Friday, July 01, 2011
"The desire to write grows with writing."
I had been struggling with depression for months earlier in the year because of financial struggles, loss of identity, and who knows what else. I was in a deep hole and nothing was pulling me out. I should have turned to my old saving grace, writing, to help me through it (instead, I turned to eating). I've been writing stories and prose since I was 5, and writing has always been my escape. Now I hope not so much to escape through writing, but to share.
Writing was immensely therapeutic for me as a child, and my therapist at that time encouraged me to write to work through my trauma issues. But trying to write the standard journal or diary didn't seem to do the trick. Instead, I wrote stories. I filled notebooks with stories of being so many other characters. I had to become someone else to work through my depression and PTSD. I truly loved to write, and continued writing throughout college. I considered pursuing professional writing, but this seemed so "impractical." I did, however, take several writing classes, as I could not just give up my passion for writing. I took several creative writing classes, including poetry (I stunk), fiction writing (loved it!), and literary non-fiction (really really loved it!). I never liked the idea that my thoughts and feelings were being judged. In retrospect, I know it was not my thoughts and feelings that were being judged, but rather the way I was expressing them.
"Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable."
We tend to focus a lot on our bodies and pushing our bodies to the limit throughout the process of losing weight. As I've mentioned before, changing my thinking has been a major goal of this journey. Writing helps challenge the mind and bring the barriers we perceive to the forefront, slashing them with the stroke of a pen. I have returned to writing with gusto, and I believe that this introspection will help not only with my weight, but with all other areas of my life. Writing digs into the parts of my brain that I never think about, allowing me to explore the depths of my conscious mind. This concept has been utilized for a long time in writing.
In my creative writing courses, a common exercise would be to just write continuously for 5-10 minutes. Just take out a piece of paper, start writing, and don't think about what you're writing. Don't worry about grammar, punctuation, or any of those other technicalities. Just put it out there. This is called free association writing. Sound familiar? Indeed, it is not very different from laying on a couch in a therapist's office and doing it out loud, except the paper and pen won't set you back $150 an hour.
I often found that the words poured onto the paper, writing themselves before I even knew what was being said. Even if you aren't looking to write a blog, journal, or anything else in particular, this technique may help you work through a nagging issue, which simple speech or thought may not be able to express.
Most of my blogs have started from free association writing. I might have a page or 2 of random crap, but there will be one sentence that stands out, something I didn't even realize was in my head. I am way too anal to just sit down and post a blog without doing some editing (unless it's just one about my day, then I will), but I am posting this blog as a first draft, unedited. It's going to bug the crap out of the perfectionist in me who would normally never let anyone read anything that wasn't a 5th or 6th or 14th draft that had been pored over for hours. Okay, I'm doing it. I'm not going to edit it. It's bothering me already.
"Proofread carefully to see if you any words out."
I feel naked posting something that I haven't spent a lot of time looking over, but it will be good for me. Part of working through our problems is identifying what makes us feel vulnerable and snuggling with it every once in a while. Sometimes it's good to just sit down and spit it out. It doesn't always have to be that good; it's the mere act that is the accomplishment.
Even if you think it makes no sense, write it down.
Even if you think it stinks beyond all get out, write it down.
Go do it. Just write. Uncover what your soul wants to release, because there is no rough draft to life.
"I'm writing an unauthorized autobiography."
Thursday, June 30, 2011
"The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them."
Why the heck would I be blogging about weight maintenance? I am not anywhere near my goal weight, so I shouldn't have to worry about that right now, right? Weight maintenance is an afterthought, something that will take care of itself once I reach my goal weight. At that point, I should be so motivated by being thin that I will know what to do to prevent gaining the weight back. What's the saying, "Being thin is its own reward!"? Well, being thin is most certainly not its own reward, otherwise I wouldn't be here to lose weight again. There would be a much higher success rate of weight maintenance amongst all who lose weight if being thin were truly enough motivation in and of itself.
There is no glamor in maintaining weight. Now weight loss, that is sexy. A dash of willpower, a sprinkle of determination, and POOF, you're losing weight. The compliments abound, fueling your sheer determination to keep losing, to keep the comments coming. Can we really rely on that steel-cut determination every second of every day...forever? When the compliments dwindle down and you and everyone else are used to your new body...then what?
This time, I decided not to start losing weight until I had a plan for maintenance. You don't start a marathon without knowing where to find the start and finish lines, and you do a lot of preparation before race day. I've decided to take the same approach to weight loss. I spent months mentally preparing for weight loss and weight maintenance, preparing for the changes that were to come. I did not set a day to start losing weight--I let my soul tell me when it was ready. It took a lot of reflection on past weight loss to figure out how to make this time different.
It is fair to say that I had not been successful at weight maintenance before. I regained the 95 pounds I had lost on WeightWatchers several years ago; the weight crept back on over the past couple of years. Even though WeightWatchers really does give some good focus to weight maintenance, even during the weight loss process, I was not mentally prepared for the shock of being thin. When one of my uncles saw me for the first time since I had lost 95 pounds, he hugged me and said, "Much, MUCH better," as he patted me on the back. I should have said, "What the hell does that mean? I wasn't good during the previous 27 years?" How could he think that when I felt just as bad about myself as I did the day I walked into my first WeightWatchers meeting? My body had changed, but my mind was the same. I was certainly not much, MUCH better. That moment set off something inside of me, and I struggled to figure out why the "compliment" bothered me so much. Wasn't that why I lost weight? To be better than I was before?
I returned to school in 2008 to return to my psychology roots, and also wanted to study exercise science. I did a self-designed bachelor's degree combining psychology and kinesiology; essentially, I was studying exercise psychology. I wanted to study exercise motivation in weight loss and weight maintenance. Needless to say, there have not been many studies performed to assess exercise motivation in weight maintenance. Exercise psychology tends to focus either on elite athletes or overweight people, without much else in between. I was fortunate to work with some professors who thought I had good ideas, and they encouraged me to expand my horizons.
Most of the academic world that deals with health focuses on weight loss, seeming to forget that life often continues on after the weight is lost. Therein lies the problem of the forgotten group, the maintainers. Weight loss sells, and weight maintenance is just supposed to be something that will happen because you paid so dearly to get to that weight. The reality is, weight maintenance is hard. Damn hard. And weight maintenance has been neglected by the fields that should be addressing it, such as medicine, psychology, and public health. Weight maintenance seems to be brushed off as a passive process, when in fact, most people will proclaim that long-term maintenance is more difficult than losing. I think that having a plan for maintenance, and doing as much as possible to prepare to exist in a different body, are vital to long-term success.
Actively preparing to maintain weight loss is a part of my daily routine and is intertwined with the weight loss. In my eyes, they are the same journey, a continuation down the same road. Here are some of the things I work on to prepare for long-term maintenance:
*Take emotion out of the numbers.
Sure, some days I glance at the scale and growl, and sometimes I'm practically skipping to step on it, but I have worked very hard to detach my sense of self from the number on the scale. I have focused on taking emotion out of weight loss partially so that the scale doesn't trip me up, and because I can't rely on the constant thrill of losing to keep me going. We tend to get upset when the scale isn't doing what it is "supposed" to be doing. The scale isn't "supposed" to do anything. I step on it, it spits out a number, it has done its job. I have control over how that number makes me feel. It has helped me immensely to think of weekly weigh-ins as a mini-measurement, with my overall monthly net loss as the true measurement. I will continue weighing weekly once I am maintaining, but will only make adjustments to diet and exercise if the weight is creeping up over the course of an entire month (a "true gain").
It baffles and saddens me to see people feeling like they have failed because they are not staying within a pound or 2 of a particular weight they have in mind. I have found the scale to be so wacky that there can be up to a 7 pound difference from day to day. Not being bent on a specific number will help reduce stress, which in turn reduces the feeling of "failing," and reduces the chances of giving up.
*Find success in unlikely places.
AK_MILLER had congratulated me the other day on my 3-month plateau. Smart gal; she picked up that I wasn't beating myself up over cycling through the same 5 pounds for 3 months, but that I took it as a lesson in weight maintenance. A plateau usually brings on words of comfort, not celebration. I became frustrated enough with the up-and-down cycle that I finally "broke up" with the Same 5 Pounds and am ready to get back to weight loss, but I do not feel like I have "wasted" the past 3 months.
When I feel like everything is going wrong, I stop those thoughts and think hard about at least one thing that is going right. I mean, I woke up this morning, I'm still alive, so there has to be something positive buried in there. Even if there isn't a truly positive outcome to a situation, we always learn something. Embrace the experience, incorporate it into your being, and delve deep to find some meaning.
*Lift weights. Lift giant, heavy, un-girly weights.
Muscle mass is your friend. During the past 3 months of cycling up and down with the same 5 pounds, I still lost inches. Actually, I lost almost the same amount of inches as I had when I was losing 6-8 pounds a month. I can thank lifting heavy weights for this, and doing as much lower-body work as my right knee could tolerate.
This is where losing slowly comes in handy. Losing slowly allows for adjustments in muscle mass as body fat is lost. I will probably do at least 1 blog about all of the nerdrageous physiological reasons that strength training is vital to weight maintenance, and why strength training during weight loss primes the body to maintain weight loss.
I know a lot of people aim to break free of having to track their food. But planning my food has been the key to my weight loss, and I know it will help with keepin' it real during maintenance. It takes five minutes out of my night to plan my food for the next day. I have taught myself that I can eat normally, so tracking should not be a big deal; not tracking would simply be me showing my denial of my eating patterns.
*Find at least one fitness-related hobby.
Having a fitness-related hobby helps fitness become a natural part of your daily life. Even if you think you won't enjoy a fitness-related hobby, give it a shot. From aerobics to Zumba, there are thousands of options and there's something right for everyone.
*Find at least one non-fitness-related hobby.
Health and fitness goals can be time-consuming, but I think a major part of having a rich life is having activities that bring out the best within ourselves. People tend to want to lose weight to make life better, so why not act on those, "Gee, someday I'd like to..." thoughts that drift through our minds?
What have you always wanted to try? Take the leap and go for it.
*Get new friends.
Being overweight is often accompanied by low self-esteem. I have tended to accept whomever shoved themselves in front of me, because hey, I should be so lucky that they're giving me the time of day, right?
Nah, not anymore.
I have been extremely fortunate in that most of my friends are awesome and supportive and they don't care what I weigh, but it took some work to get rid of people who were not good for me. I no longer allow toxic people into my life. I finally got to a point where I had enough self-respect to stop letting people treat me badly. If the friends you have don't love and respect you at whatever weight you happen to be, whether fat or thin, then they don't deserve you. They are shallow people. And it doesn't always have to be about weight--if they don't treat you right, they should be gone. Buh. Bye.
*Laugh. Seriously, laugh right now.
I love this quote from an unknown author: "The first thing you lose on a diet is your sense of humor." We allow ourselves to feel ecstatic when we lose, sad when we aren't losing, and anger when we have a gain. We tend to put on our game face, stopping only to smile when the scale shows a loss. During maintenance, are we doomed to feel mere relief when we step on the scale and have not gained, and angst if there is the slightest gain? Where's the humor?
I have a very crass and sarcastic sense of humor, and I couldn't exist without it. Finding the humor in an unfavorable situation is like seeing the sunshine through the crack in the wall in a dark room. You don't have to stay there; find something funny--damn funny--and break out into the sunny field.
I had to lose some fat in my head before I could get ready to lose--and keep off--the fat on my body. Weight maintenance takes very hard work, even before we're at our goal weight. The biggest thing I think we need to learn is that people are no "better" or "worse" because of their weight. We are who we are, at any weight, although the deep inward reflection that often accompanies weight loss may certainly make us radiate happiness.
"If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Who knew? Why didn't someone tell me this sooner?
All right, so I was well aware of the fact that there were hobbies other than eating, but for most of my life, eating has been my favorite one. Well, maybe not my favorite, because your favorite hobby shouldn't cause you to break down in tears after your done; I'll say obsession instead. If I wasn't eating, I was thinking about food, planning my next binge. The second I felt the slightest pang of hunger, I began to panic. I thought about food all day long, all the time.
All. The. Time.
It isn't so much that I haven't been able to practice willpower before, but something has changed on a much more basic level over the few months. I have essentially been maintaining my weight within a 5-pound range over the past 3 months, and that's great, except for the fact that I'm not at my goal weight yet. I appreciated the experience of maintaining in that range because I was able to prove to myself that my appetite can be normal. On days when I wasn't as hungry, I ate less. On days when I wanted more food, I ate it.
I know, crazy talk.
When you are used to food consuming every thought, the very notion of thinking, "Eh, food...it's all right," feels extreme. I would spend my entire day at work thinking about what I would eat when I got home. My habit after coming home from work would be to plop on the couch and start eating frantically. Sometimes when it gets stressful at work, the thought still whispers through my brain, "Damn, I want to eat pizza...and chips...and M&Ms, and..."; I simply respond with, "No, Erin, you don't do that any more." Even sitting here typing about these things used to be enough to trigger a frenzy, but I'm getting ready to do Pilates...so, no thank you. I would be deluded to say I will never overeat or binge again, but now those thoughts may consume a few minutes on occasion, and not my every waking hour.
Now, I come home from work and either put in some SparkTime, do Pilates or yoga, or over the past couple of weeks, play my saxophone. These activities are not distractions; they are genuinely what I want to be doing. My body and mind actually crave things that are not food-related, and I feel like I've lost 100 pounds just by having the weight of food obsession lifted.
This lack of obsession has worked it's way into my daily life without me really realizing it. I met my dad, step mom, and brother for brunch this past Sunday. Normally, a buffet would set off a feeling of panic: "HOW am I going to eat all this food?" This time, I looked forward to seeing my family. When I got there, the first table I ventured to had the fruits and salad. I filled up a large plate with several fruits and a large serving of greens. My brother, nonchalantly mentioning the 12 mile run he did the day before, had a plate full of waffles, pastries, and pasta. He looked at my plate, shaking his head, "You came here and you're eating FRUIT?"
I shrugged. "I like fruit. I'm getting other stuff in a bit, but I really wanted this first." And it was true.
I proceeded to have an omelette, a small caramel roll, American fries, and a small waffle. Yes, I had a big meal, but I had planned for it. I enjoyed every bite in the moment, instead of thinking about what I was going to shovel in next. My brother and I shared a piece of chocolate cheesecake; I had two bites, and that is all my brain wanted. They tasted perfect, and my brain simply stopped me. No willpower, no arguing with myself.
Also, eating a large meal used to set off a day-long (or week, or month, or year) feeding frenzy. Now, when I have the occasional large meal, I feel satisfied. Odd, I used to feel almost MORE hungry after a large meal like that; the switch would be flipped, and there was no satiating the hunger.
I like my new relationship with food. Now I actually get not only full, but I feel satisfied. I believe I have finally learned the difference between the two. I still truly enjoy food, I still have treats (I have to have some chocolate every day), and I don't worry about being hungry. If I get hungry, I know I'll eat again; it took me an oddly long time to learn that. My food is now served without a side of neuroticism. And you know what? It tastes so much better.
"Are you eating it? Or is it eating you?"
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Today was a very active day--I walked a total of more than 2 hours, and overall it was a fun day. One of my co-workers came over and we went to the dog park near my house. I have an American Bulldog/Pit Bull mix named Dugan, and she has a Lab/??? mix named Raleigh. The dogs had never met before. Considering that my foster dog Kaleigh does her own thing and doesn't really interact with Dugan, he loves having another dog around who will play with him. Kaleigh has shown dog aggression before, so unfortunately, she is not able to go to the off-leash dog park.
Dugan and Raleigh got along great and ran themselves around in circles and frolicked in the water. Here's some pictures, 'cuz, come on, who doesn't like pictures of cute dogs?
Dugan loves the Mississippi River.
Boy, they weren't having any fun at all.
Dugan and his giant head
Unfortunately, a fairly aggressive unneutered dog showed up and started attacking Raleigh (my friend's dog). He was trying to dominate her and was being aggressive about it. When the owner finally did show up, she was actually confrontational when we told her what happened. We decided to leave, and the owner and her boyfriend followed us, yelling some kind of nonsensical blabber about how our dogs don't know how to behave. The dog once again chased after Raleigh, and this time they went out of sight and we heard Raleigh yowl. I yelled at them to get their dog and they were once again confrontational, saying, "You don't know the difference between playing and fighting; if he was fighting, you would know it!" (oh, what a great comfort.)
We leashed our dogs and walked quickly away. But of course I can't keep my yap shut, so I turned around and yelled, "It's people like you who make these dogs look bad," as we were walking away. The dog was an American Bulldog, and it really angers me to see irresponsible owners. While I was leashing Dugan, I said to the other dog that I know it's not his fault. I don't like dealing with bad owners at work, and I really hate seeing them in the real world. It seems to be such an insurmountable problem.
I have never had anything like this happen at the dog park before (although I have seen my fair share of fight injuries in the emergency clinic). I was so mad I was shaking afterwards. I don't like confrontations, especially one that could have ended by them leashing their dog (and an apology to my friend wouldn't have hurt). The "what-ifs?" kicked in and I seriously hope that dog did not end up injuring another dog today. In the end, it's the dog who would have to pay for the owner's stupidity. I am not mad at the dog at all, I'm sad for him.
Luckily, Dugan and Rolly had nearly 2 hours of running themselves ragged before that happened; now I have a napping, happy dog.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Uhhhhhh...yeah...look, we need to talk.
No no no, it's not bad! It's not anything bad. We just need to have a quick talk.
Look, Same 5 Pounds, we've been doing this dance for 3 months now. You leave, you come back, you leave, you come back...I...I just can't anymore...
Aww, c'mon, don't do that...naw, don't do that...you always do that, get all mushy...
No no no, it's so not you, it's me!
Okay fine, it is you. You're just always...I dunno...THERE, ya know? Not just near me, but always ON me...ya know?
No, I don't want more time...I just feel so heavy and weighed down with you...
But that's just the problem, you never change, so I'm DONE.
I...I'm sorry...so if you could be gone for good by the end of July, I think that would really be best.
No, I don't need to think about it, I want you gone.
Well, you need to deal with it and leave, because I will do whatever it takes to get rid of you...
So...uhhhh...yep...um, I think it's best if we never see each other after you're gone, 'kay?
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