Shame monsters

I didn’t intend to take a little summer hiatus, but I guess that’s what happened, regardless of intentions. If I’m being truthful, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be here, but rather my words failed me. I sat down, waggled my fingers in an authorly manner to warm them up, hovered over the keyboard and … nothing.

I had no words.

(don’t look so shocked)

And, I’m still kind of muddling around here — writing about not being able to write — but I’m determined to make another start.

So, what’s been wrong?

This summer has been a little like an incubator for my brain and I’ve been noodling around thoughts and plans of the future. Things as close as the Utah trip that’s coming up in less than a month (yay! ack!) and as far out as doing a through-hike of the Colorado Trail once I retire — not to mention all the fun adventures in between the two. And as I start thinking about these trips that stoke my passion, I can’t help but think about the practical stuff, too (it’s how I’m built (thanks Mom and Dad)).

On that practical note, I’ll say that very few of the items on my list involve sitting in front of a computer (except for writing, of course — don’t worry, I’m not leaving y’all) and instead involve gallivanting of one sort or another, mostly in the mountains. Which means this girl has to get in shape (because in case you didn’t know, gallivanting is a high-cardio activity, when done right)!

And here’s where my frustration level starts to betray me: for the past few months, I’ve been busting my butt to work out regularly. Am I training as much as I did when I was heavy into triathlons and running? No, but frankly, I couldn’t do that right now even if I wanted to (you might not believe it, but I’m not the spring chicken I used to be). But I am doing something most every day — strength training three times a week, stairs twice a week, other cardio the other days. Since May when I started tracking, there have only been 13 days when I haven’t done something active.

I’ve even brought calorie counting back into the mix, understanding that weight isn’t lost by exercise alone. And you know what? Even MyFitnessPal high-fives my consistent calorie deficit and remarks about how much weight I should be losing based on my numbers. MyFitnessPal is encouraging like that.

Does this have any impact when I step on the scale or pull out the tape measure? Nope. I have been gaining and losing the same damn 3 pounds for almost a year now. And just so you know it isn’t all about the number on the scale, I’m also not losing inches, nor do my workouts seem to be getting noticeably easier.

The voice in my brain tells me: “you’re too old, you can’t lose weight anymore, much less get in shape.” Or sometimes it’s, “you’re not trying hard enough” or “you can’t even do this right”. Those voices? They’re kind of mean and pissy and I usually know that they are less than honest, but there are days when it’s tough not to listen. I’m looking for something to blame and those voices have ready answers, whether or not those answers are truths.

I just want a reason why I can’t seem to make this work. Something rational so that I can grab it with both hands, study it and fix it. Because this situation? I just don’t get it. I’m doing the work and getting no results. My toddler brain is screaming, “NOT FAIR!!!!” and the rest of me is starting to feel like it really is just me not doing it right.

And maybe this is why I’ve been so mute this summer: I haven’t wanted to talk about this (who wants to hear someone complain about being fat?). The problem is that it’s kind of taken over most of my brain space, looking at all sorts of number (miles, calories, grams of protein and carbs and fat, pounds, inches) and tweaking everything tweakable in an attempt to make some progress. And what exactly has this brought me? A nice heaping portion of shame because I seem unable to get this done.

See, for about 9 months, I tried-not-tried to lose weight. I was mindful of my eating habits, I tried to get out walking most days and felt like I was doing at least okay. And there was a comfort in the not-really-trying because then there was no failure. And because my weight remained absolutely stable for those 9 months, I figured I needed just a touch more mindfulness to start seeing real results.

So, about 3 months ago, with the Utah hiking trip on the horizon, I decided to actively try to lose weight — going into this trip, I knew I was the weak link, so to speak — the one in the group that would hold up the rest of the stellar athletes that I was going with (not that they would ever say or think anything like this — I understand this is all me just overthinking the situation) — and I wanted to mitigate that as much as possible. I knew that my trying-not-trying method was close, but not quite enough, so I’d just buckle down, work my butt off and calorie count and that would be the answer. Hard work and nutrition tracking had never failed me.

Except this time.

Here I am in much the same situation as I was 3 months ago. And the voices — the shame — how can I claim to want to do audacious stuff like through-hike the Colorado Trail when I can’t make it up a flight of stairs without my heart racing? Putting my heart into trying to get in shape and lose weight and failing to do so gave those inner voices the material they needed to rip me apart and bring on the shame monsters.

One of my favorite authors, Dr. Brene Brown, says this about shame:

“Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives:  secrecy, silence and judgment.”

So, I’m hoping to thrust all of shame monsters into the withering light of day so they can die a horrible death.

And I’ll be happy to see them die, despite being the peace-loving person I am.

I’m here. I’m working hard. I make small changes here and there, hoping to spark progress. I’m working mentally as hard as I am physically, doing what I can to banish the shame and own my story. I’m doing everything within my power to get in shape without succumbing to quick weight loss schemes that will do nothing but cause me to gain the weight back at a later date. I want sustainable weight loss because I want this to be the last time I have to go through this. I want — no, I NEED — a lifetime of health and fitness. And I’m not yet done trying.

20130324-sss-brene-brown-quotes-14-600x411Without having to carry the shame around, I’m hoping to be kinder to myself. I know that I’m not lying when I say I’m doing my best, and my best is all I have to offer. I can try different methods, sort through some other ideas, but without shame, I can look at them all with curiosity, as experiments that either work or don’t, without any judgment. And I’ll do well to remind myself of what my mantra used to be at the tail-end of tough races, when all I wanted to do was slow down because pushing forward was painful:  “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” Same applies here — life isn’t easy and sometimes it takes awhile to make sense of it and move towards what you want. Persistence, an openness towards failure and my best effort is what I’ll put out there — and that will be enough.


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6 comments

  1. Oh, Laura. Thank you for sharing. It’s HARD to write something that doesn’t have a tidy ending, to wrap it up but have no bow for it! I don’t know why you are where you are, but, sister, I’m with you.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story, Laura. I think the wisest words I’ve ever heard regarding weight loss and I wish I could name the source but I think I muddled these words together from several: we don’t lose weight to get healthy, we get healthy so that we can release the weight that isn’t ours to carry. I say, keep doing the things that make you feel wonderful and healthy, vibrant and alive, and see what happens. You are an inspiration to all of us, of that I’m sure! xxoo

  3. Thank you for sharing, Laura! I’m a Brene Brown fan too and shedding light on our frustrations and shame has been a big lesson for me even though it’s not easy. Looking at our challenges with ‘curiosity without any judgements’ sounds like a beautiful way to move forward. I’m going to carry that wisdom with me today. xo

  4. Oh I hear you loud and clear! Sounds like you are doing everything you can. I know the frustration of trying to shed weight and it does not get any easier as we age (I am 52). I hate to use the M word, but could it be menopause related? You sound incredibly active and healthy to be, but I realise that will not be a comfort! X

  5. Wow – you are so brave. Tackling not one, but 2 tough topics in one post: wanting to write but unable to, and unearthing the deeper emotion within the process of weight loss: shame. My favorite line: “So, I’m hoping to thrust all of shame monsters into the withering light of day so they can die a horrible death.” I believe that you have put into words what many women feel – that they are trying their best, but it is not enough. And yet, at the end, you offer yourself exactly what you may need most – self-compassion and openness to trying again.

  6. Hi Laura, I too admire your courage in putting this out there – I also feel /know I am overweight and would like to be healthier, but I am active and enjoy my life to the max, and for me,that is what matters – perhaps my tummy will kind of melt away soon 🙂 Here is to our best efforts ….’ Persistence, an openness towards failure and my best effort is what I’ll put out there — and that will be enough’

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