Flashback Friday: Awkward College Photo Edition

Who wants a laugh on Friday morning?  Look no further!

I am a proud alumna of Northwestern University, class of 2006.  I graduated with a double major in English and History in 3.5 years, and I seriously love love love this school.  I will be paying down student loan debt for the rest of my life, but I don’t care.  The professors are top-notch, the campus is incredible, and I made amazing friends there.

This post serves no purpose but to show you the lifestyle I led from 2002-2006.  It was decidedly not healthy.

This was my 21st birthday.  I got a digital camera from my then-boyfriend, so really, this is where digital documentation of my life begins.  I spent the day at the beach, got horribly sunburned, drank two drinks, vomited like crazy and went home with sun poisoning.  Sadface.


Hey, look, it’s Mary!  Mary reads the blog and is half of Mary and Matt, who we had brunch and barbecue and Avatar with recently.  Hi, Mary!


I had braces for most of college.  I got them after my freshman year, and they got taken off the day before graduation.  I had to get two teeth pulled, so for awhile I looked like a total yokel.  Awesome!

This was Halloween, I think, but I can never be sure.  Really, in college, I went to very few parties that did not involve costumes.  I was a cow.  Animal ears, Mean Girls style.  Oh yes.n2400406_9228310_6871

Oh, hey, I was in a sorority.  I know lots of ridiculous songs and am just now purging my extensive collection of t-shirts with mildly sexual logos on them.




Look, it’s Mary again!  We had an 80’s Tacky Prom every year as part of said sorority.  Yes, I am wearing a Hypercolor t-shirt.  Remember those?  It still worked!  Which is why my pits are clearly pink in that picture.


Sometimes I looked pretty and didn’t wear costumes.  I mourned the day this hot burnt-orange dress was too small.  I also miss my bountiful bosom. I do not miss the asshat attached to that hand, though.

n2400406_30298277_6403 Anyway.

My point is that college was a lot of fun, but I look back at those pictures and no way could I live that lifestyle again.  I ate a crap ton (okay, I could still go for some home cooked sorority food), drank more than I thought I did, and was in some seriously unhealthy relationships with assorted men. 

And I took some ridiculous pictures.

What was your college experience like?

Flashback Friday Vol. IV: How I Got Smart

Sorry guys.  Flashback Friday’s been on hold for awhile because of the holidays, travel, et cetera!  But I’m back, with the story I promised–how I went from skinny fat, injured, and unhealthy, to healthy, muscley, and strong.

So, as you know, in December 2008 I was 150 pounds.  I was also “skinny fat”–the phenomenon where you weigh a low number, but you’re squishy and jiggly still because you have a high body fat percentage and no muscle.  Through Livestrong.com, I discovered the book The New Rules of Lifting for Women.  As you know, I love plans.  Frankly, I was tired of running 6 miles a day, 6 days a week.   And the idea of being “allowed” to eat 2000 calories a day sounded like heaven.  So, I plunged myself wholeheartedly into the program.

And here is where I post progress pictures.  From last year.  In a bikini.  I realize I in no way live up to a lot of the super-fitness bloggers out there, but I am very proud of how my body changed over this program.  Here I am at the beginning:

And the end:

(I cropped my face out for safety reasons.  Also, I look like a huge tool.)

The biggest changes I saw physically were in my upper body.  I still have very well-defined shoulders and biceps even though I lift only once a week or so these days.   My thighs will always be huge, but they definitely got more muscular, and I think I successfully took my waistline in a bit as well.  I also generally looked firmer and less jiggly all over.

But I saw even bigger changes mentally.  This program taught me the following things:

  • It’s okay to eat. Really.  Eat lots of good food.  Your body needs it to get stronger.
  • The number on the scale doesn’t matter. I gained five pounds on this program and my jeans were falling off.
  • Don’t be afraid of the weight room. So many women are terrified of lifting heavy weights, but I was never once treated badly by a man there.  In fact, I got a lot of respect.  I once had two women approach me asking if I could train them!  Just go in with a plan, ignore everyone else, and do your thing.
  • Never lift weights lighter than your purse. Or a Christmas ham.
  • Lifting heavy will not make you sprout a peen. Women develop pretty, feminine muscles, and do not look like men without the assistance of steroids.
  • And most importantly, skinny =/= healthy. Anyone can be skinny.  Being healthy, to me, requires a balanced approach to food and exercise.

This book changed my life, and I’m so glad I did this program.  I can’t recommend it enough.

How do you achieve a balanced healthy outlook?  Do you ever struggle with it?

Flashback Friday, Vol. III: How I got skinny the stupid way

So, last week we flashed back to what made me start changing in the first place.  This week, I’m going to explain how I lost 50 pounds in 6 months and all the stupid things I did to get there.

Like I said, I started losing weight in June 2009, and before I found anything online…I probably was losing weight the best way for my body.  For the first three weeks or so, I practiced what I now know is called “intutive eating.”  I was simply a bit lazy and not to into the whole weight loss idea yet, so I told myself I wouldn’t eat unless I was truly hungry, I’d eat smaller portions, get more fruits and veggies, and attempt some kind of exercise.  This was a very low stress way of doing things, and I think my first month I lost about four pounds.  I was tracking on FitDay off and on, and eating between 1700-1800 calories a day.

Then, in July, I found Sparkpeople.  Let me be clear: I like this website, and I think their general outlook is good, but I think there are some flaws in their system that can really screw people up if they’re not knowledgeable about finess.  Sparkpeople recommended I eat 1200-1500 calories a day.  I immediately freaked out and thought, “ohmygod, I’ve been totally pigging out before!  No wonder I’ve only lost four pounds in a month.”  Naturally, I decided 1200 calories was much better than 1500, and never, ever let myself eat more than 1250 calories a day.  At this point, I was working out six days a week, for an hour a day.  I obsessed over every tiny nibble.  Did I lose weight?  Oh, yeah.  Tons of it.  Fast.  This is me, in August 2008:

In September of 2008, I challenged myself to not take a single rest day for the entire month.  (facepalm)  Rest was bad!  I was lazy if I rested!  I achieved this awful goal and worked out every single day, either a workout DVD or running.  Sparkpeople adjusted my calorie intake up a little slightly to account for the increased exercise, but I was still eating maybe 1400 calories a day, maximum.  At this point, I was probably about 170 pounds and burning 600 calories/day through exercise, leaving my body a measly 800 calories to subsist on every day.  The calories I was getting at this point were largely processed–Special K for breakfast, Lean Cuisine and HFCS-infested yogurt for lunch–and I was eating mostly simple carbs.

This is October 2008, probably pretty close to the peak of my weight obsession:

I was addicted to two things at this point: the scale and the compliments.  Tim, I think, was a little worried about me, because I weighed myself obsessively.  Confession: Tim, you thought I only weighed myself every morning, but I was doing it probably six times a day.   Just about every time I went to the bathroom, I’d strip down and weigh myself.  The tiniest fluctuations would freak me out.  In October, he started hiding the scale from me and only letting me have it every few days, because we talked and I told him how I was feeling.

Another confession: when he was hiding the scale from me, I still weighed myself at the gym.

I was also addicted to the compliments and positive attention.  When you go from 200 pounds to 150 pounds in 6 months, people notice.  I’m a big old attention hog, which is partially why I have this blog, but I LOVED it.  I was obsessed with the idea of seeing my family for the first time at Thanksgiving and doing a “big reveal.”  I did, and everyone was impressed, and I got positive reinforcement for my unhealthy habits.  By Thanksgiving, I was running 6-7 miles a day on the treadmill, 6-7 days a week.  I didn’t cross train, I didn’t lift weights, and I didn’t really enjoy what I was doing.  I did it because I had to or, ohmygosh, I’d get fat again.  I may not be the most enthusiastic exerciser all the time now, but I do what sounds at least somewhat fun to me and I focus on the health benefits of it now rather than what burns the most calories.

Finally, and thankfully, in December of 2008 two things happened that really changed how I thought about myself.  First, I got a stress fracture in my foot from all that compulsive running, and second, I discovered and read The New Rules of Lifting for Women.  I’ll talk about how these changed my outlook on fitness on the next Flashback Friday–maybe not next week, because of Christmas, but soon.

In sum, here are the things I did wrong and I wish I’d learned at the beginning:

  • Somewhat paradoxically, your body needs food to lose weight the healthy way.  Eating too few calories for my activity level made me weak, anxious, and probably unpleasant, and led to injury.  Eating too little can stall weight loss because your body thinks it’s starving.  Sometimes, you need to eat more to lose more.  A car with no fuel won’t move, and a body with no fuel will remain similarly stagnant.
  • Weight is secondary to health.  I weigh 162-ish pounds now, but I’m stronger, happier, and healthier than I was as a 150 pound person who didn’t lift, restricted calories too much, and used exercise as punishment.  Focus on being healthy–your weight will follow.
  • Weigh yourself once a week, once every two weeks, but don’t get in the every day habit.  I thought I could handle it, but it was really, really mentally taxing.
  • Rest is just as important as exercise. Rest days are when your body builds muscle and repairs the damage exercise does.  If you just keep tearing your muscles and bones down day after day after day, you’re going to get injured.
  • Nobody’s perfect.
  • Focus on learning what your body wants and is telling you it needs rather than calorie intake in the long run.  In the beginning, yeah, I needed to count calories because my body was telling me it needed all sorts of crap it doesn’t need.  But now that I’m healthier, if my body says, “Bananas, please,” I say “Okay, body,” but if it also sometimes says  “I would very much like some pie,” I give it some, too.

What’s your “I wish I knew then what I knew now” thing?

Flashback Friday, Volume II

Last week I flashed back to June 2008, when Tim and I were on the verge of being flooded out of our homes

This week, let’s flash back to that same time, more or less–June 2008.  (Hmm.  Big month for me, apparently.  I also turned 24 that month.)  This is actually surprisingly hard for me to blog about and I’m getting kind of choked up about the whole thing because god, those were some pretty awful moments.  I still look back at how horribly I treated my body and how in denial I was with a lot of shame.  I feel so terrible that I just ignored this for years, but I suppose I wouldn’t be the way I am now without those years.  So, onward and upward.

Before all that flooding went down I went home to Chicago for the weekend for two purposes: 1) my annual visit to the vag doctor for a pap smear and 2) my good friend and now bridesmaid’s bridal shower.  Interestingly enough, both of these events played a crucial role in my consequent weight loss and lifestyle changes.  Weird, huh?  You never really think gynecologist+bridal shower=drastic life changes, but there you go.

Anyway, I went to the doctor for my visit.  Usually, when I would get weighed at the doctor’s office, I’d conveniently not look at the number or squeeze my eyes shut.  If I didn’t know what I weighed, I couldn’t be held responsible for the decisions that got me there.  But, this time, there was no escaping it, as the nurse cheerfully announced, “200 pounds!” to me. 

What?  200 pounds?  Seriously?  I was in total and utter shock.  It was the 2– number that threw me off–I honestly think that if the scale had said 197, I wouldn’t have done anything.  200+, in my mind, was fat territory.  And holy crud, I was there.  I felt terrible.  I knew I’d been quietly buying larger and larger jeans, but I pretty much wrote it off as the sizes getting smaller, not me getting larger.

I went home and cried.  And then I dusted myself off and looked in the mirror and said, “Brie, you’re the common denominator here.  Change something for REAL this time.”  I had no idea what I was doing, yet, but I was going to try.  I e-mailed Tim from my phone because I figured if I told someone, I’d feel accountable.  He immediately told me that he’d be with me every step of the way (and, of course, he was).

The next day was my best friend’s bridal shower.  I remember it very clearly.  The lunch I had that day was the first attempt I made at intuitive eating–a concept I still struggle with.  I didn’t really like the food anyway, so it wasn’t a big struggle, but I consciously limited myself to one piece of bread from the bread basket, only ate about half the entree, and took a few bites of dessert.  I also remember having to drive back to Iowa afterwards and needing a snack–and I got apple slices at the drive through instead of fries.  Little steps, I know, but I was so proud of myself. 

And, I’ll be honest–the fact that this was a bridal shower had a lot to do with me changing.  At this point, I’d been with Tim for a year.  We had both known pretty early in our relationship (maybe three months in or so) we were going to get married.  I knew that pretty soon, I’d be the one having showers and weddings and wearing a pretty dress, and like my header says–I didn’t want to cringe when I looked at the pictures.  My turn was coming, and I wanted to be ready.

The next day I got these pictures back.  I looked at them and was so ashamed, but then I remember telling Tim, “It’s okay.  I’m never going to look like this again.”  These are the fated pictures:

Once I saw these, I just kind of knew that this was going to happen and I was going to fight my way out of it, no matter how long it took and how hard it was.  I won’t say I’m perfect, but I like to think I’m treating my body a damn sight better than I was then…and that I feel a million times better.  (And I think I look pretty good too!)

What inspired you to change?

Flashback Friday!

In honor of Flashback Friday (which I’ve never participated in until now, but always thought about doing), and the fact that I’ve been in Iowa all week, I thought I’d flash back through the last year and a half or so of my life for you guys over the next few weeks and touch on some things I’ve been doing and where I’ve been.  Note: these may or may not be fitness and/or wedding related!

(Insert time warp sounds here.)

Warning: this is pretty much in no way wedding or fitness related.  Sorry.

I’ll start with the summer of 2008.  I was just starting to lose weight and trying to get healthy in the summer before my third and final year of law school.  It was June, right before my birthday.  T and I were working together in the law school, and suddenly things start feeling weird–people are speaking kind of in hushed tones, nobody’s actually working, and everyone seems concerned.  The reason?  The Iowa flood was coming down the river and headed our way.  We’d been watching other towns on the river literally become underwater graveyards.  People died, homes were destroyed, major evacuations were going on.  And T lived two blocks from the river.  (Thankfully, he lived up a steep hill.)

We were immediately told to go home (it was a Friday, I think) and not return for a week and a half.  They were closing the university.  We were told to make sure we were safe and then get out and help with the flood preparation efforts if we could.  So, naturally, I panicked and we headed straight for the store, where we stocked up on flashlights, candles, bottled water and non-perishable food. This was the view from the law school the roof the morning we were told to leave.  Please note how treacherously close the water is to the top of the bridge.

Buckley was nonplussed by everything.  At this point, he was an only kitty!  Southpaw would come a month later.

T and I were both animal shelter volunteers, and the animal shelter was right in the 100 year flood plain–it had long since been flooded and underwater.  (Check out this incredibly touching video for the animal center’s flood story.  We love, love, love this shelter, and it’s where we adopted both our kittensquatches.)

All the animals were safely evacuated from the shelter (thank God) and moved into a temporary location.  (At this point, Southpaw was one of those animals.  She’d been at the shelter since January and dealt with the flood as a cat without a family.)  We both showed up ready to help.  Even though the animal shelter was totally displaced and underwater and dealing with a temporary facility that was definitely less than ideal, they also had a second problem.  Thousands of people were being displaced from their homes and had no place to take their animals, so they also had to set up an “animal hotel” where owners living in shelters could drop off their pets until they could return to their homes.  See?

T and I spent that week off at the animal shelter.  He worked a lot helping to keep the dogs cool and walked out in the barns, whereas I stayed inside and worked with the cats–both those that were homeless at the shelter, and those who had families and were just staying for the time being.  We helped animals large and small!

Anyway, this really has nothing to do with things I usually blog about, but I guess these Flashback Fridays will be to tell you about the things I’ve done recently that make me me.  These floods were the nearest I’ve ever come (thank God) to experiencing a natural disaster of this magnitude, and it was scary as all get-out.  We didn’t know if we’d have to evacuate T’s place, or be without utilities for weeks like folks in other parts of the state, or what–and we were so fortunate that we didn’t have to.

I guess the upshot of this is that it showed me how great people can be.   The whole state dropped what they were doing and sandbagged, fed kittens, and gave people a place to stay.  The animal shelter put a list on their website of needs and within hours, this is what they had:

And that was just cat stuff.  It just kept growing, as did a giant pile of dog supplies in another building.  So, as we go into the Christmas season…do something to change someone’s life.  It doesn’t have to require money.  Donate blood.  Post an Operation Beautiful note.  Volunteer.  Give back.

Have you ever been through anything like this that’s changed your life?