When you accomplish something great, people notice. They commend you. They tell other people about your success. They write editorials about how you've changed their lives. They use you as motivation to try and further their own successes. Strangers come up to you and want to know your secrets. You get invited to talk at weight management meetings. That "motivator" role is one that I have never been comfortable with in my life.
I won a young author award in the sixth grade. I was a decent volleyball and soccer player in high school. I was a very good student in college. I was an extraordinary student newspaper editor. I was a wonderful assistant after college and a kick ass media relations person. I turned out to be a well-connected college-professor to my students at Millikin. I won a Women to Know Award after being nominated by my friends in 2009, and most recently, I turned my life around in regard to my mental and physical health regarding my self-esteem and body size.
Somewhere a long time ago, I learned that I'm supposed to be humble. I'm supposed to blush away compliments about anything and everything. Doing something well, should be expected. Excellence is merely satisfactory. Not doing something well means that somehow you are broken or dysfunctional. And that which you're not stellar at -- and don't give a damn about -- you just ignore. For me, I could give a crap if I ever get back up on skis again. I'm okay with not hitting the slopes. Books by the fireplace in a cozy sweater are an acceptable winter vacation. But, if it's something I think I should be good at, and I'm not. That's a bit more difficult.
As I get older, there are less and less times where I beat myself up over failure. In fact, I know that every day I'm going to louse up something. It's just the way the world works. I won't always say my words right when I'm speaking or typing. It doesn't mean I have PPA or that I'm stupid. It just means that my head is moving faster than my mouth is. I might forget the physical sheet for kindergarten at home and have to rush back to get it before the doctor's appointment, but the world doesn't end if I'm 5 minutes late.
Worse than not being good at something though, is trying to do something you used to be good at, but suck at now. When I was in Maine, I played volleyball for 2 hours just about every morning we were there. The first day was terrible. By the last day, I was sore and bruised, but I had my rhythm down. I remembered how to overhand serve (even though it's not as consistent as it was when I was 16). I kicked ass on the passing. I had fun doing it. I could match up with a 21-year-old guy and take on 2 20-somethings, and 2 40-somethings and win 2 on 4.
But picking up something you were never good at, finding yourself randomly successful at it, finding joy in it and then watching your performance decrease, is painful. I had it when I got diagnosed with Degenerative Disk Disease last summer and had to stop running for 3 months. I'm much slower now than I was then, but I find a strange joy in running that I never imagined.
I wonder if artists have the same feeling when their interests shift. "I was so successful painting XYZ. But now that time is over and I want to try ABC, which no one likes or buys, but it comes from somewhere inside..."
At that moment you stand alone. No one notices your struggle. If they do, they don't say anything. Or if they do say things, it's interestingly exactly the wrong thing. Things like: No one wants to only hear about that. It's all you talk about. People don't want to be around that all the time.
Or maybe someone does want to hear about it, I'm so glad to see that it's not easy for you, because if it was, I'd feel so stupid that it is so hard for me. Unfortunately, when you're in a dark and twisty place, these people's humanizing comments are often over shadowed by comments like the former.
Or they'll wonder, why I can't seem to get myself under control. I just want you to be able to figure it out and be done with it and be happy.
Done with it = shut up about it. Done with it = there's an end to the struggle. In response, I suppress and suppress for months, until I'm driving from Tolono to Savoy today to go to my first Yo-lates class since 2003, and I hear this lyric from Ani DeFranco, "As bad as I am, I'm proud of the fact that I'm worse than I seem."
Lately, I've been afraid to admit that I'm having a lot of trouble with maintenance. My pants have slid back up a size, so I've been wearing a lot of stretch jeans or workout pants. Or brands that I know fit larger than most. Where I used to look lean and tone in my workout clothes, I now notice bulges spilling over at the hips and in the upper back. In November, I was at 160. Yesterday, I weighed in at 172. And yes, the anemia has a big part of it.
But another part of it is sadness. I'm sad that I don't have any energy. I've been lazy about preparing meals because convenience plays out easier for dinner time than cooking, so eating out got reintroduced this winter. I lost the energy to work out 60-90 minutes five days a week at a moderate to high range, not because I was bored or just didn't want to, but because I'm generally a bodily waste from noon on.
You might think that this is no big deal an that no logical person exercises that much. If you're naturally thin, it's really not a big deal. But if you've had massive weight loss, it's a giant deal, because my body -- doesn't mind getting bigger. It creates hormones that create urges to binge in celebration, in an effort to fulfill an emotional void or just in terms of wanting to feel normal.
It's abnormal not to eat out in America. It's abnormal to not eat processed foods. It's abnormal to have enough time to workout 60-90 minutes a day. It's abnormal not to have your kids meet up at a fast food joint.
When I reached goal post gall bladder surgery in February 2010, the goal was to stay 160 and below. By April, I'd moved back to where I was before surgery which was 160-165. In both ranges, I fit into large size 4 jeans a small size 6. I was a size 2-4 dress. I was there until fall.
When I became borderline anemic in September, and I decided 165-170 was fine. "I'll take care of it when they stop the bleeding issue..." Well, I thought they'd figure it out by January. And now we're a week away from April, when I should get my IUD... and that in itself will take 2-4 months to work, if it works. So, I need to stop thinking of my body's inability to store iron and make proteins and platelets as a short-term thing to put up with. Because I'm watching it destroy my hard work as I weighed in yesterday, for the first time since September 2009 at 172 lbs. That's not funny. The number can't just keep creeping up. 170 was my stake in the ground.
When I was obese, I used to snort and scoff over people who would complain about losing any amount of weight under 20 lbs. This was because before my period, I'd go up 5-10 lbs in a week. This number is often still true. But because I lost so much weight, I understand that the last 10 takes 10-12 weeks to get rid of, but can be put on over the course of a nice, weekend holiday trip with the family. That's three days of food fun with a 3-month payback.
Who wants to work that hard and why? I do. Because I think it's important -- for me, mostly for my back, particularly. It's not the clothing size that matters, but how I feel in my skin is vitally important. Right now, I feel bloated and disappointed in myself. There's so much information on people who gain back their weight and more after dropping tons of pounds. And I want to be one of the 3 percent that is the exception to that rule, but I am afraid, I'm not.
I get the sense that some of the people in my life would very much like that to happen to me though. Mostly, so they can a) stop hearing me talk about my weight issues and b) give themselves reasons why they shouldn't fret about their own situations.
And then there are the many relationships I have with other "biggest losers." I worry that they'll look at photos of me and notice the roundness and compare themselves to me with tisk tisk thoughts on their head (or worse, feelings of relief that the 10 lbs yo yo doesn't happen to them). I'm afraid, I'll become the one of the four that fails, that someone will see me as lazy and undedicated, even though I am putting in the effort.
I know, mentally, that maintaining weight loss is a giant lifelong journey. Lifestyle issue, etc. But I remember being pregnant after losing 50 lbs and saying to myself, "At least you're gaining weight eating healthy food rather than crap." I remember making the comparison between my pregnancy and others, "Well, at least I never made my husband go through a fast food drive through for me." Like somehow that makes me the better person as I went from 207 lbs to 275 lbs.
Rationalization is strong with this one.
A diabetic might realize she has diabetes and monitor her sugars every day, but if she doesn't change her diet or take her insulin correctly, all she's doing is watching her body fall apart. Similarly, with my anemia, I watch my blood counts come back ugly. I have to have a rest time in the afternoon to recuperate from nothing more than running errands, 15 minutes of weight training and a 45-minute Yo-lates class. Running any amount of distances, puts me on a couch or in bed at 7:30 p.m. I continue, because overall, it's better for me. If I stop, or if I go back to walking, I'd have to walk 90-120 minutes a day to match my 45-60 minutes of running or aerobics or biking. If I skip it, my body will revolt and I won't fit into my pants. And I'm not buying bigger pants.
In the last 4 weeks, I've avoided food journaling, because I didn't want to know what I was eating. I just knew I felt better when I ate. But, that's another bad habit, I know I have.
Last week, I started recording again. This week, I started planning and cooking again. I had to put an end to the anemic pity party and start managing my illness, as if it's not going to go away (even though I really hope it does).
I had to realize that all I have is myself. I stand alone, and it needs to be enough. Because this is my body. I was born with it. I'm going to die with it. But I've also got to take care of it, and I can't just eat the anemia away (if changing diet and adding supplements would have worked, we would have been out of the woods months ago).
But this is a constant battle. It's like going to work, as one maintaining blogger put it. I was relieved to find her blog, because so much that she writes about, the struggles she goes through, I go through. Yet, she gets up every morning and does her "job," and I do, too.
Because although I might be overly humble, I am also overly ambitious, crazy organized and wonderfully responsible. But that doesn't mean knowing I can do better isn't killing me.