Monday, February 7, 2011

2011 38/365 Me ~ a person who exercises regularly

Me ~ a person who exercises regularly
Flickr Project 365/ Creative Every Day 2011
(And, a person who maybe should spend more time cleaning the bathroom mirror!)

This is a rambling over-share sort of a post...consider yourself warned!

I am a recovering dieter.  I've spent most of my life wishing I was thinner.  I've done some pretty crazy things to try and make it happen too.  I've spent years and years hating parts of myself and sometimes all of myself.  There have been some pretty chaotic times in my life too.  Times when everything felt out of control.  Times when I just didn't feel good enough all around.  Times when the structure and rules of points and food journals gave me something to hold onto.  Times when if I could just lose 5, 10, 25, 100 pounds I'd be happy and in control and good.  

Good.  Bad.  Illegal.  Cheating.  The language of food for me for so long.  Eating, food, weight, were moral issues linked to right and wrong, as well as the key to happiness and control.  I would let the number on the scale determine whether I was having a good or bad day.  I've Jenny Craiged and Weight Watched.  I've eaten coconut oil dissolved in water and banned all grains.  I've had acupuncture and holistic healing.   I own a Nordic Track and an exercise bike.  I only recently removed the key chain thingie that I used to check into Curves the dozen or so times I went.  To some, this is a familiar story.  For some, it never ends. 

My most recent bout of dieting was back in 2006-2007 and it was the most drastic and expensive step I had taken.  I replaced the food I ate for all meals and snacks except for dinner with packets of protein gunk I would mix with water.  Dinner, while consisting of real, actual food, was very restricted in type and amount of foods.  I lost 70+ pounds in mere months and was the talk of the town.  In fact, it was all I ever talked about and mostly what anyone who talked to me talked about.  I didn't have to live my life, accept myself, see/hear/be because I had this huge distraction of all this amazing weight lost.  I gave away all my 'fat clothes' and believed I had found the answer to everything.  I was, though, at one of my lowest points in self-love and happiness.  And, so restricted was I that when I finally met goal (stopped losing, really) and added back in real foods, I began to gain weight almost immediately.  Binge eating in the evenings was a regular occurrence.  My body was reacting to the months of deprivation.  And, tale as old as time, I gained back more than I lost, about 30-40 pounds more.   I was feeling very out of control and frightened.  I entered a support group at the Yale Center for Eating Disorders and finally gave up the packets of protein (I was trying it again).  I also read Overcoming Overeating for the first time and researched obesity myths.  I learned that for me dieting was absolutely not the answer.  Acceptance and demand feeding are.  I'd messed with my metabolism.  I was predestined to be of a certain size.  And, no matter what size, a person can be physically fit.  I read and read and read and ate and began my recovery.

So, I'm a recovering dieter.  I've come to be at peace with my body.  I eat what I want and what I like, when I want and when I like.  I no longer weigh myself at all.  I don't cram my body into too tight clothing.  And, most of the time I'm OK with my size.  Really, most of the time and really OK.  I'm thinking about life and creative things instead of food lists and pounds.  (This transformation took a long time and lots of nurturing.  I'm making it seem quick and overnight, but it wasn't like that.  The timing was right for it and for me and it took.  I have to be careful though, the siren song of dieting is sneaky and alluring.)  The gaining stopped and my weight leveled off.  And, all that energy spent on dieting and self-hatred, was free to be put to use for more creative and sustaining activities!  Woo-hoo!

What was continuing to bother me was feeling out of shape.  Feeling less able to keep up with my family.  I'd turned 40 and had kind of resolved to that just being it.  I was feeling old.  I wished a lot about feeling better.  About being more fit.  I tried a few things, but nothing stuck.  

I started my 365 photo project on January 1, 2010.  I was still at that low point in overall self-esteem.  I was really struggling with my changing identity, purpose, role, etc.  It was a rocky year until August.  After weeks of Shiva Nata, returning to the ideas in Dr. Glasser's Choice Theory, and being ready for Katie Byron's message about loving what is, I gained clarity and gave up the crisis cold-turkey.  Maybe I'll overshare about all that some day, but for this story, you just need to know that the first week in August was a tipping point.  I began to practice acceptance of what is, I let go of past patterns, and I allowed myself to move forward.  I was well on my way to contentment, happiness, and the deep inner peace I'd so longed for.  

And, then in October, after 10 months of taking photos and posting daily, I really understood the pattern of wishing vs. taking action that I was caught up in.  And, that was that...instead of wishing for fitness, I just started walking.  And, it stuck.  And, it's been going well.  Until the past couple weeks....

I've been walking ever since 10/26/10.  Regularly, and like a lot.  I went from zero exercise to consistently exercising 3 or more times a week.  Recently, I began walking 5 miles several times a week.  And, a shift started taking place in my mind.  My walks began to have a wish for weight loss associated with them.  My 2 and 3 miles walks began to not feel like enough - I would push myself to do a 5 mile instead.  I started wondering what I'll look like this summer.  I started trying on clothes, hopeful I'd need a smaller size.  See, I appear to have this picture in  my mind of what a person who regularly walks 5 miles several times a week should look like:
("Female Jogger" appears courtesy of mikebaird via a Creative Commons license)

And, it's thin.  And, firm.  

My reality ain't thin or firm.  I've gained weight in the past couple weeks.  I know this because while I haven't taken out the scale, I snuck a peek at my weight a time or two while playing Wii fit, and my clothes fit differently.  So, I started thinking about eating less...reaching for toast with nutella, but eating a carrot stick instead.  And, then I noticed...I'd begun stuffing myself at night.  I started sitting and eating past full while watching TV.  My body, my smart, smart body knew I had started thinking of restricting food again.  My body knew I was wishing for a change in my appearance instead of being accepting.  And, it reacted by eating more.  All that trust I had built up was dissolving.  Trust that I would never again restrict food.  Trust that had allowed my body to calm down and not overeat in fear of having food taken away.  

As I walked my mental picture of myself had changed to firmer and thinner, but the reality is that while I feel a gazillion times better, I haven't seen such a physical change.  So, while I'm walking I "see" this different Aimee, but then I pass a mirror or see a photo and I don't look like my vision of a person who exercises.   And, it was becoming discouraging.  Why bother.

Why bother?!  Well, I've heard those words before!

I see the pattern!  And I'm grateful, because now I can do something to stop it.  I will keep the focus off weight loss and off changing my appearance.  I will be motivated by the miles adding up, not the pounds going down.  Movement and exercise are about FEELING more energetic, flexible, and having more endurance, and for stress relief, and confidence-building, etc.

I'm working on building up trust with my body again.  I'm catching the judging thoughts and the dieting thoughts sneaking back in.  I am reminding myself again that I can eat what I want and like, when I want and like.  And, I'm back to reframing exercise properly ~that it is about fitness, not fatness.  

In honor of returning to acceptance  I thought it might be cool to take some pictures today of ME, a person who exercises regularly.  I'm giving myself a new picture in my mind.  Otherwise, I'm likely to give it up and if I'm not careful, go back to binging in fear of restriction.
These past 6 months have been some of the happiest of my life.  Not, that necessarily happy things have been happening, it's pretty much the same old stuff going on around me, but I AM HAPPIER.   It's a shift in thinking and being that I had to make.  Happiness has shown itself and transformed me.  If I listen to Paul, it has made me more beautiful.  If I watch my daughters, it has made me deeply peaceful.  More settled.  More content.  More approachable.  More relaxed.  More open.  More grateful.  More accepting.  More able to cope.  More self-loving.  More love-giving.  And, on and on.  Loving my body is a critical piece in this.  I've found wholeness.

So, look.  
Look at today's photos.  
This is what a person who exercises regularly looks like.  
This is me.