Tag Archives: Perfectionism

To Get Fit, Flex this Little-Known Muscle

Jungle Book Baloo DancingI’ve been flexing my muscles ever since I was ten. That’s when I hauled home a record from Disneyland, put the needle on a record, and started to dance. That album, titled “Exercise with the Jungle Book,” had Baloo the Bear leading me in early 80’s aerobics (Baloo had a little extra junk in the trunk, so I liked him better than Jane Fonda.) Thirty-two years later, I’m still on the hunt for that next best workout. Be it abs, glutes, or core, I’ll try anything that keeps me engaged and brings results. So when I discovered a little-known, master muscle that boosts all my exercise efforts, I got excited.

What is this mystery strength, and why don’t we hear more about it? 

To answer that question, I’ll share a story often told and retold around these parts, especially during winter. In fact, it was winter in Butte — our highest Montana town – at Berkeley Pit, our deepest toxic wastewater site (locals call it Berkeley Lake.) Butte’s an old copper mining town perched atop the Continental Divide. It weathers blizzards that would otherwise breeze over lower elevations. One whiteout evening in ’95, a large flock of migrating geese decided to take refuge from a storm. Scanning for water, they spotted Berkeley Pit. They landed, free from icy winds. The next morning, Butte awoke to a sad site. Almost 350 winter-white geese lay dead, floating atop the toxic waters of Berkeley Pit.

Not long after the geese tragedy, a chemist returned to the pit and pulled a rope its waters. It was covered in green slime – life. Researchers at Montana Tech identified the slime as algae. Not just any algae, though. This plant could neutralize acid and absorb heavy metals. It literally thrived in Berkeley Pit. Theoretically — if scientists can scale up the algae’s metabolism to Berkeley Pit size – a Superfund site could become just like any other clean mountain lake in Montana.

But there’s more to the story, and it’s this surprise ending that reveals the mystery muscle.

 The only other place those algae have ever been found is in the guts of geese.  Their sacrifice gave birth to new life. Honestly, if I had been there, I would have been too sad and full of guilt to believe such a miracle. After seeing all those geese dead, any hope arising from those toxic waters would have been the furthest thing from my mind.  Nonetheless, only months later, that chemist did something amazing when he took a walk down to the pit. Scanning its depths, he had to peer past grief to see that rope floating just below the water’s surface. To reach into that toxic soup and keep pulling, hand over hand, he had to ignore the doubt that countered each tug of the slimy rope. Finally, he had to reach for hope when he delivered that rope to experts for examination.

That chemist flexed the mystery muscle. He demonstrated a strength we rarely hear about in exercise circles: returning. Not exercising for a while can bring its own form of loss. The decision to return can be hard. I usually grieve all the ground I’ve lost and weight I’ve gained. Still, I want to move again. At first, doubt and fear follow me into each workout. For a while, I have to decide over and over to return again and again. Eventually, repeated returning helps me break through into hope.

Is “returning” really a muscle, though? How does deciding to return actually strengthen things? 

Neuroscientists point to meditation as an example of how returning can fundamentally change our brains. Meditation rides a looping rhythm of focus, distraction, and returning. It’s less about perfect, zero-point calm and more about returning to the moment. It’s this perfecting of returning which changes the brain. In her article, “This is Your Brain on Meditation,” psychiatrist Rebecca Gladding, MD, explains that meditation strengthens the, “Lateral prefrontal cortex: the part of the brain that allows you to look at things from a more rational, logical and balanced perspective.” At the same time, it weakens caustic neural connections which magnify our failures into flaws. Fewer flaws? Balanced perspective? I’ll take some of that (especially when arguing with myself just to get dressed for a workout).

So “returning” really does change things, but how do I start?

For me, the first, hardest, and most important step is to let go of any shame about being sedentary. As my husband, Frank, says, “I can feel all the stupid that I want, but that won’t keep me from acting stupid in the future.” Shame is a waste of time. It doesn’t make me move any more or work any harder. Positive thoughts actually get me moving. Thoughts like:

  • “It took a while to get here; it will take a while to get back.”
  • “The body is smart. It did what it had to do while you were away; it will adapt as you start to move now.”
  • “You may not be able to pick up from where you left off, but you can pick up.”

Like those scientists who returned to the pit after its greatest tragedy, I can return to fitness. There’s no limit to do-overs. When I decide to return, I flex a master muscle of the mind. For sure, the results aren’t instant. Just like any muscle, returning can atrophy without use. Every time I decide to return, though, it gets stronger, and so do I.

Take Home Tip from 100poundsin1year.com

It’s this perfecting of returning which changes the brain.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

“I Hate Forcing Myself to Exercise” plus more in “Just Show Up: Why Movement Matters,” a free weight loss eGuide
New Life in a Death Trap
This is Your Brain on Meditation by Rebecca Gladding, MD, in Psychology Today

More Sassy Weight Loss Stories
from Shelby in Every 100 Pounds eGuide

Every 100 Pounds in1 Year eGuide contains

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Exercise

Why I Already Have What I Desire, No, Really, I Do

 

Trigger: /ˈtrigər/ (verb) Cause (an event or     situation) to happen or exist; to touch off.

60 pounds lost so farDo you have a trigger?  No, the better question is, “What is your trigger?”  I can’t imagine anyone NOT having some sore spot that opens wide when the perfect storm of circumstance fires an arrow fast through all those layers of self-protection and hits a hard-core bulls-eye, as if the armor didn’t even exist.  Has that ever happened to you?  It has to me.  In fact, it’s happening right now.

I’m writing this post at Bernice’s coffee shop, seven hours after my trigger hit.  I still feel a residual burning in my stomach.  I’ve tried all my go-to work-arounds:  talking it out, deep breathing, asking for hugs, fresh-squeezed juice, looking at the big picture, exercising into exhaustion.  Yet, I have a cup of coffee and a cream cheese Danish next to my computer.  Hold on a sec… just took another gooey bite.

Damn, that tastes good.

This is my world of emotional eating.  This time, I’ve not quite descended into the gorging nightmare that used to be my stress response, as I have collected some back pocket understanding along this journey  For example, I know I’m a “sensual” comfort personality type; meaning, when I stress out, physical comforts like food or massage can chaperone me back to sanity.  Knowing this, my danish doesn’t have near as much guilt sprinkled on top.

Hours before, however, I got a big bite of stress.  I knew pulling out the get-er-done stick wouldn’t work because that’s what caused my panic in the first place.  There was too much to get done already.  Too many people wanting too much time.  I couldn’t keep all my commitments, let alone the promises I’ve made to myself.  No time to work out.  No time to write.  No time to do the things I know to do in order to shape my dreams into reality.  My brain went flat line, overheated by the pressurized push and pull between responsibility and desire.  My body kicked into fight or flight, and I couldn’t do either.  I spent the day stewing in a toxic brew of cortisol, which – I also know – is the ideal way to stay fat (learn more at my post, Chronic Stress and Weight Gain).

This I know for sure:  if I want to outgrow my emotional eating — learn, heal, or do anything worth doing — all I need to do is begin to desire.  I’m not talking about craving a danish.  I’m talkin’ Big D Desire.  I’m unpacking that secret box, the one we all keep buried in our heart’s closet of best intentions, collecting dust like unused sports equipment.  Desire laden with regret as hard and cold as a bowling ball.  For years, I moth-balled my desires.  Then I decided to lose 100 pounds in one year.  That was a big deal for me.  Surrendering to this desire was scary, vulnerable, and very, very brave.  Desiring is a courageous thing to do.  To understand why, all I need is to notice how much I distract myself from doing exactly that.  In my worst years, I chose denial over desire because I thought that would keep me from my pain.  On most days, though, it’s much easier to ignore Desire and stay too busy with everyday life.  That’s why Desire is enough to get the healing process started.  I don’t have to go diggin’ and scrubbin’ for something to fix inside.  Keeping myself in that desirous space will bring plenty of opportunity for profound work.

Most of my life, in order to keep me too busy, I’ve used my Story.  Just like everyone has a trigger, everyone has a Story.  It’s the play of thoughts and emotions we act out, sometimes knowing what we’re doing, sometimes not.  In our Story, we are — at once — the lead, the audience, and the critic.  The stage is our life.  The circumstances may change, like this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park players, but the script reads the same.  This morning, my Story had me as its captured audience.  It would have had you hustling to the popcorn machine during intermission.  Would you have ordered extra butter?

As I was getting ready for the day, familiar thoughts appeared like titles for each act.

Act 1: There’s too much to do.

Act 2:  I can’t do it all.

Act 3: I am not enough.

I can slather a balm of sooth-sayings atop those cutting thoughts.  There’s lots of understanding responses to every Story.  The problem is, a Story must stick to the Story.  Caring words are often rewritten to bring the play back ‘round to plot.  It’s like having an OCD automaton for a script writer.  For example, if I believe I’m not enough, then I’ll edit the kindest thought and boomerang it around in my head until it establishes that, once again, I am not enough.  I’ll prove my point, even to my own detriment.

How does this relate to pounds on the scale?  Consider, if I believe I am not enough, plus I’m a sensual comfort personality type, then I’ve got two options when it comes to my relationship with food

  1. Eat until I’m stuffed, creating a physical sensation of more than enough
  2. Keep weight on, building an actual barrier of body fat between me and the world, thereby making up for the weakness of my lack

There’s only one way I know to short-circuit my Story.  Compassion.  Self-understanding is a form of forgiveness which can disarm the toughest triggers.  Ironically, it’s also one of the last tools we think of when it comes to weight loss.  Jean Fain, a psychotherapist at Harvard Medical School instructor, talks about the importance of compassion in her book, “The Self-Compassion Diet.”  She explains, “Most plans revolve around self-discipline, deprivation and neglect.   Self-compassion is the missing ingredient in every diet and weight-loss plan,”  OK, Jean, I’m going to experiment with compassion right now, in this coffee shop, with this post.  Here goes…

First, compassion begins by asking me to resist the temptation to label my Story as a villain.  “Why not choose gratitude?” it suggests.  I can thank my Story for serving a needed purpose.  O.K.  I’ll try it out…

I want to be enough.  I can see how my Story of “I am not enough” holds the promise that someday – maybe even this time – I will be enough.  Thank you, Story, for keeping that desire alive.

O.K.  So far, so good.  Next, compassion dares me to believe that I already have my deepest desire.  This is hard to see.  No, actually, it blows chunks.  Here’s what I want to say to that lovely nugget of wisdom…

Don’t tell me I am enough when, obviously, I’m not.  You can’t tell me what to do.  Everyone is telling me what to do.

Compassion isn’t putting up a fight.  It’s just there, quiet, letting me rant.  I’m staying angry.  I’m imagining a backstory of tiny offenses to support my victim identity.  I’ll do this until I’m ready to not do it anymore.

Intermission

After all that, compassion still won’t condemn me for my tantrum.  This level of unconditional acceptance calms my defenses, and I feel safe enough to look deeper.  At these depths, stuff just seems to leak out unguarded, like it almost wants to be seen.  If I’m honest with myself…

I want to be not enough.

It’s what I’m used to.

It’s what I’ve always known.

If it wasn’t this stress today, I would find something else tomorrow.

I think I am addicted to my Story.

Compassion is nodding, not with condemnation but with caring.  I hear, in a soft, motherly voice, “That’s not all you are.”

I want to lean in.  If compassion had a shoulder, I would rest on it.  Finally, the acid in my veins is disintegrating.  I can take a deep breath.  This time, each expanding inhale reminds me that compassion is right; there is more to me than this.  I am looking around.  I remember my day.  I see a new reality…

I did get a workout in today.

I am writing, right here, right now.

I will encounter understanding when I explain why I had to ditch out.

While I’m being honest…you should know that I just deleted two paragraphs that I had spent 15 minutes writing.  At this point, I’m tempted to lift my struggle up into a hopeful, insightful bundle of lessons learned and bridges crossed.  If I could send this post to you via snail mail, I would wrap it in a pretty bow.  That’s what I was doing with those paragraphs.  Then, I thought…does it have to always end on an up note?  Sometimes, sure, yeah.  This time, though, I would be cheating you and me both out of a truer truth.

No matter how stressed I feel, how enlightened I might sound, or how messy the space between those two extremes becomes, one thing remains:  I am.  I am not enough, or I am enough.  But I always am.  I am stressed, or I am at peace.  Still, I am.  What if I am is the point of it all?  What if I don’t just set the standard in my life, but I am the standard?  If that could be true, then there is no such thing as falling short or not being enough.  Neither is there such a thing as wanting too much or being too this or too that.  I am is the benchmark.  I am is flexible, too.  It measures exactly enough while still holding limitless potential.  When I start arguing with that paradox, or devising a method to skip over it, then I get into trouble.

My methods usually depend on judging some part of me “good” or “bad,” then making adjustments from there.  In contrast, compassion refrains from judging.  It sees me as whole, even as I birth another sub-species of angst in the diverse ecosystem called “me.”

Where do I want to end this?  No bows in sight, so I’ll just say that I am.  There is no right me.  There is no wrong me.  Sure, I can gain more traction with some choices more than others, but always, I am.  What I really desire, what I truly want, if for this I am to taste sweeter than any cream cheese danish.

Take Home Tip

This I know for sure:  if I want to grow, learn, heal, or do anything worth doing, all I need go do is desire.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges

“The Self-Compassion Diet” by Jean Fain

You Already Have What You Desire, No, Really, You Do

Enjoy more Vision Boards at pinterest.com/100Pounds/lose-100-pounds-in-1-year/

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.  She also writes a blog about what it means to be true to ourselves at RadicallyAuthentic.wordpress.com.

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Filed under Food, Principles

How Can I Keep Going When I Want to Stop?

Here in Montana, the temps have topped seventy degrees, and we’re on the back end of spring runoff.  This is a time of joyful sacrifice for us Montanans.  Winter’s cache of precious snow funnels down mountain draws, babbling all her secrets into spring streams.  If we’re lucky, we’ll have enough moisture to keep summer fires at bay.  These hidden waterways zigzag through thickets, playing tag with the forest.  Their refreshing touch awakens berry bushes, which will turn snowmelt and sun into August fruit.   Rivulets pool in the plateaus.  Streams become creeks, creeks join rivers.  In town, our Clark Fork River swells in a muddy rise.  Spring fishing surrenders to the slurry for a while.  No use casting a fly, anyway, not until after the tube hatch (flotillas of sun-burnt floaters lazing the days away in their inner-tubes).  This is the between time, the waiting hour, unless – of course – you go rafting.

Spring runoff attracts adventure rafters like Salmon Flies pull trout to the surface.  Rafters need not be out to catch a fish, mind you.  The water is challenge enough.  As rivers rise, so does the force of all that water.  Underneath the speedy swell hides a myriad of dangers, both seen and unseen.  Where a slight hump appears on the surface, a sunken boulder the size of a Volkswagen could be pushing the water up and over (I know one spot where I can dunk my head under and hear boulders thudding down the riverbed, like muffled thunder.)  More visible – but no less dangerous — are giant cottonwoods felled by hungry beavers.  These trees act like a sieve, siphoning everything under water-logged trunks and into tangles of immersed branches.  They can suck anything under.  Beneath deceptively smooth spots in the river, underwater whirlpools can catch you unaware.  Like underwater tornadoes, whirlpools yank everything into their murky holes.  That’s why, this time of year, I stay close to the shore.  That’s why some people don’t.

Some brave souls gush at the idea of riding that wild water.  One summer, many years ago, my husband Frank ventured onto a local stretch of river known as Alberton Gorge.  In late summer, the gorge provides sport for dogs, kiddies, and all manner of summer sprites.  During spring runoff, however, one crucial juncture asks each boater to measure their courage for the day.  Where the mountainsides draw together and narrow the river’s breadth by half, a tall haystack rock squats between the flow.  There are three reasons this matters:

The narrow channel creates a super-swift underwater current, which any good guide can float you above in a class 3 adrenaline rush of whitewater hustle.  That’s fun for some, except for number two.

Squeezed by the gorge, all that water has to go somewhere.  Spring run off creates enough momentum to lift the river up and over the haystack rock.  On the other side of this batholith, the current plunges with all the wild gravity of a wilderness waterfall.  Force alone can bore out the riverbed below.  You’ve got a Montana black hole, also known as a “boat eater.”

Like it splits the river, the haystack rock splits your chances of getting through the gorge still in your boat.  As waves roll back onto themselves at the foot of the rock, in a vertical whirlpool, the edges of this wonky current can snag an edge or oar.  Even the best guide has felt their aft tugged into current.  Oars go flying as the boat yanks backwards, sideways, and upside down, all at the same time.  Hence, the required conference before Frank’s group headed into the gorge…

“Guys,” the guide grunts in his best this-is-serious-stuff tone.  “How are you feeling today?”

Frank thought his question weird, since the sky was blue and the water perfect, but no one answered.

“We’ve got a decision to make,” the guide says.

The group of six looks around at each other, anticipating a man-up moment.  The guide drops an oar into the last calm water they’ll see for a while.  He raises his free hand and points down river.

“Up there, we’ve got a moment of decision.  There’s a tight rise with a big rock waitin’ for us.  We can eddy out now and portage this puppy trailside, no harm done.”

He lifts his shoulders and raises his eyebrows, wiping his face clean of any judgment and giving his clients an out, like a good guide should.

“Or?” one rider with trendy sunglasses goads.  Eyes dart back to the guide.

“Or,” the guide pauses.  ”We can deep throat that sucker and find out why they call it the Alberton Gorge.”

A robust round of “hell yeah’s” circles among the men.  With only two minutes between them and the rock, discussion ensues.  Some grouse over having to haul the raft up steep trail.  Others express everyone’s desire to meet the challenge.  After all, wasn’t that what they came for?  Everyone offers the guide their approving nod.  In enthusiastic response, he grabs both oars with a ruddy grip and points the raft downstream.  A smile widens underneath the bent brim of his weathered cowboy hat.

“Here’s the thing,” he says.  “If we’re gonna do this, we got to do it full force.  There’s no halfway with this.”

Everyone’s lips purse in agreement.

“Last week, I steered a boat of football players through this hole, and we all went swimming.”

Silence, then the familiar rrrriipppp of tightening straps on lifejackets.  The guide continues, stiffening the oars to create a little drag and buy extra training time.

“Right now, fifteen feet of river is running over a ten foot tall rock underneath.  You can’t see it, but it’s there.  It’s a bearcat rise, but what goes up must come down, and there’s a steep drop on the other side.  It’s a mess, a wet, rough, and rowdy mess.  If we’re gonna get through it, we gotta dive.”

Eyes dash among the crew.

“That’s right,” the guide answers.  “I said dive.  We got to punch this raft deep into that water.  When I say ‘go,’ you’re gonna have to lean into this baby with everything you’ve got.  You gotta punch into that wave, ‘specially you guys up front.  Push her nose down, then push some more.  We had all better be under water, or that wave will flip us over.”

The guide pauses, putting a silent exclamation point on his instructions.  Everyone tests their lungs with a gulp of air.  As the guide lifts his oars to set the raft going again.

“When we pop up,” he continues between committed pushes into the current, “we’ll be on the other side.”

Frank grips the side rope at the front where he sits.   Across from him, the other point man stretches his legs taunt to wedge himself solid into the sides of the raft.  Granite walls rise up.  The air cools.  Shadows blanket the water, making it harder to read the river.  The sound of rapids bounces all around, like a natural echo chamber.  Frank smells green moss as they pass rocky banks dampened by a constant spray coming off the speedy edges.  The boat traces the river’s edge as they make the final turn.  Then, Frank sees it.  Not so much the wave as the fountain it spews five feet into the air, as if a geyser decided to burst from the middle of the Clark Fork.  The guide pushes one oar and pulls the other, steering straight for the geyser.

“Get ready!” he yells over the white water’s rumble.   More hands clench more rope.  Everyone leans forward, mustering guts and momentum.  The fountain of foam gets bigger, closer to eight feet high now.  Frank eyes the current, following surface rivulets as they stretch long and thin in submission to the flow.  He braces.  Wait for it, he says to himself.  “Wait for it,” the guide bellars.  The river feels anxious, too, yanking them from side to side, even as they float faster.  Frank balances his weight between push and pull, trying to move with the water.  Out the side of his eye, a wet shine on one oar flickers then disappears.  The raft lunges.  Frank leans in.  The nose of the raft lifts, as if arguing with everything the guide just said.  Frank squints.  The geyser spray sparkles in cold pelts.

“Go!” the guide blares.

The boat rolls forward, high-centers for a half second, then tilts into a downward fall.  Frank thrusts his body over the nose.  Whitewater is everywhere.  He closes his eyes.  He sucks air.  Behind him – he hopes – the crew has got his back tight.  Then, they hit wet thunder.  Under water, inside the whirlpool, liquid static fills his ears.  He forces his eyes open.  They sting from the shock of cold and sand.  They’re still sinking.  They go deeper.  A swampy green engulfs tiny shards of sunlight.  He’s in a black hole.

Seconds later, the light turns bright again.  He feels less weight but more wet as the air lifts the river’s weight.  He opens his mouth.  Droplets blink from his eyes.  As he gasps for more air – consciously this time — he looks around.  Heads, their bodies disappeared under water, float alongside him.  They rise in unison, even as they slow into calmer waters.  With the raft still half-sunk, one man curses his lost sunglasses.  The guide tamps down his cowboy hat.

What does rafting have to do with losing weight?  I’ve encountered daunting obstacles along my 100 pounds journey.  Just like in spring runoff, some hazards hide underneath the current of my conscience.  When I realize I’m about to be siphoned under by another craving, or caught in a whirlpool of frustration, I wish I had a guide to teach me how to punch through the moment.  Either that, or permission  to leave off my struggle and hope for calmer water on the other side.

I get conflicted inside, like I’m trapped in the vortex of a boat-eater.  I’ve lost pounds then gained them back over weeks of sinking depression.  I’m still here, though.  I’m beginning to believe my hurdles cannot be cleared by floating over the top (ignoring them), ditching out to the side (avoiding them), or hoping I’d remember how to swim if my plans got turned upside down (wishing them away).  Nope.  I must punch into them.  I must learn to lean.  When I sink into their source and become willing to get lost and disoriented in my swampy darkness, then I come face to face with my demons.  I peer into that black hole.  It’s scary to punch into the white water of life, but so far I’ve popped out on the other side, every time.

Take Home Tip

It’s scary to lean into the white water of my life, but so far I’ve popped out on the other side, every time.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

Learn About Alberton Gorge

Watch a trip through the Alberton Gorge

“River” Slang from Urban Dictionary

Where’s the Vision Board for this post?

Well, I knew this day would come.  My favorite picture editor is obsolete.  I’m spending some time learning a new editor.  So, hopefully more Vision Boards will be up coming, as soon as I learn the ropes on this new program.  Meanwhile, you can enjoy more Vision Boards at pinterest.com/100Pounds/lose-100-pounds-in-1-year/

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.  She also writes a blog about what it means to be true to ourselves at RadicallyAuthentic.wordpress.com.

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Filed under Principles

Getting Stuck, Then Unstuck, Again (Part 2)

Vision Board of Stuck, Then Unstuck

Spring comes as such a tease to western Montana.  We revel in the occasional mini-miracle when our normal ceiling of clouds, having moved at sloth speed all season, break away to reveal azure blue skies and a sun almost too bright for our wintered-over eyes.  For a moment, time stops.  Everyone outside pauses on queue and lifts their face.  We absorb the warmth like a starving satellite dish hungry for more Food Network channels.  To echo our revelry, green nubs poke out of the wet earth, daring to become flowers (despite frosty temps which still cloak the night).  All of nature’s surprises bring a breath of fresh optimism to our days.  All, except one:  gumbo.

Gumbo is not a dish, unless you consider nature dishing out her revenge for all the deep freezes we dodged over the winter.  Montana gumbo is the bane of eastern ranchers and western loggers alike.  It’s a dirt road mix of slimy silt, mud, and clay which can trap any 4 x 4 up to its axels.  Gumbo is slippery.  Gumbo is sticky.  Gumbo is Rocky Mountain quicksand.

Ironically, gumbo appears on the same dirt roads meant to help us travel our vast state.  If it weren’t for our network of single-lane, rough-cut byways edged with rogue wheat and Napweed, we wouldn’t be able to live here.  Montana has the unique problem of being a large state with a relatively low population.  Our challenge is always how to build and maintain enough roads to get us where we need to go.  Come spring, nature wins.  We often have to shrug our shoulders, wait ‘til the gumbo dries up, and take the long way ’round.

When you find yourself on gumbo roads, there’s only one rule:  don’t try to force your way through.  When I sense my truck’s sluggish slump to one side, it’s time to get the heck outta there.  If my tires start to sink, then I’m doomed.  The more I press the gas to power out, the deeper I dig them in.

This is a lot like my 100 pounds journey.  I’ve gotten stuck in sink holes of frustration. Ironically, those holes exist smack dab in the middle of the very hopes I built to get me down my path.  Whenever I’ve experienced some level of success, then seem to lose it, I become stuck.  If this was working before, why not now? I grumble.  What did I do?  What didn’t I do?  My questions trap me in mental gumbo.

It’s not always simple to discern why I’ve powered out.  Sometimes I don’t even want to figure it out.  I just want to stay stuck and wait until my mental bog dries out.  I can never seem to wait that long, though.  I get bored and try to kick my own butt again.  I can toggle like this for days, alternating between surrender and stubborn pushiness.  I’ll try to hit the gas by scolding myself for not feeling motivated.  You just need to show up.  When I’m too tired to show, I sink deeper into self-loathing.  Now I truly don’t have the energy to show up.  The next day, I realize I haven’t exercised for three days and tell myself, You just need to getter’ done.  If you miss this one, it’s a slippery slope to the couch.  I can bicker with myself for weeks before realizing, Wait a minute here…might there be something else at work here; something other than the idea that I’m lazy or undisciplined?  I would love to get to the place where my first response is, What is it that I’m missing?  Is there something else I need?

In my last post, I described such a stuck state, after discovering that I really didn’t want to bleed with the best of the Hellgate Rollergirls.  After framing four months of workouts around this goal, then settling for something else, I felt lost for a good month.  To get unstuck, I had to take the long way around my heart and soul.

This detour had three check points:

  1. mental/emotional
  2. movement
  3. food

Mental/Emotional

While most weight-loss programs focus on food and exercise, I’ve learned that 80% of the work comes from my mind and heart.  I knew I had to start there to regain my momentum.  I asked myself some key questions, with no “right” or “wrong” answers.

  • What are my worries?
  • Could I actually be satisfied with where I’m at today?
  • What is my “gut” telling me is next?

Then, I wrote down all my random worries and thoughts about the situation.  I filled two pages with bird scratch (The point being more to get it out of my head than to record it legibly.)  With each sentence, I drilled down through layers until — when I flipped to a fresh page three — something else flipped inside.  I started to write, but this time, with energy and excitement.  My pen drew across the paper harder, as if telling the page, “Yes, this is what I really want!”  Now I knew.  I had sifted through all that fretting.  Now I could concentrate on my next best step.

Movement                                                                     

Once I’ve salvaged some sanity by exorcising my worries onto paper, it’s a lot easier to see the wide gaps and extra fat in my exercise routine.  First, I took inventory of what I actually had been doing (vs. what I thought I should be doing).  I backed off the energy-sucking expectations.  I recommitted to my simple axiom:  movement matters.  For the first time in weeks, I enjoyed moving for the sake of moving.  This calmed me down enough to see a critical realization.  I had been sabotaging my efforts by not including enough recovery time between my harder workouts.  I added more rest days to my routine.  Energy returned.  Within two weeks, I was back to pre-stuck workout levels.

Food

Taking stock of my plate took a little more time.  I completed the Calorie Math spreadsheet (see below).  The numbers revealed, with my revised workout routine, I would see results faster if I made a slight calorie trade.  I had already done my mental/emotional work, so I was ready to make the trade without resentment.

Through this process, I learned to accept the fact that, during my life-long fitness journey, I’m going to get stuck.  I can expect the occasional roadblock just as surely as I can predict spring by the road gumbo.  It’s not the stuckness that’s my enemy but my reaction to it.  Sometimes, the best action is to stop, shrug my shoulders, and take the long way around.Take Home Tip

It’s not the stuckness that’s my enemy but my reaction to it.  Sometimes, the best action is to stop, shrug my shoulders, and take the long way around.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

Getting Stuck, Then Unstuck, Again (Part 1)

Montana Gumbo

Hellgate Rollergirls

Calorie Math Spreadsheet

Vision Board of Stuck, Then Unstuck

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.  She also writes a blog about what it means to be true to ourselves at RadicallyAuthentic.wordpress.com.

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Getting Stuck, Then Unstuck, Again (Part 1)

Chainsaw

If you’ve ever sustained weight loss long enough to get stuck, then you understand what I’ve been going through.  There are plenty of ways to get stuck.  Our bodies can hit the dreaded “plateau.”  Life can dismantle our perfectly balanced routine.  Dreams – not just goals, but those daydreams we escape into when we wish upon a star inside our hearts –can become achingly undone.  They are our most vulnerable and bodacious of wishes.  I’ve been stuck in this last one.  I had a dream, but I lost it.

This was my dream:  for the last three years, I wanted to join a ladies’ roller derby league in Missoula.  The Hellgate Rollergirls embody women’s empowerment.  They flaunt a gutsy sass.  On the outside, roller derby might look like a bawdy mix of burlesque and brawn.  Certainly they take things to the extreme, blurring the line between strength and sensuality.  That’s exactly why I wanted to join.  If I could stand at that border, open my heart wide to receive the fullness of my femininity, peer over its flirty edge, and survive a heady look into my own sexuality, then maybe I could pull back into an everyday comfort with my own skin.  At the very least, I didn’t want to watch from the bleachers while other women, with names like “Kitty Bellacus” and “Prefondame” had a ball.

It wasn’t until last fall that I felt ready to join.  Still, I had back-of-the-brain concerns.  Would one fall bulge my herniated disc?  Was I too heavy?  Did I have enough core strength to handle the bouts?  I answered these questions with a steady ramp-up of core training and cardio conditioning.  Anna from The Women’s Club showed me simple, effective moves on the TRX to stabilize my core.  My gym has a ski-skate machine which mimics roller skating, so I added that to my weekly routine.  To stir my bad-ass self, I chopped wood.  When that maul plunges heavy into a block of pine, and I feel the release of that satisfying split all the way up my spine, weakness cannot find me.

It was an easy thing, then, to imagine my roller girl persona.  I named her “Lumber Jackie.”  In Hellgate Rollergirl tradition, I would adopt an image and take it to the extreme, like overexposing a picture, except with flesh.  Lumber Jackie would wear a cotton plaid shirt (cut short at the arms and torso) with pearl buttons popped low enough to hint at a black, push-up underneath.  Add cut off Carhartts so snug that my husband would wonder why he hadn’t bought a pair for me years ago.  Of course, can’t forget the wide, red suspenders – with matching wool socks – to tie it all together.  The cake topper would be my husband’s yellow, lumberjack helmet.

After I had Lumber Jackie all dressed up, I imagined her intro…“Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for…Luuummmbeeerrrr Jaackiieeee!”  I yank the cord on my Stihl saw and roll into the arena.  Ggggrrrrrr!  I squeeze the throttle, pumping the saw over my head to rally the crowd.  Grrrr!  Grrr!

Yep, that’s my bad-ass girl.

When it was time to tell mom and dad about my plans, I had to borrow Lumber Jackie’s confidence.  “Mom, dad, I’ve got to tell you something,” I said in that tone that warns, you ain’t gonna like this.

“Oh, no!” my dad said right away, throwing his hands up in mock exasperation.

“What is it?” my mom asked, hoping to move the conversation to a positive outcome.

“As you know,” I gingered, “well, you know how I’ve been doing some extra core and strength training the last few months?”  They nodded their heads.  “Well, I’ve been doing it for a reason.”  Big breath.  “I want to join the Hellgate Rollergirls.”

“No!” My mom let out a horsy breath which she had already held ten seconds too long.

Lumber Jackie answered her back in the same grizzly tone. “Yes!”

After lots of discussion about padding, falling, and general safety, mom and dad conceded to support my latest dream.  They’re awesome like that.  My brother came alongside, no questions asked.  “If she wants to do it, I say go for it!” he said.

Two weeks later, I huddled with four other girls at the edge of a makeshift rink in one of Missoula’s coldest warehouses.  This was fresh meat orientation.  It was hard to pay attention without glancing at the crew running drills on the rink.  I got psyched when she said they could fit me tonight with some borrowed skates and pads, if I wanted to take the rink for a spin.  Oh, but first, I had to have health insurance, couldn’t lace up those wheels without insurance.  Plus, before I come back, I should also buy a mouth guard, just in case.  The practice crew switched to toe-walking drills in the center of the rink.  I looked harder.  Yep, their lips jutted out from a chunk of plastic in each of their mouths.  After I signed a no-sue clause, someone tried to find skates and pads for me to wear, but nothing fit my larger frame.  I wouldn’t be feeling the soft breeze of measured speed tonight.

As I left, I sank into the driver’s seat, bummed and confused.  Driving home, my fingers gripped limp at ten and two.  I leaned into the steering wheel, as if asking the ribbon of road to help me sift through my head, to trace the arc of thought unraveling with every turn.  I had options.  I could buy a cheap insurance policy through the league, if I could chisel the bucks out of our budget.  I could save up another six months for some gear of my own, but my dream didn’t include waiting.  I suppose I could be a little more patient and wait a bit longer, but a mouth guard?  Seriously?  That piece of plastic got me thinking.  My derby daydreams didn’t include a mouth guard, nor broken teeth, nor biting bits of tongue off, nor blood.  In fact, whenever I pictured Lumber Jackie, she was all about cute outfits and dramatic entries, not fast-paced body checks or full-frontal face plants.  I had to admit, for me, Lumber Jackie was all about the drama.  By the time I pulled into our driveway, I pretty much decided to let go of my roller derby dream.  Maybe I could settle for a more casual skate around downtown Missoula this summer, sporting a red tutu and bedazzled tiara.

I still had a problem, though.  My goal, to which I had devoted months of workouts, was kyboshed.  What would I work towards now?  In the following days, my exercise zeal drizzled like a half-hearted spring rain.  I felt more tired, less enthused.  Disappointment soured into resentment, conjuring up a whole nest of life regrets.  I was in workout limbo.  If Lumber Jackie was still alive inside, she had pinched her bar in a tall pine.  We both needed to get unstuck.  But how?

Tune in next week for part #2…

P.S.  Special thanks to Anna for schooling me on the proper lumberjack terminology.

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center. 

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Boomerangs and Blow-Back: When Hope Fails

woman's hair blowing crazy in the windIts three weeks into January.  That means three weeks into our New Year’s Resolutions.  For most Americans, it’s not looking good.  The cold carrots and celery have lost their appeal and become, well, cold carrots and celery.  Withdrawals of all sorts have hit, and we’re considering whether or not to whack our officemate over the head with a keyboard the next time he sinks his teeth into that morning maple bar.  If sidewalk vendors knew what we were thinking on our commute home, they’d splay their arms out in defensive and bellow “Maam, step away from the baguette!”

Barring any run-ins with coworkers or police, I hope your journey towards health is steaming right along.  If it’s not, and that fresh batch of hope you cooked up over New Year’s is starting to turn stale, please take heart.  I’ve been there.  I’ve done that.  There is a way to re-ignite your fire.

I’ve got three strategies for recruiting a little healthy 911.  I hope this helps as you move forward, not only in becoming comfortable in your skin, but comfy in your soul, as well.

Strategy 1:  Tweaking

I have a new favorite word:  tweaking.  It implies change, but on an attainable scale.  It acknowledges that I’m not totally off the mark, just needing a nudge back on track.  Change can be hard, especially when we’re going against the gravitational pull of habit.  That’s why I like the advice given by one of my dear friends, Dan Comstock, in our Attitudinal Healing group.  Dan got this advice from his counselor years back, and it continues to serve him.  Essentially, it scales down the magnitude of change.  When we try to change, our efforts are successful when we have one foot toward a new direction while keeping the other foot planted where we are right now.  Think of it as football players running drills through tires.  They never jump with both feet at once; they tap their way from one hole to the next, always one foot at a time.  They do it quickly, but always one foot at a time.  I use this picture when contemplating change.  I acknowledge the ultimate change I want to see.  Then I ask myself, How can I tweak it one step ar a time?

Strategy 2:  Circle Around the Perfectionist Pitfall

I’ve suffered from life-long perfectionism.  I’ve often held myself to nothing but the ideal:  nothing less than the perfect diet or best workout.  I would do this for a while but had more blow-outs than victories. My 100 pounds journey has taught me that perfectionism, while valuable, comes at a price.  It can zap my energy.  It can suck the hope out of my dreams.  It also contains a heavy dose of mental/emotional blow-back.  Perfectionism demands obedience to ideal expectations.  When I fail those expectations, I come under self-criticism.  Worse, if I hit a physical limitation, then possibility might as well take a knee.  If you’re a perfectionist at heart, please read my blog “Tips for Getting Over the Exercise Hump:  I Hate Forcing Myself to Exercise” for ideas on how to circle around this pitfall.  Leave the perfectionism for that outfit you’re going to totally rock on your next night out.

Strategy 3:  Forgiveness

Someone recently asked me, “What’s your go-to tool for weight loss?”  I didn’t need any time to think.  It’s forgiveness.  My 100 pounds journey has taught me a new definition of forgiveness, one that I use over-and-over — almost every day — and will rely upon for the rest of my days.  The kind of forgiveness I practice doesn’t equal “agreement” with something that was done wrong; nor does it mean wiping a slate clean.  This kind of forgiveness resembles the actual word:  for, meaning “before,” and give, meaning “to offer.”  I can offer myself a chance to change before I actually have changed.  I can give myself space and time to be different.  This is a powerful principle because there’s something in us that wants to constantly compare our progress to an ideal.  When we don’t live up to that ideal, the hope that once encouraged us becomes toxic.  It boomerangs around in our consciousness, morphing into judgment and criticism.  For example, my New Year’s Resolution may have formed around the hope of feeling better  and being able to hike without hurting.  I tackle a few exercise sessions.  Then I get sore.  I become tired.  I miss a few workouts.  Pretty soon, my hope has eroded into nasty whispers of, This’ll never work.  Nothing ever works for you.

To get unstuck and revive my momentum, I need forgiveness.  I need to offer myself the renewed chance to change, before I even head for my next work out.  I take a moment now, since that’s the only time that I really have.  I sit with my feelings, including being disappointed and frustrated.  I let those feelings boil until they’ve lost their energy (All they really wanted was my attention, anyway.)  Then, I take a deep breath and give myself another chance.  The cool thing is, no matter how many times I’ve done this before, forgiveness still works — every time.  That’s because forgiveness resides in the present moment, so there’s always time to be different.  How does different look?  See Strategy 1.

Here’s to a year of health, PLUS getting to know ourselves better than ever.  There’s something inside us that wants to be known by us.  Getting healthy is a great way to start the introductions.

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center. 

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