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I Knit Around

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday Frustration; and, the 99:99 Plan

My apologies in advance - large parts of this post will be mostly venting. They may not be as coherently written as I usually require of myself. But as much as I've been venting to my husband about this, I apparently still need to clear some of the crud out of my brain.

Please understand that I'm not asking for advice, and I'm not asking for answers. I don't want to join any sort of online support group, that doesn't work for me. I have to make changes (mostly) in solitude, with no one passing judgment and making me feel like my progress isn't good enough yet.

Note that the thoughts and emotions I may express are not necessarily based on logic. My logical brain reacts to things as they are, but my gut frequently overrides it with reactions based on fear and/or anger. I realize that there may be inconsistencies and inaccuracies in my depictions of people's motivations for why they say or do what they say or do, but those are all because of the illogical gut's perceptions of events. There's no need to tell me that "they didn't mean that", my brain knows it. It's my gut that is hard to convince.

If you're still with me now, thank you for reading this far. If you choose not to deal with today's post, I understand. It's not among my more pleasant accounts, though I hope that the conclusion comes across as optimistic.

I had a doctor's appointment yesterday morning. The first one with the woman who has theoretically been my primary care physician for a while now.

I hate those introductory sessions with doctors. I have a very strong understanding about how my mind works, and I know what it takes to get me to implement a change. It's on a glacial scale - nothing happens over night. But given the opportunity to set my own pace, and the motivation to see that it's worth it, I will make change.

But every time I wind up meeting with a new doctor, I have to start all over again explaining to them how I work. I've been overweight my whole life. Every doctor you meet with for the first time thinks that they're the first ones to ever see you, that if you haven't lost the weight by now it's because you're too dense to have grasped that it's a good thing for you. And so with every new doctor, you get the lectures all over again.

First of all, I'm 45 years old. I've been overweight for at least 35 of those years. And I have a functioning brain, and I don't live in an isolated cabin in the backwoods with no communications. I know that overweight is bad, and that exercise is essential.

It's hard for me to start moving more, because I have a lifetime habit of not doing it. I grew up addicted to reading - an active day for me was one where I rode my bike to the library and came home with a pile of books, after which I would curl up nearly immobile and read them all. Rinse and repeat. That's the story of my childhood.

So the habits weren't established early. As an adult, yeah, I knew that I should exercise, but I was always doing something else, and there was never time. I know, I know - you're supposed to make time. But I remembered from gym class throughout school how much I hated how I felt afterwards, and I have a strong instinct for avoiding things that make me feel bad. So I didn't feel much motivated to try harder.

But at least for a lot of that time, I was working outside the home, and living in Syracuse without a car, which meant getting around by bus or by foot. Even if you rode the bus, you wound up walking to and from bus stops to your destination.

Then I met a great guy over the Internet who lived in New Hampshire, and everything was right, and we got married in Syracuse and I moved to New Hampshire. We tried for a while to have me working outside the home, but here in New Hampshire it seemed like my asthma was constantly getting triggered by people in the workplace who smoked on their lunch and came back in reeking to high heaven, or who bathed in perfumes, and I wound up sicker than a dog. So we made a decision that I would be the homemaker.

I'm darn good as a homemaker, too. I can cook like nobody's business, and I craft such that I can make most things we can't buy - and I make many things we could, but that I can make nicer. But it doesn't get me out of the house. Besides, there's precious little for public transportation around here - absolutely none in Wilton - so driving a car is the way of things.

Bottom line, life became more sedentary here in New Hampshire than it ever had been in Syracuse. I gained even more weight, and then a little over a year ago, my blood sugar just barely tipped over the edge into the diabetic range.

I changed some things in my diet immediately, and lost 30 pounds. My blood sugar is completely under control with oral meds and diet. I still haven't integrated exercise, though.

Now, a year later, I meet with this Doctor for the first time. My blood work shows that my overall cholesterol is good - 150-something - which is not surprising, because my family tends to low cholesterol. (My dad surprises his doctors by being able to eat absolutely anything he wants without affecting it.) But apparently, while my bad cholesterol is at a good low, my good cholesterol is also lower than it should be, by many points. And the doctor says one of the only things to raise that is exercise.

The doctor asks me about my exercise routine, and I try to start explaining about how glacially-slow I make these changes, and how I really haven't established one yet. She interrupts me and starts into the lecture about how I have to be doing 30 minutes 5 days a week, and there's no other choice. I have to exercise. At least that's how my gut is hearing it.

I know what the desirable goals are, I do. But she's managed to hit my panic buttons. The irrational gut in me interprets what she's saying - "30 minutes 5 days a week" - as a minimum requirement for immediate success, not as a goal. And my gut screams, "That's impossible! I can't just start doing that overnight!" It comes across as nothing but a recipe for failure, because my gut is claiming that anything short of what the doctor is specifying will be deemed as losing, and not in a good way.

I get flustered, and I try to explain to the doctor that I understand that, but that I can't do it instantly. She stresses again the "30 minutes 5 days" and asks why I'm getting upset with her? I don't entirely know why - I just know that I'm not feeling understood and that I'm not being listened to. I fear that she's already written me off as someone who's not going to comply with sound health practices. I don't want to be abandoned, I don't want her to give up on me, but I can't, absolutely can't, meet the standards my gut perceives her as having set.

I won't even try to outline the rest of the visit. Eventually I realized that my gut had taken control, and I tried to at least get the discussion stopped by saying that I knew what was needed, and I'd do what I could, and please try to trust that it's possible for me, overweight at 45, to make changes. After all, I'd changed my diet enough to lose 30 pounds and keep it off last year. Why couldn't she believe that I can do this?

I've been upset ever since this appointment. I've spent a lot of alone time trying to understand why the issue of exercise - and other people's expectations of it - is such a traumatic one for me. I think I've begun to grasp it, though I'm sure there will be even more insight to come over time.

Some of the comments I made above are actually the result of that insight, things I realized later, not during the conversation with the doctor. "I don't want to be abandoned, I don't want her to give up on me," for instance. I realized later that the first panick came not when the doctor suggested what the desirable goal was - the "30 minutes 5 days" - but when she responded to my explanation about how slowly I integrate new things like exercise into my life by reiterating the same message - "30 minutes 5 days".

That sent my gut a statement that only "30 minutes 5 days" was an acceptable result. No halfway measures, no incremental stages, no baby steps. Only "30 minutes 5 days". So my gut immediately decided I was going to be a failure to this doctor no matter how I tried, and therefore, what was the point in the doctor sticking with me? Hence, the fear of abandonment, of being given up on.

Insert Mood Change Here

Okay, I feel more relaxed now. I guess the venting part of this is over.

Let me tell you what, in spite of my upset, I've managed to do.

I'd already before the appointment been disappointed with myself for how I spend my days. On the one hand, I'm the happiest I've ever been artistically. The knitting is so exciting and rewarding to me that I never want to put it down.

That's the bad side, too. It's too easy to get to the end of the day and realize that I've spent my entire, waking-to-sleeping day sitting cross-legged in that one chair, Folkcat's Knitting Spot, watching my Tivo'd programs and knitting endlessly.

Parts of me feel good when I've done that. I look at the rate at which I'm creating new knitted objects and I'm ecstatic. I see the technical aptitude I'm developing for not only knitting, but developing a new pattern, and I'm thrilled. But part of me realizes that, by the end of that day, my butt is sore, my legs are stiff, and my hands feel puffy and achy. And I often realize that things I could have done elsewhere in the house - working on my websites, writing up patterns on the computer, cooking pots of food to store in the freezer, and such - have been neglected because of the knitting euphoria that left me in the armchair all day.

I've been wanting to find some way to shake up the routine for some time. I've always tried to tell myself at intervals "you've sat here long enough for now, at least get up and go sit at your desk chair and work on the desktop computer for a while." I suppose that stretches different muscles and compresses different nerves and blood vessels than camping in my armchair does, at least.

So here's what I'm going to try to do. We recently picked up a new kitchen timer, a nice digital one that goes up to 99 minutes, 99 seconds, and has a loud sequence of beeps that doesn't stop until you actually pick it up and press "Stop". I'm going to try to use it to stir up my day. I'll start each morning by setting it for the maximum time, which works out to about an hour and 40 minutes. Within reason as an arbitrary activity limit, though I know most sources say to get up and stretch every 45 minutes. (Baby steps, remember. We'll see about 45 minutes later.)

I set the timer this morning, and when it went off, I kept my show running on the Tivo, but I got up and I marched in place for 5 minutes. Exercise, after all, doesn't have to be elaborate. Dance moves may be fun, but I don't want to have to stop and think that hard about what I'm doing. The television show keeps me interested, and the marching in place is doable with zero brain power.

After those five minutes of marching, I set the timer again for the max - 99:99 - and I changed to a different knitting project.

The idea is that every 99 minutes, 99 seconds, I'll have to think about what I'm doing. I will add in more instances each day of marching in place for 5 minutes, maybe eventually increasing it to ten. (Studies have shown that the 30 minutes of exercise don't have to be continuous to be effective.) I'll think about changing to a different activity - working in the kitchen, cleaning up my studio or doing beadwork, or working on my blog or websites. At a minimum, I'll try to change to a knitting project with a different size of needles, to keep the hands from getting stiff.

I've started an exercise log in Quattro Pro which I'll use to track the dates and amount of time that I march. I've told Gryphon what my plan is, and now I've told you.

Gryphon and I, years ago, read an article in Reader's Digest about implementing change. There were three M's that the author advised were absolutely necessary to make it happen: Make a Commitment; Modify the Environment; and Monitor Progress.

I've Made a Commitment - I've told my husband and all of you what I'm doing, and I've told myself that I'm doing it.

I've Modified the Environment - I've got this timer helping to remind me to think about getting off my duff, telling me that it's time to get up and move, to do something different for a bit.

And I'm Monitoring my Progress - the exercise log I created will help me to see how well I can integrate my marching in place into my life.

In Conclusion

I feel like I can do this, but it does have to be at my own pace. I think my 99:99 plan offers an answer that will work with the way my brain integrates change.

I don't feel like the doctor was trying to give me a hard time, really I don't. The problem is getting my gut to believe it.

I see the doctor again in six weeks for a follow-up regarding a new med I've been put on for the diabetes, just to make sure I'm reacting well to it. I hope to be well over my anxieties over this encounter by then, and to have some positive progress to show her.

And, though this incident was very stressful, it forced me to take a look inside my own mind and understand myself a little better. And that's never a bad thing.

If you're still with me by this time - well, I wish I had a prize to hand you, because I know that can't have been easy to read. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring enough to stick with me.

Baby Steps. Baby Steps. Baby Steps.

But Are You Knitting?

Oh, yeah. And making good progress on two of the four projects currently on the needles. Clapotis is still looking much like she did before, though, and the other project being worked on is the one for possible publication, so, well....no pictures today, I'm afraid!

Thanks for listening! You guys are the best!

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