Is Exercise the secret weapon?

October 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

For me losing weight is so much more of  a mental challenge than a physical one.   Because even though I know what I need to do to lose weight—if I can’t DO IT then it doesn’t matter.  If I am not mentally strong enough to battle my inner demons then I stay defeated.  If the time comes to face a cupcake and I just can’t say no—then I’ll eat it.  Or I’ll want to binge.  And when those thoughts come my way—I have to find a way to overcome them.

I have spent a lot of time in my life sitting in a chair crying over different things.   Crying over my husband leaving.  Crying over my mom dying.  Crying because the washing machine was broken and I didn’t know how I was going to fix it.  I’ve worried about life and fretted about mistakes.  And I’ve drowned sorrows in so many gallons of ice cream they could fill an entire pool with my empty cartons.

So when it came time to face the biggest obstacle of my life—losing 300 pounds—-I knew one thing FOR SURE.  I didn’t have it in me to make it happen.  That is what I believed and that is what I felt.

Because you don’t go for a decade in a body that big if you can do something else about it.

You don’t live every day suffocating under your own weight if you have another choice.

And you don’t let a surgeon cut out 85% of your stomach if you think you are capable of shutting your mouth and controlling your food.

So I knew one thing.  And i knew it deep in my soul.  I could not lose weight.  I had no control.  I had no strength.  And I was going to kill myself with a fork.  A fork and a spoon and as many gallons of ice cream as it took to sink me finally once and for all.

When my brother told me to get out of that hospital bed and try to walk for 30 seconds pushing the IV to the door, I thought he was crazy.  Just standing up was hard.   And it hurt.  But I did it.  And then I walked to the door.  Not long after that– past it.  We walked down the hallway of the hospital.  And when I got home, I tried for the mailbox.  Eventually I made it.  So I started heading for the next one.  Adding mailboxes was hard.  They seemed oceans apart but I kept at it.  Each and every day.

I still cried though.  I cried in the house and out of the house.  I cried walking down the street in flip flops because my feet couldn’t fit in shoes.  I cried wearing a giant dress because that was all I could fit in. I cried because I thought I would die of a heart attack if I didn’t get back to the chair.  I especially cried for donuts and ice cream and all the food I wanted to eat but couldn’t have. My back hurt.  My feet hurt.  And my skin hurt where it had been rubbed raw.   Every day I covered my body in ice packs when I got home and then rolled myself in baby powder trying to put out the fire.   I felt stupid trying to walk around the block in public.   I felt stupid crying and gasping for air.    I felt stupid when someone pulled over their car because my face was so red they thought I was going to die. And I felt especially stupid when that guy in the truck yelled at me to go back in the house because I was too fat to be outside.

But it was through all of that… during  THOSE exact moments….that I learned not to quit.

Sure,  I was getting more mobile.  I was burning calories.  I was finally being able to walk further distances.

But that is NOT why exercise helped me to lose weight.

It helped me because through the frustration and the tears, I started to believe in myself again.  Decades had gone by with no hope. I had accepted the fact that my life was limited and it always would be.  That I would never break free.  But somehow in the first 30 seconds that it took to stand up and walk in place—I learned something.  I learned that no matter how hard it was—if I started small and didn’t give up—I could actually accomplish something.  And if I added a little more each day and did not give up—I could accomplish even more.

I may have felt stupid and scared and totally unsure about any of it.  But I did it anyway.   I prayed and I cried and I’m pretty sure I cussed.  But what I did not do is quit.  And every time I made it back home without having passed out, died,  or called one of the children to come get me—I felt stronger.

It didn’t seem like starting with 30 seconds would work but it did. Because even though it was small—it was HARD.  At 417 pounds with swollen feet and a broken spirit, IT WAS HARD. And while I couldn’t do something that hard for 30 minutes, I could do something that hard for 30 seconds.  Once I understood that, I started to become a believer.  Because maybe I could have done more than 30 seconds in the beginning.  But I didn’t think I could.  I had to LEARN that.  I had to develop that faith that my body could change.  That I could change.  I was so mentally defeated that I needed proof that it was possible.  Every time I added 30 seconds or a mailbox to my outside walk I found that proof.  Every time I made it to the house and SURVIVED—-it was proof.  Proof that I could change things.  That I did not have to accept my fate and die in the prison my body had become.

Exercise was making me a stronger person in my MIND

Every day that I accomplished my goal, I grew more confident that I could do it again the next day. Every time the voice in my head told me it was impossible, I shot it down by walking to that next mailbox.  “TAKE THAT!“, I’d say and celebrated every small victory.

Every single day— no matter what— I accomplished my goal of walking.   Even if I screwed up my food.  Even if I spent the rest of the day in tears–I had at least done THAT.   And that meant there was hope. That I had something in me that WAS capable.  That I COULD do hard things.  And once that idea got into my mind, it started to spread.  Like a really good infection.  Suddenly facing a cupcake was less daunting.  Facing my emotions without eating them a little bit easier.  And why?  Because I wasn’t so weak after all.  I had gotten up at 5 am and walked rain or shine.   And every day I did just a little bit more.  That was proof that the voices in my head were wrong.

I COULD CHANGE.

I WASN’T WEAK

AND I WOULD SURVIVE

That’s when everything else got easier.

It may look like the workout is where the battle takes place but it’s not.  Not for me.  My mind is the real battlefield.  That’s where I win or lose. Because I can know everything I need to do but if I can’t make myself do it—then what’s the point? Yes, exercise burns calories.  It helps you lose weight.  But that is NOT why exercise was so important to my success in losing 240 pounds.  Exercise was critical because it helped me work out my lack of confidence in myself.  It gave me a chance every day to prove that I could handle tough things.  That I could get up that hill.  That I could make it to that next house.  That I didn’t have to be weak anymore.

But now I’m stuck.  Because I lost 240 pounds and then I gained back 60.   Then I lost 10 but gained them back.  Until I lost them again. You see, I’m trapped. I’m trapped in a cycle of losing and gaining the same 10 pounds every single month for the past 5 months and it’s infuriating.  I keep trying to figure out what my problem is but I’m just in this ridiculous loop.  Then a few days ago it dawned on me.  I had this major epiphany! This A-HA moment!  And it happened just like this—-

I walked outside on the deck and there was some morning dew making my patio furniture a little too damp to sit in.  Immediately, I determined that I couldn’t go walking outside that day.  Because there was dew on the cushions. And THAT is where my mind is these days.   It’s like over time—I just let go.  I lost my drive.  My determination.  I lost sight of my dreams.  And I stopped pushing myself.  I got tired of the fight and decided to coast.

It’s hard to lose 300 pounds.  REALLY HARD.  Because sometimes it just gets old.  It’s like going on the longest car trip of your life.  You keep hoping you’ll get there but you never do.  So you stop at some rest stop on the highway and think—this is good enough.  Maybe I’ll just camp here.  Maybe this is where I’ll live.  The journey is too far.  Maybe “good enough” will be my destination.

I stopped getting out that door every morning.  I started making excuses.  I wasn’t even willing to do 30 seconds anymore.  Not even one mailbox.  I’d had enough!!! I was DONE.  And I might even have been happy if I could have stayed at that weight.  But it doesn’t work that way for me.  Because this problem I have can’t be solved with coasting.  It’s always progressing.  Further or backwards.  Take your pick.

So I picked backwards and regained 60 pounds.  And when I tried to get back some control, I couldn’t do it.  My resolve was gone.  My faith had diminished.  And I no longer believed I had it in me to win the fight.  The less I did, the less I believed I could do.  The longer that time passed the harder it was to remember what I had accomplished.

I’m just weak....I said to myself

And we’re back to that.  To unbelief and doubt.  To always feeling defeated.  The confidence that exercise gave me was gone because I had stopped working out.  I thought I could lose weight without it.  And  maybe technically I could.  I have lost weight without exercising at all.  But the longer time goes on, the less determined I feel. You see, it’s harder for me to stick to anything without the exercise.  Because working out every day had made my mind strong.  It had made me more determined.

Forcing myself to do something hard every morning before I faced the day….

That was the key.  

Without it—I got lost.

I was never athletic growing up.  I always failed the physical fitness test.  I threw up when they made me run the 600 yard dash—every single year.  That first year, I was in the 3rd grade.  I didn’t know any better so I sprinted from the start.  And then I threw up.  The next year I was scared it would happen again.

So it did.

That’s when I decided I just couldn’t do it. That I was incapable of running.  That my body just couldn’t handle it.  After that, I would throw up the minute the whistle was blown.  Even standing behind the start line.   It got to be a tradition at my school.  Me throwing up every year.   One of my old classmates found me on Facebook a few years ago.  The first thing she said was, “Weren’t you the girl who threw up every year at the 600 yard dash?”  Yep. That’s me.

Because I’m just weak.  I can’t handle things.  I’m fragile.  So don’t push me too hard.

Those thoughts are part of my make up.  They are deep in my core.  And even after losing 240 pounds and doing Crossfit at one point, I still tend to believe that.  It’s as if some beliefs never die.  They just lie dormant waiting for the right moment to reattach themselves.  Waiting for the open door to creep back in.

So when I tried getting back on track, I didn’t want to include exercise.  Because I don’t want to be uncomfortable.  Push myself.  Breathe hard.  Feel the burn.  I thought going for a leisurely walk might be enough.  Maybe doing my workout videos that I’m used to would work.  But now I wake up to morning dew and I’m back in bed.

Oh there’s dew on the chairs?  Too much for me!”  And I’m defeated.  Where did that other woman go? The one who was 417 pounds and refusing to give up.  The one who got out there rain or shine.   Who didn’t even quit when humiliated by the jeers of a passing trucker.  That woman was fierce! Even in her size 38 dress and flip flops.  She might have been scared but she still went for it.  And that’s who I need to be again.

Because this woman is weak and defeated and lost and confused.  

And I’m tired of her.

So I’m going back to the beginning.  Back then it was 30 seconds.  Today it’s half a mile.  I make myself run up the hill at one point.  That’s the hard part.  I know I can do more.  But my MIND doesn’t think so.  If it did, I would do it.  And I would do it every day.  But the girl I am today gets scared off by some dew on seat cushions.  And then she’s right back under the covers.  So I’m going back to what works.  Small steps every day.  Small steps consistently over time.  Rain or shine.  No excuses.  Adding a little bit more each day.

4 days ago, I walked half a mile at 5 am.  Just me and the moon.

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Every day, I’ve done it since.  When I get to 7 days, I’ll add more.  Until I finally train myself once again that there can be no excuses.  That morning dew can’t scare you away.  Half a mile isn’t much.  Bu it’s so small that I’ll do it.  It’s so little that I won’t quit.  And every day I’ll get stronger.

Mentally Stronger

Because  I’m tired of feeling weak and fragile and unable to handle what comes my way.  I’m sick of feeling like I can’t win this fight.

This morning, my phone was dead.  So I wasn’t going to be able to listen to music.  Right away, I wanted to not go.  But since it was only half a mile I still did it.  But THAT’S where my WILLINGNESS is right now.  Half a mile is all I’m willing to do.  Running up that one hill is all I’m willing to do.  It’s embarrassing to admit that but there it is.  Doing 2 or 3 miles in random spurts isn’t a problem for me.  I can even do 5 miles if I get inspired.  But I’m not willing to do it daily.  I might feel motivated the night before but when the alarm goes off—I don’t do it.

It’s what I’m willing to do DAILY that’s the problem.  And consistency is the key.  That’s where real growth happens.  And that’s why I’m starting with what I’ll do.  What I know I will do EVERY SINGLE DAY.  And making sure part of it is hard.  Like that hill.  It’s not fun.  It’s a few minutes of pain but I’m doing it.  And I know my willingness will grow.  My determination will increase.  My motivation will improve.  As long as I do it every day without fail.  If I keep training myself mentally to not quit no matter what.   To do that half mile and run up that hill every single day rain or shine no matter what.   Before long, what I believe about myself will change.  I’ll remember once again that I don’t have to be weak.

For the past 4 days, I’ve done this.  And my food has been better than ever.  Not as much of a struggle.  Self control is returning.

SO I WILL WIN

I will lose this 300 pounds.  But first, I must get stronger in my mind.  I have to believe again.

Once upon a time, exercise helped me conquer those fears.   And I believe that it can again.

Who’s with me?

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle Liggett October 11, 2014 at 10:34 pm

Such truth, Holly. This whole weight loss thing is totally a mental game. I get so frustrated with myself when I want to do so good, but I eat one wrong thing and it all falls apart. I haven’t even attempted the exercise thing yet. I live in fear, fear that if I go for a walk I will die of heart attack, or that someone will drive by and throw my girls and I in the back of a van. Crazy, mental stuff. Sounds almost comical as I sit here and write it. I never voice it out loud, but its in my head. If only those demons would disappear. Its crazy too because when I am eating well, I feel like a million bucks. Thanks for sharing with us. Thankful that I am not the only one who struggles like this.

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Pam October 11, 2014 at 10:54 pm

I’m with you Holly. Every time I feel like not going out for my walk I will read this and maybe it will help get me off my butt. Thanks and Good Luck to all of us in this battle!

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Rhonda W October 13, 2014 at 1:47 am

Pam – How did you get an image in your little box? I can’t seem to figure that out!

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Kiera October 12, 2014 at 1:11 am

Eat your frog first, this post is such a great reminder. Happy Canadian thanksgiving weekend. 🙂

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Startingoveragain October 12, 2014 at 3:25 am

I had never heard that expression before-learned something new today.
As far as exercise, I walk usually daily. It is the same distance each time because that is what works for me. In the a.m. If I don’t do it, it tends to throw off my day and sometimes my eating.

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Jo October 12, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Holly, I credit you with getting me outside walking again. I loved the post you did walking outside and it motivated me to do the same. I was out with the moon at 6am and saw the sunrise before I got home, it was beautiful. I tried to talk myself out of it saying it’s too dark, I could get attacked or something but then I just did it. So instead of 20 miserable minutes on the treadmill in the basement I was outside for 40 minutes enjoying the fresh (36 degrees brrr!) air. I kept thinking about you and saying I really must thank Holly. So although I’m a week late – thank you for your encouragement. Your kids were so good on the video, you are blessed to have them to help and encourage you.

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Steph October 13, 2014 at 12:10 am

This was just what I needed to hear right now. I’m on a 30 pound regain from a 115 pound weight loss with the sleeve, careening from binge to binge. After two years of feeling like I was completely in control I somehow managed to convince myself that maybe I was just biologically destined to be fat forever. I used to be a runner, for goodness sake! I need to find that part of myself that was convinced that I could do anything, because this shame spiral I’m in is a horrible place to live.

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Rhonda W October 13, 2014 at 1:44 am

Yes Yes Yes! Exercise is a HUGE key to permanent weight loss. I yo yoed for YEARS and I was an exercise hater. Always did about 20 min.on the elliptical 4 days a week or so but never wanted to do more or try to improve my fitness. Just wanted to be able to function on a normal level at my desk job. When I started going to Weight Watchers (7 years ago next month) I needed to lose 80 pounds. The same 80 I had lost and regained numerous times. What was different for me this last time was I told myself I would give myself 2 years to lose the weight and gain or lose I would go to the meeting and weigh in every week. My thought was 2 years would be sufficient time to build some long term healthy habits. 21 days isn’t long enough for me to build a habit lol. I decided to live my life like I was at goal and asked myself “What would my future self be doing when I was at goal?” Taking a hard look at that told me that I would be exercising daily, going to the gym, participating in events, and being athletic. I would be eating healthy meals and snacks even when I was at a restaurant. I decided to live my life that way and YES.. it worked! Eventually I was at goal and those healthy habits DID take hold. I’m over the moon about this lifestyle change and wished I would have figured it out much much sooner. It was exercise on a daily consistent basis that changed my thinking. It isn’t the calories you burn from exercise, but the strength you gain from doing it consistently that makes all the difference. Keep on keeping on. I’m right there beside you. 🙂

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Anneli October 13, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I love this Rhonda! I need to see the goal is. And I can’t see what wearing a size six or whatever means. It feels imaginary because it IS imaginary. However, eating well and working out is something i can do today AND it’s practicing for what my life will really be like at goal. Is it a life I like? A life I want to sustain? If not, I’d better make some changes, because otherwise, why would I knock myself out to get somewhere I don’t even want to go.?
Congratulations on making goal!!!!
Anneli
Anneli recently posted..A gentle voiceMy Profile

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tb October 13, 2014 at 3:28 am

aw, i just love how you sort all the things out. i wish i were fierce again too like i used to be. i have not gotten older and wiser, I swear i only got older and more foolish. And I was never really young and foolish, I was always kind of wise. But now I just cannot seem to motivate myself. it is terrible. I wish i could be fierce again too. I used to cry everywhere all the time too. Terrible. Even in class and my classmates all knew about it. i was a student then, but i went to school anyways and took notes in class anyways with tears rolling down my face. But for now, let us regain our fierceness again together.

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Natalie October 13, 2014 at 10:29 am

I started back at the gym today! I’m feeling sore right now, but good.

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Keeny October 13, 2014 at 5:28 pm

I just wanted to say thank you for this post Holly. I got back on the treadmill for the first time in probably a year today, and this really really spoke to me, so thank you so incredibly much for posting this!!!

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Tess October 13, 2014 at 6:12 pm

AMEN, SISTER!!!! 🙂

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Shay from Trashy Blog October 13, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Keep on keepin’ on. Keep moving!! You can do it!
Shay from Trashy Blog recently posted..Trashy Shorts: BreakfastMy Profile

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