Confessions of an Ideal Protein Coach - A Heavy Glass

Hi Everyone,

My weigh-in last Thursday had me *exactly* the same as the week before. I expect this weigh-in to be the same, too.  I know *exactly* why I'm not losing. I haven't been careful, and I've been having extra Ideal Protein food and fat for about two weeks now. I've fallen off tracking, I've been slacking on getting my veggies and water. (If it weren't for restaurant salads and rhubarb sauce at home, no veggies whatsoever would have passed my lips).  I've been absolutely off my game with my spiritual practice.  My food regimen has been a big, slushy, slippery mess - just like the weather in Seattle. 

Sometimes I feel like my best friend should write this blog instead of me. When she saw me last Thursday, she noticed I seemed down and asked why.  When I told her I hadn't lost any weight, she said, "OK, what did you do?" 

I told her I had NO good excuses! I hadn't had a big blow out with carbs.  Nothing big had happened. No birthday parties or Holidays. No big emotional conflicts or events to binge over.  Nothing I could look back on and say, "Ok, I learned a lesson and next time I'll do it differently."  Since I'm blogging this, I'm always composing my next post in the back of my mind and I'd been dreading this one because I couldn't think of a single good reason to offer as to why I was off track.  Except that I apparently suck at this! :(  My mind shouts that I've used up all of my chances for messing up.  No one will possibly find it charming anymore that I'm sharing my imperfections and vulnerabilities -- they will want to see SUCCESS!  Unless I get my act together, all my friends, family, clients and colleagues will realize I'm a big fat phony and want nothing to do with me.

(I'm nothing if not dramatic…  Oh, and a little self-centered when I'm being hard on myself…)

My friend, 'E,' watched me sink into a little pool of self-loathing with a concerned and compassionate look on her face.  She asked, gently, what had been going on in my life.

NOTHING. At least nothing I could point to that was any kind of big deal.  Sure, there was that one important situation stressing me out, and yes, we were about to face a big deal event related to it, but I'd been dealing with that whole thing for months, so that couldn't be it.  And sure, it's the Holidays, and I have my own personal reasons why this time of year is hard. But so does everyone, right?  In general, everything is great!  My life is better than it's ever been.  Yes, it's 180-degrees different than it was at this time last year - but in ALL GOOD ways!  I'm with the **love** of my life!  I ADORE my shiny new family, complete with his weekend kiddos.  I'm learning how to approach Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years with kids for the first time… I'm doing well, I think.  We took a spontaneous jaunt to the mountains to play in snow (despite the fact that I have NO snow clothing to speak of), attended a Christmas parade with loud music, flashy lights and 2000 families crowded shoulder-to-shoulder to see the costumed performers.  (Yes, you're right -- I don't care for crowds, but I'm not going to let that stop me from giving the kids a great Holiday experience.)  Did I mention that the snow caused a few days of stress at the office?  Oh, and the new bed we received last week (to help with my BF's back pain) will probably be great -- as soon as we get used to it and start really sleeping again…  And I'm sure we'll find some time during the weekdays to finish all our Christmas preparations…

Wow, I guess I do have a few things going on. It's funny when I stop to think about it.

E sat me down and shared a metaphor with me. 

She said stress was like a glass of water.  Not just in the usual way where we decide if it's half empty vs. half full… No, she said it's all about how long you have to hold the glass and how heavy that makes it.  If you pick up a partially filled glass and then put it back down again - it doesn't seem very heavy.  Metaphorically, that's like having a small stressful issue crop up, but be solved easily.

However, if you pick up that glass and hold it out at arm's length for say, 15 minutes?  Suddenly that little glass becomes ridiculously heavy!  Painful, even.  Your muscles fatigue and shake and your body screams to put it down.  Your mind may say, "This is just a little glass of water. No big deal!"  But your body feels the strain of the constant effort.  That's how small things add up to big things.  That's chronic stress.

In fact, if the glass were actually heavy, you'd probably find a way to put it down -- or get help holding it up.  We underestimate the half-full glass because it seems insignificant -- and that's why it gets us.  Holding up a glass that is always re-filling as fast as you can empty it will exhaust you.  Just like chronic stress, small loads that never let up can be worse than an obviously heavy one. 

I call this ambient stress.  And I almost always realize I have it only in hindsight.  It's like being in a noisy café for a coffee date.  It's not loud enough to need ear plugs or even to make you consider leaving -- at first.  But as your conversation goes on, you have to concentrate extra hard to hear your friend.  The noise distracts you. Makes you tired. Maybe it makes you irritable.  If you don't realize what's happening it can put a damper on the whole visit - nothing to do with your friend at all.  Ambient stress makes everything more difficult because it drains your energy -- including the energy you'd otherwise have to focus on your eating plan. 

E suggested I might need to set my glass down periodically and try to find ways to empty it on a regular basis.  She wondered if I was taking any time for self-care.  Her question struck me as ironic since it's one I regularly ask my clients, but apparently forget to ask myself. 

My most effective form of self-care is my spiritual practice, but as I said above, it's gone by the wayside as I've become swept up in my life events.  Neglecting my spiritual practice leaves me with even less energy to hold up my glass.  No wonder I've been nibbling extra IP goodies and comfort-food-fat.  Food has always been my fallback for comforting myself. I don't need it when I am in "fit spiritual condition," but I haven't been. 

I feel overwhelmed sometimes when I envision all of the elements of life that need to be in balance for health:   mental, spiritual, physical, relational, professional, financial… If any one of them is "off," the rest suffer too.  Throw in a few big changes (even positive ones) and soon I'm scrambling to re-balance them again.  Balance is a constant work in progress, and this last 2 weeks have been off-kilter for me.   

E says compared to how I used to be, I'm way ahead of the game.  I'm still down 10 lbs, and despite a fair amount of life stress and an eating disorder just waiting in the wings, I haven't been bingeing.  I've *only* leaned on extra Program food rather than the hard stuff, and I'm maintaining instead of gaining during the hardest season of the year.  Intellectually I know she's right. I have a small group of clients who are essentially in the same boat. The difference is they are acknowledging it.  I've helped many of them develop a plan to stay on IP but work around some planned splurges through the Holidays.  We think of it as a safety net to help them avoid loss of control and hang on through the turbulence of Christmas and New Years until they can really focus again. Some of them have very big stress going on, and I'm proud of them for staying even THAT committed to their eating plan.  Maybe I need to give myself some grace, too.

My egoic, control-freak mind screams, "NO!"  It says I will NEVER reach my goals if I don't beat myself / shame myself into submission right now!  I should be able to do this if I'm just hard enough, MERCILESS enough on myself.  It says I don't qualify for any kind of allowance.  Besides, the whole world is watching through my blog!  (Wow, Mind, grandiose much?!? LOL!!!)  

But deep down, quietly, my heart whispers, "Yes."  I am committed to staying on track as best as I can, but my best hasn't been very good lately.  It's because every time I try to manage my food by willpower alone, I fail.  In fact every time I try and manage my LIFE (stress or otherwise) on my own, I fail.  My main commitment right now needs to be my spiritual focus, which means letting my food, my self, my whole life fall into the hands of my higher power as I once again surrender.  I long to be perfect with my food but that's because my ego fools me into thinking looking perfect to other people is the way to win in life… I will never be perfect, but I might be happy if I can re-align myself with the loving force in the Universe that I call God.  If I am off track spiritually, the first sign is that I'm off track with my food.  (P.s. for others like me who struggle to stop overeating, you may want to tune in to OAHOP.org to learn about a step-by-step, spiritual approach which can really help).  

As I work on re-centering, I'll just ask whomever reads and cares about this little journey of mine for some understanding… I will try not to beat myself up for the sake of some ideal I'm obviously not living up to at the moment.  My heart is aching for half a dozen reasons right now and it needs some gentleness and care.  

I've decided I'm taking today off of work (after I finish writing to you guys). I'm going to meditate, pray, go get a wonderful foot massage and do a tad bit of the shopping I can't do on our kiddo weekends.  I need vegetables. ;)  I need a few secret Christmas presents.  I need to run some adulting errands, and I need some "me" time so I can empty my glass (into the hands of my higher power).  I need to make room so I can keep filling it with LIFE! Wonderful, amazing life.  Not all of it is easy, but I can embrace a lot more of it if I make room now and then.

Thanks, E, once again, for your love and grace and friendship.  I wish everyone in the world had a friend as wonderful as you. I think it would be a happier place.

Hugs and Happy Holidays to all!
Sherene