Light at the End of the Tunnel

Happy May, folks – and a soon-to-be-happy June! I can’t believe how fast this month has flown by. I hope it’s been a fulfilling and enjoyable month for all of you!

It’s time for a quick update while I have some extra time on my hands. John is stuck at work with a late-communicated deadline tonight, so I’m enjoying the quiet after a tough few days of workouts. I just returned from my latest trip to Tucson last Sunday, and my ongoing challenge has been to learn how to make these trips without losing track of my progress with my own health. I like to have a little extra flexibility when I travel, so that I’m not a living nightmare for friends, family, and local restaurants, but that doesn’t mean I get to go back to my old ways. I still have to be careful, handle most of my own cooking, and do the exercises that I know I need to. As long as these trips are happening so frequently, and I’m still hoping to lose weight, I can’t afford to treat them like real vacations – they’re working vacations, and subject to most of the same rules I follow every day.

The good news is that I’m adapting very well! My mom’s done a great job of storing up things she needs done until I get there, and we’ve tackled them all together. I’ve been able to help her get out of the house a little bit too, particularly now that I’m strong enough to lift her wheelchair into and out of the car without help or risk of injury. (All those deadlifts are paying off!) I’ve done a bunch of driving around Tucson, and I’ve learned to drive the motorized scooters in all the stores so that I can bring them in and out for her to transfer to. (Like many folks, doing this was once a childhood dream… they’re a bit slower and more awkward than my younger self understood, but they ARE very entertaining!) I’ve been able to do much of my own cooking, both for myself and for her, and I’ve even had a few opportunities to let my hair down and have her and Chris cook for me.

That said, it’s still easier to take matters into my own hands than it is to explain to folks what I can and can’t do. I am hyper-aware that my entire outlook on food and the things I enjoy has changed in dramatic fashion, and I hate having to be the person that torpedoes most suggestions with “I can’t eat that.” At the same time, I can’t begin to tell you what it’s like to eat the things that most folks do after so long on this diet, especially chain restaurant food. It isn’t fun or exciting – it’s overwhelming! The best analogy I have is that it feels like I’ve taken the red pill from The Matrix – the foods around me aren’t what I always thought they were, and now that I’ve seen them with clear eyes, going back is possible – sometimes even enjoyable – but they still taste strange and uncomfortable compared to what I’m used to. Someday – sooner than I’m willing to believe! – I’ll be able to be more flexible. For now, I remain far more at ease with the things I know I can indulge in without difficulty, even if that makes me hard to deal with sometimes. I appreciate your patience!

For the time being, both John and I are still going through the motions of losing weight. In my last update, I mentioned that he’d been thinking about switching to maintenance, but he still has a personal goal of losing a little bit more weight before he considers himself done. He’s happy and healthy and in great shape now, and he doesn’t NEED to lose more – but he’s also not at risk by choosing to push through to his goal. Both of us have lots of professionals that we check in with on a daily basis, and reckless weight loss isn’t in anyone’s plan! Neither of us intends to become professional athletes or bodybuilders, so finding the comfortable line between that and where we are now is the key. That involves losing the last little bits of weight that we want to, and then shifting our focus to building lean muscle and toning up the sagging skin left over from our weight loss. Once we get to that point, things won’t be quite so intensive anymore.

As for me… I’ve had a complex month with lots of ups and downs. John and I took an overnight trip to Eugene, Oregon to see Drum Tao perform – they’re a traveling show from Japan that aims to do for Japanese culture and taiko drum music what Riverdance did for Irish culture and Celtic music. It was delightful, and I daresay it was the first “real” vacation we’ve had since joining 20/20. On the way back from our trip, the man in the seat behind me on the plane was coughing up a lung, which is pretty much a death sentence with a diabetic immune system. I spent the next two weeks trying to get rid of the resulting nasty cold. (In case you hadn’t heard, we’ve had an absolutely brutal year for illness around the state. Almost everyone I know has been sick with something!)

As with the last time I got this sick, I… did not handle it well. Being out and away from all the people I’ve come to love, and unable to pour my heart and soul into changing things for the better, brought back so much of the self-doubt and anxiety that I struggled with before the program. Though I knew it was critical that I take the time to rest and heal, my inner demons were all too happy to tell me how much I was failing and what a loser I was for getting sick and “giving up.” Social anxiety isn’t fun, folks. Avoid it, if you can.

All of this culminated in my first-ever official panic attack. I’m a little ashamed and embarrassed to admit it, but I know I shouldn’t be – it’s important to talk about these things so that others in need can know they’re not alone. It was a scary experience that I’d prefer not to have again, and I’m definitely following up on it with my therapist at our next session. I’ve gotten so much better at handling day-to-day situations, but these two-week breaks that force me to sit at home with nothing to do and no human contact drive me NUTS in my own head. One of my greatest strengths these days is knowing that I can talk to anyone I know if I need help, but it’s so much harder to do that when I’m sick and concerned for their health. Fortunately, once everyone found out what had been going on, the message they all gave me was crystal clear: be kind to yourself. You’re doing great. Stop worrying. And I promised to listen to them instead of the garbage my own head was trying to feed me.

I got back into the swing of things just in time for my latest trip to Tucson – but the two days in the week that I still spent with Erin were two of my biggest! I’ve officially made one of my oldest goals – being able to do a pull-up! I say this with one caveat, though: I still can’t do them without help. Most people that learn pull-ups these days start by doing them assisted, which involves either a machine designed to mechanically reduce the amount of your own body weight you’re lifting, or an elastic band of some kind that does the same. I have had the (dubious) pleasure of having a thick elastic band strung around the hooks on one of the weight-lifting frames, about two or three feet off the ground, intended for my feet. The goal was to climb up on a nearby step stool, climb up and onto the center of that band with my hands on the top of the frame, and then use the assistance from the band to do pull-ups to the top of the frame.

It was… awkward. I tripped trying to balance my first time, which resulted in a) me realizing that I’m a lot more athletic than I used to be, because I managed to recover without ending up on the floor, and b) Erin lowering the band a little. Only later did I find out that made the pull-ups harder, though the climb was easier!

The next three sets of ten were exhausting – but also exhilarating! I’m so very excited that I’ve been able to do them at all, and I know I’ll have to work at this for awhile before I get good enough to do the real deal. It’s incredibly fun to do something I never thought I would do before in my life. I’ve developed a strong habit of wanting to master the things I used to be terrible at or couldn’t do before, and it seems to be carrying a lot of momentum for me so far. I’ve always been the scared, shy kid that didn’t want to risk trying anything that I didn’t think I could do, or that might make me look stupid… but now I want to do what scares me, because I’m capable of doing anything I put my mind to. It just takes constant effort and patience with myself – knowing my limits and working with the people that are helping me to figure out how to get where I’m trying to go. Laughing at myself helps too! Taking myself too seriously is how I get in so much trouble with my own brain most of the time.

On top of that… I’ve been learning the forbidden art of the burpee. Up until that week, Erin had been slowly introducing me to them by having me do them down to progressively lower surfaces – first one of the weight benches, then a lower soft platform, then an even lower platform. Right before I left for Tucson, she set me to doing the real deal – all the way down to the floor. It was awkward and uncomfortable at first, but she worked with me until I could get the form right. Then she gave me vacation homework: I had to do 50 of them, spread out however I liked, over the course of the trip. (This, thankfully, took the place of my usual workouts!)

So… every night, when things quieted down in Tucson, I dutifully headed into the kitchen with the cheap yoga mat I bought to leave there for my use, and did my level best to do burpees like a pro (ignoring the already-sore shoulders I’d given myself with the pull-ups!) My goal was to try to get 15 done each night, which would leave me most of Sunday to rest up and recover before getting back to form this week. By the second night, I was feeling good enough to do 20! It’s amazing how fast the body can adapt to movements if you practice enough, even on things you’re not naturally good at. I can not only say that I got done ahead of schedule enough to take Sunday completely off, but I’ve gotten pretty darn good at the motion, if I do say so myself! And to top it all off, I learned online that the version of it Erin taught me isn’t even the basic one – it’s a harder variation! I’m going to remember this plan for future trips, because it was a great way to let off any steam or boredom I’d picked up during the day. “Burpee ‘o clock” is now a thing for me. 🙂

To top off all this great news… I found out yesterday that my weight has, at last, dropped below 200 pounds! It’s been a long few months with a lot of stress, illness, and interruptions, and yet all of my panic was obviously unwarranted. My endocrinologist is thrilled – though she was less thrilled about the fact that I’ve gotten lazy with my diabetes control because of how tired and busy I’ve been. She WOULD be willing to sign off on me being safe for pregnancy… but my blood sugars aren’t stable enough to do it again. Over the course of the next three months before I see her again, I’m going to be focusing hard on rectifying that, and losing as much of the remaining ideal of 25 pounds as I can. I’ve been losing about 20 between our visits so far, so it’s a challenge, but a fair one. Doing that… will put me in a safe place to be ready to try to have a kid. I know it’s still a long way to go, and I can’t afford to slack off… but it’s so close. Closer than ever.

(Lest anyone be keeping time/watch: that would be the absolute earliest time frame for us, so don’t start buying those baby gifts just yet! We won’t be moving ahead with anything until we are happy with our weight loss and we’re both fully prepared to go into the next phase of our lives with our current levels of mental and emotional well-being. Though the time I have remaining is ticking by – and I’m starting to feel it, as much as I hate to admit it – rushing this would be bad for us, bad for our marriage, and bad for any kid we might have. Now is the time for us to start thinking this through, planning what we’re able to plan, and looking into things like genetic testing that still take time. We’ll let y’all know when there’s something to know, but other than the final “we’re clear!” announcement someday, please don’t expect or assume anything!)

That said… you knew there was a “but,” didn’t you? That’s often how my life works.

In the midst of endless amounts of joy, a little rain must fall. I found out on Monday that Erin is planning to return to grad school… starting in three weeks. Though I’m putting a brave face on it, I’ll admit that I’m heartbroken. I was her first client, so she’s been there to witness every single step of this journey with me, and without her, I could never have come as far as I did. She’s the one that went out of her way to teach me a few TRX moves so I wouldn’t be so scared of taking my first class. She found so many ways to push my boundaries and convince me to try new things that I never would have without her. Despite not being a gamer or a geek herself, she’s been interested and eager to chat about the stuff I’ve talked about, even my own overambitious projects. She’s the kind of strong, awesome, kind lady I’d like to be someday, and I never in my life thought I’d find a personal trainer that I liked, much less admired. Calling her a friend seems a little familiar – she’s my coach, and she listens to all my problems with more patience than she probably should – but that’s how it feels anyway. I don’t trust easily. When someone earns it, it means a hell of a lot to me. I was looking forward to working with her for years, even after I’d adjusted to having a family and the future she’d helped me build.

In the three weeks until she leaves, I’m going to do everything in my power to push as hard as I can, and learn as much as I’m able to from her, hopefully without getting mired in the sad knowledge that it’s all temporary now. I know she’s proud of me, and I know she’ll leave me in good hands – she’s already looking for replacement trainers that she knows will suit each of her clients. If there’s one way to honor all the work she’s put into me, it’s to carry her example forward myself. I can be strong, awesome, and kind too, and it’s because of people like her that I can do it now. I know she’ll do a great job at whatever she sets her mind and heart to as well, and I hope her future proves to be as great as she’s helped mine to be. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that whoever I end up with next will be a good fit for me, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to replace Erin. I’ll just have to move on instead. And if she ever does find reason to return to the Pro Club, I’ll be the first in line to reschedule with her!

In light of that, I’m actually considering dropping my trainer workouts back to twice a week, down from three times. There are other classes I’d like to try at the Pro Club, some of which are on the same days as my current workout schedule, which make them untenable. (Erin was always trying to talk me into going to the Friday night Zumba class with her, and I never risked it because I was always so tired after working with her and staying on for steps – and Friday nights are also one of our twice-per-week float/relaxation times, so the timing on that is tough.) Switching to twice per week is also the eventual plan for me once I’m ready to switch to maintenance, too. As helpful as the trainer workouts are (and will continue to be,) if I want to make that switch, it seems like this transition might be the natural time to do it. We’ll see what happens, though. The next few months are likely to see a lot of shifts for both John and me, so I want to be sure we do what makes the most sense for both of us.

For now, that’s all I have – but you can expect another post in the semi-near future. As I mentioned in some of my previous updates, John and I were scheduled to have an interview and our photos published in the Pro Club’s magazine, and that officially took place starting in May! Not only that, but our faces are plastered across the entire Pro Club on their big, shifting advertisement boards from time to time. Everyone we know has been congratulating us and cheering us on, and we’ve already had to field quite a few questions and chats from other gym patrons wanting to congratulate us too! We’re still adjusting to life as minor celebrities – we’ve been dealing with some of that already just because of how many folks recognize us on sight, but it’s increased thanks to all the exposure in the magazine. I’m still not sure how I ended up with people in a gym thinking I’m worth noticing in a positive way, but I’m excited and it’s nice to be able to do something good to thank all the people that have worked so hard to help us change our lives.

I’ll be sure to share photos and the full interview (the article is condensed) next time, once we have access to them! We can also send copies of the actual magazine to anyone who is interested.

For now… I have a dinner I’ve been dying to make. Tonight’s feast: a 93%-lean ground-beef burger patty, stuffed with one piece of tomato-and-basil jack cheese, topped with some spiced tomato butter (like apple butter) we got online, served on a sandwich thin instead of a bun. It’s not every day I can justify a burger, much less one with real cheese, but I’ve earned it today and I have the room for it in my diet.

Let nobody tell you that diet food has to be gross, folks!


  1. Mom

    A great report! You have made me HAPPY !! Sorry about Erin but if you can show me your workout you can show it to anyone. You look GREAT, YOU ARE STRONG, and you are just finding out who you are. I LOVE YOU SWEETPEA!

  2. Carolyn

    Congratulations, on many fronts, Amy! So much good news – so many accomplishments! Thank you for sharing about them all!

    How tremendous that you are adapting well when you visit your mom. -not only in being able to help her, but in keeping up both the dietary and exercise aspects of your new lifestyle. Bravo! I am truly in awe… I have never been able to do a pull-up nor had I ever heard of or tried a “burpee”. I clicked on the link you provided… and gave it a try. If the image of this makes you laugh, then you have the right idea of how it went! As I said, I am in awe that you are able to not only do these, but do multiple burpees at one time!

    I know that a healthy lifestyle more than weight loss is your bottom-line goal, but congratulations on continuing to lose weight! And let’s hear it for goals! -like losing additional weight and keeping your blood sugars stable. A lesson that I didn’t learn until not that many years ago is that we always “go” farther and achieve more when we set goals for ourselves.

    I can definitely understand how disappointed you are that your personal trainer, Erin, is leaving. While I know that her guidance and friendship mean a great deal to you, I am absolutely certain that your dedicated effort and resulting progress and your friendship mean just as much to her. -When the time comes, I do hope and pray that you and your next trainer are a good fit, and that you are both able to quickly feel comfortable with one another.

    Sorry that you have been ill, but glad that you and John had such a fun “real” vacation! And count me among those who are very much looking forward to the photos and interview! Btw… Hope you and John are having a fun weekend!

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