Fat Fridays: Growth Mindset

This week has been a challenge on the dieting front. My son’s birthday was Monday and he requested Elidio’s pizza (local, family owned, amazing pizza) and Dunkin Donuts. I had to drive to Dunkin Donuts in the morning, which was when I had time, get two dozen assorted donuts and then have them sit in my house all day until after supper, and then supervise handing out two donuts per person. At supper I had eaten a big salad and decided I was going to allow myself to eat one piece of pizza. But then ended up eating a little more. And then I started handing out donuts, and by the time everyone had picked what they wanted, there was this little plain, unfrosted, baked donut. And so I ate it. And then there was one more glazed donut. And I ate that. And then I was really full. 

And felt very guilty. 

Uggh. 

I stuck to my plan though and recorded everything I ate and sent it to my trainer. And then we talked about it the next day. 

Whenever I mess up, my instant default thought pattern is, I’ve blown it, all is ruined now, despair, despair, despair. 

So, it was a little unnerving to have the trainer say stuff like, “Taking a break and eating pizza every once in a while is fine. How can you plan to have a treat in the future without over-doing it?” Like, she wanted me to actually just move on with life and try and learn for the next time…What kind of adulting is this??? 

It happened again today when I reported that last night, when meeting someone at a Mexican Restaurant, I ate more chips and salsa than I had originally planned on doing. Her attitude was, Ok, what strategies can we think of that will help you next time you are in the same situation? 

And I’m sitting over here telling my “failure and despair” voice to be quiet, cause I’m trying to hear this good advice someone is giving me. 

It occurred to me today that what my trainer is trying to do is inspire a Growth Mindset in me. 

I found this article that gave some good examples of what a growth mindset is. 

The example that stood out to me was:

Fixed Mindset: Failure is the limit of my abilities.

Growth Mindset: Failure is just an opportunity to grow.

I definitely struggle with this. I fail at something and instantly feel like it’s GAME OVER. Which is especially unhelpful when you are on a weight loss journey. Yes, I’ve messed up. That doesn’t mean that I just throw the diet out the window and go back to my unhealthy ways. Instead, I can study my failure, figure out what went wrong, and make strategies for how to do better. 

The next family birthday (which is actually this Saturday), I plan on cooking myself a special treat (I’m thinking baked green plantain with just a touch of spray olive oil and salt and maybe some grilled chicken) and then I am going to have canned peaches while everyone else eats cake. (I happen to think canned peaches are a treat.) Next time I end up at a Mexican Restaurant, I’m just going to ask the waitress/waiter to not bring out chips or, better yet, I’m going to avoid Mexican Restaurants until my self-control is stronger. 

So, hurray for my trainer and all the new things she is teaching me!

Depression Anniversary

This morning my Facebook memories popped up and showed me that three years ago, I made my first “public” post about my struggle with depression and our decision to put our children in public school. 

I read through the comments again this morning. (All 78 of them!) And what stood out to me was how much of a need we have for people to honestly share their struggles. Knowing that someone else is struggling makes us feel less isolated, it eases some of our shame. 

Keeping that in mind, I’ve decided to give you all a “Depression Update”. 

One of my big disappointments in life is that I haven’t had a full recovery from my depression. While I haven’t been as low as I was three years ago, I still feel like depression is something that I have to actively keep at bay. And when I am not purposeful about taking care of myself, it creeps back in. 

Things I do to keep depression away:

Take a night off. 

Wednesday nights are MY nights. My husband gets home from work and I take off. I very often end up at Panera where it’s ok to sit with your computer or a book for a long period of time. I have a couple different friends who often meet me there for an evening of chatting and encouragement. Sometimes I go walking in the park alone or with friends. Sometimes I just leave the house, go buy myself some supper somewhere and then sneak back into my house in the back door and hide in my bedroom, feet up, reading a good book. 

The whole point though is that I can do whatever I want without feeling any guilt about leaving my husband home alone with the kids. (He gets his own night off.)

Give myself lots of space. 

I do not keep a perfectly clean house. I do not run a tight ship. I do not have a perfect schedule. I do not have a full, busy schedule. I am very purposeful about keeping my daily routine as free from stress as possible. I have found that the only way I can maintain a 24hrs a day, 7 days a week parent-of-many-children lifestyle, is to keep my day as calm as possible. Lots of wiggle room. Maybe it only takes us two hours to get all our homeschooling work done.  I give myself four hours. That way we can take lots of breaks, follow rabbit trails if we want, have time to deal with phone calls that might come in, or a quick chore that has to get done. I do not do well when I have to follow a tight timeline. Occasionally it can’t be avoided. There are doctor’s appointments, extra curricular activities, school meetings. If I have a day that involves me running full stop all day long, then I make sure that the next day I have nothing extra going on and I move slower. 

Date nights

The other day I told my husband something that I don’t think I had ever put into words before. “You are essential to my happiness.” And it’s true. When Andy walks in the door at night, my shoulders visibly relax. He makes me laugh. He uses his words often to tell me how important I am to him, to tell me how he feels about me. And I am encouraged and I feel loved. We need time together. We need to be able to unplug from parenting for a minute and just be two adults who like spending time together. Now, I know that for parents with young children, getting out on a date can be impossible. We went years not being able to get out. Now, we have teenagers who can babysit and we try to get out once a week for a date. But, sometimes money or schedules keeps us from being able to go out. Then we have bedroom dates. And by that I just mean we get the kids to bed, maybe get a snack, watch a movie together in our room or just sit and talk. The main point though is that we are purposeful about setting aside at least one night a week that is ours. 

Daily Devotions/ Daily exercise

Taking time every day to read the Bible and pray feeds my spiritual self. Taking time every day to get my body moving feeds my physical self. Sometimes I don’t do these things. But, when I do, I feel happier and have more energy. 

Talk to a therapist/friend equivalent

I still have monthly or bimonthly phone visits with my therapist. And I always think, before the call, do I really need this? And then afterwards, I am always glad that I was able to talk to her. It is a great help to have another adult look into your life and help you process challenges and get a perspective that is focused on the good of you and your mental health.

Practice Thankfulness

This one is actually an outpouring of my Christian walk. The Bible tells us repeatedly to give thanks in all things. As God has been teaching this to me over my lifetime, I have not only learned how to lose a bad mood or a bad attitude, but I’ve also learned how to stop and just take pleasure from small things. The way the sun is shining just-so on that tree. The sound of fall leaves crunching under my feet. The smell of woodsmoke. Watching my children practice acts of kindness to each other. Being thankful, noticing the goodness around me, these have gone a long way in helping me to not succumb to depression. 

In the end, all of these things are tools, not cures. I have days when I crawl back into bed in the middle of the day. Or I end up sitting in my chair, doing nothing. But the difference between years ago and now, is that the next day, I can usually get up and keep moving, instead of it dragging on and on and on. 

Maybe I will struggle with depression the rest of my life. But I have hope and peace that God will help me through it, one day at a time, one strategy at a time.