Monday, March 18, 2013

Diagnosis: Perfection Infection

The simple joys in my life. A comfy chair. A warm cup of coffee with cream and sugar. A good book.


Sometimes I read a non-fiction book that completely rocks my world. In the past month I've read three: No More Perfect Moms by Jill Savage, How Am I Smart by Dr. Kathy Koch, and Intuitive Eating. This past weekend I had the opportunity to hear both Jill Savage and Dr. Kathy speak at the Hearts at Home National Conference. As much as I was blown away by the content of their books, I was even more so convicted and comforted by their presentations at the conference. Today I'm going to reflect on Jill's presentation "No More Perfect Moms."

Jill's message: there are no perfect moms, and we need allow to ourselves and others the space to make mistakes. Jill calls that angst we feel as part of our desire to be perfect "perfection infection"...and boy oh boy have I had that. The feeling that my house, marriage, children, career, and body all need to be perfect. And rather than motivating me to become a better person it makes me anxious, sad, and always inadequate. You don't have to be a mom to feel the negative effects of perfection infection. Everyone has areas of their life that they feel the unnecessary pressure to be perfect, whether it be from your own mind or from family, workplace, or other social groups.

In the season of motherhood, perfection infection often starts with the minute we find out we are carrying or make the decision to adopt. What is the BEST way to feed our child? Diaper our child? Set a sleep schedule (or let the child chose their own)? And somewhere along the way we find that we've not only been trying to find what is best for our own household, but we start judging others if their decision differs from our own.

And we need to stop it.

We need to stop having unrealistic expectations on our marriages, children, careers, homes, and most of all on ourselves. We are not a failure if the house is less than clean or if our children misbehave in public.  Perfection infection at times has kept me from inviting others over to my house because I was afraid of what they would think of the mess or the imperfect d├ęcor. I’ve held back from introducing myself to others out of fear of what they would think of how I looked. I’ve spent way too much time and energy worrying that others wouldn’t like me because of my size. I’ve spent money I didn’t have to buy things I didn’t need to impress people I don’t even know. I’ve unfairly chastised my children in public for misbehaving when their only crime was being a kid.

And I want to stop. I want to embrace the perfect imperfection  in my life. I don’t want my tombstone to say “She had an immaculate house, a great figure, a perfect marriage, and well behaved kids.” My desire is that at the end of my life others would be able to say that I was welcoming, gracious, compassionate, and authentic. And that starts today. And tomorrow. And the next day. Because invariably I will fail at trying to let go of my infection perfection.

How about you? How is perfection infection holding you back from what you really want to be?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Time for a breakup?

For years I have felt like I have multiple personalities with food. One day I'm completely all about eating healthy, losing or maintaining a "healthy weight", and all things popular in the diet and fitness world. The next day I just want to accept who I am and not be consumed by the scale or my food log. If you go back to the beginning of my blog I was writing about how I was so done with all things diet and the scale...then the next month I started a restrictive weight loss program that gave me results.  Most of my life I've been an emotional overeater. I would inhale food and be completely oblivious. My time would then be littered with small, unsuccessful bouts at weight loss (at least in the long term). Then the past year and a half I was successful at losing weight through a restrictive plan.

Since November of 2011 I have been completely ruled by the scale...and I'm realizing it hasn't been doing good things for my mental health. My sister sent me an article about intuitive eating. At first I was a skeptic.... I thought (and still worry) that there's no way I could tap into my natural hunger cues. But the more I've been reading and doing my own research it started to make sense. And here is what I asked myself last night that made me finally put away the scale (at least for now):

If I could develop a healthy relationship with food where it was neither my comforter nor my enemy, if I could restore a little joy in my life by not obsessing about food or weight, would it be worth it? If never lose another pound or (gulp) maybe even gain some weight (or have to buy a larger size), would my mental health be better by not being on the constant roller coaster of deciding how my day is going to do based on the scale? And can I ever get back to the joy of just working out for the mental and physical benefits I feel and not out of guilt motivated by weight loss?

This is my hope.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Intuitive eating???

So I've been struggling with the few pounds I gained in the process of moving and holidays and just generally eating more and exercising less. As much as I say the scale doesn't matter I have been letting it rule my mornings. Like this morning at 4am after helping my son get re-settled in bed I decided to step on the scale and it was up. UP? I've been diligently not having sweets (by diligently I mean 3 days) and a few other restrictive rules I've put on myself to try and get back to where I felt I was healthier. I was ready at that moment to lace up my shoes and go for a run. I didn't. I know the slippery slope of exercising out of guilt and that's not the relationship I want to have with my running shoes. I keep thinking one of these days in a dramatic episode with my scale I'll open our second story window and chuck the scale.

But I probably won't. I'd have to clean up the pieces. And probably end up buying a new scale.

Weight loss is hard. Maintaining weight loss is hard. Statistically, only about 5% of people who lose weight are able to maintain it. That's why most of my life I've been so anti-diet industry until I actually lost, and now I feel like I'm sucked into this vortex of always looking for THE PLAN that is going to help me lose or maintain. It is an endless, mindboggling, futile game. I'm trying hard not to engage.

Yesterday my sister sent me an article on intuitive eating, so of course I've now spent lots of time researching that rabbit trail. I rely both on people's personal experiences as well as actual research. Intuitive eating doesn't promise weight loss, but a healthy, non-restrictive approach to eating. There are several approaches similar to intuitive eating (mindful eating, healthy at any size, and several others) that use the idea of body acceptance, non-restrictive eating, exercising for other benefits (not weight loss), and relying on internal cues to note hunger and satiety.

It sounds so good. I want to have a healthy relationship with food. I haven't ever had that. Most of my life food was a source of comfort, friendship, and a way to deal with hurt feelings. I would indulge in soda, candy, massive amounts of pasta, ice cream, burritos, all without a bit of guilt. I was eating them for all the wrong reasons, but I didn't have the burden of regret. Now the pendulum swings the other way, where almost any slight overeating comes with regret. Especially when the scale tells on me.

So do I think it would work for me? As a weight loss aid, probably not. The article I first read was touting it as a weight loss method, but most research shows there to be no weight loss benefit. For me personally, I think deep down I still harbor that unhealthy desire to fill disappointment with a Snickers or three. And our society is filled with propaganda from the food and beverage companies to override our innate ability to know when to eat or when we are full. (Hello advertising!)

But I'm going to do more reading. I want to have a healthy relationship with food...one where I don't compulsively overeat out of my emotions but I also don't beat myself up emotionally for enjoying a meal out with friends.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Can't change my genes, so I need to change the jeans...

"Do jeans shrink after having them a while?"

That's the text I sent to my sister yesterday. I had to wiggle myself into a pair of previously great-ish fitting jeans. It had to be my dryer. It just had to be.

Or the few pounds I've gained that seem to want to bring their friends along to the party.

It's also the style of the jeans. They are a lower rise cut than what this body should be wearing. My genes pretty much allow me to lose (and gain) weight pretty proportionately, but after having been overweight most of my life and having two kids, the belly area just needs to have a little extra support. And the low rise jeans don't do it. When I was at my slimmest I could get away with it if I was wearing a cami to prevent anyone from getting a flash my lower tummy. I knew they weren't the best cut for me, but I got them for 70% off and they were trendy and cute...something I'd never experienced in a jean.

Now that I'm struggling a bit with some old eating habits the jeans have become a bit unflattering...or to put it better when I'm wearing them I'm sporting a huge muffin top. And then it makes everything look worse. I tried to put them on again today. I felt so self conscious and thought my shirt looked awful, too. I started feeling completely down on myself which then makes everything worse. The house feels like more of a mess than it is. One day without a workout feels like a year of sitting on the couch. Every shortcoming I have magnifies in my mind.

I didn't want to change the jeans or admit that they weren't a good fit for my body. It would feel like I was giving up.

But I did it. I changed out of the cute, trendy jeans into a more flattering pair. A pair that did a better job of masking my perfect imperfections. Those jeans, too, were flattering, but a better cut for my body. I kid you not, suddenly the shirt that had just moments ago that I thought looked awful looked much nicer when I was wearing jeans that fit the right way. I wasn't nearly so discouraged about my other shortcoming. Rather than feeling overwhelmed and dejected I had hope. All because I changed my jeans.

How many times do we feel bad about ourselves because of how a piece of clothing looks? We rarely think "that's a bad cut for my body", we think "my body is bad for that cut." We place the emphasis on our own imperfections, which for most of us discourages us even further. We get to the point of thinking "why even try to improve my health?" That's the point I was at because of my jeans. A lousy pair of jeans. I was really going to let THAT determine my worth?