Learning to Thrive in a Season of Stagnation

Competitiveness has never really been a defining characteristic of mine.  It never ran in my blood or coursed through my veins. Maybe because I never felt like I deserved to win or felt like I should be at the top.   Competition never appealed to me as a quality I wanted to indulge in.  I never pushed myself to be the fastest on the swim team. To be first chair in the viola section.  To be considered a “highly effective” teacher. To finally fight for the guy.  I think it’s because I never felt like I experienced a win, so without fully experiencing a win, I didn’t feel like I deserved one. So, I saw no point in being competitive. But then I did. I did experience a win. The thirst for that win drove me to continue finding moments to win, but I didn’t realize how unhealthy the thirst could be.  The thirst wasn’t being fueled by the water to hydrate my body, allowing it to fully function and thrive.  Turns out the thirst was fueled by a 64 oz pop from the gas station on a hot summer day.

The wins

“We got the win.  Once you get one win, you want to keep going and get another.” This was a comment made in a business conversation the other day, but it struck me for a different reason:  when it comes to my health journey, I haven’t had a win lately.

  • I had a win in March when my doctor said I could go off medication.
  • I had another win in July when I lost 19 pounds in 30 days.
  • I continued to win for the months to follow, steadily losing weight each week.
  • I had a win in September when my TSH levels came back at 1.62 after being off meds for 6 months—a stellar number for optimal function.
  • I won again in October when I finally discovered my true passion and how to utilize it.
  • I won in November when I got a new full-time job.

The taste of one win was intoxicating, creating the urge to win more.   The fire was ignited to continue on this path.  However, I became so focused on the path I placed before me, the goals I wanted to achieve, the new expectations I had created that I wasn’t prepared for the one moment in which a win might not occur.  December I didn’t recognize a win.  This was only the beginning of my plunge into unhealthy habits.

Over the past few weeks, a realization struck my core pretty hard, rocking the foundation I had established for myself. I forgot to prepare myself for one intricate part associated with my fit, my healthy, my happy journey: learning to embrace and thrive in the moments of stagnation—the moments that aren’t considered “wins”, the moments I feel like I am losing.

The storm looming over me

I’ve been in a funk lately, not feeling satisfied and content with my progress.  A cloud of disgrace and disappointment slowly drifting over me, hindering my line of sight, rendering me incapable of remembering my “why”.   Obsession had begun to stir within me, fixating my thoughts and actions on the reflection in my mirror.  Seeing the progress of my stomach shrinking away and the weight on the scale lowering became my focus.  I was on top of the world, thriving until I realized I wasn’t truly thriving.  You can’t fully thrive when you are depriving yourself from embracing every aspect of your journey.  Because at one point the stomach rests and the weight maintains.  Learning to understand that, learning to listen to what your body truly needs—that is how you will thrive.  So consumed by my desire to “win”, I didn’t know how to handle the waiting, handle the lull in my progress.  This will only cause the clouds that linger over you to get darker and darker, the storm waiting for its opportune moment to strike you down. Dear friend, this will only lead to unhealthy habits and an unhealthy mindset.

My unhealthy mindsets

The reflection in my mirror became my biggest competition.  So, I did the only thing I knew would give me the results I wanted: I revamped my nutrition, yet again, and hit my body full force with no reservations, just like I did in July. Turns out this isn’t what my body needed for healing this time around. My aunt said to me a few weeks prior, “You don’t need to lose anymore.  You lose 10 more pounds, you’re going to look anorexic”. Unhealthy mindset #1: I’ll do it so I can prove my aunt wrong—I won’t actually look unhealthy.  Um, that is not a healthy response.  That should not have been my reaction.  But it was, because I had yet to discover a way to create a healthy mindset within an area I didn’t feel it possible to do so.

Unhealthy mindset #2-it worked last time, it’ll work this time.  That mindset isn’t growth.  It’s fixed.  Progress requires the willingness to grow.  You can’t have a fixed mindset and expect results. If I truly examine the motivation and drive behind these past few weeks, it hasn’t been to improve my health or refuel my thyroid.  It was the person glaring back at me every time I looked in the mirror. Starting to not like her again, I pushed myself, and I pushed too hard.

My Wake-up Call

  Sometimes it’s a traumatic experience, an unfortunate situation, or giant leap of faith that makes the light bulb go on in our heads that a change is necessary.  But sometimes it ends up being a small, simple statement from someone that cares about you that becomes your “wake up call”.     After what I felt was a bit of a scolding by someone on my habits the first couple weeks of January, making sure I was in-taking enough food, one comment from him made me realize I needed to check myself before I wreck myself. “As long as you’re being healthy that’s what I care about.”.  I said I was being healthy and in-taking my proper nutrition.  I lied to him.  I wasn’t. Not being able to be vulnerable or honest with others about your struggles will not lead to a thriving life.  In that conversation with him, I had become defensive and closed off, which meant he had a point. I realized progress isn’t supposed to be just a physical one, my progress needed to be a mental one: I had to discover what it was to still thrive in the moments I felt like progress was nonexistent or plausible. 

Learning to thrive in stagnation is like a round of miniature golf

Right now you are probably thinking, Lindsey how are you going to connect this to miniature golf?  Hear me out.  I kept getting each hole at par or under, accomplishing a great score, winning with every putt I made.  Until I reached the hole with the Dutch Windmill in the center of the path.  You know, the one where you have to aim just right to have the golf ball not run into the windmill sail, pushing you back to the start.  You have to time your putt just right in order to succeed.  Careful, strategic planning could result in the golf ball gliding through the tunnel perfectly executed in between windmill sails: a successful putt.  Or it could be like my case, overzealous and impatient, the ball, not just rolls back to the start but ricochets off one of the sails, bouncing out of bounds, rolling down the hill into the lagoon waters, floating towards the bridge.  This past month, I landed in the water.  When we land in the water, we have two options: continue to bob up and down in the water, accepting that is our fate or find a way to chip ourselves back onto the greenery and try again, learning to thrive even in the offset. 

Embracing the stagnation

I’m in a season of stagnation with my journey and I am learning to embrace that because it is still a part of my fit, my healthy, and most importantly, my happy. As mentioned earlier, the mirror has become the devil that drives my motivation into unhealthy mindsets, so I am choosing to embrace this season instead of pushing it away–that could only lead to disappointment, regret, shame. All feelings I have worked my butt off (literally and figuratively) to no longer reign in my life.

So here are my three biggest struggles that I need to revamp my mindset around and how I won’t let them define my journey.

  1. The excess skin hanging from my stomach: In the moments I become self-conscious about it, I can’t help but laugh at the fact that my belly button is literally frowning.  Seriously, if there were a face on my stomach, it would be the mouth frowning. I could chose to fixate on the excess skin as a negative characteristic or I can make my belly button smile.
  2. Stretch marks: I have noticeable stretchmarks on my hips, my pelvis, my arms, my thighs, my stomach, my chest.   I have stretch marks everywhere. They used to determine my worth, making me believe that they were something bad, gross, undesirable. My stretch marks remind me of where I have come from and what I achieved over the past few months. How does that make me unworthy? It doesn’t. They are something good.
  3. The fluctuating weight on the scale: This is why I didn’t want to give myself a goal weight, but turns out I still struggled with wanting to see that number become smaller and smaller. I’m going to chose not to step on the scale as often as I have been. I am learning to embrace and understand what my body needs and sometimes that is the weight on the scale. As long as I am providing my body with the fuel it needs, the weight won’t define me.

It isn’t easy to be content in the “off” season. I am in a season of stagnation now but that doesn’t mean I will be there for the rest of my journey. It’s a season, it’ll change. And when it does change, I’ll be ready to change with it. To change is to thrive.