Friday, August 15, 2014
I'm a different person than I was when I started Spark in 2010. In the 4 years that I have spent in and out of this friendly confine I have lost countless pounds, gained some back, run countless miles, moved, changed jobs, changed boyfriends, made new friends, lost a few friends, and lived a full and eventful life in a progressively healthier body and mind. I have grown and I have experienced.
But when setbacks occur - and they always do, the biggest mistake that we tend to make is that we assume that we are the same. That all that life-living hasn't actually happened. And that somehow we are built like machines and that the same things that worked before will work a second time around - that we can pick up right where we left off.
I'm tired of banging my head against the wall of previous experience. Because if there's one thing I know that DOESN'T work, it's repeatedly trying to achieve quick results by jumping straight into the deep end and trying to swim after removing all of your flotation devices. A lot of time has passed since I was last able to execute all the moves properly. I've been flapping around out there trying to make sense of it all for far too long. Thankfully, I found my way back to the beach.
For two weeks now I have eaten like a champion. Counted all my calories. Bemoaned my cold-turkey cut-off of alcohol and diet soda. Screamed out loud when I wanted ice cream and knew that I was neither hungry for it nor had the calories left in my day for it. (But hey - I'd rather the hissy fit than the additional poundage on my hips.) Made healthy recipes. Drank all of my daily cups of water. Substituted low-carb, low-fat, low-sugar wherever I could. Weighed, measured and ate correct serving sizes. And stopped exercising completely.
Seems that the last little tidbit of information there does not compute. But you read that correctly. I stopped exercising. And I stopped feeling guilty about it. Cause guess what? The key to starting over is starting over - NOT picking up where you left off.
Hell if I was running 10 miles a week in April of 2010 when I was just starting out here. Heck, I wasn't even walking 3 miles a week. I didn't start swimming until about 2 months into my weight loss journey. Running was a joke to me until about 6 months in and 40 pounds down. And the key for me has ALWAYS been the FOOD. Exercise on any scale makes me hungry. And I lost my balance back in training for the marathon when I discovered that running an insane number of miles a week means you can eat and drink just about anything you want and not gain weight. The problem with that was that it threw off my equilibrium, my practice, my metabolism, and everything else that I had worked so hard to achieve on the food side of the equation for the whole previous year of my life.
I admit, 2 weeks ago I was out of control. After training for a number of endurance events, the only lasting things that I was left with were a few medals on my wall, some bad habits and an insane appetite. I thought nothing of stopping off at the store on the way home for a pint of ice cream or adding an order of fries to my sandwich instead of soup or salad even though I was no longer running over 6 miles a week - and some weeks not at all. A few times I tried to kick-start my weight loss again by upping my weekly exercise, attempting to train again like I did before without the heart or the mind to actually complete a long run. I'd get mad at myself for not being able to run as far or as fast and get discouraged in a heartbeat. Of course I wasn't taking into account that I'm 40 pounds heavier than I was when I last PRed ANYTHING and my endurance is not at all what it was even a year ago, let alone 2. It made me hate running. I would dread even lacing up my shoes. And when I finally did, I would whine and cry to myself the whole time, having lost the mental battle it takes to keep putting one foot in front of the other before I had even stepped one foot out the door. And I was hungry. Always hungry, and always making excuses for being able to eat more because I was putting myself through the torture of exercising when I didn't want to.
And then a light bulb went on. If hard exercise feels like work, then don't do it. I'm not a lazy person. I live in a city where I walk a lot every day anyway. Sometimes I enjoy swimming. I take the dog out for longer walks a few times a week. I lug 20 pounds of groceries home 3 blocks on a weekly basis. I take the stairs when I have to. I AM getting exercise. Plenty of days more than the allotted 30 minute requirement. So I have to stop stressing about it! If there is anything to stress about, it should be the fact that I've somehow allowed myself to consume upwards of 3000 calories a day on a regular basis, due in no small part to the stress I am feeling about needing to exercise more. What a mess! Let's work on fixing that.
So I have been. For the past 2 weeks I have done nothing in addition to getting my food consumption in check. And I've lost 7 pounds. Yes! And even though I know the scale is going to freeze up again for a week or two (because it ALWAYS does), if I just keep doing this one thing I WILL see success.
As I have lived these past 4 years, my goals have continually changed and I have embraced each and every one of them. Right now my goal is NOT to run a marathon or train for a triathlon or be anything other than a normal person who eats a normal amount of food. Weight loss is once again my top priority, and that means that I will do what it takes to achieve THAT particular goal. I want to be rid of the weight that I have put back on since training for that marathon 2 years ago and be back at my lowest (185lb) by my birthday in December. After I get through the Detroit Half Marathon in October that I paid for back when I had different goals and a different mindset about how to lose weight, I am done training for anything for a good long time. Maybe then I can actually learn to like exercise again. Maybe I won't. In fact, I don't know if I ever did - but doing things that I thought were impossible was rewarding to me. That's how I got sidelined in the first place - my mission to achieve "unachievable" goals. But the "impossible" now seems to be getting to my goal weight, so why not stick with the theme, right?
On that note, back when I first started this life changing thing, I had a simple goal - BALANCE. Over time I have concluded that that goal is not a simple one at all. In fact, it's the most "impossible" goal to achieve as it never has an end point. You never actually have balance but it is threatened again by something else that pops up in life. It is so easy to throw yourself off balance that most of us live on one side of the scale or the other the majority of the time. And if there is ANY scale that matters here, it's that one. Because nothing else moves in the direction you want it to if the life scale is out of whack. So that's really what we're doing here - attempting to achieve moments of balance, walking that fine line. Some of us walk it for days and weeks, some of us for much longer, just adding things to the load as we move along. Sometimes you have your perfect balance and everything is going so well that you don't even realize that something you added to one side of the scale is making you walk funny. That's what happened to me - the thing I added to one side was just too heavy for me to carry. So I dropped everything and started again, even though the first instinct was to pick everything back up and try to carry all of it.
We can only handle exactly what we can handle every day. Give yourself permission to do just that. Even if it seems crazy. Right now, I'm handling food. Eventually, my strength will be rebuilt and I'll be able to take on more. But realizing that we are all only human is half the battle. Drop the load that's making you walk funny. Let it go. Start fresh. And move on from there. The key to starting over, is starting over.