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.
A bit hard to read, I know, so here is what it says:
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?
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.
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 am grateful this morning that my teenager still likes egg hunts and Easter baskets. She has two friends who are like family here today so I made baskets for them as well. Three fun baskets, with minimal candy. There are Peeps, but they don’t count. Not one of us will eat them, they are more of a running joke. Each basket has a very small chocolate bunny, a couple of small packages of Welch’s fruit snacks and a pack of Hi-chews. The boy gets a small box of Harry Potter Bertie Botts in his. The rest is just fun silly stuff: Lush bath bombs. Lotion and body spray. Stuffed bunnies. Plus a street guide for Eli since she just got her drivers permit and I insist that she learns to read a map and know the layout of the city, not just rely on stupid Google Maps.The guy gets little Lego kits, a Star Wars mini collectible.
No M&Ms. No Hershey’s kisses or mini-candy bars or any loose candy that I will eat mindlessly.
This is the third holiday in a row that I didn’t buy bags of seasonal candy. No Kisses wrapped in Thanksgiving colors. No red and green M&Ms to put out in a little dish, you know, for other people at Christmas. And I’ll give myself a “most improved” award for Halloween because I bought candy that afternoon, ate a few mini bars, tracked the calories, and threw away the leftovers the next morning. That’s right: I didn’t send the extras to the troops, or leave it out for the “Halloween Witch” (apparently she’ll take your candy and leave you cash or gift cards—I admire the mom that thought of this). I didn’t take it to our orthodontist, who weighs your candy and give you so much per pound. Nope. I just trashed it.
So let’s review: I, who used to steal money from my mother’s purse and walk to the convenience store and buy Hershey’s chocolate bars with almonds and hide them in my sock drawer… I have limited or eschewed bags of candy holiday after holiday.
I am sure Target, who tracks our purchases in a way that would make the NSA blush, is perplexed: I NEVER roamed those aisles without swinging down candy lane. Putting Hershey’s Kisses (I seem to have had a long, tawdry affair with that brand) in my basket was not just a holiday thing, but a weekly occurrence. I kept them in my desk drawer (see how I matured? Not my sock drawer, my desk drawer!) and never did paperwork without them. Never. I cannot remember the last time I bought them. Ate them. It has been that long.
So when I beat myself up and feel exasperated about my slow progress, I need to remember this. This is a big, big deal for me. It really is an Easter miracle.
Oh, and here is another miracle. The girls found a way to make chocolate cupcakes completely unappealing to me. They made a “unicorn-throwing-up-confetti” cupcake-cake for a birthday we are celebrating today. It is hilarious, it makes me so happy, and will make the recipient howl I am sure, but I’m good with skipping this. Real good.
Did you miss me? I missed me. I have been pitiful of late, and am in the process of turning around my pity party.
A few weeks ago I was at the gym, working on the Hack Squat machine, with my trainer Thayne right by my side, and I felt something pull in my lower back. Something hurt. Felt off. So I babied it, took Advil, used a heating pad, but as the day progressed I stiffened up, was in terrible pain, walked like Quasimodo, hunched over to try and find the exact gait that would lead to the least pain. And it just went down hill from there. After 3 days of pain and self-pity I went to quick care, got an x-ray, and learned the good news: no fracture or obvious injury. And the bad news: evidence of degenerative arthritis in my lower back. So I went right into solution mode. Just kidding. I started eating.
Eventually I was taking prednisone, muscle relaxers and prescription strength Advil. My weight and my eating became wildly erratic.
I was whining to my friends Karen and Sue about this turn of events, and my reaction to it. I was saying: I went right into “poor me” mode.
And Karen said: “You’re good at it.”
She said it gently, matter-of-factly, as someone who gets me and knows my flaws and loves me anyway. I didn’t feel judged, I felt understood. Yep. I am good at going right into “poor me.” Which is gross, in the face of all the abundance in my life, but there it is. Poor me.
I let my attitude get really shitty. But I’ve already started turning it around. I think what helped more than anything was unraveling in plain sight, instead of hiding. I tracked every morsel that I ate. I ate in front of my family, who were supportive but alarmed, instead of stuffing myself in secret. I talked to supportive friends about what was going on. I didn’t blog here, but I journaled. I never went completely unconscious about what I was doing, and that willingness to look at my negative thoughts and behaviors helped me put on the breaks so much faster. I’d call that a type of success, for me.
That success might seem puny to someone who say, is young and fit, an athlete trying to shave a fraction of a second off of a sprint. It’s not like I think I’ll never say “poor me” anymore, but maybe next time I can shorten the time that I stay there, and then shorten the time after that. And the less time I spend feeling sorry for myself the more I feel optimistic, the more I feel energized, the more I search for solutions, the less I feel like I have to eat over it. Which is awesome. So my weight is going back down. Overall I am up about 5 pounds but now I see that an just a small road block, nothing insurmountable. I know what to do to get it back off and keep progressing.
In the middle of all of this I had three friends die. In less than a month. And a hand full of friends of late have been battling serious ailments. It’s heartbreaking and a little scary; harder and harder to stay in denial about my own mortality and aging. But what are my options? Poor me? Or straightening my spine, literally and metaphorically and finding the gumption to take the best care of myself that I can as I grow older. My back still isn’t 100 percent, but today is my last day on steroids, and I am done with the muscle relaxers and super strength Advil. I am stretching and walking. I am going to try Pilates for the first time, and may go back to Curvy Yoga.
Chipping away at a chronic, lifelong battle with obesity is pretty damn flinty. I see now that I shaved a fraction of a second off of the time I spent in “poor me” mode and am lumbering my way back to what has worked: Eating at a (small to moderate) calorie deficit and tracking everything I eat. Being more active – not as much (yet) as a few weeks ago, but moving my body nonetheless. But most of all getting back to savoring slow and steady progress, and not giving up on me.
Struggle Struggle Struggle, Surrender. Struggle Struggle Struggle, Surrender. That is my process. But that’s OK. My old process was Struggle Struggle Struggle, Quit.
I’m good with Surrender.
Here’s what I mean. I have struggled really all of my life with weight. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t overweight, unless it was the few times I had lost some weight and was quickly gaining it back. Think about that. My whole life I have been gaining or losing weight, never just maintaining. So one of my struggles has been:
Oh. My. God.
I haven’t lost any weight since October. But then I got it: My weight has stayed the same. I didn’t gain back what I lost, plus extra weight on top of that. You might not get what a big deal that is, unless you have been through this yourself. I really had to surrender to the notion that for various reasons my weight has been staying the same, and accept that as a blessing instead of a curse. Surrender to the reality of my situation instead of giving up and eating like I used to and gaining all of my weight back. Quitting.
I struggled through the holidays. Struggled with working through my resistance to change. I struggled but didn’t quit, I surrendered to what I needed to do and kept moving forward.
So the last few weeks I have been thinking: I got this. I am tracking all of my food, my head is in the game, I am pushing back against the resistance, I am exercising, I am asking for help, I am eating at home more, prepping meals more often, slipping up less, staying within my calorie range more often… and the scale isn’t budging. And the struggle has been mighty: Much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Heather has the patience of Job; she has listened to me rail against my fate for quite a while now.
Karen and Sue are my sounding-boards, sisters, reality-checkers, cheerleaders, fellow travelers. I have blown up their in-boxes with whining, meandering, poor-me missives for weeks. This isn’t fair… I am trying so hard… blah blah blah.
No one is making me change my life. It is a choice. I like how I am living my life now so much more than I did nearly 50 pounds ago.
Struggle. Struggle. Struggle.
So. I need to lower my calories again. Obvious, I am sure, to everyone else, but kind of an A-Ha! moment for me.
So by that I mean really eat within the parameters I set for myself, quit going over a bit here and a bit there. I am going to try to average 200 calories a day less. I think that will make a difference, but since I track everything pretty consistently: my calories consumed, how much I exercise, my weight, I should know in a couple of weeks if that will make a difference. I will say this: I would rather stay at exactly the weight I am now that go on a crazy, super-low calorie starvation diet. Seriously.
I know that is what happens on Weight Watchers, by the way. As your weight drops you go down in the number of points you get to eat every day. I don’t remember anyone talking about how you deal with that psychologically, but for me it was always hard.
Heather pointed out that when I started this odyssey I couldn’t have imagined that I would be eating the way I am now. Hardly ever have candy? Drink only a few glasses of wine a week? Not eat whatever I want whenever the urge strikes? All of these things would have been unthinkable just a year ago. Well, maybe not unthinkable. I might have thought about these things and thought: Well. That’s it. My life is gonna suck and I am gonna be miserable. But that is SO not how I feel now. I feel great. Empowered. I hardly ever feel actual hunger. I gradually surrendered to this way of eating. And I can take the next step, whatever that needs to be. Just a tweak in what has already been working, a gradual change in my plan and perspective. Surrendering to doing what it takes, instead of wishing things were different.
Oh. Now I get it. I don’t have to imagine how my food plan will look this time next year, I just need to accept what I need to do right now and keep doing the work. I am going to surrender to that concept and see what happens.
Update: I actually started writing this post, and started changing my eating plan last Monday, and guess what? I am down 2.6 pounds this week. A greater loss than typical for me, and I don’t expect that kind of results every week, but I will take it!