Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Steph Says: Call Me Selfish

I walk into my gym's nursery and Rascal clambers down my leg to race for the toys along the far wall. This is only her second time here, so everything is new and shiny and fresh to her. Sophia the First is blasting on the TV and there are a few other kids close to her age milling about. All is well and good in the world, I think. I'm gonna kill this workout. I sign her in, head to the door, and call out a last "You be sweet!" to her.

Big mistake.

She starts BAWLING. "Mamaaaaaaaaa! Maaaaaaaaammmmmmaaaaaa!" I smile sheepishly to the girl working in the nursery and mutter something to the effect of "usually she calms down in a minute or two." As I sneak away to get my bench set up, her cries follow me into the HIIT room. I put my things down, set up my spot, and then go back to check on her. I can't hear her screaming anymore. I breathe a sigh of relief and head back into my workout.

Thirty minutes of plyo sumo squats, pivot jumps, single-leg jumps, mountain climbers, bench shuffle push ups, squat presses, and lateral jumps later, I'm picking up my equipment and feeling like a boss because A) I kept up with the group, even though I hadn't been to this particular class since last summer and B)  there were no burpees today. Then the door opens and the girl from the front desk pokes her head in.
"Are you finished?" she asks.
My heart sinks.

Rascal is red-faced and splotchy and swollen, and tears are rolling down her little cheeks. I scoop her up and snuggle her and she beams at me, all tragedy forgotten. "Mama! Sip a water! Keys! Beep beep!" I'm relieved that she's okay, I'm mortified that the poor girl working the nursery had to listen to her caterwauling, and I'm horrified that she was so upset while I got my sweat on 100 yards away, oblivious to her despondency. My stomach is in knots, all feelings of accomplishment from the workout gone.

Buckling her into the carseat, she exclaims gleefully, "Mama! I cwy at da gy-um!"
Yes, my sweet girl, yes you do.

Herein lies the problem. What's a mom to do? Do I take her to the nursery again, hoping for a better experience next time? Do I ask my mom to babysit (AGAIN) so I know she's in Hog Heaven at Nana's house? Do I only go to the gym when Daddo is home, and miss out on family time? No matter which way I look at it, someone is being inconvenienced... all for my selfish desires.

But... wanting to be the best version of me... is that really selfish?

Being a mom is hard. Your whole identity changes when this tiny, pink, wailing bundle is placed in your arms for the first time. You no longer exist as your own person. You're now Mom. 24/7. There's no escaping it. There's no more doing whatever you want, whenever you feel like it. It is bone-crunchingly draining being the whole world to one little person.

But you know what?
Being overweight is hard, too. Your whole identity changes when someone points at you and calls you fat for the first time.You only exist as "that chubby girl." You're fat. 24/7. You feel like there's no escaping it. There's no more throwing on some shorts and heading out the door without a second thought. It is mind-numbingly depressing being the overweight one "hiding" in long pants in the middle of summer, hoping no one will notice you.

Circa 2006
I thank God every day that something gave me the kick in the pants I needed to change my life. To realize that THERE IS A WAY TO ESCAPE. To break up with my old habits and start this lovely new relationship with food and my body and my overall mental health. To love myself.

But in loving myself, does my child have to suffer? My spunky, spirited, strong-willed little Rascal Mae?
Well, if I still weighed over 200 pounds, we'd both be suffering.

Because I wouldn't feel the way I do now.
I wouldn't feel like having dance parties in the kitchen. I couldn't race to the end of the driveway to stop her from running into the street. I'd be glued to a bench at the playground, watching her play instead of following her up the stairs and helping her slide down the slide on my lap. I'd be too tired to run and play and take walks and do whatever her crazy-smart little mind can come up with. Rascal would be stuck with a mom who hated herself.

So call me selfish. But my daughter is going to have a mom who's comfortable in her own skin, and that is a beautiful thing.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Steph Says: How To Have A Beach Body

Let's close our eyes and go back in time to spring break 2007.

No, really.
Close your eyes.
Keep 'em closed.
Nobody needs to see this.

It was the height of insecurity season. I had recently lost some weight, so things were looking up, but I wasn't confident in my own skin by any means.
Some college friends and I planned a trip to Pensacola Beach. This was going to be my first "real" spring break trip and I was firedddd up...until I remembered that beach = swimsuit.
Hold up nah.
I wanted to let loose and enjoy the trip, so began the search for a suit that would cover all the parts of my body that made me feel insecure.

After 400 stores or so, I settled on this little number from JC Penney. (Nine years ago and I still remember where I found it!) The suitdress covered pretty much everything I was worried about. At that point, I was as ready as I'd ever be.
We showed up on the Pensacola public beach with our towels, sunscreen, boom box (oh yes we did) and party cups. We were young and stupid and couldn't concern ourselves with silly things like chairs and umbrellas.
My, how times have changed.

I do remember having fun that day,  but I also remember comparing myself to my tiny, beautiful friends. Wishing I could sport a bikini as effortlessly as they could. Looking at my thighs, thinly veiled under the wet swimsuit dress that clung to each ripple like a barnacle. And suddenly, overwhelmingly, I regretted that bathing dress. I regretted the whole beach aspect of the trip. I regretted letting myself get to that point of self-loathing.
It was a low point.

But I'm here to tell you that a lot can change in nine years. Like, a whole lot. Fast forward  to 2016. Nine years and five Pensacola Beach trips later, I've learned a few tips and tricks to really get your beach body ready for its summertime debut.

1. Be prepared. Your beach body needs to be comfortable. Umbrellas and chairs...totally necessary. And an ice chest, small folding table, and a collapsible tent. Basically an entire moveable compound should suffice.

2. Have a kid. Or borrow someone else's kid. Or tag along on someone else's kid-filled vacay. Going to the beach with an infant/toddler makes you just a bit crazy, and less likely to have time to stress over a bathing suit.
3. Act like a kid again. You will have moments where you have to chase that toddler down the beach before they gallop fearlessly head-first into the waves...and you don't have time to adjust your suit and make sure everything is in place. Chase seagulls. Build sandcastles. Have fun.

4. Stop caring. You eventually realize that no one else is looking at you, let alone caring about what you look like in your suit. So why should you waste a minute of your time caring about what they think?

5. You do you, boo. Learn what styles really work with your body- high waist (yasssss) or high cut or halter or push-up or even a swim dress- you do you.
6. Exude confidence. Or fake it till you make it. You finally understand what made your friends look so good all those years ago- they were confident. Or they were good fakers! Either way, they didn't seem overly concerned with how they looked. They just rocked it!

7. Be thankful. Your body (or in this case, MY body) has gone through a lot in the years between 20 and 30. And it's still there for you. Tiger-stripy and floppy in places, but strong and toned in others. Sunkissed shoulders that you are proud of. Arms that let you carry a 36 pound sleeping toddler half a mile down the beach. Legs that have carried you 26.2 miles...twice. Your body loves it back.
8. Wear whatever you please, and you let your confidence shine. Because what matters most is that you get out there and have fun. If all you remember is how much fun you had, you won't have time to remember whether or not you felt like you had a "beach body."

Are you ready for the beach?
Because the beach is ready for you.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Steph Says: Mine

It's a quiet morning here at the beach. Rain is patterning outside the window, Daddo is still sleeping, I'm savoring my coffee and Addison is playing contentedly.

Then suddenly it hits me: this is her last summer before she starts school.

She's off to pre-k 3 in a month and a half. Five days a week, she'll be dropped off at her little school and I'll watch her long legs walk away, as she carries her too-big backpack into her classroom.

She is fearless...but she has such a long way to go.

She's going to learn new things; things I never even thought to teach her.

She's going to make new friends; friends that aren't the children of my own friends.

She's going to have a new teacher; a teacher who I hope will understand her unique personality.

She is barely two months into being three. She is smart, strong-willed, and bull-headed...but she is so, so sweet. She cares so deeply about little things. She loves animals and being outside. She says hello to everyone we meet, and makes everyone laugh with her antics. She takes risks and disregards boundaries and drives me absolutely crazy.

But she is mine.

She's been mine since the day God laughed and said "Ohhh, get ready for this one, Steph."

We have spent most of the last two years together. We've had our little routines and outings and days at home. I have watched her grow, literally, before my very eyes. She's made me want to pull out my hair while she actually pulls out hers. She's fought the potty and fought for her independence.

And despite all her little quirks and imperfections, the little things I can't control no matter how hard I try, she's one hundred percent, wholeheartedly, mine.

So as I sit here with her warm little body at my side, I have so many things to pray for as she leaves Mama behind to go to her little red school.

I pray that she behaves herself.

I pray that she follows the rules.

I pray that she gives her teacher the respect every teacher deserves-plus a little extra.

I pray that she is kind.

I pray that she plays fair and takes turns.

I pray that she stands up for herself.

I pray that her spirit is kindled.

I pray that no one tries to extinguish her light.

I pray that she always marches to her own beat.

I pray that the world is kind to her.

I pray that she has to work hard for what she wants.

I pray that she knows the difference between right and wrong.

I pray that she makes the right choices.

I pray that she learns from her mistakes.

I pray that she remembers to pray.

But most of all, I pray that at the end of the day, she is happy to see her Mama.

That she wants to share her day with me. That she wants to curl up beside me for a story or beg me to play dolls with her. That she can stay little for just a while longer.

I pray for her...because she is mine.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Steph Says: Keep Getting Up

I recently shared on Instagram the picture that Facebook Memories or Timehop or one of those instruments of the devil designed to make me relive my past mistakes decided to slap me across the face with: this time last year, I was able to squeeze myself into a size 8 pair of jeans. They were tight. But they zipped without having to lie down- and that, ladies, is a triumph, as we all know.

Now? In June 2016? I haven't worn jeans in about two months, thank you heat index.  But I can guess that my size 12s are fitting much like those 8s did one short year ago... Tight. But zippable. (Whether or not I'd have to lay down is negotiable.)

I have gained 20-25 lbs over the past year, depending on how much of a bitch the scale feels like being that morning. And it's been hanging on, despite my best efforts and good intentions. So many times I have chosen the salad over the deep-dish pizza, only to get a donut the next day.

It's like the old saying: Fall seven times, stand up eight. I have mastered the art of falling, that's for sure. I fall straight into a cheeseburger more often than I'd like to admit.

But lately, I've come to appreciate the fact that even after all these falls, these headfirst dives, I keep getting up.

I. Keep. Getting. Up.

Losing weight is so, so difficult. It involves so many choices and a heck of a lot of willpower. And we spend so much time every day making choices and using our willpower in situations that have little to nothing to do with our diets.
Do I scream at my child for getting yogurt all over the table and nearby surfaces, or do I bite my tongue and calmly help her clean up her "art project"? Do I have time to wash my hair? What should I wear today? Do I lay on my horn and go all Mad Max Fury Road on the woman who cut me off on the way to work? What project demands my attention today? Do I make time for this meeting tonight or just find a way to skip it? Do I have enough time to run some errands before dinner? When my child starts acting like Satan in the middle of Academy, how should I react? When can I run these errands without the kid in tow? What on earth am I going to cook tonight? Do I really feel like doing the dishes or can they wait until tomorrow? Can I fit in a work out tonight or just watch TV? If I just watch TV, will I force myself to get up early and make it to the gym for 5 am? 
So many choices. 
It absolutely wears you down. And on top of all that, you have to find the willpower to skip the cookie at Starbucks when the annoyingly chipper barista offers, "Can I get you a snack to go with your iced coffee? Perhaps a toffeedoodle cookie?"

Perhaps you bite me.

The fact is, there will always be backslides and relapses and seasons of life that get in the way of your fitness goals. But you can do one of two things:
1. Give up.
2. Keep getting up.

Me? I'm going to keep getting up, as many times as it takes. I'm stubborn like that. And I am not going to quit on myself- I've come too far for that.

Friday, May 6, 2016

GUEST POST: The Real Deal about "Freshman Fifteen"

When one of my absolute favorite former students/little sister types graduated and packed up for BR, I hoped and prayed we wouldn't lose touch. Thankfully, we are still super close and I am always thrilled to hear from her. 
She proposed the idea of a guest post during the finals week season, and of course I was on board in a heartbeat. What better way to avoid studying than to write a guest blog post about the struggles of being a college student? And since I condone procrastination of ANY kind, I told her to go for it. 
Additionally, I know so many of my former baby students who are coming to the end of their freshman year who will appreciate her honest analysis of the freshman experience.
So here you have it, ladies and gents. My dearest girl, Mary Clare. Or as Rascal calls her, Merrily Clare. ENJOY!

Merrily Clare to the right, to the right
Louisiana State University. The flagship school of the state, where stately oaks and broad magnolias shade inspiring halls. My heart swells at the thought of my school, and swells at the thought of my freshman experience. 

That being said, there are some things that my heart does not swell when I think about, like the fifteen or so pounds that I seem to have accumulated while enjoying my time here. 

A little backstory on me; I have been on the larger side of life basically since birth. Clocking in at a solid 5’10”, my body just was not made to appear petite and waif-like and that is something that I have learned to accept. In high school I danced ballet and it was my pride and joy. When I gave that up, I learned to enjoy other things like yoga and even sometimes running (shocking I know). I considered myself to be pretty health conscious, and by health conscious I mean NOT ending up at the McDonald's drive through EVERY day like a certain best friend of mine. I mean heck, I did yoga and drank green tea before bed every night. I was zen and shit. I definitely had a foundation of healthy habits, which in itself was a struggle to maintain on the daily but I was managing at a relatively healthy weight. 

Flash forward: your girl has graduated high school and is ready to take on LSU. I aspired to just take it all in: Greek life, living on campus, and of course continue my record of academic perfection (LOL) all the while balancing a healthy lifestyle. At the start of the fall semester I had already written the UREC classes I planned to attend on the regular in my planner. I was going to opt for the healthy alternatives in my meal plan (again LOL). 

The first few weeks of school were a blur. A blur full of screaming sorority girls, buying 200 dollar textbooks that nobody told me I actually DIDN’T need, getting acclimated to my 2 cubic feet of space in Miller Mansion and trying to figure the whole college thing out. I soon learned that my meal plan was a little more limited than my tour guide led me to believe (still a little salty honestly). The UREC classes were nothing like what I was used to and soon my exercise habits bit the dust. And it was only syllabus week. 

Soon comes ACTUAL school where my scheduled mealtimes went out the window as I found myself struggling to keep up. In between juggling Biology, Chemistry, Calculus, making new friends in my sorority, and getting involved on campus my daily salad becomes Chic Fil A bought in the union and scarfed down before I go to my 3 hour Bio Lab (a special kind of torture that earns friend food). Add in going out for T-shirt night (those vodka cranberries aren’t calorie free honey) and Outtakes trips in between study breaks and boy was I going downhill fast. Freshman Fifteen happened really quickly. I kissed my healthy lifestyle goodbye without a second thought. 

Now freshman year is drawing to a close, and see all the different reactions to everyone’s “Freshman Fifteen.” It happens to the best of us. I even know how mine happened. I let it. I find myself looking back on pictures thinking “Damn, I let myself go.” But then I pause and think yeah, I did let go a little and maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. I look back on this year and it’s obvious what I have gained. I have gained 300 + sisters who have already made a huge impact on my life already. I gained 31 credit hours and PASSED them all. I gained two best friends who I know will be bridesmaids in my weddings and my children’s favorite aunts.

 I don’t see the weight at all, I see happiness. I don’t regret the late night slice of pizza that led to a conversation that helped me get to know someone better, or the ice cream date I went on with a cute boy. It was all part of my freshman year. So to any of you ladies and gents who are feeling a little down on their luck because you’re not as slim as you used to be, I encourage you to take a step back and look at what you have gained, and know that sometimes it’s okay to let go. Regarding the Freshman Fifteen I am not embarrassed but determined. Determined to find a way to have fun and be healthy. So I needed a little time to figure that out, so what ¯\_()_/¯

Presently Free,
Mary Clare

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Steph Says: New Year, Same Me...but Better.

The year I reached some pretty amazing goals.
The year I began as a reluctant stay-at-home-mom.
The year I got down to 179 lbs.
The year I was hungry.
The year I started seeing muscle.
The year I fit into size medium dresses.
The year I threw away all of my "fat clothes."
The year I started believing in myself.
The year I ran my first marathon.
The year I decided "just eat the cheeseburger."
The year I told myself "you can burn it off later."
The year my bad habits caught up to me.
The year I gained back 20 lbs (25 on a bad day).
The year my pants stopped fitting.
The year I cleaned out so many toxic friendships.
The year I cultivated new and amazing friends.
The year I fell in love with being Rascal's mama all day long.
The year that taught me how to grow.
The year that I got comfortable.

The year I turn 30.
The year I will finally achieve my goals.
The year I get a part-time job doing something really rewarding.
The year I work on my patience.
The year I get faster.
The year I get stronger.
The year I work harder.
The year I start seeing food as fuel.
The year, 20 days in, that I can't stop thinking about king cake.
The year I haven't given in and split a whole king cake with the hubs.
The year the hubs is on board, too.
The year I start liking what I see in the mirror every day.
The year I try new things.
The year of paleo.
The year of Crossfit.
The year of "it might not last all year, but it's a good place to start."
The year of cheat meals, not cheat days, which turn into cheat weekends and weeks and months.
The year I refuse to give up on myself again.
The year I show Rascal how to be strong, confident, and love herself from the inside-out.
The year I set a good example.
The year I get uncomfortable.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Steph Says: That Little Voice

Ever have one of those days where you just aren't feeling it?
And you're not even sure what "it" is?
That's me today.

But it didn't start out that way.

I woke up at 4:15 a.m. and headed to the gym for 5 a.m. Power Pump class. I was (key word: WAS) feeling good so I hopped on the Stairmaster for 15 minutes and burned off some extra calories to boot. I felt like Wonder Woman- my Friday was off to a fantastic start! I was ready to tackle an awesome fun day with my daughter!
Got home, started getting ready for the day, ate some Greek yogurt and a healthy pumpkin-apple muffin made by my sister-in-law (so I know it's super packed with healthy stuff. She's a wizard in the kitchen when it comes to yummy, health-conscious food).
That's when things started going downhill.
The doubt. The self-loathing. That evil little voice started up.

You shouldn't have eaten that.
Um, excuse me?
You should have just saved the calories. You're taking Rascal to get donuts with your parents (because #donutfriday) and you know you can't resist a blueberry cake donut.
You're going to tell yourself, "It's ok, I worked out this morning, I can have that donut!"
Because you have no willpower.
Because you are just meant to be fat.

Getting dressed proved to be a struggle because I knew this day definitely involved painting, and might involve some outdoor activity. And today's weather ranged from a low of 56 to a high of 92. How do you even plan for that? I went with shorts and a tee with a zip-up hoodie. And right off the bat, I knew the shorts were too tight. But right now, everything is too tight.

These shorts were loose last year.
LOOSE, Stephanie.
You aren't even back where you started, you're bigger.
Why are you even trying?
You're never going to get to your goal.
Go eat a donut, fatty. It'll make you feel better.

So I listen to her. In fact, I eat two donuts. But I don't feel better. Surprised, anyone? 

After donut Friday, it was time to head to the local pottery painting shop for storytime with Rascal and some fellow mom friends- a group of women I really like and enjoy being around. I got out of my car, pulling down my shorts and tugging at my shirt. And all the moms look so cute. They're dressed well, their hair looks great, and their kids, who, granted, are a little older than Rascal, are equally adorable. They look so put-together. And I know they're not judging me, but let's face it, Rascal and I look homeless. I mean, with her well-developed fine motor skills, I planned on getting more paint on us than on the ceramic pumpkin and dressed accordingly.

You don't fit in with these women.
They're amazing moms, and they look so effortless! Their kids are all behaving so well.
Your kid just hauled off and smacked you across the face for no reason.
You are a terrible parent and you look so bad in front of these moms.
Way to go. Mom of the year.

I took Rascal to the back of the store to have a "chat" about her behavior, and to add insult to injury, I catch a glimpse of myself in a full-length mirror.
I look worse than I imagined.
We finally left, a little more colorful than we arrived, and I just felt so beat up (after all, my kid only smacked me three times) and dejected. I couldn't decide if I should just drive home or drive off a cliff or go get fast food.

Yessssssss food!
Food makes you feel better.
Especially things that are ridiculously unhealthy.
Like Taco Bell.
Or macaroni and cheese.

The voice won again. We stopped at the grocery store. While I did manage to avoid Taco Bell, I ended up with a takeout box of mac and cheese to split with Rascal. Rascal, who then had a meltdown in the parking lot because HOW DARE I suggest we get out of the cart and into her car seat.

Mom of the century.

Now I'm sitting at home, still stuffed into my too-tight shorts because I am punishing myself for the poor food choices I've made today.
I miss feeling lean.
I miss when my shorts were loose and everything in my closet fit.
I am upset with myself for getting rid of all my "fat clothes" and now wishing I still had them, because they would fit now.

But you DON'T really want those clothes back, do you? You can lose the weight again.
I know you can.
I know I've been really mean today, but it's because I know how far you've come and I hate seeing you backslide like this. 
I am YOU, after all. 

But losing weight is a horrible, wonderful thing, Voice. The highs are so high. You feel like you're on top of the world because your hard work SHOWS.  But man, when the lows hit? There's nothing that can stop that voice.

So here's a different kind of "before and after."
I did a lot of damage in 7 months. Now I'm paying for it.
I got cocky. I felt like I didn't need to try as hard.

Well, guess what?
You do.
You have to try.
You have to try every single day, and you probably will have to try for the rest of your life.
First, take a nap with Rascal.
Shake it off.
Wake up feeling refreshed.
Take your kid to the park. Run around. Burn more calories. Make better choices for the rest of the day. 
Stop wallowing and DO SOMETHING.

Okay, Voice. I hear ya.
You know, sometimes, you're not so bad after all.

Just gotta give you some tough love every so often.
Now don't screw up again.

Okay, Voice.
I hear ya.