Monday, December 27, 2010

Relearning what I know

I went to class at weight management kind of down today. Not because of my weight or the fact that I was in a post-holiday blah, who cares, kind of mood, but because I was feeling lackluster in my maintenance battle.

This time of year gets people down, and then they seem to make unrealistic resolutions to try and prop themselves up so that next year will be better. I hate New Year's resolutions. I despise the sudden surge of people in my gym. I am annoyed at how people covet their resolutions and then start making up excuses when things don't work out.

And the hard part is, that I believe in positive talk. I believe the nicer you are to yourself and the more encouraging you are to yourself, the more likely you are to succeed in whatever your goal is. My problem is that most of the people that I know that practice nice talk in front of me are really beating themselves up with a metaphorical (and sometimes not so metaphorical) hammer. It's ugly to watch, and it's senseless to take part. Because after the couple weeks of, "This time, I'm really going to A, B, C..." Comes a "Well, at least I'm still, blah, blah, blah." Followed by "It's hopeless. I'm just not built that way. I am what I am..."With some people you can give them a pep talk and watch them reset and respond. With others, they're just not ready to make a change yet.

After my hour-long class today, I felt better. I want to thank the folks in my weight management program for showing me that no matter how old we get, we can always work for a better, healthier existence. I'm consistently the youngest person in my class. I'm one of the smaller people in my class. Since entering maintenance I have found out that my life-long battle is going to be going up and down the same 10 lbs, mostly because of emotional eating, but sometimes because of physiological cravings, too. That's my battle now. Like any other person with a life-long illness, my obesity sticks with me in my brain forever. I might have a 21% body fat number, but the habits that got me there are lurking. The other people in my class are, on average, 20-40 years older than I am. They are mostly female, post-menopausal. We have a lot of nurses and professionals. All of them smart and vibrant people. All of them have issues with food control. Some of them dread exercise. I have members in my class who have been coming every week for 26 years.

Like so many people, we know what to do, but we don't always follow our brains. We follow our passions, our impulses, our cultural heritage. We do our best. Today's statistic was that 95 percent of people who lose weight as a New Year's resolution end up gaining it back, usually because they have no constant support or accountability. That statistic sucks, and it's scary. The HMR research and Journal on Obesity shows that for folks in a program where a person continues to go to class each week, the chances of gaining back at least 1/2 of the weight lost drops to 60 percent. It's still a high likelihood of gaining it back.

Let's face it. Menopause doesn't do women any favors, either.

Liking yourself and accepting who you are and what you are willing to do to change your life in hopes of living longer -- for your own benefit is crucial. Some people say they do it for a spouse or a child or a grandchild. But I really believe if you don't love yourself, you'll never be happy, even if you lose 100 lbs. At the same time, making choices that are known to decrease your life (not wearing a seatbelt, binge drinking, smoking, drug use, morbid obesity, etc.) show ways that we, as humans, use unhealthy crutches to try to keep up enough momentum just to get ourselves out of bed in the morning or get us through a bad day at work, or through a difficult family gathering.

We use our vices to celebrate, to mourn, to control our  moods. They become part of our lives. They are a constant through our whole lives when people fail us. For me, food got me through a low self-esteem as a child, fear of social isolation, my parents divorce, bad break ups, academic frustrations, being called names in school, my grandparents' death, economic woes, family and friend difficulties, and a forever feeling that I am somehow broken and unable to really emotionally connect to very many people in this world.

I am human. I make mistakes. I spent 20 years making New Year's resolutions to lose weight and be healthier. Mostly I just wanted to look pretty, honestly. I thought if I looked pretty, people might like me more. Ironically, I feel more socially divided now than I did when I weighed 250lbs.

But I also know that I ran 7.5 miles today at a 10:30 minute pace. I know that I wrote down my food and exercise for the week. I know that I attended class. I also know that I have to lose 3 lbs to get back in my healthy range after cookies and truffles and a few cocktails last weekend. I can do that over the next three weeks, no problem. But when I look at myself in the mirror, what I love isn't the body that I earned. It's the self-esteem that says that I'm worth the considerable effort and determination it takes to keep up the healthy skills I learned in my class, to keep working out, to keep recordkeeping, to keep working to make better choices.

Instead of resolutions, what I hope everyone strives to achieve is the ability to look yourself in the mirror and know that you are amazing not because you have a great mind or body or soul... I want you to take care of all three entities equally. You are fighting the good fight, and you do it one tiny mini-goal at a time, rather than a giant, steep goal that will only end up discouraging you down the line.

My big goal is training to be able to run 10 miles in shoes. (I'm up to 5.5 miles.)  My mini goals relate to making sure I get my workouts in day by day, week by week, to keep me focused.

Xman's big goal is to get his yellow belt in TKD after 4 months of trying... He has difficulty with some of the moves. So we have to take goals move by move. Two weeks ago, he mastered the front stance by practicing with me 10-15 minutes, per day for 5 days a week. Last week, he mastered the back stance. Now we're working on putting the two of them together. Then we have to do the arm movements, and a twisting kick... And hopefully, hopefully, he'll be okay to take his yellow belt test in February. He's working so hard, and when he tells me he's done and he can't do it -- I ignore him. Then the next morning, I say, "Hey, wanna do Tae Kwon Do?" He jumps up, assumes the attention position and goes through the movements with me for high fives and hugs. He also tells me he WANTS to go to class.

He continues, because I continue. He is my accountability and I'm his. Who knew I'd get so much support from a four year old? :-)