Almost too down to write…

I’ve been getting my butt kicked lately by my greatest personal foe…depression.  For anyone who knows what it feels like, it sucks.  I hate this.  I swear, I felt better just a minute ago and then I tried to write…and sunk right back down into the abyss.  I know this will pass and I just need to get through it, but I just get so tired of getting through it.

But…I’m better than I was last night and better than I was Friday morning.  Those were two very low moments, like the kind where red flag thoughts pop up and you know you are in deep shit.  But, I’m hanging in there and doing my best to get through.  Missed 2 workouts this week on Wednesday and Friday, but doing any this week might be considered a win considering my current state.  I tried to run last night…and started stepping into crosswalks not caring to look for cars.  After 2 miles of feeling lower with every step, I sat and watched the sunset…which made me feel worse. I could see it was beautiful and it would make me feel happy and peaceful on any other day…and knowing that somehow just highlighted and deepened my misery.  I sat there wishing a hole would open in the earth that I could just fall into.

Yep, low.

Not as low today, but definitely still struggling.  I did go for a run today and enjoyed it, did 6.3 miles and enjoyed the sun.  Got back feeling pretty good, then just slowly sinking again.  But, I think if I keep at it and make the right choices right now, I can finish rising up out of this.  I feel just an inkling more will to rise today than I have lately.  It feels like it has been months, but realistically it has been about 10 days of struggling with about 3 days of “oh oh, this is bad”.

I hate to set public goals right now…because I don’t want to set myself up.  What I will say is that I will keep trying.  I will do my best to get through each day and try to make each day a little better than the day before.  I will do my best to keep my workouts on track and keep to my eating plan.  I will recognize self destructive thoughts and behaviors and do my best to make choices that help take me forward.

At least I haven’t gained any weight, I can feel good about that.

Advertisements

Why Failure is Impossible

So many of us are so afraid of failure.  But, we can stop being afraid.  Failure is like the “boogeyman”….it doesn’t exist outside of your own mind.  It is a made-up thing we use to scare ourselves and each other, we threaten the boogeyman of failure to scare us into trying harder.  BOO!

Problem: fear of failure makes people afraid to try…which is the only way failure becomes real.

But, if you never give in…Failure is Impossible.  You CAN’T fail if you NEVER give up!

Every success is preceded by unsuccessful attempts, that’s just how it is.  But, if you allow an unsuccessful attempt and the boogeyman to get to you…it can become real failure if you allow yourself to get discouraged and give up.

See unsuccessful attempts as what they really are….unsuccessful attempts, not failures.  Who said that just because you haven’t arrived yet, it means you will never get there? That’s just stupid.  It only means that you are still on your way.

This post was inspired by my own wobble in my steadfast plan.  No big deal….today I get back on track.

And guess what? I will get off track again at some point.

And, do you know what else? Uh, huh.  I will get my ass back on track again.

And, you know what I won’t do anymore?  I won’t waste precious time and energy wallowing in self criticism over getting off track.  WASTE.OF.TIME.  Instead, I choose to spent that same time and energy getting myself back on track.

Stats: past few days…no clue on calories or anything…and only one workout on Saturday.  Mostly because I was out of town at a retreat.  But I did eat healthy foods.

Good news, today’s weight only up 1 from last Thursday before I left and that may be due to “hormones”.  So, I figure, I’m no worse for the wear….yet.  As long as I dust myself off and get back up and on track today, all will resume and I can resume my inevitable march forward.

Eh, I intend to run today but feeling a wee bit unmotivated.  TIME to go hit pavement.

Goals for this week:

*stick to the eating plan and be more consistent with my food journal again.

*hit every planned workout this week (including the run I am currently avoiding).

*write a blog post at least every 2 days (I think every day is unrealistic and unnecessary)

*work on managing stress in healthy ways

Negative Encouragement. Why Do We Believe that Criticism is the Key to Improvement?

Things are going well…ish. Well, but not perfect. And there’s where it begins, the inner critic jumps on to each and every imperfection and harangues me.

I have come to realize that underneath all that, there’s a mistaken belief that has been there as long as I can remember, that the way to improvement is through unrelenting criticism. Even worse, if you berate yourself before you make mistakes….then you can avoid them better. Encourage yourself towards wanted behaviors with stern commands and all the reasons why you’re a shitty person if you don’t. We even use this technique on others, our children, our spouses…

If only that worked. But it doesn’t. Oh, sometimes you might get a small short-term bump, but the cost is so high and the balance at the end will always be negative. Humans need positive encouragement, not criticism.

My banned words are: should, shouldn’t, must, can’t, …and all other words that fall under my new classification “negative encouragement”.

My first reaction is still “programmed” in the old way of my childhood….but I am working on recognizing, realizing, and then changing those reactions.

Instead of criticising myself for not posting to this blog as regularly lately because things got hectic…I decided to just sit down and write a post.

As for the weight loss journey:

I’m down 2 more pounds and that makes 18 total.

I did miss 2 workouts this week, but I don’t feel bad. One was after being up all night with a sick dog who finally fell asleep 30 minutes before my alarm. I decided that my planned workout would be worse for my body in such a state of sleep deprivation and that turning the alarms off and getting the extra 90 minutes of sleep would be the better choice. The other was pure accident. My husband came home from a work trip sick with the flu on the same night we had an event at school. Distracted, I left my phone in my car….and woke up with barely enough time the next morning to get to work.

I did turn the normal Saturday rest day into a body work day, but I might be too sore to do my run today😞.

My eating has been mostly “on-plan” with a few “woops” moments. But, I make a point to avoid letting a woops moment become a total derail.

So far, so good.

When you feel yourself sliding, find your reason to recommit.

It was a tough week, mostly due to work stress.  Not because I got hit with something big, but all the little things just came a-flying all fast and furious.

Crap piled up fast and then every time I tried to get something done…someone or something would interrupt and it wouldn’t happen, stress just kept mounting…the more behind and overloaded I felt, the more people kept casually adding more.

I even had a mini-meltdown on Thursday morning….something about “NO matter how much I do or how hard I work, I just can’t seem to get ahead!!!!”😭😲😤

Like all meltdowns….it was sparked by something stupid and trivial, but it was a “last straw” “drop that overflows the bucket” kind of moment.  How stupid? How trivial?

I got the laundry put away in the morning, was trying to get things ship-shape before I got to my morning workout…and as I put the empty basket in the closet….it was instantly filled with the laundry that had accumulated while the previous load was in progress.  The meltdown began with “goddammit can’t the laundry basket be empty just for one fucking day!?!?!?!”

I am sitting here laughing as I remember it….such a typical, classical human moment.

We all have them.

Later the same morning, just as I hit the pavement with my running shoes on…I had a flash of inspiration.  Rather than keep feeling tossed around by life and work stress, I made a quick decision that would help me feel like I was back in charge of it.

All of a sudden, I felt like I would be ok, I found a way to be back in control of things and moving forward.

Today is another “inflection point” day as Sundays often are for me.  Friday night and Saturday I went a bit “off the rails” and ate.  I needed a break from counting calories, so I just didn’t.  I allowed myself to feel a little freedom, but I didn’t go too far overboard either.  It was nice.

But today is a day to recommit.  I made a do list, I made sure my run was a clear priority, and I recommitted myself to be back “on-plan” with eating.

I did truly need the break, and I think taking it is what allows me to stay fully committed today.  That said, today is a critical point of inflection, recommit and blast forward and upward….or flounder around and begin a downhill slide.  I choose onward and upward!

Oh, and the best part….despite my “holiday” break from my strict regimen this weekend, I still dropped weight and hit numbers I have been waiting to see😁.  I am currently down over 16 pounds and have less that 15 to go to hit my goal weight.

My biggest win this week was not missing a single run or workout day. 😎 I didn’t do everything I planned every day, but I didn’t miss a single workout. That’s a big whopping win.

In the end, I got through the week successfully and am back on top of it again.  Today’s run:6.5 miles.

Shame (1/29/19)

*I decided to begin posts with thoughts and move my stats to the end.

Thoughts for today: Shame was on my mind the last couple days…

As is true for many people, I have some issues with shame when it comes to food, my body, and weight.

Things I realized recently:

*NO matter my weight, stepping on a scale in front of someone fills me with shame and a sense of vulnerability.  I can tell someone honestly my true weight, but I can’t stand on a scale in front of them.  Something about stepping up with them watching is just too much.

*When I tried mindful eating (eating while actually focused on the food instead of on something else like TV or talking or reading), it made me severely uncomfortable.  Seriously, I was deeply disturbed by eating consciously and it didn’t matter what I was eating.  I realize now that my intense discomfort was a sense of shame, shame in the simple act of putting food in my mouth!🙁

 

It has gotten me thinking and reflecting on my relationship to my body, to my weight, and to food.  As it is true for most people, it is rooted in the past, in my childhood.

I began my life tiny and often underweight. I was not overweight until the second half of third grade,then I was very overweight in grades 4-5, went on my first crash diet in 6th grade, was close to normal weight in 7th, then up and up all through high school and into college.  As a point of fact, what was happening in 3rd and 4th grade was a boy touching me inappropriately at school and I felt powerless to stop it.  It was not my first time having that sort of experience either, but somehow this was the one that finished off what little dignity or self-love I had left.  I handled all this by eating my feelings.

But, then my parents noticed I was gaining weight.  They thought shaming me, teasing me, and telling me how fat I was getting would somehow help…you can guess how that went.  Funny, they never even asked themselves what might be fucking wrong with this poor girl.  But, as I mentioned before, I didn’t have it all roses at home either.

Anyway, it started to be that it was not ok to eat.  If I had a snack when I got home from school and my dad walked in…it was a moment of humiliation for me.  So, I would purposefully position me and my food so that I could hide it fast if I heard anyone coming.  Then my portions at dinner were scrutinized and I would be chastised if I took too much food, publicly shamed and teased at the table.   “Oh, you keep eating like that, pretty soon we will need a block-and-tackle just to get you through the door!” That was one of the favorite things to say.  I didn’t even know what that was, but I knew what it meant about me.

So, I guess it makes sense that eating feels shameful even as I’m trying to soothe myself with it.  What a catch-22! No wonder I have food issues!

Since then, I have been working on this shame feeling.  Recognizing it, seeing its source, and working towards feeling ok when eating.  Instead of trying to distract myself, I try to take true moments to eat and appreciate my food.  I don’t push away my feelings of shame when they rise, but I allow them to surface.  I remember the little girl hiding her food and I show her compassion and unconditional love.  I am now able to eat without needing to distract myself.  I consider that a win.

*As for the scale, it think it was PE class.  I was teased at school about my weight, I was teased at home about my weight.  I deeply felt that my weight was something shameful.  In PE, we would line up to be weighed, girls near me would be side-eyeing me and giggling, I heard them say things like “I bet the whale breaks the scale!”.  The teacher always had the scale turned so kids couldn’t see it, but I would be standing there, hearing the laughing, hearing their jokes….and wishing I could just fall into a hole and disappear.  It makes sense why I hate standing on a scale in front of anyone.  I won’t even let my doctor do it, I just walk past their scale and say “NO thanks, but if you need to know,  I weighed — this morning.”

Shame can be a powerfully destructive force.  I find that most people with difficult or abusive childhoods struggle with it.  My advice, don’t run.  Like a rabid dog, shame will chase you down and tear you to shreds if you try to run.  When shame rises I find it helps to:

*Acknowledge it, allow it to rise freely.  Trust yourself that you are ok, safe in your own mind, and strong enough to work through it. (If you aren’t there yet, find a loving and compassionate person to help guide you through).

*Ask  “who is feeling this shame right now? From where did it come?”  Be aware, things can come rushing through at this moment and there can be some overwhelming pain come through.  Don’t hold it in.  Cry, sob, allow this stuff to manifest and come out.

*Try to see who is feeling this way -likely a younger, smaller, more vulnerable you.  Visualize them and ask what it is they need to be comforted.  What do they need to hear? What love or acceptance or compassion or protection or what…do they need?

*Provide it to yourself.  Hug yourself, accept yourself, stand up for yourself, feel compassion for yourself, offer love.

*Try to see the source of these feelings.  Acknowledge the experiences that created the damage, without wallowing in it, accept what happened.  Remember that the events are from the past, but the feelings are here now.  Tell yourself that all of this is ok, then chose to take a step forward.

Goals for today: stick to my eating plan, do my planned bodywork and 5 mile run, manage the mounting stress at work.

Yesterday’s end-of-day stats: 1/27, 1/28

Calories:   858, 1253 , Protein: 96, 95   , Hydration: 63, 46

Activity: 1/27 ran 7.2 miles!!, 1/28 sore legs=walked 3 miles instead of run, but did body work as planned.

Pounds down so far: 14

 

More Thoughts on “Inflection Points”

Ok, before I write about the title, I must celebrate.  I ran 7.2 miles today when 5 was the plan, and I feel fabulous!  

In my last post (written just before the fabulous run today), I referenced the idea of “inflection points” posed by Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.  

More thoughts on that:

First, the Calculus teacher in me, feels compelled to reference the obvious parallel with the points of inflection for a function.  If you don’t know, a point of inflection in a function/graph is where it changes in concavity.  This is where the curvature changes.   If it is curving upwards (imagine a bowl) it is concave up, if it is curving downwards (imagine an umbrella) it is concave down.  A Point of inflection is the moment when that curvature shifts from one to the other, like the middle point on the letter S if it was turned sideways.

In life, being in concave up is good.  It means that things are already good, or are about to get better.  See, even when you are “going down”, concave up is slowing that decline and shifting it towards a “turning  point” where you begin to go up.  Once you are going upwards, being in concave up makes that rise go increasingly faster.  See this image, and imagine it is is you:

1.1

Or, as can happen when we are doing well and hit a “challenge moment”…

2.1

The main thing is to IDENTIFY these places for you to the best of your ability.

Make a list: Identify moments when you have had difficulty making positive decisions in the past.  What kinds of situations or events or people or feelings or interactions or other stimuli make it harder for you to make positive decisions?

I am still working on my list, but let’s use the cupcakes at the staff meeting.  I know I have had difficulty before with wanting one or wishing I could have one, feeling deprived when I see others enjoying them when I feel I shouldn’t, etc.  I could even expand that to any occasion where treats are out and being offered and enjoyed by others and I feel this way.

Make a plan for each:  Have a specific strategy planned and in place for these moments.  Heck, role play it in your mind.  Here’s the big, important piece to this step – your planned strategy MUST end in a reward.  It won’t work for you AT ALL if it ends with something bad (like feeling deprived).  You need to find a way to respond that leaves you with a reward – one that is even better than the alternative.

For me, I imagine the situation and me politely saying “no thank you, they look great, but I’m not hungry” (this avoids the cajoling other can do…oh, you can have just one, it will be ok, why don’t you want one? etc. etc.) and I don’t want to be the “better than you” person who says “oh, I don’t eat that stuff” because that just makes everyone else feel bad and it makes me an asshole.  So, it works great to say, “no thanks, I don’t want one right now” or “no thanks, I’m not hungry” something like that.

Here’s the KEY: then I will imagine how EMPOWERED I feel, how in control and successful I will feel, I imagine giving myself a high-five and congratulating myself on a job well done.  (NOT feeling deprived, feeling empowered).

The research shows that people who are PREPARED for moments of weakness and have a PLAN of how they will respond are more likely to navigate them successfully.

It makes sense, we are less likely to respond well when we get “blindsided” or surprised in the moment, especially if that moment happens when the willpower tank is running low.

What I now know: I need to make a plan for when I feel discouraged or disappointed in the results of all my efforts.  I mean – winning is easy, but what makes or breaks you is how you respond to losses, right?

Hm, now the hard part.  In the future when I feel discouraged/disappointed in my progress I plan to respond by: ??

Take a personal inventory that will help me see how much positive progress I have made instead of dwelling on whether or not it is going “fast enough”:

*Do I FEEL better most days now than I did when I started? (answer:HELL YES)

*Do I have more energy now and do I feel healthier now than I did before I started? (another HELL YES)

*Do I weigh less than I did 2 weeks ago?  1 month ago?  YES, YES

*Have I noticed positive changes in my body composition? YES

*Am I consistently moving forward or backward? Forward.

Then: Remind myself that moving forward is the real goal, feeling better is the real goal, being healthier is the real goal.  The weight WILL follow too at it’s own pace, be patient, and keep moving in the right direction.

Now I just need to keep thinking about what else is on my list and what responses to have in place.  It might even work to make an actual document and print it, put it in my purse…that way I don’t even have to try and remember my planned strategy, I can just take out my paper.  When a new one pops up that I didn’t think of, I can make a note on the same paper to come up with a strategy idea later (or right then if I can).

If I do make said document, I will share it, in case it might help someone else.

 

 

 

On Willpower, Self Discipline, and “Inflection Points” (1/27/19)

Thoughts for today:  The timing of this book could not be better.  I am reading an amazing book, The Power of Habit: Why We DO What We DO in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg…and the timing is beyond perfect.

*I had a hard moment yesterday, and by a hard “moment” I mean for about half the day.  The day started well, my REST day Saturday.  All was going pretty well, and then a series of things led to feeling discouraged about my progress on the scale.  And, I now realize, feeling discouraged is a trigger for me or, as described in the book above, it is an  “inflection point”.  It is a moment of potential weakness in my progress, it is something that can easily derail me completely.  As it also turns out, the moments just after “blowing it” are critical as well.

Funny, I have been reading this book for a few days, bit by bit.  Today, as I had my morning coffee, I picked up the book and found myself reading chapter 5, which focuses on willpower.  The title of the chapter is “Starbucks and the Habit of Success,  When Willpower Becomes an Automatic Habit”.  As it so happens, the contents of this particular chapter are EXACTLY what I needed to read today.  So timely, it is as if by design.

What I got out of this particular chapter and how it relates to me (and you?):

*The question I have asked myself many times, why do I seem to have great willpower in some moments and none in others?  It turns out that there’s a body of research that shows willpower can get “used up” and that moments when your willpower tank is low on gas can leave you more vulnerable to challenges.

It would explain why stress can leave you more susceptible to “off-plan” decisions and weak moments.  If you have had a long, bad day which required much willpower and self-control, it leaves you low on the inner strength needed for whatever decision is next.  It explains why I can successfully resist the cupcakes at a staff meeting, then go home and binge later when that staff meeting was particularly disheartening (yes that has happened).  Or, sometimes, I don’t have the willpower to resist the cupcakes at all.

My take on it is that when the tank has been systematically drained, if you don’t do something to “refill the tank”, you run the risk of failure at the next moment of challenge.

The trick is to figure out what can “refill your tank”, and that is something unique to each person (although you can get ideas from other people and try them out to see what works for you).  But, it is more than just that.

You have to REALIZE when things are draining your tank, be able to OBSERVE the levels dropping, and PLAN how and when you can TAKE ACTION to refill the tank BEFORE the levels are too critically low.  See, if you wait too late, the willpower needed to DO the thing that will refill the tank isn’t even there.  That is when you are primed for disaster.

 

*Ok, but it seems like my willpower tank has had greater capacity a certain times in my life and somehow less capacity at other times in my life.  YES.

It is true that your “willpower tank” can be drained by tasks and that running low can ruin you.  It is also true that daily and intentional exercise in stretching the capacity of this tank CAN make it grow to larger, even remarkable, capacities.  There’s research that shows intentional exercising of willpower in one critical life area results in overall improvement in many areas.  It explains why making one significant change successfully in your life can lead to multiple areas of growth and improvement (which I have personally observed).  For me, it is the “boost” I feel from success in one area that makes me feel more empowered for positive decisions in every area.

Unfortunately, the opposite seems just as true for me.  The discouragement of “failing” in one area can bleed out and seem to spark a series of bad decisions in many areas.

It also seems my willpower tank has certain weak points that, when struck just right, can blow a damn hole in the side and drain the whole thing almost instantly.  Then, not only is the tank empty, but it can’t be refilled either….all the effort to refill just seeps right out that giant gaping hole.  Until the hole is somehow repaired, no amount of refill will work.

 

*The next big thing I got from the book is what the author calls, “inflection points” (p 183).  I interpret this as these critical moments that challenge our resolve in special ways because they poke at our weak points.  Some weak points are mostly universal (pain, hunger, grief), other weak points come from our personal histories.  It turns out that people who KNOW their weak points, ACKNOWLEDGE them, and PLAN for them are more successful at navigating through them.  I didn’t realize it, but I was already doing some of that.  I just had some weak points I didn’t realize…and hence didn’t plan for.

So, yesterday, when I felt disappointed at my progress and discouraged, it touched on feelings of failure for me, it sparked feelings of desperation and two competing desires: to go dangerously drastic to get more “successful” results or to just give up entirely.  And the battle was on.

Based on my new understanding: Improving the plan.

*Formalize my list of go-to strategies for refilling the willpower tank.  Include at least one “emergency” strategy that I can use if/when the tank is practically dry – “even if I’m at my lowest, I can still do ___”.

Strategy ideas are: 5 breaths (breathe in energy and light, breath out- release and let go), if sunny – take a few minutes to stop and enjoy the warmth of the sun, my “do just one thing to take one step forward” strategy, reflect on my moments of success and use them for encouragement, take a walk, do some yoga/meditation…to be continued.

I think the 5 breaths can be an emergency strategy – it can be used at any moment even in the middle of class if necessary.

 

*Practice Checking in on my “tank” and check the levels.  Maybe a 0-5 ranking?

5 = tank is full, BRING IT ON! and 0 = I can’t even get myself to do the simplest task…except take those 5 breaths!

What should be the “time to refill” point? 3, I think (yellow – make a plan).  2 becomes critical (orange – do something VERY SOON), 1 = STOP, do something IMMEDIATELY – 5 breaths.

 

*Identify and PLAN for inflection points.  

What challenges my resolve?  As it turns out, feeling discouraged is a BIG one that I hadn’t planned for.  How do I plan to respond to that feeling?

What else should I plan and prepare for?

I plan to spend some time reflecting on this today (while I go for my run) and I’ll write about it next time.