Friday, April 16, 2010

The Ripped Lady Sings! And Poses!

Patrick sent us a final email yesterday (say it ain't so! I'm tearing up here!). As usual, it was chock full of instructions and diagrams and motivational words - this time for maintaining our new selves. Four words from his message are now officially burned into my consciousness, and they will be my mantra when my mind spirals into the dark tunnel of body/weight/food anxiety: you are at last free.

Free from what, you ask? Vegetables? Pull-ups? Daily grocery store trips that make other shoppers wonder if you're preparing for a natural disaster? No way, dude (that shall continue).

I'm finally
free from the vicious cyclone of yo-yo dieting, yo-yo exercising, and losing myself in the twisted matrix of nutrition myths and fitness distortions that have done little for my mind/body health over the last 15 years. Most importantly, I've been liberated from that part of me that doubted I had this kind of strength and discipline. Later on, self-doubt. See. You. Lay. Ter. Liberdade!

Over these last few days, along with soaking in the congrats and high-fives, I've been processing my PCP-induced mental makeover. This incredible 90-day learning, re-learning, trusting in the process process reminds me of another time my brain was rocked and my soul revolutionized (this is going to be a long one, INDULGE ME already)....

Awhile back I took an intensive fiction workshop with my favorite author, Junot Díaz. I came into the workshop with a very expensive degree from a "fine" institution, and a body of work I'd been struggling with for years. In the five days I spent with this storytelling master, I learned more than I had in my two years of graduate school. At the end of the class, I had a book full of notes and a sense that I’d emerged from a dark cave and seen sunshine for the first time in years. Finally, I possessed the tools to begin revising. I had instructions! I had diagrams! I had a coach!

Of course, the sense of empowerment that accompanied this newly acquired foundation came with an enormous resentment towards my former educational institution, which I was certain had failed me (for a pretty hefty ass price tag). I imagined what I could have accomplished HAD I ONLY KNOWN what Junot showed me earlier. I’d have like, 60 books by now. Okay, 6. Okay, at least one? The point is, my discoveries confirmed earlier suspicions that I'd been cheated. Bamboozled by my university.

This is how I felt at some points during PCP, and rather extremely. I started this project 100% confident that I'd get a new body (I'd done "programs" plenty of times!). I figured that PCP's structure and emphasis on accountability (two words: weekly photos. How can you cheat when the world is watching?) would be most responsible for getting me where I wanted to be.

I had no idea that I was going to be completely re-educated about how to eat, and that my thoughts would do much of the work to reshape me (and KEEP ME peaky). I didn't realize that meditation would play such a huge part in my success. When I first started noticing the benefits of PCP (loose pants, clearer skin, an end to PMS, reduced perspiration - I suffer from a super embarrassing condition called palmar hyperhidrosis which has made some exercises off-limits - I mean, it's hard to do handstands when you're sliding in your own sweat) I went a little wild with my discoveries; I was over-the-top zealous. Patrick is the shaman! Let's start a PCP cult! Die Crunch Gym!!

Now, rather than start a new religion or dwell on what I could have been doing, eating, spending money on, and thinking all these years when I thought I was being “healthy” here’s what I AM doing now that I'm finally on the righteous path…

1. Loving this body at any size.

2. Loving it enough to make the necessary changes to turn it into a frickin’ powerhouse when it needs a boost.

3. Eating bread (salt-free, mostly). And pasta. And rice. And bread.

4. Realizing that Grey Goose and Ben and Jerry will not make problems disappear. Self-discipline and caring for yourself can, in time...

5. Understanding that I can change decade-long habits and thought processes – I only have to look inside (and at our photostreams – dang!)

6. Accepting that I wasn't born peaky, and that having to work my ass off DOES make me stronger.

7. Sleeping 8 hours a day. Oh the glory! The glory!

8. Making time for the activities that keep me sane and happy: writing, dancing, boxing, yoga, capoeira

9. Moving on with a healthy mind when I make less than stellar food choices

10. Listing my accomplishments without feeling like an ego-inflated narcissist. Go on people, be PROUD!

And oh yeah, working on some new moves!

To all the ladies out there, forget all the time you’ve spent punishing yourself for what you ate or how many minutes you didn’t spend on the treadmill, or how unfair it is that your friend can eat XYZ without gaining an ounce. Don't waste another second. Instead, retrain your brain to crave self-love. Once you realize you're worthy of your best life, your best body, your best soul, you'll do pretty much anything to achieve it.

Finally, before the ripped lady sings, I must thank the academy; specifically, my sister. For cheering me on while I made the kitchen smell like a wharf and scattered vegetable bits to and fro. For, after finding me passed out on the couch, gently demanded, DID YOU JUMP YET? You could have eaten chips everyday, but you didn’t. You didn’t have to apologize for bringing ice cream home, but you did. I know it was hard to watch me throw tantrums (and egg shells) and I owe you big time (I’ll repay you with ab sets!!). You and Rumi are both right: "The cure for pain is in the pain."

Patrick! You are an amazing teacher who inspires me to show the same care and dedication to my own students. The greatest gift you gave us was teaching us to train ourselves. Thank you for the constant guidance, patience, and oh yeah, ass-kicking!

Chen! The Oz behind our meals! Thank you for the carbohydrates, for keeping me running on high-performance-fuel all day long, and for helping me realize that I love morning vegetables and the occasional splattering of animal protein in my omelet. Thanks to you I got to experience the happy meals I’ve been craving forever!

My team! You guys rocked it! Thanks for your honesty, inspiration, and encouragement! Good luck as you continue on this adventure.

Now that the smiley stuff is out of the way, those on their way to the Peak know that this journey is a killer. And lonely. The 90-day climb is both fast and painfully slow, mind-boggling and breezy. And while we're all up here thanking the academy, there were moments we considered (and exercised) reckless rebellion against it.

You will feel very, very isolated in this process. You will make people around you uncomfortable and skeptical and annoyed. But in these moments of solitude, you'll make your greatest discoveries, like Buddha under the Bodhi tree. So don't be afraid of finding out what you are underneath it all...because IT'S HELLA FUN TO SHOW OFF!!

I've talked enough, so I'll leave it to my girl to have the last words. The wait is OVA! PAR-TAY!!

-ella, -ella, eh eh eh...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 90 - Open Up Your BADASS CHAKRA

That's what I'm talking about. Day 90!!!!! I decided to do my badass/triumphant/queen of the world pose, though I'm not quite ready to impart "final" thoughts, just day 90 thoughts. Which means, lucky reader, that you can expect at least one more heart-wrenching, (Brazilian) poetic wax before this baby is officially complete...

But here's how I feel now...

On the brink of something. On the edge as opposed to the peak. Amazing, but emotional (what's with me and the beginnings and ends of things?).

This morning I woke up like it was Christmas - excited as hell and ready to see what was waiting for me (under my clothes, perhaps?). I roused my faithful photographer to take some pics, and weighed myself with a bit of trepidation. That was a bit of a shocker. According to the powers that be I've lost 10 LBS!! Hell yeah!

I happily ate up my PCP breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and reworked part of my oh-so neglected novel for the night's reading. As I re-visited this other enormous, life-changing project of mine, I tried to imagine what the rest of my world would be like if I applied PCP-esque discipline to the parts I'd like to make over.

I wonder if I can design and adhere to a strict program to accomplish my creative pursuits. Can't I be as disciplined with the way I write as I was with measuring grams and reps? Something I'll reflect on in the next few days. Like, maybe I'll start setting daily word quotas for myself. And pages. And restrict my intake of television.

As for today's workout, I chose Lucky Number 13. Yeah yeah yeah. It was as you expected - hella easy!! I will say that the shoulder raises were not effortless. And that I still love me some lunges...but what a frickin' hoot it was to see how far we've come. Patrick is a genius that way, raising things ever so slightly, until before you know it you're going beyond (and then WAY beyond) your imagined, self-imposed limits.

To celebrate this beginning/end, I had a bit of wine. I mean, a bit. Within just a few sips I was flushed and drowsy. I came home and ate what I will now and forever call the PCP smorgasbard mush - comprised of the excess remnants of the meals of PCPs past. I'm talking about those protein and carb grams that exceed a particular meal's allotment and thus get shoved off the scale and into tupperware or baggies or foil until you need them later. So, now you can see why I never took pics of my food (because most of the time, it looked like this):

Bfore I pass out, let's do a little retrospective...I'VE BEEN SO WAITING TO DO THIS.
Here's me on Day 1...

......and here's me now:

I'm thrilled, elated, proud, and suddenly, exhausted.

Before I pass out I want to say CONGRATULATIONS to my dope, killer, kickass team, and send some huge hugs to Patrick and Chen across the Pacific. Hi-five ya'll! More to come!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 89 - One day more....

...used to be my favorite song from Les Miserable. Remember when Jean Valjean gets on the stage and just BUSTS out? "One day more, another day, another destiny..." And then he announces that he's actually an ex-con, number (sing it with me now, people) "2-4-6-0-11111111111!!!" So cathartic.

So, I'm not an ex-convict, but I must confess that I've been on edge just thinking about numbers. Specifically, that dreaded one which will reveal the exact nature of my heaviness, or lightness.

Yes, we have to weigh ourselves tomorrow, and I'm not exactly thrilled about it. What if I only lost, like, three pounds? But maybe I need to stop giving the number so much weight, since weight ain't nothing but a number, right?

As for the workout today, let's just say I saw a bright white light in the fourth set of the bicep/tricep/shoulder combo. The shoulders were on fire. I told God I was ready, saw my life flash before the sweat droplets on the floor.

To make matters worse I think I'm fighting off a flu, so I had to pull the strength from...actually I don't know from where it came! Which one of you chakras is responsible? I mean, where do women get their mojo when they give birth? Some holy place deep inside? Is that what they call the "life force"? If that's the case, then I'm officially ready to have twins...

Afterwards, I was in so much pain that when I made my way to my yoga mat like a zombie, the ab sets felt like a relief. After a g-chat break with Patrick, I even had a bit of strength for 8 minute abs!

I'm so fribbin' excited for tomorrow, Day 90! What am I going to wear?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 88 - So Emotional

I feel you, Whitney-girl.

Today I broke down in the middle of my ab workout. I mean, I actually sobbed a little. My body felt like a seesaw as I tried to modify the v-sit (every time I write that, BTW, I write "V-shit"). And you know how I feel about the plank. My body was jerky and off-balance, and I felt the burn everywhere but my core: in my shoulders, neck, legs. Legs? Somewhere around set four I felt the frustration of not being able to do these right, and then I was frustrated with my frustration. I'm starting to see a pattern here.

In order to spread a little sunshine on my otherwise bleak day, I've decided to make a list of things I've accomplished over these last 88 days. To be honest, this feels a bit awkward because I was raised to be overly modest. I'm much more familiar with berating (as opposed to and boosting) myself.

But not today, folks! Here are the things I'm frickin' proud of:

1. I met this challenge during one of the busiest, coldest, craziest 90 days of my life.

2. I went down two jean sizes!

3. I can finally do this pose (pictures to come when my photographer comes home):

4. I bared my mid-drift to the world

5. I learned how to have fun sans alcohol

6. I learned how to relax sans alcohol

7. I learned how to be honest sans alcohol

8. I'm celebrating Day 90 SANS ALCOHOL (instead I'll be reading from my novel-in-progress at an art exhibition in Brooklyn)

9. I went from breathless at 400 jumps to 23 minutes of continuous, joyful, energetic jumping!

10. I can sit up straight without being told

I'm sure there's more, but I gotta save something for the finale!

Hope you're all feeling this accomplished!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 87 - Workout Loner

I was totally dreading this week's homework assignment, but finally I made it went to the gym today, for pilates. The bruise on my tailbone has made the v-sits and bicycles a bit painful (and hard to maneuver with the extra padding of a towel or mat), so I figured the lower abs needed some serious burning up before our 90 day "reveal," which is THREE DAYS away. I feel super nervous just writing that, the way I did 17 years ago, right before prom. I'd bought a super tight dress (and girdle) and remember doing plies all night long, til my thighs were on fire. The desperate last minute didn't work very well.


While I waited for pilates class to start, I ran on the treadmill next to a friend I hadn't seen since the start of the project. She asked about how things were winding down, and I admitted that I wished I could have accomplished more (a pull-up, for example, 5 sets of 1 minute 45 second planks). Being a capoeira instructor-gymnast-superwoman, she reassured me that these 90 days were only the start of a life-long project. Totally! I'm so geared up for more. There are so many things I want to accomplish now that this amazing foundation has been laid.

So, normally, pilates kills me. 90 days ago I would have left class with a stiff neck and aching lower back. But today I felt much stronger, much more controlled than I ever have. I didn't experience anything particularly negative at Crunch (mean trainer tried to make eye contact but I breezed past him and did some chest dips), though I did realize how much I love working out alone.

The noise of the gym (those treadmills! the whirring! How did I ever tolerate it?), the misogynistic tunes, having to wait for machines, the mean girls, the slimy dudes, the lack of space on the mats where I was itching to do my abs - it all annoyed me. I missed having control over my environment, down to the lighting and temperature (you gotta set the mood, dude!), blasting my playlist, and, most importantly, exercising my god-given right to wear stinky gym clothes three days in a row! Ok, not three days, but you know. Somedays I like to get my Olivia Newton John on, headband and all.

While sweating it out solo is definitely more convenient, I have to say that I do miss the opportunity to gab with my girlies at hot yoga or catch up with old friends (as we kick and attack each other!) at capoeira. Still, Patrick's email about being alone while we feel the burn made a lot of sense to me. Number one, being around people as I exercise can make me too self-conscious to perform my moves effectively. Secondly, the distractions (even friendly, soothing ones) really do divert attention away from what we're trying to accomplish with and for our bodies...

It's funny how "alone" so many of us have felt during this project, even while having access to an amazing community to share stories with everyday.

On that note, I'm using the power of the blog to send my group a huge, sweaty, muskley virtual hug! Can you feel it?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 86 - Saturday Night Nerd Out

I heart the master sets! Instead of repeating the same darn thing 5 times, this stuff is change I can believe in.

My workout felt faster and more effective today. Even the jumps. Just as I hit "Don't Stop the Music" on my playlist, the second 9-minute jumping set was over, and I was like hell no! I've started incorporating a little booty shake in my jump routine (makes me feel like I'm in da club) so I was definitely not ready to let go. Please don't stop the jumpin'. I kept going, not for very long, but I made it through two Lil' Kim songs. Wonder where she is now...

Other than that, I'm debating whether or not to venture out into the big bad world of Saturday night (Holyfield fight tonight! Cuba libres and chicken wings!) and dodge temptation, just to prove that I can. Or maybe we should just stay home, nerd out, make yogurt and watch The Cove. I don't think it gets more wholesome than that..

10 minutes later: I've abandoned Project Yogurt to Google the following:

1. breast shrinking weight loss
2. TMJ and diet
3. banana soup (actually, this stuff is pretty bomb)
4. women stress bellyfat

Still debating whether to put on the pajamas or the new skinny jeans...good night ya'll!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Day 84 - Bye, bye Joe.

This is what my hands feel like. My ring, which was sliding off my finger last week, won't budge now. My stomach is bloated, even in the morning, and my face looks puffy. I know my indulgence was a little out of control, but, come on now. Excess fluid be gone already!

I'm trying to narrow down the culprit.Maybe it was the boiled shrimp I bought at the market the other day for dinner. As I ate, I knew something was wrong, but this was the Cranky Starving Day From Hell so I kept going. Sure enough, after I checked the package I saw "salt" listed under the ingredients, along with some other weird chemicals. I threw the rest of the pack out and felt nasty all night. But that was two days ago.

So let's be real. It's probably the coffee. Right? I did some research and couldn't figure out if it's the caffeine or the actual coffee that leads to water retention...just as an experiment, I'm going to try and keep it to one cup a day, and replace the afternoon cups with green tea. The coffee addiction costs too much anyway, throws my milk grams off, and dries my mouth out. And most importantly, it doesn't alleviate the pain/misery of whatever I'm doing to crave it in the first place!

So, bye bye Afternoon Joe (Morning, you're still mine). We've had some good times. I'll always love you. Let's be friends, though, k? XOXO