Getting ‘Bro’tivated

So where did I leave things last time? Oh yah – I almost had a stroke and decided to embark on a journey to finally focus on getting healthy once and for all. You k now, just your average, everyday dramatic declaration of a life-changing decision. NBD.

Back in January, after my initial health scare, I was talking to my brother on the phone. He and his wife had just moved to Germany. After he finished telling me all about the closet-sized apartment they were sharing and all the amazing beer on tap, I told him about my close call with a potential blood clot and how I was going to “get my shit together eventually.” He listened carefully, asked me a few questions and offered to help me with a workout and meal plan if/when I was ready.

Some things you should know about my little brother before he yells at me for talking about him on the internet (#SorryNotSorry Bro, but big sisters get to brag about their little brothers).

  • Growing up, I was the nerdy, rule-following, straight-A student and he was the cool athlete with a penchant for rule-breaking. While we’ve always been close, we’ve also both resented each other for our respective differences at times. Thankfully, we’ve both grown up and just laugh about it now.
  • In addition to being athletic, my brother’s always had great focus when it comes to his health. If he resolves to eat healthy, lose weight, bulk up, or whatever else he sets his mind to, he just makes the changes he needs to make and does it. Almost always with great success. I maybe still resent him a little for this one. Okay, okay – I don’t resent him…I envy him.
  • Just before the international move, my brother got certified as a CrossFit coach. My one experience with a CrossFit-type gym was not a positive one, so while I was proud of my brother for pursuing a career he’ll probably love, I didn’t think his approach would work for me.

So I thanked him for his offer, but admitted I wasn’t ready yet. I was so anxious about my follow-up visit with the doctor, I couldn’t fathom the idea of making any major lifestyle changes yet. Remember – at this point, I didn’t know if everything was ok and it was still very likely that I was going to need (at minimum) blood pressure meds, an MRI and a stern talking-to from my doc.

As you know, at my appointment several weeks later, I got the all-clear (for now) from the doctor, followed by an epiphany of sorts. My ‘light bulb moment’ wasn’t about the fact that I needed to eat better and work out (duh and duh-er), but more about the fact that I never want to feel that scared again, so those aforementioned lifestyle changes need to happen NOW.

I promised my brother I’d let him know how things went with the doctor, so I filled him in on the good news, as well as my determination to make “somedays” a thing of the past. Again, he offered to help. And this time I was ready to accept. We agreed to Skype the following weekend, so he could reveal his grand plan for me.

While I was (and still am) so grateful for my brother’s help, I was also scared. Scared he’d expect me to have the same focus that he has. Scared his meal plan for me would be painfully restrictive. Scared that I’d feel like a fat kid flailing helplessly at the gym. Scared that it wouldn’t work because I’ve never had my brother’s drive when it comes to this stuff. Scared because I always, always, ALWAYS fall off the wagon.

Here’s the thing I foolishly forgot in my flurry of anxiety-driven “what-ifs”: my brother knows me better than almost anyone. He knows I hate the gym. He knows I lose focus. He knows I make excuses. And he knows that given a choice, I will always choose a beer and a brick of cheese over a vegetable. So he didn’t give me a choice.

My brother agreed to help me, but only if I committed to doing things his way. If I was doubting the process or found myself making excuses, I was to contact him so we could talk it out. He made it clear this wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t going to be a quick fix. But it was going to be worth it. So here’s the basic approach he gave me (to be fully elaborated upon in later posts):

  • Food: I am now counting Macros. As in Macro-nutrients. Every day, I must eat a set number of grams of Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat. Every weekend, my brother gives me my Macros for the week ahead. So I’m measuring/weighing out most of my food and prepping almost everything at home. No added sugar, little/no salt, little/no booze, and carbs should come from fruits/veggies/fiber-and-protein-rich grains (ie. quinoa, wild rice). Eating out is doable occasionally, especially if I can check out a menu ahead of time to plan accordingly.
  • Exercise: After determining exactly how much time I was (realistically) willing to spend at the gym, we reached an agreement. Each weekend, during our Skype session – my brother gives me my workouts for the week ahead. On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, I go to the gym after work and do exactly what he tells me to do (usually a combination of weights and high-intensity, full-body cardio stuff). On Saturdays, I swim laps and plan to swap it out with some hiking now that the weather is warming up.

I’ve been following my brother’s plan religiously for two months now. It is hard, but now that the habits are forming, they’re getting easier to stick to. It is time-consuming, but it’s not taking time away from other parts of my life. I do try to make excuses, but I also talk myself right back out of them. And here’s the thing: it’s working.

Just eight weeks into my new routine (last Sunday), I had lost 20 pounds! While the number on the scale does matter (a big piece of this journey is weight loss and there’s no shame in that), the most important thing is how I’m feeling. And I’m feeling fantastic! My energy levels are up, my body feels stronger, my anxiety is under control, my mood is generally happier, and if deep-sleeping was a sport, I’d be a gold medalist.

I’m not sure why, but things feel different this time. Maybe because the health scare gave me a new perspective. Maybe because my brother has a vested interest in seeing his sister get healthy. Maybe because he gave me a plan that doesn’t force me to cut out the things I love. Maybe because I know I have long-term support from him (he already has a plan for the next year). Or maybe because I just want to keep feeling this good.

Regardless of the Why, it’s the When that I’m most proud of. I promised myself that I’d stop saying “Someday”…and I did.