Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Mind Game

What happened last winter that started me on a mostly successful road to healthy eating?

It was a feeling of despair, yes, but more than that, it was a realization that I DESERVED to have a better life than the one I was giving myself. I deserved to be happy with myself.

How did I come to this point?

I’ve been thinking about it….it was not so much how did I get so fat that I was despondent about it – I’d been there many, many times in the past, after all.

I think the process actually started about 3 years before when I finally took my hands off my eyes and admitted to myself just how fat I was.

That is, I wasn’t just whining because I ‘looked so fat and ugly’ – I actually clinically admitted that I was way past overweight – even past fat – and into obese. I admitted to myself that my weight was stealing happiness and experiences from me. I started to use the words fat and obese honestly in regard to myself. Previously, I had been ‘politely’ using words like overweight and heavy or big.

Being the Queen of Procrastination, I had put off actually admitting to myself just how much of a problem my weight really was. I had admitted that my self-hatred was a negative aspect of my life, but I had never really confessed to myself that I was obese. I did not let myself see that my weight affected such basics of my life as sleep, energy, and hygiene.

When I finally used the word ‘fat’ and described my body the way it was, suddenly I was not so defensive and sensitive about anyone else alluding to my problem. It was no longer the elephant in the living room, so to speak.

I wrote about two experiences I had that related to my weight….and I gave those ‘essays’ to some of my kids to read! NEVER had I talked so honestly to anyone about what it felt like to be me in this body. The responses I got were so supportive and understanding, that I suddenly felt free to accept me just as I was. It was as if all those years I had been thinking that no one else noticed how fat I was or how difficult it was to be fat so I had to pretend the problem was much smaller than it was.

The two experiences I wrote about happened within days of each other in the fall of 2005. The blinders had been ripped off my eyes and I was face to face with how big my problem really was. (pun intended) These experiences were painful and humiliating, but they did serve a purpose.

Slowly, as I began to accept the sad truth, I began to try to see myself as others saw me – not the strangers who maybe saw a fat slob, but my family and friends. Many people loved me and, in fact, thought I was quite wonderful. I started to accept their love and appreciation in a new way – which allowed me to begin to actually like myself….ALL of me, not just bits and pieces. I still did not like to be fat, but I started to try not to let that color my relationships or my activities.

I tried to watch what I ate, and not stress about ‘diets’…..I began to learn about nutrition and how to eat healthier….of course, the fact that Jim was told his cholesterol was very high was a big stimulus for that, but I began to benefit as well. I actually lost about 15 pounds – without trying – by the spring of 2007. I had been faithful in walking on my treadmill for about a month before we embarked on a month long road trip through many of the states. I planned our trip to include some sort of hike/walk every day and I took many extra steps in order to get a good photo….often climbing on something or stooping down…..I was more active than I had been in a long time – even though we spent most of our trip sitting in the truck. We even climbed a volcano! I thought I was going to die, but I made it to the top and then back down. I got home from 30 days of eating in restaraunts having lost about 3 pounds. Not bad.

Within a few months, we were unexpectedly moving to Louisiana. There was a lot of stress involved in this move – the biggest being leaving our family behind indefinitely. We lived in our 5th wheel trailer, which, while being large for an RV, is quite small for a house. Jim was gone most days by 6 am and then often worked until 8 pm or even later (like all night) for the first 6 weeks or so. Housework didn’t take long…..I knew no one…..I didn’t have a vehicle for the first month…..I missed my kids and my friends……so I spent a whole lot of time sitting on my butt in front of the computer – it was my main connection to home. I did walk to the grocery store every day, but I got into the habit of buying a chocolate bar on every trip. When I am bored, I tend to eat.

By the time Dec 13 rolled around, we had been down south for about 7 weeks and I had GAINED 5 pounds – in spite of walking more than I had in many years! This is when I decided enough was enough. I actually took stock of all the ways being fat affected my life (well, probably not all of the ways, but many) and I decided that I was worth enough to myself to change things. Getting help was not so much because I did not think I was good enough to be able to do it alone, but because I thought enough of myself by then to do whatever was necessary. Even though I had a hard time believing any plan would work for me, I knew that I was worth the effort.

To sum up…..

first I had to quit pretending I was not as fat as I was – I had to be honest with myself.

Second, I had to accept myself for what I was….fat and all.

Third, I had to admit to others that I knew I was very fat.

Fourth, I had to let all these mind changes simmer for awhile until, to my surprise, I found out that I liked myself enough to make the effort it would take to make real changes in my life.

My weight loss is much slower than I thought it would be, but I’m OK with that…..it is an adventure, really…..I like being surprised by the changes in my body and in my outlook on life – if I lost it all in a year, those surprises would have happened very quickly – and ended quickly too.

One of the reasons I have been pondering this process is because of the exercise issue.

Except when I was going to Curves, exercise has always been something I HAD to do in order to lose weight. My Curves experience was fun…I loved the workout and my gym was very social – the staff kept people talking and having a good time – even while making sure we were working hard.

Unfortunately, going to the gym requires a full hour of driving and a minimum of 45 minutes at the gym – then, because I’m in town, there is always some other errand to take care of so I was spending at least 3 hours every day going to the gym. As well, there were times that I had to consider the price of fuel to drive that much and now, with the future of Jim’s job being very shaky, we have decided that there is no way we can afford for me to begin to go again.

So, I’m back to working out at home……something that has always been a chore – no matter what fancy equipment Jim has purchased for me (at my request.)

I do not want exercise to be a chore….I want to enjoy it, to look forward to it, to crave it. I want to be strong, have endurance. I want to have the increased energy a fit body would give me and, as icing on the cake, I want to look firm, fit, and sexy (or as sexy as an 'almost old' lady can).

How do I get there?

It isn’t going to happen just because I force myself to do something 3 times a week. (I don’t want to have to force it, remember) I might reap the benefits of exercise, but I would still hate it and as soon as something came up to derail the routine (and something always comes up) I would be back to avoiding it.

One of the best tools I used when I began to eat carefully, was visualization…..identifying the things that would change as I began to get smaller. I still do this from time to time - and have the added tool of marking 'milestones' as I call the changes in my life. I pay attention to these things and remind myself often what has changed. (For example, I notice my pearls hanging in an oval instead of a circle - every time I look in the mirror. That always makes me smile)

In the book I am reading, “Does this Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat”, the author repeatedly asks the question “What do you want your life to look like?” This is just a different way of doing exactly what I did before I started to lose weight.

I think this is what I need to do…..identify the things I will get out of incorporating exercise/working out into my everyday life. Identify HOW I can do it, but mostly what differences it will make in my life.

I’ve been flirting with working out for some months now…..I wonder if I am to the point where I am ready for a relationship?

At any rate, I’ve realized that my path to taking the final step toward permanent weight loss took time and that the way to permanent activity/physical fitness will be similar….maybe I’m there, maybe not…but I have a feeling I’m close.


MizFit said...

awesome post. powerful raw and yet so very optimistic.
(and you know I wholly believe in the visualizing component)

you can do this at home when youre ready.
you can TOTALLY get the fitness level you want with out the DRIVING.

you done flirting?

bbubblyb said...

Great post Karyn! You will find a plan for the exercise. I know for me it was walking outside in the beginning, it was something I really enjoyed. You'll find your nitch. I know for me my driving force most with exercise is how it makes me feel. I just need it now like I use to "need" ice cream. It sooths me and helps me feel good.

~TMcGee~ said...

Karyn, sometimes when I read your blog, I literally feel like I'm looking at myself at a different stage in life...it's uncanny! Anyway, I really love the visualization portion of your pearls hanging in an oval instead of a circle....very good!

arlene said...

You're a strong, smart woman and you have everything going for you. Your mind is definitely being renewed...and that is the key! Go, go go!

Lyn said...

I loved this post. And I agree you have to find something you LOVE to be your lifestyle activity/exercise. I love walking so I do as much as I can. I don't love biking, but I like mindlessly watching tv. So I put the bike in front of the TV and get on when there is something I want to watch. Find something you can enjoy with your exercise like music or something. It might take awhile but you'll surely find the thing that drives you to keep going for more!