I began The Comfort Zone Project unofficially on Feb. 10, 2014 when I plunked down the baht to join Fitness Thailand in Chiang Mai. In the three months since I started this project, I have morphed into a different person both physically and mentally. I’m feeling … good. Actually, I’m feeling fucking amazing. God bless endorphins. And adopting a lifestyle that is healthy and happy.
Standing in the mirror at a few days into my new exercise lifestyle, I analyze my body. Fat. Cellulite. No tone. No definition. Definitely no muscle. My skin is dingy and uneven. My hair is dull. I am not bright. At all.
This is going to take some work.
But, I embrace the work it will involve. I know me well enough, and know my affairs with gyms are typically short-lived. In fact, these past three months are the longest and hardest I have ever worked at improving myself. I hire a personal trainer, Patty, a sweet 25-year-old Thai woman, and together we embark on a Thai-glish journey of upper body days, lower body days, circuit training and mass amounts of spin classes mixed in with heaps of Google Translate.
When I do well, she tells me dee khun (much better). And, when the sweat drips down my face and my muscles are at the point of exhaustion, she pushes me that little extra bit. “Come on. One more set.”
Week by week, we work together. On the days I don’t work with her, I still go to the gym (averaging five days a week, two hours a day), doing abs classes, the treadmill, whatever I can get my hands on. It is at her suggestion I drop in to a spin class one evening. And, I’m hooked. The energy. The music. The mass amounts of calories being burnt in 50 minutes of group exercise.
Is this real?
From then on, I begin to see improvements.
I take photos weekly and send them to my mom so she can see the work I am putting in. While the improvements I see are minute (and, yes, there are plenty of times I get completely discouraged and think nothing has changed since Feb. 10), she e-mails me with one-word messages like “WOW” which power me on to the next gym session.
About two weeks ago, I begin to notice a shape coming out of the fat of my body. Tricep muscles. Biceps. Deltoids (oh, sweet, sweet deltoids). Under the layers of pudge is a body that is slowly emerging. I can see the beginning of abdomen definition. My face is brighter, my skin looks better, my hair isn’t falling out as much.
Looking at my dusty mirror at the body I now inhabit, I get teary-eyed. I stand there, in a sports bra and workout pants, still glistening with sweat from my spin class, and just stare. There is a body tucked under those layers.
This. Is. Me. This. Is. My. Hard. Work.
I’m not finished, by a long shot, but seeing the results of three months inspires me so much to keep going. To keep working. I leave for Europe in less than one week, and I am already working with FitWeek to help me prepare to burn calories when I’m stuck on a bus, or a 1o-plus-hour long haul flight, or a gym is not at the ready. I’ve already scouted out fitness centers on my route where I can go and workout for a couple of hours. I’m actually looking forward to hiking in Cinque Terre.
I’m physically a different version of myself, and I could not be happier. The work it has taken to get to this point has been incredibly fulfilling … and I am actually excited to continue working on me because — for the first time in my life — I value myself more than I value anything else. I feel beautiful both inside and out.
Which leads me to the mental changes I’ve made …
I pretty much have quit drinking. I am a non-smoker now (officially five weeks today). I have cut all of the toxic, cancerous things from my life (both the things I ingest, inhale and the company I keep). I’ve learned about boundaries. I’ve spent so much more time with myself that, somewhere in these past three months, I have actually realized that I like who I am. Yup, I like me. It took me 34 years to say that and mean it, but it is true. I have given myself a gift of being happy, and the tools I need to make that so. I value my health. I value my career. I value … me.
And, somewhere in these past three months, I got something I have never really had: confidence. No, I’m not going to tell you I am the most awesome, amazing, talented person in the world. But, I have no problem telling you I actually think I am pretty. I am deserving of love. I am deserving of loving myself. I am talented. I am kind. I’ve stopped knocking myself down, which, in itself is an amazing feat for me since I was oh-so good at mentally beating the shit out of myself.
I’ve also let things go. Ideas about how I am supposed to live. Ideas about falling in love. Ideas about friendships. Ideas about how I am supposed to be living my life here. It isn’t always easy, and there are times when I find myself getting mad, frustrated, but I don’t linger on it. I feel it and let it go.
I look forward to challenges now. When Shana from FitWeek told me I should climb the stairs of the Eiffel Tower for a workout, I balked. Then, I started to think about it. How cool would it be to do that? To accomplish something that is not easy? Maybe I will do it. Because I can. Five-day-a-week workouts? OK. Healthy eating? No problem.
It’s all about respect and I have finally come to respect myself — both physically and emotionally.
Here’s to the next three months of The Comfort Zone Project.