October 11, 2009

Up-ly and Forwardish

I need something. (And here my voracious id pipes up to say, “OH YEAH I DO HAVE A NEED! I should place a classified ad to find someone to fill it! Please note that the successful applicant will probably be made out of candy.”) No, id. Bad, id. I mean I need something to re-motivate me.

I finished the American Heart Association’s fitness lifestyle change heart healthy program. Remember? Better U? And I was better. I WORKED hard and I changed my basic habits and was eating better and working out harder and I looked and felt better. Right?

Here is the problem. I am LESS better now than I was a month ago when I finished. I have been too busy to do 5 or 6 boot camps this week, and though I am on the elliptical every day that I miss boot camp, these things are not of equal value. At the same time, I have been constantly putting beautiful things with butter on them into my horrid gobhole. IN A SINGLE IRRITATED WEEK I have gained back two and a half pounds. It took only one week of bitter nomming to undo a full 25% of all that work. I have the metabolism of an expired sea urchin...if I have a perfect PERFECT week of exercise and no candy, I can expect to drop MAYBE half a pound. SO WHY DID I CREATE FIVE WEEKS OF CRAPULANT EFFORT FOR MYSELF???

I knew. I knew what I was doing. YET I did it anyway, making bad choices I knew were bad each time because it MATTERED little to me all of a sudden. I discovered that MAINTAINING my new level of betterness devalued it. As the transformed me became what I was used to being, every day, the NEW became STATUS QUO, and I discovered that I was not nearly BETTER ENOUGH to please myself. So I ate some comforting bacon. I hovered a dress size smaller for LESS THAN A MONTH, my cholesterol 40+ points down, with moderately better eating habits and a good fitness regimen, and I began to think, “Meh. You still are kind of a failure. I mean, I don’t see you doing RUNWAY.”

The longer I remain at the smaller dress size, the less desirable and interesting it is becoming to me. Better is not good enough. Better is actually kinda Loathesome, even. The logic goes like this: “I need to be SUPER MORE EVEN BETTER, and it seems tiresome to try, so I might as well eat everything.” If you followed that, you have a twisty mind. If you not only followed it but can empathize, congratulations, you are very, very mentally ill indeed.

The thing that worked about Better U, for me, was the accountability and sense of competition. Something about doing it so PUBLICLY, posting all those BEFORE numbers, knowing I had to post the AFTER numbers in 10 short weeks...GARGLE. And, even more important than the hstrong possibility of total failure in a public venue, it fostered a desire to WIN. The before numbers were like a SCORE. I was in direct competition with myself, which is the only kind of competition I try to indulge in these days.

I am SO HIDEOUSLY competitive with others that I will destroy whole nations if I think “Winning” is at stake. I am not pleasant during team sports, so I do not play them. In Boot Camp the other day, we divided into four teams and then the leader hurled 4 tennis balls as far and hard as she could, each with a number (1 through 4) on it. One member of each team had to run and snatch up a ball. The tennis ball’s number was a number of points for your team, so everyone was after the ball that said “4.”

I almost killed two people getting to it one round, leaping between them like a crack addled gazelle, and then the next round I did a modified soccer check and peeled off a fine sheet of my own leg-skin, sliding in front of a girl to snatch the 4 from her reaching fingers. I felt cruel words rising in me, things like IN YER FACE and SUCK IT, and I stopped then. Just dropped the ball and quit the game and crept off to bleed quietly on my yoga mat, holding myself in a penitent plank until they were done, so ASHAMED was I. Honestly, if I had continued I suspect it would have ended in hair pulling and profane language.

I try not to even GET in those situations. I do not like the me who is so willing to salt the earth and smite lambs and rend the sky in twain to WIN.

Oh, but OH, how I DO love to win. I can’t give it up. It is delicious. I can’t imagine life without the salty tang of WIN in it, so I compete against myself. BETTER U put me in direct competition with myself, and that is a place where I thrive.

EXAMPLE: I looked at breaking into publishing as a competition with myself, actually. It is VERY HARD to break into publishing, and many people fall into the trap of looking at it as a competition with other writers, as if the publishing world is made of SLOTS and if some lesser book TAKES yours, then that book and its writer have ROBBED you. This attitude makes for some simply beasty-level ugly prima donna unforgiveable and INCREDIBLY boring and self-indulgent whiny behavior. I have MET that girl, I do not LIKE that girl, and I fought like HELL avoid becoming That Girl as I struggled to begin a career as a novelist.

I decided at the front that no one could take MY slot. No one else can write MY books, just as I can’t channel the ghost of Robert Penn Warren and write HIS next book. My books are mine, and (as the great Miss Snark used to say) books are not fungible. There is no slot that MY book was competing to get with other exactly-like books. I only have my voice, and no one else has it. And other writers only have THEIR voices, and if they got a book deal, it was because their voice caught an editor’s ear.

I decided I had to MAKE a slot for me, and if a book of mine got rejected, FINE, it simply was not the right book, not the right editor, and not the right day, and I would go write another book. I would not blame anyone who did get a book contract, because their book was not MY book, and that slot was for THEIR book. The truth is, list or no list, restrictions or no restrictions, when an editor falls for a book, all the way falls, they go to war to get it on their list. I didn’t need to beat another author, or a million other authors. I only needed to write a book that an editor with some power would go to war over. When I got rejected, I girded up my loins, looked at the rejected book as a bar, and tried to leap over it.

I still am this way. I love to set my own bar. I love leaping over it.

So. I need something. I need some sort of public accountability BAR that I set for myself, and then I want to take a run at it. I am trying to have an idea. I am trying to get a posse of my bloggy-style friends have it with me. It is going to happen. IT SHALL, she said willfully with eyebrows lowered and her mouth set to “Mutinous.”

For NOW, starting tomorrow, FIRST THING, I am setting down the butter and backing veryveryvery quickly away, backing away SO quickly that my heart rate rises and stays elevated for a good hour, and then I will drop and give you fifty. I am not going to UNDO any more of my good betterings while I plan out this new competitio---um PLAN. Not competition. This new PLAN to be even more better-er than better me.

TOMORROW. I very vigorously MEAN it. I will be Better again tomorrow.
But er, maybe not today. Today I am taking the kids to Cold Stone Creamery. Heh.

Posted by joshilyn at October 11, 2009 4:53 PM

Can I go to Cold Stone with you? I am quite sure that someone took my slot.

What? Stop looking at me like that. I NEED ICE CREAM, DAMMIT.

Posted by: Mir at October 11, 2009 5:12 PM

You said: The logic goes like this: “I need to be SUPER MORE EVEN BETTER, and it seems tiresome to try, so I might as well eat everything.” If you followed that, you have a twisty mind. If you not only followed it but can empathize, congratulations, you are very, very mentally ill indeed.

I say: Oh yes, I am very, very mentally ill indeed. Thanks for pointing that out. :)

Posted by: pendy at October 11, 2009 5:14 PM

Okay, I'm not very competitive, but the thing about better no longer being good enough - I totally get that. So it seems I too am mentally ill.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 11, 2009 5:21 PM

Joining the mental illness queue.

Posted by: Mit at October 11, 2009 5:55 PM

Um. Yeah. My mind is twisty and mentally ill as well, it seems. I find prizes help me stay motivated. I am still it weight-loss mode, so prizes for losing weight mean I WIN. I try to do them small enough that I can do them often enough that I am always filled with WIN, like a book or a bubble bath. And then big landmarks, like every ten pounds get a bigger prize that means SUPER WIN, like a Wii game or a full-on dinner and a movie date with my husband (I've plotted out what exactly I get every 10 lbs so I don't have to think about it and then do nothing and never actually get my win and then become unmotivated). When I reach my goal weight (I'm 1/4 of the way there, 20 lbs down from 4 months ago!), I get an iPhone, which we all know equals WINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!! And then I'll move onto the business of maintaining, which will mean a prize every week if I meet all of my healthy goals. I like prizes. I like winning against myself, too.

Posted by: JenA at October 11, 2009 6:02 PM

Oh, so I'm mentally ill. Didn't know. Well, did, but thanks for reminding me. I am currently shoving Nabisco Premium Minis Original Saltine Crackers into my face like I'll die if my mouth is empty for one second. I lost 72 pounds as of one year ago. I've since gained 40 back. Your little 2 1/2 pound gain can go suck eggs. (How's that for competitive?)

The first time that I successfully lost weight (by eating well and exercising, by the way), I was participating in a competition at work. Yeah, competition works for me. Five people committed $100 each for six months. We all set goals of not more than 30 pounds. Anyone who met the goal won. Anyone who didn't had to pay equivalent to the percentage that they didn't meet. For example, if someone had a 30 pound goal and lost 15 pounds they had to pay $50. The winners split the cash. One person was excused due to pregnancy, and I was the only winner. I made $212, which they gave me in change.

The second time I lost weight, it was thanks to an online group where we discussed our challenges and encouraged each other. As long as I stuck with that, I did well. The group got a little snarky so I quit - the group, and my good habits.

Competition and support seem to be motivators for many people. SparkPeople (one of the BEST weight loss/maintenance/exercise/healthy habits website out there) uses both. The competition comes from the Spark Points that you earn for every activity, and the support is provided by groups of every conceivable interest. You might want to check it out - it's free, and it's a great resource. Someday, when I wrest control of my brain back from the alien that has taken it over, that's what I'll use to help myself get back on track.

Posted by: Sandi at October 11, 2009 6:23 PM

Better does not equal perfect. It's OK to strive for better, but you'll fail every time you attempt to be perfect. Trust me, I've tried and failed at that competition a thousand times. Do what works for you and your life and find joy in the decisions you make - whether those decisions find you indulging in butter-laden everything (nom!), sweating it out in boot camp or both. Thanks for sharing both your successes and setbacks with us here.

Posted by: Alison Law at October 11, 2009 7:47 PM

Heh. I read this whilst eating my second yummy, buttery soft pretzel of the day, because I haven't been tortured by the eliptical in three weeks, so why bother being healthy.

Right there with you in the mentally ill spotlight. *sigh*

Posted by: jessica at October 11, 2009 7:49 PM

You can't have that mentally ill twisty number. That is mine.

Which is Very Bad for me, since if I don't behave, I don't just gain weight and whatnot, I switch from pre-diabetic to full-fledged diabetic.

So enjoy Cold Stone for me (because I positively looooove it) and then starting tomorrow we both begin to be Better? Even though I'm deeply non-competative (you got my share, and I'm glad to see you using it so well), so I can't challenge you to a weight-loss duel or anything.

Posted by: Fran at October 11, 2009 8:15 PM

I feel your pain. I haven't gained any weight back -- yet -- but for the last three days I've gone to work, come home exhausted, and settled in for an evening of television and the interwebs (at the same time). I do have the good fortune of not knowing the difference between great ice cream and ersatz ice cream (aka something cold, creamy, and sweet) so I happily consume a ramekin-full of Nestle Real Dairy No Sugar Added "ice cream" - 80 calories in 1/2 a cup - every day. If I ever develop a palate, I'll be in big trouble. (Before BetterU, I wasn't an ice cream eater at all. I used Skinny Cow ice cream sundaes as my reward, and now I'm hooked. The Nestle stuff is just as low-cal, and it's a lot cheaper.)

Anyway, I do know what you're going through, having been down this road before. I'm going to check out that online group. Peer pressure rocks.

Posted by: Sandra Leigh at October 11, 2009 9:38 PM

Since you are just a titch competitive why not set another 10 week goal and display in your sidebar for all to see. After all you didn't do BetterU for BetterU in the first place. You did it for YOU. Set your goal, choose your reward and plaster it up there in big bold type so we can cheer you on.

Posted by: Debra at October 12, 2009 7:04 AM

another twisty-mental here... If I could routinely find stress-relief in something other than food-- my faith, knitting, exercise, going out and DOING SOMETHING rather than sitting home and eating-- then I would have this thing whipped. It's the emotional eating that gets me, every time. I'm in school and work and have tests and deadlines and a very ill family member and live in the city so I have daily contact with multiple spectra of crazy people just by walking outside. If I would just do ANYTHING rather than eat when I feel stressed, I could be skinny and healthy. My sister has a running addiction as her stress reliever. She lives in a tiny safe small town, and she ran 10 miles last night. I ate HagenDaz strawberry.

Posted by: elizabeth at October 12, 2009 10:19 AM

Wellsiree, I'm thinking with a Firebolt you could have played a game Quidditch chasing after that #4 tennis ball like it was the Golden Snitch. Thanks for giving me a laugh today; I have found laughter reduces MY mental illness number.

Posted by: Kim at October 12, 2009 11:58 AM

How about... if you lose weight each week, you do NOT have to post the ACTUAL number. But if you stay the same or get a bigger number, you DO have to put the actual number on your blog?

I'd do it. :)

Posted by: Heather Cook at October 12, 2009 12:36 PM

I haven't exercised in 3 weeks - except for walking. I need to start back up again! BetterU didn't really help me lose weight, but it did get me exercising regularly. Then I got a cold, and behind at work, and...

Boo. I am not competitive (really), but I very much admire your approach to book publishing - very mentally healthy!

Studies show that "sameness" definitely decreases value - which is why that nice house in the suburbs doesn't add as much to your happiness after you've been there a year or two - it's just as nifty (but the same), while your commute is a DIFFERENT bad every day, and detracts from your overall well-being.

No idea, but we can start a Mo'BetterU with your weekly posts again, if you think that would help!

Posted by: Diane (TT) at October 12, 2009 12:51 PM

I've become addicted to beating my scores on Wii Fit. I live for it to say "personal best" after each session. Best reward EVER from my BetterU success!

The one goal I have yet to achieve...riding my Wii bike through the entire course without riding straight into the ocean. But even with my dripping wet bike and dripping wet Mii, I still got a "personal best" on my trip around the island this morning! LOL!

Posted by: Charmi at October 12, 2009 2:40 PM

Sandi - I'm on SP, have lost 20 lbs since June on it, and I agree - it's friggin' AWESOME. Anyone else on SparkPeople who wants to look me up and be SP friends, my username there is WM_STAR. Whee!

Posted by: Jen A at October 12, 2009 4:56 PM

Welcome to the Twisty World of the Very Mentally Ill. :)

Posted by: edj at October 12, 2009 4:57 PM