Come Fail With Me

Failure is darkness. It’s not a thing; it’s the absence of a thing. That thing is success. And the light of success will illuminate the darkest of failures.

Last week I made my debut as a caller on DDP Radio. It was terrifying! I had more public speaking anxiety and a worse case of cotton mouth that I did when I publicly defended my PhD thesis!

One of the co-hosts, Robert, said he was impressed that I had chosen to display all my attempts at reaching my goals, including the failures, and said that it helps to inspire others when people do that. I have to say I agree, and the best example I can think to demonstrate this is what happens when someone only displays their perfection.

Look at this tutorial for Eka Pada Koundinyasana:

This is a very useful tutorial in terms of the instruction. I myself used it when I was working toward this pose. However, as much as the cues could help a beginner with the pose, the choice of casting for the “student” could serve to hurt that effort.

I remember following along with this clip and thinking, “I must need to be strong and skinny before I could ever master that pose”, “perhaps it’s impossible to hold that pose with my weight and build”, and “if this is how good a student is, I probably shouldn’t try.” Luckily, thanks to the positive mentality training I have received from DDP Yoga, I snapped out of my self-doubt, tried it, and nailed it. But others who haven’t benefitted from DDP Yoga’s positive reinforcement could become so discouraged that they wouldn’t even try, which is a tragedy.

“… and all you beginners should be able to do this simple pose by the end of your first class.”

When I step back from my own attempts at Eight Angle Pose, and all the self-doubt that goes with trying something new,  I can see that this woman is clearly not a run-of-the-mill Yoga student. Any one who has the impeccable level of control needed to transition from Eight Angle Pose into Eka Pada Koundinyasana, and then hop out into chaturanga dandasana does not need any help “learning” Eight Angle Pose.

That negative effect I could have on others by only ever showing my highlight reel is a major reason I plan to continue showing all my attempts and struggles. And failures.

That said, the reason I started putting everything in my journey on display was for my own personal benefit.

In the past, I have had a crippling fear not only of failure, but of anyone seeing my failure. It affected many areas of my life, especially my career. As a scientist, failure is an important part of the process, and should be embraced, sought even. But not for me. I was so terrified of being found out to have failed (more commonly known as impostor syndrome), that I would cover up my failures, lie, avoid my boss, and even became tempted to blame others, though I am glad to say I never gave in to that cowardly urge.


One of these things…

That crippling fear of revealing my shortcomings and weaknesses was all that my unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle needed to thrive. Instead of being the person who would openly tell their friends, “Ugh, I have no self-control with brownies,” I would often talk wisely and confidently about overeating as it pertained to other people, while compartmentalizing my own issues. I would eat junk food in secret. I would come up with excuses for eating more than anyone else. I would try to mask the fact that I was the person in the conference room going back for a seventh cookie. I would pay cash for food so I wouldn’t be judged by my husband, which is ridiculous because he never would have stood in judgement of my diet; I was projecting my feelings of disgust and loathing onto others. And the result of all this secrecy is that my intake of junk food exploded. After all, when you open up a family-sized packet of Oreos that no one else knows exists, who’s going to notice if you eat the whole thing in one sitting?


Healthy eating habits start early…

Habit is simultaneously my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. A few years ago, I was in the habit of having cheese and crackers before I went to bed. I couldn’t have imagined going to bed without that snack to the point that I actually had to get in the car and go to the store when I ran out late one night. At the start of this year, before I started DDP Yoga, I got into the habit of getting a venti latte and a cheesecake brownie from the drive-through Starbucks at least once a day. I couldn’t drive past the Starbucks without getting my latte and brownie. I remembering being humiliated when the a barista remembered me from earlier that same day. Once I started the DDP Yoga plan, I was able to break some bad habits because of my enthusiasm to stick to the rules and see results. For instance, going gluten-free gave me enough power to avoid brownies. Once I go a few days, or sometimes weeks, without eating my favourite junk foods, they stop being a habit and cease to cross my mind at all.

It has now been so long since I have eaten brownies that when I recently decided to treat myself after a 10K race with a piece of fudge cake, I ended up putting it back on the shelf, because I simply didn’t feel like it. That was a particularly surprising achievement for me because I had already planned to eat it, looked up its calorie count, and added it into my MyFitnessPal journal. I’m normally so helpless to food that once I “plan” to eat something, there’s no un-pulling that trigger. But this time, I was able to reason, and more importantly, believe, that it wouldn’t taste as good as it looked, it would go against my gluten-free diet, and I didn’t really want a sweet.

Excuse me, are any of these vegan, gluten-free, fat-free, organic AND sugar-free?

While I have been good about the quality of food, I still struggle with the quantity. Once I get into the habit of eating organic kale or homemade lentil loaf – gluten-free of course – that becomes the food that I crave. And crave I do. While my tastes are healthier, my unending quest to fill my stomach to capacity persists. Yes, I got the brownies out of my diet, but when I sit down to eat the two tablespoons of organic single-ingredient peanut butter I had planned, somehow I end up eating ten. Or twelve. Or however many it takes to get to the bottom of the jar.

I regret nothing!

I regret nothing!

I have workarounds for my gluttony. For instance, I have gotten into a great habit of not exceeding my daily calorie allowance. I track everything I eat, and I added a “weak moments” category to my calorie tracker to see what patterns emerged for my overeating. I also try to keep the foods that I can’t restrain myself around out of the house (peanut butter is hard because my daughter and husband enjoy it too). But I would like to be the kind of person who doesn’t need to banish foods. I would like to eat a small amount of something and put the rest back without a war being waged inside me. I would like to have a good relationship with food, but I still struggle with that, and this may always be the case. Unlike accomplishing a push-up, or Black Crow, or a 10K race, I can’t simply will decades of psychological issues to go away.

The first step to the developing a good relationship with food is honesty. And I have not been honest with myself or anyone else. I haven’t added anything to the “weak moments” category in weeks because I don’t want to taint my “perfect” day of food tracking. I also retroactively convince myself that eating half a jar of peanut butter was planned, or that I had intended to workout twice in a day to get the extra thousand calories needed to balance my PB consumption.

It’s just calories in vs. calories out, right?

And this is the struggle of the maintenance phase. I got into a good DDP Yoga routine, built up my strength, kept to a low-calorie diet, changed my food choices, and met my weight goals. And I assumed that along the way, I would magically make the drive to fill some psychological void with food just vanish. Well it didn’t. So while I am a success in terms of my physical goals, I am yet to find success with my mental goals. When I met my weight goal, my calorie allowance jumped from 1,400 cal/day to 2,000. Initially, that was like sitting down to the buffet table with impunity. However, over time, that amount of food stopped satisfying me, and I had to work out more and more to get the amount of food I wanted to eat. As well as enabling an unhealthy eating habit, this also leads to an unsustainable exercise regime, which leads to the risk of failure in the longterm.

I am going to nip this in the bud by uncoupling my daily food calories from my daily exercise calories. Instead, I am going to allow myself a flat rate of 2400 cal/day, and ensure that I do at least 2,800 calories of exercise per week. If I do extraordinary amounts of exercise on a particular day (e.g. a marathon) the number of calories can exceed 2,400, but the exercise must exceed 1000 calories ( I need a threshold, or else I will convince myself that strolling around the mall counts as extraordinary exercise).

It won’t be easy. I will have numerous failures between now and when I have a more healthy relationship with food. But I will get there eventually. Or I will keep working towards that goal for the rest of my life.

And as for my physical endeavours, here is my latest YouTube video, chock full of many failures, and some sweet victories.


One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s