There is a wonderful phrase from AA (I think) that goes like this: Poor Me..Poor Me…Pour Me A Drink. Well, maybe for many of us it would be Pour Me A Milkshake. Or Poor Me…I need chocolate. Or french fries. I have been thinking lately about how I generate bad feelings, and then turn to food to self-soothe. My feelings are a result of my thoughts, so I am trying to challenge negative thinking right when it happens…easier said than done but I believe I am onto something…
We lost our beloved Mamie in July. We had 11 wonderful years with this old, sweet girl. I used to joke that Mamie was The Christ, The Buddha – She was better than any of the rest of us, and we knew it. Mac and I were with her at the end, stroking her soft fur, telling her she was a good girl. A holy moment. But our daughter, who cannot remember a time before Mamie, was 3,000 miles away.
Our hearts were broken.
So I handled my grief, and my daughter’s, in the most rational, well thought-out way: I got a new puppy, three weeks after Mamie died. I didn’t want my daughter to come home to a house without a dog. I didn’t want to be without a dog, either, although my husband gently tried to warn me that this was a terrible idea.
And it was. The new pup was adorable, sweet tempered, smart. And full of diarrhea. And also dander that constantly made me struggle to breathe. Our house and yard are not set up for a puppy. Eli came home from her pre-college program, loved the puppy mightily, and then got on with her senior year of high school, meaning she had no time for a puppy. I was angry, felt sick all the time, was eating non-stop, and knew I had made a mistake.
So three weeks after we got her, the pup went back to live with her mom in the beautiful valley in Southern California from whence she came. The breeder asked if she could give her to her sister, who lives next door, meaning the pup would get to see her mother, and the little boys she lived with the first 8 weeks of her life.
So really, the puppy is fine. Me? Not so much. As ANYONE could have predicted, we could no longer distract ourselves from the grief over our precious Mamie. My daugher sobbed over giving up the puppy, but even she knew it was mostly over Mamie.
I wish I were different. I wish I could handle a new puppy right now. I judge myself. The other day I saw a homeless guy, who looked frankly psychotic. He had a happy little dog by his side and I thought: Really? HE has the wherewithal to handle a dog, but I don’t? I suck.
I know myself better than I used to. I know my limits, and limitations. I know I’ve lost 53 pounds, in part, because I got better at acknowledging my needs. I know there was a time in the past I might have kept the dog and gained all the weight back. I could have tolerated all the challenges of a new puppy by stuffing myself, numbing my anger. My husband, and Heather at HSM, were so supportive and encouraged me to practice radical self-care, even in the face of all the judgement that (I imagined) would come my way for giving up a puppy.
I also know my current feelings of inadequacy over this debacle have lead to some stress eating as well.
Kristen Neff, at SelfCompassion.Org , has some comforting things to say about giving yourself a break when you screw up.
~When we practice self-kindness, we are compassionate with ourselves in the midst of imperfection.
~Common humanity is embracing the fact that being imperfect is part of the
~We deserve to treat ourselves with compassion even when our suffering is self-inflicted.
This last one is, by far, the hardest concept for me. But I trust that the more I practice this, the less I will punish myself for being human, and flawed. If you feel you’ve failed, perhaps you are prone to punishing yourself in a myriad of ways; my prefered method is over-eating. But I am working on it.
The main thing in life is not be afraid of being human. ~Aaron Carter
This week I finally hit the 50-pound mark! I’d been hovering right above it for a long time, but this week – success!
I was listening to a podcast I really like, The Life Coach School with Brooke Castillo where she talks about the false belief that losing weight will make you happier. I understand what she means: it won’t solve all of your problems, it won’t fix broken relationships, or crippled self-esteem, all that jazz, and I, of course, agree.
But I’ve lost 50 pounds, and I gotta tell ya: I. Am. So. Much. Happier.
And here’s the crazy thing: I still have 50 or more to lose. I’m only halfway there. By any measure, I am still fat.
But, I am happier. Why on earth, you might ask? What has made me happier is a sense of empowerment. Setting goals, following through, and achieving an objective.
Small goals, hit them out of the park, feel proud. Repeat.
Heather at Half Size Me talks extensively about the value of keeping your word to yourself. I learned the concept of self-efficacy from Heather: that feeling that you can trust yourself, you know you can make things happen.
In the past, when I made great grandiose plans, like: I’m going to lose 50 pounds in 3 months! I couldn’t keep my word to myself. I suppose there are people that can, but I couldn’t. Or worse: I lost a bit of weight, then gained it back quickly. Promise broken.
I felt so defeated and ashamed.
And that chips away at your soul.
It chips away at your self-esteem, it makes you unhappy. I realized it wasn’t just the weight that made me unhappy, it was the failure. I mean, I would wake up every single day, full of plans and optimism, and fall asleep every night feeling defeated. I would say: I’m gonna lose weight today! I’m gonna exercise A LOT! I’m not going to eat sugar! I’m going to eat tiny portions and eschew carbs or fat or whatever was being demonized at the time, by the end of the day I hadn’t exercised, I had eaten so much more than I planned, I felt defeated, I had no idea, really, how to make my goals happen.
My goals were too diffuse, too big, I couldn’t achieve them, and I felt like shit. When I started working with Heather she had me break the BIG goal into smaller, achievable steps. At first, I didn’t quite get how this was EVER going to get me anywhere. How in the world is this going to pay off, if all I am doing today is going on a 20-minute walk, or addressing my negative thinking, or tracking my food? But with time, and a bit of success, I saw the wisdom of this strategy.
At the end of the day I could say to my sweet little self–that self I had lied to and failed over and over again–I could say: I made a plan, and I stuck to it. I picked something out that was achievable to me, and I stuck to it. How kind is that to yourself? Most of us, who have been truly obese for a lifetime, when it comes to weight loss are so beaten down, defeated, demoralized.
So, I improved my ability to keep my promises to myself, and when I pulled it off I would celebrate, and then I would do it again the next day. And then, slowly I added goals that were more challenging, building on those little habit changes over time.
So what made me happy, long before losing the weight? Feeling competent. Feeling like I had my back, feeling successful. Feeling less anxious, too, because I didn’t expect the impossible of myself. Keeping my word to myself.
There’s also this: I just didn’t give up.
I was taught to keep a tidy house, and to not waste food. So, here I am, fridge a mess, and I might end up throwing some of this away. And I can live both things. To me the big deal is always ALWAYS having healthy food on hand; proud of this habit change. File this under progress, not perfection. Shhhh…just don’t tell mama.
P.S. Still haven’t hit the 50-pound mark. Still have kept 44 of the 49 pounds off.
Don’t worry, this post isn’t about eating more broccoli, chard, or kale, although kale…mmmmm.
Nope, I have been thinking about how to make 2017 a good year. OK, a better year than 2016. I know, I know, everyone likes to rag on 2016 and I miss Prince and Carrie Fisher and Bowie as much as the next girl, but 2016 was rough for my family because of the people we lost in real life. My dad died. One of my very best friends died. My daughter had 3 teenage friends who each lost their mom this year. Two friends who were really at the heart of our social circle passed away this year. Friends, too, lost family members or are tending to wounded loved ones. We attended three funerals the last 6 months of the year. My poor girl; a lot for a teen to bear. Poor everybody. So I have been contemplating what is actually in my control this coming year, because apparently the grim reaper is not.
Then I found this little meme on FB that leapt off the page at me.
Guy #1: “Why so optimistic about 2017? What do you think it will bring?”
Guy #2: “I think it will bring flowers.”
Guy #1: “Yes? How come?”
Guy #2: “Because I am planting flowers.”
I’m going to try to have an emotional green thumb this year, plant the seeds of what I want to bring forth.
I’ve been thinking about how far I have come (42 pounds gone), how far I still have to go (a lot), and what I can do differently this year to cheer myself on.
I like the idea of rewards for weight loss goals. Theoretically, weight loss, like virtue, is its own reward, but when you have a long way to go, and you’ve been at it a long time, the rewards on the scale and in clothing sizes are slow to come. I have been toying with the idea of setting a short-term goal, and then buying myself something I would never. Like a big, beautiful fig tree. A stylish tree, the kind you see in all the home decorating magazines, and on Houzz. I’ve considered getting one for years, actually, but every time I look I think: I am not spending that much money for a decoration. That will eventually die on me.
But I saw one in a little flower shop right next to my favorite Starbucks.
I know. weird, right? But hear me out. I live in the desert. We’ve lived here 19 years, I’d like to think I bloom where I am planted and yadda yadda yadda, but I do miss green. I crave it. If I work really hard at my goals and reward myself along the way maybe in a year my living room will look like this:
So, what do you think of rewards as you are working toward your goals? And is it corny to ask how you will bloom this year?
Down 43 pounds so far
This week my trainer Thayne confronted me about something he is seeing in my behavior. He said that my commitment to getting to the gym has seriously fallen off, and then, when I am there, I am more likely to give 50-60% effort, instead of the 90-95% effort I had given in the past.
It was hard to hear, and I could tell, hard for Thayne to say. He told me something that really woke me up: He sees people quit when they start to behave like this. They lose their momentum, they get out of the habit, they don’t see results, so what is the point? I do not want to be one of those people.
We talked about how the lack of consistency and progress make it less fun, too. There have been times when I have loved this—pushing myself, doing something I didn’t think I could do, telling Thayne I can handle more weight, or pushing through to do the last few reps when I didn’t know I had it in me. Lately I have just been crabby a lot. OK: Bitchy. Complain-y. I know I complain a lot less when I am really feeling committed.
So he asked me to think again about my “why.” What is my motivation now?
I feel very clear about this: To get stronger and more flexible, to be able to do the things I want to do now and in the future. To hike, bike and have a good retirement and old age with Mac. To travel. To have freedom. To stick around for any grand-babies who might come along. To not be a burden in my old age. To stay mentally sharp. I’ve heard it said that fitness is the key to independent living as we age, and I want to be strong and independent and well, yes, I’ll say it: Bad Ass. Feisty.
I see role models who are doing this every day as they age. Thayne tells me about clients who recover from all sorts of injuries and ailments. They come in and do the work and push through. I see that my commitment is flagging when I skip work outs because I am “busy,” or have the sniffles. Lame.
I liked that I was becoming a person who would push through discomfort instead of giving up, and I do NOT want to lose that. It’s kind of Zen-like: An individual work out doesn’t make a difference in how I look, but wow, does it make a difference in how I feel!
And yes, of course I want to lose weight, but I know that mostly comes from the fork and not the gym. I felt less pressure when I took weight loss off of my goal sheet at the gym and just put getting stronger as my primary goal. But there is no denying it: Even at this weight my body looked better when I was working out harder and more consistently.
So those are most of my whys, but I have one more. I have never had someone who has cared as much as Thayne does about how I am progressing in the gym, how I am progressing with my physical goals. Having him as my trainer is a gift, one that I am stupid to take for granted. He said, “You are important to me; don’t quit.” That meant so much to me. I am working on finding that voice inside my own head that says to myself, “You are important to me, don’t quit.” Thayne is teaching me how to say that to myself, and I am so grateful.
down 47.2 pounds so far
I reconnected with my oldest, dearest friend this week. The kind of friend you can not talk to for months but you pick up the conversation right where it left off. We live on opposite sides of the country now, but there was a time we lived across the street from one another, worked together, and saw each more than we saw our husbands some weeks.
Carol and I met when we were both in the same women’s group in L.A in our mid-twenties. Oh, those were the days: we met weekly with the most wonderful leader: Lynn was warm, funny, intuitive; a savvy, accomplished Earth Mama. And the women in the group were amazing: young, earnest, funny, neurotic in the best possible sense, fiercely supportive. We’d retire to the front porch of Lynn’s comfortable home after our session and just wouldn’t leave. Sometimes Lynn would join us; other times she would laugh, shake her head, shut the door to her house and just let us hang out.
When I talked to Carol this week we talked a bit about the past: do you remember after the big Northridge earthquake in LA when we?…do you remember the night we?….Do you remember that person who?….
And then I started thinking about how Carol has always had the most exquisite bullshit meter of anyone I know. Even living in La La Land she was never impressed with celebrity or wealth. She gets a funny gleam in her eye when someone is going on and on, pontificating, especially if they don’t know what the hell they are talking about but keep going on anyway. She won’t rebuke, but you know she is on to you. I have seen her look at me that way more than once (I do go on and on).
Carol didn’t know I had a blog. And I thought of sharing it with her after we spoke, but thought: what if I am just full of crap? What if she thinks: “Jen, you have been saying the same thing for years, fighting the same battles, not really changing, not really getting anywhere.” Would Carol say that? Think that? I don’t think so, but it sure reminded me that I tend to think that about myself. It’s the philosophical question I was pondering when I very first started writing this: how much can I change? How much can anyone change? How much is fixed in our psyches from the start, and how much is fixable?
I am who I am. I am still Neurotic. Funny. Fearful. Messy. Full of crap sometimes. Full of Love most times. But I know for sure that I am changing the parts of me that keep me trapped and unhappy.
I think, for me, being overweight has always been like wearing my flaws on my sleeve. Most of us have something to hide, or bury, something we don’t like about ourselves. If you are slender maybe people don’t see your flaws so quickly. If you are overweight you get to assume that THAT is the flaw, just the weight. But of course it is not. For me, my weight has been so intimately tied with my flaws in thinking, my unhealthy ways of moving about the world that is has been impossible to tease out and separate the two.
I am so in awe of the friends I have, like Carol, who loved me pretty much from the start, in spite of my weight, in spite of the flaws both immediately visible and the ones you only try to share with those you trust. Friends like that remind you of your beauty, too.
I trust Carol completely. I am working to trust myself more and more and that is the kind of change I know without a shadow of a doubt is doable.
So I shared the blog with Carol. And she shared something with me. She reminded me of a poem that Lynn gave us thirty years ago. Wow. It resonated then, and resonates now.
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
By Portia Nelson
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.