Last week I leaped into The Mush.
It was unintentional.
In truth, it was the opposite outcome from what I was seeking at the beginning of the week.
I started last Monday down another .8 lbs and with the intention of writing a blog post about a pound being a pound and how it was progress however slow and insignificant it felt, it was still progress. I was fired up and ready write. I also had an appointment with a behavior analyst (BA) scheduled on Friday to discuss why I continually sabotage my weight loss goals. We would identify the trouble behaviors and create a plan to retrain myself on how to deal with them.
I was ready. Ready to take control of my bad eating habits and delve into changing those crazy behaviors so I could finally reach my weight loss goals. So I could finally start looking and feeling the part of the fitness professional I purport to be. This, this was going to be the fix and I was ready.
I show up, goals in hand:
Goal Weight: 125lbs
Goal Body Fat: 25%
Goal Nutrition Plan: 1100 total daily calories, macros in place (macros= macronutrients or the amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat that make up your calories) one cheat meal a week.
We don’t get far.
BA: 1100 calories a day?
BA: That’s net?
EB: No, gross.
BA: Yeah, it’s gross. (She’s a funny one)
Isn’t that a little….low?
EB: It seemed low to me too, but my nutrition chick gave me the plan and it’s not like the pounds are just falling off me so…
BA: Huh. Ok. So what are you having trouble with? What do you want to change?
EB: When I have down time, I sit in front of the TV and binge eat.
BA: What do you mean, “Binge eat?”
EB: I mean, I pop an entire bag of popcorn, put butter on it, and eat the whole thing.
BA: Oh my God. The WHOLE THING? (rolls eyes)
I get it. I do. I get that eating a bag of popcorn with butter is not actually binge eating. Eating a bag of popcorn with butter, a half gallon of ice cream and a large pizza with The Works? THAT is binge eating. But when you’re only “allowed” 1100 calories a day, a bag of popcorn is a binge and that was her point. It shouldn’t be like that.
We went on to discuss the possibility that the behavior I should be trying to improve is really my relationship to food. How I view it. How I am around it. How I can learn to eat “normally.”
Which is terrifying.
EB: What do you mean I shouldn’t log my food?
BA: Does the everyday person with a healthy relationship with food log every calorie?
EB: Then how am I going to reach my goals?
BA: You just agreed your goals might not be the healthiest for you – mentally, emotionally….even physically.
The bottom line was this:
I’m not sabotaging my weight loss goals. I’m sabotaging my well being. Mentally and physically. Every time I starve my body to make up for that “crazy binge eating” or worse…what good am I doing? I’ve never been 125lbs. Maybe, just maybe, this is the Big Guy’s way of telling me I’m not supposed to be. Or at least that I’m not supposed to be right now. But even if it’s not Divine Intervention, even if I could conceivably get down to 125 and under 25% body fat, then what? Is 125 the magic number? All the anxiety and paranoia and obsessive thoughts…they’re all going to POOF! disappear and I’ll just all of a sudden be happy with myself?
No. It won’t work that way. I know that. So first, first I have to try to repair my very dysfunctional relationship with food. That’s where The Mush comes in.
The same weekend I met with the BA, I went to a workshop called “Creating an Intentional Year.” Yeah, yeah, I know. Very self-help of me. I was invited by Penny Capps*, massage therapist to the stars…no really…Olympic stars. Look her up, she’s amazing…but I digress… I respect Penny greatly and while I might have seen this and tossed it aside as being a little too hokey for me otherwise, the fact that she was behind it made me sit up and take notice. The workshop was about realizing that we need to know what the bigger vision or goal is so the steps we take to get there are, in fact, connected to the vision. That we are intentional about how we live and the paths we take.
I met one incredibly amazing woman who shared with me her own struggles, similar to mine, and then immediately tried to help me. She put her own stuff aside and shared a little wisdom she had gained throughout life to try to console me. It was a powerful moment for me and a distressing one because it became pretty clear that I distract myself with other people’s problems/goals/issues so I don’t have to deal with my own. I knew in that moment that I can’t ignore them anymore. If I want to be a healthy, fit, strong role model for others, I was going to have to get to the bottom of all this “food angst” and maybe more importantly, my focus needed to shift from hot body to whole me – spirit, mind and body.
As we wrapped up that day, the facilitator was talking about how change happens in stages for most. Someone brought up the example of the butterfly.** We all get it – the butterfly starts out as a caterpillar and then yadda yadda in the cocoon and struggles and comes out a beautiful (and/or terrifying) butterfly. But this woman called it “The Mush.” The time when you are IN the work. You are in that hazy, scary, at times excruciatingly uncomfortable place where you can no longer live with the deny deny deny strategy, but you haven’t come to clarity yet. The journey ahead seems like it might be interminable.
You are in The Mush. The bog. The trenches. Every step forward takes extreme effort and commitment. Mostly (at least for me) to keep from running, sprinting, clawing my way back to denial (it’s so much easier there!), but of course, to keep moving – intentionally – towards the goal.
That woman I met? She said to me, “I just met you, (and this is crazy…) but I am willing to bet there is a tape running in your head with some pretty negative things on it. My advice? Change the tape.”
Even as I type it, it takes my breath away. It is so simple and yet so…profound.
Change the tape.
And so I am trying to do just that. My new tape goes like this, “Accept and Respect.” It is not a perfect tape. It skips, it malfunctions, it reverts back to the old tape all the time. But…it exists. And that is my first giant, terrifying step into The Mush.
This is maybe a bigger window into my brain than some of you wanted. I hesitated to post this because as a personal trainer and group ex instructor, people look to you for the ideals on health and wellness and I wasn’t sure if A. I wanted to be seen otherwise, and B. If it would be detrimental to my members’ motivation. But in the end, obviously I made the choice to share and I hope that some take solace in knowing that other people struggle and some find motivation to address those scary things that hold them back from being the Whole You. Today could be Day 1, right? Jump into The Mush. I’d love the company 🙂
**I started to write about thebutterfly and the cocoon and the larvae and realized I really had no idea what the butterfly was called in the cocoon or if larvae was even something to do with a butterfly so I asked Colleen Barry, who, if you didn’t know, is (irrationally some might say) scared of butterflies which makes perfect sense since she isn’t afraid of climbing in a ring and getting punched in the face (um, she boxes – like, for real), about what a butterfly is called inside the cocoon cuz, you know, she’s smart and hates butterflies so maybe she knows, right? Her answer? “Egg babies.” Boom.