I ran out of soap today.
On the surface, that doesn’t seem like a momentous occasion, or like anything anyone would choose to write about. There are grocery stores in every neighborhood and those stores are full of soap in every size, scent and price.
I ran out of my own, homemade soap today. 18 years ago, I started experimenting with different soap recipes, mixing ingredients, using different methods, and just generally playing with the process. I made soap that was hard and had almost no lather. I made goo. I made soap that took months to saponify and soap that was ready in week or two. I experimented with different blends of essential oils that were everything from slightly better than skunk spray and so delicious you could almost eat them. Eventually, I came up with a couple of signature scents and a soap that was uniquely mine.
Friday was one of “those” days. I left the condo with just enough time to get to my physical therapy appointment. When I got down to my car, I discovered my keys were not in my purse where they always are. I came back upstairs and searched frantically for what seemed like 10 minutes, almost called to cancel my appointment, and finally found them in yesterday’s jacket pocket.
On the way to therapy I got distracted and nearly missed my exit, crossing two lanes of traffic so I’d be on time. [Note to self: You said bad words to a driver who did that exact thing in front of you just last week. Learn some compassion!] Therapy was moderately difficult and ended just as Friday rush hour was getting into full swing. It took me 1 hour and 20 minutes to drive the 18 miles back home.
Many years ago, my Dad told us about a book he read where the author said he was inspired to give thanks for everything, especially the ‘bad’ or challenging things in his life. So, my Dad tried this out one day when he was driving down the main commercial street in his neighborhood. This street had a traffic light at nearly every block and, as was usually the case, he was hitting every red light. He started saying, “thank you for the red light, thank you for the red light, thank you for the red light,” at every corner. Pretty soon, instead of being frustrated and angry, he was laughing!
I had known for several days that this would be the concept for the topic I was writing for The Main Meal Weight Management Group, but I couldn’t get started with my writing. The morning of the meeting, at 8:00 am I woke to the sound of heavy equipment on the school yard next to my window, scraping and pounding. My first reaction was not to give thanks! But right on the heals of my frustration and annoyance, was the thought, “thank you for the loud, intrusive noise this morning.” And I laughed at myself.
The Challenge of a Resolution
I’ve been feeling motivated to write a blog for the first day of 2018. For the past week, I’ve known I would write something, but nothing came together in my thoughts, no topic outlined itself for me. Today, I realized that one of our recent meetings of The Main Meal Weight Management Group addressed the challenge we face when we are trying to make changes in our lives. It seemed like the perfect thing to use at this time when so many of us are making resolutions for the coming year.
Happy 2018 to all my readers. May all your challenges be small, and all your goals be great!
An Excerpt from The Main Meal Weight Management Group
So, each of us is here because we are trying to make changes to our bodies and/or our eating habits. And we each have a plan in place that we think will make those changes come about if we follow it. But while we are working our plans, these people, events, and situations come along, and they seem specifically designed to blow our plans out of the water. We are all very much aware that we will always have challenges in our lives and I’m sure we’ve each developed coping skills to meet most challenges. But we have a weak spot where weight management is concerned. So, let’s talk about some ways to meet these challenges that are specific to dieting and weight management.
My experience was always that anything that came up outside of the strict routine I had set for myself, caused me to feel frustrated and like a failure. I felt like I could never “win” because there was always something or someone to throw me off the diet. Basically, I internalized my stress and anxiety into “I just can’t win” and “I’ll never make my goal.” What that self-talk and that attitude really was saying is, “I’m not worth the effort.”
This goes back to the motivation. If I don’t really feel like I’m worthy to live as a healthy, normal weight person, then nothing I try to do will get me there. I have to believe I’m worth the effort. There’s nothing intrinsically noble about making a huge effort, and effort without belief in the cause is just unnecessary pain. It’s like working out when you don’t really care about having abs of steel.
The very first thing we have to do when faced with a challenge is to lean into that moment between stimulus and response and say to ourselves, “I’m worth it!” We reinforce our self-esteem and we get centered all in one tiny moment.
The next thing we need to do is look at our options. How much, if any of this, do I have the ability and/or power to affect. Our first thoughts are usually, I can’t help any of this, I have to go to the company event, attend the graduation/funeral/family gathering, take part in my monthly card game/book club/dinner group. Notice I said “our first thoughts are…” And that’s the perfect place to address a challenge.
Could I change my thinking about this? Is this a “have to” thing for me? What would be consequences if I decided I didn’t have to? How would the situation change if I thought “I want to…or I could?” Is there a way I can come to mental place of feeling neutral about this event. And if it’s a person, is there a way I can think about this person that’s not antagonistic? The point here is that the challenge can most often be cut down in size by looking internally first to our own attitude and predisposition to it.
Third in line is looking at what is factual and out of our control. Let’s take, for example, my annual family reunion. I get so little in-person time with my sibs and their families that I make every effort to go. However, food-wise, and diet-wise, this is a huge challenge for me. I don’t usually mind eating out once or twice a week, but four days straight feels like it would be a huge setback for me.
So, I start with myself and I get over the feeling that one weekend will set me back YEARS and POUNDS!! It just won’t, and I have to remind myself that I know it won’t. Besides, whatever I can put on in one weekend, I can take off in one week as soon as I get back. Phffftt! Next, I can realistically look at what I can do to bring the food choices down a notch. I can carry healthy snacks, like nuts, on the plane and in my suitcase. I know how to make healthy choices from a menu, I just have to decide to do it. I can choose to say things like, “No, I don’t think I will have ice cream today.” “I’m really full, I don’t have room for dessert.” Also, I can choose to indulge myself at least once or twice during the weekend. And lastly, I can be so grateful for being part of a family who likes each other enough to choose to get together every year, that the eating part becomes really small by comparison.
Fourth, in looking at ways to meet challenges, we want to talk about the ongoing challenges where our ability to affect the dynamic is much smaller. In this type of situation, I think we have to go back to steps one and two. We make sure to reinforce that “I’m worth the effort” statement on a regular basis. Don’t let another person push you off center or disrupt your plan. What you do for yourself is not under their control. And if what you are doing for yourself threatens them or makes them uncomfortable, you can acknowledge that, but not give them the power to keep you from staying the course.
Let’s all take a few moments and write down up to 10 things we do just for ourselves. Things that make us feel relaxed, pampered, centered, or any other good feeling you can think of. Examples might be a walk on the beach, watching a favorite TV show, eating a bite of chocolate, calling a friend, meditating, singing, using a special soap. Ideally there will be things you can do in the present moment at the drop of a hat, some things that don’t involve food, and some bigger things that take planning.
Post the list on your bathroom mirror, or put it in your desk at work. Whenever you are feeling like you just can’t win, like your plans for changing or maintaining your body are going out the window, like you’ll never succeed, I want you to pick something off the list, whisper to yourself, “I’m worth the effort and I deserve some peace,” and go do that thing. Every time you are tempted to let a challenge sabotage you, instead plan the next trip, take a walk in nature, binge watch your favorite show, buy a theatre ticket, go get a bite of chocolate.
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