More than the Body

Screen Shot 2020-02-29 at 9.05.24 AMSaturday mornings are some of my favorite times. The early morning hours when I own the house, the quiet, the coffee and the day stretched out. All things are possible. It’s the time during the hectic week that I can actually think. Sometimes this means writing, sometimes this means reading the news and sometimes this means staring out the window, watching the sun come up. I always feel late if I wake up and the sun is already in the sky. I love the gray of the early morning. I love to set my intentions, breath for a moment, light a candle. It is in these moments that I try to have no expectations for myself. I owe nothing to anyone This is a short, short moment. Because all too soon either I will begin to create the unrealistic to do list or someone in my family will unexpectedly wake early. And then the moment slips away. I love Sunday mornings as well, but there is more urgency to move and accomplish when you have work the next day then when you have the abundance of time.

One of the places my mind has lived in these moments is beyond the challenges I have with my weight and my body image.  Last week while I was writing I had the realization of how I can’t possibly love anyone fully and without criticism if I first don’t allow that for myself. If you know me at all, you know that this is not the sort of thought process I normally engage in. I was raised with the idea that you don’t let too many things bring you down, you don’t let life beat you up and if it does, well suck it up it happens to everyone. Quit your whining and move on. I believe in that. Sort of. I have a very low frustration level for myself and others when they refuse to work at their challenges. There is a slim line between venting and wallowing and I have no patience for wallowing. Not that I don’t engage in it from time to time, but then I need to smack myself in the back of the head (figuratively, of course) and work it out. I believe in finding solutions, making plans and then actually following through.

So, when I realized that I continue to circle back to what I am terming depression with some anger issues now, but really, I’m not a professional, I couldn’t just sit in a funk. Over the years I have reached out to professionals, but for me never found the right fit. The last time, after a few weeks I felt a little disgusted with myself and the whole process so after a couple of months I ended it. Why did it take me a couple of months? I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. But that is another whole issue. I have tried SAM-e to some benefit. This is an herbal supplement and for about a year I really did feel as though it was working. It gave me a pause, that’s all. It just gave me that half a second I needed to question the thought, or reign in the emotion. But then, I decided that I didn’t want to be on it forever and there was a bump when I came off. I was definitely more irritable and that is putting it mildly.  So, bye bye SAM-e.

Recently I have been reading and watching lectures on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. I have known about this or course, but never really learned how it worked or the science behind it. In a nutshell, your thoughts (cognitions) affect your emotions affect your actions (behaviors). This is a cyclical process not really linear. If you engage in therapy, the therapist may have you capture your thoughts in a journal or within a graphic organizer while correlating these thoughts to actions and emotions. I am doing a very bad job of explaining this. But in essence, if you can reframe or change your thoughts, or reframe or change your behaviors there is a domino effect on the other two. One of the lectures around positive psychology spoke of actively searching for the good in your life. Apparently, we are actually predisposed to seek and hold onto the bad in our life.  There is a theory that at some point in our evolution this helped us survive. So if you feel, like me, that your are constantly seeing things from a negative viewpoint and have to actively reframe them cut yourself a break. Maybe we are just excellent survivors To counteract this, we need to intentionally focus on what is good in our life. One way is a gratitude journal. I have tried gratitude, maybe a little half heartedly several times but found it to be a very surface activity. Listing what I am grateful for, leaves me in a bind of making sure I count everyone in, lest their feelings get hurt. Yes, I know it makes no sense but that’s how I’m wired. What if I die and they come across a journal and suddenly realize I forgot to list their name? Geez! The pressure! And then I watched a lecture on positive psychology and realized that it wasn’t really a list. Well, I guess it could be, but what he was doing with his patient was having her find one instance in her day and writing about it in detail. Where were you? Who was there? What was the smell? The sound? The moment? Why was it special? How did you feel? Our moments come at us so fast in the day it is easy to lose the good ones.  Taking time to unpack one really good moment can help us reframe our thoughts, and therefore our emotions and therefore our actions. Another way is to simply write three sentences every night answering these three questions: What moved me? What surprised me? What inspired me?  Full disclosure, I haven’t done either of these things yet, but I am going to try them. Soon. I promise.

However, as I constantly have to remind myself, this is a journey. I’m always going to be a work in progress. Maybe that’s why I jump into so many things with such passion but then they seem to fade away, like my hard core workout program and being vegan. I have always felt a little ashamed about this. As though my passion was only surface and this is evidence that I am a somewhat unreliable person, always moving from one thing to the next. But what if that isn’t true? What if instead of being brief lived passions they are stepping stones? What if my time being vegan served its purpose and opened the doors or paved the way for the next thing? What if instead of saying I get really enthused about something and then lose interest, I say I jump in and allow myself to become filled with all that one thing has to offer and then after saturating myself, I take what is valuable to me and jump to the next one thing? I am not giving up, or losing interest, I am growing. Can I hold onto that?

Maybe that is part of the appeal of the ninety day challenge. It has an end point. It is a beginning and I can reuse it, but I don’t have to. Or I can use it how I want. That’s a hard one for me, because I feel as though if I don’t do it exactly then I am failing. I have to work on that. For now I am working on being over fifty and trying to be okay with what I see in the mirror and who I am in life. Small words that have so many big emotions and thoughts. So I am hoping that small changes in my behaviour and my thoughts help bring big changes in my feelings and self image. For today, I am going to do my workout and try to live in the idea of abundance, gratitude and grace.

And maybe some wine. I mean, it’s Saturday and I’m not a saint.

Rocking It

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After what can only be described as a slow decline in my workouts and my attitude, I am finally trying to work my way back with the Betty Rocker 90 Day.  To do this I have had to come to some hard truths about who I am, where I am and what I can do. The first thing I needed to let go of is what I could do just five years ago. For reference, five years ago I was running seven miles and working out six days a week for about an hour or so every day. I did HIIT and cardio in the form of running and biking. I was out of bed every day by four thirty and then four to get to the gym. My eating was on point and I felt (mostly) amazing. I say mostly because I was eternally sore. In my mind, if I wasn’t constantly pushing myself, always going a little longer or a little farther than I did the day before I was failing. It was a really militant lifestyle and it became the center of my world. If I wasn’t sore I was backsliding.

I like to say when my appendix burst my whole plan blew up but that would be a lie. Even before that I was already losing my will in my workouts. They were less joyful and more of a grind. Having to get to bed to so early made me lose time with my family. Making this the center of my life, meant that other things that I love were pushed out, mostly family & friends. Not that I didn’t spend time with them, but I worked them around my workouts as opposed to the other way around. I began to resent this. So, slowly, I started losing will and grit. It meant that my runs became first slower and then consequently less far. Or I would have to run more time to make up the distance.  I also hit menopause pretty hard. Sleepless nights, intense hot flashes and just rolling emotions will sometimes just wreck my world.  And my IBD began to flare more and more often with more intense episodes. So I would miss workouts, I would feel intensely bad about myself, I would refocus and create an unattainable plan, which I would fail to complete, which would cause me to feel bad about myself. During all of this I was going through stretches where I would get little to no real sleep. I would get  three or four hours of broken sleep for four or five nights in a row. During the day my head would buzz, I felt fragile and by the time the weekend came I wanted to fall to the floor rock and cry.  I could actually picture myself doing that.

Eventually this lead me to the only place it could, an unhealthy life in all aspects: mind, body and spirit. There were of course other contributors to this lowpoint, my son going off to college, challenging experiences for my daughter, my own natural wonderings of who I am and what I am doing with my life. Pretty much common everyday stressors that I was struggling with and berating myself for the struggle. This is where I was when a friend at work shared that she was doing this Thirty Day Challenge. Fifteen minutes every day for thirty days and she was raving about it. My first instinct was to scoff at the idea. For someone who use to work out well over fifteen minutes, I didn’t believe that this would work. I was at the time trying another program to help keep me on point and I was finding it a drain and a drudgery which of course in my mind meant it was working.  I was also trying to maintain my running which was continuing to spiral down.  So at first, my skepticism kept me away. But then I watched her commitment to the challenge and then start the ninety day challenge. She posted pics every day she finished one of her workouts and I could see the transformation. At the same time, notices of my own  accomplishments from years ago would pop up in my feed as though to mock me from my past.

Finally, I decided to quietly try the Thirty Day challenge. I say quietly because I couldn’t face publically failing at yet another thing. So I did it without telling anyone. And if I am honest, to the letter, I did fail. I only completed twenty nine workouts and I did not do it in the thirty day period. I got the flu and was out of commission for about seven days. This left me with workouts stacking up in my inbox. But here is what I did right. I kept going I just kept knocking them out and it was hard after missing a week. I noticed my arms were getting more definition and my legs were coming back. I was still trying to fit in short slow runs but I wasn’t beating myself up if I missed them. That was the most important thing I did right. I gave myself some grace.

People talk about loving themselves, but then often go into self flagellation mode as though that is a form of love. It isn’t. Beating yourself up for things that you do or don’t do, the way your body looks or the very unique way you move through the world is not love of yourself or others. On the flip side, liking who you are, being proud of your accomplishments and reveling in the weirdness that is yours alone is not conceited. You really are the one constant in your life and you can not make true deep connections with others unless you make them first with yourself. If you love yourself in a way that you always find yourself wanting or wrong (and let’s face it, that is not love) you can’t possibly love anyone else any other way. So, love freely, openly, fully and, as my friend likes to say, fiercely.

I am now finishing the first week of the ninety day challenge. I am doing the intermediate program. It takes longer than fifteen minutes a day but never more than thirty five, so far and mostly I am done in about twenty to twenty five minutes. I could probably make it faster by working through the exercises without the videos but the videos not only keep me motivated they help me to remember my form. It’s funny that it seems the very thing she is talking about is exactly the reminder I need in the moment. It is hard. But it is doable. I do find myself struggling to complete the third round but I keep pushing forward. I think this is because it is the last round. I have moved my rest day from today to tomorrow, so after this I will be doing my final workout of the week. But that is the only change I made. I am trying to keep to the eating program, but not allowing myself to get shaky from hunger just to stick to a plan. That’s a pretty big leap for me.

I feel pretty good about myself right now. And I am really grateful to my friend, Keisha, for bringing this program into my life and for supporting me through it. Even when I kind of wanted to be invisible.

For me, I am happy with this program. I try never recommend gyms, programs or anything a person has to pay for on this blog. (Ha! Ha! Ha! As though I have swarms of followers to worry about,) I do share what I am trying and how it is working for me If you are in a rut, if you really want to try something to get back in shape or more importantly become healthier, try the Thirty Day Challenge. It is free. It is literally risk free. So I am really excited about this and I am recommending at least try that if you are looking for a plan.

I am hoping to revive this blog the way I have revived my workouts. So, I’ll keep you posted on the Ninety Day.