Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Week 44: A Memory and a Promise

Grandma on her graduation day
I’ve been thinking of my grandma a lot lately.  She’s been gone for several years now, but I still miss her from time to time, especially during the holidays.  She was a wonderful and compassionate human being and did so much for the people around her.  And she loved her family abundantly and unconditionally, and I can remember what it felt like to be the focus of that love, and I do miss it.

The last time I saw my grandmother alive and conscious was a week before she was placed into a medically induced coma.  She’d been having trouble with her heart again, and angioplasties weren't cutting it anymore.  If I’m remembering correctly (and I may not be—that whole week and the following month was a heart-wrenching blur), I went to visit her in the hospital the day before they decided she needed open heart surgery.   She seemed so pale and small in that hospital bed.  We talked.  I don’t remember the whole conversation, but I do remember the topic of my weight came up.  At the time I weighed just over three hundred pounds, and with the history of heart conditions and diabetes in my family, grandma was worried.  I clearly remember the moment she took my hand into her own and asked:

“Will you promise me something?”

She was uncharacteristically serious as she asked, and I can remember the hair on my arms standing on end as I looked into her sharp, intelligent eyes.  In that moment all I could do was nod because my voice had failed me. 

“Promise me you’ll do what you can to take the weight off.  Promise me you’ll take care of yourself.  I don’t want you to go through what I’m going through right now.  I don’t want you to have that kind of life.  I don’t want you to be this sick.  Promise me?”

“I promise.” I whispered.  I was crying by that time, because I think we both knew on some sub-conscious level that maybe things weren't going to go so well the next day.  They didn't.  She didn't get to come home for Christmas, and she passed away after the New Year.

The crazy thing is, I forgot about that promise until recently.  I’m not sure why I suddenly remembered it now.  Maybe I willfully forgot because I couldn't stand the shame that came from trying and failing to keep that promise numerous times.  The last few months have been a terrible uphill struggle, and the upcoming holidays are not going to make it easier.   The addiction has come into full play.  I find myself eating trigger foods full of salt, sugar, and fat and ignoring any and all attempts by caring friends and family to stop and think about what I’m doing. 

It’s fine, that inner voice says as I indulge in these foods.  You can stop whenever you want. 


Then sometime last week I happened to look up at the wall next to my computer desk.  My grandmother’s high school graduation picture is hanging on that wall, and my eyes were drawn to it, and suddenly I was reminded of that final conversation and the promise I made.  I closed my eyes and I could see and hear her in that hospital bed.  I could feel her fingers around my own, her skin dry and thin and her touch cool.

Promise me, she said.  And I promised.  I promised, but I forgot.  But I remember now, and the person I am now doesn't make promises lightly.  I do all I can to keep them.  So I promise, Grandma.  Even though I’ll still probably make mistakes along the way and have bad days, I promise. 

I promise to pick myself up and keep trying, no matter how many times I may fall.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Week 43: Focus

I’ve had a hard time focusing on much of anything since my last post, and I’m realizing that maybe it’s because I’m trying to focus on too many things at once.  I’m searching for a new job, seriously looking into possibly starting a business based on my paper crafting, thinking of completely rearranging several rooms in the house, and trying desperately to get back on the fitness track.  I’m dreaming big, but I’m only one person, and there are only so many hours in the day.  But I really want these things, and most of them I’d like now.  The problem is, trying to focus on so many different things at once ironically leaves me with no focus at all.  

So, time to slow down and concentrate on one or two things.  Fitness comes first, because when I’m feeling down and depressed about falling off the proverbial wagon, it’s almost impossible for me to feel good about myself, or even function.  I figure feeling good about myself will help immensely when I’m interviewing for a new job.  So, yeah, I’m back to counting calories again, and am making a concentrated effort to at least walk every day.  It hasn’t been easy, as I’ve been struggling with the food addiction and falling back into less than healthy behaviors.  I’ve been telling myself that I can continue eating as much as I want and that I can stop whenever I want to, when I know perfectly well that is the furthest thing from the truth.

It’s time to focus on those behaviors, drag them into the light, correct them, and get back on track.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Week 42: Admission

When I was a kid and fretting about some situation, my dad would almost always tell me “If you know what the problem is, you can fix it.”  It was such a simple sentence, but the wisdom behind the words was vast and invaluable, especially for a kid who tended towards anxiety rather than rational thought.  I found if I focused more on the actual situation on hand rather than the possible outcomes, I was a lot less anxious.  And as the years went by I learned that knowing what the problem is sometimes includes admitting that you have a problem in the first place.   And as I write this, I find myself in such a position.  The time has come for an admission, painful as it may be, because it’s the only way I can think to even start fixing the problem.   

I addressed my food addiction early in this project, because realizing I had the addiction was a very important step in my journey.  Having that knowledge about myself enabled me to learn what my triggers were and what foods I should avoid. Of course, knowing that doesn't always mean I make the right choices.  A month ago I made a few wrong choices.  I fell off that proverbial wagon and have been struggling to climb back on and stay on ever since.  I could go on and on about how disappointed I am with my behavior and sudden weakness after a year and a half of solid success, but that’s not the point of this admission.

No, the point is the admission itself.  If I vocalize it, put it on record and share it, then the problem is real.  I can no longer pretend that it isn't happening.  Because I have been pretending that there isn't a problem and that I've got it all under control, even though the scales and my exercise records are telling a very different story.  I’m like Nero fiddling as Rome burns around him...if I just pretend everything is alright and don’t face the problem it will be fine, right?  Yeah, no.

I’m upset with myself, and ashamed that I wasted a whole month pretending everything was okay when it clearly wasn't.  The temptation to dwell on that is strong, because it’s what that negative voice in my head wants me to do, and it has been gleefully giving me the “I told you you couldn't do it! I told you so!” attitude for weeks now.  It has been a painful struggle, and I can’t quite seem to quiet that voice enough to find my equilibrium again.  It’s tiring, emotionally and physically, and there is a part of me that thinks giving up on this journey would be so much easier than continuing it.

But I’m still fighting, even as I write this.  A larger part of me wants to believe that this is just a long storm I’m going to have to weather, and that maybe right now I just need to dig in and refused to be moved and let the storm pass over me.  Once the sun comes back out the path I’m taking on this journey should be a little clearer, right?  And then I can journey forward once again.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Week 41: Gratitude

In an effort to battle the anxiety and depression of the previous week, this week I spent a lot of time looking for inspiration. I visited several of my favorite motivational-type blogs in the hopes that I would find something that would make me feel a little better and give me a more positive outlook on life. I wasn’t disappointed. There’s a lot of inspiration on the internet, if you know where to find it, but for some reason this week a lot of those sources seemed to be talking about the subject of gratitude and how it can really make a difference in both your attitude and how you live your life. According to one post, gratitude means “you appreciate from a very deep level what you have been given, what you have accomplished, what you have acquired, and where you are on your path at this very moment.” I’ve been thinking about that quote all week, and this morning I decided that perhaps I needed to take some time and focus on the things for which I am most thankful.

I’ve discovered that I have a lot to be grateful for.

Despite the fact that I’ve not lost much weight in the past couple of months, I’m grateful that I’ve lost as much as I have. A year and a half ago I was 100 pounds heavier than I am now. I'm grateful that I have managed to keep that weight off. I’m grateful that the lighter weight made it easier for me to run. I’m grateful that I found the courage to run a few 5Ks, and I’m grateful that I’m training to run more. A year and a half ago I couldn’t have done that--I’ve come a long way.

I’m grateful for my husband, who tells me on a regular basis how much he loves me and how beautiful I am, and persists when I try to argue otherwise on the latter. He supports me on this journey, even if it means he doesn’t get to see me for several mornings in a row because I’m at the gym doing serious time on a treadmill before I head into work. He holds me close when the anxiety overwhelms me and is there for me whenever I need him, no matter how grouchy or weepy I may be. I am grateful to have him by my side.

I’m grateful for that one vegan friend (you know who you are!) that even though we are separated by hundreds of miles manages to be there for me every single time I need her, regardless of what is going on in her own life. This person has all but held my hand on this journey, gifted me with the knowledge of her own experiences, and has believed in me even when I didn’t want to believe in myself. She is the one that urged me to take my dream of running a marathon and make it reality, and she has been invaluable in my journey from meat-eater to vegan. Words cannot come close to expressing how thankful I am for her help. The transition would have been scary without her and not nearly as smooth.

I have other close friends and family that constantly support me and help me on my way. Some do so with encouraging words and hugs. Others do so by giving me a kick in the ass when I need it. Some do both. All of them are helpful, and while I might be able to find my way on my own, it would be immeasurably harder without them. I am deeply grateful for their care and concern.

I’m grateful for the resources available on the internet. In my countless Google searches I’ve found everything from vegan tomato soup recipes to blog posts with invaluable information on running. Finding all of that information would have been much more time consuming without those resources!

And I could keep going here, but I do still need to take my walk this evening. But now that I’ve focused on that gratitude, I’m feeling better and am having a hard time remembering why I was depressed at all.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Week 40: Anxiety

Early this morning I realized that I was a day late with my week 40 post.  It didn't take long for my sarcastic inner voice to put in its two cents:

Slacker much?

I think I may have actually given a physical sneer in response.  Yeah, this week I have felt like I wasn't getting much done.  I've been dealing with a job search and all the anxiety (and sometimes apathy) that comes along with it.  I spent a lot of time holed up in my office at home, staring at the wall with a near constant litany of fear and doubts running through my head and a distinct inability to focus on anything else.  

It's extremely difficult for me when I get like this.  Venting is a great way to dispel some of the anxiety, but finding someone I trust to vent at is an entirely different matter.  I've discovered over the years that most people don't understand that when I'm venting anxiety I don't expect them to to fix my problems, or even understand why I'm so anxious.  I just need to get it out, to talk it through out loud.  What I don't need is an eye roll and an admonition to stop being a drama queen, or even worse, reminded that "everyone has problems".  I get that, I really do, but other people's problems do not negate my own, and vice versa.  And the simple fact is, once the anxiety wheel starts spinning in my head, it's almost impossible for me to slow it down unless I talk about what is bothering me.  

So what does this have to do with my fitness journey?  A lot, actually.  This past week I've not been focusing on the journey as much as I would have liked.  The scales mercilessly pointed that fact out to me this morning, and the weight gain has me worrying that I'm once again on that slippery slope that I've been on numerous times before.   I worry that I'm going to gain it all back.  Is this worry logical?  No, and I know that, but ask anyone that suffers from anxiety and they will tell you that there's nothing logical about it.

Fortunately, I do have friends that will listen, and I was able to connect with a couple of them early this morning and talk some of my worries out. It helped a great deal, and I think I am now at a point where I can focus on what needs to be done rather than worry about what may or may not happen.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Week 39: Numbers

So, after a year and two months of step-counting fun with my FitBit, I managed to lose it earlier this week.  I look back on the moment when I realized that it really was gone, and I don’t like to think about the frantic panic that ensued.  It had strong echoes of an addict looking for her lost fix.  I had to force myself to settle down, to breathe, and recognize that it wasn’t the end of the world just because I wouldn’t have an exact count of my steps.  I would still be exercising, and even though there would be no visible record, it would still count.  And after a year of walking the same paths and trails, I have a pretty good idea how many steps I’d be taking, anyway.  

In fact, losing the FitBit might have been a blessing.  My reaction tells me that perhaps I was getting a little too wrapped up in the numbers and losing focus on the journey itself.  A month ago I made the conscious decision to stop militantly counting calories for that very reason, and perhaps the fates decided I needed to take it just one step further.  It will be interesting to see how my daily walks differ, now that I’ll be paying more attention to my surroundings rather than focusing on the numbers.  I’m betting my walks in the park will be a lot more enjoyable.

Now, I’m not saying that I won’t replace the FitBit eventually, because I probably will.  It’s an excellent tool, especially when it comes to motivation.  I’m going to wait a few weeks, though, and give myself time to relearn the importance of enjoying this journey.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Week 38: Change

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein


I've come across this Albert Einstein quote several times in my life, and I ran across it again earlier this week. However, this time it resonated with me in a way it never has before. And the more I thought about this quote, I began to realize that it goes beyond a definition of insanity. It is more about the importance of change. In any area of life things must change if a difference is expected.

And then I found myself thinking about my life before I started down this fitness path, and I realized just how insane it was. Outwardly I really wanted things to be different, but at a deep subconscious level I really wasn't willing to do what needed to be done. I wanted change, but I wasn't willing to make those changes. I would try the same diets over and over again, with the same mindset, and expect the results to be different. You see? Insanity.

Fortunately, somewhere along the way my want turned into will. I've been doing some serious goal setting this week. I've set some long term goals that revolve around several areas of my life. Those major goals gave birth to other short-term goals that will serve as stepping stones along the way. All of them are going to require a great deal of change, both physical and mental. I’m going to have to make further changes in my diet. I’m going to have to change my priorities and reorganize my daily activities accordingly.

And this time I will embrace that change, because it leads to a better place.