Monday, April 28, 2014

Week 18: Binge

I’m not in particularly good head space I as I type this post.  This past week was a very difficult one for me on the food front.  There are things going on in my life right now that are sources of great anxiety and no little depression.  Historically, both of these things make me crave specific types of food, and this time around is no different.  This past week I gave in to those cravings several times, and at one point I moved beyond what I would call overeating and into binge territory.   

It started with the emotions--depression, anxiety, and sometimes even anger--and then I found myself fixating on my favorite comfort foods.  This went beyond what might be considered a craving.  It was an agonizing process in which I spent three or four hours arguing with that negative inner voice I've mentioned before.  

I don’t need it, I argued.  I can get by without that pizza and macaroni and cheese.  I don’t need that bag of chips, or an extra serving of ice cream.

But you’ll feel better, that insidious little voice informed me.  It’ll taste so good, and you’ll have that nice soporific feeling.  You’ll be able to take a nap and then you’ll forget about all the nasty anxiety for a while, and it’ll only be for this once.  Just this once . . .

Except once turned into twice, then three times, and then I found myself in the middle of an all out binge.  It was over almost before I realized it had started, which is how it often works.  Once I quit beating myself up for failing to win the argument with my inner voice, I ruthlessly made myself go back and log every single thing I’d eaten.  I’d eaten over 3000 calories in just two hours.  To put that in perspective, my baseline calorie allowance for an entire day is 1650.  I stared at the total and started to cry with both shame and frustration, and my inner dialogue got worse.

Well, now you've done it, that little voice said.  Bet this happens again soon.  Ready to throw in the towel yet?  I mean, this is about where you gave up the last time, right?

I won’t lie.  I seriously contemplated it for a day or two.  I halfheartedly counted calories on those days, and had to really push myself to engage in my running routine.  I felt my depression worsening and my anxiety was so bad that there were moments where I had to consciously restrain myself from tugging on my hair.  This is what happens when I’m floundering and trying to make myself “do the right thing” and not give in to that evil little voice that urges me to undo all the hard work I've already done.  I went to bed Saturday night feeling overly tired and brittle around the edges.  The only thing I knew for sure was that I was dreading the Sunday morning weigh-in.

Sunday morning it took me nearly 20 minutes to find my courage and step onto the scales.  I cried again, but this time they were tears of relief.  I hadn't gained any weight.  In fact, I’d lost just over two pounds.  

Thank you, I offered up to the Universe.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  

But at the same time, I felt like the weight loss had been sheer luck.  I was still treading on dangerous ground as my inner dialogue continued to be negative.  I did my best to turn that dialogue off as I made myself a healthy breakfast and got ready to leave for Sunday service.  I still felt like I was floundering, that I might have reached a point where I might not be able to go on.  I kept pleading with that negative voice to be quiet, but it would not be silenced.

Why are you even trying?  You’ll just do this again the next time your life gets overly stressful.  Just make the decision to give up now and you’ll feel better.

These are the thoughts that were going through my head as I sat down in the sanctuary for Sunday service.   I focused on the ritual and the music, and that voice kind of faded away, but then our minister asked us each to catalog what we thought our personal deficits and gifts were.  After the week I’d had it was easy to find the deficits, but I couldn't think of any gifts at that moment.  I think my inner turmoil finally surfaced in my expression, because the very good friend that was sitting next to me wrapped her arm around my shoulder and whispered into my ear:

“Your gifts FAR outweigh your deficits.”

In the wake of her words my negative internal dialogue fell silent, and I was finally able to see reason.  One binge does not make me a failure, nor does it mean I need to give up.  Yes, I had a bad week, but that doesn't mean subsequent weeks need to be more of the same.  I can do this.  I’ve already lost over one hundred pounds and run on a regular basis.  I just need to keep doing all the good things and not beat myself up when I occasionally slip up.

And as the minister finished up his sermon, I finally relocated my resolve.

I’m not giving up, I told that negative voice.

It didn't respond.

And to the friend that whispered into my ear, I know at the time you had no idea your words were a lifeline, but they were.  Thank you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Week 17: Time

I registered for two more 5K runs this past week.  I’ll be running one on June 1st and another on July 4th.  I think it is safe to say I have a new addiction!  Yesterday I ran my fastest mile yet, and while it’s a long way from being fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon, it’s still much faster than what I was doing even a month ago.  I didn’t actually start tracking my running times until I was a month into my first round of training.  I’m not sure why I waited that long, except maybe I found that the more I ran the less easy it was to mentally track my fastest miles.  At any rate, sometime during the first week of March I sat down and created a spreadsheet that would help me track my times.  

At first, all I concentrated on was finishing my intervals, and I didn’t much care how long it took me.  Then I started comparing those times.  I started to challenge myself to go just a few seconds faster than last time, and pushing myself just a little harder on each run.  And lo and behold, it started to pay off.  The first week I was averaging a mile every 17 minutes.  Yesterday my average was around 14 minutes, 28 seconds per mile.  That, my friends, is real progress!

I think the best part is, tracking my times actually helps me beyond keeping a record. Even though I’m not yet near the times and distances I would need to qualify for Boston, I can see that I’m gradually moving towards those goals.  Instead of feeling frustration, I feel accomplished, and that has really helped me to stay on track and keep working towards my goals!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Week 16: Never

“Never say  never.”  

I’m pretty sure most of us have either used or had this phrase tossed at us by a friend after swearing up and down that we’d NEVER do something again.  Sometimes, it’s okay to say “never say never”, because we never really do know what life will bring.  I know that in the past I swore up and down that while I had no problem walking for exercise, I’d never run.  A good friend tossed the phrase back at me almost immediately, and if you’ve been following this blog, you know that my friend was right.  I’m running, and in fact, I’ve got plans to do a whole lot more in the future.

So, most of the time I’m pretty comfortable with using that “never say never” line or having someone use it on me.  But recently I discovered that there are instances where it is not really appropriate, and maybe even hurtful.  It came up during a conversation with an acquaintance regarding my fitness journey.  At one point I made the comment that I couldn't believe how much better I felt overall, and that “I’m never going back to being that heavy and out of shape again!”

“Never say never,” came the response.

For a moment I was so astonished that I couldn’t even find speech.  And then I got angry.  I think this person sensed it because the topic was abruptly changed and I managed to go along for the ride without blowing up.  That was fine--I try to never really talk out something that has made me angry in the moment because I tend to say the wrong things, and sometimes I’m not even one hundred percent certain why I’m angry in the first place.  It’s better if I think it out and cool off before responding.  And honestly, this person is an acquaintance.  They don’t matter a lot in the grand scheme of my life, and I don’t see them all that often.  None the less, that person’s response bugged me for days, and it took me a while to figure out exactly why I was so angry.

First of all, I didn’t much like the implication that I was going to fail.  Perhaps this person didn’t mean it that way, but it certainly came off that way.  Perhaps for this person the response to my use of the word “never” was automatic, a reflexive regurgitation of the cliche response.  But I don’t think it excuses this person.  Flippantly implying a person is going to fail just for the sake of clever conversation is just mean-spirited, especially when that person is someone you barely know.  So, yeah, that aspect of it annoyed me quite a bit.

But I think the root of my anger came from the knowledge that my continued fitness success is actually riding on my ability and willingness to say “never”.   I am never going to go back to my old habits of eating nothing but highly processed foods.  I am never going to eat as much meat as I used to.  I am never going to stop exercising in some way, shape, or form.  As long as this body can move, I will walk, run, or even crawl if I have to.  

I never want to go back to being the person I was 10 months ago., because this journey has changed more than my weight and health.  It has helped me find an inner strength that I didn’t even realize I had, and I truly believe I’m a better person for it.  I don’t want to lose that.  Ever.  So I need to use the word “never” in this instance, because it helps me to understand that the changes I have made need to be permanent, and that for me there is no going back.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Week 15: Plateau

I’ve been pretty fortunate over the past 10 months in that I’ve steadily lost weight.  There were a few weeks that I gained a pound or so, but I always lost it and more on the following week, so I didn’t get too upset.  But then came three weeks of gaining and losing and gaining again.  I was starting to get really frustrated, because I’ve been near militant about keeping an accurate record of calories and exercise, so I couldn’t understand why I was hovering around the same weight for so long.  And then I realized that I was experiencing the one phenomena that all people trying to lose weight dread:  I’d hit my first plateau.

I knew this moment was coming, because it always does, and there’s no getting around it.  I’ve experience a plateau every time I’ve done the dieting thing.  In the past they have frustrated the hell out of me, and on three instances that I can think of, that frustration was enough to make me throw in the towel and completely give up.  Thankfully, things are going differently this time around.

First of all, these days I have a better knowledge of how the body works.  Looking back on the past three weeks, I realize that my training for the 5K was probably the number one reason for this current plateau.  I was building a lot of muscle during that process, and muscle tissue is far more dense than fat tissue, so it stands to reason that my weight gain was probably muscle and not fat.  

Secondly, once I stopped panicking and shoved my frustration into a closet in the back of my mind, I came to the conclusion that I was still losing inches.  The jeans I’m currently wearing were tighter three weeks ago than they are now, and a week ago I bought three new tops that were a full size smaller than what I’d bought the last time I went clothes shopping.  So, while I haven’t lost the pounds, I’m still making measurable progress.

Thirdly, I’m so fortunate to have a strong support system.  In the past I’ve tried to do this on my own.   I rarely talked about my weight loss efforts outside of immediate family (and sometimes not even then), and I would have never blogged about it!  Since then, I’ve made friends with some extraordinary souls, and I’m so grateful that they have urged me to not shoulder this burden alone.  Once I really started to share this journey with others it became easier to move past the frustrating moments and focus on the positive things, especially when I had good friends constantly urging me to not give up.  It made a HUGE difference, and I’m so very grateful for their continuous support!

So, yeah, I’m on a plateau, but thanks to friends, family, and my own ability to learn from past mistakes, I can see the way out.