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Sunday, May 12, 2013

2013 Resolutions: April Update and May Goals

This year, I am working on new resolutions each month and am using Gretchen Rubin's monthly resolution system to create and track behaviors that I hope will increase my overall happiness.

Note: This turned into quite a long post.  Scroll to the end for the short version :) .

Better DaysApril Update

Last month, my focus area for resolutions was health, and I developed two goals in this area.  One was becoming a licensed Zumba Instructor (which I did!) and the other was to lose an additional 10 pounds to have a healthy BMI (which I did not!).

I have been continuing to work on my Zumba practice.  I have choreographed two routines so far and am working on a third, and have gotten feedback from my mentors on my work so far.  Luckily and much to my relief my choreography is decent (yay!) so I am focusing on refining and sharpening my technique.  Much like becoming a high school teacher, the process of mastering Zumba to the level necessary to teach is slow and challenging and requires patience.  But it is an awesome journey nonetheless.  It is all the sweeter for me since this is a new kind of success; I have always done well in school and intellectual pursuits, but learning to love and use my physical body is a whole new thing.  

While I did not lose any weight this month, I have come to some strong and important realizations about weight and my body.  Many factors have led me to this decision: my own weight loss journey so far, my attempts to dive into and follow the "Beck" eating plan in April, my book club's April pick "Hungry" by plus-size model Crystal Renn, and my discovery of Geneen Roth's concept of natural or intuitive eating.

I have struggled to lose weight, be fit, and not overeat for most of my life.  I have come to the point where I can say that I have had a disordered relationship with food since at least middle school.  That is, I never really learned to eat to satisfy physical hunger, and instead developed habits where I used food for a lot of reasons, very few of which were to fuel and nourish my body: to satisfy boredom, to celebrate, to feel better, to calm down, to comfort myself.  

For at least the last 20 years, my weight and the size of my body in relation to others has pretty much been always on my mind.  I tried many things over the years to lose weight, sometimes trying to eat better and sometimes working on fitness alone.  In 2007, at age 30, I decided things had to change.  I was sick and tired of being fat.  My weight had climbed to its highest (250 lbs) and I was having health problems like allergies as a result.  Ever since then, I have been on a conscious journey to do whatever it takes to get healthy and stay that way.  Early on, I had success with Weight Watchers.  I also lost some weight simply tracking calories in, calories out using the free program Fitday.  Finally, I hit the home stretch with the assistance of the Beck Diet for Life book and the cognitive therapy it provided.

I see now that those cognitive therapy techniques were the necessary missing step to raise not just my awareness of what I was eating but to help me recognize my fundamental relationship to food, my deep beliefs about food, and the ways I used food in my life.  Over the course of a year I began to see that I was addicted in many ways to food and to using it to meet my emotional needs.  I changed many of my eating habits with the help of her program while simultaneously increasing my fitness level, and I reached my current weight of 175 lbs. just after becoming vegan about a year ago.

The reason I have lost weight and kept it off is a fundamental change in my relationship to food and to my body.  I have experienced a total mind-body transformation.  I am infinitely more conscious of my own behavior and motivations in many areas of my life yet still have infinite room to grow.  It is a pleasant and empowering feeling, and the source of much of my happiness.  I am increasingly in control of my habits and therefore my health.

So when I started this month with the goal of losing the additional 10 pounds, dropping to 165, and being "fitter" I was pretty confident that I could do it.  I would just use the Back plan again, follow it religiously, weigh and track every bite of food, and lose the max healthy 2 pounds a week.  In five weeks I would accomplish what had eluded me for over a year... my goal weight!  Amazingly, even after two decades of this kind of unrealistic setting of goals,  I really expected it to be that easy.

In truth, it is never that easy, because it is not really about the food tracking program.  It is about listening to your body and not eating when you are not hungry.  For those of us with disordered eating habits, it really is that simple and that complicated at the same time.  Because the problem is that stopping when I am full is exceedingly difficult for me.  I may even know that I am eating something as comfort instead of nourishment  want to stop, and not be able to stop (Hello popchips! You are too delicious and crunchy!).  It is an addiction like any other.  

As I began to read Dr. Beck's book again, I realized that I did not have the interest to commit to the steps and tracking tools she recommends for weight loss.  I am past that point in my journey now.  After weighing myself daily and tracking my weight for a month I was amazed.  I lost exactly zero pounds.  I was 175 the day I started and 175 the day I ended.  I looked up my weight logs for last year (Every chronic dieter has weight logs.  Mine go back to 5/7/2003.  I was 220 pounds that day) and found that I was... 175 pounds.

Well, that certainly gave me pause.  No matter what I had done for over a year, focusing on my weight or not, it had stayed the same.  Sure, I fluctuated between 171 and 181, but that is pretty normal.  It averaged out at the end.  

As I was pondering the implications of this discovery, I read Jess Lively's post about intentions and change, and was prompted to go back and read her weight loss story, which she sums up as "firing my ego from controlling my eating".  Jess freed herself from the cycle of dieting by following an approach called "natural eating".  She mentioned two authors but the first one I checked out, Geneen Roth, recommends eating guidelines that clicked for me right away.

Yes, Roth is an Oprah person.  She wrote a book with a cheesy title that I would never have picked up on my own.  But her ideas resonate with me at this point in my journey. When I found this interview with Roth and John Robbins, I knew I was onto something.  John Robbins' book The Food Revolution was one of the first books I read as I began to raise my awareness about food back in 2007, and my first real education about food production and vegan and vegetarian diets.

As listened to the interview on the way home Thursday, I understood what the next phase of my "weight loss" journey will be.  I am going to stop trying to lose weight.  I am happy with my weight now.  I really am. I am not happy with my eating habits, however.  I know I sometimes eat too much and want to stop.   for me, that is a mental health issue more than a weight issue.  I simply want to continue to increase my consciousness around food and eating.  I do not want to track, weigh, and measure anymore.  Or ever again, really.  And I don't think I need to, because for over a year, regardless of my actions, my weight has remained stable.  I don't need to obsess over weight anymore or compare my body size to anyone else, ever again.  I need to tell myself and believe that I have reached that goal.  I lost the weight.  I am not fat anymore.  If I stop thinking about my weight, that does not mean that I will automatically get fat again.

This is a hugely freeing decision, but I know it will take continued practice to trust my body instead of my mind when it comes to eating.  Eating when I am not hungry is such an established habit, as is worrying about my weight.  I think that this is more of a way of life than a goal, so I don't think there's an end to it.  I will just grow more aware of my actions and how they impact myself and the planet as I continue down the endless path toward enlightenment.

in my yardMay Goals

This month's focus is on dreams.  I have been thinking for a couple weeks, trying to decide on a resolution or two in this area.  My first thought was to keep a dream journal, but I have tried that before and my dreams are too vivid and expansive to capture when I first awaken.  I feel like I could write for 30 minutes about what I just dreamed.  That, or I don't remember my dreams at all.  

I also thought about focusing on sleep, but I already do that.  Sleep is important to me and I take steps to make sure I get enough of it.  Most nights I'm in bed by 8:30.

I have decided that all of the resolutions I have been working on so far this year are my dreams.  I dream of happiness.  And everything I have been working on this year is moving me in that direction.

So for May I'm going to just keep working on all the threads I have started since January 2013:
  • taking care of myself
  • fostering deeper relationships with my loved ones
  • transitioning to my new job, which starts in August
  • practicing conscious eating habits
Next month, I will return to setting goals with a focus on home.  With the beginning of my summer vacation from work, I can turn my attention to developing and making a routine many of the chores that I have led slide over the year.

Short version: In April my focus was on health.  I became a Zumba instructor and tried to lose 10 pounds.  I'm currently working on my Zumba skills and have choreographed a few routines.  I didn't lose any weight last month, however.  In fact my weight has been stable of over a year.  In the future, instead of focusing on weight loss, I'm going to focus on natural eating: eating when I am hungry and not eating when I'm, well, not hungry.  For May, I'm not setting any new goals, just continuing to work on the habits I have developed since January.  In June, I will set goals in the area of home.

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