Is it really Thursday without a #transformationthursday Instagram post???

I know you look at them.  Heck, I look at them too.  Every Thursday, those inspirational “can you imagine how much muscle I gained and weight I lost after I started eating vegetables and working out at the gym?!” posts are on a never ending loop on my IG feed.  Whatever logarithm that dictates what “trending” shots should pop up on my phone must know how much of a sucker I am for “liking” the following:

  1. Any and all food pics (overhead shots with backlighting are awesome, by the way)
  2. Adorable videos of babies taking their first steps
  3. And of course, transformation pictures of ordinary, everyday citizens (the overworked and tired mother, the office worker addicted to M&Ms and Netflix) suddenly morphed and molded into burly, muscle-rippling athletes.

I know that many of the six-pack abs paraded on these posts are photoshopped, or the model angling her svelte body is doing so while majorly sucking in her stomach and flexing her thigh muscles to show off the striations in her leg.  I get it.  Many of these “ideals” are less than because they are falsified, and as a result, I SHOULD scroll right on past them.  But I don’t.  Why not?  Well, I admire these folk.  Yes, admire.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t long for the same gluteus maximus as the gal on IG or big biceps like the guy on Facebook.  What I do admire are these individuals’ confidence, their abilities to put their bodies out there on the interwebs, not knowing what types of comments will be made about their physique yet still daring to bare themselves for all of social media to witness.

Those Transformation Thursday posters are actually pretty brave.  Seeing their sweet grins and taunt muscles makes me question my own confidence, my own inner strength, my own body positivity.  It is quite apparent that they are posting for themselves and not to appease any one particular person.  They are proud of the work they put into losing weight or changing their sedentary lifestyle and want to share their accomplishments with others.  And that is awesome.

And then I start to think about my own posts.  I filter what I share quite a bit.  I am quite proud of my lovely children, my work as an English teacher, and my weightlifting gains, yet it sometimes feels almost scandalous to truly post how truly proud I am for all of those things.  I don’t want others to think I’m bragging or gloating.  I know not everyone is blessed with such an awesome family and work environment and physical strength.

And so I filter.  I downplay how happy I really am to PR a snatch or clean and jerk.  I use cute emojis to show that I love my children, when in reality, words can’t really express the amount of obscene joy they bring to my heart.

This morning as I scrolled through my IG feed, I realized just how absurd it was to be afraid to share my own victories, my own blessings, my own transformation.  If I truly didn’t care about others’ views of me, why NOT share with others the wonderful work God is doing in me?  And so, feeling a sudden surge of bravery, I thought I’d put up a Transformation post as well.

This is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.

It’s scary for a multitude of reasons.  I am going to post a transformation picture that I haven’t shared with many people.  Why?  Well, it’s because these transformation pictures are really progress photos I send to my RP coach, one tool of evidence among many other criteria he uses when determining my nutrition and training plans.  I am not a bodybuilder, and you can tell right off the bat because I have no idea how to flex or how to apply self-tanner.   I don’t normally show off my stomach so blatantly.  Most days (unless I’m at the beach or pool and am wearing a two-piece swimsuit), my mid section rarely sees the little of day.  Recently I have taken off my shirt in the gym and finished up training in my sports bra because I was sweating so profusely, I could smell myself in the cotton fibers.  Yuck.  But in reality, I am a pretty modest gal.

Also, I really don’t think my body is a reflection of me, meaning yes, I am thankful for the legs and arms and torso and head and appendages God has blessed me with, but I don’t think of those parts as the end all be all.  There is my spirit and talent and giftings that one can’t see if he were to only view my abs via Instagram.  I am more than a body part, and I would hate for some random person to think that all I’m concerned about is the size of my thighs.

In truth, all I’m doing is being open, vulnerable, and real about where I am in my training journey.  And while I love sharing my journey of life with you, being that transparent means I am baring my shortcomings, my struggles, and eventually, my growth.  The journey is long. It is arduous.  It is full of ups and downs, never linear.  Somedays the journey is a walk in the clouds, while other days I feel like I’m walking on hot coals.  I am not always confident where this journey is going, and as a result, that hesitancy made me question whether or no to post about it.

But I realized that if God is really wanting me to be His light and share what He is doing in my life, I need to be open about my journey.  Doing so is a part of me and my ongoing transformation.

So here it is.

The first photo on the top was before I started working with Coach Alex.  For those of you that have previously read my other posts, you know that I dealt with a anorexia in high school and my early twenties.  I had dabbled in every and any type of diet imaginable thereafter, attempting to find “the one” that would help me feel, well, secure in my body.  Intermittent Fasting.  Low Carb.  High Carb.  Paleo.  Zone.  IIFYM.  Pure macro counting.  No macro counting.  At the start of 2018 I made the switch back to being vegan, but I felt hungry and unsatisfied and troubled and overwhelmed with what and when and how to eat.  I knew being vegan wasn’t really the way for me although I loved (and still do love) animals.  It’s odd, but I felt like I needed to be the “right” kind of plant-based follower and adhere to a random set of food rules:  eat my chia seed pudding and flax seed daily, refuse Oreos because they are too highly processed, and turn my nose at Boca burgers because too much soy is bad.  These were ideas I believed in and felt great remorse and guilt if I didn’t follow.  I had these unbelievable expectations on how to do veganism “right”, and all of those aims and goals led me to feeling constricted and in a prison.

Don’t get me wrong–some people can thrive on plant-based foods and that is awesome.  In fact, my husband is one of them.  I have many friends who choose leaf over meat and I applaud them for their choices.  But the difference between them and me is that I was in a prison and they are not.  Mind you, it was a prison steeped in whole foods and grains, but it was a prison nonetheless.

All I wanted was to feel free again.  To be happy again.  One of the reasons why I started this blog was because I felt a great sense of joy and freedom after turning over all trust to God in all areas of my life.  And sadly, I was losing it.

But praise God, I was able to recapture the joy.  I was able to stop the downward spiral to anxiety and worry and obsession and find true freedom once again.  The transformation, the journey is never linear, never straight, never like one expects.

How did I find that freedom again?  How did my path make a complete u-turn to freedom?  How did I go from the girl in the top photos to the girl in the bottom photos?

Stay tuned for Part 2 and the next blog post!



Thinking of Thanks

It was an incredibly hectic morning.  Up early, I made my way down to the store to purchase some Thanksgiving goodies for dinner tonight.  Here in Hawaii, “goodies” means poke:  raw fish (or squid) marinated with a variety of seasonings.  Onions, sea asparagus, shoyu, furikake, shiracha-hot mayo paste…the possibilities are endless.  Surprisingly, when I got to the store, there was a line already formed outside the business as it technically wasn’t going to open for fifteen more minutes.

As I stood under the hot sun, debating which type of poke I was going to get, I started scrolling through my IG feed.  After seeing a few cute dog pictures and baby photos, I happened upon a “search” photo of a sweat-drenched gal donned in tight Nike shorts and bright orange sports bra.  Obviously she was quite “fit” as her svelte thighs and flat abdomen were shouted, “Yes!!!  I run!  I exercise!  I am healthy!”  Reading through her caption, I noticed that the shot was a post-race celebratory pic.  Although this gal is not an endurance athlete, she participated in a Turkey Trot because, well, today is Turkey Day and she was going to eat ALL THE FOOD.  Up at the crack of dawn, she raced through ten miles of brutal sun, the hard pavement creating blisters on her feet, and as she detailed in her post, when the race was complete and she was able to sit and stretch out her cramping legs, she thought, “Yes.  I earned my carbs today.”

I stared at the image for a minute.  And something in my heart broke a little.

It broke because I was that girl.

Twenty years ago I became addicted to long distance running, hitting the pavement hard everyday.  Torrential rain wouldn’t stop me from putting in at least three miles because for some odd reason, three was a magic number.

Fifteen years ago I was still that addicted long distance runner, but now I also incorporated swimming and biking with my daily runs.  I once remember running in weather so awful that rain had flooded the streets and was as high as my ankles.  And yet I continued hitting the pavement hard.  Ten miles in one swoop wasn’t a big deal.  In fact, it felt like a warm-up, an easy running day.

Ten years ago I was still addicted to endurance events, but because I had spent so long hammering my body with miles on the road and little to no food fueling me, my joints ached, my period stopped, I could barely keep my eyes open at work, and all I dreamed about was food food food.  And yet,  I still garnered all the energy I could muster to run up Diamond Head, down Paki, making my way through Kahala to Kalanianaole Highway, turning around by the beach park, and then heading back up over the gigantic mountain to my car at Kapiolani Park.

It is a sad tale, one that breaks my heart when I think about all the hours I spent immersed in the addiction of running.

And when I think about it, what was I really running for?  Obviously there were numerous underlying reasons–escape from family stress, escape from a failing relationship, escape from becoming an adult, escape from the fear that I wasn’t perfect or worthwhile–yet at the time, I failed to recognize those deep-seeded reasons.  My purpose for running was so I could eat.  In my starved brain, I determined that the more I exercised, the more miles I put in, the more time I spent on the road, all of those minutes and hours would carve out a “grace period” or cushion so that I could (potentially) eat the ice cream and brownies and steak and French fries I craved.

Of course, I never did eat those stuff.  Because DUH it’d make me fat (can you hear the sarcasm dripping from my fingers????).  And so when I saw the IG picture today of this seemingly healthy girl, the feeling of accomplishment displayed on her smiling face after running 10 miles for no reason other than she could then eat stuffing and candied yams, my heart broke.  I recognize her.  I know her.  I know the insecurities she must feel, and I know the pain and anxiety and fear that is probably bubbling in her stomach as she approaches Thanksgiving dinner.

So on this Thanksgiving day, I am thankful.  I am thankful that God showed me that life is more than mashed potatoes and miles and pumpkin pie and race pace.  I am thankful that He revealed how empty my life was when all I thought about was if I had exercised enough to be able to eat a buttered roll with turkey or load my plate with more green bean casserole.

I am incredibly thankful that He has saved my life for a greater and more wonderful purpose.  In a few minutes we are headed to my mother’s side for Thanksgiving lunch.  I am going to eat the turkey.  I am going to smother it was stuffing and gravy and cranberries and cornbake.  I am going to talk with my relatives, laugh, eat more, hang out with the kids, laugh again, hug my husband, and enjoy the day.

I am going to bask in the joy of the Lord and His peace and fullness.

And for that, I am truly thankful.

“That’s My Mommy!”

Salt Lake City.  I’m coming.

Flashback to one week ago.  It was the day before THE MEET.  THE MEET that I actually put concerted effort to train for, THE MEET that I actually plotted and planned and hemmed and hawed over in order to make a certain weightlifting total to qualify for Master’s Nationals Championships.

In a previous post I talked about having certain goals for this particular competition, and how I was a flurry of emotions:  excitement flowing through my limbs, anxiousness stewing in my stomach.  Last week Friday I was just counting down the hours, the minutes, the seconds before I could step on the platform and lift that barbell.  I took a short nap but woke up after half an hour because I was afraid I’d leave my belt at home.  I set up my bag, packing in wraps and knee sleeves, shoes and extra socks, a shirt and shorts.  I got my hair cut and prepped food to eat after the weigh-in.

I was set.  I was ready.

And then came the actual morning.  I woke up after a wonderful eight hour rest, taking time to visualize myself approaching the loaded barbell, how my feet would point, where my weight would be in my legs, when I would start extending and jumping and pulling under.

I felt confident.  I felt ready.

And then I got to the venue.  Still calm, still cool.  I weighed-in way under my weight category (well, 1.4kg under, which is a lot considering I competed in the 45kg class), ate my prepared breakfast sandwich, drank some water, and sat around talking with the other competitors.

I felt confident.  I felt ready.

It’s important to note here that I was surprisingly calm considering I had no one there to physically coach me.  My coach who programs my training cycles and sends me templates for nutrition is remote (but incredibly knowledgeable and so easy to work with–love him!), so I was left with me, myself, and I to calm nerves and give a pep talk.  It’s a bit weird, psyching myself up by hitting my own back and legs backstage and muttering under my breath, “C’mon, let’s go!”  But I did it.

I felt confident.  I felt ready.

And then I didn’t.

I am not quite sure what transpired between my warm-ups (which, by the way, I did waaaaay too much of because I wanted to make sure I could make my opener) and my first lift, but within that time, I dissolved from a sure and confident gal to one whose hands couldn’t stop shaking.

I was a mess.

But then, that was when God showed up.

I remember walking up to the still barbell for my first attempt, chalk on my palms, gaze on the ground.

I am not sure I can do this.

And then I heard the voice.

“Mommy!  Hi mommy!  That’s my mommy.  Look, my mommy is strong.”

My son.  My adorable son.  My son whom I love more than anything in the world.  He was right there in the front, smiling and waving with his big toothy grin.

And my heart started to smile.

Thank you, Jesus.

The words resounded in my head.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you for putting this day back into perspective.  Thank you that through Your strength all things are possible.  Thank you that I can share in this moment with my family.  Thank you that even if I miss every single lift, I can still run into the arms of my children and husband.  Thank you that they love me because I am ME.

My heart.

Thank you, Jesus.

And so I stepped up on the platform, planted my feet, took my breath, extended, and lifted.

Three white lights.

Barbell down, I smiled at my son and husband, and ran back to the warm-up area.

There were still five more lifts I had to do that morning, but that first one is the one I look back on and smile.  It was the lift where God showed me that His peace and goodness is truly greater and better than anything I can muster up on my own.  I can give myself all the pep talks and take all the pre-workout supplements available to get me ready for a competition lift.  But their effects will diminish and die out–it is only God’s true sovereign power that can and will sustain me.  And it was His power that morning that reminded me that no matter what I do on (and off) the platform, I am still greatly loved.

So there are now five months before Maters Nationals.  Five months!!!  My coach already has a plan for my training between then and now.  And I can’t wait to see where I will be when I compete in Salt Lake City.  I can’t wait to see what will transpire, during the course of training (yay, I’m doing hypertrophy now!) and on the actual stage, for I know all of the preparation, all of the work, all of the time spent working toward this goal truly is all for His glory.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

What I Did On My Summer Vacation.

At the beginning of every school year, I remember teachers instructing us to take out our newly sharpened #2 wooden pencils, open up to a blank page in our black and white marbled composition book, and write on that prompt.

Did you go to the pool everyday?  Tell me about that.

Did you go on a trip to Disneyland?  Tell me about that.

Did you play video games from morning to night?  Tell me about that.

Well, what I did on my summer vacation was none of the above, but is definitely an event worth writing about on this blog.

I competed in a supertotal meet.

The two words, “super” and “total”, already feel larger-than-thou, grand, and just plain intimidating.  A total of what?  What’s so super about it?

For those that don’t know, I like to lift weights.  Not just randomly going to the gym, hopping on some machines and calling it a day, but I love picking up a barbell from the floor and pulling it straight overhead or placing it on my back and squatting down so that my hamstrings touch my calves.  I like to lift weights.  I initially started learning how to snatch and clean and jerk (aka the Olympic lifts that you see done remarkably well by Europeans and the Chinese at the actual Olympics), and then dabbled in powerlifting for a few months (squatting, benching, and deadlifting). I eventually shifted my focus back to weightlifting at the start of this year and became more serious about it when I bought my own barbell.  Anyhow, most meets will be either only Olympic lifts (2 total) OR powerlifting lifts (3 total).  A supertotal has all 5 lifts.  In a day.  Three attempts per lift.  The athlete hefts around a loaded barbell 15 times in a span of 6 hours to see how much weight she can lift.

Dang, it’s exhausting.

But that is what I did yesterday.  And while the experience was certainly memorable, there are a few golden nuggets I am taking away from this experience.

  1.  I love food.  Like, really, really love food.  I struggled with anorexia for a good part of my young adulthood, and now at 38 years young, I can say with assurance, I love food and it loves me.  I cut to the 97# weight class for this meet, and while I walk around between 101-103#, losing that much water weight and having to be stringent on the amount of salt, liquid, etc. I was taking in prior to the meet made me, well, pretty irritable.  I wanted to just eat ice cream because it was SO DARN HOT.  I wanted to eat my kid’s pizza but needed to watch my fat intake.  When I mentioned to a friend that I was cutting, a look of concern broached her face.  “Are you sure you’re going to be ok?  Even if the weigh-in is only for that day…do you feel tempted?  To, you know, be that weight?”  I love that she asked me that.  Why?  Because it showed she cared.  But also, because it was a sign, a landmark of sorts, because my response was instantaneous:  NO.  NO WAY AM I TEMPTED.  I FEEL TOO SMALL.  I CAN’T IMAGINE WALKING AROUND AT THIS WEIGHT FOREVER.  IT IS MADNESS.  And let me tell you, that first meal after weigh-ins was magical.  I ate without guilt.  Sushi?  Sure!  Frozen yogurt with chocolate toppings?  Yes, please!  Some cookies my husband bought?  Bring it!  This meet solidified that my worth is no longer tied to a number on the scale.  Emotions like guilt and fear are not linked to whether or not I had a bite of mac and cheese.  I love food.  And I have already started my journey to massing up to lift in the 49kg (107.8#) weight class.
  2. Be smart.  On the final lift of the day, the deadlift, I had the opportunity to break an American record.  I had already set a squat and bench record, and now, the deadlift.  Do I try?  Do I do it?  Do I go for it?  Surprisingly (as competitive of a person as I am), I didn’t.  I pulled three deadlifts that were pretty conservative (my nice way of saying “easy”).  Why?  Why not go for the gold?  There were multiple reasons.  I was already pretty exhausted and I knew my form would be less than stellar.  I was already at a low body weight so my physiology was further compromised.  I hadn’t trained conventional deadlifts much, let alone pulling the weight that would have had me setting the record.  I am a weightlifter, not a powerlifter, and I am starting a new weightlifting training cycle on Monday. Why compromise myself, injure myself, just for one lift?  Is hitting that arbitrary deadlift number really that important to me in the long run?  Uh, no, it’s not that important.  So I listened to my body and completed the meet uninjured.  That’s a win in my book, no matter what the weight was on the bar.
  3. Just have fun with it.  I met a new friend too.  It was her first meet.  She had just picked up weightlifting two months ago.  She arrived alone (her family, boyfriend and coach eventually came to the event), and while we waited to warm-up, we started talking.  And you know what?  She made the meet fun.  I loved sharing stories about work, lifting, and sports with her, but more importantly, seeing her take that step of faith to “just do it” (I know, corny corny corny) and jump into a competition was inspiring.  Meets are stressful, anxiety producing experiences, and yet, she did it all with a smile on her face.  This new lifting friend reminded me that while hitting certain numbers is a grand goal to have, ultimately the joy of the sport is not contingent on the amount of medals won.  It comes from that feeling of euphoria one gets when pulling a weight from the ground she didn’t think was possible.  It comes from the rush of adrenaline flowing through a person’s veins right before stepping up to the barbell.  It’s that energy, the excitement, of pushing oneself past just being comfortable and trying something new and challenging.

So that, THAT supertotal meet, is what I did on my summer vacation.  Who knew I could learn so much from spending a day with a barbell?

Sweetest Success

Emily Dickinson had it right.

Success IS counted sweetest by those who neer succeed.

Yesterday, I was death.  I woke up with an ache in my lower back and was feeling a bit warm.  The norm, considering it is summer in Hawaii, I am 38 years old and old age is slowly creeping up on me.

But my stomach.  I didn’t know whether to vomit or sit on the toilet.

So I did a little of both.  For the next two hours.  And I still had my little two-year-old to take care of.  I called my mother-in-law to see if she could watch him while I got a few hours of sleep.  She was going out to lunch and wouldn’t be at home.  My parents were in Las Vegas.  My husband was working.

I almost started to cry.  Almost. But then I stopped, took a deep breath, and prayed:


And you know what?  My little toddler boy fell asleep for a nap!  For 3 hours!!  And you know what else?  My husband finished work and took the kids to Ala Moana and BJJ class!!!  And I slept 12 more hours!!!!

Needless to say, I woke up this morning sans body aches, stomach in tact, and feeling, well, pretty good.

Now what does my 24 hour bout with the flu/cold/illness have to do with Dickinson?  It is this fact:  one really is unable to grasp the grandness of what she has until it’s gone.  And then in those moments of desperation and emptiness, she can say that in fact, yes, things were pretty grand.

Health is one of those things we take for granted until it starts going downhill.  Flus and colds that diminish us to beings wrapped in blankets, laying on the bed, unable to eat anything make us appreciate the time we could go about our daily business without a second thought.

School is another.  I sometimes wish I could go back to college, where the only job one really has is to learn.  Imagine that!!!  A person is purposefully devoting all of his time to reading, discussing, engaging, learning!  When I started my freshman year of college, I was livng in the inner cities of Los Angeles as a USC Trojan.  I loved the campus.  I loved my student fellowship group.  I loved the hustle and bustle of the city.  But health issues hit, I moved back to Hawaii, and ended up graduating from UH-Manoa.  Now don’t get me wrong, UH is a wonderful institution as well, but knowing all the cultural experiences, relationships, and growth as a student at that California campus I could have had there makes me a bit wistful of the time I did spend in LA.

And the kids.  Ah, the kiddos.  I really do love my two kids, no favorites here.  But when I look at my youngest, I remember how a year or so prior to his delivery, I was bawling on the sofa, having just miscarried what I believed would have been our second child.  You can’t believe the emptiness and desperation deep within my core after having the joy of “Yay, I’m having a baby!” be replaced with “God, why take this child from me?”  It took awhile to come to terms with the fact that we would be a family of three, and then low and behold, a blessing occurred.  An ultrasound showing a little bean with a beating heart.  A little boy.  A family of four.

Success is counted sweetest.

Success IS counted sweetest.

So what to do now that I am fully recovered from my flu/cold/illness?  What do I do now that I graduated with an English degree from UH? What do I do now that we have a wonderful husband, daughter, and son?  Do I remain trapped in the doldrums, looking at what was lost and not focusing on what is?

Sadly, I do tend to do that at times.  Just for a minute.  I think it’s natural.  We wouldn’t be human if there weren’t times of discomfort, sadness, and pain.  God created us with feelings and emotions, and to try to hide them or say they don’t exist is basically saying He didn’t know what He was doing when He formed us.  The danger lies if we remain in that depressive state, only thinking of what once was.  Because you know what?  Something great, something grand, something absolutely wonderful could be just around the corner.

24 hours later, I am feeling like the Lauren of old.  Heck, I’m even able to type out this blog post.  So what am I going to do?  Go out and play with the kiddos.  Enjoy a dinner with the family.  And praise God for the sweet success He has given to me.