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Pushing yourself, for the right reasons

The picture of inner peace - one day I'll get there...

The picture of inner peace - one day I'll get there...

When you push yourself hard, you have to make sure you're doing it for the right reasons.

I haven't been doing that.

I've been doing plenty of pushing. Hard, relentless pushing. I've thrown myself at everything I've ever done, because if there's one thing you can say with any level of certainty about me it's this: I don't half-ass anything. But was I pushing for the right reasons? Most of the time, no.

I've been struggling for decades with a bad case of Impostor Syndrome. No matter how good I am at something, I tend to feel like my success is not deserved. So I work harder and harder and harder, somehow thinking that if I outwork everyone then maybe that way I'll feel better about my accomplishments.

No, it doesn't work. And I only end up feeling worse. And exhausted.

Recently I found myself reading Hallelujah Anyway, by Anne Lamott. The book's subtitle is, Rediscovering Mercy, and that is what attracted me to it. Here's a great quote from it:

My rabbi friend Margaret said once on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, that while rabbis usually urge us to atone for our sins and try to be better people, she thought we should try to be worse. This would mean different things to different people, maybe to be more of a slacker, to be less efficient and less helpful, or conversely, to be more of a control freak.

I've needed mercy for a long - loooong - time. I've also needed to be less demanding of myself. After mulling this quote (and the rest of the book) over for a few days, I'm trying to give myself permission to relax a little bit. Work hard, yes. But not to punish myself. To show myself a little mercy and simply work because I enjoy what I do and want to be better at it than I was last week. Maybe having crazy high standards for myself isn't the answer. Maybe I need to be - not a slacker as such, but maybe less of a permanently dissatisfied perfectionist.

Maybe I don't need to outwork everybody else. Maybe I just need to work hard for the beauty of it and for the benefits it brings me. That should be enough.

Snapping turtle philosophy

There are moments, I tell you, when you feel life is futile. Case in point:

Me: "Don't let the cat out!"

Kids: "Yes mom."

Me, a few minutes later as the kids come in and out of the house 600 times for no reason: "Remember not to let the cat out! We're not back until tomorrow night, she won't like it if she's stuck outside."

Kids: "Yes mom."

Kids, a few minutes later: "Mom! Bec accidentally let the cat out!"

Sigh. And don't get me started on trying to keep the kitchen (or any part of the house, for that matter) clean-ish. Every now and then I do a thorough job of tidying up and cleaning and the place is sparkling and within minutes of people getting out of bed it's a mess again.

And what about the constant repeating, the incessant nagging to please not talk with your mouth open, make your bed, pick up your bag, don't be late, clean the cat litter, did you remember to vacuum the rug? It's like a treadmill, except more pointless.

But then, every spring, I am confronted by my snapping turtle. She comes around to lay eggs on top of my septic sand. She spends about 36 hours slowly digging and laying and burying. Turtles don't get their reputations from nowhere; it's a painfully slow process. Then eventually she goes back to the lake... and within hours the porcupines have eaten all the eggs. They leave a mess of broken shells behind along with some yolk (yeah, ew) and thoroughly destroy all that turtle's slow and laborious work.

Yet every year she comes back to do it again. The picture above is from this morning. She's looking at me with a somewhat unfriendly eye, but (call me crazy) I see defiance in there too. She's going to keep doing her thing because that's what she does.

I wonder sometimes if we don't ask ourselves too many questions about the point of life and our purpose here on earth. I mean, it's fine to have goals and ambitions and to strive to be the best you can be. But at the same time, a lot of what we necessarily have to do is horrendously pointless.

Maybe I just have to find a patch of sandy soil somewhere inside my soul and be more like my ugly turtle...

Beating the blahs, the scale, and the late-night snacks

Walking towards the light...

Walking towards the light...

Not too long ago I had a pretty rough spell, and my progression towards the leaner me stalled a bit. It might even have verged on regressing. Since that time I've had to deal with the mother of all sinus infections and our national qualifiers. I got through the latter OK, and I'm finally starting to beat the former... I think.

The one bright spot these days is that I'm finally getting back to beating the scale black and blue again. Last time I wrote about these things I was stuck around 125-126 lbs. But since Monday I've been under 125 and this morning the thing flashed at 122.8 before settling on 123.0.

Those are numbers I haven't seen in well over 15 years. And yes, I'm enjoying them.

How did I do it? One thing: I got my late-night snacking under control.

See, I often train at night. And by "at night" I mean I'm at the dojo between 4 and 9 pm, training and teaching. I can't eat dinner those nights because a meal before exercise means a bowling ball in my stomach and that doesn't train well. So I nibble throughout the evening, in-between classes. A piece of cheese, a few nuts, a bite of protein bar, that sort of thing.

As you can imagine, by the time I get home at 9:30 I'm ravenous. It's hard not to gobble up more food than I mean to. I believe this habit was holding me back, because there are very few things worse for your waistline than eating too much food half an hour before bed.

So. Last week I decided to get that under control. There is no magic formula to this, except to plan what I'm going to eat (i.e. not much) and not eat more than that. I eat it slowly so as to make the enjoyment last, and that's it. I go to bed hungry, but I'm learning to fall asleep regardless of the growling. Because I like what it feels like in the morning.

I dropped almost three pounds doing just that. A simple (if difficult) step that's making all the difference.

Now if I could only kick this sinus thing to the curb, all will be well. :)

The new me: ideally smaller than the old me

The newly old me, about to become old again. Yes, I'll explain.

The newly old me, about to become old again. Yes, I'll explain.

Hey there. Welcome to my accountability program, flab loss edition. My name is Brigitte, I'm 46-almost-and-a-half years old, I have three kids aged 10 and younger, and I have a goal.

Or maybe I should say: I have a new goal. Because the goal I'd set myself three years ago, to return to my pre-first-pregnancy weight of 130 lbs, has been achieved.


It did take me some time, a whole lot of sweating and cussing, and plenty of hard work. But the scale is back to where it was in 2005 and what's more, it's been there since last summer.

Yep, you bet it feels good. But now I've given myself a new goal. I want to get leaner.

Here's the thing: for some reason Mother Nature decided that aging would make it harder for your metabolism to do its thing. And then it threw in hormones just for fun. Wanna know why so many middle-aged folks struggle with their weight? Because it's ^$^&# hard not to gain any.

I train like a beast. I run 4-5 KM most mornings (not super fast; it's a semi-casual run because I enjoy being out there listening to great podcasts and filling up my happiness tank with glorious sunrises). I do karate, kickboxing, weights, and tournament team training - I spend about 20-25 hours a week training, on top of the jogging, the biking, the swimming and whatever other active stuff I do, like pretending to renovate my house.

I don't think I could train much more than this. Possibly I could train smarter (nobody's so clever that they can't improve), but I do think that what with great teachers and my own understanding of my body, my training is pretty good that way.

That leaves diet. And sleep. I'm guilty of not getting a full eight hours a night, but I try to nap most days and that more or less works out to a decent amount of ZZZ. And I sleep well - like the dead. I can fall asleep pretty much on command and I'm usually gone within five minutes. I also usually feel refreshed when I wake up. Don't tell the Goddess of Hormones yet, but so far (knock wood), perimenopause hasn't given me sleep-quality issues, thank you very much.

So now we're down to food. I eat freakishly clean already, drink lots of water and not too much booze. And that is to be credited for having reached my weight goal and remained there for months. But my new goal involves losing a few bits of extraordinarily stubborn flab (in the usual spots; probably 5-7 pounds worth of the stuff although at this point the scale isn't what worries me) and for that, drastic measures are called for. A few weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and virtually eliminate sugar and grains from my life. I keep a little bit for my tea, but otherwise carbs are the enemy, except on Saturdays when I allow myself to eat a half-baguette with loads of butter for dinner (that's all I eat for dinner, though). Otherwise it's eggs, veggies, cheese, some fish, a few bits of meat, and plenty of my nearly-legendary homemade kombucha.

I was listening recently to a great podcast with Tim Ferriss and this Olympic weightlifter fellow and they were talking about food and how little this amazing athlete eats and holy cow, I hit me square in the head. I eat too much!

This may scare some of you, but here's the skinny (as it were): I don't count calories because it sucks all the joy out of life, but I'd estimate I was eating between 2,000 and 2,500 of them every day. Since listening to that podcast I dropped that to 1,200 to 1,500 and wow.

I mean, wow. Know what's happening to me?

Yes, I'm hungry. That's the hard part. But I feel so awesome it's worth it. I trained especially hard this week and had one late night and despite all this I am NOT (repeat: NOT!!!) in pain like I normally am. My joints don't hurt. My muscles are a little sore, but hey. If they weren't after all I've done since Sunday, I'd have to question my training intensity.

Also? My brain is on fire. I'm getting so many great ideas I have trouble keeping up. But not in a jittery, had-too-much-coffee way. In a crickey-I-feel-like-I'm-20-again kind of way. I highly recommend it.

So that's my new goal. To keep this diet going for as long as it takes until I'm as lean as I want to be, then level off. Will that mean 125 lbs or closer to 120? I have no idea, and don't really care. I want enough energy to train and compete and feel like I'm at my peak, and I want to lose the bits I'm sick of carrying around pointlessly. I'll let you know how it goes.

Age, quirks, and them goldurn carbs

It was my birthday recently. I turned 46, and I'm a bit sad. I did enjoy 45; it was a good year, and for some reason 46 scares me a bit. Feels older somehow. More tired. And sure enough, I've had a heck of a time this past week - feeling tired, weak, sickly, relatively uninspired.... feeling old... Oh, I know. There are good reasons for that. One: I've been fighting this stupid little bug that's been going around. I've mostly won, but my victory came at the cost of fatigue. It's also November and November is a month during which I typically have an overwhelming desire to just go hide somewhere and hibernate. And of course now that Worlds is behind us, there's a bit of let-down. The adrenaline is back to less crazy levels and that, too, comes with a certain sense of fatigue and exhaustion. So yeah. Maybe it's not turning 46 that's making me feel old. Maybe it's the last few weeks. And who knows, my sore back and shoulders could be fixed with a new pillow (ah yes, your 40s is the decade when pillows start to matter, the joy of it all I tell you).

I shall go shopping for a new one. Because that's a potentially easy fix. Another thing I'm now determined to do, as a birthday gift to me, is lose a few pounds. I don't have a weight problem; I'm 5'6(ish) and 130lbs, which is exactly where I was in my early 30s, before having kids. I fit into my pre-motherhood clothes no problem. But I'm looking at menopause (that b*tch is uncomfortably close) and the weight gain that typically comes with it, and I don't want it. I also want to be leaner than I've been since I got married. Not by a huge amount; somewhere between 5 and 10 lbs should do the trick. But I really want it off. I'm done making babies, I don't need - and certainly don't want - the extra cushion fertility seems to require. But age now makes a difference. Because I've been trying to lose that 5-10 lbs for a few months now and it's not easy. I really don't eat very much, I eat freakishly clean, I sleep enough (most nights), I exercise plenty, I don't do drugs, I only drink a little bit - I'm doing everything right and yet, and yet.

My one big weakness is carbs. Love em. But now I'm down to getting drastic with myself about that. I'm naturally drawn to carbs. There is no better treat in my book than a chunk of fresh organic baguette with a huge mass of organic butter on it. I could live on nothing but that. Except of course my body doesn't want to process it as well as it used to, gosh darn it. Which means I reluctantly have to give up grains and carbs generally - except maybe for a treat on cheat days. Fortunately I like fats and proteins, so meat, eggs and cheese it is, along with plenty of greefy leans. (Of course it's a word; I made it up myself.)

Will try that for a week or two and see what that takes me. Wish me luck.