Friday, July 26, 2013

My struggle with self doubt, unrealistic expectations and balancing mental happiness

I have needed to write a post like this for awhile - so forgive the length:

All my life I have had an unhealthy body image.  I can recount several times in high school and college that I talked negatively to myself, saw the worst in myself and never felt good about how I looked. Too short, too big of thighs, big teeth.  I could go on, but that would defeat the point of this post. 

When I got pregnant with Gabe, my weight skyrocketed. I ate all the wrong things and figured "Hey, I am growing a person here. I can eat what I want."  After he was born, I was miserable with all my excess skin and accumulated fat. I had stretch marks that had nothing to do with baby weight and it took me almost a year to get motivated and back in shape to around where I was before getting pregnant (still not a great weight).
24 months pregnant with Gabe
Three and a half years after Gabe was born. I got pregnant with Zander.  Even  though we planned on getting pregnant, I had reached my heaviest non-pregnancy weight and was nervous and dreading how much recovery I would have to do post-pregnancy. Thankfully I had an incredible doctor that refused to sugar coat things for me. He told me straight up, "You can not afford to gain more than 20 pounds this pregnancy.  Work out, walk at least three times a week."  And I did.
Before pregnant with Zander
36 weeks pregnant with Zander
And I made myself promise I would never blow up like that again. I would take control of my life. I would be the person I always wanted to look like instead of settling for unhappiness. And I did.

Between breastfeeding, walking and working out I was able to drop down to my college weight. I felt awesome!  It was the first time in six years that I had been that size, close to what I was when my husband and I met. 
8 months after giving birth to Zander
And then, I got pregnant with Calla.

By this time, I was much better informed and mature. I knew I couldn't let myself go, I vowed to gain as little as possible and stay as active as possible throughout my pregnancy in order to minimize the post-pregnancy damage. 
I tried to stay positive, that I could combat the exhaustion and the cravings by walking and yoga and "Zander work-outs".  But I couldn't help but feel a little resentful.  

Now, I LOVE my daughter. I love her like no tomorrow, like flowers love the rain. I am thankful for her everyday. She has changed my world in more ways I could ever imagine.

But every once and awhile, when I couldn't do everything I wanted to, when I couldn't keep going or couldn't bend or fit or lift, I got frustrated. I had all these expectations I put on myself of where I should be fitness wise, how I should look, and here I was starting back at square one.  Stretching my skin again, adding fat to my body. I had a lot of low moments, especially when I worried about the example I was setting for my girl. I was terrified (and still am) of passing on my poor body image and self doubt to her.
36 weeks pregnant with Calla
It has now been 21 months since I gave birth for the last time.  While Matt and I always planned on having four, trying to even the genders out, we decided together that I need some time not being pregnant.  I have decided that it is finally time for me to get my body in the shape I have always wanted.

Currently, I am a size smaller than my high school size and about the same weight.  I am in better shape than I have been in a long time (10 years).  But again, I have been putting unrealistic expectations on myself.

Most current full body picture
Going gluten-free has been huge for me. I love it and don't see myself going back to a wheat eater. I try to run a minimum of 4 days a week and do some other exercise (cross fit at home, Insanity, yoga) at least three times a week.  And I have seen improvements.  I can run for 25 minutes straight and have shaved my per mile time by around a minute.  I am getting more definition in my thighs and have lost about 3 pounds.  

But on my weak days, I find myself sinking back into my bad body image mentality.  That I am not doing enough not working hard enough. My body doesn't look like those professional weight lifters. I get mad that the kids don't want to go for a 30 minute bike ride. Or that they don't nap long enough for me to get dishes done, laundry folded and a 30 minute workout in. That I stay up too late talking to Matt and am too tired to bust out a run at 8am while the kids are still sleeping.  I doubt that I can ever reach my goal, that I can ever be truly happy.  That I will be stuck in this cycle of self doubt. 

And then I cry. 

When I am done I tell myself to snap out of it. I make myself reevaluate.  If I can't run for 25 minutes today, then I just do 15 and promise myself I will do abs or wall sits or lunges or some other circuit for at least ten minutes to make up the difference.  If I can't do two Insanity videos today, I will do one and will make it up on another day. 

But most importantly, if I don't get to it, I don't get to it. And I drop the guilt. It is more important for me to stay brain positive than to work out and be miserable.  Twice this week we took day trips to two different beaches. One had a huge hilly nature walk before you got to the beach (counted as my work out) and one didn't.  When we got back from the beach, that I had laid out on without a thought about moving more than necessary, all I could think about was that I hadn't worked out yet.  And then I saw my sand covered kids and how tired and starving they were and put my self doubts aside. We wiped sand off and got dressed and went out to dinner at a restaurant for the first time in a month.  It was the perfect ending to a fun day.  And in pushing the guilt aside, I enjoyed myself.  

Working out is a priority to me.  Me-time is important for my sanity.  I need that rush of adrenaline and the feeling of achievement that I get from every workout. Being able to say, "I just did that!  I am proud of myself!" - I need that. But I also need to find an acceptable balance so that I can set more realistic expectations for myself. And I am still learning how to let my self doubt and guilt go and not let it drag me down. 

I realize how long this post is and I definitely did not intend for it to drag on. My goal was to share my insecurities, my self doubt and my struggle with balancing my expectations and my real life abilities.  In this process of healthy living and bettering myself, I am realizing that this is a journey. Even though it has been a month, I need to accept that it will take longer to get where I want to be. And to embrace the moment. And not lose sight of my motivation - to be a healthy example for my children.  

If anyone else feels like I do the best suggestion I can give is to just do what you can do. Work out when you can. Even if it feels like nothing or not enough, something is better than nothing.  And don't keep your struggle to yourself!  Reach out to those that will support you and encourage you to continue.  Most importantly, don't forget to enjoy the moment. Days I miss working out, I notice the guilt affecting my mood overall. I yell more, I sulk and snap for no reason.   After calling or texting a friend for a few words of support and motivation, I can get back on track and plan my work out for the next day.  

I am a work in progress but I will get there. I will be the person I want to be, and I will let myself be happy while I struggle and succeed. 

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  1. Thanks so much Megan! I appreciate your support on going gluten-free!