Friday, January 16, 2015

Gulp! They're looking at Me!

Being self-conscious about the way you look sucks. It was one thing I have had to deal with on a daily basis as a teacher (something I've written about before). My passion for teaching always superseded my discomfort, but it was always there. Getting over this self-doubt was a big motivating factor for losing weight and getting healthy.

Over time, I've gotten better, but I still haven't completely gotten over my self-consciousness. I still worry about what I look like, what others think about the way I look, how they will judge me, what they will think ... there are so many thoughts that swirl around in my head. With that kind of pressure, standing in front of a crowd isn't easy.

As I said, I have gotten better. The doubt is not as strong, and I'm usually able to set the nerves aside and just power through whatever I have to do - whether it's teaching or working out in the gym or participating in a sport.

The thing with teaching at the university is that before stepping in the classroom, I could choose my dress, put on my heels, and basically create a shield around me - armor myself with whatever I needed to not feel (too) self-conscious.

in the classroom 

The good thing with going to the gym is that the activities are usually isolated. You just go about your routine and you don't have to pay attention to what others are doing/saying/looking at. Plus, once again, you wear what you need to feel comfortable.

bright and sporty 

I had to really think (more than) twice before starting Jiu-Jitsu because not only did it involve close contact with others, but it also involved using my body -- I mean really using my body, to twist and turn, to lift people off me, to climb on top of others. I mean it was ALL body.

Just like my passion for teaching helped me push past the self-consciousness and get my job done, my passion for fitness and Jiu-Jitsu helped me push past the negative, doubtful thoughts and get in the gym/on the mats and pursue my interest. I didn't want my mindset to get in the way of any potential progress.

Yesterday I was put to the ultimate test when I taught my first adult's Jiu-Jitsu class. There I was, standing in front of a group of 20 people (all men!!), in my white Gi (which I've always had issues with & it's totally unflattering), teaching one an actual martial arts class -- how did that happen? How did I go from a university lecture hall to a Jiu-Jitsu mat?

I was so nervous leading up to my lesson that I had to have a stern talk with myself -- I can't be nervous about everything!! I have to focus on just one thing and let the other anxieties go.

The main goal was to teach the class -- so I focused on the lesson.
That meant letting go of any general nervousness of speaking in front of others, letting go of any unease of wearing my Gi, letting go of any doubt I had about my abilities, and most of all, letting go of any self-consciousness of my body. It was not easy! Seriously - bending over, falling backwards, and sprawled all over the mats rolling around ... ya, just a tiny bit different from wearing heels and a dress standing in front of a lecture hall!

I was up there for the students to teach a lesson -- and that's what I did. It was a tough lesson to teach -- mainly because there were lots of details to cover in a short period of time. However, it went well. The students were amazing - attentive, supportive, and -- they totally shocked me at the end when they gave me a huge round of applause. I was so touched. It was awesome! It was a great (scary) first experience, but it taught me so much. I'm so thankful to our head instructor Ben for supporting me and being by my side (and being the perfect 'Bad Guy' in the demos). I have lots to work on before getting on the mats again to teach, but I'm looking forward to the challenge :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Move Because You Can

Life is so unpredictable. Things can change in an instant. The way my brother's physical condition changed in a moment - going from walking to paralyzed - has traumatized me. While I am so happy that his mobility is returning, his fight is not over yet. Unfortunately, today he began his first round of chemotherapy for lymphoma. He's been fighting different battles since late April 2013.

At first, his paralysis was attributed to his weight -- he was clearly obese. It was an interesting (and very upsetting) experience seeing how doctors in Kuwait were so judgmental ... that his physical condition must have been brought on by his size.

It was later found that a tumor on his spine was compressing his nerves which in turn caused the paralysis. He was bedridden for months. When the treatment (steroids, surgery, physiotherapy) finally started to take effect, he had to basically start all over - he had to learn how to walk. He had to learn how to move. He had to rebuild his muscles. He had to make his body work for him.

In the meantime, due to being in the hospital with more regimented food, he was losing weight. In fact, he lost just over 40 kg (88 lbs) in about 6 months.

Later, as his check-ups continued and the diagnosis was getting closer and closer to cancer, it was thought that the weight loss (at least part of it) was a side effect of cancer.

This conflicts me in so many ways. When I showed some people recent photos of my brother, they all commented on how good he was looking and expressing amazement with the amount of weight he had lost ... but part of me inside cringes at those responses because I know that he went through hell - paralysis, multiple surgeries, biopsies, and now chemotherapy ... does it matter that he has lost weight when he has had to suffer so much?

Anyway. The bottom line is - our health is precious. Focus on all the things you can do and take advantage of them. Focus on eating right because your body deserves it -- because you are still FREE to eat right and get healthy instead of being forced to because of some unfortunate health circumstance. Move not because it is part of physiotherapy -- move because you can.

It is tearing me apart that I am not by my brother's side today as he starts his treatment in Bangkok. However, I know that he will be strong. We are all staying hopeful and optimistic. He's been a true champ through all of this. I don't know how he did it, but he has been amazing, not a single complaint through the whole ordeal.

When we were living together in Kuwait, my brother helped me with my training during which I didn't hold back and I definitely kicked his ass a few times ... now it's his turn to kick cancer's ass.

Never stop fighting. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Slow Start

Although I was on the mats for Jiu-Jitsu on the 3rd, yesterday (7th) was my first day back at the gym. The year has definitely gotten off to a slow start for me, and I'm still not feeling 100%. Being out of sync with a regular routine is always a struggle for me. I know all I need to do is just get back into it -- no excuses, no delay, just go for it ... but some days it's easier said than done.

In any case, yesterday ended up being a pure cardio day, kinda warming up my muscles, getting used to moving again, and testing out my lungs post-bronchitis. I felt a bit breathless but nonetheless, at least I took my first step (first 5 km of steps) into working on my fitness aside from Jiu-Jitsu.

My food has definitely been coming back on track. Whole Life Challenge meals have re-entered the rotation and I'm getting ready for the new challenge, which begins on January 17th.

If you want to read more about the challenge, you can read this blog post of mine:

If you want to join my team, register using this link:

I think the WLC is the perfect way to begin the year and help keep me focused on my goals for the year. Aside from the challenge aspect of it, I think it's a great time to experiment with different ways of eating. You won't know how much you're capable of unless you try.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Friday Five - Starting off the New Year

I ended 2014 with good friends, laughter, music, and hope ... I woke up on January 1st, 2015 with a horrendous cough and terrible cramps.

Hmmm. That wasn't what I was hoping for.

The beauty of not having set plans (e.g. on January 1st I must do X, Y, Z) is that you can take things in stride. I was in no shape to do much of anything yesterday, but that was just one day out of 365. I rested, stayed hydrated, and tried to get other non-strenuous things done.

Today also wasn't ideal -- it involved waking up a bit cranky and achey from a restless night of 'sleep', my first doctor's visit since my move to London (see, I knew 2015 would be a year of firsts!), and more coughing and cramps. So I'm kinda feeling blah ...

What to do? I just gotta keep on moving forward and workin' it out to the best of my ability. On that note, since I'm not feeling so great, my Friday Five is inspirational and motivational quotes from others.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015!!

Happy new year everyone!

I have 2 main focuses for this year:

1) Positivity
When I look back at the events of 2014, particularly the things that have been happening around the world, I see so much negativity, tragedy, negativity, and intolerance ... it's depressing. I don't know how I can make an impact on a large scale, but I do want to make an effort to have a more positive, happy outlook on things which I hope will spread to others.

In a way I feel like I already started this when the decision to move to London was made. I knew my life would be different here, but I chose not to think of the things that would be more 'difficult' than they were in Kuwait and instead focus on the adventure and take pleasure in the newness of things. It's worked wonderfully for me. I want to continue this positive attitude and be more conscious of living in the now and being happy and hopeful.

2) Balance
Over the past four years, I have been playing around with my food and fitness regimes - figuring out what works, what hasn't worked, what I enjoyed etc. I feel like I've finally arrived at the right combination. This year will be about implementing it within my life. In the past, because I wanted to do it ALL, I found that I just couldn't keep up with my schedule. I knew better, but I was a bit too ambitious and it left me feeling frustrated. This year, I'm keeping things simple and focused so that I make sure that my efforts lead to positive results.

I have my usual goals related to fitness and living a healthy lifestyle, but I don't see them really as new years resolutions as they've been the same focuses I've had for the past few years. They are already part of my lifestyle -- now it's all about tweaking my habits and being a bit more disciplined.

Both my discipline and balance will already be challenged in January as I prepare for a trip to Los Angeles at the end of this month for the Instructor Certification Program at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu head office. I'm really excited but also quite nervous.

Travel is tough for both my fitness and food routines. However, I'm hoping that wanting to do really well in terms of performance at the academy will help me keep focused on my food until I travel (as well as during my trip). Plus, given that I am actually going to a Jiu-Jitsu academy, I know that I'll be training regularly so that should help.

In addition, the Whole Life Challenge begins on the 17th so I will have that structure to help keep me on track with my food. It'll definitely be tricky this time because I'll be away from home where I have control over my food, but I've managed before so I'm remaining optimistic that I'll succeed again. Also, this time, instead of doing the strictest level, I'm doing the intermediate level of the challenge which gives me a bit of leeway in terms of foods I can/can't have.

I don't really have specific plans for January. I know what I need to do so it's just about doing it. I am basically sticking to the guidelines that I set up for the 50 Day Challenge. I figure, until I can get the basics down without faltering, why add more?

In addition to these basic parameters, I want to:
1. Do 3 weight training sessions a week
2. Stretch daily
3. Follow the Gracie Diet parameters of leaving at least 4 1/2 hours between meals, no desserts, and following their food combination criteria ... This will be the most challenging, but I'll give it my best shot.
4. Blog regularly (3-4 posts a week)

In final news, in the interest of sharing my experience being a female practitioner of Jiu-Jitsu, I have launched a Jiu-Jitsu specific blog. Please do take a moment to check it out and do spread the word :) You can find it at:

Wishing you all a wonderful 2015!