Happy week, everyone! Let’s see if I can check in a little earlier this time. I’m going to keep the 20/20 stuff brief-ish because I have something else I’d like to spend words on, but we both have big milestones to report!
Our five-week measurements have concluded as of today. For my part, almost all of my measurements have gone down by about one full inch! The exceptions are my bicep measurement (only half an inch down, given muscle increase) and my hips – which have dropped a whopping three inches! I knew my pants were threatening to fall off me, and I could feel the changes in my arms and legs, but my hips have always been the widest part of me over the years. I assumed it would take a lot longer to see results there. I’m also continuing to lose weight at a slow but steady pace. Honestly, I’m over the moon about this! It’s been a great week so far, fueled by the fact that I’m making such good progress both in my head and on paper.
John is also changing rapidly. Most of his measurements were down 2-3 inches! (Blast the male human body’s ability to make such leaps…) His weight also continues to trend downward slightly faster than mine. Neither of us have been quite reaching the ideal 1-2% of body weight reduction per week, but that figure continues to be less of an expectation than we thought it was at first. It’s not the number you have to hit to succeed; it’s the best you can expect, and not everyone will get there all the time.
Our workouts this week have changed to include fewer reps but heavier weights, and the cardio gloves are starting to come off. I just noticed today that I’m starting to feel the right burns in the right places indicated by the weight machines, instead of just feeling tired overall. That means that I’m both strong enough to do them right, AND doing them well enough to hit the right targets. Reaching that baseline means we can start to REALLY work instead of playing catch-up. John has learned a bunch about how this process works from the physical therapist he saw a couple of times early in the program, and it sounds like we’ve now adjusted to using the muscles we built over the first five weeks; now we get to build new ones before learning to use those.
Talking specifics: John has done an amazing job of adjusting to using the AMT machines for large parts of his workouts! I’m still in awe of his ability; every time I get on those things, I burn out in about thirty seconds flat. I can’t imagine the 15-20 minutes he’s been managing. Most of his time is spent between that, treadmill work, and lots and lots of stretching. He’s still much faster than I am, so I have a lot of catching up to do. 🙂
I’ve been making most of my progress spread across the treadmill, the stationary bike, and the elliptical. My average walking speed continues to increase, and I’m taking well to faster speeds for short amounts of time. The bike is the biggest change. When I started, I could barely handle five minutes on the easiest settings. Now I’m managing 30-40 minutes and 4-5 miles for homework days, some of which is kicked up to the second difficulty level. And today… a huge milestone. I tried the elliptical again… and kept going past a minute. And a minute and a half. I got to TWO WHOLE MINUTES without stopping! That was the requested amount this time, instead of roughly half and a mea culpa for time reasons! I hope I keep improving with time.
Diet stuff is proceeding mostly the same as last week. John has joined me in Stage 3, while I’ve decided to remain in Stage 3 for another week. I had an interesting experience with a banana-based protein shake as a “safe splurge” at the bistro last week, and though it was absolutely DELICIOUS, I found that it was a little bit too good. I don’t want to get into the specifics of what we’re learning about food and brains (too long) but suffice to say that several factors in that shake and my meal that night combined to tempt the part of my brain that wants to eat junk that’s bad for me. It’s the first time I’ve had anything like that happen since starting, which is the entire point of the program; teaching you how to eat so that you don’t provoke that impulse on a regular basis.
Now that I’ve seen it in action, I’m a) much more aware of what it looks like and have way more control over it, and b) less keen on adding back the yummy, sweet fruits to my diet that caused it. I’m sure I will eventually move on, but until I get over the urge to drink five more of those banana shakes, I’m sticking to the stuff that I know won’t haunt my dreams for a week! Part of me wonders if some kind of collusion happened to test me there; it was the perfect trigger, and also a perfect way to experiment within safe limits. We’ve heard that many people that follow 20/20 to the letter have to be ordered to “fail” a couple of times so that they can learn to live with real-life situations, and both of us so far haven’t gone off plan at all outside of these little bistro treats that are 95% on plan anyway. Watching how your brain and body react to things really is the best teacher.
Moving on to the other thing I wanted to talk about, and the title of this post: vulnerability. As part of a larger conversation about publishing/releasing projects and having to deal with the many nasty people on the Internet these days, my therapist mentioned the host of a particular TED talk from a few years ago. I’ve always wanted to pay more attention to TED talks, since they’re always given by amazingly smart and talented people with interesting views on the world, but I’ve never made the habit – so today I queued up the talk in question over dinner. I’m kind of glad John was at work, because the talk ended up being almost overwhelming for me. Not only was it a message that I wish everyone could hear and understand, but it put into words so much of what I feel like I’ve unpacked for myself over the last six months. I would never have put it into these words, but hearing her explain it made sense on a level that nothing else I’ve tried to say to others has approached.
I have indeed been learning to become vulnerable – and that’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s enabled me the freedom to be more myself than ever around the people that love me, and it’s enabled me to tell the first story that I’ve ever successfully told in my life. Choosing to be who I am, without fear or fault or shame, is the thing I was missing up until January, when this big ball of change started rolling downhill. There was a time in my life where I was able to do it before, but that was the first thing to go as the result of my social anxiety, and I’ve only now just taken it back. Now I have to put it to the test, by continuing to be myself no matter what anyone says or does. Like every other human being on this planet, I struggle to do the right thing, to make those I care for happy, and to encourage good and beautiful things in life. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make me immune from the folks who want to see my hard-thought-out choices and decisions as negative for their own reasons.
It’s not possible to control what others think of us, and never has been; the only thing you can do in this life is keep being yourself. Those who matter don’t mind… and those who mind don’t matter. Dr. Seuss had it right all along. Just because someone thinks you’re wrong or bad doesn’t make it so; just because someone wouldn’t choose the same things you have doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have chosen them. Life is a rich tapestry (thanks, Dear Prudence) and there’s room in it for all of us.
Even this quirky, story-telling, long-winded, shy, but determined fat girl, making her way toward the future.
And, if you have time, please do check out Brené Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability and shame. It’s a powerful talk, and I can’t recommend it enough. And thanks to Merrill (my new therapist) who has definitely proven herself to be an excellent match for me. I no longer fear being in the wrong hands.
First of all – Continuing Congratulations to both you and John for the exceptional progress you are making! I’m so proud of both of you. -not just for doing so well by the numbers, but even more importantly, for sticking to the commitment you have made.
Secondly… Amy. Beautiful Amy. I sincerely appreciate how openly and honestly you are sharing about the various aspects of this journey you are on. Thank you. I watched the Brene Brown video and found it to be very interesting and enlightening. I am one who, after being with people, I analyze what I said… what I shouldn’t have said but did, what I should have said but didn’t, etc. One of your sentences above really speaks to me… “It’s not possible to control what others think of us, and never has been; the only thing you can do in this life is keep being yourself.” So true, so very true.
I hesitate to mention this next thing (because I don’t want it to cause you to step back; I want it to be a positive)… I think you are being quite vulnerable, and therefore very brave, sharing about this particular part of your journey through this, your blog. Thank you. I truly believe we are all a lot more alike than different, so again I say, Thank you.
I just listened to Brene Brown’s video again, and I want to change one word in one sentence above.
…I think you are being quite vulnerable, and therefore very courageous… Again – Thank you.
Thanks so much! It feels good to have my voice and my strength back, even if I know I still have a long way to go. I used to be the analyzing type too, but I discovered that for me, it’s one of the hallmarks of my social anxiety. (It doesn’t have to be, of course!) Everyone makes mistakes; my brain just likes to tell me that I make them bigger and worse than everyone else in the world – or when I don’t, I COULD have!
Alas, all I can do is my best, in whatever imperfect form that may take, and I have to hope that others understand that. On the one hand, I’ll never be perfect, but on the other, I’ll never be the monster my mind tells me I am, either. It’s a fair trade, I think. 🙂
You are right. – None of us will ever be perfect. Only Jesus. But oh my… I would never ever associate the word “monster” with you! So very glad that you have your voice and your strength back. Keep going, both of you!
I am so happy for both you and Juce for making such leaps in both fitness and weight loss over the last 5 weeks! How amazing to lose 3 inches from your hips! That must feel wonderful! It’s so inspiring to hear about your story and each of your successes along the way no matter how small. Turning up the speed on the treadmill .1 mph or going an extra minute or 30 seconds on the elliptical machine are huge accomplishments when you are in the gym every day and working so hard! I hope that it’s as amazing and exciting for you both watching yourselves as it is for us observers to see/read about!
Joe and I are TED talk junkies and I had actually seen the Brene Brown talk before, but watched it again in your honor with Michael just now! I love all the TED talks about psychological things, as I’m sure you can imagine with my passion for the subject. There are some good ones on forgiveness, self acceptance/self love, and things like that too. I like this TED talk too because I completely, hands down agree. One of my therapist’s main goals in life is to eliminate shame from the world, one person at a time and she told me that when we started therapy. I’ll never forget it, because she’s right. A lot of our problems in life stem from having shame about something. If only we learned to love and accept ourselves and everyone around us from infancy, we wouldn’t have anything to be ashamed of, and would have nothing to shame others with. In a perfect world right! It’s so hard to put shame and pride aside and fully delve into vulnerability to make real, meaningful connections with others. I see this as a major problem with society as well because so many people I meet (neighbors, new friends, coworkers, etc.) are walled off and have this air of superiority when you talk to them about personal things. It’s almost like if we admit fears, failure, weakness, quirks, or anything that’s not positive, we are seen immediately as inferior and shamed into the corner. Or at least that’s how I interpret a lot of social situations I’m in. I feel like people who are able to let their guard down and just love/experience others and show true caring without judgment are few and far between. That vulnerability is rare in American culture, where there’s so much pressure to be perfect, to succeed, and to be strong. This is something I’m still working on in myself. I realize that Brene is right, that the best thing we can do to combat shame/pride and be more vulnerable is work on ourselves, and make sure that we are raising our kids to love their imperfect selves and show them that they are worthy of being loved for who they are and not for what we wanted them to be or what we want them to do. Definitely interesting thought and lesson to take with us into our everyday lives and relationships. I want to be more accepting and loving of myself and everyone around me, and teach this to my children. Do you have specific things you do to work on self acceptance/self love? My therapist suggested writing notes of praise on sticky notes and putting them on the mirror to look at when I get dressed and brush my teeth everyday. I found that it was helpful, but I took them down when we moved and haven’t put them back up in our new house. She also said practicing gratitude for body like picking a body part I’m thankful for and looking at it and thanking it for doing whatever it does so well (like my hands for instance). I’ve done things like writing a gratitude journal for everyone/everything I am thankful for, or specific things/events I’m thankful for each day and I find that helps me. But outside of that, I haven’t really explored many other methods. I’m interested, if you end up getting into that, how you approach helping you love and accept yourself and if you have any tools/methods that help you stay mindful of those things? Anyway, super long response but I feel like I could talk about this stuff for hours. Great posting today, and good food for thought! I’m so proud of you and so happy that you like your new therapist. It sounds like everything is going swimmingly and I couldn’t smile bigger right now thinking of you and all that you’re doing! 🙂 Love you!
Thanks so much! This is a great comment, and I agree with quite a lot of your views. The tech industry has brought in so very many people and so very many jobs to the area, but it has also brought a sense of entitlement and expectation that I’m still not comfortable with after 10+ years of living here. It’s the only reason I still think sometimes about leaving. I appreciate what the feminist movement has done for telling women that they can have it all, but I’m concerned that the message should have been “you can have anything you choose” instead. We can’t expect people of any gender to do/have everything just because some people ARE capable of it!
That said, I think sometimes people are just awkward too. When people get weird in response to a person’s vulnerability, it’s sometimes because they feel superior – but it’s also sometimes because they truly don’t know what to say, or because they don’t know how to help. It’s also easy for people to take your behaviors/assertions of good things (ie: I can’t eat that, sorry) as personal attacks (ie: I’m eating healthy, why aren’t you?) We live in a culture of constant offense, and when you combine that with an area full of geeks and nerds that often struggle with the concept of vulnerability (their own and others’) because of how they’ve been treated over the years, things get complex fast. As a species, we geeks haven’t always adapted well to our new acceptance in society – overcompensation, vengeance, and avoidance are all things we do by accident with some regularity. I hope that changes with time, but it’s far too early to tell.
I don’t have any easy exercises for self-acceptance, but that’s because I’m coming from a unique place in regard to that. Despite what the automatic negative thinking portion of my social anxiety told me for a few years, I’ve always loved my identity and personality, and I already recognize a lot of strengths in myself, even if I also know I have a lot of flaws. There’s always been a disconnect between the vulnerable person I allow myself to be online, and the physical me, but bridging that gap was my goal up until I lost my confidence and became the person you know. Now I’m picking that back up where I lost it before, and I remember the parts of me that I used to love. Body image hasn’t been a problem for me much in my life, because I was never physically strong or traditionally pretty – I had no expectations of myself there, and I still don’t. My priorities in life are on being smart, kind, brave, and emotionally strong above being pretty, and anyone with a priority on physical appearance will probably clash with me, plain and simple. Either they have to accept me as I am, or they have to find someone else who shares that view, but changing to please them isn’t something I’ll do.
I think a lot of self-love and self-acceptance training is actually a form of learning to break automatic negative thinking. It’s a learned habit when we break ourselves down over and over again, and tell ourselves we’re not good enough – and after enough years of telling ourselves that, our brains internalize it as normal. They actually rewire themselves to follow those altered negative pathways and make it harder for us to think honestly about ourselves and others. Those post-it notes are helpful because they’re a first-line defense against the automation, but there are as many tools as there are human beings on Earth. 🙂 Which ones work for you are usually pretty personal and unique. They’re also not easy to learn, and that’s why most people need therapists to help them break the automation. It takes time and effort just like unlearning any habit, and unfortunately that ain’t fast!
The first step is recognizance though. Learning to detect when your brain is tearing you down unnecessarily has to come before any sort of reminder or trick will work to fight it. Until you can ask “hey, why am I doing this to myself?” it’s all automatic – sitting down and realizing that nobody but you just said those awful things is key. It’s also critical to put an end to situations where other people may be intentionally feeding those thoughts. Anyone telling you to your face that you’re ugly or fat or stupid or a failure isn’t your friend and isn’t trying to help you in any way. They don’t belong in your life, period. Once you’re sure that your own brain is actually the problem, as opposed to someone else being cruel, you can focus on breaking the automation.
I hope that helps! Automatic thoughts are complex beasts and take many subtle forms, and I’m sure there’s loads of information on them out there if you want to take a look. I know what I know from my work with the Social Anxiety Institute, but I’ve learned that automatic negative thoughts are a general psychological thing and come up in most areas of mental health. The specifics of what they say to you may differ, but we all internalize the garbage that others have said to us over the years, and I never took that seriously until I realized that I’d literally rewired my brain into the biggest bully I’ve met in my life. The cruelest things we humans can do aren’t to each other, they’re to ourselves.
I agree with your sentiments about the general population attitude around here, and I think it’s sad that vulnerability isn’t more of a social virtue. If more people showed their vulnerability I think their relationships would be deeper, more empathetic, and more rewarding ultimately. I have seen what you mentioned with the example of “sorry I can’t eat that” about people taking on comments as personal attacks. It speaks to the general narcissism and pride that is prominent in American culture. If you take a step back and say, “just because that person makes different choices from me, doesn’t mean they are judging my choices” it becomes a different situation. But a lot of people can’t look past their own views and opinions to get to that place. I’ve had first hand experience with this eating a vegan diet and getting a ton of social backlash against my choices because of the automatic assumption that I’m going to launch into a “why you should go vegan too” speech just because I refuse a dish with meat or dairy. Crazy! Anyhow, a little less narcissism and a little more empathy and vulnerability would go a long way in our society. We can just hope that this gets better with future generations as we get more in tune with our kids’ psychological needs as much as their physical and intellectual needs going forward!
I’m happy that you don’t have as much as a problem with self love and acceptance. It’s a blessing, and it means that your parents and family did a good job helping you build your self esteem as a child! The theory on automatic thoughts doesn’t really resonate withe me at all coming from a place of post traumatic stress and mental/physical abuse throughout my entire childhood and half of my adult life so far. It’s not like I have self-trained automatic thinking that I just need to recognize and stop, it’s more complicated. Basically I am using methods of self love/self acceptance to try to build self esteem where it didn’t exist before, and to mentally re-condition myself into true love. All my years in therapy allowed me to get the negative thoughts out and learn how to recognize and stop those, but what I need to do now is put positive ones in their place where otherwise there is a void and huge lack of self worth. So that’s how the post its are helpful to me – like anything you expose yourself to, music, literature, television, etc. it helps shape my new reality and my opinions of myself. It’s taken a miracle to get to a place of not thinking negatively in the first place given where I come from, but I’m left yearning for being able to say I truly love myself and I truly believe I am worthy of being loved for who I am. When people like Brene say that we have to be able to love and accept ourselves to truly be able to love and accept others I get alarmed and remember that it is just as important to acknowledge and work on do want in my life (like self love, empathy and embodying vulnerability as strength as an example to others) as it is to work on the things I don’t want in my life (negativity, hurt, pain, narcissism). I think I always equated loving yourself with being a narcissist and selfish, and so I’ve stayed as far away from that as I possibly can, and in the process, kind of abandoning my self esteem and self worth. I’ve recently learned that this is a major part of my weight problem and eating disorders and it’s a big deal in my life right now to work on it. Also being a new mom I’m seeing how my abandonment of my own needs in terms of self love, self care, and self esteem will teach my children to do the same to themselves, so this has to stop now! I can tell Michael and baby girl all day everyday that they are beautiful and intelligent and that they should love themselves as much as everyone in their life loves them… but it won’t really matter if I’m not modeling that for them with my behavior and my attitude toward myself. So, onward with the positive mental conditioning I go! Lol! I will have to look into more ways to help remind myself to be mindful of positivity, love, and gratitude in my life because I feel like it’s one of the most important things I think I can do at this phase in my life.
I see! Sounds like you’re working on establishing an identity more than the automatic stuff. That’s not an easy process regardless of when you go through the main part of it, and I feel like it’s something that never really ends in a person’s life. The more things we choose to expose ourselves to, the more we learn about them, but we also learn about ourselves by our reactions to them. It’s kind of a messy process since it amounts to “throw stuff at a wall and see what sticks” but the things that stick are so different for all of us. You’ll have the benefit of exploring things through a child’s eyes at least twice, which I can only imagine will be helpful in terms of exposure or re-exposure. Getting back to the things you identify with but maybe forgot or let go of is just as important as finding new things IMO. I wouldn’t be so far along in my journey if I hadn’t done that!
The good news is, it’s way easier to love yourself when you love the things you’re a part of and regularly exposed to. For example, I know we talked before about how fun it can be to love kids’ shows on TV at any age, and my ability to enjoy things that other people would find strange or annoying is one of those things I love about myself! I wish you the best of luck exploring and figuring out what things you love best.
I think that’s true, an identity is what I’m trying to figure out, or at least an identity within myself. I don’t feel like I need to cling to labels or groups or anything like that externally at this point in my life, but more of just understand who I am deep deep down inside and learn to appreciate the parts that I like. I really need to get over the fear that self appreciation equates to being a crazed narcissist. It’s not the same, but it’s hard for me to understand what a good relationship with yourself looks like since I haven’t seen many good models of that in my life. It’s one of those things that I think is intrinsic for most people. I’m thinking of asking different people about how they relate to themselves and how they maintain their self esteem to try to learn about how to do that better. Your kids TV shows thing is a good example of a way you relate to yourself in a positive way. It’s so weird having personality aspects like that but just not having any feelings about it positive or negative. Maybe I should make a list of things I do/ways I am so I can look at it more objectively. It might generate some pretty good post-its! 🙂 Anyhow, thanks so much for the well wishes. Life is such a crazy journey, but its lovely to be able to share and go through them along side of good friends and the ones we love. Thanks for the great chat and for being a good friend!