Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wresting Back My Self-Control

Ever since the honeymoon, my life has been entirely out of control. My eating is out of control. My lack of exercise (ie, my laziness) is out of control. My caffeine consumption is out of control. Even my personal reading is out of control. 

How, pray tell, could reading be out of control? Well, when you've devoured nine of the ten incredibly poorly written Southern Vampire Mysteries (aka the Sookie Stackhouse Books, upon which True Blood is based) in less than a month, something is dreadfully wrong. And as I sat at home, post-Memorial Day barbecue, with the 9th Sookie Stackhouse book in one hand and a red velvet cupcake in another, trying to ignore the empty photo picture frames and newly framed art lying around our floors from our half-done decorating attempt, I had to finally face the fact that something is truly off-balance in my life.

Since the relief of the wedding, I've been trying to hold on to the honeymoon feeling. I've been taking an extended "I deserve it" holiday from life, ignoring work and personal responsibilities.  I've been overdosing on every type of consumptive addictive product, both food and brain related. I'm willfully ignoring substantive options like delicious summer fruit in favor of stuffing my face with cream cheese red velvet icing. I'm turning away from house chores or even quality literature (like Her Fearful Symmetry, which is reproachfully staring at me from the table) in favor of mindless book crap. I seem to prefer this crap reading to any sort of personal improvement project, including posting our wedding items for sale or sorting through home items (like mismatched silverware) we need to take to Goodwill.

It's easy to lounge here in the lazy mess of the mindless consumption. But it also makes me feel gross and out of control. I've been feeling more and more out of control for weeks as I make half-hearted attempts at eating healthy foods or doing Serious and Important things which I then happily sabotage at 3pm with a cookie or a visit to a fluffy-but-addictive website. I tell myself that "next week, I'll be better." I tell myself "I deserve it, the wedding was so stressful and you haven't recovered yet from your adventurous but non-relaxing honeymoon." Perhaps, but there's also way too much of a good thing, and that's clearly the territory I'm wading in right now. 

So how do I wrest back control of my life from my baser self-sabotaging instincts?  My normal approaches aren't working. I'm ignoring the 6am workout alarms. I'm eating the lunch I packed and then still buying decadent snacks from the store in our office building. I finally turned to Jason and asked him for help, because I had to recognize that I can't do this alone, at this particular moment. Or rather, I could do it alone, (heck, I've done it before), but I would really really really appreciate the help and support. There's both a relief in knowing I have an amazing supportive partner and a sense of frustration that I can't seem to get started on my own.

This week, we're planning our meals together and keeping each other accountable.  I felt very virtuous turning down office candy because I felt like I had to be accountable to our joint effort and joint promise. But it still feels huge. It still feels insurmountable, even though I know the first week of sensible living is always the hardest as I readjust. And I feel grumpy because, quite frankly, I like crap food and crap reading (in small, regular, quantities they are a relief and a joy. Right now, they're just rotting my intestines and my brain.)

I know I'm not the first person to wrestle with newlywed weight gain  (which is less of a problem to me than my unbridled obsession with baked goods) or general malaise. But my malaise isn't due to post-wedding boredom or lack of purpose. I have so many work, personal, home, and blog projects that I barely know where to get started. So, instead of trying to fix everything (which is simply impossible and probably contributed to my continued out-of-control lazygirl excess) I've decided to tackle  just one issue this week. For me, I'm dealing with my eating habits (or lack thereof). And actually, I can't even think about it as a week-long project, because even that feels too big right now. So I'm breaking it down into teeny little baby steps of productivity. Meal by meal. I can't think beyond today and I can't think beyond the today's "don't eat cookies" food goals and that's how I'm dealing with the crushing weight of all my unmet goals and the oh-so-tempting crap that would happily suck me into a  vortex of out-of-control living.

Have any of you dealt with clawing out of this post-wedding lazy malaise? What worked? What hasn't? And for everyone in the process of clawing themselves out of the vortex, feel free to share your victories, however small they may be. Because I'm discovering that the baby steps count in a huge way. For me, I'm still cheering about my breakfast of oatmeal and a half-cup of berries. It may not seem like much, but it's one meal down in this lifelong battle for balance, health, and sanity.

26 comments:

  1. I still think you should cut yourself some slack. I wax and wain with unemployment/self-employment stress and like today, have a head full of ideas and thoughts and things to do and projects to accomplish and all the while, I'm staring at the clock thinking to myself, when do I get to call it a day? When do I get to go downstairs and have a glass on wine. It's almost 4pm here and that's almost happy hour. I mean, WTF?
    I only have 1 thing on my list of 8 to do today actually done.
    Sigh....ok, maybe this isn't helping you.
    I did actually create this list after a 3 hour networking meeting with a local fashion blogger. I am all posted up until the end of this week, so that I could focus on other projects and not the blog. That, is a massive accomplishment for me! :)

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  2. Definitely pick up Her Fearful Symmetry. And keep a handkerchief nearby.

    I found that there were highs and lows in my post-wedding mood. I definitely gained weight post wedding (up to 15 pounds now) but I bought some bigger jeans and slacks and I feel really comfortable.

    I went through a nesting phase, buying new towels and putting up vinyl decals since we were in a "no painting" apartment. And now I'm nesting again because we just moved into our first house. But sometimes I just want to sit with a library book instead of goading my husband into doing some handy work so I can unpack the movies and video games.

    Married life just takes a little getting used to and being lazy at the beginning of it is just fine.

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  3. I will only commit myself to one "post wedding" errand each evening and then I am taking a lot of time for myself. Haven't returned to the gym yet nor have I done a run to Goodwill. Our flat makes us look like organized crack heads at the moment and that's just fine.

    You worked your buns off for months and months on end, give yourself some slack - you DESERVE it.

    Faithfully, your codependent blog reader :)

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  4. Hello fellow sweet Angeleno,

    I know what you mean, I get these kind of blues all the time. Well, less these days because I’ve learned a few things.

    First, something is probably haunting you and it’s not a ghost. I bet you there is something that is making you feel guilty about your after-wedding happiness and you feel like you don’t deserve it so you’re ruining yourself.

    Let go of that guilt. If you ate the cupcake, don’t hate yourself or tell yourself you deserved it. It’s a damn cupcake and not the personification of your existential drama. Don’t worry about it.

    The other thing I learned is that sometimes, the only remedy is victory. The last time I wandered through life eating everything and wondering how many stairs I needed to fall to break a leg but not a neck so I wouldn’t have to go to work, I quit my job and found a way better one.

    After that, I felt OMG amazing. It might not take something that dramatic, sometimes just clearing out all the old things and energy in your closet is enough to make you feel like you again. Just get out there and conquer something you’ve been putting off.

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  5. I think this happens to everyone after a wedding. My eating and lack of exercise were also out of control after the wedding, which I didn't let totally bother me (at first) because I had the excuse of finishing law school (I'd ignored everything all semester and had to not fail my classes ;). But the laziness about my health was hard to shake after graduation in May, and it wasn't because I was studying for the Bar. What worked for me, I think, was to tackle it one thing at a time. A little bit of exercise was better than no exercise. Eating a quarter-bag of chips was better than eating a whole bag. Finally I was so irritated with my sluggishness that I just went all in. In hindsight, I don't know if it was the incremental approach or just reaching my breaking point, but eventually I got back into a routine of taking care of myself that was more in line with my pre-wedding (and pre-engagement) routine. Now I have my usual cycles of activity and non-activity, but nothing where I was for the three months after the wedding.

    Life gets normal again, with a little bit of effort and a little bit of time.

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  6. I know this feeling so, so well. When I get stressed my instinct is to "spoil" myself by skipping workouts and eating junk. I know, rationally, that if I eat chips and queso for dinner I am not "treating" myself to anything but an upset stomach the next day, but it's hard to think clearly in the middle of a funk. I also watch far too many hours of crummy TV when I'm in this kind of mood.

    Something that's helped me kick-start healthier living in the past is keeping a journal of my eating habits. Somehow, knowing I'm going to write down what I eat helps me think about whether I *really* want those 3 stale cookies that were left over after the seminar. It's important that this isn't a food-shame diary, but more of a chronicle of my efforts to eat better when I know I haven't been doing right by myself.

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  7. Only shaming myself vigorously and relentlessly, out loud and in German, has worked for me so far.

    But I sure do get a lot of weird looks in the grocery store whenever I run around heaving bags of cookies from the shelves to the floor and overturning all the trays of food samples while shrieking "DUMMKOPF!" over and over again.

    Uh.

    The wallowing phase sucks, because it gets to the point where I can't even enjoy all the delightfully evil, vacuous stuff I am doing to myself. My thoughts clamp down like a vice and the negativity just flows unchecked.

    I think you're already well on your way to helping yourself back over the hump with small things. I like to pick a manageable (1-3) number of things I want to do in one day and focus on meeting only those things -- let everything else slide for now. Then again tomorrow, pick a few more things. Even if they seem really small, like "eat oatmeal for breakfast" and "pick up all the shoes in the house." It's those little things help boost mood and morale, which usually leads to a cascade effect of "doing" later on.

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  8. This happened to me, post wedding. For the first couple of months I gave myself a pass since I was recovering from the wedding. We did a detox at around month 3 that helped some, especially with the wedding 10 I put on, then got hit by the holidays and a house move. The thing I'm starting to realize is it's a cycle (at least for me). It was easy to forget this in the year I was wedding planning, but I've always struggled with being overwhelmed and the procrastination/hiding that goes along with it.

    I am, though, trying to change it for good. Some things that are helping: having a planner where I write down a few small goals for the day; writing down what I eat and how I feel (sluggish, bloated, etc) helps me keep track of good for me/bad for me foods; moving as much as possible, even if all I can squeeze in is a walk around the block on my lunch break.

    And go easy on yourself. We all fall down. Heck, I feel like I've spent the last year falling in ruts and clawing my way out.

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  9. Happens to the best of us! I just started feeling "normal" again and it's been six months since the wedding. But I didn't have the insight you currently have this soon. :) I also had a really rocky planning experience, so I think the indulgence was earned. ;)

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  10. definitely! you will get your groove back soon. you're allowed to have some extended honeymoon/lazy times! also, Her Fearful Symmetry was great but I hated the ending.

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  11. To everyone saying I should cut myself some slack, I appreciate it, but I think the two months of slack is finally too much.

    @Thirty Something Bride- I have a love/hate relationship with to-do lists. And you deserve all sorts of congratulations for having a full week of posts done. Jealous.

    @Felicia - generally I agree. And part of the malaise is definitely because I need to make real changes about things that haunt my everyday life. It just feels too big to even get started though. But I'm starting anyhow, because what else can I do?

    @A Marigold - I didn't let it bother me at first either. And I have good excuses too (really good ones!) But yeah. Breaking point here. Thanks for reminding me that you got back on track with normalcy. That's all I want right now, and maybe this step by step thing will ease me back in too.

    @Lyn - I couldn't even write this post while I was in the wallowing phase. I think I'm moving out now? Like today? Also, I think I would zoom out of the wallowing phase if I ran around the supermarket screaming in German. I would also be very impressed with myself, since German is not one of the languages I ever studied or currently speak. Ha.

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  12. I think I would zoom out of the wallowing if I saw Lyn running around the supermarket screaming in German.

    Youtube or it didn't happen.

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  13. lyn is totally right. Start slow and don't beat up on yourself. I love the idea of one thing at a time. Of course, I try to do one thing at a time and then my list of things starts to overwhelm me. I gained five pound in the first week after our wedding - during the honeymoon, and in the last year and a half, I continued to add another 10. I even quit drinking for a month. But every time I think I'm ready to pick myself up again, something super stressful happens and I just lose it, make excuses, eat another snack bag of doritos and then shame myself into feeling terrible. I recently joined a gym with a super organized co-worker and she's totally making me go. It's been 14 days and I haven't lost a pound but I feel a little better at least. if only a little.

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  14. I'm with everyone else. I'm glad you're getting back into the groove... but go EASY on yourself. It's been 18 months of hard. You're allowed at least two months of easy. And one small step at a time is always the way.

    Besides. You turned down dessert with me ;) So you're clearly doing something.

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  15. After almost 2 months I still need a nap. We're living parallel lives in terms of not running the rest of the post-wedding errands. How about those Thank You cards? I'm maybe 2/3 done and my deadline is Thursday. I've ran once, gone to yoga once and did Jillian Michael once which is pretty bad in almost 8 weeks. I guess we can just take it one baby step at a time. I just wish I could stop thinking about weddings, there are still 8 more left for me to attend this year!

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  16. Oh, I was there. For me, step one was leaving the house every single day. It was a big step. I forced myself to leave the house and go for a one-mile walk. Then I forced myself to go places and do work, regardless of payment. Then I got a job. Then I lost my funding. So now, I'm back to square one, but I promised myself that this time around, I'm not going to sit around and bake fresh delicious bread and eat half a loaf before my husband comes home.

    I did a really tough detox a couple weeks ago and you're right, those first few days suck. But now I'm reaching for fruit instead of candy and generally feeling better. I'm exercising once or twice a day, even in this heat.

    One thing that really helped me was setting challenges on my new blog - www.vadoporro.wordpress.com - every month, I set a new exercise/healthy living goal for myself - and it can't be broad or excessive or unreachable. I'm accountable to myself and my readers and I do things because I know I'll have to blog about them and tell people if I succeeded or failed. Today will start the June challenge, so come on over and set a goal/intention for the next month, and then check in on Fridays.

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  17. I think the real problem is the way we set up our lives here in America. As Americans, we think living stressful lives are desirable.

    Then we wonder why we can't get up the mojo to actually want to live out the relentless "life lists" we've made for ourselves. Becca, I read your earlier list of things you want to accomplish and I was exhausted. I think writing out that list on the heels of the wedding put a scare into you!

    Americans don't know how to live. And we don't know the meaning of balance, so we can't ever achieve it. While people in other countries pursue more modest goals and have more down time, and simply enjoy life, we live with inner task masters.

    So, I don't think it your problem; I think it's our problem.

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  18. I feel like you are describing my last spring, summer, and fall. I allowed myself to live in the wallowing phase for far too long because life events were rough. If I did something good, I rewarded myself with junk. If I had a miserable day, I rewarded myself with junk. It got to a point where I just couldn't take it anymore.

    What helped me was finding other people who were working toward changing their health (over on Ellie's married blog) and setting small goals. It's really working for me.

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  19. @sera - I am the queen of excuses, which is why I really need to cut myself off now. And I think it's healthy to ignore the scale once you're in a workout groove. I've learned that the scale doesn't matter but that how I feel really does, and I feel good when I work out (but I enjoy making excuses more. Grr.)

    @Jessica - eek. You inspired me to count the number of thank you cards I have left, and it's bad. Sadly, I've already done a ton, though I clearly have to buckle down more.

    @Ellie - Thank you. I'd been wondering where all your Go Further initiatives were coming from, since its not at your wedding or cooking blog, and I appreciate the link. I'd actually been hoping to incorporate something similar here, because I know that monthly goals (realistic, manageable goals) and community help. But it has to be a community I care about that's supportive beyond weight loss (which really isn't the point) and about all life goals. I had a community like that before, but it kinda dissipated, so this round of getting back on track is harder. Thanks.

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  20. @June - I think it depends. I've lived abroad for several years, including during my working life. And I was very tempted by the relaxed attitude to stay there indefinitely. But I was also bored and unfulfilled. I had a fun job. I had a decent paying, college-educated, job. But I had no room for growth, of the career or personal kind, and neither did many of my peers. But those years of fun were absolutely worth it, before I started to feel stagnant.

    I want to accomplish something meaningful with my life, and that simply requires hard work and a sad attempt at balance and an acceptance that some things are impossible. If I were in my career for money, I think things would be different. But I have a change-the-world job right now with long hours, tough intellectual challenges and good pay. I couldn't work this hard at a faceless corporation. But I also don't love my job and I'm trying to figure out my life's passion. I don't know if I would have had that opportunity in some foreign countries.

    Also, as commerce becomes more international, success is defined more similarly across the world. The Spanish siesta exists in smaller cities and towns, but is a myth in Madrid, Barcelona, and other economic centers. Longer commutes (often due to affordability) change culture and add stress to schedules. People who have economic security (which to me, doesn't mean fancy cars and a mortgage) have to work hard for it, regardless of where they live.

    I agree there's a difference, and I could talk a long time about what it looks like and reasons why, but the bottom line is that success and accomplishment take hard work, anywhere. And for me, that's something I've always valued. Even as a kid, my goal was to change the world. I've accepted that I'm only dealing with a small corner of it, but that corner matters enough to keep trying.

    That's not to say that I don't appreciate lessons from abroad. In fact, it's a life goal to move abroad again one day, for so many reasons.

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  21. I really want to see Lyn going ape-shit and screaming in German. Pleeeeeease?

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  22. I do think you deserve some serious indulgence after everything, but I know how difficult it can be to figure out when to get off that train. Joint accountability is a great idea. D and I actually take T-Th am spinning classes together and I find that it improves my workouts all week. We're less likely to skip our joint workouts, which somehow makes me less likely to skip out on my solo ones.

    On a much smaller scale, I had post-wedding-dress-purchase craziness this weekend. I put off wedding dress searching for as long as I possibly could because I was terrified of it, finally did it on Saturday and felt so good about myself that I proceeded to eat my way through the weekend at an uncomfortable pace. I ate 3/4 of a two layer birthday cake and I'm not exaggerating even a little bit. And it spiraled from there. I felt ill 90% of the 3 days. It's like I decide that I've already been terrible so I might as well keep on with it.

    On Tuesday morning I stopped by TJs and picked up my healthy eating staples for work (greek yogurt + walnuts for lunch, black bean soup for snacks, broccoli slaw for salads) and tried to get back on the ball WITHOUT judging myself for going totally nuts this weekend.

    I try to balance my reading on a day to day basis as well. My library rule is that I check out one quality book for every trashy book (I looooove brain candy and it's so tempting). I give myself exemptions, when I'm having a particularly difficult stretch of weeks.

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  23. @Rachel - your post-wedding dress shopping crazies are giving me flashbacks to my post-alterations crazies, which proceeded in much the same way (including the Trader Joes sanity check shopping). Also, I like hearing when other smart ladies love the brain candy books too. I have the same general rule, and I'll go back to it again now that the post-honeymoon everything binge is OVER.

    (Also, I want to be nosy about your wedding dress shopping experience. Where did you go?! What worked best?! And yes, I still love the dress pretties. I can't help myself.)

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  24. I think this is all pretty normal. Planning a wedding is super-hard and when we come out of such challenging experiences, there is a healthy and necessary recovery time.

    However, when I realized I had been in this stage for too long and had no motivation and everything felt overwhelming, what I did was to make myself a weekly list. I had a few small, manageable things on there that I wanted to do daily (like eat fruits and vegetables, make the bed, etc.) And some things I wanted to do 3 times or 5 times a week. And then a "grab bag" of things I choose ten from each week. Some things on my weekly list are fun for me (make bread, paint nails, etc.) and some are not-fun-but-necessary (work on taxes, clean something). The concreteness of the list gave me a way to track things I wanted to be doing, but yet it was not overwhelming because it was broken down into small, achievable tasks.

    I got the idea for this on a blog somewhere last fall, but I, unfortunately, could not find it again to link to. Anyhow, I like this method and have stuck with it, because it gives my freelancing life some needed structure and helps me stay on track.

    Good luck getting back into your rhythm...

    (PS. The verification word was "excessiv", haha!)

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  25. Ha, totally. Post-wedding I was like, I have no job and WTF am I going to do with all this time. So I basically did none of the things I needed to do and it took me like a month to get my life back together.

    One thing I learned: You have to give yourself the time you need totally guilt-free. I was taking personal time knowing I deserved it but secretly feeling guilty about it. So I couldn't really be in it and just enjoy the time and I ended up always feeling like I needed more. When I gave myself specific time to just do something self-indulgent and revel in it, it was way more satisfying and I was able to get my shit together in the rest of my time. So take an hour, a day, whatever, but make it yours.

    Personally, I find it totally unhelpful when I tell myself not to do something. If I say 'don't eat cookies' (or for me it's 'don't watch 4 episodes of glee in a row'), then that's basically just me agreeing to feel bad about it when I inevitably do it. But if I make small goals about what I want to do it's a lot better. If I say "I'm going to do ten push-ups" then after I do that, I make a new goal like "in an hour, I'll go for a ten minute walk" and I end up filling my time with other things instead of glee (so awful but so addictive...ah, teen angst).

    You'll settle back in, don't worry, just be nice to yourself while you recover :)

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  26. I appreciate you elaborating. I have a personal goal of changing the world also.

    Knowing my limits, I am currently delegating the part of my business that drives me crazy with details and exhaustion and doesn't produce much revenue. I am throwing myself into the less detailed higher revenue side.

    It's not just to make money. I need to be more effective in streamlining how I make money so I'll have enough energy for the world-changing stuff that I will have to do for free.

    Analyzing what I was spending time on and what I was getting in return was key. I wasn't getting the time or sanity I needed for the most important things. There is a definite hierarchy to my desires.

    I have a list of things I want to do also, but I can't think about it too often or else I would feel despair. If I can just accomplish the highest things on my list, I will feel my life had meaning.

    I wondered if your long list was deflating you.

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