Getting (back) on the bike

Credit: @sham.it

I hit a 100 rides yesterday at Wheelhouse and that to me is a huge deal. It’s a special achievement for those of us who ride and I’ve been counting down the rides for awhile now. I was so lit up last night in that room, getting to the end, pushing myself to dig deeper, that it felt amazing to get that recognition from my instructor and peers who know how hard it is sometimes to keep showing up even when you’re tired or don’t feel like it or your body just hurts.

It’s an old adage about getting back in the saddle when you’ve been knocked down. But it’s a lot harder than it looks for some of us. I went through a really dark period in 2015 when nothing seemed possible. My brain chemistry was so out of balance that even getting out of bed seemed like a monumental task. Brushing my hair felt like a waste of time because I couldn’t sleep. Eating properly became secondary to not crying all day. This is the devastating power of depression over a person’s life. There is no miracle to turning things around – I taught myself how to fall asleep again with cognitive behavioural therapy and good sleep hygiene. I tried a new medication after several rounds of others stopped working. I saw my therapist every two weeks. I dug in. And I’d love to tell you it’s because I knew that it would get better, that something had to change. I didn’t. I did it because I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want my kids and Meg to be without me. So I didn’t do anything drastic, put one foot in front of the other each day, and tried to slowly get a little bit better. There’s no magic cure, no silver bullet. It’s about finding what helps you, what gives you care, what meets your needs. It’s not selfish, it’s self-preservation.

I recently learned the term mindful self-compassion and it resonating with me so much because when I’m stressed or anxious, I turn on myself almost immediately, it’s like I can’t help it. Mindfulness is a life-long struggle for me but I realized that when I was in that dark room 100 times over the last year, that’s what I was doing, enabling mindfulness, being self-aware about what I was telling myself about my own limits. Our instructors always tell us that our bodies will be the last thing to quit on the bike, it’s always our minds that tell us it’s too hard, I can’t do this, I can’t push harder. The same is true of depression. It is the stories we tell ourselves about what we’re capable of, what we’re not going to be able to do, that limits our self-expression. By showing up for ourselves and the people we love, we experiment with challenging those narratives of limitation and doubt. We prove the hypothesis wrong. And with time, the narrative disappears and is replaced with self-confidence and pride. And in my case, I kick ass water bottle that I will proudly use from now on. xo Janet

I’ve always been a “big girl” and I think I’m finally ok with that

I’ve been called just about every body shaming name in the book – thunder thighs, fat, overweight, fatty, chunky, rolly polly, big girl, fasto, heavy, plump, heavy-set, etc. I got so used to being body shamed as a kid that I just stopped even fighting against it and internalized it as something that was just who I was. But I always knew that the judgement had an implicit edict behind it: you can do something about being fat if you would just work harder. Ah! There are the magic words to an overachieving perfectionist – work harder! Achieve! Be perfect! Ok, I’m on it.

So, after high school when I wasn’t fat because I played five sports at a time, I went to university and got really, really sick in my first year. I lost a ton of weight by NOT EATING for weeks on end. Then I got really skinny. Wow, what a miracle cure that was. The problem with this was that I started eating again once I felt better. Dammit. So then I went to grad school and the weight started to creep on so I joined the gym across the street from me and got into the best shape of my life. I mean I was cut. I could do a chest press with 25 pound weights. It was fierce. Then I moved back to Vancouver to do my Ph.D. and my life fell apart the first time. I became so depressed that I was prescribed antidepressants for the first time. Boy, if you’ve ever wanted to gain weight quickly, start taking really terrible anti-depressants. Many if not most of these medications at this time (2003/2004) caused significant weight gain. Many of these still do but some are better than others.

So my weight started to balloon up and I haven’t been able to control it since. I have tried everything: fasting (e.g. selective starvation), Weight Watchers, keto, South Beach, Body for Life, low carb, no carb, no sugar, juicing, more Weight Watchers and eating clean. All to basically no success. When I say no success, I mean, it works when you do it, you try so hard to lose weight it’s all you think about, and then when you stop, all the weight comes back and then some. That’s the kicker, that your body punishes you for losing weight by gaining more.

So last year I stopped dieting. I haven’t weighed my food, I don’t count my calories or points. I said fuck it. And in the last year, I have gone to 80 spin classes, sweat my guts out, worked harder physically than I have since I was a teenager and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since 2001. I don’t diet, I spin. So when people look at you with that face that says, “you’re so pretty too bad you’re not thin”, just remember: people can body shame you, but you can change the way you think about your body and what it can do. We can be bigger and do triathlons. We can be chunky and full of rolls and kill an hour long Wheelhouse class. We can be full figured and kick butt at cross-fit or weight lifting. This overweight lady did it and so you can you. xo Janet