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

Terror, Typos, And Roundhouse Kicks

I’ve blogged for over a decade on various platforms so sharing parts of my life or general observations of the world around me isn’t new. I first got my stride writing on MySpace. Everyone had anonymity through embarrassing screen names which made what you were sharing have a layer of privacy. As the platforms shifted we lost that anonymity. Facebook literally put a face to our feelings and comments. Despite shedding that last layer of privacy, we continue to share. One would think after all these years of sharing that writing a book would be what comes naturally. One would be wrong.

When I started writing I wanted to be open and honest which were two things I’ve spent a lifetime NOT being about my weight. From lying about how much I was eating to how much I weighed, openness and honestly were not a part of my program. Diving into those feelings and emotions were terrifying but the more open I became the better I felt AND the more I realized that I was never alone in those feelings.

Writing was emotionally challenging. The rewrites were unreal. I struggled with sharing too much or too little. I struggled with sharing parts of other people’s stories that overlapped my own since I felt they weren’t mine to tell. Then I struggled with my anxiety.

Should I write this?

Will anyone understand?

What if it’s universally hated?

These thoughts are the devil and sometimes incredibly paralyzing. I’d write, then rewrite, then try again, and again… and again. Then I noticed that these changes and rewrites were really more about delaying progress than seeking perfection. Procrastinators are truly perfectionists with anxiety! I was starting to lose my nerve but I had many books already sold from the preorder so I knew I had to turn off the internal chatter and just do it!

It was then I discovered the intricacies and potentially issues with self publishing. There were formatting problems, platform delays, and shipping issues. With every delay my anxiety was rising because this process was only to take about 40 days from book completion took way longer than that. I wanted my first signing and book pick up to be at Higher Grounds Community Coffeehouse and I had to reschedule it 3 times waiting for my books to arrive. I made the decision to order my pre-ordered books and first round of books to have on hand – sight unseen. An enormous leap of faith for a perfectionist. Even doing this resulted in people ordering from the Amazon bookstore receiving their books before I received mine!

Last Thursday after months of delays and oddball issues my books arrived. In looking them over I noticed some typos and some formatting issues. Things I definitely should’ve caught but I was so concerned with the forest that I failed to see the trees. Amazon’s self publishing arm is very new and apparently still had some kinks to work out from the author end of things. What’s beautiful with self publishing is that the books are print on demand and easily updated. I’m working on this formatting issues and typos now. If you’ve ordered one of these original books thank you and I hope the typos aren’t too distracting from the story itself.

What I’m most proud of is that I did it. Knowing things weren’t completely perfect I still did it. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, once said:

“Done is better than perfect.”

For a person who obsesses over minute details, this is a challenging concept. Historically, I’d rather do nothing than something substandard! I’m discovering that karate is helping me immensely in this area.

When you watch a trained person do a karate move it looks effortless – almost simple. Yet, when you try to mimic the movement you become keenly aware that it is not simple. It’s really a million tiny moves working in perfect harmony! A roundhouse kick is a prime example of that for me. Looks pretty simple, right? You’ve seen it on TV and movies forever, right? Try it. Everyone from Bruce Lee to Steven Stegall to Patrick Swayze made it look easy. It’s not.

My kicks will only improve with the combination of time and training. Time alone will not do it. I could be enrolled in karate for 50 years but if I don’t practice I won’t improve. Training is also not enough. You can learn the basics of a kick in one session but you won’t master it that day. I really want to master it that day! REALLY!

I have to continually remind myself:

I will not master anything immediately.

Procrastination is the devils way of blocking your progress.

I have never been alone in my feelings of self-doubt, anxiety or fear and that sharing that – even imperfectly – is of great benefit to someone who needs it.

And done can really be better than perfect.

Sometimes.

To see Food, Sweat, & Fears on Amazon click Here

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!

This Is a Day to Celebrate

My last post was about National Donut Day and the many anxieties that can crop up for people seeking better health. Today is a day that I can freely celebrate! It’s National Running Day!

My first foray into running started in 2007, when I quit smoking after 18 years of a multiple pack a day habit. I was well over 300lbs and did a 5K with one of my friends after seeing a poster at work. That first race gave me a sense of accomplishment that I never felt before. 

My running continued until I completed the Hyannis Half Marathon in early 2008. I stopped running to recover after that race and didn’t gain momentum again for years. I also gained a lot of weight in the interim especially since my go to coping mechanism of smoking was gone. 

After RNY Gastric Bypass in December 2014, I started walking then running and then set my sights on finishing the marathon. I completed the NYC Marathon in November 2016, realizing a 20 year dream. 

On National Running Day I want to celebrate what Running has done for me. For the first time in my life I felt as though I was running toward something instead of running away. Living a life that was so fear-based I learned to run from discomfort, run from confrontation, and run from disappointment. In running from those things I ran into the waiting arms of Ben & Jerry’s, Dominos, and McDonalds. 

Running provided a place that allowed me to clear my brain of the life chatter that gets trapped, swirls around and makes you feel stuck. Long runs provided a time to work out these thoughts in a positive and healthy way. Trust me, 18 miles gives you plenty of time to think!

Running also introduced me to a community of people who were so kind and accepting. I never thought I’d fit in with runners – especially at my heaviest – but runners have proved themselves to be the most gracious and kind athletes. They cheered me on and applauded my efforts and treated me as a runner because I was a runner. The only person who ever doubted my  athleticism on the road was me!

Running is a mental game. Your body will continue to show up and perform long after your mind thinks it should stop. You learn to trust the strength of your body and allow the Holy Spirit to quiet your mind. 

Most importantly, running is for everyone. The largest, slowest person on earth can complete a marathon if they put their mind to it. At the NYC Marathon I watched as countless people crossed the finish line that if you saw them on the street you may not think “athlete” or “runner” or “marathoner” but I assure you they are all of those things!

  • The 80 year old man completing his 40th marathon
  • The 400lb man who had something to prove to himself
  • The woman with one leg who finished the marathon in 12 hours on crutches! 
  • The young girl who heard over and over again that she would never finish
  • The hand cycle marathoner who shows incredible strength and endurance 
  • The husband and wife cancer survivors who wanted to cross the tape together marking that they would not allow cancer to defeat their spirit even after it ravaged their bodies
  • And me, the formerly 425lb woman who had a dream that I could toe the line and finish.

There are so many stories, so many reasons. If you feel as though running is not for you or think you could never do it I encourage you to think again. Take the first step, let it become miles, and eventually you will feel a sense of accomplishment you never knew existed. Then relive that moment every time you polish that finisher’s medal! 

Happy National Running Day! Celebrate! 

Envy, Oprah, Marathon, and Dreams

Envy. Such a bitter place to be yet I spent a ton of time there. I’d always look at movie stars, athletes, even fit people next to me at the grocery store; all with equal envy. I wanted that body. I wanted to feel that good about myself. I wanted to wear those clothes. I wanted what they had. It all seemed so unattainable to me. Instead doing something to advance those desires, I would sit on the couch eating Ben & Jerry’s by the pint and be envious of all they had and all they were able to do. I can’t imagine how much time I wasted doing that. Dreaming of a life while sitting down and almost guaranteeing it would never happen for me. 

I remember when Oprah Winfrey lugged that red wagon out on her show with the representation of 80lbs of fat that she lost on her first public diet. I also remember thinking that if I had millions of dollars, a personal chef, and virtually unlimited funds that I, too, could truck out a wagon of fat. I love Oprah but this didn’t motivate me at all. If anything, it only fueled my envy. Again, unattainable. Cue the Ben & Jerry’s! 

Then Oprah did something that really opened my eyes. She ran a marathon. Why was this a game changer? Here’s what her trainer Bob Greene said in an interview (paraphrased):

 People give Oprah zero respect with her weight loss because she’s rich and she as access to personal chefs and home gyms but what they don’t understand is that to run a marathon you have to train. Her chef isn’t getting up at 4am to run 10 miles before a full day of filming. She’s doing that. She works more hours than most people can imagine and she puts in the time to do this. No one can run a marathon for you. You have to do it yourself and she is doing it. 

And she really did it. She completed the Chicago marathon in 4:34! Impressive for a first time marathoner. What she also did was show the world that things can be done. She put the marathon into an accessible category for people who are not marathoners. Like me. I was always fascinated by distance runners but never thought I could be one. Marathon running became this check box on a distant bucket list that will never ticked to completion. I just stayed envious of those who completed them. 

What became very apparent with weight loss surgery was the level of desire to succeed you have to have to make a long term change. That’s what I’d been missing all along. The dream is free but the hustle costs extra. I never had the hustle but I lived in dreams. That’s what made the difference with Oprah running the marathon. She could want it but if she didn’t put in the work she wouldn’t get there. 

The night before the NYC Marathon I attended the Fred’s Team dinner for all the runners supporting Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The opening speech was from one of the team coaches who said something so amazing that it set the tone for the run for me. 

If you followed the training plan then you’ve run 852 miles. From this spot in Manhattan it’s like running to Chicago, Montreal, or South Carolina. 

The dream was to be there. The hustle was the training to get there. You can spend your life dreaming or wishing but in all seriousness you have to remember this: 


What do you want? Make it happen!

Benefits of Thinking Small

Do you ever look at something that you want to accomplish but it seems so challenging that you’ll never accomplish it? The journey looks so long that you’ll never get there? That’s how I felt about my weight. Like I was an ant trying to scale Mt. Kilamanjaro.  Where do you begin?

Each time I set out to lose weight I was motivated to begin. I’d eat better, work out, and then get on the scale and lose 2lbs. Two pounds. Two. All that work for 2 lousy pounds. I had so much more to lose and at that rate it would take forever. Why bother? Then I quit. I’m the ant at the base of Mt. Kilamanjaro once again.

What I failed to see was that 2lbs every week is 104lbs in a year! Did you know that every pound lost is 4 pounds of pressure off the knees! So often I’ve quit because I was so focused on how far I had left to go without celebrating what I had done. Those two pounds were actually 8 pounds off my knees and two pounds in the right direction! Yet, I chose to berate myself instead of celebrate my accomplishment. 

The key to not getting overwhelmed is breaking your big goal into smaller, more attainable goals. This will allow you to keep focused, celebrate milestones, and stay on track. If you try too much too quickly then you run the risk of freaking out and stopping. 

When I set out to to the NYC Marathon the thought of going that far all at once seemed impossible. When you start training you discover that you gradually work up your miles over time. Starting with smaller distances and adding as you go in a very measured system your body becomes accustomed to the distances you’re adding and you become better. I remember one day I left work after a 12 hour shift and ran 8 miles. I never dreamed that was possible!

Take it easy, be kind to yourself, set small goals, check your progress, and adjust your goals accordingly. 

Steps will become miles and just when your brain tells you that you have too far to go, look back and celebrate just how far you’ve come. If you stay with it, you will get to the top of the mountain! Remember the quote from Lao Tzu: