30 days: Day 4 – Trusting your body

Thursday, June 30, 2011 Permalink

Day 2 of the 30 day self-love challenge in which I am (belatedly) participating required me to acknowledge and thank gifts of my body. It was kinda weird as I spend much time despising my body. I avoid looking at the-wholeness-of-me. I look at my eyes as I put my contact lenses in each day. I look at my face and my hair as I try to gel my hair into submission each morning. And I sometimes use the apple symbol on my iPhone as a mirror to apply lipstick. But that’s about it. I don’t want to see my body. And sometimes, when I am caught unawares and am confronted with a reflection in a shop window, I am appropriately horrified. But the day 2 challenge required me to look past the skin and swollen exterior and really think about what I appreciated about my body. It was useful as we spend so little time being grateful for ‘the things that work’ or for our good health. It’s only when it’s lost we realise what we’d had.

Trust: Rock Art in Downtown Lubbock, Texas - Proverbs 3:5,6Today’s challenge is about trusting our body.

From our first breaths, instincts reign in our bodies. To feed when hungry and stop when full.  To rest when tired and explore life when awake. To smile when happy and cry when upset. From the first days, our bodies typically function quite well through so many intricate processes and details. The heart knows how to pump blood. The lungs know how to breathe. The stomach and intestines know how to pull nutrients for fuel.

Our bodies are fabulous creations and they know their stuff. Our bodies contain more intelligence than the smartest of computers. Our bodies adapt very well to whatever we expose them. Yet, we show such uncertainty in trusting them. We lose sight of cues our bodies give us – hunger, fatigue, stress, and more. We think we don’t need to listen to them and they will do our will, no matter how damaging.

Sure, mind over matter acts as a powerful tool. However, we shouldn’t always ignore our bodies’ wishes for personal fulfillment. We need to treat them with respect and the first step to doing so is to trust them. Really listen to what your body tells you. Do you feel hunger? Eat! Do you feel tired? Rest! Do you feel nervous? Figure out why and find a way to calm yourself.

Our bodies provide us with so much information every single day. If we tap into that, we can live the most fulfilling lives. When you care for your body you have the energy in you to pursue life and happiness. Reflect on the many ways your body displays its intellect. Is there an area where you face difficulty trusting your body? Take time today to focus on this area and pay close attention to your body. Trust and listen.

In what area do you know you need to trust your body more? How do you plan to do so today?

HungerMy biggest trust issues with my body are two-fold. Firstly, the obvious one for so many of us who have a problem with our weight, and controlling our eating. Going forward, I need to eat when hungry and trust my body to tell me when that is. And, amazingly, I’m not hungry that often any more. I believe that’s something to do with giving up my 1 litre plus/ day diet coke habit. Now I defer eating to do other things instead. I’ve NEVER been one of those people. I used to hear people say ‘Oh, I forgot to eat,‘ and I’d want to punch them in the face. I mean, WTF? And yet now I’m rarely hungry. But…. (big but – actually big butt and big but!) it doesn’t mean I’m not still prone to overeating. Because I rarely ate because I was hungry. I ate because that’s what I did. In front of television at night. It was the one time of day I was happy. I indulged in hermit-like behaviour so that I could sprawl on an armchair surrounded by my favourite food and wine with only good television for company. Even now, when I think about grocery shopping at Woolworths I think about the gluten free corn chips I bought every weekend (several times each day). And then when I walked with a friend the other night, I contemplated the wine I used to buy on the way home, which I enjoyed in my own very excellent company at night. I haven’t quite got my head around it all yet. I’ve spent SO long craving alone-time at night and on weekends (so I could hide away and binge eat) that now I keep finding that I am writing at night (deferring dinner until too late) and out and about on weekends. Perhaps I am to be a hermit no more?!

But what I really need to do is trust my body. It will tell me when it’s hungry or when it’s full. It doesn’t mean I can’t be sensible and eat something when I realise I’ve had too few calories during the day; what it means for me is that I need to listen to it when it is screaming out ENOUGH! I need to farewell the days I had to lie in the bath after eating because I was so full I could do nothing else.

The second issue for me is my sleep patterns. I go to bed later than I usually plan… but even when I don’t I don’t sleep well. I’ve written about it here before and anyone who follows me on Twitter will be aware of my regular 1am ‘I can’t sleep‘ tweets. It isn’t uncommon for me to lie there for a couple of hours each night before sleeping. Recently I had MANY post 1am nights and even a 3am night during one week. I was sick, or became sick at the time. Whether one led to the other I don’t know. I’ve tried all of the suggestions – warm baths, not using my bedroom for anything else (the experts say sex is okay, but sadly that doesn’t appear to be an option for me at the moment!), and even trying to meditate (ish) to calm my mind but to no avail. I go to bed and my mind buzzes and I can barely grasp onto the myriad of thoughts racing through my head. I can’t get comfortable. I’m often wide awake. But, when my alarm goes off in the morning I am beyond tired. Exhausted even.

Strangely I don’t have the same problems when it comes to daytime nanna naps. Just the going-to-bed-at-night kind.

insomniaNow I know we need to get 6 – 8 hours of sleep a night. But what I’m wondering is if I should stress less about it. Perhaps I need to trust my body in this case. Perhaps I need to focus more on the ‘getting out of bed despite my tiredness’ in the morning rather than desperately re-setting my alarm clock again and again. Surely if I had minimal sleep for night after night my body would get so exhausted I’d have to sleep. Or I’d get sick. Again. Nothing I do seems to help my insomnia, so perhaps all I can do is not worry and trust that my body will sleep when it is ready. Sometimes as I lie in bed my mind is at its most creative. When I used to do more writing I would often be struck by inspiration the moment I lay down for a nanna nap on weekends. I have a notebook next to my bed, so perhaps I need to use it more and capture those thoughts so they are not wasted.

30 days: Day 3 – Intrinsic beauty

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 Permalink

I’m now three days into my ’30 days of self-love’ challenge; and no, it’s not the kind of self-love that needs an “Adults Only” rating. I am working my way through an initiative of blogger Tina, who inspired her followers and readers to take a month-long trip with her in September 2010. Each day she offered them a different theme to ponder. Belatedly it’s my turn. Today’s theme is: intrinsic beauty.

How do you define beauty? When you consider someone beautiful does the sole focus lie in her outward appearance? When you look at yourself in the mirror, can you look past that barrier of our body called the skin and see beauty? According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary beauty is: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.

No physical manifestation of those inner qualities of beauty need to exist. We simply need to adapt this paradigm shift of defining beauty by the inside versus the outside. Intrinsic beauty fits the true definition of beauty and flatters more than a miracle bra. When we tap into our intrinsic beauty and allow it to showcase who we are, nothing will succeed at diminishing our sparkle. Intrinsic beauty shines through. See your body as a reflection of your inner qualities. There is power…and beauty…in that.

 Take a few moments to think how you showcase intrinsic beauty. What positive qualities describe you. Search deep. Through the day consider these qualities. How do they showcase in your life and make you beautiful?

inner beautyI believe my intrinsic beauty lies in my compassion and consideration for others. I ‘believe’ I have the ability to understand and empathise with those I come in contact with. In my ‘what I’m confident about’ post, I said that I believed I was emotionally intelligent and had to ability to read and sense others’ feelings. I’m also prone to take on their feelings. I’m emotional. I cry during television commercials and TV shows, hell, I sometimes even cry during music videos.

I also tend to be overly considerate towards others, often putting them before myself – when I need not. People sometimes view this as a generousity of spirit, which I suspect it isn’t but rather a willingness to please… (I’m not that virtuous) but they don’t need to know that! But, although I tend to be self-centred I have a sense of right and wrong that doesn’t allow me to screw over others too badly.

I’ve inherited these traits from my parents – with both the nature AND nurture arguments coming into play. My mother is a VERY nice person. She does a lot of stuff for other people. She takes old ladies to church and ferries them to appointments and the like. She sends people sweet cards when they are down and regularly makes dutiful calls the rest of us avoid. My father is an emotional person, like me. He’s always been concerned about being a burden on others and instilled in me the need to be considerate. When I was young, he would always make me walk on the inside of the footpath, lest a car veer off the road. He would put money in others’ parking meters if they’d expired. He called people by their titles and called his (often younger) bosses ‘Mr’.

Now there’s no way I’d be calling my bosses Mr or Mrs or Doctor or Judge (I’m beyond informal) but I do like the fact that I think about the effect my beliefs, attitude, words and behaviour have on others.

 

30 days: Day 2 – Gifts of the body

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 Permalink

Earlier this week I decided to participate in a (non-competitive) blogging challenge that is in fact, over. Indeed it’s done and dusted, but because I liked the idea of ’30 days of self-love’ I decided to embark on the challenge belatedly and – hopefully – in so doing, indulge in some self-discovery and personal growth. The 30 days in question actually took place in September 2010, but I figured: better late than never. Or something.

Each day of the month last September inspiring blogger, Tina, set a theme for her many followers and readers to consider and reflect upon. Today is day two and the theme is: gifts of the body. Sounds ominous, so I should read more!

We each have a unique body gifted to us. That gift values more highly than anything else in our possession. Or that we could ever possess. 

What would do you if you didn’t have your hands to craft words on paper (or screen)? What would you do if you didn’t have arms to embrace a loved one? Legs to run? Eyes to experience the beauty of this world? Picture life without any single part of your body.

Our bodies bring us so much opportunity and life. We must cherish the bodies we have, with all their quirks, soft spots, or pains. They do not deserve the abuse which we expose them to on a regular basis, both physically and mentally.

Even if they can’t do all the things we hope or look the way we desire, our bodies still require love. If you had someone in your life who supported you in every way imaginable, wouldn’t you want to show that person your appreciation? Our bodies are that entity. Let’s show them a little bit of thanks today and throughout this month of self-love.

Once a week, we will have a day devoted to sharing three things our bodies do for us and why we love that part of ourselves. We will do this each week so we can genuinely focus on a few things at a time we appreciate about our bodies. Take a few moments to focus deeply on three aspects of your body today and thank them. I’ll go first.

Now, it’s your turn. Reflect on your body’s gifts. Then declare… “I thank my ______” for each. 

heart1. I am thankful for my healthy heart. To the best of my knowledge it works well. My father hasn’t been so lucky, contracting rheumatic fever as a child damaged his heart. He could only be saved through someone else’s loss. And he was. Over 10 1/2 years ago my father received a heart transplant: an anonymous gift that my entire family is thankful for every day. I am fortunate that – despite the way I’ve treated my body – my own heart keeps beating, second after second, hour after hour, day after day – and so forth.

A beautiful mind2. I thank my mind for allowing me to understand so many things; and for allowing me to think and dream. Because of my father’s heart issues he has developed vascular dementia. Unlike alzheimers (at the moment anyway), he is able to remember things from his past, but he is unable to transfer anything new from his short term (or immediate memory) into his longer term memory. He is trapped in a fog, unaware of what he did minutes or even seconds ago.

The mind is an amazing thing and shouldn’t be taken for granted. It also allows us to ‘feel’ and I don’t mean the sense of touch. I mean it allows us to experience emotions: sadness, fear and joy. And it allows us to feel love.

3. I thank my lungs which allow me to breathe. Constantly and (almost) effortlessly. I only notice my breathing when there’s a problem. Before starting this weight loss program I’d noticed I was having trouble taking deep breaths and I was worried something was impinging on my lung capacity. I’m not struggling as much any more.

My family recently attended a thanksgiving service for organ donor families and recipients. A woman who had been on the brink of death had received a double lung transplant. She told us to appreciate each and every breath we take, because she certainly does.

Thinking about these experiences has made me realise I don’t appreciate and value my body in the way I should. I focus on my fat stomach, or large cellulite-ridden thighs. I look at stretch marks and floppy arm fat. It’s only when I see someone with a disability or am reminded of my own father’s health challenges that I stop to think about those gifts that I do have and that I take for granted.

30 days: Day 1 – Confidence

Monday, June 27, 2011 Permalink

I’ve decided (belatedly) to follow blogger (Tina’s) ’30 days of self-love initiative’ which she kicked off on her own website in September last year. Her challenge (for other bloggers) was to bring about a positive change into their lives through some personal reflection on a daily basis; which she instigated by introducing a daily theme. Today is day one (for me anyway), and her theme is confidence.

“All of us have unique strengths and qualities that we should not ignore or gloss over, but instead lift up into the light and proclaim as our own with pride and joy.

A Definition of 'Confidence'Do not forget your strengths by focusing on weaknesses, because we all have those too. BUT those do not define us. Our strengths define us. Something else to remember. You are stronger than you think. You may not believe so, but you have the power to change everything. You have the power to turn your life into something beautiful. You are reading this post and stepping out to love yourself more, then in turn love others more, and then have the potential to change the world. Yes, YOU! Each of us have that power and simply moving, or even desiring to move, towards a positive place speaks volumes.

Be confident in what you can do! Trust in yourself and the changes YOU can make and that can happen in you. We all start somewhere. 

Take a few moments to quietly reflect on confidence and recognize what you have to offer. You have something! Focus on that throughout the day. Whenever you feel down, remember who YOU are and what you have to be proud of. Don’t negate it!

What do you have to be confident about?” 

I recently had to identify my strengths through another blogging challenge and I found it really difficult, so ingrained is that DO NOT BRAG notion. I did, however, grudgingly come up with some. But, in all honesty I developed these by reflecting on what my strengths (once) WERE: athleticism; willpower; and competitiveness. Things I once was and indeed, could be again. Perhaps.

.Confidence.Now, however, I have to do more than that. I have to be able to articulate WHAT I can do, or what I’m good at. Hmmm…. it’s almost like asking what value do I bring to the world. OMG.

(Okay, am back after only minor hyperventilation.) What do I have to be confident about? I feel like I need a disclaimer here to say that I’m really not vain and I don’t mean to say I’m GOOD at these things…. Wow – who would have thought this was so hard? (Sorry, by the way, for the stream of consciousness writing!) Okay, I’m back. Focussed and ready to go. *Gulp*

I can write. Well-ish I like to think. I used to write a lot for work, which meant I hated doing it at home. When I wrote often at work I found it easy to string together the bureaucratic-speak we so often use in government. And I was fast. I could whip up a Ministerial or Premier’s Briefing note in no time at all.

For someone whose internal thoughts are those of a complete bitch, I am very nice to people. I have the sort of job where I am a point of liaison. I am a conduit and I have to make my boss’s (Chairperson of a Board type thing) and the Board members’ lives easier. I’ve worked in a lot of roles like these, where I have to get stuff from people at short notice and task people to do things for me. And, I always acknowledge good work and try to consider the impost my requests have on others.

I am a good daughter. I am devoted to my parents, feel great appreciation for everything they’ve done for me and try to do everything I can for them (despite the distance between us) to help them as they age.

I have a nice smile. (OMFG – the physical ones are hardest to articulate) It’s a bit of a pasted-on smile, but I have big almost-straight teeth and dimples. I can smile like I mean it and mostly I do.

I’m a good problem-solver or trouble shooter. I can think laterally. I’m not an overly process-y person but I generally find that I can offer a solution if someone comes to me with a tricky problem.

I believe I’m emotionally intelligent. I can read peoples’ responses and behaviour and be in tune with their feelings. My brother is almost completely the opposite, so I think I got his share of that gene.

I’m quick-minded. I pick up things quickly. My mind suffers a little from ADD and I sometimes find it hard to sustain a long thought, as my mind jumps onto a tangent midway through, but I am excellent at multi-tasking and keeping a lot of balls in the air.

Self Confidence comes from the SoulWow! I think I’ve done pretty well. I may think of more but I don’t want to get too carried away, as my head may explode from the swelling. As per the challenge, though, I will try to remind myself of these things when I’m feeling frustrated or self-conscious over coming days (and perhaps the positivity will embed itself somewhere in the recesses of my mind).

30 days of self-love

Sunday, June 26, 2011 Permalink

I’ve recently discovered a blog (and blogger) who had a binge-eating history, but overcame that and other bad habits by taking a long look at herself. There was no magic wand, no miracle, just hard work and determination. Tina’s blog, Faith Fitness Fun details the personal growth and self discovery that allowed her to live out her life and follow her passions. She says:

I learned that each day matters. We have to make the most of our lives and recognize the blessings that surround us. I thank God every day for helping me get through that time.

Now I’m not a religious person (not that my mother didn’t try her damnedest) but reading through Tina’s personal reflection and self development I realised I could see some value in examining my own inner dialogue and long-held thoughts and feelings.

In September last year, Tina initiated the 30 Days of Self Love via her blog, generating a different topic each day for comment and discussion.

I’ve recently started participating in a blogging challenge issued by another member of my weight loss program and realise there’s value in others setting a theme for discussion. Most of my blogs are about things I WANT to write about. Things that strike my fancy: the bootcamp I just attended; or some article I just read. But having someone else issue me with a theme offers me the opportunity to move outside of my comfort zone a little and think about things that I might not normally want to address.

I did think about commencing this in July but I figured that was a bit like my old dieting mentality: “I’ll binge-eat all weekend and start my diet on Monday.” Monday Schmonday. Tomorrow is 27 June 2011 and will be day one of my ‘journey’ (wanky word, I know – only usually used by Biggest Loser, So You Think You Can Dance contestants and the like). Wish me luck!

Fat Vs Phat

Sunday, June 26, 2011 Permalink

Good Bad LovelyIn Sunday newspaper’s Body & Soul magazine, there was an article about how women constantly denigrate themselves and their bodies.

The article talked about the factors which fuel our negative self-image and included some suggestions to turn our thinking around. Some of the suggestions reminded me of the mindset discussions we have had as part of the 12WBT weight loss program I’m participating in. Our leader, Michelle, is always talking about the language we use, and I’ve written about that before. She’s commented on the fact that we talk about ‘good’ food and ‘bad’ food, and label our own behaviour similarly. It results in connotations being attached to our food and behaviour which are highly subjective and emotive: Chocolate is bad; Alcohol is evil; Apples are good. Despite being more aware of my own thought patterns, I still do it. “I’ve been good,” I say when someone asks me about my diet.

Day Seven Two: ReflectionThe article also suggests we replace self-loathing with self-love. Again this is something we talk about on our program: being the best version of ourselves. A while ago I offered a wanky quote from a notebook which reminded us that we should be ourselves, as no one else can do it better. I was blogging about a conversation with a co-worker who chastised me for my negative view of myself. I hadn’t even noticed I did it, so accustomed am I to self-deprecation. I have also written about a workshop I attended where the facilitator commented our habit of negative self-talk and an aversion to boasting about our own capabilities. It’s ingrained in us from a young age… it’s not polite to behave in a self-congratulatory way, or to brag.

The article quotes dietitian and co-author of The Good Enough Diet, Tara Diversi:

“Girls as young as five have strong ideas about weight, such as fat is bad and skinny is good,” she says.

So these thought patterns are ingrained early and reinforced by contributing factors, such as our parents’ body image and messages we may get through the media.

The article offers another suggestion to combat our body obsession: to acknowledge and be aware that there are many healthy body types. Thin isn’t necessarily healthy; and overweight isn’t always unhealthy. I know many people of normal weight or even those who are slim who do no exercise (and never have), don’t eat well and suffer from ailments. I know of bigger people who exercise like demons and have perfect cholesterol but still have a bit of a belly or larger thighs.  And yet – I have to admit it – I think I’d rather be skinny and unhealthy, than fat. It comes back to our use of labels again: fat is bad, skinny is good. Good, bad. Not healthy and unhealthy.

PhatWhen my much-beloved niece was 3 or 4 years old I was one of her favourite people. One day she got home from daycare and wrapped her arms around me. “I love your fat tummy,” she said. She then preceded to tell me that her daycare teacher had a fat tummy as well, but it had a baby inside of it. OBVIOUSLY I wasn’t going to be upset with my niece for such a declaration; instead it got me thinking. I realised she wasn’t using the word ‘fat’ in a negative or derogatory way, just as a descriptor. To her (at that age) there was no negative or positive connotations attached to the word. It described me (or my stomach in her opinion) just as blonde would have described my hair.

When I lived in Africa I was congratulated by women in my organisation for putting on weight (they’d beam as they told me I was ‘getting fatter’). I was mortified, but they saw it as a good thing. Similarly in Cambodia, I was perceived as wealthy because of my size. I was sometimes called Mrs Big (in Khmer) and I don’t believe that it was meant as an insult. But I – obviously – took it that way and was a bit hurt every time someone made the comment. I’ve read enough self-help books and have been exposed academically to the notion that only WE are responsible for our own feelings – that WE have control over how we react to something. But, just because you can rationally understand something, doesn’t mean you can overcome your responses and feelings. After all, our attitudes and beliefs have been formed over a very long time…

Boot scootin’ – though not really

Saturday, June 25, 2011 Permalink

Today was a first for me, as I went to a boot camp organised by another participant on my weight loss program. It isn’t like I haven’t done group fitness before:

  • as a kid I played A LOT of basketball, including representative stuff involving quite a bit of fitness training;
  • I’ve been a member of gyms over the years, have been mad on freestyle step aerobics (ie. the kind that’s complicated not the Les Mills kind), Body Combat and Body Jam and enjoyed boxing circuits;
  • I’ve been to fat camp where I have been pushed to walk and run up hills, not to mention carry logs around on my shoulders and crawl through tyres, all while being yelled at by 20 year old trainers;
  • as well as private pilates lessons, I’ve done small group classes over the years and currently participate in reformer classes;
  • and early last year (trying to come back from my hip injury) I had twice-weekly one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer which I dreaded and detested with a passion.

Boot scoot n' boogy!But today’s boot camp was a big thing for me as I’m coming from a less-than stellar level of fitness. As I’ve mentioned here MANY times I was doing nothing before I started this weight loss program. I was getting shin splints when I walked and my hip ached constantly. I’d even stopped going to pilates. As it happened, I’d done nothing AT ALL for about 8 weeks when this program kicked off. In preparation, however, I hired an exercise bike – with a plan to use that for my cardiovascular exercise until I drop enough weight and get fit enough to do other things. I also restarted my pilates lessons the week the program commenced (my version of core and strength training).

As of today I’m 9.2kg down – in almost exactly five weeks. I’m happy with that. I’m not burning the same number of calories as those who can exercise harder and longer, but I’m doing SOMETHING. Which is more than the SFA I was doing before.

A couple of weeks into the program I braved the Saturday morning boxing and cardio group class in a neighbouring suburb, along with 25-30 other program participants; and even went back for seconds a fortnight later. I thought that was a big deal, given where I was coming from. But I’d avoided the boot camps. With the boxing classes, I’m okay with the boxing bits, it’s the running and fitness stuff that kills me…. so the idea of going to an entire session that’s built around running and cardiovascular exercise seemed inconceivable.

Outdoor Boot Camp in the Wind! Whooooo!!!!!

This is not us but some random picture I found via Flickr

But I did it! Today! I ummed and ahhhed a bit and didn’t sign up until the very last minute. I wasn’t sure if I could even move for 90 minutes, let alone do ‘stuff’ for that amount of time. But it was okay. The boot camp was in a nearby suburb, so I liked the idea of meeting local program participants AND I must admit I didn’t get to walk this week, so my other 4-5 days of cardio exercise have involved interval training on the exercise bike. And frankly… I am a bit OVER the bike AND my butt hurts!

Of course I arrived at boot camp as everyone was starting their warm up run. Yes, that wretched swear word; R-U-N! I made it across the paddock – about one quarter of the run – before I had to stop the ‘shuffle-I-called-running’. But I walked the rest. And throughout the session the trainer was very sympathetic to my fitness-challengedness. I tried to do as much as possible; I staggered when I could and walked when completely stuffed. The 90 minutes went amazingly quickly and – despite my fire engine red face – I quite enjoyed it. On top of that, everyone was so supportive and welcoming, so I didn’t feel too out of place or uncomfortable (given my level of unfitness). I’m not sure how often I can go, but I will boot camp it again!

12WBT blogging challenge: Things I want to say to me (part 1)

Thursday, June 23, 2011 Permalink

Earlier this week I started posting my responses to a challenge issued by another participant and blogger on my weight loss program. I imagined myself in 12 weeks time; I identified my strengths; and I acknowledged my supporters. Yesterday I started considering the next challenge:

I want you to write yourself a letter entitled “The things I want to say to me”

Use your letter to help you remember how awesome right now is. Encourage yourself. Pat yourself on the back.

Or if you are struggling confirm to yourself how much you deserve better. Be kind but tough to yourself. Reestablish the reasons why YOU DESERVE this. Find that fighter within.

In yesterday’s post I talked about having done a similar thing as I neared the end of a one-month stay at a health retreat (though not the pampering kind; the fat camp kind). It took all of my willpower to dig this letter out because I knew I had (yet again) ‘let myself go’. I’d failed myself. Again, for fuck’s sake! I know it’s not too late and I know I can build from where I’m at now (which is where I was at the beginning of that journey). So… I’m not quite ready for the letter to my current self; but here’s what I said to the 41 year old me:


 

Lessons from fat camp

Thursday, June 23, 2011 Permalink

learnEarlier this week I finally started posting my responses to a blogging challenge issued by another participant on my weight loss program. The current challenge requires us to write a letter to ourself, titled ‘The Things I Want To Say To Me’. I will do this, but as I pondered over what I was going to say I was reminded that – about two years ago – I did a similar thing just before leaving Fat Camp. After a month at the retreat, we had to write a letter to ourselves that would be posted to us a month or so later. Given my love of words I agonised over mine for days before putting pen to paper and sealing the envelope. I still have it somewhere. But it reminded me that when I returned home from Fat Camp I also did a ‘Lessons Learned’ type post (on my now-defunct blog). It is pretty long, but I thought I’d paste it in here as many of them are still relevant for me and still require some attention.

Now that I am safely home, having survived four weeks at fat camp, I decided I should reflect on what I learned and achieved while there.

I have to admit that the time passed incredibly quickly. During the first week I was confronted by my own foibles – the extent of my ‘unfitness’ particularly compared to other campers; my perceptions of myself and others; as well as the extent to which I control all aspects of my life and am uncomfortable being dictated to by others.

Things improved after that, but there were still times that I battled with some of my demons. Heading to fat camp, I hoped that my 25yr battle with food, exercise and dieting might be resolved. It hasn’t been and realistically I realise that four weeks at a health retreat cannot erase years of obsession. I have long-known that eating and drinking are, for me, symptoms of other issues. What they are I don’t exactly know. I suspect that they stem from my need for ‘control’. The fact that (as an adult) I tightly control all aspects of my life – other than what I eat and my lack of exercise – is telling.

Experts say that girls / women / people become anorexic because they feel they have no control over their lives. They reduce their food intake because that is the one thing they can control. Twenty-five years ago my parents battled me over the dinner table as I starved myself to 45kgs. They despaired as I spent my nights in my bedroom dancing around to burn extra calories, having already exercised much of the day. Other than tie me down or hospitalize me, there was nothing they could do. It was the one thing I could control. And I was… in control.

Not any longer. Food and exercise are now the only things in my life I cannot control.

I wonder now if the underlying issues to my eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia and over-eating) will ever be unearthed. Perhaps I don’t need to know ‘why’. Perhaps now it is solely about self-control. Perhaps I need to stop relying on food to fill the gaping hole inside of me. I need to find other things to sate the emptiness.

So, though I survived four weeks at fat camp, I haven’t discovered the magic elixir that will solve all of my problems. I have, however, been confronted with, well…. me. My weaknesses and my strengths. My beliefs and my perceptions.

I have written about them in this blog, discussed them with my fellow campers and pondered them during the little time we had to ourselves there. Some of the things I have learned are things about me. Others are not.

I now know that 1 kilogram = 7700 calories, so to lose 1kg, you need to ‘expend’ 7700 more calories than you consume (over a period of time). As someone who relies on logic, this equation makes complete sense to me and came as somewhat of a surprise – that I hadn’t know it earlier.

I learned (the hard way I think) that sharing your anxiety with others doesn’t help ease it. Constantly and publicly obsessing about something (hills and steps) doesn’t make it go away and just annoys those around you.

Very importantly I learned that hills are not insurmountable. They can be hard and painful, but can be climbed. Slowly and steadily. It doesn’t matter if you are first or last to the top, as long as you know you have tried and given it your best.

I already knew, but confirmed, that I am a control freak and do need to know what is ahead of me. While I am comfortable with change and actually enjoy it, I need to know where we are going and that there is a logic to it.

Finally and surprising to me was the extent to which Victorians are ridiculously obsessed with Australian Rules Football and discuss players as if they are intimate friends. The obsession pervades all aspects of the State’s culture and is akin to some form of mass hysteria(!!).

So,14kgs lighter, with lessons learned and many kilometers of hills under my belt, I farewelled our trainers and the other campers and headed home. The feeling was (and is) almost impossible to describe. I am reminded of prisoners leaving jail; of addicts leaving rehab. I wandered around Melbourne airport, bereft. While our classes at camp discussed ‘the outside world’ and its temptations and prepared us for ‘after’, I felt at a loss. I roamed from café to café, looking for something suitable for a coeliac AND a no-carbohydrate diet. I ended up with a diet coke. On the plane, I was offered cake, or biscuits – or an apple. I could have none of them. Eventually they found me a small packet of almonds which I ate, even though they were salted.

In my apartment, I opened my refrigerator and looked inside. After a month away it was bare. Dinner time and my options were limited. Even my ‘healthy’ frozen veges including peas and corn (a no-no on a no-carbohydrate diet) were now out of the question.

It wasn’t just the food. While at the airport and on the plane, I found myself teary and unsure. Even now, everything feels different. I don’t fit. After four weeks there, the camp had become my ‘comfort zone’. The outside world is now unfamiliar to me. It is a new challenge which I wasn’t expecting. I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t. I’m not. Perhaps it is different for those who leave and return to family. Perhaps I feel lost because I didn’t come home to anyone. Just an empty apartment. An empty life.

Adro and the camp manager, Dante, talked to us about going home. Not just about what we will eat and how we will exercise, but about other aspects of our lives that have led to our overeating or our destructive behaviour. 

I vowed a better work-life balance. Not just in hours, but in also quality. I can no longer live a life where the only enjoyable thing I do each day is drink and eat to excess. There must be something more and my next task is to find it.