Thursday, February 5, 2015

Why Batman Really Needs Robin

Back on December 6, 2014 I posted to my personal Facebook page about how I had committed to the Farrell’s $10k corporate challenge. In that post, I made the following statement:

“I said at the beginning of my journey that I was going to have to use all my Batman superpowers to do this. This is still true. Now I need a bunch of Robins to help me over the next year!”

I’m not a comic reader, so I don’t know the history or intricacies of the relationship between Batman and Robin. But I do know that Robin is there for Batman. He has his back, and usually helps pull him through some sticky situations. The reason I made this statement was because I knew that I would not be able to make it to the end of my journey alone. Also, I do better when people are watching me. It forces me to strive to live up to expectations. I feel the urge to shatter the doubts of the skeptics. I want to surprise people. I can’t do any of that if I’m hiding away in the shadows.

So I publicly declared my intentions and was immediately rewarded with several people stepping up to support and encourage me along the way.

If you’ve been following my blog, then you know I’ve been chugging along since I joined FXB. I sailed through my 10 weeks, and then met a few challenges right after becoming a FIT member. I made it through those moments with minimal damage, and then I realized that I needed to let my monster out if I wanted to make any real progress. Again, all those Robins stepped up to encourage and congratulate me on being so open. I was back on track, feeling pretty good. I’ve been working hard in the gym and I’ve stuck to my nutrition plan. While the scale still isn’t moving quickly, I’m seeing some other amazing results in both my physical appearance and fitness level. I’m noticing how I can do more of the things I couldn’t do before. Just this past Wednesday I did all my planks from hands/elbows and toes—straight arm, right side, left side, reverse—ALL of them for the full amount of time. Never before have I been able to do that.

But last week my monster came back. 

  • My husband was traveling—one point for the monster. 
  • I was trying to finish manuscript edits so I could meet my deadline—another point for the monster.
  • Aunt Flow came into town—apparently five million points for the monster.

My cravings hit hard. I was chewing gum, listening to upbeat music, and several other techniques to try and distract myself. I was forcing myself through the day. Then it was time to pick up my daughter and a neighbor girl from school. I was pleased that I’d made it that far without surrendering. But then...

Both my daughter and the neighbor girl got in the car with a cupcake. I suddenly had to fight against two very sweet smelling pieces of happiness, snuggled in paper wrappers. Why yes, you can eat them in the car. PLEASE, go ahead and eat them in the car—otherwise I’ll have to drop the windows in this bone-chilling weather just to get the smell out!

They were eaten, and I made it through the ride to the gymnastics gym. But it didn’t end there. Nope, not by a long shot. Then it was all the other gymnasts running around me before practice. This one with a chocolate chip muffin. That one with a bag of cookies. Oh, here comes the one with the muffin again.

My monster was doing a happy dance.

And suddenly all I could think about was chocolate, chocolate chip ice cream. My mind was consumed. I was watching the clock, waiting for the coach to call the girls onto the floor so I could run to the nearest store. I wanted that ice cream, and I could think of nothing else.

Yet, somehow, a quiet voice snuck past the monster. It made me think about how I would feel if I went to get that ice cream. It reminded me that I had a weigh-in coming up in a few weeks. That voice wasn’t strong enough to make the monster stop, but it was enough to remind that I had a bat-signal I could use.

So instead of going to the store, I went home and did something I had never done before. I posted out on my fitness page that I was struggling. That my monster was banging, and that I was having a difficult time keeping him out. I did this because I knew that people would respond. I knew that they would leave me encouraging comments. How did I know? Because all of you are simply amazing.

And you did respond. And I sincerely thank you.

When I posted my cry for help, in my mind I was thinking that I would gain help from my Robins simply because they would know. Their comments and likes would prove that they read the post and knew of my struggle. I wouldn’t be hiding. I had put it out there that I was struggling, which meant that when I walked into the gym the next day people would know. It would be possible that someone would ask how I made it through the craving. I was hoping that my public declaration would be enough to keep me on track—I wouldn’t want to lie if I did cave, and my pride wouldn’t want to admit it if I did cave. My hope was that my cry for help would put me in a situation where I wouldn’t eat because I’d feel guilty in doing so. And it worked. I didn’t get that ice cream. I didn’t eat anything other than what was on my plan. However, what I learned is that it wasn’t because of guilt.

It worked because with each like and comment I felt less alone. With each like and comment, the monster became quieter and quieter.

I’ve heard countless times from many experts (and from many people who think they’re experts) that you have to ‘listen to your feelings’ to determine why you eat. When you feel the need to eat, listen instead. Then you can get to the root of the issue and face those feelings rather than silencing them with food.

Um, okay—sounds great. I’ve tried it several times over the years, but it never worked for me. The only feeling I could hear was the satisfied moan that comes with each bite of chocolate, chocolate chip ice cream. My monster is much too loud for any other feelings to come through. I wasn’t able to listen to my feelings until after I put out that post and my monster became silent. Then not only could I hear it, but I could feel it.

I no longer felt alone.

It seems strange to admit that. I mean, I have a wonderful husband. I have an amazing daughter. When they aren’t home, I have a cat that doesn’t let me forget for very long that she’s in the house too. I have friends who I know would drop anything to help me in any way needed. So why would I ever have the need to feel alone?

That’s what I’ve been mulling over all week. I may never fully understand it, but I think I often feel like I’m fighting this battle alone. Health is internal. It’s my body. No one else can make the changes but me. Every outcome—positive or negative—is a direct result of something I do, or don’t do, or the way my body is chemically balanced. No one can fight this fight for me. If I get tired or stop fighting, then all progress ends.

That sounds pretty lonely to me.

Sure there is support and encouragement from others that I can use to feed my strength, but it’s still up to me to listen and accept.

But because of my cry for help, and all of you immediately responding, I’ve come to understand that I am not alone. I am not the only one fighting. I’m not the only one struggling. I’m not the only one who wants to hide. Sure, in my head I’ve known this all along. Why else would improving health and fitness be such a popular New Year’s resolution? But it’s in those moments when my monster is banging on my door that I forget. Instead, I think about how others can do this while working full-time and toting 3 kids and a dog all around town. I think about those who are achieving results faster than me. My mind forgets all about those who are just like me, focusing only on those who ‘appear’ to have it easy (because I also know that what we perceive of others is not always the reality).

So calling out for help, in the moment of my weakness rather than after, reminded me that I wasn’t alone. 

One person can stand alone in the shadows pretty easy, but it’s difficult to hide when someone is always by your side. Batman can’t shine from the shadows, and he needs Robin to remind him that it’s easier to fight the battle while standing alongside others than to stand alone. We might all still be fighting our own battles, but we can gain strength in numbers.

That’s the real reason Batman needs Robin. It’s why I need you.

And again, thank you for being there when I needed you.

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