Not the kind of retreat I had planned

This entry was going to come a good few months ago. I had it all outlined, talking about the latest progress in my workout experiment, what I’d achieved so far, and what would happen next.

If you’ve read any of my entries, you know the workout was to be done backwards (DVD months 9, 8 and 7, then months 1 through 6). Though I only wrote about months 9, 8, 7 and 1, I actually made it through up to part of month 3.

A few notes from that time:

I incorporated some cardio (not much, just started small, about 10 minutes each day). I struggled with some neck and lower back issues (which I blame on stress and an uncomfortable, crooked mattress). I also noticed a difference in my temperament when I didn’t get to work out, when internship and life ‘stuff’ got in the way and I made the choice not to exercise — I felt like the stresses got to me easier, I felt crabby, and my body wouldn’t loosen up.

I recognize that I will always need to work out because it lifts my mood and gives me energy. Food issues are a whole other topic and I have so much more work to do in order to fix that part of my life, but over the last 10 years or so I have come to need workouts. They are a constant in my life now. Even when I have to take some days off from it, unless I’m physically incapable I know I will always go back to it.

Despite my revelations about exercise, I continue to struggle with the emotional eating aspect. As the summer went on and the stresses increased, it felt like my brain shut down and the anxiety kicked in. I ate terribly. Too much, and not healthy foods. We’re talking fast food, here. Greasy, bad-for-you fast food.

And that is my huge issue. When I’m stressed, or upset, or super-anxious, my first thought is not, “How can I handle this stress and work through it in a smart, healthy manner?” I’m not sure my mind ever goes to that kind of thought process (though I need it to).

Instead, my brain’s immediate impulse is “What can I eat?” and the choices I run to are not always good. And it doesn’t matter if it makes me feel lousy — and that I know it makes me feel lousy — because my brain doesn’t stop to think about it; I just go there like autopilot.

Some days I don’t know how I’ll ever be free of that. Is it too fully ingrained in me? I don’t know. I sure the hell hope not! But it’s my biggest struggle.

The only positive thing I can say about it is that after the bad stuff, I go right back to my healthier patterns. The next day is a new day and I start out healthy again.

But the problem is, it’s not good to go back and forth like that. It doesn’t make for a balanced life, healthy body or mind.

Anyway, by that point I had made it halfway through month 3. I had 3 1/2 more months to go in my experiment, and lots I wanted to achieve.

And then it all fell apart.

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?

A lot has happened in the last 3 months: family stress, financial stress, work-related stress, personal stress, hard work in therapy, plus finishing the final details of an internship and starting a final class before I graduate with a new degree in December. I can’t begin to explain it all, nor would I expect anyone to want to read about it.

(Frankly, if you make it through reading all of this post, I’ll be really impressed.)

The main point is that during that time I made a choice to stop working out. I made a choice to pull back and give myself a break. I felt like I had poured all of myself into everything I worked on, and eventually it felt like too much. I felt drained.

So, like a soldier yelling, “Retreat! Retreat!” I pulled back as a protection, to get my bearings and refocus. To give myself a bit of quiet time to re-balance and re-energize in a cocoon-like way.

Deep inside, most of us know what we need to do. We know about the need to be objective and eat healthily and do our workouts and not listen to our negative self-talk. We know how much vigorous effort it will take to accomplish our goals.

However, that’s easier said than done. It takes some of us longer to get there, to that mental place to be able to do all of those things, and some of us have a lot of emotional work to do first (or in tandem with the food and exercise efforts). If we don’t, then all the healthy eating and vigorous exercise in the world won’t matter. It won’t stick.

I work plenty hard in my life, in many ways. My therapist is trying to get me to stop putting so much pressure on myself or pushing myself or feeling the need to do it all at once and be “perfect” at everything or put a timeline on everything. He’s trying to teach me to pause and be in the moment and learn to make different choices when I’m in those moments of struggle and anguish. He’s trying to get me to take a moment to recognize what I’ve already accomplished rather than punishing myself for those goals I haven’t yet reached. Those are important steps in healing one’s mind of all the negatives that cause the unhealthy food habits in the first place.

The fact is, I know how much energy and focus doing this program (or any program) takes, and how much energy and focus I’ll need to put into it to get consistent results that I can also maintain.

But during the past couple of months I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t in a place where I could give that. It was too much. I needed to pull back for a little while and concentrate on the more immediate issues at hand.

I’m sure it’s not the choice everyone would make; I’ve seen great progress myself so far in doing the TAM program and in doing my experiment. But for me, for right now anyway, that’s the choice I feel I have to make.

It’s not necessarily a choice I prefer because I’d like to lose all this weight as soon as possible, but in my therapy sessions I’m learning to stop being such a perfectionist and allow myself to make choices for myself that don’t fuel that need to be perfect and “on top of” everything I do, you know what I mean?

So for me to say, “I’m doing too much right now and this is the thing I’m willing to let go of, for now, because I don’t feel like I’d be able to give it 100%,” I think it’s a big step for me. Especially because I’m such a perfectionist that I often feel driven to do it all anyway, to push myself to the point of crying because I’m so mentally and physically exhausted.

But as I start this final session of school, I’m trying to do things differently. I’m trying to pull back more and allow myself some breathing room instead of pushing myself so hard with everything. For example, this past week or two I’ve approached my homework differently, I’m spreading out my time differently, and I’m trying to teach myself not to take everything so seriously that I feel as if I’m a terrible failure if I don’t do it all and do it all perfectly. You know what I mean?

It’s a process for me to reteach myself and change my mindset, and one of the steps is to let go of unnecessary things. Of course, taking care of yourself isn’t an unnecessary thing, and it’s something I want to get back to as soon as possible. But for now it is less necessary to me than finishing some of the other big things on my plate.

And when my final class is complete in mid-December and my energy is freed up from that particular need, I would like to return to my workouts with new energy. In the meantime, I’ll just work out when I can and take care of myself as best as I can.

That’s the decision I’ve made.

I suppose in a way it could sound like I’m just making excuses, but on the contrary, I think I’m trying to be okay with my decision. I know deep down it’s the right choice for me right now, but to “let go” and allow myself to make this choice is a difficult thing. The “negative” part of my brain is poking at me, saying, “You’re being lazy. You should be able to handle it all. You’re just giving up.” But that’s not true and it’s not a voice I should listen to. (Another thing I’m working on in therapy, LOL.)

Anyway, that’s where things are for me right now. In another couple of months, who knows? I’m just going to keep inching forward, as best as I can.

I’ll keep you posted. 😀

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2 thoughts on “Not the kind of retreat I had planned

  1. Very insightful , sometimes it’s hard to let go of the ” all or nothing mentality”. Success is measured in degrees and the more hard won they are the more we prize them. Bravo! Celebrate your accomplishments degree by degree.

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