Weighty Matters

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Are You Balanced?

“Are you balanced?” Our instructors at last week’s Tai Chi workshops asked us that time and time again.  In the moment, it meant if we felt we were balanced in our bodies.  To properly balance requires a lot of different aspects to line up.  The first is the actual alignment, the stacking of my body over my feet.  Then there’s the notion of “equal and opposite force”.  When I stand up to kick, the intention in my hands and arms as I position them aids my balance.

Every time I practice my Tai Chai, I keep the question in mind and ask myself if I’m balanced.  It reminds me to strive for that feeling as I do the moves.  When I am balanced, I move with greater control and flow, as well as an absence of pain in my creakier joints.  I have to say that I feel wonderful in those moments.  They don’t always happen and, when necessary, it’s okay for me to use a prop foot, but I know how balanced feels and that’s the goal.

Balance infuses all of Tai Chi.  There’s a natural balance to be sought between body, mind and spirit.  Expanding out from the martial art, I seek balance in all areas of my life.  In OA, we sometimes talk about the three legged stool.  The “legs” are physical, mental, and emotional.  If those are not in balance, our foundation is uneven and doesn’t provide proper support.  We tilt and rock, spending more time adjusting or compensating for the part of our life that’s out of whack.

When I’m out of balance I am more vulnerable to my compulsive eating disease.  In those times, I most need to be aware of the which “leg” of the stool is shaky and do what I need to in order to secure it and bring myself back into balance.

Today I felt balanced all day.   I was able to sleep in a little this morning.  When I woke up, after I took care of the dogs, I went out on my porch to enjoy a beautiful day.  I did my Tai Chi foundation exercises, followed by a set.  Then I practiced a couple of moves that challenge me balance-wise.  I worked on finding my balance point in those moves so that I can remember how it feels when I do them right.  That muscle memory will help the next time.

I’d made plans to go to breakfast with a friend to celebrate her new job.  I knew that I would have the treat of a mimosa and some breakfast treats.  To compensate, instead of driving, we road our bikes.  After the meal, which was delicious, I opted to extend my bike ride a few more miles.  This balanced out the caloric intake a little, I think.  (Don’t worry, I only had one mimosa and we lingered over the meal so my cycling was not impaired.)

After an enjoyable ride, which benefited me emotionally as well as physically, I came home and addressed a variety of tasks inside and out of the house.  It’s a great feeling when I get things done instead of procrastinating.  I feel sharper mentally when I complete things and cross them off of my list.

In between, of course, there was also time for some dog cuddling and simply breathing in the fresh air while relaxing on the porch and watching boats cruise by.  These things warm and settle me emotionally.

Sunday afternoons, some of us get together at the beach to do more Tai Chi and this provided another opportunity not only for physical activity, but also relaxation and a connection to spirit.

When I got home, I prepared a nutritious and yummy dinner.  I think the act of cooking healthy food nourishes all three aspects of my balance.  I’ve discussed before that the evening hours are often challenging for me to remain with my food plan.  That’s when I most often want to eat or overeat on junk food.   Being in a balanced state freed me of the compulsion tonight.  I stuck with my plan to eat half an apple for a snack.

A few paragraphs ago I talked about paying attention so that I can feel my balance points in different moves.  Tonight, I’m looking back over the day and paying attention to how spending it in balance feels.  Hopefully, this self-awareness will make it easier for me to find this balance point again.

So, how are you doing?  Are you balanced?

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Recovery’s Three Legged Stool

In the OA rooms, we talked about recovery being like a three legged stool.  You need to work on all three legs in order to be in balance – physical, emotional/mental, and spiritual.

When I first got that I had an eating disorder, a compulsive overeating disease, the positive effect on me emotionally was remarkable.  It really helped me clean up my head and my heart.  In ensuing years, even when I fell off of the wagon, I had a much clearer understanding of myself, my relationship with food, the role food and overeating played in my life, their effect on me, etc.  I am convinced that without this understanding, I would not be successfully maintaining my post-bariatric surgery weight loss.

In the early days, however, the ultimate focus was physical recovery.  Losing weight and restoring/regaining physical health were the goals.  Even with the better concept of disease behavior, I yo-yo’d with my weight until I finally committed to weight loss surgery.  If you’ve been with this blog from the beginning, or at least for a while, you know that I’ve lost a lot of weight and that I have worked on a lot of my issues, using this blog to help me process my thoughts and feelings.

Yet, for almost a year, I’ve been more stalled on my weight loss.  I’ve pretty much maintained the level that I reached, but digging in and sustaining the rest of the effort to get to my goal weight has been a constant, annoying, upsetting and frustrating struggle.  I gear up, employ a new strategy, go gung-ho for a while and then get stuck again.   Hence the annoyance and frustration.

A few days ago, I blogged about the constant food chatter that goes on in my head.  My dear, wonderful, long time friend read it and sent me a long email describing her struggle with the same thing.  This friend has also spent a great deal of time in OA.  She’s also had weight loss surgery and lost a phenomenal amount of weight.  She gets the disease thing.

You know that old proverb that when the student is ready, the teacher appears?  In her email, she openly talked about the fact that the food thoughts, the endless chatter and mental struggle ARE the disease to her.  She shared that she needs to remember the powerlessness and the need for the spiritual connection to recovery.

I’ve been re-reading and studying her email for the last couple of days, absorbing the words into my heart.   I see where I’ve been very intellectual about my approaches to food and recovery.  I know how much emphasis I’ve placed on the physical recovery.  I think those two legs of the stool needed my attention and they’re holding strong.  It’s that third leg — the spiritual one — that’s wobbling.  It needs my focus.

The first step of OA is admitting that I am powerless over food and that my life is unmanageable.  My life might not seem to be unmanageable, but right now, when it comes to how much food obsession is controlling my thinking, trust me, it needs to be managed better.  Until I remember step one and the powerlessness, I can’t embrace that a Higher Power can help me.  However,  once I do those two steps, I can make the decision to turn this over to the HP and accept the spiritual aspects of recovery.

It’s not religion, but I do need the spiritual connection with whatever represents a higher power to me.

What really connected for me today is that the physical recovery is not enough for me.  Sure, I could go on for the rest of my life, be happy because I’ve lost so much weight and am maintaining.  I could be satisfied with my greatly improved physical fitness.

But I’m not.  It isn’t enough.  I have more work to do.  I am not enjoying the serenity of full recovery because of the mind chatter, the food obsession, the constant battle to stay on track and not give into the disease of  compulsive eating.  I want that serenity, that recovery, too.   So, while I continue to maintain the physical exercise, et al, I need to reconnect to my spirit and emotional recovery.  That’s my focus now.

Thank you, my dear friend, for sharing your story and struggle and bringing me the reminders that I needed to have, when I most needed them.

In other news, today I walked another 5K – this time for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event in town.  I didn’t shoot for a particular time goal.  This was about being with friends and folks I know throughout our community, having fun, and raising both money and awareness.  I raised more than $700, dyed and bedazzled a bra for the day, and had a great time walking.  I never would have done this even before weight loss surgery and am glad that I could today.

Here’s the bra.  After I dyed it, I hand sequinned/beaded the “ribbons” onto the cups.  A little uneven, but as I said to friends, so are my boobs at my age.thebra

 

 

Here’s me this morning.  The idea is to wear the decorated bra on the outside of one’s clothes.  (By the way, I’m not feeling myself up in this picture.  I was trying to show off my pink fingernails at the same time.)

We saw quite a variety of great creations!  It was really terrific to see a great turnout of people from the community, walking alongside the Overseas Highway in a spirited wave of pink!

Me in Bra

 

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Messed Up Mindset

For some reason, this blog is not fully cooperating with me. I’ve been unable to do posts or comments. Hopefully I have it straightened out.

In a comment to my “Funk” post from earlier in the week, Pink Pelican shared her experience which is similar to what I’m going through right now. Pink, thank you. Far from discouraging me, it gives me hope and validates what I’ve been thinking. I need to focus on my head, on my messed-up mindset right now.

To recap, what’s happened is that my stalled physical weight loss progress is drastically effecting my emotions and my mental process about my journey. This is a dangerous state for me. I’m an emotional eater. I have an eating disorder. When my emotions and head go off track, my compulsive eating behavior likely follows.

Right now, even though I am 180ish pounds lighter than I was a few years ago and living a life where I eat healthier foods and am physically active, I’ve lost the positive energy that I rode for so long on this amazing, joyful journey. I’m mired in the diseased mindset. I am nearly as down on myself about my body and lack of progress, the self-sabotage and everything else as I was when I was in the worst state of my eating disorder disease at 386 pounds. This is a dangerous, defeating, unhealthy place to be. I need to stop before I eat myself back into obesity.

Usually, I plan on how I’m going to control my eating. Oddly enough, that’s often easier than fixing the mindset. However, it’s the head that needs my focus right now. This doesn’t mean I’m flagrantly going out and eating whatever I want. Instead, it’s a call to myself for greater balance. In OA, we called recovery a three legged stool — physical, mental and emotional. If too much emphasis is put on one leg to the detriment of others, the seat isn’t balanced. It will tip and drop my ass on the ground.

The first two years of my post-surgery journey were alll physical progress. The speed of weight loss, the physical improvements in my overall body as well as my fitness level produced an incredible joy and euphoria. I worked on issues about my eating disorder here on the blog and have made a lot of progress in the area of understanding why and how I’ve used food as a drug and crutch in the past. That’s all good and I can build on it.

However, there are still aspects to the disease thinking that I haven’t resolved and now my stool is badly tilted. What’s coming up for me the most right now is the old B.I.N.G.E. thinking of Believing I’m Not Good Enough. More to the point, it’s believing that the amazing progress and revolutionary recovery I’ve already achieved isn’t good enough. I still in my heart of hearts find myself lacking. I get down on myself and concentrate too much on how far I still have to go.

No, I’m not satisfied. I don’t want to stop losing weight. However, somehow I also have to be okay with myself wherever I am in my progress. If I never did lose another pound, I would still be incredibly more healthy than I’ve ever been.

So, how do I accomplish this? I’m starting with cancelling stinking thinking. When I get down on myself for no progress or for messing up or even for eating a frigging half slice of bread, I need to be aware of the thought and then banish it or counteract it. It is unacceptable for me to be so self-critical and not accept myself.

At the same time, I need to get back to recognizing and appreciating all of the good that I have done and continue to do for myself. It isn’t enough for me to just go out and ride my bike six miles. I need to celebrate that activity in the moment and really make it rich. I will acknowledge and take joy in all that I am now able to do. Whether it’s riding the bike, walking with greater ease and less pain, the balance, strength and flexibility of Tai Chi, or the easy glide of snorkeling I will take note, immerse in the experience and feel the joy.

Negativity out – joy in. Easy formula. It’s almost like happiness is another muscle. I need to work on my reps and build the strength of my own heart and head to engender the recovery.

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