deadlifts beyond stiff legged ones. T2 gets credit for getting me to trust myself under the bar and to worry less. I was going through some very difficult times at work back then, which I thought was an excellent excuse for eating badly. (A new boss came in, and if you know the part in the book of Exodus about a new Pharaoh in Egypt who did not know Joseph... 'nuff said). I had to stop working with T2 because he moved on to open his own successful fitness centre. I would not hesitate to recommend him. Again, in the interest of fairness, there's only so much you can do when your client works her butt off in the gym, but picks up a Haagen-Dasz container on the way home from the gym and eats the entire thing in one sitting.

So that brings me to my time with T3, Ryan. I told him we had four months before I leave the country and that I wanted to get stronger and lift heavy. Miracle of miracles, he listened to what I wanted and and designed a program to do just that. Four different programs, actually; we changed programs every four weeks. When I started with him I weighed 187 lbs and four months later I weighed 171 lbs. My body fat measurements (calipers) went from 37% to under 30%. Most importantly, I became unrelenting about going to the gym five times per week. I also discovered that I always had more strength in me, even when I thought I had nothing left. Often I would finish a set, and Ryan would snap "another", and then "another", and two more reps would come out of nowhere. Ryan, if you're reading this, I can still hear you in my head when I lift.

At our last meeting, when we did the final measurements, Ryan told me "If you ever get your nutrition in gear, weight would fall off". He was right. But to get to the point where getting my nutrition in gear is important to me I had to gain the muscle first. I think this is why all my previous weight loss attempts had failed. I liked food. I enjoyed food. I used food for everything except the purpose for which it was intended - nourishing my body. The only reason for me to change my eating habits is because I derive more pleasure from lifting heavy than I did from stuffing my face.

Ryan also made me aware of how much negative stuff I was telling myself all the time. Other people had told me this before (hi, sis!), but I didn't listen. I finally clued in one day, when I was getting ready to squat a new weight and Ryan asked me if I was ready to go. I answered with one of my favourite quotes from the Princess Bride, "Get used to disappointment". Well, Ryan had never seen the Princess Bride, and he went ballistic. "That's the dumbest statement I've ever heard!" he said. Ok, he may have used stronger language than that. And you know what? He was right. Getting used to disappointment is stupid, and I've been doing it consistently for years, and never giving it a second thought.

It wasn't cheap. I depleted a substantial chunk of my savings working out 5 times a week with a personal trainer. But it was worth every damn penny. Considering what some people spend on cosmetics, clothes, or kitchen gadgets, or even on specialty coffee, it is the wisest use I have ever made of my money, period. My inner capitalist shudders when I think of how much money I wasted over the past twenty years, stuffing myself as a method of dealing with emotional issues.

On August 16, 2004 I moved to Israel. I went from working out five times a week to daily walking with a laptop and books on my back. Here's the interesting thing. In the seven months I was without a gym, I gained 3 lbs. That's it. They have Haagen Dazs here, I could have bought it and eaten it and I could have easily gained all of the weight back, but I didn't want to. My body had changed, my mind had changed, and my attitude had changed.

I started this blog, and I found a gym, and I told the man-in-charge of this gym exactly what I had told Ryan when I first met him. I am not here to tone, to lose weight, or to fit into a dress. I am here to gain muscle and get stronger and lift heavy. You design a program to help me do that, and I will take care of the rest.

So he did. And I have. And I am looking forward to doing so during this final stretch, and the new goals that lie beyond.


At 9:51 AM , Blogger chaos said...

(((tone))) Shudder. I've been meaning to ask about your weight loss history, so I'm glad to see this post as it puts your blog and current prgress into perspective. Lots of things to say, apologies for length. 1) I felt a similar responsiblity when I was teaching little ones this summer. I was bone tired, but dragged myself to the gym because I knew I would be a better teacher if I did. 2) What is TO? 3) 1 pint of HD shows restraint, in my book. 4) interesting that you title this post "used to disappointment" when you imply that you've moved beyond it 5) change in body/ mind/ attitude is right on. It's the attitude part that's toughest for me. NIce work, great post, and holy cow you are super close to goal!

At 4:17 PM , Blogger Steph said...

Hey there,

Hope everything's going okay in your part of the world at the moment! Scott at Straight to the bar is doing some amazing things with bodyweight excercises at the moment, as he's also having an 'out of gym experience' at the moment.

And don't forget the whole muscle weighing helluva lot more than fat thing, particularly if you've been drinking lots of water, so hang on in there!

At 12:21 PM , Blogger Mich said...

Liz: TO is short for Toronto. I titled the post "Used to Disappointment" because that used to be one of my favourite movie quotes, but prior to that conversation I had never stopped to think of the ways in which I was using it to discourage myself.
Interestingly, the man-in-charge of my current gym claims that negative self-talk can cost you ~30% of the weight you are lifting in competition.

Steph: Well, except for the suicide bombing yesterday and Iran threatening to wipe Israel off the map as soon as Iran's nuclear program is capable of it, everything is great. :-) And I will take extra weight any day, as long as it's muscle.


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