Real Life: Imperfect Progress

I want so badly to just declare the victory and move on. I worked my guts out, have great results, and am making amazing progress.  Let’s not get caught up in the messiness of the process.

That’s how social media works, right?  We just take 18 pictures of our awesome life and pick the best one to post along with some motivational quote.  Then we turn off the camera and go back to Real Life.  Real Life isn’t as pretty.  We don’t want to share our Real Life any more than we want to see the Real Life others endure.

My selfie-worthy results are awesome and easy to share:

  • I lost 8.25% body fat
  • Of the 25 pounds I have lost the last 6 months, 22.9 of them were fat
  • Inches went down everywhere… by a lot.

Yeah, let’s post a cool picture of me in my new pants, a comment about how I haven’t missed a single workout in 6 months, and move on with our days.

Why this burden to share that getting here wasn’t so easy?  I mean, really, I already shared about the struggle before Donovan gave me my numbers.  So why have I spent 4 days battling with an unwillingness to just post the awesome news and move on?

It’s not a hunger for attention or even a thirst for approval.  I can tell from reactions to my last post that approval comes WAY easier on my posts that are just happiness and rainbows than the Real Life stuff.  No one wants to “like” a post about the struggle… we’d rather pretend it’s not there.

Maybe it’s all those years I spent on the other side of the glass.  Those years as the fat, unpopular girl sitting alone at the lunch table wondering why everyone else has such and awesome life.  Sometimes I wish I could sit down with that younger me and tell her about the Real Life in those she envied.

The mean girl who rules the popular table and torments everyone else?  Her parents just got divorced.

That girl who is a size zero and teases you for your boy shorts?  She’s anorexic and has been hospitalized for it three times.

I don’t know the real stories; but I know they are there. And I think it would have been easier to embrace my imperfect adolescent years if I had known that others were struggling with me.

That’s why I want to invite you to pull up a chair and hear a bit about the struggle of these last 6 months.  Don’t sit over there wishing for my life; every highlight reel has a behind the scenes.

The last 6 months of awesome started 9 months ago with a supernatural victory over an addiction that I have battled since second grade.  I want to share more about that struggle … but I am just not ready.

Initially, that freedom came with a license to do whatever I wanted with food.  I mean, five chocolate bars with a pot of Mac and Cheese is way better than what I used to do to deal with whatever emotion plagues this moment.  But after a few months of this, and the realization that freedom wasn’t complete if my former self was a license to other sins, I decided it was time to resume personal training.

For the sake of brevity I won’t tell the full story of how I ended up with Donovan.  Nor do I want to write a novel here with all the highs and lows in this journey.  But here are some highlights (in no particular order) …

  • I am a wonderful starter. My first 30 days I didn’t touch one bite of a food on the list Donovan recommends we reserve for “open” meals.  If I thought about eating a treat, my inner voices would yell so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think about it anymore.
    But that kind of discipline is hard to maintain and a graceless life is insufferable.  My food stayed on track but my YouTube addiction got way out of hand.  I started watching it while I was driving… like all the time.
  • At one point in this crazy journey I became so hard core with my food that I didn’t eat enough sugars to keep my brain functioning. I started running into walls, feeling dizzy, and wondering if I needed to go to the ER.
  • Harassment from my coworkers got intense … one guy would put sweets on my desk and tell me that I am offending him by not eating it.
  • Always a bit socially awkward, the food table is pretty much my comfort zone at every social gathering. Wednesday nights for community group I would oscillate between eat it all and everything is off limits.
  • Social events became such a battle for me that I skipped our church’s annual Thanksgiving back for some lame excuse that was hiding the truth: I didn’t want to deal with the food there.
  • My office is littered with constant free food, as well as candy jars on 5 different desks. I’d go a week of perfect eating just to sneak 15 mini candy bars in about 20 minutes on a Friday afternoon.
  • Every morning 5am felt earlier and earlier. I was so tired I would have to think for 5-10 minutes in the morning about what day of the week it was and what routine I should be following.
  • Training for my run, I had several weeks of recovery that infuriated me because my knee wouldn’t let me perform at the level I expected of myself.
  • Every time I lifted a heavier weight, it became a standard that was soul-crushing if I couldn’t do it the next time.
  • One prevailing constant background noise was a voice of my expectations, demanding payment for every little mistake. (So you ate a piece of cake?  I hope you are ready for 3x through our core routine tomorrow.)
  • Bedtime was a battleground. In the stillness before I fell asleep I would recount to myself all the ways I had failed to measure up to perfect that day.  YouTube was my constant distraction from this unending self-sabotage.  I would watch it till I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open … resulting in some bizarre dreams that were a mix of whatever sci-fi I watched and the failures of my day.

My results can only be attributed to showing up every day.

I didn’t do it right.
I didn’t master my words and thoughts perfectly.
I didn’t make flawless food choices.
I didn’t have the perfect environment.

I just kept showing up.

Donovan told me in our checkpoint meeting that he appreciates my bad days.

Anyone can come to the gym on the good days.  When I made a big sale and my boss lets me go early and traffic is awesome and my hair stays put during kettle bell swings.  That’s a good workout.  That’s easy.

Donovan appreciates my bad workouts.

The days when I can’t make my fake smile look genuine and I kinda don’t care anymore because I was lectured at work then made bad choices for dinner and I didn’t sleep well so I got up 30 minutes late and I forgot my headband but it’s too late to go back for it.

Those bad workouts are where victory is found.

But showing up physically is easy.  It’s just a choice.  I broke down how much it costs me each time I don’t go to the gym and I am just too much of a scrooge to pay for workouts I don’t show up for.

The real victory is showing up mentally.

Taking on the voice of Perfect in my head, taking responsibility for those expectations, and taming them.
Pausing to celebrate victories instead of constantly moving on to the next goal.
Taming the swing between cheap grace and Pharisaical perfectionism.

Some days I just don’t feel like listening to a sermon, reading the Bible, or even having a good attitude.  Some days I want to lay around all day and think about how much better my life would be if I was a robot that didn’t make mistakes.

But perfect is not Real Life.

Real Life is messy.
Real Life is imperfect.
Real Life is where true progress is found; showing up every day.

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