Monday, July 18, 2011
That is because I already am a success story.
Over the past year or so, I learned I wasn't fed up with the fat on my body--I was fed up with myself and with toxic people in my life. Rather than start a weight loss plan fueled by self-hatred and sadness, I conscientiously worked on learning to like myself better by getting to know myself better. I needed to learn some basic self-respect. I was finally able to--guilt-free--cut toxic people from my life. I mistakenly poured my self-worth was into my body, and allowed toxic people to create a void in me that further convinced me that I would be a lot happier if I lost weight. I have realized that healthy living is so much more than weight, or even eating and exercise. I am a success story now because I finally love myself, after a lifetime of hating myself.
Losing weight is a bonus throughout this journey, but the long road of attaching my self-worth to my body is finally coming to a close. I think it is common for us to get "fed up" with our weight to the point of hatred, and then to start trying to lose weight. The weight needs to come off RIGHT NOW because we will be so much happier being thinner. Some of the pounds start to come off, and we feel like we're "finally" on the road to happiness. As I learned the hard way the first time I lost weight, this does not bring on the flood of happiness, self-love, and self-respect that I was expecting. My mind and body were separate entities, both being shaped by people in my life who I never should have allowed to get in. One of the biggest problems with having no self-respect is that I allowed toxic people to shape my life. They were bad when I was fat, and they were still bad when I had lost weight before. I needed to lose a couple thousand pounds--and it wasn't from my body. Whether it was a jab from a co-worker, a bully pointing and laughing, or a "friend" remarking how I should be living, they had to go.
Learning to dump the toxic people and overall living a fuller life meant building up some self-respect and confidence. After months of learning what my body and mind really wanted, I was finally able to say, "It's time," and started eating more healthfully and following the SparkDiet. Fortunately, I have used exercise as an outlet for several years, so I have had no problems adhering to an exercise plan. However, I have dropped the black-and-white thinking about exercise and have a much more balanced approach to exercise now. I have a more balanced approach to my life in general, which has been a challenging adjustment from living a life of extremes.
Don't get me wrong, I am NOT satisfied with my body right now. I feel slow and worn down, and I fully recognize how much more healthy I will become as I lose weight. I am sure I will also think I am more attractive. As exciting as all that will be, I have separated the entirety of my self-worth from my the state of my physical body. For most of my life, my entire identity had been tied to my body. I was constantly “dieting”, and I finally asked myself WHY it is that I had poured so much of my self-worth into my body size, and at first the answer was, “Because...ummm, because...uh, 'cuz...” Funny how I had spent so much time and energy on hating myself because of my body size, and I couldn't even muster a valid reason why I felt that way in the first place. It was outside forces that manifested this hatred.
Not to be dramatic, but my childhood was shaped by trauma (can see the blogs about the car accident when I was a kid from the week of June 20th), and then by bullying. However, I know a good thing when I see it, too. My family was wonderfully supportive of me (always). Although I was bullied, I did (and do) also have close friends. KVARNLOV is one of my favorite people, and we have been friends since we were 13 years old. There are very few people in our lives with whom we can truly "be ourselves," but I always feel like I'm myself when I'm with her. I don't feel like I have to mold myself into something else in being her friend. The lesson I have learned from her is that I'm okay the way I am. I finally took that feeling I have when I'm around her and tried to apply it to the rest of my life. I needed to stop trying to be what other people think I should be. That required getting to know myself on a more basic level.
I've had a recurring dream over the past couple of years where I'm staring at my reflection in the mirror, and I feel like I don't recognize the person in the mirror. I start backing away, and instead of retreating, my reflection lurches forward toward me. I don't think the dream is meant to scare the crap out of me (although it is horror-movie scary--thanks a lot, subconscious!), but rather, it is my brain telling me that I need to get to know myself better. Ironically, these dreams started after I lost weight, when I thought I should have had total satisfaction with my body (and therefore, with my life). It's not that I was worthless, I just didn't know myself very well. It was easy for me to hate a body that I didn't know very well. Combine that with a mind that was disconnected to that body, and well, no wonder I was confused. How could I know how much I was worth when I didn't know myself?
"To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves--there lies the great, singular power of self-respect."
Whereas before my approach to weight loss was to be fueled by the stupidity and cruelty of others, it now comes from having enough self-respect to take care of myself. Whereas before each step I took was powered by "I'll show all of them," now I take the step out of sheer enjoyment of movement. Whereas before I felt guilty for overeating because I was afraid of being judged (which, ironically, led to more overeating), I now usually eat healthfully because I don't need food to fill a void any more. That void is filled with good friends, walking, swimming, cycling, boxing, weight lifting, playing the saxophone, writing, and thinking up new things to try. Actually, I think the void is starting to overflow. That's fine, there' room for more now.
A major part of learning self-respect has been connecting my body to my mind. I have not only gotten to know my mind, but my body, too. Part of my problem when I lost weight a few years ago is that I had no body awareness. I still felt worthless and bad about my body. I was proud of some of my athletic accomplishments, but the fact that I had a different body just wasn't sinking in. It seems odd in retrospect how I could on one hand be so excited about being thin, yet be incapable of accepting it. My self-worth was so tightly bound to my body size that I had nothing else upon which to build a sense of self. I could see the numbers going down, and I could put my hands over my body, but it felt like touching a stranger. No wonder I couldn't maintain my weight loss--I couldn't recognize myself any more than I had before.
However, other people recognized the "new me." Co-workers were nicer to me. Guys hit on me. Strangers smiled at me. "Friends" told me how much "better" I looked. I did not revel in the attention; it downright pissed me off. I wanted to scream at them, "Why couldn't you show me some respect before?" I see it now that I am overweight again--the sneer as I walk down the street, the eye-widening from the person who hasn't seen me in a long time (because I cut them out of my life), the stares, the head-shaking, the avoidance of eye contact... that's fine, they can judge. It's their problem. I only have control over my reaction to them. I don't react to strangers at all, and as far as the bad people I used to let into my life...how do you say it? Buh? Bye? I'm really glad I had a friend who gave me a reality check, because I don't think I ever would have seen it.
One of my favorite people is Lisa, who is in my triathlon training group (she's really the "leader") and had helped me learn how to run. She also taught me that I don't have to allow toxic people in my life. One day while we were on a walk, I was talking about how I feel bad when people come to my house and make comments about what I "should" be doing to my house or yard, or how I "should" keep my house cleaner, or how I "should" be raising my animals. She looked at me and asked why I allow those people in my life, let alone in my house. I had always worked so hard to try to "fit in" and to impress others that it had never dawned on me that I don't have to do that. I had been living my life essentially thinking, "Gee, I would feel so much better about myself if I could just win over this jackass of a human being." I allowed these toxic people to control, manipulate, and shape me. I have been successful at cutting toxic people out of my life. I couldn't be a whole person when these people were in my life.
The other area where I know I've been very lucky is having a wonderful family. My family has never been mean to me because of my weight. My heart aches when I hear about people's own family being cruel to them because of their weight, and I know I was very fortunate to have parents and family members who did not berate me. It is probably the only reason I was able to develop any self-esteem. My mother is about the kindest person on the planet, and although she was always supportive if I expressed interest in weight loss, she never "put me on a diet" or told me I was bad because of my body. And as we watched my aunt yo-yo diet with an 800-calorie liquid diet, she always told me expressed concern for what she was doing to herself and explained that it was not a healthy approach. She always supported me being more active and eating healthfully, without ever judging me. My mother has genuine pride in me and I know that I am damn lucky to have her in my life. She never gave me the impression that my weight was an important consideration in how much I deserved to be loved, but I allowed other people to teach me that.
The problem I had was focusing too much on my weight while I was trying to lose weight. This time, I am focusing on myself as a whole person. On one hand, I am now capable of acknowledging dissatisfaction with my body, while at the same time taking a matter-of-fact approach to changing it. I treat myself like I would one of my good friends--if I wouldn't say it to one of their faces, I won't say it to myself. It took me a long time to recognize that I am okay the way I am right now, and that I am much, much more than just my weight. I have been shaped by my friends, my family, and by bullies...for better or for worse.
I am a success story now because I have finally learned to take the good with the bad, to recognize people who should not be in my life, and to recognize myself in my own skin. All the pounds and inches lost in the world can't measure how much better I feel about myself. Maybe I will have more self-confidence as I continue to lose, but all I know is that I have more confidence now than I ever have in my entire life. I'm done waiting. I'm not revealing Erin as the fat melts off; she has already burst forth, and I love her.
Are you waiting to tell your success story? Perhaps you are already living it.
"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep, loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen."
- Elizabeth Kubler Ross (thanks to SP user AMPERSANDWICH for sharing)
Saturday, July 16, 2011
And that's a “*tsk tsk* Naughty, naughty!” full-on British nanny style, with waggling finger and all.
I could probably simplify this blog to this sentence: Holy overeating, Batman! So...yeah. This was not the most spectacular week for eating. Well, not for eating correctly, at least. The upside? I've exercised a lot. Probably too much. I've burned at least 5,000 calories this week, most of it concentrated in the earlier part of the week. I don't think I ate adequately on those days, thus making me more prone to overeating over the past few days. I try not to have more than a 500 calorie deficit on any given day, so for instance, on Monday I should have eaten an extra 800 calories or so. But I didn't.
I've had a theme this week, and that is being overworked. I've been working almost every day to try to get ahead on my finances. The good news? I'm pretty much caught up as of this week. I still have a ton of debt, but for the first time in about a year, ALL of my bills are paid, and on time. The bad news? I have a stressful job doing poison control for animals. Talking to frantic pet owners all day on the phone is exhausting. And our call center is NOISY. It isn't so much the sound of people talking on the phone (although that is still loud), it's the conversations from across the room that make me feel like I'm going to go insane. Sometimes the noise triggers vertigo because I have inner ear issues, yet I need to try to calm people down on the other end of the phone while working in an environment that sounds like a loud bar. So that has been my other theme for the week, feeling like crap at work. Needless to say, I need more than 3 days off in a month. Fortunately, I can count down the days until I get a week off starting August 8th. No major plans, just going to have a staycation.
Anyways, I digress. The point of that was, my job is stressful and I haven't had enough days off to recover, so I've been doing some emotional eating this week. Additionally, TOM starts over the next few days, and I usually try to be conscientious of the carb cravings. But the other night, on a whim, I bought a whole loaf of french bread. And then I ate it.
The whole thing.
Oh no, it didn't stop there. I had some veggie corn dogs and a pint of Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked Frozen Yogurt that night, too. And the past couple of days, I've just been eating off-plan. I've tried to go back and track, but I'm so bad at remembering everything, which is why I usually track first, eat later. I HONESTLY cannot recall all the food I've shoveled in my piehole over the past couple of days, but I can sum up the number of calories:
Okay, now that I've carefully calculated that out, it's time to get back to work. How about some things I've done right this week? I had once worked through Dr. Judith Beck's “Beck Diet Solution,” and I took away a lot of good points from it. One thing she recommends is to record “Small Victories” every day. “Small Victories” are simply any little thing that is done right, no matter how insignificant they may seem. So I will list some “Small Victories” that I can think of from this week:
*I was at Walgreens last night and was tempted to buy a bunch of crap to come home and binge. I didn't do it.
*I exercised a lot.
*I went swimming for the first time in over a year, and I swam twice this week.
*I've been improving on my saxophone playing.
*I had the one horrible binge night, and I wanted to do it again, but I didn't.
*I didn't beat myself up over binging.
*I have stopped myself from a lot of mindless eating.
*Despite overeating, I still ate lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
*I drank a lot of water and green tea.
*I did not murder any co-workers.
*I “only” gained 0.2 pounds (the overeating still could catch up with me, though).
So here I embark on a new week. I need to scale back the exercise just a little so I don't get overly-hungry, and I need to work enough treats into my food plan so I can stay on track. Perhaps next week the all-mighty scale will even reward me for my efforts, or at least I can be pleased with doing better. I know I'm capable of it.
“Lead me not into temptation; I can find the way myself.”
-Rita Mae Brown
Friday, July 15, 2011
Following suit from SANDIEGOJOHN's post a couple of weeks ago about apologizing for "not Sparking enough," I wanted to address all the recent posts where people are apologizing for being "negative" when posting or blogging about struggles or challenges. I'm just going to say it: It is abnormal to be happy all of the time. It is abnormal to embark on a journey for healthier living without struggling sometimes. Posting about struggles is not "negative," it's normal. If you told me you spend every day skipping through the meadow in the sunshine while singing a song and carrying a basket of kittens, I would say I don't believe it for a second.
For instance, this week I have rocked the exercise, but I have been overeating almost every day. No excuse, I just wanna, and I have made inadequate efforts to stop myself from overeating. I'm not sorry about it, I just need to knock it off. Overeating has been my struggle this week, but I know I don't need to apologize for it, nor do I need to apologize for talking about it. Is it "negative" that I am overeating? Yes, technically it is going against what I am trying to achieve. But am I a negative person for talking about it, or would I be a negative person for asking for support? No, a friend would not say that.
I WANT to know when my SparkPeeps are struggling. I WANT to feel their frustration and try to help them through it to the best of my ability. I WANT to know the real person behind the username, both the happy and sad. Perhaps what people mean by "negative" is that they feel disappointed in themselves, and are afraid that SparkFriends will be disappointed, too. SparkFriends, you could never disappoint me with your struggles. I want you to laugh, I want you to cry, I want you to scream...I want you to feel. I think acknowledging and working through ALL of our emotions is a true sign of change.
This journey will not always be rainbows coming out of puppy butts, and there are some times when "WOO HOO!!!!!!!!" will come out "uh, woo hoo? I...guess?" Sometimes it takes more than a simple, "C'mon, you CAN DO IT!" to work through a struggle. Sometimes you have to stay down for a bit so that you can get back up.
GINGERRA1980 had a great post last week about posting about problems; I love Ginger because she tells it like it is, doesn't sugar-coat the truth, and is an awesome SparkPeep through the good and bad: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
And there is ERLYWA's beautiful blog about falling down and staying down for a bit. It is wonderful: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
No one ever needs to apologize for struggling. So bring it on, SparkPeeps! What's bugging you?
Thursday, July 14, 2011
"Our own physical body possesses a wisdom which we who inhabit the body lack. We give it orders which make no sense."
I am now on speaking terms with my body, but it took me a long time to get to that point. Part of what has been helpful in getting to know my body better has been to learn how it works. Nothing taught me more about how weight loss works than my anatomy, physiology, and exercise physiology courses. In particular, exercise physiology showed me how the energy systems in the body work, and how the muscles and the cardiovascular, endocrine, and nervous systems respond to changes (especially exercise). I also explored the physiology of weight loss and had many discussions with professors about the specifics of how the body loses weight. Most of all, this drilled in my head that there is a bigger picture when it comes to losing weight, and that is that the body composition is changing. Body composition simply refers to the percentages of lean mass (bone and muscle) and fat mass in the body. A major part of my mental transformation has been shifting my focus from the vague term of "losing weight" to thinking in terms of "body composition change.” When we “lose weight,” it might be water, fat, or muscle (hopefully not bone--yikes!). But thinking in terms of body composition change, I am aiming specifically to lose fat and gain muscle (but of course, one does not "replace" the other, per se). I believe that building lots of muscle mass primes the body to maintain a leaner body, too. Essentially, I don't want to be skinny, I want to be lean and muscular. I believe I will know it when I see it, hence why I am not particularly hell-bent on a particular goal weight.
I think it really helps to have a basic understanding of what is actually happening in the body during weight loss, as it helps explain why certain things such as exercise and eating the right foods are important. I don't have a background in nutrition, but I am educated in exercise physiology and psychology. I will be doing a some entries called Nerdrageous Blog! where I will address some of the technical and academic parts of weight loss and weight maintenance, with regards to exercise physiology and mental changes. I covered a variety of areas in school, and some of my favorites included exercise psychology, metabolic flexibility, adaptations from strength training (muscle, nerve, cardiovascular, and endocrine adaptations) and their contribution to weight loss and maintenance, and anti-obesity tendencies in health and exercise fields.
I have been trying to apply some of the principles I learned to myself and my own weight loss journey. I started using SparkPeople actively in August, 2010, and for a long time I kind of felt like I was getting nowhere. I didn't actually start SparkDieting until January, 2011, but I now realize that the small things I was working on prior to that prepared me to be ready to lose weight. I still tried to weigh regularly prior to January, and I really appreciate that SparkPeople simply logs the number without giving any “feedback” on that number. The WeightWatchers online tracker gives you a big smiley face if you lose, and a sad-looking face if you don't lose. Oooh, I hated that face. My normal losing pattern is that I lose for a couple of weeks, then no loss or a tiny gain for a week or two. It took me a long time to realize that this pattern is perfectly acceptable and it does not mean that I'm doing something wrong. If I am truly overeating, than I aim to fix it, but if I have small gain when I'm doing everything I should, I don't worry at all.
I've talked about my previous weight loss with WeightWatchers when I lost 95 pounds. Unfortunately, I have no other measurements from that journey; I didn't measure myself and I didn't take pictures. Part of what prevented me from reaching my goal was the frustration of getting stuck in a plateau for several months after losing 95 pounds. However, I was training for Olympic distance triathlons, and my body composition was probably still changing (I looked more ripped than I ever have). My brain was glued to the scale, though, and I felt I was not getting “results.” The stern look of the weigher at my WeightWatchers meetings also told me that I wasn't progressing as I should. I really wish I had taken pictures and other measurements--I think it would have made the difference between keeping going and giving up. I let the scale be the sole feedback on my progress; it ruled my life, and ultimately won. Being in school for kinesiology helped me learn to have a different relationship with my body and to think differently about what to expect from weight loss.
One of my professors talked a lot about ideal body compositions in athletes (high % of lean mass, low % of fat), and that got me thinking that perhaps I should be approaching my weight loss in the same manner. To me, weight loss means, "I don't care where it comes from, just get this weight off of me." To me, it matters greatly what weight is being lost. Just like eating whole foods will produce better results than eating junk, even when eating the same amount of calories, I focus on muscle mass versus fat mass when losing weight. This is the principle behind why I try not to lose more than 2 pounds per week on a consistent basis. Anything beyond 2 pounds is likely to be lost as muscle mass; losing muscle mass not only throws the body out of whack now, I think it makes it much more difficult to maintain weight later on. Although at my weight I could safely lose up to 1% of body weight per week, I am aiming to lose no more than 2 pounds per week (preferably closer to 1 pound). Yes, the "weight" is coming off slowly, but I believe this allows for building more lean muscle mass, which will (hopefully) make me more successful in the long run.
The term “body composition change” makes me think of a more continuous process, rather than the separate steps of “weight loss” and “weight maintenance.” I do have a goal weight set, but I am aiming more to have a nice and lean body composition, so that number is not particularly set in stone. I may find I want to go lower or be comfortable at a heavier weight, but I probably won't know that until I am closer to that weight. I have been taking measurements including weekly weight and monthly pictures and measuring inches; I should really be measuring my body fat with calipers as well, so I will be starting as of August 1st. Additionally, I consider my weekly weigh-ins to be mini-measurements, with my overall monthly loss being the true measurement. Thinking in terms of body composition change has helped take the emotion out of the scale, and it has been very freeing to not be afraid of the scale.
Another major aspect of considering body composition change is to think about the ways in which we can increase our metabolic flexibility, which will be the focus of my first Nerdrageous Blog! entry. It helps me to write these things out, because I get more ideas about how I can focus on my goals and come up with new ways to approach my goals.
I love seeing SparkPeeps' progress blogs, especially when they demonstrate that the scale doesn't always tell all. For an excellent example of body composition changes versus weight loss, check out APIRLRAIN888' blog:
She has sadly been MIA, but she has lots of great posts where she shows how the scale may not be moving, but visible changes can be occurring.
“If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.”
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
-Vincent Van Gogh
I had my second saxophone lesson yesterday, and I was more self-conscious than I would have imagined playing in front of someone else for the first time in over 12 years. Last week, we mostly reviewed things and I didn't have to play much. My teacher wanted to evaluate my skill level yesterday, so he had me bring in some of my old books to have me play some music. He would then decide what I needed to work on.
He opened one of the books and pointed to a piece. "Go ahead," and waited for me to start. I played the piece, then he shook his head and grabbed the book. "You're too good for this book."
"Uh, no I'm not."
"Yes, you are. Hmmm...let's see..." We walked out into the store and he got a book that was filled with music that made my heart skip a beat and my eyes widen; my immediate thought was, "No way can I play that". The music looked harder than anything I remembered playing in the past, and there were pages upon pages of daunting scales. Smiling, he said, "Here, this is better. We'll work with this."
He reviewed some stuff and has assigned a Handel piece for me to work on. I couldn't imagine playing it. He told me to play the first few lines. I concentrated as hard as I could, and started playing. The notes sputtered out, just individual notes floating in the air with no connection. I thought maybe he would say, "You're right, let's try some simpler stuff," but he shrugged. "You'll get it, just keep working on that."
Today I put my sax together to practice, and stared at the music for a second. "Okay, here's goes nothing." With steel-faced determination, I started to play. I stumbled over the notes and barely got through the past few lines. The little "This is too hard" voice whispered in my head. I tried again a few times and was getting frustrated.
Then I stopped and took a deep breath. I told myself to just let go, not think so hard about it, and let the music come out. "It doesn't have to be perfect," I told myself. I started to play, and it actually sounded somewhat like a song. I played through it again and it sounded even better. It is the first time since I've started playing that my practice has sounded like actual music. The deep joy that I used to get after putting my soul into a song came back; I didn't want to put my saxophone down. The muscles and nerves in my hands and fingers remember how to play, and are ready for more.
So the next time I have doubts about my abilities, I'm going to let go. The song will reveal itself. It may have been trapped for a long time, but it has been released. I'm learning that the less I think and the more I simply do, the more I discover. My body already knows what to do; perhaps I need to let it guide my mind more often.
"You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?'"
-George Bernard Shaw
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