Mental Landmines

February 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

Over 2 years ago, I set out to lose 300 pounds.

And I ALMOST got there…

I lost 240 pounds before hitting a giant brick wall.

I attribute my lengthy setback and 25 pound regain to completely losing it in my HEAD

I cannot tell you how many times over the course of the past 6 or more months, I have tried to get back “on track”

I have tried so many times that it became exhausting, depressing, and downright ANNOYING that I could not seem to make it stick.

I felt as if I was right back to where I used to be.  Waking up with clear resolve and utterly failing before 9 am.

Looking back, I have to search for what happened and what led me down into the pit again.

It is only in analyzing the trail of bread crumbs (or oreo crumbs…) that we can work our way backwards to see where we went astray.

And then move forward in an effort to avoid those same land mines!

So after much analysis, I’ve identified my top mental land mines I’ve encountered along the way that caused me to backslide.

Here we go…

1. Not Expanding the Dream:  

Once I hit 240 pounds lost, I felt NORMAL.  I accomplished all of the goals I had set for myself (fitting in various places etc).  I had attained more weight loss than I truly in my heart believed I ever would and therefore on a psychological level I had crossed a finish line of sorts.  But I failed to dream bigger!  I didn’t take my goals to the next level.  Believe it or not, my wildest dream at one point in time was to fit in a booth.  To not break a chair.  To fit into shoes.  The fact that I was now living a normal life was already beyond my wildest dreams.  Could I really ask for more?

The answer should have been YES.  And right then, I should have started widening my goals.  Continuing to seek bigger dreams.  Instead, I believed in my heart I had already achieved beyond what I had believed I could.  Maybe even more than I already deserved.  So why believe for more?

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2.  Repressed Emotions

I’ve been divorced for 8 years without any real relationship or even faint hint of a relationship during that ‘almost’ decade.  When I got divorced, my two youngest were still in diapers.  My life changed completely.  I began the journey of raising my kids for the most part alone.  The fact that I was already fairly big when I got divorced led me to remain isolated.  Since I moved here only a few months before my divorce, I did not have any friends here.  My family did not live here.  And couple all that with my natural tendency to isolate due to depression and anxiety.  Binge eating is also an activity that one needs to do alone and in private.  For many reasons, I became isolated.  Even when I attempted to make new connections, it did not seem to really work for a variety of reasons.  The bigger you get…the smaller your world becomes.  People invite you places and you can’t go.  Because you can’t fit.  You can’t fit in the booth.  You can’t fit in the chair.  You outgrow the world.  Even when I could still fit, I had babies which often made it difficult.  So I went inward.  I created a safe place that was me, the kids and Hostess cupcakes.

Then one day I was 240 pounds thinner with new hair and new nails and a little black sports car I bought because I turned 41 and could fit into it.  It was used and not that expensive but did I need to buy that? NO!  But I did.  And I drove down the road in my little black sports car with my sunglasses and my dyed blonde hair and newly shaped eyebrows thinking….

“THAT’S RIGHT WORLD!!!  THAT’S RIGHT EX-HUSBAND!!

THAT”S RIGHT EVERY MAN WHO EVER LOOKED PAST ME BECAUSE OF MY WEIGHT!!”

 

I hoped I would drive by that guy in the truck who yelled at me to get back in the house because I was too fat to be outside.  I hoped I would see HIM again 240 pounds later. I hoped I would see that nurse who told me I wasn’t doing enough or working hard enough after I had just lost 100 pounds.  I felt like 8 years of being alone, looked over, rejected and ignored was coming back for revenge!!

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I didn’t realize it at the time but that’s what happened.

That’s what I was feeling…and feeling it very suddenly in a giant dose of emotion that washed over me all at once

As if I had been holding it back all those years and now it felt safe to come out!

I started getting attention from men that I didn’t expect to get attention from.  YOUNG men.  Men who would more appropriately be interested in my 18 year old daughter and NOT me.   And you know what?? I was flattered by it.  And I am ashamed to admit it.  But I was.  Flattered and ego driven.  Revenge driven.  Revenge on WHO?  The world? My ex husband? Myself?

Try unraveling THAT one

I did not anticipate the flood of angry emotions that came out of me during this time.

I was even angry at myself for not having lost weight sooner!

I would think…why couldn’t I have done this 8 years ago? 10 years ago? 15 years ago?

I had fought loneliness for so long that now I jumped into relationships without thinking.

The first person who found me worthy at all was the one I was going to date.

I still was in shock anyone thought I was worth dating!!

I looked in the mirror and saw 417 pounds.  And that is all I saw.

I became  almost “schizophrenic” on some level in how I felt towards men!

One day I felt angry—Oh you see me NOW???  Well forget you!!

The next day I felt grateful–oh someone out there finds me worth something? Thank God!

It’s hard to live with multiple personalities!!

All I can tell you is this….if you have been significantly obese for a very long period of time–maybe your entire life or a large portion of your life—then living in an entirely different body will mess with your head!!

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3. Relying too heavily on ONE tool for weight loss

I started out this journey putting as much emphasis on my food as my exercise.

BUT….I found it easier over time for me to control the food aspect.

I realized that I could continue losing weight even if I did not exercise consistently.

HMMM!!!  What a discovery! Especially for someone who would rather sleep an extra hour than hit the gym.

The facts are this:

You can exercise more if you want to be able to eat more.  

You can exercise less as long as you eat less.

 Yes, you can choose to emphasize one over the other and still get to your goal.  

But is that something you can maintain over the long haul??

To rely solely on exercise to save you from overeating is not the best plan.

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BUT…to rely solely on your ability to control your food intake to save you from lack of exercise is also not a good plan.

Besides which, exercise is far more than a way to burn calories.  The real value of exercise is in what it does for you mentally.

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So the best plan is to find balance in both areas.  To take both areas seriously and to find both valuable.

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What a concept!! BALANCE!!!

And then there is the way my mind works because while I may know these things intellectually—I always look for ways around it.

I struggle still with the inherent belief that I am just not “athletic”.  The underlying belief that I am “lazy” and other thought processes that make me shy away from exercise.  I have a variety of life experiences that have embedded this in my core belief system over time.  This makes it difficult for me to keep working AT working OUT.  Even when I do crazy things like Crossfit to prove to myself that I CAN accomplish these things— I still often default back to my original programming.  Like some weird robot that has a chip inserted and constantly wants to revert back to the initial programming over the new and improved updates!!

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I know that I have a tendency to want to revert back to my old ways and it still is not a good excuse.

We need a true balance between our food and our exercise because at one point in time or another we will lag behind somewhere.

We will eat more one day and exercise will have helped even it out.

Inevitably, we will miss a workout day and so having paid attention to our food intake will have picked up the slack.

If we pay attention to both areas, we will have a greater chance of success.

I came to a point in time in my weight loss journey where I decided to rely more heavily on my ability to control my food intake.

I gave myself a free pass to slack off on exercise because I felt I didn’t need it  so long as I could tightly control what I was eating.

Looking back this is rather hilarious to me.

I mean SERIOUSLY….

Given my history with food, do I have any logical basis AT ALL to assume that I will be able to rely solely on my ability to control my food intake??

As someone with a clear history of sugar addiction, binge eating and a generally disordered relationship with food—should I ever be so overconfident that I would believe I have it totally licked in the area of food that I can rely SOLELY on that to control my weight??

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For awhile I had no problems at all controlling my food.  Mostly because I was avoiding sugar.

But as often happens in life, we trip up.

And when I did…I no longer found it that easy to control my food.

When I was no longer finding it easy to control my food intake, weight automatically came back on because I did not have consistent exercise to help me balance it out!!

This leads me to the next mental landmine that contributed to my descent..

4. Overconfidence

So you spend the majority of your life being totally owned by food.  Drug around on a leash with it whipping you around.  Never feeling in control.  Constantly hungry.  Constantly failing on diets.  And generally feeling hopeless.

Then you finally experience success.   You lose 240 pounds.  You feel as if you’ve really arrived!!  You have licked this thing.  You have it all under control.  You are in control.  You….You…YOU!!

Or rather…

ME! ME! ME!!

Oh I am SOOOO in control now!!  I have the power now!!

And before long you start to believe you’re invincible.

That the storm is over.  Roll the credits!!

The WAR is WON~

Only it’s not.  Because this isn’t something you can win once and for all.

Like the picture above…this isn’t a movie….so get back to reality!

For me, two things have become evident.

#1—I will always struggle with my relationship with food.  Can I get it under control using multiple tools? YES!  Oh thank goodness…..But will there ever come a day when I do not have to carefully manage my relationship with food? NO.  So letting the guard down and believing I can eat whatever I want because I have it under control….no…that will never happen

#2—I am responsible for my success.  I am the one in control.  NOT EVEN CLOSE!!!  But for a time…I started to actually believe I was the one making it happen.  Did I somehow forget the last few decades where I had no ability at all to control my relationship with food?? Maybe so.  But the reality for me is this—God in His mercy has helped me to find a way out.  He has used a variety of tools to make that happen such as weight loss surgery, people who have come into my life to guide me, exercise, sugar free food, and the Holy Spirit to give me the power to overcome temptations as they arise OR to have the courage to get up again when I fail.  It is not ME doing any of it.  It is Him working in me.  Without Him, I would not be able to even use the tools I have access to effectively.  So I need to be careful when I start taking too much credit for my success.  If I forget that…I will have to relearn all over again just how powerful I am on my own.  And trust me….that ain’t pretty!

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5. Substituting one thing for another

We all do it.  We give up one bad thing for another.  It is so cliche to fall into this trap that I am embarrassed to admit that I did.

In my screwed up mind, I thought I would rather have a glass of wine than a Big Mac.

I thought I was doing myself a favor!!

I even congratulated myself for choosing the “lesser of 2 evils”.

In my head, drinking alcohol INSTEAD of eating….was PROGRESS.

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When I started losing weight, I accepted that I had to give up food for comfort and I was determined that I would NOT replace it with anything else destructive!!

Yet, the temptation to do it anyway is always there.

As time went on, I found a glass of wine replacing what used to be my nightly snacking.

And then suddenly that glass of wine was followed by another….

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Suffice it to say, too much alcohol consumption stole a good 6 months or more of my life.

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Here’s the deal…I am predisposed to using addictive substances for comfort, anxiety and depression.

Many of us have addictive personalities and it’s just a fact of our journey. If we don’t realize it….we will just fall in another hole.

That hole is filled with cupcakes or Kahlua.

Or whatever else you can’t control.

You may think you’re choosing the lesser of two evils for awhile but eventually it all catches up with you.

 

So these are some of the biggest mental land mines that tripped me up.

I had to forgive myself and allow myself to start again.

And I started with the simple things that I knew my poor, dejected, depressed spirit could handle.

 

It looks like THIS:

1. Pray before my feet hit the floor in the morning

2. Fill up a water bottle and carry it with me all day

3. Exercise for at least 30 seconds every day and more when I can

 

And by..”when I can”…I am addressing the mental aspect of dealing with yourself when you feel unmotivated, hopeless and confused.

It has taken me some time but I can now tell you that I am back to exercising consistently.

I am going to the gym every day again and it has made a HUGE difference in my mental game.

I am now attacking my food intake by going back to my Sugar Free way of life (SO important for me) and pre-planning meals.

I get better at this every day that goes by.

Perfect??

NO  

Better?

YES

 

One more thing that has been invaluable to me over the course of my journey is counseling.

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I truly believe that anyone who has a serious eating disorder and/or weight issues could benefit from counseling.

It is far more to me than just talking through my feelings.

If you find someone who really understands the mind of those with food issues, they can help you learn strategies to deal with those issues as they arise.

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It is also very important to unravel and challenge those core beliefs we all have that may be working against us.

So we can avoid the mental land mines and keep moving on!!

 

Suffice it to say–losing 300 Pounds is as hard as I thought it was going to be.

But it’s not impossible.

I will get there.  When doesn’t matter anymore so long as I keep learning, growing and moving forward

As long as I keep learning what trips me up and educating myself on strategies to defend myself against those mental land mines…

Then nothing is wasted! Not a single mistake!

We learn.  We grow.  And we do that because we have to.

We have to because it’s war.

And this is one war I want to win.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Pam Holmes February 20, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Your story is so similar to mine. I did get to my goal weight, back in 2011, and stayed there for over two years. Then last Fall, as Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went, my eating got out of control again, and I put back on 25 pounds. Like you, I can’t count the times I thought I was back on track starting in January, only to fall off once again. I even lost 10 of the 25 pounds, but it’s BAAAAACK!!! And more will come, if I don’t stop this trend right NOW. It’s hard to lose 25 pounds. I used to think people who only had that much to lose had nothing to complain about, since I needed to lose close to 200 pounds to be normal, to fit in places, to wear normal shoes! But now I realize how difficult it can be to lose just 25 pounds, when you are close to goal, it takes a real concentrated effort to drop the weight. You have to have a tight control over your eating, and ramp up the calories you burn from your exercise of choice. Like you I have totally slacked off on the exercise, which for me, is just WALKING. I really intended to walk a few days this week, we had some unseasonably warm days, and my dog would have appreciated a mile’s walk down the road, but I never could make myself JUST DO IT. Your blog motivates me, it’s time to get Leslie Sansone out again. I walked with her a few times last month, then quit. But she is always there, when it starts snowing or is super cold (we have a blizzard today), there are no excuses not to walk when Leslie is in your arsenal.
Getting the weight off is just the beginning. So many fail because these addictions to sugar and food are just as real and just as strong as an alcohol or drug addiction, and no one can tell us how to control them for the rest of our lives. We can do it for years, making good choices, refusing to cave to temptation. We can be strong, we think, forever.
Then one day, we just grow weary of always giving up what we really really want to eat, and forget all that we have gained by making those good choices and we slip. Just a little at first, but then each day, bigger slips, more slips, and weight piles back on quickly. God grant us the strength to fight this battle, today, tomorrow and forever.
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Pam Holmes February 20, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Update: I just walked two miles with Leslie and I feel great. See how you inspire people Holly!!!
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down February 20, 2014 at 5:41 pm

awesome Pam!!!!!!!! You inspire me too!!

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Linda Kuil February 20, 2014 at 7:15 pm

Pam, I am up too, and it started back at Halloween and the holidays were more excuses to eat incredibly poorly and a knee injury sidelined me from running, but not ALL exercise. I’m throwing myself into reading and following everyone else’s journeys and successes to help inspire me to get back in the game again. We did it many times. We can do it again!
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Pam Holmes February 20, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Linda, you are so right–we did it before and we can do it again. I refuse to go back to where I lived for so many years, watching life from the sidelines.
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Linda Kuil February 20, 2014 at 7:18 pm

I needed this Holly! So glad you’re blogging again and helping me to feel not so alone in this “job” of ours, losing weight. I wish I didn’t have to constantly think about food and exercise, but the quicker you realize it isn’t easy, but my JOB to get healthy for myself and my family, the quicker I’ll suck it up and get sown to business!
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Jack Sh*t February 20, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Damn you, Holly. You know how much I like leaving silly, snarky comments and you just make it so difficult when you pen posts like this. IT’S NOT FAIR TO ME!!!!!

Anyway, glad you’re blogging more and best of luck on your continued success.

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down February 20, 2014 at 5:45 pm

When I get a serious reply from you I covet it!! LOL I know how it pains you !!!!

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Kelliann February 20, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I feel like I could have written this post (except you write it SO much better! LOL). My feelings are so exactly like this right now.
Part of my problem is when I feel I am taking good steps toward my goal, I inevitably am told by someone that I am not doing enough. Then I freak out, try to restrict EVERYTHING, and end up binging.
I love, love, love reading you. I feel like mentally we are very similar. It’s nice to feel like you aren’t alone.
Thank you.
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down February 20, 2014 at 5:44 pm

I have that same experience too. Too much restricting can lead back to binging if we aren’t careful. So true!!!

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Lori February 20, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I think most of us struggling with weight issues are struggling with those same landminds of the mind. Once again, thanks for articulating what I am thinking.
Lori
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down February 20, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Thanks Lori!!

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Sam of TipsOfTheScale.com February 20, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Well said. The mental aspect is, in my opinion, the maker & breaker of all things weight-related.

Happy to see you sharing your learnings and paying it forward. Keep up the great work here!
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down February 20, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Thanks Sam!

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jennP February 20, 2014 at 6:17 pm

awesome post. speaks to me VERY clearly. I am really glad you are back posting regularly and I felt something was missing from my day when you were on a break!! 🙂

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Jenny February 20, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Thanks for your honesty and transparency. As someone who has lost and regained weight many times, it’s helpful to see your evaluation of the contributing issues. It is really nice to know that I am not the only one struggling, and for you to offer some perspective at a time that I don’t have any. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Nicola February 21, 2014 at 3:12 am

Fantastic post, Holly. Thank you as always for your honesty and your wisdom. Reading your blog always makes me feel better because it reminds me that I’m not alone. You CAN do this, just as we all can if we put our minds and hearts into it 🙂

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Dagny Kight February 21, 2014 at 4:29 am

While I think you make some very valid points, I think you’re not being totally fair with yourself because you ignore a MAJOR factor. Your body has been through the wringer. You’ve forced it to reach a state you never would have reached without surgery. Research has shown that the bodies of people who lose significant amounts of weight are different from the bodies of people who have maintained a consistent weight. Your body was never going to go where you took it and it’s going to fight you back!! You are going to spend the rest of your life keeping weight gain at bay! That fat REALLY wants to come back!

You’ve also pursued physical activity very seriously. Good lord, girl, you do CROSSFIT! You’re not messin’ around! Your body adapts to exercise. It becomes more difficult to keep advancing. Work hard enough and you can reach a point where you “max out” at a level of conditioning that would require more work and effort than you might want to expend to surpass.

Your body has been through something unique. In some ways it’s almost been a kind of protracted physical trauma that necessitates a recovery period. Almost everyone hits this time when you feel so close and then everything seems to stop and try to reverse. Some people decide to maintain at this point. Regroup in whatever ways you choose but do acknowledge how dramatically you’ve already changed and what that really means in a larger perspective.
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MissyGirl February 21, 2014 at 11:32 pm

I was referred to your blog by a friend and I am so glad she did. I have lost 240 pounds and have a panniculectomy scheduled for the 7th of March. I am so scared that something is going to happen that will prevent me from having the procedure. My worst nightmare happened yesterday with the surgeon’s nurse called me to tell me that the EKG revealed an abnormal heart rythem. I have an appointment on the 4th of March with a cardiologist. I am soooo scared they are going to say I cannot have the surgery.

I would love it if there was someone out there that would pray for me and that this would work out.

*sigh*

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PaulaMP February 23, 2014 at 4:48 pm

I will pray you can have your surgery. Good luck!

PaulaMP

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Lynne February 22, 2014 at 9:48 pm

Thanks so much for this blog and all of your others. You articulate my feelings and experiences so well. I’m struggling right now – have been since mid-December- and every day it continues, I feel worse and worse about it. I have not lost a significant amount of weight, but was steadily making slow progress last year. I felt good and positive and then it just evaporated. I wish I could say it was because I went to some fabulous holiday parties and family celebrations, but that’s not the case. I just stopped and then the spiral of anxiety and loathing and binging began. Oh, I know there are reasons, just not any that are very exciting or interesting. Anyway, I’m going on and on, when all I wanted to do was say ‘thank you’. So, thanks! and Peace.

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Kristi February 22, 2014 at 10:26 pm

I have a question. Did going back to work help or hurt your path? I work part time and have to be very structured during my three days and usually eat very well and even make time to exercise. When I’m off, I graze and don’t make time to exercise. I have the opportunity to go to work full time but I’m worried I will be so busy all week that I will start stopping by fast food and so tired I won’t exercise. I wanted to get your imput since ur days have changed dramatically in the last few months. Thanks

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Donna February 23, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Holly, This is the very best post I have read in a long time! It is so honest and really makes me evaluate myself. Thank you.

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MichaelKing February 23, 2014 at 8:58 pm

You meant “30 MINUTES of exercise per day,” not “30 seconds,” yes? Proofreader by trade…

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down February 23, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Nope!! I meant 30 seconds at a time. That’s how I recommend people who have a hard time exercising start out their journey to weight loss because that is what worked for me. I started with just 30 seconds at a time and built up from there. My brother also started with 30 seconds and now he is a personal trainer and runs marathons!

http://www.300poundsdown.com/2012/03/fitness-friday.html
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Anna February 25, 2014 at 12:14 am

Fantastic post! Really, there’s a book in here. Keep writing. I’m on 12 hours of the sugar free plan with the Atkins shakes, praying, praying, praying to get back on track. Setting the timer for 2 hours, having a shake and moving on with my day. Blessings to you.

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Leah February 25, 2014 at 7:15 pm

I’ve said this many times. You are truly an inspiration. I have now started the herbalife again. But this time I am doing the program and I have a coach who is also my chiropractor. And she believes in me until and even after I learn to believe in myself. (She doesn’t push me to buy products). But she will push me to be my best self. Letting my guard down and excuses has always been where I fail. That’s done. I have addictive issues so I pass one addiction to the next. I am now “passing” that addictive behavior on to being healthy and being my most aunthetic self. Staying focused and learning how to believe in myself. Thank you again for your words.

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Faye February 28, 2014 at 7:16 am

Holly,
I’ve been following your blog for over a year and almost every post I’ve read has grabbed something deep in me and said pay attention. I see what you’ve gone through and I ask myself at 24 with 90-100lbs to go how is it that I’ve thrown in a towel? How is it that I’ve decided that living is too hard even before I had a chance to live? You are such an inspiration and speak such brutally honest but compassionate truth. At the end of the day, I truly believe that everything starts with prayer but I haven’t been doing that. I like the idea of making a prayer even before my feet hit the floor.
Thank you now and forever for all the advice, love, commiseration and hope that fills your blog.

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Andrea February 28, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Thank you for writing. I am at the beginning of my journey, weighing over 400 pounds at this point. Last year I lost 75 and gained quite a bit back. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually it takes so much effort besides the food and exercise. I am trusting that with the Lord nothing is impossible. This is my first time reading your blog but I will be checking back in.

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AngelinaMonroe March 1, 2014 at 6:16 am

Great job !, many people start with start with excitement in middle they give up, they won’t realize…but you simple pushing back your self to work…continue it…….. Never Give up…….
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robin March 1, 2014 at 11:03 am

Ok great post but its ben 10 days where are you????????

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