A while ago I wrote a “Food For Thought” entry entitled “Walk the Line“. The idea was to talk about how to get started if you’re just beginning, or restarted if you have found yourself in a slump. I wrote this at a time when I was living in the top 20% of my own personal “bell-curve”, and it’s easy to talk about solutions to a problem you aren’t currently experiencing. That was back in September of last year. Fast-forward through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, a few difficult personal growth moments, and a LOT of parties. Things aren’t quite so on track at this point. Now I’d like to get a little down and dirty and personal, and talk about what “walking the line” means when you’re looking at it from the BOTTOM 20% of your personal bell-curve.
Last summer I was running a lot, but not lifting weights as much as before. I was eating okay during the week, but not really, and eating horribly on weekends. I thought I was keeping everything basically in check, but it quickly snowballed. The weather would be bad, so the running stopped. Parties were happening during the week. Then we didn’t even need an excuse to eat poorly, we just did. Combine this with some personal things that led to a bout of depression and you have the perfect recipe for a downhill slide.
Last night I was laying in bed, not able to fall asleep because my body was in so much pain from working out for the first time in months. I was watching a new A&E series called “Fit to Fat to Fit“, which is another reality weight loss show with a twist. This time the trainers are going to GAIN weight and loose it along with the people they are training. Last night’s episode was about “Steve“. I’m going to qualify all of my observations by saying I personally think the trainers on this show are embarking upon a journey that is irresponsible, and potentially dangerous to their own health and well being. I always watch reality television with a grain of salt. It can be entertaining but it’s always obviously scripted. Situations are manipulated and editing makes us see what they want us to, but last night I saw a few things that couldn’t be faked.
Number one, I saw his transformation. I watched in horror as this muscular, ripped guy went from being chiseled out of rock, to looking like your average, overweight, out of shape, American guy. He gained 45 pounds in the span of 4 months. It pained me to see all of his hard work go down the drain for the sake of a television show. What is even worse is it’s all for totally sensationalistic purposes.
Number two, I saw his response to the food he was putting into his body and how it changed over time. He went from nearly throwing up because his body couldn’t handle it, to actually ENJOYING the debauchery. He didn’t even have to say it. I could see it on his face how his brain was processing all of the crappy food differently. It was like watching a drug addict get high.
Number three, the amount of lethargy that crept into his personality was scary. He went from being an excited, energetic, happy person to being nothing but a lump on the couch. His wife expressed frustration with the changes in his general demeanor and behavior. I know this to be 100% true because I’ve been there and I recognize it.
All of this can be looked at as a “chicken or the egg” kind of situation. Does lack of clean food and exercise lead to depression, or does depression lead to not taking proper care of yourself? I think it can be either/both, but one thing is for sure, the laws of inertia apply heavily here. Once you are firmly rooted in a state of motion, or in a state of rest, you will stay there unless you put forth significant effort.
So how do I put forth effort without spinning my wheels or feeling overwhelmed? That’s the million dollar question. I am choosing baby steps, and here’s how I’m starting again.
First I had to be willing to own the fact that I had slipped into a bad pattern, and that it was negatively affecting other areas of my life. It helped me to fully admit this to another person. I had to say to my husband, “I’m stuck in a rut. I feel paralyzed and I don’t know how to get out of it.” Luckily the person I made my confession to is also my life partner and is making this journey with me. Having someone to provide moral support is a key ingredient. It doesn’t have to be a significant other. It can be someone who teaches a fitness class at your local gym. You don’t have to make a grandiose confession to a stranger, but it might be helpful to thank them for the class and their time if you intend on being a regular attendee. Make yourself known. If they know you and see you often, they will notice if you aren’t there. It creates accountability.
I had to make a plan. I love the idea of a plan, because then you aren’t floundering and wondering what to do. Sometimes we make things too complicated, though, so I had to think about how to keep it simple. In the past I’ve made these elaborate training schedules and hit them hard core like a rock star, but I didn’t feel like I was in a place to be able to maintain that right now. My second choice was to revert to a simple plan that was already laid out for me. I resolved to spend a half hour a day, six days a week, with my DVD player, Tony Horton, and P90X3. His cheesy jokes are cringe worthy, and I’m not 100% convinced the program is constructed in the best way possible, but you know what? It’s a PLAN. Even better it’s a plan that I don’t have to think about, and it’s a better plan than sitting on the couch with my latest ipad game obsession.
I had to think about food. I’ve been in places where I’ve been extremely strict with myself when it comes to the food I eat. The Whole 30 is our main plan, and I’ve happily gone months without touching grains, dairy, or sugar. Instead of jumping into this again head first, I’m wading in the shallow end for a while. Coffee with milk still happens every day because dealing with caffeine headaches isn’t something I’m prepared for right now. Once some other things are more firmly rooted in place I’ll tackle that giant. For now, I’m happy just making sure all of our meals during the week are home cooked and compliant to our plan. That, and I made Joe take all of the Girl Scout cookies to work with him!
The last and most important ingredient right now has to be compassion. I am extremely critical and judgmental of myself. It’s way too easy for me to embark upon a path and see myself as a failure if I’m not where I want to be. It’s not failure. It’s life, and life ebbs and flows as it’s meant to. Put one foot in front of the other and momentum will start to happen.
Have accountability, move your body just a little bit every day, make one better food choice a day, and have compassion for yourself. In the mean time I’ll be here, taking my baby steps and checking in periodically with Steve to see how he’s doing, too.