Farewell 2018

Thank you 2018. What a whirlwind year! Goals achieved, dreams realized, and relationships cultivated; tempered with loss of loved ones, physical health issues, and personal challenges. From the joy of publishing my book and speaking on the famous red dot of TEDx to the tragedy of losing my aunt, this has been a year.

What I’ll take from every joy and pain of 2018, is that life ebbs and flows moment by moment. We tend to trick ourselves into the newness of a year on January 1st but a new opportunity is born every second. Not just on January 1st, not on Monday morning, but every moment you’re alive is a chance to do better or be better. Don’t get sucked into the hype of a new year. Be present in moments. If you stumble, all is not lost! With the simple blink of an eye, by the grace of God, you can try again.

Thank you 2018. If you’re reading this then my heartfelt thanks to you! What a gift and pleasure to share this space with you all. I can’t wait to show you what’s planned for 2019!

God Bless!

Regina

Missed Opportunities

Many people say the same thing when they see my wedding pictures:

Wow! He really loves you!

Ugh.

As you’re looking at photos of my WEDDING I’d like to believe love would be obvious. It seems like they’re really saying:

Wow! He even loved you like that!

There’s a chapter in my book Food, Sweat, & Fears about the anxiety around my wedding day. Everyone wants to look their absolute best and I was no different. But the reality of the situation is that I was over 300lbs. My husband loves me for me and that is a profound blessing.

Jeff and I have a blast together. We always pray that every couple has the crazy, silly, and joyous moments we have when we’re together. He really is my best friend and the first person I can’t wait to tell good news, hug through challenging news, and to make our own news.

What if Jeff let my size stop him for continuing to see me?

What if he thought I was cool and all but he wasn’t attracted to me?

What if I let his love of country music and wearing cowboy hats stop me from getting to know him better?

I recently heard a story about a woman who was on a first date. She thought everything went well and they had a good time. At the end of the date he said something alarming.

You’re really pretty, funny and smart but I prefer my women under 100 pounds.

What?!

I understand there has to be a level of attraction but to say that she’s everything you’re looking for BUT her weight just won’t cut it.

I reminded me a conversation I heard many years ago. Two women I worked with were discussing their lives and how they’re in their early 30s and are still single and have no children. They were reflecting on some nice guys they dated in their twenties but thought they could do better. Those guys are now all married with families and the women are alone.

They keep seeking the bigger, better deal. More money. Better looking. Something that fit the thoughts and dreams of what a relationship should be. One woman even went so far as to say that there was a guy she really loved and had the best time with but he just wasn’t very cute. She regretted leaving him and as they connected over Facebook she was constantly seeing pictures of his wife and family. It was a daily reminder of all he could’ve given to her if she just accepted him as he was. She can see this clearly now.

I think these women learned the lesson that the man on the first date hasn’t yet learned: what really matters is what will sustain you over time. If she’s over 100lbs and under 100lbs will not matter when you lose a job… or a parent… or a child!

Jeff and I seen a lot together this past decade. The joys of weddings, high school and college graduations, and our parents anniversaries. We’ve also weathered many storms like losing so many people we love, the fierce and relentless battle of addictions, job loss, and more. We didn’t need a perfect weight, we needed our faith to be strong and to be together. We cling to God and each other and we will always sit in the peaceful eye of the storm. It’s not without pain, not without challenge, but it’s possible to handle together.

This is Relationship Math

You + Me = (Joys Multiplied) + (Sadness Divided)

Battling Perfection

Sometimes there’s something powerful when you see your behavior for what it really is and deciding to leap instead of continuing to look!

If you haven’t already feel free to like my Facebook page! There’s a lot new information coming that I can’t wait to share with you!

Thank you!

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Finally

When I offered my new book for pre-sale to the readers of my blog I naively thought I was in the homestretch of the process. I couldn’t have been more wrong. From my own challenges and insecurities of telling such a personal story and wanting to tell it honestly and openly but without compromising the many other stories that intertwine with my own was an undertaking. When I thought I was finally able to communicate my vision without infringing on others I ran into platform issues with publishing that I did not anticipate or account for.

IMG_0615In the midst of this, I was selected to be a speaker at TEDxNewport which was a long-standing dream for me and one of the most incredible times of my life. The preparation for TEDxNewport was extensive and was coupled with the busiest season at work. Needless to say, more delays. I’ll be sharing my TEDxNewport experience when the video becomes available.

Finally, after delays, technical problems, insecurities, and more Food, Sweat, and Fears is shipping!! The pre-sale was successful so they are coming via freight. As soon as they get in my hands I’ll post the pick up locations and book signing dates. The book is now available on Amazon if you did not pre-order. If you’re local, books will be available for sale at signings and some store locations which I will share when finalized. If there’s a bookstore or library you think should have this book reach out!

 

If you’d like me to come to your school, business, or church please contact me through the contact form HERE. Weight is only a part of the story. The issues of anxiety, fear, faith, and self-value are universal and so very necessary right now. Let’s talk!

Click the book (and check out early praise) to go to my Amazon author page! I’m currently working on expanding my first eBook Healthy Fare into a full scale cookbook. Follow my author page to know first when new material is available.

Thank you for your continued support! I am blessed beyond measure!

The Final Final Exam

Before I begin, I just want to explain why I haven’t posted so frequently as of late. I’m in the final push for my book Food, Sweat, and Fears and it’s taking my free time as well as all of my writing! Writing can be exhausting and add in work, husband, family, karate, POUND training, karate camp, traveling, and puppies and it becomes a recipe for limited time. Back to our regularly schedule program…

At East Coast Karate we belt test quarterly and it was time to test for the Orange Belt! I’ve been practicing and attending classes regularly and it was all coming together. Attending the Rhode Island Karate & Kobudo Camp increased class count and my experience way more than the required number of classes to be eligible to test. Karate always stretches me emotionally as well as physically but this time it was different.
The first twang of discomfort came when we were to test on a Wednesday. We always test on Thursday but Sensei has a training camp in North Carolinta so the day was moved. I know it seems silly but it really did throw me off. Although I’d been training for three months I don’t know why this loss of a single day was a big deal. The last few classes I was feeling strong and confident. Then came Monday.

Monday’s class was my last  opportunity practice before the belt and it felt like I was doing everything wrong. I know what I know and yet I couldn’t get it. I was hoping the welling nerves would pass. They didn’t. Practicing at home wasn’t going so well either.

The day of the belt test I headed to the nail salon. We have a large group of people in our belt rank and many of us commit to matching our nails to our new belts. As I’m sitting in the pedicure spa I’m getting crazy nervous! Why am I so anxious today?

Then I did the stupidest thing EVER! I went home to practice before the test and decided to record myself. NEVER again on testing day. I can only say with any certainty that the video looks like a tangle of limbs and afro. By the time I get to the dojo I’m 100% in my head. When it was time to test I still felt like I was failing a final exam after studying for weeks! I looked calm and relaxed but inside was a completely different story.

When the test was underway I felt like I was doing horribly. I knew I could do better because I’ve done better. I did make it through but I wanted so much more. Watching the upper belts made my desire to improve even greater. I need to get out of my own way!

As Sensei was getting ready to hand our belts he mentioned something that will forever change my approach to the test. This isn’t a final exam like I was feeling all day. He said, “This isn’t a test as much as it’s a performance. The test was the three months of hard work leading up to today.”

Mind. Blown.

Performance? As a singer I get performance. As a karate student taking a belt test it feels like I need to pass something and if I don’t so well then I fail on some level. The reality is that Sensei wouldn’t have us test if he thought we weren’t sufficiently tested! Why didn’t I see this before? It’s crazy how a single word can change the way something feels completely. Kind of like the word exercise feels more like a chore but training does not.

The pressure has been removed from the equation now that I understand that I wouldn’t be on the floor if I didn’t know enough to be there. My next belt test will be in December for my blue belt and I plan to treat it like a recital! Orange Belt Test is officially the final final exam.

Me and Sensei Dave (David Ahrens, Kyoshi)Missing a few but here are the Orange Belts!Getting belted!

p.s. I didn’t delete the video so I’ll show you all in a few years after I get my Black Belt!

Healthy Fare Bariatric Friendly Recipes and Helpful Guides

“What are your favorite foods?

“How do you meal prep?”

“What about my family?”

“Can you have dessert?”

“How can you diversify food?”

As I make the way for the release of my book Food, Sweat, & Fears I was thinking of the questions I get asked frequently about post Bariatric Surgery. There are a lot of references available especially immediately after surgery but long term success requires a different level of help. The challenge is how can you find a way of life that works for you nutritionally and socially? How can you get your family involved? How can you stay prepared so you don’t fall back into old habits?

I put together a short visual guide that contains some of my favorite recipes that everyone will love, printable meal planner sheets, and food journal pages along with meal prep success information. There’s a way to make long term success possible AND positive. 

This eBook is available exclusively on Amazon and if you’re a registered follower of my blog and purchase this book you get the opportunity to get my full length book Food, Sweat, & Fears for FREE! ​

To order for immediate delivery click here –> Healthy Fare

Thank you so much to the readers of this blog for your questions and support! ❤️🌺

People Look Like People

I came across an article on the internet listing 12 things that would surprise Americans about Europe. I was intrigued, of course, by what these things could possibly be. The first few were the standard issue things like how old buildings are and the differences in customer service styles but the #9 thing really threw me for a loop.

PEOPLE LOOK LIKE PEOPLE

 

What? The description actually begins like this: OK, we’ll admit that “People Look Like People” might have you scratching your head, but after this explanation, we think you’ll agree. 

Ok, I’m interested. What could this possibly mean? Here’s the rest.

In America, there is a huge (no pun intended) problem with obesity. And oddly enough, on the opposite end of the spectrum, it is quite common to run into people who like they spend 20 hours a day in the gym and are frighteningly muscular. While we are not here to body shame anyone, the fact remains that the people of Europe are generally smaller, leaner and have what would typically be considered a healthy physique. And while arguably there is better food in Europe, it does leave you to wonder what the differences in our cultures help to propagate this fact.

That explanation was supposed to help me agree with her People Look Like People comment? I completely disagree. Not only is obesity not an exclusively American issue it also doesn’t change the fact that people ARE people AND will ALWAYS look like people no matter what size they are. Despite it being 2017, this article seemed to be okay by the writer Dorathy Gass, and published by travelabuzz and LIKED by over 300 people on Facebook. I can think of a million different ways to express the intent of that post without going there. Don’t worry, she wrote “While we are not here to body shame anyone…” and proceeds to body shame an entire country and people of size everywhere.

Weight issues are hard and it doesn’t matter if you are 10lbs overweight or 300lbs overweight the emotional strain of that can be devastating to a person. People with weight issues are more likely to not seek medical attention for issues because they know that the only thing most doctors will tell you is to lose weight and when they do seek care are often provided care that is substandard.  People often will assume that you don’t care for yourself or that you don’t care about yourself. And even more people believe that since you “did it to yourself” you aren’t deserving of any understanding let alone compassion. Click on any of those links to see how life can be for people who are overweight and just know that they are compounded by comments like “People Looking Like People” every single day.

It’s time to change.

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Altering Discomfort

Everyone experiences anxiety in different ways. I find I often have the hardest time with clothing. If you see me at work just know that I’ve probably changed my clothes no less than 5 times before I left the house. 

That doesn’t look good. 

Not feeling that today.

My midsection looks crazy in this.

No.

No. 

After all this turmoil I usually end up wearing my Life Uniform. This is the type of outfit I’ve worn forever. Black pants with a modest black shirt and flats. All that drama and I always end up in the same fashion place. And by always I mean my friends (and husband) want to contact the authorities when I leave the house not wearing black. 

When I started losing weight I did start wearing some color. The ONLY reason for this was I was losing pretty rapidly and I was given a lot of transitional clothes. It does not make any sense to purchase clothes the first YEAR after weight loss surgery unless you’re into wasting money or you shop at thrift stores. Every moment I wore a colorful t-shirt I was in misery. Just not my thing. Anyone who would say any complimentary was always met with “Thanks, it’s not mine.”

When I started buying clothes I would gravitate toward so many Life Uniform pieces that my husband was willing to sacrifice almost anything to get me to buy a non-black shirt. I always look like I’m in mourning but it suits me. I do try to branch out, but it doesn’t seem to work out. Like this one shirt I have. 

I purchased this shirt a few months ago and I liked it. Although it’s black it has beautiful flowers embroidered on it. I liked it so much that I thought I could ignore the cut out shoulders and neck. I came home and put it on and I liked it. I thought it looked nice and that I would get over feeling the breeze over my collarbones. I see people wearing cut out shirts all the time and they look great. Why not me?

I snapped a selfie and sent it to my husband. He loved it BUT he would also would love me in a burlap sack. Then I got the first realization that we may have a problem. He was getting his hair cut at the time and showed his hairdresser, our friend, the picture. He texts me back that she loved it too. I had a mini-freak out inside that someone else saw the picture. Oh stop, Regina! 

Then I tried to wear it to work. 

No.

No.

Next time.

Nope.

Then I tried to wear it socially.

No.

No.

Next time.

There is no next time. There has never been a next time. I have never worn the shirt. Sad because I love it. 

Last night as I try to get a jump on the horror that is getting dressed in the morning I see the shirt in my closet. Tags still on it. I decide to act. If the exposure is making me uncomfortable the alter the discomfort. I put it on backwards and tried to figure out if I had enough play in the garment to close the openings but not lose the shirt. It has a bit of a trapeze swing to the body of the tunic but the arms could be challenging. I decided to go for it! The shirt is doing nothing in my closet next to the many other things I don’t wear because the sleeves are too short, midsection to obvious, or color doesn’t fit the Life Uniform. A few creative stitches later I have a shirt that I love that I’m finally comfortable wearing AND is has a splash of color. 

I don’t know why getting dressed is pure craziness for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever embrace wearing multiple colors and prints. Until I get there I’ll continue try to branch out and if it’s just one thing that is making me freak out then just remove the one thing.  Like this:


Let’s go to work!

Back in the Saddle

It was 4:30 in the morning and I was sitting in my car trying to talk myself into what I recklessly signed up for the night before. Did I really register for Spin®?

Spinning® is a class that always intrigued me. There are two distinctive schools of thought with Spinning® it’s either emphatically love or hate. I’ve personally never met anyone who thought Spin® was just okay.

In my local YMCAs Spinning® is so popular that you have to sign up for a bike 24 hours before the class and you are often put on a wait list. This could be the standard but I’ve only experienced my Ys so I’m not sure. What I do know is that the Spinning® faithful will call as soon as the opportunity opens. They don’t play. 

It was 2013, I had recently gained back all of the 75lbs I lost on a medically supervised diet and a bit more. I decided to start swimming at the Y to try to lose my regain. When I was in the sauna after my swim two ladies were talking about Spinning®. They were definitely Team Spin®. 

When I left that day I asked the desk attendant if they had a spin class the next day. They had one recent cancellation for the 5am class and surprisingly no one in the wait list. If I wanted it I had to act immediately because the bike will go pretty quickly. I take the spot. What was I thinking? I don’t even know what happens in that class! 

That night I seriously contemplated calling and canceling. But it would be nearly impossible to get someone from the wait list for a 5am class. This is why I was in the parking lot before the sun came up completely unsure of what I was getting myself into while trying to muster the courage to go in. 

When I walked in I was instantaneously reminded of who goes to the gym when they open: Gym People. Gloriously fit people with minimal body fat and a heap of enthusiasm. I’m 400lbs and the only time I leap in any excitement is when I think there may be a spider on me or it’s Free Ben & Jerry’s Day!

If my level of anxiety wasn’t high enough, I went into the Spin® room and every single person there was beyond fit. It looked like a Tour de France training session. People had special shoes, bike shorts, and still not an ounce of body fat in the room. The instructor was kind and helped me get my bike situated. She went over the terms and how to use the bike and we were off!

The class was brutal. I don’t think I had been on a bike since the 4th grade Bike-a-thon and it showed. I was sweating like a crazy person while seriously contemplating my life choices and the class started 18 seconds earlier! This was going to be a long hour. 

From the first pedal I wanted to quit. Sweat was in my eyes, I was feeling like I was going to die but if I got off that bike I knew I’d be “that fat girl who quit.” I couldn’t stop. With each pedal I’m trying to think of what my obituary would read after I died in that class.

Regina Bartlett age 40.5 died trying not to look like a fat girl quitter in Spinning® class! 

At the end of class I peeled myself off the bike. People told me I did a nice job. Kind, sweet, lying souls. The instructor spoke to me after and said she hoped I returned. She was really nice and a great instructor but I knew when I walked out on wobbly jello legs I would never return. I was on Team Hate Spin®.

Flash forward to 2017. I’ve lost and maintained 250lbs, I’ve run the NYC Marathon, I’m a yellow belt in Shorin Ryu Karate, and I even work for my local YMCA! 

At my YMCA I’m facilitating a Fitness Challenge where I encourage the participants to try new things, vary their workouts, and really climb out of the comfort zone. The class meets on Tuesdays and in the entire week I didn’t try a single new workout. One of our Spinning® instructors, Kim, has asked me to try her class and I told her I’d be there Monday night. Then I forgot to call on Sunday and forgot to check when I was at work on Monday! 

I didn’t want to go back to the Fitness Challenge and tell the participants that I didn’t try something new. I also took a nice walk that morning and I have karate that evening so adding Spin® could be a bit much. I called and thought if the class was full I’d be unable to go! Nope! There’s a bike available. Looks like I’m Spinning!

The class blew me away! It was physically challenging but not impossible. I was impressed with how much my physicality has changed since that 5am class four years ago. I was stronger and more able to do the work. Kim’s instruction is so good and very motivating. At the end of class I felt amazing. Not once did I plan my obituary! My legs certainly felt like I worked out but I went to karate and did a bunch of kicking drills and survived that too.

When I opened my eyes this morning I was hesitant to move. What fresh pain would greet me? I knew it wouldn’t be debilitating pain but it’s usually the warning pain. The pain that’s like this: Oh, hello Regina. I’m just here to let you know that tomorrow is going to be utterly horrendous for you! I moved my legs and felt NOTHING! Zero pain! Not a twinge, not a spike, not a thing. Sometimes, I think I concentrate on where I want to go that I forget to recognize just where I’ve been! 

After my first Spin® class I vowed never to return. I wholeheartedly retract that statement and I look forward to Spinning again! I’m excited to share with the Fitness Challengers that I also spread my wings and tried something new this week! Looks like I’m back in the saddle!

Spinning® is a registered trademark of Mad Dogg Athletics. 

The Public Commodity of Bodies

I remember reading a BuzzFeed article a young woman wrote about how perceptions of her changed when she lost 100lbs. It was something I could identify with wholeheartedly as a woman of a larger size who then lost weight. The part of the article that really resonated with me was when she referred to her body as a “public commodity.”

BOOM!

I felt like the wind was knocked out of me. That is exactly right! My body – and your body too – is like a public commodity. It is openly discussed, frequently commented on by strangers, and completely out of your control. 

When I was heavy people would say things behind my back yet certainly loud enough for me to hear:

Does she really think she needs to eat that ice cream right now?

Oh my goodness I would rather die than look like that. 

I can’t believe she did this to herself.

Gross. 

Or they would take the experience to the fullest level and say it directly to my face. Weight is always the lowest hanging fruit, easiest to grasp and hurl at someone if you want a quick retaliation. My weight has always been the first apple off the insult tree. 

Look, you fat (insert degrading insult here)….

On the outside I would always smile and try to pretend it didn’t bother me. In reality, each time I would retreat further and further into myself feeling more insecure than before. Then I would turn to the very thing that was causing all of this: food. 

As I lost weight the comments continued. This time they were more kind… for a while. After I reached a certain point people become uncomfortable. It was like their brain couldn’t conceive of me outside of my regular appearance. After 30 years of weight battles I think my friends were just as comfortable with me being big as I was at being big. 

Things started to shift when I got to about 250lbs. After years of being over 400lbs, people thought I should stop. I looked better than I had in years and felt incredible but going from being so big to much smaller people thought I was pushing it too far. In reality, there are people who have surgery at 250lbs! I still had a ways to go but since my appearance was so far from my normal I got new comments:

You’re getting too small!

Ok, that’s enough! It’s time to stop! 

You’re looking like you’re sick!

It becomes a lot to handle, even from the most well intentioned people. 

Then there’s the flip side. My weight was like a roller coaster ride for decades. If you lose weight and then gain it back the public conversation begins again. 

I knew it wouldn’t last.

What happened?

You’re picking up some weight again!

Trust me when I tell you that every single overweight person KNOWS they are overweight so you don’t have to tell them. 

Whenever I speak to people who have never had an issue with weight  they are always surprised at the things I’ve heard from strangers. Many people don’t want to believe the absolute cruelty they can inflict on a person because of their size. 

Please note: I am not innocent in this either! I can’t imagine how many times I’ve told people that they could benefit from a sandwich! I was most certainly jealous of their size and considered it a compliment yet I was probably hitting them with the same fruit picked from the lowest branches of the insult tree. 

 If you see someone who’s lost weight just tell them they look great. If you’re truly concerned for their health and you know them well enough to have a private and caring conversation then do it with empathy and love. 

What I’ve learned through all of this is that our bodies may be “public commodities” but our comments don’t have to be.