Friday, February 13, 2009

I know what I want, what I really really want....

Admittedly, after a workout, all I want is a steaming hot bowl of poutine. Seriously, I crave the carbs, the melted cheese, the gravy. Mmmm... On a good day, poutine is a bowl of death. Imagine eating it after you've just spent two hours in the gym burning off 1600 calories. That would all be shot in one bite! But I've never succumbed to the temptation. Instead, I knock back my protein shake, and the desire for poutine subsides. All good.

But that's not what I want, what I really really want (pardon the Spice Girls homage...I've always been a bit of a closeted fan of girl power -- ha!). This week I learned a valuable lesson about being in touch with what I want -- and knowing how to ask for it.

I've always been pretty assertive. Some people would say that I don't call a spade a spade, I call it a f*$%in' shovel. Seriously. But that confidence and assertiveness comes from a place when I feel that I have a strong base of knowledge and experience upon which to stand -- firm ground that cements my viewpoint, and allows me to see things clearly. As you can imagine, I've not always been that way when it comes to health and fitness. This week, I think made a bit of a breakthrough on that front.

Now, having started my first formal 'diet' program at age 10, I've tried pretty much everything. The list of programs and gimmicks is exhaustive. I have half of a bookcase beside me filled with books written by supposed 'experts' who were going to show me the way and help me solve my problems. I've read them all -- taken morsels of wisdom from some, but for the most part, left them behind after having tried what they espoused only to re-enter the vicious cycle of serial dieting. I've tried pretty much every program out there, too. Weight Watchers (more times than I care to admit), Jenny Craig, NutriSystem, 'medical' weight loss clinics, hospital-based nutritional programs, SureSlim, the Zone, Atkins, South Beach. You name it, I've thought about it. I never did Bernstein, because frankly, I couldn't afford the injections -- but if I could afford the insane amount of money to have someone inject Vitamin B supplements into my ass twice a week, I would have done it. And none of the above worked. Some of these things worked, to a degree, and the most weight I've probably ever lost in one attempt was 10 or 15 pounds. That said, if you read my last post, and my reactions to Sebastien's recent blog post, you'll know that I'm particularly skeptical about the diet industry. I've wasted thousands of dollars. I've put on more weight as a result, and grown more frustrated, upset and disappointed with myself.

Was it worth anything?

In terms of actual progress, not at all. But in terms of educating me about what I do and don't want, the past 25 years of trying to find 'the one solution' have been ironically invaluable. When I started training with Sebastien, I gave him a copy of my food log -- I had recorded everything I ate for a week so he could get a sense of what my nutrition was like. It was solid. No problems, no changes. I was pleased, but wasn't surprised. Because frankly, fat people are some of the sharpest nutritional minds out there. I know what's good for you, and I also know what isn't. Thanks to the very useful Canada's Food Guide (my new anchor point), I know what to eat and what not to eat. I know how to read a label. I can quickly analyze the percentage of calories from fat in any given food, and also make on the spot decisions about what will or won't find a place in my shopping cart.

So, nutritionally, I'm in a great place. But over the past six months, I've been learning so much about exercise and strength training that I finally feel like I get it. Now, I have lots more to learn, but I feel like I finally have my feet firmly planted in all three worlds that I believe are critical to weight loss success. Nutrition? Check! Mental preparedness? Check! Exercise......check! Sebastien has taught me a lot, and I've learned a lot on my own. But I've also learned a lot from within, and figured out just how important it is for me to assert myself and make my needs and expectations around this journey very clear.

This past week, Sebastien and I came to a bit of an wall with regards to my workout program -- and with some good thought and planning, I felt more confident than ever before to give 'the expert' some feedback and let them know that I needed something different. Sebastien kind of chuckled at first, enjoying the fact that I was getting more confident because apparently, I "used to be shy." I don't necessarily think I was shy. I was quietly absorbing everything I needed to know -- through questions and observation -- and quietly synthesizing all of this new information. So shyness wasn't necessarily the issue. The important thing for me this week was becoming confident enough in my knowledge base, that I was able to speak assuredly about what I wanted to do and how I was truly feeling about where we were at in my program.

Now, I'm fortunate that I have a trainer who took in everything I gave him and made good sense of it. I'm looking forward to switching gears a bit in the weeks ahead and trying new things to rekindle my interest in my workouts, because things were getting a little mundane and boring. I'm glad that Sebastien listened to what I had to say, and put the pieces together. Now, I realize that I've been dropping subtle hints for the past few weeks, but only this week did I come right out and articulate exactly what I needed. I can't blame Sebastien for not totally picking up on my 'hints' -- it's a bit of a passive aggressive way of giving feedback. But I felt like I was getting to a bit of a breaking point where I had to really put my thoughts together logically and give it to him all in one go. And surprise, it worked.

Why am I telling you this? One of the most important lessons I've learned this week is that the health and fitness industry is ruthless. It was only in stumbling upon 'my expert' who isn't corrupt, and who operates from a true place of compassion, conviction and integrity, that I realized just how problematic all of my other attempts have been. At first, I thought it was all my fault. But there are problems with each and every one of the programs I attempted -- because they either worked on the starvation principle, or simply promised results that were nutritionally impossible to achieve. And at the end of the day, I finally gave in and tried good old healthy balanced nutrition and exercise... and eureka! It works. Go figure.

As I responded to Sebastien's blogpost:
I don't necessarily buy the 'all is fair in diet and exercise' logic. I think it's a bit of a cop-out for an industry which, without a doubt, benefits from preying on a vulnerable (and sometimes unknowingly so) population of people who are often at the point of desperation to find a solution to their struggles. Yes, [Sebastien is] a problem solver, [who works] with integrity, care, and compassion. I can't say that the rest of 'the industry' is capable of doing so -- they're too caught up in capturing the almighty diet dollar. Yes, 'buyer beware' does play into this equation, but I can't forgive companies who knowingly convince people to engage in unhealthy behaviour with the promise of quick results, an unsustainable lifestyle, and an easy buck.
So, if summing it up as 'buyer beware' makes sense, then that's what I guess I'm trying to say. It is so important for any person who is heading down this path to exercise the highest degree of caution and self-responsibility in order to ask, observe and get informed. It is only from that place of complete confidence in one's knowledge about health and fitness that individuals will be able to truly identify what is important.

Kia Kaha.
Stay Strong.