Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Journaling/Blogging Your Journey



When I started this blog I honestly thought I will have nothing to talk about, but apparently i've filled up almost a year of nothing to talk about so far. For me, writing has kept me accountable to my weight loss, it has given me a place to reflect on my achievements and motivate others to do the same. I never thought that I would be that person that other people look up to, I guess I always felt like a follower in every aspect of my life instead of a leader. I always felt like the one being left behind and now I don't feel like that for the most part anymore. Now I just have so much I want to do that I don't have enough free spots in my day to fit it all.

A fellow Biggest Winner participant, Laura, has also been journaling for some time as a means to reflect. Whether you journal or blog, writing can be an excellent outlet for you to get out some pent out frustration or feelings. I asked Laura to answer a few questions for me concerning her journaling.

How often do you journal?

Over the past five years, anywhere between a few times a day to once in 3 months. I go in spurts. I find that I get lax with it when I’m feeling alright, too busy or disconnected to identify what I’m feeling. I journal most often when I’m very distressed about something (especially about interpersonal conflicts or major life decisions), or when I’m on a conscious path to make sense of or resolve a personal issue. I also journal when I’m aware that I’m moving through a very important time in my life and I want to track that event and my reactions.

Do you follow any format or do you just write freely?

Generally I just write freely. Instinctively my style involves an abundance of sentence fragments, hyphens, commas and synonyms. I don’t tend to “tell a story” in most of my journaling – it’s more a free flow of words that I put down almost as a means of trying them out as a fit with my feelings. As the words come out I wait for my body or emotions to give me a clue to what was the best fit. And when the word stumbles out that I connect to the most, I sometimes write it again and again, circling and underlining. My truest, most authentic journal entries are a stylistic mess; perhaps it’s more like impressionist art!

Now, as a Biggest Winners participant I find myself more often journaling in response to a specific question or series of questions to help me overcome hurdles. For example, the other night while working a night shift I noticed for the 3rd time in two weeks that around midnight I compulsively consumed some of the cookies, cake and bread that was in our staff lounge. Unique about this was that leading up to this I had been feeling this very physical sensation of “losing weight” – as though I could literally feel the pounds falling right off. For someone on a quest for a 48 lbs weight loss, you’d think that would be motivating. But it was really distressing. I watched myself play out this scene on three separate occasions – feeling a sense of weight loss and then going hard and fast to the junk food to avoid it. The next day I started working through some of that with the question, “Why do I compulsively eat at work at night?” I’ve included some of that entry at the end of this.

What benefits have you found journaling has on your weight loss journey?

There is the benefit of connecting my thoughts and behaviours to actual feelings. I mean, I know I think things, and I certainly do things but until the past year or two I’d say, I had no idea at all what I felt pretty much ever. I’m a fairly ‘steady’ person and I’d just clock along eating too much, gaining weight, trying to exercise it off, and thinking “what the hell is wrong with me?” and “I’m disgusting, I’m bad, I’m weak.” As for what I felt leading up to eating, while eating and afterwards? No clue. Journaling is a medium for practicing bringing forth and identifying emotion. It has also allowed me to sort out and quiet many loud, sometimes conflicting conversations that go on in my head about my motivation, resistance, frustration, anger and sense of loss around the topics of my own overweight-ness and weight loss. It helps me to stay clearer and steadier by keeping me engaged and authentic to my experience and my needs on this rocky, challenging journey.

Do you have any recommendations for someone who wants to start journaling but isn't sure where to start?

I do have some humble recommendations. The first is to at least hear me out on this! I’ve encouraged other close people in my life to consider journaling as a means for working through life changes, making big decisions, and overcoming obstacles but I’m often met with skepticism. They usually say, “But I don’t know what to write”. Remember, journaling is not an essay project that is for someone or something. Moving your thoughts and feelings from inside of your body onto paper in the form of words, drawings, sentences, stories or whatever is for you. And not only is it for you, but it actually is you. There is nothing more personal than that – so give yourself the freedom to keep it really yours in whatever style suits you. These days I use scrap paper, text messages to myself, email or a word doc on the computer – whatever is convenient at the time. And I rarely re-read it and rarely share entries. It’s just me in the moment in print form.

I’ve also heard from someone that she doesn’t want to journal because it’s too hard to confront her truth in writing. It’s as though putting the thoughts and feelings into written word renders them real. I appreciate that it will be intense. Or scary. Or saddening. To deal with this resistance I think of one of my favorite quotes, “The only way out is through.”

Can you share a journal entry that you have written during your weight loss journey that you feel has helped you?

Sure – this is about that night-shift binge situation I’ve been tackling. Every week or so I get the same “losing weight” physical sensation but I’ve only really self-sabotaged at work at night. Jeez, when I read it, it is awfully intense – but I’m sharing this because for me validates how extremely emotional our journey really is. Whether you have 30 or 300 lbs to lose – the emotions aren’t necessarily proportionate to the weight loss goal. And I know, it may seem to your average person like a few cookies on a night shift, but underneath it’s about lots more. It’s important to acknowledge that. Here are some reflections…

I’m standing in a body that feels like it’s melting right off of me. My skin feels thin, my bones feel shaky. The fat in between is falling to the floor. I’m going to be left with thin skin and shaking bones? And nothing more. I tell myself that I’m not that girl anymore. I’m not that girl anymore.
This is when it feels the scariest. It used to feel like weight loss was power over something – and in this moment it feels like all-consuming power over me. It’s taking me.
It’s late. I’m tired. I’m alone. I’m working very hard. Life is short and unfair right behind that door. And that one too. It is not safe right now to leave myself vulnerable and I feel that I need to save myself. Eat.
If I’m feeling vulnerable, tired, alone then why would I make things worse by infuriating myself with self-sabotage like this? If I were home, I’d get a warm hug, I’d have warm tea, I’d put on warm clothes, I’d have a warm bath, I’d be in a warm bed. Here I feel cold and dying. How can weight loss be life giving and death all in one? And if it is, well then it is. But how do I negotiate both? Maybe in the same way that me living overweight is life giving and death all in one – I just do. Being overweight for most of my life has felt like living half dead. But in this moment, it feels like a safer, cushier, softer, warmer, gentler death.
~Laura~

Thank You Laura for being so open and honest and sharing your personal experience with me. I know it has helped me in looking deeper into certain questions that I ask myself. I think your answers will help others who may have wanted to start journaling their progress but just weren't sure where to start. I know for me blogging my experience has been a means of staying accountable not only to myself but to everyone who reads this. It keeps me going towards my goal to know that other people have an expectation for me to succeed and I will.

‎"Never give up on a dream just because of the length of time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway."

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