Sunday, February 07, 2010

My choice.

Another question that Nancy asked on Thursday night went something like this: "Does what happened yesterday have an effect on how well you do today?"

I think the implication was that if we had "blown it" one day, were we less likely to "succeed" the next day because we already felt defeated? (I generally hate it when people put words in quotation marks because it's not usually necessarily, but here, I think it is. What does it really mean to screw up or to succeed?) I looked around, and many people nodded their heads. I wasn't nodding. It wasn't that I'm just that darn positive that I don't let my failures affect my actions (or inactions). It's just, well, I hadn't blown it yet. I suppose my previous days were affecting me, but it was because I was doing well. I expected to do well the next day.

That's when I knew I had to be careful. I was surprised by how many people seemed to think they messed up frequently. This didn't bode well for me. I'm going to have bad days.

Each week when I weigh in (a process I am surprisingly not intimidated by), I am told my loss for the week, given a sort of newsletter that focuses on the week's challenge for everyone on the program, and handed a booklet tailored specifically for my week with the program. The book for week four is Habits of Successful Members. These little books focus on issues that members face as they work through the program and usually include quizzes that help us understand ourselves and the program a little better. It sort of reminds me of takings those quizzes in Seventeen when I was in middle school, except these are much more enlightening. This week, the quiz helped me identify the healthy habits I should work on developing.

The results were no surprise, but I find it comforting that the quiz got it spot-on. It said learn from experience and manage your thoughts. These are both things I've known for a long time are struggles for me.

Take learn from experience for example. I think this one has a lot to do with worry, in my case. I tend to expect the worse, but what in my experience has shown me that the worst will happen? Nothing. Things turn out okay, as a general rule. Also, I have to look at successes from the past, determine why I was successful, and practice those behaviors. When I do this, I find myself looking back at how my lifestyle was drastically different in Honduras, where I seemingly effortlessly lost over thirty pounds. I drank almost exclusively water. I walked everywhere I went. I ate very lightly, and I'm not sure I had anything fried at all. For example.

The managing the thoughts one, on the other hand, seems more relevant right now. I think for most people, though, negative thoughts involve body image. I often read advice saying that you wouldn't look at your friend and tell her that she has a huge butt or a disgusting figure, so why would you say that to yourself? Even I have a hard time believing this, but I don't always have a negative inner monologue when I'm looking in the mirror. Now, put that mirror in a dressing room, and things change a bit. But really, I don't toil over my appearance all that much. My personal inner monologue of negativity is instead about my abilities.

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I doubt myself. I have a hard time making even the littlest decisions because I'm afraid I'll make the wrong one. When people make the general statement, "You are your biggest critic," they are actually talking to me. I expect the worse, and even when things turn out okay or even good, I find something about what I did to pick on in hindsight. Like teaching. My students, coworkers, principal, and various observers can tell me all day long that I'm good at my job, that I'm a good teacher, but I don't believe them. I don't know if I will ever believe them. Because as I tell myself, I know better. Either they are just trying to be nice or their standards are lower than mine. I'm that kind of negative.

Even after the first week of Weight Watchers when I weighed in and discovered I'd lost over an astounding seven pounds in one week (more than I weighed when I was born), instead of being proud I tried to downplay it by saying that it just goes to show how much I have to lose. Luckily, Sarah set me straight and basically told me to shut up and be proud. I tried.

So my big challenge here is believing that I can do this and, even more intimidating, that I can keep it off, because it's not like I’m just trying to lose five pounds to fit into a dress here. While I haven't really had a bad WW experience that has adversely affected the subsequent day, I have a discouraging experience that may impede my overall progress. Remember that weight I lost in Honduras? I gained it all back. Plus some. Which sounds exactly like those stories I hear almost daily about people who lost weight. This is the negativity that keeps nagging at my mind: So what if you lose it? You'll just gain it all back.

But I have to be realistic. I did not set out to lose that weight in Honduras. It wasn't a choice; it was circumstance. I was changing with my environment by necessity. I'm not very good at imposing imaginary restraints on myself, so once I got home, I couldn't convince myself that water was the only drink available to me, that I didn't have a car to drive, and that there wasn't anything to eat except beans, rice, and some tuna and crackers every now and then. Yes, that's how I had lived for those two months, and obviously, my body changed. But I didn't really choose to be healthier.

This, though, is my choice. I am choosing to live healthier. I am working on developing new habits that fit into my lifestyle. My lifestyle is changing when it comes to eating and activity, but I want to make these changes here with the people, places, and thing that I love. Not in some temporary reality.

This morning, I slept later than I have slept in a while, probably since I started the program. And again, if you know me, you know I love to sleep late. But when I woke up at 10:30 this morning, I had an immediate feeling of dread, as if I'd blown it yesterday and fully expected the same for today. I was still in that hazy half-sleep, so it didn't even occur to me that I was feeling this way because I'd slept away a chunk of the day and regretted it. Instead, I interpreted it as having failed the program in some way. Yeah, Weight Watchers. What the heck does that have to do with sleeping in a little? I don't know either. At least now I have my wits about me.

The truth is that yesterday was a really good day. It was probably the first day that I wasn't constantly aware that I was following a plan, but I did follow it. I spent most of the day with a group of knitters, spinners, and weavers hanging out working with fibers. I had brought my own lunch (a really good chicken and orange salad and my new favorite, Laughing Cow cheese) rather than eating the good-looking food prepared at the convention center, but that was okay. I did not feel deprived. I think it was mostly because I was intentional about eating well, rather than leaving my choices up to circumstance, and I focused on enjoying the day, doing something I love and meeting new people who love it, too. I chose to have a good day. So I did.

I am choosing to live healthily. So I will.

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