What I’m thinking about today

Yep, been MIA again with multiple posts in the process of being written. I have so much to say, yet for a myriad of reasons, either not enough getting written or not enough of the stuff I want to share here getting written.

No matter. I will get busy and crank my recaps out at some point.

But today is as interesting as every other training or practice day in the gym. Combined with other fitness-related influences around me, lots of thinking progress. Negative girl has been trying her best to turn on the self-recrimination faucet, but my progress into fitness badassery has me more capable of batting back and vaporizing the negative noise.

Today is a compilation of my random and rehashed thoughts over the last few months.

My factory-production level model of excuse making is out of service. Not permanently, nothing about my mindset should ever be considered enabled or disabled permanently, but perhaps mothballed in long-term storage. Through the years, I have gotten better about excuses. As my maturity and understanding of life has increased, so has my perception about the nuances of my own behaviors. Making excuses does not make me feel better or put a positive spin on an undesirable situation or set of circumstances; it merely makes my behavior marginally acceptable in the moment. Getting real with myself and staying grounded in that reality is a huge component of forward progress.

The skill of listening to body is hard, but complying with its requests is harder. From earliest days of training, fab trainer J has emphasized and stressed listening to body. What I typically heard at first – I want a cookie! Let’s drink soda! I don’t wanna do [insert entire exercise library here] that! – was the addictive cravings of a lifetime bleating out their demands and drowning out anything and everything else that might be desired or required for the better health quest. After the earliest days, I seldom complain (much less whine) about the better health quest and all it entails. I try very hard not to bitch about overcoming poor lifestyle choices, because I know the process is challenging and must continue the balance of my life. Happy to say body’s requests now are more in line with green/yellow/red warning signs in the gym, but now the challenge is to take a rest day without fear or anxiety of never returning to the gym. I am getting better at managing my emotional state. Imperfect, always, but better.

To change my lifestyle habits, education is essential. I frequently feel like the latest incarnation of a nerd in a fake-it-until-I-make-it kind of way, but with a diet and exercise slant. Which means I read everything I can lay hands on from more trusted sources with regard to eating, fitness, exercise. From there it branches out to discussion with J, here on the blog, in my FB fat loss group. And what I find – vast majority of people I interact with about this stuff are typically seeking quick-and-easy, sound-bite-sized solutions. Few seem to want to take responsibility for their untrained, unfit, overweight state. They want to discount or irrationally debate the science, or find reasons why it does not apply to them. Whereas I like knowing the why, and figuring out how such knowledge impacts and/or benefits me. Because me, my body, my issues with losing weight or adding muscle are not unique or special snowflake qualities issues. Sedentary lifestyle, too much processed food, too much food period – these are the things that contribute to my obesity. Wishing it away hasn’t worked out very well for me.

Education makes the search for motivation and inspiration mostly pointless. Chatting with my own village of experts on various topics related to better health and from personal experience, resistance to doing the work is probably the biggest obstacle in the way of individual success. I understand it, and I sympathize. To a point. I have read hundreds (maybe thousands?) of motivational and inspirational memes and quotes looking for the catapult that gets me up and doing the work; many have even stuck with me in my mind. But when I’m in the gym working through my List of the Day, none of that is in my head. I am thinking about form – where are my feet, what is my elbow doing, how are my shoulders, go slower, go faster, peppier pacing, etc. – not about “just do it” or “how badly do I want it?” My reality? The search for motivation and inspiration happens way far outside the gym and well removed from the places where I shop for, prepare, or consume food. Reality is the motivation and inspiration have absolutely nothing to do with what I am doing in most of my life and better health pursuits, but it feels good to think about how I could potentially be someone who uses or has used such tools for success. But I have found that the searching for motivation or inspiration is a great tactic to avoid getting to bed on time so I can drag my sorry, ass-dragging butt out of bed when the alarm goes off and get busy doing the work necessary to genuinely impact my better health. It makes for great feel-sorry-for-myself fodder when I fail to follow-through on better health commitments I make to myself. And research into better programs, better diets, better habit-building processes makes for a valid reasoning as to why I am not actually putting any exercise program, eating strategy, or habit-changing behaviors into practice.

With exercise, practice – even perfect practice – does not make perfect, but it is critical for any sort of positive progress. I get up nearly every day and go to the gym. It’s not for everyone – I am an empty nester with a flexible schedule – but it’s a commitment I made to myself to improve my overall health. I stick with it, cling to my routine, because I absolutely understand and accept that doing the work is the only thing that will improve my overall health. I can read about the perfect eating strategy until my brain burns out, but without putting my chosen eating strategy into action I will continue to be obese if not gain additional weight. End of story. If I want to be leaner, stronger, more physically fit, I have to consistently exercise most days of every week. Forever. There is no shortcut around either of these solutions. Watching videos or J demonstrate, metaphorically banging my head against the wall until I absorb the cues and body gets the muscle memory working, reading fitness experts talking about exercise does not build much lean muscle or burn any fat. J and I have discussed this extensively. Working with him – yes, it’s a huge luxury – but I can only imagine what I would be doing if the only time I practiced what he is teaching is in our sessions. Twice weekly would not be doing a lot for my long-term health and wellness. It would be something, progress would be even slower, but I would be quite far from where I am right now.

Diet and healthy eating is still really difficult. I want to complain about it all the time. I really want to eat the food I want, when I want, in whatever volume I want. And I can – it’s my choice – but if I do that I have zero basis to complain and no one to blame for failing to lose any weight or inch my way closer to being out of the obese range. Whining about or making excuses as to why I am not losing weight does not make it happen for me under any circumstances. Nor does getting discouraged because I was good and compliant with my chosen eating strategy for 5 days and nothing positive seemed to happen for me this week. One the most far-reaching lessons in this endeavor is acceptance of what I can and cannot control; sometimes it even looks like genuine patience. J and many other friends who have had or are having a push-pull relationship with weight loss or maintenance understand how difficult it is to change patterns and habits. Plus there is a lot of sensible, practical advice available online, none of which involves maintaining the status quo of eating hyper-palatable food because picky eaters who hate to cook. I can relate; I am a very picky eater myself. However, I cook because it makes most sense in controlling both the types and quantity of food I am consuming. I also eat the same meals over and over again, because I cannot eat junk food and a lot of other things I love and expect to improve the quality of my overall health.

My tolerance with others and their “poor me” outlook grows more limited. In the last 2+ years, I have discovered progress looks and feels different for each and every one of us. I have also learned that there are folks who want results without doing the real work involved with achieving those desired results. Compare and despair rings true for me, and once I realized there is no one true way that fits most in fitness, it was easy to abandon such an unhealthy and unrealistic vision of how my journey is supposed to unfold. For the most part, I have a hopeful optimism on my progress with the better health quest. I do spend a fair amount of time in the gym on a regular basis, so I’ve been fortunate to make some new friends who share my enthusiasm for exercise, even if our goals and objectives and journey to improving our fitness vary by a wide degree. I love the camaraderie; sharing our individual successes and struggles is what makes it a great experience and deepening friendship for me. Because even if the wins or the vexing issues are very different, the process, the feels, the reactions are very much in the same vein. The people I’m closest to, there is not a lot of complaining about the workload. Maybe I am just finally seated at the grown-up table, where the new people I am meeting and making friends with understand that the choices we make dictate the lives we lead. There is not a lot of wallowing in self-pity or complaining about lack of results or forward progress with donut sugar coating the fingertips or zero practices between training meetings.

For me, goals are still mostly overrated. If you’re trying and your progress is so slow you wonder if there is actually any progress, I’m sympathetic and encouraging. I went for months avoiding the scale and looking too closely in the mirror because I was working so hard and not seeing or feeling much by way of transformative results. Throwing out concrete goals for weight loss or fat loss or weights moved to and fro was among the best decisions I have made. Unfortunately, I am exposed to far too many who are struggling under the burden of an ambitious goal and growing more discouraged about their lack of progress meeting that goal. For the longest time I needed no extra incentive to be discouraged, and removing that layer of pressure was liberating.

Consistency does trump intensity when your primary focus is better health. I have never been athletically inclined, much less gifted. I have started and stopped with exercise so many times and gone through the motions with the work and/or failed to take responsibility for my choices. I have complained about not having the time, the energy, or that I just couldn’t do it. Yep, been there, done that, have a whole freaking closet full of the t-shirts. Same is true of healthier food choices. Help is out there, but bottom line – short of some type of drastic medical intervention, we are the only ones who can strip the excess weight from our bodies and/or add lean muscle. Wishcraft was not working out for me, at all, so I hired an excellent trainer and have comported my personality to adapt to accepting help and forced myself to invest the sweat equity. And anyone who says it’s fast or it’s easy is lying; don’t fall for it. Changing behaviors involves a lot of physically uncomfortable choices, and I personally hate being uncomfortable. But I got used to it, and now there is a certain amount of discomfort that goes part and parcel in the better health quest. Maybe someday that changes, but for now it is a component of my day-to-day reality. Since I am now a few steps away from that initial entry, I have been told I make it look easy. Anyone saying that to me needs to look harder; the new normal is a least a little uncomfortable some of the time.

There is no substitute for good coaching. My village of experts are really skilled in engaging with me and emphasizing my strengths and helping me mitigate or overcome my weaknesses. My experiences are not unusual and should not contribute to someone else’s reasoning for why they cannot make progress toward their goals. Thankfully I am not anyone’s coach in this regard, because I would be a disaster at it. The tough love tactics I gravitate toward with myself will not work with everyone, probably not with most people. But my trainer, my doctor, my therapist – they all share any and all success I enjoy now and into the future. While I would never go so far as to say I would be nothing without them, mind and body are infinitely healthier with their expertise and guidance influencing my journey.

While not my usual training recap, it’s what is mostly on my mind in lieu of deciphering my scribbled notes on the session. I’ll get there; I always do.