Steps Forward and Back….the Dance of Depression

When I initially set out to create a habit, I was a bit stubborn, determined and a lot bored. I have so much time on my hands, excessive amounts of obsession and depression that I knew I had to do something or succumb to another black hole. My goal was to see if I could break the behavior in 90-100 days and set myself up for real and lasting change.

The one commitment I started with was to ride the Peloton Bike EVERY day. I was going to make that investment worth it come hell or high water. I also really wanted the Peloton Tread and told myself that wasn’t happening until I could prove to myself I was going to use it consistently . The cost of $$ investment was too high to make a frivolous decision. Based on what I knew about myself, 30 or 60 days wasn’t enough. Nor was a 3/5 day a week commitment. Nope, I was going gangbusters on my own ass.

Shit, if I could obsess over Tony for a year every day I should be able to commit to taking care of myself in a positive way for 100 days. At least, right? And maybe, just maybe, a new obsession could replace the Tony obsession. A new focus. The right kind of focus.

May 11th was 90 days from my start on February 11th.

I did not ride the bike for 6 days in that 90 days. 2 from a hospital stay, 3 from a stomach virus and 1 I have no idea. I did do “something” Peloton related those 6 days, even if that meant a meditation. Those 6 days bug me and piss me off. I should allow some leeway but it only makes me feel I can’t commit to anything sometimes. I am forgiving myself because I did realize this past week, when I had the stomach virus, that my body REALLY needed the rest. When I finally did ride again, I rode stronger. Also, I suddenly started to bleed – now I don’t know if it’s a period or not but it would sure explain the utter exhaustion combined with the stomach bug. I get blood tests next week – I’m at my full 5 month mark since my last infusion. I’m banking on a massive drop in iron because I’m having trouble just getting out of bed and I truly can’t find energy within myself.

Once the activity started I realized I was capable of more.

I am learning that healthy habits are what’s going to get me through life. If I do right by myself every day as a way of life, and I fall off the wagon, it doesn’t matter. One day, one weekend or maybe even a week to allow myself space either physically or mentally isn’t going to make me gain back the 75 pounds I lost. What made me gain over and over and over during the past 18 years was the fact that I allowed myself to keep failing. I did not have a healthy habit I was committed to.

For instance, in the past, one cookie on a Friday would mean I could eat a whole box before Sunday. Mid week I could eat poorly again because I had already eaten the cookies. The behavior was a loop and a very bad one. That’s gone.

Now, I eat a cookie if I want a cookie. I drink. AND I watch what I eat all the times in between that and I feel just fine. Every day doesn’t need to be a food party. I am still learning what my balance is, but now clearly have a better relationship with good and healthy eating and make better choices. Eliminating most carbs has removed the carb cravings. I don’t struggle to avoid foods that are not good for me. I have actually lost the appetite for most of my old fatty food choices. They just no longer appeal to me, as if I have lost the taste of them entirely. I also just make better choices for myself and don’t allow myself to feel penalized when I go off. Now I understand healthy eating habits. I almost don’t know why this felt so hard before (yes, it helps that I can’t eat much in one sitting so making better choices makes sense).

I’m off Keto now because my body wasn’t responding well with all the working out. I needed more protein and carbs. I’m working with the nutritionist to find the right balance for that.

So I’m 90 days in and heading towards that 100. I’m contemplating what happens post 100 and what makes sense for me to maintain once working again. I’m speaking with a nutritionist and many trainers about constructing the best “road ahead” for my goals.

That all sounds good, right?

But, and there’s always a but……There are two immense things I struggle with.

One is “encouraging” self-talk. Being my own cheerleader. Congratulating myself. Egging myself on. Encouraging myself. I don’t know how the people who do this (all over my Facebook and Peloton groups – here on the blog too – Maggie is a master ❤️) do it every single day. Are they for real? How can anyone be so positive and encouraging? Do they have a book of positivity quotes? Do they really wake up and make gratitude lists? I want to learn how to do this as I believe I am mostly a critical person (hello, Virgo trait). Not just do it but BELIEVE in it, drink the koolaid, buy the farm.

I chose one thing to try: every day I post my exercise achievements. I was always annoyed by people who did this so have no idea what prompted me to do so, but it seemed easy enough. An unexpected side effect is a lot of my friends congratulate me and encourage me – and many tell me how I’ve motivated them to start their own journey. Two have even bought a Peloton! I guess I realize that if my exercise posts are annoying they can skip over them, but many seem interested. I never expected anyone to care. People are really happy to share their own fitness journeys and tips as well. I use this for my mental well being – it’s like having cheerleaders. I am my own worst enemy with all the positive self talk – – and I do realize this is what coaches and trainers and support groups are best at – reminding you to do your bets every day! I try so hard to be encouraging for others but find it tedious…I wish I could tap into all that positivity consistently. Maybe I should do a 90 day positive energy journey next? I really feel like this is a key to unlocking something for me. What if I HAD to be grateful, satisfied, and positive for the next 90 days?

I have a few platforms on which I can do this. I can help young women with career roles, I can participate as an admin in a Peloton Facebook group and support others along their journey, I can start a gratitude journal. I will just need a place to vomit after I spend the day smiling and performing – at least in the start. I truly don’t know how people wake up and make a choice to be happy. I listen to these coaching mantras and they make sense – but they don’t make me cry and evaluate my life and affect me the way they do many people I know. Church also doesn’t have that impact on me. I have to figure this piece out – the part of me I want to put into the universe to grow and make better.

The second one is my absolute fear I will give up. Why? Because I have ALWAYS given up in the past. I don’t give up on obsessing over Tony so clearly I can obsess where my brain wants to -but obsessing about my exercise and health? Welp, that’s partially how I ended up in Mexico in the first place. Although I had legitimate reasons this past week for not exercising to my normal capacity, I feel immense guilt and worry that every day I can’t is simply going to lead to another day I don’t want to. I’m worried that if I can’t get my iron for 2 months or so (which is highly likely to happen, thanks insurance) I will allow myself to remain exhausted instead of pushing through. And once I stop for too long, all that hard work disappears.

When your body is depleted it’s so hard to get your mind to work. I’ve been sick and tired for so long, so very long, that the thought still crosses my mind that all this is just too hard, too much work and I’m tired, really tired of trying so hard just to wake up every day. Will positive self-talk change this? Will more exercise? Will better body acceptance? Will falling in love? My kids treating me better? Self-acceptance? When this exhaustion hits, the depression grabs hold of the thought and runs away with it….and that is ALWAYS a fear.

68 Days of Me

68 days of commitment. I have worked out 68 days in a row and committed to improving my health and strength, and hopefully, as a by-product, my flabby hanging skin.

This week has been terrible for me. It’s the first week I just DON’T want to do it. It’s taken me nearly half the day to get off the couch. I even napped one day which I haven’t done in months (I try and avoid naps at all costs as I’m afraid one will lead to many). I found myself not doing anything in the mornings and then getting on a struggle bus to convince myself to do something on the afternoon.

Could it be because my son is on Spring Break and I’m out of the morning routine? Could something collapse so easily? Or is this just my psyche trying to win the war and push me back to lazy?

So far, the urge to shrug it off hasn’t succeeded.

I realize that anything, and I do mean anything, can screw up my day. I am so used to having allllll my time and a little schedule that I can manage. But as soon as you throw in any appointment or conflict, and my brain says: no workout today, woohoo!

But the fact is – I feel better after a workout. I have started running – which I really can’t believe – with a program called None 2 Run. I completed my second week and I actually enjoy it. It’s not easy for me, but I feel really good after my effort. I can only Run 45 seconds at a time right now, over 10-15 intervals, but that’s from nothing. I am thrilled with my progress.

I just wish my brain would stop sabotaging the one good thing I have accomplished for myself in many months. I need to create a pattern that I can find time and energy for a workout even when I’m working, I can’t continue to allow the sabotage to happen so easily. At some point I have to work again and before I do, I want the exercise routine to be ingrained and never to be replaced or erased.

I read the book Ann recommend called The Power of Habit and I notice that all of the health and fitness instructors I follow on social media also tout habit as the cornerstone to any healthy exercise regime. While everyone has different quotes on how long it take for a habit to stick, the book suggests (from their analysis) that its a minimum of 66 days to create a habit and potentially even longer.

I tend to agree with this because, at 68 days in, I THINK of exercise as something I WANT to fit in every day. No day passes without the conscious effort to exercise. However, my brain hasn’t programmed itself to say “this is a requirement, no day SHOULD pass without exercise.” If there is a way I can navigate around exercising, my brain is actively looking for it. For instance, last night I didn’t even start until post 8pm. That’s the latest yet. I was home all day. Just that one slip makes me nervous because it eeks in and then affects me the next day and the next. I still need to work on my self talk.

I want to form this habit. I am privileged that I CAN move the way I can and that I have my health back for the most part. I am getting stronger and I love it. I repeat to myself that it is no longer a negative – I can no longer say “I hate working out” – because that kind of negative self-talk is damaging. I reframe that thought into “I work out to feel good and become stronger.” I have to get the thought solid in my head that when I say “I don’t want to” or “I don’t have time” that I am really saying “I don’t care about myself”.

No one is going to care for me if I don’t start working on improving my physical, mental and emotional self. I need to keep reminding myself of that. I need to stop saying “it’s not important” and always say “I am very important” until it’s not a forced decision. Until it comes naturally to WANT to take care of myself, first. Sitting on the couch being some sort of vegetable isn’t caring for myself.

So, 68 days in, some days come easier than others. Some, like this past week, are still forced out of me. When I really feel like I “can’t” I tell myself just to do a light, active recovery day. If I still feel like I “can’t” after a light active recovery, then I don’t. But honestly, most times I find once I get past the initial hurdle of getting started, the energy comes with the sweat and I can go on to do a decent workout.

I need to set my intention to change. I have thought about making a vision board. I think they are kind of hokey, but I’m willing to give it a try.

68 days more than I’ve ever done before. That’s some accomplishment. I need to keep reminding myself every single day that I’m doing the best thing for myself.