It’s fun talking about things that happened nearly a month ago and all, but at some point I feel like I should start getting into where I’ve been for the past two months and why I was barely blogging. I do have a few good semi-decent excuses (I went to boyfriend’s house for Christmas and didn’t bring my laptop, I was on a cruise without internet access, etc.), but those only cover part of the time that I’ve been MIA and only tell a very small part of the story.
The short version of the story is that I sorta just let everything in my life fall apart. But that version sounds sad, and the real story isn’t that depressing, so I’m going to take it upon myself to tell it in full.
Over the summer I read a book about habits which taught me about something really important: keystone habits. Keystone habits are that one change you make that then spirals outward into a whole bunch more habits, all as a result of that very first one. Ideally, and in my case, that habit and the ones resulting from it are positive. So in January of last year I started training for a 10k. That meant running on a regular basis, which led to learning about and starting to implement proper training habits, which led to improving my nutritional profile and starting to do strength training, which led to losing weight and feeling awesome about myself, which led to flossing and using mouthwash every night to be even more awesome, which somewhere in there led to using a to-do list to track everything I needed to get done (i.e. blogging) and do it on time so that I fell into super-productivity and amazingness.
It was incredible. I felt like I had every part of my life super under control – and it had all started with a random inclination to run a 10K in Disney World. The one small problem with this method of habit forming, though, was that as soon as one thing fell apart… it all did.
I did well with running and eating for a few weeks after my half marathon. But it wasn’t long before I started struggling to keep up with all my runs because I was getting more meetings at work, which meant I had to stay later, and the winter was approaching, which meant it was getting dark earlier. Once daylight savings time happened I pretty much gave up all hope of being able to run outside on a regular basis. And rather than use my “no excuses” approach (which is so, super important!) I just didn’t do anything at all. I tried to get in a run here and there, but I was lucky to get out once every two weeks.
Compounded to that was the fact that boyfriend started getting interviews and job offers, which was great and really exciting, except that those job offers were in Detroit – which, notably, is not Charleston. We were spending almost all of our time in heated conversations over how and when we were finally going to end up in the same place, and aside from taking up a huge amount of my time and distracting me from ever getting other things done, it led to emotional eating. A lot of emotional eating.
I gained eight pounds in the month of November alone. And then another five in December. Even once I’d taken it upon myself to stop stress eating, I continued over-eating anyway because it was so refreshing to just not care about what or how much I was eating (which can probably be traced back to when I tried to restrict myself way too much). I felt like crap because I knew I was eating way too much, but I kept doing it anyway because my brain was convinced that I needed to take advantage of the fact that I wasn’t counting [calories] while it lasted.
So going back to that keystone habit. My keystone habit was running, which I’d stopped, and my backup was calorie counting, which I’d also stopped. Therefore, it didn’t take long before everything else started to spiral out of control as well. I didn’t put as many things into my to-do list, and I stopped caring if I didn’t get them checked off on time. This meant that, despite finishing the courses, I didn’t earn my nutrition certification because I could never bring myself to take the second exam. It meant that I wasn’t keeping my apartment as clean, because I wasn’t even putting those tasks on my list. It also meant I wasn’t blogging, because writing these posts is programmed as a recurring event.
So that’s where I was. The good news is that’s not where I am now. I’ve started running regularly again (five miles this morning!) and going to the gym to read while pedaling on a stationary bike on the nights where it gets dark before I get a chance to go out. Although I’m still about ten pounds heavier than I was on Halloween, at my best, I’ve lost three since the beginning of the year and am on the fast track to keep losing.
And that brings me to the obvious question – what changed that allowed me to fix everything and pull my life back together? That, my friends, is what this post is really about.
Find Your “Why”
It’s no secret that my path to fitness and health was not easy. I’ve talked more than once about the fact that, for the first several months of the process, I had a number of serious mental breakdowns that almost convinced me to stop. And I also talked about what got me through those – emotional support and encouragement from boyfriend.
Now don’t get me wrong, my boyfriend is great. I really, truly appreciate the emotional support that he provided during that time. And if we’re being honest, I probably really, truly needed it then. But the problem was that when I asked myself why I was so interested in losing weight and being healthy… I didn’t really have a good answer. Sure, I wanted a six pack, but I’ve already talked about how physical goals alone make for terrible motivation. And for so long I’d been working toward one specific goal – a half marathon with a 10:00 min/mi average, that even though I set some goals following the race they were smaller and not as much of a pull.
So without that “why,” it was easy for me to quit. To say that I looked fine, that my weight gain wasn’t a huge problem, that I wasn’t yet in terrible shape, etc.
Then I started aerial.
Aerial is an art and a form of physical activity that requires a lot of strength, flexibility, and tying yourself up in ribbons and trapezes and things in ways that people generally don’t move and tie themselves up. Because of this, I had anticipated strength being a problem. I knew I had been stronger a few months prior, but I also knew I’d be able to rebuild the strength with practice (and I didn’t realize the extent to which I had lost the strength I’d built up). I did not anticipate my increased weight being a problem.
It started when I pulled on my yoga pants to get ready and noticed I had a bit of a muffin top – something I’d been ecstatic to finally get rid of a few months prior. It was small, and not a huge deal, but it came with the sinking realization that much of the confidence I’d felt on Halloween came from actually looking better, not just from increased self-esteem. However, I told myself that life would go on, changed into a slightly looser shirt, and headed out to class; no harm, no foul.
It wasn’t until partway through the class, when I found myself attempting to do splits in the air with silk tied around my thighs to support my weight, that I realized the added fat I’d put on in November and December was actively getting in my way. Because of the added mass, I couldn’t quite slide the silk into place where it was supposed to be and it was pinching on the inside of my thigh, causing a fair amount of pain in a position that would otherwise have been really, really awesome (particularly for my first class).
Suddenly, I had my why. Aerial is by far the coolest thing I have ever done, and it only took me about five minutes before I realized that this is something I want to get good at. But I’m not going to be able to get good at it if I have fat getting in the way or if I’m not strong enough to pull myself up. Even greater than that, there are likely going to be other new, exciting things I want to try in the future and I don’t want my weight or lack of strength to get in the way of those things either.
So that is the moral of my (super long) story. Find a why, make sure it comes from you and you alone, make it long-term and long-lasting, and then work your butt off knowing that you have a whole life of really awesome experiences ahead of you.