In the Spring of 2017 my doctor ran some of the usual numbers and determined that my choloesterol was high and I was prediabetic. I had to make some changes.
At the time, I was hitting up Starbucks at least once a day. Sometimes more. I also kept a never-let-it-get-empty candy dish filled with mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, Heaths or York mints. I didn’t realize how many I was eating until I started to keep track. What harm can one or two do? That is, until you realize you’re eating one or two several times a day. I also rarely cooked, so my husband picked up fast food too many nights a week. I started every morning with coffee and kept refilling my cuppa all day long. By late afternoon, I hadn’t eaten a thing all day and found myself rummaging through the kitchen to scarf chips and other snack food.
After I got the news from my doctor, I made a concerted effort to change my ways. I stopped hitting Starbucks. The candy dish went away, I started cooking healthier dinners nightly and often made sure there was a little leftover to have for lunch the next day. I discovered I like Farro far more than Brown Rice. I began eating more salads, made smoothies with greek yogurt and learned how to make an alternative to high sugar instant oatmeal (the only kind I would eat). Chips, cookies and high-sugar cereals were out too. I didn’t eliminate anything from my diet completely, I just didn’t keep it in the house. I figured out how to break down cookie recipes so that I made just a dozen, instead of three or four. I didn’t count calories, but I did start keeping a food log and tracked my sugar and cholesterol intake. While I didn’t have to, I purchased a glucose monitor and checked my levels regularly.
I also began to get regular exercise. I started walking on the treadmill the recommended 150 minutes per week. Everything was going along nicely. I was feeling better, moving better and shedding some of the extra pounds I’d been carrying around. I was feeling hopeful and more positive. I felt good about what I was doing. I was feeling more creative and motivated to.get.stuff.done. It alleviated the guilt and shame I was carrying around.
By the end of 2017 I was down fifteen pounds.
Over the course of 2018 I fell back into old habits. There were a few false starts to get back on track. None of them were successful. I was experiencing more depression and anxiety and just kept beating myself up for perceived failures.
The previous year, I had been doing so well taking care of myself. It felt good to do that. It may be true that the individual acts themselves did not make me feel good, who finds getting on the treadmill enjoyable? But the impact they had on my mind and body did.
When I don’t take care of myself, I beat myself up. Clutter begins to build around the house, as do the dust balls. Things start closing in on me. Overwhelm takes hold. I stop caring about anything. I don’t make art. I don’t read. I don’t write. I don’t rest well. Guilt and shame rise up. I become more anxious and I resent everyone else in the home because they don’t seem to care either.
At the first of the year I began stretching in the morning and started my day with a cuppa and practiced lettering while listening to podcasts instead of running outside right away for a cigarette. I stopped turning on the TV first thing in the morning too. I would do a short chair yoga routine after I spent some time on the treadmill. I cut my overall smoking habit in half. I was feeling good. Hopeful. Healthier. On track. My plan for February was to fine tune my routine and create some mindful rituals.
That didn’t happen.
Why do I stop doing things that make me feel good?
Someone might have said or did something that rubbed me the wrong way. Or, I beat myself up because the day before I didn’t stretch, or get on the treadmill. Either way, it woke up that little voice in my head that insists I am worthless and undeserving. It doesn’t take much for it to manipulate my thought processes. Ms. F. Quibbler starts carrying on about how I can’t do this. She reminds me of every other moment in my life when I have felt hurt, unworthy and unloveable. She reminds me how many times I’ve tried to “get healthy” and failed. She insists I’m lazy. She plays out the pattern over and over. The spiral down begins. She tells me I should just give up. You failed yesterday. You didn’t do it all. No one else cares, so why should you? Just accept you’re a failure. So I do. I give up and proceed to drown myself in self-loathing and junk food. I begin to resent those whom I have forfeited all my power. I let them decide because I was raised to believe that your worth comes from outside of yourself. They will determine your value and worth.
Today I weighed myself. I’ve gained 16 pounds.
“It’s not who you are that holds you back. It’s who you think you’re not.”
This quote popped up in my feed the other day. I had to write it down. Maybe you live this cycle too. Knowing intellectually that you are the one with the power, but not feeling it. You are the one who determines your value and worth, but not believing it. Knowing you deserve to be loved, but not loving yourself. The tug-o-war begins between who you are and who you think you’re not. You tell yourself stories of unworthiness. You dig up what you think is proof. It’s so easy to fall back into self-defeating habits and get lost in an unhelpful pattern of thought. It’s so easy to get caught up in a spiral of nobody cares, why should I? Often, in the end, it’s who you think you’re not that wins.
I wholeheartedly believe I am overweight because I don’t love myself enough to even try to be healthy. I wholeheartedly believe I wear my mental health. I don’t just want to look healthy, I want to feel healthy, to be comfortable in my own skin and…in my own mind.
I know that when Ms. F. Quibbler shows up, so does the clutter and the mess and the piles of paper and other stuff. To-do lists are shredded, grocery lists get longer and projects get sidelined. Before I know it I can’t stand who I think I am. I can’t stand being at home. I can’t stand to make art because it’s all shit.
This is where I have been. I had a few really good weeks in January that began when I moved, cleaned and organized my art area and the kitchen nook. But, the rest of this year has been a battle.
Like many times before, I start with the clutter.
There’s this moment when I feel trapped in a depressive episode where I say to myself, “Just accept the wave. Let it flow over you and crash.” Once I give myself that permission, it’s as though something clicks and I decide I need to get everything cleaned up and organized so I’m ready to roll when it does.
Yesterday I cleaned and organized my art area. Cleaning, reorganizing and purging. This is usually how my turn around begins once I stop fighting with Ms. F. Quibbler and let the wave of depression crash. I put clean sheets on the bed. I vacuumed the living room. I took a shower, lit all the candles and watched the season finale of A Million Little Things.
I woke up this morning feeling a bit more open, a bit more at peace with myself and ready to begin the day.