One single focus.

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It has been a MINUTE since I’ve written anything. Not just on here, but like – anything. I’m a writer, and process everything through words, but the last thing I wrote was the last post on this blog & that was a year and a half ago.

It wasn’t because I was lazy, or unmotivated, or had nothing to say. I actually had a lot to say. I was consistently biting my tongue and sitting on my hands in an attempt to keep myself from writing.

Last fall, I went to one of my monthly appointments with my knee surgeon & y’all, it wasn’t great. I thought I was doing everything I possibly could to get myself up to speed, but he hit me with a heavy dose of hard reality. He told me that I could either choose to step up my game & get the reward of living a fully active life, or decide to go at the rate I’m going and never be able to be active in the capacity that I was used to again. Either way, I had to choose immediately.

When I went into my MACI implant, I had no idea how hard the recovery was. My surgeon never sugar coated it — I just couldn’t grasp the toll it would take on me and my mental health. In my mind, I was moving mountains. I did my physical therapy, I tried to eat well, I worked out a few times a week. But I wasn’t getting the results needed to get over the line separating me from being athletic again. On top of that, my metal health was in a rough place. I was depressed, unmotivated, and lost the fire in my belly I previously kept lit regardless of my situation.

After spending a good day being pissed off at my ortho, I did a lot of self reflection. I realized that the reason I was so upset over what he was saying was because it hit me to my core. I was exposed. Online, via phone, in face to face conversations, I was so good at selling that I was working as hard as I could to recover. But the reality was that I did the bare minimum. Did I eat well? Sure. If you count a healthy lunch as eating well & throw away the multiple nights per week that I ran to McDonald’s or Papa Ray’s. Did I exercise? Yup! Twice a week I went to my gym downstairs and hung out on an elliptical for about 45mins before lifting a few weights that I knew I could lift — never once actually pushing myself. Did I do my physical therapy? Yeah! (I mean, sometimes, maybe once a week, and because I wasn’t doing it enough, it always hurt too much for me to progress so it was like I was on one of those mall toddler trains that just keeps going in circles, not wanting to admit to myself that the ride kinda sucks and I might be too old for it because it was easier to sit on the train and pretend to be happy about the ride than come to terms with the fact that I should really be going on the larger, scarier, rollercoaster or something, ya know?).

I was good at two things: 1. Starving myself for a few weeks so I could lose a dozen pounds & then gain it all back because I was starving. 2. Lying to myself to the point where I was genuinely convinced I was pushing myself enough to make a full recovery because I didn’t know how to do it alone. But now my surgeon exposed me & I was so naked that even I couldn’t lie to myself anymore.

So I decided the next year would have one singular focus: health. Mental and physical. No writing, no trying to balance my social life, no dating, no worrying about advancing my career or education. No shows, no feeling bad about not performing, no staying home to read or watch TV. Everything – every single project – was put on hold so I could focus on my health.

That’s not easy for me. I’m a creative and my impulse is to take on too much. I love being passionate about projects I abandon two months later. I love juggling multiple parts of my identity. I love writing and reading and going home after work to watching dumb shit on TV. But I wasn’t succeeding in handling multiple things at one – so why not just try switching it up?

Step one: Get back to the gym.

For the longest time, I wouldn’t join a gym because I have a BEAUTIFUL gym in my building. Like, three rooms complete with a pool and boxing ring, kind of beautiful. And I justified my rent because of the amenities, so why pay for a membership? It would be throwing money out the window, right? But why the hell does that matter if I’m not using it? For two years, I wasn’t able to get myself to exercise consistently enough to make progress, no matter how strong a burst of motivation was, so why would that change?

The only time in my post-high school life that I ever did well with consistently loving to exercise was right out of college. I joined a gym & made great friends who made working out the biggest highlight of my day. I knew that I needed to get back into group fitness because I’m a former team sports athlete and nothing will push me more than a good leader and wanting to hold my own against my peers. My surgeon gave me the OK to do anything that wasn’t cardio (unless it was on a bike or in a pool). So I rejoined my old gym, made friends and everything was easy.

Just kidding. It was actually really fucking hard. The first class I took was a spin class, which I used to do all the time. I could barely get through the warmup. But by some collision of the universe, my former college professor (who knew everything I had been through over the past few years) was my instructor that night & I finished it. The second class I took was Bodypump – something I also used to take regularly – and I cried after it. I couldn’t do anything with my lower body. I didn’t account for how mentally difficult it is to go back to something you used to be able to do & not be able to do it like you used to. Everything that I lost in my accident came back to me and I was pissed as hell.

Plus, being at my old gym made me miss my friends. I was lonely. I wanted them back. I envied everyone who had gym friends. I envied everyone who could hold their own during class. Honestly, I was just jealous and angry all the time. But I decided to take that energy and transform it into motivation. My back was against the wall – what was my other option? Not being able to be physical again? Wasn’t the whole point of this crazy ass surgery so I could be physical again? So I showed up. And I asked for help. And I was vulnerable and honest and opened up about my injury. And that vulnerability and honesty led to people helping me, checking up on me, motivating me & being forced into my friendship because I love a good cult. I gave myself the space and freedom to be a beginner again. To not be hard on myself. To do as much as I could that day, feel proud of it, and not compare my journey with anyone else’s.

The second thing I needed to work on was losing weight. Not only did I put on weight in a way that felt uncomfortable to me, but my surgeon kept stressing how the rate of success, and longevity of my implant, would increase if I lost weight. So I decided to finally love myself and eat healthy without starving myself & the weight came off and you guys I’m so happy!

Just kidding. I starved myself. Not starve starve, just “starve”, ya know? I didn’t not eat, I just ate as little as I could while on a fad diet and counted E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Everything. Guys, I literally logged seltzer (WHICH IS NOTHING BUT WATER WITH THE ESSENCE OF FRUIT) in an app. I swore off bananas. I ate salads WITHOUT DRESSING. I didn’t eat beans because some book told me they were too inflammatory. Then one night, during a spin class, I pushed myself harder than I normally did because I was getting stronger, and I almost passed out. Like had to call my mom and stay on the phone with her until I got home because I was so scared of fainting and bashing my head on the sidewalk.

So I threw away the diet books, deleted my apps, and decided to take a different approach. I love healthy food. I was never someone you had to force to eat fruits or veggies – I just liked them. And my mom taught me enough about nutrition that I was already equipped with the knowledge of what food was nutritious & would give me energy. So here I am – someone who loves healthy food and is slowly but surely loving herself more and more. It seemed easy, right? Just eat the healthy shit you already like, the stuff that makes you body feel good, and stop eating the shit that doesn’t make you feel good. And it was that easy. Which is why I fucking hate diet culture. There’s an entire industry making money off convincing us it’s hard. They thrive and make money off our self hatred. They want us to think it’s so hard & that we need their secret formula to lose weight. It’s not. Eat things you know are good for you. I didn’t put anything “off limits” because that made it feel like something shiny to miss. Instead, each meal I prepared or ate out, I asked myself if there was a way to make it healthy. Usually there was. And if I really wanted fries instead of the side salad, I got the damn fries. And getting them that day usually got them out of my system enough to not make a run to McDonald’s out of impulse & instead limit them to that meal on that day. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, I just chose to make it healthy more often than not and stopped eating when I was full.

Which leads to painfully slow weight loss. I’m taking a pound a week maybe when I used to be able to lose five in a week. But my life wasn’t dictated by some dumb diet & here I am a year later, still able to eat healthy and continue losing weight. I got to know myself on a different level. It took a lot of reconditioning to not get disappointed by how slow it was, but I got there. I realized that the daughter of a defensive lineman for the NFL will never be skinny. It’s just not going to happen. And at the end of the day, that honestly wasn’t the type of body I was aiming for. I wanted to be strong – and knew I could be strong. That was always my advantage in sports. When I cheered, I could lift anyone. In softball, I was a power hitter and third baseman. I knew I could be strong. So I started caring less about the size of my waist and instead fell madly in love with the way I was able to master technique, push my endurance or up the amount of weight I could lift. And I fell madly in love with the way my inner strength was now being reflected in my muscle definition.  I just wanted to look as strong as I felt. Slowly but surely, I fell in love with my physical self for honestly the first time ever. And that shit’s powerful. And I didn’t have to count my calories to get there.

Traditionally, I’m someone who shouts my goals to the world. I thought it would keep me accountable. I wanted to be complimented on my journey. I wanted social media to think I’m cool. That I’m inspiring and motivating and DOING. IT. In an effort to try and keep away from old habits that never worked in the long term, I decided to be a little quieter this time. I posted maybe 1/10th of my journey. I instead put my focus on doing the work. I wanted to smash my goals first. And honestly, I’m so sick of diet culture that I wanted my life to be more interesting than showing progress shots. I showed what I was eating when I made a bomb ass vegan dish. I also showed myself shoving a cheesesteak in my mouth on my birthday. I showed gym selfies when I felt good or defeated but I also showed the days where I watched hours of the Masked Singer with no pants on. Because my days were no longer controlled by wanting to prove what I was accomplishing through social media posts or blog posts telling you all what “worked for me” when I only made the changes a few months ago. I wanted to weave my new way of living with all the other parts of me that are beautiful and worthy of praise as well.

There aren’t going to be before and after pictures. I hate before and after pictures. I’ve posted before and after pictures in the past. I hated myself during those years – big or small. The reason I posted them in the first place was to get approval through social media because I hated myself. They tell me that I’m supposed to be ashamed or embarrassed by who I was. That the person on the right who is smaller is somehow better because of her physical appearance alone. Fuck that. The person I was last year is a fucking beast. She was terrified but showed up. She learned how to walk three times. She decided to put aside everything to focus on her mental and physical health. She entered a space where she didn’t look like she belonged and made a home out of it. She proved she belonged and worked harder every single day to become who I am today.

And once I started doing what was physically good for my body, the mental health aspect fell back in line. My depression stopped ruling me. Was every single day great? Did I feel strong and capable all the time? Hell no. Honestly there were several times I left the gym in tears because I felt so broken. There were days where I couldn’t get out of my head. Days where I felt defeated and that I’d never be enough. Where I felt like an imposter or fraud. Those days still pop up every now and again — hell, I had one on Tuesday. But despite what my brain is trying to tell me, I always show up. And the good days start to outnumber the bad days so often that you can live with the bad day, knowing that it’s temporary.

So, I smashed last year’s goal. Smashed it so hard that it’s so intertwined in my daily life that it’s no longer a goal. What was my secret? That there’s no secret. Show up for yourself everyday. If you hate a type of exercise, then don’t do it and find something else that you like. Eat food that makes your body feel good and strong. Don’t deprive yourself of anything. Give yourself permission to be a beginner. Be vulnerable and honest. Don’t lie to yourself. Ask for help. Fuck diet culture. Stop starving yourself and start fueling yourself.

Let me know if and how I can help. I wouldn’t have made it through this past year without the tribe of people lifting me up each day. I tried doing it alone. It didn’t work. It took being vulnerable & allowing myself to let the same people who motivate me be there for me on my bad days too. It took being patient and comfortable with fear.

With last year’s goal done, it’s time to focus on a new one for the upcoming year. And like last year, I’m going to let my actions speak for themselves.

But I can say that you’ll see a lot more writing from me.

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