Underneath my yellow skin

Testing My Resolve

resolve not to make resolutions
Making a list and checking it twice.

New Year’s Day came and went without any attention from me, which is not that unusual for me. Longtime readers know by now that I’m not very fond of holidays in general. I can understand the symbolism of ushering in a new year, but I can’t get too hyped about it myself. Sometimes, I would make resolutions, and sometimes, I wouldn’t, but the one thing I would always do is ruminate on my life and what a waste it’s been so far. It’s gotten better in the last few years, but it’s still something that dominates my mind on New Year’s Eve. This year, I was too busy grieving to even give it a passing thought. I will say, however, that 2016 was not a great year for me, and I’m more than happy to see the back end of it. At least, I would be if it weren’t for the fact that we’re going to have President Trump in two and a half days. This post is not about that, however, so just note my displeasure and move on. There were three things in 2016 that sucked balls, and I’m listing them in chronological order.

Alan Rickman died in February, which some of you might think, “What’s the big deal? He’s just an actor. It’s not as if you knew him or anything.” You’re right, and you’re wrong. I’m not someone who usually goes gaga over celebrities, but Alan Rickman was different. He first came to my attention when I was watching one of the Harry Potter movies. Something about his velvety voice and precise distinction plus his piercing stare thrilled me. It was the second movie, I believe, and when he was spelling Kenneth Brannagh, I nearly creamed my nonexistent panties. Once I noticed how hot he was, I started watching every movie I could get my hands on. This was before streaming was a thing, so I had to order the DVDs myself or buy them off eBay. The more I watched his movies and read about him, the more I was enamored with him. Not only was he a great actor, he was a terrific person who was a generous and supportive friend, and he was firm believer in class equality (as well as feminism and equality for  other minorities). The day he died, I woke up to hundreds of messages on my social media offering their condolences. I joked through my tears that it was my dream to have people associate me with Alan Rickman, and it looked like I had accomplished that goal. He had had cancer, but didn’t tell anyone, so it came as a shock to the world at large.

The second bad thing that happened to me in 2016 was that I was in a car accident at the end of July. A teenage girl was talking to her boyfriend (who wasn’t supposed to be in the car. She called a friend to get him after the accident so he wouldn’t get in trouble) and turned left into my car as I was going straight. I was going roughly 30 mph, and she was going at least that, if not more. I was fortunate that once I realized she was going to hit me, I relaxed instead of tensing up. I attribute that to my taiji practice, and I’m grateful because I ended up with a mass of bruises on my stomach from the seat belt, but nothing twisted, dented (except my car), or broken. It could have been so much worse, yet, it still affects me now. Even though it was a minor accident, it took a lot out of me. I had to scale back my taiji practice to an upsetting degree, and it’s only in the last week or two that I’ve thought, “I’m almost back to my pre-accident self.” It’s been almost six months, which is longer than I thought it’d take.

The third horrible, awful, no-good, rotten thing is, of course, my Raven died on December 3rd. I’ve written about it at length, so I’m not going to belabor the point in this post. I will say, however, that my grief made it so that I simply didn’t give a damn about Christmas and New Year. At all. Not even to write my usual disparaging posts. All I could do is walk around numb and in disbelief that Raven was dead. I also had to help Shadow deal with the loss of his brother, companion, and buddy. Later, I read that it can help a surviving cat if he can sniff the body of his deceased companion, but I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t know how to help him cope with his loss when I could barely deal with my own. I was walking around in a fog, and the holidays came and went without me giving a shit.

Recently, however, we were talking about resolutions in my taiji class. My teacher commented on how she was always working on improving herself, so she didn’t need to make resolutions on a given day. That’s similar to my own thoughts on resolutions. They’re unrealistic, too heavily focused on deadlines, and it’s too easy to give them up if you fail on them. I liken it to the two times I focused on losing weight, both of which led me straight into eating disorders. The first time, I was going to college, and I wanted to rid myself of the fat loser image that had plagued me through my school years up until that point. I exercised for hours every day, ate almost nothing, and lost forty pounds in two months. When I went to college, I wasn’t able to keep up my exercise regime, so I adjusted by skipping breakfast, eating oyster crackers for lunch and dinner, binging on a half dozen packets of chips from a vending machine, and then throwing it up. I only did the last bit once or twice a week, so I didn’t really consider myself bulimic. This is the problem with dieting in general; it’s not sustainable as a lifestyle. Once I gave it up, I went back to my shitty eating and no exercise, and I got even fatter than before.

The second time I went on a serious diet, I was in my late twenties and decided to be more sensible about it. I Googled the least amount of calories a woman my height could eat and still survive, which was 1200 calories. That’s enough, but only if the woman doesn’t do anything but breathe all day long. In other words, I was putting my body into a state of starvation, which wasn’t conducive to good health. I exercised for two-and-a-half hours a day, and I kept changing my weight goal once I neared it. The culmination was when I went to listen to a band at a dance club and fainted because I hadn’t eaten all day long. I knew that I’d die if I continued down that path, so, once again, I gave it all up and slowly regained all the weight I’d lost and more.

I bring up my eating disorders and my inability to diet because it’s been on my mind a lot lately. I don’t like how fat I am, and I want to do something productive about it. I’ve put dieting on my resolution list in years past as have countless other people, but I’ve always failed. Again, as do most other people. The reason why New Year’s diet resolutions fail so often is because the assumption that you can go on a diet for a limited amount of time, lose the weight you want to lose, then go off it again. You cannot because once you go back to your previous behavior, of course you’re going to regain the weight you’ve lost. This is going to sound trite, but you have to make lifestyle changes that you can do for your whole life in order to keep the weight off. Most people who make a resolution to lose weight make their resolution unrealistic. “I’ll go to the gym for an hour five days a week, cut out all carbs and sweets, and walk everywhere I can instead of drive.” If you’re sedentary in the first place, this is just setting yourself up to fail.

In addition, for me, I put way too much expectation on what losing that weight would do for me. I naively thought all my problems would vanish if only I reached that mythical weight, I blamed all my unhappiness on my fatness, and I was never more miserable than when I was skinny. Not because I was skinny, mind you, but because I was so focused on getting skinnier. Even at my skinniest, it wasn’t enough. I was still unhappy. I was still depressed. I was still single and unhappy to not be in a relationship. I was still struggling to find a way to make my life meaningful. Losing weight didn’t change a damn thing except making me skinny. It shouldn’t have been a goal in and of itself, and that’s why so many people fail at it.

Still. I want to lose weight. When my doctor told me I’d lost five pounds last year, I have to admit I was happy. It started me thinking how I could lose more without spiraling back into an eating disorder or disordered thinking. I know it has to be slow, not focused on a number*, and it has to be things I can do for the rest of my life. To that end, I’ve been working on my eating habits–which are terrible right now. I’ve cut out chips and bagels, two of my weaknesses, and I’ve added more veggies and fruits. Part of my problem/solution is that I eat the same thing every day because it cuts down on my anxiety, but it also leads to boredom and overeating. I’ve mentioned recently that I really need to learn to cook because I’ve been depending on the hot bar at the grocery store/co-op. Not only is that not cost efficient, it’s not the healthiest of food, either.  I hate cooking, though. It seems like too much effort when it’s just me.

I’m also trying to listen to my body more, but it’s difficult because I’ve fucked up my eating cues, and I fear it’s irreparable. I can go for a long time without feeling hungry, then I’m ravenous, but I get full from two or three bites of food. Even if I eat a decent amount, sometimes, I’ll be hungry in an hour or so, but if I ignore it, it goes away. It’s going to take more patience than I have in order to figure out my fucked up eating cues.

The other factor, of course, is exercise. Again, I’m either, “I need to exercise five hours a day” or I don’t exercise at all. About a year ago, I tricked myself into doing taiji at home on a regular basis by telling myself, “I’ll just do this one exercise.” I started with some stretches every day and a weight set my teacher showed us three times a week. The stretches took two or three minutes, which is nothing, but it’s more than I was doing prior. Periodically, I would add something else to my daily routine, be it a section of the Solo Form, the Sword Form, or more stretches. Currently, I have a twenty minute daily routine, and I still do the weight set three times a week. It takes maybe five minutes total, and I know I’m making progress because I’ve gone from using 8, 10, and 12-pound dumbbells to 10, 12, and 15-pound dumbbells. That’s how I have to measure things now because I really cannot count calories, pounds, or inches. I know once I go down that road, there is no coming back.

I feel like I’ve hit a plateau in my morning routine, which means I need to add to it again. Maybe more stretches as I feel as if I skimp on them, but I’m not sure which ones will help me the most. The neat thing is that I can talk to my teacher about it without fear that she’ll push me to do more than I feel comfortable doing. This year, I would like to be able to look in the mirror without flinching. But, that will mean not only working on my weight, but working on my low self-esteem as well. I have a hunch the latter is more important than the former.

 

*Pounds or inches.

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