I Don’t Know What to Call This Blog, But I Don’t Hate Myself Anymore, So That’s Good

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I feel this on a level that I cannot begin to fully articulate, so here it is. Most days, I sort of just feel like a slimy swamp monster, but that may have something to do with the disgusting Daegu weather we’re currently enduring here in South Korea. In case any of you are unfamiliar, Daegu is the HOTTEST FUCKING CITY in South Korea because it sits in a basin surrounded by mountains. Yesterday, it was hotter here than it was in Hanoi, Vietnam, which is, honestly, sort of fucked. I love heat, y’all, and I love the summer, but the past few days in this country have been borderline miserable. I have never been more thankful for an aircon and the money to pay my excruciatingly high electric bill. But, I digress.

The past few weeks have been a true exercise in examining my ridiculous amount of self-doubt and how, surprisingly, it is starting to recede. I am no longer approaching all situations believing I am going to fail or that I will somehow be sub-par at whatever activity I’m engaging in. One of the strange things about the lack of self-doubt now is comprehending just how much was there before it started to disappear. There was a metric fuckton, y’all, and it truly kept me from doing many, many things, like sportsball!

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For those of you late to the “Kara Tries New Things” party, I started playing goalkeeper for the local Gaelic Football team in Daegu and this past weekend was the NAGG (North Asian Gaelic Games) tournament in Seoul. Before the last tournament, I was pants-shitting nervous and the night before this tournament was no different. I wondered why I had chosen to do this, why I was accompanying some incredibly athletes, and why the fuck I ever thought I was good enough to do anything like this for a competitive sports team. Friday night, I remember feeling very torn about my feelings– on the one hand, I had proven myself before, but on the other hand, flukes happen and I was pretty sure that my adequate performance in the previous tournament had been just that– a mistake and a fluke.

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Yet, there I was, eating a kebab at 1:30am in Itaewon, Seoul. I had come. I had committed. I was going to play again. The whole of the next morning, I felt sick. The kebab had sat heavy on my stomach, I didn’t sleep very well as our room did not have air conditioning (refer to the clusterfuck of the summers here in the paragraph above), and I was not feeling confident in my ability. This was only my second tournament and this was, still, the first time I had ever played on a team sport.

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Robert joined me for this tournament and while I know this whole scene isn’t really his style, I am thankful that he was willing to give up most of his weekend to come to Seoul and watch me play sportsball. He carried my football boots for me, he carried my snacks, and he even got me a beer when our final game was over. I am a very lucky woman.

We started playing around 10:40am. We lost our first game to Busan. We lost our second game to Seoul A. I felt like a lot of it was my fault. I conceded goals. I made shitty kickouts. I wasn’t fast enough. I felt like a fucking loser. I felt mad. I was upset I was there and that I had put myself in a position where I knew I would ultimately fail myself and fail my whole fucking team. After the second game, I stewed on myself. I felt agitated, but I tried to get my act together. This wasn’t just about me– this was about a whole team working together and, importantly, having fun. I was ruining the fun for myself by being such an asshole to my own ability. I was THERE. I had shown up. I had made saves. I had made good kickouts. I was doing the best I can.

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At the end of the day, that’s all we can do. We have to do our best. If we are doing our best, if we are trying our hardest to succeed when the world wants us to fail, when we want ourselves to fail, that’s good enough. At least, that’s good enough for me. So, I changed my attitude. I stopped being shitty to myself. Mistakes happen. I am not perfect, and even EPL goalkeepers concede goals sometimes. I dusted myself off. I got back out on the field, and we played three more games.

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photo credit: nana kim @noddingnana

We won our game against Seoul B. Our next game was against the aggressive, talented, and fast Busan, who had already defeated us earlier in the day. If we beat Busan, we went on to face Seoul A in the finals for the championship. If we lost to Busan, we would play Seoul B for third place.

And then it happened. We beat Busan. We were going to the finals.

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photo credit: nana kim @noddingnana

Before I talk about the final match, I need to say something about the women in this picture. No matter how many mistakes I made, no matter how many times I doubted myself, one of them was always there to give me a word of encouragement. I was free to be the silly, vulgar, and crude mess I am without a hint of judgement from any of them. After every single game, one of them said something kind to me and made me feel like I was really part of something special– I felt like I belonged on a team. I didn’t feel like some sort of scrub that stumbled onto a field, even though that’s sort of what I am. Joining Gaelic was worth it for me simply for experiencing the kind of camaraderie that comes with playing together for the same victory. They are all so wonderful, talented, and ferociously fierce. I am honored I’ve shared a field with them twice now. I’m lucky I get to wear a Daegu Fianna jersey.

We lost the final game to Seoul A. We came second. I am so proud.

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Thanks, Daegu Fianna, for being a force of good in my desire to change my life.

After the tournament we went out and partied. Of course.

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I definitely drank way too much wine.

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Robert and I even took the rest of our wine to go.

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We also managed to make it back to Daegu on a train from Seoul at 5:05am. Our friend, Ross, called us “homing pigeons,” because Robert and I have a tendency to do this– we go somewhere, drink too much, decide we don’t want to be there, and try to make it back to our house. This time was successful. Other times have not been so successful.

Lately, I’ve sort of felt like a different person because I don’t hate myself anymore. I walk past mirrors and I do not hate the body I see reflected back at me. I see pictures of myself and instead of seeing all of my flaws, I see the power of my thighs. I see the muscles in my arms. I see a person who is determined to make their life different than it was before. That is who I am now. I like CrossFit. I like challenging myself. I like pushing myself. I like intermittent fasting. I like talking about all of these things because I find them helpful, exciting, and motivating. I don’t hate myself anymore. After 30 years of vile and vicious self-loathing, I am finally breaking free. This weekend, this whole excursion through Gaelic, through CrossFit, through gaining control over my relationship with food, I am shedding the weight of years of self-doubt and disdain. It is a good feeling.

I am learning a lot about myself through this whole journey, physically and emotionally. I am learning that the voice inside my head that tells me I should hate myself is a liar. I am learning that I should be confident, that I am worthy. I am learning that I do not have to be so hard on myself, that everyone makes mistakes. I am learning to not tolerate myy own brand of bullshit and it is just so fucking liberating. It’s only going to get better from here. I am only going to get better.

Be kind to yourselves, y’all.

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photo credit: nana kim @noddingnana

An Exercise in Bravery

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I need to talk about Vietnam. I need to talk about the explosive nature of solo travel coupled with the soul-crushing concept of turning 30. I need to talk about how these two ideas came together in the past week. I need to talk about my nervousness, my panic, and my bravery. I need to talk about coming out on the other side of something great and actively feeling like some part of you has changed forever. I just need to talk about how good I feel.

I turned 30 last Monday on the 19th, and as a present to myself and to use my last week of vacation, I booked a ticket to Hanoi. I thought it would be pretty rad to be on a plane to another country on my 30th, and long story short, while it was an excellent decision, I also had a lot of moments throughout the week that made me truly understand just how powerful I am, how capable I am, and how much of my life I’ve spent scared of my own shadow.

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I landed in Hanoi at 10:30am on the morning of June 19th, and was immediately accosted by a very, very pushy taxi driver, who ended up following me into the airport and I had to immediately get firm with. Most people who know me know I am not an aggressive person. I’m pretty passive, but this passive nature of mine wasn’t going to work in Vietnam, which was the first hard lesson I had to come to terms with. I had done some research about taking minibuses from the airport to the center of the city, but after I climbed into one, was quoted a much, much higher price than anything I had seen online, and felt the nervous edge of uncertainty creep into my heart, I made an executive decision to get on the newly-minted city bus that ran from the airport directly to the Old Quarter for $1.50.

The reality of my decision set in once I alighted from the bus into the Old Quarter of the very busy, very hectic capital city of Vietnam. There were motorbikes EVERYWHERE and to cross the street, you sort of just had to walk into traffic and hope people swerved around you, which they did. As a Kentucky girl who grew up in a city with a population of 33,000 people, being placed in any city with a population of over a million is a bit jarring at first, especially since Hanoi was just SO MUCH. There were so many smells, sights, people, motorbikes, bicycles, cars, people selling items on the street— so much. My only goal the first half hour was to make it to my hostel, which I did– quite easily, I might add. But, the panic in those first few minutes was so very real. So many people wanted me to buy things, so many people wanted to give me a ride somewhere, and I know the look of fear on my face and the pack on my back made me stick out so much more at the beginning of the week than I did at the end of the week. This was lesson two: I had to forge forward and I had to get over the panic and indecision that usually accompanies me whenever I have to make a decision that involves others. I did learn through this trip, though, that I am surprisingly adept at making decisions when they don’t involve others.

And make decisions I did. After spending two hot days in Hanoi, I changed my travel plans and left a day early to go to Cat Ba Island, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I made. I approached the people working at the hostel, told them I was leaving a day early, and that I needed transport to Cat Ba. The next morning, a combination of motorbike, buses, and boats dropped me off in the city of Cat Ba. I found my hostel, drank two beers, and then immediately went into the city to book two trips– one was for an all day cruise through Lan Ha and Ha Long Bay, and the other was a half day jungle trek through Cat Ba National Park.

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Everyone on our excursion to Ha Long Bay was traveling in a group except for me. I was alone and I spent most of the morning listening to different languages on the boat, enjoying the sun, and being totally fucking floored by the environment around me. Seriously. Ha Long Bay is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life and all of the pictures I have, even the most gorgeous pictures on my camera roll, do not come close to doing the place justice– it is truly one of the most incredible things I have ever had the privilege to look at and experience in my life.

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After visiting the largest fish farm in the bay, we stopped in the middle of a bunch of the limestone karsts, dropped anchor, and the tour guides invited us to go swimming– we could even jump off the boat! I hesitated. I was alone, I was going to have to jump in front of a bunch of strangers, and I was going to have to hoist myself back up the boat ladder when I was done swimming. But, I didn’t let any of that stop me. I slipped off away from everyone and I jumped off the boat into the water. A lot of people swam to two small beaches around the boat, but I just tread water in the bay, looking around at these huge, majestic rocks and I cried.

I cried because 5 years before, when I turned 25, I was convinced my life was over because I had graduated. Because I hated my job. Because I felt like a failure. Because I was so far in student loan debt. Because I wanted to die. 25 felt like the age where I should have had it all together and I remember the feeling of looking 25 in the face and being so ashamed of myself and how terrible my life felt at the time. Yet, at 30, a mere five years later, I was swimming in one of the most beautiful places on earth and I had the bravery to come and do it all alone. I have a job that I love. I have a fiance I love. I have friends that I love. I have myself, and for fuck’s sake, I love myself. All I kept saying to myself as I swam around the boat, looking at the water, the karsts, the sky is “Look what you’ve done, Kara. Look how far you’ve come. Look at what kind of life you’ve created.”

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Let me tell you what kind of life I’ve created– I’ve created a life where I am starting to stand up for myself for the first time ever. I’ve created a life where I am going out and trying new, physical things because I do not feel limited by my weight or by my body. I have created a life where I am not terrified of the world around me, and even if things are scary and overwhelming sometimes, I WILL NOT QUIT. I have moved out of the state that I called home for 27 years and I have been living in an Asian country for almost 3 years. I have a created a life where I can book plane tickets and travel for a week by myself and make decisions and change plans and problem solve.

I’m glad 25 year old me survived.

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Part of this trip through Ha Long Bay was also kayaking throughout the bay through three caves and into two lagoons. Because I was alone, I got paired up with the guide, and I was standing alone on the dock and one of the group members questioned why I wasn’t coming and I said “I’ve got to go with the guide– I’m alone,” and for some reason, I felt the tears of shame burn white hot in my eyes, but I pushed it down. I had nothing to be ashamed of–not even a little bit. I got in the fucking kayak. The guide asked if my group was 5 people, and I said, for the second time, “No, I’m alone,” and his response was “You’re so brave.” I smiled because I was. I am. I was initially nervous about my kayak skills and my endurance, but I stayed in the front for most of the trip. I got calluses on my hands from the oars. I got a sunburn on my knees. I navigated through three caves, looked for monkeys, and had kayak races with other people on our trip. I had fun and I did it without anyone else.

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I find this most fascinating because there were times, in high school, when I wouldn’t speak in class because I was fat and too afraid I had the wrong answer. My first thought was always “I think I know this, but I am too fat to open my mouth. I don’t want to be wrong.” To go from feeling like you aren’t worthy of speaking in class to jumping off of a 4 meter boat in a bathing suit in front of a bunch of strangers and kayaking in just a bathing suit in front of strangers is just sort of staggering for me. I can’t imagine feeling that way now, but I know I did at one point in time.

The next day, I went on a half day jungle trek. I woke up at 7:00am for the third day in a row and I just did not want to do it. I felt wrecked from the day before, I knew it was hot outside, and I just didn’t want to be involved in so much physical activity. But, instead of canceling, instead of not going, I got up, packed up my pack, and went on the trek anyway.

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It was hot. I drank four liters of water before we even got to the top. The mosquitoes were relentless. It was so hot. The mountain, if you can call it that, was only 221m, which is a third of the mountain my friends and I normally hike in Daegu. It felt so much higher and so much harder than Apsan. We kept going. We finally got to this orange viewpoint and I celebrated! We had made it. We could relax, enjoy the wind and the view, and start to make our way back down. But, our guide hit us with a “we’re going to that peak” and he pointed to another set of stairs and another challenge. The two other people I was with decided they had enough– they were going to stay at the viewpoint and I considered it. I almost quit. I wanted to quit. I wanted to be done with it. But, I looked at the peak. I looked at the distance I had already come. I looked at the guide and said “I’m going to do it.”

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It was so fucking beautiful at the top of that mountain. The wind felt so good against my face, the sun was hot on my shoulders, and I had done it. I had pushed myself. I had pushed forward even when I wanted to quit, and that means more to me than anything. As a person who has always been overweight, the idea of doing physical activity, especially physical activity in scalding heat and humidity, is just not something I used to do, and yet, I had done it twice on this trip. I had pushed myself. I have changed.

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This was the moment. I kept shouting “I did it! I did!” and the tour guide snapped my picture while I was celebrating to myself and I’m glad he did. I’m glad I can look at this picture when shit gets hard and I convince myself I am worthless. I’m glad I can look at this picture when my self-doubt becomes too much for me to talk myself out of, and I know it will happen again. My happiness, my bravery, my determination is all so evident in this picture and I found, with great joy, that no pictures were taken of me throughout my vacation, selfie or otherwise, that I hated. I found something to love about all of them– mostly, it was how happy I knew I was when I took the picture.

Turning 30 is supposed to be a clusterfuck and maybe for a lot of people, it is. I think, as women, we have this idea ingrained in our heads that if we aren’t mothers, wives, homeowners, career women, or some combination of the above when we reach this age that we are failures, that we have somehow missed the mark and that’s just not fucking true. I see so many different examples of women in my life that are 30 or older and we are all so different from each other and it is truly a beautiful thing. Turning 30 has made me so aware of who I am and what I have to be thankful for and all of the things I have to look forward to in the next decade of my life.

This trip was an awakening for me in a lot of ways. I had to deal with my fear, my insecurity, my panic, and my indecision and I did it. I was confronted with situations that seemed pretty daunting at the time, but I handled them. On top of that, I got to experience a limitless kind of joy that only came when I knew, when I truly knew, that if shit went south, I could take care of, and handle, myself and the situation. I’ve never felt like that before. I’ve always felt sort of inept and helpless, but that is pretty much bullshit and the absolute opposite of what I am. I am a fucking warrior. I was physically active on my vacation. I went out of my way to take on physical challenges, and looking back on those decisions, I never would have done that before. I have never done that before. I am a different person and I am just so fucking happy.

I got told I was old by a couple of young kids in a club in Hanoi the night of my 30th birthday and I kind of recoiled. I’ve never been seen as “old” before, but those fucking kids don’t know what they’re talking about. They don’t know what kind of power, what kind of energy, and what kind of hunger comes with 30. There is a deep need inside of me to keep changing and keep succeeding, to keep traveling and experiencing, and to keep growing. There is an urge within me to prove every negative thought about myself wrong and that is my intention while I take the journey to my 31st birthday– prove myself wrong at every single step, at every single point when my mind threatens to undermine my power.

So, tonight, in an attempt to get back to it, I went back to CrossFit for the first time in over 3 weeks. It was hot, sweaty, but I Rx’D a workout, which means I did it at the highest level of intensity, for the first time ever. I kicked ass tonight, even after 3 weeks of no CrossFit. Every time I think I cannot do something, I am going out of my way to prove that I can.

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I am crying now. I am sitting in my house, listening to music, and crying because I am so proud of myself and what I have done and what I am going to do. Being terrified has always been such a part of my personality and of my though process and watching it slowly fall away and be replaced with bravery and a desire to try all kinds of new things is truly magnificent. I feel magnificent.

I am a powerful creature. I am a tree growing deep roots into the grounds of my own convictions and determination. I am brave and while I won’t say I am fearless, I am so much more aware of my limits. The funny shit is I am finding I have fewer and fewer limits the older I get.

Hi, 30. It’s nice to meet you. I’m Kara. I am unstoppable.

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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.

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.

The Blur of October: Starting Over

img_3419Hey, y’all. It’s been a hot second and a half, but I figured it’s about time to write an update about how my life is going, well or otherwise. It hasn’t been going well, but being honest has always been one of my main tenants for keeping a weight loss blog, or an emotional blog. Since September, my life has been kind of a clusteruck whirlwind, and while I am tempted to be angry with myself for how far I’ve allowed myself to backslide, self-love is probably the most important in times of disappointment.

In the middle of September, I took a two week trip to Kentucky to see my family and to experience Kentucky as it turned to fall. Unfortunately for me, it stayed fuckall hot while I was there, but being in Kentucky was simply amazing. I ate all of the food, drank all of the craft beer, and thoroughly enjoyed my time with my friends. I managed to keep away from cigarettes, I ran a couple of times, but at the end of the trip, I rolled my ankle at a restaurant and put myself out of running commission for well over a week. It was then I sort of knew that I was probably out of the running for the Ulsan Half Marathon, which was my ultimate goal.

By the way, that race was yesterday and I didn’t run it.

After I got back, I had a much harder time of adjusting to Korea again than I had before. I didn’t sleep well; when I slept, it was either from 2:00am-3:30am or from 11am-3:30pm. I was living on sleeping pills, I was extremely depressed, and I started feeling like I was going crazy. October was a hard month for me, but in addition, October is also a party month here. Every single weekend, there was some sort of shenanigan happening– birthdays, award ceremonies, weddings. You name it, October had it. Before I get into the logistics of October, and my feelings throughout the month, I want to preface this with a statement: October was fun. I spent time with the greatest friends in the world and a lot of good, lovely things were part of my life in October.

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But, instead of counteracting my depression with exercise and eating well, I allowed myself to totally abandon my goals and slip into a place that has proven very hard to escape. Instead of exercising, eating well, and confronting my issues, I turned back to one of my old habits, which was drinking my issues away. I ran less than 5 times in the month of October. I ate bullshit. I drank Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays.I had gone 90 days without a cigarette and in a moment of self-destruction, I caved and had one. I spent a lot of October hating myself, and, as a consequence, my depression, and the side effects, got worse.

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I couldn’t focus. I shied away from my closest people. I tried to keep my problems in my head instead of allowing my friends around me in, to comfort me. I couldn’t find justification for how I felt. Wasn’t I happy? Didn’t I have everything? But, depression doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t show up when things are going poorly and disappear when things are going my way.

I spent October feeling like a fat failure but without any sort of gumption to change or fix the way I was acting or living. I had reached a point of not giving a flying fuck about myself again. A lot of my unhappiness was in the notion that I wasn’t running my half, I had a cigarette, I drank too much, and I punished myself. I punished myself by mentally letting go and fully engaging in the hate cycle and when I had enough, I was so determined to get through it on my own that I didn’t trust my closest people to help me through it. I live in a vicious world of high standards and a low threshold of self forgiveness.

After many conversations with my best friends, and after many evenings spent listless, I am starting to drag myself, albeit kicking and screaming, out of this dark place. I started keeping track of my bullet journal again. I’ve started making food in my house again. I’ve started sleeping at regular intervals again, communicating again, and tonight, I ran again. It was hard.

It was so tempting afterward,  after 2.2 miles felt terrible and like death, and I had run almost 7 miles before America, to tear into myself, to tear myself down with venom and rage because I was not what I was 2 months ago. But, I didn’t. One of my main focus points in the next few weeks, is to gently and calmly start reconstructing my schedule. Slowly, but surely, putting the pieces back into place where I know I will be the most successful. I am not a punching bag for myself; I would not tolerate the kind of toxic behavior I force myself to endure, from myself, from someone else.

It’s time to rebuild, even if it is grueling and hard. It’s time to take care of myself, even when the desire to collapse is at its strongest. It’s also time to love myself with a kind of ferocity I’ve never had before and realize now, more than ever, that my weight does not define who I am. A bad run does not make me a failure. Eating a carbohydrate does not mean that I am weak. I am not a perfect person, I am insanely flawed, and for fuck’s sake, that’s okay.

October, you were rough on me. You were fun, drunk, and an absolute blur. But, it’s time to take up the reigns of self-care and get back to it.

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November, show me what you got.

 

 

Depression: The True De-Motivator

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I am a diagnosed clinical depressive. I am not shy about this. I was diagnosed when I was in college by the therapist I was seeing through my university, who after a questionnaire, immediately referred me to the psychiatrist on campus for further evaluation. Depression is something I’ve struggled with since I was a teenager, and although I originally dismissed it as overwhelming teenage angst, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized just how detrimental depression has been in my life and in my relationships, not only with other people, but especially with myself. My depression often hits me after huge highs or events. For example, every year, after my birthday, I am depressed. When depression hits, it is hard for me to find motivation and it’s even harder for me to believe in myself. This week was one of those weeks.

It’s so easy to feel like a failure when you’re on a mission to be come healthier. There is this stigma that if you make a mistake or if you miss a workout, you have failed yourself or the people who will inevitably ask how your weight loss journey is going or how your training is shaping up. These people mean well, I’m sure, but there is a creeping guilt when you look someone in the face and express to them that you’ve had a rough, off week; there is the same guilt if you’re just trying to enjoy a beer and someone scrutinizes your fucking choices.

Often times, if you’re following people on Facebook or Instagram or whatever who are on the same journey as you, you only see their perfection; you are privy to their healthy meals, their intense workouts, and their feelings of euphoria as they continuously shed pounds. What we don’t often see, and this can be extended to many aspects of life viewed through social media, is the fucking struggle. You don’t see the tears as someone is defeated and has to stop half-way through a hard workout. You don’t see the “bad decisions” people made throughout the week when they chose a food that wasn’t necessarily the best choice. You don’t see the look on someone’s face as they step on the scale, after a week of hard work, only to be let down by a static number. But, there is a struggle, at least for me and that struggle is often exacerbated by depression.

On Tuesday of this week, I had a particularly frustrating run.I pushed this run from Monday to Tuesday because I just did not want to leave my house after work. But, Tuesday afternoon, I put my shit on and got outside. I felt slow, my energy was low, I had to stop to walk multiple times, and I didn’t run nearly as far as I wanted to, or planned. I got home afterward and just couldn’t figure out why it was so hard or felt so terrible. I’m sure the humidity played a part, but I just couldn’t find the fire in me that I had a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t want go to soccer, but I went anyway. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I normally do. From Tuesday on, I slid down and down and down.

My eating habits were shit. I ate at restaurants for lunch every single day this week. I barely drank my protein shakes. I didn’t exercise on Wednesday or Thursday. I worked more this week than normal. I spent too much money. I slept more than 9 hours almost every night. I picked fights with Rob to satisfy some need to understand and justify why I felt so fucking sad. Eventually, I just accepted that I was depressed. I felt my feelings. I walked through them. I examined them. I let them be.

Then, Friday happened. Friday was one of the best things that could have happened for me. I needed to get a long run in. My goal was 4.5 miles and since I ran 5 miles a couple of weeks ago, I figured it wouldn’t be as hard as I thought it would be. It was hard finding the motivation to do it because I was still struggling with feelings of sadness and inadequacy. But, I put my running clothes on and fucking did it. I upped my intervals from 10/1 to 15/1, so I was running 15 minutes and walking 1 minute. My goal was to do that three times and I would be around 4.5 miles. But, at the end of my third and final set, a runner’s high I haven’t felt in a long time kicked in. I hit my fucking stride. I felt good. I felt strong. So, I did another 15 minutes and at the end of that 15, I kept running for another 6. I ran 6.3 miles or 10.1km in 1:08. I felt like I was on top of the world. I stood outside of my apartment and cried because I was so fucking proud of myself, which is a fleeting feeling– I rarely feel proud of anything I do. But, I felt proud on Friday night. I pushed myself. I found my strength and kept fucking going, even when I didn’t want to keep going and I succeeded.

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So, this week has been a week of learning and feelings for me.

This week, two of my good friends left Korea. This is the shittiest part of expatriate life; the friends you make, while they are lifelong friendships, will eventually move on to the next place, whether that be another city, another country, or back home. It’s been rough, but it’s important to remember that I, too, will be leaving this country soon to start my next adventures. I guess I just wasn’t prepared for how much it was going to hurt to say goodbye.

I learned that your sweat can actually smell like ammonia! Basically, from what I understand, if your body does not have enough carbohydrates to keep up with the energy demands, your body will turn to other energy sources, including protein. Your organs can’t handle the excess ammonia, so it pushes it out via sweat glands. SCIENCE!

I also learned that it’s really cool to have a friend who is an Occupational Therapist who can teach you how to tape your foot to relieve plantar fasciitis pain. It’s actually just really cool to have friends from all walks of life who can offer support and advice on numerous, troubling topics. I am very thankful.

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But, here’s the most important thing I’ve learned this week: even if my progress is slow, it is still progress. I am still moving forward, even if there are are setbacks, even if I am depressed, even if I eat cake (which I am doing as I write this). The picture on the right was taken on Christmas Eve, 2015. The picture on the left was taken a little over 8 months later on Friday, August 26. Since December, I have made HUGE strides, not only in my physical fitness but in my emotional well-being as well. It is important to remember that. Most days, my progress feels so small and subtle. But, it is STILL there. My goals sometimes feel far away, but I have lost 27.5 pounds, or 12.5kgs. In December, I couldn’t run for 5 minutes and I ran 6 miles on Friday night. Progress cannot be judged only by side-by-side portraits. I feel better. I AM better. I make better choices. I can do this. My only real enemy is me.

So, for the rest of the night, I am going to watch Sherlock with my partner, who is amazing, and finish eating this piece of carrot cake. Because I can.

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Tomorrow, it’s back on the grind. Run. Eat well. Be kind. Some days, I don’t feel like the same person anymore and that’s okay. It’s okay to change and to grow and to slough off the layers of bullshit that have accumulated on our skin for years. I have no desire to return who who I used to be and I think, after many years, I have finally found the right exfoliant.

Keep sloughin’, y’all.

 

The Art of Doing Shit I Don’t Want to Do & The Glory of 5 Miles

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Good afternoon, friends. I hope everyone is having a good week thus far. This has been my summer vacation so I’ve been relaxing, having fun, and enjoying not going to work for a few days. I went to Namhae Island in the south of the peninsula, went hiking, my best friend came down from Seoul and I managed to run my first five miles in years in the middle of it. It has been an exciting few days  It all ends tomorrow, though, so I thought I would type out a blog entry about the beach party, the hike, and a pretty interesting breakthrough I’ve had concerning my habits.

I don’t want to mince words here: I fucking hate exercising. I hate feeling out of breath. I hate struggling. I hate how long it takes to burn off one fucking piece of bread. I hate how easy it is to gain weight and how tiresome and frustrating it can be to lose weight. I hate the long process of motivating myself to run. If I am running at night, the pep talk usually starts as soon as I wake up. I hate exercising. But, I’ve been doing it anyway.

One of the ways of exercising I find most difficult is hiking. It’s a constant battle for continuous endurance. It’s a true test of how long you can keep going without completely collapsing into a pool of your own exhausted tears. But, I keep doing it. I keep agreeing to go on these insane hikes with my friends, and while I bitch CONSTANTLY throughout the hike (and I do mean constantly– I am not a good hiking partner), by the end of it, I feel so fucking accomplished. My friend Ingrid and I decided to attend the Namhae Beach Party this weekend but, instead of going with the buses at 10am and heading immediately to the beach, we instead left Daegu at 4am, got to Namhae at 7am, and hiked the local mountain there, Geumsan, before drinking beers in the sand. I researched this mountain and it said it was a fairly easy course– BUT I HAVE BEEN TRICKED BEFORE, KOREA.

So we hiked. And it was not easy. And I bitched. And I had regrets. But, I fucking kept going. Even though I stopped multiple times, even though I shouted “FUCK” as loud as I could at seeing another set of large steps to climb, even though I was sweating my ass off and it was humid as fuck and I just wanted to drink on the beach, I kept going.

And then we reached the top.

*Disclaimer: All pictures that follow were taken by Ingrid, not me*

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The top was beautiful. The view of the beach below was beautiful. The caves at the top were beautiful. The temple was beautiful. It was all so fucking beautiful and I had this thought, this mindblowing thought that I had never considered before amidst my embarrassment at my heaving breath and sweaty body–

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every single time I run or hike or move when I don’t want to, every time I push through the desire to quit, I am making progress and I am victorious. Every single time I do something I don’t want to do, I am successful.

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Success isn’t about reaching the top first or getting up the mountain without stopping. Success isn’t about hiding deep inhales and struggles or pretending that I feel no exhaustion or frustration. Success, at least for me, is taking those feelings and changing them into fuel to keep going, even when it seems impossible. The feeling of sitting at the top of a mountain that you conquered, looking out over the view below, feeling your heart rate slow, and appreciating the fucking majesty of nature is something I am growing to appreciate more and more after every single hike.

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The weight may not fall off of me as fast as I want it and getting fitter may take longer than I originally anticipated, but it IS happening and it is showing in small ways. It’s just so important to notice the small changes instead of focusing only on how my belly is getting smaller or my face thinner. Those things are inspirational, too, don’t get me wrong, but there is something so powerful about truly noticing the power of my legs for the first time or feeling, finally, a gentle voice encouraging me on instead of the angry voice that has condemned and hated me for the past 29 years.

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A lot happened to me on this hike and in the hours that followed. It was not a tall mountain, but it was challenging, and because I keep doing things that challenge me, because I keep doing shit I don’t want to do, I am winning the battle against myself. I have never been good about motivating myself or pushing myself to keep going because I think I have always come at this idea with anger and punishment instead of worship and reverence for all the things my body CAN do and WILL do if I just ask it nicely and am patient with it as it tries to get better. It’s okay to be out of breath when climbing a mountain– it’s a fucking mountain!

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I know I am capable of great things, both physically and emotionally. The only person that ever stops me is me.

So, last night, taking these concepts and new realizations about myself, I tried to put them into practice during my run, which, in all fairness, I did not want to fucking do because Daegu is a humid pool of bullshit right now and it’s just hard to do anything physical for an extended period of time when the sun is up. But, I put my running shoes on, rode my bike to the local elementary school track, started my Strava, and started fucking running. I’ve been running in 10/1 intervals, which means I run for 10 minutes, walk for 1 minute, run 10 minutes, and so on and so forth. There are four intervals in one workout, and last week, I struggled through 3 of them and then 5 minutes of the fourth one. Last night, I was determined to do better than that. I ran through the first one and considered stopping, I finished the second one and started finding my groove, I finished the third one and did not feel tired, and as the fourth one came to an end, I decided to run a 5th one, which would put me right at 5 miles, so I did.

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This is the first time I’ve run five miles in years. I can’t remember the last time. I’ve now run over 1/3 of what I need to run for my half in November. I was worried about being able to reach that distance, but my run last night proved to me that I can fucking do anything.

I’ve been without cigarettes for 38 days now. I made it through an outdoor beach party while drinking copious amounts of alcohol and did not have one cigarette– I didn’t even really want one. The impulse was there, but the desire was gone.

The rest of this month is going to be excruciatingly stressful, but all things I am doing are necessary for my future success, even if it means working more than I want, sleeping less than I want, and not having as much fun as I want. But, this is part of life. This is part of the grind and part of achieving the goals I’ve set for myself on all fronts, not just the physical. Being successful requires sacrifices and I cannot keep giving energy to thoughts., things, or people who will not and do not help me grow to be the best version of myself.

It’s time to fuckin’ shine, y’all.