Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Journey

For the past several weeks I have been on the journey to better health and fitness.  I realize that the last line just read like something you'd find on the cover of "Shape" and it is a little odd to call something a "journey" when it only involves darkening the door of a gym, but work with me here.  I finally came to the end of the excuse making and the whining, the shaking my fist at the thunderous sky, and the regret of the Ghost of Bad Food Decisions.

There were many of those.  It took awhile.

If this was indeed a journey, and the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, then you must know that the two inch step onto a scale was the hardest one of the journey.  It is one thing to know that you are outgrowing your clothes.  It is obvious not only to you, but to everyone around you.  But to actually see the extent of the damage is like seeing that Visa bill in January after a big-hearted Christmas buying binge.  A little shocking.  Some quick denial.  Some berating and moaning.  Then acceptance.

The number I saw was - thankfully - lower than my worst fear.  Not much lower, but lower.  It was heavier than any so-called "healthy" female ought to weigh, and there was no longer any wiggle room to do anything my way.  My way involved doing really well for a time and then failing.  My way was to celebrate everything.  My way was to wonder what I'd have for dinner that night because I hadn't planned or defrosted anything and usually meant a stop somewhere on the way home.  My way was not getting me anywhere I needed to be.

So, I found somewhere that made sense, received some help and advice from a friend who has walked this path, and then I drove up to the gym.

I suppose I should note that in spite of my weight, I spent the better part of 2013 at the gym.  I did an hour of cardio four days a week that involved 30 minutes of an elliptical machine and 30 minutes of a recumbent bike.  I did the occasional class.  I hit at the weights but didn't advance my weight up as I got stronger.  I don't know if it was ignorance, laziness, or the fact that I lost my gym partner (Jill) in July when she transferred to another branch and worked a lot of nights.  But somewhere in there, I just gave up the dream of being able to chip away at the poundage.

Basically, I didn't hurt myself, but I didn't really help myself either.  Plus, I've since learned that you cannot out-exercise your food.  If you aren't losing weight...it isn't the exercise.  It is what you are eating.  Unless, of course, you are running marathons or something.

I have no immediate plans for that.

Yet.  Okay, FINE, ever.

The truth is, I resented having to worry about this at all.  I wanted to be free to eat what I wanted, to be free of this extremely large monkey on my back that keeps me from wanting to go to reunions or even see family sometimes.  It makes me not care about shopping for clothes because nothing fits well and I'm basically limited to knits in size OMG.  I became that person who worries more for the concerns of others because caring for myself just seemed like a lost cause.

Maybe you've been there.  Maybe you've just seen folks with weight problems and wondered how they could possibly not want to lose the weight.  Perhaps you have someone in your life that you love dearly and cannot seem to convince to put down the potato chips and get off of the couch.  I just know that I was lucky enough to have people love me in spite of it, and who prayed and waited for me to come to the conclusion that doing something was mandatory and not optional anymore.

It is difficult sometimes to explain the changes in what I am doing because I'll either launch into a detailed explanation that is more than anyone really wants to know...or I'll keep it close to the vest because I'm still just starting out.  But what I'm doing doesn't matter as much as the fact that I'm doing something that doesn't involve drugs, shots, or anything wacko.  It is a solid plan that keeps me accountable and so far, it is working.

For years, I have joked about Weight Watchers being "rehab" for me because I'd tried and failed at the program so many times.  My first introduction to it was in 1977 at the tender age of 14 years.  I lost a few pounds and then got active and it came off.  I succeeded once - in 1987 - and actually hit goal, but didn't make it through the maintenance program.  The problem was not so much losing weight.  It was much deeper than that.

I have unsuccessfully tried to manage food addiction by myself for the past 42 years.

In this day and age, every syndrome and weakness of humankind is called a "disease" or an "addiction" - so bear with me here.  There really isn't anything else to call what I've been through and like people addicted to alcohol or drugs, it isn't something that I'll just get over.  It is an ongoing project.  Although I'm "on the wagon" - so to speak - right now, all it would take is a toe in the water into the realm of some foods that set me off every time, and I'd be back on a spree to regain the poundage that I've lost over the past several weeks.

I'm not kidding.  And it's not pretty.

People talk about being addicted to chocolate.  For me...that's child's play.  I won't even go into my list because it is quite extensive and embarrassing.

And yet, I'm grateful that it is food rather than something worse.  At the same time, I'm angry that it is this because it is so incredibly hard to balance.  You must eat to live.  Every day is a tightrope.  Events can send you off the rope and into the gutter, so to speak.  It can be as simple as a holiday, a funeral, or a birthday.

My birthday is Saturday.  I've requested a fruit tray as a cake.  People just sigh.  But that's okay...because the fruit tray will be tempting enough.  Not because I can't have fruit...but the fact that I must limit how much of it I can eat.  The whole tray is actually no problem for me.

Sad, but true.

I'm already down a size and working toward being down another.  I feel better, I'm working extremely hard at the gym (5-6 days a week) and I have decided that I must not fail.  Not that I have to be perfect...I just have to stay faithful.  If I do something stupid like misinterpret the amount of something I'm allowed to have and it's an honest mistake...fine.  If I know better and do it anyway...not fine.

One of the things that is the most difficult to do is keep changing routines to keep my body guessing, do things that my body doesn't really remember doing - like running - and keeping my head straight when Pharrell (my scale) doesn't cooperate.

Back to the journey analogy...it is beginning to feel more and more like one.  In fact, if I may borrow from my experience doing Avon Breast Cancer 3-Days (1999 and 2000), it is exactly that.  Just like I couldn't walk the entire 60 miles in one day, I cannot get through this journey in short order either.  There's too much to learn and too far to go.  Fortunately, I have good coaches, friends, and cheerleaders along the way.

And a few people I'd like to set straight.  But I won't.  That happens anytime that you start to see any success.  They are there to be "buzz kills" so you won't get too full of yourself.  They shoot flames of doubt and bad advice and horror stories so you begin to wonder...even if just for a moment.  Since I know they are coming...I'm ready for them this time.   Not that it doesn't hurt...and not that some of them don't mean well.

I'll keep you posted on the progress and I plan to keep writing about it...whether I actually post it or not.  Just know that I'm in a season of trying to get straightened out and that I don't expect anyone to be on board with me just yet.  My family is tired of watching me get to a point and then give up.  My close friends have been as supportive as they can be when they've been down this road before.  My work associates have seen me do this for six months and then gloriously fall off the wagon and gain it all back.  And then some.

Why is this time different?  Actually, I don't know that it is...other than the fact that I am willing to pull out all of the stops to make it happen.  I've given up my pride and just told a couple of them how extensive the damage is.  I've requested and received help in food preparation, encouragement, exercise, and keeping me accountable.  So far...so good.

Yes, it is good that I am able to finally leave alone foods that I know will set me off instead of flirting with disaster.  It is good that I don't dread the gym and because of food planning don't have to think about what I'll eat today.  I already know...I planned it last night.  I have my workout partner (Jill) back and am receiving help from someone who knows what I need to do in what combination to make the most of my time in the gym.  I have a husband who is delighted to support this endeavor in any way he can.  And he does.

If you are out there in the same boat I've been in before I started trying to swim for shore...take heart.  Put down the processed foods, the sugar, the foods you "can't live without" and the excuses.  Just start imagining the freedom you will have when you are under discipline.  It is very real...the peace and the knowledge that I'm doing all that I can do - today, anyway - to make it to the shore.

If you know someone who needs to be out of the boat and in the water, then learn all that you can about nutrition and just start living that path.  Make it so attractive that someone will willingly hop out of the boat to join you.  That's what did it for me...and I'm very grateful to my friend, Beve, for not only NOT pressuring me to follow her...but actually trying to discourage me from it if I wasn't serious.  It made me understand that this was "for real" in a way that I wouldn't have had I done this in a halfway manner.  (I had another word for "halfway" beginning with "half" but keeping it G-rated, here.)

Thanks for reading about where I am so far and for any prayers that I'll be successful.  I honestly have given myself no choice but to make it this time.  No backing up.  No giving in.  Not an option.  Advice is sometimes welcome, but I'm really just doing all that I can to get through the day on the right track...so dealing with jackwagons who tell me stuff like "be good during the week and then eat what you want on weekends" and "don't push yourself too hard...you are 50 years old, you know..." is exhausting.  I need folks who give me a "high-five" or comment on my dedication to showing up and doing my best much more than telling me that they can tell I've lost weight.

I don't just want to lose weight - I want to eradicate it.  Losing something leaves the chance that it can be found again.  I don't want that option.

Off to another day on the wagon.  Hope it's a good one.  :)

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