This Powerhouse is Condemned

Condemned.

Photo by shiny red type @ Flickr.

My life, as of late, has taken a turn for the seemingly impressive. I say “seemingly,” because while it might look impressive at first brush (what with all my exercising and writing and to-do list-making), I assure you, things are getting rather questionable on the inside.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m lazy. If laziness were a career, I’d have $4.2 billion dollars and a vacation home in the Caymans. Little Richard and I would eat caviar and laugh big, open-mouth, tiny black pearl-coated laughs. That’s how good I am at being lazy.

However, recognizing that people don’t actually get paid (in money or caviar) for doing nothing, I decided I should do things that successful, active people do. Basically, I should pretend to be successful and active and hope no one spots my ruse. So, that’s what I’m doing. Specifically, I’ve been exercising at least 6 days a week for two months, I’ve been dieting for a month, and I’ve been writing at least 750 words per day for exactly 107 days. In a row. It makes me look kinda awesome.

But there’s a catch.

See, what I expected to happen was that it would be hard at first, maybe even mostly unproductive, but then I’d start seeing changes. It’d get easier. I wouldn’t curse the alarm every single morning. I expected to put in the hard work, then magically become super me who can do exercise and productive things without every fiber of my being screaming to lie down and watch The Only Way is Essex. But no. That is not what’s happening at all.

Every day I struggle to get up. And it’s getting worse. Now, instead of thinking, “I’m so tired, I don’t want to get up,” I think, “I want to quit. Should I quit? I just don’t want to do this anymore.” I drag myself through the entire workout and slump down exhausted afterward. And then I pound out my 750 words, which often include the phrase, “I really freaking wish I wasn’t doing this right now.”

And weight loss? Not happening. Last week I was so discouraged that my best friend and I decided that I shouldn’t weigh myself anymore. I should just take measurements. Because if I’m gaining muscle it’ll throw the weight thing off and I don’t need to upset myself with a number. So this week I tried just measurements. No change.

I’m facing the very real possibility that nothing will change from here on out—that this is it.

But We Just Exercise to be Healthy, Right?

This look is probably not in my future.

Everyone says that they’re exercising for “health.” I do. I try to tell myself that even if I don’t end up looking like those Pinterest photos, the overall health benefits are worth it. Everyone says that. And I think most of us are lying.

We want weight loss. We want sculpted body parts. We want “that sexy v shape” (oh, lord does that phrase make me angry). But you know what will make you really inspect that belief? If you run and stretch and pull and lift and crunch and cut out sugar and reduce fat and do everything you’re suppose to do…and your body says, “NO! This area here is a flotation device. We are keeping it for survival! Run all you want, bitch!”

I am unhappy with this arrangement.

My friend Anna keeps reminding me that I’m in the normal BMI range, and maybe I should be happy with that. Happy with being healthy. I have to wonder why I’m not. I think it’s because I can make Jabba’s face with my belly if I want to, and I have yet to find a use for that ability.

Jabba the Hut Portrait

Not a great look for abs. Photo By San Diego Shooter @ Flickr.

So, again, I’m confronted: Do I really want to do this—the exercising, avoiding foods, eating truckloads of salads, getting up early—do I want to do this if nothing changes from here on out? If I end up looking like a person who doesn’t exercise, will I still do it? If I look like someone who doesn’t eat right, will I eat right anyway? If I don’t gain any energy, if I don’t like it any more, if it doesn’t make me feel accomplished…if nothing gets better…will I still do it? If  the answer is yes, then by golly I might actually be doing all this for my health. In fact, that’s all I’d be doing it for.

Those questions rang through my head on my cool down walk home today. And the louder they rang, the clearer this was to me:  I have to let go of my expectations. Not just let go, I need to mourn them. I need to burn an effigy of the “ideal” me . I thought about how hard I’ve been working, and how the results aren’t showing. I decided that I have to let the expectation that things will change die like a neglected Ficus. In fact, maybe the Ficus is already dead and I’m just now showing up to its funeral. I thought about all of this and I cried my way home, having buried in my mind the hope of looking slimmer, fitter——better.

On the upside, I’ve been making this banana-peanut-butter-cocoa shake and it’s so delicious I could punch a goat in the mouth. So there’s that.

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15 Comments

  1. This is such a thoughtful and inspiring post. I think you’re cool.

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  2. Cassie

     /  June 27, 2012

    As an anti-morning person, I wish you wouldn’t force yourself to exercise in the a.m.! I realize your options are pretty limited, so maybe it’s a.m. or never. As much as I love working out, I WOULD NOT DO IT if morning was only time. I especially can’t imagine having to do it in the a.m. if I actually didn’t enjoy exercise. Maybe it will get better???? Maybe it will change your life to fight the anti-morning sentiment. I also agree with the person above who suggested letting this be a long-term endeavor before giving up. Lots of people I know didn’t see results for 6 months+, and now they’re finally happy with some visible results. Plus, you know, I’m sure they’re way healthier :) Thanks for your honesty, friend.

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    • It is kinda AM or never for me. If I’m not working out in the morning, then I have to give up time with Stephen, and I’d rather lose sleep than lose time with him (which again, is a testament to how much I like that guy). Oh well.

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  3. Hang in there! I started working out 5-6 days a week last October after my wedding (I realize that most women do this before their weddings, but sometimes I’m a little slow to adopt to new things). Two months in, the only change I saw in myself was that my wrist seemed smaller because my watch was looser. Sigh…I wasn’t waking up early every morning to get my wrist in shape! Anyway, I did keep at it mostly so I could make other people feel bad at parties when I worked it into conversation that I got up early every morning to work out. Seven months in, I finally started noticing that my clothes were fitting better (I didn’t drop a size, though) and, to my surprise, when I dared to step back on the scale, I had lost 10 pounds. Soon, people started noticing that I had lost weight, especially my husband (but mostly because I reminded him of it every day because I was so happy that all my hard work was starting to pay off).

    So, keep at it. You will eventually loose the weight. Also, I recommend setting some intermediate goals that will give you confidence and a reason to get up in the mornings. For me, this is running races – 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, trail runs, and mud runs. The fear of totally sucking in a race helps me get up and hit the gym. Finally, in addition to eating right (which I don’t always do because I love food even more than I hate my flab), take your vitamins, especially iron, which will help with energy.

    Good luck! Give yourself another six months. Then, I promise, you’ll at least feel like you’re better than most people at at least these few things in life!

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    • That wrist thing is so funny…isn’t that what we all want? A smaller watch band size? Another six months is a great idea. That way I can just dedicate to doing it no matter what, and not analyze it in the meantime. Thanks, Carrie!

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  4. The most important thing is that you continue to put one foot in front of the other when it comes to goals. Maybe focus on the simple joy of knowing that you are attempting things for the betterment of yourself and not necessarily for the end prize. Make mini goals inside of the big ones. But I also say that when I’m about to go plow into some lunch and then go back to sitting in front of a computer for another 3 hours. I’m the worst at giving advice or encouragement.

    All that to say this: Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s inspiring.

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    • One foot in front of the other…good reminder. SuperBetter is helpful for that because I get points every time I work out (why ficticious points in a game is motivational for me I have no idea). And I’ve been buying myself a small reward for every month of working out. I’m just gonna keep doing it. Just. keep. going.

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  5. I have the same stomach. Things only get better with age.

    I exercise because when I do I get that mighty endorphin high. I feel great (after the desire to throw up from over-exertion) and feel like I could jump on tall buildings.

    But that sagging excess skin stuff? Meh. I have a total love-hate relationship with my body.

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  6. Secret — don’t tell anyone, especially your female friends – men (at least smart ones) do not really like skinny women. (Unless like the women in the photo, they have impressive boob jobs and it’s only for a weekend). Men like comfortable women – meaning funny, smart and comfortable with themselves Like one M. Crutchfield. (Stephen will confirm)

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    • I think you’ve hit on the real goal—being “comfortable.” If only our society was as obsessed with self-acceptance as it is with being stick thin and shellacked with a dozen beauty products…

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  7. graciewilde

     /  June 27, 2012

    Oh, so much about which to respond! First things first though: Please DO NOT look like the women in the photograph. WTF? What is so beautiful about that skin and bones look?
    I used to want that too – and I was much, much, much younger and it was actually attainable – and I ran marathons and starved myself for what? To look like a boy? Now, I am of average weight and, yes, I have had two children and I am post-menopausal – there is no threat of a skin and bones look now. I am pretty much okay with that and I wish society would be okay with that. I wish advertisers and media would stop with the skin and bones thing and I wish all people would stop buying it. But it is pervasive and powerful so we need to break it one person at time.

    Exercise — yes, I am a weirdo – I like it but not necessarily the kind that you do at a gym. I like early morning or early evening neighborhood walks. I prefer to go alone (and/or with the dogs) – nice refection time. I like bike rides. But I like solitude. And I do it b/c I don’t want to become overweight and I want to remain as healthy as possible as the years trip by. My goal is to fall off the planet one day and do it ka-boom – none of this slow decline for me – stay on top of it and, one day or one week, or even one month – depart the world – gotta stay healthy and go fast as opposed to the slow decline. And, in order to do this, you don’t have to run yourself ragged. Maybe six days a week is one day too many? do you do the same things every time you exercise? Being bored kills the pleasure for me.

    I completely sympathize with you for the sadness you felt on the walk home today. I’ve been there more than once. Despite the fact that it is familiar or maybe b/c it is familiar, I go back there from time to time still. It’s as if by getting that 20 year old body back, maybe I can get my life back? That was then and this is now – I want more people to tell me that I am okay just the way I am – the media and the people I know on a day to day basis. Mostly I want me to tell me I am okay just the way I am.

    I’m not even going to read over this b/c it probably won’t make sense – but I really like everything you write – you always hit a chord. Thanks for posting.

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    • Thanks for such a thoughtful comment! And yes, I know there’s a ton of weird stuff in this post. We all (at least the majority of women I know) seem to *still* be searching for the healthy way to view ourselves. I do think the current trend is to look like a young boy with large breasts. Sure wish the tides would change on that front.

      I know 6 days a week is intense, but it’s only temporary. I just wanted to expose myself to an intense exercise routine to help establish a habit. After another month and a half I’m going to go to 5 times a week, then probably land at 4 times a week—hopefully for the rest of my life.

      Thanks again for your comment and for reading. Such amazing, supportive people out here on the internet. (Go internet!)

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  8. “I can make Jabba’s face with my belly if I want to…” Ditto. Please make sure i am the first to know when you find a use for that ability! I’ve got my own Jabba that needs purpose.

    I admire your (big emphasis on YOUR) discipline. Because of your discipline you are not living with the “I’ll begin next Monday” guilt. I can’t tell you how many Mondays ago I made the commitment to exercise, write, do this project or that….

    I admire you.

    I’m going to check that shake out now…seriously punch a goat in the mouth good?!

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    • Thanks for the encouragement, Denise. & you’re right…at least I know that I’m trying. I’m doing, where I have only intended to do in the past. It’s good. And yes—watch out goats!—that shake is good. You can sub the maple syrup with whatever your sweetener of choice is. Enjoy!

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