In case you’re wondering – and I’m certain anyone who knows me personally isn’t – being a personal development blogger does not give you any advantages in the human experience. I still lose my temper, I still binge-watch TV, I still misplace my phone and still lust after the new iPad even though I really don’t need it. In fact, really, there’s only two things that set me apart, a little: one, I have nifty labels like “the G.I. Joe Fallacy” (“Knowing” is nowhere near half the battle) and two, I write about it. A lot.
An example of my non-enlightened state: I have been seeing a VA nutritionist for the last year or so. I started at 246lbs, and was aiming for 220, simply because at that weight I can go skydiving without paying a weight surcharge. We talked about making changes to my diet (I was a donut-a-day kind of guy) as well as increasing my workouts. I began incremental changes like giving up sugar except on weekends, getting a standing desk, and more. I signed up for MyFitnessPal and TheWalk and even tried out things like the 7-Minute Workout.
At first the weight came off. I made it down to 237, in fact, and I was feeling pretty good. Even through a hernia operation I didn’t gain back too much, and when it was done I had the ability to do even more extensive exercise. All the normal things you hear from people about weight loss/physical fitness were also happening to me: my clothes fit differently. I could go up stairs without puffing.
But. My weight loss plateaued, and I began to resent the MyFitnessPal that told me that if I maintained my 1500-calorie-per-day diet I’d weigh 220-ish within five weeks. The weeks were going by, and it wasn’t happening. The numbers didn’t lie – but the predictions did. Increasing my exercise simply built more muscle mass (supposedly) but didn’t seem to change my shape, and a few times I pushed it too hard and injured myself. It’s hard, sometimes, to remember the limitations of the body.
About a month and a half ago I realized that I was coming up on another appointment with my nutritionist at the VA. I hadn’t checked the scale in a while, and when I did, I was horrified. 242lbs. I had been at this for a year and then some, and I had only lost a net 4 lbs – and that was rising.
I determined to pay more attention to my food log. I tried to walk more, and workout more regularly using non-muscle-building. I was determined to have something to show for my appointment.
I did, too. Weighing myself the day before the appointment, I clocked in at 243lbs. That’s right, I’d gained a pound.
And that’s when all my personal development knowledge didn’t help me at all. I felt like a failure. I felt humiliated, old, beaten, ashamed to face the nutritionist. In fact, I planned on canceling the appointment – but procrastinated doing it until it was too late (yes, I beat myself up over that failure too). Most of all I felt angry – betrayed by physiological science. I had done the formula, improved my diet, increased my exercise – but hadn’t gotten the promised results.
The nutritionist was very sympathetic as I explained my frustration. “That’s got to be very frustrating,” she said (hey, at least I communicated that well). We talked about it a bit, came up with one or two strategies I hadn’t tried yet – like taking a walk directly after lunch to prevent metabolic slowdown – and she encouraged me “not to give up.” Frankly, she was great with her active listening, nonjudgmental support, and soft encouragement. I know, because I recognized all the techniques from all the personal dev books I read!
Humans are Great! Except Me.
Here’s where things get really amusing, and I have to divert to a meeting I was having with others who are organizing a conference at a campground in Maryland later this month. We were talking about the golf carts that are on the property to help people get from point A to point B. A very good friend of mine and I disagreed on the qualifications needed for driving one of the carts. I held the “treat them like responsible adults” opinion, while he was of the “if you let anyone drive, they’ll drive into the tree/pond/cabin/volcano.” It’s a common feature of mine: I tend to believe the best about people, and promote the idea that if you give people the space they will become the higher vision of themselves.
So you’d think that Michelle’s philosophy of Eat food. Stuff you like. As much as you want. would appeal to me, right? It does! I recommend it for everyone!
Except me. When it comes to me, I find myself convinced that if I am given carte blanche to drive my dietary golf cart without extensive regulation, I’ll plunge full speed ahead into the Lake of Deep-Fried Fudge-Covered Butter-Stuffed Oreos. Not count calories? Not measure workouts? Not try to earn the right to own the 4-Hour Chef? Might as well start slouching towards Bethlehem now, because the center will not hold with all the chaos loosed on my world.
It’s hard to forgive yourself your lapses, even when they probably aren’t really “lapses” but are just part of being human. It’s sometimes harder to trust yourself, or give yourself permission to try out new things or to hang on to old things. While the Grand Unified Theory of Me may be all about love, it’s far from narcissistic. It’s a constant internal struggle for authenticity and honesty.
I wish you good luck if you’re working on that too. I know I’ll need it.