Parenting Lessons in the Potty and Pool

Content notice: Potty training, poop. This post will confirm every stereotype you’ve ever heard about people becoming parents and talking about their child’s elimination to anyone who will listen. 

Last January we potty trained our son, who was almost 3.5 years old at the time. He was one of those stubborn kids you hear about who did NOT want to poop in the toilet. He knew how to pee in the toilet for many many months before we trained him, having figured that part out for himself. But for some reason pooping in the toilet was terrifying for him.

When he was 18 months old, he pooped on the potty for the first time. Naturally we lavished him with praise, but he looked so horrified at what he had done that he refused to go near the potty again for almost another year and a half.

I could tell that he looked frightened, but I didn’t know why. Then I learned (I forget who told me) that at his age, kids didn’t understand that poop isn’t really a part of themselves. The idea of letting go of and flushing a part of themselves can be very scary for them.

Intellectually I understood this, but I couldn’t really relate. I just kinda went with it, but I didn’t personally remember how it felt to have that fear.

So there we were, waiting for a stubborn (frightened?) kid to decide he was ready to try pooping on the toilet again. So we waited….and waited…and waited….and then one day when he was almost 3.5 years old, I received a text message while I was at work from his babysitter: “he just told me ‘I’m gonna use my diaper forever!’ LMAO!” And I said “that’s it; we’re potty training him this weekend.

We told him that as soon as the current box of diapers ran out, we weren’t going to buy any more diapers. That weekend we stayed home and did lots of time with pants off.  I knew he had no problems peeing in the toilet, but since he was scared to poop, we rewarded poops with lollipops.

It turned out to be remarkably easy to train him. He only had two accidents the entire weekend, and both of them were on his way to the bathroom. But he started holding his poop and becoming constipated.

He still had the fear of letting his poop go. We made sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables and oats and lentils in his diet. But it took several weeks before he was comfortable pooping in the toilet regularly. And then it took several more months before he was comfortable pooping in the toilet anywhere other than our home. He would hold his poop all day long. His babysitter would try to get him to poop in her bathroom or in public bathrooms. He obstinately told her “No; I poop at MY house.”

I laughed and shook my head at all these stories and his reticence to poop.

And now, in my swim practice, I think I actually understand it. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna talk about pooping in the pool. I’m gonna talk about flip turns.

I know how to do flip turns. I know it is the fastest way to turn when doing freestyle laps, allowing you to cover more distance in less time.

But I still don’t like doing them. I feel nervous as I approach the wall. I’m still not confident in how to adjust my breathing pattern in anticipation of the turn. I don’t like the sensation of not being able to breathe for a few seconds longer than normal.  So even though I know how to do flip turns and I know they are faster, I usually only do a few in any given swim. Maybe as I get more used to them, I will do more and more flip turns.

And I thought to myself “this must be how my kid felt about pooping on the toilet. He knew what to do, but it still felt weird and he didn’t like it.”

Yes, swimming does give me a lot of time to ruminate on things like this. I feel like I understand my kid a bit better.

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Year in Review: Outcomes of My Second Year of Habit-Based Self-care

When I started two years ago, deciding to track healthy habits instead of a number on a scale or clothing size was unfamiliar territory for me. I decided I wanted to be open to whatever outcomes would come.

Last year, I listed the following outcomes I experienced after one year along on a habit-based, weight neutral health journey:

Looking back on what I wrote last year, I am happy to say that most of those outcomes have continued throughout year two. I did have some depression and back pain creep back in when an injury required me to stop lifting for a few months. With adding lifting back into my life, both of these conditions are improving again.

I also experienced some other cool things in year two.

Looking back, I feel really proud of what I accomplished this year. It didn’t seem like I did much of anything until I actually went back and read all my older posts. What I feel most proud of is keeping up a consistent self-care routine during a very challenging year.  My family had a lot of challenges: my husband got injured, I got injured, we lost our pet, we had a terminal illness and death in the family. I feel so proud that I took excellent care of myself so that I could face these challenges well.  Honestly, the self-care felt like the easiest part and I know that is because of the habit-based approach.

So…..to give credit where credit is due, I feel very proud of myself this year. I’m excited to see what year 3 brings!

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Better Late Than Never

Some self care I practiced this week, above and beyond regular daily habits:

I reached out to some understanding friends to vent about some big feelings I was having, and realized that I wanted to follow up on finding therapist who specializes in eating disorders. It feels like a bit of a strange time to do this, given that my relationship with food is currently better than I ever imagined it could be. Even so, while my behaviors around food currently feel healthy, balanced and comfortable, my body still plays a more prominent role in my thoughts than I would like. I recently realized that I had eating disorders as a child and young adult that went untreated. While I was able to overcome the disordered behaviors and fears around food with the help of some wonderful communities online, the continued preoccupation with my body over other things in life is starting to annoy me. I get very preoccupied with my body in order to avoid certain things that scare me in my life. And I also find that I am still dealing with some of the effects of being brought up in an environment where I was told that something was wrong with me by parents, doctors, and other children.  It caused depression, self esteem issues, vulnerability and productivity issues that I am still sorting out, well into adulthood. Keeping this blog and participating in online groups has been a great tool that has brought me very far….and I’m feeling like I am at the point where I would like some help. So I’m going to try out therapy. Better late than never, right? My first appointment will be next week.

In other “better late than never” news, I remembered that my physical therapist had noticed in the initial evaluation (back in June!) that my feet over-pronate when I walk, and mentioned that it could be a factor in my back aches. Remembered that I have had issues from my flat-ish feet off and on since childhood and in the past had used either prescription orthotic inserts or running shoes good for over-pronators with good results. Looked at my very worn out sneakers. Ordered some running shoes for overpronators (a similar model to a shoe I had used in the past). I’m crossing my fingers it will help with my back aches. The nerve tingling in my legs is completely gone, but my the back aches are still persisting with standing/walking.

I also figured out how to get around the resentment I was feeling around doing my physical therapy home exercises. I “shrunk the habit” by deciding that the goal was to just do one exercise. Usually once I start, I end up doing most of them. But I can mark the habit as successful even if I just do one exercise. I also sometimes switch up the order of exercises if I want to so I feel like I have some autonomy/choice in the matter.

Finally – I decided to try something a little bit outside of my comfort zone! I signed up for a Drills and Distance class at the Y! It’s a class that meets twice per week for 85 minutes to improve stroke technique and endurance. Since it meets on the days I already go to swim, it shouldn’t be too big a change. However, I’m nervous about being in over my head, and a little nervous about getting kiddo out the door in time. I’m doing it anyway though and I’m excited!

My face after signing up for Drills and Distance

My face after signing up for Drills and Distance

So, three things to look forward to next week…..a new swim class, new shoes, and meeting a new therapist.

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A Punk Ass Cat, Self Care, and Intuitive Eating Choices

I am stressed, and I am tired.

It has been a month with periods of high adrenaline and low grade chronic stress. One of my cats, who has lived with us for 5 years, ran away. She is very skittish, and proving difficult to catch. We flyered our neighborhood, including giving notes to every house. A few weeks ago, one of the neighbors told us that she had seen our cat. She feeds feral cats for Trap- Neuter- Release and my cat had started showing up there at night. 

So my husband or I have been going there every night. The cat sometimes shows up and she is always looking for food. But she is skittish, and won’t let anybody get near her. She often will eat the food that we leave if we go back to the car. We have been trying unsuccessfully to trap her, and every night has been a nail biter. The neighbor who is very experienced with trapping cats is calling her “stubborn,” “very smart,” and “a stinker.” A couple times we came very close’ and last night we actually got her to go into a drop trap by disguising it like a cardboard box, but she slipped out just as my husband triggered it. Tonight we plan to disguise the trap with plenty of leaves and twigs and other things to make it look like a comfortable outside hiding Place. Fingers crossed.

My husband has been a saint. It has been four weeks since our cat disappeared. He stays out often for 3 or 4 hours a night waiting for this very smart kitty to be willing to approach a trap. I take a night here and there, but I seem to need more sleep than my husband does, and the cat watch gets my heart racing faster. The other night we both took a night off, because I was exhausted, and my husband did not feel well. 

With four weeks of compromised sleep and late nights, something has to give. Our house getting disgusting. And for better or for worse, my home exercise program for physical therapy has taken a back seat. This concerns me, but I have been feeling an entirely unmotivated to do these exercises that I am supposed to do for injury rehab. The only reason I am not even more concerned is that swimming seems to be good injury rehab as well. I am definitely seeing how, when one is exhausted, something has to give, and for me that “something” tends to be the thing that I don’t particularly enjoy. On the other hand, I have NO problem making time for the things that I enjoy doing, even when I am exhausted. Even when I am exhausted, I am able to bring my son to the Y and do my swimming (and sometimes the video game stationary bike), because to me these activities are fun and restorative. Since I want to do them and I feel like I am choosing to do them, they are taking priority over the exercises I feel I have to do but dont particularly enjoy. They are taking priority over cleaning my house too.

Yesterday was a particularly stressful day. I found out that a friend of mine no longer has a job and I don’t know the circumstances behind it but it shook me. I think my threshold for stress had already been close to the limit, because the cat, and lack of sleep. So yesterday I consciously decided to soothe myself with food. It was a very conscious decision. I felt completely in control as I was doing it. I ate #alltheicecream, and #allthegreencurryandstickyrice. I had chips at the ready, and decided not to eat them. I knew I was not hungry anymore. Though I chose to eat more curry and rice than I was hungry for, I chose not to eat the chips. Then I took my shift at the catwatch, and then stayed awake in suspense as my husband took his shift…..and nearly trapped the cat only to have her slip away in the final second. I got less than 6 hours of sleep last night.

Today, I predictably feel exhausted.
I made some conscious choices that I don’t usually make on days when I’m feeling rested and energized. I brewed a pot of coffee (which I only drink on days I am exhausted, because I don’t like it). I drink the whole thing. I considered eating breakfast and then realized that not only was I not hungry, but food sounded vaguely repulsive. I knew my body was probably plenty carbed up for my swim from all the ice cream and rice I ate yesterday, and decided against eating breakfast. Instead I packed myself a couple turkey sandwiches and bananas so that if hunger kicked in later while I was out, I would have them at the ready. 

I took my son to the community garden, where I ripped out the diseased cucumber plants and bachelors buttons, and pruned the tomato plants. I saved all the plant matter, which I will use to disguise the trap tonight and make it look like a comfy pile of weeds so the cat will be a more comfortable entering it. Then, we headed to the Y, as is our usual Thursday routine.
Some days we go to the Y and I use the entire 2 hours that I have while my son is in the childcare. The other day I even used the entire 2 hours, plus the half hour when my son was in a preschool sports class. That day I did my physical therapy exercises, spinning on the video game stationary bike, swam some laps, used the hot tub, and took a shower.

Today was a obviously a different kind of day. We went to the Y so we could continue our routine, and so my kids would get his time out of the house so we wouldnt drive each other crazy. But I was not attached to the idea of moving a ton. I knew that today my body needed more rest then it sometimes does and putting my body through extremely heavy exercise would put further stress on it. So I told myself that I was going to get in the pool and see how I felt – no promises about how long I would stay there. Even if I sat in the lobby on my phone for most of two hours today, that was fine.
Getting into the pool felt good, but I’m not gonna lie; I was really tired. After 15 minutes I told myself I could get out of the pool if I wanted. I kept telling myself that. But I was having fun, and I took it slowly, and I ended up spending almost 50 minutes in the pool. I did not use the hot tub today. I did not even take a shower; I only rinsed off. I was really tired and I had no motivation to do those things. But my body feels good from the swim. And now I am sitting in the lobby writing this blog post while I wait for my son to finish playing. I feel great about that. I am taking care of my body with enough movement to feel good, and not enough to make my exhaustion worse. I’m going to take it easy today. I’m going to hope I can nap after the caffeine wears off.
So that is what my life and self care looks like today. I know I could be caring for myself better, and I know I should let the cat go, but I miss her and so this is always on my mind, and I am handling it as best I can.

I took a flash photo of my cat’s eyes last night.

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Arms, Oars, and What’s Below the Surface

Have you ever felt like you were putting a lot of energy out, but weren’t moving very far?

I just realized that I have been swimming the freestyle stroke “wrong” my entire life.

I took years of swimming lessons as a kid because I loved swimming. In the seventh grade, I tried out for the swim team at my local YMCA. I didn’t make the team, and they suggested I enroll in a class where they taught more advanced swim skills in preparation for tryouts another year. 

But I never got much faster and speed always seemed to leave me so out of breath. 

I got discouraged and abandoned swimming in favor of music. Now, two decades later, an injury was the catalyst for me taking up swimming again.

And I still struggled with speed in the freestyle, as when I did when I was a kid. When I tried to speed up, I would move my arms more quickly. More strokes per lap. I focused on how my arms exited and re-entered the water.

This week, it dawned on me that by focusing on what happened above the surface, I was ignoring where all the power was: beneath the surface.

Swimming “works” by using your body to displace the water. You pull the water in the direction opposite where you want your body to go. All that pulling happens when your arms are IN THE WATER. What happens above the water is pretty irrelevant.

It was a lightbulb moment. How did I never realize this before? When you row a boat, the oars don’t move the boat while they are above the surface; that’s just recovery so they can get back INTO the water. All the pulling and all the power happen while the oars are IN the water.

So I started focusing differently on my stroke technique for the freestyle. Instead of focusing on “how can I get less tired while moving my arms quickly,” I started focusing all my attention to the pull that happens when my arms are IN in the water. How can I create the most resistance, and pull through it? THIS is the key part of the stroke.

And…HOLY POWER! Now my strokes are actually doing something.  I got faster overnight. My heart rate and breathing are challenged, AND I am actually moving. Not by putting out more strokes per minute…..but by putting more muscle and focus into my strokes.

Fewer, more powerful strokes get you farther than more strokes that are less powerful.

There has got to be a lesson applicable to habits in that. I will be mulling this one over. How about you?

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The Locker Room Scale (and Some Injury Updates)

Content heads-up: This post contains scale talk (no specific numbers). Skip it if that isn’t your thing.

Swimming is going well. I’ve got my routine down pat. I am proficient in 3 strokes. After watching some of the other lap swimmers do flip turns, I was inspired to try them for the first time in years.

Yesterday I went to the beach with my family and swam in the ocean a bit. I’m not used to swimming in the ocean so it was mostly water walking. Still, plenty of movement. And even after a day at the beach (including walking and carrying gear), I didn’t have any back aches.

In fact, I haven’t had any back aches in a week or two. The three times per week swimming plus hot tub routine, plus physical therapy, seems to be working wonders.  I had my follow up with the spine doctor this week, and he said that if in three months I am still pain free, he will likely clear me to do whatever I want. Since what I am doing is working, I am going to keep doing it.

A couple things I wasn’t anticipating:

  1. I’m not sure whether it is the relaxing effect of the swimming, or the fact that it is super hot outside, or a side effect of the antidepressant I started taking…..but I have been feeling really unmotivated and sometimes sleepy.
  2. I keep feeling drawn to the scale in the locker room.

I felt a bit conflicted about the presence of the scale at first. For the past year and a half, my approach to the scale was easy. I didn’t own one at home. I got on the scale if I was at the doctors office, to satisfy my curiosity. This happened maybe once every couple months.

Now, I see a scale in the locker room three or four times per week, and I wish I didn’t feel drawn to it, but I do.

For a little while I fought it. I just didn’t get on.

Then one day I decided I was going to get on, just to get it out of my head. So I did.

Then the next time I went to swim, I wanted to get on again. Rather than argue with myself (“This is really unhealthy. You don’t need to weigh yourself that much”), I just told myself “you want to get on the scale? That’s fine. You know what you weigh anyway, and it’s not like it is going to change anything you are doing today.” So I did.

And maybe it is unhealthy to want to get on the scale every time I see it. Maybe it’s a vestige of diet culture and unhealthy behaviors. But for now, I just tell myself that it is just a number, and it is fine to get on the scale if I want to, as long as I know it is not going to change the way I am taking care of myself today. I hope I can keep up that perspective.

I’m not saying I think it is or is not a good idea for people to do this, and it may not be the “correct” fat positive thing to do…..just sharing where I am right now, and how I’m handling seeing the scale on the way to the pool a few times per week.

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No Watch, No Lap Counters

Meandering post ahead….literally.

I am enjoying swimming with minimal gear. When I was a teenager and would swim, I had a waterproof sports watch that could count splits and time laps.

Now, I have no watch, no lap counter, no underwater music player. To keep time, I blink and take blurry glances at the clock on the wall to see how long I have been in the water. I have no idea how long it takes me to swim any given lap. I have no idea how much faster I swam today than I did on my first day back in the pool.

This is a very different experience from lifting weights. I always know how much I am lifting. The program is laid out in advance and I follow it. I can see how much I have improved in a year. The numbers are objective and ironclad.

If I was running or walking or cycling, I would have some concept of distance traveled. I would be somewhat driven by landmarks (e.g., “I will walk as far as the post office, then turn around.) Perhaps I would map out my route in advance with distance in mind.

Swimming laps is different. Back and forth. Since I don’t count my laps, I have no idea what distance I cover in the amount of time I spend in the pool. My only goal right now is to get to the pool three times per week. I pay attention to my body and swim as long as it feels good. Some days that is 25 minutes. Some days that is 75 minutes. I vary my strokes as it feels good, depending on how my muscles feel. I feel proficient in three strokes: freestyle, breaststroke, and backstroke.  When I fatigue on one stroke I move on to another. If I need a rest, I hang from floats in the deep end and allow my legs to dangle, like they showed me in physical therapy.

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Habit Update (And An Injury Update Too).

If you’ve been here a while, you have probably read my habit series, and maybe you recall that, for me, it all started with setting two goals for 2015: eat a green vegetable every day, and do 150 strength workouts.  Maybe you recall that I tracked my habits on a spreadsheet, and I added a bunch over the course of the past year and a half.  And that all worked quite well for me for the first year and change.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how my habit practice was changing and evolving, and I was considering taking a break from tracking all my habits on a spreadsheet.

Well, I did stop tracking them, so I haven’t written about my own habits for a little while. Here, I am, checking in with an update, for those who have asked/wondered.

I am still very happy with how my habit practice is going. Several habits have become second nature.  Here are some thoughts about specific habits, in no particular order:

  • Strength workouts are mostly on hold due to injury, but I’ve substituted swimming and found a groove pretty quickly with fitting it into my schedule. It is a lot more time consuming than lifting in my pajamas in my living room – since I have to commute, change, shower, wash my suit…. Anyway, it started off with a learning curve (even though I was a pretty strong swimmer as a kid!), and now I’m getting faster again. I even managed some sprints this week!
  • I have the forced habit of physical therapy twice per week. It eats up a lot of time. We do some strengthening exercises there. I’ll be glad when I am cleared to start lifting on my own again.
  • Walks have been a little more sporadic, because I hate summer. Last year I worked around this by taking my kid for walks on shady trails. This summer that is not an option for me due to my spinal injury (yes, I can walk, but all my walks have to be stroller-friendly since I don’t have the option of carrying my kid on my back when he gets tired). I’m not sweating it. Sometimes I push the stroller to the garden. I get in what I can.
  • Parking at the far end of the parking lot has become second nature.
  • Hanging from bars at the playground – I am getting this in once or twice per week, depending on time and weather. Again, not sweating it; just playing.
  • I’ve been keeping the plants in my garden alive so far, so that’s cool. I was the top harvester in the community garden for June in terms of pounds harvested. I probably won’t be for July, just looking at what I have planted and when it should be ripe, and looking at what others have planted and when it should be ripe.  Perhaps I will catch up in August. Fun fact: I’ve harvested around $105 worth of produce so far. I hope I at least break even 😀 .
  • When I do walk, I’ve been picking up the pace on the hill I have to climb to get home.
  • I’m rocking the green vegetables and eating a vegetable with at least 2 meals per day.
  • I’m also rocking eating a protein source with at least 2 meals per day.
  • I had been doing really well with taking my Vitamin D and then I ran out. I bought some more and am getting back into the groove.
  • Sleep habits have been improving in consistency. I am more likely to go to sleep by 10pm (and some nights I am able to get to bed by 9:30).  I very rarely start watching a TV show after 9pm.
  • Looking at my gratitude habits, I am not really sure how I am doing in that area. I’m feeling more positive in general, but I’ve also had a lot of negativity and anxiety creep in around my injury and the routine changes it has brought, so I’m not super focused on these right now and I am okay with that.
  • I am leaning a bit more on my husband for things than I would like, yet I am grateful that he is able and willing to help.
  • My motivation for intentional cleaning has gotten very low again. I figure that is probably normal as I have a lot going on right now. Again, feeling thankful that my husband goes with the flow and steps up hen he can, and tolerates the mess.

So, those are some of the habits I had on that spreadsheet, and I’m quite happy that a bunch of them are sticking well and helping me feel as well as I can.

I’m working on a new habit, and experimenting with tracking just the one habit at a time with an app on my phone (I have an Android and am using Habitbull). The new habit is Intuitive Eating related: asking myself “why do I want that?” when I want to eat something, then naming the feeling (hunger, boredom, no-particular-reason-just-habit, etc). Since “all day long” is probably too tall an order, I am specifically focusing on dinner, up to and including bedtime.  Though I’m actually finding the rest of the day reasonably easy as well.  So far this new habit feels good.  Some of the habits I had on my spreadsheet can still use some more consistency, but I’m feeling like prioritizing this one now.

And, speaking of habits: this blog is one year old! I stuck with it for a year! Yay! Thank you for being here and encouraging me and reading my stuff :).

And, only tangentially related, for those who have been asking about my injury: I haven’t had any back aches since I discovered that the hot tub worked magic on my back muscles! I’ve been using the hot tub 3 times per week after swimming and it has worked wonders for the aches. I still have occasional tingling in my right leg when standing or walking for longer periods. I have a follow up appointment at the spine doctor next week.

So, there you have it. An update for those who were following for the habit stuff :).

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What I Can Do Today

Content note: This post contains mentions of previous and present weight gains and losses (intentional and unintentional). It also contains considerations of how my symptoms may be affected by my current weight, and how I plan to handle that. If that’s not your thing, you might want to skip this post. I am saying these things in the most matter of fact way. I don’t mean to convey shame, as I would have in the past when speaking about weight; just transparency.

Here’s how things are moving along in injury-ville:

My mood is getting better as I am getting more used to my new routine and the new season at work is getting into a groove.

Movement-wise, I have a full plate of activity between swimming 3 times per week and physical therapy twice per week, plus physical therapy exercises to do at home. Swimming is getting easier and I am able to enjoy it now. So much, in fact, that I would consider continuing even after I am cleared to lift again!  I have physical therapy exercises to do at home, and sometimes I do bodyweight exercises like assisted pull ups or incline push ups at the park. I am anxious to get back to lifting but nervous too because I don’t want to make my spine worse.  I still sometimes feel some tingling in my feet or in my right quadricep. I have a follow up appointment with the doctor in a couple weeks.

I still have back aches when standing or walking for too long. That definitely makes me miss lifting.

I’m starting to feel more open to the idea of losing some weight. Well, I guess I was always open to the idea, because of the whole thin privilege thing, but it didn’t factor into my decisions on what habits to choose to work on. If only diets worked for more than a minority of people in the long term (ha!)…..

A bit of history:  When I was 8, 9 and 10 months pregnant I had back aches when standing or even sitting for long periods of time. Back aches are common in pregnancy so I treated them by going for massage twice a week in the later weeks and resting my back a lot.

After my son’s birth, my body went down below my pre-pregnancy weight very quickly and without any effort on my part. It hovered about 10 to 15 pounds below pre- pregnancy weight for about a year. (Before you say “aren’t you lucky,” ask me how I felt physically during that year, with undiagnosed sleep apnea and a high needs baby who didn’t like to sleep and liked to nurse 20 times per day until he was over a year old.)

Currently, I am not pregnant, and I weigh 25 to 30 pounds more than I did when I was at my heaviest in pregnancy (so, about 80 pounds heavier than I was during my son’s first year). Some of that weight gain is undoubtedly muscle from increased activity and lifting heavy weights. But knowing how these things work, I doubt that more than 15 to 20 lbs of it is muscle. So, we are talking at least 60 to 65 pounds of water, glycogen, and fat gain. My body naturally gains a lot of fat above my waist (belly and boobs), and very little below the waist. So, according to my back muscles, I doubt this weight gain feels any different from my pregnancy weight gain (though the muscles are stronger and had a higher limit this time…since I did not gain as much weight during pregnancy).

So, knowing my experience with back aches while pregnant, and knowing that my body is now holding a similar or greater amount of weight in my upper body as it did while pregnant, I am pretty sure that my back aches can be partially explained by weight gain. (And of course, partially explained by my two herniations and older compression injury).

Now, what does that mean for me in the context of knowing that diets don’t work, and most people who lose weight in the short term regain it in the long term, and often gain more weight than they lose?

Well, I am feeling slightly defeated, in all honesty. I am regretting the years I spent dieting. I am wishing I wasn’t put on my first diet as a child, which damaged my relationship with food.

But I can’t change the past. I can only ask myself  “what can I do today to care for myself and manage the aches and set myself up for less pain and better function in the future, to the degree that it is within my control?”

Knowing that diets don’t work for most people  (statistics), and knowing my own personal outcomes from dieting (both physical and mental), dieting is not an option.

Looking at my current lifestyle and habits, an area where I do have some room to play is with Intuitive Eating. Specifically honing in on “distracted eating / distraction eating.” I never thought of myself as an emotional eater because I don’t tend to eat when I feel sad or angry. But recently I realized that I do tend to eat sometimes when I am not hungry. For example, needing to take a break from what I am doing, and reaching for a snack even if not hungry (distraction eating). Or, taking seconds at a meal even if I am not hungry, because the meal tasted good,or because I am watching TV and not thinking about it (distracted eating). I wouldn’t so much call it emotional eating as eating out of habit. I am realizing that these are long standing habits. I remember staying up late in college and we would eat snacks or go to “fourth meal.” My husband and I have had the habit of snacking at night too (incidentally, my husband is thin and always has been).

So for the past week or so I have been working on establishing a new habit: if I am eating, I ask myself “why do I want this?” If I am hungry, that is an easy question to answer. If I am not hungry, the answer is usually “I need a break or a distraction” or “I need to decompress at the end of the day” or “eating this is pleasurable” or “I dunno, I am just reaching for it out of habit.”

Then, once I answer the question of “why do I want this,” I have the option of choosing what I want to do with this information. For example:

  • “I am hungry so I am going to eat this” or
  • “I need to take a break from my desk so I am going to take a walk or go run an errand or browse at the bookstore” or
  • “I need to decompress so I am going to change into my pajamas and read a book or watch a show upstairs away from the kitchen” or
  • “eating this would taste really good but I am not hungry now so I am just going to have a bite and then find something else to do.”

Notice that I said “I have the option of choosing what I want to do with this information.” I did not say “I have the obligation to do a certain thing with this information.” This is very important for me because I have a history of being forced and coerced by others into dieting. When I was growing up, “are you sure you are hungry for that?” was always a loaded question, dripping with fear and concern. Now that I am an adult I don’t want to put myself through the same sense of obligation and coercion. So I’m just experimenting with it to see how it feels.

One concern I have about trying this habit that may lead to some weight loss is that I may become attached to the outcome of weight loss. The past year and half has felt wonderful for me mentally, as I shifted my focus onto other things. I fear the possibility of going back to a place where I obsess about the way my body looks and nothing is ever good enough.  For now, in order to mitigate that concern, I remind myself the following:

  • Intuitive Eating is not a weight loss program. Some people lose weight, some people gain weight, and some people stay the same.
  • Regardless of what happens to my weight, becoming more conscious of and reducing distracting/distracted eating will likely have positive effects on my budget, my mental health, and perhaps my hemoglobin A1c.
  • If this stops feeling good to me for any reason, I can stop or do something else or explore why it doesn’t feel good.

I have some concerns about what this means for me and fat positivity. But I am tired of having back aches and so I am willing to explore this rather than holding onto an ideology. Rigid thinking hasn’t  worked out for me in the past. So I can absolutely advocate for fat acceptance and treating fat people with respect while also trying something that might help my back stop aching.

And for anyone who thinks this means that because I am experiencing a health problem means that HAES doesn’t “work”, have a read: Am I Healthy At Any Weight? by Dare to Not Diet.

Now, we all know that IF weight loss happens, it may be very slow and it will likely not be permanent. So I find it helpful to ask what else can I do TODAY to help me feel good and manage the back aches, besides tuning into my feelings when I want to eat (because IF that helps with back pain, it will be “eventually,” not “today!”).

Today I can go swimming. The water helps. This morning I had some back pain. I tried an aqua Zumba class, then swam laps for a few minutes. Then I sat in the hot tub for a few minutes, applying the jets to my lower back. That helped a lot. So, consistency with movement that feels good to my current body is something I can do today.

Pacing myself with activity that requires standing and walking for long periods is something I can do today.

Doing my physical therapy exercises at home is something I can do today.

Having patience is something I can do today.

Keeping my self talk constructive is something I can do today. When I find myself thinking “I wish I could hike like I did last summer,” I can acknowledge that feeling, and then be glad that I can go swimming instead at least, and that swimming feels great.

Those are some things I can do today.

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How’s Swimming?

The most common question I am getting asked this week is “how is swimming going?”

Swimming is coming along well. I am getting used to it again. I swim laps. Right now just freestyle and breast stroke. Sometimes I play with a toy like a kickboard or noodle, but mostly I find that boring and I prefer just swimming laps. I still need to focus a lot on my rhythm, form and breathing, so it feels very meditative.

At physical therapy they have me hanging out from these floating dumbell  things in the deep end, dangling my legs to take some pressure off the compressed portion of my spine. So, at the Y, I started leaving some dumbbells at the side of the pool, at the deep end of my lap lane. Then, if I get bored or tired and need a rest, I rest in the deep end instead of the shallow end, just hanging out dangling my legs. It’s pretty relaxing.

I have a good system down for showering at the Y now.

Oh, and I signed up for an Aqua Zumba class that starts next week. I am looking forward to trying it

The one piece of the routine where I dropped the ball last week was packing food to eat after swimming, so I could just go on to my next thing without going home. I also had a very busy week at work, and I started physical  therapy. I ended up buying a lot of meals out last week,  as a result.

So this past Sunday, I chose to to stay home instead of going to visit my inlaws with my family. I needed to decompress before the next work week.  I didn’t feel emotionally up for a two hour drive one way, and getting home late on a Sunday before  a work week.

I stayed home, cooked a bunch of food for the upcoming week, and binged on season 4 of Orange is the New Black. It was a good choice. I made a huge veggie tray, hardboiled eggs, baked teriyaki chicken, a couple meals (lentils and rice with fried onions, and noodles with sausage, bitter greens and broccoli). Plus a birthday cake for my husband.

Last night I knew I was planning to go to the pool today, so I packed a couple sandwiches for us ahead of time.  So far this week is going more smoothly, thanks to giving some conscious effort to self care this weekend. It is a new routine and has a learning curve but I am starting to get the hang of it.

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