Saturday, April 11, 2015

Challenges of a Health Challenge

I have been obese most of my adult life. About 10 years ago a friend offered to be my coach and helped me lose 115 pounds over the course of about 16 months. I looked and felt amazing and healthy and strong. Since then I have had 2 more children. When I got pregnant with my youngest about 5 years ago, I started a dramatic weight gain that continued even after I had him, partly due to the post-partum depression that followed his delivery. It was humiliating for me, especially when I would visit friends and family who knew me when I was losing weight before. Now I am at the heaviest I have ever been, but I am also (finally) the most comfortable I have ever been in my own skin. It's kind of a paradox, but there it is. I have resisted making a structured effort to lose weight over the past couple of years. I think partly because I am afraid to fail, and partly because I don't want to get back in the habit of beating myself up over things. I like myself and don't feel like my obesity makes me any less worthwhile or valued. I also just opened a home bakery, and in doing so have owned the fact that I love food and desserts without any shame or embarrassment. These are big, big steps for me. Now I'm finally ready for the next one.

This past week I started an 8-week health challenge. Over the past few days I've realized there are a few things I need to be cautious about in this process in order to keep my attitude positive and my emotional health stable.

Challenge 1 - The Picture

As part of this challenge, I am supposed to take a "before" picture at the beginning. But if you've read my post The Before-After Trap, then you know I have some problems with the whole idea of a before/after mindset. I decided I'd take the "before" picture as requested, but with the extra edits that you see above. And if I'm going to look at a before picture, then I'm going to let it be something that reminds me of my worth TODAY.

Challenge 2 - The Competition

Another thing that I haven't done with this health challenge is "pay in" to be eligible for cash prizes. At first, the decision was made based purely on finances since we've had a few unexpected bills over the past couple of weeks. However, as the first week has progressed, I've realized that it has also taken the stress off for me. My motivation to succeed has nothing to do with anyone other than ME. And while this approach doesn't work best for everyone, it is perfect for me. I am a stress eater, so guess when  happens when I get stressed out over a health competition? I EAT! It totally defeats the purpose. I am insanely competitive, but this is MY quality of life we are talking about. It isn't a game. But I can still be a "winner" is if I make permanent, positive changes. And that's the ONLY way.

Challenge 3 - The Points

Each week we have a list of daily things to do that are worth certain points, as well as a weekly challenge and a weekly bonus. In the past I've started RIGHT off the bat with a focus on getting every single point I possibly can. However, what typically happens is I do fantastic at first, and then fade out within a couple of weeks because I have burned myself out. It is too much for me to try to change everything at once. So I've started off this time with a focus on 2-3 of the things that I can accomplish first. My goal is to get perfect points IN THOSE THINGS for week 1. I haven't gotten a single point for staying away from sweets in this first week, but I have gotten all my points so far for the required amount of fruits/veggies and drinking all my water. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and I'm approaching it that way.

Challenge 4 - The End

I'll have to revisit this topic at the end of my 8-week challenge, but there is always a risk at the end of something like this that I will lapse back in to my previous poor habits. That is why I am focusing on making long-term changes instead of short-term extremes. It's just not reasonable to assume that I will ever be able to avoid sweets permanently. They are not inherently evil and I have no desire to do so. I am a baker, for Pete's sake! What I CAN do is limit my servings and frequency. I CAN make sure there is some nutritional value to what I consume, rather than chugging soda or chomping on Twizzlers. These are the kinds of changes that I WANT to make. And they won't go away just because I don't have to turn in points every week.

Overall, I am excited to finally be doing something proactive about my health again. I am excited to set goals and live consciously. I am thrilled at the thought of being able to run again and see muscles and shrink out of my favorite clothes.

And I am enjoying the journey as I go, not just saving up my happiness for Someday.