Feeding fear and frustration

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Today I spent a lot of time thinking about why I'm trying to lose weight - what my motivations are and how to stay motivated in the face of temptation. One thing I know that motivates me is fear - but I am not sure that's the best motivator. I've been trying to overcome my fears in some ways by trying things that are new and make me uncomfortable, like going to hip-hop class last night for the first time in over 12 years, and starting a five-week boot camp this morning. During hip-hop class, I felt uncomfortable and wanted to bolt -- not because I couldn't get through the workout, but because I could see myself in the mirror and it made me sick. I made it through the whole class, but I was miserable the entire time.
When I got home I started thinking about what made me so upset. I see myself in the mirror every day - why was that mirror different? Usually that sick feeling I had, coupled with wanting to escape, is what I feel when I'm anxious or afraid. What was there to be scared of, I wondered - it's just a silly dance class.
Then this morning, I got up early to be at the first session of the "Ban the Muffin Top" boot camp for which I signed up. I was so nervous that I forgot to eat something before I left. It was really challenging, and I was keeping up pretty well (about the middle of the pack), but I still felt anxious and started thinking, "What if I can't finish the hour? Will I lose weight this week? What if I hurt myself pushing myself too hard? What if I do all this and I'm still fat?"
As I was considering these thoughts after I got home, I remembered something out of nowhere - it was a memory of me sitting on the floor of my closet, trying to find something to wear to a party that didn't make me look fat. But here's the kicker - that happened when I was a size 4, after I'd lost 20 pounds for my wedding and maintained most of the loss for more than two years. I sat on that floor and just sobbed my heart out, because I just knew anything I would put on would make me look like a whale - which I now know was ridiculous in light of the size I was then.
Why did I remember that 10 years later when I'm a size 12? I've been pondering it all day, and I think it's because no matter what size I am, I feel fat. I'm fat in my head, and I've been fat in my head since I have had conscious memory. No matter how big or small I have been, I feel (and have always felt) like my body just isn't right. My breasts are too big. My stomach is never flat. I take up too much space.
Something else happened this afternoon that really brought this home for me. I posted on Facebook about my boot camp experience this morning, and a friend I've known since the 9th grade started chatting with me. She wrote, "You know, I just thought about the fact that you've been trying to lose weight ever since I met you, when you were 13. Isn't that interesting?" She frequently "notices" things about me (and others - she's very observant) and today, I just wasn't having it. I wrote back, "Don't start, Lori!" and she wrote back, "Don't take things personally, Jennifer." But I did - it felt like such an indictment of the past 24 years of my life. I've been sitting here steaming about it, but the truth is - I'm furious with myself, because I've never allowed myself to love my body in any way. I've hated it forever, even when I was a cheerleader, rower, swimmer, and all-around athlete in the best shape of my life. Now I'm 37 and I don't want to feel this way any more.
Usually when I start having these intense feelings of fear, anxiety, frustration or sadness, I go in the kitchen and find something to eat - it temporarily helped to fill that bottomless pit I could feel in my stomach. Today, I've been practicing just sitting with my feelings and thinking about them, wondering what I would say to someone who shared those feelings about themselves with me. Would I suggest they eat something to help fix it? Of course not - I would offer comforting words and ask how I could help. If anyone has any comforting words, I'd sure love to hear them because I am really feeling afraid.
So what am I really afraid of? I think I'm afraid that I'll get to my goal weight and I'll still feel fat, as if my body isn't acceptable. That terrifies me - to think that I'll put in all this work and effort, and still hate myself.
Thinking practically, I realize I can't control what I'm going to think or feel in 12-18 months when I get to my goal weight. I can only work on what's happening TODAY. So, for today, I didn't feed my fear and frustration with food. That's the best I can do for right now. I've made a plan to get up tomorrow morning and meet my trainer for a workout. And on Thursday, even though I'm scared to death to fail, I'm going back to boot camp. The rest will just have to come when it comes.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Hey Jennifer... could it all be part of your name? Why do I ask? Because I'm a Jennifer too and I could have written your blog... expect for maybe the size 4 at your wedding.


    Actually, I read a very good tip in a book and I have used this to help "love myself today". I wrote a list of things that I like about myself. My list includes my lips, my eyes, my singing, my awesome memory (people can't even see that!), my creativity, my sense of humour etc. Ironically, it's written on a heart shaped sticky note and I posted it beside my desk at work. It's just within my eye view but no one else would know what it means.

    When I having those "moments" I read the list and soak in the good feelings.

    I have also learned in that in those "moments" I need to stop focusing on myself at fat or bad or whatever and see what I can do to "serve" someone else. The attitude of serving has really helped me to grow personally even if my weight has remained about the same.

    And last but not least you are loved... by your family close to you and all your Spark Friends. Blessings, Jennifer
    3982 days ago
    This may or may not help, but when I've had a rough day, PMS, whatever, I ask my husband or one of my girls for a really nice, tight hug. I basically ask to be held, which helps to release oxytocin, which helps bolster your mood. Start small with the learning to love yourself, notice how good your hair looks, or how beautiful your eyes are, and then MAKE yourself notice one more thing every week, until your confidence is built. Short term, long term. Hope it helps.
    3982 days ago
  • MAC4902
    Hi Jennifer,

    I read this yesterday and it really hit home for me. My daughter who is a few years younger could have written this! She has struggled too with always seeing her flaws. Part of this stems from her need to be "perfect", But that is always going to elude her. I have watched her self sabotage in so many ways.

    Thankfully she has sought some professional counsel. I must say my efforts to help her see the same funny,bright, pretty young woman I see weren't too successful. I hesitated to respond because I felt at first I seemed to have little positive to give you.

    However, as I look at you, I do see a lovely, lovable young woman. So I will add my voice to others in the hope of drowning out that other inner voice. Even if the mirror reflects a less than "perfect" image (by whose standards?), it also proves you have what it takes to get and stay healthy! Remember too that the standard for beauty was once the voluptuous women painted by Reubens. Let good health be your guide, both physical and emotional.

    Writing this may have helped me more than it will you. I hope it is of some use though.
    3982 days ago
    I am so sorry to hear that you’re going through this frustration. As you know I don't have the years or wisdom on you, but I thought I'd leave a little note to say hi and remind you that you yourself are an inspiration and motivation to many.
    I was immediately impressed with you when we met, you were always upbeat and motivated and challenging yourself more than anyone else there at 7am.
    Struggling with curves is something I do as well, but when it comes down to it I always resort to my health.
    I am 22 years old and technically 'obese' when it comes to my height bracket, but I know that my fitness level is way above many of the pencil thin girls I know who are sore after carrying their books the first day of school.
    Even though I don't look as good in my spandex when I go to a body sculpt class, I remind myself that I am there, working to improve my body and my health. I could be at home watching TV or drinking margaritas with my friends.
    Every morning when you eat your protein and your fruit you are doing your body good.
    Think of all of these little actions as an accomplishment.
    It’s not one big challenge that you have to overcome.
    Its billions of little ones, when you turn down a second slice of cake, or drink V8 instead of coffee you are doing your body good.
    Congratulate yourself on these accomplishments and remind yourself that every day in every way you are doing the best you can to improve who you are.
    You made it to the dance class which is more than I could say for myself. You are constantly improving who you are and that is an accomplishment in its self.

    On a side piece of advice, I have currently started working a 'real' job and 40 hours a week has dramatically reduced my workouts. So in order to keep myself accountable I have made a rule for myself to not use my car after work. I have a bike and I bike to the gym, grocery store, Blue Goose on Thursdays. Everywhere I need to go I can make it on my bike. It’s more work and defiantly takes more planning, but in my opinion it is taking steps towards getting more out of my evenings.

    I hope something out of all of this helps, and that with all the frustration you find something positive out of it. I miss you morning girls!

    3983 days ago
    Funny, as I was reading the beginning of your blog about looking in the mirror making you sick, I went immediately back into my anorexic days, remembering about how I looked fat in the mirror. To every one else in the world, I looked like a concentration camp survivor. As I read on, it seems you have that issue too; not necessarily anorexia. although that may have been the case when you were in your size 4... I don't know because I don't know your history. But that has all the marking of what drive anorexics. Please don't get me wrong, I am NOT saying that you ARE anorexic, now or in the past. It is just that I can so thoroughly relate to the lies the mirror tells your brain.

    What got me over that? I think I realized how sick I was when I lived on the Navajo Reservation. At that time, I was so far away from my peers, I didn't have a warped mirror to hold my standards to, and I was with a bunch of health food 'junkies'. That was the start of turning my life around. It had a lot to do with not looking in mirrors, not looking at my belly which was flat but to me read 'fat'.

    What can you do? You are a very beautiful woman, and have a smile that could light up any room. Focus on your strengths; emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical first. See yourself as a whole being. If your mind goes into the "I hate my muffin top' or 'I'm too fat' mode, switch it off immediately by replacing it with a list of your strengths, or a list of things you are grateful for. Keep switching off the negative self-speak and replace it with a few positives. Then look at ways to see yourself as just exactly who you are, a caring, smart, beautiful woman.

    3983 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/31/2010 8:53:37 PM
  • no profile photo CD5707126
    MY problem is that I am too comfortable where I am at. I don't think about being fat although in peoples eyes I am. What we need is to put our feelings together and divide by two and have a good honest look at ourselves. Remember this time when you lose you will have all this support from your SparkFriends to get you through. I am hoping that I can want to accept myself at a smaller size and not have that shield to guard me and give me an excuse not to want to lose. I am breaking through a brick wall here. emoticon You are getting healthy not skinny and not fat. WE are here for you. Keep up all the great work you are doing! emoticon
    3983 days ago
  • no profile photo CD6324333
    WTG on not resorting to food for comfort! I don't know how religious you are or not but going to the Lord has helped me out a lot. Love yourself for who you are. Try to give up your perfectionism, no one is perfect.
    3983 days ago
    I'm reading a really good book titled Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Hanh and Cheng. I'm in the midst of a chapter about acknowledging feelings and dealing with them. You might want to see if you could find it at a local library. I'm finding it really helpful.
    3983 days ago
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