Posts Tagged ‘self-discipline’


Anyone who subscribed to Confessions of a CrossFit Fattie some time ago will know it’s been a very long time since I’ve posted.

Why?

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From chARiTyelise at etsy.com.

That big motivator of most things bad, fear.  I didn’t want to talk about what was going on. But now that I’m feeling a bit better, it’s time to ‘fess up.

Almost a year ago I was feeling the best I had in years. Well enough to go for a week to Tampa by myself to visit my mom. I was great about staying on my CrossFit workout while I was there.

And then I crashed. It took me two weeks after I came back to do much of anything except sleep. I assumed that I’d gotten those bad habits conquered, what with my regular visits to the physical therapist extraordinaire and my consistent workouts.

But I was wrong.

I hadn’t factored in what would happen when I started trying to resume a “normal” life, one with work in it. I participated in NaNoWriMo, and the writing started to take priority over the workouts. I’m fine, I thought, like any backslider. It’s just a glitch; I’ll get better.

And then November ended, and with it NaNo, and I’d completed the fifty-thousand words. And I looked upon it and found it good. I really thought I could go back to my old ways of spending nonstop hours at the computer without harming myself.

I started picking up more freelancing work. I started planning an AWA-style workshop for the new year. It didn’t happen. I kept doing the freelance copyediting1 and writing because it was fun, and it had been so long, but for the gigs with Thomson Reuters, since I’d been consistently earning any money. And I was doing work I enjoyed.

I’d hated becoming the unreliable employee that illness had made me into. I was able to be reliable as a volunteer at DailySource.org because it was a telecommuting job. I didn’t have to get dressed and drive; I just had to have enough energy to make it through my shifts and organize my work around my down times.

Now I was taking on more responsibility, and what was the mistake? The same one I’d made my entire life — that I could escape the consequences of ignoring my duties to my health. I’d think about it tomorrow.

As the new year came, I left the routine of regular workouts, becoming more and more sporadic. Not surprisingly, I started feeling worse. I was annoyed that I was losing what definition I’d gained in my arms and legs. But I kept telling myself that the occasional workout that I was getting in was going to help me maintain until I had time for more.

Yeah, right. That’s worked so well for me in the past.

And the migraines started getting worse again. And I had to be responsible, take care of the clients who expected their work to be done on time and well. So that became a priority. The excuse I’d tried to tell other people not to use, “I don’t have time,” was returning to my vocabulary, even though I knew that it was a lie. I didn’t have the time NOT to work out, because failing to do so ate into the rest of my life, taking time away to be sick or alternate between insomnia and hypersomnia. And sleepy editors are sloppy editors, so I’d be waiting for that window of time when everything was working to work.

Then I had a couple of weeks of something I hadn’t done in years, not since I’d figured out my food sensitivities and sworn off corn and dairy and kicked my Coca-Cola habit. I went on an eating binge.

cupcake tier

Cupcake tier from The Cake Shop.

That’s my oldtime modus operandi for weight gain. It had been years, truly, years since I’d last been a bitchy binger. “Bring me baked goods,” I demanded of my husband in a take-no-prisoners way. He did. I’d eat a six-pack of cupcakes and want more. I put on ten pounds in a week. Turns out one of my drugs had pooped out on me (okay, that’s not the technical term, but it captures what I mean), and it took me while to figure it out. The first thing you look for is something new, not something old, when your behavior goes wonky.  But now I’ve figured out that the first thing to think about if I get bingey is to consider any drugs that work on neurochemicals, but particularly antidepressants. It was the Wellbutrin that my brain had started to ignore, and the first thing my body did was say, “Send me sugar.” Turns out the brain’s its own sweet tooth, using a disproportionate amount of glucose, which I learned from a TED Talk2:

I don’t want one of those nasty things in my brain, although if you told me it was the only thing between me and a daily migraine, I’d seriously consider it.

At any rate, the next clue was complete lack of energy and motivation, accompanied by showers of weeping eyes. No good reason, just started crying anytime I wasn’t distracted. So I went to my friendly pill prescriber and spent the  next three months getting titrated up to an effective dose of Viibryd. It’s new, and I almost said, “No, thanks,” when she told me about it, because I didn’t want a new thing on the market. No one knows what’s wrong with it yet. All I knew right away was that it made me queasy and gave me the worst smelling flatulence I’d had in my life. Powerful bastards, too: the farting would wake me up at night as if a cannon had been shot out of my…well, you know. And I put on another ten pounds of fluff eating starchy stuff to combat the constant nausea.

About the time I finally started to feel normal again, I was knocked down by an allergic reaction to the bloody stuff.  Itchy everywhere, including my throat and mouth, which is a bad sign. I develop drug allergies every so often, and this one was acting suspiciously like the one that gave me blisters all over the inside of my mouth. Because of the depression symptoms, I’d started counseling right around the same time, and that helped me get through the tsunami of helplessness and hopelessness that attacked me.

Now that’s cleared my system, and a new/old drug seems to be working. I’m slowly working my way back up from zero, starting out at the exact same weight I was when I started this blog. But unlike days past, I refuse to stop. I refuse to let the bad juju win. I’m back to more healthy eating (no more Mr. Gutsquirm) and, ooo-rah, working out.

And life, with its odd synchronicities, sent me a client whose wife is a CrossFit instructor at the box closest to me. I pass it every time I go to a physical therapy appointment. As soon as it cools down, I’m going to gut up with my big gut and go workout in public. Then I can talk more authoritatively about putting yourself out there. Time to stop denying the importance of the social structure, time to stop assuming they’re all going to judge me, time to overcome inertia. (Or maybe just defy gravity — whatever it is that’s keeping you away from health..)

1. Every time I mention copyediting, I cringe to think that someone will read my blog and think “Who the hell is she to call herself a copyeditor?” My errors on my blog are evidence that everyone needs a copyeditor, even a copyeditor. Oh, and “copyeditor” and “copy editor” are both used by the people calling themselves that. I won’t bore you with the details. If you want me to bid on copyediting work for you, please contact  Amy at amy@indiereader.com and tell her you’d like me to work on your project.
2. I’m hooked on TED Talks. Awesome info in twenty minutes or less.


I have a tendency to end up in tl;dr land, and I realized that some of the most important things I was trying to communicate in my recent “Deep Space Mind” post were lost because I spent so much time leading up to them. So here is the Reader’s Digest version of how to avoid motivation-sucking mindsets:

  1. We all have lies we believe about ourselves, and tend to gravitate toward them when we’re blue, tired, hormonal or otherwise not at our best.
  2. Identifying those lies is an important step to getting out of cycles of negative thinking. Identification may come through any of the following methods (not all-inclusive, by any means), depending on your preference:
    1. Self-reflection: What am I thinking and why am I thinking it? Does the thinking stem from emotion or rational thought?
    2. Meditation: Often in the process you come to moments of clarity about what’s going on when your mind stills.
    3. Prayer: I see this as a subset of 2, just a matter of whom you attribute the message to.
    4. Cognitive therapy: When you need some assistance with the process described in 1.
  3. Dealing with the lies through the method best suited to you. My two favorites are:
    1. Reframing: Shift your perspective through a different interpretation of the facts.
    2. Self-talk (your internal running commentary): Respond to internalized, emotional thoughts welling up in you with reasoned statements based on facts. For example, when I think to myself that someone’s reaction is due to something I did and have no concrete basis for the belief, I start saying to myself “It’s not always about you.” Over the years, my natural tendency to immediately think that everyone upset near me was upset by me has morphed into a stance of stepping back and reviewing before personalizing something. Except when the person upset is my husband. Then it surely must be about me.
  4. When you begin to drown in these lies or negative thought patterns, reach out to your support system to help. Often they will point out facts that belie whatever your current negative obsession is.

Cool. Finished that in less than 500 words. Didn’t think it was possible.


I alluded to my recent health issues (well, more than “alluded” in some) in recent posts: Pain and other challenges, Pain and other challenges: Part 2 and Pain and other challenges: Part the third.  The problems kept piling up, and the key feature to improvement, consistency, has eluded me. I think I’m now on the way to surmounting the problem.

One of the issues that is only tangentially about me is that my migraine specialist, Dr. Robert Nett, died in a car accident back in February. His death was a loss to the medical community, as he was both a researcher and a practitioner, an M.D. and a pharmacist, and very attentive to his patients. It was, of course, even more of a loss to his family and friends, but I’m sure all of his patients felt the loss as well.

I found out when in a different specialist’s office. I’d listed Dr. Nett as the doctor treating me for migraines, and the doctor’s assistant asked me a couple of times who was taking care of that. I repeated the answer a couple of times, a bit confused. Then she realized I hadn’t been told.  When she told me, my first thought was “What a waste!”  My second was “His poor family.”  And my third, I’m a bit embarrassed to say, was “What will I do now?” Selfish much?

But there’s been some validity to the concern. I’ve been heavily medicated to prevent the migraines, and I was developing some sporadic and odd side effects. He had planned to reduce them at some point after they’d done their job of resetting the sensitivity of my brain to stimuli. However, you basically had to audition to get an appointment with him because he was in such high demand. Now that he’s gone, pretty much everyone here in San Antonio that specializes in migraines is slammed and we’re looking at, ohh, August, maybe, before I actually see one of them.

So my internist (whom I’ve called “wonderful” several times, and realized I use “wonderful” way too often, so let’s say she’s amazing — because she is) has been temporarily dealing with my migraine meds as well as my grab bag of assorted illnesses. I had an appointment with her because of a hacking cough I couldn’t shake and managed to have one of the side-effect “spells” that  periodically plague me. I won’t bore you with the details, but she sent me straight to the ER, and on the follow-up appointment said that I was acting as if I’d “had three bottles of tequila, and [she] knew [I] hadn’t done.”

So what with the actual migraines, the recurrent hacking cough, and the spectrum of light-headed to stoned beyond belief, I’ve been extremely inconsistent with my exercise.

So at said follow-up, I talked to her about reducing all of the drugs to zero and asked her if she thought I was being overly simplistic in thinking that diet and consistent exercise would take care of the problem. She nixed reducing everything, even over a lengthy period of time, and pretty much told me I could expect to be on X, Y and Z for the rest of my life. On the other hand, she was in favor of reducing to eliminating some of them.

But we both knew that the ones that were first on the chopping block were those which were preventing the migraines, as they’re also the ones probably responsible for my problems. So I kept thinking, well, what about the exercise if I’m in the middle of a migraine?

She did agree that exercise and weight loss would/could eliminate (or at least ameliorate) most of my medical issues. But I was stuck on the “How can I be consistently exercising if I’m having all these problems?” and not expressing it well and we kind of went in a circle for a bit.

It took me a while to formulate the right question (because of all the foggy brain problems), but I finally came up with it: Is there any reason I should stop if I’m having a migraine, feeling wobbly or hacking like crazy — or do I just need to suck it up?

She smothered a chortle (or at least that’s what I think it was), and said, “Well, basically, yes. Suck it up.”

Fair enough. My fear has been that I’ll make things worse. Now, if necessary, I’ll go workout with my earplugs and sleeping mask, and if it makes any one migraine worse, I’ll deal. I plan on having the hubby coach on standby, of course, but as far as the pain, well, it’s just pain. I don’t mind suffering in the short term if, in the long term, I’ll actually get better.

So, sports fans, the race is back on.


So, in my continuing streak of poorly timed illnesses and injuries, I decided to throw in some oral surgery.

I cracked a molar badly enough (probably from my bad habit of grinding my teeth and clenching my jaw during intensive problem-solving … and sleep (extremist enough for you?)) to end up having to have it pulled about … oh, 2006 or 2007. I was told then that I should get an implant. I’ve obviously procrastinated, but I have had a few intervening problems.

Anyway, the time had arrived that I could postpone no more. This sumbitch is over $4K, and my husband’s dental insurance will end when he retires, and he’s seriously talking about doing it at the end of this year or beginning of next. And the entire process takes over three months if everything goes according to plan. So I’ve pushed it about as long as I should.

Last Tuesday I went and had the half-hour procedure, which consists mostly of the surgeon taking a plug out of your gum and sticking a titanium stick in there that they can attach a crown to after the thing heals sufficiently. Let me tell you kids this: I now see why Halcyon is a frequently abused prescription drug. Wow. I got a short vacation from myself, and could truly relate to the “All is Groovy” lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel. (Yeah, I never tried anything illegal, not even pot, although friends assure me I’d really like it.)

Anyway, I was pretty zoned out that day. And the next, which surprised me, because usually Tylenol 3 does nothing more for me than regular Tylenol. Of course, the last time I took it, I wasn’t taking enough muscle relaxant to down a baby rhino. So I was buzzed enough that when my son asked me if I were going to work out, my reply was “I can’t lift heavy machinery.” His reply: “Well, then, you’re fine, ’cause we won’t be doing that.”

So that knocks out Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday I was able to function without the Tylenol 3, and spent most of the day putting out fires from work. By early afternoon, I was completely exhausted. So I took off a third day, but told my husband after we’d watched the latest Netflix delivery of “Foyle’s War” that I would start up CrossFit the next day.

Friday am, more work. I really regret not working out this morning, because it was friggin’ hot out there tonight. Yes, I live in one of the multiple locations with record-breaking heat. The electrical folks have been telling us they’re going to start rolling blackouts because the electrical usage is high, even for us A/C lovin’ South Texans.

I walk out and see “15 minute AMRAP.” Oh, I think to myself, just 15 minutes. Apparently I have short-term memory loss, as the last AMRAP about killed me. But, no, I’m focusing on the 15 minutes, forgetting that first I’ll have to warm up, and then the damn AMRAP will eat my lunch. When my husband said “10 minutes,” I thought he meant 10 to go, not 10 finished, and I thought I’d probably pass out from heat exhaustion before it was over.

I learned two things tonight:

  1. Wall ball sucks when there’s steaming animal poo somewhere in the yard around you and you can’t find it. You just have to breath it in whilst tossing a medicine ball at the house’s siding and catching it. And check your shoes every time you walk back in the garage, ’cause you’re certain it’s following you.
  2. Pouring water on your head when you are overheating and not sweating enough to cool down is a good idea. Pouring it onto your bangs before the aforementioned wall ball makes it slide into your eyes with the salt that’s on your forehead (even if you had no discernible sweat).

I also observed that working out at high temperatures when tired makes you not want to talk to anyone. I think I mostly grunted or simply yelled “Round.”

Let’s see if this teaches me to fear the AMRAP. Maybe not avoid it, but certainly to not think “Oh, it’s only X minutes.”


Is the will the strongest force in the universe? Perhaps, if it could be leashed.

But most of us have difficulty leashing our will enough to offer the last cookie to everyone before gulping it down. I’m apparently not the only one wondering about our collective will. Adam Bornstein, reflecting on the USA women’s soccer team’s performance against Brazil at the World Cup, mused about it in his blog post, “The 3 biggest fitness lies“:

I found myself wondering if an entire country could channel the same relentless will to succeed.

I’ve often thought that if I’d ever gone back to school and gone into psychology, I would want to explore will (aka volition, self-control, self-discipline, self-regulation) among outliers. You see, my late grandfather is an outlier. His parents were alcoholics, the family lived hand to mouth, moving place to place in Oklahoma within the Choctaw nation. Of his nine siblings, only he and the eldest of his sisters escaped the poverty and alcoholism of that crowd. My grandfather retired with a respectable income (from two retirements) and a nice little nest egg. He began smoking when he was nine. He gave it up cold turkey in his early 70s after watching his brother-in-law die of emphysema. That’s willpower.

I think of him and wonder what it was that made him and his sister different. What was it that made them two of the few to overcome their conditioning, their childhood disadvantages to escape the trajectory anyone would have predicted for them?

In today’s attempt to find answers about how to harness willpower, I turned to some academic journals. Most of the articles are written in the context of rehabilitation, whether from addiction, heart attacks or strokes, but they still have some applicability for those of us trying to change a lifetime of bad habits into a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise (whether CrossFit or something else) and weight loss.

Generally, we start with goal-setting: I want to lose 100 pounds, for example. That’s a big goal; I’m trying to slice it into easier chunks,  like diarying what I eat with MyPlate and trying to make eating healthy within limits as a daily practice rather than obsessing over the scale (which,  I confess, is a struggle). And I try to CrossFit as much as I can; as I said in my last post, this month has been challenging because some of my health issues are trying to resurface (but I did my WOD today, thank you very much; I feel shaky, nauseated and headachey, but at least I accomplished something).

But even goal-setting can be troublesome.  Dr. Richard J. Siegert,  Dr. Kathryn M. McPherson and Dr. William J. Taylor note in a paper published in Disability and Rehabilitation, a professional journal, that

The goal-setting process for many patients (and clinicians) is marked by frustration, difficulty and perceived failure.

Why? Because, they say, that the people setting the goals are largely the professionals, and the patients don’t really take an active role in deciding what their goals are.  If you do not set the goal yourself, you are not emotionally vested in it.

Shocked? No, not me. As long as it was other people telling me what I should do and how I should do it, or when I set goals that were really more about trying to please others, I never achieved them.  I had to set my own goals based on my own desires, and it wasn’t about “knowing” what I should do. Most of us “know” what to do to fix our weight and fitness problems: exercise more, eat less (and better).

It’s kind of like the neurologist who idiotically told me that I was “too intelligent to commit suicide” when he put me on a drug that made me think about it all the time. Or the numskull who sat in my car and said “Only stupid people must be drug addicts.” No, no, no! It’s not about intelligence; it’s about pain (at least in those two cases). Suicides and drug addicts are generally trying to escape their pain. And relatively recent studies have demonstrated that emotional pain is perceived by the brain in the same place as physical pain. In fact, emotional pain may even be worse.

Food often plays the same role in fatties’ lives; we eat our emotions away. In fact, that’s one of the reasons prospective lap band surgery patients are given psychiatric evaluations first; profound depression can kick in after the surgery because the patients no longer have food available as a way to comfort themselves.

So doctors Siegert, McPherson and Taylor suggest that not only should the goals be set by the patients, but that the emotional impact of goal-setting be included in deciding on goals. They look at it through the lenses of self-regulation, which seems to indicate that people have hierarchical goals that emanate from their sense of self. In other words, if you see yourself as a kind person, you will set specific goals that are consistent with kindness. And the bigger the gap between the goals and your sense of self, the more emotional interference you’ll have with reaching your goals.

So, if you see yourself as undisciplined (or, as I would say about myself, in a more positive light, spontaneous and easy-going), then goals that interfere with your sense of self can be tough. I do see myself as spontaneous (and wildly independent), so making myself settle into any routine has been tough. But I’m reframing the idea of routine as “inflexible” by allowing myself flexibility (to some extent) in timing and, more importantly, in seeing that healthy routines make it more possible for me to do things I’d like spontaneously. It’s been the unhealthy lifestyle that has chained me to limited activities, not a healthy routine.

So, for success, you have to fit your goals into your self-image. And then, you must make sure you don’t sabotage yourself with goals that are unattainable or delayed (back to the “slice it up” scenario). Quoth said docs:

[A] wide range of emotional reactions occurred after brain injury or stroke, with the four most common responses being frustration, sadness, fear and worry … For example, frustration arises when goals that were quickly and easily achieved previously, now require an immense effort and are achieved very slowly or not at all. Similarly, sadness arises when goals that were considered important for maintaining an ideal self-image now seem unattainable.

So, if you’re frustrated or sad in the pursuit of your goals, perhaps you need to evaluate whether they are realistic (for example, in the CrossFit world, have you scaled down the WODs sufficiently) or consistent with your view of yourself.

Another possibility is that you don’t believe in free will.  Kathleen D. Vohs and Roy F. Baumeister assert in an editorial called “Addiction and Free Will,” published in Addiction Research and Theory, that if you believe you have no control over your actions, you have difficulty changing them:

Belief in addiction is often tantamount to a disbelief in free will, at least within the circumscribed behavioral sphere involving the addiction. Our recent research has suggested that such a belief can cause problems.

The idea that people are not fully in control of their own behavior stretches back into antique notions of demonic possession, divine command, and other supernatural volition. In modern life, people often claim reduced responsibility for their own actions by citing social factors, societal oppression, emotional distress, external provocation, mental illness, drugs, and other factors.

In a curious parallel to ideas of demonic possession, modern science has promoted the view that people are not free to choose or control their actions …

Addiction is a particularly potent form of the belief that people cannot control and are not responsible for their actions.

[Researchers]  found that making people disbelieve in free will caused them to cheat more than others on a test, especially when they could make money by cheating. Further work has confirmed the antisocial effects of disbelieving in free will. These effects include increased aggression toward other innocent persons and reduced helpfulness toward needy strangers … Disbelief in free will seems to make people less likely to think for themselves, as reflected in greater conformity to other people’s judgments … and lesser willingness to articulate personal lessons from their own guilty misbehaviors.

Now, see, I used to think “free will” versus “predestination” was largely a theological discussion with little practical point; from our point of view, we make choices, so why does it matter if they’re predetermined or not? Apparently it does matter. If you don’t believe that you have control over what you’re doing, you won’t exercise your will to change when change is painful.

Of course, we aren’t in control of everything. I have a genetic defect that makes it harder for my body to make enough serotonin, setting me up for a cascade of problems that manifest physically and psychologically. Recognizing this reality, Vohs and Baumeister come up with a rather brilliant solution:

Our view is that the debate about free will in addiction, like the broader debate about free will in all human behavior, is unlikely to be won by either extreme view … Self-control is an important form of what people understand as free will, and the capacity for self-control is real but limited – thus neither complete nor completely lacking. The traditional notion of willpower may be useful here, especially if one understands willpower as a kind of psychological energy that fluctuates as people use it up and then re-charge it … Free will is a partial, sometime thing.

So, yes, Green Lantern, you’ve got a powerful force there. But it’s not as stable as your mythos would have it. You do have days when imposing your will is easier and other times when doing what you know is the right thing for your body is tough. But it is there. It is strong. And it can change your life.


We’ve all heard the saying “Talk is cheap.” I would agree “Talk is cheap” in the same sense as the saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” So, yes, saying “I want to CrossFit” is not the same as doing it.

But otherwise, I’m not so sure that talk is cheap, not in the sense of “Sticks and stones may break your bones/ But words will never hurt you.” Part of keeping yourself motivated is a part of sticking to any plan to change your life, whether it is weight loss, weight maintenance or a fitness regime, CrossFit or something else.

When you are down, what resonates in your memory? The time you broke your nose or the things you have repeated to yourself, either because someone actually said that bad thing to you or that was the implied message from another’s actions? Those wounds, and the way they reinflict injury on you over and over as you repeat them, are quite costly.

Those things that you say to yourself are referred to by psychologists as “self-talk.” We’ve all seen cheesy versions of trying to fix self-talk, where people listen to self-help tapes and repeat “I am fabulous,” etc.

But just because it can be made to look silly, it doesn’t mean that the idea of changing the way you talk to yourself is invalid. There is one pastor/psychologist who has a ministry, Theophostic Prayer, built on the idea that in childhood we all learn to believe lies about ourselves, and that those lies keep us from accomplishing what we should in our lives. If Christianity isn’t your thing, then take a whiff of Buddhist thought from Daniel Goleman’s Destructive Emotions, where the Dalai Lama comments on teaching children positive self-talk as a way to deal with teasing:

From the Buddhist perspective, what is being done here is to skillfully divert the focus away from the strong emotion so that the mind can first be brought to a neutral state.

No matter your religion or philosophy, ethnicity or nationality, self-talk is a part of the way your brain works. It’s a way we regulate ourselves, and how it works depends on various factors, including your level of self-esteem:

Depending on your level of self-esteem, self-talk can be either positive or negative. Folks who suffer from low self-esteem spend more time planning and going over what was already said. For those with higher self-esteem, self-talk is more positive and congratulatory. They are not preoccupied with thinking about what they should have said.

I, for one, spend way too much time reviewing conversations for things I could have/should have said differently and looking, at times, for cues to how someone is viewing me. I used to have more active negative self-talk than I do now, but it persists. Last night I had a meltdown because I’m adjusting to a higher dosage of blood pressure medication and had to miss my workout for a second day in a row.

The meltdown was because my perception was that I had failed because I had to take two days off in a row. Self-talk took the form of “You can’t stick with anything” and “You’re going to fail at CrossFit because you are not athletic” and “You might as well give up because no matter what you do, it won’t be good enough” and “You’re doomed to suffer the consequences of your previous mistakes and can’t recover.” My wonderful husband gave me substitutes, telling me how proud he was of me, that it wasn’t about the blips, that blips were just how life is, that we were in it for the long haul, and that I had turned a corner in my thinking about fitness. My beautiful daughter chimed in later, telling me much the same, and helping me figure out a way around the problems the new blood pressure med had caused.

See, my blood pressure in the evening had been fluctuating wildly, from 86/60 to 186/102. Yeah. Scared the crap out of me. But the drug is an extended release type, and we started thinking that since it didn’t seem to be giving me problems until the evening, I should probably move my workout to the morning.

This solution might seem obvious, but I  have never been a morning person, so this was a novel concept for me. Yet, this morning I managed to walk my happy ass out to the garage and get the workout done with no blood pressure issues. And, as a bonus, it was relatively cool; we’ve been having to push workouts to later and later in the day because it’s been running way over 100 degrees midday and it is only beginning to cool off near sunset.

So, back to the self-talk issue: I had to get myself to begin thinking about the workout as a long-term commitment that I could do, that I have overcome other issues in my life (soda addiction, for a minor example), and that the blips were not the end.

Toni Bernhard had a similar experience, which she relates in a post called “Have You Listened to Your Self-Talk Lately?,” turning the do-unto-others adage into “treat yourself as you would have others treat you”:

When I noticed that I was speaking harshly or unkindly to myself, I stopped and reflected on how I’d never talk to others that way. Then I worked on speaking more gently to myself. After several months of determined practice, that inner critic gave way to a more compassionate voice. I’d become my own friend. “Isn’t Buddhism wonderful?” I thought.

Then I got sick and that “new me” unraveled. In 2001, I contracted a viral infection while on a trip to Paris. In fact, because I’m mostly house-bound and often bed-bound, it has cost me dearly in many ways.

The first few years after becoming sick, I blamed myself for not recovering–as if not regaining my health were a failure of will, somehow, or a deficit of character. This is a common reaction for people to have toward their illness. (It’s not surprising, given the barrage of advertising claims that suggest we can stay forever young and illness free, but if illness does strike, it’s easily fixed with the right prescription drug.)

Wow. She’s in my head! Compassion for yourself? What a lovely thought, but not as easy as it sounds.

Margaret Moore has some suggestions, first for identifying negative self-talk (to see her descriptions of each of these, go to her post “How Do You Spot Negative Self-Talk“), which I’ve recast in slightly different language:

You know you’re engaging in negative self-talk if you’re

  1. Saying defeatist things like “I can’t ever X” or “I am [bad thing]“
  2. Jumping to generalizations instead of staying with the specific like “I will always be defeated by health issues” rather than “I’m having trouble today with my blood pressure”
  3. Getting into the habit of name calling, like “Loser!”
  4. Adopting what others have said about you (or what you believe they’ve said about you), like “She’s unreliable” or, the ancient interpretation regarding always being chosen last for any team as a kid, “She can’t do it.”

Moore goes onto talk about “7 Ways to Leave Negative Self-Talk Behind,” after noting about a particular woman that:

[N]egative self-talk was causing stress, and limiting her thinking and potential.

Not just potential for thought, but potential for action. So here are her seven suggestions (again, I’ve paraphrased it somewhat):

  1. Keep track of your thoughts.
  2. Say stop when you notice negative self-talk
  3. Use gentler, kinder words.
  4. Ask  “What else am I feeling?” or “What is really going on here?”
  5. Separate what happened from what you thought about it.
  6. Affirm yourself.
  7. Broaden your thinking.

Polly Campbell talks about positive self-talk specifically in regard to meeting your fitness goals in her post “Positive self-talk can help you win the race — or the day“:

[A]n analysis of 32 different studies of self talk in sports, indicates that the specific words we use when talking to ourselves also play a role in how well we perform.

Positive self talk usually consists of words or brief phrases which inspire, motivate, or remind us to focus and keep moving. Phrases like, “Keep your head down,” “Let’s go now,” “Breathe,” help us focus our attention and trigger the ideal (hopefully) response and action for the task at hand.

So, CrossFatties and others trying to change your lives, here’s my take-away:

  1. You can do it, no matter how old or fat you are. Just keep plugging away at it and remember that there will be short-term setbacks that don’t mean you can’t do it or that you’re a failure. Keep telling yourself that until you believe it.
  2. Focus on the positive results you are getting overall, not on the momentary difficulties: More energy, stronger body, better coordination or whatever results you are seeing.
  3. Change is hard, so congratulate yourself for making a big change by working out and watching what you eat.
  4. There are always potholes, stumps and hills on any road you take, so take the one that does you the most good in the long run.

The way you talk to yourself affects how you act and what you believe yourself to be. So talk to yourself in a way that makes you act the way you want and be the person you’d like to be.


As you’ve probably figured out already, I’m terrified of going back to where I was six weeks ago. Yesterday was the first day I haven’t posted something since I started this blog. Why? Because I had a small migraine plus what I think is probably a sinus infection. I stayed in bed most of the day and didn’t even look at the computer, which I’m fairly compulsive about.

So today, I still feel pretty rotten, but earlier in the day I thought I was better. I’m now back to running a low-grade temperature, but the idea of blowing off my workout two days in a row has me freaked. But I’m coughing every time I open my mouth to talk. So what to do?

Ahh, the Internet. What did we do before all the answers were at our fingertips? Here are some guidelines I found about exercising when you’re sick.

The Mayo Clinic’s Edward R. Laskowski, an M.D. specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, has this to say:

As a rule of thumb for exercise and illness:
  • Proceed with your workout if your signs and symptoms are “above the neck” — such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or sore throat. Be prepared to reduce the intensity of your workout if needed, however.
  • Postpone your workout if your signs and symptoms are “below the neck” — such as chest congestion, hacking cough or upset stomach. Likewise, don’t exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches.

Thank you, Dr. Laskowski. Hacking cough? Check. Fever? Well, low grade. Okay. No workout for me today.
Guess I’ll go see my internist tomorrow, get some antibiotics, and maybe, just maybe, by tomorrow evening I’ll be up to doing some CrossFit. And if not then, well, dammit, I’ll do it the day after. I’m in it for the long haul, so I can’t let myself think that this little setback is the end.

The Los Angeles Times has a great article on immunity, exercise and illness, and gives this advice for avoiding my predicament:

To reduce the risk of illness while following a regular exercise plan:

  • Get plenty of sleep: Adequate rest helps your body recover.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise.
  • Eat well (of course): Opt for a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables.

I was doing all that; no one is completely immune to the various bugs that want to use us as hosts. At least it’s not a zombie virus.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go have some hot tea. Even if it is 99 degrees out there. That’s what air conditioning is for, despite the fact that’s not exactly what Willis Haviland Carrier had in mind when inventing it (he and other early engineers in the field were more interested in industrial rather than personal applications. I can’t imagine living in South Texas before 1902.)  But, Willis, honey, you still did us a favor. Bless you.


Blow winds and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!

You cataracts and hurricanes, spout

Til you have drenched our steeples, drown’d the cocks!

You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Strike flat the thick rotundity of the world!

                                                       Act III, Scene II, “The Tragedie of King Lear,” William Shakespeare

Not into Shakespeare? Before you completely give him up as a lost cause, watch “Slings and Arrows,” a Canadian series. One of the writers is a “Kids in the Hall” alum, and it’s smart and funny. Even the  “not-crazy-about-Shakes” folks in our little group found they could like him.

So why the Shakespeare quote? Because it popped into my head last night when I lay down in my bed and felt my right shoulder decide that it was not going to be happy in its current position, and after trying to rearrange myself without waking up my husband, I felt tears of sheer frustration filling my eyes and watering my eyelashes. I wanted to howl into the wind, and then Lear’s famous speech popped into my head.

The setup for the speech could take quite  a lot of space; after all, it is from the third act. The down and dirty is that King Lear, because of his own vanity, fatigue, arrogance or impending dementia, decides to retire by dividing up his kingdom among his three daughters. The youngest (and the only one who actually gives a damn), Cordelia, refuses to play along with her father’s method of deciding who gets what, which is to flatter the old man effusively, telling him how much you love him. So her two older, evil sisters get the kingdom between them and poor Cordelia is cast out. The other sisters then scheme to get Dad out of the pictures as much as possible.

At the point of the speech, Lear has run out into the night into the woods, provoked by his two elder daughters, who have taken away his pride (they’ve already got his money and power) and exposed themselves for the lousy human beings they are. And Lear screams into the storm that breaks upon him before finally allowing himself to be cajoled inside a hovel for shelter.

Lear was shaking his fist at the storm, yelling at it to do all it could to him and to the world around him. Why? Well, there are many scholars who’d be able to defend a dissertation on the subject, but I’m going to take a stab at it myself.

This is an old man who realizes the depth of his mistake and is stuck in a hell of his own making. He screams at the wind and thunder, challenging them to do their worst, not caring if the storm destroys everything about him. Why not? He’s lost his family, his possessions, his dignity, so who cares what the storm does?

But Lear is not a victim. He voluntarily ran out into the damn storm. Lear set into motion the chain of events that ended up with him out in the night with no shelter. And I think that as the storm hit, he realized that he was no longer in control of things  and that he was being destroyed as a result of his own decisions. So, when the storm blows in, he blows up, letting all his anger at himself and his circumstances clash with the elements.

Last night, I could relate to that. My last three days of workouts have been a bit choppy. Yesterday should have been my rest day, but I ended up taking two days off in a row because I had a migraine the day after my last rest day. I had a touch of it still when I worked out the first day, but by the end of it, I was feeling better. The next day, I quit halfway through my pushups to report to Coach Gary that I was getting a sharp pain in my right shoulder — it didn’t hurt except during certain motions. I dropped almost all the lifting for the last two rounds of exercises. It irritated me, but not too much.

And then yesterday. I was looking forward to the workout, which was kind of novel; it’s a battle most days to go change clothes and then another battle to force myself to put on  my shoes and yet another skirmish to get off my hiney-ho and start working out.

So I jump on the treadmill, do my 10 minutes on the thing and head out to the garage for  the day’s challenges. Gary starts off with “Okay, I want you go do these as fast as you can and really push yourself.” Being well-trained in the art of taking things the wrong way, I want to know if he didn’t think I’d been pushing myself all along. And what about form? I lose form when I speed up too  much and I don’t want to get injured.

He met all my objections: No, this is not a comment on any other workout, I just want to push yourself and go as fast as you can. I think he’s trying to be encouraging, but I wish I could tune him into my internal dialogue sometimes, which is filled with me reviewing all the instructions for every move and yelling at myself to “Keep going.”

I got through the first round, but near the end of the second, when I went to do the push press, I pulled up like a lame horse. My left ankle started screaming at me. It was sharp, and kept getting worse. I tried to put my weight on it and almost fell down, so Gary put his arm around me, took me inside the house, and kindly set up the ice wrap for the ankle.

I was pissed. I didn’t get to do the workout, and cascades of pain were now being set off by the ankle. My calves hurt (although they seemed better after rolling them), my butt already hurt from sitting in a computer  chair for too long, my feet were swollen and my neck hurt. But it wasn’t until I went to bed and could not find a comfortable position that my own storm broke.

Is it too late? Did I screw up so bad in the last 30 years that it’s beyond hope? Am I going to manage to injure myself to the point I can’t exercise? Am I going to ever lose the damned, thrice- and quadruple-damned weight?

Or is it past the time of hope? Am I doomed to live out the rest of my life as a semi-invalid because I was too stupid or pig-headed to adopt healthier habits and, most damningly, willfully blind of the consequences.

So why didn’t some ghost of fat girls past visit me? She could have shown up around some holiday set aside for stuffing yourself full of food, prove to me I’d messed up and give me a way out. But no. No nighttime haunts by repentant ghosties. Just my own screaming into the wind.

I cannot undo what I’ve done. I can’t turn back time, as I so desperately wish I could, and turn myself back into a 20- or 30-year-old woman with minimal weight gain and a chance to get my fitness under control. I weighed 130 pounds the day I graduated from law school in 1989. I’d had both my children. I should have started exercising then, but “I didn’t have time.” I want to go back and punch my younger self in the face for that. I blew the opportunity to get it together while I was young, before I had accumulated so many injuries and diseases that when I hurt one ankle, every other body part wants to compete for my attention.

Yesterday night, I got a cramping, sharpish pain in my right leg that I thought was going to kill me.  Last night, I had a whining shoulder and burning knees, as well as the sensitive Achilles tendons.  It’s a chorus of furies, and they want me to go back to stop trying to fix the past.

It would be so much easier to give up. To throw my hands up and say, “Well, I tried, but even my wrists were  in pain. It’s never going to happen because it’s taking too long and I keep verging on injury. I’m going to hurt myself sooner or later, so I might as well quit before it happens.”

What I’m screaming into the storm is “You idiot, Jodi, why the hell didn’t you do something about this sooner? Been a better  role model? Been preparing for getting old?”

Maybe that’s part of it; I never really planned for getting old (long story, that). When I was 14, I was convinced I wouldn’t live past 30. When I was 30, I didn’t think I’d see  my 50th. And here I have passed all those milestones, and I know that I’ve procrastinated myself into a ball of fat with a little muscle tissue and bone that are stressed out because I keep making so many demands on them … new demands, demands my body isn’t used to dealing with.

But I don’t have many options. I can keep trying to get out of this hole, or I can give up and be a prisoner of my past choices.

The problem is that I don’t know if the choice is mine anymore. Have I now come to the point where I’ve run out into the storm with no shelter and no way to stay dry and safe, left only with the possibility that I’m going to be struck by lightning or die of exposure or starvation?

Lear is a tragedy, which, if you’ve read any of Shakespeare’s tragedies you already know, generally means lots of carcasses by the end. But although all life inevitably ends in death, the death need not be premature, nor does aging have to be a misery. I think I’ll risk the lightning pains over the slow atrophy of muscles. I keep telling myself (and everyone else) that changing my life is as much a mind game as it is anything, and screaming futility at the elements, challenging them to condemn me, isn’t a good way to play the game.

Instead, I think I’ll try to get armed with a little more knowledge about my physiology, keep taking the progress up slowly, take time to heal and listen to my wonderful coach, who keeps telling me to be patient. Patience? Hmm. Guess that’s another life change I’m going to have to integrate into the program.

Curses, storm of my own making. I’ll endure your wind and rain and hail and whatnot. Storms pass even more quickly than lives, and although recent events have shown just how much debris they can leave in their path, restoration is always possible as long as you have breath within you. Not easy, not quick, but possible with a whole lot of effort and even more patience.


Hello, my name is Jodi McMaster and I’m a sodaholic, and its been almost a year since I had my last drink. I had a six-pack a day minimum habit.

Hmm. “Sodaholic” looks kind of kinky written out;  it sounded fine.

The point is that up until  about a year ago, you’d be hard-pressed to talk to me when I didn’t have a soda in my hand. As a kid, it was Coca-Cola. When I became a teenager I started drinking Tab. When I got pregnant, I went back to “real” Coke, because I was more worried about what the artificial sweeteners might do to my developing child than I was of the sugar. In between pregnancies, Diet Coke had taken over enough of the market that Tab was becoming obsolete and hard to come by in your average vending machine, so I switched to Diet Coke after my first pregnancy, returning to it again after the second.

When I had a horrific breast biopsy due to fibrocystic knotting (which is exacerbated by caffeine), I went to decaf Diet Coke, which was kind of a pain because it, too, is infrequently found in vending machines. The only thing that made me perservere, at least for a while, was the desire to avoid another biopsy.

I have never figured out why the doctor thought it was okay for me to endure eye-watering, teeth-clenching pain when the anaesthesia wore off because she was “almost finished.” Wow. My pain was not worth the time it would have taken for another injection. To top it off, the site hurt like hell afterwards, and when I called to ask about it, they told me it shouldn’t and to check under the Steri-strip. When I peeled off the blister that had formed under it, taking several layers of skin with it, I learned that I was allergic to them. Not just Steri-strips, though; if I leave a regular adhesive bandage on for too long, it’ll start blistering, too. I rip them off on my way out the door now.

Throughout the years, I tried to give up the Coke habit, but I always came back to it. My stepfather, Al Lang, once asked me why I drank decaf Diet Coke with the comment, “What are you getting out of it if there’s no sugar and no caffeine?” He had a point, but I didn’t quit then. I’d read articles that suggest that even artificial sweeteners trigger appetite, but, as Mark Sisson’s post “Do Artificial Sweeteners Cause an Insulin Spike?” on “Mark’s Daily Apple” blog says:

The notion that artificial sweeteners (and sweet tastes in general) might produce an insulin response is one of those murky memes that winds itself around the blogs, but it’s never stated one way or the other with any sort of confidence. I briefly mentioned the possibility of non-caloric sweeteners influencing satiety hormones in last week’s diet soda post, and a number of you guys mentioned the same thing. Still, I’ve never seen unequivocal evidence that this is the case.

In an interesting article from CrossFit Journal, Robb Wolf, a former research biochemist and student of the guy who wrote the Paleo Diet, gives his take on the artificial sweetener problem, but adds an alternative explanation:

[A]rtificial sweeteners can create insulin spikes via signals between the taste buds and organs such as the pancreas and the brain. Furthermore, the body is wired in ways that allow some people to get insulin spikes just by looking at pictures of food.

In 2007, Reuters reported an even more disturbing risk:

Sodas — even diet ones — may be linked with increased risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, U.S. researchers said.

They found adults who drink one or more sodas a day had about a 50 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome — a cluster of risk factors such as excessive fat around the waist, low levels of “good” cholesterol, high blood pressure and other symptoms.

But that wasn’t enough for me to kick the soda habit. I switched from Diet Coke to regular Coke when I had a bad siege of migraines around a decade ago to see if the reduction in Aspartame intake would make the migraines go away. It took about three months to clear my system completely, but the migraines did start becoming more infrequent. But now I was on Coke, and it had evil residing in it: high fructose corn syrup.

To me, the best argument that high fructose corn syrup is bad for you is that the epidemiological studies show a rapid increase in obesity when it became the sweetener of choice. But that doesn’t actually prove a causative connection. In addition, corn and any of its byproducts are foods that induce all sorts of fun GI symptoms for me. Did I give up sodas? Nope. I bought the ones bottled in Mexico, because they still use cane sugar there.

Nope. What finally got me off sodas was the same drug given to me for my migraines that made me daily consider checking myself into a psych ward: Topamax. It made the damn things taste weird. I was on Topamax for what seemed to be an eternity, but really was probably a total of four or five months ramping up and then back down. (I knew right away that the side effects were too miserable for me to ever be able to deal with them, but the neurologist I was seeing at the time would not be swayed from his protocol just because I was complaining. Wow, I’m kind of bitching about doctors in this post; let me say now I don’t consider either of these examples to be representative of the profession, or even their specialties, as a whole. I stuck with the same gynecologist until she retired, had the same pediatrician for both my kids until they outgrew him, and have had the same internist for over a decade now.)

The duration of the Topamax experiment was enough to get me off Cokes altogether. I had been able to stay off them for a maximum of a couple of months in the past, but I always inched back up after the first one. Coke really is like a drug for me; even one is the doorway to destruction. I associated certain foods with Coke, like popcorn, and it would be the food that would make me want the Coke, too, and then I went. Popcorn is now also a no-n0 for me because of the food sensitivity issue, but I still want them with burgers.

I appear to have company in my tendency to eat higher-calorie foods when I drink sodas.  A recent study has shown that

Consuming just two sugary drinks a day can dull the taste buds and lead to cravings for high-calorie food, a study claims.The research suggests that within a month those who drink sugary beverages are left with a dulled sensitivity to sweet tastes. This leads to an increased preference for high-calorie and sugar-laden foods, creating a “vicious cycle” as consumers look for their next treat.

I didn’t really notice a weight loss when I gave up sodas (unlike all the men I know who have boasted of 20-25 pound drops once they kick the habit), but once I started thinking about it, I have maintained a slightly lower weight since I gave them up. It’s only about ten pounds, but that’s still something.  What it has done for me is taken out a lot of extra calories and the undoubted insulin spike a real, sugar-laden Coca-Cola gives you.

And yet, after writing all this and knowing they’re not good for me, I kind of want one. Won’t, but  the temptation is always there.


(If you were expecting the last installment in the “Feeding the machine” series, prepare to be disappointed. I didn’t do it today, but I will get to it.)

Today, the young man at the local grocery store said it to me in reference to his job: “It’s as hard as you make it.”

“That applies to many things,” I replied. He looked confused. “You’re a philosopher.” Yet more bafflement.

That’s okay. I get that a lot. But it hit me, as I walked in the house carrying more groceries than usual and pleased with myself that I was stronger, that the reason the statement reverberated with me is that it summed up the answer to the problem I have been having for the last couple of days.

Change is hard if you want it to last. And I’ve been making some serious lifestyle changes, all dealing with consistency. I’ve been fortunate to have my personal cheering section made up of my husband (which is a change for him, too; it took him a while to understand my need for constant pats on the head), my daughter and my daughter-in-law.

But the last couple of days, two things have been happening. First, I’ve just been exhausted and can’t figure out why. Second, I’ve been extremely prickly (my husband’s nice way of saying I’ve been a heinous bitch).

I can’t seem to find anything chronicling the progression of someone who has been sedentary through to fitness to see if this is a common phenomenon; that is, am I alone in having this onset of exhaustion several weeks into the fitness routine? Or maybe it’s that I wasn’t practicing what I have been preaching; instead of eating over the day, I’ve gotten focused on other things and allowed myself to run out of gas. Don’t know, but I’m really glad today is a rest day.

As for the prickly pear version of me, that’s relatively easy to figure out. I’ve been stressing out again because I’m afraid I won’t make this a permanent change. No one seems to be able to give an accurate body count, but CBS News estimated that 45 million Americans diet each year, and millions fall off the wagon. As for persisting in a new exercise program, one site estimates 50 percent of people joining gyms quit within the year (I don’t know if this is just an assertion or backed up by anything; I couldn’t find any source I’d count as authoritative that gave a number).

All I know is that lasting change is damnably difficult. But fretting over it just makes it worse. I’ve been losing my temper over silly things, but like most temper flares, the little things represent bigger issues to me. I’ve been dropping and breaking things a bunch, something that generally only makes me shrug and pick up, but that was when I was resigned to being a klutz. Now I’m assigning the clumsiness too much meaning, as proof that I can’t/won’t improve.

That’s just idiotic on my part. Like the young man said, “It’s as hard as you make it.” I just need to choose to make it easy. So much of change is a mind game, and if I choose to believe that I will change, instead of waiting for me to revert to old habits, it won’t be so hard.

And that’s why I didn’t write about the Zone vs. Paleo today. It just was more than I wanted to think about today, and I was putting too much pressure on myself to get it done. Think I’ll go collect on my foot rub instead.