If you’ve been following my blog recently, you know I entered myself into a 6 Week Challenge at a fitness center called “The Camp”.

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It’s a total body, total mind and total life altering experience for anyone who is willing to take it seriously.  The “challenge” is 20 pounds in 6 weeks. They offer to train you, coach you, support you, push you and demand excellence from you and all you have to do is show up, do the work, follow the program and lose 20 pounds.  You put down a deposit on your first day, but you only pay if you fail to meet the goal.  That is the incentive for many people but soon into week 1, it becomes very clear that the challenge is NOT about the money you get back.  In fact, they pretty much straight up lie to you because the “challenge” isn’t in losing 20 pounds.   The challenge is about what you are willing to do for yourself.  How far you are willing to go for your own health.  How defeated you are going to allow yourself to be by whatever limitations you’ve given yourself, whatever excuses you allowed yourself to believe and how determined are you to change your life and your lifestyle for the betterment of not JUST you- but your family, as well.  Sure, you lose 20 pounds, work out 6-10 times a week and eat a very strict meal plan, but that’s not the hard part.  The hard part is keeping it up, doing the work, being honest with yourself about your health and your activity and preparing for what comes next.

Currently, I am in the middle of week 5.  The last 4 1/2 weeks have not been easy.  It’s been a challenge to get up at 5am with two toddlers who co-sleep and nurse through the night.  There are days when I have only had 3 hours of sleep and I crawl out of bed, slither into the living room to get dressed silently without waking anyone, no coffee allowed, and slip out the door unnoticed.  Sometimes they do notice and I close the door with them screaming for me.  It’s been a challenge to NOT be hungry all the time.  Well, wait. Let me rephrase that.  It’s a challenge not to EAT all the time.  It’s been a challenge not to lick peanut butter spoons and take an extra bite of the left over quesadilla on my kid’s plate when he says he’s finished after one bite.  It’s been a major eye opener to realize that I always, ALWAYS cut an extra piece of cheese to eat it right then, anytime I make a sandwich, a quesadilla, a burrito, an omelette… literally ANYthing that has cheese, I always cut one more piece to eat it when I’m making it.  It’s been like HELL not having my own birthday cake, my sister’s birthday cake, my nephew’s birthday cake, bringing my own food to parties and bbq’s and its been ridiculous to carry my own food around in my purse, even pulling it out in restaurants because they had nothing for me on their menus like some kind of OCD crazy person.

Losing 20 pounds is a happy side effect.  This challenge is about breaking your self-made prison of vices.  You have to be ready for it, you have to WANT to do it.  I’ll admit, when I went to sign up, I was not ready.  I didn’t really understand what it was going to take.  I was just going to “try it out” and see what happened.  Well, “just trying it out” turned into a split second decision- Do I like the way I feel/look/behave now?  The answer was no.  Once I owned up to that, there was no turning back and I had not choice but to be ready.  They took a picture of me and told me to post it on my facebook page so everyone would know that I committed to making the change.  Then, they gave me a tee shirt and took my picture holding a sign that said I was committed to the task.  Here’s me, holding the sign… Can you see it? The look of “yeah we’ll see…”?

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It was all pretty surreal and strange at first and I wasn’t sure I was going to last even the first week.

I’ve gone from “not sure I can make it through the hour” while stopping for the occasional nausea to pass, to; “do I have time to do 30 minutes of cardio before I go home?”

I’ve gone from, “no honey, we’re not going outside today… mama’s tired”, to “hurry up and get your shoes on so we can leave!”

I’ve gone from migraines every 2 1/2-3 weeks to ZERO.  Literally. ZERO since I started this.

I’ve moved up from “I can only do the 5lb dumbbells” to, “sure, I’ll try 20… what the heck!”

So far, I’ve lost 10 pounds.  I’ve got 10 left to go and 10 days to go.  Am I worried?  Well, I’ll be sad if I don’t reach the goal, sure… but does that make me want to give up? Throw in the towel now? Give in and eat whatever I feel like or skip going to class?

Nope.  Why?

Because my true goal is not the 20 pounds.  I’m still going to bust my butt to reach the goal, I’m still going to do all I can to get there and even more if possible… but if I don’t make it, if the scale doesn’t tip all the way down to 20, I’ll be honest- I won’t be upset.  I mean, sure- it would have been nice to see that number, but it’s not about the number.  It actually never was.  I did it to shock my system out of it’s bad habits.  I did it to shake off the demons and the cobwebs and the excuses and prove to myself that there was still a fighter in there, someone who knew how to take control.

See, I’m a serious habit creature.  I have patterns and a process for everything I do.  I have ritual and tradition for nearly every activity and the habits I have fulfill an emotional need, a sense of completeness and provide a powerful sense of safety for me.  I learned while doing this challenge that every single one of my traditions, rituals and habits has something to do with some kind of food.  Whether it’s my afternoon coffee, Del Taco on the way home from the market on Saturday, Starbucks anytime I go to Target, beignets and chicory coffee then later, a cupcake on my birthday, a glass of wine or a Guinness on a random afternoon, baking cookies “for the kids”, eating ice cream cones anytime the temperature was over 90, making pizza at least once a week when I was too tired to make dinner… each of these treats have a time, place and purpose in my life and had become common activities, expected activities… no longer treats.

Until I did this challenge, I didn’t realize that.  I knew I was stuck, feeling weak and incapable, but I didn’t understand how dependent upon my bad habits I’d become and without them, I learned, my experiences were lessened.  I’d grown to NEED those things in order to feel happy.  I had NO IDEA I was that kind of person.

My greatest treat became my arch-nemesis in a matter of an HOUR after the very first day of the very first week.  Here’s what I learned-  If I had a bad day, I’d go to Starbucks.  If I was having a good day or celebrating something, I’d go to Starbucks.  If I got up and out of the house early (like before 9am), it was a given that I’d be going to Starbucks before anything else was done.  I never realized ANY OF THIS until I couldn’t go anymore.

Now, as I approach the end of the challenge, I’ve started to worry for the time after.  I am anxious about falling back into my old habits and comfort zones.  I think about what will happen when I’m faced with a temptation and I have no one holding me accountable but me and I wonder if I’m going to be able to do it.  I have changed every single thing about my life;  sleep patterns, my diet, my cooking habits, my activities during the day… all of it.  Can I keep it up?  The answer is actually pretty easy.

Yep.

Why?  Well, a few reasons;

One,  because this challenge has opened my eyes.  It’s made me resent the fact that every SINGLE gathering we have in our culture revolves around eating crappy food and sitting around, doing nothing but eating, drinking and indulging in vices.  It’s infuriating to know that without cake- a birthday CAN’T be a birthday.  That the experience of a party is somehow lessened by the absence of some sugary bad for you “treat”.  We’ve allowed ourselves to believe this because it’s yummy and fun and apparently a party can’t be fun without it.  It’s ridiculous toxic traditions like this that are literally KILLING people from obesity and heart disease in this country and we just… let it happen.  All that does is make me angry.  Angry enough to make sure my kids don’t ever feel like their birthdays are not special because of cake, ice cream and snacks- their days are special because of THEM and their lives should be celebrated by living, not marked by scarfing down some kind of bad for you food.

Two, because I haven’t been this healthy in 15 years.  I didn’t even know I COULD be this healthy again and I cannot believe it’s only been a month!  I am not going to give this up.  Not ever.  I once allowed others’ weaknesses and limitations to dictate what I was capable of.  I remembered, through this challenge, that those limitations were NEVER MINE.  They never belonged to me.  I took them on, wore them like a coat and a comfy sweater… allowing others’ assumptions that I couldn’t do something to mean that I actually couldn’t and shouldn’t bother.  No one thought I could anyway, so why try? Years went by and I believed the lies more and more every day even though I lamented the days gone by when I was “hard core”.  I went through anxiety and depression, years of believing limitations were all I was made of.  I tried every easy way out- diet programs, yoga in my living room, tai chi on Hulu, taking walks around the block… but nothing stuck because I was always hurting.  I hadn’t purged the evil from my system and every minute of pain felt like I’d overdone it… even though all it was, was my body screaming at me because it needed more.  More movement, more energy, more strength… but I was afraid to fail, so I did nothing.

And three, because people who say, “well I want to go on a diet and get healthier, but I can’t give up my bread/cheese/creamer/wine/cheese puffs/pizza” just absolutely piss me off now.  I LOVE bread, cheese, wine, creamer, pizza… all those things.  But if I can’t give them up for a few weeks to get myself healthy, that’s a serious problem in my head that needs to be worked out.  That’s a defiant selfishness that screams *disease* and it makes me sad for those people’s children.  I cannot and WILL NOT ever be that person again.

When I started this challenge, I knew I had to shock myself out of my life.  All of it.  I am such a creature of habit that nothing but “cold turkey” ever works for me.  I know it’s still going to be hard when this is over, I have a lot of vices and a tendency to over indulge.  I get depressed and I find comfort in things like coffee creamer and grilled cheese sandwiches.  It will be a struggle to stay motivated.  It will be hard to want to get up and go work out.  All I will be able to do, is remember why I’m doing it and push forward and hope that’ll be enough.  Right now, the goal is a deadline, a date, in the very near future.  After that date is past, all bets are off.

That’s when the REAL challenge begins.

It won’t be me against a deadline after the 14th in a space that I get to go to free of charge.  I won’t have a team of people pushing me forward to reach the goal by that ever present, looming date in the near future.  It’ll just be me, my own desire, my own Will to keep going and my own choice to do it or not.  My own demons, my own gun, my own passion to kill them and keep moving forward.

Mother, Demon Hunter, Warrior

We all say, “we all have our demons”, and usually we’re talking about some kind of vice.  Smoking, drinking, sugar, carbs, pie, cake, doughnuts, TV, video games, coffee, those darn snacks in the line at the grocery store, etc…. but those are not the demons.  Those are NOT what you are really fighting against, those are just the tools of implementation for the demons that want to destroy us.  See, I know I will be successful after this challenge because for me, it’s not about “looking hot for swimsuit season”.  It’s about being capable of fighting back if I need to, protecting my children if I need to, defending my home, my health and my life if I have to.

So, there won’t be a deadline.  No outside person holding me accountable with several hundred dollars over my head, but it’ll be something much more important.

It’ll be me against death.  It’ll be me against disease.  It’ll be me against the pain and weakness of aging, against osteoporosis and depression and carpal tunnel and heart disease and cancer.  These are the demons that want to take over our lives, our bodies and rip us apart from the inside out.  These are the demons that work their way into our minds and convince us to just take a nap instead of getting up and mowing the lawn or taking the kids outside. These are the demons who tell us to give in and just have one more cookie or a big, fat mocha with extra cream and extra syrup because we were up early and we DESERVE it.

It’s about being hard core, inside and out for the sake of my kids.  It’s about being a warrior.  It’s about being a bad ass mommy who can hold her own, take crap from no one and defend her family if necessary.  The demons who come in the form of criminals and kidnappers and home invasions and people with guns who think they are stronger than me because I’m a woman with small children.  It’s about doing what I can at all times to improve myself, because you never know when those demons are going to show up and give you a run for your money.  You have to be ready and the only way to be ready, is to train for it.

I owe it to my family to give this life, this body and this world all I have and if I am so selfish that I can’t even care for my own soul carrier, how am I ever going to expect my children to ever want to do it, either?  If I give in because I’m selfish and I overindulge, make bad lifestyle choices about fitness and meals… if I’m too lazy to do the right thing for my OWN body, how the heck am I supposed to convince them to do it, too?

So, no.  It won’t be a problem sticking to the path.  Now that I’m on it, there’s no getting off, no going back.  Now, that doesn’t mean I’ll never eat cake again, or pizza or that I’ll never go to Starbucks again… but it does mean that when I DO eat those things and I do indulge in those treats, it’ll be a treat- not a lifestyle and I’ll probably take some time to balance the diet elsewhere in order to have those things without getting totally off track.

It’s a hard core mommy’s life for me from now on.

…. Now, speaking of demons, excuse me while I go take the rest of nap time to watch my favorite show and get in another work out before the end of the day.

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