Shame.

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Walking and running a whole new path.

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” — Brene Brown


Spencer and I’s business venture, Novo Veritas, is off and starting to run. (Pun totally intended.)

We have done a handful of presentations – each one has been a great experience. We are meeting some incredible people!

Our format for these interactions is intended to be much more like a conversation, than a ‘formal presentation’. We talk bluntly and honestly about our lifestyle changes and the crap that led us each to make an overhaul of our lives. We purposely save half of our time for the audience to ask us questions. Any questions they have.

They can, and do, ask us anything.

Things get authentic and candid PRETTY quickly.

Spencer and I are not shying away from talking about the painful and ugly stuff.  We try to talk about, and answer questions, to help people understand how we each got to the point of being ready for a major change.  How we made those changes. What our respective journeys look like today.

Why are we doing this?

We hope that by sharing our stories people can relate to what we continue to tackle and be ready/inspired/motivated to gear up for their own fight…

And make honest, lasting change.


When people talk to me about my story, shame seems to lead the pack of comments that people identify with.

Shame.

It was right smack in the middle of it all for me.

Shame made me feel like I had to work harder and fight harder than a ‘thin’ person to be thought worthy and valuable since I was fat.

Shame made me feel like I had to apologize to the world for my overweight existence intruding into their thin world.

Shame convinced me that most conversations about my worth and abilities professionally probably went like this… ‘Well she’s good at her job, for a fat woman…’

Shame had me questioning whether anyone beyond my immediate family could/would ever love me.

I may have seemed normal on the outside, but I felt like I being eaten alive on the inside by shame.

And in my case, shame manifested itself in me literally trying to eat myself to death.

I mean, I freaking wore visible proof every single day, for everyone to see, that I couldn’t control food and I was lazy.

So I ate to bury the embarrassment and pain and shame…

‘Unlike guilt, which is the feeling of doing something wrong, Shame is the feeling of being something wrong.” — Marilyn Sorensen

I do want to be clear about something. For me, SHAME IS PAST TENSE.

I am NOT asking for sympathy, not trying to sound sad or desperate.

I am NOT in that place of shame anymore.

But these presentations are showing me that I was never alone.  But a lot of people feel like they are…

They’re showing me that a lot of people – men and women –   are weighed down with or paralyzed by shame. Weight, bodies, food habits, past failures… The list is long, emotionally daunting.

BUT, it turns out vulnerability is actually a very powerful opponent against shame.

‘If we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive. ” — Brene Brown

(Dr. Brene Brown.  ‘Daring Greatly.’  WISH LIKE HELL I would have found this book long ago. It’s helping me put into words the process I’ve been fighting through.)

When I started to put the feelings and reasons for shame into words… Something amazing started to happen.

Slowly, but it happened...

Shame no longer had me in a choke-hold.

I was NOT openly posting these emotional upheavals or awakenings on social media. And I was not dismissing them and ignoring them like the old days.

I finally accepted it was a problem. And I knew I needed to figure it out.  Face it. Begin to fight it.

I chose to have soul-baring conversations with people who knew me, cared deeply about me and who I trusted.

I talked my way into a whole new experience of freedom when I opened up about the things that I was ashamed of…

I talked about hating my body. I talked about developing a deadly disease due entirely to my lack of control over food and my laziness.  I talked about embarrassing/mortifying/horrible moments. I talked about being lonely and alone and unloveable. I talked about the physical indignities of being so obese you literally can not even care for your own feet…

There was some pretty deep shame involved in my story.  Turns out that it’s a lot of the same shameful ‘stuff’ other overweight people have in their stories too.

While shame is largely in my past, I will admit that I still have moments of doubt and shame and fear.  C’mon, who doesn’t?

BUT I’ve been able to figure out at least two of the major triggers that cause me to revert to old ways of thinking. Shame seems most able to temporarily ‘rent space’ in my head when…

  1. I’m tired.
  2. I’m trying something new that scares, frustrates or embarrasses me.

Discovering these basic triggers proved to be a MAJOR weapon.

I can now tell myself that I’m not feeling pain or sadness or heartbreak over not belonging — I’m more than likely just tired.

And I’m not flawed and worthless and unlovable because I am trying to learn a new skill or can’t quite (yet) do what everyone else can do — I’m more than likely just embarrassed or scared.

Just knowing the triggers gives me a better chance at changing the self-dialogue in my head.

That dialogue is so different than it used to be.

Am I cured? No.

Are there times I question my worth or my value or whether I’m loveable?  Hell yes.

BUT the key this time around is I can usually recognize and STOP that line of thinking much sooner rather than later.

And – FOR THE WIN! – even if shame grabs a temporary foothold, it no longer translates into me finding the answer in the kitchen, the candy bowl or at a fast food restaurant.

Exposing shame to the light is the only way you can really begin to fight it.

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Waterfalls and perspective.

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Jeff, Wade and Bets. Silver Falls.

Perspective is a good and necessary thing.

Asserting that, knowing that and even reminding our college-aged student leaders of the importance of perspective ALL THE TIME…

It’s still something I fight.

(Note to current OSU students; you are not allowed to throw this little tidbit back in my face the next time I remind you about keeping things in perspective…)


My coaching conversation with Spencer this week wound up being about perspective.  I was expressing frustration and concern that I’d had two really rough runs this past weekend. My legs were tired so I was moving sllloooowwww.

BUT tired legs wasn’t the worst of it; the worst part was fighting with my head.

My brain was DONE running for the week and trying to check out with EACH freaking step.  I mean that quite literally. I had two long runs — so it was HOURS of fighting with my head. Brutal stuff.

I was really frustrated with myself. I was also questioning whether I had genuinely given things 100% effort. I didn’t feel like I had finished the 3-week training cycle strong; which is what I always aim for… Had I wasted an opportunity somehow? Had I screwed things up?

Spencer listened. Then reminded me that the only way the training time would have been ‘wasted/lost’ would have been if I had quit, given up.

I had NOT quit.

With a little time and hindsight, they may have been ugly runs; but I can admit that I really did gut out each run as best I could.

Mental training is very, very much a part of what we’re working on.  I know this.

Spencer reassured me that this weekend I WON the battle with my head. Not quitting was very much a win.

The moment I’m in might be crappy, but on the whole, I am making progress and learning and growing.

Spencer asks ‘Could you have done any of this a year ago?’ I answer ‘No. No way.’

Perspective.

It can be a sort of magic at times if I let it creep in. It can elbow doubt or fear or stress to the side….  Perspective, for me at least, reminds me what the balance of life is all about.  To be clear we are NOT talking about the negative-emotional-sinkhole of COMPARISON.

But perspective. 

A dose of perspective – whether I find it on my own or someone lovingly/gently/bluntly hands it to me – usually brings me some welcomed concoction of balance, a sense of growth and peace of mind.


My friends Wade and Jeff went for a run with me on Sunday.

It was a BIG DEAL for me.

Big.

Why?

Because the three of us have never run together before. I’ve known both of them for about 9 years.  They both were students at OSU.

But more importantly they knew me at my heaviest and know how hard I have worked to get healthy. 

Wade was my student worker. He saw the daily struggles of my life as an obese woman first-hand, well before I ever dreamed of embarking on this journey to reclaim my life.  He has been a constant support and isn’t afraid to be honest with me – even about the tough stuff.  I talk to/text him almost daily.

Jeff is not only my colleague currently, but one of my closest friends and stalwart running companions.  Jeff’s  job is to bail us out when I accidentally lead us headfirst into trouble. He’s had a lot of practice. 🙂

Both of these dudes are very important in my life. And they’re good friends as well.

We finally got organized and left the car and took off down a narrow path to grab the loop around Silver Falls State Park.

We first chatted about Wade’s genuine fear of heights as we were hugging a rock cliff and holding a wobbly fence railing over the ravine to get down to the falls.  It wasn’t so much chatting as Wade loudly reminding me ‘I DO NOT LIKE HEIGHTS BETSY HARTLEY’. 🙂

But then we got to some rolling single-track near the water…

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After some perfunctory and good-natured harassing of each others outfits, habits, and skills…

Wade says…

“I remember when you used to walk into your office from your car in the morning and you would flop down in the bean bag chair and say ‘I’m exhausted already!'”

Wade then asks me if I remember that…

Yes.

I do.

Clearly.

It’s really embarrassing to look back on the habits of the ‘old me’.

The sweaty, hot, lazy, exhausted, sick me… Especially in those days where I knew I had a problem and was unwilling to do anything about it.

I could try to deny it or hide it from most folks, but I can’t really be embarrassed about the ‘old me’ with these two; they’ve seen the entire journey…

From 392 pounds to now.

They’ve trained for events with me. They have both gotten endless calls and texts about food/weight/running/crazy-ass ideas/mental exhaustion/goal setting/setbacks/successes/doctor reports/triumphs.

They’ve both stuck with me through the whole thing.

And here we were…

RUNNING together!

So about 3 miles in on the run I couldn’t seem to settle down and enjoy the run, but I finally decided to wrap my brain around and embrace some positive perspective.

I was in some of the most beautiful country around.

I was running BEHIND incredible waterfalls in green, lush forests.

I was no longer a T2 diabetic.

I was at a healthy weight and holding it steady for over a year.

I have friends willing to get up at crack o’ dawn and go run on dirt/mud with me.

I was with two great friends who know my story and my struggles and LOVE me anyway.

NONE of us ever really thought we might all be able to run together… But we were.

Perspective.

It’s all about perspective.

#Lifeisgood

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Don’t let the picture fool you. At this point I think we were talking about how much coffee each of needed so we could poop before we run… Glamor. Sophistication. Class. That’s us… 🙂

Coaching: A race report…

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2012
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2013
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2014

Spencer, my coach, asks me to write a race report after big events.

What did I feel?  What did I learn? What went right/wrong?

That kind of stuff.

A professional writes a race report to talk about strategies, course design, etc.  People can then learn about them as an athlete and the race from a runners perspective.

My report? Well… mine is not meant for anyone but Spencer to read. Just keep that in mind.  It’s more personal reflection than actual race report.

Corvallis Half Marathon is coming up next month. My friends are getting ready for it!  I will be in Bend running a trail event this year instead. Bittersweet from a tradition standpoint, but my happy place is really on trails these days.

Spencer and I had been working together for close to a year at the point this was written. This was a race that I wanted to run faster.

So we trained.


Corvallis Half 2014 Race Report

I do best when I look and plan forward. Having said that, I enjoyed a bit of reflection relating to this event…

History

2012. 3:01 finish time. Weaning off of insulin. WILD blood sugars. 254 pounds. One goal; finish the sucker. My first half marathon. Trained to walk it all, but day-of decided I would jog across intersections. There were a ton of intersections. I had already signed up for 2013 Maui Marathon. Hoping I would enjoy 13.1 since I’d already blindly (stupidly?) committed to something a bit bigger. Hannah finished the race, doubled back on her bike and then walked me in from about mile 9. Gently. I was chafed and tired and sore and blistered. Climbing the stairs out of Reser Stadium (at the finish line) back to my car had me in tears. Literally.

2013. 2:41 finish time. Solid year of no needles, close to being off all prescription meds, 199 pounds. Walked/jogged race with Gums until mile 10 when I had a sugar crash and just couldn’t function. Corrected it way too late, and not well enough. Walked in… Thrilled I’d beat the previous year. Walked all of Bald Hill, and up Walnut.

2014.  2:09 finish time. Med free, 5 months post-op (skin removal), 172 pounds.

Race

Slept well, ate clean all week. Felt totally ready, rested, excited to run. Nervous under it all. I never really fought tapering. I could tell I was bottling up energy that I would want and need.

Fastest mile was the last. I’m proudest of that small accomplishment within the race.

I felt easy and comfortable to mile 8. Strong and not a question in my head that I could do it until mile 10. At 10 I started to wonder how much longer I could push as hard as I was pushing. The last two(ish) miles hurt.

My mind started to flirt with thoughts of stopping and walking around mile 10. I didn’t want to quit, but toyed with the thought of what would happen if I did. How would you react if I just refused to run? My thoughts would then rebound strongly back to ‘but that’s not what I want. I can out last this. I $%*king trained for this. I can do this.’ I was absolutely starting to battle my head the last two(ish) miles. You encouraging and barking at me to pick it up/keep it up would snap me out of it. I was aware enough to know that you were intentionally breaking up the negative thoughts in my head.

My mind was oddly blank while running. I have no clue what I thought about. I can remember snapshots of the event. I remember fighting my head the last two miles. I remember seeing Drew and he said I looked strong. I remember seeing Josh at Walnut/Oak Creek. I vaguely remember that there were aid stations. I know you were talking to me, giving me instructions the entire time; but can’t really remember words. Not much else registered. I normally remember with clarity; people, scenery, stupid outfits, people who I can tell are struggling that I just want to cheer on, or that arrogant ass who walks until I catch him (it’s always a guy) and then he takes off not wanting to be beat by me. None of that registered. I don’t remember passing but a small handful of people that I had to actually work to get through/around, never looked at the aid station volunteers, only the sunburn reminded me that it must have been sunny. No clue what occupied my thoughts after mile 4.

DAMN you can be pushy. I knew NOT to argue. Wow. Have seen flashes of it, obviously, given my penchant for arguing with you.  You have a very distinct ‘coach’ tone that means NO refusals.

I asked you for fuel around mile 10. Should have taken it a bit earlier. Proud of myself for trusting you and for asking for help when I started to realize I was going to need it. This was a big step for me.

Being paced is really an amazing experience. Intimidating, powerful. I felt like I was able to follow everything you asked me to do, responded or reacted appropriately. The training pieces were starting to click together in my mind. (Gotta stop hating on track/speed work.) All the work WE have done in the last 10 months was in motion. Bit overwhelming to grasp that THIS is what we had been working for…  And it was working.

Thoughts

I keep looking back this week, since there are now events and experiences I can compare with some understanding of the effort needed to improve. I try not to get caught up in living in the past. Seeing this all written down makes me realize that I need to cut myself some slack from time to time and simply acknowledge that as far I want to go… I really have come a long way.

Wendie right before the race – after you had left to go to the start with Hannah – I blurted out/confided in her what I’d worried about all week; I didn’t know if I could even beat 2:22 (my goal). I was afraid you would find me on the course and l would already be done wanting/able to run. I was scared I would disappoint you and Hannah. Wendie listened to me then grabbed my face and said: ‘Get those thoughts out of your head. Do not let those {creative expletives} rent any space. Do you hear me???! Kick them to the curb. Right $%#&ing now. ‘ She then kissed me hard on the forehead, threw my head back, told me to run my ass off and stalked off. Never even looked back at me. CLASSIC. Perfect.

Asphalt is boring.  Trail for me.

Up next/Questions?

Ramp down into Reser!? Felt like I was going to fall flat on my face if I ran down the ramp at the pace I was running right before hitting the ramp… Spencer, I don’t think I know how to run downhill.

I need to work on cleaning up my diet again. I think I have it mostly dialed in, but then spent last week re-focused on healthy carbs, more veggies. Had great blood sugars. Solid control. Felt great. Slept well. Drank TONS more water.

I need to learn to carry a water bottle. Period. I skimp on water every single time I run. You forced the issue before/during the race and I could feel the difference toward the end and after the race.

I have some mental strength issues to work on… Confidence. Trusting the training. Trusting you. Trusting me.


If you don’t write a short report once you are done with a big event – you should think about getting in the habit. It is FUN to look back and read what you did, what caught your attention, what you learned.

And how you have GROWN… 🙂

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2:09 on a 2:22 goal. 🙂 Thanks Spence.

Fair.

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Climbed a big hill, gave it my best effort and then ENJOYED the view.  All in the company of a good friend. Nothing compares. 🙂 (Photo Credit; Ana Lu)

If we start to talk about fairness, it usually leads straight to discussions about the ugly, damaged side of the ‘fairness’ family tree: Comparison.

I think they’re twins.

I blogged a bit ago about the crap in the middle of my lifestyle-change journey. A sense of unfairness was one of the issues that I said I used to fight often.

I would go to bed, stalk the seasonal candy aisle at the store or leave a food-centric event feeling like things were unfair. (In the grand scheme of the world my whining is beyond minor. I know that.)

But I would then replay over and over in my head what I had chosen to eat and what not to eat (for weight loss and blood sugar control) and what others COULD eat. I would feel like things just weren’t fair as they were eating pie/cake/pizza/anything chocolate seemingly consequence-free. (And yes… I realize that this is ME judging people for their choices.  I get the hypocrisy. But even that stark realization never seemed to stop the ‘fairness’ bus from taking a few laps around my brain…)

Turns out that a mindset of ‘unfairness’ does not serve anyone well in a fight for a new lifestyle.

Instead of tackling the real habit/issue/problem and finding a way to change things, my mind was fully engaged in futilely figuring out why it was not fair, how to make it fair, how to justify things. (With side trips to the land of ‘short cuts’, ‘cheats’ and ‘substitutions’.)

This thinking was getting me nowhere.

Actually it was getting me somewhere.

It was getting me upset and disgruntled and unhappy and just a little pissy. (Just a little.)

It’s also pouty, whiny and self-defeating thinking. I realized that it usually translated into the negative crap that falls out of my mouth when I talk about how I see myself…

And I was wicked-sharp, lightening-fast and brutal with my comparisons.

When I took the time to tear apart my thinking on fairness/comparison and my resulting behaviors, the only conclusion I could land on was there was no good to come from that line of thinking.

PLUS, most of us can agree that it is NOT fun to be around someone who feels (and talks) like life is not fair or constantly compares what they are/have/do…

So, I decided 3.5 years ago to work on a few things.  The UGLY, hard, sad things that just had to be fixed if I was ever going to have a shot at reclaiming my health. I would have to work on things that weren’t helping me, bad habits, self-defeating behaviors.

Turns out my issues with food was just ONE of the big things that I would have to work on.  I thought it would be the only issue.  Solve that issue and I was golden.

Wrong.

Comparing myself with others emerged as a BIG, nasty issue.  It emerged as one of the top three issues I would have to face and work on.  (#1? Fixing my relationship with food. #3?  Stopping the on-going war of self-hate on my body and abilities.)

What are my personal, core issues involved with comparing and thinking about fairness?  I’m still working on identifying all of them. But, what I have figured out so far is that I tend to compare and feel like things are unfair when I am low on self-confidence, battling for self-control, embarrassed, exhausted or fighting jealousy.

And comparison…  Lord.  It’s evil stuff.

  • She is thinner. (She runs faster, she can do more, she has a better body…)
  • He can eat whatever he wants with no worries.
  • They are losing weight faster than I am.
  • He was blessed with good genes.
  • She doesn’t even have to work to be thin.
  • They don’t have to watch EVERY bite they eat.
  • Why is no one else suffering or hungry or sad or angry?
  • They aren’t struggling with a disease (diabetes) on top of dieting.
  • (Fill in the blank…)

I still fall into the trap of comparisons and feeling like fairness is in short supply now and again.  Ok… Ok… I still fall into the trap of comparison more often than I would like.  (Who doesn’t?! Seriously. I don’t even have to ask – I know that I am NOT alone on this one…)

But the important thing NOW is that I’m more likely and willing to catch myself and stop.

STOP.

I want to be happy with just being me.

I want to be comfortable in my own skin.

I want to love what I have, not long for what I don’t have…

I want to focus on what I can do, what I get to do, what I have worked for.

I remind myself that I have ONE LIFE to live, NO ONE ELSE gets to live this exact life…

Comparison usually fades to overwhelming gratitude and thoughts of unfairness will eventually give way to wholehearted appreciation for the embarrassment of riches I have in my life…

I love my life. I feel like I am just starting to really live it. And there is really no comparison for that…

Comparison is the thief of joy. ― Theodore Roosevelt

This week? When you feel tempted to compare things and you are putting yourself on the bad/odd/short side of that comparison?

STOP.

Try thinking about all you have and can do that someone else would covet or desires or desperately wishes for…

Or think about how much others appreciate you just being who YOU are and that you are in their life…

Talk to yourself just like you would a loved and trusted friend.

Just do it.

Let me know what happens.

Be kind whenever possible. (It is ALWAYS possible.)

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Our first event is done! More to come!!!  This event poster has details explaining the business adventure that Spencer and I are starting… 

Spencer and I gave our first ‘official’ presentation this past Wednesday.

Our business venture Novo Veritas is off and running! (Pun intended!) 

An amazing experience to be able to tell our individual stories to a packed room. We had GREAT support from friends (always!). We engaged in some fantastic conversations with curious strangers. And we were able to answer some tough and thought-provoking questions.

We are having fantastic conversations with people about things that matter.

Conversations that just might help others make important and lasting, life-reclaiming changes.

So exciting and rewarding!  And we’re just getting started!


After the presentation this past week my friend Patrick and I had a short conversation. The kind of conversation that doesn’t need to be very long to make you really start thinking…

Patrick is a thoughtful guy. In the short time I have known him, I quickly learned that he uses words very intentionally. He also happens to be a fantastic writer and storyteller. He may speak gently and quietly, but you find yourself leaning in to listen and hear what he has to say…

Patrick said what Spencer and I had talked about was just a solid reminder that everyone around us is battling something hard and scary. We may never know what it is that someone is fighting or even if they are winning or losing. One of the last things he said was that we really need to remember that idea of everyone struggling when we’re dealing with our fellow humans.

We can not give up on people. 

Patrick got me thinking about the kindnesses that have been shown to me during this lifestyle journey…

I spent most of my running time this weekend thinking about those times that someone did or said something that made a difference for me.  Their words or actions kept me going or made me feel better or let me know that what I was doing mattered.

Want to know a few of the ‘kind’ moments that made a difference and have stuck with me?

The woman (and her little dog) on Bald Hill who ALWAYS said good morning and waved at me during my walks/runs the Spring of  2013. Every. Time.

It was the 5/6 year old girl at the Denver airport who caught me testing my blood with a finger stick. She told me her grandma had ‘the sugar’ disease too.  She sat there, knowingly, waiting for my meter to beep and asked me my number. And then told me ‘good job’, with a pat on the arm, when I reported double – not triple – digits.

It was the skinny, lightening-fast dude with the late start at the Corvallis Half Marathon in 2012 that yelled ‘GIRL! YOU’VE GOT THIS!’ as he sprinted past me around mile 8 while I was walking as fast as I could.

It was the college-aged guy at the gym who came over to tell me I had poor weight-lifting form and he was really afraid I was going to hurt my shoulder; could he show me the right way to hold the weights?

It was the baristas at Dutch Bros who all leaned out the window and told me that they knew I was losing weight — and without meaning to be creepy, could they tell me that I looked healthy and happy and they were proud of me?

These acts of kindness were pure and happy and cost nothing for the person GIVING. Friend or stranger.  It didn’t matter.

They were just kind at a time when, they had no way to know that I NEEDED it.

It costs them NOTHING. 

And meant EVERYTHING. 

What act of kindness has made a difference for you?

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Brene Brown: The POWER of Vulnerability

This Ted Talk is 18 minutes long.

Worth every second…

Vulnerability and shame. Two of the topics I’ve had to face and begin to understand these past 3.5 years. Two topics I’m still intently and intentionally focused on.

I am fascinated by the idea of ‘excruciating vulnerability.’

Watch and enjoy.

“…I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.’ — Brene Brown