Progress vs. Perfection

For whatever reason, it feels weird to admit that it’s taken me most of my life to-date to truly cultivate a sense of self love. It’s simply not something that comes natural to me. As the youngest of four children, who took a very unorthodox — for my family, anyway — path to success, I have a lot of chatter in my head, and it’s mostly criticism.

But then I discovered fitness.

I’ve never – read: NEVER EVER – enjoyed any element of exercise. As kids, we were never pushed to play sports; my parents focused on academic excellence. Until the pounds poured on.

I saw fitness as the enemy; exercise, in my eyes, was something only the naturally thin could endure without collapsing in misery.

And then I met Frank Duffy. And through Frank Duffy, I met my friends in fitness. And through that crew, affectionately dubbed my “gym baes” — judge me, I dare you, I’ve discovered a sense of self.

Coaching, which for me is now long distance, has truly changed my life. I’ve met friends who are invested in similar, highly personal health and wellness goals and strength has truly bonded us. We are grounded in our goals, and go above and beyond to support one another. The community aspect has been a critical component of my success; other gym-goers are not your competition. They should be your motivation.

I’m at a point now where I care about myself in a way that goes beyond a number on a scale or dress size. I care about my wellbeing and having a clear mind, much of which has been achieved through regular exercise and a balanced diet.

I see each workout as an opportunity to be a little better — in form, weight lifted, number of reps, etc. — and each meal as a challenge to be more creative with nutritious ingredients.

I’ve found comfort in community and accountability, and have found direction and purpose in owning each meal and workout. I’m not focused on perfection, but on regular progress.

Call me a convert, but I’m now a Franky Duffy Fitness devotee, and have found a form of exercise that enables me to feel stronger, better and happier each and every day.

 

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White Coats

My family is dominated by doctors. My brother, sister-in-law (and her sisters, parents, and most of her brothers-in-law), great uncle, etc. — they’re all doctors. Add a pharmacist father into the mix and a brother-in-law and best friend who are PAs, and you have a recipe for hypochondria and then some.

As a kid growing up in Michigan, I associated my pediatrician with an annual check-up and some vaccinations. No stress, no real fears; probably also worth noting that I grew up pre-Google and as such, pre-WebMD.

By my late teens and borderline adulthood, I developed what can only be described as “white coat” syndrome. I still remember being 17 years old and having a very real panic attack in the pediatrician’s waiting room among happy-go-lucky toddlers and other super young patients who would qualify for a post-exam lollipop.

A switch most certainly flipped, and so, too, did a phobia of all-things remotely medical. On one end of the spectrum, I was terrified of going to the doctor. On the other end, I was hyper-aware of aches, pains, scrapes and spots; my mind would race for hours until I could research my way to a potential diagnosis.

I had a crummy-ish experience with a city doctor a few years prior which really put me off female doctors — with the exception of my lovely sister-in-law — followed by a stint in the NYU emergency room after a bout of bronchitis that went rogue. Coupled together, these experiences only added to my fears.

It wasn’t until I was 25 that I decided to confront my fear head-on. I was dating my now-husband, who recommended his internist at a local practice in Astoria. Despite the less-than-stellar city physician experience, I had a weird elitist reservation about seeing an MD outside of Manhattan, but I trusted my new love, and so I gave his doctor a try.

I had a moment — it doesn’t quite qualify as an epiphany — where I started thinking, knowledge is power and modern medicine is pretty — excuse the soft expletive — effing amazing.

Adam’s internist changed my entire perspective on preventive health. A family friend once told me that part of being an adult, especially in a new city, is having an established medical history where you live. While I’m holding out on finding a dentist in New York (Bruce Duchan, DDS is the best dentist and I refuse to search elsewhere until he retires), I’m finally at a point where I have local doctors that I respect, and honestly enjoy seeing. I’m not absolved of my anxiety — not even close — but I’m proud of breaking down the barriers that would have had me avoiding an office visit, even if just to calm my nerves. I’ve come to a point where I’ve reasoned with the fact that it’s not them, it’s me and a fear that I’ve manifested.

My parents constantly remind me of my shitty set of genetics, and with my dad’s health issues that range from diabetes and a past heart attack to Parkinson’s, owning my health at a young age was the responsible – and only – option in sustaining my status as a mature adult.

I feel stronger than ever thanks to my trainer/coach, and more in control than ever knowing that I’m on a path of continued health for a long, happy life.

Fit Happens

I’m not sure that I’ve ever enjoyed a single element of physical fitness. My parents didn’t make a hard push for us to be involved in sports, and our pantry was a haven for fat-free, chemical-laden snacks. Snackwell’s Cookies and Diet Coke were household staples.

Through my oh-so-cruel teenage years I struggled with a trifecta of issues: acne, yo-yoing weight and glasses. Exit: self esteem.

In college, I learned how to cook and started caring about nutrition. I was on the cusp of making a change until friends were gossiping about how I was considering a formal weight-loss program like Weight Watchers.

So I boomeranged. I gained back weight that I worked so hard to lose. Mixed drinks that I passed on, weekend evenings spent at the campus gym; meaningless when matched with college cattiness.

When I moved to New York, I focused more on work and food became an autonomous after-thought. Bagels for breakfast, Thai for lunch, and leftovers for dinner. I tucked away concerns about my nutrition in favor of reminders of my professional success.

Any good publicist or communicator knows that deep down even the most convincing spin can’t stop a crisis from bubbling up.

I’m faced with an unsavory family medical history. My father had a heart attack, is a type-2 diabetic, and has Parkinson’s. My mother has been a fad dieter for as long as I can remember. Together, these characteristics and diagnoses are a recipe for disaster.

Confronting a need for change meant — and still means — that I need to accept and profess imperfection.

A harsh reality of “adulting” — a phrase which is standalone proof of my millennial status — is that as we age, healthy choices and changes are harder to make. More roadblocks pop up, and we have a Seinfeld-style rolodex of excuses to slap on nearly any situation.

As someone with self-professed control issues, it took an appointment with my beloved internist, complete with a well-meaning guilt-trip, for me to come to terms with the path I was haphazardly tiptoeing down and to stop myself from reasoning away my wavering health.

Accustomed to manicures and Ubers, I like the idea of little luxuries. Personal training always felt out of reach to me. I revolve around my personal and professional relationships — I do work in social media, after all — and I couldn’t imagine bonding with someone who was privy to my vulnerabilities.

And then I met a trainer I clicked with. He’s not a buff-bodied bozo. Well, he’s not a bozo, anyways. Time in between sessions is filled with text messages and snapchats. I have a newfound sense of accountability to myself, and to him. Better yet, we’re approaching 40 sessions together and I feel stronger, happier and more determined than I ever would have thought possible.

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There are things that I kvetch about — kettle bell swings are my kryptonite — but ultimately I enjoy each and every workout, because I’m challenging myself. My trainer is my sense of control — which for me equates to comfort. He motivates me through my curmudgeonly approach to exercise, and coaches me to embrace my physical and nutritional potential.

Making time to train twice a week has become second nature bordering on necessity. Every day is a challenge — to be active, to eat smart, to drink water and to stay positive. But the challenge is refreshing, and quite frankly, I like toning muscles that I never knew existed. Lots of road is left to cover, but I’m committed to the journey because I’m committed to myself.