July 14, 2014

Grumpiness, Lumpiness, and Goal Support

photo: peter m
By Crabby McSlacker

Anyone else feeling a bit frustrated and thwarted these days?  Could you  use a pep-talk and some perspective, or is it just me?  When I wrote most of this post yesterday, I was in a majorly crappy mood and I probably shouldn't hit publish on this thing. We'll see if today is any better--too early to tell.

But I'm hoping that however you're doing, whether you're kickin' ass, getting your ass kicked, or are somewhere in between, that you might let us know what's up!

So anyway, what's the reason for this  extra whiny post?

The problem  is lumpiness.



Yeah, So What Does "Lumpiness" Even Mean?

I'm not talking about physical lumpiness--although looking down at my expanding waistline, that kind can be pretty depressing too.

I'm talking about the phenomenon of consistent efforts yielding  inconsistent returns.

Hmm, that's not all that clear either, is it.  So let's get mathy, shall we?  In life, we act as though the effort-to-reward equation is  linear. The more effort we put, in, the better results we get, right?


image: wikimedia.org 

But seriously, doesn't it sometimes feel a lot more like this?




Image: wikimedia.org 

Sometimes you strive for things and work hard and get great results. Hooray!  But other times: same striving and working, yet: crappy results. Acck!

Then out of the blue, maybe some good things happen! But suppose they feel kind of arbitrary, like they didn't really have much to do with your effort.  And then some bad things happen! Perhaps these are things that make it even harder to do the things you're supposed to be doing, which weren't even paying off that well in the first place.

Why Lumpiness Can Be Such a Nasty Evil Motivation Killer

The more that effort and reward feel disconnected, the less motivated you're going to be to put out any effort at all.  Why bother?  Good things come and bad things come anyway!  Let's just all eat some Oreos and take a nap, why don't we?

If we buy the myth that Effort Will Always Guarantee Results, when it doesn't, we sometimes unconsciously end up thinking Effort Makes No Damn Difference at All.

Neither of those overgeneralizations is true, however tempting they are.

Effort isn't always rewarded, because life isn't fair. We all have different genes and environments and life situations, and random good and bad stuff happens that we can't control.

And yet, the more we do on our own behalf, the better off we are. Sometimes payoffs are delayed or come in unexpected forms.  Sometimes transgressions aren't punished immediately but lead to negative consequences down the road. All our efforts "count," even if we don't know how or why.

Of course we can understand all that intellectually, but after a few setbacks we can start to feel discouraged about our ability to make any positive changes at all.  (The phenomenon is often called "learned helplessness.")  It's often not conscious, so the fact that it's an illogical mindset doesn't matter--not if it never gets to the smart part of your brain that can analyze and challenge it.

When this "nothing I do matters" cloud descends, we can start to feel like a few disappointments constitute a legitimate reason to get slothful, self-pitying, and overindulgent.  And especially if we don't admit to ourselves what's going on, we may put in less effort while pretending to ourselves we're doing the same stuff we used to do before we got discouraged.  And then results get even worse and we get even more pissy and stubborn and slothful.

And I am a prime example.

My Particular Boring Lumpiness Complaints


Lumpy space princess (crop) from Moo Shu 

Please skip this next section. It's solely for my own venting purposes, you seriously don't want to know.

Healthy Eating:  My metabolism seems to be continuing to slow down in middle age--and I don't think post-menopausal weight gain is all psychological.  I can't seem to make progress against creeping belly fat. Effort has not been yielding results! Plus I find many of the healthiest things I eat are proving problematic to digest, and between the bad stuff I shouldn't eat and the good stuff I shouldn't eat either, there's not much left.  I want to eat like a "normal" person sometimes! And then frustration builds and I temporarily act out and eat in quantities that I used to be able to get away with, but can't anymore.

Over the last years I've been trying different approaches, many of which I've bored you with already: obsessive calorie tracking with MyFitnessPal, intermittent fasting, mediterranean-ish slow carb, low carb, a paleo-ish thing, a more "intuitive" eating style, etc. But despite eating a ton of vegetables and lean protein and minimal processed stuff, I still don't seem to have a handle on it.  LOTS of effort; disappointing results.  And I can feel myself slipping into a dangerous "what the hell, why bother" mindframe. Lately, I seem to be adding all kinds of foods back into my repertoire (healthy, but not low cal or low carb) and I'm not measuring shit anymore like I used to either. And, oddly enough, my pants are getting even tighter and my gut is expanding.

Working out: Knee problems, hip problems, calf problems, hamstring problems... all require various modifications and I find myself losing enthusiasm for energetic workouts.  I'm still pretty active, but HIIT has become sporadic, and I'm far more likely to opt for a walk than an elliptical session than I used to, and I'm getting pretty perfunctory with weights.  I keep trying to reinvigorate my workouts, but I feel like it's an uphill battle because everytime I switch things up, something else starts to hurt.  I feel a bit like I'm entering a motivation danger zone.

I am heading off for my first physical therapy appointment today (which is a two hour round trip in a the least ergonomically well-designed car ever manufactured, to add to the whining.) But I'm hoping this will help. Fingers crossed!

Writing:  I love blogging and have a ton of other projects on the drawing board, but readership and other measurable sorts of progress is extremely "lumpy."  I'll spare you details, because is there anything more pathetic than a blogger blogging about blogging, especially if it's whiny? But yeah, it's another somewhat unpredictable endeavor.

Turning The Grumpy Lumpy Thing Around

Well, I'm thinking step #1 is Recognizing it Is Going On, which is what this post is about. Sorry!  But if you don't catch that you are slipping into a de-motivated period, you can keep going through the motions and bullshitting yourself that you are trying hard when you're really not.

Recognize Stupid Thoughts:  Some of that I went through above, and writing this post actually really helped me realize how dumb I am being!  There's a whole post on dealing with negative thoughts, so I won't totally repeat myself.

But basically, I know that many of the things I do aren't just wasted effort, even if the particulars don't always pan out. But I realize I have to make a lot more effort to notice all the small positive cause/effect instances that I've been overlooking, as tempting as it is to slide into a nice pissy negative attitude.

Whimper, Moan, Bitch, Swear, and Seek Support:  We all go through cycles of discouragement, and a reminder that others have been there and come back out again can be really encouraging.  This is where having an online community can be really nice! Especially an online community that can put up with a little negativity as part of the process.

See The Whole Picture:  It's easy to focus on the areas where we feel frustrated. But there is no way to be 100% successful in all areas of life at the same time.  As it happens, there are other places in my life where I've been putting more focus, and these are going well!

Change Some Things Up! I haven't quite figured out what and how, but I know that to get that fresh optimistic energy, I need to feel that I'm trying something a least slightly different, or doing it with a different mind frame.

Some of the most successful lifestyle changes I've made have come in the wake of stalled, frustrasting periods.  It actually helps to get good and pissy and riled to really see the way clear to to doing things differently.

I wrote an old post on Remotivating, and I think perhaps it might be time for me to re-read it!

Remembering Lumpiness Has A Positive Side Too:  Sometimes, just as mysteriously as things went to shit in the first place, they get better again for no apparent reason.  Ever dreaded a challenge knowing you were going to suck and unexpectedly ended up kicking ass? Or all of a sudden got recognition or payoff for efforts you put in ages ago and had almost forgotten about? Or realized that some chronic health thing you once thought you'd just have to live with forever is not a problem anymore?  If things were all linear and predictable, we wouldn't get these lovely gifts!

Reframing Frustration as a Personal Development Challenge and Chance to Grow and All That Crap.  I actually have lots of tools for turning around a foul mood and bad attitude--some I've written about and some I haven't yet.  (Be forewarned!) I wouldn't have these tools if life didn't throw a few frustrating curveballs sometimes.  The real challenge is not so much to conquer my waistline or recapture my strength and aerobic capacity (though I ain't giving up!).  The challenge is to feel happy and engaged and energized about whatever I'm tackling, and I FUCKING HAVE CONTROL OVER THAT.

Though sometimes, apparently, I forget.

How are you guys doing?  Any tips for getting yourself back out of a discouraging place?

(Note: While I'll be gone a good part of the day I WILL come back later to reply to comments! But I can't say enough about the readers who add supportive replies to other peoples comments, they are much beloved).

Also, I understand the comment form has been acting up again; if you've been a victim you may want to copy your comment before hitting publish.  Are you guys having the trouble on Apple iThingies? Or is this a cross-platform problem? OK, I'll shut up now... )

56 comments:

  1. oooh see?
    Id LOVE to read a blogger blogging about blogging :-)

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    1. Carla, I love reading others too, but I do worry that those without blogs find our blogangst kind of weird and annoying!

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  2. When I get to discouraging places I ride them for a while. Each has its lesson. Sometimes that lesson is "Stop riding it out and do something." Other times it serves to show what other thing you should be doing.

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    1. Wise words, Leah! As always!

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    2. I think that's what I do: when I come to a place where I'm not making any progress, I give up--for a while. This backing down from the challenge gives me the opportunity to change direction, if necessary, and gives me a rest, at least.

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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  3. Oooh I hear you about the aches and pains while exercising! It's such a pisser to try and do something "good for you" only to hurt yourself. Many times over the last couple of years I've been discouraged enough with how my body feels that I've thought I should just give everything up and only walk. There's nothing wrong with walking for exercise, but I'm not there mentally yet to do *just* that. I guess I said all this to say that you've got company in your grumpiness, my friend.

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    1. I know you've been through the wringer with injuries shelley and I always admire the way you bounce back! Your running is such an inspiration and I'm hoping to join ya one of these days!

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  4. I am currently at the start of the determined cycle; discouragement and frustration tentatively scheduled about two weeks out...

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    1. Too funny JavaChick, but let's hope for at least 3 or 4 weeks! :)

      Yay you for getting back on the horse!

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    2. I need to figure out how to hold the discouragement out for 2 weeks! My cycles must be faster. Curses!

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    3. It takes me far more than two weeks to notice that I'm discouraged. My actions my be slowly sliding downhill, but mentally I'm still climbing.

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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  5. Ah, Crabby - you are so right!

    'Tis always (almost) darkest before the dawn! A thousand clichés spring to mind because they are TRUE! Your awesome ability to trudge through it all to find those nuggets of realizations is to be applauded :)

    I have a little experience trudging through rough patches (including more than a couple of things you specifically call out) and here's the thing: ain't no way out but through. And you wanna smack people, fate, life, uncertainty before that first glimmer of light and glimpse of things turning the corner. You may snap. And that's ok. You got a lotta peeps out here who get it and will be cheering you on no matter what:)

    This kind of post takes more chutzpah to put out there than the usual because it is so real. And that's why it's good you did this!!!

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    1. Aww thanks so much UltraKaz, know you've been much braver and more determined than I about gettin' through stuff. Always great to know I got you in my corner!

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  6. Yep! I have the shrinking list of foods that don't bother me and the growing list of physical issues!
    I usually blame the weather. Too humid! Too hot! Too cold! High pressure system! Too windy!
    Right now as soon as that humidity does all should be good. I just need to prep for that now with some light workouts so I'm ready. As long as I have a direction to vent my frustration in I can often get past the bumps and dips and since weather is always changing ... it works OK for me. Helps that wet weather and my knees hate each other. Anyway, the important thing is we are getting a "Polar Vortex" this week!! POLAR VORTEX!!! POLAR VORTEX!!! POLAR VORTEX!!!

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    1. Cindy, that's so cool that you're at the beginning of a new cycle, and yay for any thing that does something about heat and humidity, at this point I'd root for a glacier moving in! (I am a BIG whiner when it comes to summer weather unless it actually is fall weather occurring during summer months.)

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  7. Death Ride GrandmaJuly 14, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Crabby, do you ever just give yourself a vacation from all that virtue? I mean, not a scoop of ice cream once a week, or a slow day at the gym - a real break??? Some of what you say reminds me of (the admittedly few and far between) times I have been caught in an actual over-training spot. Nothing feels right, and a few days of extra sleep and food and just plain rest can make it feel a lot better.

    Of course, lumpiness is even more common. Everything you say here sounds too, too familiar. I am not inclined to get too upset about this stuff. I am still new enough to the world of fitness (at 62 I have been at it seriously for less than 15 years) so it is pretty easy for me to remember exactly how much weaker and achier I used to feel. But there are certainly times when that gets tested. As it did this weekend. The weekend of the Death Ride, which I trained for at a ridiculously time-consuming pace for about 6 months. And which I started with enthusiasm, only to find my stomach was very, very unhappy that day and was not going to allow me to take in the calories I required to get through the ride. So I rode for a while and headed back to town after about 1/2 of the course.

    But the thing is, half the course is 60 miles and I climbed about 7200' and frankly, it is not so hard to remember a time when I thought 10 flat miles made up a pretty impressive ride. So I am talking myself through my inevitable frustration and disappointment. My goal now? To spend the next two weeks doing whatever riding/running I feel like - no more, no less.

    Uh, and then to keep climbing a whole lot so if I ever decide to try that ride again, I won't give so much of my life to the training.

    Crabby, hang in there. It will get better. Your strength inspires me. Coming here is one of my favorite activities.

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    1. DRG--I wish I was as virtuous as you think I am! Alas, OVER training is not my problem.

      I so admire your great attitude and the amazing accomplishments. A 60 mile, 7200 climb while ill is incredible! And I love the way you can find context for disappointments and keep plugging along and not get all whiny the way I am today!

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    2. In a weird way I think she has something here whether your are physically over training or not. Now I am 41, so my metabolism has changed, but I haven't hit the menopause issue yet, but here is what I notice with some of my friends that in my opinion falls a bit in the over-training category...or maybe it is more like the exercise-slave category.

      I have had heard more than one of my friends sweating a vacation because there will not be a gym or they will have to be "off diet." That is what concerns me. There has to be a way to take a break. A TRUE break. You don't have to eat like shit everyday but just an acceptance that a break, vacation, whatever from the gym and diet is OK.

      DRG said it better, but in her post, I knew exactly what she meant.

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    3. DRG, you rock.

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    4. Yes Mary Anne, DRG DOES rock!

      So this is interesting--my immediate reaction is sort of a "wait, you guys don't get it, I am CONSTANTLY taking breaks and slacking and not pushing hard enough." And yet there's clearly some sort of dysfunctional thinking going on that I'm having such a difficult time figuring out a routine that feels both like I'm doing "enough" and that is sustainable. Hmm, must ponder...

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    5. "
      "wait, you guys don't get it, I am CONSTANTLY taking breaks and slacking and not pushing hard enough."

      HAHAHAHA. That is funny. I feel like my active life is always like this, and then I realize I am way more active than some people. I think because of the nature of your blog the assumption is that you never slack...ha!

      Well, maybe not that, but that somehow it manages to always be active and healthy slacking. :)

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  8. Dang it. All this talk about lumpiness merely has me thinking about lumpy cake batter. I want some.

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    1. Mmm, sounds good to me Yum Yucky!

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  9. Sorry about all this, Crabby, but at least you are alive and still have a chance at changing things! Unlike a dear friend of mine who died suddenly last week at 27! He was like a kid brother to me! Oh, he was a personal trainer and totally health oriented and fit! Yeah, as you said, life is unfair...

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    1. Wow. 27 is crazy! I have had a loss a couple of years ago that sometimes when I am just in a massively self-critical junk I remind myself of her life cut short.

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    2. Wow Dr. J, I'm so sorry to hear this, what a horrible loss!

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    3. Oh - no - so sorry to hear about your friend!!!

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  10. Some things are lumpy, over and over and over, and then i find the right combo and it falls into place. So i just keep trying until finally something clicks. It always will, i just need to not give up.

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    1. Thank you messymimi, that's a really hopeful and useful mindset and it's great to hear how well it works for you!

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  11. What's that quote from Winnie the Pooh, maybe by Piglet about ... "You too? I thought I was the only one!" I'm running - no, as in training for a race rather than just "wogging" (walking-jogging... whatever the dogs want to do) - again, and this old body requires more tender loving care than this former athlete is inclined to give it. I can't seem to pick up a book and read, I can't pick up my knitting even though one friend's baby was born today and another's comes next week and another in August and ...

    I'm generally a fan of pulling one's self up by her bootstraps, but sometimes, those straps break and I knee myself in the face or something equally sobering. Luckily, I have wonderful, smart friends who are sweet enough to pick me up and dust me off.

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    1. SissySees, thanks so much for stopping by! And you cracked me up with the boostrap analogy.

      And yep, these older bodies just don't seem to bounce back as easily as they used to, and sounds like you're using a lot of common sense in how you chose to challenge yours. And here's to wonderful smart friends (including the blog-reader kind!) who make all the difference!

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  12. I loved this post and the comments. I got nothing, but I will say, I get sick of feeling sometimes like all my work gets me no where. When I am done wallowing (for the moment) I see the little good things in life. Usually not the things I was even working on. :)

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    1. Thank you so much QD, just having a sympathetic ear and some wallowing space does wonders! And I have SO many good things to focus on, it seems silly to waste any time whining--yet sometimes it really helps to have a big ol' tantrum!

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  13. Lumpiness is more interesting than linear progression. I appreciate the randomness of life even when it smacks me.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    1. Great attitude Mary Anne! I gotta borrow that. I tend to appreciate the random gift stuff and forget to appreciate the random smacking, even though it smacking can also lead to good things.

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  14. I feel the same way lately. But I went to my first solo yoga class since my 2nd daughter was born and felt muscles that I haven't felt in a year or more! Trying to remember how good it feels and say enough with the negativity for now.

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    1. What a great thing to do... pick one really positive thing and focus on that and let the negativity fall by the wayside!

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  15. What a great post! I have been feeling very “slothful, self-pitying, and overindulgent” lately. For some reason when summer hits everything goes to hell. I never lost the 10 lbs I gained last summer and if I gain 10 lbs again this summer I’ll lose my mind. I think the key for me is I need change in my workouts, food and life. But how? I really don’t know. I’m in a little bit of a life rut right now – so I guess I need to focus on how I can fix that.

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    1. Hey Lauren, I hear ya! I think change sometimes starts with a bit of dissastisfaction, with old ways not working, etc, it just sucks to be in that temporary state before new directions get a little clearer. Maybe this summer will be a catalyst for both of us for something REALLY different!

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  16. Like thequiltingdoberman, I enjoyed this post but don't have much to add. But I know that I couldn't get by without the whimper, moan etc, seek support option when things are really stupid. I have several email buddies and it is just a given that when we have to, we can occasionally engage in ranting at any length to each other and will get support in return (interesting how often that support is in the form of "I know, men ARE idiots") and have no guilt at putting out such negativity. Life can be aggravating sometimes....

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    1. Peggy, the whole ranting thing is a great release! I feel really lucky you guys are putting up with me. And I know some people can skip the whole "pissy" phase of growth and change, but I ain't one of them, and having folks who don't get all judgey is such an awesome resource!

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  17. One day ill be incredibly motivated and the next I don't want to do anything but stay in bed. Def going to use your tips next time to kick myself in the butt and get me going.

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    1. Isn't it funny anon how motivation fluctuates? Good luck with the self-butt kicking, hope you find some fun things to get motivated about!

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  18. Wow, I really understand the whole lumpiness thing. I think I have the fitness part under control since I've discovered that classes with other woman really make a difference for me. By myself I'm likely to wimp out, but in a class I find I push myself. So 4 days a week I make that a priority. But the food side, man, I just can't seem to get that under control. 10 lbs down, 5 up, the same 5 down, 3 up and on and on. It gets so discouraging and I can't seem to find the key to controlling my eating for more than a few weeks at a time.

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    1. Anonymous, that's great that you're making such good progress and not letting the lumpiness get to you! I think it's really helpful to hear how "normal" discouragement is as part of the process, so that we can recognize it for what it is and it doesn't pick up a life of its own. Sounds like you are doing great things and not letting it get to you!

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  19. What a great post & I can so relate to this for sure!!!! Perimenopause & post menopausal weight gain is no myth from one that has lived it for years & things still changing! AND YES, feeling some joint issues lately & not liking that!!!! So much to deal with as we age! I do love reading bloggers write about blogging though - I do it all the time! ;)

    I love your suggestions!!!!!

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    1. Thanks so much Jody! I SO admire the way you keep adjusting to hormonal challenges and continue to up your game... while not pretending it's all easy-peasy!

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  20. Sending sympathy and understanding about the lumpy patch (though the potato picture made me laugh). As others have commented with insight, I have nothing new to offer. However, hope you're feeling supported and able to make the best choices for you - even while knowing the outcome may not match the original intention. Best wishes,

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  21. Thank you Fliss!!! I do indeed feel very supported and am finally in a much better mood, thanks to you guys!

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  22. I'm feeling a bit lumpy because I just came back from a week spent laying by the pool and having more than my normal share of drinks and junk - but, next week will be back to normal!!!

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  23. i am having my lumpy days on cheat days.
    i take cheat days seriously and always follow schedules.

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  24. I just found your blog and i like it very much. I am also going through similar situation. Knee problems, forearm issues. Also not eating how I am suppose to. Thank you for having this blog I will be reading it daily. DON'T GIVE UP

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    1. Thank you anonymous, I won't give up! And hope your knees and forearms get better soon; frustrating isn't it? And please do stick around, that would be great!

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