Surprising Myself

Everyone wants to act like 2016 was the Voldemort of calendar years, and in many ways (socially and politically come to mind) there were some unspeakably ugly moments. If you don't think our country is deeply divided, well, let's just say that the comment section of the Internet is still a terrifying black hole of hateful trolls. *Shudder.*

However, and not to downplay major world events, but 2016 was pretty awesome for me. It was our first full year with Alice, and being a mom, while regularly kicking my butt, has been the absolute best experience of my life. When you're the parent of a ridiculously delightful child who can charm a smile from the grumpiest sales clerk, it kind of makes your life happier all around. =) And yes there are hard days (see the Great Nap Strike of June-August) but the good outweighs the bad 100% of the time. Jonathan and I are still those goofy parents who look at each other nearly every day in disbelief that we have such a cute baby (and scroll through her pictures at night. Can't stop, won't stop.)

We also bought our house in March- after a long and incredibly draining roller coaster of a process- and moved in in April. After years of apartment/condo living (and 14 months on the third floor- yikes!) having an actual house with a garage and lots of closets and all that good stuff is still a delight. And decorating it continues to be a fun process, made even more fun by the fact that since having a baby I have become one of those obnoxious people who feel the need to decorate for even minor holidays and therefore put out Valentine's Day stuff today. I don't even know. It just feels right. And it makes Alice happy. (She told me because she's a very bright 15-month-old.)

Signing the papers for our house. Al was so tiny! =(

The other major highlight of the year for me was joining Weight Watchers, starting an exercise routine, and subsequently losing 30 pounds. That's right- thirty! I can hardly believe it myself. I definitely did not have this journey on my radar at the beginning of the year (when I still had a newborn/infant who was nursing 8-9 times a day and struggling to get to sleep at night.) By the time the summer rolled around (and I was rolling with it, literally- ha!) I had a better handle on life with Alice (her infamous nap strike notwithstanding) and it felt like a good time to start.

Plus I was tired of seeing pictures of myself that made me want to weep with shame AND Weight Watchers, which I've used successfully in the past, was having a killer sale. A perfect storm of events to kick me into gear.

I started WW at the end of July and also started exercising every day at the same time. For the four weeks or so, I was doing Tae Bo Cardio (there are lots of Tae Bo videos but the one I prefer is an oldie but goodie from the 90s that I have on VHS because I'm nothing if not cutting edge. The hideous purple spandex, big hair, and Billy Blanks's super-weird bodysuit are all worth the $1.50 I spent on it at Goodwill.) After about a month I started something I never, EVER thought I would be able to complete- Couch to 5k. (My one ill-fated attempt at this program lasted all of two days in 2011.) But I downloaded the app and started. I actually thought I'd drop dead those first couple of weeks. Who starts a running program- with literally zero running experience- in Texas in AUGUST? Me, that's who. #idiot

I definitely don't push Alice every time I run. Ha!

But then the miraculous happened. I lost about 10 pounds that first month. I found that, yes, running was hard, but I could do it. I discovered so much about myself during this weight loss journey, and I thought I'd jot down a few of those little lessons here.

-I can do hard things (and believe me, no one is more shocked than I am.) I've always been a pretty self-deprecating person and have definitely played up my lazy streak and lack of pain tolerance over the years. But after Alice was born and I had some major, um, consequences from that to recover from, my doctor (who was not present at my delivery and shocked at how well I was doing) said, "Well, you're tougher than you thought you were!" I kind of scoffed at that at the time but I've proven it to be true. Anything remotely physically challenging has always been a huge no-no for me, but in the past six months it's become clear that while running or cardio workouts or giving up soda are REALLY hard for me, I can do them. I am doing them, and I've lived to tell about it.

-I have an abstainer personality, at least in the area of exercise. Gretchen Rubin categorizes people as abstainers and moderators; moderators can have a little of something and just that small amount keeps them from being tempted for more, but abstainers have to cut something out completely and that actually gives them a sense of freedom and relief to know that it's completely off the table. Working out is like that for me. If I skip a day, it becomes that much harder to go back, and I can rationalize myself into two days, then three, then a week, of no exercise at all. It's much easier to know that exercise is just a part of my daily routine, not something optional, and unless I'm sick (or it's Sunday, and sometimes even then) I am going to exercise in some way. I don't have to debate and dread and talk myself into or out of it; it's just a fact. (I should probably take Hershey's Kisses off the table too.)

-Losing weight and keeping it off is a whole lot easier with regular exercise. (I know; Dr. Oz is going to be calling soon to get more groundbreaking health information like that truth bomb I just shared.) But seriously- I KNOW that the weight wouldn't have come off as quickly or stayed off as consistently if I hadn't been exercising. I didn't gain any weight over the holidays, despite more than my share of homemade Chex Mix, sausage balls, etc. and it's because I exercised in some form every day. I didn't feel like (and I annoyed everyone by pacing to reach my step goal- ha!) but it was worth it to come home and still fit into the clothes I bought on vacation. =)

-If you're looking for a certain size or weight or any other number to make you feel good, you'll never be satisfied. Here's what I know- I weigh less than I have in a long, long time (like, less than I did when I got married.) I'm a smaller size than I've worn in years. But, especially now that I've switched to maintenance and I'm not seeing big changes from week to week, I have gotten used to my new size and can STILL (thirty pounds later) look at myself and find plenty to criticize. ("Woah, check out those hips, Baby Hippo!" is not really positive self-talk. But such is life for someone who is both self-deprecating and a trove of movie quotes.) So I have to remind myself of all the hard work I've put in and find satisfaction in that and also sometimes do a little side-by-side comparison because that's super encouraging. 

-Accountability is huge for me but doesn't necessarily need to take on the form of a trainer yelling in my face. (Actually it doesn't need to take that form at all. Please go watch Jim Gaffigan talk about personal trainers on YouTube and burn a few hundred calories laughing hysterically. "Can we drop this charade? Why is your shirt so tight?") Anyway, I'm an obliger (another Gretchen Rubin term) and that means I respond much better to outer expectations than inner expectations (although this whole diet thing kind of has me thinking I have upholder tendencies.) SO even something as small as downloading a running app or telling someone, even if it's just Jonathan, that I'm going to be doing something means I'll have a better chance of doing it. Just seeing a notification from the Couch to 5k app was enough to motivate me when I was just starting the program. Weight Watchers has encouraging little messages they send for each milestone and those were embarrassingly exciting to receive along the way. (Perhaps my love language is words of affirmation?) 

-In good and bad and strange ways, losing weight has made me feel a lot better about myself. Not just physically, since I'm stronger, have more energy, and can actually play with Alice without wheezing and/or panting, but also emotionally. I can shop without wanting to cry. I can take pleasure in choosing outfits again, not just "whatever fits and is remotely flattering and loose." I can catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and not cringe (at least not all the time.) It shouldn't make such a difference to my emotional wellbeing to be significantly thinner but it is. Ugh. I mean, I wish it were all just about a sense of accomplishment and feeling strong or whatever but it's a tiny bit of vanity too. I'm not proud of that but it's true. Not that I'm standing around admiring myself or being like, "look at you, Hot Mama!" (Ha- that's not even going to happen no matter what size I am.) And I'm sure you understand that it's not like someone who is the size I was is an obese troll... just that I was unhealthy and unhappy at that size because it wasn't best for me. (obviously.) 


-MOST IMPORTANTLY, if I can do this, you can. Anyone can! For nearly my entire adult life, I have scoffed at dieting, exercise, healthy eating, etc. I've rolled my eyes at fitness posts. I have had little to no interest in being in shape, exerting myself, or sweating (on purpose anyway. Sweating is kind of unavoidable in Texas.) But I think one reason that exercise always made me so "oh puh-lease" is that deep down I was ashamed of my out-of-shape self and secretly wished that I could run a mile or do squats or whatever without passing out or having my legs tremble in pain for days afterward (not that that's ever happened...) But basically since high school (or the semester in college that I took Principles of Fitness and Conditioning and daily exercise was a part of my grade) I avoided exercise like the plague...although, those were the days. I am definitely award-driven enough that getting a grade for my exercise would be a gift at this point in life. Send me a report card filled out in red pen and I will work like a little lab rat for your approval. ANYWAY, this exercise aversion only has one other exception... the summer I was pregnant when I swam every day in the gorgeous resort-style pool in our apartment complex that I had almost entirely to myself. I still want to weep when I think about that pool. Ah... the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. 

But seriously, the first day of Couch to 5k I felt like I was going to throw up. I remember the first time I ran for five minutes without stopping... then ten, then twenty. I am not exaggerating when I say that if I can run a 5k, just about anyone can. If you think, "I could NEVER..." well, just remember that your friend Ash dragged her flabby self through the 400% humidity for eight weeks and gave up Dr. Pepper AND Mountain Dew and existed mostly on light string cheese and roasted cauliflower. There were days when it was absolutely not fun and I did not want to drink another Diet Sunkist or eat another can of Progresso Light soup (only 4 points for the whole thing, God bless it.) 

But on the other side of the whole process (which is definitely still a work in progress and a journey toward healthier food for sure) it was worth all the cravings and sadness and counting out 33 Veggie Straws. And back to my main point, if there is something you don't think you can do, even if it's not diet or exercise related, please look at this modern-day miracle in my life and be inspired. I don't mean that in an, "I'm so amazing" way. I mean, "I never in a million years thought I would start running and consistently exercising and keep off my weight loss but somehow through unexplainable circumstances was able to achieve those things so whatever crazy goal you have is definitely achievable too" way. Very catchy. =)

A recent picture of me since I've been in "maintenance" mode. Feel free to ignore me and look at my adorable nephew instead.

This post has been far too long and possibly even self-aggrandizing (I'm pretty sure people who use words like self-aggrandizing are pretentious and should be shunned) so I'll wrap it up. I plan on writing a post about some exercise specifics that work for me (think of it as the work out guide for lazy, out of shape dummies of which I was the reigning queen for many years) but for now I just wanted to leave you with that last little bit of encouragement. If you think something is too hard, I bet it's not. If you think it's crazy to try to start a project or work towards a goal that seems too far out of reach, I have a feeling you can TOTALLY crush it. Seriously. I am cheering you on! And I'm not even out of breath! Amazing! (hehe) If I can inspire you to attempt something crazy (or even not so crazy!), then to quote the eloquent Lena Lamont, "It makes us feel as if our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'." 

I'll remember 2016 as the year I surprised myself with just how hard I could work and just how much I could achieve... maybe 2017 will blow us all away even more. Onward and upward. =)


  1. Oh, Ashley, you are so entertaining and refreshingly honest. Celebrating with you over your 2016 accomplishments!

  2. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this! Thanks for writing and sharing!

  3. This was so entertaining (Voldemort of calendar years! Seriously though) but I am so encouraged and inspired. I used to be great at fitness and dieting, but I've been floundering for years. You made me want to go run...and that's not an easy thing to accomplish šŸ˜œ


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