Posted in Health, Wellness

Painful Assets (Part 2): Food for Thought

To recap where we left off last week in our stroll down memory lane… As a child, I had already fallen into a vicious cycle that only worsened as I grew older:

I had natural biomechanical mobility issues exacerbated by weight gain (and probably severe inflammation from a high sugar diet). Physical activity was uncomfortable and associated with ever-elusive weight loss. Trying to do something I wasn’t good at made me feel even worse about myself. So I avoided most physical activity, which further contributed to weak muscles, stiff joints, and continued weight gain. I ate to comfort myself but felt intense shame for doing so (and was often shamed by the adults in my life when caught with the foods I loved), leading to secretive binge eating.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how I wound up a morbidly obese, yo-yo dieting, exercise-hating adult so stiff and inflamed that I could not do one proper squat when I walked through the doors of Ludus Magnus.

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Me holding my best friend’s son in 2008. I weighed almost 300 pounds. I was thirty years old and felt like I was eighty.

I promise, I do have a point in sharing all this beyond self-obsessed navel gazing. I don’t think my experience is that unique; sadly, I think it is all-too common.

I felt like a prisoner to these early established patterns for decades. I couldn’t simply wish them away or extract myself from them overnight. It has been a long, slow process of action: changing one thing at a time, making it a habit and enjoying some success with it, and then changing the next thing.

Having found a way out that works for me, I want to share my experience so that hopefully I can help other adults struggling with these issues, as well as parents who have children exhibiting some of the same problems that I had. Continue reading “Painful Assets (Part 2): Food for Thought”

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Posted in Health, Wellness

Painful Assets (Part 1)

My trainer, Matt Wenning, has a new book coming out soon, and he recently gave me a copy of the manuscript to proofread. Sorry, no spoilers today! I will say that in addition to a treasure trove of technical information, he includes a detailed biography that goes all the way back to his childhood and discusses his challenges, talents, habits, etc., and how it laid the groundwork for who he is today.

I’ve been pretty open in this blog about my life-long struggle with food, weight, and body image, and that it has roots deep in my childhood. But Matt’s writing got me thinking about other aspects of my early life in addition to food, and how those issues that started when I was so young all contributed to the situation I found myself in as an adult.

For the sake of brevity I want to tackle this subject in two posts (I originally wrote it as one, but it was entirely too long!). Today’s post is mostly background about what my physical and emotional life was like as a kid, and how several factors came together to mold a body and mind that regarded physical activity as uncomfortable and punitive.

My next post will be about how I use the pain of the past to help others today. I will offer some observations and suggestions based on my experience that I hope can help adults struggling with these issues, as well as parents who have children exhibiting some of the same problems that I had.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

The year was 1987. I’m nine years old, in my third year of dance classes with the annual recital coming up. In addition to my usual tap and jazz routines, my teacher put me in a big group number set to Lionel Ritchie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling.”

The routine opens with the girls coming on stage one at a time doing a move where they clap their hands above their head, and then drop down into a deep squat and clap their hands again. Over and over several times until all the girls are on stage.

There’s just one problem. Continue reading “Painful Assets (Part 1)”

Posted in exercise, Health, Wellness

Spice Up Your Rack

Practice makes perfect, right?

Well, sort of. Turns out, it’s slightly more complicated than that.

There’s something called the Law of Specificity. When I first heard that term, I had no idea what it meant. It sounds fancy, but it’s quite simple.

If I want to be a better basketball player, I have to practice shooting, dribbling, and quick footwork. If I want to swim like Michael Phelps, I have to spend hours upon hours in the pool. If I want to get stronger, I have to lift weights. Practice makes perfect on the specific thing I want to do better.

“Well, duh,” you may be thinking. “Why do we even need a ‘Law’ for something so obvious?”

That’s what I thought, too. Stay with me… Continue reading “Spice Up Your Rack”

Posted in Health, Strength Training, Wellness

Motivation is Overrated

My trainer Matt Wenning told me something in my early days at Ludus Magnus that I will never forget. I said that I was really surprised at how good a workout I was having that day, since I had been feeling stiff and sore before coming to the gym.

He said, “Never judge how a workout is going to go based on how you feel.”

Boom. Mind blown, grey matter everywhere.

Turns out, I don’t have to want to do something in order to do it. I don’t have to “feel” motivated. I don’t have to “feel” my best. I just have to physically pick my body up and go do it. Once I get into motion, my mind will usually catch up and want to be wherever I am, doing whatever it is I’m doing. Even if my mind doesn’t get with the program every single time, that doesn’t matter. It matters what I actually do, not how I feel about it. Continue reading “Motivation is Overrated”

Posted in Health, Lifestyle change, Nutrition, Wellness

Have it Your Way

One of my favorite comedians, John Mulaney, has a great bit about the difference between kids and adults. It goes something like this:

Ask a kid what they did over the weekend: “Awww, we didn’t do anything!” *pouty face*

Ask an adult the same question: “Ahhh, we didn’t do anything!” *happy face*

As an adult, is there anything more satisfying than canceled plans? If there is, I haven’t found it.

What is a top complaint among grown people in the modern world? Too much to do, not enough time.

And when people get busy (myself included), diet is one of the first things to fall by the wayside. We reach for what is fast and convenient, which our industrial food sector is more than happy to supply. Continue reading “Have it Your Way”

Posted in Health, Lifestyle change, Strength Training, Wellness

Anatomy of a Pain in the Ass: Part 2

There’s an old parable often referred to as the “streetlight effect,” that goes something like this:

A policeman comes across a drunkard searching for his car keys under a streetlight. Neither can kind the keys. The policeman asks the drunkard if he lost his keys in this spot. The drunkard replies, “No, I lost them in the park.”

“The park?” The policeman responds. “Then why are you looking here?”

The drunkard responds: “This is where the light is.”

When dealing with a problem, we often do the same thing. We look where the light is because it’s the most obvious thing we can see. But sometimes the light is misleading.

As I described in part 1 of Anatomy of a Pain in the Ass, the “light” was coming off my back in waves: I had a bulging disc in my lower back. I had signs of arthiritis in my back. The pain was in my back. Stands to reason that I, and all of the health professionals around me, were focused on my back.

But the true origin of the problem was not under the streetlight. It was in the dark, obscured nether regions of my ass (and hamstrings, to be precise). Continue reading “Anatomy of a Pain in the Ass: Part 2”