Friday, February 22, 2013

2/22/13: Suggestions from Family and Friends

In Wednesday's blog post I talked about the emotional transition I am going through now that I am a couple of months into Phase II of my plan.  I find myself missing the emotional highs that came from my successful weight loss efforts and am wondering if I should try to replace them with something.  I find it emotionally difficult not to be able to measure my successes in this phase as easily as I did while I was losing weight.  I am not struggling with maintaining my weight, I am easily keeping my weight between 152 and 154.5, which is within a comfortable range for me.  I am not struggling with getting to the gym.  I like my exercise schedule and it has become part of my normal routine to exercise every day.  So all of that is good.  What I am struggling with is a sense of loss.  Because I can't measure my progress towards reducing body fat and becoming more fit by doing something as simple as stepping on a scale, I don't get to have my daily or weekly mini-celebrations of success.
The following are comments that I received on yesterday's blog post with suggestions on moving forward.  There are some good suggestions here.  I have followed each comment with thoughts of my own.

From my sister:
I was wondering when this would happen to you. I remember exactly when and how it happened to me. When I was a junior in college, I got fat and out of shape. I decided to lose weight and get back in shape. Then I wanted to make the women’s basketball team. Then I wanted to get into a good grad school, pass my prelims, and get a fancy-pants internship. The summer of my internship is when it happened. After a long day of working on the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and a hard run, I stood in the driveway and thought – I have done all of the hard things, what do I do now? I soon had two kids, so I didn’t think about it much for 18 years or so, but I think about it now.

For me the answer is to have hard things to do almost daily. Hard workouts are necessary for me, but not sufficient. I need to challenge my body and mind by trying to accomplish something difficult almost every day. If I don’t, I get depressed. It helps if the hard things are meaningful, but they don’t have to be. Right now I am training for that triathlon, taking a math class, learning to play the piano and doing my job. On some days my favorite hours are spent doing math homework. I am calm and content when I am focused. All of the natural chaos of the world disappears. This also happens in a hard workout, but I can’t do hard workouts every day anymore.

If you try to achieve your “quick highs” by continuing to lose weight or working out even harder, you are at risk for an eating disorder and injury. You are fit. You are athletic. You need to work to keep yourself in shape, but the rate of your improvement will not be enough to make you feel like you are achieving a goal.

If I were you, I would abandon your body fat goal. You really can’t measure it well enough to use as a goal. Also, if you maintain your eating and exercise habits, your body fat will stay at a healthy level. Some of the latest studies show that decreasing body fat beyond a certain point does not lengthen life or improve health.

This is what I suggest –
1. Help someone else achieve what you have achieved. Now that you are fit, people will start asking you to help them, so pick someone and help them create a plan and stick with it.

2. Pick a sport that you have always wanted to learn and take some lessons.

3.Find a non physical goal that is difficult and requires all of your concentration. Dedicate a certain amount of time every day or every week to that goal. Make your blog into a book. Write a new book. Take a chemistry class. Create something. I have no idea what will work for you, but something will.

Humans are not naturally happy or satisfied (in my opinion). We have to work at feeling good by constantly challenging ourselves just like we have to work at staying fit.

My response:
I have been thinking about abandoning the lowering body fat % as a goal.  I like the idea of lowering my body fat %, because even though I have lost a lot of weight and have been working out regularly for a year, I still think I can achieve some pretty significant gains on improving my lean body mass / fat ratio with a reasonable amount of exercise.  That said, I agree with Ruth, that it is too hard to measure to be a real goal.  I will continue doing all of the things that I have been doing, but trying to achieve a certain number is too difficult, given it is almost impossible to determine the number.  It's interesting to me that my first attempt at a chart for 2013 included a body fat % line.  I was not happy with that chart and when I made a new one a couple of weeks later the body fat % line came off of it.  Now I am tracking exercise and my weight and I have a spot to make comments about how I feel or what I am thinking about.  So as early as mid-January I knew that tacking body fat % was not the way to go.  I just never formally decided to give it up as a specific goal. 
I can see the danger of developing an eating disorder or injuring myself if I continue to focus on weight loss or body fat % as an ultimate goal.  I got a glimpse of the allure of losing weight because, "It's fun," the other day when I started to think about losing another five pounds.  It's interesting how much easier it is to understand other people when you spend even a few minutes in their shoes.  I've been lucky enough to see the other side of a lot of streets in my life.  It pays to keeps one's eyes, ears, and mind open to what is happening around us.  We are often too quick to judge and condemn others.  Until I have walked a mile in their shoes...  So, I am reaffirming the goal to stay within a few pounds of 150, exercising regularly but not excessively, and being fit and healthy.  My goal is not super thinness, but being as healthy and vibrant as I can possibly be.
I can't think of a sport that I have ever really wanted to be good at, though there are a lot of recreational sports that I have enjoyed in the past except for the fact that I felt like I was a drag on the team because I was so poor at the sport.  Volleyball and softball come to mind.  I think it would be a lot of fun to be part of a volleyball or softball rec league, but it would be nice to be good enough that my team members didn't cringe when the ball heads in my direction.  Perhaps actually become OK at one of these sports is something to think about.  I am enjoying learning how to play racquetball and we are playing just about every weekend.  I get better every week.  Jack and I have whacked a tennis ball around a few times, too.  Perhaps tennis lessons this spring would be fun.  I'll give this some thought.
As far as a non-physical goal that is challenging is concerned; in many ways works fills that bill for me.  I enjoy my work and it is very challenging.  On the other hand, it is not quite enough.  I thought I had made the decision to start turning my blog into a book about a month ago but I have not done anything with that.  I have always wanted to learn to play the piano, so piano lessons might be a good idea.  Besides being able to play the piano, I think learning to play would be good for my brain and my left hand coordination.  For years I have thought about buying an alto sax and trying to get half-way decent at playing the saxophone, but all I have ever done is think about it.  I talked about taking wood shop class a few months ago.  I love to build and create things.  I think these are all interesting and good ideas.  I need to pick one and start it.
I also think I need to focus on some sort of a community activity that gets me out and about in my neighborhood, meeting people, and giving me the opportunity to make new friends.
Regarding your comments in general about, "What next," I am reminded of something I learned in therapy many, many years ago.  I am a problem solver.  It is very satisfying for me to be neck deep in a big problem and have to figure a way to get myself out of it.  In my younger adult life, when I got bored I had the tendency to make big life decisions that would get me into really big messes that would take me years of hard work to get out of.  It was sort of like I would do something stupid that would trap me into a nasty cage and then it would take all of my strength and ingenuity to figure a way out of it.  That process of figuring a way out of it was satisfying, but getting into the cage in the first place was debilitating.  A large part of my therapy was learning about how to avoid making those stupid decisions in the first place.  Group therapy taught me a lot about talking through my thought processes.  I learned that if I was honest about what I was thinking and doing and I shared my thoughts and actions with others, I avoided making the really bad decisions in the first place.  In fact, I learned that if I think about the fact that I am going to have to tell people what I am about to do, I often stop myself before doing really stupid stuff.  I knew before I wrote it that I didn't need to lose another five pounds, but I couldn't get the thought of starting to lose weight again out of my mind.  For some reason, the thought of losing more weight was intoxicating.  So, I did what I learned to do in therapy, I told others about it by writing about it in my blog, and it helped.  Writing about it helped.  Talking to Jack about it helped.  Your comment about my blog post helped.  Therapy helped.

From my Niece:
Both of your thoughts are very interesting to me! I know that I felt very happy yesterday when I worked hard put together a long-shot application. I also felt good going back to the gym after taking a little bit of time off for being sick. But because I am trying this not-weighing-myself thing, I am also missing the "quick highs". For me, that is a little bit by design... I want my health and fitness habits to be permanent, and they can't be if I am getting high off them each week.

I think Aunt Ruth is right that you should look at some other areas where you can work hard :) You are already very inspirational to me and surely others!
My response:
I would love to help others with their own weight loss and fitness goals.  I've already become the go-to person at work when people (usually women) want a little advice or a little motivation.  I am always buying copies of 'Younger Next Year' and I keep them in my office to give away when I think they will help someone.  Perhaps I need to think of a way to be more consistent with helping others with their health and fitness goals.

From a Friend:
Hey Roberta!
A few months ago I read 'The Power of Habit' by a NYT science writer guy (Charles Duhggie?) who chronicles the 'trigger - response - reward' aspect of any habit/practice and what is actually happening in our brain at the same time. It's a fascinating read and I think relevant to what you're describing. While your initial trigger was not feeling great about your physical being and the response was the incredible, dedicated weight loss/conscious exercise, the initial reward of getting to your target weight goal might not have been the real reward that you're craving. It might be more like what you describe here of feeling really great about having developed a healthy practice (with specific aspects like weighing yourself, a routine about counting calories, etc... you get the idea). So, following my unsolicited conjecture here, I'm guessing the reward isn't about losing another 5lbs, but like your sister said, finding some other 'response'/practice that makes you feel great.

Jen V.

My response: 
I am always looking for a good book to read that fits into where I am at the moment.  'The Power of Habit' sounds like it may be my next read.  It is true that my real goal was never a certain weight, my real goal was to be "Younger Next Year."  I want to be physical, active, and fit as I age so that I can thoroughly enjoy the second half of my life.  My favorite things to do are things that require me to have a fully functioning, healthy and strong body.  I love to hike and camp, do home improvement projects around the house, and work in my garden.  I want to backpack in the backwoods and mountains and ride my bike across America in the years to come.  I knew I needed to start getting fit immediately if I want to be able to do these things when I am 70.  Losing 5 more pounds now does not make those things more achievable.  Staying fit does.  I'll read the book.  I'll also think about those things that motivated me to start my program in the first place.  Maybe I should start getting serious about learning about and gearing up to do some backpacking.  Maybe I should start looking for a backpacking club here in Kansas City.  This is certainly worth thinking about.
In summary:  I want to thank all you that comment on my blog.  Your comments help me get beyond whatever is sticking me up at the moment.  They help me start down new thought paths or they remind me of what my true motivations have always been and help me stick to path I chose from the beginning.  Writing a blog post helps me keep my thoughts in order.  I use the phrase, "It keeps my thoughts linear," meaning that writing my blog keeps my thoughts from spiraling around and around without making any progress.  That alone makes keeping a blog "worth it."  Now that I think about it, I am pretty sure I am sleeping better since I started blogging.  My brain doesn't go into death spirals as I try to fall asleep,anymore.  You know what I am talking about, don't you?  When I was unhappy with something I was doing in the past and got stuck, I would go to bed at night and be unable to sleep because my mind would just play the same tape over and over and over again.  I can't think of the last time that happened.
But I am not sure that I could keep up the blog if I didn't know people were reading it and if I didn't get your comments every now and then.  Writing the blog almost daily is doable because I know people are reading it.  I am writing to someone.  I am not writing to myself.  I am not talking to, "Just hear my head rattle," as my dad used to say.  And your comments inspire me, force me to go down different paths, remind me that there are other ways to think about things, and remind me to stay healthy and focused on the big picture.  I thank you for that.

1 comment:

  1. No more "death spirals" as you go to sleep, eh? That's great! I wonder if I am more vigilant about blogging EVERY day that will happen to me too :) It took me ages to fall asleep yesterday.

    Sounds like you have a lot of great ideas going forward now! :D