It Just Kept Pulling Me Back

Believe it or not, there was a point in my life when I had never set foot in a gym.  At least, not by direction from my middle school P.E. teacher.  I had never played sports – again, not when it wasn’t a requirement to pass the 8th grade.  And I never ran or participated in any outdoor cardiovascular activity – unless I was chasing my dog across the park after he decided to ditch the collar around his neck.

So when I met my husband, and I reluctantly agreed that partaking in some kind of physical activity would be a good thing, I knew I was in for something that was way out of my comfort zone.

That was 2001.  Today, I can proudly say that I exercise regularly.  However, what might shock some of you is that I’ve only been exercising regularly for about ten months.  [GASP!]

In the words of Dr. Meredith Grey, “Seriously?”  Seriously.  Oh, there were streaks of a good two or three months when I was religiously going to the gym every week.  But for the most part, I was going in streaks of three weeks here and there, take two weeks off, go for another two weeks, one week off, and so on.  There were times when I wouldn’t go for months.

Needless to say, with the exception of the three-month streak, I never got any good results with such inconsistency.  I would get all gung-ho about it, lose interest, and then make up some excuse as to why I had to take a “three-week break.”

When I look back on that seven-year cycle of trying and failing, I think I can now see what was going on.  I’ve heard it best described as a thermostat.  I first heard this idea from James Ray, author, philosopher, and entrepeneur, and recently was reminded of it when I read a former colleague’s blog, “When your Mind is Stuck.”  (I highly encourage you to check it out.)

I described the termostat effect in my comment on his blog:

“Your mind is like a thermostat, where the temperature you set it to (usually a comforable 72 degrees) is your comfort zone. Every time you step away from that 72 degrees, it wants to pull you back. Back to what is safe and what it’s used to. When you carry out actions that are outside what you normally do, it will do everything it can to pull you back to what resonates with your current programming (limiting beliefs, values, etc. that serve that bad habit).

Breaking free of this pull is perhaps one of the toughest things to do. You must acknowledge the programming that is pulling you back, and re-adjust your programming to something that serves you (much easier said than done)…you can start small, but the most important thing is to just start. The more often you step away from that 72 degrees, the weaker the thermostat’s pull will become.

This is something I by no means have mastered, but every day I try to be ‘comfortable with being uncomfortable.'”

You see, over the course of those seven years, I was constantly being pulled back to what I was used to – a life of physical inactivity. Although I knew in my head that it was an unhealthy way to live, my past programming and unspoken limiting beliefs – that I’m not coordinated enough, that I’ll never have the figure I want, that people in my family just don’t work out, that I just don’t have time – were dictating my actions (or lack thereof).

It wasn’t just that I was lazy, it was that breaking free of any bad habit that supports that past programming is a freakin’ hard thing to do. It takes a vision of what you want to accomplish, compelling reasons driving that vision, a serious commitment to accomplish that vision, and it takes a shift in those unspoken beliefs that are holding you back. 

First step is to figure out what those beliefs are.  Then replace them with your vision and know that the vision will come to fruition.  (If you’ve read the book Eat, Pray, Love – another read I highly recommend – understand that your vision is your tree calling to you.)  Focus intensely on that vision, shut up the chatterbox in your head (more on the pesky “chatterbox” later), and just act.  The thermostat’s pull will eventually weaken.

Whew, I think I’m getting a little too deep, even for my standards right now.  Bottom line, recognizing why you keep going back to your comfort zone, i.e. recognizing the thermostat’s pull, is the first step in breaking the cycle. Like I said, this is not an easy thing to do, and is easier for some than for others. (Sciences have been dedicated to studying why this is and how to conquer it. Check out a blog on my husband’s website about Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.)

In my next post, I’ll share with you how I broke free from my thermostat. Until then I ask you, “What’s pulling you back?”

Like/dislike what you read? Can you relate? Have a reaction? Add a comment!

I have a 2-pack!!!

Well, when I flex really hard.  And when the lighting is just right.  And if I squint my eyes just a little bit and turn my head about 30 degrees to the right.

Hey!  Don’t rain on my parade, okay?  This is significant!  I can’t remember the last time I could even remotely see any resemblance of an anything-pack! 

And yes, I have been known to spend good, quality time in front of the mirror admiring my pre-rockhard, washboard abs.  My husband just rolls his eyes when he walks by and laughs, “Oh my gosh.”

Like I said, don’t rain on my parade!  I focus on the progress.  See, a lot of people will focus on the bellyfat and arm flab (or the stick arms and pigeon legs).  They’ll look at what they don’t like and out of anger or distaste, will work out to change what they don’t like about themselves.

I have a different strategy.  I choose to focus on what I do like and the progress that I have made.  And I make fitness and nutrition about accentuating that, and allowing everything else to catch up to it.  And that applies not just to whether I like how a certain body part looks.  It applies to whether I’m happy with my energy levels, my current state of flexibility, and my ability to dance like a disco queen to a cheesy ABBA song.

Gratitude is one of the most powerful things in the universe.  Be thankful for what you have.  Focus on what you like about yourself, about the progress you have made, and you’re bound to get more of it.  If you constantly focus on what you don’t like, you’ll always overlook the progress that you are making, and you’ll always be able to find one more thing you can pick on. 

I challenge you to pick one thing you like about yourself.  Do you have nice ankles?  Or a nice, angled chin?  No matter how miniscule, pick something.  Focus on that.  Spend time in the mirror looking at it.  Yes, make your family think you’re totally vain about it! 

Have you made the slightest bit of progress since you started working out?  Dropped 2 pounds?  Do your jeans feel just a looser?  Dwell on that!  Be thankful for it, and celebrate! 

So don’t laugh at me when I shout from the rooftops that I have a 2-pack.  That 2-pack is just the beginning of more packs!

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”  — Michelangelo

Like what you read?  Can you relate?  Just have a reaction?  Add a comment!

How do you experience your life?

Today I’m going to write about something less related to nutrition and working out, and more about mindset – one of THE most important aspects of overall wellness. 

I got a new job this week.  Not by my own choice, but by way of reorganization.  It happens.  Business priorities and strategies change, so resources have to be realigned.  I can understand that. 

Okay, so what do you do when everything that you did for 8 hours a day suddenly changes?  When the person and teams you loved working with are suddenly taken from you?  When you feel POWERLESS because you had no say in what was happening?

The natural first reaction is to pipe up about the injustice, and pipe up loud.

My reaction was to want to pipe up loud, but instead I piped up tactfully in the form of constructive feedback.  After piping up tactfully, I understood that I can’t change my situation.  But I CAN change my REACTION to the situation and my perspective.  (“Let the emotions flow, then let them go.” – Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman)

Susan Jeffers, in a great book (HIGHLY recommend it) entitled Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, explains that while you may not be responsible for all your “experiences in life…you are the cause of all your experiences of life, meaning that you are the cause of your reactions to everything that happens around you.” THAT is true power.

So whether I let this totally bum me out and piss me off for weeks on end, or whether I assess the situation, understand that I can’t change it, and after allowing the emotions to flow, I let them go and immediately look for the good in the situation. 

And it didn’t take me long to see that my new role might actually put me closer to my ultimate career goals.  That it just might open opportunities to me that I didn’t have before.  That while I enjoyed what I was doing, I was getting comfortable, and comfort is not necessarily a good thing – it means you’re probably not growing.

So, I’ve opened up to the idea that this might be a good thing – I can make it a good thing.  And while people around me might be pissed off, or people might try to drag me down with them into the sea of cynicism and “bitching and moaning”, I choose the higher route, the more productive and positive route.

(It’s so much better in the sea of productivity and positivity, I can tell you that much.)

I’ll leave you with a quote by Napolean Hill, an American author, and an awesome speech given by Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple.  Overall, Steve Jobs’ speech is one of the most amazing and inspiring messages I’ve ever heard, but the section that relates to the topic at hand is about “Connecting the Dots.”

Cheers!

“Every adversity or failure carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.” (Napolean Hill)…How do you choose to experience YOUR life?

Like/hate what you read?  Can you relate?  Have a reaction?  Add a comment!

Did I mention that I stopped working out?

I went to Vegas a few weeks ago.  If you’ve read my past blog about eating healthy, you know that while I’m on vacation, all health and fitness rules pretty much go out the window.  Mind you, I try to compensate by being extremely disciplined with my nutrition and workouts during the weeks leading up to it.  I also accept the consequences and detox when I get back.

So with my Vegas trip, that was the intent.  I didn’t follow through.  Here’s what really happened:

I followed through on my pre-vacation commitment.  I stuck to my prescribed 4-times a week heavy workout with cardio intervals.  I stuck to the nutrition plan.

I followed through on my vacation commitment.  I ate burgers and fries, eight kinds of meat at a Brazilian churrasco restaurant, indulged on chocolate lava cakes, and drank way too many vodka tonics and long island ice teas.  I didn’t even bother bringing any workout clothes because I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

I got home on a Monday afternoon with every intention to clean up my act the minute the plane landed.  But we got invited for sushi that evening.  And with my sushi, I naturally ate 3 different desserts.  Who can turn down tiramisu, chocolate cheesecake and eclairs?  (mini versions, of course)  What’s one more “cheat meal”, right?

Okay, so Tuesday.  Really, Tuesday my plan was to get back on the wagon.  Shake for breakfast, pack my mid-morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack, and bring my gym clothes and recovery drink for my workout after work.  But I woke up late that morning and rushed off to work without any of it.  Felt dehydrated all day which led to a headache, came home, and crashed on the couch.

Wednesday.  Wednesday would be much better…But I plain forgot my gym bag at home, ended up working late, got home around 8 and crashed on the couch again.

So Thursday…I think you get the picture.

What happened?  What happened to my good intentions?  As James Ray says, “Good intentions, poor follow-through.”

And so it went for 2 weeks.  Every day, at the end of the day I had two choices: either 1) beat myself up for being a flake and freak out about the weight I’d gain from my non-compliance or 2) put the day behind me and start the next day over again.

What would you do?  I chose #2.  I am a firm believer that everyone does the very best they can given the person they are at that moment.  I could have beat myself up about it and freaked out about gaining weight, but decided that doing so would just put me in a worse mood than I already was, which would lead to emotional eating, high stress, and it would in turn become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Instead, I decided to note how I felt (usually lethargic and dehydrated), consciously decide that I didn’t want to feel that way the next day, and realized that tomorrow is a new day.

So it took me a couple weeks to get back on the wagon.  Looking back on it, I’m kind of glad it did.  Firstly, because sometimes if you’ve been on a rigorous fitness plan for a few weeks, it’s good to take a break.  Let your body recover.  And if you have been on a rigorous fitness plan for a while, you’ll find that you can afford to be bad for a while.  Your body can handle all those calories much better than it could before.

Secondly, I learned to be patient with myself.  I did notice the difference in my energy levels and did understand that if I kept going down this road, I would end up reverting back to my pre-working-out condition.  With that realization, I had every faith in myself that I would pick myself back up, and in turn I did.

You can’t always be perfect.  Don’t force yourself to be.  Learn from it, move on, and realize that tomorrow is a new day.