Tag Archives: procrastination

Anxiety: After The SSRIs Have Worn Off

Last year, my doctor prescribed me sertraline after diagnosing me with anxiety. I was a little skeptical, but I was also badly in need of a better way to live. I went off my meds several weeks ago, and I hope that the way I am aware of and deal with my anxiety now will prove my decision to be a good one.

Anxiety is a coercive thief. I was codependent for years, taking on other people’s problems – problems I couldn’t do anything about – and living their anxieties as if they were my own. For example, when a family member’s divorce turned ugly, I imagined people were eternally trying to break into my house. I covered my head with blankets one night, wide awake in the wee hours, imagining that I heard breathing on the other side of the shut bedroom door. From then on, we slept with the bedroom door slight cracked, wedged open enough to let the animals come and go as they pleased, closed enough so that I had a measure of protection against the people who were coming to get me. I regularly got up and did one or two laps around the house with a 2×4 at 3am. I slept with my cell phone by the bed in case we were trapped in the bedroom and I needed to call the police. Any time my boyfriend left town while I was off work, I stayed awake until dawn, hypervigilant, then slept during the day.

Anxiety held my hand and told me I didn’t need to go to the doctor when I stepped off the bed funny in the middle of the night and possibly broke a bone in my foot. I say possibly because I never got it fully checked out. Not even staying home the next day in bed, unable to walk, was enough of an alarm of “something is WRONG here” to penetrate the fog. “It’ll get better on its own,” I said. I’d like to get a time machine and go slap that version of me in the face, because now I experience foot pain anytime I try to ride a bicycle. I rode a bike around my college campus, then around the city of Memphis during the summer after graduation, as my main mode of transport. I bought a bike on Craigslist several weeks before my foot problems began. I then had to sell it after riding it perhaps a handful of times. I rode it in the summer in Texas, too. You know that’s devotion. My boyfriend bought an exercise bike, which we also sold when I found putting pressure on the middle of my foot was too painful. “But no, I can’t get my foot looked at, even if it has robbed me of the ability to ride a bike. What if something is horribly wrong, and I have to have surgery and spend a lot of money? Nope, it will get fine on its own!”

Anxiety was the one telling me my frozen shoulder would get better, there was no need to go to the doctor for that, even after two years of increasing pain and the inability to wear bras that put strain on my shoulder. It told me it was OK to internalize all slight criticisms as blanket condemnations of my character, all offhand remarks as set-in-stone rules by which to live my life. I was convinced I was responsible for the bad moods of others. I was subsumed by the drama of other people’s lives. I was empty of myself.

It all started to turn around when my gallbladder tried to kill me in late 2010.

Suddenly, I had a health crisis of my own. I was the one who was having surgery, in pain, recovering, waited on hand and foot by an amazing man, the topic of conversation instead of assuming the role of blank conduit.

My gallbladder surgery was the first in a long line of events affecting me and the people I love that are probably familiar to a lot of people in the U.S.: foreclosures, job loss, serious illness, death.

When I went to my doctor last year with my little list of bodily ailments I hoped he’d help me with, I broke down crying in his office while telling him about what was happening around me, what I put myself through worrying about them. He screened me for anxiety, then sent me home with a prescription for sertraline.

I endured just a few side effects as I eased into dosage and quickly found that the drugs were effective in curbing my anxiety. My friends said I was more “myself” than I had been for a while. I felt much better, too.

I also did some reading on codependency. It’s a way of wanting to control the situations around you by putting yourself in charge and making yourself responsible for everyone else’s feelings, the outcome of everyone else’s lives, etc. And it’s both selfish and unproductive, and it robs you of wholeness of personhood.

There are many things in this world we can control, but there are so many more that we can’t do anything about. It’s important to come to terms with this and realize where the boundaries lie, and how to judge those boundaries when they aren’t clearly outlined. But for the most part, the only thing you can control is your actions and reactions, not the actions or reactions of others. You can feel guilt for things that you genuinely are responsible for, empathy for bad things that aren’t your fault and you couldn’t have prevented. But another important aspect of wrangling anxiety is forgiveness. You have to forgive yourself, especially for things you’re not responsible for or you couldn’t change. Even the things you’ve done wrong, you have to start to let them go if there’s no lasting harm, if you’ve made it right with the harmed party. Guilt and anger only hurt the person who holds onto them long after they are useful.

This last year has been, in many ways, both better and worse than any previously experienced. My life has changed dramatically; I moved across the country, lost a family member, changed jobs, lost a beloved pet unexpectedly, regained range of motion in my left arm, endured a health crisis. I’m stronger in some ways. I’m sure I’m weaker in other ways. But I think that I’ve found enough avenues through which to channel negative feelings and ways to work through, work around, or negate anxiety before it starts to be a problem.

A little anxiety before jumping into something with both feet is normal, and I was anxious before the move. But everything turned out fine. And if things hadn’t turned out fine, I don’t think my anxiety would have prepared me to deal with them in any useful way. Things will happen, for better or worse, regardless of how you feel about them. I’m not saying you must be blase, uncaring, some kind of robot. You can still have feelings, and you will still have feelings, because that’s the way most humans are built.

It can be hard to control your anxiety, and not everyone will have the same success with just over a year of medications, productive reading, exercising self-care, embracing forgiveness, and a firm support system. I’m only a few weeks out from going off SSRIs, and I may relapse into a state of uncontrollable anxiety as things get even busier for me when my job starts to get more labor intensive.

For now, I feel in control of my feelings. I know I can’t control the feelings or actions of others. Letting go of that self-imposed responsibility is wonderfully freeing.

How I Spent My December Vacation

SPOILER:

A cartoon of a woman sitting at a trash-strewn computer desk

"How I Spent My December Vacation, by Eve. Chapter One: There Was Lots of Star Wars TOR and Even Some Chicken McNuggets."

Oh, December, crusher of dreams of living a healthier lifestyle. What a first world problem.

True, you could forego the endless array of candies, baked sweets, potlucks, super sweetened festive coffee drinks, and free disbursements of any and every foodstuff. People with discipline do it every year. That being said, I am definitely not one of those people. I would stay strong long enough to congratulate myself on my victory, then give in to having several chocolates a short time later.

Thanks to the structure of my calendar, I could have kept to my workout routine with little interruption, but I let hanging out with friends, taking a vacation to see my family in another state, and starting a new video game separate me quite firmly from my established habit.

As readers may recall, I set up a calendar in November to keep my training on track and map out my workouts so I wouldn’t be doing physical therapy two days in a row. Results time! Here’s what these last six weeks have looked like for me:

A photo of a wall calendar with workouts and measurement goals checked or crossed off

The results calendar - can you spot the point of failure? I can and do. Sigh.

Grades appear on the Sundays of each week: three green check marks, one yellow so-so, and two red Xs. My workouts have not been suffering alone: it’s been at least since early December when I last consistently tracked my food, too. But there are glimmers of hope – some days last week have workouts checked off instead of Xed out, and my eating hasn’t been uncontrollable.

Let’s Talk About The Food:

Although my food habits have lapsed, I have also tried hard to get enough vegetables and fill myself up enough where I’m not snacking the rest of the day. I started bringing not only a frozen lunch to work, but also brought an individual serving of steamed vegetables. My favorite big box retailer was selling them for $1/apiece most days I went food shopping this month, and that was such a great deal for the convenience.  So this was often my lunch:

A frozen microwavable entree box and a frozen vegetables box on a counter.

"But what about lunch? Beautiful lunch, day after day after day."

The tide of holiday food will ebb, but frozen vegetables will always be there to fill me up completely at lunch. It’s such a good idea that I’m considering doing the same for breakfast, since I still do snack all morning, and having my fiber bar, protein drink, and granola bar as a 3-part breakfast all morning doesn’t always keep me sated. The diet still needs tinkering with to make it sustainable.

Back To The Physical:

My stretching has not been what it should be. It has been brief and irregular. Are these the actions of a person who no longer wishes to get completely better? Apparently. It’s a shame I haven’t pushed myself to work out more consistently; I have come a long way, but I’m still not back to normal, and I really don’t want to go backwards.

How easy it is to forget about having limitations, having to struggle to work through them still, when you’re so close to being normal again. I went to the pet store last weekend and got two big bags of dog food, then hit the grocery afterward to buy holiday meal food and canned food drive items – lots of heavy bags, a ham, etc. I carried it all into the house by myself in a couple of trips. I felt so strong and normal being able to do these things. Just half a year ago, I couldn’t help move furniture, mow the lawn, or even shrug my shoulders. Consistent exercise and stretching have given me so much.

Speaking of regular and incremental things: posting in the daily threads and keeping data on myself were prompted by the Reddit community, and I feel a great indebtedness to the community for being supportive and giving me the infrastructure upon which to hang my hopes. I didn’t hit my weight loss goal, but I have made progress in flexibility, I’ve started weightlifting again, I’ve changed eating habits, and I have such a great resource on tap for dealing with soreness, injuries, cravings, and boredom. I’m staying with the community for this next round, and I’ve already made myself a new calendar in preparation.

Newly printed calendar pages for Jan-Mar 2012 with workouts listed each day.

A cleaner calendar for the next round.

The first day of the next round is the first day of 2012, I believe. (If not, I’ve got the templates ready where I can print a new calendar). I’m getting ready for the new foray. I don’t want to make any promises about what I”ll be doing the rest of my December, all 5 days left in it, but I will try to use my free will in a responsible manner before I re-devote myself to a routine.

Accomplishment Ain’t the Finish Line

As I walked across a parking lot this evening carrying groceries in my hands, I felt my pants slipping down over my hips. #weightlossproblems

My fitness effort has been going a lot better since I made my calendar in my last blog post. My weight has crept back down, slowly but perceptibly, and when I got out the tape measure for the first time in weeks and entered them into my spreadsheet, I found that I’d lost inches on my thighs, hips, and waist. Great! And I’ve been pretty good about my diet, minus the usual Friday blowout.

Another non-scale victory: I’ve been able to wear pants that I bought the last time I was working out really hard and eating right. I’d gotten down to 184 at my lowest point and was fitting into size 14s, wondering when I could try on some 12s. I was also more muscular, since I was working out regularly, so I was even smaller than I am now at a much less fit 189. I only tried the pants on out of desperation when I realized the two pairs of jeans that I usually wear were both in the laundry hamper. I have quite a few pairs of 14s, and I hoped one of them would be good enough to suffer through all day. The first pair was still too tight to be comfortable, but the second pair was actually comfortable. In fact, of all the jeans I’ve tried on from the drawer of abandoned pants, only that first pair so far has been a miss.

Several people have complimented me on how my efforts have paid off. I know that my legs have felt thinner when I’ve handled them for Pilates moves such as scissors and hamstring stretch.

“Oh, I am kicking ass,” I thought to myself on Monday night. Then: “Gee, it’s raining so hard outside. It’s nice and cozy in here. I don’t have to go outside at all to work out, but this weather is making me feel so lazy. Maybe I don’t have to work out tonight.” And so, I didn’t.

It happened again Tuesday night, to my horror.

I could forgive myself one night off from my self-imposed calendar, but two nights in a row? On my second week? How is this going to work if I don’t stick to my system and put in the effort I demand of myself? How much more generous could I have been with my schedule? Do I realize that I’m the only person who is able to make me work out?

I felt so accomplished, so self-satisfied with my progress. “There’s your reward. Now you’re done putting forth an effort.” How horribly familiar that sounds to many people who are trying to improve their lifestyles, especially those struggling with big changes, such as weight loss.

Complacency is my enemy. There’s nothing wrong with contentment or moderation, but those suggest an active awareness that complacency does not evoke. I am not living my life in moderation or contentment if I take two nights off because I didn’t feel like working out or felt like I was too busy. Yes, I ran some errands, but I was also playing Facebook games and reading Reddit for at least two hours on each of those nights.

There’s no way I’m going to be happy to stop my efforts because I mistook a mile marker for a victory arch. Tangible progress is so gratifying, and it’s great to have more wardrobe options and people around me who care to let me know they’ve noticed how hard I’ve been working. But I can’t let a little reward in the short term stop me from carrying on to see a bigger reward in the long term.

The only thing I should allow to stop me, really, is an uprising from the drawer of abandoned pants.

A woman looks dubiously at a pair of pants as a second unseen pair reaches out towards her from an open bureau

Uprising from the Drawer of Abandoned Pants: The Revolution Will Be Tailored.

Motivational Poster: Your Days Are Numbered

A fond memory of watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with one of my best friends was that she’d pass along stuff from the internet fandom. On season two casualty Jenny Calendar: “Her days are numbered.” Ha. It’s funny because days on a calendar are numbered, and her time alive was limited. Humor!

Speaking of calendars and the relentless march of time toward the inevitable darkness of death despite all human machinations (be they best efforts or negligible effort), I made a motivational wall calendar for my workouts for the next 9 weeks out of a piece of art paper. I used the blank side of a large sheet of spendy art paper, on the other side of which I had drawn a dinosaur holding a tea party.

A crayon and ink drawing of a dinosaur holding a tea party.

Why I switched from an art major to a philosophy major in college is beyond me.

Why did I make a calendar? I needed a tool for positive reinforcement and accountability.

I wrote here recently about losing my motivation, the need to get back to the business of fitness, blah blah blah. My words rang hollow in my own ears as I sat at the computer night after night over the last two weeks, slowly mending from my cold, eating two helpings of my boyfriend’s excellent cooking on many nights, and doing my stretches less frequently than is good for me.

I had been adding comments every single day in Reddit’s 90 Days Goal daily threads, but my lack of work toward progress led me to miss a few days of valuable self accounting and community reinforcement. There were days I’d forget to post something, then have trouble coming up with anything to report in the thread.

I knew that not tracking my food and not holding my efforts up to scrutiny were not helpful, and not working out or stretching was not helping my shoulder heal. I knew I’d never add weightlifting back to my routine if I just kept going with the excuses, misremembering when I’d last worked out, and slipping back into a sedentary lifestyle. My shoulder’s condition could degrade if I don’t keep working on it; as much fun as it has been doing stretches twice a day and exercising several times a week since early August, I’d like to avoid needing to go through it again because of my own laziness.

A great reminder of how much work I’ve accomplished is my physical therapy workout notebook, which I keep in my home gym. Above the list of exercises that I check off one by one during my hour-long workouts, I always write the date. That helps to keep me honest about my slacking. It’s hard to ignore when the date is more than 3 days old the next time I use the notebook, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment to see the numbers so close together. I can thumb back through several pages and look back at what I’ve accomplished with a degree of pride.

Two pages of a notebook on which dated workouts are written and checked off

Workout notebook evolution: The musical! The...math problem?

The notebook inspired me to make a calendar, which would serve dual purpose of organizing my goals and providing positive reinforcement. Lamely, I took my sweet time getting it done, and meanwhile, I wound up taking nearly a week off physical activity with minimal stretching. I didn’t track my food much last week. While I usually ate sensibly during the day, that didn’t always carry over to the evenings. I tried not to go longer than 36 hours without doing a stretching routine, and even that level of effort was sometimes a struggle.

I’ve been very scrupulous about getting my own ass in gear since I made the calendar, however. Behold it in all its inspirational art-penned and highlighter-markered glory.

A wall calendar for November and December 2011 with workouts and reminders

Calendar of Motivation, Guilt and Positive Reinforcement.

On the blank, dinosaur-free side of the calendar, I wrote out a proposed workout routine that is meant to keep me busy for the rest of the year. I included reminders each week to weigh myself, measure myself, and photograph myself for Reddit’s 90 Days Goal Challenge. I hope to check off all my items and be able to proudly show off testaments of my progress to the internet during the last week of December.

Three physical therapy workouts every week, with pilates and outdoor walks sprinkled in for variety. In two weeks, I plan to return to the gym in my office building with my copy of the “New Rules of Lifting for Women” and a fresh spreadsheet. I hope to get through one weightlifting workout without wanting to die. It’s on the calendar; I have to at least try it, right?

I’ve done all my stretches, tracked my food, and worked out three times since I made the calendar three days ago. Like magic, it is. If it keeps me honest, this will be the way to go on subsequent challenges; I’m already mentally committed to signing up for the next round of 90 Days Goal. Even if I don’t wind up following through with that, I’ll make up another calendar to track my next two months of physical therapy workouts, which are not optional if I want to get better. I don’t have an end date to the therapy exercises, but I hope to be done with them, or have made enough progress on my shoulder, for my doctor to reevaluate my situation at my checkup in February and say, “Yep, you’re done.”

The only downside is that my next calendar likely won’t have a swank dinosaur on the back.

The Ridiculousness of Worry and Avoidance

These are some of the ridiculous things I worried about when I could not raise my left arm above my head:

  • What if I got arrested while my shoulder was still borked, and the police get angry that I won’t raise my arms above my head? If they handcuff me behind my back, will my shoulder really start to hurt? Would they listen to my complaints that I had a shoulder injury and be more gentle? Given that I live in Texas, this last question was more whiny than rhetorical, since I knew the answer would likely be “no.” I love my adopted state, but its law enforcement and prison systems are not known for being super nice to people who enter the criminal justice system.
  • What if I had to have surgery on my shoulder? And what if something went wrong? Would it affect my ability to type? My job is a variation on “transcriptionist.” I would be out of work if my ability to type normally was compromised for more than a month or two. Typing is necessary for much of modern business, so what would I do for the rest of my life if I couldn’t do that – greeter at Wal-Mart? Shoe model? Politician?
  • With this shoulder injury, I will never be able to play softball again! I loved playing third base and outfield back in the day. I made many awesome catches with my gloved left hand, and my glove is still sitting in storage in my house, the pocket wrapped around an old softball, waiting for either the day I join some grown-ups lazy softball league or the day I wake up, Peggy Sue-style, in my teenage body.
  • Will I ever be able to wear a normal bra again? The only upshot here was longline bras (which can be uncomfortable if worn on a regular basis and tight around the waist if you’re overweight like me) can be found online for about $40 USD in my size and usually fit; I feel more comfortable getting fitted for regular bras at department stores, and those suckers always cost upwards of $60-70 apiece due to my size.

The worry about getting arrested is probably the most ridiculous, in terms of plausibility; I don’t anticipate doing anything so bad that it could be me arrested – I am working very hard on my road rage – but the mind likes to embroider. That is followed in silly speculation by the loss of softball, a sport I haven’t played in over half my lifetime; I did think about it every time friends mentioned activity teams they were on and every time I came across my glove in the course of going through our storage, but losing the potential to play a variety of sports was the crux of this one.

The others are ridiculous because they are addressable worries, bridges that could only be crossed once I started on the road to healing. But did I do anything about allaying those worries with action? No, I let them eat away at me for two years. How unproductive. How useless. What a black hole for my energy.

Waiting for your body to get better when it feels so wrong is only advisable if you know what you’re doing or you’re under the care of someone who knows what they’re doing. Researching endlessly on medical websites and forums, talking to friends about it, working around whatever’s wrong, ignoring it entirely, and never getting professional help – does this do anything besides let you spin your wheels? Nope. Do these activities give you the artificial feeling of productiveness without you having to reach any goals or feel any better? Yes.

  • Dismissing the bouts of lower back pain over several years and self diagnosing with kidney stones led to emergency gallbladder surgery,  something I never even considered. If I’d gotten myself diagnosed years earlier, I could have reduced my fat intake, changed my diet, and maybe gotten off hormonal birth control in time to prevent infection.

    A woman in a hospital gown displaying her ID wristband

    "This occasional back pain? It's nothing." - Me for two years before this happened.

  • Failing to do anything about my anxiety led me to spend over a year waking up in the middle of the night thinking I’d heard noises, walk around the house with a stick to use on intruders, and be unable to go back to sleep for sometimes more than an hour, sometimes not at all. It poked a hole in my rest every single night, made nightfall alone in my house hellish, and drove me to be unable to sleep without earplugs.
  • Failing to treat my shoulder injury gave me pain, led me to change the type of bra I was wearing, made me stop walking my dogs, forced me to sleep on just my right side every night (and my left arm was getting complainy).

The coping devices we put in place to work around the things that bother us are astoundingly ridiculous in hindsight. I spent more time finding ways to avoid treatment than I spent on the actual treatment and recovery, for the most part.

Acting on awareness of my responsibility for my own health has been on my mind a lot lately because it’s October, which is breast cancer awareness month, and I’ve been exposed to a lot of media about it that encourages proactiveness. I’ve gotten the message that self exams are a great way of knowing your body and being able to track changes, and every woman should get mammograms and generally not be in denial about the need to get screened if it’s been a while, or if you feel like something’s wrong. Like a lot of people, I’ve had people who are close to me have to deal with cancer, so I am on board. I walked with friends for a second year in the Komen Race for the Cure, and our team raised funds for mammograms for low income women, research, and education. I do self exams, I talk to my doctor every year at my well woman exam about breast health, and I’m going to schedule my first mammogram shortly after my 35th birthday (though I’m hoping ultrasound technology is available to me at that time). I am on it.

But I think I’m more proactive about this responsibility because while I’m very aware of the threat of cancer, it has yet to directly threaten my own health, and thus the threat seems less immediate and less scary. It can be easier to take care of yourself when you don’t think anything’s wrong. When you know something is wrong, the threat can seem bigger, the possibilities frightening in their enormity. But major problems with your body can’t improve with being ignored. You are issued one body during this lifetime, and no one is going to take care of it better than you are, if you are lucky enough to be able-bodied, so do your damn best.

Finally, let’s address the major stumbling block to taking care of yourself: cost. Getting access to health care in the United States can suck, and if you’re uninsured or underinsured, one of the working poor, or have health problems bigger than your income can handle, it is even more difficult to talk yourself into getting to a doctor. There are some low-cost and free programs and clinics out there, but the system overall has serious flaws and places where people can fall through the cracks, and it will be a long time before the government or private sector can ever get a solution in place. I am very grateful to have had a job with good health insurance over the last couple of years; I would have been completely screwed by my gallbladder surgery, and I am not sure I could have talked myself into getting my shoulder fixed, which is ridiculous, but it happens. I have family who are uninsured or underinsured and have lived with treatable physical and mental health conditions because they can’t afford surgery, regular therapies or treatments, or prescriptions. This lack of affordable health care is one of the elephants in the room when people encourage others to get their bodies looked at. It can take a lot of sacrifice to get coverage, and sometimes, even the best effort fails to pay off at all, because life is fickle.

Be grateful for your health, pay attention to it, get screened, get things fixed, and stop worrying fruitlessly. There are a lot of other places to put your energy besides denial, speculation, and dancing around a problem.

By the way, I guess I am now ready to be arrested! It may be a while still before I’m ready to play for the Rangers, but I’m working on it. And I couldn’t have done it without making that first phone call to my GP.

A close-up of a woman holding her arms above her head.

Hands where I can see 'em, lady.

The Shallow Slippery Slope

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of developing and abandoning fitness routines and changing my eating habits, it’s that stopping falling down the slippery slope is as easy as putting my foot down. No matter how far I fall, getting back up only takes one step.

If there are two things I’ve learned, it’s that, and that I have come to loathe the taste of oatmeal after having it for breakfast every morning whether I wanted it or not for something like two years. Variety keeps you interested, kids!

My shoulder was feeling poorly last weekend, so I said, “I’ll give it a little rest.” I went 24 hours without stretching at all. “I’ll rest it some more. One stretch, then all the internet. And all the new fall TV shows.” I did half my stretches the next several days and didn’t do my 45-minute workout at all the rest of the week, opting for the much more exciting option of sitting on my butt for 6 hours every night.

I slept on my bad shoulder part of yesterday morning, and while it felt fine for a few hours, everything felt tight enough that I stretched it out while over at a friend’s house early in the evening, and again a few hours before I went to bed. “Ahh, crap,” my brain said. “What have I done?” I finally did my 45-minute physical therapy workout this evening. While taking some progress photos afterward (which I meant to do on Thursday and did not do), I stretched out my arm to see how far I could raise it above my head. Predictably, I haven’t given it any additional flexibility by taking the week off, and I may have even let the muscles tighten up again a little bit.

Last Thursday, we had a friend come over with fast food for dinner. I passed on the Dublin Dr Pepper (if you’ve ever had it, you know what kind of sacrifice this is) but otherwise had a meal of battered and fried foods. I baked cookies for work; on Friday, some of my department members threw a party, and I had a lot of food that was heavy on the sugar and fat. I kept up the bad eating that night and the next day.

Every day, I said to myself, “This is the last time I’m eating badly. Tomorrow, I’ll eat reasonably, I’ll do my stretches first thing in the morning, and I’ll work out in the evening. And then, I will start writing that book. And paint my nails. And cure malaria by killing the Ur-mosquito.”

A cartoon of a determined-looking woman holding a cookie. It is poorly drawn.

"You know what we have can't last, Chip. I can put you down anytime I like."

By the time today rolled around, eating badly and not working out had translated into not tracking my food for several days. And this, I know, can be the first sign of quitting a fitness effort.

A cartoon of a woman with a half-eaten cookie in hand and crumbs on her mouth. It is even more poorly drawn.

"Oh, god, Chip, what have I done?"

But I don’t really have a choice. I have to keep exercising, if I want to continue making progress on those ligaments and muscles, if I want to get my left arm working as well as it can. And I have to lose some of the fat on my body. If nothing else, I would really hate for so much effort to have been wasted. Being accountable to the online weight loss and fitness group I joined two weeks ago helped me be responsible each day for not following through on my plans.

It was so easy to fall back into bad habits. However, it was also incredibly, incredibly easy to type all those food entries into my phone for each day and be honest about how much I thought I’d eaten. It was easy for me to seclude myself in my workout room and get to work with my home gym equipment, my tracking notebook, and my music. It helped me be more excited about my workout that I upgraded some of my equipment and was excited to test it out – I picked up a new resistance band and a 5-lb. kettleball on the cheap.

The best and worst thing about trying to change your life is that every day is a new opportunity to make choices that have a cumulative effect on your health and lifestyle. The past doesn’t matter. This makes me sad when my workout reminder goes off on my phone, and all I want to do is sit in front of my keyboard and play the Sims on Facebook. But at least it means that if I silenced my alarm and kept refreshing the internet instead of working out yesterday, it doesn’t affect my ability to do what needs to be done today.