I dug into my new book, Atomic Habits by James Clear. Only two chapters in and it is inspiring. The first chapter actually discussed trajectory and 1% improvement, much like my last entry. The second set the foundation for why we form habits and the beginnings of how we can look to change them.
It is this idea that we try to generate change by either focusing on the outcome (or goal) or focusing on identity. Clear describes two people at a gathering who are offered a cigarette. One says, “I’m trying to quit,” while the other responds, “I’m not a smoker.”
This book is exactly what I need right now because so much of this anxiety and frustration is borne from this idea that I am editing my identity. Am I a fat person stuck with PCOS? Am I a professional web developer who has scaled back to raise a young family? Am I a frazzled mom constantly on the lookout for assistance?
That isn’t me and when I think on it I can see just how far I’ve come. See a year or two ago, I would have likely agreed with those identity statements. But not today.
In his book, Clear describes how the word identity is formed from two Latin words: essentitas (being) and identidem (repeatedly). So the original definition of identity would be “repeated beingness.” He then expands on that by saying the behaviors we engage in every day form our identity.
So what is my identity? Who do I want to be and how can that direct my million tiny steps each day?
I am creative.
I get tremendous satisfaction from creating, whether that be writing, drawing, graphic designing, gardening or physically building. I make time to allow myself these creative pursuits.
I am domestic.
Before I got married and had kids, I really enjoyed domestic life: cooking, baking, home decor, entertaining. I devote time to researching recipes and cooking from scratch. It brings me joy. Now that it is a necessary element in my life, it has the ability to become a chore, but that’s where I make a conscious decision to find joy in it.
I am a fixer.
When I see something malfunctioning, I am drawn to troubleshooting and solving the puzzle. It is how I got pulled into very intense PTA volunteering, and it is how I find joy in restoring websites that have been attacked by hackers.
When I look at how I form my identity, PCOS is not part of it. Neither is having brown hair or a flat butt. I will say that when I look at these “identities” things start to become clearer. These identities are molding my daily life. But I’m going to add one more identity to the mix:
I am healthy.
Notice I didn’t put “I will be skinny” or “I will lose 50 pounds.” I am choosing to be healthy, and that means a million tiny decisions each day that will help me be healthy. Instead of Cheerios for breakfast, maybe I’ll choose a quick egg. Maybe that means adding a side of steamed broccoli to my dinner. Maybe that means knocking out 2-3 items in my “to-do” list rather than sitting and watching Netflix while the kids are in school.
This is where that 1% comes in. Every day I am pushing myself to be 1% better, and these identity markers are setting the trajectory.
Along the way I’m going to enjoy life and all that it brings. I know there are specific foods I should avoid because of my PCOS, but I am not going to deny myself those foods for the rest of my life. Knowing they are still an option but I choose to abstain (or only have a small portion) is a much more sustainable approach than going into the holiday season and telling myself I’m not allowed to taste cookies. Someone who identifies as “I am on a diet” says “I can’t have cookies,” but someone who identifies as “I am healthy” says “Savoring a cookie doesn’t change who I am.”
I am healthy.
Here it is. 2020. We are a week into the new year and most people are struggling through new year resolutions. I’m not. Namely because I don’t truly have a resolution. I have an anti-resolution. I’m no longer going to lean hard into making big strides because those big strides open up the risk of failure. Not just failure of the main objective, but the self shame and frustration that accompanies failure. Instead I’ve adopted the 1% mentality.
I recently received James Clear’s Atomic Habits and am going to dig into it starting this weekend. I’ve been following James Clear on Twitter ever since our pastor mentioned his work in a series last year. This tweet stood out to me because it applies mathematical principles to making small steps. This idea that I try to be 1% better than I was the day before seems like a much more digestible daily goal than what I was doing to myself before.
How have I applied it so far?
Every day I find one small way to be better than the day before. I made a list in my ‘Reminders’ app on my phone of all sorts of small tasks that have been outstanding for a while. When I come across another task I quickly jot it down in that list. Then every day I attack at least one of them. Yesterday I finished painting the garage ceiling. Today I’ll take down the neighborhood’s Christmas decorations and store them. I also did 1 minute of planks in the living room before the family came downstairs (OK modified planks because my core isn’t ready to support my chonk yet).
It applies to my nutrition as well. At each meal I ask myself how I can make this just a little bit better for me, knowing what I know about PCOS. Last night we had a pineapple fried rice and chicken recipe (courtesy of Pioneer Woman, whose recipes are always amazing). I added a side of steamed broccoli, even though the rice itself was full of peas and pimentos.
This new “baby steps” mindset is helping me find the joy in each day because I don’t feel like I’m either punishing myself for falling off the wagon or punishing myself by staying on the wagon. I’m just living and being very mindful of trying to make good choices.
This new “baby steps” mindset is helping me find the joy in each day because I don’t feel like I’m either punishing myself for falling off the wagon or punishing myself by staying on the wagon.
That’s not to say that I haven’t struggled lately. Bubs just got back to preschool yesterday. For my deeply introverted soul, that means I’ve had nonstop close contact with a sweet child that doesn’t stop talking. I’m not even kidding either. He talks until the moment he falls asleep. So on Monday I fell back on an old coping mechanism: McDonald’s gravy biscuits. As soon as I ate it I knew I wasn’t in the same place as I was before. When I used to rely on these disgusting wheat bricks I would lick the container to get the last of that fake gravy. This time it just tasted like fast food breakfast. Meh. But the worst is what happened later that day. I am not sure entirely how related the biscuit was to the afternoon, but I got so grumpy and developed a tension headache.
Lesson learned. 1% better every day.
One of the real beauties of parenting small children these days is you’re exposed to a lot of movies and TV geared toward them. Ever seen Trolls? It is fantastic. We were listening to a specific song from that movie in the car on the way home from the zoo yesterday and it hit me in the feels.
See, I’ve completely slipped down the sand dune. Remember the sand dune? This idea that I can work really hard and see some results, but if I let up I’ll slip back down the hill. Right back to where I started.
That’s where I am right now. All that progress. All the exercise habits I tried to establish. All the low-carb lifestyles I tried to take root. I’m back to Square One.
So when this song came on Pandora Radio for Kids yesterday, it hit just the right spot. For the first time in YEARS I’m going to do the thing where starting January 1 I right this ship.
I really hope I can do it ’cause they’re all depending on me. I know that I must leave the only home I’ve ever known and brave the dangers of the forest, saving them before they’re eaten. I mean, how hard can that be?
See in the Trolls movie Princess Poppy takes it upon herself to save her entire village from impending doom. Everything is working against her, even those in her village who don’t think she can do it. It reminds me of how I read all these things about how almost impossible it is to get weight off with PCOS. Then I read about how weight loss needs to be a true lifestyle change for it to stick. I’m staring down a big sand dune and I have to choose between tackling it or coming to terms with it.
Looking up at a sunny sky, so shiny and blue and there’s a butterfly. Well, isn’t that a super fantastic sign it’s gonna be a fantastic day. Such marvelousness it’s gonna bring, got a pocket full of songs that I’m gonna sing, and I’m ready to take on anything. Hooray! Some super fun surprise around each corner. Just riding on a rainbow, I’m gonna be okay.
But I’m not some Gen Z troll marching off into a felt-covered forest with an unabated positive outlook on accomplishing my mission. I’ve spend my entire adult life yo-yo dieting. I know the task ahead is daunting and that I’m likely going to want to give up in about 6 weeks. Then I’m going to get a wake-up call a few weeks later and jump back on the wagon to restart.
Hey! I’m not giving up today. There’s nothing getting in my way. And if you knock knock me over, I will get back up again. Oh! If something goes a little wrong, well you can go ahead and bring it on, ’cause if you knock knock me over, I will get back up again.
Can you see why this song hit me in the feels now? It feels like an anthem. I have all the tools I need: the knowledge, the experience of what works. Now I just have to do it — and stick to it.
I’m marching along I got confidence. I’m cooler than a pack of peppermints and I haven’t been this excited since I can’t remember when! I’m off on this remarkable adventure just riding on a rainbow.
Sounds rosy, huh? The best part of the song is in the next lines, though:
What if it’s all a big mistake? What if it’s more than I can take? No I can’t think that way ’cause I know that I’m really, really, really gonna be okay.
There it is. That’s my mindset heading into 2020. I still have a solid 20 months to meet my goal by my 40th birthday. I’m not going to weigh myself every week because it is causing undue stress. I think perhaps I’ll do weigh-ins less frequently, like maybe monthly or seasonally. I’m going to focus more on the act of climbing the sand dune rather than the metrics quantifying how far I’ve gone.
Hey! I’m not giving up today. There’s nothing getting in my way. And if you knock knock me over I will get back up again. Oh! If something goes a little wrong, well you can go ahead and bring it on. ‘Cause if you knock knock me over, I will get back up again.
Remember the letter from Paul to the Corinthians where he discusses his “thorn in the flesh”? No one quite knows what this thorn was, but it was clearly something that prevented Paul from being boastful and feel powerful in his ministry. Paul, this guy who was to be the first real leader of the Jesus Outreach across the world. Perhaps it was a physical handicap. Maybe it was mental. Maybe it was a literal demon in his ear. All I know is Paul prayed to God that he remove this thorn in his flesh not once but thrice. Paul pleaded with God to remove this hindrance.
God didn’t do it.
What did Paul do? He writes that he is content with weaknesses because in his weakness he can proclaim God’s strength. I am not Paul by any means. But this story sticks with me these days. See, I’ve prayed that God walk me through the challenges of trying to get my body to a healthier place. That it return to a more socially-accepted size and that I somehow come out on the other side as a more faithful and commendable person.
So what happens when God says no? How do I even know this is a situation where He’s telling me no?
So what happens when God says no? How do I even know this is a situation where He’s telling me no?
But I have realized in this that a lot of my issues with PCOS and my weight and all the other things that come along with it are symptoms of a larger issue.
I know I’m smart. I’ve been frustrated with how it feels like my talents are being squandered by my current life situation (it is hard when you’re still paying for that master’s degree and all you’ve accomplished in the day is picking up dishes for the fifth time). Perhaps the worst of my inner conversations has been centered around this idea that folks will hold me in higher esteem and regard if I lost weight. That somehow by being larger I am considered less than.
This is where the silence comes in.
I realized how the toxicity in my life is coming from myself. It isn’t coming from my friends or my family. I don’t have an identifiable antagonist other than myself. I needed to address that before I ever attempted to improve any area of my life.
I’ve spent the past month recalibrating my inner dialog. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get down to my goal weight, but I can make healthy food and activity choices. I do know that I need to not only be OK with my current size, I need to see the value of it. The chonk that hangs below my waistline is a direct result of carrying my two beautiful, intelligent children in my body. And if I continue to make good food and activity choices, and when I turn 40 I’m still the exact same size as I am right now, I’m still going to wear that bikini to the beach.
And if I never get any semblance of a career back and spend the next 15 years being the most supportive mother and wife I can be, I’m going to pour myself into it. And if I never see an annual salary above $20,000, I’m going to praise God for meeting my needs regardless.
See a lot of my anxiety, I’ve realized, is stemming from this idea that I’m somehow not meeting my potential. That I’m wasting away as life passes me by. It is a dilemma I think a lot of women who stay home to raise their kids feel. Domestic work isn’t valued by our society and a stay-at-home-mom seems antiquated.
I see that my life isn’t passing me by. I’m an active participant in a beautiful and blessed life. It took me a month of introspection, but here I am.
I haven’t shared my week in meal planning recently. I guess, much like my weight plateau, I haven’t been as diligent about providing updates for my 10 readers (LOL). But seriously, I appreciate the moral and spiritual support from every single one of you, and I’m not doing any of this for fame and fortune.
Now that the weather has turned from mid-90s to mid-40s in less than 4 weeks, it is quickly time to transition into cold weather foods. Namely: soups. SOUP SOUP SOUP. Probably my favorite meal premise. Throw anything together with some broth and let’s party.
This weekend I made a tasty “Keto taco soup” in my slow cooker. Needed more heat, but they do recommend topping with jalapenos. I added a can of corn because I wanted more vegetable substance to the soup. I guess corn should really be considered a grain, but the crunch was a nice addition.
Perhaps my favorite soup to date is a chicken and wild rice concoction Hubs helped me whip up. I didn’t do the slow cooker on this one — instead I used my big dutch oven and simmered it sweetly one afternoon as it rained.
I think the thing I like most about soups, beside them sliding down my gullet like warm and welcoming elixers, is the idea that I can really cut the carbs almost entirely and be satisfied when I eat in soup form. It is really easy to add back some grains with a bread or cracker or tortilla chip delivery device, but I don’t need it to enjoy the soup.
As this arctic blast comes through I think the next on my list of soups is a good broccoli cheddar. Then perhaps a veggie chili?