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POUND BY POUND: THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SOMETHING

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DSCN0119I’ve learned a very difficult lesson in my Pound By Pound journey over the past couple of weeks.

There will always be something.

I’ve realized that I’m very good at starting life changes. I’ll set a perfect routine, and follow it perfectly for a few days, or weeks. And everything goes, well, perfectly.

Until something comes along to put a wrench in the works.

That something could be huge, or it could be something that simply knocks my perfectly-timed schedule off by a couple of minutes. Either way, it’s often enough to send me skidding off track. I get all depressed and annoyed that I couldn’t be perfect, throw my hands in the air and say What’s the point? I give up. This has been a pattern in my life.

When I lived in New York, I joined Weight Watchers around 2008. I lost 30 pounds. It was a huge deal! Then I stopped, because I got depressed and thought it all pointless. Why? Because a friend I was in love with, one I was hoping to impress with my astonishing weight loss, didn’t start loving me back.

Silly, right?

He’d gone away for a few weeks for a job (knowing I loved him, by the way. We’d already hashed that out before this), and was coming back to town for the holidays before leaving for the job again, and I couldn’t wait for him to see me! I was sure that once he saw the new me he’d realize he couldn’t live without me! I was an idiot. When he saw me, he was astonished and proud of me…the way a friend would be. And that was it. There was no big revelation. Nothing had changed. He was just happy I was making a change I’d wanted to make for a while and was extremely supportive.

And I was crushed. And I soon thought it pointless to continue trying. I stopped going to Weight Watchers in 2009, and I promptly began stuffing my face again. Because what’s the point in looking great if no one loves you, after all? The most weight I’d ever lost at once in my whole life, and I gave it all up because I didn’t feel loved. Never mind that I’d accomplished this huge thing. Boy doesn’t love me, so I quit.

Well, I’m a little older and, I’d like to think, a little wiser these days. I’m trying to lose weight for me, not for anyone else, and I’m doing it not to “look good,” but for my health and to be stronger, so that I can live the kind of active life I’d like to live. But that doesn’t mean that hurdles don’t still come up. The past two weeks were a prime example of that.

I’m now dating a wonderful person I refer to in my online life as The Boy. Well, The Boy’s dad and stepmom came to L.A. to visit him and his brother, as well as to meet me and his brother’s new girlfriend. Meeting the parents! *gulp* It went well, and they’re lovely people – the problem for me was that The Boy and his brother are both huge foodies. Under normal circumstances, we don’t go out to eat all that much, but with the visiting parents in town, all we did for a week and a half was go to fancy restaurants on the parental dime. While I tried to stick to my plan, I felt suddenly self-conscious about not eating. I didn’t want to be That Girl. I didn’t want to be any different than anyone else at the table by eating a smaller portion, or boxing up half my meal at the beginning, or not having dessert. So I ate the way everyone else was eating, which wasn’t horrible, but which also didn’t take into account that I have to eat differently than most people right now, because there’s something I’m working towards.

Me being lax about my eating in this way made me lax about my program in general. I half-assed my first attempt at Week 3 Couch to 5K, barely completing all three days, and two weeks ago, when I was supposed to repeat Week 3, I didn’t do it at all. Because once you give yourself permission to be lax about your practice, it’s really easy to slip into not doing anything at all.

The thing is, in another life, this small setback of those two weeks might have been enough to stop me altogether. Years ago, I might have gone back to my old habits willfully. You can’t tell me what to do, Life! Not this time. Since I’ve been working on my inside as well as my outside, I’m at a place where I can overcome these small setbacks and stay on my path by thinking about the following things:

SETBACKS ARE A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY, NOT A REASON TO QUIT.

I could be hard on myself, subconsciously telling myself to eff off by sabotaging the hard work I’ve already put in. Because that’s what I’d be doing right now if I went off my program and quit. I’d be “punishing” myself for not being perfect and being all “See? I knew you couldn’t do it! Now go to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, order the biggest plate they have, and we’ll forget all this nasty business ever happened.”

Or…

…I could see the setback for what it was. A setback. A reason to examine why I went off the rails a little bit. Because I felt inadequate. Because despite having a man that loves me, I still feel like I’m not good enough if I have to do something as “horrible” as monitor what I eat. That makes me “less of a person” somehow. It makes me less strong. Less competent. Just less in every way, except my weight, of course. So there it is. I know those feelings are there, because I’m looking at them squarely. So, now that I know why I did what I did, I have choices in how I want to handle it. Do I want to give up the progress I’ve already made? Or do I want to take a moment to breathe, and then keep on going, knowing that the changes I’m hoping to make in my life aren’t just about weight loss, but about the person I want to be?

Right now, I choose the latter. And I’m grateful that I’m strong enough to make that choice right now. That wasn’t always the case.

THE COST OF STOPPING IS GREATER THAN THE COST OF A MOMENTARY FAILURE.

Sure I gained two pounds a couple of weeks ago, because I laid off the exercise and food monitoring for a week…but I LOST A TOTAL OF FOUR POUNDS LAST MONTH! The amount I lost still ended up being greater than the amount I gained back. That’s just friggin’ math. So, following that mathematical way of thinking, if I gave up now, I’d literally be giving up more than I already lost because of that momentary setback. Sure I gained two pounds, but I lost four overall. If I stop, I’ll not only gain those four pounds back, but I’ll likely gain even more in the process of punishing myself with food. I’m not going down that road again. Despite the emotions I’m working out, this is all actually very simple when I look at it objectively. If I ever want to not be a fat person, I have to keep moving forward and not define myself by my momentary setbacks. I am not my setbacks. I am already the person I want to become, I just have to act like it.

NO ONE WILL LIKE ME LESS FOR EATING LESS (OR DOING WHAT I NEED TO DO)

That self-consciousness I felt when eating out with The Boy’s family was pretty crazy. After all, what was I self-conscious about? People would think less of me for, what? Stopping eating when I was full? Asking for a doggie bag? Not having dessert? Did I honestly think they would think less of me for not partaking in parts of a meal with them? How ridiculous! And you know what? If they did, how micromanagey is that? I wouldn’t want to associate with people like that anyway! But the truth is: no one cares what I eat but me.

What made my self-consciousness more absurd is that two of the people I was with, The Boy’s brother and his girlfriend, recently lost a lot of weight themselves! You wouldn’t know it to look at their supermodelly selves now, but they lost about 150lbs between them last year! If anyone would understand me doing what I need to do, it’s those two! Also, The Boy isn’t fat, but he’s been nothing but supportive of me throughout this whole business. I am loved. Why should I feel self-conscious around someone who loves me so much?

I need to remember that there are people in my corner, but also that, no matter what, it’s OK to do what’s good for myself, regardless of what people think.

And it’s OK for all of you to do the same. J

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About Teresa Jusino

Teresa Jusino is an East Coast transplant who currently lives and writes in Los Angeles. Her pop culture criticism has been featured on websites like Tor.com, GirlGamer.com, Al Dia, ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. 2012 saw Teresa’s work appear in two Doctor Who anthologies: Chicks Unravel Time (Mad Norwegian Press) and Outside In (ATB Publishing), and she was also published in Mad Norwegian’s Whedonistas. Her fiction has appeared in Crossed Genres, and she is currently working on two new anthology projects that will be released in late 2013/early 2014, as well as scripts with which she hopes to take the television industry by storm!