I have followed a pattern my entire adult life.
The world tells me that I should be unhappy with the way I look. It's hard not to listen. But every now and then I break through it and decide: screw that action. I'm big. So what. I can be the best looking big girl it's possible for me to be. This shift in attitude usually leads to a shopping spree. Out with the outfits designed to most effectively hide my bulk -- and me -- from the world and in with the outfits designed to fit and flatter and make me feel great. This shopping spree inevitably leads me to the makeup counter where I decide that an updated wardrobe deserves an updated overall look. New clothes and new makeup lead to renewed confidence and I start to feel good about who I am. When I feel good I am more active. I am able to completely accept and indulge -- almost celebrate -- who I (temporarily) unapologetically am.
This is a very good place.
I ALWAYS end up at the gym from this place.
This is also, of course, good.
Because I love lifting. I really, really do. But it is hard to drag oneself to the gym -- even for something one loves -- when one feels frumpy and lumpy and worthless. But when I feel good, it's one of the first things I want to do.
Then I lose a little weight. My proud new wardrobe becomes loose and I start to replace key items in a smaller size. This is exhilarating! This is the point in the pattern where I stop being content with myself. I don't want to lose a little weight, I want to lose a lot of weight. I want to lose ALL the weight! Maybe if I change my eating habits...
I am no longer unapologetic or accepting at this point, but I am motivated and encouraged. I can do this! I start projecting. If I lost THIS much weight and THIS many sizes in THIS amount of time, then by THIS date I should reach my goal.
Let's backtrack for a moment.
Shouldn't the goal be to be happy? Didn't I reach that goal earlier in the pattern? The part where I was -- um -- happy with myself and with my life? Isn't that ALWAYS the goal? But by the time I get to this stage I am no longer happy with myself as I am. I am, however, pretty sure that I can get myself to a place that will make me happy if I just work hard enough. I'm not happy NOW, but I can BE happy. I'll DESERVE to be happy when I'm in a smaller dress size. Oh, boy -- I sure will be happy then!
So my workouts become less fun and more -- well -- work. Meals are obsessed over. They are still delicious -- I'm not a TOTAL martyr -- but food becomes almost all I think about. I am eating one meal while thinking about the next. There is no spontaneity at this point, and if there is it is horrifying rather than delightful.
The scale moves a little, but not much.
And then it stops.
We're not talking about a plateau for a week or a month or a couple weeks or a couple months. It stops. I up the exercise. The scale won't move. I cut out more food. The scale won't move. Nothing works.
I become desperate.
Then desperately sad.
I don't want to lift -- why bother?
I want all the carbs -- who the hell cares?
Quickly quickly quickly I regain all the weight I've lost plus a little for good measure.
Eventually, I start to accept myself.
And the cycle begins again.
This cycle has repeated itself more times than I care to tell you.
This time, though -- this time it is a little different.
Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I learn little lessons each time the same events repeat themselves.
This time, I never completely stopped lifting. I backed off. I didn't hit it with the intensity with which I hit it when all is well, but I never quit. I gained back a third of what I'd lost then stopped. I stopped before I gained it all. I stopped well before I gained it all and then some.
Lately I've been buying clothes like it's my job. And I've noticed that I linger in the beauty aisle -- I've brought home new eyeshadow, lipstick and nail polish in the past couple weeks. Could I be getting back on at the top of the cycle before I completely bottom out? It would appear that I am. This has never happened before. The cycle is changing.
Woo and might I add a hearty Hoo.
The trick will be to stay here -- to stay here at the top -- exercising and eating well and dressing in a way that makes me happy and generally feeling good without falling into the formerly inevitable traps that await me.
Can I do it?
I hope so.
If not this time, maybe the next.
Like Mr. Murray, I am damned tired of repeating the same cycle over and over. It's stupid and it's futile and life is too short.
It's time to learn my lessons and get it right.