Catching Up, Part 3

Where did I leave off in this endless ‘catching up’ saga?

Ah yes… in my last post, I talked a little bit about some emotional struggles (exhaustion from overwork and life stresses) and some physical struggles (neck pain! neck pain! OWWW!), and tackled the next phase in my experiment.

I made it through “Month 8” of the workout, lost 5 pounds and an additional 4.5 inches from various areas of my body. Small though it may be, I’ll take that progress, thank you.

That covered late February to the start of April.

What happened in month 3?

Catching Up. Month 3 of 3.

My hope for this month was for more progress, more weight loss and more lost inches. (No, really?) One day at a time.

After a few days of this new workout, I think I can safely say that this month (“Month 7”) was tougher. There weren’t as many places within the workout where I felt it was easy to pause for a second to catch my breath and drink a bit of water. So I found myself having to pause the DVD at weird moments, drink some water, breathe deeply, and then rewind a second or two in order to get back into the exercises without completely losing step with Tracy.

The previous 2 months had mini breaks within, where Tracy would be taking time to explain a move or offer some modifications if you couldn’t do the move, and it was during those times that I would be able to catch my breath and have some water. This particular month didn’t have those kinds of moments, so it was tougher and felt more rushed.

I think I appreciate a more careful pace.

Nevertheless, this ‘month 7’ was a sweaty one for me! And two of the leg moves at the end were really hard. I noticed that because I was already pretty tired by that point in the routine, I had to be careful not to whip through the moves in a huge desire to be done.

(On a side note, I think whipping through certain types of moves is how I may have injured myself last summer, leaning too heavily in order to get through it but in doing so I put almost my full body weight on one side, putting too much pressure on my groin. OUCH. So I decided that I needed to be very careful with those last 2 leg exercises.)

I felt accomplished, getting through these tough exercises, but this month was not without its challenges.

The ‘bee stung’ look is not as attractive as you think.

When I woke up one morning, I seemed to have had an allergic reaction to something. Both my eyelids were swollen, puffy and very itchy. I had no idea why I was having this reaction because I hadn’t introduced into my life anything unusual recently. (Not that I was aware of, anyway.) No idea why this happened.

I put a warm washcloth over my eyes for a little while, which soothed the need to claw at my face and itch my eyelids, but that didn’t help long. So I ended up taking an antihistamine. I didn’t want to knock myself out completely, though, because I really wanted to get my workout in anyway, so I only took 1 pill instead of 2.

However… I’m not used to taking medications so halfway through my workout I got really foggy and all I wanted to do was lie down. Instead I took a few extra minutes between leg exercises to sit and drink some water before going back in to do the rest. I did everything very s-l-o-w-l-y, to make sure I was able to hold my balance and not fall over and injure myself.

A thought: maybe there’s something to that “Do not operate heavy machinery” warning on the box! In this case, it should probably say, “Do not do complicated TAM (Tracy Anderson Method) workouts while under the influence of this medicine.” LOL. I got it done, but all I wanted to do was sleep. Frankly, it was tough to stay upright long enough to hit the shower!

My 6-Month Follow-up Diagnostic Mammogram, oh joy!

Last fall I had my first mammogram, which led to a unexpected month of more mammograms, ultrasound exams, and 2 biopsies (one for each breast because apparently I like to be symmetrical), in order to determine whether or not the ‘unusual’ somethings they’d found were cancerous. Thankfully, they were not, and I was told to come back in six months for a follow-up.

In April I had that follow-up. At first I wasn’t terribly nervous (at least not as nervous as I was in the fall when everything was so new and uncertain). This time I knew what they would do and generally what to expect, but it started to get scary again when my appointment ended up lasting over 2 hours long. They kept taking different images, and then the doctor wanted more images from different angles and magnifications, and then she needed further confirmation so she had them give me an ultrasound as well. That’s what happened last fall, when I ended up needing to have the biopsies, so I started to get nervous by the end of the appointment. The doctor wanted a better look at the cyst they’d been watching, to make sure it hadn’t changed in size or appearance, and I was so afraid she was going to say it had gotten bigger and looked cancerous and that she needed a biopsy of it.

Thankfully, her ultimate decision was that everything seemed benign and fine for now. I have to go back again in 6 months for another diagnostic, but she said that if everything looks fine on that one too, then I can finally be considered in good health and they’ll schedule me for regular yearly mammograms instead of every 6 months. How nerve-wracking! I appreciate their thoroughness and care, but it sure was scary.

Anyway, for now I’m good! I did skip my workout that day, because I didn’t know how long the doctor appointment would take, and I had other engagements in the afternoon. So I decided to give myself a break, not add any more pressure than I already felt, and simply add an extra day to my workout calendar. I resumed my workouts the next day, no big deal.

Unfortunately, there were other issues on the horizon, waiting to pounce…

School Stress

As I hit the final month of the semester, I felt a lot of pressure. Maybe I put that pressure on myself, wanting to do well, but whatever the cause, I was feeling it. Each class I was taking had major projects for us to do, time-consuming projects, and it was really tough to balance it all and get it all done. I felt very stressed about it, and as a result didn’t make the soundest food choices — that’s always been my biggest issue, food tied with emotions.

But I worked out every day, and I hoped it was one step in a positive direction. I knew that when the semester ended, I wouldn’t have to take 3 classes at a time ever again. I hoped with the lightening of my schedule, I’d be able to relax more and find time for more fun things, more time to cook and try healthy recipes and adopt healthier tools for my emotions.

For the time being, however, I stayed focused on simply ‘chugging along,’ trying the best I could to make it through.

For weeks I went to bed each night between 2:30 and 3:45 am, leaving me feeling kind of spaced out and weary. Definitely made it tough to get up the energy for a workout. One night I got to bed around 2:15 (hey, it’s better than 3:45!) and I hoped to get to bed the next night around 1:30 am and keep scaling back. (Sad to say, I didn’t.)

My homework during the spring semester seemed to take me longer than usual, and the late night hour seemed to be the only time when I could use the quiet of the house to stay focused and get more done. I enjoyed what I learned, but 3 classes was way too much! I don’t know how I did it 20 years ago when I was in college the first time around. What was I thinking, going back to school?

At any rate, I spent the month tired and ragged, not eating so well amidst all the stress but still getting my workouts in. That’s all I could do at the time.

Major Doubt Myself is not a good friend of mine

I thought I was handling it well enough.

Yeah, right.

I ended up having a major Doubt Myself day. I knew it was because I had so much to do for school and by that point only 2 weeks left to get it all done. On that ugly day, everything felt impossible, and I was already so tired, which compounded things and made them feel so much worse than they actually were. I know that’s probably what it was from, but I was really feeling the stress.

There was a Friday night when I had 5 hours of issues that resulted in me getting nothing done, partly because my computer and programs are working so freaking slowly (and nothing I do helps, from the simple turn-off-and-reboot to shutting down all programs but the one I’m working in, clearing more space on my computer, whatever, it doesn’t matter). Then Saturday it took me over 45 minutes to do something that should only take 5 minutes. I got to worrying about how I’d finish four projects in two weeks’ time if I couldn’t work efficiently.

Normally, this would simply be annoying. But because I was so tired and so burned out, I had a minor meltdown about it. I started sobbing and it was ridiculous.

Even as I was crying, I knew — I KNEW — it was because I was over-tired but I couldn’t stop (and part of me didn’t want to, because I felt like if I did stop, I’d just be holding in all this emotion, which would be even worse). Too many months staying up every night until 2, 2:30, 3:00 or later, it was finally getting to me. My body was finally saying, “You know what? You cannot keep doing this. It has to stop.”

I told myself to just get through the final 2 weeks of classes and then I’d finally get a break and I’d never have to take this many classes at the same time ever again. And that was all true.

But in the meantime, I wore myself way down and felt like I hit a wall. Where things normally wouldn’t affect me as much but now they do, to a ridiculous degree. Where everything seemed like a bigger deal than it really was because I was too tired and fried to think logically about it. I was no longer clear-headed, so my emotions were all over the place. It wasn’t good, and I could see that. But what could I do? I had to get through those final 2 weeks of school.

I tried to do little things for myself over the series of days, to counter-balance the chaos. One day I chose not to work out at all, to give myself one less pressure on my schedule. The next day (after the 5 hour mess of Friday night where I couldn’t get anything done because of computer problems) I wanted to work out to give myself a physical outlet for my frustrations, but I couldn’t handle being cooped up inside the same four walls I sit in to do my homework, so instead of doing TAM I decided to take a long walk outside and breathe in some fresh air. And when I got back from the walk, I sat in the sun for a while, listening to music on my iPod, drinking a big bottle of ice cold water, looking at the spring-greening trees, and absorbing the breeze. I just needed to breathe for a while and get away from the strict routine. That gave me some rest for a while.

Until all the computer problems again that night which caused me to start crying, of course, but after I calmed down from all that, I forced myself to step aside from it for a little while and write out what I was feeling. That helped, too. And the next day I did my regular TAM workout, which was hard but felt good when I finished it.

All of that was a start, and I thought that if I kept on top of what I was feeling and talked with my therapist about it and just tried not to push myself too much, and if I acknowledged that if I didn’t get it all done (or done as well as I usually like) then so be it. Everything will still be okay.

Easier said than done.

At semester’s end, I had one full week of classes left for the semester and the following to finish (in varying degrees of completion at that point): 3 projects, 1 take-home final exam, 1 other final exam to study for, and 1 ‘project notebook’ binder to put together that was comprised of all the work I’d done in that class for the entire semester, including all notes, inspirational research, and paperwork.

I really tried not to get overwhelmed. One thing that helped was meeting with a teacher and going over one of my projects with her. I’d been tearing my hair out over it during class the week prior, so she helped me get back on track and focus in a new way.

However, meeting with her ended up taking all day, so I skipped my workout that day and contemplated skipping another workout because I felt too bogged down, like there was too much to get done and I didn’t need the extra pressure of feeling like I had to squeeze in a workout amidst everything else on my proverbial plate.

It got to the point where everything else got pushed to the backburner. No emails. No posting online. No time for anything else. Add to that some family drama that needed my attention, and I was completely swamped. In fact, one night I didn’t get to bed until 6:45 am the next morning. (Exhausting, but hey, that sunrise I witnessed was sure pretty!)

Nevertheless, I made it through all that school stuff, and then I made it through the family stuff going on that weekend after class ended. After trying to catch up on some much-needed sleep for a couple of days, I finally felt ready to re-focus my energies into taking better care of myself again.

Unfortunately, some damage had been done.

Accountability Time

Because there was so much to do, I made the conscious choice to stop working out for the final week of school (the entire week), in order to stay focused on completing all my projects and exams.

Sad to say, I also confess I did not always make healthy eating choices over that last week and a half. But I tried to do what I could, and figured that I just needed to get through the final weeks of school and then I could re-focus on taking care of myself with renewed energy. Somehow I made it through with my sanity somewhat intact.

I felt the consequences of my lack of sleep and lack of healthy eating or exercising, though. When I returned to my workout after that week off, I made it through the workout but felt ill by the time I reached the cool down section. My body rebelled, making it known to me that I had not taken good care of myself that month. I felt like I might throw up. It was not good.

I acknowledge that I made the conscious decision to give up working out for a week because the very act of trying to fit it in was stressing me out. I had been working out every day up until the final week of school but in that final week I knew I had more to accomplish for school than my usual time allowed and the school stuff had to get done, so in this particular case even though I wanted to work out, I knew I simply did not have time for it.

As it was, I ended up staying up until 3, 4, even 6:30 in the morning, trying to get all the school projects done, so it turned out to be the right choice because I ended up needing all the time I had in order to complete all that work. There was no way I could have squeezed in a workout after staying up that late each night. I had to weigh my priorities for the week and decide what needed to get done and what I needed to keep my sanity. The workouts had helped up to finals week, but I knew trying to squeeze them in during finals would only be to my sanity’s detriment. Also, I knew that it was only one week and I could get back to it (and I did) after I got through finals.

One thing I will have to work on is having a plan in place for those times when it’s going to be longer than ‘just a few days’ or ‘just one week.’ I will need to find ways to keep working out through all that.

But I do think it is just as important to be able to give yourself permission to NOT work out and be okay with it — I am learning to make choices in either direction and learning to be okay with either of those choices rather than beating myself up one way or another.

One thing I am most concerned about is the eating issue. That is always the biggest problem for me, and I continue to discuss it with my therapist. I don’t mind that I made a conscious choice to skip my workouts for one week, knowing I’d get right back to them, but I do find it concerning that I fell back to old unhealthy food habits in the process. That wasn’t such a conscious choice. In fact, it was pretty much a reflex.

So I see in that particular case I need to have better tools and plans in place for when stress gets to me, so that I don’t destroy myself by falling to those old unhealthy eating habits. The workouts I can handle; it’s the eating that messes me up both physically and emotionally.

Results After Three Months

At long last — and boy, did this particular month feel like forever! — I finished the 30 days that make up “Month 7” of my Pregnancy Project experiment. I did not look forward to weighing or measuring myself because of the set-backs I’d had and because of the week I chose to take off during finals. (I will note, however, that I did ‘make up’ the time, adding an extra week of workouts to my schedule just like I did when I took 2 days off because of a neck injury during the previous month. So 30 days got completed; they just took longer to get done.)

As I suspected, it was not great news. That week I took off and ate terribly in the process did some damage. I gained back some of my weight. Instead of being 275 pounds (or less), I found myself back up to 278.5.

That’s the way it is. I made my choices, I struggled with my eating habits, and I think that’s part of my journey — sometimes it’s all forward motion, sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back.

On an upside, I did lose another 1/2 inch off my hips and a 1/2 inch off my bust.

I’ve seen no movement of inches off my arms, but part of that I think is because I haven’t been doing cardio — so even though I’m getting stronger, the fat’s not necessarily burning off yet — and part of it I think is because it’s really hard to measure your own biceps! Not sure I’m getting a fully accurate measurement there.

I also haven’t seen any change in my thighs, but honestly I think that’s one of the hardest places for me to lose weight and it won’t come off until I get into some major cardio.

I wish I’d been measuring my lower thighs as well as my upper thighs because I swear I notice a difference in my thighs right above my knees, but I can’t be sure because I haven’t tracked that. Maybe I’ll start now, because I really do think that’s the part of my thighs that has started to whittle away, even just a little bit. It seems like the area around my knees has started to sculpt.

To sum up, after 3 months I’ve lost 5 pounds, gained back 3.5 pounds, and lost an overall 10.5 inches.

Not great, but I’m hoping now that my insane semester of 3 classes is over, I can focus better on myself and my health, and make stronger choices.

My Assessment After 3 Months

I wanted to do the first 3 months of my experiment purely by doing Tracy’s Pregnancy Project workout, and then assess how things were going.

I’ve made it through 3 months (months 9, 8 and 7), and I haven’t seen much movement on the weight loss front. Part of that is me struggling during a tough semester, and part of that is because the Pregnancy Project really isn’t geared for losing weight — it’s more for giving pregnant women tools to stay strong, flexible and relatively in shape as their bodies change throughout their pregnancy.

What I’ve assessed is that while it’s definitely helped me to build some definition and sculpt my body (I have lost 10.5 inches total so far), it’s not really set up to help me lose weight. If I want to also lose weight doing this experiment, I’ll need to add some cardio.

Therefore — while the weather is lovely and warm and sunny — I decided to add some walking to my routine. Eventually I’d like to build up to doing Tracy’s rebounder workout, but I don’t want to start that until I’ve gone down to at least 250 pounds. (Mainly because I don’t trust that I won’t break my aunt’s mini-trampoline, because it says it only goes up to a max weight of 250.) For now, I want to see if adding the walking does anything to help boost my progress. This is an experiment all around, after all.

We’ll see what happens.

Next up, what’s happened this past month in my experiment! Did I start going on those walks? Did I take better care of myself and see any progress?

Stay tuned…

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