health update, january

January is always a challenging month for me, personally. I’m not sure whose bright idea it was to start the new year in January–I’m hardly up for tackling major resolutions in the dead of winter. Wait until spring, then I might feel inclined to change my life, but this month is only good for hibernation.

In any case, I knew last week would be a wash due to Tim’s trip–playing chauffer to the girls meant no walking to and from work, and obviously I didn’t count on having a stomach virus. It was not a good week for exercise. I lost just over 10 pounds thanks to the flu, 5.5 of which I’ve gained back in the last week. But hey, that’s still a net loss of about 5 pounds, bringing the grand to-date total to 16 pounds lost. I can’t say I see the difference, but I feel better.

It’s hard to stay motivated now that it’s colder outside but I manage. This week I tried walking to Gwen’s daycare in the evenings, about twice the distance I’d normally walk in one trip (roughly 1.5 miles), but it’s very cold and a little treacherous due to ice on the sidewalks. On the upside, I’ve found it’s easy for me to walk that far now–that wasn’t the case three months ago! When spring comes it will be the perfect walk to end my workday.

Other than that, I’ve moved a lot of my exercise time indoors due to single-digit or lower temps. Tim is jumping on the “get healthier” bandwagon with me, and we’ve started playing Wii Sports in the evenings (I walk or jog in place between turns). I have yet to convince him to try Just Dance, but someday, someday. 😉

I’m still playing Health Month with success–it appeals to the overachiever in me. Despite last week’s setback, I haven’t had much difficulty following my rules, so in February I plan on tackling 6 rules instead of 3. I worry that I’m upping the ante too much too soon, but then remind myself, what’s the worst that could happen? Plus I’ve built in a bit of flexibility such that I get a free day each week.

One of the things I’ve been pondering is my motivation for continuing this project in the long term… what about it will keep me going after this has become routine? When the weight stops coming off? Or when I suddenly just don’t feel like doing it? My biggest fear is falling off the bandwagon and not getting back on. It’s funny because I’m really enjoying this new routine and you’d think the enjoyment would be motivation enough, but it’s not that simple. I suppose it just goes to show, even enjoyable things require effort.

Part of this means looking at past experiences and examining what caused them to fail, so I can make this round “stick.” A few points come to mind…

  • In the past, one failure meant total failure. Broke the no candy rule? Eat the whole bag. Forgot to exercise one day? Stop exercising for the rest of the week. I can’t let myself get bogged down with slippery-slope thoughts.
  • I have a tendency to let my actions (or lack thereof) have an unhealthy impact on my self-esteem. How much I eat, what I eat, what I weigh and how I exercise has no bearing on my worth as a person…. except in my mind. A single failure does not mean I am a failure. It’s a necessary distinction if I’m going to be successful in the long term.
  • I’m easily discouraged by big goals and I often fail to take into account the smaller steps and time required to achieve more complex things. I didn’t have the patience for “big picture” thinking in my early 20’s, but now I’m starting to understand the value of making small, incremental changes over time.
  • I have a tendency to set myself up for failure by being too inflexible. For example, forcing myself to do one type of exercise for a set amount of time every day. This is something I’ve become better at in recent months–finding alternatives when the usual routine falls through or when I simply want a change of proverbial scenery. Allowing the occasional indulgence such that I don’t feel trapped or left wanting.
  • And finally, boredom. If my mind isn’t occupied or if there isn’t a short-term goal to be met, I’m less likely to enjoy something, and therefore much less likely to continue doing it. Ever since I got a phone this hasn’t been a problem–there’s always a game to play or a show to watch, right at my fingertips. I’m surrounded by tech–“boring” can no longer be an excuse.

I’m happy to say I’ve reached the point where this new lifestyle is not a huge physical challenge for me. I feel much stronger than when I started this process back in October, and it’s nice to see a noticeable improvement. At some point I’ll want to step it up, but for now I want to continue enjoying the experience without pushing it.

The real challenge is a mental one. Committing to my goals while at the same time accepting the occasional failure and moving past it (better yet, accepting that an indulgence is just that–a worthy indulgence, not a failure!) It’s hard. Getting past that annoying little voice in my head that says “I don’t wanna!” from the moment I get up until the time I go to bed. I suppose what I’m really trying to figure out is where that voice is coming from so I can shut her up… or at least get better at ignoring her.

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visualize whirled peas

I’m not much for resolutions, but I did make one promise this year.  One promise, and I think it’s the key to all the promises.

I promise to be nicer to myself.

I’m going to remember what it feels like to be comfortable in my own skin (not just in body, though that’s a big part, but in mind and spirit, too).  Because there was a time in my life where I was much more appreciative of my strengths, and less debilitated by my weaknesses.

Really, there was!  I swear!

See, I have what I like to call a case of the “shoulds”.  I’m pretty sure most of us have these, actually, to varying degrees.  But I think mine got out of control.

“I should go grocery shopping.”
“I should call my mum more often.”
“I should eat less and exercise more.”
“I should have gotten a better education.”
“I should be working at a better job.”
“I should take more photographs.”
“I should be more outgoing.”
“I should be more adventurous.”

I’ve piled all these expectations on myself – some of which are reasonable (“I should shower every day” – my co-workers probably appreciate this one, and I do, too!) and many of which are not so reasonable (“I should be perfect” – oh, c’mon, perfection can’t be that hard to achieve, right?).  So I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that lately it seems I’m drowning in a lake of guilt – guilt for not calling friends, guilt for not eating well, guilt for parting my hair on the left instead of the right, guilt for not being smarter, thinner, prettier, more academic; you name it, I’ve probably felt guilty about it.

I’m going to point out the obvious here:  Too much guilt hurts.  Eventually you start feeling guilty for feeling guilty!  Which makes you feel even more guilty!  Shit!

Last summer I came to a point where I said to myself, “Self, you have everything your little heart could possibly desire.  You have a beautiful life with a wonderful person and two crazy cats, you live in a beautiful house, and you have a stable job that has excellent benefits.  Slap on a white picket fence and you’re living the American dream!  So why, for the love of god why, can’t you just sit back and enjoy it?”

Guilt.  Because I’m trying to meet impossible standards and I haven’t accepted myself for who I am.  And feeling restless and unbalanced inside means feeling restless and unbalanced about everything else in your life, too, no matter how good it is.

So, I declare this the year of getting back to good.  I’m not even sure how I will keep this promise, but the other morning I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and said, rather quietly, “I like you.  You’re okay.  You’re doing just fine.”  And I’ve repeated it every day since, whispering it to myself as a mantra when I start to feel anxious or overwhelmed.  Reassurance that I don’t have to be perfect, that I can just be me, and that’s enough.

And it’s funny how forcing yourself to let go of some of those expectations really lightens the load.  Enough to, say, start eating healthier, without really having to think about it.  Or wanting to take photographs again.  Or redesigning your Web site for the first time in nearly a year, which is exactly what I did this week.  Not because I felt obligated to, but because I wanted to.

There’s a lot to be said for letting things go, for giving up expectations that may have outlived their usefulness, for letting life wash over you instead of paddling frantically against the current.

I like you, you’re okay, you’re doin’ just fine.

And lo and behold, I am.

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