Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolution Road

2010 is just one day away, and it's time to take stock and resolve to make changes in our lives for the coming year. Even though we all know, deep down, that New Year's Resolutions rarely work, somehow the blank slate of a whole new year is irresistible. It's like a fresh, white canvas crying out for paint. So some years I resolve to exercise more, eat less, eliminate fast food from my diet, etc. Other years I resolve to stop talking on my cell phone while driving (or at least stop simultaneously flipping off other drivers while talking), stick to a budget, or to get up early every morning to write that novel that's been brewing in my mind for the last 15 years.... I could go on and on.

In any case, it seldom works out for very long. I think it might because our New Year's Resolutions often lack the authenticity it takes to make real changes in our lives. I know from my professional life that human beings making fundamental changes is a slippery, inconsistent process at best -- and that's when you are really ready to change. Ready to change like, deep down in those dark caverns of your soul ready; and motivated, too.

So often what we call "motivation to change" is really just a repackaged self-loathing that happens to be targeted at a tangible goal. I can't believe I gained 15 pounds this year, and just look at all I ate over the holidays. No wonder my jeans don't fit. I hate myself this way, I have to do something! I'm going to resolve to stick to a diet, go to the gym four times a week, etc.

Sound familiar? I can tell you it took me about 10 seconds to write that because it's so familiar to me. And sometimes, this tactic works... At least for a while. Shame can be a powerful short-term motivator. But without something deeper to buttress it, shame ceases to be effective after a while -- just like that horrible gym teacher we all had a one time or another who thought humiliation was the best way to motivate kids in unflattering gym shorts.

With the old gym teacher or a drill sergeant or boss, we don't have a choice about motivation (not completely, anyway) -- compliance is to some extent mandatory. But with ourselves, when it comes to resisting the french fries, dragging ourselves to the gym, or putting 10% in a savings account... well, it's really just down to how much we like and respect the person giving the orders. And that would be...... me.

So, that's why the negative messages only get us so far. I can tell myself all day long how fat or lazy or broke I am; but at the end of the day, who wants to listen to someone who is constantly telling them they're fat, lazy and broke? Even if it is myself, I'm going to do my best to get out of that relationship -- in this case by rebelling. So I end up ordering the extra-large french fries or charging up the credit card just to prove to myself who's boss. I'll show me!

Not only is this self-destructive, it's totally confusing. I'd rather just team up with myself instead -- it's more effective, and it saves time by cutting out all the arguments [not to mention the me-to-me cell phone minutes]. My theory is that the best way to get on my own side is the same way I would try to get someone else on my side... to be more positive and encouraging instead of browbeating and shaming.

I believe that when we come from a perspective of self-care, our goals are more authentic and useful than when we are working to meet the expectations of other people, or even society at large. So in 2010, I am going to try to care for myself better in lots of different ways.

Instead of resolving to lose the 15 pounds of baby weight I just can't seem to shake, or to get into my old jeans, I'm just going to try to focus on enjoying being healthy. There are so many happy reasons to make healthier choices: because I enjoy being active, because I feel better when I'm healthy, because my son needs a positive role model... And none of those need to involve counting calories or monitoring the scale.

This year, I am going to be more focused on the little details of life, not just because I'm annoyed that I bounced a couple of checks this year, paid some late fees on bills, and just got a ticket for an expired tag (although I am annoyed about that!). But I'm realizing that by focusing more on the details, which is -- obviously -- not my strong suit, I'll be helping myself to be a more well-rounded person and freeing up energy and money for other things.

I'm also resolving to make the most of my relationships this year - by investing time and energy where I've been negligent, and by creating better boundaries with people who don't always give me back as much as I put in. I want to try to continue what I started last year by saying "no" when I'm over-committed and by not filling in every single white space on the calendar. This is the year to accept me for who I am and where I am, and not to judge myself by others' standards (or what I think others' standards might be!)

As I write this, I'm realizing that my goals for 2010 have a couple of themes: calm and focused. And that's exactly what my life has been missing! How much easier it will be to remind myself in late January and February to "create calm" and "stay focused;" instead of checking my progress on the scale or the bank account.

I'd love to know what other people are planning for 2010... How will you take care of yourself this year??

[Facebook friends, if you feel comfortable, I'd love for you to also copy your comments to the original post at].

Happy New Year, Everyone!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lesson #68 and 'Mother of the Year' Nominee: Don't Breastfeed in a Sports Bra

Any of my female readers who are like me and, well... (ahem) generously endowed, already know that sports bras can be tricky business. I've always thought it was ironic that those of us who need support the most seem to be furthest from the minds and intentions of sports bra designers.

First of all, it's all but impossible to find a plus-size sports bra that will stand up to more impact than a gentle stroll [the rationale being, I assume, that we're pretty much just walking from the car to the Krispy Kreme counter anyway]. My working theory is that whoever is advising clothing manufacturers about the fitness habits of larger women is the same person who thinks we all want to wear animal prints and fuchsia fringe. Size 10? Soft navy in a subdued, classy fabric. Size 16? How about LEOPARD PRINT WITH SEQUINS?!?

And once you do find a sports bra that will actually keep "the girls" restrained, it's so hard to put on that it's a workout in itself. In college - and I am not even kidding with this - I actually pulled a muscle in my shoulder trying to get out of a sports bra! And I didn't even mind the painful muscle strain, because in the moments before it, I'd been mildly concerned that we were going to have a "Pooh stuck in Rabbit's door" kind of situation on our hands. Now that would've been an embarrassing call to the paramedics.

Up until now, my sports bra injuries have been primarily self-inflicted. Yesterday, however, the sports bra claimed a new victim: my six-month old son. I had to feed him immediately after Jazzercise class; so he was lying across my lap after nursing. I reached up to try to wrangle the sports bra/torture instrument back into place, my hand slipped and.... WHAP! I smacked my unsuspecting baby right in the face with my knuckles.

Now, as you can imagine, this was more than a little surprising to him, and absolutely horrifying to me. A smack in the face is such a painful, disrespectful thing to do to another person; and even though this particular smack in the face was completely accidental, it's hard to explain that to a six-month old infant whose relaxing lunch just had a terrible ending.

We both cried it out, and of course he's fine now. But I actually rescheduled getting his picture taken yesterday afternoon because of the red spot above his eye -- no one else would've noticed it, probably, but for me it would've been a permanent reminder of that unhappy moment.

So, I will be feeding MLM post-post-workout-shower from now on; and if anyone knows someone in the design arena of women's athletic wear, tell them I'd like to set up a meeting!