When It's Okay to Quit

I've been thinking a lot lately about discipline, willpower, and failure. 

Recovery from OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder) hasn't taken the path I thought it would.  I'm finding myself getting triggered by stuff not fitting, or fitting differently, pretty much daily.  When I got weighed at the doctor this week, the number was a little upsetting.  All of these triggers were making me feel emotionally beat up, and added up to a lot of fatigue and frustration over the past few weeks.

Simply put: my process wasn't working for me.  If you don't feel good consistently, your process isn't working for you.

That doesn't mean it isn't a good process overall.  In fact, many of the things I list below might work for other people.  But they aren't working for me, and as hard as it is, I need to let go of what doesn't serve me.

So here are the things not working for me:

Refeeding

In a conversation with some of my body-pos besties on Facebook this morning, I remarked that refeeding had more or less failed for me.  Refeeding is a process in ED recovery where you introduce previously off-limit foods as a way of trying to neutralize the extreme evaluation of "good" or "bad" foods, and reestablish good nutrition.

For me, it didn't really work.  Or at least, it hasn't worked yet.  How do I know?  Because for the last month, I've been writing down what I eat in this handy notebook.

Tracking food behaviors.  When It's Okay to Quit - Super Balanced Life.

Tracking food behaviors.  When It's Okay to Quit - Super Balanced Life.

I used to get huge emo hives at the thought of recording my food, but I did it so I could assess my eating patterns.  What I found out is that with no structure, I fall to pieces.  I end up eating way more than I need or even want to.  I swung way into restriction in 2013, and in 2014 I pendulum-ed my way into the other extreme: a place with no guiding principles at all.  Neither extreme is good for me.

Not Being Mindful

Tuning out rather than tuning in has really worked against me, in that it resulted in some crazy avoidant behavior.  I look back at this blog and there's a lot of progress, but there's also a bit of denial about how my eating behavior was affecting me.  I was pretty resistant to following any eating guidelines, I wasn't paying attention to what or how much I was eating, and the last thing I wanted to hear was that in order to make meaningful changes in your life, you really have to show up, pay attention, and do the work over and over again.  Regrettably, I was also jealous of other people who were doing their work and affecting change in their own lives.

Sometimes you really just gotta show up and do the work, whatever the work is.  There's just no avoiding it.

My work is accepting that I can't ever tune out anymore (well, without consequences).  I need to be mindful about my health, how I eat and exercise and sleep, for the rest of my life.  That's especially true now with the high cholesterol diagnosis.  Instead of tuning out, I need to tune in.

And it kind of speaks to a trend about me, if you really know me - projects vs. daily tasks.  I approach most things in my life as projects -- a piece of work with a finite start and end point.  This is great, in that I get a lot of stuff done, but it's bad in one major way: health is not a project.  There is no end to it.

Which leads me to the next, and last thing that wasn't working for me...

Not Goal Setting

I am a person who thrives on having defined goals and tasks and projects.  Accomplishment makes my brain light up.  For the past few months, I've been trying having no goals (didn't work), and having just performance goals (worked, sorta, but my big one -- doing a strict pull-up -- is far enough off that it's not motivating enough near-term).  Thing is, making weight loss or at least weight maintenance not a goal ignored a fundamental need I had: to not feel so damn triggered every day.

As lovely as it would be to be totally fine with my weight going up and finding a profound equanimity about the whole process, I'm just not there yet.  I have an upper limit on what I consider comfortable for my body, and I'm getting damn close to it.  It's worth it to me to not get there.  No one wants to feel uncomfortable or sad in their body all the time.

But then of course there's the push and pull of body acceptance vs. attempted change, right?  So how do I find my way between the two?

The answer I think is in a couple things:

  • I have one big health goal: Make Being a Fit, Well Person Effortless.  This unifies all the tasks I've created to get to that goal and keeps things simple.  If I ever get paralyzed by indecision at crucial moments, I ask myself, "Does this contribute to or take away from my goal of being a fit, well person?"
  • I've set trackable, daily tasks that reinforce the healthy habits needed to make being a fit, well person effortless.  I track them in Habit RPG, which is just nerdy enough to make me happy.
  • I allow myself to do projects only after I have taken care of myself with my healthy daily habits.  The projects are my reward.  This means my priorities are in the right place and I'm not neglecting my health to get a bunch of things done.
  • By turning these fitness tasks into habits, I'm removing a lot of decision fatigue, and that's how the whole thing becomes effortless. 

One of the only things I miss about super restrictive eating was that it didn't cause me a lot of emotional aggro -- things were just off limits, and I didn't second-guess myself all the time.  My new plan allows me to have more flexibility, but cuts back on the emotional see-saw of indecision.  The behavior in question either contributes to my health, or it doesn't -- and I get to decide in that moment if the thing I'm considering is worth the splurge or not. 

It took a lot of thought and courage to get to this place and admit that hey, maybe I do want to lose weight -- just on my terms, in small increments, and slowly.  But I think it's the right choice for me right now. 

I worry what a lot of you might think.  I hope you don't feel betrayed.  I promise that this will not become a weight loss or restrictive eating blog.  You can still come here for total acceptance of your body, as I am a firm believer that you can be healthy at any size.  I just need to do what's right and comfortable for me. 

Much body-positive love to you, wherever you are in your journey.  <3