Putting My Name On It

Both of my kids woke this morning with 102-degree fevers. Two days before school starts. I had been planning to do my favorite Peloton ride of the week, Ally Love’s Feel Good Ride at 8:30, but I missed it because we were at Urgent Care swabbing for strep and checking goopy ears and little lungs.

I almost skipped it. Almost descended fully into mom-martyr mode – which, now that I think on it for a moment, is basically a pity party for one and helps none. As Martyr Mom, I use the excuse of my kids being sick to throw on some sweats, throw open my pantry door and ingest any comfort food I can get my Purelled hands on. Because surely junk food will help me get my kids through their viral slog-du-jour. [SPOILER ALERT: junk food is not the answer to helping sick kids. Nor is booze. Keeping myself healthy and energized is the best thing I can do for my kids when they’re sick. Not rocket science. But not always gut instinct either.]

By mid-day my kids were calmly vegging in front of “Cake Wars” and so – Martyr Mom be damned – I seized the moment and hopped on my bike to do the Feel Good Ride on demand. And am I ever glad I did.

Ally never fails to inspire me. And I’m not saying that to be a goody-goody. There is something about sweating my (figurative) balls off and pedaling my legs until they burn that readies my mind and my heart to receive inspiration and wisdom. And Ally provides these in spades, especially on her Feel Good Rides. Today, she talked about being real. Not worrying about the leaderboard. Not hiding behind your username. Just being real.

So I’ll be real: Ally, I confess I was tapping away on my phone during your ride today. But I wasn’t texting or Instagramming. I was writing the notes that have formed this post.

Because I did stop hiding behind a username today. I put my last name on my @maintaining_mama Instagram account. (Once on a roll, I also got myself a domain name and created a Facebook page for this blog. Follow me! Share me!) I am no longer anonymous. I am fully out there as “a former wine mom” who has committed to one year without wine. What a way to toast Day 60!

I made these changes before the ride, but I didn’t realize the importance of my actions until Ally’s words crystallized it for me. With sweat dripping down my face and my butt begging to be plopped back down into the saddle it hit me like a full turn to the right: “my desire to help outweighs my fear of being known.”

That’s what I hastily typed into my phone. Let me expand upon that a bit now that I’ve caught my breath.

I have apparently arrived at the point in this journey where my desire to support and inspire others who may be in a situation similar to mine – that is, questioning their possibly dysfunctional relationship with alcohol – is stronger than my fear of going public with my own struggles. Am I still afraid of being judged? Yes. Am I going to shout “I USED TO BE SCARY DEPENDENT ON WINE, Y’ALL!” from the rooftops? No. (Mine’s too steeply pitched anyway.) But I want to help more than I want to hide.

What has spurred me into action? So much that I can and cannot put into words. The recent study published in the Lancet medical journal stating that “the safest level of drinking is none” – and the myriad strong reactions to it, both celebrating and poo-pooing the findings. The incredible women I’ve discovered on Instagram who are fierce and fearless and eloquent in their sobriety. The books and podcasts and blogs (see my resources page).

And time. It’s September now. I have been on this journey for nine months, drinking for some of it but mostly not. Today is day 60 of my year-long commitment. And I am simply ready to kick this existence up a notch.

But mostly, I really, really want to help other moms who are feeling shame or feeling like alcohol has the reins. Women who feel powerless to just say no to a witching hour craving. Because we all deserve better and we are all capable of better. And I’m no longer afraid to say so and put my name to my words.

No Self-Sabotage to See Here!

It’s the eve of our summer “vacation” (seeing as we are bringing both kids and dogs, I’m trying to be optimistic in using that word instead of “trip”) and I’m callin’ it: no self-sabotage here, folks!

I have earned a blue dot every day this week. I have worked out the last seven days in a row – I don’t know that I’ve EVER done that! My goal was to get out ahead of my vacation by  conserving Weeklies and racking up FitPoints, so that I not only start the week feeling svelte and energized, but also can be a little more indulgent with my food choices while we’re away. Achievement unlocked.

The pre-AF me was a self-sabotage expert. If I had an important event or date or trip coming up, I would promise myself that I wouldn’t drink (“detox before you re-tox” was one of my favorite sayings) and would eat clean in the days leading up to it. I made these promises, and then I broke them. Always. By stuffing my face and drinking too much. And then I’d feel disgusted and disappointed in myself, always, as I dug through my closet and tried to find something else to wear because the original outfit I had picked out did not flatter my wine belly. [Spoiler alert: nothing flatters a wine belly. Especially one complimented by a puffy face and shame-filled heart.]

I didn’t realize it then, but I see it now:

Promises made on a conscious level are easily broken by one’s subconscious if they are not aligned with one’s subconscious wiring.

I need to think of a zippier way to phrase that and I’m too tired to come up with it right now (plus I have a ton of packing to do tonight). But that’s it. Those deals I tried to strike with myself (“Don’t drink this week and then you can fit into your dress AND get wasted at so-and-so’s wedding on Saturday!”) were never going to work because my subconscious was never on board.

My subconscious was wired to drink. And eat junk food. And so that’s what I did, especially when I put pressure on myself to NOT do those very things. Willpower is a finite resource. I’m still toiling away at the rewiring, but I must be doing something right, because I can feel that long-ingrained habits are truly changing. As my daughter would say, HAL-LE-YOU-YA!

My daughter ascended a climbing wall for the first time today. When she got to the top she pushed a green button that set off a bright flashing light, to show that she made it, before she happily bounced off the wall and back down to the floor. After she made it to the top that first time, all of a sudden the wall was a lot less daunting. She pushed that green button several more times today, climbing with greater confidence each time.

This week has felt like a climbing wall to me. With our departure date waiting for me at the top, I strapped myself in, hooked myself up, and I climbed. I held onto every blue dot earned and every workout completed, each one getting me closer to that green button.

And now I’m here, at the top. I push the button. I take a deep breath. I glance down to see how far I’ve come. I take another breath, a pause to absorb how good it feels to have made it. Because once I’m back on the ground the green button will seem so high. But I’ve been here once, and I’ll be back. Next time, with greater confidence.

I bend my knees and push off the wall, bouncing down to the ground with a pride-filled heart.

In Which I Wear a Bikini and Receive a Compliment

A simple, git ‘er done kind of day. My husband is finally feeling a little bit better but was still out of commission so I took the kids to their swim lessons in the morning and then to the big pool in the afternoon.

I have been really disciplined with my eating this week (hello, #lifetimeorbust) so I decided to wear a bikini top with boy shorts to the pool. Even though I decided back in June to own #bikinigoals, my self-consciousness is so deeply ingrained (and my eating has been so all over the place) that I have only worn a bikini a handful of times since then. Which is still more than I ever have in a single summer. But anyway. For me, wearing a two-piece suit is still a thing. I don’t want it to be, but it is. For now.

While I was in the pool with my doggy-paddling son, a mom friend waded over to me and this is what she said:

“Jen, your body is SICK. Seriously, I mean it. SICK. What do you do to look like that?”

Eek! A compliment! About my BODY, of all things! What do I do?!

“Oh my gosh, thank you so much. You’ve made my day. I do kickboxing three times a week and I have a Peloton. Oh, and I’ve also given up alcohol for a year so that’s part of it too.”

Hold up. Did I actually just ACCEPT a compliment about my BODY??? Without putting myself down, or making excuses, or even just rejecting it outright?

Whenever the pre-Weight Watchers me would get a compliment, my initial response was almost always some sort of self-deprecating put-down. Which of course insulted not only me but also the compliment-giver.

“I love your outfit, Jen.”

“Oh this? I got it on super-sale at Target because it was the only thing that fit and did I mention I haven’t showered for three days?”

“Your hair looks nice today, Jen.”

“Ugh well that’s because I just had it done for the first time in like two months. It never looks like this normally. Did I mention I have more grays than my husband who is five years older than I am?”

But not today, people. Today I was given the gift of a wonderful and genuine compliment on something I have worked very, very hard to achieve. And instead of spitting on it and handing it back, I accepted it with grateful, open hands and heart.

Progress!

Drinkbooza, Meet Noexcusa

After a weekend that was both soul-soothing (good company) and overly indulgent (good food), I kicked my butt back on track with a kickboxing double-header this morning. It felt great and I’m very proud of myself for going!

But I almost didn’t. Because I forgot my water bottle. Because of the on again off again rainforest-style downpours. Because I’m tired from the weekend. Because I have to get organized for my trip. Because because because.

There are always excuses, aren’t there? I used to be a frequent rider on the excuse train – a hangover being one of my most-used reasons for not doing whatever task I felt like avoiding.

I actually almost didn’t try kickboxing at all. Last October, the manager of the MMA gym where my kids take their classes gave me a coupon for two free adult classes. I procrastinated. I had always wanted to try martial arts but never felt fit enough. I can also be a weenie when it comes to trying new things, perfectionist that I am. The coupon was set to expire on November 1 – the day after Halloween.

I don’t dress up for Halloween these days, but my husband wore a Chewbacca suit he’d gotten as a gag gift. I walked around our neighborhood with my family, some neighbors and friends. While the kids trick-or-treated, a bunch of us moms carried cups that said “I’m here for the Boos” – filled with wine of course. I took a selfie of me and my husband and captioned it, “Chewbacca and Drinkbooza.”

I cringed when I typed that. My, how times have changed!

The coupon expired. Because I was too hungover for class on November 1.

Thankfully, the gym manager gave me a hard time about it. I copped to my Halloween hangover and he made a polite joke about how kickboxing is good for detoxing. (Again, I cringe!) Then he agreed to extend the offer for one more week. I went to class the next day, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I’m grateful to him for not letting me hide behind excuses. And I will never let a hangover, or a forgotten water bottle, or a summer downpour, or any other wimpy excuse stand in the way of my health and workout goals. Being fit feels too damn good.

Drinkbooza, meet Noexcusa. She’s gonna kick your butt.

Dear Future Me

Dear Future Me,

So you found your abs at age 37 and life has been perfect since then, right? Tee hee. Ha.

I’m writing to you today because I’m reading a book called The Food Therapist in an effort to tackle my issues with food – diagnosed, according to the author, as dependence, craving for control, and lack of trust. Apparently, the more connected I feel to YOU, Jen-in-her-40s, the better equipped I will be to conquer these issues and maintain my goals (abs!) (and other stuff) for the long haul.

So how are you? Energized, clear-skinned, inspired, confident, and still fitting into a size 4-6? Continually obsessed with your Peloton bike? Still getting a literal and figurative kick out of your heavy bag kickboxing classes? I hope so.

If you recall, you spent ten weeks in 2017 dropping 23 pounds with Weight Watchers. You maintained your weight loss as you began to exercise regularly again. And you also drank regularly throughout. Your drinking became both less pleasurable and less escapable, and so you decided to go dry in January 2018. And that’s when things really got interesting.

Your world opened up with clarity and exquisiteness that you couldn’t have imagined. You liberated yourself from the “mommy juice” myth. And when alcohol became routine again in February and March, you started The Alcohol Experiment. 30 days turned into 60 which turned into 76 days sans booze.

As of today, 93 days since the start of The Alcohol Experiment, I (switching pronouns here, sounds a little less awkward this way) have had four drinks. And I feel great about that. I have steadfastly adhered to my alcohol non-negotiables. The one night I had two glasses of wine, I enjoyed the first and did not enjoy the second. I am continuing to experiment and I am striving, always, for balance.

I wonder where you are with alcohol. In this letter I’m supposed to tell you where I want you to be. But, honestly, I’m not sure. I want you to be happy and healthy, first and foremost. I trust that you have not regressed. If you have decided that alcohol really has no place in your life, kudos to you! And if you have continued to drink occasionally, so long as you truly enjoy it and always adhere to your non-negotiables, that’s a-ok too.

As of the typing of this letter, I am about 98% at peace with my relationship with alcohol. I hope you can confidently say that you are at 100%. And if you haven’t taken a moment lately to celebrate that, please do. Go ahead, I’ll wait. The 2017 us did not believe we would ever be free from our reliance on alcohol. I am so proud to have broken free, and you should still be proud too.

As for food, I hope that walking by the small batch artisanal tortilla chips at DeCicco’s is no longer torturous for you. I hope you can have a bag of chocolate granola – or maybe even a jar of Nutella! – in the pantry without eating the whole thing in one go. I hope that you and food were able to work through your issues and that your relationship flourishes now.

I’m sure it wasn’t easy. After all, you and food had a rocky rapport from the beginning. As a kindergartener you fell asleep every night with your blankie and a Hi-C juice box. Food was always a comfort, a salve, an escape, a distraction. A moment of joy that was worth long-term emotional and physical malaise. But then you ditched booze and started to really love yourself, and once that self-love took hold there wasn’t as much room left for your toxic relationship with food, was there?

I am at the beginning now. I am just starting to untangle 37 years of food dysfunction. I think I can do it. I hope I can. No. You know what? I WILL. Because I’ve come too far to not tackle this shit. (I hope as you read this you’re smiling to yourself, endeared by my determination and my still-flickering self-doubt, which I hope you extinguished for good long ago.)

Here is how I envision you, Jen-in-her-40s:

You wake up well-rested and maintain steady energy throughout your day. You walk into your closet knowing you can fit into everything you see. Whatever you put on, your clothing brings you joy and makes you feel good about how you look. In the summer you confidently wear a bikini, and not just on skinny days. You have a strong core (do you have those awesome side muscles that I am just starting to see? I hope so!) and you don’t look pregnant by the end of the day. You are confident in how you look and how you feel and how you move. You feel sexier than I do. But most importantly, you feel strong and healthy – which may mean something different to you than it does to me, and that’s cool.

You are your own living epitome of health.

No pressure, though.

I don’t expect you to have yanked out your sweet tooth. Or your salt tooth, for that matter. I hope that you and food have a relationship based on trust and appreciation. You see food as fuel for your strong and healthy body and mind. The occasional indulgence does not send you flailing into a downward spiral or fleeing to the pantry in a state of sugar-lust. Sugar-lust may still exist for you, but YOU are in control of your cravings. You understand why they are happening. You are mindful and aware and whether you choose to indulge a craving or not, you act consciously and move on confidently.

I’m starting to feel so excited for us. I’m excited for me to become you. I could do without the additional gray hair and fine lines that will turn into wrinkles; but I’m less fussed about those things because I know that I am taking our wonky foundation and reinforcing it so that we can continue to grow, to build, to strengthen, to create, to achieve.

Thank you for getting yourself to where you are.

You’re welcome for starting you on your way.

Love,

Me

 

 

TGI… OMG I’m So Tired

Oh but it’s so much more than oatmeal, y’all.

Two and a half weeks since I’ve posted here! Feeling so far behind, and with so much to say, and not enough time to actually write it all out. Because, you know, life. Momlife, to be specific. The end of the school year has mercilessly hurtled itself at us at light speed and I was SO NOT READY. I’m never ready, but I felt even less ready this year. But it is happening, so.

So I find myself at Starbucks, still sweaty from my 45-minute kickboxing class and with an hour to spare before I have to release my babysitter and report back to mom duty. I’m taking hold of this precious hour with both hands, trying not to strangle it but holding on to each minute for dear life. This has been a trying week, with my under-the-weather-yet-still-rambunctious (HOW?!!) four-year-old son usurping most of my energy. He is between school and summer camp this week, and I thought it would be easier than past years (four is supposed to be better than three which is supposed to be better than two…) but SURPRISE! Having him with me all week has left me feeling exhausted deep into my bones.

And I feel guilty admitting that. Because he is such a darn good, sweet, fun kid. And I feel like I should be a stronger, more creative, more energized mom. That I should have created a week of magic and quality time and craft projects and museum trips and – how am I still allowing myself to be a victim of mom guilt almost 7 years into parenthood?!

STOP.

Enough. Back to what is real: I feel deeply, utterly pooped. I have been in bed by 8:30 the last two nights, asleep by 9:30, and STILL feel totally wrecked when my alarm jars me awake at six. I’ve been hydrating and eating better than I have in weeks, yet I can’t shake this fatigue and fuzzy brain. (“Did I pay the babysitter on Monday?” “Did I hug my kid goodbye?”) So I’ve started feeling anxious about that, which of course makes everything worse.

I haven’t felt anxiety like this since I was a big ol’ wino. And it is most unwelcome.

Let’s focus on the positive. I’m proud of myself for prioritizing my kickboxing class during a week when routine is out the window. When I got to the ‘bux I had a dozen FitPoints and all my Weeklies at my disposal and I chose to spend nine of these precious points on oatmeal with honey and nuts, plus a 0-point unsweetened iced green tea. The pre-Weight Watchers me would have ordered a sausage sandwich and a venti cold brew with a generous splash of soy milk. But I actually WANTED to make this healthy choice. My eating habits are truly changing for the better! YAY. (I’ll have that cold brew tomorrow though.)

So, I may be at the end of a wonky week and feeling disoriented by fatigue and stuck in an anxiety-fueled cycle of yuck, but I’m proud of myself for building strength and endurance through kickboxing and then refueling in such a healthy way. Sometimes eking out a small victory (or two!) is a huge victory in itself.

Scoring Kilojoules and Slaying Negative Self-Talk

This morning I had a major breakthrough on my Peloton bike. I blazed past my previous personal output record, beating it by 26kj. I was surprised to have so thoroughly kicked my own butt! I felt delighted and triumphant. Yet negative thoughts still tried to leave a nasty schmear on my pride. Ugh! The nerve!

Don’t ask me what kilojoules are. I can tell you that I set a PR of 341kj just last week. My PR before that was 337kj, and I hit that last November. Today I pedaled my way to 367kj! A jump of 26kj in one week after basically plateauing for half a year is pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

But it’s not about these numbers. To some Peloton devotees, 367kj is a walk in the park. To others, it may seem impossible. Yes, my numbers matter to me as a way of tracking my progress but here’s what matters more: that I put the pieces in place to be able to achieve this athletic feat today.

“How on earth did I slay my own record like that?!” I asked myself as I made my protein shake. It was the right combo of being both well-rested and warmed up; reaping the benefits of cross-training; sticking to a healthy (and still booze-free!) diet; and being determined to break through a major rainy day funk. I also love my instructor, Ally Love. She is steady and strong, creative and charismatic. Her positivity and confidence are contagious. She tells us that we’re bosses and you know what? She’s right. I bossed up today and I’m damn proud!

Ok but really how did I do it?

Sleep: I have been aiming for at least eight hours of sleep per night and mostly (miraculously) getting it.

Warm up: I did this ride on demand, around 10:30 this morning. I had been awake since 6:30, so I was warm and energized.

Cross-training: I am building strength and putting on muscle with my biweekly, butt-kicking kickboxing workouts. Kickboxing and spinning compliment each other really well for me.

Diet: I have been on Weight Watchers for over a year now, and I still depend on tracking my food just as much as I did when I started. It’s nice to experience how much better my body operates when I am eating clean (even if I am currently dealing with major sugar demons – but that is a post for another day).

Exercise as therapy: We’ve had day and a half of non-stop rain and it’s been a bummer. I went off the deep end into a sea of snacks yesterday (all tracked and it wasn’t pretty) that left me feeling even more gross. Plus the ever-present everyday stressors of life y’all. So I was eager to use this workout to help me get out of my funk, and it did the trick!

This also happened:

“How on earth did I slay my own record like that?!” I asked myself as I finished my protein shake and headed upstairs to take a shower. Maybe I haven’t been working hard enough in the two years since I got my Peloton. Maybe they changed how they compute output to make the numbers bigger. Maybe this is a fluke. Maybe I am a fluke.

HOLD THE F UP. How am I still burdening myself with this BS? I have come so far. How am I still getting bogged down with my own self-imposed negativity and criticism and self-doubt?

But here’s the thing. I thought those thoughts. I gave them a moment of my time. They felt like old frenemies trying to move back into my brain. Familiar, but unwelcome. Just as they started to inflate their verbal Aerobeds with more hot air, I cut the power and kicked them to the curb. I quickly made a mental U-turn back to triumph.

And that is where I’ll try to stay. I remind myself that I am a work in progress, and it will take time to undo the decades of negative self-talk that has been sloppily fused with fear and doubt within my subconscious. But I have made so much progress. Just like with my Peloton output, there will be PRs and there will be plateaus. Such is life.

367kj. It’s just a number, but it’s more than a number.