Reflections on a year of exercise

Today is my daughter’s 13th birthday, exactly one year from when I measured and weighed in. While this was never about the numbers, I am pleased with the results, just the same. It is also interesting to see what the new measurements do not tell me. There is no way to record where the loss in a circumference measurement occurred. You have to feel it to understand it. That only comes with hard work.

Here is how it breaks down:

  1. Neck minus 1/2″ – also an indicator of how much less puffiness I have in my face and under my chin. Might make me look a bit older, although the decision to go to my natural hair color probably accomplishes that more. There is a lot of grey in there now.
  2. Chest minus 1″ – almost all back fat, because when I recently purchased new bra’s, cup size is pretty much the same. The whole landscape in this area changes as a woman ages and after having children. I won’t say anymore than that.
  3. Upper arm same as before – but the measurement doesn’t tell the story here because fat has been converted to muscle. So I look like I have shape in my arms when I wear a tank top. But, more importantly, I feel strong.
  4. Waist minus 3 1/2″ – this is a huge deal, because I’ve gone from the overweight category to the upper limit of healthy range. Really big accomplishment. The only thing I would say is that for the last 6 to 8 months I am holding, so it is time to kick up the exercise and make a diet change, as another kickstart of reduction. I would like to reduce another inch over the next year.
  5. Hips minus 3/4″ – but this is a strange one because I’ve gained muscles in the gluts – my clothes really show that off in a good way now. I’m down to a size 27 in my jeans now, normal ones without stretch in them.
  6. Thigh same as above – same as my upper arm, not surprising. I can see muscles when I flex my leg that are lean and pronounced, very interesting.
  7. My BMI is down 1 point to 24. That is a very good thing. I would like to lose another 4 pounds or so over the next year, I’ve also been quite stable for the past 6 to 8 months.

Today, I am pretty proud of where I sit. But my journey is not over. I’ve got a little further to go until I am safely into the healthy zones I want to live in. Then I need to maintain that position, which will take sustained effort.

The real prize is, I feel great. I’ve had no major injuries. Some small issues that a great new pair of shoes fixed. Learning a few stretching techniques have done wonders. My new clothes fit wonderfully. I’m comfortably in a size medium, (sometimes a small), from my former position in a size large, (sometimes an extra-large).

I started this journey for fear of the health risks my weight and body shape presented. I’ve managed to reposition my body into healthy zones by all indicators. This guarantees nothing, but the journey has been worth it. I committed to something and I am seeing it through. I am honouring myself in a form of self-care, which ends up extending far beyond my work outs. I am nicer to myself, which means I am nicer to other people.

There has been no downside to this journey. I highly recommend the experience, truly life changing.

On the fourth day of grateful

As the song goes, on the fourth day of grateful, (Christmas), my true love gave to me… I guess it is time to re-cap the days so far.

The first day of grateful was for sure, luck. Although the event was not joyful, we were extremely lucky none the less and we have all mentioned it several times since. It is the whole point of recognizing what we are grateful for that brings about happiness and maybe a little better luck.

The next day was calm. I was so agitated to put the accident behind us that I was starting to make myself feel nauseated. (I know, not that grateful, but I couldn’t help it). Once everything was sorted, the details had fallen into place, we all could breath a sigh of relief. It also should be mentioned that our experience with Mexican police has been conducted with due process. I don’t think they were unfair or corrupt in any way.

Yesterday was opportunity. I am rocked to the core everyday as I vacation here in Mexico. While I do not get to enjoy this wonderful weather every day, my country of birth and residency provides me with extreme privilege. This is too easy to forget.

Today, on the fourth day of grateful, my mind goes to health. This means a bunch of things to me, from cognitive brain health, to physical health, emotional and even a person’outlook on life. I have struggled with all of things over the years. In fact, this very blog has been a catalyst to help sort through all these parts of my health.

It is strange that in school, we are taught so many subjects and never focus on the health of the organ that is meant to absorb and recall all that effort. We just seem to get through it. In some cases, as quickly as possible. Yet, the cognitive health of our brain will be a major driving force of our life. I’m not an expert and I think I’m in pretty good shape, but my problem is shutting down. Or even turning down the volume of intensity. I need to better transition into different states. Give my brain a break and enjoy activities, or just rest in states of much lower demand on the brain. Get out of my head a little – try not to think so deeply about every little thing. Kind of prioritize better. Vacation really helps me do that.

My physical health has been put back on track this year. I’ve been eating well, sleeping wonderfully and now my mornings, more often than not, include exercise. To that end, I look forward to exercise now. It helps centre my day to start off properly. As Gillian Michaels says, “…take this strength with you and use it in all parts of your day.” (Or something to that effect). I’ve been practising exercise for 10 months now. 5 times per week on average for 30 to 45 minutes, start to finish. It is not a huge time commitment, but the results of this sustained effort have been nothing short of amazing to me. (And that is what counts most). It is then, with this confidence and strength that I feel like I can face anything.

Emotions are a roller coaster. If they are not, then the highs are not so big and the lows are not so deep. Over the years, I’ve strived for this middle between high and low. I so deeply fear the low that I strive for balance. But, in recently I have discovered, this method of control has lopped off the peaks. I have not really experienced as much joy as I could have. These ups and downs are 2 sides of the same coin. Without one, you can’t have the other. So I’ve been trying to experience the swings again. When I’m feeling low the trick is to own that and then embrace joy. Or at least step into joy, even generate it a little more.

All this probably leads to my outlook on life. That has been an interesting ride. In fact, I would summarize my whole life that way. I’ve charted my own course. Some days I get a little of track. I even head way out from the pack of “normal” sometimes getting lost out there for long stretches of time. But I have somehow carved out what is right for me. I feel much more comfortable in my own skin. That is probably what helps drive me forward into uncertainty, I know who I am now.

Before & After

I’m nearing the end of my second round of “6-Weeks to a New Body”, and I thought it might be time to show some pictures. A few things to consider, as these pictures scroll up.

  • The photos of me are 10 years apart. I thought it might be nice to reach back in time when I still had little ones running around. The time gap is a nice round number.
  • I wanted to show real contrast, and to make myself feel really amazing.
  • I was clearly in a “costume” for the after photo’s. I do not run around getting photo’s taken with a wig on.
  • The costume theme was, “someone famous from the year you were born”. I was going for Goldie Hawn from the TV series Laugh In. (OK, maybe a stretch…)


  • It is an odd sensation to create the “before & after” photo’s of yourself. When these kind of images are put up by magazines it is easy to dismiss them as fake. I’m telling you, this is the real deal.
  • I’m not done yet. I’ve made progress, clearly. But I want more. Not so much for the photo’s, but for the amazing feeling of being able to move my body around with so much less of me in the way!

This journey has not been easy. I could have accomplished the milestones more quickly with a higher level of dedication. It would have meant far more sacrifice. I’ve never been one to do things exactly as I’m told. So, I’m getting there, at my own pace. At a slow and steady rate of change, the efforts are manageable, the pain less severe. Maybe this way will be more sustainable over the long haul. At least, that is my story and I’m sticking to it.

CW Sitting B&A CW Standing B&A

The fine print

It is officially my last day. The end of 6 weeks to a new body. Having completed the program to the best of my ability, (I may have cheated a bit here and there), it is time to take stock of what I learned.

Bodies bounce back – even after 30+ years, muscles remember how to build up, they take shape, the body rewires itself, springs into a new way of being. A body is not tied to the failures of the past. It has no opinion on your exercise goals. It just responds in kind. I like that.

Difficult becomes easy (ier) – after only 6 weeks, nothing is easy, especially as the intensity ramped up weekly with the goal to keep you challenged. Each new set of exercises was doable. I was never left feeling so frustrated and despondent, like I could not go on. Maybe I was not in as bad a shape to begin with, as I thought going in.

Happy I started – as with any challenge, your future self thanks your past self for making the effort in the first place. Of course, it takes sustained effort, but I treated each day, every decision as a form of starting new.

Goals must be fluid – in the beginning I had the usual S.M.A.R.T. goals. Time bound, specific, realistic, measurable, yada, yada. The only thing I’m glad I did was to take body measurements. Because the changes have occurred a little bit each day, without the hard numbers to refer back to, I would have had a hard time understanding how significant the results were. I can also see how differently my clothes are fitting, but I have long ago adopted a style of dress to hide my waist. So when I get ready each day, the mirror image kind of looks the same. It is going to take more time and confidence to start dressing differently. In the final assessment, if I had used weight loss alone as my indicator of success, I would be VERY disappointed.

Now what? Maintenance. That is where the fine print comes in. The next few pages in the book explain several techniques to maintain this new level of fitness. I did not read this very well in the beginning. Or maybe I forgot. The fine print on this is to do another 6 weeks at the intensity of the ending week. Evidently people generally quit between the 2 to 3 month mark. So this lifestyle shift needs to be maintained for a full three months! So the title – 6 weeks is a little misleading. But I’m hooked now. Can’t turn back. This is my new life. It’s not all that bad, this exercise thing.



Every Decision Counts

I’ve just started into week 5 of the “6 weeks to a new body” fitness program. Just when the exercises are starting to become easy, the routine kicks up a notch again. And I’ve added another complexity to the situation, I’m on holidays. So making smart choices around eating is a bit of a challenge. 

I have a notion, or a routine around what I usually like to eat and drink on holidays. That means eating = a lot and drinking = beer. But I’m not going to reach my goals by eating a lot and drinking beer. So I’ve had to make adjustments. (At least for these 6 weeks).

I’ve been reading through my book, (also known as my coach, mentor and friend) and I came across the phrase, “every decision counts”. It was meant in reference to all the little things that keep you moving in the direction you want to go. In that one idea, I take comfort. I may not be doing everything perfectly every day, but I can keep moving towards my goals, one decision at a time.

I used to think that once a bad choice had been made, might as well – “throw the canary another seed”. What was the point of continuing to try and make a change when I had just eaten a huge hamburger? Might as well have another beer and eat all those fries as well. And show me the desert menu, please. Forget a workout, I’m too tired. That was how I lived for the better part of my adult life. 

Lucky for me, I am “all-in” on this 6 week experiment and I have given myself the grace to do this, one decision at a time. I will not be perfect. Rather, “every day in every way, things are getting better”. (Lovely saying my mother-in-law used to tell my husband as a child).

Something I lost…

Well it is almost halfway through my “6-weeks to a New Body” program and I was starting to feel a little discouraged. It is not so much the exercise that I despise. (Which is how I thought it would be). It is the careful selection of foods and the corresponding quantity, or lack thereof.

To be clear, it is not a diet. I am consuming fewer calories than I have done for the last 25 or 30 years of my life. My body has changed. My metabolism has slowed. I’m older and kinda out of shape. Considering everything, I’m actually amazed at how well I’ve been holding up. The neglect from the lack of exercise alone, should have left me in worse shape.

I’m drinking herbal teas and freshly made green juices and water. So, much, water. My Mom used to tell me to drink a glass of water when I complained of hunger, just before dinner. I could never understand that. I’ve spent years laughing at that advice. Now, I drink the water. And I tell my kids to as well.

Serves me right, a little. I’ve had so many years of “living it up!” Big dinners with lots of food and drink have been a favourite source of entertainment for the whole of my adult life. It has only been in the last few years where the “bloom has come off the rose”, so to speak. I’ve started to wonder if there was more to life? When I got serious about answering that question, I was forced to make some changes. If I wanted things to be different, then I had to act differently.

Realizing I was almost halfway through today, I decided it was time for one measurement. I’ve been cautioned that weight is not a good indicator of how things are changing. It’s all in the measurements. I was shocked to see that I have lost 3 inches on my waist!

These things happen so slowly, it was hard to notice. What a boost. I sure needed it tonight. An evening workout is so hard for me. It seemed to drag on forever. As I faltered, I thought about the measurement and kept going.

Muscle Memory

So I’m finished week #2 of my 6-weeks to a new body experiment. And I have to say, I’m a little surprised at the results so far. Maybe to look at me it is not so noticeable, but I can feel the differences. Quite frankly, that is all that counts.

What is strange, though, is my muscle memory. It has been 30 years since I have worked this hard. Yet my muscles seem to be building up as if no time has passed. They are stepping into line, just as they should. My willpower gets me going in the morning, but my muscles are carrying the day. Kind of shocking.

I would have thought that my poor old body would protest all lot more than it has. The program so far has been challenging, but nothing crazy. And I already moved into running this week, when I could have been walking still.

But I think next week goes up another notch. I flipped ahead in the book and noticed the strength training portion is amped up. So we shall see how much memory my muscles have then!

I am also surprised that it has taken me so long to dig into a program like this. My husband had an interesting notion about that. He said, “you are always all-in with everything you do. Before you started this program you were all-in against exercise.” Hmmm, might be some truth in that. It has taken me a long time to work up to this.

And no-one could have convinced me that I would even LIKE it. No-one. No matter what kind of factual and convincing argument they came up with, and many people have tried. I had to figure it out for myself.

So I look forward to my one day of exercise rest and then back at it Saturday.


With less than a week to go, my start date of February 21, 2015 is starting to feel pretty real. And the panic is starting well up. I have much to get ready for and my work schedule is crazy this week. 2 very full days in the office and 3 days traveling, home on Friday night. Start Saturday. 6 weeks to a new body.

It has been a dozen years since the birth of my youngest child. My body was not in particularly good shape before I started having children. I liked to joke that it was a body in perfect condition to have children. Not so many muscles to impede the baby’s comfort. But now, in my mid forties, it is time to change.

In preparation, I have a few things sorted. First was some shopping for essential supplies. The active bra top. I am not very experienced with these things because I don’t exercise, really. But, I’ve worn a bra every day for many, many years. My best choices are all about comfortable support. And of course I want to look good too. Rather I want to look young. For me, the “Armour Bra” made by Under Armour is the most comfortable bra I have ever owned. When I get strapped into that thing I don’t want to take it off! But, I think these are very personal choices. Like finding a great pair of running shoes, (has not happened yet), every person is slightly different. Probably why so many brands can stay in business, they all offer something a little bit different.


The other essential is anything made by Helly Hansen with “LIFA technology”. I have used HH baselayer for years, and in the sport of skiing I have worked hard enough to sweat. What happens is the heat vapor coming off your body passes through the LIFA sitting next to your skin. It does not have a chance to condense into water. And even if you are working that hard and water was pouring off you, it passes right through the LIFA layer. Anyway, when you have no moisture on your skin, you have no discomfort by being too hot or too cold. Just like baby bear’s porridge, it will be just right. The challenge now is to exercise with enough intensity to take advantage of all this LIFA I own!


Now comes the sobering part. Taking stock of where I am. And writing it down. And taking photo’s. I know I will be happy, later, that I fully completed this first step. But I am dreading it. Other than my doctor, nobody really knows all these details. (Not even me). I just know roughly what size I think I am when I buy clothes. Then I waste a lot of time trying items on and being disappointed with how they look. Man, if I would just exercise for all those hours of time spent in changing rooms, I would be a different person today!


The reward will be in the 6th week. At that time, I will be visiting my parents in Phoenix. I am bringing an extra duffel bag. A large one. And I plan to fill it up with lovely new things. My Mom and I have not shopped like that in a long time. My daughter is going to love it. My Mom is an awesome shopper. Even as a teenager, if she invited me to shop with her I would refuse any other invitation from my friends.

I’m also realistic. This change in body shape, whatever it will be has to be maintained. So there is no going back. Starting in a few days, my life begins new. Everyday I will be having a different conversation with myself. Instead of, “what can I do to bring me instant gratification?”, I’m going to be asking, “what can I do to bring me and my body pleasure?”. Because my mind will be very pleased by a healthy body, rather than one that whines and complains with every effort.

The Stages of Change

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
-Reinhold Niebuhr

Dr. James Prochaska of the University of Rhode Island identified 5 stages of change. Until I read about them in Maureen Hagan’s, “6 Weeks to a New Body”, I didn’t realize there are formal labels associated to some of the struggles I have been going through. As it relates to fitness, I have been stuck in stage one and two for an extremely long time. And feeling quite bad about myself.

Stage one: pre-contemplation, (not ready)
This was were I spent about 20 years, give or take. Here, you have little knowledge of the consequences of your behavior. As my fitness level declined, it happened slowly. So every year it got a bit worse. Then I spent many years being pregnant and recovering, (no small feat). Then I was in a kind of denial. Things were OK with my health in general and I hated exercise.

Stage two: contemplation, (getting ready)
I have been here for about 5 years. I was constantly evaluating the costs and benefits of changing. This produced profound ambivalence that caused me to remain in this stage. This phenomenon is often characterized as chronic contemplation or behavioral procrastination. Seems a little funny to look at this stage from where I am now. I was negotiating action or inaction with myself on both sides of the debate.

Stage three: preparation, (ready)
This is where I am now. I’ve selected a fitness program – “6 Weeks to a New Body”, with Maureen Hagan. The book is very detailed in goal setting, journal writing, exercises, eating plans, schedule planning, etc. I’ve picked a start day – February 21, 2015.

Stage four: action
In stage 3, everything will be sorted so that I’m ready to hit the ground running on my start date. Maureen has laid out excellent advise for each day of the entire 6 weeks. Nothing is really left to chance. Her words of encouragement are sprinkled throughout the pages of the book. I’m even excited to start! Which is more than I can say for any other program I have ever tried.

Stage five: maintenance
For about 5 years it is advised to remain on guard and to continuously monitor progress. Up until this time the chances of slipping back into old patterns are high. This will take me to age 50, which is a great milestone. A fantastic age to be set with a healthy way of living.

Stage six: termination
After 5 years, it is considered that a new habit is formed. There is very little chance of slipping back into old ways. This seems very exciting to me. A new stage of life, with a strong and healthy body at my core.

I have learned so much already, which has made this part of the journey very interesting. I’m not leaving things to chance anymore. I picked “brave” as my word this year. It is all falling into place. While I don’t anticipate this life changing program to be easy, I feel the strength to see it through. (At least from where I sit tonight!)

I’m going to post about this program regularly and maybe even include some before and after pics, (maybe just after). Will see how brave I feel about sharing that much detail!