Flying Blind (Sorta)

Recently, I decided to spend a year revamping how I live a bit. I have tongue-in cheek named this the "Year of Me" as I question different beliefs about myself, etc. More on that later on down the road.

Today I sat down and wrote down specific things I wanted to do over the next year. Under the "Stop It!" Heading, I decided that I need to quit measuring everything I do against some sort of benchmark. Like weighing myself or counting calories or measuring my body parts as well as not feeling like I have to be doing something productive every moment of every day. Essentially, I want to remember how it is to be a kid without all these measurements of how successful (or unsuccessful) I am.

So I went on and deleted all the apps I use to track anything from food to steps to miles. I want to just live and not make everything into a 'job' or 'chore' or 'goal'. I want to live better, enjoy the moments of my life more. Anyone who cycle knows there are many ways of measuring what you are doing from cyclocomputers, to Strava (GPS power) and so on. You can get pretty technical in weights in everything on your bike and what you wear (in grams) and so on. I decided today when I went out to my bike to remove my computer from the handlebars. I wouldn't be able to see my speed, distance, fastest speed, etc. a all. i had deleted my ride tracking app. Simply I got on my bike and rode my fave short route, to the end of my road and back.

Other than grumbling because they tarred and chipped the last section of my road, I had a very enjoyable ride. I know I rode about 13 miles but that's just from memory. I don't know how fast I rode, or how many minutes it took me to do five miles. What I did notice was many things I ignore on this ride. I saw the flowers blooming in the ditch, I found a natural pace without worrying about if I was going fast enough. I just rode for the sheer enjoyment of it. You know, like when you're a kid and you just get on your bike to ride to a friend's house or go on an adventure you dream up. Fun. Without worrying about mph or distance.

I am not training for any events, I simply ride for exercise and the fact I love riding. Today I found dropping all the gauges and metric associated with road riding, I had much more fun and it didn't seem like work at all. That's what we seem to do as we get older, make everything 'work'. Or a goal or a part of achieving something more. We forget to just be in the moment and have fun. And the distractions of all the gadgetry adds to missing whole parts of the experience.

Today instead of relying on the miles per hour displayed on my cyclocomputer, I simply listened to what my body wanted to do. Maybe I even rode faster, I don't know. And it doesn't mater. I'm outside, in the fresh air and working my cardio though it just felt like play.. That's how more things in my life need to be. Play, fun. I need to quit sucking the fun out of the simplest things because that's what I am 'supposed' to do as an adult.

This next year is learning how to enjoy my life more and take much better care of myself. I'm not great at that. i tend to push myself past my limits when I shouldn't. Just like forcing myself to ride 50 miles just to say I rode 50 miles. I'm not training for anything, then why do it? It's time to rethink the way I approach things in life. It's the perfect year to regroup, rethink and explore. And remember what pure joy a simple act like riding my bike can be. To rediscover childlike wonder with the world.

Maybe I'll get some sparkly streamers too!

Old Habits Die Hard…

Though I haven’t written about it for a long time, diets were something I gave up because they simply do not work, especially for me.  I’ve had different eating disorders off and on in my life, usually ‘mild’ cases of them but my biggest struggle was always emotional or compulsive overeating.  I got bored, I ate.   I got upset, I ate.  I got sad, I ate.  I was disappointed, I ate.  I got hurt, I ate.  You get the idea.  When I was in my mid 30’s, I was close to 300 pounds and completely miserable.  I hurt, I was out of breath walking across the room, I hated the way I looked.  My marriage at the time was horrible to put it lightly and I was fighting depression.  But then I finally got treatment for depression and the sun came out once again except I stil weighed almost 300 pounds.  

Dealing with my depression made me aware that I was using food for comfort and other reasons other than when I was just hungry.  I was in the bookstore one day looking through the self-help section when I found Geneen Roth’s book, Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating.  I went on to read all the titles of hers I could find and I follow her FaceBook page to this day reading her occasional posts.  I lost weight, and settled into a place where my body seems to be comfortable (though far from thin, I am fit to the point I baffle my family doctor). After years of ups/downs on the scale I was then diagnosed in 2009 with hypothyroidism.  People believe that once you start taking medication for hypothyroidism, the weight just falls off.  I have yet to meet a person that this has happened to without strict dieting and exercise.  So I just decided, screw it, I’m going to be happy the way I am, go out and ride 100’s of miles on my bike, hike, swim, jog or whatever makes me happy.  I thought I was good. I had a handle on all this.

Except a few years back Weight Watchers came to our employer and I got the bright idea to join it.  I am the one person who gained weight on WW.  Slowly but surely since that time, the dieting mentality has come back into my life.  Over the winter, I did not join a gym, my Wii fitness board broke, I found I hate riding my cycling rollers and I dislike doing anything other than yoga, walking/hiking outdoors when it isn’t frigid so essentially I quit moving.  Though I always gain a bit over the winter after the riding season, this winter it was a bit more than usual.  When I went for my yearly OB appointment, I stared at the red LED numbers on the scale in disbelief.  I had not weighed that much for years.  I can’t even blame it on riding and adding more muscle weight.  I look like the Pillsbury dough girl around the middle.  When I went to my family doctor a few days later, the number was confirmed, sadly.   

So I broke out my food journal app and started to track what I ate.  Another dieting mentality come back to life.  Then I did my 6 month blood test for my thyroid and got the call from my doctor’s office.  I needed to come in.  Seems my levels were up and therefore my dosage was no longer enough.  Battling two things at once.  Well at least that explained why I had not felt like doing much, or in other words why I felt like a big fat slug.  Two days into the higher dosage and I’m feeling my energetic self again, not the self who is wading through waist high concrete all day long.  This will help get me up and moving again as exercise is not an issue for me usually except during the winter though lately I haven’t wanted to do much at all.

When I started thinking about how I had been eating, it dawned on me that I had slipped back into that place of ups and down, deprivation, eating when I’m not hungry and so on.  I was reading Roth’s FaceBook posts and thinking oh that’s not me anymore and well, it is but at least not on the same degree as it once was.  No this time it was just a little bit more sneaky.   I didn’t realize I had lost the core instructions Roth preaches over and over in her books.  Trust yourself, trust your body to tell you what it needs, eat when you are hungry, you will not go stark-raving mad into a binge if you listen to what you body needs and you don’t restrict any foods.  You need to stay with your feelings, feel them, experience them rather than cram them into whatever coping mechanism you may have.  

For different reasons over the past years, I had forgotten a lot of what I learned to be true. I went back to not trusting myself to know what I needed or wanted.  I quit enjoying what I ate or even thinking about what I was truly hungry for or even if I was hungry at all.  So I pulled Roth’s books back out, downloaded every one of her books available that I could find free via my different library options and started my compulsive eating refresher course.  The interesting thing about reading these books about 10 years later, my life has changed so much that I’ve learned new things from them that I didn’t pick up before because I had not experienced certain tragedies and difficulties at that age.  

Day 1, I focused on what I wanted to eat and found that my normal menu fare that I lazily eat every day wasn’t really what I wanted, so I simply didn’t eat that much.  Day 2, I really thought about what I wanted to eat during the day before I packed my food for work.  Amazingly, I didn’t eat all that I packed since I was more satisfied with eating what I really wanted.  Day 3, I believed I wanted that donut for breakfast and since this food was no longer off limits, I ate it and enjoyed it.  Later I felt sick and thought why the hell did I eat that sugar filled stick.  I felt miserable.  So had that much changed that suddenly I was having these great epiphanies?  Nothing really, I just was asking myself: Are you hungry?  What do you want to eat? Are you enjoying what you are eating, does it taste good?  If the answer was “no”, then I stopped eating it and tried to decipher what I did want. 

Last night I went out to eat and found the food lacking so I simply did not eat much and went home and ate something I wanted more.  When I stop focusing on calories and on what I want to eat rather than what I shoud eat, something miraculous happens.  I really don’t turn into this raving eating machine that shovels everything into her gullet that is within her grasp.  I even turned down ice cream last night and I LOVE ice cream.  I wasn’t hungry so it wasn’t the right time to eat it but that doesn’t mean I can never have ice cream.  Life is too short to not enjoy what you eat.  Just within a few days of getting back into this mindset, I am a lot happier and find I am no longer compulsive eating.  

This doesn’t mean that I will magically become a supermodel and have the perfect body, it just means I’m not cramming stuff down that I don’t want or even need.  If I truly want pie for breakfast though, I am going to sit down and enjoy that pie.   The anxiety surrounding food has dissolved and it no longer has the power to make me so miserable and unhappy when it should truly be enjoyed.  As long as I keep asking myself those questions and being mindful of what I am eating or am wanting.

Lesson learned:  When I think I have it all down pat and I know it all, it is probably the moment I need to stop and check myself.  

One More Thing…

It figures, I decide I’m not going to write in my blog and then all these ideas for posts start popping into my head.  Good thing it’s my blog where I get to change my mind I suppose.  I imagine I should not have been so final on the blog but it felt done at the moment, that I needed a break, a hiatus but well, here I am again.  However, I do want to take my posts into a more positive direction. 

Wednesday night was teh honors ceremony for my graduating college class.  Being 46, of course I was one of the five oldest students receiving honors awards which at first made me a bit uncomfortable but when I saw I wasn’t the only older student there, I relaxed and focused on the ceremony.  When my oldest daughter graduated college in 2014, I remember sitting in the enormous hall watching all these young people get their degrees.  At the time, I felt a sense of envy that they had their whole lives ahead of them but mostly I think I felt disappointed in myself for not finishing college.  

As I was waiting for the ceremony to conclude as I was one of the first up to receive my award, I thought back to that day and how I felt.  Here was another group of young people with their whole lives ahead of them and me half-way through my life (if I am fortunate of course).  This time however, I did not feel envy or a sense of quiet sadness about my own life.  I didn’t sit and think of the dreams I thought I had lost out on or had given up too soon.  No, over the past few years, I have sorted out this and that over my life and have embraced what my life is today rather than worry about the past so much. 

What I did notice was that I didn’t envy these kids because I had worked hard for years to be where I am today.  Not that I didn’t make a few wrong turns (ahem two bad marriage choices) and make some mistakes but I kept going.  I turned my victim mentality into a mentality of action. I had to make my life what I wanted it to be or at least try.  Though someone who is 80 may look at me and see someone who is a bit foolish because they have lived almost twice my lifetime, I embrace the life wisdom I’ve learned over the years.  Though people always try to tell you things, sometimes we have to be stubborn and bull-headed where we have to just get knocked around on our own.  

Wouldn’t it be great if we had that wisdom in our early 20’s?  But maybe it would make us play things too safe.  I took risks in my 20’s that I’m hesitant to take today which in essence means my life story wouldn’t be so rich and colorful.  I’d been downright boring.  I suppose each decade or period in our life has a purpose.  I would not want to go back to being in my early 20’s except for being in better physical shape or not having quite the health concerns you have when your older, but this is probably the trade off for having wisdom.  Not that I don’t still do stupid things or make mistakes but usually they are much more minor than before.  

I like the age I am now.   I am comfortable being 46, I own my age and am not afraid to tell people how old I am nor do I lie about my age.  I would not want to go back and start over again at 20 or so.  I still have work to do on myself, but you know what? I actually like who I am.  Sure, I have days where I feel fat and ugly (I swear it’s hormonal) but mostly, I’m comfortable in my own skin.  I’m not going to apologize for who I am as a person anymore as I’ve spent enough of my life doing so.  If someone doesn’t like something about me, well then that’s their business.  Life is too short to worry about it.  

My husband and I were recently talking before he bought his new (to him) car last week.  We had been weighing the pros and cons of buying a new car, the financial aspect and so on.  His current car, a 2013 Malibu, already had over 90k miles on it and while it was nice, it wasn’t really what he wanted to be driving.  He had recently finished a year long grueling training program for his new job.  A good chunk of the last year had been spent away from home doing training seminar after training seminar because his job is highly regulated and very specific where it requires, well at least a year of training.  When he completed the training, he got a significant and well-deserved raise as his reward for completing this difficult year. 

As we mulled it over, we both decided he should go buy what he really wanted and had been wanting since we met eight years ago.  A Cadillac.  A one-year certified model would cost us almost the same as a new car like his Malibu anyway and though his gas mileage would drop some costing us more in gas, he would have all wheel drive which would be safer for his over 1 hour commute to work.  But most of all, it was something he really wanted and well you only live once right?  YOLO bitches…  While it felt like bit of an extravagance, it makes him happy and that’s all that matters. He’s worked hard for years, going to college, working jobs until he has reached this salary point in his life that affords him nice things.  

So no, I don’t want to start all over again.  We have a very comfortable life and we can do most of the things we enjoy.  While we aren’t wealthy, we are very fortunate.  For me, I always have to stop my “survival” mode of thinking after years of barely scraping by, in other words, I tend to be cheap.   I am also finding out that my goals and the things I enjoy have changed with time.  We both have agreed, we need to enjoy ourselves more.  

Who knows how many days we have left on this earth?  Might as well buy the Cadillac  if you can.  

Ready, Set… No Goals!!!

Have you ever reached a big goal to only be let down once you get there?  Or you ride on the wave of accomplishment only to stand there and think okay, now what?  You feel lost, deflated and you realize you never imagined what you would do next as you have only been focused on the attainment of said goal?  It’s like a person who has worked really hard to lose a lot of weight and when they do, they find their life is a bit different but hasn’t been transformed the way they believed it would be?  Everything doesn’t fall into place because their weight was only a small part of the equation, though us overweight people want to believe that being fit or thinner is the magic equation.  It just isn’t.

Recently, I slowly realized that I have achieved a major goal in my life.  One I have had for years and years.  At least since I was first married at twenty.  I’m not going to elaborate on what this goal is because it will sound like bragging and it’s very personal.  However, I have been workng toward it, with many ups and downs and moments that it seemed I would never reach the pinnacle.  Now I’m here, standing on top of this goal mountain and I have no where to go, so to speak.  I’m just here, arrived, journey over.  I’m sitting on a boulder, with my chin on my fist like The Thinker, trying to figure out what next?  

I was taking inventory of myself this weekend which we spent away in one of my favorite cities.  I could easily live in this city, I love the surrounding countryside, the people, the arts and the culture.  It’s not overly big but offers enough I would be more than happy.  But I found, I just seemed to want to go home.  Which is unusual for me.  I always love getting away, love escaping the day to day hassles and the work pressure, etc.  Except I no longer feel the need to escape my life anymore since reaching this particular goal.  I realized also, that there are aspects of myself, that I really don’t know.  It is like since obtaining this long-strived for goal has left me sitting there trying to figure out a bit of who I am.  What do I want?  What do I really like?  I am not driven by the same things in my life anymore.  It’s like the bus arrived at the station, dropped me off but I don’t know where I’m going from there.

Yesterday I was searching the internet with the phrase, I’ve reached my goal so now what?, hoping to find something that would help point me in the right direction.  I didn’t find much other than more goal setting strategies but I did roll onto a blog about minimalists and Zen living.  One blog post in particular caught my attention.  One about setting no goals.  My entire being shuddered at the thought.  My life has always been about setting goals though many of them, I never quite achieve though I keep striving for.  But I realized after this big let down and change in myself, I wasn’t sure that setting goals was always the best thing.  There is a lot of failure associated with goals.  If you don’t lose X amount of weight, then you beat yourself up or feel like a failure or both.  If you don’t achive X on X date, another failure.  Then there is the usually rigid steps to the goal.  I will work out on X and X and X.  Except Y happened on X so you couldn’t work out that day, so you felt like a failiure and didn’t work out for a week.  In a way, not setting goals was starting to make sense.

How many quotes have we seen about the journey not the goal or end?  You can open Facebook and see a bunch of them floating around in your newsfeed.  I think of people who thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) which is over 2000 miles.  They focus so much on the end goal, that when they reach it, there is a big let down once the excitement fades.  They probably did not focus on the journey as much as how many miles per day.  Just like my cycling goals, I spent most of my time last year watching the miles rack up on my cyclocomputer rather than enjoying the ride.  I wonder what all I missed?  Probably I don’t want to know.  

So these people who advocate no goals suggest adding in habits or systems in your life as part of your journey.  If you focus on healthy eating and working out most days of the week, you will become healthier.  Rather than measuring by the scale, you measure by how you feel, how your clothes fit.  It is a lifelong journey.  You focus on following your passion, like say mine, writing.  Rather than saying I will write 5,000 words this week, you just write.  The one advocate of no goals says he actually ends up writing more than his usual weekly or daily goals because he is just enjoying what he is doing.  And if a week he falls short, he doesn’t feel like a failure, it just happens.  Every single person who promotes no goals says the same thing.  They feel joy, they feel freedom.  They enjoy life so much more.  That’s what made me think.

That is how I conquered (mostly) emotional eating/bingeing.  Focusing on what I wanted to eat, not forbidding any foods and only eating when I am hungry.  I’ve lost some body size but I really need to focus on eating healthier.  And I keep thinking about my cycling goal this year.  Do I change the name to “guide” rather than goal?  I will continue to track my mileage.  But does it really matter?  Shouldn’t I just be doing it because I love to ride?  I may just plug in the numbers into the spreadsheet and not tally the mileage until the end of the season.  Wouldn’t that be interesting?  I will say having the goal of 50 miles a week last year, kept me on the bike but I don’t think I enjoyed the journey quite as much and the moment I reached my goal, I slid on my riding.  Goal met, I was done.  What if I had bought winter gear?  What if I rode in the cold?  Wonder how many miles I would have racked up?  But then again, does it matter?  No one is giving me a new car if I ride 2000 miles this season. 

I’m going to start focusing on habits and systems but mostly I am going to start following my passions and just create and do without thinking so hard on the end goal.  Actually I am going to stop having goals for awhile to see if I am happier.  Not that I run amuk and do nothing.  I will do the things I truly enjoy and see what happens.  I will focus on good habits as well.  I already know that counting calories and getting on the scale every day backfires or that when I focus only on riding for miles, I miss that patch of wild irises growing next to the bike path.  And if I don’t have any goals, then I won’t have the failures and I won’t have the let down.  I can focus on knowing myself rather than just pounding toward a goal.  

Even with all the self-analysis I do, I find that I have to really look at what makes me happy. I used to think that moving south was the end all be all, but now I realize I am happy right where I am.  There is no magic town where I am going to be happier.  What makes me happy is being close to my family and friends.  If I move seven hours away, what do I gain?  A different location.  A different job.  But I’m starting all over.  I would be isolated and miss everyone so much.  I wouldn’t be happy really.  I may love the mountains and love that area but I can always visit or buy a vacation home there if I really wanted.  I often wondered how my grandparents (both sides) seemed content just where they were.  My mom’s parents traveled some but they seemed content where they were for 40 odd years.  I thought how boring.  But now I understand.  

If I don’t get to see the Eiffel tower will my life be for naught?  No.  It wouldn’t.  Not as long as I spent time with the people I love.   Losing my mom has shifted my priorities in life.  The things I believed were so important are really not such a big deal.  I still want to go to Paris but now it would be for a different reason.  Just because I want to and not because I feel like if I don’t, I would be failing myself and not living my life fully.  If I’m lying on my death bed and my family I love is around me, my friends, then who cares if I didn’t see Paris in the rain.  It won’t matter.  The importance of all those things has diminished.  I seem to focus on love, the people I love rather than just living up to life expectations that came from, well who knows.  There is so many books, shows, people, etc. teling us how our lives should be.  We should be setting goals and achieving them!  Otherwise we are nothing.  

So not true.  I’m going to give this no goals thing a try.  Just enjoy the journey and see what happens.  I’m excited about the potential outcome and joy I sense that will find me once I let go.  I’ll post updates as I go along so come enjoy the journey with me.