health

Some Assembly Required

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I meet with my wellness coach, Meg, every Friday morning. She always sends me the session worksheets a day or two in advance, and we typically work through the material in our meetings. We start each session with me sharing some accomplishments or good things that took place in the week since our last meeting. Meg then invites me to discuss what challenges I faced, but we always start with the positives.

Despite our planned session work, our time was overtaken with me digging into some challenges that are broader than week-to-week observations. Basically, it boils down to a very direct question.

Do you want this?

The this at the center of this question is my stated goal of losing weight and toning my body. I seem to be going in circles with choices regarding food and exercise. I struggle with the proverbial one step forward, two steps back. In fact, it often feels like one step forward, five steps back. The backward movement seems or feels larger because it is coupled of with guilt, shame, and self-judgment. Why can't I stay the course? What will it take for me to get my shit together and honor what I say that I desire? Self-sabotage is a real thing, and its pull can come up in ways so buried that you don't even recognize you're undoing your progress. 

Thankfully, Meg took time for us to walk through my feelings and frustrations. As discussed in my last post, one thing that keeps coming up for me is impatience. Beyond that, I thought back to a discussion I had with Carla several years ago about being authentic. We discussed that I tend to be a nice person and say the right things. But, it begged the question, was I being honest? Like many people, I was raised to be polite. I think that I also developed, or picked up, the trait of being a people pleaser. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings and typically steered clear of criticism that might be deemed too direct or sharp.

As we talked, it became clear that I was doing the same thing with Meg. I have been very honest with Meg in our meetings, but I think that I fell into the habit of saying what sounded right. I am a pretty emotional person, but I have been pretty stoic when discussion my struggle with weight and eating. Where is the part of me that is screaming inside and wants to run around the room with my would-be hair on fire?

Perhaps more revealing was digging past the surface to examine how this behavior manifests. I had to offer that I am extremely engaged in our meetings and walk away feeling charged to take on my action items. However, just a couple of days later the enthusiasm fades and I'm back to the same 'ole same 'ole. I analogized it to Sunday Christians. You know ... the folks who show up for church every Sunday, but do very little worship or reflection Monday through Saturday.

As much as I give lip service to acknowledging that change takes time, I believe that I haven't embraced this truth. I walk away each Friday as if the meeting itself will transport me to the desired end point. That's not how it works. The hard truth is that I have to account for decades of behaviors, actions, and attitudes about myself. I have to lay out all of my habits and feelings and take a good hard look at what serves me and what does not. Only then will I be in the position to take on the task of assembling -- piece by piece --  a more complete, self-loving self. A self that is motivated and willing to take on the challenge to move toward goals. A self that knows that, in many ways, there is no "end." There is a path to achieve goals and I can't get there if I am so focused on the horizon that I keep tripping or falling into holes right in front of me. 

The big takeaway from this week's meeting is that I want to try setting more immediate goals and milestones. I need to set daily accomplishment points that feel more tangible, instead of the, seemingly, exclusive focus on "the long game." I think through this; I will find more confidence that I can continue to make progress toward my goal and quiet that naysayer on my shoulder who wants me to believe I'm not capable, deserving, or worthy.

My Struggle With Patience

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It has been a while since I've posted an entry. In all honesty, I had it my head that I would stay quiet for a while and come back with this beautiful story of transformation. Well, that still may happen, but I think that I have grossly underestimated the time required for a shift to occur, let alone a wholesale transformation.A few months ago, I signed up with a wellness coach, and it has been great. Meg has taken an approach that has helped me explore the emotional side of my struggles with weight and self-image. The work has been far less about "Eat this, not that. Do this. Lift that." and much more about peeling back the stories I tell myself about myself. The level of self-sabotage within me is much higher than I realized or ever imagined. I will be the first to admit that I am hard on myself, but I had no clue how I have been employing behaviors that completely undermine my goals or intentions. It has been pretty hard to stand in this mirror and see who is looking back. One of the hardest parts of this reveal has been that I feel sad, embarrassed even, about my weight and physical shape. I jumped on the scale a few weeks ago and saw that my weight had ticked up by about five pounds. The number on the scale's screen was devasting. I sat in a stupor afterward with the digits swirling around in my head. I wished that I could have released it all with a good cry, but at that moment, when my angst, dismay, and self-loathing completely boiled over, I was paralyzed. Numb.Why can't I seem to make any real, substantive progress toward the weight and body I so deeply desire?I took part in the first meeting of a workshop led by Mark Nepo, and I shared my frustration of finding myself at 52 not knowing what my "thing" is, as well as this constant struggle with weight and body image. Mark lovingly reminded me that things take time. Not long after the workshop, I was reading Emily Maroutian's new book "In Case Nobody Told You," and one passage, in particular, grabbed me by both arms and shook me.

"The only thing that can change your life in one day is either a trauma or a miracle. Everything else takes time."

Wow! I genuinely believe when something repeatedly shows up in your life it's because there's a lesson you're meant to receive, and the agitation with that thing keep coming up until the lesson is learned.Of course, making change takes work, but it also takes time. The deeper I examine my emotional triggers, it becomes clear that I have been struggling with weight and body image since I was a teenager. Realizing how long these feelings have been present (upfront or in the background), it is unrealistic to think I will see the change I desire immediately. I have fallen victim to the trap of expectations and immediacy. There's a saying, "Expectations are premeditated resentments."

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The path from where you are to where you want to go is rarely a straight line. That's easy to grasp, but often hard to practice in day-to-day life.I keep saying to myself, "I am smart enough to know better. I know what I shouldn't eat. I know that I should find some regular movement and exercise." After a while, it has become clear that intelligence or willpower have less to do with making this sort of transformation than patience. I can't go to the gym for a couple of weeks and expect a six-pack to appear magically, but somehow that expectation shows up. I cannot eat a steady diet of quinoa and kale and think my man boobs or 40+ inch belly circumference will melt away in a month. Real talk: I have simply given lip service to having patience. I want results now! When they don't show up when I want them, that little naysayer sitting on my shoulder is quick to chime in with "See! You're not losing any weight. You're meant to be a fatty, so go ahead and have that pint of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food. Treat yo'self!"It has become clear that willpower I need to summon is more about patience than food. I have been known to very disciplined with food in the past, but the execution always seemed to wane after a few months. Now, at 52, I know this has to be a lifelong commitment. I am committed to the journey of physical fitness, but I have to be patient for the change I desire. I'm not trying to lose weight for beach season or a wedding (though I am attending one in a couple of weeks that is giving rise to some anxiety). My patience will not only have to be measured in pounds and inches but also forgiveness. I am going to make mistakes along the way. I just made about eight of them last night with Halloween candy. The test will be to look at the behaviors with a non-critical lens. Examine what were the triggers and not why the actions mean I'm a loser.As stated at the outset, I have been keeping to myself about the ups and downs, successes and setbacks. I had some grand "Tada!" reveal in my head, but that would likely mean I wouldn't post for a year or two, if not longer. I think part of the process of working through my issues will be to share them openly. It may help others struggling with the same issues. It may present an opportunity to hear and learn from others traveling on their paths toward self-love. So, stay tuned for more posts from me. Some may be short, random thoughts/musings. Some may be mental or emotional dumps.Peace!

I Have A Problem

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I’m going to keep it real with you all: I have a problem. A serious problem.Do I call it a weight problem? Or, do I call it an eating problem/disorder? I don’t know. I’m sure there may be an appreciable difference between the terms, but in layman’s terms...

I’m fat!

On the face of it, losing weight and/or practicing a healthy lifestyle seems obvious. Be mindful of what goes in your mouth. Work out regularly. Drink plenty of water. Easy peasy right? Well...as the saying goes, “It’s Easier Said Than Done.”I can’t seem to find the key to making a change. Many years ago, I set a goal weight -- 195 pounds. Despite setting this intention, I’ve hovered around 250-260 during this time, with my lowest weight being mid-240s. I stepped on the scale before a recent trip to France and tipped the scales at few decimal points over 272. For what it’s worth, the heaviest I’ve ever been was about 290.I’m not sure if people are aware that many men suffer from body image and body shaming issues. Guys are pretty tough on other guys. From boyhood on, we’re pretty quick to comment, teast, or flat-out embarrass someone for being fat. I've never liked being called Matt, and it didn't help that it rhymed with fat. The colloquial “Hey Big Man” can sting if you’re struggling with how you see yourself. There’s a scene in the movie

Central Intelligence

where Dwayne Johnson’s character looks at his reflection in a window. Despite being a physical specimen at the time, he still sees himself as a fat kid, primarily because his esteem and self-confidence took a beating for so many years.

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My dad used to (I’m sure affectionately) called me Chub as a kid and once told me that I looked like I swallowed a bowling ball because I had a little pot belly. I don’t hold these things against him, but I must acknowledge, like the movie character, I realized these things made an impact on how I view myself and the attendant feelings/notions that I am unattractive or undesirable to others.Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried to focus on approaching the issue through taking up different forms of exercise. Bikram/Hot yoga. Cycling. Vinyasa Yoga. Swimming. Other than a pretty regular practice of Bikram for about 1 ½ years, I haven’t established, nor stuck with, any particular exercise routine. Am I lazy or just lacking motivation? The latter seems to befuddle me because everytime I look at myself in the mirror or see my reflection in a mirror I sigh, at best, or going into self-loathing and get downright depressed. One would think this feeling toward my body would motivate me to make a change.I tried online nutrition and exercise coaching a few years ago. I’ve worked with a great nutrition coach in the last year. While I’m very open to coaching, what’s hit me is this feeling that I’m smart enough to know this “stuff.” Right? I mean...I’m smart enough to know not to eat a bunch of junk food, sweets, soda, and excess carbs. So...why do those things keep showing up in my belly? How is it that I go shopping and bring home a nice array of green, leafy vegetables and “clean” food, but, at some point during the week, end up knocking down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food, big ass bowls of air-popped popcorn, or a couple slices of cake from Safeway? Ugh!

What’s wrong with me?

A couple of years ago, Carla threw out the idea that I might consider counseling or maybe hypnotherapy. She felt that I may have some latent, emotional issues connecting to my eating that I need help tapping into so that I can make substantive and lasting progress. At the time, I kind of nodded and tacitly agreed..mainly to move on from the topic. I know anything that she suggests is done with love and nothing but the best intentions. I’ve never told her this, but I must admit that part of me was hurt because it felt like she was saying that I was incapable of making the necessary changes on my own. I was broken. All the feelings and fears of being unattractive and/or undesirable shot right back to the surface. It’s been a while since the suggestion of seeing a therapist was raised, and I’m much more open to the idea. I looked back through old pictures when Carla and I first met. I wasn’t the leanest person in the world then and she fell in love with me, so I know her feelings are purely about me finding self-worth, self-love, and being healthy so we can enjoy many years together.Even with that emotional comfort, I still haven’t found peace, acceptance, let alone love, for my body. I have same-age friends who look great, work out regularly, and eat well without, seemingly, doing a bunch of dieting or culinary gymnastics. Sometimes I have to temper my envy when around them, and occasionally find myself going into snarky/asshat mode when around them because I feel so bad about the disparity between their physique and mine. Beyond friends, I was in Vietnam earlier this year and a young boy in a school we visited repeatedly said "You have a big belly!" and held his hands out around his belly and laughed at me. Other kids laughed, too. I know a snotty kid shouldn't get to me, but -- truth be told -- it broke me down inside. Crazy, I know.I am not writing this in the hopes of receiving “We love you just as you are” emotional comfort -- though it’s welcome. Mainly, my reason for posting this piece is to openly declare that I have a problem and I need help. I just turned 52, and I do not want to reach 53 and still be in the same place physically or emotionally. It’s a baggage that is becoming increasingly heavy to carry and I need to put it down, or work in the direction, for fear that I will simply give in, get the “Fuck Its” and just become what I fear. A fat, unhealthy mess.So, there it is. Unvarnished. Raw and real. I am open to reading your suggestions, recommendations, and questions in the comments. If you struggle with this issue, I would love to hear how you cope. Have you made an effort to address the issue and your feelings? What's worked and what hasn't?