Healthy vs. Normal

I know that I write about the things that I learned in therapy almost alarmingly often, but I keep coming back to this one. When I first started therapy, I kept walking into my therapists office saying things like, “I don’t know what normal feels like.”

I think that after a few dozen iterations of this Auralee, The Worlds Best Therapist™, said, “Stop focusing on normal. Normal isn’t necessarily a good thing. It’s time to change the way you look at the world. Stop trying to be normal. Start trying to be healthy.”

It’s a weird juxtaposition. Healthy vs. Normal. In so many ways I’ve been able to take that advice and run with it. It allows me to stop the comparisons with the people around me and start focusing on the best outcome for me personally.

I’ve applied it to my self talk, though it’s still not healthy it’s better than it was. I’ve applied it to my relationships, friendships and romantic. I’ve learned how to apply it to the balance between work and home. I’ve used that set point to change so many things in my life.

I’m starting to realize that I need to apply it to food and exercise too. I weigh over 200 pounds. I have an unhealthy, but alarmingly, normal relationship with food and exercise. Unfortunately, my body can’t handle a “normal” relationship with food and exercise.

I eat because I’m bored. I eat because I’m lonely. I eat because food tastes good. I eat because I don’t sleep and it makes me feel energetic. I eat because food is a social event. I use food as a reward.

I need to develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise. I need to do it for me, and also for my daughter.

My ability to be healthy will effect hers.

I need to make changes. I need to figure out what healthy looks like and pursue it. I need to do so in the same healthy way that I’ve learned to make all the other changes. I need to do it with compassion and dedication. That means no cheat days. That means no giving up. That means that a mistake is an isolated mistake, it’s not universal failure. There is no such thing as failure. There is only learning.

***** I wrote that first part two weeks ago. *****

Since then I’ve been trying. I’ve been painting instead of eating in the evening, calling a friend instead of snacking, eating smaller amounts and acknowledging that my body doesn’t require a lot of fuel to function.

I’ve been redefining the difference between activity and exercise. Activity is doing stuff. Exercise is actively pursuing greater strength or endurance. Activity is living life in a way that is  filled with movement.

I’ve lost five pounds in those two weeks.

It’s not a lot, but I did it in a way that is healthy. I did it in a way that is sustainable. If I had to keep living my life this way for the rest of my life, I could. I don’t feel deprived. I get to eat with my family. I get to have coffee in the morning. I get to enjoy the occasional drink with my husband (mmmm…. homemade mojitos).

I also get to meet friends in the park. Go for walks with my husband and daughter. Dig in my garden. Take my Little Fishy swimming. And none of those things are exercise. They are just activity. They are just a part of life.

Changing the way I think about food is hard. I have some bad habits and some devastating emotional attachments to food. Food is not my friend. Food is not my enemy either. Food is just food.

Food is not a reward either. I don’t “deserve” chocolate. I’m not a dog. I will not demean myself by rewarding myself with food. I won’t demean the healthy choices I’m making by “rewarding” myself for them at all.

Choosing to be healthy doesn’t need a reward. The rewards are built-in. Weight loss necessitates new clothes. Exercise builds energy. Eating right makes me feel better. Not eating in the evening means that I have more time to paint and write.

Healthy vs. Normal. The goal is healthy.

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5 thoughts on “Healthy vs. Normal

  1. I really really love this. And congrats on losing 5 pounds, and feeling good. It’s funny, I just “unfollowed” a blog because I just can’t get behind all this “do this diet”, abstain, restrict business. It feels like it starts from a place of hating where you’re at. And I don’t hate where I’m at. As you said, you need it for you, but also for your family. I made this vow recently after I read this essay (I wrote about it here: http://mominfortcollins.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/yeah-that-what-she-said/), I can always improve my health, my fitness level, my diet (and by diet, I mean, what I eat, not “diet” in terms of a specific plan, such as the Atkins “diet”), but I need to love my body no matter what, because I won’t have my kids hear me say one thing to them, but overhear me beating myself up. Know what I mean? Sorry if I just wrote a blog post in response to yours!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. You’re right, it’s so hard to be positive about where we are when we need to make changes and I definitely struggle with that. I’m always trying to find more positive outlooks on weight-loss and exercise and I find that a lot of why I can’t do group classes is because I get really competitive instead of feeling positive.
      I love your post. I’m trying to learn to love my body, but, gosh, it’s hard.

      • Oh, I hear you! The thing that has helped me see my body differently is pregnancy and motherhood. I was never athletic (although, I have high hopes I can slightly change this!), and I often saw my body as what it looked like instead of what it can do. I can now appreciate my body in a whole new way–I carried two babies, I nursed two babies, and I still–with the help of an ergo–carry two babies somedays! Ha!

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