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Brittany: Standing in Place

For three nights in a row, I have woken up between 1 and 2 am, and haven’t been able to go back to sleep. This usually starts happening in the fall when I go into “planning the next project” mode and I usually use these nocturnal awakenings to write whatever it is that is threatening to burst forth. But this time, my project in the works doesn’t seem that close by. Or pressing. This time, when I wake up, my mind is a complete and total blank.

My one consuming thought (though, ironically, it isn’t consuming enough) is “I have to get this weight off.”

My weight has not changed in over a year. And you can’t call it baby weight when your baby is no longer a baby. I am despondent. I went on Atkins and lost 16 lbs before my brother-in-law’s wedding, started cheating here and there and slowly gained a few lbs back, and then my mother came to visit and I packed on 10 lbs in just over a week (Hello Cortisol!). Now the fat sits like a flabby innertube right around my middle, preventing me from looking good in anything I wear.

And I want to lose weight. Very much. But I also want to eat. I’ve talked about my issues with food on here and on my personal blog before. I am definitely an emotional eater and this summer, while blissful in many ways, has also been highly stressful and frustrating. I just don’t seem to be getting anywhere. My creative life is at a standstill. All my big goals and aspirations are at a standstill. But my flab, is, unfortunately not at a standstill. I can feel it jiggling slightly as I type this.

Tom is trying to be helpful when he repeats the well-worn dieting mantra: work out more, eat less. But it makes me want to bash his head in a little. I don’t want to eat less. I already eat far less than I want to. I almost never get to indulge in truly naughty foods. I don’t bake. We never have dessert. Plus, I’m limited to budget cuisine that appeals to Mr. Picky and the Rug Rats. And I’m a steak with a blue cheese cream sauce/salad/artichoke hearts in mayonnaise/rich chocolate mousse kind of girl.

And I don’t want to work out more. I already wake up at the crack of dawn, carry two children hither and yon all day, and am frequently used as a jungle gym for their entertainment. That’s besides the fact that I’m not a hamster and I don’t find it particularly fun or gratifying to run in place for an hour at a time, at the gym, surrounded by skinny mothers, who have rock hard abs despite giving birth to five children.

I know some of you on here (Miranda, for example) are runners. There’s a part of me that longs to be out there with you, feeling the wind in my hair, and the road beneath my feet. But I was not built for high impact/endurance sports, and with every stride, I feel my arches and my pelvis screaming “STOP! STOP! FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! STOP!” And I do.

But I went to the gym twice this week anyway, and on Wednesday I discovered the elliptical machine. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but it didn’t make me feel happy either.

When I start down a path in the process of a creative undertaking, I can quickly assess, right off the bat, if I’m on the right track or not. With exercise, I just don’t know. I know I’m burning calories and improving my cardiovascular fitness. But I just don’t feel like I’m going anywhere. Literally and figuratively. And considering the fact that I’m feeling so stuck creatively, I feel like I spend my days slogging through a never-ending quagmire of minutiae.

I am sick of the tedium of grocery shopping and buying the same groceries week after week after week. I’m sick of preparing meals every day. Of changing diapers every day. Of dressing and undressing children every day. Picking up the same toys. Of filling and re-filling sippies. Repeating the same requests. Getting the same responses.

I had a vague feeling that my life had become Prufrockian, and went back and read T.S. Eliot’s poem again, and sure enough, my subconscious was on to something. Especially this part:

For I have known them all already, known them all —
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all —
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

I know I sound very melancholy, but it’s hard to convey tone online. I’ve come to accept that I’m just not going to get to do what I want to be doing right now. To paraphrase Kelly and her latest blog, now is the time for standing in place, and the future is for moving forward.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. brittany, i am right there with you, but have been getting to drs and finding out i have much more going on than i realized, though my instincts were pretty on target. (see my personal blog, fri’s post)

    i know you had some health issues since having john, and i know you’ve been dealing with them. that can take a toll and wear you out- when you’re tired, weight doesn’t moved. you have also been dealing with a lot of stress re: considering job change for your husband and household renovations and 2 active little boys.

    sounds to me like a little self-forgiveness is in order, and maybe start an exercise routine by walking the dogs. start with baby steps. when i stick to that approach, i know it works for me. i know when i say it’s time to hit the gym and start big, i always fail after a few tries.

    here i am being very capricorn, again, trying to fix the situation, however at the heart of the above, i really can empathize with how you’re feeling right now, because i am feeling very similarly. all of the physical exhaustion really depletes the creative well, so don’t beat yourself up about not having a brillian idea at 1am. love to you. c

    September 21, 2009
  2. I posted on your blog after reading Friday’s post, but not sure it went through. I got a cookie/java script error. In any case, I commend you for seeing your health complaints through and having the courage to follow the course of treatment through even when it’s a scary course to take. You will persevere and you definetely deserve your health.

    In some respects, I wish I could blame my issues on my health–but on that front I’m fine. What I have is “fork in mouth disease” and there’s no cure for that except putting the fork down and filling the void that screams inside me with something else.

    September 21, 2009
  3. thanks brittany, and it didn’t go through, so i’m glad i mentioned here, and again, thanks.

    even with fork-in-mouth-disease, i think you could give yourself a break, mentally, after a pretty stressful summer.

    we have a problem around here(note we, not just me) with cookies, ice cream and baked sweets. mil is notorious for picking up cream filled things from grocery bakeries. i also have a chip problem. a big chip problem. i get it from my dad. cream,carbs, salt and sugar, the irish food groups.

    September 21, 2009
  4. your long-fallen-off-the-exercise-wagon former triathlete chiming in here. oh my, how i wish i could still get out there and do that stuff. but honestly, brittany, juggling those kids is a huge factor, so i agree with cathy that you need to cut yourself some slack. i was a regular runner/swimmer/biker before the girls were born and was able to keep it up for about the first year after they were born. then they got mobile and mama exercise time went out the window. i was an early morning runner, but now that would require getting up about 5am and i must have my beauty sleep! that extra 30 minutes really matters! 🙂 i agree with the baby steps too. i’ve never been a gym rat; i’ve always preferred the great outdoors. try walking. walking truly is just as good an exercise as running…just takes a little while longer…but it’s also much gentler on your joints. (and you get extra points for pushing the stroller!) my knees are beat to pieces now between the years of running and mountain biking so i’ve turned strictly to walking when i get the chance….like maybe once a week. 🙂

    now miranda needs to chime in on how she does it!

    oh, any my weaknesses are sweets and carbs too. 🙂

    September 21, 2009
  5. Kristine #

    Brittany, I know how you feel. When weight is an issue (which it always seems to be for me), your whole life is consumed with it. And there’s nothing worse than dieting. I hate it. I mean, really hate it, probably just as much as exercising. 🙂

    My triggers? Carbs. Bring on the pasta and pizza for me.

    Be good to yourself and take care.

    September 21, 2009
  6. I’ve been dying to chime in here ever since previewing Brittany’s post on Sunday. SO MANY THINGS TO SAY. I apologize at the outset for the inevitable length of this comment.

    I do think that exercise is important for mental health, especially when a major part of your job description is taking care of other people. There is no question that exercise improves your outlook as well as your waistline. But it won’t happen if you don’t look at your week every Sunday evening (or whatever works for you) and block out the sessions where you are going to exercise. (For me, this is also true for planning writing time.)

    It is important to know that RUNNING SUCKS. Especially during the first MONTH (at least!) of running regularly (at least 3 times a week). That feeling you have of “this is just wrong, I’m going to die”–oh yeah. Sing it sister. The only way to get past that is just what the others have suggested–baby steps. Start by going for a brisk 20-minute walk a few times a week. Then start extending the duration and speed, always keeping things to where you feel good, not like you are going to die. If you’re pushing a stroller, so much the better.

    At a certain point, try running for two minutes. Or even one minute. Just run really slow. If you feel like you’re going to die, you’re going too fast. Slow down. Set a goal of running for one additional minute each time you go out. At this point, the total time that you spend running is much more important than your speed or distance. (As Rebecca so expertly drilled into my brain years ago.)

    Gradually, you’ll start to build your endurance. One day you’ll measure your usual loop on and you’ll realize that you can run two miles without stopping. And without wanting to die. Soon, that becomes three miles. And you know what? You feel studly. You should.

    Jenn is the real runner here, so she may have a few other, more intelligent things to add. I do highly suggest finding a friend to start with you, or just lend moral support. It makes a huge difference.

    I can tell you that there is NO difference between you and I in terms of physical ability. I am not an athlete. I don’t even think of myself as a runner; I am just someone who runs. (And right now, very sporadically.) But I love the alone time that running affords. I am also determined not to be overweight. When I am overweight, everything, and I do mean everything, is a mess. I am miserable. I am obsessed.

    Within the last six months I took off 20 pounds of baby weight that needed losing. I could not have done that without:
    A) Running (sometimes only once a week when I couldn’t manage more than that).
    B) Seriously restricting–and at times completely eliminating–wheat products, sugars, refined carbs.

    Right now I am eating an extremely “clean” diet and I have more energy than I could have imagined. No sluggish mornings with a carb/sugar hangover. Getting into the zone that I’m in is quite addictive. It feels great. It’s not a struggle right now, because I was strict with myself at the beginning and had mutual support from my BFFs. Now it’s self-reinforcing. You know how it is; when your skinny jeans fit again–and then actually start to look good–it’s not hard to want to keep wearing them. You do what it takes.

    For me, stress eating/binge eating have always been a struggle. For anyone who struggles with overeating, I highly recommend checking out this website: Lisa has a free 21-day e-mail program that is very well done.

    Making the commitment to take care of yourself through diet and exercise is a vital element of self-esteem. No one but you can ensure that you eat well and move your body. And no one but you can decide that you are worth the effort.

    When you commit to making yourself a priority, so many other things fall into place. Creativity clicks. The kids still drive you nuts, but maybe not quite as badly as before. You’re no longer standing in place.

    Do not underestimate the HUGE impact that your physical condition, and the food that you eat, have on your mood and your capacity. These two things make an enormous difference. You already know that 🙂

    Don’t wait. Why not set a short-term goal, say, detail the kind of diet you’re going to follow for the next five days. Don’t be crazy, just set realistic, healthy parameters. Cut out all the obvious stuff. Tell a few friends exactly what you are going to do and report to them daily. Write it down. Make a Google spreadsheet. Write it all down on index cards. Whatever. But be strict with yourself. It’s only five days. You can do anything for five days, can’t you?

    The first three days are the hardest, especially if you’ve been eating a lot of carbs/sugar. It will suck. Just see it through.

    After five days, see what the scale has to say. See what your body has to say. How about another five days?

    You are worth it. If that isn’t enough motivation for anyone out there, think about your kids. What kind of example do you want to set for them? You want to have lots of energy, you want to be healthy and reduce your risk of disease, embrace life, and live up to your own potential. You want your kids to embrace all of that for themselves. Be it.

    September 23, 2009
  7. thanks for the reminder miranda. i did feel so much better when my life was craziest in circumstances i couldn’t control, but i could control how i felt and did yoga regularly and ate less carbs/more fresh foods which made me feel cleaner. i have been drinking more soda in the past few years since moving south than i did in the previous 20. granted, still significantly less than the general population, but there was a very good reason i quit drinking it so long ago. i felt like crap. next grocery run will not include cookies, ice cream and chips – will include more carrot sticks, greens and fresh fruits i can eat. this will be better for everyone in the house, too. and baby steps on the exercise is def a necessity for me right now.

    September 23, 2009
  8. Related blog post from the Marathon Mama (aka my friend Kristina):

    September 30, 2009
  9. too funny – the marathon one. jacqui robbins, children’s author, has been blogging/ fbing about her recent marathon training, too. i fell off my walk the dog wagon a while ago. tried to yesterday but was thwarted my conficting schedule with my mil. of course i could have gone anyway, later, when c woke from her nap, and pushed her in the storller, but there was the whole i need headspace aspect and then k came home from school and walked the dog per usual. i know, excuses, excuses, but i am so good at it!

    the other is just creepy! how did they get it?

    September 30, 2009
  10. Tom and I have come up with a work out schedule that actually works for both of us. Neither of us gets to go to the gym when we want to, but at least we’ve found the time.

    I go at 4pm after both boys wake up from their naps. I don’t get to take the group classes I love, but I’m learning to enjoy the eliptical machine. I’m able to go about 40 minutes on it and am trying to slowly build up to an hour. Tom comes home, eats, plays with the boys, and bathes them, and then goes to the gym around 8-8:30. I get a break in the evenings, so everybody’s happy. 🙂

    September 30, 2009
  11. ok, just did it, walked the dog. sat by the lake, listened to the breeze in the leaves, met a duck, 2 turtles, a couple of surface popping fish and found a little piece/peace of mind away from the sounds of farrmville emitting from mil’s computer….

    September 30, 2009

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