I was in the zone on the spin bike today when it hit me. I mean ON the spin bike, head in the game, sweat dripping onto the floor and burning my eyes, mascara running like the crow. (Yes, I wear mascara even on a clean face because I love eyelashes.)
What hit me was that I’m still, after 34 years, trying to get my balance. It’s like I’m on the teeter totter of life every day, running from one end to the other furiously trying to hold it down. But you can’t hold both ends of a teeter totter down, or at least, you couldn’t last time I was on a real one. It’s just impossible.
Over the last five years, I have maintained a 100 pound weight loss, but that doesn’t mean I have a handle on it, that I licked obesity or that I’ve learned how to balance my weight loss with life.
I got lucky.
Sure, I’ve worked for it. I’ve been in the gym and eating clean more often than I haven’t. But when I lose my footing, stop working out, start binging and eating bad food, I overdo it without realizing that it’s all the old issues bubbling up again. I truly believe we become overweight because we are eating our way through something. Eating to soothe emotions, or stress, or maybe just to get our bellies so full we think about that instead of the chaos in our life.
A couple of months ago, right in the midst of the Jamie Eason program, when I was on track to seriously be in the best shape of my life, I bit the dust. I fell face first into “I’m one donut away from being 100 pounds overweight again” land. I told you in other blogs that there were reasons for my “failure”, a word I don’t like to use but it’s fitting here. And today, on the spin bike, two weeks into being back into my workout and clean eating routine, I replayed those reasons in my head.
I was juggling a career, two children, six day a week workouts, food prep, and never cheating. A plan that was never going to be sustainable long term. I had the luxury of working out at lunch, so the workouts weren’t interfering with my life. Then I changed jobs. My hours changed, the workload changed, my responsibilities increased and I was back to figuring out when to make it to the gym. Summer started, the girls and I love socializing, spending time with friends, going to the pool, the water park, the lake with our friends, all activities with temptation everywhere.
I should have been able to balance all of it, but in my black and white world, it was all or nothing. In my mind, if I couldn’t do it 100%, I lost faith in myself, despite the fact that I was still exceling in other areas of my life.
My good friend JC, not to be confused with Jesus Christ, has been preaching to me for years about my inability to live in shades of grey as he calls it. He says I am a control freak, and while I’m not necessarily a controlling ogre with other people, I definitely try to control the outcome of every situation, especially the ones that I have to show results for.
I come by it naturally, honestly. I was raised in a pretty immaculate, structured home. I was a very competitive athlete from a young age. I was a prissy girly girl sometimes, but when I stepped onto the softball field I had tunnel vision. I don’t even remember it being about winning against the other team as much as living up to how good I wanted to be.
So I have to hault the Jamie Eason program, I finish school and start again, all the while eating and lounging to my heart’s content. And people, I love food. I love it so much that if I could have one superhuman power it would be eating anything I want without consequences.
But the truth is, loafing and binging does NOT make me happy. It does nothing positive for me because it’s coming from the weakest part of me. Everything I have preached since I started this blog, maybe I do it in part because I need to hear it, too.
Anyway, back to balance.
I’ve been doing something these last couple of weeks that I have never done before. I don’t have a strict plan. I have a plan, but it’s loosely arranged and there is room for trial and error. I know I need to exercise anywhere from 3-5 days a week and I’m satisfied with either end of that range. If the gym isn’t possible because the girls are growing up and out of going with me, I take them to the park and run. Or I go to the gym a night they are doing something with friends. I do my workout at home, or I swim laps in the pool. Weightlifting is still my first gym love and something I definitely try to fit in a few times a week, but I absolutely refuse to beat myself up anymore because I didn’t specifically work my triceps this week.
I make sure I have my lunches planned for the week, because my lunch hours are spent doing homework, but the snacks have become much simpler than ever before. Almonds and a protein shake. String cheese and an apple. Yogurt and a banana. They don’t make for pictures as pretty as the creations I was whipping up a few months ago, but things change and you either change with it or sink.
A conversation with another good friend, and another, and even one more after that got me thinking a lot. The more people I talk to, whether they are obsessively over-exercising or trying desperately to start, the more I learn about myself through their struggles. One friend, in particular, stopped running obsessively for hours upon hours every week and started eating like a normal person. I almost cried when she told me this had been going on for quite some time, and her reason?
“I just wanted to enjoy life more and I was too busy either exercising or beating myself up to do that. So I just stopped. I get there when I get there and if I don’t, it’s because I’m doing something that makes me happy. It gave me back the joy I used to feel working out, instead of feeling like something I had to do or I would die.”
My mom told me recently how much I remind her of my biological father. Another story for another time, but I got to know him late in my life, and didn’t have many years with him. I haven’t done any scientific research into hereditary genes, but I am almost positive that our blood definitely got mixed together and inserted in my veins.
“He was ALWAYS searching for something, Billie. It was like he would go from one extreme to the other, never finding what he was looking for on either end. I think he spent his entire life living extremes, when he might have been truly happy in the middle.”
In the shades of grey.
What I do know, is that I’m happiest when I’m just living life. Spending time with my little girls, without worrying about when I’ll make it to the gym, stressing out about not having enough time for everything, or what’s going to happen five years from now. I’m happiest when I’m eating healthy and exercising, because that is when I feel best physically and mentally. I’m happiest when I’m living up to my own expectations of myself, but I am also learning that it’s just impossible for me to be 100% at everything, all the time, so I have to allow myself latitude.
And I’m happiest when I remind myself of those things daily, because internal peace is like anything else, if you stop working on it, it gets away from you.
Today, I was craving that spin bike workout. Heart pounding, sweat dripping, music thumping, feel like I could go hard for hours workout. But a few days ago, I just wanted to walk at a moderate pace and zone out. It feels freeing to grab hold of the idea that I don’t have to choose either, I can do what feels right in the moment by listening to my body.
If you learn anything from reading my blog, I hope it’s that I am a human, just like you, trying every day to maneuver through this crazy world. While I know I will never go back to being 100 pounds overweight, mentally sometimes I’m already there and have to yank myself back to reality.
So if you need me, I’ll be over here. Living in the shades of grey 🙂