Ok. This post is me admitting that, despite my success in some areas, I still have a lot to learn. I own that – I’ve learned a lot but I don’t know everything. And sometimes, no matter how successful you have been, you need to ask yourself “What on earth am I doing?”
Let me explain.
During the early part of August, my left eye started twitching. The corner of it, furthest from my nose. It wasn’t 24 hours a day, but it twitched frequently. It was annoying. At least, at first it was just annoying. I thought it would last for a few days and then go away because that has happened before in my life. But it didn’t go away. It just KEPT HAPPENING. And I kept thinking it would go away. Until I realized that it had been happening over a week. And then two weeks.
I thought I just needed to relax. Not that I felt super stressed out but maybe I was. So I tried taking 1 mile walks without my head phones for a couple of nights.
The twitching didn’t happen as often. But it didn’t go away either. By this point, it had been going on for so long I wasn’t completely sure when it started. And then it was Labor Day and I was sitting on a porch with a friend and when my eye fired up with the twitching I realized HOLY MOLY it’s September. And my eye is STILL twitching.
I contemplated going to the doctor but instead, like any good smart phone owner, I googled. If you Web MD “twitching eye”, 3 causes are listed: fatigue, stress, caffeine. Further down the article, it lists Bell’s palsy, Tourette’s and Parkinson’s.
Hmmm. Maybe my daily french press of coffee was not such a good idea anymore.
Wait. Was that ever a good idea? Why are you doing that? Because I need it to wake up in the morning.
Wasn’t there a time when I woke up feeling rested and alert without coffee? Yeah, that was back in 2013. When your food was way more on point. And you were committed to getting 8 hours of sleep per night. Because you were trying to lose weight and nothing was going to get in your way.
Hmmm. So what happened?
So I thought about it. Let me tell you what happened.
In January of 2013, I went cold turkey, all-in Paleo with my food and I was sleeping 8 hours per night. And my results were immediate and amazing. I kept that up for the next 10 months or so, with the occasional cheat, and when I cheated, I felt it and I always went back to being strict. I drank coffee but usually a cup a day before lunch. And starting in March 2013, I was lifting 2 or 3 times per week, pretty darn religiously. I had never felt better, from a physical and mental standpoint.
Then, just before Thanksgiving 2013, my grandpa Roman got sick. And just before Christmas, he died. I don’t know if eating and drinking EVERYTHING is a funeral tradition in all cultures, but it is one in the Midwestern United States. People bring food and you eat it. And you drink and you laugh and tell stories about the person you’ve lost. And since I’m not made of stone and I’m still and always will be an emotional eater, I ate. I didn’t drink much, but I ate. Especially the sweets that were available. Also, with the traveling during that month, I didn’t make it to the gym much. I didn’t feel guilty about it, like ‘OMG I have to go to the gym and fix this’ or ‘I have FAILED’. I just thought I would do better when life settled down. The scale didn’t really move that much and that was how I was measuring my success. And I didn’t really notice how crappy the food made me feel because crying for a few weeks straight makes you feel crappy anyway.
In January 2014, I went back the gym and to eating paleo… most of the time. It’s not like I totally stopped caring about what I was eating. But I cheated way more often than I had before. I ate more cheese than I used to. I ate less meat. I got lazy and didn’t prep food like I used to so I was usually scrambling to put together lunch. Then, my family went on vacation to Mexico in February. And I kept working out while on vacation, but I ate… like crap. Then spring came, and the weather got nice and I started training for a half marathon. And I was running so much that I stopped lifting and food became a very distant secondary priority. I was tired a lot and I thought it was because I was running, so I bought a french press coffee pot to keep at work and started drinking the whole thing 5 days per week. I should have known better.
I was so exhausted when the half marathon was over that I stopped working out for nearly a month. And I was still eating no where near as clean as I had been. I’d slowly gained a solid 7 lbs… but my clothes still fit. For the most part. I knew I didn’t feel as awesome as I once had but I was pretty good at convincing myself it had more to do with external life stress – not stuff I’m actually in control of, like my food, my sleep, and whether or not I take my ass to the gym. I mean, this is real life right? Was I just being hard on myself?
But then my eye started twitching. And it took me 3 weeks of eye twitching to really ask myself, “What is going on? Maybe you should listen to your body. Be honest, why do you feel like crap?”
Here’s the problem with using the scale as your only measure of success: it never tells the whole story. I felt like crap because I had slowly thrown out all the rules that had made me feel awesome in the first place. Those rules also helped me lose weight. But it was never my goal to weigh less but still feel shitty. I mean how stupid would that be? I can produce a certain number when I step on the scale but I want to crawl out of my skin everyday because I have persistent headaches and always feel tired and an upset stomach and acne (stuff I always thought was normal until I tried paleo and it all went away – but now it was back) and oh yeah, my eye has been twitching for OVER A MONTH. HOLY COW people.
But that’s how insane body image is in America. We think that a number on a scale is what defines our health. NO. No no no. If you are healthy, you can feel it. You feel awesome – I know because I have experienced the awesome. Most of us don’t know how awesome we are designed to feel because we have abused our bodies by eating bad food, not moving them or (just as bad) exercising too much, not sleeping enough, staying indoors when we should be sitting in the sun and breathing fresh air, etc.
So I had to get real. Just because I hadn’t gained back all the weight I’d lost didn’t mean I was on track to living my best life day to day or feeling as great as I knew I could. I had to get back to basics.
- Just eat real food. When I went back to full blown paleo a few weeks ago, I realized how far off the rails I’d been. Because I felt great for a week and then I experienced “sugar/carb” withdrawal all over again, just like I did back in the beginning of 2013. It basically feels like you have the flu for 3 days. But now I’m past it and I feel awesome again. More mental clarity. Almost no cravings for crap foods. Most importantly, I make sure I’m eating enough meat/protein and fat each day. What a difference in my energy level.
- I stopped running and went back to lifting and walking. Yes, I stopped running. Because even though I was intending to do the Des Moines half marathon in October, I knew that running was one of the reasons I had gotten so far off track. I’m not going to get into the problems with excessive cardio right now, but I’ll just say that I feel 100% better lifting heavy stuff 2 times per week and walking outdoors at a moderate pace for at least 15 minutes per day. The end. That’s all I do.
- I took my sleep seriously. I posted about circadian rhythm recently, and I have worked hard over the last 3 weeks to get back into mine. Guess what, I don’t desperatly need my coffee any more. I’m back to drinking a cup per day (I love the taste and always will) or none at all. I can function just fine without it. And best of all, I want to get out of bed when I wake up.
So guess what happened because I decided to try to make myself feel awesome again…
- Yes, my eye stopped twitching completely. Within days of making the changes.
- For the record, that 7 lbs is gone. In less than 3 weeks. And I didn’t even try to make that happen. I can tell a good amount of it left my stomach because it is suddenly flatter, like it was last fall when I was eating clean.
- My skin is more clear/acne is gone. Not that I ever had a major problem with acne, but it’s like non-existent when I eat clean.
- My stomach is no longer upset.
- I have more energy and a longer attention span.
- In general, I feel awesome again.
I recently posted a quote on Instagram that said “If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.” Boy is that true. I just wanted to feel better so I changed what I knew I needed to – and boom, I got results.
And I’ve learned my lesson. My weight is not as important as how I feel. My weight is not as important as my health. A number on a scale is not capable of telling me if I’m on the right track. I’ve just been conditioned to think that way for most of my life. I’ve been addicted to the validation the scale provides me and I want to break it.
So this is my vow. I am not going to weigh myself again until 2015. That might sound silly, but I haven’t gone more than a week without weighing myself since January of 2013. And that’s not healthy. I have to learn to focus on how I feel and what my body is telling me. If I feel like crap, it doesn’t matter what my scale tells me. Today, my scale is being removed from my kitchen and is going into my storage unit in my basement.
I’m thinking that maybe I’ll have a party in January where I smash it with a bat.
Who is with me? Can we define our success and health and general well being by how we look and feel and not by a number that reflects the force of gravity on our bodies? A number that doesn’t reflect what our body is made of (muscle, fat, etc)? In the era of the Biggest Loser and BMI’s and all sorts of other numbers games?
Well, I’m going to try my damnedest. And I hope you will join me – or at least try to let that number matter a little less.