Over the last week, a lot has happened in the world of fitness and health for me, and I wanted to highlight each in a blog, but I thought I would just write one blog in a few sections.
The other day, I saw a friend in our student union and chatted with her a bit about weight loss. She has lost a lot of weight as well (somewhere around 65 lbs.), and so she was asking me several questions about my personal journey. As we exchanged stories, I highlighted a metaphor I explained to a friend a few months ago that I think is a good way to look at the psychological aspect of dramatically transforming your life. The metaphor came up in the context of asking about how I now view my identity, which, I believe, when people go through this transformation have to be very aware of. When I started out on this journey, I never knew I would lose as much as I did, so the overwhelming benefits as far as my mental and emotional state (aside from the obvious physical benefits) have changed my identity dramatically. For one, when I look in the mirror, I actually LIKE who I see staring back in the mirror. My drive to move forward now pivots on making myself fitter and leaner, rather than shaking my fat around in the mirror and feeling sorry for myself. The motivations for losing weight shifts dramatically as your lifestyle changes. Now, being active is about the enjoyment of life, being better than I was yesterday, rather than trying to change a person I am disappointed in.
With that said, I said to her that sometimes when I look in the mirror, I don’t know who the new me is yet – I spent 26 years as the old me, and as corny or metaphysical as it sounds, I feel like I am an entirely new person, born and seeing life for the first time. At the same time, I look back at the person I used to be, and wonder who that was, living a life on the verge of health maladies, unhappiness, low self-esteem, and wonder how I lived that way for so long. It’s a trick quest to not know who you were and still figuring out who the new you is – so who are you in the meantime. That question has to be addressed, otherwise, the pressure of knowing who we are, something at the foundation of our mental health, can cause backslides. It easier to go back to an old lifestyle, despite being unhealthy, if it is all that we knew – at least it gives us context. The thing that I think I learned the most was my new found love for living life. Doing races, white water rafting, ziplining, whatever it is – part of my new identity is loving to go out and enjoy life, taking chances, and moving forward. I may not have all the fine details figured out, and certainly the old me, the days where I feel down on myself, still exist, but the changes have been dramatic enough at this point, the progress motivates me to keep on going.
If you are in the process of losing weight, or have lost a lot, and you want to keep the weight off, I suggest you look at yourself and who you are in your new body. The amount of people who sustain weight loss is extremely low, which is always a scary thing for me to consider. Many people lose weight to look better and feel better about themselves, but we have to be prepared for that.
Fear is an overwhelming driving mental state that drives so much of who we are. Fear is powerful, often more powerful than drive and motivation, but it can be harnessed. Those thoughts that creep into your head, saying you can’t do it, saying you will slip back into your old ways, saying you will fail, may permeate your thoughts each day. Even just earlier today, when eating some whey peanut butter with whole grain low calorie toast, I thought “man this tastes fantastic”, and then my very next thought was “am I just telling myself that because I know it is a healthier option and I am tricking myself into this whole thing.” You have to be on constant notice with yourself, which is why forming your new identity is integral to how you come up against fear. I then thought about all the crap I used to eat, and how much I absolutely loved eating that way, how I would bask in the sugary goodness, how I would overeat, how I would crave, and how I was out of control. Food made me happy, and now my diet is completely different. I then thought about it, gave it another taste, and said, “no, it does taste good, it’s just a different good”
A few weeks ago, I had a small binge with some delicious chocolate chip black raspberry ice cream – something that hasn’t happened to me since probably the beginning of summer (binging that is). It’s okay to go a little wild sometimes – I am not promoting depriving yourself of everything you love, but what I love has changed. Now, when I drink a diet soda, I can only drink about half, because it is way too much. I like that about myself, but sometimes I wonder if I am one ice cream binge away from going all the way back up the weight 95 lbs. I honestly do not believe that, and that has come with understanding my new identity and who I am. Sure, I don’t eat 100% great all the time, but I am mindful of what I eat, how much I eat, and what I have to do to work it off.
Another fear I have comes with the other big component of losing weight – exercise. Over the last couple of months, I have truly enjoyed working out. Since the semester started, I look FORWARD to going to the gym, which is a huge change for me. I have fallen in love with CrossFit, and doing some weight training, kettle bell, kickboxing, etc. are all a lot of fun. Seeing how much I can do, and taking it to the next level excites me, but I know myself (or at least my old self) really well. I get bored quickly with things. I almost never finish a book or a game – something new comes along, and I jump ship. The same happened with insanity, once CrossFit came along, I changed it, but now all of these things are in my calendar, so I hold myself to it – but my fear is that one day I will just stop going. Although I could probably maintain my weight being mindful of diet, being active has been one of the big changes I have made, and I do not want to lose that – ever. I want to be running when I am 40, I want to be CrossFitting when I am 50, and I want to be roller skating when I am 60.
Even though I set these fears aside, as I have had a lot of practice of failing and giving into them over the course of my life – the ability to conquer and control your fear will give you so much motivation. It doesn’t mean they will stop existing, but you will have a better handle on your life, and how you react to negative things or derailments.
Promotion of a New Life
Part of understanding your identity and harnessing your fear is promoting your new lifestyle. If you do not stay actively engaged in it, you may just fail. I know I failed at weight loss before, and losing 20 lbs. then going back up (beyond it), is crushing, and this time, I know I will never go back, that is a promise I have made myself, and now it’s online, so I have to follow it! You have to engage in your lifestyle. I have done this by running races, going to classes at the rec center, becoming more social, tried adventurous things that I never thought I could do, and trying to understand who I am.
I’ve written a lot about these things, these advancements, but I wanted to just say that this weekend I will be doing two races. I may be going a little overboard, but I truly wanted to do both of them, so we will see how it goes.
On Saturday, I am running the Black Bear Attack Challenge on campus with a friend. It’s a tough mudder type of race. I have yet to do something like this, so I am excited to tackle an obstacle course. A year ago, trying something new like this (physical activity or not) would have been something I would have made fun of (defense mechanism) in order to abstain from trying something that scares me. I am a little nervous, but having done a bunch of regular races, I feel excited about throwing in some mud an obstacles.
Then, on Sunday, I will be running my first half-marathon. I feel slightly underprepared for this. I have not been doing a lot of running in the last week and a half – mostly going to classes at the gym, but I am going to try and pace it out, eat a good breakfast, and try it. My goal is to finish in under 2.5 hours. It’s still odd to me to think that I will be running for 2 hours. I know I am going to feel great about accomplishing this. Just 5 month ago, I had never even run 1 mile, let alone 13.6.
I know this post contained a lot of diverse info, but I think they connect on several levels. Identity is such a core concept of our being. Sometimes, even adults do not know who they are, and having that tension can be harmful. This is not to say that we have to know everything about ourselves. Part of life is uncovering who we are. I think one of the best parts of the past year and a half is my ability to be fluid about my identity. I used to be so stuck in my ways – what I liked and hated. Running is not something I would ever consider, so don’t let who you are dictate too much what you believe you can and cannot do, otherwise you will hold yourself back, but figure out the reasons you are doing what you are doing, understand who you are in relation to who you were, and just be mindful of the choices you make.
Keep on keepin’ on.