Welcome, Welcome, Share This Feast

(song: Thanksgiving Song/artist: Mary Chapin Carpenter)

I love this time of year! Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I am so excited to share the day with my husband's family. There's just "a feeling" in the air that makes me happy from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve. You know that feeling? It's especially magical here in New York City. And having a kid, well, pure bliss.

Tomorrow, as I did last year, I'm going to run my local 5-mile Turkey Trot. A great way to start a holiday that's centered around eating. It's going to be freezing - literally - so I'm less concerned with my pace and more concerned about not dropping dead. I did a test run in 28 degree temps on Monday so I have a good idea what I'm getting myself into. Insane, I know...

My contribution to tomorrow's feast is cranberry relish. I made it - YES, I cooked! - using a recipe that I borrowed from my friend Chris, a.ka. Domestic Daddy. It was so easy and bucks tradition by adding bold spices like cardamom and cloves, and jalapenos. 

Easy and delicious!
You can find the recipe here. My only substitute was organic coconut sugar instead of white sugar. It's so tasty and - most importantly to me - took less than one hour from prep to clean-up. In fact it would have been even less time if I hadn't stopped to take photos and let my son "help". But hey, this time of year is all about sharing the love and working side-by-side with my son was so special.

My sous chef.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving (and Hanukkah if applicable) and don't stress out about overeating. There's a 95% chance you're going to eat too much. If you're just starting a healthy lifestyle, try one small little change, like skipping the sweet potatoes with marshmallows or not having seconds. Depriving yourself on your first holiday will only make you miserable and will likely drive you to binge eat secretly after everyone has gone to bed. (Not that I have any experience with that...) Also, DO NOT SKIP BREAKFAST TOMORROW! Don't "save your calories" until Thanksgiving dinner. Eat a regular breakfast and lunch on Thanksgiving, at the same time you normally would eat these meals and you'll likely eat less calories overall than you would if you skipped the meals. And if that doesn't workout, at least you won't be a cranky b$tch by feast time. If you've been living healthy for awhile now, don't be stupid tomorrow. Your stomach will revolt and you'll spend all of Friday on the toilet. M'kay?

Now, go forth and give thanks and ENJOY YOURSELF! xoxo

Something Evil's Lurkin' In the Dark

(song: Thriller/artist: Michael Jackson)

Well shit y'all, Halloween is tomorrow and you know what that means. CANDY! Candy everywhere. I have spoken of my weakness for candy and sugar in past posts. And though I have better control now, I still struggle with this addiction. Put me in front of a box of Milk Duds and I won't come up for air till all those little bastards are gone. I can't even think of a Milk Way bar without salivating.

Hello lovers.
So yeah, I'm a little worried about the whole trick-or-treating thing. Not only do I hate letting my kid have a giant pumpkin bucket filled with candy, I hate having it in my house when he goes to bed. I don't want to deny him the childhood rite of going door-to-door to beg strangers for candy, but I do want to limit the amount of crap I, I mean he, eats.

So here's how it's going down in Formerly Fat Mom's house this year. On my part, I'm going to exercise some good old fashioned self-control and will power, and stay the hell out of my kid's candy bucket. Seriously. I am still crawling my way back from my summer weight gain (I'm down 6 pounds so far) and I just got myself back into the swing of my workouts and good eating habits. I feel so much better than I did a month ago. Going on a sugar binge will make me feel horrible - physically and mentally. I've also been reading about all the terrible poisonous ingredients that are in commercial candy and that has helped deter my cravings. Education is power. (Though, come PMS time, I probably won't care about the GMO corn syrup in the Reese's Peanut Butter cups...) 

Oh Peanut M&Ms, I'll miss you the most.
As for the kid, here's the plan. On Halloween night we'll let him eat "all he wants" -- this is usually about 5 pieces since he has been known to vomit in his bed after sugar-intensive outings. In past years we've allowed 2 pieces per day till the bag is gone. Many parents tell me their kids forget about the candy and they just throw it away. My son does not forget. So this year he will be allowed his daily two-piece allotment but he will have to choose 20 pieces of candy to keep, and throw the rest away. He will complain about this. I will do it anyway. This way there is an end date for the candy bag and he can keep inventory on what he has and that means MAMA CAN'T STEAL HIS DAMN CANDY! Everyone wins! Sort of. 

Wish me luck...

Trying to Get My Head to Change Its Mind

(song: Summer Long/artist: Kathleen Edwards)

Well, summer is over and what do I have to show for it? Ten extra pounds, a closet full of clothes that are too tight and a crushing case of insecurity. Yep, right after I posted my two-years-of-successful-maintenance article, I embarked on a summer of old habits. It started slowly, a bacon cheddar burger here, an ice cream cone there. Then it spiraled into daily cocktails, afternoon cheese plates, reckless snacking, skipping days - sometimes a whole week - of logging my food and workouts. But all-the-while I said to myself, "Hey, I'm enjoying a balanced life so it's okay. I got this." Then I had to order a size 10, but it was a pair of shorts so I convinced myself that shorts these days are just too short so I better size up if I want a little length. Little lies we tell ourselves. Then my cousin told me I look "softer". She meant is as a compliment because her version of my normal is a bigger me without muscle tone. But of course, it means I've noticeably gained weight. And since I also let my workout regimen really lag during the summer, I've lost tone -- I'm softer. And then another cousin said, "I like you at this weight." Thank you??? Even my tea bags were sending subtle messages that there's a little more of me to love.

{All I saw was "BOUNTIFUL". Et tu Yogi tea?}
But the real kicker was this past Sunday when the temperature dipped and I needed to wear jeans. I literally could not get my ass into the trusty size 8 Lucky Brand jeans that I've been sporting for the past two years. I hopped and bounced and did thing where you do a series of wide-leg squats to try to get your jeans over your butt. No dice. What did I do next? I cried. Actual tears. Then I put on my size 10 shorts - with stretch material - and ventured out into the crisp autumn air feeling like a big fat failure.

{Not how I look. Just how I feel.}
And that was the breaking point for me. That feeling. I felt that feeling for so many years and it just sucks to find myself feeling it again. So I had my pity party for a few days, and then I admitted the truth. I got cocky and lazy and comfortable. Sure I had fun eating loads of cheese and fried chicken and burgers, and drinking all summer long, but the cost was far greater than the reward and I chose to ignore what was happening to my body. I not only gained weight, I literally made myself sick. I had major stomach problems from the dairy overload and one night after a particularly wine intensive dinner, I barfed. Classy gal. I'm mad at myself. The only person I have to blame...

But a new week has begun and my head is back in the game! On Monday, I stepped on the scale. The moment of truth! 150. Ten pounds - and a whole size - over the weight I've maintained for two years. Damn that delicious cheese...and ice cream...and vodka.

{A moment on the lips...}

So now I have a plan and a goal: I started with a three-day Shakeology cleanse to detox. After the cleanse I'll transition to a mostly green and white (chicken, fish, lean pork, green & white veggies...) diet for a couple of weeks before going back to my normal clean-eating diet. I am once again working out for an hour a day, five-days-a-week. I am EXHAUSTED and sore, but happily so. I registered for a 10K in October so that I'll have a fitness goal and a weight loss goal to work towards. I will abstain from booze for one month. No more lies or excuses or feeling sorry for myself. I know what to do. And do it I will!

In looking for the good in this disappointment, I suppose it's that I hold myself to a higher standard and now ten pounds - as opposed to sixty - is my new "rock bottom". I  know what I'm capable of and I want to regain the sense of pride and confidence I've felt for the past two years. Briefly revisiting my past behaviors and the feeling of worthlessness that follows, has renewed my will to maintain all that I have accomplished. I can do this.

{Day 1 of...the rest of my life.}

Lord, Here Comes the Flood

(song: Here Comes the Flood/artist: Peter Gabriel)

Back in 2008, my hubby and I were invited to a black tie wedding. As usual, I ordered a ton of dresses to try on at home - at 193 pounds, shopping in public was not comfortable for me - finally settling on a size 16 cocktail dress that I hoped would accentuate the positive {big boobs} and eliminate the negative {big everything else}. I crammed myself into two pairs of Spanx and one pair of control-top pantyhose and felt fairly confident as I stepped out for a fun night in New York City.

So what if I couldn't breathe? Nothing jiggled.
I was having a really fun night. Lots of laughing and eating and drinking and dancing. I love to dance. I'm terrible at it, but I love to do it. So you can imagine my delight when the the House of Pain hit "Jump Around" started. Now, I don't know about you, but when I am instructed to "get out your seat and jump around", I do as I am told. As I hoisted my large body up and down, I felt a gush of warmth trickle down my thunder thigh. I looked down at the floor and sure enough, I had peed. On myself. On the floor...a few drops that my husband assured me "just look like sweat". I ran to the bathroom and threw away the pantyhose and one pair of Spanx - the outermost layer was dry enough and I wasn't going commando for the rest of the night. I was mortified. 

Before the flood...

In 2010, after losing 40 pounds, I bought some sessions with a personal trainer. During the warm-up at my first session, he gave me a jump rope and started the stop watch. It only took about 10 seconds for me to pee in my shorts. Once again, mortified. It was time to take action.

I called my gynecologist and was referred to urogynecology specialist, Renuka Tyagi at Weill Cornell Medical College. It was here that I would learn that I suffer from stress incontinence, and that I was not alone. Over half of all women experience incontinence at some point in their lives. Some more severe than others. (I have a friend that pees every time she sneezes. You know who you are...) Mine, like many women my age, was likely caused by childbirth. When one pushes a small human out of her hoo-ha, things tend to shift. Here's a much more scientific explanation if you're interested. At the time of the dance floor incident, I didn't realize I had this condition, because I wasn't jumping on a regular basis. It was only when I started exercising, that I realized I was doomed to an eternity of Poise pad purchases.

I never enter the gym without them...

Dr. Tyagi explained my options. One was to undergo a small surgery, but she made it clear that while the surgery has a very high success rate, I had to decide if I was going to have more kids because childbirth can undo the surgery. Option B was to go to vagina physical therapy - yes, there are physical therapists that specialize in vajayjay exercise. At the time I was not 100% committed to having an only child, so I chose B. I never went to VPT because the office was so unorganized and I was frustrated by the hoops they made me jump through just to get appointment, so I began my own regimen of pelvic exercises. These have helped tremendously, but I still can't do high-intensity jumping without leaking. I will likely choose to get the surgery one day. For now, I can survive with Poise pads and a good sense of humor.

If you aren't lucky enough to have access to vagina physical therapy.

Why am I sharing this? Because we should be able to talk about it! Most women won't address it at all because it's embarrassing. But in many cases, educating ourselves about pelvic exercises will significantly reduce or remove the problem. We all burp, pass gas and poop. And some of us pee during Zumba class. Maybe my sharing will inspire a silent sufferer to get help. You're not alone, and it's a really simple thing to address. So call your doctor and rediscover the joy of sneezing without peeing!

One last thing. As if wetting myself on the dance floor wasn't embarrassing enough, later that night, I would be photographed with full-frontal nipple exposure.

It just wasn't my night.

I Am Not Like I Was Before

(song: Feel So Different/artist: Sinéad O'Connor)

Today marks the second anniversary of my graduation from booty school. Two years of maintaining my single-digit sized body. Two years of getting to know the "new me" and overcoming the struggle of blending joy and balance.  Year one was all about the newness of being fit and the exciting opportunities that came as a result of being a successful Beachbody test group graduate. In my first anniversary post, I wrote of my struggle to really enjoy my life in my new body. This past year was about finding that balance. And I gotta tell you, I feel pretty damn great! I don't fall into a guilt-induced depression when I have a few drinks or eat a few cupcakes (who eats just one?), I just move forward. Every day is a new opportunity to start fresh. Now, I'm not going to lie and say it's easy. But it's easier than it was a year ago. What's changed? I totally love my fit body. I totally believe that I deserve to have this fit body. And after two years of living in this fit body, I have the power, the skills, the drive and the mindset to maintain this lifestyle. Believing that I deserve this, and feeling confident in my ability to stay healthy and fit has helped me to truly enjoy being in this body.

{I'm getting there...}

So instead of chasing photo ops or QVC spots, I've been living my life. Doing what works for and is realistic for me. And what works for me is consistency and routine. I know, boring right? The most important key to my success - yes, more important than exercise - is nutrition accountability. For the past two years (and possibly forever going forward), I've kept a log of my meals and workouts. Every day. Every morsel. 

I eat five times a day, every two-and-a-half to three hours. I exercise at least five days-a-week. Because I've been striving for balance, I don't freak out if those workout days aren't consecutive or if I workout for less than an hour. I'm still committed, but much less obsessive. I'm not scared of failure anymore...

On a good day, my log looks something like this:
{If my logs were like this more often, I might not still have saddle bags...}

On a bad day...it's a little different:
{Hey, at least I wrote it all down.}

Logging works for me. When I don't log, I cheat. When I cheat, I gain weight. When I gain weight, my clothes get tight. And that sucks. 

Another important tool for me is my network of like-minded peers that share my enthusiasm and goals. Because my fitness journey started with a Beachbody DVD, I've maintained a loyalty to the Beachbody brand. (Shakeology is my preferred meal replacement and sweet-tooth combatant!) One of the perks of that brand loyalty is my Beachbody coach, Jessica Leggio, who was also the assistant trainer during the Brazil Butt Lift test group. She runs an on-line accountability group that I've been a part of for the past two years. Members check in every day, post pictures of meals, talk about our workouts, our spouses and kids, vent our frustrations, come clean when we go off the grid on a pizza bender. (Okay, that last thing is mostly me.) And Jessica gives guidance on our workouts and food logs, which has made a huge impact on the way I eat and train. Whether we are just starting a weight loss journey or maintaining, we all need support. I love being a part of this supportive virtual community.

I am also officially part of the National Weight Control Registry. A long-term study "developed to identify and investigate the characteristics of individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss". I first heard of the study when I was watching HBO's documentary The Weight of the Nation (which everyone should watch). In order to be considered for the study, one has to have maintained a weight loss of at least thirty-pounds for one year. I'm in! And I expect to be a part of this study for the rest of my life. Many of the members of the study attribute their long-term success to logging their food intake. ACCOUNTABILITY.

So while my second year of fit life has been pretty low-key compared to my first, my emotional growth made it much more personally fulfilling. I feel extraordinarily at peace with who I am. 

{Because balance means staying healthy and fit, but also enjoying life. And sometimes, enjoying life means drinking a vodka/soda from a Mason jar.}

And for those of you who are struggling to lose the weight, change those habits, maintain your weight loss -- please do not give up! Believe that you can do anything, and take it one step at a time, one day at a time. I started in 2009 at 193 pounds and an overwhelming feeling of worthlessness. Look inside yourself and identify why you think you're not worth the effort. Change "I can't" to "I can, and I will". Start small. Just start. 

We've Come a Long Long Way Together

(song: Praise You/artist: Fat Boy Slim)

In 1996,  I was 22 years old when I got my first job as a waitress in New York City. I became fast friends with the hilariously funny and bubbly bartender, Stephen. One of the first real friendships I had as a New York City newbie, Stephen looked out for me. He was sort of a surrogate big brother to me. At work he would help me when I got slammed and became too frazzled to maintain my composure while I was frothing cappuccinos in the waiter's station.  He patiently comforted me and listened to me cry for weeks when I got my heart broken by the doofus I believed with all my heart was "the one". (He recently said, "God, I wanted to slap the shit out you". And he probably should've.) And he was the first friend to meet the man who would become my husband. The actual one.

Stephen and I had a lot in common. We both loved Barbies and BOOZE! The love of booze wasn't at all uncommon in the restaurant industry. If you didn't drink and/or "party"...well, you probably didn't work in a restaurant. Stephen and I spent more than a few nights at after-hours bars with our fellow restaurant compatriots. These nights usually resulted in some sort of "it's funny because we're drunk" shenanigans. Like the night I pushed Stephen around the block in a shopping cart while he held a trash-picked 16X20  poster of Jesus and bellowed, "Praise Jesus!"  It was well after 2AM. Yeah, we did stupid stuff...a lot. 

1998 - My 23rd birthday. Bloated Boozers.
In January 2001, I moved in with my boyfriend, and Stephen moved into my old place. It was the last year I saw him. Nothing happened -- we still kept in touch via occasional phone calls -- but we were living different lives, on very different schedules. I got engaged, then married and eventually moved with my husband to Brooklyn. Stephen moved to Florida for some much needed rest, relaxation...and rehab. By the time he moved back to New York in 2007, I was an obese pregnant housewife. Stephen was sober, working and living in Brooklyn, and had become very fit. It was wonderful to know he was doing so well, and frankly, that he was alive!

When I got into the Brazil Butt Lift test group in 2011, I talked to Stephen all the time about my life as a gym rat. He was so excited for me as I grew to love becoming fit. Then, I got him into a test group for Focus T25 and our friendship was reborn! We talked and texted about all things related to fitness and nutrition, and supported one another on our journeys to a healthy and fit lifestyle. On our may daily phone calls, we would laugh at how bizarre it was to be having a conversation about the best way to sooth post-workout leg cramps, instead of post-bender headaches.

In October of 2012, we both registered for the Rock-n-Roll 10K. As I was running, I remembered all the times we spent together during our bar-hopping days, and reflected on how profoundly different our lives had become. I was so excited to be reuniting with him at an event that was the polar opposite of anything we had done in the past.  As I crossed the finish line, I saw Stephen's gorgeous smile for the first time in over 10 years. I ran right into his incredibly toned arms and we started laughing and talking like no time had passed at all. 

2012 - Sober Sidekicks.
Since last year's reunion, we've run in three of the same races, including the Brooklyn Half Marathon, which Stephen convinced me to do. He's trying to talk me into to doing a Spartan Race, but I'm not quite ready for obstacles of fire and/or electricity...

When you drastically change your lifestyle, you tend to change your friends as well. I love that Stephen and I have a history which we can laugh about, but not be at all nostalgic for. Instead of pining for the days of watching the sunrise as we crawled out of our favorite bar in the subway, we're excited about meeting up at the next race expo. I don't think anyone that knew us then, would have predicted that either of us would go this direction. Thank goodness for plot twists!

Stephen, I'm so proud of you, and I love that our story gets another chapter!
We lost our bloat, not our sense of humor!

She Got Both Feet on the Ground and She's Burning it Down

(song: Girl on Fire/artist: Alicia Keys)

Well...the girl that hates running has completed her first half-marathon! What an incredible day it was! The weather was perfect and the energy from the runners and the spectators made it so thrilling. The mix of emotions I felt at the starting line were overwhelming. I was just as excited as I was on my wedding day. All the training and planning were over, and it was finally time to go to the show!

The starting line in front of the Brooklyn Museum
The first 6.5 miles of the race were all familiar terrain, as it was the area in and around Prospect Park where I did most of my training. As we exited the park and made our way towards Coney Island, seeing new parts of Brooklyn made it easy to ignore the fact that I was little more than half-way through the race. I was particularly excited as we ran down the on-ramp to Ocean Avenue.

One of three times I cried tears of "I can't believe how awesome this is" joy during the race.

At mile 8, I got the boost I needed to run for another five miles -- my husband and son cheering from the sidelines. My son made a flag that said "Go Mommy". He told my husband that the idea came to him in a dream. How sweet is that! I grabbed my little boy and squeezed him as hard as I could, while he said, "Eww Mommy, you're so sweaty!" It was a perfect moment.

Totally worth the extra time on my finish!

I gave my hubby a sweaty smooch and off I ran, weeping tears of joy but feeling so lifted and knowing that I can accomplish anything! As I rounded the final 400 meters, I saw my boys again which gave me that last bit of energy I needed to run up the ramp to the boardwalk and cross the finish line! 

Sorry, MarathonFoto.com, I will never pay $30 for a picture of myself.

And Cousin Joe was right. I did not finish the Brooklyn Half in under two hours. My official time was 2:07:19. And while my competitive side wishes I had done just a little better, my rational side feels pretty great about that! Because as my friend Val - who ran the race in 1 hour and 38 minutes! - said to me "I think your focus right now should be celebrating. You finished your first half marathon!! Would you have ever guessed two years ago that you could do that?" Not for a second Val. At the beginning of my 12 weeks of training, the longest I had ever run (in my two-year running "history") was 6 miles. In 12 weeks, I trained myself to run 13.1 consecutive miles! And I can't wait to do it again....seriously.

For the Old Kentucky Home Far Away

(song: My Old Kentucky Home/artist: Stephen Collins Foster)

My husband and I got married on May 1, 2004. When we found out (after the date was set) that it was also Kentucky Derby day, we decided that the groom's cake (I'm from the south. It's a thing we do...) should be in the shape of a mint julep cup, to signify the Derby. What we expected was a sheet cake. What we got was a 3-D monstrosity that haunts us to this day. But it made for a very interesting conversation piece.

What we had was a failure to communicate.

Anyway, since our anniversary rarely falls on a Saturday, it became our tradition to celebrate on the first Saturday in May -- Kentucky Derby Day. From 2005-2008 this happened at whatever restaurant/bar we dined. In 2009, our pal Brett invited us to a huge Kentucky Derby party, and a new tradition was born. Hosted by Kentucky-native-turned-Brooklynite, Michael Boyd, this annual party that once was a smallish gathering in his Brooklyn apartment has grown to epic proportions - dude has sponsors - and for the past five Derbys, has been held at Brooklyn's The Bell House

There's square dancing, live music, a contest for best formal and informal hat, and a sharp-dressed man contest. My husband has been runner-up three times. Always a bridesmaid. There's also on-site hat sales , yummy food vendors and of course, mint juleps.

At post time, they show the race on a giant screen, everyone goes nuts for two minutes, some people win money, then the crowd thins out and the "after party" starts. Three words: Live Band Karaoke. This is one of my favorite events of the party. I love watching, and occasionally (twice) I've been brave enough to take the stage.

But the thing I look forward to the most - besides an excuse to drink during the day - is getting dressed up. And when I tell you people go all out with their derby attire, I mean they go ALL OUT. Fashions and themes run the gamut. You got your hipsters in creatively kitschy homemade hats and vintage dresses. You got your dudes in classic seersucker and bow ties. You got your folks in jockey silks. I saw a guy dressed as horse one year. My husband and I have raised our fashion bar a little higher every year. It certainly has been more fun for me as my size has diminished.

2009 - Derby fashion novices playing it safe.

2010 - My hat got bigger. Hubby got a bow tie.
 Also, this happened:
Living out my karaoke dreams with our pal Brett. We massacred the Iggy Pop/Kate Pierson duet "Candy".

2011 - I was still in the fitness test group and super happy about the size 6 dress, but really nervous about being at a party because I couldn't really imbibe on "off program" drinks and food. Hubby got new saddle shoes.
2012 - Hubby's aunt found these amazing vintage Lily Pulitzer pants in her attic. He opted for a Thurston Howell look with the ascot. I bought a hat with handmade felt flowers and added white gloves and pearls. This was our finest fashion year by far. We even made the Wall Street Journal (online).

2013 - Same hat (What? It was expensive!), green dress. Hubby wore seersucker...AGAIN. How could he top 2012?
 Also this happened: 
Our pal Ed gave me a shot at redemption. I got to sing "Candy" again, and though I do not have video to prove it, we were awesome! I know because the 5 really inebriated guys that were still around by the time we performed, told me so. And drunk people know good karaoke when they see it...

I love this day for so many reasons. It reminds me of what was the happiest day of my life before my son's birth. It gives my husband and me a great excuse to cut loose and act like we did at our wedding reception (there's lots of spazzy dancing) and, best of all, we're home and in bed by 10PM. It's fun and people-with-kids friendly! I've already started shopping for 2014. Giddy'up!


2014 - Our friend Michael didn't have his annual party in Brooklyn this year so we jumped boroughs (and tax brackets) and headed to 11 Madison Park in Manhattan. A swanky time was had by all!
I ditched the hat and became a dedicated fascinator wearer. Hubby got a new bow tie.

2015 - Year two at 11 Madison Park in Manhattan.

We drank mint juleps. (duh)
And, oh yeah, Neil Patrick Harris was there too! (I love you, Doogie!)

2016 - Year three at 11 Madison Park in Manhattan. If it ain't broke...

We almost didn't make this one.  I had just gotten back from Georgia, a trip that would be the last time I'd see my dad alive, and I was so emotionally drained. He passed away 5 days later. I'm glad my husband "forced" me to enjoy myself. It was a great afternoon/evening despite the sucktastic situation with my dad.

Running Up That Hill, With No Problems

(song: Running Up That Hill/artist: Kate Bush)

Well friends, I really stepped in it this time. Little Miss "I need a new challenge" decided to register for a half-marathon - The Brooklyn Half-Marathon. So here I am on week 9 of 12 training weeks, and you know what I've discovered? I HATE [distance] RUNNING! It's truly awful! It hurts. 

It's boring. It's cold outside! My toes hurt, my shins hurt, my knees hurt, my quads hurt...my pride hurts. And it's that wounded pride that got me into this mess in the first place. You see, in February, a cousin-in-law (is that a thing?) -- a super-in-shape, vegan, long-distance runner with a lean runner's body, cousin-in-law -- told me he highly doubted that I could complete a half marathon at my goal pace of 9:30/mile, given that I'm not a daily runner and that the longest I had ever run was 6 miles. Details, details. So...I set out on a mission to prove Cousin Joe wrong. And boy, do I regret it! I am NOT a distance runner. I don't get "runner's high". I dread the long run days. There is very little about distance training that I enjoy. Except the off days. I enjoy the off days. And the carbs. I love eating carbs.

At this point in my training, I have completed two 10-mile runs (in addition to many shorter runs). One at a 10:30/mile pace. Shut your face, there was nine minutes of walking! The other at a 9:44/mile pace - no walking. Better. Obviously, I am not quitting. Though, I sometimes secretly hope I'll get the flu or break a bone so I'll have an excuse to bail. Not really. Maybe a little. Oh god, what have I done?!

Okay okay, some good has come of this training. My cardio endurance has vastly improved. I'm really proud of my ability to run continuously for 10 miles. Even though I hate running, I love that I CAN. Three years ago, I couldn't run down the block. I have complete confidence that I'll run the entire 13.1 miles without walking (or dying). I'm actually very excited about the actual race. The grand finale of all this hard work. Plus a bunch of my friends are running, so that makes it even more exciting. And I know, regardless of my pace, I'm going to be so proud of myself when I cross that finish line. And I can finally check "run a half-marathon" off my bucket list. Don't worry, "run a full marathon" was never on my list. I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid.

Twenty-four days to go! I'm really gonna miss the carbs...

See you at the finish line Cousin Joe!

I'll Be Writing More in a Week or Two.

(song: Paperback Writer/artist: The Beatles)

I wrote the following article about my struggles with body image - particularly during and after my pregnancy(s) - for Seleni Institute. My first paid writing assignment!

{Reprinted with permission from seleni.org}

Learning to Love My Formerly Fat Self

One mom's journey to self-acceptance
By Alison Donnelly, mom to a 5-year-old son in Brooklyn

Because I was a chubby kid since the age of 10, I've heard every possible euphemism to describe my body: "pleasantly plump," "Rubenesque," "carries weight easily." I always understood what those words really meant. And I never disagreed with them.

Nope. I believed them all, and I punished my body for it. I ate too much (and when I got older), drank too much, smoked, and even did drugs with little concern for the consequences. I hated my body, so why did it matter how badly I treated myself?

Flash forward to 2006 and my first pregnancy: At 5 feet, 9 inches and 175 pounds, I was a size 14. And when that pregnancy ended in miscarriage, I felt like the body that had failed me in its appearance had also failed me in function. So I returned to punishing it with a vengeance. By early 2007, I was 193 pounds, size 16, and (luckily) pregnant again.

Like most women, I was desperate to get through the first trimester so I could feel more confident that I had a viable pregnancy. But I had another reason: I couldn't wait to announce my condition to the world, so people would start thinking "pregnant" instead of "fat" when they looked at me.

Caring for a developing baby meant caring for me
This time around, something amazing happened because I cared about the life growing inside me, I began to care about my body. I opted for healthy meals and logged my calories to make sure I stayed within my doctor's guidelines for gaining weight. And even though I felt heavy, I also felt beautiful and energetic (to the extent a 200-pound woman can feel energetic during a New York summer). For the first time since my wedding day I felt strong in the present and excited about the future. And then, at the peak of joy from my son's birth, everything began to unravel.

Back to my old ways
The surge of confidence I experienced during pregnancy seemed to have been left on the delivery room floor. For the better part of my son's first year of life, I felt like I had been placed in the wrong job.

Some mothers made it look so easy, while I struggled with every aspect of being a new mom. I couldn't breastfeed because of a breast reduction I had when I was 18, so I felt like a failure in La-Leche-League-loving Brooklyn. At "mommy and me" music class, I defied inspirational posters by dancing like everyone was watching. The milk-filled breasts of bikini-clad moms in baby swim class mocked my mammary inadequacy. I was not the natural-born mother I had thought I would be. I felt like a fat, useless stay-at-home mom.

Then one afternoon while watching TV in my nightgown, a fitness infomercial inspired a revolutionary thought: Wasn't I worthy of the kind of love I had shown my body while my son was growing inside it? I got online, ordered the DVDs, and started exercising soon after. "A year from now, I'll be healthy and fit" became my mantra as I sweated and grunted through those first weeks, unable to do much more than 20 minutes of moderate cardio. I also reduced my calorie intake (especially the kind that came in a lovely stemmed glass), and the weight slowly started coming off. Within six months, I had slimmed down to a size 12 and began to feel the occasional twinge of self-worth that characterized my pregnancy.

Learning to love me
As the ball dropped on 2009, I had lost 19 pounds and was wearing a size 10. A year later, I was another 20 pounds lighter thanks to a personal trainer who made me believe that we all have the power to transform our body and mind. Understanding that is the sole reason I have kept off those 60 pounds.

When being super fit was new, I felt enormously guilty about the slightest setback. But I've learned to forgive myself for my slipups like the occasional ice cream binge. Part of the maintenance process has been finding balance. I don't succumb to guilt when I enjoy too many carbs or have more than two glasses of wine. I acknowledge it and then return to my commitment to be healthy.

Yes, I started to love myself when I saw a skinny body in the mirror, but that was superficial. The meaningful love came from allowing myself to be human and forgiving myself for human behavior. I have the confidence to stay fit and healthy. I have the desire to enjoy my life. I finally know how to do both.

Alison Donnelly writes about her struggles and triumphs with weight, motherhood, and everything else as Formerly Fat Mom.

{Reprinted with permission from seleni.org}