Isn’t depression the best? I was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder after a scary hospitalization when I was a teenager, and depression has been a visitor that I suspect will come a-knockin’ every so often for the rest of my life.
Depression has been a recent house guest. I’m getting over a funk that I’ve been in for the past couple weeks. It might be some post-holiday blues, perhaps, and it could be related to the bruised or cracked rib that I’ve been healing from. Whatever the cause, it held on to me for a good solid two weeks, and it planted a thought in my head that got stuck there. I kept on thinking these five words over and over again, like a song you can’t shake:
I wish I could stop.
I wish I could stop eating sensibly and just eat whatever I want.
I wish I could stop exercising and just be naturally thin.
I wish I could stop reading food labels and swapping ingredients and packing a gym bag and watching my portions and logging my workouts and focusing so much on what I need to eat and how much I need to move and skipping the snack aisle at the store and ordering the dressing on the side and updating my weight loss chart and making sure to stretch and thinking about my health ALL THE FUCKING TIME.
I. Wish. I. Could. Stop.
These thoughts stem from the very basic fact that losing weight and keeping it off is hard. It’s very hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And, because it’s hard, it can be exhausting. There are times when I’m feeling very gung-ho, and enjoy exploring new recipes and spending time at the gym, and there are times when it all feels like a never-ending chore. Lately, despite good days, it seems like the scales have been tipped towards chore. Temptations have come one after another, as opposed to more sporadically. Dealing with cravings has been a harder fight than it’s been in the past, and that fight is tiring. It gets harder to keep up the good fight when you’re tired.
And so I started thinking I wish I could stop. And then I would elaborate further: I wish all this came more naturally. I wish I had a different metabolism. I wish I had a smaller appetite. I wish, I wish, I wish.
Guess what happened after a few days of thinking those thoughts on a loop? I started believing what they implied: That I’m not trying hard enough. That I’m not good enough. That I’m not a success.
Thankfully, when those thoughts started percolating, red flags went up left and right. STOP! DANGER DANGER DANGER! Those are NOT good things to think, because they’re just not true.
So I reminded myself of my successes, whether it be having a healthy lunch or completing a record-setting workout or ohyeahhowcouldIforget losing and keeping off 160 pounds. And that helped keep the train from completely derailing.
But that damaging thought cycle kept returning, no matter how many times I squashed it with more positive thoughts. I can’t say that there was one specific moment or event that lifted me out of this particular funk (I’m not sure I’m fully out of it yet anyway, although I’m much better than I was a week ago), but there have been a couple things that definitely helped.
1) EXERCISE. Part of the funk stemmed from an idea I had that I was going to have to start over in the gym to get back into shape after my rib injury. I blogged a couple weeks ago about my first weightlifting workout in a month, and while that blog post was optimistic about future weightlifting workouts, what really happened was that this depression got the better of me, and I didn’t touch a barbell for another week and a half.
This depression made exercising a major drag. I struggled, and on a couple days I couldn’t muster the strength to do anything at all. Other days I did the bare minimum – moderate effort (at best) on a recumbent bike. I was banking on my awesome 15-mile hike to snap me back into a gung-ho attitude, and it did – but only for a day or so.
Finally, last Thursday, I took one of Richard Simmons’ classes at Slimmons and I felt terrible. Sluggish. Weak. I didn’t want to be there and I couldn’t wait to leave. I refused to absorb any of Richard’s infectious energy and positivity. And on the drive home, it dawned on me that I was getting to a very perilous place. If I didn’t buckle down and take my workouts seriously, than I was only going to continue spiraling downward.
So, the next day, I hit the weights hard. The day after that, a thorough cardio workout spread between 4 different machines. The day after that, more weights. And what I quickly realized is that I had completely underestimated myself. I wasn’t nearly as out-of-shape as I thought I was, just a little rusty. And a couple quality workouts did a lot of good towards shaking off that rust. I feel good about the week ahead in regards to my workouts, and feel confident that I can do what I need to do without questioning my strength, muscular or mental.
2) PHOTOGRAPHS. I have a go-to pile of “before” photos. There’s about 10 of them that I see frequently. I compiled them years ago, when I started building my Photo Gallery page. I keep one in my wallet to remind myself of my accomplishments. I keep a small album on them on my phone to show people who ask about my weight loss. When I get so lucky as to be interviewed on TV, I sent off a bunch of them so the show’s producers can make graphics and such.
About a week ago, I saw “before” pictures that I had never seen before. I was hanging out with my friends Kristy and Mike, whom I’ve known for over a decade, and they had recently stumbled across photos from a get-together they hosted in 2009.
These pictures had a profound effect on me, primarily because they provided the perfect rebuttal to my nasty I wish I could stop thought cycle. I looked at these photos for the first time ever and thought:
This is why I can’t stop. This is what will happen if I don’t take care of myself, no matter how difficult it may be sometimes. I don’t ever want to be that size again. Never ever. So I can’t let some dumb depression get the best of me. I can’t let some negative thoughts take hold and derail all the amazing things I’ve done. I can’t let some bad habits take root, because those bad habits, like weeds, can choke out all the good habits that are paying off each and every single day.
I much prefer this photo, which was taken three weeks ago:
Did you notice what this photo has that the two “before” photos are lacking? A smile. That smile speaks volumes about my strength, my abilities, my confidence, my health, my quality of life, and, small depressions aside, my happiness. Most of all, that smile says…
…Keep it up, David.