Silencing the peanut gallery

Because of the unexpected trip for The Gown fitting, I had to cut my practice short this morning. In fact, The Gown fitting pretty much threw a wrench in my entire day’s plans, but oh well. I can always return to the gym.

I just feel this unexpected loss and some tingles of guilt about an abbreviated and rushed practice. This is not to be confused with the angsty drama akin to my early days of gym crazy; it is more a feeling of disappointment that I did not get enough time to explore how I feel today about the List of the day. I do know my hamstrings and glutes are still feeling those kettle bell swings and the leg work on Thursday, so I was taking advantage of any and all rest pauses.

Thinking about how I feel about this process, I completely understand that I am embracing my obsessive and addictive tendencies toward the exercise. After a lifetime of avoidance, I am not going to try to restrain or dial-back my own excitement and interest in all I am learning and doing no matter what my more cautious and/or cynical friends might suggest. I am not doing anything crazy. I am not trying to lift or move to and fro humongous heavy weights. If anything, I tend to be more conservative and careful and would rather do 20 reps with a lighter weight than the 8-12 range with what I do with J in our sessions. When in doubt I leave the weight on the bench and go lighter to no to assure myself I have the basic form nailed down.

But it does lead to feeling a little let down when life interferes or happens when I have plans to exercise. My pursuit of balance  is littered with all sorts of emotional highs and lows. It also leads to a complicated mixture of emotions when friends express critical opinions of my pursuits. While I should not care what they think, I am not quite so armored up yet that I can completely ignore the digs or outright hostile comments.

There is stress in my life with the upcoming wedding, work-related commitments and deadlines, and the exercise helps sharpen my focus by shifting it completely somewhere else and letting the parts of my brain running on overdrive rest. We are also going on vacation and will be away for almost a week. In that time I will do a fair amount of sitting around, although I will be doing at least a little something every day in addition to the extra walking.

But even now, after this much time and the groove I have worn into my calendar with the daily practices, I have niggling fear and anxiety that getting off my routine is going to have such a powerful effect and impact on my schedule I will not recover or bounce back when we get home. I console myself that it is only 5 days of being away from the gym, because I will practice as usual the day we leave and hopefully be able to snag an hour of J’s afternoon the day we return. My rational mind understand this is the negative girl habit, that this is my maiden voyage into vacation after nearly a year of daily exercise. The mild anxiety is playing in the background like white noise.

To add to this, friend J made a careless mistake and sent me (and others) an email that sounded like a criticism of me and my exercise habits. What he said:

Once you get to the point that your primary activity in life outside work is exercise and healthy eating it has become as much an addictive obsession as drugs or alcohol. You need to take a breath, take a step back, and utilize your common sense and moderation. No one is meant to work out a few hours every day forever unless you’re some sort of elite athlete. Just f**king get over yourself and accept your place among the average humankind before your body breaks down from overuse and overwork.

Okay, in that standalone context it does sound like he’s telling me I’m overtraining and it’s becoming a problem. Unbeknownst to me, though, it was part of a larger thread on another email we were both receiving and following. The intensity of that thread had escalated to the point that I stopped reading, and my friend was directing the comment at another acquaintance who spends a lot of time talking up her time spent slaving at the gym with her primary results being the aches, pains, and frequent injuries for all the work she puts into it. However, what I saw was an email from him to me with this type of very harsh message.

Context is everything. It was very late where he is when he wrote it and he snipped the rest of the thread so the comment was completely, starkly out of place. An honest mistake, which was cleared up after a barrage of texts from me telling him he’s an ass.

Unfortunately, other friends took this honest mistake on his part to express their own opinions of my exercise habits and once more the chorus of how I am either overdoing it or not working hard enough for such minimal transformative results. To make matters even worse, the debate expanded into healthy eating and recommendations of diets and discussions of carbs and protein and calories

To be fair, not all the comments were directed at me, more a collective “you” of those pursuing a change to a healthier life and lifestyle. But to be completely unfair in my broad characterization, they are all asses as well and entitled to their ridiculous opinions on my life and my habits. I have my own thoughts and opinions about them as well, which I am gracious enough to keep to myself if they serve no purpose other than making someone else feel poorly for no good reason.

Anyway, it was a rough day from the standpoint that an entire swath of real-life acquaintances and friends suddenly turned like synchronized herd and began taking their own little pot shots. Hit someone hard enough they are going to feel it even through the suit of armor. Drowning me in negative words and opinions does eventually take a toll, so I stopped reading and simply began deleting messages as new replies and comments were posted.

Avoidance is sometimes my friend.

Dr. Spencer, my current village advisor on nutrition-related matters, replied to an email from me about food and carb/calorie budgets and how my psyche translates that into a pass/fail exercise every single day. I have been making inroads toward substituting unhealthy food choices with healthier ones, but I am growing weary of the carb is a carb is a carb discussions. From the measures I hold dear, I am far better off eating a piece of fruit than a cookie. I know I do not eat enough protein and have to supplement with the powder. Sometimes it’s not so simple to get all the nutrients a body needs from the food being consumed in a day. Sometimes one person needs to supplement where another person can eat 100% clean and tidy and organic and fresh. Why is it people have become so enmeshed in their opinions and perspectives there is no room for someone else to be deviate?

It’s frustrating. I can think it’s a crazy idea and bad for overall health to follow a fad diet or fast for 5 days out of 7 to lose weight, but unless you are someone for whose welfare I am directly responsible, my thoughts and opinions carry very little weight. I can tell you that I do not believe that is a good idea, but I am no expert and my opinion of your sense is irrelevant.

While I do not understand why the group think thing happens to me, I do know that my lack of response to it tends to encourage it. Instead I sequester the peanut gallery and eventually the noise dies down and fades away completely. It’s a waste of time and energy to try to defend my ways of caring for myself to people who are not listening anyway. If they were listening they would know better than to try and get a rise out of me

My village – they are all well aware of my ongoing struggles with food. I am a picky eater, and while I have had some moderate success expanding my foods I will eat list, the book on what I will not is much longer and more comprehensive. But oh well. I just eat the same things, over and over and over again. I am working hard at swapping out the less healthy and overly processed foods in my diet that can and will likely see me returning to diabetes drugs for other things that are improved contributors to my overall better health quest. I am not terribly patient, though, especially with myself.

I always thought the exercise portion of diet and exercise would be the much harder part of that equation. Instead, I am doing very well with the exercise and have found a good niche that works for me. There is always room for improvement, and while it’s been plenty hard to get started and stick with it, I have been amazed to find myself evolve into a regular presence at my gym and chipping away at my Lists. The healthy eating portion has been so much more challenging, quite probably because I have always eaten and enjoyed the foods I have consumed and changing those ingrained habits is going to be more difficult than simply implementing brand new behaviors.

With the exercise, I feel ridiculously close to some new breakthrough. Heck, even now I celebrate even the tiniest of successes. Everything from I did not lose track of rep or set counting to moving up in dumbbell weights is a happy dance occasion for me. With food, not eating a cookie is not really on the same scale as spending 2 hours at the gym and much of it actually working my way through a List of the day that has me perplexed.

While today has been a little rough and my sense of self took a bit of a beating, I am actually surprised I did not fall further down the rabbit hole. As I said to trainer J earlier, my thoughts were marinating. Objectively I see and read the comments and I understand the source of the sentiments are not really as altruistic as the writer would like me or anyone else to believe. Some of it is ignorance, some of it is jealousy, most of it is self-deflection so they do not have to look in their own mirror and recognize their shape is unchanging and they are growing more unhealthy to some degree with each new day. The months have passed and I’ve worked hard at and enjoyed success in my better health quest. I am not yet immune to the harsher comments from other people, simply because it shocks me they are so openly judgmental and negative toward others. I suppose I should be accustomed to it by now, but I’m not. I’m simply not as interested in hearing it anymore, and my ability to brush off the impact has strengthened substantially as time has passed.

I have the best village because they work very well with me. They are not the source of my motivation to get up and get to the gym or to eat a balanced and healthy diet, although their influence has a direct impact on those feelings. My village works well with me not because they tell me what I want to hear, but because what they share with me makes a lot of sense to me and their theories and techniques work. I have developed a really good understanding of the “your mileage may vary” concept and have been far happier and accepting of myself and my genuine efforts once I stopped comparing myself to others; I always fell short. My success rate soared once I disconnected my ego from the numbers involved with my various Lists. I care about reps and sets completed; I care about the amount of weight I am using. However, I am not upset or offended or even concerned if I have to drop down in any of those things. Every day is different and the variables within my own body and under my control are so far-reaching its impossible to maintain any expectation that today’s reality will be the same or better tomorrow.

I recognize this post in pinging and ponging, much like my thoughts marinating all day long. At the end of it all, it’s not the organization of my thoughts so much as it is just purging them from my head.

My takeaway from all the negative noise today is that I am doing very well, blazing my own pathway with exercise. I am not in competition with anyone, and my slow and steady progress is as satisfactory as it is safe.

Nutrition and changing eating habits of a lifetime does not happen for me quickly. It takes time, discipline, and some intellectual understanding of the process is required for success. The changes I make, am making, will make into the future are sustainable, not something I do for a short time to meet a weight goal.

Better health means changing my forever habits, not this month, this year, until some weight goal is achieved.

Friend J remains one of my strongest supporters and chief cheerleaders. He is not one to hold back if he thinks I am moving in the wrong direction, and I trust his judgment and his opinions. Sometimes he’s still an ass. Then again, aren’t we all?

The rest of the opinion feeding frenzy? If I can ignore it, I cannot form an opinion on it or allow it to engage my feelings in any manner. The people who matter most to me, whose opinions I value and take very much to heart, I trust their guidance and direction.

And finally, my health measures are improving, steadily if slowly. I am doing enough – I am good enough – to have earned the small successes that accumulate into forward progress. No one and their silly, self-serving opinions can take that away from me.

That, dear friends reading this who gleefully weighed in on all this stuff today, is f**king kick-ass progress strengthening of my backbone and my do-not-give-a-shit-about-what-you-think attitude. Hopefully this positive transformative result is one you can all see, feel, and measure for yourselves.

Have a good night.

5 thoughts on “Silencing the peanut gallery

  1. “My takeaway from all the negative noise today is that I am doing very well, blazing my own pathway with exercise. I am not in competition with anyone, and my slow and steady progress is as satisfactory as it is safe.”

    I agree totally! Keep up the good work.

  2. You are doing great and the peanut gallery can sit down and shut the fuck up. When their opinion is wanted you will be sure to ask. The gall of people amazes me. Seriously.

    Exercise is so much easier than eating – I thought it would be different – but the the emotional ups & downs of life are constant influences on eating. The gym habit – well worn and carved into my life – is a wonderful rut it takes a tremendous amount to budge me out of.

    This isn’t about losing weight for an event or a summer body. This about fundamentally changing your life – it is going to take time, there will be setbacks and you will find a path that works for *you* – not necessarily anyone else.

    You totally got this and good for you for ignoring the chorus. 🙂

    • I typically do not feed the trolls, and most of the time I just ignore the chorus of bullshit. But it really got out of hand yesterday and I just had to vent my feelings or let them eat me up inside. I certainly felt better writing and publishing that post.

  3. You are doing great! And I’m also appalled at the herd pile on you’re experiencing. I’m actually so pissed for you right now I can’t think of anything else to write.

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