Saturday, October 1, 2011

“Pack your bags!. We’re going on a guilt trip!”

When I was in North Carolina last month, I bought a notepad with this cover:

Know what I use that notepad for? My grocery list!

Yesterday on my Lynn’s Weigh Facebook page, I posted a link to this article: “Middle-aged women happier with moderate exercise.” I wrote:

“I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I do much better when I'm not killing myself with vigorous exercise and yet, I feel so guilty for not exercising like I used to.”

Reader Michelle posted this response: “I don't get the feeling guilty part. Why do something that doesn't make you feel good?”

Guilt, among other definitions, is “self-reproach for supposed inadequacy or wrongdoing.” I don’t know why guilt is easily absorbed by some and rejected by others. All I know is that I don’t remember a time when I haven’t known self-inflicted guilt. Guilt in the form of having let someone down. If I didn’t make my bed, I let my mom down. If I didn’t get an A on a test, I let my teachers down. If I hit a pop fly into right field, I let my softball team down. And whenever I gained weight, I let myself down.

Over the years, I’ve grown a thicker skin, something less porous. I can better discern those actions that are “worthy” of guilt and those that are unproductive self-flagellation. Better, but not perfected. Food and exercise are those precarious areas in which I am most vulnerable to the kind of guilt that produces feelings of “inadequacy and wrongdoing,” largely because their effects are physical. If I gain weight, I’m not only letting myself down, but also a community of people who have followed my blog over the years.

So what’s a more proper response? Michelle has me thinking that it’s probably not guilt *smile* Guilt is counter-productive and paralyzing. A better response would be….? Hmmmm…. A commitment to improvement? Mindful investigation about how a certain exercise makes me feel? An acceptance of the way things are now as opposed to what they were four years ago?

Yes, yes, and yes.

I found this quote recently: “Hard though it may be to accept, remember that guilt is sometimes a friendly internal voice reminding you that you're messing up.” I’m messing up when I don’t feed my body right and when I don’t move it the way it is capable of moving. And "capable" has changed over the years. I used to hit the cardio really hard, but my arthritic joints said, "No more!" and I had to dispense with the 90-minute workouts. Yet, despite the reduction in pain due due to more moderate exercise, the guilt remains.

Guilt is one of the hardest emotions to wrap our arms around and let go of (when appropriate).
But with a little introspection on this rainy day, the fog is lifting and I’m seeing guilt for the inappropriate response it is.

How much happier would we be if we approached our bodies with care, acceptance and wisdom rather than guilt? Mess up? Yeah, we’re gonna do that sometimes. The best solution? Self correct. Don’t dig out the knotted cords.

6 comments:

  1. Guilt is one thing that I have always struggled with immensely, and I let it bring me down more than I should. I so relate!

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  2. I love the cover of your note pad. So funny and so true. Sometimes I think about tossing the guilty feelings in a trash back and heaving them back into my work cube or over a fence and then going forward onto what is right for my life. Doesn't always work, but it's a fun visual!!!

    Thanks for posting about this.....
    Something tells me that there will be more and more long term scientific studies that prove that moderate exercise and moderate strength building are what does a body good.

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  3. Ack! I meant "trash bag". in my post above

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  4. I gotta tell you, I would have bought a case of those pads and given them out as Christmas gifts.

    I am very into the self care now. I still have guilt when I cannot do for others what i feel I want to do but I work very hard not to let anyone else force me into a guilt trip. I think I have my daughter Lauren to thank for my letting go of guilt more than any one else. This very wise young lady told me "Mom, let it go. I am an adult. What you did or did not do when I was growing up is no longer your responsibility to fix. "

    Jane~
    Keepingthepoundsoff.com

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  5. I am really learning this the hard way--to exercise moderately. It helps a little bit to hear my brother, who is 5 years younger than me and has a lifetime history of working out hard, complaining about his aches and pains and injuries.

    I just want to make sure I"m doing everything I can to stay as fit as possible for as long as possible!

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  6. I love this as you know this JEWISH misfit totally has struggled with the same (not in fitness or food yet IMO the guilt in other arenas is just as bad an emotion).

    and now I just do the best I can.
    I remind myself thats what Im doing.
    and I move on.

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