Where do you go when you don’t feel like you’re going anywhere in your trip to being a healthier, smaller version of yourself? What happens to you at that moment in time where you’ve tried (what seems like) everything and nothing is working? Where does your mind and body take you when you’re stuck?
This is always a risky area for me. I would say for a solid eighty percent of my time I am on autopilot. To quote my pal Carolyn, “It’s just what we do now”, meaning going to the gym, eating properly, not binging, not freaking out about every little inconsistency or speed bump in the path, is our new “norm”. It’s just what we do. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The other twenty percent of my time is split between the extremes.
Fifteen percent of that time is spent ‘dorphined up, feeling like I’m taking on the world and conquering it bit by bit. Nothing bothers me. Nothing could stand in my way. I have a great attitude and hold my head up high.
In steps that pesky last five percent of my time, which is where I’ve been feeling for the past week. That last five percent is the part that says “you cannot win this game no matter what you do”. I’m living on “screw it” street in my little village and it’s such a dodgy area. There’s bums on the corners… big bums who haven’t seen a Stairmaster in years. There are seedy people in the shadows just lurking about waiting for you to trip up so they can dart out and rummage through your bag, stealing your hidden snack. The street pharmacists are on the corners handing out your drug of choice, be it cheesecake, chips or chocolate. Or worse yet, a cocktail of all three.
So where do you go? What do you do? Who do you turn to?
My first line of defense, and I didn’t even realize it until I started writing today, is my husband, Marco. Today, these words actually left my face and entered his ears.
“I’ve been doing horrible with my food. I just feel like saying screw it all”.
Those words were actually audible. To another human besides myself. I really said that to him. That’s when I realized he’s always my first stop on the self-destruction train. I like to run my ideas of giving up past him first.
It’s actually laughable as I write it because of course I’m never going to stop but maybe I just need a break. A break from what?
I’d like to call my second line of defense to the stand – Carolyn. You’ll remember her from this post.
She’s who I turn to next. She’s going to read this, as I run most of my posts past her before publishing and she’ll have some brilliant encouraging words to say. Or a punch in the arm, you know, whatever she feels will work at the time. Never fail though, she’s walking the walk and talking the talk with me.
Keeping in mind that this is still only a mere five percent of my time, sometimes I realize my funk is a bit funkier than I like it to be and I pull out the big guns.
When I left Novarum, the center where I got help for my food issues, they had me write a list of things that just worked for me, mentally and physically. It seemed so silly at the time to write it all down, they were so fresh in my mind, but I did it. I tucked it away in a book and just keep it there.
That’s my “big guns”, a piece of paper with words of wisdom that I wrote myself.
“Following this routine makes me more calm about food choices.”
“I no longer hide my eating or have that shame that was associated with hiding and eating.”
“If one of my goals ends up backfiring, that’s okay. This is all just a huge experiment to find that best fit for my life, which will change and evolve as I do.”
That’s just a few of the items on that yellowing piece of paper that I use, third line of defense, to keep me centered.
It is so much more than words on paper though. It takes me back to the basics. Back to where I started winning this thing. Back to the really simple ideas of changing the way I thought about food, myself, myself with food, food with myself and all things related, which in the end, was everything.
I get back to the beginning of this chapter in my life and re-read it like a favorite book.
Then I keep on keeping on because that five percent, that little flash of time, has had its moment of glory and I know how to move on.
I distinctly remember what I felt like prior to getting help for some food issues and previous to working out regularly. For a while, as I mentioned in this post, I avoided being with people, even people I liked. It was a dark, dreary, terrible way to feel every single day.
Now post-workout I also try to avoid people but for a whole other reason.
My name is Sarah and I am an endorphin-aholic.
Let me preface this by letting you know I work out at my office. I am fortunate enough to have a gorgeous, fully equipped gym, complete with enthusiastic trainers and classes, in the lower level of my building. This has its perks. My fortune continues in having a boss that lets me workout during actual “on the clock” hours so I can avoid the gym’s busy periods. Did I mention I love my job and my boss?
I knew exercise was supposed to make you feel better, “they” said. But we all know how “they” can be. “They” have a lot of fickle opinions that change with the wind and the wind seems to whip in a new direction every two weeks.
They were right about endorphins though and I am here to be a witness!
If you’ve never been on an endorphin high let me tell you what you’re missing out on. Imagine taking the tingle of a first kiss and gently mixing it with the excitement of that big drop on a roller coaster and then add a twist – a generous twist – of that adrenaline rush that comes along with your ultimate song being played in a club and you know you’re about to cut a rug. Mix all of that up, add a shot of espresso and voila, that’s how good my post workout endorphins make me feel.
Oh, and they make me chatty (okay, chattier). How unfortunate for the poor souls who innocently step into the elevator with me post exercise- all ‘dorphined up.
Sarah and Carolyn enjoying their well deserved endorphins
In the elevator heading back to our desks, my workout buddy, Carolyn, and I have been known to high five one another for pushing so hard stating, “man you killed it today, you ran!”… and then we just continuing to high five every other passenger in the elevator, celebrating our victories. They had no choice. They must high five.
This is endorphins.
Wide eyed and unsure of what just happened, the innocents would step out on their floors and continue with their day. We smiled widely and waved farewell to them (only to later resolve to stop doing that to people, lest we lose our jobs).
Even on days when I didn’t feel like working out but made myself go, I would be awarded with my endorphins. When I can’t be my own cheerleader, it’s like they’re telling me “way to go Sarah, you did it and we’re proud of you.” They rush over me and they simply just make me feel good. They make me feel proud. They make me feel happy. They make me feel alive and strong.
If you’re on the verge of starting an exercise routine or are just entertaining the thought for somewhere down the road please, please just do it. If you can’t because you just aren’t there, mentally, trust in the endorphins to take care of some of your mental health. Take that one little step and get your endorphins running. You will be so glad you did.
For as many people as there are on the planet, there are probably twice the amount of ways to show somebody that you love them.
Traditional people can love you with cards or with flowers.
Kids love one another with a tug of the hair or punch in the arm.
Friends send you funny memes that only you will really “get”.
Parents leave hidden messages in lunchboxes.
Some love via text.
Some love through a song.
Some promise everlasting love with a ring.
How do I love?
I love with food. Sure, I love other ways too but food has been a constant sign of fondness for the larger part of my life.
For a woman conquering a weight issue, this can be a challenge.
I love to love people via culinary gifts. I adore watching the full bodied reaction of somebody enjoying a cupcake I’ve created with my own two hands. The relaxation of their body. The smile on their face. The lick of a finger. The deep sigh. For that moment, you made their life smile.
I’m no one way street though. I don’t just love people with food, I let them love me right back in the very same way. Just this week a colleague went to London and brought me back Cadbury Crème Eggs because she knows I have an unnatural affection for them. All lined up in a pretty little row at my keyboard, sat four magical foil-wrapped eggs, with that realistic, slightly creepy, egg white center and yellow yolk. A gift of friendship was well received with a yelp and a “squeeee!”
What do you do when gifts of friendship and love threaten to hamper your weight loss goals? What happens when your Mom makes your favorite dessert because she knows how you love it but it doesn’t fit in with your day? What do you do when love leaves you a five pound box of chocolate? You can’t just throw out perfectly good food! What about all those starving children… yes, we all know where that sentence leads us. The children are still hungry but your thighs aren’t exactly thanking you either.
I read the most brilliant analogy on a website once and it has stuck to me like glue. The key to battling food love is to accept it.
Some people will always love you with food. They will always send you home with leftovers because they know it’s your favorite. It’s how they love. Accept the gift, graciously. You do deserve that gift of thoughtfulness.
But what about those goals of yours? Therein lies the secret key that you’ve been searching for.
Receive the gift, but realize what the real gift actually is. They’ve given you the gift of love, thoughtfulness, caring, kindness and consideration. They’ve wrapped those deep seeded emotions, specific to you, in gorgeous packaging – love wrapped in brownies. Fondness tied up with a noodle bake bow. Friendship disguised as crumbly cake… whatever food it is you love… they’ve wrapped their emotional bond to you in that food. Now you’ve graciously received that gift of love and accepted it.
It feels really nice, doesn’t it?
With a clear conscious, because you graciously accepted the gift, you can now throw that wrapper away, just like you do with other gifts. Throw that brownie/noodle/cupcake “wrapper” away. Throw it away knowing that the gift of love was received loud and clear.
The empty wrappers will join my foil covered Cadburys in that great waste disposal in the sky but man, I can still feel the love!
Fraudulent – that’s how I feel sometimes when people ask me how I’ve lost any sort of weight. It’s not that I’m not telling them the truth or that I am being dishonest, it’s just that the story is so involved.
Generally when people ask me about it, it’s after I’ve been to the gym and I’m standing there all aubergine in the face, sweat beads glistening drenched in sweat, and so pumped up on endorphins that I have a perma-grin nailed to my face.
I usually say what I’m doing right now, right this very moment of my life. I tell about my weekly routine but I feel like I’m shortchanging them somehow. I feel like I make it seem simple and that it’s just something I up and did one day, no prep work, no negativity, no failures – just that a gym opened in my office and “poof” I was there.
That’s of course not how it happened at all. Or did it? I mean, yes, the gym opened in my office and the very first day I was down there introducing myself to the trainers and setting up a meeting for my team to see all the shiny new equipment but is that really my story?
Unless asked, I tend to leave out the part where I had cognitive behavior therapy to deal with some serious food issues – binging, hiding food, shaming myself. I had issues that no book, website or friend could help me with. I needed the pros!
I leave out the eight month time span where I was in such a dark, anti-social place that I stopped eating lunch with my colleagues, people who I really liked, and spent my lunch hours in the office sandwich shop, table at the window, back to the world, nose in a book – any book. I even read crappy books just to not have to make eye contact. I may as well have draped a “do not disturb” sign down my back, as if it weren’t obvious enough.
Thoughts screamed in my head but I looked peaceful.
I feel like a fraud because what in the hell do I really know? Yeah, I’ve lost some weight and kept it off for the past two years. Yes, I am in the best physical shape I’ve been in for a very long time. Yes, my head feels like it is on straight for the first time in my adult life. Sure, I’m really happy with what is happening right now. I feel like I have unlocked the door to a healthy future for myself and I feel like I will never turn back.
But what does all of that even mean to somebody else?
Do I have all of the answers? Not hardly! Do I still struggle? Hell yeah! Am I at my goal weight or perfect weight or even close? Nope. So who am I to say anything?
I’ll tell you who I am.
I’m somebody who likes to share just in case there is some part of me or my story people can connect with.
I’m somebody who likes to help, if I can, even if I am not perfect.
I’m somebody who likes everybody to partake and feel part of the team. I don’t like to see somebody to sit on the sidelines because of their insecurities when in their heart they want to be in the thick of it all.
I’m somebody who gets real joy out of seeing other people succeed.
That’s who I am. And now you know. And now, I do too.
When Angie asked me to write for Project Blissful I have to admit, I was honored, stoked, excited and so very ready. I had wanted to be a writer for so long and here was my chance, being laid out before my very eyes – practically handed to me on a silver platter. The website is there, the readership is there, all I had to do was provide some content and Lord knows I have a lot of content just screaming to get out. Perfect.
Then two solid weeks went by and I wrote a grand total of four hundred really lousy words. They weren’t even close to being good. Unreadable. Un-entertaining. Unworthy. Seriously crap stuff.
The rest of my evenings I spent not writing but browsing Disneyworld websites looking for tips and trips for our upcoming vacation. And by upcoming, I mean in December. Hardly right around the corner.
Then I decided “Sarah, clearly you don’t have time for taking on this project”. I armored myself with my list of excuses pulling on each shield piece by piece.
Sarah – You work forty hours a week. You have a five year old who needs attention. You hardly get to see your husband so on the evenings he’s home you don’t want to be tapping away at a keyboard. You really do need to read, for the hundredth time, the quickest way to see Mickey Mouse once entering the Magic Kingdom. Oh, and don’t forget, you’re just too tired. Rightfully so, you work forty hours a week and have a five year old. Oh, wait. I already used that one…
I fitted myself with the biggest suit of excuse armor I could find and prepared a speech as to how I would tell Angie I just couldn’t do it. I eased into the conversation “man, it’s harder than I expected it to be Angie”. To which she replied “I don’t expect perfection”.
And this will sound so cheesy stupid that you may never ever want to read another word that I write ever again but that was a light bulb moment for me. I know exactly why I haven’t written jack in the past two weeks. I am a perfectionist and nothing I can produce is good enough for other eyeballs to witness.
I have to be entertaining. I have to write well. I have to have people want to read more of my “stuff’. It all has to be good, every single word, and I want to be liked and I don’t want to fail and I’m pretty sure it all has to be perfect the first time through. I could never post anything that isn’t awesome and since I can’t write anything awesome, then by default, I can’t post anything.
I’ve felt totally imperfect and just not good enough. It’s been total paralysis. I can’t think where to start. I can’t come up with a good idea. I have no clue what people want to read. My mind and vision is blank. I can’t remember where to coffee pot is to give myself a caffeine boost and potentially jumpstart my butt into some sort of gear. I freeze.
But Angie kept saying things to me… nice things. I’m sure she had no clue what she was really doing for me but she was my anti-freeze. She even gave me the idea to share about my perfection paralysis. Within minutes I had opened up five blank word documents and written the titles to my next five posts with little taglines so I would remember the genius that was to follow that title.
Her perception of what great material I could produce and my own perception of what I could feebly manage to crank out were somewhat skewed, to say the least.
All I really needed was a little confidence boost, that tiny “of course you can” whispered to me and off I went like a cannon. I needed the permission to not be perfect, to just do what I do and really, so what if it isn’t perfect every time. It doesn’t have to be!
Angie said so.
Are you a perfectionist? Does it ever hold you back from trying something new?
“I’m going to do it this time. I really am! I’m going to stick to it no matter what. I’m so sick of being overweight and I’ve had it! This is “it” for me!”
I think we’ve all said something similar to ourselves at one time or another when we started the next “diet” we were going to try.
I would wake up that Monday morning with so much adrenaline pumping in my veins that it almost hurt. I would be so positive, so confidant, so excited.
I’d have willpower pouring out my ears. I’d even have a little extra spring in my step. “This is the first day of the rest of my life” I’d chirp as I ate my rice cake for breakfast and left for work.
And it worked…for a little while. I would have the willpower to say no to the donuts that somebody brought for breakfast that day.
“Nope, I’m on a diet. Thanks though” and the smile never left my face.
I would have the willpower not to have a tall frozen yummy chocolate coffee drink with about 10,000 calories per serving (with extra whipped cream of course!).
“No thanks! I’ll have one bottle of water please.” I’d sing to the pimple faced teen behind the counter.
Willpower would allow me to say “no thanks” to the pizza everybody ordered for lunch as I munched away happily on my salad and carrot sticks.
Willpower was all I needed to get through those tough and trying situations.
And then something strange and unexpected happened…willpower stabbed me in the back quicker than I could say “double bacon cheeseburger, extra bacon, extra cheese, add mayo and hold any sort of vegetable you may lay on it.”
Willpower is the dirty little secret that nobody warns you about.
If willpower were a person I’d call it a dirty liarmouth to its face.
And if anything, people lie to you about it’s abilities. It’ll fool ya all right.
Willpower sounds all great in the beginning. It makes you think you’re prepared to face the real world. It builds you up, makes you feel ready, gives you a pep talk, a slap on the back and then shoves you out there in the world, naked and exposed, to only slam the door behind you and click the lock so all the world see you standing on your porch in your birthday suit.
Then willpower watches from the window and giggles as you look for a leaf big enough to cover your ‘bare’ essentials.
It’s when you have that willpower, that super attitude that YOU CAN DO IT… that’s when dieting or lifestyle changes are easy.
Willpower makes it simple to embrace your life change and say “no” to the things you know aren’t healthy for you. Easy Peasy.
It’s what happens after the willpower diminishes that you really need to prepare yourself for.
We all know that feeling of empowerment that willpower brings fades out like a pair of stonewashed jeans (tight rolled of course, I am a child of the 80’s after all).
Sometimes it can last a few days… sometimes even a few weeks… but if you’re relying on willpower to take you through to the end, to get you across that finish line… then you are going into battle armed with nothing but a Nerf ball and some duct tape, both of which are fun and handy to have around, but neither of which will help you much in your weight loss endeavors.
I’ve had to mentally and physically prepare myself for when willpower packs it’s stuff and gets the hell out. It still comes back every once and a while to make an appearance but I’m no fool.
I know it will leave just as quickly as it came and right now there is no tree with leaves big enough to cover my “assets” out on that porch.
So here’s some things I’ve done to prepare myself for when willpower fails me.
I don’t keep “not the best choice of foods” in my house. Things like nutella, ice cream and baked goods, which are all my weaknesses, are best left at the store. If I must have nutella in the house, it’s kept in the cupboard that I do not get into on a regular basis. I once had a box of chocolates here that I just knew I had willpower enough to say “no” to. After eating about 10 of them (in about as many minutes) and then crying to my husband that I ate 10 chocolates, he threw them in the trash. I’ve not (successfully) had a box of chocolates in the house since. I have recognized this and know it’s a problem so I won’t try to kid myself that I can do it. It’s okay to be human and have faults.
I plan ahead for situations that tend to make me overeat, like parties. I know what I am going to do when I walk in. I know where to focus my attention and I know where to try to position myself in regards to food.
I have actually practiced dialogues to use when I’m in a “food pusher” situation to get me out of taking or eating food that I don’t need or want. We all have Auntie Meanswell, who knows you love _____ (insert food you are now trying to eat only on special occasions) and insists you have the second and third helping. Having a plan ahead of time has spared me fumbling for the rights words or worse yet, conceding to their pushing to save hurt feelings. *tip* ask Auntie Meanswell if she can pack some up “to-go” after you’ve had your first, regular portion. This means saving her feelings from being hurt, and you have the choice, away from her, as to what to do with the extra food.
When I don’t have the right frame of mind and come to a bump in my road I look back through the book that got me on this path, Dr. Phil’s “The Ultimate Weight Solutions”, and re-read the passages that I’ve highlighted. I re-read the things I have written while at Novarum, the center where I went for help regarding my food and weight issues. I refocus my attention on those small things that worked for me in the beginning because, low and behold, they will work for me now. I find the things that have proven to work for me and make sure they are still part of my daily routine. I allow myself to take things one day at a time, not feel rushed to lose weight, and to be human and make mistakes. I don’t need willpower for that…I can be powerless but still have a will.