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October was My Month of Suck.
Things went badly at the end — personally, financially, physically, spiritually.
Times like that, my struggle is with Emotional Eating. Growing up, if there was something we’d celebrate or mourn, we’d do it with food.
At 37, it’s still my battle.
Another struggle is the pressure I put on myself and the self-damning I do when I don’t meet those lofty standards.
What happens when I get angry or disappointed in myself? I eat.
When I eat, what happens? I get fat or feel like it — equally dangerous to morale.
My first mistake in October was not saying sooner that I’d bitten off too much, regarding my post-pneumonia recovery.
The problems with me getting something like pneumonia is, it’s easy to think the pneumonia’s just some “thing” I’ve created to get out of shit, regardless of how sick I actually was.
As a kid, yeah, I was in and out of hospitals, but I was also a lazy kid who loved the excuse of illness — I hated exercise. When it came to exercise, I was happy to play the “I’m too sick” card.
The last five years, the greatest “getting fit” struggle I’ve faced was overcoming “I Can’t” and those old excuses.
In so doing, when I thought I couldn’t do something, I often did better than I expected. When I thought I was too weak, I was strong. If I wanted to improve my time in how long it took to cycle someplace, I did. When I thought I was too tired or too sore, I proved I wasn’t. That’s how I lost 70 pounds on my own.
Sure, I beat “I can’t,” but I’m still not an “I Can” girl — and that’s what I want to be, via my work with Nik Yamanaka from Le Physique.
I want say “Sure, I can do that!” without blinking. Now? Not so much, more like “Maybe?”
A lot has to do with the “I Can’t” Girl legacy.
In October, when I first thought I was doing too much too soon, I didn’t take a break — I didn’t want to use the “I’m not well” excuse or to make allowances for being sick or recovering. I didn’t want to admit I’m weaker or less strong.
Now I’ve paid for it through too sore muscles, too tired body, and the emotional fatigue that comes from the too-much-too-soon lethargy one suffers after trying to bounce back post-illness or injury.
Today I see Nik for the first time in two weeks. She knows I’ve been ass-kicked by both life and myself of late. I think I really need a session to get my head from Where I Was last month to where I’d rather be now.
For me, returning to anything after injury or illness is a struggle. The longer I’m out of the game, the harder it is to get back — especially when my body doesn’t like the pace I set, since I normally like to take my angst out on a workout, but my body doesn’t like that approach.
That said, almost every time I “return,” I do too much too soon.
I warned Nik that a former chiro labelled my tactics as “KAMIKAZE”. I mean, I know I do this shit. I told her, “I know this about myself, I’m gonna be careful”, but, boom, there it is: History repeating.
This time, my bounce-back wipeout coincided with Heavy personal stuff on a few levels, and a bout of food poisoning, all within 10 days. I got knocked on my ass — hard.
Coupled with emotional baggage and the caloric hell that is Halloween, it’s been a doozy of a three-week stint in which I’ve been visiting all manner of feeling like a Failure.
We’ve all been there.
Still, I know my abilities and what I’ve learned about my food relationships, and my physical accomplishments with cardio and strength-training over time.
Believe me, I know. That’s why it’s so hard to accept such a rocky return.
Up side? Nik’s got a crash course in Steff’s Fitness Foibles 101 — my determination, roadblocks, how connected food is to my emotions, how I pay for my stubbornness.
Down side? It’s a disheartening start to what I hoped would resonate with awesomeness from the get-go. I have to recalibrate my expectations, and I will.
The I’ll-take-it side? I’m reminded I’m not God, I’m not even immortal, and while deities might allegedly be able to create whole worlds in seven days, we take longer to create what we dream, and more realistic aspirations make the road less arduous.
I’ve had a hard time writing this piece. I’ve started it six times now.
Why? I despise admitting that I’ve failed myself, but it’s more disheartening that it came after I tried too hard and hit the wall, only to fall back into old habits just ‘cos I emotionally roll that way.
That’s what I had a hard time with: feeling like I was being punished for working too hard. It’s tough to swallow that you’ve achieved what you wanted to do, but then suffered consequences as a result — and then revisited bad habits of old out of weakness.
To whatever end, it all comes back to listening to the trainer when he/she says “Listen to your body.”
They don’t say “Listen to your neuroses.”
Woefully, my neuroses speak loud and clear. Listening to that’s hard not to do.
And sometimes we don’t understand our bodies. Don’t understand? Or maybe we just don’t listen. Success usually isn’t a switch we can flick on overnight.
Some learn these lessons harder than others.
My lesson is in finding a middle ground between what I want to be Tomorrow and what I’m able to be Today, and for me it can be the hardest part of fitness.
Part of a trainer-trainee relationship comes from learning where you’re at with each other, and the trainer knowing when you’re really trying or when you’re just phoning it in. This is a tough beginning, and I know Nik’s being challenged with having to interpret that about me. I can respect that.
Still, my journey’s not just the physical roadblocks I have to contend with. I know I’ll be in a difficult place emotionally for a while, so my food struggle will be tough. That’s when training will be good, and social media/blogging also helpful, so I can get advice, support, friendly prodding, and experience accountability to others.
Because I can’t work out at 100 per cent, I’m learning I never overcame my food demons, despite having lost 70 pounds.
I didn’t. Food’s the devil, always was. This is the reality check I needed.
Waiter, there’s a fly in my aspiration soup. Check, please.
Yet, Food Demons can be beaten into submission. People do it all the time.
And, pneumonia can only hamper my efforts for so long. I’ll get there a little more each week. I’m just impatient.
So, today? Training looms.
My Catholic upbringing makes me dread facing people after I feel like I’ve failed them or myself, so showing up to see Nik will be a bit heavy at the beginning, but another part of me can’t wait to just get in there, see her, and turn the page on my October.
Something I’ve learned in recovery/rehab, and forgot until now: It’s best that I do cardio at the end of the day so I can recover after, rather than early in the morning, when it might take a lot out of me, since, frankly, post-pneumonic life isn’t brimming with energy just yet.
Sometimes we need to find new normals.
I’m finding mine.
Failure happens. We don’t choose when. Life’s tough, we deal where we can, and sometimes fall down elsewhere.
At the end, know what matters?
Not that I ate badly or didn’t exercise sometimes, but that I’ve been more honest with myself about food than I have in months, and that I’ve been active more regularly than I have in a while.
I’ve improved. That’s the point.
I haven’t improved as much as I’d wanted, as quickly as I’d hoped, but I know why I haven’t, where I can improve still, and now I’ll do better than I did last time.
In the end, sometimes just continuing to improve is the best result we can hope for.
For now? I’ll take it.
Le Physique is in Leg-And-Boot Square, in Vancouver’s False Creek. Nik Yamanaka is co-owner, and was the BCRPA Personal Trainer of the Year for 2008. Le Physique tailors a program to meet your abilities, goals, and lifestyle. They can’t do the work for you, but they can tell you the tweaks that will help you meet your best performance and give you the mental tools and simple practices that might help you attain the success you need. You can listen to Nik talking about training in this radio interview here. You can follow her/them on Twitter, too, by clicking here.
I wish I could just say “ditto” and be done with it, but I know I have my own demons to deal with, too. I’ve had a hefty dose of wonderful (vacation with my mom) sandwiched in between some very tiring, troublesome days (getting sick, then having my mom get sick and in the hospital, among other things!) It’s so easy – damn it! – to fall back into comfortable, albeit unhealthy, ways. I made my first step back on the road to who I want to be by signing up for the new GoodLife fitness centre opening in January in Abbotsford. They have all the classes I loved back at my gym in Coquitlam – BodyPump, an awesome weight lifting and cardio class, plus others, including Zumba! I know I need variety, external motivation and pressure to perform, because it sure isn’t coming from within.
Keep it up, Steff, and thank you for your honesty and openness about this. It certainly helps me feel like I’m not alone in the struggle.
Eat pray love, Steff.
Yes, but then steps 2 + 3: