Saturday, November 17, 2007

Existentialism on a Grand Scale

My work's Biggest Loser challenge will have officially ground its tedious, soul-sucking self to an end this coming Monday with our final weigh-in and awarding of prizes. At some point in the last eight weeks one of the organizers made a giant bulletin board in our faculty lounge with a progress bar for each of the teams and little car cutouts with our names and our team nicknames on it. They're supposed to look like they're racing...little Beetle Bugs frozen against the corrugated paper like a finish line snapshot from the world's most annoying NASCAR weekend. The funny thing about the little car board is that they've been stuck in the same position for the past five weeks...Team 1 is just barely inching out Team 3, and Teams 2,4, and 5 are lagging somewhere closer to the starting line. I presume our challenge organizers simply haven't had time to update the board, but it's also kind of poetic it was left that way, because I think that week three was right about when everyone started realizing that maybe this whole Biggest Loser thing was a really bad idea.

My friend Stacie, whom I've mentioned in previous posts has been starving herself to win the challenge and looks dangerously gaunt and weak as a result, plunked herself down at one of our lounge tables the other day and started shoveling the contents of a very heavily loaded taco salad into her mouth. Pausing between snarfs, she looked up at the rest of us, sighed, and said, "I'm really freaking sick of dieting, you know?"

We knew.

For me personally, the Biggest Loser challenge thing has served as little more than a huge roadblock in my own getting healthy plan. I started out the challenge weighing in at 219.5, but only because I stood on the scale with two layers of clothing, my tennis shoes, a full stomach, and pockets full of keys, my cell phone, and about three dollars in change. I went in there weighing about 6 fake pounds more than I normally would've, and I'm guessing that at our final weigh-in, even if I stripped down, starved myself the entire Sunday before, and exercised like crazy, I'm still going to end up at about 212 lbs. So basically, over eight weeks, I've managed to lose all of 1.5 pounds of actual weight. And for what? I'm going to get a 40 dollar Wal-Mart gift card if my team wins...there's no chance I'll win the individual challenge because some of our, um, more substantial teachers have shed 20-30 pounds in the last eight weeks just because they've never dieted before. So now I'm pissed because I've basically done nothing for the past two months, and not because I wasn't dieting hard enough, but because I was dieting in the first place.

I came to the sobering realization this week, as I was drinking coffee and reading about Marie Osmond instead of actually writing lesson plans, that I lack some sort of basic integrity--a central core to my character--that I really ought to have as an adult. I think I'm flakier than I was five years ago; I promise people I'll do things so everyone will think I'm helpful, I'm an overachiever, a real go-getter, and then it takes me way too long to actually deliver on the promises. I let my opinions get swayed too easily by other, louder people because I don't like the confrontation inherent in standing up for things I believe in. I do about 50% of the work I ought to be doing because I know that's really all will get noticed, and relaxing is so much easier than pushing and pushing to do extra things. I prefer to do the things that are easier and that get me by than the things that are really good for me in the long run. And having realized all this in one big caffeine-inspired epiphany really made me kind of disappointed in myself.

And the weight loss stuff, at least in the last few months, is one of the few areas in which I can say I've been acting with a consistent pattern of insight, responsibility, and care for a long-term solution instead of a quick fix, so it's a particular letdown that I've allowed myself to backslide into all the bad habits I worked so hard to extinguish this fall. I wasn't interested in exercising yet, so in order to post a loss each week I didn't eat hardly anything for the 24 hours before the weigh-in, and then I joined all the teachers in the post weigh-in binging that started with lunch in the faculty lounge and usually didn't stop until late Friday night after lots of Mexican food and margaritas. And as things tend to go, since it was so easy to eat like shit on Friday, the binge days turned into binge weekends and then I spent the better part of the week alternating between asceticism for the sake of the weigh-in and total apathy for the whole thing. (Invariably, total apathy was more satisfying if it also involved a chocolate milk shake)

It seems the only person who isn't totally over the challenge is my teammate, and infamous Atkins dieter of posts past, Gen. She's been trucking along, losing 1-2 pounds each week and doing really well, and I'm genuinely proud of her. For Gen, it's all about willpower, and I know she battles each weekend when she's with her husband and her friends. She comes back each Monday talking about how "bad" she was, and how she's going to have to be really good before Friday so it doesn't show up on the scale. I know, to her, that "bad" means she had a slice of bread or maybe some alcohol or chocolate on a girls' night out, and whenever she says stuff like that I bite my tongue hard, because to me it's just absolutely insanity to wreck a good time by worrying about one tiny slice of bread. But that's how she rolls...I think she likes the way deprivation feels and she really grooves on seeing how long she can stick to her plan, even if weekends are always just one big excuse for her to be "bad".

So in this case, I wonder whether integrity also means willpower, or whether willpower is just a crutch for not having any sort of personal rudder for how to improve your health in the long run. Does not dieting require more character than dieting, or is it the other way around? This is making my head hurt. I think I need an apathy shake.


Lauren said...

When I set myself on my Bangkok challenge, I totally screwed my weight loss up, that's why I killed it a few weeks later because I need to focus on other things, like eating balanced meals and feeling good about my body and working my steps and since I've started this OA thing. I've learned alot of crappy things about myself, but I've also learned some good things...the best thing being is that how I've acted in the past doesn't matter, how I act right now matters. Am I being the person I want to be right now...well no, right now I'm being lazy, but you get my point.

Anonymous said...

I really think that you would be successful if you were to write a novel based on your experiences.

Mrs. Darcy said...

I think that eating what is right for you and your body and being comfortable with what you choose to eat, in other words forgetting the "good" and "bad" food labels, requires the most character of all. And I think you are starting to move in that direction.

Jarrett Meyer said...

I'm sorry that your challenge didn't go better. I don't know if challenges like this really work.

Even after all of the weight I've lost, I still haven't actually fixed my problem of emotional eating. Instead, I just starve myself, replacing one vice with another. Until you get to what lies beneath, the weight is pretty meaningless.

Lori said...

I don't believe in willpower. I think we have moments of willpower and perhaps we can learn something when we refuse food in certain situations.

Look, you're being entirely too hard on yourself. You've had a lot of big changes in your life. Everyone still is figuring out what they want in life but you're able to see that you can make changes. The question is what kind of changes. Should I move, change jobs, join the Peace Corps and those sort of big ticket changes. Add that you have the perfection gene (like the rest of us) and you feel stuck. Sometimes being stuck is good.

Perhaps integrity is eating a slice of bread because someone brought some homemade sunflower wheat bread and it smelled good and you have a slice. Perhaps a lack of integrity is eating a whole loaf of Sunbeam because you're stressed out -- it's not so much a lack of integrity but a lack of inner calmness or a lack of other coping strategies.

I'm glad the BL contest at work is coming to an end. The question is will anyone learn anything from it that will keep the weight off?