Relentless is a word my tennis instructor says on the court a lot, along with the concept of outcome independence.
For someone who is extremely outcome dependent in all facets of life, this new philosophy being drilled into me while hitting hundreds of fuzzy yellow balls one hour a week, is beginning to shift the way I view my world.
The idea is simple. Pure. Uncomplicated.
It is another way of saying, “be present in the moment”. What just happened, is irrelevant to what is happening.
Be relentless in your effort and the outcome will eventually align. Don’t get hung up on a “miss” or a failure, and let that failure determine the outcome of your next opportunity. Let it go, move on to the next.
But in practice, does it really make sense? For an outcome dependent individual like myself, I am dripping with skepticism.
Of course what happened matters! I silently scream. What happened, gives us information. We can calibrate our current efforts based on previous results. We can use that information to fine tune, adjust, and make constructive changes. If we don’t pay attention to what happened we can’t improve for next time.
Yes, this is all inarguably true.
But what emotion do we often unintentionally attach to the failure? How do we subconsciously view ourselves through the lens of a “miss”?
Every single time I view a bad shot as a miss, there is a negative self-talk that perpetuates a sense of inadequacy. And inevitably I carry that inadequacy with me to the next shot. And if I think I am not good enough, if I get down on myself, what is the probability that the next shot will be great?
Conversely, if I view my amazing shot as the barometer with which I measure myself, and I get puffed up with bravado and self-importance, what happens when the next ball goes out?
The rollercoaster ride of emotions tied to outcome is dizzying. A one hour tennis lesson can become very stressful if I consume myself with the outcome of where all these tiny balls land on the court.
But untangling my sense of self-judgement from the outcome, is uncomfortable. Removing the measuring stick of judgement feels vulnerable.
I need a tool with which to measure myself. I need a reference point. I need some way of telling myself that I succeeded or failed.
I am currently on a weight loss journey. The tool with which success is measured is the scale.
The number on the scale is a very conniving, devious, manipulative creature that can take on dramatic self-importance if you give it that power.
I consciously say “weight loss” journey, as opposed to “fitness” journey because I have always been in pursuit of fitness. But when I stepped on the scale at the end of June this year, it didn’t matter how “fit” I was, the extra pounds I was carrying were impacting my ability to be in shape. As a female in her 40’s, with a metabolism that has always chugged along with the efficiency of a tugboat, compounded now by changing hormones and age, I knew I had to reign it in before it got worse.
After an emotional acceptance of my reality (aka “meltdown”), a switch flipped.
I cut out sugar, refined carbohydrates, and wine.
This, my friends, was no easy feat. I’m a cookie, cake, cabernet kind of a gal.
I switched to vodka soda if I was indulging in a cocktail. I ate spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti noodles. I baked a sweet potato instead of regular potato. No bread. No sweets.
And I gave myself time. I told myself that no matter if I lost 1 pound or 10 pounds, I would persevere until the end of summer.
We went on a COVID-inspired road trip for our summer vacation – I packed almonds, vegetables, and grapes while the kids indulged on pretzels, chocolate, and a plethora of high carb – but super fun – road trip snacks.
I went to Nashville to visit a girl friend and I declined delicious homemade desserts, hush puppies (oye vay!) and corn bread.
I was steadfast, I continued my pursuit, and surprisingly, almost miraculously, I began dropping weight. By the end of the summer I was 18 pounds down from my June weight.
I was astonished. I hadn’t seen these numbers on the scale since before my babies, maybe even since high school. I didn’t know it was a possibility that I could be this lean at this age. I didn’t know it was a possibility I could actually be “lean”! My body fat registered at 23% at the doctor’s office. For someone that has always viewed herself as a “big girl” or a “curvy girl”, this was undeniable proof that I was no longer “fat”.
I began receiving compliments on my weight loss. I started seeing definition in my arms. I comfortably dropped a size.
Then things stalled. The scale stopped moving down. But interestingly, nor did it really move up. We went on vacation in Cabo and indulged in food and drink. The scale didn’t budge.
Slowly, I began to take more liberties. Out to dinner with my husband or friends, I allowed myself to have some bread, have a glass of wine, maybe eat dessert. Surprisingly, the scale didn’t change much.
However, from indulging in Halloween candy at the end of October, up through my last bite of pie during Thanksgiving dinner, my weight loss had officially stalled, my motivation had waned, and the numbers on the scale ticked up a few pounds.
Until Sam walked into my life.
Sam is a bodybuilder and personal trainer. Referred by a family member, my husband and I decided to give him a try. A new spin on our fitness routine. Why not?
Our first meeting, he said to me – “You could do a fitness show.”
“Huh?” I replied, disbelieving and dumbfounded.
“You’d be surprised” he said. “I train a lot of women over 40 and a lot of moms. Moms are the most organized and they do great. You could do it.”
“Ummmm….what is involved?” I asked with reluctant suspicion.
“Follow my plan. It’s not complicated. You’ll drop 10 pounds in about 3 weeks. We’ll go on maintenance mode over the holidays, get back at it in January, be ready for a show in spring.”
Is he serious? Me, in a bikini, on a stage, with a spray tan, flexing my currently non-existent muscles?
The thought of wearing a bikini on the beach or by the pool gives me anxiety, why would I subject myself to that torture?
On the other hand, why not?
Why not pursue something that I would have thought was impossible? Why not embark on the journey to finally squash my perception of myself as “curvy” “chubby” and “thick”? Why not add an experience to my life that is fairly unique and completely dependent on my own hard work, consistency, and dedication. Why not try? We get presented with these opportunities in life that often catch us by surprise. Opportunities that are often so far off our radar or out of our comfort zone that we discount them as being unattainable. But we have options. We can either seize the moment, push through the fear, put in the work and make a change, or make excuses and let the possibilities pass us by.
And so, I have begun.
I am making progress. But slowly. My running is suffering. My times have slowed way down. My long runs have gotten very short, 6 miles has been my max.
I’m in a calorie deficit and my carbs are intentionally low.
The food plan he has us on is drastically different than what I did to lose the first 18 pounds. Egg whites, chicken, white rice, a green apple, almonds, vegetables, berries and oat bran. Everything measured and weighed.
I am always hungry. Before the holidays, I ate the same thing every day for three weeks. I did fasted cardio for 26 days straight. I cried. A lot. I doubted. I have been grumpy with the kids. I have been irritated with my husband. The scale has gone up. The scale has gone down. One of the early weeks was an extreme exercise of self-control as my monthly hormones were raging and begging for refined carbohydrates. Ladies, you get me! But I stayed strong and focused.
When it gets really hard, I ask myself the question, why? Why am I doing this? Why am I putting myself through this emotional rollercoaster?
And then I realize.
I’m viewing this through the lens of outcome dependence. I stand on the scale every morning and judge myself based on what the numbers show. Every morning is either a build-up, or a let-down. Either confidence or shame. Yet my actions every day have been exactly the same. I have followed the program, the diet, the workouts, the cardio plan. I drink at least a gallon of water. For three straight weeks, I did not deviate from the plan.
Now that we’ve moved to “maintenance” mode over the holidays, our intention is to be a little more flexible and enjoy the season. And let me tell you, I have enjoyed! I have appreciated food and drink like I never have before. I have sat and savored every morsel of a holiday cookie. I have enjoyed every bite of chocolate. I have delighted in every fizz of champagne. The scale has definitely responded by creeping up a bit.
But guess what – and I’m writing this with a smile on my face – I’m ok with that.
Here is the thing that I’m beginning to realize. This is a process. This is a journey. It is not perfection. I will stick to the plan. I will be consistent. I will be RELENTLESS. I will not focus on the scale every single day. Eventually – slowly – the OUTCOME will align with my efforts.
I don’t usually post pics of myself on my blog. But give me until spring, my friends. I’ll post the “before” and “after” pics. I don’t know if I will actually be strutting my stuff on a competition stage – but I know I will be ready to. I will have given myself a life experience that I wouldn’t have ever dreamed was possible.
At the end of the day, isn’t that what life is all about?