Accept and Respect

Last week I leaped into The Mush.

It was unintentional.
In truth, it was the opposite outcome from what I was seeking at the beginning of the week.

I started last Monday down another .8 lbs and with the intention of writing a blog post about a pound being a pound and how it was progress however slow and insignificant it felt, it was still progress. I was fired up and ready write. I also had an appointment with a behavior analyst (BA) scheduled on Friday to discuss why I continually sabotage my weight loss goals. We would identify the trouble behaviors and create a plan to retrain myself on how to deal with them.

I was ready. Ready to take control of my bad eating habits and delve into changing those crazy behaviors so I could finally reach my weight loss goals. So I could finally start looking and feeling the part of the fitness professional I purport to be. This, this was going to be the fix and I was ready.


I show up, goals in hand:
Goal Weight: 125lbs
Goal Body Fat: 25%
Goal Nutrition Plan: 1100 total daily calories, macros in place (macros= macronutrients or the amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat that make up your calories) one cheat meal a week.

We begin.

We don’t get far.

BA: 1100 calories a day?
EB: Yep.
BA: That’s net?
EB: No, gross.
BA: Yeah, it’s gross. (She’s a funny one)
Isn’t that a little….low?
EB: It seemed low to me too, but my nutrition chick gave me the plan and it’s not like the pounds are just falling off me so…
BA: Huh. Ok. So what are you having trouble with? What do you want to change?
EB: When I have down time, I sit in front of the TV and binge eat.
BA: What do you mean, “Binge eat?”
EB: I mean, I pop an entire bag of popcorn, put butter on it, and eat the whole thing.
BA: Oh my God. The WHOLE THING? (rolls eyes)

I get it. I do. I get that eating a bag of popcorn with butter is not actually binge eating. Eating a bag of popcorn with butter, a half gallon of ice cream and a large pizza with The Works? THAT is binge eating. But when you’re only “allowed” 1100 calories a day, a bag of popcorn is a binge and that was her point. It shouldn’t be like that.

We went on to discuss the possibility that the behavior I should be trying to improve is really my relationship to food. How I view it. How I am around it. How I can learn to eat “normally.”

Which is terrifying.

EB: What do you mean I shouldn’t log my food?
BA: Does the everyday person with a healthy relationship with food log every calorie?
EB: Then how am I going to reach my goals?
BA: You just agreed your goals might not be the healthiest for you – mentally, emotionally….even physically.
EB: Sigh….

The bottom line was this:
I’m not sabotaging my weight loss goals. I’m sabotaging my well being. Mentally and physically. Every time I starve my body to make up for that “crazy binge eating” or worse…what good am I doing? I’ve never been 125lbs. Maybe, just maybe, this is the Big Guy’s way of telling me I’m not supposed to be. Or at least that I’m not supposed to be right now. But even if it’s not Divine Intervention, even if I could conceivably get down to 125 and under 25% body fat, then what? Is 125 the magic number? All the anxiety and paranoia and obsessive thoughts…they’re all going to POOF! disappear and I’ll just all of a sudden be happy with myself?

No. It won’t work that way. I know that. So first, first I have to try to repair my very dysfunctional relationship with food. That’s where The Mush comes in.

The same weekend I met with the BA, I went to a workshop called “Creating an Intentional Year.” Yeah, yeah, I know. Very self-help of me. I was invited by Penny Capps*, massage therapist to the stars…no really…Olympic stars. Look her up, she’s amazing…but I digress… I respect Penny greatly and while I might have seen this and tossed it aside as being a little too hokey for me otherwise, the fact that she was behind it made me sit up and take notice. The workshop was about realizing that we need to know what the bigger vision or goal is so the steps we take to get there are, in fact, connected to the vision. That we are intentional about how we live and the paths we take.

I met one incredibly amazing woman who shared with me her own struggles, similar to mine, and then immediately tried to help me. She put her own stuff aside and shared a little wisdom she had gained throughout life to try to console me. It was a powerful moment for me and a distressing one because it became pretty clear that I distract myself with other people’s problems/goals/issues so I don’t have to deal with my own. I knew in that moment that I can’t ignore them anymore. If I want to be a healthy, fit, strong role model for others, I was going to have to get to the bottom of all this “food angst” and maybe more importantly, my focus needed to shift from hot body to whole me – spirit, mind and body.

As we wrapped up that day, the facilitator was talking about how change happens in stages for most. Someone brought up the example of the butterfly.** We all get it – the butterfly starts out as a caterpillar and then yadda yadda in the cocoon and struggles and comes out a beautiful (and/or terrifying) butterfly. But this woman called it “The Mush.” The time when you are IN the work. You are in that hazy, scary, at times excruciatingly uncomfortable place where you can no longer live with the deny deny deny strategy, but you haven’t come to clarity yet. The journey ahead seems like it might be interminable.

You are in The Mush. The bog. The trenches. Every step forward takes extreme effort and commitment. Mostly (at least for me) to keep from running, sprinting, clawing my way back to denial (it’s so much easier there!), but of course, to keep moving – intentionally – towards the goal.

That woman I met? She said to me, “I just met you, (and this is crazy…) but I am willing to bet there is a tape running in your head with some pretty negative things on it. My advice? Change the tape.”

Even as I type it, it takes my breath away. It is so simple and yet so…profound.

Change the tape.

And so I am trying to do just that. My new tape goes like this, “Accept and Respect.” It is not a perfect tape. It skips, it malfunctions, it reverts back to the old tape all the time. But…it exists. And that is my first giant, terrifying step into The Mush.

This is maybe a bigger window into my brain than some of you wanted. I hesitated to post this because as a personal trainer and group ex instructor, people look to you for the ideals on health and wellness and I wasn’t sure if A. I wanted to be seen otherwise, and B. If it would be detrimental to my members’ motivation. But in the end, obviously I made the choice to share and I hope that some take solace in knowing that other people struggle and some find motivation to address those scary things that hold them back from being the Whole You. Today could be Day 1, right? Jump into The Mush. I’d love the company πŸ™‚



**I started to write about thebutterfly and the cocoon and the larvae and realized I really had no idea what the butterfly was called in the cocoon or if larvae was even something to do with a butterfly so I asked Colleen Barry, who, if you didn’t know, is (irrationally some might say) scared of butterflies which makes perfect sense since she isn’t afraid of climbing in a ring and getting punched in the face (um, she boxes – like, for real), about what a butterfly is called inside the cocoon cuz, you know, she’s smart and hates butterflies so maybe she knows, right? Her answer? “Egg babies.” Boom.

7 thoughts on “Accept and Respect

  1. Oh Elizabeth, this is some powerful stuff. I am honored you have invited us into your journey in this “mush”. (and as a fellow trainer, understand the dilema, but the fact is this is the stuff that makes you real. Real is good. Very good).

    And I agree SO wholeheartedly with your health coach, the low calorie talk, the self sabotage. even the eye roll πŸ™‚ Establishing a relationship with food that puts it in its rightful place of enjoyment and nourishment in your life comes only secondary to making peace with yourself. When we stop the self sabotage, we don't need a weapon.

    “Accept and respect” I like it. It is like a zen pause button to the false clamor of the mind.

    I would LOVE for you to share more of this new “tape” you have on reel in your head. Tell us about this powerful, strong, motivating, inspirational Elizabeth who is reminding herself how powerful, strong motivating and inspirational she is…and allow us to help you to push that play button from time to time.

    Love you girl.

    Egg Babies.


  2. I loved this! Great post and I think it is wonderful to share with the people you motivate in the gym. Very real and relate-able.

    I had a hard food journey. I used to count and purge and limit. I have only been below 125 just once and it was a very sad, miserable, unhealthy time. Weight, in the end, is just a number and reaching the goal number didn't make me happy or even make me like my body. After lots of time, group eating therapy, and practicing mindful eating, I now have a good food relationship, eating mostly healthy, not obsessing or counting (except servings of produce, thanks to team night rider), and enjoying it. I work out hard only because I love to and sometimes take nights off to sit on the couch, watch TV, and eat ice cream. I carry around another 10 or 15 pounds than I did at that low weight time–but they're 10 pounds of healthy happiness that I am just fine with.

    Thanks for being sincere and open and helping people who face similar troubles. It's nice to have community in such things–it sure has helped me along the way.

    And I think you look pretty fantastic, for what it's worth.


  3. I am so proud of you! It takes a lot, when you are the role model, to be comfortable sharing your struggles. Sharing them is what makes you human, and also helps you to move past them. When I worked for Weight Watchers years ago, I struggled with this a lot. I always thought that as the motivator/ leader, it would look bad to my members if I was struggling…or make them lose motivation. I wish I would have shared my struggles back then. It took me years to realize that, hey, I am human too…and that's ok. After i gained my weight back, I was sooo embarrassed. I avoided a lot of places that I could possibly see my members, and didnt post very many neck down pictures. One day I realized that I couldn't hide it anymore…we are all human and we all have bad days and good days. I figured the best way to hold myself accountable, work towards my goals, and not be embarrassed about it, was to put everything out there. Really, you are motivating people just as much by letting them know that you can relate. We all go through it, and good for you for sharing!


  4. while i'm not a professional in any capacity of nutrition or fitness, i am a numbers guy and losing weight, in it's simplest form, is just consuming less calories in a day than you expel (calories in < calories out). and a fair warning - i'm gonna nerd it up a little in the next paragraph... while i have no idea of your weight/body fat%, your goals of 125lbs/25% indicate that you would expel roughly 2300 calories based on a Resting Metabolic Heartrate via The Cunningham Formula and a Moderate Activity Cost (probably a higher # depending on actual weight/bf%), without doing any of your extra circular working out, add in roughly an extra 1000 calories burned from multiple Jam sessions and your at 3300 calories burned for the day (actually a little higher if you include the Thermic Effect of Food) (i made a spreadsheet if your interested for numbers that are not your end goal). you're only eating 1100. assuming you do that all 7 days, your consuming 7700 calories, say 8,100 with your cheat meal. while i dont know your daily activities, if it is 3300 cal/day, thats 23,100 cal/week, which is a deficit of 14,700, or over 4 lbs a week (lb of fat takes 3500 cals to burn). while 4 lbs/week isnt impossible, it is extremely difficult to sustain for extended periods of time. my first piece of advice would be to eat more food. keep your macros at the appropriate %s, but raise the calories 600-700/day. thats another meal+, so then maybe you wont be hungry and binge eat. i used to do the same thing, and i've changed my diet so i lose 2ish lbs/week, and i'm much happier and much less hungry. also, not sure of your meals, but like most everyone else in fitness, i find that eating 6-7/day is more satisfying than eating 3. my 2nd piece of advice would be to throw the weight goal out the window! its a number. who cares?! if your goal is 25% bf, then work on that. you may carry a little more BF%, but you will also carry more muscle and since muscle is A) denser than fat, and B) burns more calories than fat, its not a bad thing to have more muscle because then you can eat a little more and you'll look slimmer! good luck and keep your chin up!


  5. I wanted to reply as soon as I read this, but then thought it would come across as a gushing teenage girl, so I took a moment. This is an incredible post. I totally identified it. Pretty much every day I struggle with my own self-loathing-I'm too big, too lumpy, too XYZ. I constantly torment myself for making bad food choices, when really maybe if I just stopped doing that I might make one less bad choice. It all starts with the first step.Your post reminds me that life is too short and we are all too smart and wonderful for that. And we are all beautiful. I am incredibly impressed by your bravery and honesty. You are a wonderful instructor, a very talented dancer and communicator. I will happily join you in the mush. Your class keeps me sane, as I mentioned. Really, I can't thank you enough.


  6. I emailed this to EB and she asked that I put it as a comment on here. I wrote it when I woke up, so it rambles a bit. I thought about editing it, but you'll get the idea.

    Honestly, I think it's great that you don't look like Colleen or Kate and that you have issues with food, because what female doesn't? (you can't tell me that the women who only eat protein and organic vegetables are really that happy with their diet, because I've done that, but Five Guys is just sooooo good). When I look at the fitness instructors at the gym, I think who can a I realistically model myself after? I realized in high school (when I played sports) that I would never be what is commonly though of as skinny and for a lot of personal reasons it was just easier to be the “fat friend” and in the background. And I was okay with myself at 300 pounds, because I had great friends, I was relatively healthy (no cholesterol issues or diabetes issues) , and I have a great job (own a house, car, dog). But I do enjoy being active and that's kind of hard to do when you're 300 pounds, but not impossible. Anyway when it came to my fitness goals I never really thought of a weight, the only think I really want is to be out of plus sized clothes, because they are generally unfashionable and limited in choice. In the meantime I was thinking you know EB is pretty awesome because she's got curves and she can teach body combat and body jam back to back and live to tell about it. And I thought, I can do that – maybe not teach, but be my naturally curvy self, just a lot more in shape. I would say a lot of women struggle with being curvy and wanting to look like the have a body for Hollywood or fashion magazines, but that is such a small portion of the population, it's pretty unrealistic. AND I think that it helps to have personal trainers and fitness instructors who aren't the ideal body type to show people like me that there is a third ideal and that's curves and fitness. So believe it or not, you're a role model for the normal, those of us who are happy with ourselves, just want to be a little better and recognize that we're never going to be fitness model skinny. It may not be the ideal personal trainer shape in your head, but you're strong and fit and have a butt (like Beyonce or JLO -haha). I think there is room in body type ideals for that. Plus it's my opinion that a lot of fitness professionals don't really understand their heavier clients, because most of them have never been there in terms of weight or the food relationship. So in that respect, you should have a more successful time reaching out to those people who need to make a change for health reasons, but don't want to, because you can tell them that you've been there, and sometimes you're still there and that it's okay. Lifestyle changes don't evolve instantaneously and that denying yourself what you want is probably the easiest way to sabotage yourself since you will end up binging on it later which is worse than having a single cookie now. And then it's saying, okay, do you need the whole cookie? or even a cookie, would dark chocolate almonds give the same satisfaction, etc. I don't think most personal trainers get that – it's black and white – don't eat the cookie because it's bad for you. All I know is I am more apt to listen to someone who is realistic about it and understanding of the crazy people experience with food than just don't eat it.

    Wow I rambled on forever to basically tell you that I think you're awesome and worth role modeling for the very reasons that you don't like, because you are normal and relatable and people like me can identify easier with that.

    Herats from Afghanistan (Herat is a city in Afghanistan and spell check will change it to Heart)



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