making yourself a priority (it's not easy!)
Friday, September 11, 2015
I'm still making wonderful progress on weight loss, and--more importantly--on my permanent shift to a healthier lifestyle. It's been going so smoothly, I've found myself wondering (often!) "what's different this time?" "Why does this feel so easy?"
The answer is that it hasn't been easy. I'm only looking at the most recent 3+ months... which is when I restarted actively sparking, and tracking my food and getting regular exercise. i.e. actively trying to lose weight. In truth, this has been a years-long project, with many of the key pieces having been put in place YEARS ago. I'm writing them down here, in part because I believe if I get off track one day, it'll likely be due to the loss of one of these essentials:
1. I let go of an incredible amount of stress. A little at a time. When I look back on how I used to regularly feel, I'm appalled. Some of it has been downsizing... first trading in a high profile / high stress job for a slightly less stressful one... and a couple years later, downsizing into a freelance position (less money / far more control over my time). I still feel stress. I still have deadlines. I just don't sweat stuff as much though, and part of that is due to some very intentional job changes. I went from working 10-12 hour days to 8-10 hour days to RARELY more than 8 hours a day... and usually slightly less.
2. I made time. When I downsized it took me time to recognize and really USE the time I wasn't at work. For a while I was still freelancing 40+ hours a week. For a while I was doing more than 50% of the housework/kids stuff. And for a while I wasted a lot of time too. Too much television, etc. I think I was exhausted, stressed and honestly didn't know what to do with myself.
3. I made help. My husband and I share a lot more equally now. Ironically, there was a stretch when I was doing more housework/kid care AND working more hours. That's since balanced out and I can honestly say I have a spouse who does 50%.
I'll write more later about some of the other changes... such as letting go of some friendships, learning to say "no" (even to fun stuff, sometimes), and not overscheduling my kids (who are still gradeschoolers).
What I can say is that I'm done with that part of my life. The part that I call the "career girl" phase, when I was actively climbing the ladder, and when a huge part of my identity was derived from my job. I can't say I necessarily regret it... that drive and hard work got me here. I'm financially stable, and an experienced enough professional to command a good consulting/freelance salary. It all happened for a reason, so I don't look back with regret, but gratitude. (I learned a lot in those hardworking years, and had a lot of amazing colleagues, bosses and friends.)
But I'm never going back. Oh, I may find myself in a full time job again one day... you never know. But I'm a different person. One who works smarter, not longer hours. One who is more confident (and just older) and better able to set up appropriate barriers and say "no" once in a while.
I think it's crazy to think that, back then, I could have mustered the energy, the focus and the sheer *time* needed to manage my weight (much less lose weight). So my journey really began the day that I started staking a claim on my own life. Deciding what my priorities were, and what risks I was willing to take in order to reach for something better.
I realize not everyone has the luxury of downsizing and still paying the bills. But I think we, as a society, need to take a hard look at our workplaces... the hours we put in... the stress we live with day in and day out... and start making the connection to our national obesity crisis. It's not that we individuals don't care, or wouldn't try or are lazy... it's that many of us are literally trapped in existences that make "time for ourselves" seem unattainable. You have to fight, sacrifice, claw your way to whatever breathing space you can manage... because only then can you make yourself, and your health, a priority.