Fat to Fit to First Level: The Four Horsemen of William James

Working Kaliwohi in the round pen. Photo by Amanda Grace Woodside.

William James was an American philosopher. I don’t know if he was fat or if he rode horses, but some of his ideas are right on point to start this journey to fitness. I’ve been working with four quotes, in particular. This week I’m focusing on William James Quote #1:

“To change one’s life: 1. Start immediately. 2. Do it flamboyantly. 3. No exceptions.”

Last week, I posted “before” pictures of myself and now they are irretrievably forever All. Over. The. World.

Deeeeeeep breath in, aaaaaand exhale.

I am integrating yoga into my “new life” me, to help me with balance, breathing, and core strength. But I do not want to join some studio on the “we’re all so thin-and-zen over here” urban side of town and invest three hours each day driving to/from/downward dogging.

I live in the country. I use the Yogaglo app. My front porch and iPad and, “Namaste, y’all.”

Yoga is helping me, and not just with handling the stress that is the basis for my “old life’”overconsumption of calories. Yoga is teaching me how to breathe and how to be. And learning to do both better is making me a better rider. Breathing correctly gets your seat deeper in the saddle.

Inhale slowly and deeply through your tummy blossom (translation out of Southern: navel) so you’re filling up your lungs from the bottom up and expanding your abdomen like an oversized party balloon. (Tip: add jazz hands if you want confetti, too.)

Exhale using this mental picture: imagine you have an exhaust system like a Corvette and those massive twin exhaust pipes are your bum cheeks. Mentally exhale out your bum cheeks while you physically exhale out your lungs – slowly and steadily.

If you’re like me, your legs just wrapped deeper all the way around your horse. “Grow out of the horse from the seat down,” my dressage instructor says. A deep seat and connected legs are awesome, no matter what discipline you ride.

Trail riding on a young mustang, whose every instinct is to bolt from whatever mythical horse-devouring beastie lies ahead, is much easier with a deep seat and legs. In keeping with my promise to be absolutely honest, I must say Kaliwohi is the most laid-back mustang I’ve ever seen, so trail riding him is far easier, I suspect, than hacking a hotter horse of any breed. Still, deep seat and legs: Good Thing.

Working Kaliwohi in the round pen. Photo by Amanda Grace Woodside.

In order to get this weight off and keep it off, I have to make life changes that I can “life” with. For example, I don’t want to “life” without nacho chips at my favorite Mexican restaurant. But how do I avoid eating a bazillion chips?

On a whim, and to keep me focused on my “new life” me and my adorable mustang, I spelled Kaliwohi’s name in my head and came up with eight letters. (I know, brill, right?)

But! This gave me a quick and fun way to think about that horrible but necessary thing we know as PC: Portion Control. Eight letters to my horse’s name. Eight chips. Period. This idea completely changed my perception. I no longer mindlessly nomnomnom countless chips and then feel guilt and remorse afterwards. (Tip:  guilt + remorse = grrrrrrrrrr!  Stop growling at yourself!)

I lay out a napkin and count out eight chips. Then I channel the finest badass equestrienne on the planet: HRH Queen Elizabeth. If she were eating chips, I think it’s safe to say Liz would not open her mouth and chomp an entire chip. I imagine the Queen would rather delicately break a small piece off a chip and gracefully chew that one piece, swallow, and repeat.

Mindful eating. Savoring the flavor while not eating an excess amount. Can I do this?

This past week, I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant. Napkin: check. Eight chips: check. Channel the Queen: check. When supper was over and I felt full, satisfied, and ready to stop eating, there were two chips left on my napkin. Woo hoo! (Seriously!  Those of us on this journey understand what a Big Deal this is, to leave food uneaten.)

Upon meeting Kaliwohi for the first time, my friend Melody dubbed him, “Kiwi” and that barn name has stuck. Four letters. Next time, four chips.

The most important First Step (for me) to start this journey was to realize I am worth the efforts that self-care requires. That step alone took two years.

But what would I rather do? Mope along the rest of my life, max-sized and miserable? Or take as long as necessary to dig down as deep as necessary to uncover all my hangups and fears and flaws and foibles and figure ME out?

Working Kaliwohi in the round pen. Photo by Amanda Grace Woodside.

Kaliwohi has lost about fifteen pounds over the past month. Typically, all my horses are able to come-and-go as they like out of the barn. To help restrict Kaliwohi’s food intake, I have been putting him in a stall about 12 hours each day. He’s the omega of my herd, so he’s quite content to loaf and nap without being nagged by alpha mare Grace and the other horses who share his pasture.

We’re schooling three days a week. He’s got maybe twenty rides under saddle at this point, and this past week we worked on completing a 20-meter circle while maintaining the trot.

Kaliwohi is having to learn to maintain his gait, because his favorite gaits are “whoa” and “nap.” Gotta conserve energy to flee those mythical horse-eating beasties, after all. I am lunging him a bit before each ride, both directions, so he can work on balance and rhythm without my weight on his back.

For those who’ve asked for a “group” and/or more details than this space allows, my blog is appalachianchic.com and the new Facebook page and group are both Fat to Fit at Horse Nation. The page is public; the group is closed, so be sure and “request to join” the group! Join us for great tips, encouragement, and support!  #GrowBOLDnotOld

Go riding.

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