I Always Thought It Was My Biggest Obstacle
I always handled stress by eating. It never improved the stressful situation, but for the amount of time it took me to devour that bag of fast food, I was in another world. Food was a temporary escape, a distraction from reality, it was medication. How I handled stress by eating was my biggest fear along this road. I didn't look at it like it was a choice, I was convinced it was fact: If I'm stressed, I'm going to eat...a lot. I spent years and years over 500 pounds because of this stress eating acceptance. I always told myself and my family, “as soon as I can get rid of some of this stress, I'll be able to do it, I'll lose this weight once and for all.” And then I would dream.
Not about finally losing the weight, I would dream about this magical stress-free life that would someday set me free, enabling me to finally lose weight. Well let me tell you my friend, the stress never went away. In fact, in many ways it's increased over the last 529 days. Stress is a part of life. It comes in many forms. Some are very real pressures, some we create in our head, but it doesn't matter---real or not, stress is something we all have in one form or another. And everyone handles their stress the best way they know how, even if they know it's not really the best way.
On September 14th, 2008, I thought about this problem all day. I was extremely stressed, but I knew I had to somehow grab control regardless of the stressful circumstances of our everyday lives. The next day was my day 1, and in many ways I felt like this was my last chance. It was do or die, or at least—do or lose everything important to me, be miserable for a few more years, and then die. I was scared, very scared---and I knew that if I was going to be successful at losing weight, I had to fight hard against my biggest nemesis of all time: Me.
I usually read a post from exactly a year ago everyday. Not today. I went all the way back to Day 8, just a week into this journey---when stress was hitting me hard and I was fighting with everything to stay in control:
Staying focused is sometimes a very difficult thing to do. Most of us know what our triggers are. Triggers are situations and circumstances that put us at our weakest point in terms of staying on track. My trigger is stress. Any and all stress. Job stress, financial stress, family stress. It all adds up to a big mess of stress. And I'm sure you've heard people say...”I'm an emotional eater”...aren't most of us? I'm not just an emotional eater, I'm also a celebratory eater and a spur of the moment craving eater, I'm a “ah, the heck with it, give me the double decker with extra cheese and bacon” eater. Identifying your triggers is important. What makes me feel the urge to eat a couple thousand calories in double cheeseburgers and ice cream? Stress. I identified this trigger several years ago. And for the longest time I've used that as an excuse not to get busy with this mission. “I'm just too stressed out to get started right now”...Or, after a successful couple of days, totally going nuts on a half gallon of tin roof sundae, then thinking...”I can't do this right now because things are just too stressful. So recently I had to ask myself: If I'm waiting to have a stress free life before I start losing this weight, will I ever start? The answer was no. We all have stress in some form. Stress is part of daily life for most people. Stress can be so many different things. So I realized that if I were waiting for my world to be completely perfect and stress free, then I would never, ever, ever start this. We have to adjust our strategy in the face of our triggers. We have to stop long enough to ask ourselves, will eating this really improve my situation? What can I do besides over-eat that will help me deal with this issue? I've turned to food for comfort for so long, that I know how incredibly difficult this can be. My smart and beautiful wife mentioned taking one day at a time in a comment she left on yesterdays blog, and you know what? She's so right. One day at a time I deal with cravings, one day at a time I deal with triggers, one day at a time I succeed. Eventually all of those “one day at a times” will add up to an amazing result.
I've talked about this tonight, because I've faced some pretty big triggers today. It was a very stressful Monday. The most stressful day out of the eight days so far. And you know what? I won. I identified the triggers, I knew I was staring them down, and I didn't blink. The right mindset can be a very tough opponent for stressful triggers. I keep remembering my motivating thoughts. It's always good to keep those motivators handy just in case you need them. I've stayed within my calorie allotment, I'm getting ready to work out, and tonight I will go to bed knowing that despite my challenges and stress today, I made it one more day. One day at a time! And seven more “one day at a times” and I get to weigh!! I can't wait!
One day at a time. That's it. I just have to survive this one day. But how? I rely heavily on my motivating thoughts. These thoughts and dreams of the future that hold so much promise. And I fight to defend the integrity of this mission. Identifying the excuses and rationalizations that always signified surrender was a big step toward victory. The self-honesty factor had to be extremely strong, unbreakable and brutally honest. I had to make an iron-clad decision that no stressful trigger, no circumstance, no emotion, person, place, or thing...nothing was going to steal this away from me. I wasn't going to steal this away from me. That iron-clad decision had to made over and over again with each new threat. This decision to not allow anything to stand in the way---it was fueled by setting an importance level so high---that success was the only option. Success or death. No room to fail...this was it. It had to be THAT important. And it was and it is to this day.
If you haven't already guessed, today has been a very stressful day. Tomorrow looks to be even more stressful. I'm going to make it through just fine, but believe me---I'll do it by tapping into the basic fundamentals that I had to hold onto from Day 1. The same thing that got me through Day 8, will get me to the other side today. This mission is too important. My iron-clad decision cannot be broken. My motivating thoughts are bigger and better than ever. My dream is alive and I will protect it with everything I have inside.
Wow---OK, that was heavy. But I needed that. I needed to write those words. I needed to remind myself that we're going to be OK---and we're making it. One day at a time---and sometimes, one hour at a time. But we're gonna get there by golly. And when the head hits the pillow tonight, we'll close our eyes on another successful day.
I had another weight machine orientation at the YMCA today. I had one of these well over a year ago. Back then, I couldn't fit on every machine. Fitting wasn't an issue today, that was so nice! The upper body machines along the east wall face a mirror. The entire wall is a mirror. I always hated that wall. I don't hate it so much anymore. I can remember sitting on a machine and looking at myself and thinking is that really what I look like? I was so much bigger than I perceived, and the mirror was always brutally honest--no wonder why I always tried to avoid that bitter reality check. Maybe if I didn't look, the truth wouldn't exist. It's amazing how much time I spent avoiding and denying the seriousness of my obesity.
Today, I climbed into those machines, fitting perfectly--like a normal person, and I asked myself the very same question, but for a very different reason... Is that really what I look like? The trainer at the Y couldn't tell, but I was welling up inside because that mirror was so nice to me today. I'm excited about making these machines a huge part of my workout plans. I love the way they expertly isolate the targeted muscle. I only had one embarrassing moment during this orientation, and that's when I was unable to do an assisted pull-up. There I was, hanging on with my shirt riding up and my stretch marks shining---desperately trying to lift my body to the bar. That's OK---I'll get it, and someday it will be done without the "assisted" part.
After my orientation and workout, I headed home with thoughts of dinner and what to fix. Once again it was just me. I had some options, but I took the easy way out and picked up a Subway sandwich. I passed on the cheese too! That's just not like me. I regularly say "just half the cheese," but today it was "no cheese." I wanted my sandwich to be 300 calories---so the cheese had to go. It was just a calorie value decision. I enjoyed a banana with a teaspoon of peanut butter for desert. It was a very nice 450 calorie dinner.
Courtney made it home later tonight, and she's planning on spending a bunch of time with me this weekend. We've had these plans lately and they always seem to get changed for one reason or another. I think we'll keep them this weekend. I'm looking forward to spending time with that girl!
Thank you for reading. Goodnight and...