Have Courage.

 

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
 – Eleanor Roosevelt

 Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
 – Neale Donald Walsch

 

Comfort zone.

As much as I believe the term has been overused, it is an easily understood concept. We do what we do out of habit and out of a love of routine. Just like when we nestle into our warm beds, once we’ve set ourselves up in a comfy spot, mentally or physically, we are loath to change. It doesn’t really matter if our zone is actually, truly comfortable; as long as it is familiar, we are more likely to stick with it than choose the alternative. Even when the alternative is better, we often find ourselves mired in the wheel-ruts of our routines. Why?

I’ve asked myself this question many times over the years and with increased intensity since WLS became part of my life. Why do I continue to hold the negative thought processes and perspectives that landed me here? Why is it so hard for me to embrace a more positive self-image? Why am I unable to let go of my old self?

What am I afraid of?

I have to believe that many of you are also struggling with embracing the change and leaving the old you behind with all its associated beliefs and baggage. It’s why we can’t let go of the past. It’s why we still have closets full of clothes that don’t fit and pantries full of food we don’t eat. It’s why we brush off compliments but take every slight to heart. It’s why we take tentative steps forward, all the while looking behind. It’s why we let the opinions of others dictate how we feel about ourselves. What if we fail? What if this new thing doesn’t work out? If you listen, you can already hear the ‘I told you so’ chorus warming up.

I am motivated, in large part, by fear. Fear is an unwieldy and unwelcome part of my life. I’d like to say I’m getting better at dealing with that part of my psyche, but honestly, I don’t know if that’s true. What I do know is that I have made it into a big, scary monster that either keeps me from doing certain things or compels me to do them. I’m afraid of the dark, so I leave lights on unnecessarily. I’m afraid of what other people think, so I don’t always say what’s on my mind.

What are you afraid of? Ridicule. Embarrassment. Being misunderstood. Failure. Risk. Success. Revealing yourself. Loss. Not being good enough. Commitment. Rejection. Missing out. Death. Action. Inaction. Change.

Real or perceived, fears can easily control us.

Fear can give me a ton of reasons to do something, and it also gives me a ton of excuses not to. It’s been very prosperous in my life; I’ve allowed it unrestricted access to my decisions, my self-image, my language, and my activities. I’ve deferred to it and allowed it to be my default position, whether I realize it or not.

As a result, I haven’t challenged myself much. It’s much easier this way, you know: if I do what I’ve always done, I’ll continue to get the results I’ve always had, and there won’t be any doubt or uncertainty about it. I can coast right along.

Right?

Well, if I am to be honest with myself, I’d have to admit that I like challenges. I like them because they offer me the opportunity to achieve, to learn, and to overcome. Challenges, by their very nature, are confrontational; they defiantly stand in front of you with arms crossed as if to say, “So what?” Challenges dare you to act; dare you to upset the status quo; dare you to prove them wrong.

In January of last year, I viewed starting a blog as a challenge, so I braved the naysayer in my head and met it head on. It may be too early to tell, but I think it was a good decision. Blogging has been good therapy for me in many ways, but it hasn’t healed my grief or solved my problems; rather, it has brought those things front and center for me to deal with. It has made me recognize and appreciate the flaws and frailties that make me who I am. Writing has helped my comfort zone expand, and as it has grown, so have I. I highly recommend it.

Losing weight and changing myself has been an even bigger challenge. It has dared me to rethink everything about my life and my choices. It’s teaching me things I never knew and giving me strength. I’m coloring outside the lines now.

As I live my post-op life, challenges arise on a regular basis. I admit I haven’t taken up all of the gauntlets thrown at my feet; some will have to wait until I feel a bit more confident. But each one I do accept makes me that much happier and secure in myself.

I’m slowly coming to the realization that allowing for what other people think should not be a platform of my personal development. In some ways, that position reflects how I felt through my grief – what is right for you is not what’s right for him, or her, or me. I can’t live my life in fear of the judgment of others. Chances are, they care far less than I give them credit for, anyway.

I’m 50 years old, but in some ways I feel like I’ve just started living.

 

 photo credit Garry Wilmore

Shapeshifting.

When I first sat down at my dining room table last night, preparing to crack crab for dinner, I felt like a kid. The table seemed higher to me, somehow. I commented to Mr. Stuck that I needed a booster seat, and he said, “Me, too!” And we laughed, having found yet another unforeseen effect of our weight loss. Our derrieres are smaller and flatter and provide far less cushion these days. I ended up fetching a pillow to sit on, which brought me up to a more comfortable working level, and I felt like a grownup once more.

But that is just the latest in my constantly adjusting frame of reference. This new old body of mine is taking some getting used to. When I crawl into bed at the end of the day, I must fold my body with origami precision so my knees (or elbows, or ankles) aren’t knocking painfully together. The sleeping positions in which I have historically arranged myself aren’t as effective without padding, so extra pillows are a must. I find myself tossing and turning even more now than before, as my bonier frame has less tolerance for pressure. Now, when I lie on my side, I can feel my hip implants, and while they’re not exactly painful, they’re certainly not very comfortable

I remember Mother teaching me how to stand up straight and carry a book on my head.  I was pretty good at it.  As I got older and heavier, my posture changed to support the weight I carried around. I slouched more, hunching myself over.  With the development of my inner-ear disorder, I realized that my sense of balance was capricious, and I began reaching out and holding on to walls and furniture for stability.  I lost my normal stride as the pain took over and replaced it with a waddling, unnatural gait. You’ve seen it – or maybe you have that same walk: you swing your legs out and rock from one side to the other instead of using your hips and knees.  It’s the Weeble Wobble.  Mine got so much worse when my hips were bad that my physical therapist actually had to teach me to walk the right way.

It was easy to slump, shuffle, and waddle when I was heavy; that’s all my body wanted to do. My balance issues made me worry about stairs and inclines and uneven surfaces. My activity level slowed to a near halt. So now that my range of movement and my flexibility have improved, it’s time to work on my posture. I’m constantly reminding myself to sit up straight at my desk. Even when my back aches, I know I have to pull my shoulders back and straighten my spine.  I’ve got some work to do so my default position isn’t ‘Slouch.’

Living in this new old body is wonderful, but not without its challenges. Bruises appear all the time, inexplicably. When I bump into things, it hurts. (But still, I marvel at the bones appearing under my skin. Cheekbones?  Clavicle?  Yes, please!)  Even my feet are different – after many years of wearing size 10 shoes, I now must wear size 11. My feet seem thinner, but longer: when I put on my old sneakers, my toes hit the end. What’s up with that?

I’ve always been somewhat clumsy and uncoordinated.  Being fat didn’t help; it made me feel like I took up too much space, and I often felt that I just needed to get out of the way.  That’s changing.  I sometimes visualize myself unzipping and stepping out of my fat suit. In some ways, I feel like a gangly teenager who’s going through a growth spurt and hasn’t quite gotten used to his body. But I suppose, like that teenager, I will grow into it.

 

image credit libertygrace0

 

It’s All In Your Head.

Time for a bit of an update.  Two and a half months since surgery, and I’m doing pretty well.  Still working out the details, like chewing more thoroughly and slowing down my meals.  I’m still doing my 15 minutes of stretching exercises at work each morning, with few exceptions (we’ve been doing it in an area undergoing renovation, and now the carpet, cubicles and cabinets are in and we’re losing our spot).  I feel better, I look better, and I move better.  Baby steps, but I’m committed.

Went to my friend’s birthday party this weekend and enjoyed mingling with the family; this is a great, big, loving clan, and being in their midst reminds me of home; I feel like burrowing in that familial warmth.  Big families are awesome; when the house is full, every nook and cranny has a smile and a hug.  I miss my family like that.

Chatted with my friend Amy, who has been very successful in losing weight with a diet routine and exercise.  She looks great, and she’s rightfully proud of her success in maintaining that loss over several months.  We talked about the mental aspect of making changes and making them last.  I was glad to hear that she related strongly to a couple of my more recent posts regarding my transition from obesity to health.  The things she mentioned caused me some reflection.

Self sabotage – I am guilty, guilty, guilty.  I am trying to change my mindset that says if I fall off the wagon, I’m a loser who failed again and I should just give it up.  Do you tell yourself the same things?  As a battle-scarred veteran of too many diets for too many years, do you find yourself falling into a preordained pattern?  You find a new diet or program because your friend is doing it or your sister is doing it or a celebrity is doing it, or maybe you saw it on Pinterest or Facebook.  You buy the book, watch the video, go to the website and read the testimonials.  You get all excited and shop for what you need, tossing out the half-eaten Cheese Nips and leftover pizza from the fridge.

You do pretty well for awhile, high on enthusiasm, but then the old habits and thought patterns come creeping back.  You find yourself thinking all day about what you want to eat that night.  You are distracted by cravings for food you know you should not eat, and when you give in, too easily, you immediately shame yourself:

Stupid.  Lazy.  Fat.  Disgusting.  Hopeless.  Loser.  Failure.  Quitter.

You tell yourself to give up.  It’s just like all the other times.  It’s no use.  It’s too hard.  You always do this.  Why even bother?  You will always be fat and dumpy.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why let one misstep end the journey?  I have had to learn how to forgive myself for these small mistakes and keep going.  Do you remember the old Family Circus comics?  The ones where one of the kids will take a meandering path from point A to point B?  I love that cartoon.

That is a good visual of how my brain works and how I do things, but it is especially relevant to my progress on a diet.  Sometimes sideways is my only progress, and sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back.  But it’s important not to stop.  Don’t give up.

More things I’ve learned:

  • It’s okay to leave food on your plate.  I am no longer a member of the Clean Plate Club.  (my family had a song that went with it — not sure if other folks did, too. ;-))
  • It’s okay to not take that food home from the restaurant, especially if you’re not going to eat it or give it to your dog.  Why waste the room in the fridge to throw it away in a week and a half?
  • If I say I shouldn’t eat something, I should actually NOT eat it, instead of just saying it as I put it in my mouth.
  • It’s okay to remove the strings from the celery, because it makes it easier to eat.
  • It’s okay to not drink coffee anymore, even if it is kinda weird for me.
  • It’s okay to be picky!!  (I have never been picky, but I am learning how to be.)
  • Mr. Stuck and I should always share our entree, not order separately.  That is a waste of money and food.  Duh.
  • It’s okay to eat the protein first; in fact, it’s a good idea.  I load my salad up with chicken or tuna or ham and add cottage cheese; I use much less lettuce and much less dressing, but I still add broccoli, cukes, and tomatoes.  I’m even trying things like garbanzo beans.  Yum!
  • I’m still working on cooking small amounts, but I can always share extra portions with my neighbors.  Recently made a huge pot of Tuscan potato/sausage/kale soup, and gave most of it away.  It was a win-win: I satisfied my craving, and none went to waste!
  • I can allow myself treats, because if I deny myself, I want it more.  We all know that reverse psychology ploy.  I can allow myself a bite of something and then I don’t have to binge on it in secret or in the car on the way home.
  • Habits can be insidious — they can be so deeply subconscious that you don’t realize what you’re doing until you’ve done it.  I got myself so hooked on McDonald’s sweet tea (cut with unsweetened) in the summertime that it was automatic for me to stop there on my way home. And sometimes, it was too easy to order a cheeseburger or chicken sandwich to go with it, especially if I thought I was hungry.
    After I started my nutritionist appointments, I stopped doing that.  But I noticed that when I’d hit that leg of the highway, I would be thinking about the tea and the cheeseburger.  I’d find my brain negotiating with itself on whether I should stop or continue past.  I have to deliberately focus on something else, to redirect my thoughts into something productive.  I would feel victorious if I didn’t stop.
  • It’s okay to go up a little or stay the same on the scale once in awhile.  We’ll have those days.  Maybe stop weighing yourself so much and look at how you feel and how your clothing fits.  Use a different gauge for your success.  The term Non-Scale Victory (NSV) is meant for just that.  Getting to where my wedding set fit my finger again was an NSV.  Fitting into the jeans I was sure I wouldn’t — that’s also an NSV.
  • It’s okay to struggle.  I’m human, and so are you.  We make mistakes, we screw up, we give up, and we sabotage ourselves.  We have to really work at staying the course, but that’s okay.  It’s okay to stumble, but make sure you get back up.

I haven’t smiled this much in a long time.  So many people have taken the time to tell me how happy they are for me and Mr. Stuck, how much better we look and must feel, and how we are radiant these days.  Who wouldn’t smile upon hearing that?  I am so grateful for the love and support that is coming in from all of my family and friends.  It means so much and encourages me to stay strong.

Thank you.

image credit lovelornpoets, Bil Keane

 

Don’t Eat the Slug.

Had a great massage today with Dave, my gifted therapist.  I love that man.  Unless I’m in extreme pain, I am usually pretty chatty while he’s working on me.  We catch up on each other’s lives, solve the problems of the world, and even manage to work some jokes in.  (That’s David’s arena — I can’t remember jokes to save my soul.  He tells them, I promise to pass them on to Mr. Stuck, and then normally I forget.  So there’s that.)

One of the things we talked about today was my last post and the whole topic of self-esteem.  Since he hadn’t had the chance to read it yet, I related the details to him and told him that the mental component of this change is probably the toughest part of the whole shebang.  The WLS Fairy does not swoop down and grant you confidence and self-esteem with a wave of her bariatric wand.  No, you’re still fighting the same demons you did before: fear, self-loathing, and doubt.

Everyone has something about themselves they don’t like.  That’s universal.  But some folks dwell on it so much that they allow it to paralyze them, or they decide that they are worthless because of it.  I mentioned in my previous post that it was easy for me to refer to myself with negativity because that’s how I felt.  I didn’t look in the mirror and see a woman with a quirky personality, compassion and sense of humor;  I didn’t see someone who has a successful career; I didn’t see the person my friends and family see.  I saw something entirely different, something that seemed to negate any good things that were also there.  I let the negative outweigh the positive, and that just fed on itself.

They say you have to love yourself.  Yeah.  Hard to love someone who’s calling you names.  The things we tell ourselves — some of them we wouldn’t say to our worst enemy.  Dave told me that for most of his life, when he would mess something up or make a mistake, he would chide himself.  “That was stupid.”  “You dummy, why weren’t you more careful?”  “I’m such an idiot!”  He realized that this self-talk was not making him do a better job or be more careful; it was confirming to him that he was stupid, incompetent, and foolish.  He said, “If I had messed something up, I would yell at myself; but if I fixed it, I never gave myself credit; after all, it was my fault to begin with.”

So he decided that he needed to stop that habit.  Each time he’d berate himself, he’d stop and apologize.  Out loud.  He was amazed at how often he said those things without even realizing it; the awareness was a lesson in itself.  After he had curbed that negative talk, he began to compliment himself.  Out loud, like his rebukes had been.  He’d finish something and sit back and say, “Good job.  Nice work.”

He said after a while of doing this, he realized he was feeling better and more confident.  Instead of reinforcing the negative, he reinforced the positive.  (“Ac-Cen-Tchu-Ate the positive/E-lim-inate the negative/and latch on to the affirmative/don’t mess with Mr. In-between” as the song goes.)  What a great piece of advice!

I told him about my friend Jon, who put it to me another way.  One day, we were talking about his work day, which had been horribly stressful.  His boss was in a bad mood and seemed determined to make everyone around him as miserable as he was.  Jon, however, had an irrepressible good mood; he lived life with a smile and a laugh.  I asked him how he managed to stay so upbeat when his boss was so negative, and he said, “When someone insults you or shows disrespect, that’s their problem.”  He said, “Imagine if they handed you a nasty, slimy slug and told you to eat it.  Would you?  Of course not!  It’s the same thing — someone trying to bring you down is handing you a slug to eat.  Don’t eat the slug.”

He’s right, you know.  The great Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  Over the years, we give ourselves permission to say the awful, hurtful things about ourselves that we do.  We allow the erosion of our spirit and degradation of self.  We do it to ourselves — maybe because we really believe it, or maybe because we tell ourselves it’s easier to hear from our own lips than from others’.  Maybe we do it because we don’t know any better.

David, who still catches himself mid-scold sometimes, challenged me to do what he did and stop the trash talk.  And I accept.  I would never talk that way to a friend or family member, nor would I allow anyone else to talk that way to someone I cared about.  So why would I allow myself to be so cruel to the one person who is always there, no matter what?  Why would I weaken and diminish my strengths and demean the good person I am?  It needs to stop.

Don’t eat the slug.

 

 

photo credit: wwarby