Progress Does Not Happen Overnight

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Look upon my 4-day unwashed hair. It makes me look like I’m standing in front of a fan, but really, I’m just a swamp creature and the dried sweat of previous days is holding it up.

Anyway. I am a sucker for instant gratification. A lot of people will blame that on being an American or a Millennial, but I love it when I immediately get results from something I do. I like to be the best at everything the first time I try, and this line of thinking, while also unsustainable, is extremely silly. Many things take practice, consistency, and dedication, but I want it and I want it immediately. Unfortunately, I think this often bleeds over into my quest to become healthy.

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One of the things I have been working on, though, is my ability to stay dedicated while understanding that changes for a healthy life do not often happen overnight, and when they do, it is hard to keep to those goals or standards, especially goals and standards made in moments of high motivation because they don’t allow for days when you just can’t fucking be bothered. I have done this one too many times– gotten too excited, planned big, and then let myself down when “real life me” can’t live up to “motivated me.” It’s a real thing and this year, I’m setting out to change these things.

Consistency. Consistency has been a word I have been using a lot lately because it is so important in the health and weight loss game. I can eat well and exercise for a month, but if I cannot be consistent in the second month, in the third month, then that first month is essentially meaningless. Creating consistent habits and following through with small steps to ensure progress has become one of my main points of focus this time around and so far, it’s really working for me.

Well, that and trying new things that previously scared the fuck out of me.

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This picture, taken in March of this year, changed everything for me in so many different ways. See, in March of 2016, I joined a biggest loser challenge and lost 7kgs in a month through exercise, low carb dieting, and drinking less than I usually do. I was elated and that progress, that quick progress, motivated me throughout the summer. In August, I was probably the thinnest I had been in years, was running regularly, and had a stronghold on my eating habits. I then, in September, took a trip home and my habits just went to shit, y’all. I came back and partied, I stopped caring about what I ate, I ran a couple of times, I tried to get my eating back on track, and I just didn’t give enough of a fuck to work hard for what I wanted. I allowed myself to slide back into old habits that did not fulfill me long term. After a weekend of extensive partying, this picture was snapped of me and uploaded on Facebook and when I fucking saw it, I cried at work.

Now, I am not saying that people who have this body type should be ashamed of themselves. On the contrary, I am not in any position, or do I have any desire, to tell people what they should feel or how they should look. I am not here for that. But, I was not proud of myself and I was not happy with MYSELF. I was not proud that I had allowed myself to stray so far from what I wanted, from what MY goals were and are. After seeing this picture, I knew shit had to change for me.

So, I joined CrossFit. In CrossFit, I have found a community that really and truly wants everyone to do their best and succeed, and fuck, that is so important to me. On Monday night, we were charged with the following workout:

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50 each of squats, sit ups, push ups, back extensions, pull ups, and fuckin’ burpees. There are not words to describe how much I fucking hate burpees. They scare me, they overwhelm me, and often they mentally defeat me before a workout even starts because I am so convinced I cannot do more than two or three of them in a row. On Monday, I was terrified of this workout. It seemed like so much and so impossible for me. My CrossFit coach asked if I wanted to scale it back to 30 or 40 instead of 50 and I said no. I wanted to try to do the real workout. We started. I made it through every set and then I got to the burpees. I got to 30 and felt my body give up. I was on the verge of tears. I was exhausted. My heart was racing. Then, my coach, my beloved coach, got on his knees next to me and said “Don’t give up, Kara. You can do this. DO NOT GIVE UP.” And he started counting my burpees 31, 32, 33. I got to 40 and he counted down, 9, 8, 7. By this point, the whole gym was cheering me, and two other men, on to finish our workout. When I got to 50, when I finished, I cried. I had pushed myself. I had done 50 burpees. I finished my sets in 16:20. I fucking did it. CrossFit has changed me in so many ways, mentally and physically.

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I am thinner, yes. My muscles are stronger, yes. But, my whole approach to what I can do and what I cannot do is changing as well. I  have convinced myself for so long that I am incapable of certain things, certain activities, and that shit just isn’t true. There is so much more I can do, so, I tried another new activity and joined a competitive sports team with Gaelic football.

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I have never been an athlete. Regardless of how tall I am, I have never played basketball. I play soccer sometimes with some women in Daegu, but I’m no Ronaldo, but competitive sports, against a team that wants to win, is not something I’ve ever thought I could do. Last year, I followed this team around and referred to myself as a “Gaelic groupie” because I was friends with a lot of the team, but never had the confidence to play. I changed that this year. I went to practices, failed miserably sometimes, but I kept going. Last weekend, I went to my first tournament with the team and I was so nervous, I thought I was going to shit my pants on the field. I play in goals, and the idea of balls coming toward my head and face was mildly terrifying, especially being kicked by a woman who was not on my team. We played. We won all four games. I blocked some shots. I succeeded. Never, in a million fucking years, did I ever think I could be a success as an athlete and yet, here I am.

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The women on my team have been such wonderful, supportive influences in so many different facets of my life. They have pushed me, they have cheered me on, and they have believed in me, which is something I have a hard time doing most of the time.

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My body will do what I ask it to do, but it needs me to believe in it and its abilities. I am going to try harder to do that and support myself the way these ladies, and a solid majority of my friends, have done the past few months. I never fully understood how much I need my own support, but I do. I think this idea is definitely one thing I have been missing in my fitness and wellness journey— the actual, real belief that I can accomplish my goals.

Consistency. Small changes. These things make all of the difference in the world. Progress does not happen overnight, or even in a month. Progress happens as we forge forward in small ways. Yesterday, we had a holiday, and instead of spending the day inside, lounging, which is what I wanted to do, Robert and I got up and went to a temple, walked around, and explored.

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I have been to this temple once before, and it was last year when I did the hardest hike of my life, which, again, prompted me to think about accomplishing and achieving things I, in the past, believed to be too hard for me to do. That hike was one of the longest, most difficult physical activities I had ever done, and yet, I did it. It opens so many doors when you stop telling yourself you can’t and start believing you can. I know that sounds cliched as fuck, but it’s the truth, y’all.

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I am not a confident person by default. I have a hard time taking compliments. I have a hard time seeing the progress and success within myself, but in order to succeed, in order to be the best version of myself possible, it is absolutely necessary that I see and believe these things. I have come such a long way from where I was a year ago. I have pushed myself, I have challenged boundaries, I have changed my eating habits, I have started new activities that I deemed too advanced, and I have grown. I see so much more potential in myself, so much more opportunity, that it honestly brings tears to my eyes.

Progress does not happen overnight. One summer, I lost 40 pounds after I restricted my calories to 1200 a day and exercised 90 minutes a day. I cried any time I drank alcohol. I cried any time I made a mistake. I used to make myself throw up. I am recovering from being that person. I am finding a balance and I am finding joy in the journey instead of finding pain in the setbacks. I am focusing on what I am gaining instead of what I am losing. So much of my identity used to be tied up in partying, but my identity is morphing. I still like to party and I will always love beer, but these things are not innately Kara anymore.

I will leave you with two progress pictures. I cannot tell you how nervous I am about posting these but this shit, this life, demands transparency and honesty.

I am not the same person anymore. I don’t want to be. I want growth. I want change. I want to be better than I was the day before, and that’s exactly what I’m going to fucking do.

Take care, y’all, and stay healthy.

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Health Cannot Be Rooted in Self-Hate

It is not a secret that I am not kind to myself. This is an aspect of my personality that I have been working on throughout the past year. Some days, I am better at it. Other days, I find myself in the center of a hate spiral that has been building for days. One of the things I’ve learned about self-improvement is that it does not occur overnight. You don’t have an epiphany and then everything changes and you never doubt yourself again. I wish that was how it works, but it’s not. It takes time, it takes kindness, and it definitely does not benefit from self-hate.

I have let self-hate drive a large part of my life for a very long time. I have allowed it to convince me that I am not worthy of many things. I have allowed it to convince me that the love of my life, who loves me very much, will eventually run away when he figures out I’m actually not that smart. I have allowed self-hate to permeate every single part of my life and sometimes, it’s shocking when I find it hidden somewhere in my life I thought was safe from my own negative, and often vile, self-talk. Exercising and health are apparently not safe from this self-hate and I witnessed it in myself last week.

There is a woman in Daegu that I have grown to dislike simply because she’s beautiful, thin, and well-liked. This goes against everything in my feminist repertoire. But, it is important that I understand and address what it is so I can move beyond it. But, this woman has been present when I’ve been disgusted with myself– disgusted with how fat I am or how gross I feel. It’s comparable to being back in 9th grade and thinking all of my problems would be solved if I was just thin and pretty like other girls. I compare myself to this person constantly and it’s not healthy. She’s done nothing to me. She’s a perfectly lovely person. But, I have allowed myself to make her the villain and that’s just not fair to her or to me.

I truly grasped the gravity of this situation when, last week, I was running intervals on the treadmill in a gym. I was struggling through one of the last intervals of my workout (which was 40 minutes long, by the way) and instead of giving myself a good inner pep talk about how I can do this, I automatically chastised myself and thought “Well, she could do this. If you did this more, you would look like her.” I finished the interval, but I hated myself. That is not the point of exercise and it is definitely not the kind of health I’m looking for– I don’t want my health to be rooted in hating someone else, or hating myself. That’s not health. That’s punishing myself for not looking like someone else. It’s just another way to tear myself down.

I want to run because it makes me feel good when I’ve done something difficult. I want to run because with every step I take, my heart and legs and body are getting stronger. I don’t want to run to look like someone else or to accomplish what it is to be normally beautiful. I don’t want to push myself through a hard run so I’ll be thin like her or her or her. I want to push myself through a hard run because I want to accomplish things that are hard. I can do hard things.

If my health is rooted in self-hate, then it is not healthy. It is not for me. I want my health to be rooted in a desire to maintain the best lifestyle possible, to keep my brain happy, to keep my lungs open. Using someone else to fill the void of self-hate will not work for me, and I am adding it to the list of things that will no longer stand in my life. I want to be all versions of healthy, not just the outward version. I don’t want to dislike people simply because they’re thin and beautiful as much as I don’t want people to assume I’m a sloth because I’m overweight. My health cannot take shape at the expense of hating myself, or someone else. It won’t sustain itself.

I had a great week this week after the treadmill incident, after I saw what could happen to me if I allowed that kind of mindset to build and grown into a monster. I was gentler with myself. I danced in my kitchen to The Fitness Marshall’s sweat set. I won trivia with my team. I played the best game of soccer I’ve ever played– proof I am improving mentally and physically. I’ve enjoyed the autumn sunshine walking to work. I ran 5k on Saturday. On Sunday, I got up early, hangover free, and hiked a mountain.

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I’ve been, for the most part, feeding my body with good foods. I’ve been seeking creative outlets. I’ve been keeping up with my bullet journal and it has helped so much. I’ve been planning with Rob for the future. Rob and I cleaned the hell out of our apartment. I didn’t drink all week. I’ve been trying to look forward at things I can change and control instead of obsessing over the past– over things I ate, runs I didn’t do, or anything else I can find to dismantle my progress. I have control over the future. I can change and grow and bloom and break free of the bullshit chains I’ve placed on myself. I am not weak. I am not a person who hates others because of their appearance. I refuse to be that person. I refuse to be molded and hardened by a society that wants to tear people down because of how they don’t feel or look or think. I won’t.

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If yesterday showed me one thing, one great thing, it is that I am fucking capable of anything, even if it feels like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m on fire. The only person who can stop me is me and I will not be stopped.

Have a great week, y’all.

That Time I Scored A Goal in Soccer: A Week of (Mostly) Victories

I want to start this entry with this: I haven’t had a cigarette in almost four weeks.

One of the things people may or may not know about me is I have a tendency to get in these “ruts” where I do the same thing over and over again until I’m tired of it. If I find a particular song that I resonate with, I will listen to it until I can no longer listen to it anymore  (Lookin’ at you “Shake It Off”). I do the same thing with food– currently, I’m addicted to making veggie taco wraps. So, it’s probably no surprise that I do the same thing with television shows. My current obsession is “Rick and Morty” and holy fuck, am I obsessed with it.

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That’s Rick. I love the show because it’s hysterical and dark. and emotional. Anyway, I just wanted to share that with you all. If you haven’t watched “Rick and Morty,” you should probably do that yesterday.

So this week has been a week of mostly highs and a couple of embarrassing lows. I say embarrassing because something I did this week sort of goes against one of my core tenants now but at the time, I felt like it had to happen. I’ll get to that soon enough.

Last Friday, I weighed myself and I was down to 110.7kgs, or 244lbs. That puts me down 9.3kgs or roughly 20 pounds since April. I was, and am, fucking jazzed about it but I realize I still have a long way to go, both in my physical and mental capacity. I want to be healthy for me, not to fulfill some sort of beautification fetish that is all too rampant in the society we live in. But, I find myself creeping back into obsessive territory where I constantly think about the caloric content of food or worry that I’m gaining weight instead of appreciating the journey I’m on. I know I’ll eventually get there, but it’s scary to feel old habits start to form. It is all a process and it all takes time.

Saturday, Robert and I moved into our shared apartment. It was one of the most painless moves I’ve ever engaged in as we only moved down two floors in the same building I live in. We have so much space! That night, we decided to go out and get wriggity wriggity wrecked (that’s a Rickism) to both celebrate our newfound cohabitation and let off some steam from the week before.

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bourbon and ginger– no ice.

We had a great time, but I woke up with one of the WORST hangovers I’ve had in quite some time, which led to not-so-great food choices and more beer the next day. Hair of the dog, right? We ended up going to the Chimac Festival, which is literally a festival devoted to chicken and beer in Daegu. It ended up pouring rain so we retreated to our friends’ apartment and waited out the storm which led to more beer and eventually, cheese-covered jjimdak.

I won’t lie– the next morning I woke up in a fucking daze. I couldn’t shower because our gas wasn’t working and more importantly, I couldn’t make myself food. So, I went about my day and planned on eating at one of the small Korean restaurants outside of my job. Much to my dismay, though, every single restaurant I usually hit up in my time of need was closed– the Korean restaurant, the kimbap shop, the Paris Baguette and Rapang had no sandwiches. Everything was closed! I started to panic– I needed to eat before work or I was going to be fuckin’ hangry teacher and my students are too wonderful to be exposed to that kinda bullshit. Unfortunately, my only option it seemed was fast food. I got a fried chicken sandwich, some fries, and a fuckin’ Pepsi because I am a GLUTTON for punishment. I ate it and spent the whole fucking day in a self-hate, gross spiral where I felt like dogshit and later ate MORE food with my friend Alex, and then later ate MORE food when I got home. Needless to say, my body felt like shit, I felt like shit, and I was lacking any sort of motivation to be kind to myself. My brain said “you fucked up. it’s over” and my body felt the weight of that decision. I felt defeated all from one meal and, honestly, a total lack of exercise in my life. Monday night, I promised myself that I would get up and run before I went to work.

…and I did. I got up and ran in the middle of the afternoon in Daegu’s brutal heat and humidity because I had something to prove to myself– I am capable and I am stronger than I give myself credit for, especially when it comes to motivating myself to exercise. I did not run continuously. I ran in 10 minute blocks, and my pace was slow, but I got out there and I logged some miles. I sweat like a fire hydrant, too.

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On Tuesday, I also saw on Jessamyn Stanley’s Instagram that she would be hosting a free online class at 8am my time on Wednesday morning. If you don’t know who Jessamyn Stanley is, I suggest you educate yourself. This woman has become a figure in my motivational efforts because she looks like me. She shows me that ANYTHING is possible with any body type. I hauled my ass out of bed unwillingly on Wednesday morning AFTER I considered not performing the class because sleep? But, I am so glad I did. It was motivating, even though it was online, to be back in a yoga class. Her style was so great and her vulgarity just made the whole practice fun. Afterwards, I made myself breakfast, started a 30 day plank challenge (I finished day 3 today!) and later in the afternoon, I went running again! I ran intervals this time to practice speed and endurance. It was a walk/run/sprint cycle and I found that I really enjoyed it.

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You can see the intervals in my heart rate! I fucking LOVE my Fitbit, by the way. I completed 2.7 miles, and felt amazing. Then, I ate thai food, drank a double bourbon on ice, and watched Suicide Squad. I didn’t buy my own popcorn at the movie, which is HUGE as that’s pretty much my favorite part of going to the movies. Small steps, y’all.

Today, I was hit with the urge to fuck up again. I do that to myself– I make a lot of progress and then I derail because my success is too scary. But, complaints without actions are pointless, so I allowed myself to sleep in, got up, made myself some lunch, got an Americano, and took my ass to work. After work, Rob and I made broccoli cheddar soup and vegetarian black bean burgers that I stuffed with fresh goat cheese.

After dinner, I put my ass on the subway and played about an hour of soccer with these lovely ladies. I want to say something here: I am so lucky to have such a wonderful supportive expat community to live in. The people I’ve met in Korea have influenced me in so many ways and even when I’m being a grouchy, hermited fuckhead, people still love me and want the best for me. It’s a good feeling to find such a fantastic community so far away from home. As a side note, I scored a fucking goal tonight. YES. I. DID. I can’t even fucking play soccer, but I scored a goal and that, right there, is enough to make my week shine. The fact that I play soccer now amazes me.

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I am capable of so much. I am so worthy of love, affection, time, and attention. I forget that quite frequently. I forget the strength of my legs and the power of my heart and the depth of my soul. I forget that I am a force to be fucked with, especially on my dark days. I’ve always said that the world should fear when I figure out and start acting on my true potential. Well, world, you better start fuckin’ preparing because I am relentless and passionate and I am fucking TIRED of being beaten down.

The world hasn’t seen the best of me yet.

Stay on your grind, y’all.