Lent: Or How I Learned About Sacrifice

As those of you, like me, who were raised Catholic may know we have reached the Lenten season leading into Easter. For those of you not raised in the Catholic Church, or brow beaten into going to Sunday school… Lent is the period of 40 days prior to Easter in which we spend time praying, making sacrifices, and not eating meat on Fridays- and fasting if you’re confirmed! Anyway the biggest part of lent, after the whole not eating meat on Fridays/fasting is the Lenten sacrifice. For the 40 days, you are expected to give something up or find some way to better yourself as a human. Though my Catholic faith is less than consistent at this point, I always attempted to participate in lent and chose to sacrifice each year in lieu of bettering myself. This year however, I’ve chosen to work on bettering myself- physically, mentally, and spiritually. But before we get to this year, let’s review some of my past lents!

Growing up, once you make first communion (2nd grade) you’re expected to begin observing lent and start participating in the whole sacrifice thing. For many years of my childhood I recall giving up something rather minuscule like ice cream. Which, while I love ice cream is not something I was eating every single day or anything. It was tough, for a kid but probably not all that difficult past elementary school. When I was younger (and even still) my family would go to Disney pretty often, always in the spring before Easter as it’s typically less crowded. I remember us going to one of our favorite restaurants, Alfredo’s in Italy at EPCOT, and ordering spaghetti and meatballs and my mom reminding me that it was Friday and I couldn’t have the meatballs. As an 8-year old I was absolutely devastated by this news. Instead of letting me absolutely lose it and burst into tears in the restaurant, my mom told me that we would just set the meatballs aside and box them up and bring them back to the room with us and I could eat them tomorrow. I stopped my almost-tears from flowing and agreed to this arrangement, pleased that my sacrifice needed only be temporary. However later that night, when I realized I wouldn’t be able to have my traditional Disney dessert of a Mickey Premium bar, the weight of what I had given up really hit me. I think this was probably one of the first times I really understood what it meant to give something up.

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You can’t see the devastation on my face in this picture, but giving up ice cream was hard. 

Let’s fast forward a few years to middle school, where my typical Lenten sacrifice was chocolate. While this may not seem a big sacrifice to some of you, it was huge to preteen/teenage Meg. Chocolate has always been a vice for me, a reward when I’ve done well and something to lift my spirits when I’ve experienced some form of sadness or defeat. Giving up chocolate for 40 days meant I wouldn’t be able to celebrate an achievement or commiserate a loss in a way. While ice cream was something few and far between for me, chocolate was a much more present sacrifice. I learned that sacrifice was something that was meant to be hard, not something casual that was a bummer here and there. When I hit high school, I really stepped up my game for lent and decided to try and give up snacks and sweets of all kinds. Obviously I could partake in fruit and the like, but I wasn’t allowed any: candy, ice cream, cake, cookie, brownie, etc. and also wasn’t allowed to snack between meals. This way I ensured that I would fast on Fridays because I had no other choice, snacks were out. Those were some tough 40 day periods, but when I came out the other side successful it meant a lot. It meant that I could give up a lot and still get by each day without these things I thought I needed.

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A slightly more mature (aka middle school) Meg with my friend Nicole… also at Disney because that’s where all my pictures are from apparently. 

Now let’s get around to my point, which is that this weight loss journey was about a lot of big sacrifices. I gave up a lot of things that I loved, and never thought I could live without. Truly. That’s how addicted I was to some of these things. Pasta was a part of my weekly, sometimes daily life in the past and to cut that out because of all the carbs and calories was really tough for me. In the last 20 months I’ve made quite a lot of sacrifice in the service of bettering myself physically. It’s time that the rest of my life start sacrificing things in order to better myself in other ways. This year for lent I decided not to give something up specifically, but rather just work on improving little things. I’ve starts trying to spend less time on social media- Facebook was always my go to scrolling place when I was bored or had nothing better to do. Now, instead I’m trying to spend extra time reading or writing posts for this blog. I’m trying to unplug and just enjoy things as they happen instead of constantly attempting to capture an elusive moment with my phone. As for the spiritual betterment, that’s a work in progress. But for the time being, I’m exploring my options- mostly by doing yoga and trying to use breathing exercises when I’m stressed. Working on calming the inner me and becoming mellower or something. Like I said, it’s definitely a work in progress.

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A photo with my dad & Shaun from last weekend at EPCOT. I’m really proud of the definition in my arms that’s showing up now! Happy Easter Season! 

Are any of you participating in Lent or any form of self-sacrifice for the time being? Maybe for a prescribed period, maybe for an indefinite amount of time. I would love to hear from anyone working on bettering themselves!

 

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When Life Gives You Lemons

As promised (to no one in particular other than myself) over the weekend I decided to run my makeup half marathon, after last weekend’s RunDisney cancellation. I sit here with my laptop, medal around my neck to type this up. On Sunday morning at 6am, I dragged myself out of bed and laced up my shoes prepared to run 13.1 miles to earn that half marathon medal. When I began my run, it was still dark out so I had to use the flashlight on my phone in order to see the pavement in front of me. But I knew that the later I started, the longer I was going to have to be running in the sun, so a dark start was for the best. I plugged in my ear buds, put on an episode of the “Anna Faris is Unqualified” podcast and began my nearly 3 hour run.

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After nearly 3 hours of running, I did it. 

Prior to this point, the farthest I had run was 10 miles in my training and I had planned on running my first half marathon at the happiest place on earth, with thousands of other people alongside me. If you’re not a runner you might not understand the difference between a training run and a race, but they’re pretty significant. At a race you have mile markers, water stations, medical tents, and a group of peers doing the same thing as you that provide you with the motivation to keep going. At RunDisney events in particular, there’s a sense of camaraderie fostered among the runners. When you see someone struggling you give them words of encouragement or a high-five, and other people support you. In a race you have people to pass and someone to chase ahead of you, but on a training run you’re alone and have to support yourself.

As I chugged along my running trail in the dark, I let my mind wander as I often do on my long runs as it provides a great distraction. I spent time thinking about how far I’ve come since starting Couch to 5k in December of 2015, and how now I was embarking on my first half marathon. If I could finish these 13.1 miles, I really would be able to call myself a runner and put that 13.1 magnet on my car that I was so proud to buy. The medal I had picked up from Wide World of Sports last Saturday would have some meaning, it would mean that I had achieved something significant I had been working at for months.

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Post-run on the couch with the medal around my neck. Proud as can be. 

There were times where I got a stitch in my side and slowed to a walk or felt my quads getting tight and wanted to give up and just walk home. But you know what, I didn’t. Even when I had no one else holding me accountable and was doing this for no one but myself I kept going. I thought about when I was younger and I would cheat myself and lie to my mom about running a mile like she recommended to get me in shape for softball season. I would walk up and down the street for 10 minutes and then sprint down the hill by our house to get my heart rate up before I went home. I used to cut corners and cheat myself often when I was younger, but that was no longer the way I conduct myself. Today I was going to keep going and finish this half marathon even if it was just for myself and no one else.

When I got home and collapsed onto my couch, Gatorade in hand, it finally sank in that I had just run a half marathon. That I did it by myself without anyone holding me accountable. I already had the medal I was to earn, so I didn’t do it for the bling. This time I did it for me, to prove to myself that I could do it. When I started this weight loss quest some 19 months ago I never thought I would lose 100 pounds, let alone run a half marathon. I’ve achieved so much in that time and I didn’t do it for anyone else, I did it all for me and maybe a little bit for my mom.

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My reward for running 13.1 miles, 2/3 of a supreme pizza for dinner! 

I frequently think about my mom and what she would think about all that I’ve done. I’m sure that she would be proud of me, and I know there are lots of other people who are but I can’t help but wonder what she would have to say. My mom always had something to say about things and I just miss her unique brand of humor. One thing I know for sure, she would’ve been waiting for me at the finish of my first Disney half-marathon and cheering me on, rain or shine. And I know that no matter what I do as far as running in the future, she will be there with me in spirit as she is every day.

Life Is Like Photography- Sometimes We Develop From The Negatives

Well my faithful readers, I have some disappointing news to share with you. I was unable to run the Disney half marathon last weekend, as it was cancelled due to inclement weather. This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but after 13 weeks of training for this race I was pretty upset to not be able to run on Saturday morning. Because the race was cancelled (for the first time in RunDisney history) we were offered several options as repayment for the cancelled race including park hopper tickets, a Disney gift card for the cost of the race, the chance to run the full marathon the following day, or the option to defer and run another RunDisney in the next 2 years. I chose to defer to another race so this weekend I have to email RunDisney with preferences for what race I want to run and hopefully I will get my chance to run a half marathon later this year.

While this was a pretty big bummer for me, it gave me the opportunity to learn some lessons about myself personally and physically. The biggest revelation was the fact that I was absolutely crushed when I found out I wouldn’t be able to run the half marathon. If you had told me even a year ago that I would be so disappointed that I didn’t have to run 13.1 miles, I would’ve probably laughed in your face. It really is amazing how much can change in a year- last January I was just finishing up the Couch to 5k program and this year I finished up a half marathon training program. It took quite some time, but I consider myself to be a real runner now and that’s something I’m really proud of.

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These photos were taken to serve as memories of my first half marathon weekend. Now they show me how excited I was to run 13.1 miles- something I never thought possible. 

Despite the fact that we didn’t actually get to run the race, everyone who was signed up was able to get their finisher medal either at the Wide World of Sports or in the mail. Seeing as how I was going to the runner’s expo that day anyway, I decided to pick mine up in person. When I received my medal, instead of feeling that sense of accomplishment and pride in what I had completed I just felt empty and hopeless. I had this incredible medal that I had done nothing to get, it felt like getting a participation trophy for softball and it didn’t feel good. I decided not to wear my medal to the parks, as I had intended to after running, because I hadn’t earned it. One of my friends pointed out to me that I should think of it as the reward for losing 100 pounds- because I hadn’t done anything big for myself after the accomplishment. That made me feel a lot better, but I still want to earn my medal. So this weekend I intend on going out and running 13.1 miles on my own, so I can really say I’ve run a half marathon and put the 13.1 magnet on my car without guilt.

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The excitement was palpable- just hours before the disappointing news. 

The other really good thing that came out of this weekend was that I was able to meet and chat with Jeff Galloway, the Olympic runner and trainer. My godmother wanted to meet him so I joined her to wait in line after exploring the expo. I introduced myself and shook his hand and Suzanne decided to be a proud godmother and brag about my weight loss to Jeff. He really took an interest in my story not only because of my substantial weight loss, but also because I decided to do this in my early twenties instead of waiting like so many others do. He took down my information, we took a picture together, and he said he would email me about mentioning me on his website. So that was a pretty cool opportunity! I don’t really tend to bring up my weight loss or brag about it unless someone else brings it up to me first, because I don’t want to seem like the total narcissist that I actually am. But when an Olympian acknowledges that what I did was impressive, it does make me feel pretty accomplished.

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Me with Jeff Galloway! It was so great to meet him! 

Hopefully in the near future I’ll be posting about my excitement for my next half marathon (cross your fingers that I get in)! Despite the disappointment I faced this weekend, I’m glad I had the opportunity to do some self-reflection and hopefully I’ll be able to set some new goals for a future race.

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Some good things did come out of Saturday- like this cuddle party with my Godbrothers! 

Don’t Let The Slip Ups Keep You Down

Let’s face it, even the strictest dieters/fitness fiends among us can’t get through a diet/fitness regimen without a slip up here and there. I’ve been counting calories for over a year now and working out nearly as long and while most days I’m within my calorie goals every once in a while I have a cheat day that turns into a cheat weekend or slack off on going to the gym. Slip ups happen and it’s important to remember that they are going to happen, you just have to keep going afterward.

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This was a particularly good piece of inspiration for me, as I had given up so many times before. 

I’m someone who likes to keep things pretty regimented, I’m not good at playing things fast and loose and I acknowledge that. That means that starting a fitness/eating regimen for my weight loss wasn’t very tough for me, and I’m lucky to be like that. However, that also means that when I have slip ups I tend to be a little harder on myself. My excuse whenever I want to eat something I know is bad for me is “Well I hate myself so I’ll eat this pizza”. Now keep in mind, I don’t actually hate myself. In fact, I’m pretty narcissistically into myself at this point because my pride in my weight loss has turned into serious self-love. I think that really I just say I hate myself when I slip up because it gives me an excuse to break my routine.

When you look at my weight loss graph over the last year it’s a pretty steady decline, but there’s also a couple of peaks from my serious slip ups. Obviously some are predictable, around the holidays and other special occasions you’re going to overeat a little or just generally be less careful about what you’re eating. But there’s also some others from when I got lost for a bit, and let a slip up turn into a bad week or longer. Throughout the last year I’ve averaged to about a 1.5 pound loss each week even with my slip ups.

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This is my weight loss graph, as of 7/20/16 circled in red is my “Danielle spike” as described below. 

I have one big spike in my graph, around the beginning of August that I like to call my “Danielle spike” because it was when my friend Danielle was visiting and when I’m with her I tend to drink a lot of my calories. Love you Danielle, but you know it’s the truth. Plus at the time I didn’t have easy access to a gym, I was living in a house instead of an apartment complex with a fitness center and it was such a hassle to drive to campus to use the UCF gym. So I let myself slip and gain weight and I was miserable, I felt like garbage because I was eating garbage and drinking often. I made excuses and continued to be miserable for a couple of weeks, but one day I decided I was done. I laced up my shoes and went for a run and even though I coughed and sputtered through the whole thing, I felt better about myself when I got home and that was the real gain. I didn’t let the slip up keep me from getting back on track and that’s all that mattered, I got back on track and put the past behind me.

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Me and Danielle at our favorite local hangout, December of 2014 (we don’t take lots of normal pictures together). Notice the beer in front of us, always drinking with this one!

Weight loss is not easy, it takes hard work and dedication to see results and sometimes that means you have to be strict. It doesn’t mean that you have to be hard on yourself for a splurge here and there or a day you just don’t feel like going to the gym. Another important virtue that my weight loss journey has taught me is patience. Results take time and you have to be patient with your body as it adjusts to the changes you’re making. So when you slip up and gain weight when you’re trying to lose, you have to be patient to get back to where you were. Persistence is crucial you can’t give up just because you slip up. Get back on the horse and saddle up for success!

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In the words of Tina Belcher, “I’m no hero, I put my bra on one boob at a time like everyone else”