My Week In Review and A Short Story

Last week I told you guys that I had an interview, and I am happy to say that I got the job! 🙂 I will be working part-time as a challenge facilitator. Meaning, I will be working at an outdoor ropes course. I am very excited!

I also interviewed for another part-time job as a caregiver at an assisted living facility. I really hope I get this job as well, because it would be perfect for building up my nursing resume!

As far as cooking goes this week, I’ve really stuck to the basics. As the semester (and financial aid) draws to an end, and because we haven’t started our summer jobs yet, there isn’t much of a budget for food lately. I do, however, have a sizable stockpile of non-perishables in my pantry, so I’ve really been trying to eat through that. Now don’t worry, my stock-pile isn’t extreme-couponer status, but it does take up an entire shelving unit. Why do I feel the need to stockpile food? I think I do it for the security and convenience. Growing up, my dad always had whatever we wanted to eat, and it never seemed to run out; it was very comforting. My my mom, on the other hand, just bought groceries as we needed them; we certainly didn’t go hungry, but we did run out of things that we wanted before she went to the grocery store again. Reading a memoir about my dad’s mom, I learned that she did the same thing that my dad and I do — I guess it’s a family trait! I also love being able to start a spur-of-the-moment baking project and not have to run out to the store for odd ingredients.

School went well this week. The main event was on Thursday, when my entire class read my short-story and gave me feedback. It seemed like all of the athletes in the class loved it, and the non-athletes found it completely unrelatable. I will include a copy of my story at the end of this post so you can judge for yourself. I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback!

After having my story brutally critiqued, I needed to get rid of some stress hormones, so I did what I do best: prepped a hearty dinner (for when the hubby got home) and got some exercise. I took advantage of the 54 degree weather, and set out for a 60 minute run in the sun. A few minutes into my run, however, I noticed steely-gray clouds looming, and quickly realized I may be chasing the rain. I only endured a few drops, and finished my run just before the rain really started coming down. I do up to 90 minutes of high-intensity, low-impact cardio regularly, but I haven’t actually run that far in awhile (lately I’ve only been running about 4 miles), so it was a welcome challenge. My joints were aching by 50 minutes, and I had to mentally push through the last 10. I was prepared to be sore today, but surprisingly I feel pretty good. I am training for a 100K relay in 1 week (my leg is about 6.5 miles), and a 7 mile race in a few weeks.

Hope your week was great! And here’s hoping this sunny trend continues!

Below is my short story (I will go through eventually and spell out all the numbers)

“Please welcome Brooke Boothroyd to the stage.” Oh shit, am I really going out there?  Here I am teetering in four-inch clear plastic heels, donning a hot pink rhinestone-encrusted bikini that just barely covers my naughty bits.  No, I’m not about to go out there and dance on a pole. But I am going to go out there with my body on display to be judged by the world. Why would I do such a thing? Well if you really want to psycho-analyze it, it all goes back to when I was 16…

For a good eight years of my adolescent life, I lived and breathed competitive swimming.  Practice from four to seven am. (It is now my belief that no person should have to hear an alarm blaring at the ungodly hour of 3:45 am.) After practice ended at seven, I’d throw my hair into a sloppy bun, and speed to school as I devoured several breakfast bars. School ‘til 3. Then a quick nap before evening practice from six to nine pm. Then more food, lots more food and sleep. Repeat. Homework? I didn’t do it. Fun? What, you don’t consider this fun? Fun or not it really didn’t matter to me; this kind of routine made Champions. By the age of 16, I qualified for the Olympic trials in the 100m backstroke. My only goal in life was to be an Olympian. Then, just a few months before the Trials, it happened.

It was almost seven am. Just one more set and then we got to cool down. “Five one hundreds on the 1:30. All out. And Brooke, dammit, you better be within 90% of your best time or everyone is doing it again,” our coach demanded. Everyone looked at me, but no one was worried. They knew I would perform.

The long arm on the big round clock hit :58, and I inhaled. At :59, I submerged underwater. By :00, I was exploding off the wall. Six dolphin kicks, and I prepared to surface with a powerful stroke. But with that stroke came horrendous pain. Pain in my shoulder, pain radiating down my arm. I barely finished the length to the other side of the pool, and I could hardly breath through the tears. My coach had to know something was seriously wrong, but he didn’t budge from his seat on the bleachers at the other side of the pool. He just yelled, “What the hell, Brooke? Quit your crying and get moving.” I couldn’t even respond. The rest of the team finished their 100s and then my coach said. “Everyone, thanks to Brooke, you’re all doing that again.”  My best friend, Kate looked for me in the lane next to her, and when she didn’t find me she searched the rest of the pool. When her eyes met mine, she recognized my pain and her face reflected concern. “Coach, I, I, think something is wrong with Brooke…”

“Brooke is fine. She’s just throwing herself a little pity party.” Everyone looked at me. “Brooke, get your ass down here and finish the set.” I still couldn’t move or talk. I just hung there desperately grasping at the wall and for air as I cried. “That’s it, everyone out. We’re going to have a little team chat.” We only had “team chats” when he was seriously pissed off. My coach stood his lardy-ass up –something he never did—and angry-waddled over to my side of the pool. The rest of the team followed. Kate took the opportunity to come over and see what was wrong. “It’s my shoulder” I managed between sobs. Kate relayed the message to our coach, and recognition and anger and humiliation flashed across his face. He knew as well as I did that this was the end of both of our Olympic dreams.

In the months that followed, the doctors tried to fix my shoulder. Surgery, rehab exercises, but it wasn’t the same. At least I could get dressed without assistance and pain, but I couldn’t swim. At first, I thought my life would be empty without swimming. I thought that being a champion was the essence of me, and that without swimming, I would no longer be me. Swimming was the only exercise I knew, and I was too depressed to try anything else. Slowly my swimming lifestyle and lean physique faded away.

Fifteen years, one husband, and four kids later, my swimming life was barely an echo. My new life revolved around diapers and feeding and laundry. The one thing that didn’t change was stealing precious sleep whenever I could.  Like every new mom, I put my kids’ needs in front of my own. That is, until the day it was brought to my attention that I was fat.

I remember it as clearly as my wedding day and each of my children’s births. It was a hot day in August, and my kids were having a water balloon fight in the backyard at a neighbor-kid’s birthday party. Meanwhile all of us moms were sitting under a tree in the shade. Mark, my 5-year-old son, wanted to invite his friend over for a play date after the party. “Let me just ask my mommy,” Mark told his friend, James.

“Which one is your mommy?” James asked.

“The one right there, in the black pants and the white shirt.” Mark replied.

“The fat one?” James blurted, like the tactlessly honest 5-year-old he was.

I looked around for the woman this boy mistakenly took me for, but young, trendy, skinny moms exclusively surrounded me. Then I looked down at myself; I was wearing yoga pants and the T-shirt my kids made me for mother’s day. Reality check. I was the fat mom.

Well I’m not that fat, I reasoned. It’s not like I’m actually overweight or anything. I’ll just weigh myself when I get home to prove it.

When I got home I turned on a Disney movie for the kids and headed to the dusty garage to fish out the scale. I wiped it down and placed it on the bathroom linoleum, and then I stripped down.

Okay, let’s see. What did I weigh before? It had been a very long time since I willfully stepped on a scale, and when I went to the doctor, I didn’t look at the scale on purpose; I had lost touch with any concept of my weight. I did remember my driver’s license said 150, but that was back when I was 21, and I might have fudged the number a little bit even then. Add 10 pounds for exaggeration, so 160. And let’s not forget I pushed out 4 babies since then – that really ought to earn me a 15-pound allowance. Alrighty then, anything close to 170 and I won’t freak out.

I tapped the scaled and waited for 0.0 to appear, indicating it was time for the moment of truth. I stepped on. 197. Well that can’t be right, I must have been standing weird. I tried it again. 197. Again. 197. Shit. ShitShitShit. I’ve gained nearly 40 pounds since college? Well okay, at least I’m tall. That means I carry weight better, right? And everyone knows the scale isn’t necessarily a determinant of size. I mean, muscley people weigh a ton and look great. I stormed to the closet to dig out my skinny jeans. I didn’t exactly expect them to fit, but I was surprised when I couldn’t even get my calves into them. Still determined to prove I wasn’t fat, I tried my ‘normal’ jeans. Still no good. My resolve began to shake. Could I handle it if my fat jeans were too tight? Before I could think about it too much, I tried them on. Oh. My. God. I am officially fat. When did this happen?  I leaned against the bathroom wall, and sunk to the floor.

“Brookey Baby?” My husband called when he got home. I didn’t answer. I didn’t want him to see me like this. But of course he found me still sitting there, looking puffy-eyed and dejected.

“Brooke, what’s wrong?!”

“Calm down, I’m fine.”

“Obviously you’re not.” He sat down on the floor beside me, and put his arm around me. “Brooke, let’s talk.”

“It’s embarrassing.”

“Not to burst your bubble, but I hear you fart in your sleep. I doubt it’s more embarrassing than that.” We both giggled. He always knows how to lighten a mood and make me comfortable. That’s a big reason why I married him.

“It’s just that…. Well, it’s just that I’m fat.”

“And where did you get that idea, you beautiful woman?” I knew he adored me. Maybe I was too comfortable with him, because in the sweet comfort of our marriage I had let myself go.

“Sean, stop it. I don’t want to feel better. Nothing will make me feel better except being skinny.”

“Get up, let me show you something.” He pulled me to my feet, and turned me around. “I want you to see what I see.” He stood behind me, tracing my body from top to bottom with both of his hands. “Look at these curves.” To him they were curves, but to me they were unsightly bulges.

He then proceeded to put the moves on me. “Stop it.” I exclaimed. Me and my fat rolls were not into it, “I’m too fat. Why would you even want me?”

Even for a patient man, this topic had become tiresome. When he realized consoling me wasn’t working and that there definitely wasn’t going to be a happy ending to this discussion for him, he switched to trying to fix my problem, “Sweetie, you know I will always love you, but… if you don’t like your body, do something about it.” Why do men think saying things like this will ‘fix’ our problems?

“Well there’s a genius thought. Why don’t I just do something about it while I’m cooking your dinner and washing your clothes and raising your kids? Goddamn it, why don’t I just do something about it?” I replied shamelessly. I wanted to be mad. I really wanted to be mad. It would have been easier than facing myself, but he was right. We each went our separate ways for the rest of the evening, but before bed I told him that I was going on a diet, a real diet.

“Good for you, honey,” he replied.

I woke up the next morning with my stomach grumbling. I automatically started pouring myself a bowl of my children’s Captain Crunch until I remembered my diet. Ugh, my diet. No more Captain Crunch for mommy. No more fun for mommy. The thought of deprivation made me cynical and cranky. What the hell am I supposed to eat, then? And what kind of ‘diet’ and I supposed to be on, anyways? Low-carb diets are supposed to be really great, but who on God’s Green Earth wants to eat a steak for breakfast? Staring at the Captain Crunch, my hunger pangs intensified. I’ll just have this one last cheat meal, and later today I’ll buy a diet book.

Lunchtime rolled around, but I still hadn’t had time to make it to the book store. Feeling guilty about the sugar-cereal breakfast, I only had celery sticks for lunch. By mid-afternoon I was angry hungry. When my daughter, Belle, came home from school sucking on a lollipop, I wanted to pry it out of her little fingers and devour it. I yelled at my kids for not finishing the chores I had forgotten to assign. Finally, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I stormed into the kitchen and ate half a batch of brownies, barely coming up for air.

This attempt at dieting continued for a few weeks– starving myself then gorging on everything in sight.  I was still fat, only now I was painfully aware of it and unhappy too. I was ready to give up, to just accept my fate as a fatty.

A few weeks later, I took my two girls to the mall – I promised them each a build-a-bear if they went to the dentist without protest. The boys were too cool for teddy bears, so their prize was a trip to Chucky Cheese’s with daddy. We wandered around the mall looking for Build-a-Bear – having not done much clothes shopping for myself lately, the mall layout was a little hazy. As we approached our fuzzy-friend destination, a sign in front of Barnes and Noble’s caught my eye, “Book signing with famous author and fitness model, Jessica Easton at 3 o’clock.” On the cover of said book was a woman in spandex and a sports bra with a body unlike any I had ever seen; she had chiseled abs, popping shoulders, and lean thighs. At first I was amazed, but then I scoffed, wonder what would happen to those abs if you had a baby and were forced to eat more than rice cakes and diet drugs…

“Mommy, come on!” Belle, my older daughter, pulled me out of my trance.

“Ya momma, buildabear,” Sophia, my youngest chimed in.

I smiled – Sophia had just started forming coherent sentences, and it never failed to amuse me when she spoke. “Okay, my girlies. Let’s go. Now Sophia, what are you going to name your bear…..”

On our way out, 2 bears richer, and $150 poorer, we walked by Barnes and Nobles again. It was two o’clock, one hour until the book signing. Why not just stop by?  “Belle, Sophia, do you girls want to pick out a new storybook to read before bed?”

Belle shrieked and replied, “Yes. I already know what I want!” She then proceeded to race off toward The Magic Tree House series. I picked up Sophia and pursued Belle past the discount books to the Children’s section. Belle had her book in no time.

“Get two. You can read one now while we’re in the bookstore, because mommy needs you to be extra good and patient while she does a little something for herself.” Normally Belle would ask a million questions, but she was too distracted by the magic world that awaited her in the pages of her book. While Belle chose her second book, I perused the toddler books for Sophia. Her and I decided on a book with a sparkly unicorn on the cover; there’s nothing wrong with a little fantasy while it lasts.

I led the girls over to a reading area next to the book-signing table. On the way, I picked up a copy of Eat Clean, Train Mean, Live Lean to see what all the fuss was about. All three of us plopped down onto the plush chairs to read until the book signing began. I had Sophia sit with Belle, as Belle practiced reading aloud to her.

I opened my book and read, “The first step to achieving the body you desire is to Eat Clean…” Sooo, the way I eat now is dirty? I had never heard the phrase, “Clean Eating” before. I read on, “Clean Eating, in a nutshell, involves eating 5-6 portion-controlled meals a day.” Well I can do that part – I already eat at least five times a day. At least this isn’t another juice-cleanse starvation diet. “When you Eat Clean, you eat fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and healthy starches, like whole grain bread or pasta.” Bread? Pasta? “Because you’re eating portion-controlled meals, you don’t have to count calories or carbs or points.” Maybe this isn’t just a scam. I think maybe I can do this…

I tried to keep my excitation to a reasonable level while I poured over the book. This is exactly what I need. Thirty minutes before the book signing, people started to line up. I gently pulled Belle and Sophia out of their fantasy, “Its time to check out girls. Then we’re going to wait in this line to meet someone. You can keep reading while we wait in line.”

“Mom! I’ve already read 37 pages!” Belle was still disinterested in why we needed to wait in line. She just wanted to read more.

“That’s great, sweetheart. I bet you have the book finished by the time we get home.”

“Read more!” Sophia demanded.

Belle kept reading aloud as we made our way to the checkout. “Belle, baby, this nice lady needs your book so she can scan it.”

“Here you go! Guess how many pages I’ve read?”

“How many?” The clerk obliged.

“38. I can read a whole book a day.”

“Wow, keep it up.” The clerk replied. She smiled as she scanned the rest of the books. “Oh, are you here for the book signing?” She asked when she got to my book.

“Well yeah. But I’ve never heard of the book before today. I saw the sign, and the book looks good, so why not?”

“Oh it is good! I normally don’t go for diet books, but this one helped me lose 50 pounds last year. And I’m the one who pushed to have Jessica Easton come for a book signing.”

“Wow. Congratulations!”

“Thank you. And you better hurry up and go get in line – looks like its getting longer by the minutes.”

I paid, and then I led my girls over to the line. A few moments later, Jessica Easton made her way over to her seat wearing spandex and a sporty tank top. She look just as good as the picture. This woman didn’t need Photoshop.

I found myself getting excited as we got closer and closer to the front of the line. I could hear her conversations with the people before me. She sounded so friendly, so real.

“Hi there.” She said with a smile when it was our turn.

“Hi, so nice to meet you.” I replied as I handed her the book to be signed.

Belle snapped up from her book. “Hi, I’m Belle, who are you?”

Jessica laughed. “I’m Jessica.” Then she turned to me, “I have 3 little ones at home, too.”

Three? But you look so great. And you have abs.” My shock temporarily overrode my tact.

She laughed again, clearly used to gawkers like myself. “I won’t tell you that it’s easy to get your body back after babies. But I will tell you that it’s possible. I gained 40 pounds with my last pregnancy, but here I am now.”

“What an inspiration. As you can see, I’m still trying to lose the weight. I just didn’t know where to start… but after looking through your book earlier, I think I have a pretty good idea.”

“Well, make sure you let me know how it all turns out for you. My email address is on my website. Who should I make the book out to?”

“Brooke. My name is Brooke.”

She handed the book back to me, and it read, “Best of luck, Brooke. From one mom to another.” I am so ready to do this.

Over the next couple of days, I read the book cover to cover and learned more about nutrition that I had in my previous 31 years. Saturated fats, trans fats, tempeh, quinoa? I also learned about weight training – something that was completely foreign to me. Sure, I was an athlete in my youth, but somehow I managed to completely escape the weight room. Then I went out and bought the sequel, Clean Eating for Families, which gave me ideas on how to get my kids to accept healthy food. I knew how to cook and even enjoyed it; I was just cooking the wrong things.

The first step to my new lifestyle was to get rid of all of the junk food in the house. All. Of. It. When Sean came home to find his Red Baron pepperoni pizza, Dove ice cream bars, and Doritos in the trash, he was pretty irritated. That is, until he tasted what I made for dinner – whole wheat spaghetti noodles with turkey meatballs and grilled vegetables topped with parmesan and feta.

“This is healthy?” Sean asked under his breath so the kids wouldn’t catch on.

“Yep. Amazing, huh?”

“You’re amazing. I’m really proud of you for doing this.” He kissed me and then made his way to the table. “Mommy made a delicious meal for us tonight.” He told the kiddos.

We all enjoyed the healthy meal, and the kids didn’t even notice the difference. Being kids, they still expected an occasional treat. I was prepared with an arsenal of healthy brownies and 100% fruit smoothies.

Soon, this way of eating became routine and the scaled proved it. After I got a handle on food, I tackled exercise. I bought a gym membership and actually went for the first time in nearly 10 years.

I started with the basic routine from the book: 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise four times a week, and a full-body weight routine three times a week. The first day I resolved to do a simple 30 minutes on the elliptical. Five minutes in, at a mere resistance of one, I was huffing and puffing. Ten minutes in I was drenched. When 20 minutes rolled around I was hunched over the machine and could not stand it any longer. The former national-level swimmer can’t even make it 30 minutes on the elliptical… I felt a little humiliated, but I came back the next day, and the next, and the next.

Within weeks I was able to keep up with the routine, but I grew bored. Swimming was never boring… maybe it was because I had the team to workout with? Or maybe it was the competition aspect and the goals to work toward?

A few weeks later, I felt like I needed to mix it up a bit. I began to search online for more ideas. One of the websites had a “competition” tab. I clicked it. That’s when I first came across figure and bikini competitions. These women had physiques like Jessica Easton. Lean and amazing. Oh my goodness, there are more of her. The competitor in me was roused, but I tried to stifle it out of fear. It would be so amazing to be one of these women. But I’m never going to look like that… Just forget it Brooke. Just be happy to not be fat anymore.

That night, I had a dream that I was on stage with rippling muscles and radiating confidence. It felt so good and so real that I was sad when I woke up. I had the dream the next night, too. And the next. After the dream haunted me for over a week, I realized it might be more that just a sleeping dream. This was a real dream.  I researched the competitions more and then I told my husband about it.

“Whoa, those women almost look like men.”

“Well they don’t look like that all the time. They just get super lean for a few days for the competition. During the off-season they weight 10-15 pounds more.”

“Hmmm.”

“I really want to do it. I need the motivation of working towards this goal.”

“Okay. I’ll support you then.”

“Well, it’s going to be a little bit expensive… I’ll need a trainer, and a nutritionist, and a competition outfit.”

“Ouch. But baby, I accepted that you would be expensive when I married you. I want you to be happy.”

I started with the trainer. He suggested a competition that was 20 weeks away. He said I still needed to lose about 30 pounds to be competitive. He set me up with a workout plan – a much more revved-up version than the one I was doing. Weights 6 days a week, and 60 minutes of cardio every day to really lean out.

I also met with a nutritionist. She set me up with a diet that consisted of about 1,200 calories a day to get lean, but with plenty of protein to make sure all my weight training would not be in vain.

Finally, I met with a stage coach who taught me how to walk in clear 4-inch heels while simultaneously flexing by quads, sucking in my abs, sticking out my ass, and displaying by arms. This feels so bizarre, how can this possible be sexy? I wondered. But I got used to it.

I read online that contest preparation was grueling and draining. And, yes, at first it was hard to adjust to eating less than my elementary school children, but I thrived on it just like I thrived on my long lost swimming lifestyle. The competitor in me was allowed to run the show again. And yes, the training was grueling, but I actually had more energy in everyday life that I had 30 pounds ago. My kids loved their new sporty mommy.

Eight weeks out from the competition, I ordered my stage outfit. $400 dollars bought me just enough sparkly pink material to prevent me from being charged with public indecency. I had never even worn a bikini on the beach with my just my husband, let along in front of strangers ready to judge the cut of my abs and the perkiness of my ass.

I wasn’t nervous until it was time to step on stage. But that’s how I always was when I was a swimmer – no nerves until the moment of truth – but then once I hit the water I was in my element and I performed.

“Please welcome Brooke Boothroyd to the stage,” the announcer’s voice boomed. I stepped out and I performed again after all those years.

After the competition, I sent Jessica Easton an email:

Dear Jessica,

I want to thank you for doing nothing less than changing my life. Because of you, I found a part of myself that I thought was lost for good. I lost over 50 pounds, and more importantly, I regained my confidence and vitality. Last weekend, I placed 2nd in a bikini competition. I hope to continue to compete and earn my pro-card to compete at the Olympia and The Arnold, like you do. Again, I cannot thank you enough!

See you on the stage,

Brooke

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