Motivation Monday: Going Back to What Works

This morning started off so much like every other Monday morning: I woke up, fed the cats, and then stumbled bleary-eyed to the bathroom to the shower. While I waited for the water to warm up, I got on the scale, cringed at the number, and scolded myself for all the not-stellar food choices I’d made over the weekend.

Eat healthy all week, lose my mind and eat crap all weekend, weigh myself on Monday and feel guilt-ridden and defeated. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I am fed up with this.

Over the last year, I’ve struggled with a pretty fierce bout of depression and anxiety, and one of the things that I know is that my weight is largely affected by shifts in my mood. It’s not a coincidence to me that when I’m feeling best about life and myself in general, I have an easier time making healthy choices and managing my weight. Over the last year, I was aware that the numbers kept climbing, but I was also too low-energy and defeated to really do anything about it.

The most frustrating part of depression and anxiety is that it is in no way related to how I actually feel about my life. I started really feeling it last August, and was so angry at myself over it. I was a newlywed, starting a new chapter in life with a man I’m madly in love with, and everything was going so well. In spite of how low I felt, I was in serious denial that it was actually depression. I kept asking myself, how could I possibly be depressed when things are the best they’ve ever been? But of course, I know it doesn’t work that way and I wish I had cut myself some slack. Now that I’m finally feeling a lot better, I feel like I can get back my motivation (hence picking back up this blog series) and make some positive changes in my life.

I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding things in the last year. I avoided taking photos because I didn’t like how I looked. I avoided events altogether where I might see people who knew me from when I was smaller because I was just sure that they’d see me and think, “Wow, she’s gained a lot of weight.” The sad thing is that I missed out on things I would have enjoyed, because I was self-conscious. And so I decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore. I proved it to myself last week when I went to a Zumba class taught by my friend Susie, who is also one of the instructors I used to love dancing with back when I lived in Marysville. She started her own class last year, and while I did want to go I was ashamed to because I didn’t want my old Zumba friends to see how out of shape I’d let myself get. I kept telling myself that I’d slim down first and THEN go. Tired of that and tired of my own excuses, I made up my mind last week that I was going to go and hug my old friends and have fun, and I did just that! I had an amazing time, and no one seemed to care one bit that I look different now.

On a podcast I listen to called Diet Starts Tomorrow, the hosts recently interviewed Dr. Oz. I’m not a big fan of his or anything, but he did say one thing that resonated with me when speaking about his guests that had lost over 100lbs: they had one thing in common, and that one thing is that they all loved themselves prior to losing weight. They didn’t choose certain foods to eat or work out to punish their bodies; they did it to celebrate them. Hearing that was like switching on a giant lightbulb in my brain. I looked back at a blog post I had written in 2012, when I had successfully dropped unwanted pounds: my Zumba class is not just about losing weight, it’s about being the best person you can be…mind, body, and spirit. And for me, Nancy’s class was life-changing. Long before I started seeing more favorable numbers on the scale, I noticed awesome changes in my attitude, self-confidence, and outlook on life. Back then, I wasn’t trying to be thin. I was trying to be strong, healthy, fit. I cared so much less about the size of my jeans than I did the size of my self-image. And I do agree with Dr. Oz that that has been the missing piece for me the last few years. I somehow reverted into a mentality of wanting to be thin because I didn’t like how I looked, and that didn’t go well at all for me.

I know that I have two choices: I can be content with where I am now, or I can do the work to overhaul my unhealthy habits so that I can feel strong and fit again. I got back to the gym a couple of months ago and have been consistently attending dance classes 2-3 times a week (last week, with Susie’s class included, I did a total of four!). Although it’s hard to say for sure, I think that has contributed to my starting to feel better. Dance gives me confidence like nothing else ever has. It’s a good start, but if I really want to see changes I know I need to start fueling my body differently. The question, of course, is: do I really want to do the work to change my body?

I’ve decided that the answer is yes.

I’m not going to follow any diet plan and I’m not going to restrict myself from eating any foods I like. I know those behaviors just make me obsess about food and never set me up for long-term success. I’m going to do this the way I found success in the past: by working out and keeping a food journal. In the past I’ve used Lose It to track what I eat, but have since switched and prefer My Fitness Pal. Even so, I logged into my old Lose It account today and was happy to discover that all my old food logs are still in there and accessible! Looking over what I was eating at the time that I was successfully losing weight before gives me a lot of reassurance that I can do this again. Plus, it gives me meal- and snack-planning ideas, and in looking over the logs I’m actually surprised at how much I was eating – I definitely didn’t starve myself!

Of course, I would love to lose weight by doing this, but honestly it really isn’t about that for me right now. Life keeps reminding me that it is desperately short, and I want to do everything in my power to be around as long as possible and to enjoy every second as much as I can. In order to do that, I need to be healthy and strong so that I know that I can handle any activity that I decide I want to jump into. I don’t want to buy new clothes, I want to fit into the ones that I already have. This isn’t about wanting to change my body because I don’t like it – it’s about wanting to treat it better because I do in fact like it.

I’m sure that there will be people reading this who will have opinions on my approach and what may work better, but this is honestly what works best for me. I recognize that something else may be what works for other people, and that’s totally okay! We are all different! What I do hope is that I can receive support and not criticism as I try to take control of my health again. And how do I know that I won’t be right back in the same place next Monday morning, after another weekend of bad food choices? Honestly, I don’t know that. We have out-of-town plans for the next few weekends and I don’t anticipate being perfect or avoiding all indulgences. That isn’t realistic! But if I wait until the ‘perfect’ day to decide to start making changes, I’ll never do it. The perfect day doesn’t exist. But I do have today, so for today I’m going to do the best that I can to be as good to myself as I can. And then tomorrow, I’ll resolve to do the same thing again.

International Childfree Day 2018

Happy International Childfree Day, everyone!

Last year, shortly after returning from my honeymoon, I wrote a post about the decision my husband and I have made not to have children. I can admit now that I was very nervous to hit that Publish button and to openly proclaim that we were choosing not to have kids – a lifestyle that for some reason is still upsetting to some. I was afraid of the criticism, the rebukes that I’ll change my mind, that not having kids is selfish, that I’ll never know true love until I have a child. You know, all the usual things people say when a woman declares herself childfree, all the things people have said to me in my life. The things that make me feel pressured to change my course in life just to please others.

Happily, the responses I received were supportive and positive, and in the year since I wrote that post I’ve become a lot more comfortable owning my childfree status. Writing openly about choosing a life without children led to such a remarkable change in my thinking. I no longer worry that I’m going to offend people with kids when I say I don’t want kids myself. I don’t feel bad because my path in life is different from theirs or because I want different things out of life. Why should I? We humans are inordinately different by nature and so of course our dreams for ourselves and our choices in life are going to be vastly different as well. I don’t question for a second anyone else’s choosing to have kids; it’s just what they want for themselves and their lives.

In honor of International Childfree Day, here are some childfree facts about me. Feel free to add your own childfree facts in the comments!

• Even as a child, I never thought of myself as growing up to be a mother. I chose playing with My Little Ponies over baby dolls; I much preferred to imagine the grand adventures the ponies would have and didn’t enjoy pretending to care for a baby.

• I don’t dislike kids – I actually have several children in my life whom I love with all my heart and spending time with them makes me happy.

• I didn’t choose a career over parenting. While I do work full time, I don’t feel such a strong dedication to my job that I’d sacrifice things I want in my personal life for it. I am fortunate to work for a company that highly promotes work-life balance and while I do enjoy working hard, I’m not the person consistently leaving work the latest and I am happy to take my vacation days.

• I believe it’s important to really think about why I do things in life. My husband recently told me about reading an article discussing people’s motivations to do things and summarizing that we either do things out of obligation or out of genuine desire. I try to live my life so that the obligations are few and far outweighed by the things I want to be doing. Thinking this way was a big part of my ultimate decision not to have kids – I don’t crave parenting, and I think it’s something you should only do if you are craving that life.

• My heart aches for people who do crave parenthood and can’t have kids. One of the major drivers for my decision to break my silence and be more outspokenly childfree was not so much my own experience with negativity around my decision, but frustration at the questions I was regularly asked about when I would be having kids. I imagine how terrible it would be to be asked those same questions if I did want a baby while being unable to have one, and I want to lead the charge in helping to educate people about the harm they do when they ask such things.

• I love my childfree life and I want other childfree people to love theirs, too. There isn’t anything wrong with choosing not to be a parent!