Expanding My Definition of Fitness


Last week I had the distinct honor of being included in the #140You conference in NYC.

*Pause for applause and various throwing of floral gifts*

A few months ago, I got a call from my mother. She told me that a conference on Health, Wellness, Fitness & Food was being organized. She encouraged me to get involved.

My first reaction was the familiar pull-back I feel whenever I’m intimidated.

Then she told me about the host.

His name is Jeff Pulver. Jeff is probably best known as the co-founder of Vonage. His professional resume will make your head spin. But that’s not what caught my attention.

What grabbed me was this: Jeff and I have been strangers on parallel paths. We both went too many decades without minding our fitness. Then, within months of each other, we both reached a tipping point and found the motivation to turn it all around. We both had to start our fitness journeys slowly, because slowly was all we could manage. We both set lofty goals. We both knew it would be hard work, and we did it anyway. No gimmicks. No surgery. Just discipline, sweat and time.

I had never met the man, but I was sure I had discovered my fitness soul-brother.

I submitted my story and this blog, and was invited to attend.

So, despite shaking like a leaf (on the inside, at least) I left the kids with my baby daddy and stepped out into a whole new adventure.

Not only did I find a community of positive and inspiring individuals, I gained a whole new understanding of the meaning of fitness.

My new friends addressed everything from paying attention to where our agriculture comes from to self-esteem and meditation. We talked yoga, gluten-free eating, body image, the importance of cooking your own food, and so much more.

I will be writing about these themes at length in the weeks to come, but first I had to share my greatest revelation: Just because I finally got fit doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of room for improvement.

There is a whole lot going on in the ‘wellness’ department that I have not even begun to consider.

When I was obese, I blamed my weight for everything from my lack of self-esteem to my joint pain and everything in between.

Losing weight and gaining strength improved lots of things in lots of ways. But it wasn’t a cure-all.

I still battle my demons every day. I still struggle with self-esteem. I still worry about my health.

My husband offered an amazing insight. He related my experience to alcoholism. (Whaaaaa??? I know. Hear me out.)

When an alcoholic quits drinking, a lot of things improve in a lot of ways. The body is stronger and healthier, the mind is clearer, life gets perceptibly better.

But quitting drinking can’t take away the reasons why you were drinking in the first place. It doesn’t mean you’ll never fall off the wagon. It’s a life-long process that requires daily tending. Sobriety (like a healthy and fit lifestyle) should not be taken for granted.

#140You delivered a powerful reminder that all that is required for positive change is our own will to do what it takes to achieve it. Even if it doesn’t come naturally. Even if it hurts.

Fitness tangibly improved my daily life. But I am not at my end goal. I don’t even know what an end goal would look like! What if I am capable of levels of physical and spiritual wellness that I always assumed were somehow impossible for ‘someone like me’? After all, less than 2 years ago I had never even considered the possibility that I could be a physically strong woman.

What if I apply as much positive energy to adopting new wellness practices as I did to losing 100 lbs? What if those new practices made as much of a difference as discovering my stronger, more confident self?

I confess – I’m feeling a bit giddy about the possibility of once-unimagined improvements manifesting in my life.

To this end, there is currently in my kitchen: Fish oil, probiotics, a whooooole lot of vitamins and herbs, avocados, almonds, blueberries, grapefruit, edamame, chia seeds and green tea.

Fish Oil?

Will my body thank me if I hold my nose and choke down fish oil?

Keep pushing your boundaries, friends. Who knows how far we can go!

Sidebar/Update: I have gone 2 weeks without stepping on the scale! I’m hanging in there, but I worry about it more than I want to. I’m doing a bit more cardio than usual, because without confirmation that I’m maintaining, I become convinced that I’m gaining. Stupid, toxic scale mentality! Hoping I’ll shake it as time rolls on.

A Necessary Detox


Hi. My name is Katey and I’m an addict.

I’m addicted to my scale.

I know precisely how much I have weighed at every stage of my life, and how I judged my own value as a result.

How can I possibly know how to feel about myself if I don’t know how much I weigh?

This week, I did not do a good job of protecting my sense of self-worth. You see, I committed a grievous sin: I gained two pounds while on a brief family vacation.

Commence well-worn self-flagellation sequence.

Gaining 2 lbs ruined my whole Monday (Monday is always weigh-in day). “I know better! What do I expect when I let myself off the hook and eat BLTs and pizza while sipping cocktails?? Shame on me! Bad, bad Katey!”

I hope you think that such a reaction to 2 lbs is neurotic and that I’m being too hard on myself. It took me a couple of days, but that’s what I finally realized.

My clothes fit the same way. I’m as strong as I was before I stepped on the scale on Monday morning. You wouldn’t know that I gained any weight just by looking at me. In fact, this picture that I posted to my “About” page was taken on the vacation in question – about 36 hours before discovering the minor gain.

Live a life worth telling a story about :-)

So, why did those two little pounds (that I know I can take off again) have the power to bring me down?? Does the girl in my “About” picture look like someone who should be beaten up for weight-related failure? Does that body deserve my shame? No. I need to put my foot down. That body is just fine, thank you. (Yes, I am talking to my own inner voice. Don’t judge me.)

I tell everyone who asks for my advice on fitness not to get too hung up on the scale. The hardest weeks in my 100 pound journey were the weeks when the scale wouldn’t budge. I’d be doing my best, working out, not cheating, and still that stupid scale would stay stubbornly stuck on the same number.

Those were the weeks that I considered quitting. “I just can’t do it! It’s too hard!”

When trying to lose weight, I weigh myself once a week. I get excited for Monday mornings. I can’t wait to see those numbers fall. This makes the emotional crash all the more painful when there is no loss. And, since entering ‘maintenance phase’, I’ve been weighing myself more than ever – almost daily. I want to be sure I’m maintaining. I want to catch any gains and turn them around as quickly as they appear.

But now, I think it’s time that I take my own advice. I need to stop worrying about the stupid numbers on the scale.

I need a detox.

So – here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to detox from the scale for a full month in an attempt to put a little distance between the scale and my emotional state. I’ll stick to my calorie-monitored diet and continue to exercise 6 days a week. I’ll monitor my weight with my clothes. If they start to feel snug, I’ll tighten things up for a while on the caloric side until my jeans fit well again.

I may need to ask my husband to hide the scale so I can’t cheat.

Just writing this has raised my heart rate.

Instant panic-sensation? Yeah. A detox is in order.

I’ll let you know if I break out in hives.


Breaking Up With Tracy

Dear Ms. Anderson,

May I call you Tracy?


Oh. Um… ok.


When I shelled out $100+ to order your Metamorphosis program, I was filled with vim and vigor. Your client list made my head spin. You train Gwyneth? And J.Lo? And Shakira? And Gisele?! OMG – you can show me how to work out like them?! That’s awesome! I’m so there! Let’s get started!!

The first 30 minutes of every workout is spent doing the same ‘dance’ routine? Which is mostly just constant bouncing? That’s… new. But, you’re the expert! Screamingly sore calves be damned! If Gwyneth can do it, I can do it!

The second half – the part that changes every ten days… that’s pretty… unique. I mean, clearly you’re applying a dance background, which is fine, but I feel a little silly flapping my arms like a demented bird of prey. No matter. I also felt silly doing power jumps, and by the end of Insanity I wanted to kiss Shaun T full on the mouth. So, flapping it is.

I have to admit, the ‘strategic muscle fatigue’ is a beast. Working the same muscle over and over and OVER again? Whoa. That’s intense. Sorry about the cursing. I’m sure Gwyneth doesn’t curse.

I marched dutifully to the pink and white calendar and checked off each successfully completed workout, one by one.

But I have to admit – it didn’t take long for me to begin to dread my daily workout. Midway through the second 10-day block I had to really psych myself up to push play.

This might sound odd, but I need to have good chemistry with my remote trainers.

Despite Insanity being drop-dead difficult, I kicked my own ass all the way through every single prescribed workout because I was so inspired and encouraged by Shaun T. His enthusiasm, energy and encouragement as he yelled at me to DIG DEEPER! kept me going. At the beginning of each workout, Shaun T’s voice yells “Come on, y’all! Let’s GO!!” I developed a fully Pavlovian response. I’d hear my encouragement to get started, and I would get an surge of ‘here we go!’ energy. He may not know it, but Shaun T and I have amazing chemistry.

Then there’s my girl, Jillian Anderson. She’s one tough chick, but she inspires me. She explains why she’s making you do painful things, which somehow makes the painful things a bit easier to take. She acknowledges that her workouts are hard, that ‘tough’ is who she is. But, she tells you that you can do it, and explains how it really will make you stronger. I might not think we’d ever be besties, but Jillian and I have good chemistry, too.

Your workouts are tough, but they’re a lot less physically intimidating than Insanity and no more intimidating than my favorite Jillian Michaels video (Shout-out to No More Trouble Zones! It rocks my socks). Yet I pulled back from your Method harder than I ever pulled back from Shaun T or Jillian.

I was hoping to be inspired by you, Ms. Anderson. Instead, the lack of inspiration is dragging me down in a big way.

I have to confess – I began referring to you among friends as ‘The FemBot’.

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be hurtful. I’m sure you’re a wonderful friend, wife and mother. It’s just that in your professional capacity you remind me of all the intimidating mean girls from high school and college, the ones who just couldn’t understand why anyone would ever struggle with the things that came easily to them. Wanting to look like you and your clients isn’t enough motivation to get me through 90 days of feeling like my remote trainer is disappointed in me. I mean, let’s face it. Warmth and encouragement aren’t exactly your strong suits.

Your ‘do it because I say so’ approach turned me all the way off. Also, no verbal cues to go from one exercise to the next? Pass. When I’m working hard, I will probably look away from the tv to focus. I could use a reminder when it’s time to switch.

Do you know how psychotic it feels when you don’t want to do your workout because it feels like your trainer is being mean? And that trainer has never even seen your face? It’s one step from a padded room.

The nail in the coffin of Happy Exhaustion’s adventure with the Tracy Anderson Method came from the man who never steers me wrong. As I bounced and cursed, the resident fitness trainer just shook his head. “Whenever you want to give this ish up, I’ll support that” he said.

“But it must be working!” I protested. “It hurts like HELL!”

“Yes,” he said “but I can fatigue your finger until it hurts like hell, too. Just bend and flex it a few hundred times and it’ll be screaming. That doesn’t mean it’s a good workout.”

I’m sorry, Ms. Anderson. In the name of my (entirely vital) enthusiasm for my personal fitness, I have to break up with you. I’m sorry. It’s not your fault.

There’s just no chemistry.

– Katey

PS: Now accepting recommendations for the next fitness adventure!