The Difference

Today was a very busy day for me at work and while that’s generally a good thing (and it generally was good today), it afforded me little time to think about/plan for eating. Some of you may think, “Perfect!” But not so, my friends. Not so. Lack of thought and/or planning generally ends in a binge for me. And, sure enough, the moment I walked in the door at home this evening I began thinking about what sort of leftover Halloween candy I could begin shoving in my mouth.

I was starving, a little stressed, and my body was desperate for quick energy. And while I did eat a couple pieces of chocolate the moment I walked into my kitchen, I also took a moment to think about what lead me there.

I already know tonight is going to end up a bit of an emotional eating night for me. My last update, I talked about falling out of love with strength training/weight lifting and how I would just proudly wear my Cardio Queen crown and enjoy the movement and my regular physical activity. Well, just as what almost-always happens when I pile on lots of various cardio-focused activities: I’ve developed terrible, terrible shin splints. Adding 2 miles of running three days a week to my existing walking routine of anywhere from 3-6 miles/day was too much too soon for my lower legs. Add that to a pair of new running shoes that were not a great fit for my forefoot strike and heavier body weight? Disaster.

I’ll have to stop running for at least 2 weeks. Right as we come into November. 5 days before Daylight Savings Time ends. Smack in the middle of a struggle with SAD. This is obviously a little upsetting for me.

Will tiny candy bars heal my shin splints? No. Will they give me a little bit of an endorphin boost, release some much-needed serotonin? Absolutely! And so I shall eat them – after consuming a nutritious, well-balanced dinner to prevent over-eating them. And I shall enjoy them. And it will be good.

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Non-Weight Lifters Anonymous

Hi. My name is Jess and I’ve fallen completely out of love with weight lifting, strength training, “toning”, whatever-the-heck YOU like to call it.

The idea of doing squats and deadlifts and push-ups and presses and rows and curls and lunges and… all of it… is entirely unappealing. I don’t know what happened, folks. I don’t know where it began. I think part of it started after canceling my gym membership in order to save some money (since I wasn’t going very often anyway!), perhaps the idea of moving heavy things around my basement just wasn’t quite as appealing. When I began this whole “week 1” of purposeful weight loss back in June and set a training guideline for myself (moderate to heavy lifting 3 times a week! running 3 times a week! all the sleep! all the protein!) I may have inevitably set myself for failure. It was too large a commitment. It’s what lead me to giving up not-quite-a-year earlier. It was not sustainable.

Here I’ve been beating myself up inside my head for “abandoning” strength training, worrying myself silly over loss of muscle mass as I cut calories, and even concern for my future bone density, when, really, my main goal at this point in my life is regular, consistent, sustainable physical activity. I take at least two walks a day 6 days a week. I am currently two weeks in to a run training program that has me doing short runs 3 days a week. I go hiking and/or trail running one day a week. I walk between 10,000 and 15,000 steps every day. My estimated TDEE is 3,200 calories which allows me to still eat all kinds of delicious food including dessert and alcohol “splurges” here and there while maintaining a caloric deficit. My pants are even starting to fit better! Yet, here I’ve been the last several weeks forcing myself to do a strength-based workout here and there when it doesn’t give me anywhere near the same endorphin boost resulting in  the warm and fuzzy feeling that a long walk, a quick run, or a hike through the woods does. For me, the most important part of a sustainable exercise program during the colder, darker months is that mental health benefit – and right now, cardio of all shapes and sizes is what gives me that. And even still, I’m having more days where I’m struggling… which is an even better reason not to force myself to participate in exercise I don’t 100% enjoy.

So, for now I’ll be a bit of a cardio queen.

Indulgence

I have spent the last couple days indulging the hell out of my depression and today has probably been the worst of all. I’m reaching the point where a piece of me is enjoying the familiarity of sadness and ennui and actively battling against taking the proper steps to work through and out of this growing pit.

Coming down with that tiniest bit of a cold last week combined with the rainy weather this week has me completely off my daily walks even though I have access to a treadmill and a YouTube playlist full of yoga, cardio, and strength training videos. Sleep has also either eluded me (insomnia) or I’ve neglected to make it a priority (fear-of-insomnia) all week this week.

I keep justifying these poor self-care choices by telling myself, “At least you’re not smoking!”

Well, yes, at least there’s that.

…oh, yes, by the way… I quit smoking. 27 days ago, in fact. It’s going really well! I’m really fucking proud of myself! I’m all buying into the process of it… the mantras… the implementation intentions… all of it. It’s hard and I still have cravings here and there… mostly when I’m feeling like this or drinking heavily or both… but, overall, I’m really happy with my decision to quit.

Okay, okay, great. So, that’s really super. But continuing to honor my commitment to myself to quit smoking does not justify being crappy to myself otherwise.

My plan is to go for a long walk despite the rain later today and maybe, like, go to bed at a decent hour even though it is a Friday night and Friday nights are generally reserved for alcohol and staying up too late… but… yeah… also, like, maybe get up in the morning and maybe walk some more or hike a trail or some such physical activity type thing. Despite the rain. Despite. The. Rain. 

Writing this out has really helped. I’m feeling a little less sorry for myself. Thank you, Reader, for indulging my down-ness so that I might process and move past it.

I don’t want to celebrate your weight loss

Edit: I wrote out the entire post below only to realize how absolutely hypocritical it all is since the majority of my posts throughout this year (and on this blog in general) have had everything to do with having a “weight loss goal” – nonetheless, I am really proud of the below writing and am sharing despite how hypocritical it may all seem. The fact of the matter is, I’m not okay with having, what feels like, my entire life revolve around weight loss being a goal. Do I love being 219lbs? No. Do I feel proud of myself for successfully losing 6lbs in August after gaining even more weight after writing about my most-recent weight loss goals back in June? Yes. Yes, I do. I managed to accomplish that loss without letting myself get hyper-focused on my body and turning the process into a way to punish myself for being a fat person. Really it’s not even the loss I’m proud of so much as it is the self-care choices I made with love and positivity that resulted in weight loss. So, now that I’ve gotten super defensive and justified myself to a small group of people who probably don’t even really care, I’ll leave you to reading the real portion of this post:

I sat down to write this with the idea of doing some bullet points; Reasons I Don’t Want To Celebrate Your Weight Loss. But as I started to compile that list, I realized there aren’t necessarily many true reasons outside of: I just don’t want to. I don’t want to be made to feel that I have to. I also don’t want to participate in unproductive Fat Talk; to shame mine, yours, or anyone else’s past, present, or future body shape or size. To be clear: I don’t, not for one second, think that you shouldn’t be glad for your weight loss if you’ve accomplished it by healthy means for yourself, for your health, coming from a positive place – but I don’t want nor agree with the social pressure to worship you for this accomplishment. I don’t want to celebrate your weight loss and I don’t want you to celebrate mine, either – and I sure as shit don’t want to revel in the failure to lose weight, whether that failure be mine or yours or his or hers.

I want to say weight loss shouldn’t be a goal, but simply a pleasant side-effect of a healthy and productive lifestyle. I really, really want to say that and feel it and mean it genuinely, to preach that there are so many more worthy goals! I’d rather celebrate your promotion at work, your recent decision to go back to college, your child’s success in school or hitting a new developmental milestone – I want to lift you up for accomplishments of worth that don’t have a single fucking thing to do with your body and gravity’s effect on it; to say I want those things in return. But, really, the last 6 years of my life,

[Jesus… six years of my life… that just sunk in.]
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weight loss has been my ultimate goal in all things despite how often I preach loving my body and claiming I can be happy with whatever-my-current-weight/size-at-the-time-is for the rest of my days on this planet. And usually when I write those things, I really do mean them. It is a truth for me in that moment. And it is absolutely true that I now come to physical activity and exercise from a place of love, health, and (most importantly for me) mental health vs self-hate and punishment… but more of my days than I care to admit are spent feeling uncomfortable in my body, hyper-conscious of what I look like at all times, hyper-aware of how others may view me, body checking in any reflective surface available to me, and wishing wishing wishing I had the “self control” to severely restrict my food in order to shrink myself, to make myself smaller and somehow more acceptable despite all the scientific evidence that very-low-calorie-diets are merely a temporary solution that ultimately result in even more weight gain – despite the fact that my weight, my size has absolutely nothing to do with who I am as a person, how smart I am, how kind I am, whether or not I’m a good wife, a good mother, a good friend. I also know that weight loss isn’t a self-control game, it isn’t willpower – and willpower is a finite resource easily depleted and not-so-easily replenished, but that doesn’t stop me from sitting here thinking about Halloween being right around the corner and trying to decide if I can feasibly and carefully starve myself down 15-20lbs in the next 4 weeks to not feel embarrassed about the 30 I’ve packed on since last October. I know full well that if I did what it took to make that happen, no matter how fucked up and disordered, I’d have at least 20 people singing my praises and begging to know how I accomplished such a great feat!

So, no, I don’t want to celebrate your weight loss. Because you are more than your weight, your pants size, your body fat percentage. I will not begin nor contribute to conversations about how fat you are or I am or she is or he is. I will not participate in conversations about others’ food or exercise choices. I will not tolerate judgement of my food or exercise choices. Most importantly, I will do my best to lift up and celebrate all your accomplishments that have nothing to do with your body and everything to do with your substance and character.

Daily Prompt: Pretend

Funny that today’s Daily Prompt subject is “Pretend,” since I was just thinking about the half-truths we tell ourselves when it comes to our health.

Stay with me here…

I came down with a cold last week, probably around Tuesday-ish? No big deal, just a little stuffy, throat a little scratchy, a little sneezy, and a little fatigued. I was diligent about my bedtime all week, remembered my vitamins everyday, steered away from junky food for the most part, etc. I took Friday afternoon off work to catch some zzz’s and try to avoid full-blown sickness, which, for the most part, was successful.

Friday I wasn’t as active as I normally am. I pretended this was okay; I wasn’t feeling well, rest is important, etc. Saturday followed suit. I felt pretty down and emotional most of Saturday. It was a day full of Fat & Ugly Attacks. The fact that I had a wedding to attend that afternoon and not a single dress that fit that would be appropriate for the occasion just exacerbated the situation. I was almost in tears by the time I threw something together at the last minute (after hours of shopping for a new dress or outfit and coming away unsuccessful) – but I sucked it up because, really, who’s looking at what the guests are wearing at a wedding? The focus is on the bride. I had a wonderful time and didn’t stress too much about not being 100% comfortable in my outfit of choice. After three glasses of wine I really didn’t care! Funny how that works, huh?

Fast forward to Sunday morning… I wake up feeling well-rested, but otherwise like garbage both physically and emotionally. I’d developed a cough and my congestion was worse. And, boy, did I feel real sorry for myself. I did a little cleaning, ran to the grocery – all in a fog of random sadness. I slept the entire afternoon and when I woke up that familiar, negative voice began its diatribe in the back of my mind; “Way to waste the whole day, lazy.” “This is why you’ve gotten so fat and are just getting fatter – you’re lazy and have no self-control.” “You think that apple fritter you ate this morning is going to help with your weight loss? You think it’ll help you recover from this head cold? Way to go, stupid.” And so on, and so on, and so forth… By 6pm I was beginning to give myself over to it all, beginning to indulge those nihilistic thoughts of how meaningless it all is and why even bother with taking care of myself, with life in general.

And, finally, after 6 years of never managing to remember until it’s too late how directly connected my depression is to lack of physical activity, it has sunk in. Even though I have this head cold and was feeling pretty crappy, I went and put on my running shoes and some sweats and headed out for a walk. I walked 2 miles and I came home feeling like a completely different person. Not just that, but my cold symptoms weren’t bothering me quite as much anymore.

Yes, rest is important when you’re sick and if I were running a fever or experiencing any type of body aches/flu-like symptoms, etc., I likely would not have made myself go take a walk or any other type of exercise. I really had to think about whether or not I was making this decision is the name of punishment (for the apple fritter, for the depression, for my body fat percentage), or if I was honestly trying to help myself. And, it turns out, Little Miss Negative hadn’t totally taken over my brain and I was making a good decision and was genuinely trying to help myself to feel better – and, better yet, it worked!

via Daily Prompt: Pretend

Revelations

A few days ago I had a Fat-And-Ugly Attack, which means a moment (or an hour, an afternoon, or a couple days, or even sometimes a couple weeks) where I am really unhappy with my weight/body shape/hair cut or color/acne/insert-random-looks-related-insecurity here. Now, over the last 6 months I’ve really bought into all that cognitive behavioral therapy I’ve been paying to receive for going-on three years, and started preempting and battling these “attacks” with positive affirmations out the wazoo – but it really wasn’t until this last week that I realized how well they actually work and how much easier it is for me to push through those feelings of insecurity and bring my mood back up. I realized, holy moly, I actually am super comfortable in my skin these days. I might actually like myself. I am finally, finally!!, working on weight loss from a place of love and health instead of hate and punishment. I move my body on a daily basis in ways I thoroughly enjoy and because it makes my brain feel good; I watch my portions and casually track calories because my body feels better when I’m not overeating or overindulging in sweets and other high-fat foods. As a result of these things I am slowly losing some pounds. But I realized, even if I don’t lose a bunch of weight, that’s okay. I’m still really happy being me and I like the way I look a majority of the time – and, really, am finding so much more worth in spending time with friends and family discussing thoughts and ideas instead of focusing on what my body looks like all the time. I think that’s really about the best thing a person could ask for after years of struggling with nasty self-hate spirals.

On another positive note: I upped my Vitamin D intake a couple weeks ago and it seems to be really helping me manage my SAD. Between that and my commitment to 2-3 short outdoor walks during the day on work days, I’m very hopeful that this fall and winter will be a bit more manageable than the last few years. This, coupled with my positive affirmations, should be a big help in keeping up with my diet and exercise through the colder, darker months. November through late-February/early-March has always been a huge roadblock for me when it comes to successful weight loss. During these months I’m tired, I’m angry, I’m depressed. I want to hide under blankets and drink a lot of alcohol and feel sorry for myself which almost always leads me to minor binge episodes, a complete lack of motivation to exercise, and, consequently, weight gain – or, at the very least, plateau. That gain or stall then further fuels my feelings of hopelessness (just one more thing to add to my list of failures!) and so the cycle continues. But this year, I have implementation intentions… just a fancy way of saying I have a plan to avoid failure. I’ve already spoken to my mother-in-law about using her treadmill in the afternoons and/or evenings when the weather is either too cold or rainy/snowy to walk or run outdoors, I’ve begun implementing a strength training routine that I’m enjoying and look forward to doing a couple times during each week, and I have a YouTube playlist filled with various yoga, dance fitness, and low-impact cardio videos to fill in the blanks around outdoor cardio and strength training. Earlier this year I purchased a goal planner and am dedicated to using it to track my workouts, mood, and sleep and it’s been a big help in keeping me focused on my end goals. And speaking of sleep… I believe this will be my secret weapon in battling my fall/winter depression. I’ve been really dedicated to hitting my sleep goals as many nights each week as possible and I’ve become really conscious of how not getting enough sleep effects my emotional well-being. I’ve even had times I’ve been able to curb random sadness or irritability just by recognizing I didn’t sleep enough and promising myself an earlier bedtime or even a short nap when possible.

A lot of what I’m doing right now is basic self-care, but feels like a huge step for me. There have been many times over the last couple of years where I’ve felt like it would be absolutely impossible for me to ever get to this place. This is not to say I don’t still have days where I struggle (see above Fat-And-Ugly Attack) and where I’m just not great at using the tools available to me, days where I sort of wallow in the self-pity – but those days are becoming fewer and provide great perspective in helping me recognize the good days and appreciating them even more.

This update is a little drawn out and self-congratulatory, but, f*ck it, I deserve it!

Hello!

Time for what’s becoming a monthly check-in it seems!

So, I’ve been thinking about my lack of consistency with this blog and I think part of the reason I’ve been so slow with the upkeep is that I’ve all of a sudden become really self-conscious of what I write here – of what people might think or how I might be judged. I don’t know why. I don’t know where it’s coming from. But that’s why there’s been so much radio silence. I’m sorry, Readers. Now that I recognize what’s causing my disconnect from regular writing in this space, I can hopefully feel the feelings, work through them, and move on.

In the meantime, a little update:

August has been, frankly, kind of miserable. My 4-year-old was sick with pneumonia for 11 days, I had to cut short a long weekend trip that I was so looking forward to, my 10-year-old has had the worst attitude about everything (hormones maybe?), I began training for a new position at work (I fear change! So much!), I experienced some heated confrontations within my social circle that brought some things to a head, and once I moved through all that our vacation week was upon us and became more of a Hell Week than Vacation. I had a solid two weeks of feeling pretty depressed, but I think I’m coming out of that now – thank goodness – and on top of all that, all exercise with the exception of walking has fallen completely to the wayside. However, on a much more positive note: I’ve reconnected with some old acquaintances and am building new friendships with those folks as well as making some brand new friends! I’m also focusing more on doing things that I actually enjoy with the people I most enjoy spending time with instead of doing things out of a feeling of guilt or obligation (or fear of conflict); I’m really enjoying my training for my new position at work and am super stoked to begin with my own tasks next week, I’ve kept up with my regular walks, I’ve lost 6lbs. by tracking calories and being reasonable with food choices (and hitting my 10,000 steps goal most days!), I’m motivated and planning to get back into a regular exercise/lifting routine, and really happy with my self-care priorities despite my short depressive episode. Oh! And I’m trying to stay positive about the approaching fall; planning some fun trips and activities to look forward to, etc.

So there we have it. Hopefully I’ll be checking back in soon!